December 07, 2011

A Solemn Day

Ah, yes, the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Verily, a day of punishing, religious genuflection on the stony ground of national myth-making. Innocent, noble America, sneakily attacked without notice or warning by vicious "little yellow bastards." The phrase is from Time magazine. That was mild. Admiral William "Bull" Halsey declared, "The only good Jap is a Jap who's been dead six months." And:
Everyone from journalists to President Roosevelt routinely used the dehumanizing slang term "Jap," and regularly compared Japanese soldiers and civilians to monkeys, baboons, and gorillas. Admiral Halsey was especially fond of the monkey metaphor, invariably attaching "yellow" to it. At one point Halsey said he could hardly wait to put to sea "to get some more monkey meat."
The sainted FDR. Such a darling man. Many of the New Dealers were sweethearts of like kind:
New Dealers and others around the president made no attempt to alter this dehumanizing war against the Japanese. In September 1942, Admiral William Leahy, Roosevelt's White House chief of staff, told Vice President Henry Wallace that Japan was "our Carthage" and "we should go ahead and destroy her utterly." Wallace noted this sentiment without objection in his diary. Elliott Roosevelt, the president's son, told Wallace some months later that he thought Americans should kill "about half the Japanese civilian population." New Dealer Paul McNutt, chairman of the War Manpower Commission, went him one better, recommending "the extermination of the Japanese in toto."
Well, the United States did her best to kill as many of them as possible, even when surrender was at hand. There's that American know-how and determination! The above excerpts are from Thomas Fleming's The New Dealers' War: FDR and the War Within World War II. More excerpts will be found in this post from the time dinosaurs walked the earth.

And let us not forget that the sainted FDR was generously encompassing in his hatreds:
An American cannot read these two books without total revulsion at the reaction of his own government to Hitler's policies against the Jews. Both authors detail the methods by which American politicians and bureaucrats, while maintaining an appearance of great humanitarianism, used immigration policies to prevent Germany's Jews from escaping to the United States. Morse writes:

"In 1938 the Nazis burned every synagogue in the nation, shattered the windows of every Jewish establishment, hauled twenty-five thousand innocent people to concentration camps, and forced the Jews to pay 1,000,000,000 marks for the damage.

"Five days later, at a White House press conference, a reporter asked the President 'Would you recommend a relaxation of our immigration restrictions so that the Jewish refugees could be received in this country?'

"'This is not in contemplation,' replied the President. 'We have the quota system.'

"The United States not only insisted upon its immigration law throughout the Nazi era, but administered it with severity and callousness. In spite of unprecedented circumstances, the law was constricted so that even its narrow quotas were not met. The lamp remained lifted beside the golden door, but the flame had been extinguished and the door was padlocked."
To return to the high holy day commemorating the spectacle of good, virtuous, open-hearted America set upon by a gang of sallow, murderous monkeys: the seriousness of the required obeisances is underscored by the apex of observance in America -- a television special on the History channel, and reviewed in The New York Times. In light of the above, it is hardly a surprise to read: "More ignominiously, in that first day [after the attack] the president also set in motion the detention of Japanese-Americans." The man was a goddamned saint.

Hell, I'm sorry. This isn't the history we're supposed to remember, especially today. Time for a song! What a jaunty little tune. Fun times. You can read about some of the popular music written in response to the Pearl Harbor attack here, and learn about charming numbers like "We're Going to Find a Fellow Who Is Yellow and Beat Him Red, White and Blue."

Another fun musical fact: one of the most popular songs of World War II was "I'll Be Seeing You." Guess where the melody came from. Go on, take a wild stab at it.

Give up? The melody was lifted virtually unchanged from the last movement of Mahler's Third Symphony. Don't take my word for it (or Deryck Cooke's): listen for yourself. "I'll Be Seeing You" begins at 1:16. If you want to be transported to a wonderful place, set aside half an hour and listen to the entire movement. The notes appended to the Youtube entry include this: "Of the great finale, Bruno Walter wrote, 'In the last movement, words are stilled—for what language can utter heavenly love more powerfully and forcefully than music itself?'" It's one of my favorite pieces of music in all the world, and I intend to write about it at greater length one of these days. (In the meantime, I recommend this performance of the Mahler Third. It's sublime. The Youtube post is Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic. I love sinking into a leisurely reading of Mahler as much as anyone -- well, anyone except Bernstein when he entered his somewhat solipsistic, self-indulgent period. Bernstein's performance is often too slow, so that the music loses direction and force, and sometimes even musical coherence. Abbado's reading is stunningly right in every respect, at least to my ears.)

