No More Good Wars

A transcript of the Lew Rockwell Show episode 431 with John Denson.

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ROCKWELL:  Well, good morning.  This is the Lew Rockwell Show, and how great it is to have as our guest, Judge John Denson.  John is not only a successful lawyer in Opelika, Alabama, but a scholar, editor of The Costs of War, a book on the American presidency that we published, and written many, many articles concentrating on the evils of war, telling the truth about war, who started the wars, who benefits from the wars, all the kinds of things that we’re not supposed to know.  So today, we have a very exciting program.  John, as everybody that listens to him knows, is one of the great voracious readers that any of us know.  He is constantly reading and finding wonderful new books and wonderful old books that should be reconsidered.  So today, John is going to talk to us about a very, very important question.  We’re told that World War II was the good war and justifies the American empire and everything else, the evil the U.S. does.  John is going to talk to us about why that’s a myth, like every other official story about war is a lie and a myth.

So, John, you’re going tell to us about important books that you’ve read and just what they tell us, what we ought to know, and enable us to judge the actions of the American government in a forthright and honest way. The Costs of War: Amer... Best Price: $1.99 Buy New $13.46 (as of 08:00 EST - Details)

DENSON:  Well, thank you, Lew.  It’s good to be back.  I appreciate the introduction.

I want to start with a book that I like very much that I just sort of ran across.  It has never been recommended, as far as I know, from Libertarians, but it’s a great anti-war book, and it’s entitled Worshiping the Myths of World War II: Reflections on the American Dedication to War.  It’s written by Edward Wood, Jr.  He was born in 1926.  He was in World War II and badly wounded in 1944, carried shrapnel in him the rest of his life. He wrote this book during the Iraq War of President W.  After the war, he felt like  he had been fighting to have a peaceful world and he had hopes that the United Nations was going to be successful and we were going to disarm and we were going to have peace.  And so he went to the University of Chicago for his college education, then to MIT, and then had a responsible job the rest of his life.  But he began to see right away that America was going in the wrong direction, the war state, the national security state and war.  And he joined with two other wounded veterans of World War II, and the rest of their lives, for the last 30, 35, to 40 years, they all campaigned and wrote against war.  So this is, as far as I know, his last book.

But he says that the problem is that there are certain myths that have grown up out of World War II that are causing America to go in this wrong direction.  So the theme of this book is to dispel these myths in order to change the way America is going, away from the military, away from being the world policemen.

So he starts off with the first myth, that it was a good war.  He says it was a horrible war; it’s the worst thing that’s happened in the 20th century, maybe in Western civilization.  And there was a book written by Studs Terkel back in 1948, called The Good War, and he says that that’s the major myth that is wrong.  And he gives a lot of reasons.  One of the main reasons he gives is that the war targeted civilians, that there were more civilians killed than soldiers during World War II, and that the main killers of civilians were the Americans and the British, who were bombing cities in Germany.  And he says that — I don’t know if he uses this figure, but I’ve seen various figures.  The total is 75 million to 85 million people killed in World War II, and over half were civilians.  So he says that not only did we kill civilians and target them, not just collateral damage, but many people suffered injuries that were debilitating for their lifetime, as was his, and suffered mental problems, broke up families and so forth.  And instead, what we’re doing is saying this was a good war; we were right; the other side was evil and we were good.  And that has propelled us to try to be the world policemen and use force instead of diplomacy to try to bring peace to the world.  So he is against the glorification of war and says that’s one of the main problems we’ve got today.

ROCKWELL:  I remember, in Washington, when they were planning the World War II memorial and deciding — I must say a flop aesthetically and, of course, a flop otherwise.  But The Washington Times had a big controversy about what it was going to be.  And The Washington Times called me.  I was one of the people they asked — it was the last time they ever called me, by the way —

[LAUGHTER]

— about what I thought.  And I said, how about a mountain of 50 million bronze skulls.  I said how about that as a monument.  It could have been 75 or 80 million.  They didn’t take my advice, by the way.

DENSON:  Well, he has an answer for that.  I know this is a family show, but he says that you need to have in the middle of each city in America a big square with a big hole and dump fresh excrement in it every day so that the aroma goes all over the city every day to remind you of what World War II was.

