Yes, all those history textbooks did get it wrong.
The outbreak of war in 1941 between the United States and Japan was certainly infamous. It was not at all necessary; the government of Japan, unremittingly evil in its aggression in Manchuria, Korea and China, had shown no sign of any intention to wage war against the United States; the most it did was to prepare contingency plans, which all governments do constantly as a matter of course.
While it may have been appropriate to keep a wary eye on the warriors of the Rising Sun, there was therefore no defencive need for the United States to be at war, and the United States Government is authorised by Us the People to wage war only in defence, not in offence. That’s a fact; read it for yourself in the Constitution!
Yet under the leadership of the worst President ever, the United States Government did anyway go to war in 1941, and the result was incalculable carnage — and all the history of the last half century, which is most of our lifetimes. So it does behove us to enquire how that fateful step came to be taken.
The big lie
This was told by Roosevelt on December 8; he stood up before Congress and the world, and told it that Japan had launched a surprise and unprovoked attack on the United States Fleet in Pearl Harbour. It is probably the biggest lie anyone has told this century. He called December 7 1941 “A day that will live in infamy.”
It was of course a complete surprise to the 2,400 United States sailors who were killed there. It was a surprise to their commander, Admiral Kimmel, who was warned of the possibility of the attack only some hours after it had already taken place.
If he had known during the night of December 6-7 1941 what Roosevelt and a very few of his senior advisors knew at that very same time, Kimmel would have at least placed the Fleet on full alert, and probably have moved it out of harbour. In all probability the Japanese would have been told (they had spies watching it who would report by signal) in which case the attack would have been cancelled and the war would not have started. Even if they had not called it off, the outcome would have been very different, and accordingly, the war much shorter.
But that was not what Roosevelt intended, and to fathom what he did intend we have to go back at least four months, to July 26.
On that day, Japanese industry was doing a great deal of business with American firms. There was a thriving trade in the export of scrap iron, for Japan had little iron ore and needed steel for its war in China. For the same purpose its government needed oil, and Japan has no oil resource; on July 26 1941 it was importing seventy percent of its oil from the United States and was holding a large majority of its cash in United States banks.
Don’t know about you, but I regard those facts alone as conclusive proof that there was no resolve in Tokyo to invade the United States. You absolutely do not bank with someone on whom you mean to wage war; nor do you buy from him nearly all of your most vital raw materials. Not unless you expect to be able to invade and conquer him quickly; and the idea of a Japanese army landing in Oregon and sweeping across the country within a few months is ludicrous on its face.
But on July 26 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced that thence forward, it was illegal for any United States company to sell oil or scrap metal to any Japanese buyer, and ordered all Japanese assets in the United States to be frozen. In the words of Samuel E Morison, a noted naval historian who was acquainted with Roosevelt and who wrote his thirteen-volume history of the Navy in the Second World War with Roosevelt’s full approval, “war was then inevitable.” Morison supported the war, mind; he saw nothing wrong in that fact. But fact it was, and he so recorded it. From July 26 1941, the REAL “day of infamy”, there was no possibility that the Japanese government would not very soon attack; for in that one stroke Roosevelt had cut off its most vital supplies AND prevented it buying them anywhere else. THAT was the provocation that preceded Pearl Harbour. That was how Roosevelt started the Second World War.
Morison notes some other tragic facts about July 26 1941. At that time as for many years previously, polls showed the people of the United States heavily opposed to any United States entry to the Second World War, by majorities as large as eighty-five percent. But right after July 26, polls simultaneously showed strong popular support for the embargo Roosevelt had just imposed! The only way to explain both polls is to say that the people of this country at that time were unable to see what was perfectly obvious to Morison; they were unable logically to connect cause and effect. Apparently the thought that this aggressive act would provoke retaliation — plain as pie to Roosevelt and to that historian — apparently never made it through to popular consciousness. Yes, Roosevelt fooled John Q Citizen; but John Q allowed himself to be fooled, by culpably failing to think straight. Alas, that grave error, so widespread so many years ago, is still around. If a politician says something with enough solemnity, the voters will still believe him, absurd and/or mendacious though it usually is.
However provocative, Roosevelt’s oil embargo was at least done in the open; anyone with a brain in gear could see where it would lead. But what he did in November and early December 1941 was done in the dark, and was more evil yet.
On November 27 he sent the Japanese Government a secret ultimatum; a final demand that it cease its war on the Asian mainland. Nobody here was told; yet nothing could more surely provoke a hostile response. And during the following week, the cryptographers in his Naval Intelligence, who had cracked the Japanese diplomatic code, brought him within hours a series of fourteen messages to the Japanese Embassy, ordering the progressive destruction of documents and codes, to culminate in a visit to Secretary of State Cordell Hull at 1.00pm Eastern Time on December 7 to declare war. All this was known by Roosevelt, by breakfast time in Washington on December 7; and 8.00am there is 2.00am in Pearl Harbour. Yet, he did nothing and told nobody, all morning. By that awesome inaction, he proved for all time that he was the biggest warmonger of the twenteith century. Yet still his memory is praised, by Democrats and Republicans alike.
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