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Remembering Pearl Harbor

The sacrifices of those who served in the American military in December, 1941 should be recounted often for us all to ponder and appreciate that the 3000 Americans who died at Pearl Harbor should not have perished in vain.  The sincerest memorial to those who fought and died in this tragedy (and others in American history) is to analyze and discuss the multitude of reasons why it happened and how we ensure that American servicemen are not knowingly put in harm’s way for political purposes ever again. 

As there is far too much information available today for the surprise attack myth to survive even cursory scrutiny, and thanks to the Freedom of Information Act and declassification of hundreds of thousands of decoded Japanese messages, we can now get a very clear picture of how events unfolded in 1940-41.

The myth reported by our historians and the media is that the United States was minding its own business until the Japanese launched an unprovoked attack at Pearl Harbor, thereby dragging a reluctant US into a world struggle.  In reality, the US under FDR had been deeply involved in Far Eastern affairs for some time, and those policies actually provoked the Japanese attack. 

As Oliver Lyttleton, British Minister of Production stated in 1944…”Japan was provoked into attacking America at Pearl Harbor.  It is a travesty to say that America was forced into the War.”

After FDR’s numerous provocations toward Germany without retaliation (while the US was neutral) he switched his focus to Japan and had assistance with Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, who stated in October 1941 that “for a long time I have believed that our best entrance into the war would be by way of Japan.” 

And as early as January 27th, 1941, US Ambassador to Japan in Tokyo, Joseph C. Grew noted in his diary that “there is a lot of talk around town to the effect that the Japanese, in case of a break with the US, are planning to go all out in a surprise mass attack on Pearl Harbor.  Of course, I informed our government.”  Even Admiral Ernest J. King wrote a prescient report on 31 March 1941 that predicted a surprise Japanese dawn air attack on Hawaii as the opening of hostilities. 

The US had prepared for a Japanese-American conflict since 1906 with “War Plan Orange” which predicted the Philippines as the expected target, attacked by surprise as the Japanese were notorious for.  By early 1940 Claire Chennault, an American airman hired by the Chinese, was urging General Hap Arnold and Roosevelt to provide bombers with which to firebomb Japanese cities in retaliation for their attacks on China.

While we cannot excuse Japan’s aggressiveness in Asia in the 1930’s, those in high position in the United States government continually provoked the Japanese by freezing assets in the US, closing the Panama Canal to her shipping and progressively reducing exports to Japan until it became an all-out embargo along with Britain’s. 

The Philippines, by 1941, were reinforced to the point of being the strongest US overseas base with 120,000 troops and the Philippine Army had been called into service by FDR.  General MacArthur had 74 medium and heavy bombers along with 175 fighters that included the new B-17’s and P-40E’s with which to attack or defend with.  The mobilization of troops and munitions has always been recognized as preparation for attack and we thus assumed this posture to the Japanese.

The US then implied military threats to Tokyo if it did not alter its Asian policies and on 26 November 1941, FDR issued an ultimatum that Japan withdraw all military forces from China and Indochina as well as break its treaty with Germany and Italy.  The day before the 26 November ultimatum was sent, Secretary of War Stimson wrote in his Diary that “the question was how we should maneuver [the Japanese] into the position of firing the first shot.” 

The bait offered was our Pacific fleet.

In 1940, Admiral J.O. Richardson, then commander of the Pacific Fleet, flew to Washington to protest FDR’s decision to base the fleet in Hawaii instead of its normal berthing at San Diego. His concern was that Pearl Harbor was vulnerable to attack, was difficult to defend against torpedo planes, lacked fuel supplies and dry docks.  Richardson came away from his meeting with FDR “with the impression that, despite his spoken word, the President was fully determined to put the US into the war if Great Britain could hold out until he was reelected.”

Roosevelt relieved Richardson of command with the comment that the admiral “didn’t understand politics.” He replaced Richardson with Admiral Husband Kimmel, who was still concerned about Pearl Harbor’s vulnerability but did not challenge FDR.