ROCKWELL:  Right. Worshipping the Myths ... Edward W. Wood Jr Best Price: $3.99 Buy New $10.40 (as of 05:35 EST - Details)

[LAUGHTER]

DENSON:  That’s a little rougher than skulls maybe.

[LAUGHTER]

The second one was that his generation was the Greatest Generation.  And, of course, Tom Brokaw wrote the book about that in 1998, I guess.  And he says it is not the Greatest Generation.  It had the potential of being a great generation with an opportunity after the war to go towards peace, and they lost that opportunity and instead turned to a complete warfare state.

He doesn’t mention this book, but I ran across this book thinking about his belief that maybe the U.N. and some sort of world government was going to come about, and so forth, so it’s not the Libertarian idea of going away from government.  But anyway, there’s a book out now called World Federalism 101.  And there are two writers, Alex Newman, who is against world government, and the other writer, Rick Blondi, is for world government.  But what they’re showing is that world government has been an idea all along.  And I see that as a great danger, that people will say, well, if you want to abolish war, you’re going to have to have world government, and you’re going to have to give up your freedom for security.  And, of course, that’s anathema to the Libertarians.  I mean, we have got to have less government.  But we’ve got to change the way we talk about war and think about war.  And that started the theme of his book, is we have to have a whole new change in the way we perceive war and destroy these myths.

There’s another book about the change that we made after World War II, called The War State, that I like a lot, and the subtitle is The Cold War Origins of the Military Industrial Complex and the Power Elite, 1945-1963, by Michael Swanson.  And it just shows that right after the war, we immediately go into the Cold War, we go into the national security state, the CIA, and just turn in exactly the wrong direction from peace.  And so he says that that destroys the idea that you are the Greatest Generation.

ROCKWELL:  And really there was never any chance of peace breaking out, was there, after World War II?  Whether it’s Vandenberg and Truman and the wise men, they were determined to keep the warfare state going.  As Vandenberg said to Truman, you are going to have to scare the hell out of the American people to do it.

[LAUGHTER]

Which, of course, they proceeded to do.  The Communists were going to conquer Cleveland, and all the rest of the tales they told.

DENSON:  Well, I think we can talk later about the atomic bomb.  I think that was sort of the start of the Cold War, too, to show the Russians who we were.

There’s an interesting book called When Presidents Lie, by Eric Alterman, and he starts it with the Yalta Conference, and he says that’s where the Cold War started.  He says that Roosevelt gave away everything to Stalin.  But when people began to see in action that Stalin had taken over all of Eastern Europe, we started lying about it and saying, no, he’s violating the agreement, we never agreed to anything like that.  So it started a mistrust right away on the Russians and started us towards the Cold War.

ROCKWELL:  Interestingly enough, I mean, I guess, for the most part, Stalin didn’t set up Communist governments in Eastern Europe until about 1948, because they wanted a buffer.  They didn’t necessarily want to directly rule those countries until, of course, the U.S. was The Good War: An Oral ... Studs Terkel Best Price: $2.06 Buy New $7.35 (as of 07:45 EST - Details) setting up regimes that they were afraid of, and so that’s when the Iron Curtain came down, so called, as Churchill said.

DENSON:  Yeah, Churchill’s speech and so forth.

ROCKWELL:  Yeah.

DENSON:  The third myth, he says that we proclaimed that we won.  We were the main victors of World War II.  We did it all.  And, therefore, we’re the most powerful government.  And so they ignore the role that Russia played.

ROCKWELL:  You know, John, I was thinking about this recently.  Do American kids realize the Russians were even in World War II?  I mean, don’t they think of it as the U.S. and Britain subsidiarily fighting Japan and fighting Germany and doing everything?

DENSON:  Well, when you look at the comparison of the deaths of soldiers, the Russians lost 25 million soldiers, the Germans about 12 million, America about 400,000, the British about 450,000.  So while we were bombing cities, the Germans and the Russians were going to Stalingrad and then back from Stalingrad to Berlin.  And Stalin was saying, when are you going to start the second front?  He thought we were coming to the war much too late in 1944 with the Normandy invasion.  So it’s some hubris there about, you know, we conquered and we did it all, and that needs to be stopped.

