The Good War, Revisited

Each Pearl Harbor day offers a fresh opportunity for those who correctly believe
that Franklin Roosevelt knew of an impending attack by the Japanese and welcomed it as
a way of snookering the isolationists and getting America into the war. And year by year the evidence continues to mount. The Naval
Institute’s website featured a detailed article by Daryl Borgquist to
the effect that high Red Cross officials with close contacts to Roosevelt quietly
ordered large quantities of medical supplies and experienced medical personnel
shipped to Hawaii well before Dec. 7, 1941.

In 1995, Helen Hamman, the daughter
of one of these officials, wrote to Bill Clinton a letter disclosing that her
father had told her in the 1970s that shortly before the Pearl Harbor attack Roosevelt
had told her father of the impending raid and told him to send Red Cross workers
and supplies to the West Coast to be deployed in Hawaii. Roosevelt, Ms. Hamman
wrote, told her father “the American people would never agree to enter the
war in Europe unless they were attack [sic] within their own borders.” Borgquist’s
research, now published in Naval History magazine, shows
that the Red Cross was indeed staffed up and on a war footing in Hawaii by November

by FDR of the “surprise attack” on Pearl Harbor has been demonstrated
about every five years, ever since the Republicans made a huge issue of it after
World War II. Each time there’s a brief furor, and then we slide back into
vaguer language about “unproven assertions” and “rumors.”
It’s one of the unsayables of 20th-century history, as Charles Beard discovered
in 1948 when he published his great book President Roosevelt and the Coming
of the War 1941, subtitled “A Study in Appearances and Realities.”
Beard effectively disposed of the “surprise attack” proposition after
researching official government documents and public hearings. For example, the
State Dept.’s own record showed that FDR’s Secretary of State Cordell
Hull conferred with the British ambassador on Nov. 29, 1941, and imparted the
news that “the diplomatic part of our relations with Japan was virtually
over and the matter will now go to the officials of the Army and Navy.” As
Beard and others pointed out, the U.S. had already not only undertaken the blockade
and embargoes that forced Japan into the war, but also knew that Japan was about
to attack and waited for it to do so, so the isolationists could be outmaneuvered
and the U.S. could enter the war on a tide of popular feeling.

dawn on Dec. 7, 1941, the first wave of Japanese planes flew in from the east
over the Waianae Mountains, leaving about 4000 American casualties with 2400 dead.
Beard’s scholarly but passionate investigation into secret presidential diplomacy
incurred venomous abuse, as did his judgment that the ends (getting the U.S. into
the war) did not justify the deceptive means.

in the early 1980s John Toland published his excellent book Infamy, which
mustered all the evidence extant at that time about U.S. foreknowledge. He advanced
the thesis that though FDR and his closest associates, including Gen. Marshall,
knew the Japanese naval force was deployed with carriers in the North Pacific,
they were so convinced of the impregnability of the base that they didn’t
believe the attack would have much serious effect. They thought a surprise Japanese
raid would do little damage, leave a few casualties but supply the essential trigger
for entering the war. Toland quoted from Labor Secretary Frances Perkins’
diary an eerie description of Roosevelt’s ravaged appearance at a White House
meeting the night of Dec. 7. He looked, Perkins wrote with extraordinary perception,
”not only as though a tragedy had occurred but as though he felt some more
intimate, secret sense of responsibility.”

U.S. military commanders on Honolulu, Husband Kimmel and Walter Short, were pilloried,
destroyed, set up to bear the major responsibility. For many years they fought
to vindicate themselves, only to face hidden or destroyed evidence and outright
perjury from their superiors.

May of 1983 an officer from the Naval Security Group interviewed one of Toland’s
sources who had previously insisted on remaining anonymous. The person in question
was Robert Ogg, who had been an enlisted man in naval Intelligence during the
war, and was one of those who detected the presence, through radio intercepts,
of a Japanese task force working its way toward Pearl Harbor in the first week
of December 1941. This force had been under radio silence, but the “silence”
had been broken on a number of occasions.

