FDR, Pearl Harbor and the U.N.
by John V. Denson
A new book entitled The Pearl Harbor Myth:
Rethinking the Unthinkable by George Victor and published by Potomac
Books Inc. of Washington, D.C. is well researched and gives a
very clear picture of how and why the Pearl Harbor myth was created.
This "patriotic political myth" states that the attack
by the Japanese was unprovoked and was a surprise to the Roosevelt
administration, as well as, the key military personnel in Washington;
but the commanders of Pearl Harbor were at fault for not being
ready. Based on a good summary of the up-to-date research the
author, who is an approving admirer of Roosevelt, concludes that
Roosevelt deliberately provoked the attack and that he and his
key military and administrative advisers clearly knew, well in
advance, that the Japanese were going to attack both Pearl Harbor
and the Philippines. Roosevelt wanted to get into the European
War but he had been unsuccessful in provoking Germany; therefore,
he considered the sacrifice of Pearl Harbor and the Philippines
as the best way to get into the European War through the back
door of Japan. The cover-up of this strategy started immediately
after the attack and continues to this day. The author concludes
that this information of the coming attack was intentionally withheld
from the military commanders because it was known that the Japanese
were depending upon the element of surprise and if warnings had
been sent to the commanders of Pearl Harbor and the Philippines,
their preparation for the attack would have caused the Japanese
to cancel their plans.
The losses and damages at Pearl Harbor
are described by Victor as follows:
"In the Pearl Harbor attack, the
United States lost twenty-four hundred troops along with a quarter
of her fleet. Many military leaders and Knox, Hull, and Roosevelt
had underestimated the harm Japan could do, even by a surprise
attack. And U.S. losses were much increased by two unlikely events.
A Japanese bomb penetrated the battleship Arizona's armor at an
odd angle, reaching her magazine and causing her to explode. And
the torpedoed battleship Oklahoma capsized. The explosion of the
Arizona and the capsizing of the Oklahoma resulted in the drowning
of sixteen hundred sailors."
The tremendous losses in the Philippines
have been virtually hidden from the American public but they were
mostly the native soldiers and civilians. Victor states:
"The Philippines suffered widespread
destruction and was captured. Twenty-four hundred troops and seventy
civilians were lost in Hawaii. In the Philippines, one hundred
forty thousand troops were lost and civilian deaths - still unreported
- are estimated to have been as high as three million. Nonetheless,
the defeat at Pearl Harbor became a wrenching tragedy, and the
administration sacrificed the commanders there to restore public
confidence, while the defeat in the Philippines became a noble
defense. Despite devastation and loss of the Philippines, a public
relations operation turned MacArthur into a hero and he was promoted.
The public reaction is not strange, however, when seen in the
light of government control of information - a usual wartime practice."
The author states that the most recent
Pearl Harbor investigation by Congress in October, 2000 resulted
in a resolution by Congress "calling on President William
Clinton to restore the reputations of Short and Kimmel. It provoked
the flurry of accusations that Congress was usurping the job of
historians, revising history, and reviving a long-discredited
conspiracy theory. Clinton took no action on the resolution."
The author, Victor, includes a chapter
from the viewpoint of the Japanese. They were being pressured
strongly by Germany to enter the war by attacking the Soviet Union,
thereby creating a two-front war for the Communist nation. This
strategy came within the actual interests of Japan since they,
like Germany, saw Communism as a great evil and a threat to their
respective nations. Furthermore, Japan had substantial claims
to parts of Manchuria as a result of defeating Russia in the war
of 1905. Both Germany and Japan wanted to avoid a war with America
at almost any cost. Roosevelt was well aware of this pressure
on Japan by Germany but he felt that it was necessary to protect
the Soviet Union as being the best weapon against the Germans,
and therefore, he wanted to prevent Japan from attacking Russia.
Roosevelt began extensive provocations to cause Japan to abandon
its attack on Russia and instead attack America which also served
the purpose of giving Roosevelt the reason to enter the war. Roosevelt
launched an eight-point provocation plan primarily through the
cutting off of oil supplies to Japan so that by the time of the
attack on Pearl Harbor Japan was virtually out of oil and on the
verge of industrial and military collapse. The attack on Pearl
Harbor and the Philippines also would provide Japan with the ability
to attack the Dutch interests in the Pacific, thereby giving them
a new supply of oil.
