Last week I noted some facts that puncture the myth of the neocons who control the government that World War II was the “good war,” a battle of good against evil, that shows the need for perpetual war. We must fight Russia and China, they say: we don’t want another “Munich,” do we? The facts tell a different story.
The war in Europe began after Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939. These countries had issued a guarantee to Poland of its border with Germany, and Germany’s invasion on September 1 triggered the guarantee. As Murray Rothbard points out, the guarantee was a colossal mistake. There was no possibility Britain and France could help Poland, and the guarantee ensured that a border dispute became a European War. “Poland was another grotesque — or rather swollen — creature of Versailles. For centuries, Poland had been caught between the millstones of the two great powers in central Europe, Germany, and Russia (also Austria-Hungary, which had now been ‘murdered’ at Versailles). It should have been clear to any Pole that Poland could prosper, in fact, could exist as an independent country, only in alliance with either Germany, Russia, or both. Any other course would be fatal. But World War I had a very peculiar result, as [A. J. P.] Taylor perceptively points out at the beginning of his book; both Germany and Russia were defeated in Eastern Europe; Russia by Germany, and then by the fact that Communist Revolution lost Russia the gains it would have reaped from allied victory. With both Great Powers temporarily knocked out, room arose for a myriad of independent countries in Eastern Europe; this was artificial and only temporary room, but few realized this crucial fact. Poland was not only independent, it acquired enough territory to tyrannize over a large number of Germans (in the Corridor, Upper Silesia, and Danzig) and Ukrainians, and White Russians. Poland in alliance with either Germany or Russia might have held to its ill-deserved gains; Poland alone was doomed. And yet, [Polish Foreign Minister] Josef Beck, though initially allied with Germany, elected to stand alone, a Great Power, triumphantly defiant of both Germany and Russia, taking a resolutely ‘tough,’ firm line against anybody and everybody. And as a direct result, Poland was destroyed. Hitler’s ‘demands’ on the Poles were almost non-existent; as Taylor points out, the Weimar Republic would have scorned the terms as a sell-out of vital German interests. Hitler at most wanted a ‘corridor through the Corridor’ and the return of heavily-German (and pro-German) Danzig; in return for which he would guarantee the rest. Poland resolutely refused to yield ‘one inch of Polish soil,’ and refused even to negotiate with the Germans, and this down to the last minute. And yet, even with the Anglo-French guarantee, Beck clearly knew that Britain and France could not actually save Poland from attack. He relied to the end on those great shibboleths of all ‘hard-liners’ everywhere: X is ‘bluffing’; X will back down if met by toughness, resolution, and the resolve not to give an inch. (Just as in the case of Finland, and other ‘crackpot realists,’ when the ‘X is bluffing’ line of the hard-liners is shown to be sheer absurdity, and X has already attacked, the ‘hard-liner’ turns, self-contradictorily, to the dictum that not ‘one inch of sacred soil’ will be given up, no peace while the enemy is on our soil, etc., which completes the ruin of the country by its ‘hard-line’ rulers. This is what Beck did to Poland.) As Taylor shows, Hitler had originally not the slightest intention to invade or conquer Poland; instead, Danzig and other minor rectifications would be gotten out of the way, and then Poland would be a comfortable ally, perhaps for an eventual invasion of Soviet Russia. But Beck’s irrational toughness blocked the path.
The real mystery of the book [A.J. P. Taylor’s The Origins of the Second World War] is Great Britain; from being the leader, if dawdlingly, of appeasement at Munich, Britain suddenly turned in early 1939, to the adoption of a ‘tough,’ collective security, ‘hard line against aggression.’ Britain’s guarantee to Poland, a guarantee which of course could not be honored, failed to induce Poland to yield to rational demands as it had prodded Czechoslovakia. Inducing Poland to yield would have been the rational conclusion to the English policy of appeasement; this would have written finis — at last — to Versailles. Instead, Britain suddenly became anti-‘aggression’ minded, and almost frantically tried to prop up the Poles. The question is, why? and here is the major spot in the book where Taylor’s discussion is weak and unsatisfactory. For Taylor asserts that British policy had not really changed to much, that Britain was mistakenly of the belief until the very last that Hitler would yield to the threats of a ‘hard line’ and then negotiate, accept reasonable changes at Danzig, etc. Britain, says Taylor, wanted Hitler to agree to be ‘peaceful’ after that. But this was the last place where revision was required! No, it seems clear that Britain’s frantic and radical about-face was not simply a bumbling, well-intentioned mistake; it seems clear, even from Taylor’s account, that Britain deliberately shifted its policy to a war, and that it was frantic in settling on Poland because Poland was the last place where Britain could precipitate a war, while making Hitler look like a monstrous defiler of small countries.