Ogg and his immediate superior, Lt. Hosner, reported their intercepts and conclusion
to the chief of intelligence of the 12th Naval District in San Francisco, Capt.
Richard T. McCullough. McCullough was not only a personal friend of Roosevelt’s
but enjoyed assured access to him through Harry Hopkins’ phone at the White
House. Ogg confirmed in 1983 that McCullough had said at the time that the information
about the Japanese task force had been passed to the White House. British code-breakers
at Bletchley had also passed the news to Winston Churchill that Pearl Harbor was
to be attacked.

lesson here is that there is no construction too “bad” or too “outrageous”
but that it cannot be placed upon the actions of powers great or small, though
usually great. When Toland’s book was published there were many who scoffed
at the “inherently implausible argument,” the “fine-spun conspiracy
theory.” Gazing up the newly emerging national security state and the dawn
of the Cold War, Beard argued that the ends did not justify the means, and concluded

“In short, with the Government of the United States committed under
a so-called bipartisan foreign policy to supporting by money and other forms of
power for an indefinite time an indefinite number of other governments around
the globe, the domestic affairs of the American people became appendages to an
aleatory expedition in the management of the world… At this point in its history
the American Republic has arrived under the theory that the President of the United
States possesses limitless authority publicly to misrepresent and secretly to
control foreign policy, foreign affairs and the war power.”

Truer words were
never written.

”Good War”

Just as FDR’s foreknowledge of the attack is rediscovered every few years, so, too, is the fact that the Pacific war was a very nasty affair. Every so often new accounts and photographs emerge documenting the cruelties of that war. In 2001, the BBC aired
combat film of American soldiers shooting wounded Japanese and using bayonets
to hack at Japanese corpses while looting them. “Former servicemen interviewed
by researchers spoke of the widespread practice of looting gold teeth from the
dead—and sometimes from the living.”

archival film is fresh evidence of the atrocities, but the war crimes themselves
are an old story, best told by John Dower in his 1986 book War Without Mercy.
Back in the February 1946 issue of The Atlantic the war correspondent Edgar
L. Jones wrote, “We shot prisoners in cold blood, wiped out hospitals, strafed
lifeboats, killed or mistreated enemy civilians, finished off the enemy wounded,
tossed the dying in a hole with the dead, and in the Pacific boiled the flesh
off enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones
into letter openers.”

the spring of 1945 the Japanese military had been demolished. The disparities
in the casualty figures between the Japanese and the Americans are striking. From
1937 to 1945, the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy suffered 1,740,955 military
deaths in combat. Dower estimates that another 300,000 died from disease and starvation.
In addition, another 395,000 Japanese civilians died as a result of Allied saturation
bombing that began in March 1945. The total dead: more than 2.7 million. In contrast,
American military deaths totaled 100,997. Even though Japan had announced on Aug.
10 its intentions to surrender, this didn’t deter the bloodthirsty Gen. “Hap”
Arnold. On Aug. 14, Arnold directed a 1014-plane air raid on Tokyo, blasting the
city to ruins and killing thousands. Not one American plane was lost and the unconditional
surrender was signed before the planes had returned to their bases.

raid, like the dropping of the A-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was aimed at
Moscow as much as Japan, designed to impress Stalin with the implacable might
of the United States. The Cold War was under way, and as Beard prophesied in 1948,
democracy wilted amid the procedures of the national security state, whose secretive
malpractices are still being exhumed.

released by the American Dept. of Energy showed that scientists from the UK Atomic
Energy Authority removed children’s bones and bodies to ship to the United
States for classified nuclear experiments. There is a transcript of a secret meeting in Washington of “Project
Sunshine,” where Willard Libby, a scientist who later won the Nobel Prize
for his research into carbon dating techniques, told colleagues, “Human samples
are of prime importance, and if anybody knows how to do a good job of body-snatching,
they will really be serving their country.”