Victor sees Roosevelt's decisions as being
based upon the assumption of the truth of the following statement:
"Hitler's plan to conquer and enslave most of the world was
hardly a secret." The author cites no authority for this
plan of Hitler to conquer the world and you will not find this
in the two books that Hitler wrote nor in any of his speeches.
His intentions were well known before and during the war. He stated
from the beginning, before he took power, as well as thereafter,
that he was against the harsh and unfair Versailles Treaty which
virtually disarmed Germany and it included the inequities created
for Germany in Poland and Czechoslovakia, which he intended to
correct either through negotiation or, if necessary, by force.
He stated and wrote that the only war he wanted was to fight Communism
and to regain some of the living space that Germany had acquired
in their treaty with Russia during World War I, which was abrogated
by the Versailles Treaty. Nevertheless, the defeat of Hitler,
not Germany, appears to be the premise upon which the author states
that Roosevelt acted so that the end justified the means. Hitler,
the man, must be defeated at all costs and these costs included
the sacrifice of Pearl Harbor and the Philippines in order to
get into the European War via Japan.
I need to depart from a review of Victor's
book momentarily in order to take issue with his basic assumption
that Roosevelt's main interest was the defeat of Hitler. If his
primary end was simply the death of Hitler, Roosevelt had an excellent
opportunity of letting the key military officers in the regular
German army carry out a plan of assassination.
Allen Dulles was stationed in Switzerland
with the OSS (which preceded the CIA) and was assigned the primary
duty of seeing if there was a resistance movement in Germany which
might overthrow Hitler. Dulles learned of a very substantial plot
to kill Hitler early in the war in 1942 after Germany's defeat
at Stalingrad. While Stalin had murdered 35,000 to 50,000 of his
senior military officers prior to the war in order to put in his
loyal officers, Hitler had resisted this strategy and did not
purge the regular German army of its senior officers. Early in
the war a large number of these senior officers, including his
Chief of Staff, General Ludwig Beck, built up a strong resistance
movement with the purpose of assassinating Hitler and then surrendering
to the American and British forces. They intended then to continue
the war against Communism and the Soviet Union. A new government
was to be created with Beck at the head and Dr. Carl Goerdeler,
former mayor of Leipzig, to be the two top people. There was originally
a large group who helped draw up the plan which included numerous
civilians who would serve in the new democratic government, so
it was not just to be a military coup. Dulles stated that even
after the resistance movement had been discouraged by Roosevelt's
unconditional surrender policy, nevertheless, a small group of
officers who remained committed to the assassination of Hitler
made an unsuccessful attempt on Hitler's life on July 20, 1944.
Hitler rounded up all of the people who were even suspected of
being a part of this plot and this amounted to over 200,000 Germans
who were put in concentration camps and many were killed. The
two principal high-ranking German officers who took part in the
plot met their fate on the next day after the attempt, with one
being shot by a firing squad and General Beck was allowed to commit
suicide in the presence of the Nazi officers.
When Roosevelt first learned of this significant
resistance movement and the plan of the Germans to surrender immediately
to America and the British, he unilaterally announced the unconditional
surrender policy which caused much of the resistance movement
to dissolve and their plans to be abandoned. Roosevelt's unconditional
surrender policy was not well received by either Churchill or
Stalin. Dulles, as well as, many key military advisers, were unsuccessful
in getting Roosevelt to abandon or substantially revise this policy.
They pointed out to Roosevelt that it would discourage the assassination
of Hitler. It would make the Germans fight harder, cause the war
to last longer and be more costly than necessary. Roosevelt's
policy required unconditional surrender to the British, the Soviets
and America simultaneously. No surrender would be accepted unless
it was made to all three at the same time. Many of the German
officers decided that they would rather fight against all three
rather than surrender to the Soviet Union. (See Germany's Underground:
The Anti-Nazi Resistance by Allen Dulles and Unconditional Surrender
by Anne Armstrong.)
One of the best writers on World War II
was Hanson Baldwin, who covered the war for The New York Times.