Hitler had expected Beck to cave in likes Benes; but this time things were different. (We must remember that the Polish Army was greatly inferior to the Czech Army of 1938). Hitler then set out to conclude his own pact with Soviet Russia; if Russian neutrality were secured, he reasoned, surely Britain would give up any Polish guarantee — which would now be insanity — and Britain and Beck would listen to reason. Hitler offered Russia a non-aggression pact, with the added sweetener that, whatever happened, Germany would not advance beyond the Curzon line in Poland or in the Baltic states; at last, Russia had achieved the recognition which it could not get from the West — wedded to its small-power legalism — a Soviet Monroe Doctrine, a sphere of influence, in its security zone of Eastern Poland and the Baltic states. We should also not forget that Russia was left, like Germany, a ‘revisionist’ power from World War I; this recognition of its sphere of influence was Russia’s revision of Brest-Litovsk. And, as Taylor points out, the Hitler-Stalin pact was not an agreement for partition of Poland, as Munich was an agreement for partition of Czechoslovakia; it was rather a mutual agreement for neutrality and non-aggression, plus a German agreement not to penetrate to the Soviet sphere of influence. Poland had no legitimate complaint since all it wanted from Soviet Russia was neutrality.
The Establishment historians have had a field day with the Hitler-Stalin Pact since here was an act by both of their bogeymen. Any action mutually agreed-upon by these two dictators is supposed to be a priori monstrous. And so the Pact was supposed to have been the wicked spark that began World War II and dismembered Poland. But, as Taylor shows, both Germany and Russia thought of this as an action for peace, as it rationally should have been. The danger of a German-Russian conflict was avoided; and, both Hitler and Stalin believed, that with all hope of Russian support of Poland gone Britain and France would finally induce Poland to soften up and peace would be preserved. As Taylor states moreover, ‘it is difficult to see what other course Soviet Russia could have followed,’ given British adamancy. We might go even further; in my view, the Hitler-Stalin Pact was one of the great deeds of European statesmanship — on both sides — in the twentieth century. It continued in the great tradition of Rapallo. The geographic facts are that peace can only be preserved in Eastern Europe if Germany and Russia are at peace, and therefore only a German-Russian policy of friendship or even alliance will keep the peace in that troubled section of the globe.
Certainly, if the British, French, or Poles had been in the slightest degree rational, the Hitler-Stalin Pact should have done precisely that, and the British should have thrown in the ‘tough’ line towel. Instead, the British and Poles got even tougher if anything, and apparently British public opinion now reveled in an irrational orgy of warmongering for the sale of collective security, ‘democracy’ for small nations and whatnot. Here again, Taylor is rather too kind to British willingness to negotiate. The fact is that Hitler, beginning to be taken aback by his opponents’ irrationality, began to urge negotiations, but the Poles remained adamant to the very end. But to me the clearest proof of British bad faith in the matter is that even after Hitler proved that he was serious and not ‘bluffing’ by invading Poland, even then the British and the Poles would not negotiate; now, as we said above, the same ‘crackpot realists’ who had ruined everything by proclaiming that the enemy was ‘bluffing’ and would back down before toughness, were now demanding that no negotiations could possibly begin until the German troops had withdrawn from sacred Polish soil. And so Poland disappeared, and World War II began. Granted the imbecility of the policies of Benes and Beck; but the British, on Taylor’s own account, bear more responsibility for the outbreak of that tragic war than he is willing to concede. Surely more than incompetence was here involved.” See this.