scientists from Harwell and the Medical Research Council supplied not only American
researchers but their own labs with body parts, collecting about 6000 corpses
between 1955 and 1970. As The Observer reported, Jean Prichard, whose baby
died in 1957, said her child’s legs were removed by hospital doctors and
taken to Harwell without permission. To prevent her from finding out what had
happened, she says she was forbidden to dress her daughter for her funeral. “I
asked if I could put her christening robe on her, but I wasn’t allowed to,
and that upset me terribly because she wasn’t christened. No one asked me
about doing things like that, taking bits and pieces from her.”

10 Small Groups That a Big Difference

It takes guts for an environmental group to stand up to a Democratic president in an election year and call him on his betrayals. You risk being marginalized and stripped of your funding by the Democratic-aligned foundations that underwrite most of the mainstream groups. Here are ten groups who stand up for what they stand on, who put protection of the environment before politics. They all operate close to the bone, their meager budgets are spent on activism and litigation, not on self-promoting direct mail operations, glitzy offices or bloated administrative expenses. These groups will put your money to work defending the planet. Now pony up!

Alliance for the Wild Rockies
P.O. Box 505

Helena, Montana 59624

Alliance for the Wild Rockies fights to secure the ecological integrity of the Wild Rockies Bioregion through citizen empowerment, litigation and the application of conservation biology, sustainable economic models and environmental law.

Beyond Nuclear
6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 400
Takoma Park, MD 20912
Tel: 301.270.2209

The nation’s feistiest and most uncompromising anti-nuclear power group, which is fighting to shutdown aging nuclear plants like Indian Point and protesting the construction of a new generation of nuclear plants. Beyond Nuclear also highlights the symbiotic relationship between nuclear power and nuclear weapons production.

Buffalo Field Campaign
PO Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT 59758

Since 1985, the federal government, working in concert with Montana cattle barons, has killed more than 6,800 bison that have migrated out of Yellowstone National Park. The slaughter is rationalized on the specious grounds of preventing the spread of brucellosis from bison to local cows. The Buffalo Field Campaign has exposed this dreadful bloodbath as a political hoax. Their volunteers courageously place themselves between the bison and their would-be killers. They spend all day, from sunrise until sunset, watching and documenting actions taken against the buffalo. They run patrols from cars, skis and snowshoes to protect buffalo outside the park. Their tactics range from video documentation to nonviolent civil disobedience.

Civil Liberties Defense Center
259 E 5th Ave, Ste 300 A
Eugene, OR 97401
541.687.9180 ph

In 2003, Lauren Regan, executive director and CLDC’s staff attorney, in combination with a group of environmental and social justice activists and attorneys, founded the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC). The creation was an urgent response to a growing and increasingly crucial need for education and legal assistance within the progressive change movement in the post-September 11th era in which decrees like the PATRIOT Act were put in place. CLDC immediately developed a number of public education and outreach programs, offering low and reduced-rate legal assistance to activists, conducting national media interviews and commentary, and monitoring and challenging repressive legislation in the courts. Their legal know-how, ability to effectively translate legalese, and litigation expertise, provide a foundation in which activists can rely on to tackle the tough issues they are confronting. Additionally, the CLDC’s training sessions weave together to build activists’ confidence and awareness of what to expect from interactions with law enforcement or counter-protesters.

Climate Ground Zero
PO Box 163, Rock Creek,
West Virginia, 75174

The frontline battles against big coal aren’t being fought in Durban or Washington, but in the mining towns of Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia, where citizens are placing their bodies on the line to stop mountain top removal mining. This grotesque form of mining has devoured more than a million acres of forest, buried hundreds of miles of streams under toxic debris and is steadily annihilating a way of life for the mountain people of Appalachia. The coal industry has struck back hard, hitting activists with SLAPP suits, trying to intimidate greens from engaging in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. Mike Roselle started this group and he hasn’t compromised since he bunted once in Little League.