After the war he wrote a book entitled Great Mistakes of the War,
which was published in 1949. Baldwin says the greatest mistake
made was the unconditional surrender policy of Roosevelt. He states
that the policy "probably discouraged the opposition to Hitler"
and adds that it "probably lengthened the war, cost us lives
and helped to lead to the present abortive peace." Baldwin
then points out that it also had a detrimental effect in the war
against Japan. The Japanese had indicated they were willing to
surrender if the unconditional surrender policy was changed so
as to allow them to keep their Emperor but President Roosevelt
ignored the offer in January of 1945. After Roosevelt's death,
President Truman stated he was going to continue the unconditional
surrender policy and rejected the offer in July, 1945. The war
continued and Truman ordered the atomic bombs to be dropped in
August of 1945 and the surrender followed in September. The Japanese
were allowed to keep their Emperor after the war, and so in the
end, the unconditional surrender policy was dropped as to Japan,
but only after they were bombed with two atomic bombs. (See The
Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb by Dennis D. Wainstock and The
Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb by Gar Alperovitz.)
My argument is that Roosevelt's unconditional
surrender policy was designed to stop the resistance movement
because Roosevelt did not want an early end to the war. He wanted
a new chance to create a world organization, which he may have
actually believed would end all war for the future. President
Wilson had made this promise with the creation of the League of
Nations. Roosevelt's plan was to bring all nations under the cover
of the United Nations with America and the Soviet Union as the
remaining two super powers who would be virtually in control of
this new world organization. Roosevelt had been part of the Woodrow
Wilson administration and personally witnessed the worldwide adulation
of President Wilson immediately after World War I when he came
to Europe. Roosevelt saw the admiring mobs of people who lined
the streets in France and Italy to cheer Wilson and the newspaper
reports stated that thousands of people lined the railroad tracks
at night just to watch Wilson's train go by. Wilson was considered
by millions of people as the greatest man in the world at that
time because it was perceived that he brought peace to the world
and had saved Europe. His vision for the League of Nations was
considered by many as the hope of the future throughout the world
to stop all war forever. (See Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed
the World by Margaret MacMillan.) Roosevelt made 800 speeches
in his vice presidential campaign in 1920 praising the League
of Nations. Roosevelt felt that America's entry into World War
II would give him a chance to succeed where his mentor and idol,
Woodrow Wilson, had failed when the American Senate failed to
approve the Versailles Treaty which contained the provision creating
the League of Nations.
In August of 1941, Roosevelt met with
Churchill prior to Pearl Harbor and brought up the United Nations
idea to which Churchill objected. Nevertheless, Churchill went
along with it because he needed America in the war. Stalin also
objected to the United Nations idea and both he and Churchill
felt that the postwar settlement should have separate spheres
of influence for each victor rather than a world organization
to which the countries might lose their sovereignty and also lose
control of their special goals.
The best account of Roosevelt and the
United Nations is thoroughly covered in the book entitled FDR
and the Creation of the U.N. by Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley
published by the Yale University Press in 1997. Both authors are
admirers of Roosevelt and of his accomplishment in creating the
United Nations. A brief summary of the main points and several
excerpts will tell that story.
"On November 10, 1939, Pope Pius
XII proclaimed the need to establish 'a stable international organization'
after the war. In a private response of December 23, President
Roosevelt voiced his belief that, while no spiritual or civic
leader could now define a specific structure for the future, 'the
time for that will surely come'; meanwhile, the United States
would 'encourage a closer association between those in every part
of the world - those in religion and those in government - who
have a common purpose.' "
The authors then point out that extensive
planning began to take place by others in regard to the postwar
"Into this planning vacuum stepped
the private Council on Foreign Relations with an offer to study
postwar issues secretly and make its deliberations available to
the State Department. The council was a Northeastern seaboard
phenomenon, an elitist mix of prominent New York bankers and lawyers
with European interests and prominent academics and intellectuals,
many of whom had served as advisers to Woodrow Wilson at the Paris
peace conference. The businessmen provided the money, while the
scholars furnished most of the intellectual leadership. The council
operated mainly through off-the-record conferences, study groups,
and small dinners confined to members, who were addressed by foreign
or American statesmen. It published Foreign Affairs, a scholarly
quarterly that had become the leading American journal of its
kind. In an age when fewer than one thousand Americans could claim
a journeyman's competence, or even a sustained interest, in foreign
affairs, the Council on Foreign Relations was a rare island of
influence and expertise in the body politic."