Let’s look at another myth about the “good war.” The neocons say that after Japan treacherously attacked Pearl Harbor and Hitler declared war on America, we had no choice. We were in the war, whether we wanted to be in it or not. But in fact, FDR provoked the Japanese attack because he wanted to get into to the war. J. Alfred Powell tells the story: “Robert B. Stinnett, Day of Deceit: The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor (New York, Free Press, 2000)
A Second World War Navy radioman turned journalist, Robert Stinnett was in the National Archives in Belmont, California, researching a campaign-year picture book on George Bush’s South Pacific wartime navy career in aerial reconnaissance — George Bush: His World War II Years (Washington, D.C., Brassey’s, 1992) — and encountered unindexed duplicate copies of Pearl Harbor radio intercept records of Japanese Navy code transmissions — documentary evidence of what actually happened at Pearl Harbor and how it came about. After eight years of further research and a prolonged case at law under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain partial release of these materials, Stinnett published Day of Deceit (2000). A Japanese translation appeared within a year, understandably.
Stinnett demonstrates, on the basis of extensive incontrovertible factual evidence and self-evidently accurate analysis that President Roosevelt oversaw the contrivance and deployment of a closely-guarded secret plan to goad the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor and monitor them while they did it. Stinnett hypothesizes that Roosevelt did this in order to precipitate an unwilling American public into supporting intervention in the Second World War, but whatever the motives or purposes, the facts are now abundantly clear. Stinnett establishes and proves his case with voluminous documentary evidence, including forty-seven pages of Appendices [p. 261-308] presenting photographic reproductions of key official records, as well as numerous others reproduced in the body of the text, and 65 pages [309-374] of closely detailed reference notes. This evidence proves Stinnett’s factual assertions, arguments and conclusions. His research files and notes are deposited at the Hoover Institute library at Stanford. Day of Deceit is exemplary documentary historiography. It presents the material testimony on which its analysis and conclusions are based. Its validity will be clear to any fair-minded reader. Stinnett’s book settles and resolves rational, candid, honest, fact-based discussion and debate about the background of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
As Stinnett shows, the plan that eventuated in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was set in motion in early October 1940 based on an ‘eight-action memo, dated October 7, 1940 … by Lieutenant Commander Arthur H. McCollum, head of the Far East desk of the Office of Navy Intelligence.’ Of course, it is unlikely that McCollum drafted it on his own initiative, but this is where Stinnett’s paper trail starts. ‘Its eight actions call for virtually inciting a Japanese attack on American ground, air, and naval forces in Hawaii, as well as on British and Dutch colonial outposts in the Pacific region….’ [p. 6-8; the memorandum is reproduced on 261-267]:
A. Make an arrangement with Britain for use of British bases in the Pacific, particularly Singapore.
B. Make an arrangement with Holland for the use of base facilities and acquisition of supplies in the Dutch East Indies [now Indonesia].
C. Give all possible aid to the Chinese government of Chiang Kai-shek.
D. Send a division of long-range heavy cruisers to the Orient, Philippines, or Singapore.
E. Send two divisions of submarines to the Orient.
F. Keep the main strength of the US Fleet, now in the Pacific, in the vicinity of the Hawaiian islands.
G. Insist that the Dutch refuse to grant Japanese demands for undue economic concessions, particularly oil.
H. Complete embargo all trade with Japan, in collaboration with a similar embargo imposed by the British Empire.
As the plan unfolded its development was closely monitored through decoded intercepts of Japanese diplomatic and naval radio communications. ‘McCollum oversaw the routing of communications intelligence to FDR from early 1940 to December 7, 1941 and provided the President with intelligence reports on Japanese military and diplomatic strategy. Every intercepted and decoded Japanese military and diplomatic report destined for the White House went through the Far East Asia section of ONI, which he oversaw. The section served as a clearinghouse for all categories of intelligence reports…. Each report prepared by McCollum for the President was based on radio intercepts gathered and decoded by a worldwide network of American military cryptographers and radio intercept operators…. Few people in America’s government or military knew as much about Japan’s activities and intentions as McCollum.’ Knowledge of the plan was closely held, limited to 13 Roosevelt administration members and chief military officers and 21 members of Naval Intelligence and related operations [listed in Appendix E 307-308]. Item C was already US policy when McCollum wrote his memo. Item F was set in motion on October 8, Items A, B and G on October 16, 1940, Item D and E by November 12, 1940. [Chap. 1 n. 8 p. 311-312; 120 ff. etc.].