Also to be considered was the April, 1941 ABD Agreement FDR concluded with the British and Dutch in Indochina which committed US troops to war if the Dutch East Indies were invaded by the Japanese.  Add to this the 1940 $25 million loan and Lend-Lease aid provided to China.

The Dutch and British were of course eager for US forces to protect their Far Eastern colonial empire from the Japanese while their military was busy in a European war.  And FDR’s dilemma was his 1940 election pledge of non-intervention (unless attacked) to the American people and the US Constitution, which allowed only Congress authority to declare war.  

One of the most revealing elements in FDR’s beforehand knowledge of Japan’s intentions was breaking of the Japanese diplomatic and naval operations codes as early as mid-1939. Copies of all deciphered Japanese messages were delivered to Roosevelt and the Secretaries of War, State and Navy, as well as Army Chief of Staff Marshall and Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Harold Stark. 

With no deciphering machines in Pearl Harbor, though three machines went to Britain, the commanders in Pearl Harbor were left completely dependent upon Washington for information.  It must be understood that with this deciphered information, our government officials could not have been better informed had they had seats in the Japanese war council.

It is in this bare political light that Pearl Harbor should be examined and judged for historical perspective.  Our military should not be pawns used by presidents to initiate war, the very fundamental reason the Founders deliberated extensively on the establishment of a standing army which might be used as such.

As nothing happens in a vacuum and the post-World War One US Neutrality Acts were in place to avoid the political machinations that dragged us into that conflict, FDR’s steady erosion of US neutrality and secret agreements led to that unnecessary loss of brave American service-men.  We hopefully have learned from this.  Bernhard Thuersam

Sources:

Betrayal at Pearl Harbor, Rusbridger & Nave, 1991, Summit Books

The Years of MacArthur, Vol 1, D. C. James, 1970, Houghton Mifflin Company

Blankets of Fire, Kenneth P. Werrell, 1996, Smithsonian Institution Press

Desperate Deception, Thomas E. Mahl, 1998, Brassey’s Books

Pearl Harbor: The Secret War, George Morgenstern, 1947, Devin-Adair Co.

Ten Year’s in Japan, Joseph C. Grew, 1944, Simon & Schuster

Defending British Interests in the Orient

Contrary to mainstream textbook histories, FDR faced stiff opposition in Congress and the military with regard to Japan.  As a committed Anglophile, Roosevelt allowed a neutral US to supply munitions to a belligerent England and sought a backdoor to the European war by luring Japan into shooting first. Admiral J.O. Richardson, commander of the US Pacific fleet in 1940, was relieved of command when he twice criticized FDR’s order for the fleet to remain at Pearl Harbor as obvious bait, instead of steaming back to the safety of San Diego.

An early warning of Japanese intentions was sent by US Ambassador Joseph C. Grew on January 27, 1941: “There is a lot of talk around town to the effect that the Japanese, in case of a break with the United States, are planning to go all out in a surprise mass attack on Pearl Harbor. Of course I informed our Government.” (Ten Years in Japan, Grew, Simon & Schuster, 1944, pg. 368)

Defending British Interests in the Orient

“In mid-August General Douglas MacArthur, the Army Chief of Staff, had told Secretary of War Hurley that, “While this country may conceivably become engaged in a war in the Pacific or with other countries of this hemisphere, such a war under present conditions is not probably and in any event would not be of such a magnitude as to threaten our national safety.”

A bit later he and [Admiral William] Pratt assured the President that Japan could be defeated were war to eventuate; how long it would take depended on whether Great Britain were an active ally of the United States. The views of MacArthur, that war with Japan was “improbable,” reflected a species of folk wisdom extant in the country at that time. There had been no crises in Japanese-American relations since the [California] Immigration Act of 1924, and considerable cooperation had been manifested since 1927.