In less than one month after the attack
on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and followed immediately by
the declaration of war by Congress, Roosevelt began forming the
United Nations into a specific entity:
"On January 1, 1942, the Soviet and
Chinese ambassadors in Washington joined with Roosevelt and Churchill
(who had arrived at the White House in late December) in signing
the Declaration by United Nations. The following day, representatives
of twenty-two other nations at war with the Axis powers added
their signatures to the document, which created a wartime alliance
of states who promised to wage war with all of their resources
and not sign a separate peace. The president apparently thought
up the name 'United Nations' and secured the Prime Minister's
approval by bursting into his bedroom at the White House while
the doughty Britain was taking a bath."
Roosevelt felt that Wilson had been partly
to blame for the failure of the Senate to authorize the signing
of the Versailles Treaty, thereby causing America not to join
the League of Nations. Roosevelt felt that he could be more flexible
if he only had a war which would give him an opportunity to succeed
where Wilson had failed. Hoopes and Brinkley give a quick historical
review as follows:
"The Senate's rejection of the League
of Nations treaty on March 19, 1920, was a result of many factors,
of which perhaps the most basic was the enduring fear and contempt
for Europe's continual intrigues and wars. As most Americans saw
it, they had sent their young men to France in 1917 to fight and
die for a worthy cause - to make the world safe for democracy."
But they had recoiled in disgust and disbelief at the spectacle
of greed displayed by the European victors and embodied in the
vengeful Treaty of Versailles. More direct and immediate reasons
for the Senate's rejection of the League were the personal bitterness
between President Wilson and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (R-Massachusetts),
chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the misplaced
loyalty of the Democratic Senators to their party leader in the
White House. The primary cause of failure, however, was the absolute
rigidity rooted in moral and intellectual arrogance, of Woodrow
The authors point out that Roosevelt was
much more flexible and willing to compromise in order to create
the United Nations.
After America entered the war there was
a great deal of activity in trying to help Roosevelt create the
United Nations. Hoopes and Brinkley state the following:
"John Foster Dulles apparently felt
that the Shotwell group was too secular, for he formed the Commission
to Study the Bases of a Just and Durable Peace, under the auspices
of the Federal Council of Churches. In one of many speeches, he
declared, 'the sovereignty system is no longer consonant with
either peace or justice,' and said that he was 'rather appalled'
at the lack of any agreed peace aims 'to educate and crystalize
public opinion.' Yet he too offered no specific remedies. In a
long editorial in Life magazine entitled 'The American Century,'
publisher Henry Luce noted the 'golden opportunity' for world
leadership that the United States had passed up in 1919, and called
on the American people to help Roosevelt succeed where Wilson
had failed. It was now the time, Luce wrote, to accept 'our duty
and our opportunity as the most powerful and vital nation in the
Hoopes and Brinkley go on to describe
Roosevelt's immediate public endorsement of the United Nations
in his State of the Union address as follows:
"The President's State of the Union
address on January 6, 1942 - just one month after the attack on
Pearl Harbor - was praised by George Orwell on BBC radio as a
'complete and uncompromising break . . . with isolationism.' Roosevelt
said, 'the mood of quiet grim resolution which here prevails bodes
ill for those who conspired and collaborated to murder world peace.
The mood is stronger than any mere desire for revenge. It expresses
the will of the American people to make very certain that the
world will never so suffer again. He referred to the signing of
the Declaration by the United Nations just six days before, and
defined the primary objective of that act to be 'the consolidation
of the United Nations' total war effort against our common enemies.'
His focus was entirely on the war effort.
But if the Administration had decided
that the public disclosure of postwar plans were dangerously premature,
such inhibitions did not apply to the press and private sector.
Throughout 1942, there was a steady procession of proposals for
shaping the new world and educating the American people.
The Commission to Study the Organization
of Peace, whose president, Columbia professor James T. Shotwell,
was an occasional adviser to the State Department planning effort,
accepted the need for an 'Anglo - American directorate' to run
the world in the immediate postwar period . . .