You know, one of the main reasons that the Peloponnesian War was written by Thucydides was to show the hubris of the empire.  And we are now the American Empire by having military bases everywhere and wars everywhere.  And that hubris will eventually cause you a problem.  And it will eventually cause a decline of the empire and destruction.  So that was the third myth.

The fourth myth, that we have a tendency to demonize people.  The Axis of Evil was the one used —

[LAUGHTER]

ROCKWELL:  Yeah.

DENSON:  — by the Bush administration.  But you’ve got some great posters in World War II where they caricature the Japanese or the Germans as monsters.  And we tend to demonize whoever we want to be the next enemy.  And we’ve got to realize that we need to avoid that.  We need to try to see who these people are and understand them, see the world from their view point, as well as ours.

ROCKWELL:  Well, Joe Sobran called that an American tendency to have a Hitler of the Month Club, some guy, and it’s always Hitler.  It’s always Hitler, and the U.S. is the angelic power.

DENSON:  Exactly.  I mean, Saddam was the new Hitler.

ROCKWELL:  Yeah.

DENSON:  You know.  And why don’t they say the new Stalin?  You know?

ROCKWELL:  It’s funny about that.

DENSON:  It’s funny about that.  It is.

[LAUGHTER] World Federalism 101 Rick Biondi, Alex Newman Best Price: $16.21 Buy New $16.27 (as of 03:40 EST - Details)

But he says we have denigrated diplomacy.  We say the cause of World War II was a peace one, and that the way we needed to go in the future is to just use the force of war and forget appeasement and diplomacy and so forth.

And he says something that is very important that I’ve talked about a lot, and that is, if you’re going to understand World War II, you’ve got to understand World War I.  And the peace treaty that settled World War I made a war almost inevitable, from Germany’s standpoint, to un-do the unfairness that was done to them by that peace treaty.  And so the Munich appeasement thing, a lot of people felt like that was the right thing to do.  And I’m going to get into Herbert Hoover’s book about the Poland situation, and I’ll save it for that.  But at this point, this author is saying we need to not demonize people, and go into diplomacy.

ROCKWELL:  Because, as you pointed out and, in fact, Aristotle pointed out, too, governments always steal the meaning of words.  Orwell, of course, writes about this.  I mean, what appeasement meant, the original meaning of appeasement was to make peace, but the enemies of peace, the war lovers and the people profiting from war and so forth, turned that into an evil, to try to make peace, they said, you’re evil, and you should just be killing everybody.

DENSON:  I had a speech by our congressman, Mike Rogers.  He was on the Armed Services Committee two years ago, and he spoke to about, I guess, 500, maybe 750 Republicans at a big meeting, and he said that he had just visited Israel and that he came away realizing that there’s no reason to have any diplomacy about Iran; we just need go on and bomb Iran so Israel doesn’t have to do it.  And, I mean, I was so stunned.  And I turned to the guy next to me, and he looked at me and he said, well, when we do that, they should change the national anthem of Israel to Onward Christian Soldiers.

[LAUGHTER]

I mean, no diplomacy, don’t talk to them.

ROCKWELL:  But, I mean, Iran, as things go, a pretty peaceful country.  I mean, they haven’t invaded any other country in hundreds and hundreds of years.  And they pretty much mind their own business.

DENSON:  I heard a speaker at a local Kiwanis Club, who is a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and he says that — and this was just two weeks ago — and he said that there’s no reason to have any diplomacy in the Middle East; you’ve just got to bomb them.  And then he got a cheer for that.  People thought, yeah, that’s right.  So this is part of the myth that comes out of World War II is that, well, we made a big mistake at Munich and we should have have stopped Hitler there.

Those are the four myths and what this author says about them.  And then he gets to part five and he says we need to take a new look at war.  And he says that for centuries that people felt that war and slavery were inevitable and would always be present.  And all of a sudden, 19th century, we abolished slavery.  People changed their way of thinking.  And he says that’s what we need to do about war; we need to change our thinking.  He said there was a change in circumstances that helped bring that about, and that was the Industrial Revolution.  And the second thing that brought that about was that America sort of let the genie out of the bottle when they started talking about natural rights to life and liberty.  And it began to worry people a little bit about the morality of slavery.