As an institution, the [US Navy] General Board had long accepted as fact that Japan was the national “enemy” (today the term would be “threat”) and eventually the conflict of interests between the two nations would lead to war. In 1927 the board accepted the premise that Japan’s goal was “political, commercial and political domination of the Western Pacific.”  The events of 1931-1932 merely confirmed this premise.

Led by Rear Admiral Bristol, a former Asiatic Fleet Commander (1927-1929), the Board stood foursquare for maintaining the Open Door [China policy], resisting Philippine independence measures, and promoting American commerce in the Orient. On the other hand, Admiral Taylor, the current CINCAF; his relief in 1933, F.B. Upham; and the respected Rear Admiral W.D. Leahy, destined to become Chief of Naval Operations in January 1937, all shared a common feeling that the United States had so few genuine interests in China that it was foolish to be needling the Japanese. Leahy summed up a lot of [naval] service opinion when he wrote in his diary:

“I do not understand what the Japanese are trying to do . . . It would seem that the United States has little interest there but may be drawn into a war in the Orient by the desire of Europe to have somebody else preserve its trade advantages in China.  It would be wise for America to keep hands off before it is too late.

“Today press news by radio brings us information that the training squadron and all available ships in the Atlantic have been ordered into the Pacific Ocean “for maneuvers . . .”

“Lacking any information as to a reasonable excuse for getting into trouble in the Orient at this time it seems that a movement of all ships to the Pacific can only intensify the existing unfavorable attitude of the Orient toward us. It definitely looks like a bluff that the other side may have to call whether it wants to or not.”

When writing to his brother, Admiral Taylor felt China was “up to its old tricks trying to get someone, preferably the U.S., to fight her battles for her.” A year later he concluded that Secretary [of State Henry] Stimson had “botched” things badly because he had forgotten that legalistic judgment against Japan was worthless unless the public and a sheriff backed the verdict.  “It seems to me that one of the most dangerous persons in the world is a lawyer turned diplomat . . . So in diplomacy, treaties can be quoted, but what is their value as a deterrent to a nation determined on a course of action unless violation brings in its train the international police represented by fleets and troops.”  

Admiral F.B. Upham . . . had a simple prescription: the United States should clear out of the Orient and close its markets to Japanese products.  

(Admiral William V. Pratt, US Navy, A Sailor’s Life (excerpts), Gerald F. Wheeler, Naval Historical Division, 1974, pp. 340-349)

A Militaristic and Aggressive Nation

James William Fulbright, 1905-1995, was born in Missouri and reared in Arkansas, which he eventually represented both in the House and Senate. He signed the Southern Manifesto which declared the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling as “a clear abuse of judicial power” as only Congress can legislate; in 1964 and 1965 he opposed both the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Acts as unconstitutional invasions of clear State authority.

Fulbright additionally questioned the reasons why the Army, Navy and Air Force each spent “millions of tax dollars annually on persuasion of the public that its particular brand of weaponry is the best.” At the conclusion of the 1861-1865 war, Lee wrote to Lord Acton that “The consolidation of the States into one vast empire, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor to ruin which has overwhelmed all that has preceded it.” 

A Militaristic and Aggressive Nation

“Violence is our most important product. We have been spending nearly $80 billion a year on the military, which is more than the profits of all American business, or, to make another comparison, is almost as much as the total spending of the federal, State, and local governments for health, education, old age and retirement benefits, housing, and agriculture. Until the past session of the Congress, these billions have been provided to the military with virtually no questions asked.

Many people looked on [the Sentinel ABM program] as they now look on Safeguard, not as a weapon but as a means of prosperity. For the industrialist it meant profits; for the worker new jobs and the prospect of higher wages; for the politician a new installation or defense order with which to ingratiate himself with his constituents.

Military expenditures today provide the livelihood of some ten percent of our work force. There are 22,000 major corporate defense contractors and another 100,000 subcontractors. Defense plants or installations are located in 363 of the country’s 435 congressional districts. Even before it turns its attention to the public at large, the military has a large and sympathetic audience for its message.