On March 5, 1942, the Commission to Study
the Bases of a Just and Durable Peace, headed by John Foster Dulles,
proposed a far more radical solution. It called specifically for
a world government complete with a parliament, an international
court, and appropriate agencies. The world government would have
the power to regulate international trade, settle disputes between
member nations, and control all military forces, except those
needed to maintain domestic order..."
"A more convincing, more sophisticated
argument for realpolitik was Walter Lippmann's 1943 best-seller,
U.S. Foreign Policy: Shield of the Republic, a brilliant essay
designed to counter the idealistic one-world internationalism
of which Wendell Willkie was the leading purveyor. It sold nearly
one half million copies. Lippmann, a crusading editor who had
helped Woodrow Wilson prepare his peace program, had been disillusioned
by the Versailles Treaty and the League of Nations, but retained
the conviction that American leadership in world affairs was an
absolute prerequisite of stability and peace. He thought Willkie's
thesis was founded on sand and that its corollary - that the United
States must undertake to police the world - was a dangerous doctrine.
Lippmann argued that all nations must balance their commitments
with their resources and should avoid being overextended.
Lippmann's formula for peace was no new
League of Nations but a basic alliance of the United States, Britain
and Russia. No other nations were serious factors in the world
power equation. China and France were not great powers. Only Britain
and Russia were strong enough to threaten U.S. security, but given
America's close ties to Britain, there was no risk from that quarter.
The only real danger was a falling out with Russia, but peace
and stability required that this be avoided at all costs, for
an Anglo-American alliance against Russia would set the stage
'inexorably' for a third world war."
Hoopes and Brinkley summarize the negotiations
between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, pointing out that Roosevelt
suggested the Big Four World Policeman would be America, Great
Britain, Russia and China and then there would be seven representatives
of regional organizations. However, Roosevelt privately stated
to his key advisers that Soviet Russia and America would be the
two remaining super powers and would be actually in charge of
the organization. The authors then state:
"Also, he did not believe that Stalin
would join an all - embracing international organization without
the protection of an absolute veto power. . .
While America's postwar planners were
thinking in terms of some synthesis of regional and global organization
to replace the League of Nations, the British Prime Minister was
thinking of authoritative regional arrangements without a global
nexus, and his focus was on Europe. He was dismissive of China,
and uneasy at the idea of sharing responsibility for the future
of Western Europe with the Soviet Union. In a note to Eden of
October 12, 1942, Churchill wrote, 'I must admit that my thoughts
rest primarily in Europe - the revival of the glory of Europe,
the parent continent of the modern nations and of civilization.'
It would be a 'measureless disaster if Russian barbarism overlaid
the culture and independence' of these ancient states. 'We certainly
do not want to be shut up with the Russians and the Chinese' in
Europe. Moreover 'I cannot regard the Chungking Government as
representing a great world power.' "
The authors describe Roosevelt's opinion
regarding the necessity of having Stalin's cooperation for creating
and operating the United Nations as follows:
"Much depended on Stalin, for the
Soviet Union would be the only first-rate military power on the
continents of Europe and Asia after the war. If the dictator chose
cooperation, the foundations of a peaceful society would be laid
with confidence; if he chose another course, the Western allies
would be 'driven back on a balance of power system.' "
The authors also cover the importance
of the Yalta Conference in regard to the creation of the United
"Calling the Yalta Conference a turning
point - 'I hope in our history and therefore in the history of
the world' - FDR said that whether it could bring forth lasting
results 'lies to a great extent in your hands.' The Senate and
the American people would soon face 'a great decision that will
determine the fate of the United States - and of the world - for
generations to come.' Everyone should understand there was no
middle ground. 'We shall have to take responsibility for world
collaboration, or we should have to bear the responsibility for
another world conflict.' The Yalta agreements 'ought' to spell
the end of unilateral actions, exclusive alliances, spheres of
influence, and balances of power that 'have been tried for centuries
- and have always failed.' It was time to substitute 'a universal
organization,' and the President was confident that Congress and
the American people would accept the Yalta agreements as laying
the foundations of 'a permanent structure of peace . . .' "
The agreement on Poland was entirely dependant
on Stalin's word, for there was no practical way to confront Russian
power in Eastern Europe. In part, this stance was dictated by
the basic need for Russian military cooperation to finish the
war against Germany and then join the war against Japan; in larger
part it reflected FDR's judgment that establishing the United
Nations organization was the overarching strategic goal, the absolute
first priority. He faced, as he viewed it, a delicate problem
of balance. To prevent a U.S. reversion to isolationism after
the war, U.S. participation in the new world organization was
the sine qua non, but the United Nations could not be brought
into being without genuine Russian cooperation, and that depended
on Western accommodation to unpalatable manifestations of the
Soviet Communist system in Eastern Europe." [Emphasis supplied]
The authors then point out that on April
6, 1945 the president authorized Archibald MacLeish to prepare
the speech he intended to make at the opening session of the San
Francisco conference. There had been some speculation that he
might even resign his position as president in order to be leader
of the United Nations. However, on April 12, he died and the authors
"To internationalists, the fallen
leader promptly became a martyr and symbol of their cause. Intoned
the New Republic, 'Franklin Roosevelt at rest at Hyde Park is
a more powerful force for America's participation in the world
organization than was President Roosevelt in the White House."