To return to the blasted heath of our Day of Remembrance: to talk of a perfidious "sneak" attack disregards the mountain of historical evidence that FDR and his henchmen desperately longed for an attack as the required means of propelling a reluctant, even resistant American public into the conflict. Many Americans still had raw, bleeding memories of the First World War, that devastating, entirely unnecessary crusade which had been promised to be the end of war. It should also be remembered, as I have noted before, that the sainted, progressive Woodrow Wilson had only dragged an even more resistant American public into the earlier conflagration by relying in significant part on a vicious, comprehensive, anti-German propaganda campaign that was never even approached by the vilified Bush-Cheney gangsters of recent years (as loathsome as they were, and as I have said on numerous occasions).

FDR and his fellow hoodlums not only longed for an attack: they did everything within their power to provoke one. Robert Higgs explains:
In June 1940, Henry L. Stimson, who had been secretary of war under Taft and secretary of state under Hoover, became secretary of war again. Stimson was a lion of the Anglophile, northeastern upper crust and no friend of the Japanese. In support of the so-called Open Door Policy for China, Stimson favored the use of economic sanctions to obstruct Japan's advance in Asia. Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau and Interior Secretary Harold Ickes vigorously endorsed this policy. Roosevelt hoped that such sanctions would goad the Japanese into making a rash mistake by launching a war against the United States, which would bring in Germany because Japan and Germany were allied.

Accordingly, the Roosevelt administration, while curtly dismissing Japanese diplomatic overtures to harmonize relations, imposed a series of increasingly stringent economic sanctions on Japan. In 1939 the United States terminated the 1911 commercial treaty with Japan. "On July 2, 1940, Roosevelt signed the Export Control Act, authorizing the President to license or prohibit the export of essential defense materials." Under this authority, "[o]n July 31, exports of aviation motor fuels and lubricants and No. 1 heavy melting iron and steel scrap were restricted." Next, in a move aimed at Japan, Roosevelt slapped an embargo, effective October 16, "on all exports of scrap iron and steel to destinations other than Britain and the nations of the Western Hemisphere." Finally, on July 26, 1941, Roosevelt "froze Japanese assets in the United States, thus bringing commercial relations between the nations to an effective end. One week later Roosevelt embargoed the export of such grades of oil as still were in commercial flow to Japan."[2] The British and the Dutch followed suit, embargoing exports to Japan from their colonies in southeast Asia.

Roosevelt and his subordinates knew they were putting Japan in an untenable position and that the Japanese government might well try to escape the stranglehold by going to war. Having broken the Japanese diplomatic code, the Americans knew, among many other things, what Foreign Minister Teijiro Toyoda had communicated to Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura on July 31: "Commercial and economic relations between Japan and third countries, led by England and the United States, are gradually becoming so horribly strained that we cannot endure it much longer. Consequently, our Empire, to save its very life, must take measures to secure the raw materials of the South Seas."[3]

Because American cryptographers had also broken the Japanese naval code, the leaders in Washington knew as well that Japan's "measures" would include an attack on Pearl Harbor.[4] Yet they withheld this critical information from the commanders in Hawaii, who might have headed off the attack or prepared themselves to defend against it. That Roosevelt and his chieftains did not ring the tocsin makes perfect sense: after all, the impending attack constituted precisely what they had been seeking for a long time. As Stimson confided to his diary after a meeting of the war cabinet on November 25, "The question was how we should maneuver them [the Japanese] into firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves."[5] After the attack, Stimson confessed that "my first feeling was of relief ... that a crisis had come in a way which would unite all our people."
I realize it's almost impossible to believe that so many saints have led the pure and virtuous American State.

I suppose that's more than enough of history that almost no one remembers, and that almost no one ever acknowledges. And after all, we wouldn't want to interfere with the devotional ceremonies that so many find so fulfilling. As with God, worship of the mythology of the American State requires only unquestioning faith and unthinking obedience.

And most Americans are only too eager to comply, offering their minds, souls and bodies on the blood-altar of power and death.