These millions of Americans who have a vested interest in the expensive weapons systems spawned by our global military involvements are as much a part of the military industrial complex as the generals and the corporation heads.  In turn they have become a powerful force for the perpetuation of these involvements, and have had an indirect influence on the weapons development policy that has driven the United States into a spiraling arms race with the Soviet Union and made us the world’s major salesman of armaments.

A Marine war hero and former Commandant of the Corps, General David M. Shoup, has said: “America has become a militaristic and aggressive nation.”

(The Pentagon Propaganda Machine, J.W. Fulbright, Liveright Publishing, 1970, excerpt pp. 12-13)

Prosperity Through Armaments

To underscore the following excerpts, author George Thayer states that “We live in an age of weapons. Never before in the history of mankind have weapons of war been so dominant a concern as they have been since 1945.” Thayer writes that after the second war to end all wars, the US “had given away $48.5 billion worth of arms and military supplies to 48 nations.” One of these was the Soviet Union of Josef Stalin, who Roosevelt had armed to the teeth and who immediately became the US’s postwar primary adversary.

Prosperity Through Armaments

“In the twenty-four years since 1945, there have been fifty-five wars of significant size, duration and intensity throughout the world. This means that mankind faces a new and violent conflict somewhere in the world slightly more often than once every five months, any one of which is capable of provoking a holocaust.

If one adds to this total all the coups, large-scale riots and clashes of unorganized, low-order violence, then the total of postwar cases of armed conflict that have had significant impact on the course of history would number in excess of fifteen score – more than one per month.

Today we are far along the way to losing our sense of proportion, for by any definition many of these wars have been quite large. For instance, bombing tonnage in the Korean War exceeded all the tonnage dropped by the Allies in the Pacific Theater of World War II. In the “small” six-day Sinai War of 1967, more tanks were committed to battle than by the Germans, Italians and Allies together at the crucial twelve-day battle of El Alamein in 1942. And from July 1965 to December 1967, more bomb tonnage was dropped on Vietnam than was dropped by the Allies on Europe during all of World War II.

Consider some of the political consequences that today’s arms trade have produced:

The fall of Germany’s Erhard government in 1966 can be blamed in large part on Bonn’s purchases of American military equipment which it could not afford and did not need.

The cancellation of the Skybolt missile by the United States in 1962 was one of the contributing factors that led to Prime Minister MacMillan’s resignation in 1963.

The Pakistan-India War of 1965, in which American equipment was used on both sides, produced two results adverse to United States interests: it forced Pakistan to take a more neutral position in world affairs, and it forced India to consider manufacturing nuclear weapons.

Had there been no large infusion of American weapons into the area (ostensibly as a defense against communism), the war would not have taken place.”

(The War Business: The International Trade in Armaments, George Thayer, Simon and Schuster, 1969, excerpts pp. 17-21)

Conservative Southern Democrats of 1917

Washington’s warning regarding foreign entanglements, as well as John Quincy Adam’s belief that America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy, were forgotten by Woodrow Wilson’s reign. In the latter’s time there were those in Congress who saw that Britain was a preferred creditor of American business interests and thus had to be bailed out with American lives and fortune.

The question must be asked: Had Britain been left on its own to seek an armistice with Germany, and Kaiser Wilhelm remaining on the throne, would a German nationalist rising out of American intervention and German defeat have occurred?

Conservative Southern Democrats of 1917

“[In] the period of neutrality of the First World War more Southerners opposed intervention and Wilson’s foreign policies than they did intervention and [FDR’s] foreign policies in the period of neutrality of the Second World War.

In an editorial of March 11, 1917, the Greensboro Daily News said the rich and the heads of corporate industry wanted war, not the great, silent masses. It was persuaded by its readers’ letters, it said, “that the masses of people of this section have little desire to take a hand in Europe’s slaughter and confusion.”