If Roosevelt's primary aim in World War
II was to create the United Nations and thereby bring world peace
forever (in his own mind), and that he considered the cooperation
of Stalin and the Soviet Union as the essential piece to that
puzzle, this helps explain why Roosevelt was so compromising with
Stalin throughout the war. It also helps explain why he let Harry
Hopkins live in the White House and be his closest adviser. The
author, George Victor, in his preface, addresses the fact that
Hopkins was probably a Communist agent and then he states "there
are speculations that Hopkins influenced U.S. policy toward the
Soviet Union in 1941, but no evidence of it." He then defends
Hopkins by saying that Hopkins never did anything without the
express direction of Roosevelt, which may defend Hopkins, but
it certainly does not defend Roosevelt. Roosevelt surely must
have been aware of the intercepted cables which show that Hopkins
was an agent of the Soviets. The cables called "The Venona
Cables" were those communications between Soviet spies in
America that were intercepted by American intelligence forces
which were available to Roosevelt. These "Venona Cables"
were released to the public in 1995 and in a sensational book
entitled The Venona Secrets: Exposing Soviet Espionage and America's
Traitors by Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel they show the
fact that Harry Hopkins was a Soviet agent, being number 19. They
point out that the cables revealed that the Soviets were ordering
tons of uranium in March of 1943 and that Major George R. Jordan
objected to sending the uranium since he and General Groves, head
of the Manhattan project, were concerned about Soviet espionage.
Major Jordan testified that he objected to sending the uranium
but that "Harry Hopkins had told him on the phone to expedite
the shipments." Major Jordan later wrote a book claiming
that Hopkins had helped the Soviets against the interests of the
In conclusion of my argument, I take issue
that the end justified the means, and therefore disagree with
Victor on this point. Roosevelt's personal ambitions for greatness,
obtaining worldwide adulation, and his desire to create the United
Nations could hardly be considered ends that justified the means
Getting back to Victor's book, he states
in his last chapter entitled "History and the Unthinkable"
that the disaster in Pearl Harbor "needs to be remembered,
not for anything about Japanese treachery or U.S. blunders. Its
main lessons are about sacrifice, deception and political considerations
as common features of military planning." He points out that
other presidents have caused similar sacrifices of the lives of
soldiers and sailors, as well as civilians, with similar acts
of deception for political considerations. He states:
"Polk, Lincoln and McKinley confronted
dilemmas between what they considered important U.S. interests
and popular opposition to war. Lincoln's problem was extreme;
for years, conflict over slavery had been tearing the nation apart.
As Lincoln saw it, the secession and the likelihood of further
splitting threatened the nation's existence. 'However, there was
one way out,' according to historian Richard Hofstadter, 'the
Confederates themselves might bring matters to a head by attacking
Sumter . . . . It was precisely such an attack that Lincoln's
strategy brought about.' Hofstadter added that 'the Japanese attack
on Pearl Harbor did for [Roosevelt] what the Confederate attack
on Fort Sumter had done for Lincoln.'"
