definitive debunking of the Churchill myth in five parts , by our
greatest historian of liberty, from The
Costs of War . . . .
Churchill, Part 3
America in War Again
September, 1939, Britain went to war with Germany, pursuant to the
guarantee which Chamberlain had been panicked into extending to
Poland in March. Lloyd George had termed the guarantee "hare-brained,"
while Churchill had supported it. Nonetheless, in his history of
the war Churchill wrote: "Here was decision at last, taken at the
worst possible moment and on the least satisfactory ground which
must surely lead to the slaughter of tens of millions of people."
With the war on, Winston was recalled to his old job as First Lord
of the Admiralty. Then, in the first month of the war, an astonishing
thing happened: the President of the United States initiated a personal
correspondence not with the Prime Minister, but with the head of
the British Admiralty, by- passing all the ordinary diplomatic channels.
messages that passed between the President and the First Lord were
surrounded by a frantic secrecy, culminating in the affair of Tyler
Kent, the American cipher clerk at the U.S. London embassy who was
tried and imprisoned by the British authorities. The problem was
that some of the messages contained allusions to Roosevelt's agreement
even before the war began to a blatantly unneutral cooperation with
a belligerent Britain.
June 10, 1939, George VI and his wife, Queen Mary, visited the Roosevelts
at Hyde Park. In private conversations with the King, Roosevelt
promised full support for Britain in case of war. He intended to
set up a zone in the Atlantic to be patrolled by the U.S. Navy,
and, according to the King's notes, the President stated that "if
he saw a U boat he would sink her at once & wait for the consequences."
The biographer of George VI, Wheeler-Bennett, considered that these
conversations "contained the germ of the future Bases-for-Destroyers
deal, and also of the Lend-Lease Agreement itself." In communicating
with the First Lord of the Admiralty, Roosevelt was aware that he
was in touch with the one member of Chamberlain's cabinet whose
belligerence matched his own.
1940, Churchill at last became Prime Minister, ironically enough
when the Chamberlain government resigned because of the Norwegian
fiasco which Churchill, more than anyone else, had helped to bring
about. As he had fought against a negotiated peace after the fall
of Poland, so he continued to resist any suggestion of negotiations
with Hitler. Many of the relevant documents are still sealed after
all these years but it is clear that a strong peace party existed
in the country and the government. It included Lloyd George in the
House of Commons, and Halifax, the Foreign Secretary, in the Cabinet.
Even after the fall of France, Churchill rejected Hitler's renewed
peace overtures. This, more than anything else, is supposed to be
the foundation of his greatness. The British historian John Charmley
raised a storm of outraged protest when he suggested that a negotiated
peace in 1940 might have been to the advantage of Britain and Europe.
A Yale historian, writing in the New York Times Book Review,
referred to Charmley's thesis as "morally sickening." Yet Charmley's
scholarly and detailed work makes the crucial point that Churchill's
adamant refusal even to listen to peace terms in 1940 doomed what
he claimed was dearest to him the Empire and a Britain that was
non-socialist and independent in world affairs. One may add that
it probably also doomed European Jewry. It is amazing that half
a century after the fact, there are critical theses concerning World
War II that are off-limits to historical debate.
George, Halifax, and the others were open to a compromise peace
because they understood that Britain and the Dominions alone could
not defeat Germany. After the fall of France, Churchill's aim of
total victory could be realized only under one condition: that the
United States become embroiled in another world war. No wonder that
Churchill put his heart and soul into ensuring precisely that.
a talk with Churchill, Joseph Kennedy, American ambassador to Britain,
noted: "Every hour will be spent by the British in trying to figure
out how we can be gotten in." When he left from Lisbon on a ship
to New York, Kennedy pleaded with the State Department to announce
that if the ship should happen to blow up mysteriously in the mid-Atlantic,
the United States would not consider it a cause for war with Germany.
In his unpublished memoirs, Kennedy wrote: "I thought that would
give me some protection against Churchill's placing a bomb on the
fears were perhaps not exaggerated. For, while it had been important
for British policy in World War I, involving America was the sine
qua non of Churchill's policy in World War II. In Franklin Roosevelt,
he found a ready accomplice.