Several Southerners in Congress, such as Claude Kitchin of North Carolina, majority leader in the House of Representatives, and Senator James K. Vardaman of Mississippi, opposed Wilson’s foreign policy and upheld traditional isolationist views. Vardaman belonged to that “little band of willful men” who in February 1917 successfully filibustered against Wilson’s Armed Neutrality bill and was one of the six senators who voted against war with Germany.

In his opposition speech of April 8, 1917, to Wilson’s request for war, Kitchin insisted that the President’s foreign policy had been pro-British from the outbreak of hostilities. “We are to make their quarrel, right or wrong, our quarrel,” Kitchin said. “We are to fight out, with all the resources in men, money and credit of the Government and its people a difference between the belligerents of Europe to which we were and are utter strangers.” This was a view many isolationists, North and South, could accept.

Kitchin and the South resented, among other things, Britain’s blockade because of its adverse effect on cotton and tobacco growers . . . [as] in the first two years of the war, the South suffered more from the blockade than any other section. The possibility that the Southerners in Congress might join with the German-American and Irish-American elements to force a retaliatory arms embargo against the British for suppression of the cotton trade with Central Europe appeared in 1915 as a grave threat to Anglo-American relations.

“The cotton producers of North Carolina and the entire South are aroused over the action of Great Britain in declaring cotton contraband,” Claude Kitchin announced, according the Greensboro Daily News of August 27, 1915, “and they want the Administration to be as emphatic in dealing with England on this score as it has been dealing with Germany over others.”

Throughout the South there was a widespread campaign for retaliation against the British government.

The British, to pacify the South, finally made a secret agreement with the American government to buy enough cotton to stabilize the price at ten cents a pound. British buying . . . soon drove up cotton prices and the crisis passed.”

(The South and Isolationism, Alexander Deconde; The South and the Sectional Image, The Sectional Theme Since Reconstruction, Dewey W. Grantham, editor, Harper & Row, 1967, excerpts pp. 120-121)

The British Version of Sherman

With respect to the initiation of modern total war against a civilian population, the author below argues that after a century or two of civilized warfare between European combatants, “total war did in fact appear, beginning with the American Civil War, and has been the form of war in the twentieth century.” Lincoln’s general, Sherman, seems to have absorbed Allan Ramsey’s view of war against civilians, and was driven by his belief that Americans in the South could in no manner oppose the will of his government — to do so meant fire and sword used to bring them to subjection – after which his fury would cease. Sherman continued his total war against the Plains Indians; a young Spanish officer named Valeriano Weyler visited the North during the War, observed Sherman’s art of warfare, and used this to devastating effect against Cuban civilians in the mid-1890s.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The British Version of Sherman

“Although [David] Hume presented the specter of total war against the civilian population as a reduction to absurdity of British policy on both moral and practical grounds, his good friend Allan Ramsey embraced it as the only way to win the war. But what is most important about Ramsey’s proposal in the moral justification he offered for it.

Allan Ramsey was a court [portrait] painter to George III . . . [and] also a political theorist of some merit and wrote a number of pamphlets on political topics . . . [arguing in 1778] that the war is being lost because the British have not followed a proper strategy. The war must be turned against the civilian population.

Ramsey proposes that a garrison be established in New York . . . to serve as a rendezvous point for all British operations. Ten thousand troops are then to embark on transports to any province that is vulnerable and important . . . [and] to carry away all “that may be useful to the public service” and then “burn and destroy the houses, magazines, and plantations . . . sparing the lives of all the persons who do not attempt by arms to prevent them.” The troops are then to embark for some other province “where the like may be repeated.”

Washington’s army could not match the mobility of the British navy, and one could expect the colonial army to melt away as men returned to their devastated provinces to assist their families. Should the people remain obstinate, their scorched and impoverished land could be occupied by loyal immigrants.

Ramsey recognized that “such a scheme . . .” would be rejected as barbarous by “the more human, and more respectable part of the community.” But to this he had an ingenious reply.