Victor carefully analyses the situation
with Abraham Lincoln as being comparable to Roosevelt in starting
their respective wars:
"On becoming president in 1861, Abraham
Lincoln's highest priority was preserving the Union. To end the
secession, he was willing to guarantee federal noninterference
with slavery. He therefore pushed a constitutional amendment for
noninterference through Congress, and three states quickly ratified
it, but the secession continued. Lincoln was also willing - if
necessary for preserving the Union - to fight a war. But he found
his nation - and his own cabinet - against such a war. Even radical
abolitionists opposed it.
The Confederacy had taken over most federal
installations in its states - installations surrendered on request
by their administrators. Of those remaining in federal hands,
Fort Sumter in South Carolina was exposed to attack and running
out of supplies. Lincoln asked his cabinet's advice on whether
to supply the fort. With one exception, they opposed it because
doing it risked war. Lincoln then sent the supplies, prompting
an attack on the fort which became the incident he used to start
the Civil War.
If known at the time, Lincoln's deliberate
exposure of the fort might have caused serious political repercussions.
Later historical accounts that imputed to him the intention of
fostering an incident for war in order to preserve the Union have
created little stir. His towering place in history is undamaged
by them and he, too, is viewed as a president with a clear idea
of his mission, effective in carrying it out."
The author, Victor, also goes into some
detail in regard to President Polk starting the Mexican War:
"On becoming president in 1845, James
Polk told his cabinet that California would be annexed. (His predecessors
had offered to buy California, but Mexico had refused to sell.)
To his consul in California, Polk suggested fomenting a revolution
and promised U.S. support for residents who rose against Mexico.
A tiny uprising under Capt. John Fremont had no effect on California's
status. Polk then sent an army to the Rio Grande.
History books describe that area as U.S.
territory, Texas territory, or land in dispute between the United
States and Mexico. The area was, however, recognized by a U.S.
treaty as within Mexico's borders. As Polk expected, Mexico attacked
the army, slaughtering a troop.
On sending the army, Polk wrote, in advance,
a request to Congress for a declaration of war based on the incident
he expected. After it happened, he submitted his request, claiming
that Mexican troops 'had passed the boundary of the United States
. . . invaded our territory and shed American blood upon American
soil . . . . War exists notwithstanding all our efforts to avoid
it.' But Polk, not Mexico, had sought the war. Congress then declared
war on Mexico and by an easy victory, Polk acquired the southwest
for his nation."
Victor points out that President McKinley
sent the battleship Maine into the harbor of Havana, which was
Spanish territory, as a provocation to the Spanish and when the
ship exploded from within it killed 260 U.S. sailors. The false
propaganda was that the Spanish caused it, thus giving McKinley
an excuse to go to war and to acquire from Spain America's first
empire. McKinley was strongly supported in his efforts to get
into the war by none other than the "Megaphone of Mars,"
Teddy Roosevelt, who was serving as the Assistant Navy Secretary.
Roosevelt declared "The Maine was sunk by an act of dirty
treachery on the part of the Spaniards." The new battle cry
for the war was now "Remember the Maine."
The author expresses no moral judgment
against these presidents for starting their respective wars and
"Deception is as old as the history
of war. According to the classic work The Art of War by Sun-tzu
'All warfare is based on deception.' It is, of course, practiced
on enemies, but deception is also used on subordinates. A common
example is a suicide attack. In order to have troops carry it
out officers may hide the attack's hopelessness from them. They
may even mislead troops to believe that it will succeed."
Victor recites the views expressed by
General George C. Marshall at the Pearl Harbor hearings before
Congress in 1945-6, as follows:
"In my view, General Marshall was
indeed an outstanding chief of staff, upright, honorable, and
incorruptible - as much so as his position permitted. Testifying
to various tribunals investigating the Pearl Harbor disaster,
other military officers vigorously denied that they had withheld
vital information from field commanders. The denials were false.
Marshall was the exception; he testified to a congressional committee
that withholding vital information from commanders was routine
practice. World War II documents show not only withholding of
information from field commanders, but also distortion of it to
The author concludes this extremely disturbing
book with the following two paragraphs:
"Despite the history of war, the
idea that Roosevelt withheld warnings from Kimmel and Short for
the purpose of getting the United States openly into the European
war is still unthinkable to many people, but to fewer and fewer
as the years pass. As has happened over time with other unthinkable
acts, the repugnance aroused by the idea of using the Pacific
Fleet as a lure will probably continue to fade. Polk's exposure
of an army, Lincoln's exposure of a fort, and McKinely's exposure
of a battleship are more or less accepted. In the Philippines,
Midway, Wake, Guam, Samoa, and in other outlying islands, U.S.
forces were exposed to Japanese attack, and that is also more
or less accepted.