So I thought about this great movie, called Amazing Grace.  It’s the story of William Wilberforce and how he went about trying to abolish slavery in England.  And I think it’s a great strategy that he finally came up with that you can use with war, and that is he started off as a The War State: The Col... Michael Swanson Best Price: $13.03 Buy New $14.96 (as of 12:20 EST - Details) member of parliament, talking about how slavery was evil and bad, and everybody started booing.  They said, look, the British Empire is built on slavery.  We make fortunes out of slavery.  And slavery is not all that bad.  They’ve got it better in the new world than they had it in Africa, and so forth.  So he got nowhere in parliament.  So this fellow that had been listening to him in the balcony said, well, let me tell you something I think would help you on your crusade.  He said, let me take you down to the wharf and take you into a slave ship.  And so he went down and he went into a slave ship, and the stench and the horror that he saw, and the understanding that people were packed in there, and many, many died in this horrible voyage, so there was no exception to how horrible slavery was as far as the passage across the ocean.  And so he came up with this strategy of inviting the major members of parliament and their wives on this cruise down the river.  And he had a band that was playing and a wonderful meal that was served.  And so as they get close to the harbor there, they pull in next to a slave ship and the stench was so horrible.  And then he began to tell the people about the slaves on the slave ship, and people began to get sick and nauseous and so forth, and the horror of the slaves, slavery came home to them.  And so he was finally able during his lifetime to abolish the slave trade, I think in 1806, I believe.  And then finally England abolished it in 1833.  And so that’s the way I think we ought to go, is show the horror of war, and then also show what the real causes are and the real affects are.  And that’s the way I came up with the idea in the book The Century of War that revisionism is the answer.  We’ve been hiding the horror of war from Americans forever.  Of course, we weren’t bombed.  And Europe, you know, it just practically wiped out all the cities in Germany and Japan.  So they know the horror of war and Americans don’t.

There’s another great book by Jim Powell called Greatest Emancipations, and it shows us the whole idea of slavery began to change in the 19th century.  And I think what this author is telling us to do is to start thinking new about war.  Number one, the change in circumstances that the Industrial Revolution was to slavery is what nuclear warfare is to war, and that from now on it’s going to be just a battle of who can kill the most civilians.

I remember a cartoon years and years ago and it shows two members of what appear to be the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and one of them appears to be Curtis LeMay.  He’s got a cigar sticking out of his mouth.  And he says, you know, we need to bomb Russian right away, preemptively, don’t tell them, we’ll just go over there and just blow them off the face of the earth, because we’re going to eventually have to fight the Communists.  And the other guy says, well, they will retaliate and they will kill millions of us.  And the character LeMay says, yeah, but if you kill all the Russians and there’s one American left standing, that means we won.  And that’s where we’re going with nuclear war in the future.  And that’s how we need to think new about war and its consequences.

ROCKWELL:  I remember as a boy reading a book called Defending the Undefendable by Herman Kahn, who was a big Neo-Con at the Hudson Institute, a war intellectual.  And he argued that nuclear war is inevitable so let’s get on with it, let’s start the wars, let’s nuke everybody.  And that was his — he was making that serious argument.

DENSON:  Yeah.  Yeah.  Another thing we need to do to show that war is a racket, as Smedley Butler did on World War I — he was a general in the Marines.  He wrote a great book called War is a Racket.  And if it was ever brought perfectly clear that the Middle East war had a lot to do with Halliburton and a lot of private contractors and Cheney making money, that’s it.  So that’s another method of showing what war is really about and what a racket it is.  And Smedley Butler just felt like he was an agent for United Fruit Company or something.  And this new book about the Dulles brothers brings that out pretty clearly.  Kinzer wrote about John Foster Dulles working for this law firm in New York, and the United Fruit Company was getting mistreated in Latin America, they thought, by this dictator, so they promote a war for the United Fruit Company because they were a good client for this law firm.  And that’s what Smedley Butler talks about in World War I, was like you’re going around doing good for certain interests, financial interests.

ROCKWELL:  Sullivan & Cromwell – When Presidents Lie: A... Alterman, Eric Best Price: $0.10 Buy New $5.95 (as of 07:40 EST - Details)

DENSON:  Yeah.