[As] the American people claim to be sovereign; thus the people themselves are in a state of war with the King’s forces. “[The] inhabitants of America . . . with the express purpose of making war upon England, have formed themselves into a Government . . . where every man may be said, in his own individual person, to have bid defiance to the King of Great Britain; so that he must thank his own folly and temerity, if, at any time, he should come off short from so unequal a contest.”

We have here the germ of the twentieth-century rationale for total war: war aimed at the people of a nation, scorched-earth strategy, the bombing of civilian populations, massive deportations of peoples, and the enslavement of the vanquished.

Total war is not unique to the twentieth century, nor is it due to “technology,” which has merely made its implementation more practicable and terrible. Modern total war is possible only among “civilized” nations. It is shaped and legitimated by an act of reflection, a way of thinking about the world whereby an entire people become the enemy.

Happily the rules [of civilized warfare] were still in force for Lord North and George III, who did not follow Ramsay’s advice to wage total war against the colonists. The complete domination of reflection over moral sentiment, which is the mark of the barbarism of refinement, had not yet occurred.”

(Philosophical Melancholy and Delirium, Hume’s Pathology of Philosophy, Donald W. Livingston, University of Chicago Press, 1998, excerpts pp. 296-301)

Sherman’s Legacy in Korea

Though MacArthur recognized that American use of chemical weapons against Chinese and North Korean forces would open the door to retaliation, it was “requested [that] sufficient quantities to be shipped immediately in the event use of gas is approved [by Washington].” The destruction of huge irrigation dams in northern Korea was considered “barbaric” as it not only destroyed rice to starve the population, but also drowned countless thousands of old men, women and children.  The Truman administration censored reporters to keep civilian deaths and atrocities from the American public, as did Lincoln in his day.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sherman’s Legacy in Korea

“The United States came closest to using atomic weapons in early April 1951, precisely the time that Truman removed McArthur. It is now clear that Truman removed MacArthur not simply because of his repeated insubordination, but because he wanted a reliable commander on the scene if Washington decided to use nuclear weapons: that is, Truman traded McArthur for his atomic policies.

Perhaps the most daunting and terrible project, however, was Operation Hudson Harbor. It appears to have been part of a larger project involving “overt exploitation in Korea by the Department of Defense and covert exploitation by the Central Intelligence Agency of the possible use of novel weapons.”

The project sought to establish the capability of the use of atomic weapons on the battlefield, and in pursuit of this goal lone B-29 bombers were lifted from Okinawa in September and October 1951 and sent over North Korea on simulated atomic bombing runs . . .

The record also shows that massive use of chemical weapons against Sino-North Korean forces was considered. In penciled diary notes written on December 16, [General Matthew] Ridgeway referred cryptically to a subcommittee on “clandestine introduction [of] wea[pon]s of mass destruction and unconventional warfare.

[The] air war nonetheless leveled North Korea and killed millions before the war ended. From early November 1950 on, MacArthur ordered that a wasteland be created between the front and the Chinese border, destroying from the air every “installation, factory, city, and village” over thousands of square miles of North Korean territory.

On November 8, seventy B-29’s dropped 550 tons of incendiary bombs on Sinuiju, “removing [it] from . . . the map”; a week later Hoeryong was hit with napalm “to burn out the place” . . . this was all before the major Sino-North Korean offensive.

A bit later George Barrett of the New York Times found a macabre tribute to the totality of modern war” in a village north of Anyang:

“The inhabitants throughout the village and in the fields were caught and killed and kept the exact postures they held when the napalm struck – a man about to get on his bicycle, fifty boys and girls playing in an orphanage . . .”

[Secretary of State Dean] Acheson wanted censorship authorities notified about this kind of “sensationalized reporting,” so it could be stopped.

By 1952 just about everything in northern and central Korea was completely leveled. What was left of the population survived in caves, the North Koreans created an entire life underground, in complexes of dwellings, schools, hospitals and factories . . . [and such attacks only stiffened enemy resistance].

