Remember Pearl Harbor

Perhaps it is fitting that the Iraq Study Group chose to make its report public on “Pearl Harbor Day,” calling on, inter alia, President Bush to seek Iran’s help in extricating us from the mess he got us into by his “preemptive” attack on oil-rich Iraq’s non-existent nuclear weapons program.

Perhaps even Bush will pause, briefly, to ponder the probable consequences of launching yet another preemptive attack, this time on oil-rich Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons program.

Of course, the Japanese preemptive attack on our blockade fleet (which was moored at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands, an American “possession”) on December 7, 1941, was provoked; by President Roosevelt’s embargo of July 24, 1941, on Japanese imports of oil.

You see, in 1940, when Roosevelt stood for re-election to an unprecedented third term, he promised American mothers on a stack of Bibles that he was never going to send American boys to fight “in any foreign wars”!

Unless, of course, we were attacked.


Of course, in Bush’s 2002 State of the Union Message, he gave notice to mothers, everywhere, that he was not going to wait to be attacked.

That he fully intended to launch pre-emptive strikes against the likes of Iraq, North Korea and Iran – using nuclear weapons, “if necessary” – if he suspected they were acquiring or seeking to acquire nuclear weapons and/or ballistic missile delivery vehicles.

But, back to Pearl Harbor.

Why did Roosevelt slap an oil embargo – an act of war – on Japan, a country that had done nothing to us?

And why did he do it when he did it?

Well, apparently Roosevelt slapped the embargo on Japan when he did because Hitler had invaded the Soviet Union only a few weeks before, on June 22, 1941, and it already looked like the Wehrmacht would be in Moscow in a matter of weeks.

And for the commie-symp intellectual fore-fathers (around Roosevelt) of today’s Likudniks (around Bush), that would never do.

Japan – although nominally allied with Germany and other European Axis Powers – had little interest in their European war.

In fact, Japan had been engaged in an all-out war on the Asian mainland since 1933, the year Roosevelt became president and Hitler came to power in Germany. By the fall of 1941, Japan’s armies occupied a huge hunk of Asia, including Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam and almost a third of China.

But the Japanese were then – as they are today – resource poor. In particular, they were completely dependent on oil (and rubber) from Indonesia and Borneo and other possessions of the European colonial powers in the southwest Pacific and Indian oceans.

So, after months of fruitless negotiations with Roosevelt about lifting his stranglehold on them, Admiral Yamamoto issued Combined Fleet Order No. 1. The Imperial 1st Fleet – which included all the Japanese aircraft carriers – was to attack our principal blockade fleet at Pearl Harbor. The Imperial 2nd Fleet was to attack all Dutch, British and U.S. aircraft, air fields, warships and naval installations in the Dutch East Indies, on the Malay Peninsula and in the Philippines Islands. The 2nd Fleet was also to support the invasion that same day of Malaya and the Philippine Islands by units of the Japanese army.

The Japanese “shock and awe” attacks were spectacularly successful. They destroyed most of the aircraft and sank most of the warships they found, including the pride of the Royal Navy, HMS Prince of Wales.

All eight of our battleships at Pearl Harbor were essentially sunk by the Japanese, and nearly all Army Air Corps aircraft destroyed.

Now, Roosevelt et al did expect – and had warned our forces in the Pacific – that the Japanese might well attack us because of the oil embargo in late November or early December, 1941, but at Clark Field and/or Subic Bay in the Philippines. Roosevelt et al never dreamed that the Japanese would – or could – come all the way to Hawaii to wipe out the Pacific Fleet.

And in their worst nightmares, Roosevelt and Churchill never imagined that the Japanese – having sunk our battleships and destroyed our land-based bombers – could then actually invade and quickly conquer Singapore and the Philippines, as they proceeded to do.

Who fought and ultimately won the War in the Pacific?

Basically, it was our reconstituted and greatly enhanced “embargo” fleet. In the Pacific, the war was from the very beginning a naval war, about oil.

In 1973, when the Arabs slapped an oil embargo on us, because of our support for Israel in their war against Egypt and Syria, we only imported about a quarter of the oil we consumed. Still, there was panic for a while. There were gasoline and home-heating oil shortages because of federally-imposed price controls, but prices still went sky high, increasing by about a factor of five within a few months.

Now, if Bush launches a preemptive war of aggression against Iran – “provoked” by their refusal to give up their “inalienable” rights, guaranteed to them under the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, to the peaceful use of nuclear energy (subject, of course, to a comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency) – sky-high gasoline prices will be the least of our worries.

In particular, what about our Navy, the warships and supply ships in the Persian Gulf? They provide absolutely essential support to our armed forces in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar and elsewhere. But those ships are sitting ducks for Iranian supersonic sea-skimming anti-ship missiles, and are far more vulnerable than were our ships at Pearl Harbor.

And without the Navy’s support, how long do you think those garrisons in Iraq – already besieged – will last?

So, Bush has wisely “decided” to follow the advice of the Iraq Study Group; to “reach out” to the Iranians for help in extricating us from the unbelievably disastrous mess he has gotten us into in Iraq, rather than launching yet another “shock and awe” bombing campaign against the non-existent – according to the IAEA – Iranian nuclear weapons program – right?

What? And betray the Likudniks?

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.