The Pearl Harbor disaster was different
from losses of the Philippines and other Pacific islands because
it shattered America's confidence, arousing massive fear, a crisis
of trust in the nation's leaders, and an outcry for scapegoats.
The nation seized on the administration's explanation of betrayal
by Japan and by Kimmel and Short, and the disaster unified the
nation to fight World War II with the slogan 'Remember Pearl Harbor!'
The explanation became a major national myth, which has substantially
withstood the unearthing of secret alliances, war strategies,
and warnings received in Washington."
In the preface the author states: "I
am not the first admirer of Roosevelt to present him in Machiavellian
terms." Victor goes on to quote an admiring biographer of
Roosevelt, James MacGregor Burns, who stated: "It was not
strange that [Roosevelt] should follow Machiavelli's advice .
. . for this had long been the first lesson for politicians."
Victor's final assessment is that:
"History has recorded many, many
rulers' manipulations of their people into war without their subordinates
blowing the whistle. Presidents James Polk, Abraham Lincoln and
Woodrow Wilson did it before Roosevelt; and others have done it
after him . . . .
Presidents who succeeded Roosevelt also
ordered sacrifices, but toward smaller and sometime meaner ends.
Here Roosevelt's manipulations and the sacrifices he ordered are
compared to those of Polk, Lincoln, McKinley and Wilson, all of
whom were implementing ends considered noble in the light of traditional
values." [Emphasis supplied]
The author, George Victor, mentions the
deceit of President Wilson in getting us into World War I but
provides no details. However, you can find this in Charles Tansil's
excellent book entitled America Goes to War. Justice Brandeis,
who was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by Wilson, rendered
his opinion to President Wilson that the alleged sinking of the
French cross-channel passenger ship, the S.S. Sussex, by a German
submarine in the English Channel with the loss of lives of the
U.S. citizens justified a declaration of war against Germany by
the United States. The ship was painted all black and the usual
insignia to show it was not a military ship were missing. The
German commander of the submarine wrote that he took the ship
to be a military ship rather than a passenger ship. Wilson relied
on this legal opinion of Justice Brandeis, who was Wilson's most
influential adviser along with Col. House, and the president addressed
both houses of Congress on April 2, 1917 using the sinking of
Sussex and the loss of American lives as a reason to declare war
on April 7, 1917. It was only after America was committed to the
war that the truth came out, which apparently was not considered
material by the news media, so the public never was fully informed.
The Sussex was not sunk and no American lives were lost. The ship
was torpedoed by the Germans but made it safely to the harbor
at Boulogne where it was hidden for some period of time.
Victor mentions that subsequent presidents
to Roosevelt have also deceitfully taken America into wars but
provides no names. He could have cited President Lyndon Johnson
and his lies about the Gulf of Tonkin incident to get Congress
to authorize him to retaliate to get America into the Viet Nam
War. He could also have mentioned our current president and the
lies about weapons of mass destruction to get us into the war
with Iraq. In both cases Congress accepted the lies of the president
and unconstitutionally delegated the war making power to the president
rather than declaring war itself, as the Constitution requires.
I agree that Victor has accurately described
the deceitful conduct of the presidents he cites (see the chapters
"Lincoln and the First Shot" and "Roosevelt and
the First Shot" in my book A Century of War) but I strongly
disagree with his conclusion that the American people have knowingly
condoned the deceitful activity of the presidents Victor mentions
because our history books do not contain this information, it
is not taught in the schools and universities and it is not recited
by the news media. You have to have independent researchers like
Victor to find and disclose most of this information.
I wonder if Victor's book will be taught
or read at West Point, Annapolis or the Air Force Academy. After
finishing it, the famous lines from Tennyson's poem The Charge
of the Light Brigade came to mind:
"Theirs not to make reply, Theirs
not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die. Into the valley of
Death Rode the six hundred."
John V. Denson is the author of A Century
of War, The Costs of War and Reassessing the Presidency.
Global Secrets and Lies