The Americans did go right ahead and in the final act of this barbaric war hit huge irrigation dams that provided water for 75 percent of the North’s food production. “The subsequent flash flood scooped clean 27 miles of the valley below , and he plunging flood waters wiped out [supply routes, etc.] . . . The Westerner can little conceive the awesome meaning which the loss of [rice] has for the Asian – starvation and slow death.”

(Korea’s Place in the Sun, a Modern History, Bruce Cumings, W.W. Norton & Company, 1997, excerpts, pp. 291-295)

Ministering Angels Arrive in the Philippines

The Treaty of Paris submitted to the Senate for ratification in 1899 passed with barely the two-thirds majority required, though the prospect of commercial exploitation in Asia carried the day for Republicans. President William McKinley told Congress in his message asking for ratification that turning the Philippines over to our commercial rivals “would be bad business.” Senator Hoar of Massachusetts had forgotten his region’s treatment of the Pequot tribe who were sold into slavery and his State’s part in subjugating Southern States in the 1860s. The brutal methods used to subdue Filipino’s resisting occupation were familiar to the American South, which remembered Sherman’s visit.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Ministering Angels Arrive in the Philippines

“The Treaty of Paris gave the United States sovereignty over the Philippines, but it could not come into force until the Senate ratified it. Opponents denounced the treaty as an imperialist grab of distant land and shamed American ideals and overextended American power.

Senator George Frisbee Hoar of Massachusetts warned that it would turn the United States into “a vulgar, commonplace empire founded upon physical force, controlling subject races and vassal states, in which one class must forever rule and the other classes must forever obey.”

Supporters countered with three arguments: that it would be ludicrous to recognize Filipino independence since there was no such thing as a Filipino nation; that it was America’s duty to civilize the backward Filipinos; and that possession of the archipelago would bring incalculable commercial and strategic advantages.

As this debate was reaching its climax, in what the New York World called “an amazing coincidence,” news came that Filipino insurgents had attacked American positions in Manila. It later turned out that there had indeed been a skirmish but that an American private had fired the first shot. That was not clear at the time, however, and probably would not have mattered anyway.

Several senators declared that they now felt obligated to vote for the treaty as a sign of support for beleaguered soldiers on the other side of the globe. “We come as ministering angels, not as despots,” Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota assured his colleagues.

In September, 1901, a band of Rebels . . . fiercely set upon [American soldiers at Balangiga], stabbing and hacking them to death. Of the seventy-four men who had been posted in Balangiga, only twenty survived, most with multiple stab wounds. News of the “Balangiga Massacre” was quickly flashed back to the United States [and it] stunned a nation that was only beginning to realize what kind of war was being fought in the Philippines.

American commanders on the islands . . . ordered Colonel Jacob Smith, who had participated in the Wounded Knee massacre in the Dakota Territory a decade before, to proceed to Samar and do whatever was necessary to subdue the rebels. Smith arrived . . . and ordered his men to kill everyone over the age of ten and turn the island’s interior into “a howling wilderness.”

“I want no prisoners,” he told them. “I wish you to kill and burn. The more you kill and the more you burn, the better it will please me.”

(Overthrow, America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, Stephen Kinzer, Times Books, 2006, excerpts pp. 49-53)

Victories, Occupations and Annexations

The political conservatism of the American South was an enduring threat to the new, sectional, Republican Party of the North. Lincoln’s ruling party quickly convinced several States to desire no further political union with them – and more withdrew voluntarily after he lit the fuse at Fort Sumter. Under cover of war and with powers unimagined by the Founders, Lincoln replaced the Union with a consolidated group of Northern States under a centralized, dictatorial government. The defeated South was annexed and ruled from Washington.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Victories, Occupations and Annexations

“Victory over an enemy can take many forms. At the lowest level, the repulse of an invader – by force of arms or by bribes – is a victory. But, if the enemy is an enduring threat, something more than a mere defeat in the field might be required.