ROCKWELL:  — the firm in New York, was also heavily involved in the Panama Canal, the breaking off of Panama from Columbia, staging a phony revolution, building the canal, and making, of course, vast dough out it.

DENSON:  Another book I’d like to recommend is one that was recommended to me by Laurence Vance, and this is called The Good War That Wasn’t and Why it Matters:  World War II’s Moral Legacy.  It is an excellent book.  One reason it may not get some traction is that the author is a pacifist.  But he recognizes that, and that his arguments may not be acceptable to a lot of people because of that.  But he devotes about the first hundred pages of the book to a very objective way of why World War II was not the good war, and not from a pacifist viewpoint, as he does the last 25.  So if you want to get the full impact of the book, the first hundred pages and last 25 are really great.  He does a great job of showing why World War II was not the good war.

ROCKWELL:  You know, it’s funny, I have a good friend, Father Emanuel Charles McCarthy, who is a peace priest, and he always makes the point that what might be called pacifism, certainly opposition to violence and war, it’s what the New Testament is all about.  I remember once, years ago, seeing an article by Jerry Falwell that was called The Christian Case for War, and I thought, well, I always wondered what do they say, right?  So, of course, the thing had nothing to do with Christianity. It was nothing but the Old Testament.  So the Old Testament, of course, has got a lot about war stuff in it.

DENSON:   Joshua is a good example of that.

ROCKWELL:  But the New Testament has got nothing.   I mean, it’s all anti.  It’s an anti-war book.  It’s an anti-war religion.  You would not know that, of course, from the evangelicals and the other Christian warmongers.

DENSON:  Yeah.  I mean, that’s really the surprising thing is how many devoted Christians are for war.  And it’s really against the New Testament.  They’re Old Testament Christians, I think.

[LAUGHTER]

ROCKWELL:  They’re not New Testament Christians, that’s for sure.

DENSON:  Finally, I want to recommend a book called American Way of War: Guided Missiles, Misguided Men, and a Republican Peril, by Eugene Jarecki.

ROCKWELL:  A great guy, Eugene Jarecki.

DENSON:  He says that the major shift took place as a result of World War II and people considering it the good war, and it was World War II that the U.S. warfare state blossomed into the modern form.  And Roosevelt was largely praised as the great hero that saw the danger and immediately got us into the war and won the war and is a great leader.  And that’s one of the bad myths of the war.  He says, “The immediate effect of the Pearl Harbor attack was the U.S. entry into war, which introduced increasing militarism into the national daily life.”  But it’s a great book on the U.S. war machine and how bad it is, and how much trouble we’re causing throughout the world.

ROCKWELL:   I know very well Roosevelt wanted Japan to attack Pearl Harbor, and brought it about.  They were very stupid and wrong A Century of War: Angl... Engdahl, F. William Best Price: $1.43 Buy New $19.99 (as of 05:55 EST - Details) to have done it, of course.

DENSON:  Yeah.

ROCKWELL:  It didn’t help them any.  Didn’t help the world any.

DENSON:  Yeah.

ROCKWELL:  A terrible, terrible blunder.

DENSON: Well, I think we’re going to do a part two of this and I want to go into the Hoover book that shows that Roosevelt started the war in Europe.

[LAUGHTER]

ROCKWELL:  Well, wonderful, John.  And thanks so much for coming on today —

DENSON:  OK.

ROCKWELL:  — telling us about these important books.  It’ll give people a chance to buy them in the podcast, and also your books.  And we look forward to part two.  And thanks for being a man of peace.

DENSON:  Thank you.  Enjoyed being here.  Thank you.

ROCKWELL:  Well, thanks so much for listening to the Lew Rockwell Show today. Take a look at all the podcasts. There have been hundreds of them. There’s a link on the LRC front page. Thank you.

Podcast date, July 16, 2015

Greatest Emancipations... Jim Powell Check Amazon for Pricing.

War is a Racket: The A... Smedley Darlington Butler Best Price: $6.45 Buy New $3.79 (as of 03:45 EST - Details)

The Good War That Wasn... Ted Grimsrud Best Price: $20.00 Buy New $16.69 (as of 07:00 EST - Details)

The American Way of Wa... Jarecki, Eugene Best Price: $0.10 Buy New $1.26 (as of 03:50 EST - Details)