Roosevelt, through his actions and private words, evinced a clear
design for war before December 7, 1941, has never really been in
dispute. Arguments have raged over such questions as his possible
foreknowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack. In 1948, Thomas A. Bailey,
diplomatic historian at Stanford, already put the real pro-Roosevelt
Roosevelt repeatedly deceived the American people during the period
before Pearl Harbor. . . . He was like a physician who must tell
the patient lies for the patient's own good. . . . The country was
overwhelmingly noninterventionist to the very day of Pearl Harbor,
and an overt attempt to lead the people into war would have resulted
in certain failure and an almost certain ousting of Roosevelt in
1940, with a complete defeat of his ultimate aims.
himself never bothered to conceal Roosevelt's role as co-conspirator.
In January, 1941, Harry Hopkins visited London. Churchill described
him as "the most faithful and perfect channel of communication between
the President and me . . . the main prop and animator of Roosevelt
soon comprehended [Hopkins's] personal dynamism and the outstanding
importance of his mission . . . here was an envoy from the President
of supreme importance to our life. With gleaming eye and quiet,
constrained passion he said: "The President is determined that we
shall win the war together. Make no mistake about it. He has sent
me here to tell you that all costs and by all means he will carry
you through, no matter what happens to him there is nothing that
he will not do so far as he has human power." There he sat, slim,
frail, ill, but absolutely glowing with refined comprehension of
the Cause. It was to be the defeat, ruin, and slaughter of Hitler,
to the exclusion of all other purposes, loyalties and aims.
1976, the public finally learned the story of William Stephenson,
the British agent code named "Intrepid," sent by Churchill to the
United States in 1940. Stephenson set up headquarters in Rockefeller
Center, with orders to use any means necessary to help bring the
United States into the war. With the full knowledge and cooperation
of Roosevelt and the collaboration of federal agencies, Stephenson
and his 300 or so agents "intercepted mail, tapped wires, cracked
safes, kidnapped, . . . rumor mongered" and incessantly smeared
their favorite targets, the "isolationists." Through Stephenson,
Churchill was virtually in control of William Donovan's organization,
the embryonic U. S. intelligence service.
even had a hand in the barrage of pro-British, anti-German propaganda
that issued from Hollywood in the years before the United States
entered the war. Gore Vidal, in Screening
History, perceptively notes that starting around 1937, Americans
were subjected to one film after another glorifying England and
the warrior heroes who built the Empire. As spectators of these
productions, Vidal says: "We served neither Lincoln nor Jefferson
Davis; we served the Crown." A key Hollywood figure in generating
the movies that "were making us all weirdly English" was the Hungarian
émigré and friend of Churchill, Alexander Korda. Vidal very aptly
those who find disagreeable today's Zionist propaganda, I can only
say that gallant little Israel of today must have learned a great
deal from the gallant little Englanders of the 1930s. The English
kept up a propaganda barrage that was to permeate our entire culture
. . . Hollywood was subtly and not so subtly infiltrated by British
the Americans were being worked on, the two confederates consulted
on how to arrange for direct hostilities between the United States
and Germany. In August, 1941, Roosevelt and Churchill met at the
Atlantic conference. Here they produced the Atlantic Charter, with
its "four freedoms," including "the freedom from want" a blank-check
to spread Anglo American Sozialpolitik around the globe.
When Churchill returned to London, he informed the Cabinet of what
had been agreed to. Thirty years later, the British documents were
released. Here is how the New York Times reported the revelations:
top secret British Government papers made public today said that
President Franklin D. Roosevelt told Prime Minister Winston Churchill
in August, 1941, that he was looking for an incident to justify
opening hostilities against Nazi Germany. . . . On August 19 Churchill
reported to the War Cabinet in London on other aspects of the Newfoundland
[Atlantic Charter] meeting that were not made public. . . . "He
[Roosevelt] obviously was determined that they should come in. If
he were to put the issue of peace and war to Congress, they would
debate it for months," the Cabinet minutes added. "The President
had said he would wage war but not declare it and that he would
become more and more provocative. If the Germans did not like it,
they could attack American forces. . . . Everything was to be done
to force an incident."