Meanwhile, also in the fall of 1940, campaigning for a third term in Boston on October 30, President Roosevelt said: ‘I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.’ On November 1 in Brooklyn he said ‘I am fighting to keep our people out of foreign wars. And I will keep on fighting.’ At Rochester on the 2nd he said ‘Your national government … is equally a government of peace — a government that intends to retain peace for the American people.’ The same day in Buffalo he asserted ‘Your President says this country is not going to war,’ and in Cleveland on the next he declared ‘The first purpose of our foreign policy is to keep our country out of war.’ [William Henry Chamberlin, “How Franklin Roosevelt Lied America Into War,” in Harry Elmer Barnes, Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace (Caldwell, Idaho, Caxton, 1953), Chapter Eight, p. 485-491].
Admiral Richardson, commander of the Pacific Fleet, opposed Roosevelt’s orders [Item F] to station the fleet at Pearl Harbor as putting the fleet at risk, so he was replaced with Admiral Kimmel, with Admiral Anderson of ONI as Kimmel’s third in command at Pearl Harbor, to supervise the radio intercept operation there, unbeknownst to Kimmel. [10-14; 33-34] ‘Anderson was sent to Hawaii as an intelligence gatekeeper’. When he arrived he established his personal housing well away from Pearl Harbor, out of range of the coming attack. Though he was commander of the seven battleships which bore the brunt of the attack with the loss of over two thousand lives, Admiral Anderson was safe at home on the other side of the mountain when the attack came. [36-37; 244, 247] Meanwhile, the commanders in Hawaii, ‘Admiral Husband Kimmel and Lieutenant General Walter Short, were deprived of intelligence that might have made them more alert to the risks entailed in Roosevelt’s policy, but they obeyed his direct order of November 27 and 28, 1941: “The United States desires that Japan commit the first overt act.”’ [6-8] Afterward, they were scapegoated.
In early January 1941 the Japanese decided that in the event of hostilities with the US they would commence with a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. American intelligence learned of this plan on January 27 [30-32]. On July 21, 1941 Lieutenant Commander McCollum’s Item H lit the fuse. Up through late November the White House continued to block concerted attempts by Japanese diplomats to discuss an accommodation. [On this diplomatic history see Charles Beard , American Foreign Policy in the Making (1946) and President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War (1948); Frederic Rockwell Sanborn, Design For War (1951); and Charles Tansill, Back Door To War (1952).]
Beginning November 16, 1941, radio intercepts revealed the formation of the Japanese fleet near the Kurile Islands north of Japan and from November 26 through the first week of December tracked it across the Pacific to Hawaii [41-59 etc.]. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Stark (one of the 34 informed participants) ordered Kimmel to dispatch his aircraft carriers with a large escort fleet to deliver planes to Wake and Midway Islands. ‘On orders from Washington, Kimmel left his oldest vessels inside Pearl Harbor and sent twenty-one modern warships, including his two aircraft carriers, west toward Wake and Midway… With their departure the warships remaining in Pearl Harbor were mostly 27-year-old relics of World War I.’ That is, the battleships sunk at Pearl Harbor with their crews were employed as decoys [152-154]. On 22 November 1941, a week after the Japanese fleet began to assemble and four days before it sailed for Oahu, Admiral Ingersoll issued a ‘Vacant Sea’ order that cleared its path of all shipping and on 25 November he ordered Kimmel to withdraw his ships patrolling the area from which the aerial attack would be staged [144-145]. FDR kept close tabs on the plot’s final unfolding while radio intercepts continued to track its voyage toward Hawaii [161-176].