Some enemies have to be thrashed so vigorously they will forego aggression for at least a generation. For tougher customers – or more attractive targets – nothing less than occupation and annexation will do. Taking a page out of Roman history, it is easy to see why the Romans decided to finish off Carthage and why they annexed the Macedonian kingdoms.

In her wars, the United States has a mixed record. It is easy to justify our entrance into World War II as a necessity: No matter how culpable FDR might have been, we were, after all, attacked. In Korea we were trying to contain the spread of an enemy ideology.

The Mexican War is more complex: Both sides were provocative, and Mexico’s corrupt political system made the American land grab almost inevitable. The acquisition of so much territory, whether as the fruits of victory or the big steal, was an unquestionable advantage to the American people.

Other wars are murkier. We had no business in the Philippines, where we slaughtered hundreds of thousands of civilians and gained little advantage. The Vietnam War, if we had fought to win, might have been a success, but we had no taken the trouble to define victory. [Instead of] pounding North Vietnam into submission, we allowed Robert McNamara to play war games that cost us the lives of 58,000 men and damaged our prestige for over a decade.

The only lesson Donald Rumsfeld learned from Vietnam was that McNamara had been insufficiently ruthless. Rumsfeld’s obsession with military technology and his consequent neglect of the house to house fighting in Iraq doomed our campaign to failure.

The last time we had a president from Texas, he lost a war and spent the nation close to bankruptcy, but Lyndon Baines Johnson was a frugal pacifist compared with his spiritual descendant, Lyndon Baines Bush, thanks to whom Americans can look forward to another decade of national humiliation and diminishing economic expectations.”

(If Pigs Could Fly, Thomas Fleming, Chronicles, A Magazine of American Culture, March 2007, excerpts pp. 11-12)

 

Mobilizing the Hate of the People

The Lincoln administration utilized both censorship and propaganda in its effort to conceal the immense carnage and early defeats from the Northern public, as well as portray the South as murderers of noble Union soldiers who were defending the Founders’ republic. After Lincoln’s reelection in 1864, the campaign of hatred toward the South intensified to ensure that the South would remain a subject colony and economic wasteland — plus a source of freedmen votes to ensure Republican political hegemony.

It is true that Northern men hated the draft and did not flock to the colors; generous bounties were required to attract recruits and most often these were foreigners. Many posed the question the North was reluctant to ask: “If the cause of the Union was such a noble one, why was there so much violent opposition to the idea of fighting for it.” It was British propaganda that helped bring America into the First World War, despite a president being elected on a pledge of no American boys dying on European battlefields.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Mobilizing the Hate of the People

“There was no richer field for propaganda than the United States of America in the first years of the war. Atrocities, Germany’s sole responsibility, the criminal Kaiser, and all the other fabrications started in Great Britain, were worked up by American liars with great effect.

The Belgian baby with no hands was a special favorite. There was hardly a household in which it was not discussed all over that vast continent, and even so ridiculous a scare as the concrete platforms for German guns was current in California. Villages were burned [by the Germans], women carried off, and various cruelties perpetrated.

After America entered into the war a number of “actual war picture” films (prepared at Hollywood) were released. An immense army of speakers and pamphleteers were employed by the Committee on Public Information, and the country was flooded with literature describing the iniquities of the Hun.

An interesting volume on the technique of propaganda was recently published by [political scientist and communications theorist] Professor [Howard D.] Lasswell, of Chicago, from which the following passage may be quoted:

“So great are the psychological resistances to war in modern nations that every war must appear to be a war of defense against a menacing, murderous aggressor. There must be no ambiguity about whom the public is to hate. The war must . . . be due . . . to the rapacity of the enemy. Guilt and guilelessness must be assessed geographically, and all the guilt must be on the other side of the frontier. If the propagandist is to mobilize the hate of the people, he must see to it that everything is circulated which establishes the sole responsibility of the enemy.”

(Falsehood in Wartime, Propaganda Lies of the First World War, Arthur Ponsonby, E.P. Dutton, 1929, excerpts pp. 180-182)

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