July 15, 1941, Admiral Little, of the British naval delegation in
Washington, wrote to Admiral Pound, the First Sea Lord: "the brightest
hope for getting America into the war lies in the escorting arrangements
to Iceland, and let us hope the Germans will not be slow in attacking
them." Little added, perhaps jokingly: "Otherwise I think it would
be best for us to organise an attack by our own submarines and preferably
on the escort!" A few weeks earlier, Churchill, looking for a chance
to bring America into the war, wrote to Pound regarding the German
warship, Prinz Eugen: "It would be better for instance that
she should be located by a U.S. ship as this might tempt her to
fire on that ship, thus providing the incident for which the U.S.
government would be so grateful." Incidents in the North Atlantic
did occur, increasingly, as the United States approached war with
Churchill did not neglect the "back door to war" embroiling the
United States with Japan as a way of bringing America into the conflict
with Hitler. Sir Robert Craigie, the British ambassador to Tokyo,
like the American ambassador Joseph Grew, was working feverishly
to avoid war. Churchill directed his foreign secretary, Anthony
Eden, to whip Craigie into line:
should surely be told forthwith that the entry of the United States
into war either with Germany and Italy or with Japan, is fully conformable
with British interests. Nothing in the munitions sphere can compare
with the importance of the British Empire and the United States
threw his influence into the balance to harden American policy towards
Japan, especially in the last days before the Pearl Harbor attack.
A sympathetic critic of Churchill, Richard Lamb, has recently written:
[Churchill] justified in trying to provoke Japan to attack the United
States? . . . in 1941 Britain had no prospect of defeating Germany
without the aid of the USA as an active ally. Churchill believed
Congress would never authorize Roosevelt to declare war on Germany.
. . . In war, decisions by national leaders must be made according
to their effect on the war effort. There is truth in the old adage:
"All's fair in love and war."
wonder that, in the House of Commons, on February 15, 1942, Churchill
declared, of America's entry into the war: "This is what I have
dreamed of, aimed at, worked for, and now it has come to pass."
devotees by no means hold his role in bringing America into World
War II against him. On the contrary, they count it in his favor.
Harry Jaffa, in his uninformed and frantic apology, seems to be
the last person alive who refuses to believe that the Man of Many
Centuries was responsible to any degree for America's entry into
the war: after all, wasn't it the Japanese who bombed Pearl Harbor?
what of the American Republic? What does it mean for us that a President
collaborated with a foreign head of government to entangle us in
a world war? The question would have mattered little to Churchill.
He had no concern with the United States as a sovereign, independent
nation, with its own character and place in the scheme of things.
For him, Americans were one of "the English- speaking peoples."
He looked forward to a common citizenship for Britons and Americans,
a "mixing together," on the road to Anglo American world hegemony.
the Churchill Roosevelt intrigue should, one might think, matter
to Americans. Here, however, criticism is halted before it starts.
A moral postulate of our time is that in pursuit of the destruction
of Hitler, all things were permissible. Yet why is it self-evident
that morality required a crusade against Hitler in 1939 and 1940,
and not against Stalin? At that point, Hitler had slain his thousands,
but Stalin had already slain his millions. In fact, up to June,
1941, the Soviets behaved far more murderously toward the Poles
in their zone of occupation than the Nazis did in theirs. Around
1,500,000 Poles were deported to the Gulag, with about half of them
dying within the first two years. As Norman Davies writes: "Stalin
was outpacing Hitler in his desire to reduce the Poles to the condition
of a slave nation." Of course, there were balance-of-power considerations
that created distinctions between the two dictators. But it has
yet to be explained why there should exist a double standard ordaining
that compromise with one dictator would have been "morally sickening,"
while collaboration with the other was morally irreproachable.
Raico is professor of history at Buffalo State College and a senior
scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
to space limitations, the 169 detailed footnotes which thoroughly
document all assertions in Professor Raico's paperRaico's paper
are not included. They are, of course, included in the printed
version of the paper, published in The Costs of War,
available from the Mises Institute.