Stinnett comments: ‘Pearl Harbor’s Battleship Row and its old dilapidated warships presented a mouth-watering target. But it was a major strategic mistake for the Empire. Japan’s 360 warplanes should have concentrated on Pearl Harbor’s massive oil stores … and destroyed the industrial capacity of the Navy’s dry docks, machine shops, and repair facilities’. Six months later, at the battles of Coral Sea (May 4-8, 1942) and Midway (June 4-7), the warships of the Pacific Fleet which were at sea when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred permanently destroyed the offensive capacity of the Japanese Navy to operate in the eastern Pacific and permanently crippled its defensive capacity in the western Pacific. Thereafter, as informed observers understood, a Japanese attack or invasion of the West Coast of America was a total logistical impossibility. Nevertheless, two months later, the internment of West Coast Japanese American citizens began in August 1942.
The Pearl Harbor coverup began immediately afterward with the court marshals of Admiral Kimmel and General Short, continued through eight Congressional investigations during and after the war, with the purging and withholding of documents and false testimony by participants and others [253-260 & passim; 309-310] and persisted through the Congressional hearings chaired by Strom Thurmond in 1995 [257-258]. At the date of publication (2000) numerous documents were still withheld from Stinnett or released in extensively censored form. But his case is conclusively proven on the basis of the evidence he presents, as any fair-minded reader can see. The only way to refute or debunk it would be to establish that his documentary evidence is forged, and prove it. In face of the character of this evidence, the idea is nonsensical.
A key break for Stinnett’s research was his discovery of duplicate copies of reports of Japanese naval code transmissions from the Pearl Harbor radio-intercept station routed after the war to the Belmont (California) National Archives, and still there long after the copies in the Washington, D.C. archive files had been disappeared. Recent writers pretending to debunk Stinnett’s evidence have resurrected claims that the Japanese naval codes had not been deciphered and that the Japanese fleet maintained radio silence — claims that have been refuted repeatedly for decades. Famously, the radio operator of the American liner Mariposa intercepted repeated signals from the Japanese fleet steaming toward Hawaii and relayed its progressive bearings to the Navy. This was well-known during the war to American seamen of the Pacific merchant marine and is mentioned in published accounts.
The pretense that the Japanese naval and diplomatic codes had not been deciphered was first refuted in a federal court in Chicago in 1943. As her biographer Ralph G. Martin recounts, Cissy Patterson, managing editor of the Washington Times-Herald on December 7, 1941 (and for decades before and after) was opposed to American intervention in another world war — like over 80% of her fellow Americans, including her brother Joe Patterson, publisher of the New York News, and her cousin Robert McCormick, publisher of the Chicago Tribune. Serving in France as a battlefield officer, Robert was wounded, twice gassed, and decorated for valor. His Chicago Tribune, like his cousins’ newspapers and numerous others, especially off the east coast, was vocally anti-interventionist — until Pearl Harbor.
In Cissy (New York, Simon & Schuster, 1979) Martin writes: ‘As the news of the disaster [at Pearl Harbor] kept coming in [to the Times-Herald’s newsroom], Cissy bitterly asked [her Sunday Editor] Roberts about Roosevelt, “Do you suppose he arranged this?” Later when she learned that American cryptographers had broken the Japanese codes before Pearl Harbor, she was convinced that Roosevelt had known in advance that the Japanese intended to attack’. ‘The Chicago Tribune, the Times-Herald, and two dozen other papers later printed an article by a Tribune war correspondent which indicated that the United States had prevailed [at Midway] because the Japanese codes had been broken…. The Department of Justice decided to file charges that the Tribune and the Times-Herald had betrayed U.S. military secrets…. Attorney General Francis Biddle felt the disclosure of this breakthrough had been tantamount to treason because it gave the Japanese the chance to change their codes. Waldrop [Times-Herald editor] was called to Chicago to testify before a grand jury… In the middle of the testimony, the Navy disclosed that a Navy censor had passed the Tribune article. Forced to drop the case, Biddle said he “felt like a fool.’’ [431-432] He wasn’t the only one.”
We must do everything we can to prevent the necon warmongers from unleashing a nuclear holocaust. Exposing the myth of World War II as the “good war” is a step in the right direction.