Fund for Wild Nature
P.O. Box 900
Kelso, WA 98626
(360) 636-6030

Think of the Fund for Wild Nature as a kind of mutual fund for radical environmentalism. Instead of investing in stocks and bonds, the Fund for Wild Nature puts its money into non-compromising grassroots environmental groups. Unlike most foundations, the Fund for Wild Nature’s budget doesn’t derive from oil companies, sweatshops or software magnates, but from individuals who want to see militant action taken in defense of the earth. Join them. You’ll feel better about yourself.


P.O. Box 538

Gosport, IN 47433

The midwest was once blanketed with a majestic hardwood forest containing more than 70 species of hardwood trees. Unfortunately, much of this forest has been cleared and what remains is mostly isolated fragments of public land that nonetheless play a critical role in providing habitat for wildlife, purifying the air and water, moderating global climate change, and offering places of beauty and enjoyment. Heartwood was founded in 1991, when concerned citizens from several midwestern states met and agreed to work together to protect the heartland hardwood forest. Their campaigns remain rooted in the heart of the central hardwood region, with an emphasis on our “core states” of Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, and Missouri. Over time, Heartwood has branched out to serve areas of need throughout an 18-state region, giving special attention to the “at risk” national forests in Michigan, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Virginia.

Living Rivers
PO Box 466
Moab, UT 84532

Living Rivers is working to overturn one of the greatest environmental crimes in American history, the damming of Glen Canyon. The goal is to restore not only Glen Canyon, but the much abused Colorado River itself. With a series of restoration initiatives and organizing efforts in both the Colorado and Rio Grande River watersheds, Living Rivers has begun building a popular movement to promote strategies for large-scale river restoration. From the ejidos communities in Mexico, through Indian reservations, farming towns and into metropolitan areas, Living Rivers is engaging people to pressure water agencies to embrace the simple solutions that offer opportunities for restoring our rivers and improving quality of life for millions of people across this arid region. Living Rivers gives you more bang for you bucks than any other American environmental group.

Los Alamos Study Group
2901 Summit Place NE
Albuquerque, NM 87106

Since 1989, the Los Alamos Study Group community has consistently provided leadership on nuclear disarmament and related issues in New Mexico. Their work includes research and scholarship education of decisionmakers, providing an information clearinghouse for journalists, organizing, litigating, and advertising. They place particular emphasis on the education and training of young activists and scholars.

LASG’s careful, reasoned approach developed many whistleblowers in the nuclear labs and plants. Since September 11, 2001, their work has increasingly placed nuclear weapons in the context of aggression abroad and the militarization of our society at home. One of LASG’s most recent campaigns is the effort to end nuclear waste disposal in northern New Mexico. Official estimates place current annual waste generation and burial at Los Alamos at about 45,000 drums’ worth per year, with increases planned if the University of California begins production of plutonium “pits,” the cores of nuclear weapons. New pits are not needed for any existing weapons, but they are needed for some of the new weapons now being designed at Los Alamos, which include weapons specially-tailored for aiming at Third World countries.

Utah Environmental Congress
1817 South Main Street, Ste. 10
Salt Lake City, Utah 84115
Phone (801) 466-4055

Utah, which still harbors some of the wildest country in the lower-48, is under perpetual siege from uranium and coal mining, oil drilling, tar sands and shale extraction, logging and a crazy scheme to put a nuclear power plant near the small town of Green River. The UEC often finds itself alone on many of these battles. They are a fearless and unflinching outfit that doesn’t back down. Instead they advance. Their latest project is an audacious campaign to break wolves back to Utah. Now that’s a radical and welcome idea!

Wild Idaho Rising Tide
P.O. Box 9817,
Moscow, Idaho 83843

Since October 2010, Imperial Oil, a Canadian subsidiary of ExxonMobil, has shipped, barged, and trucked over one hundred pieces of gargantuan, Korean-made, industrial equipment from the Ports of Vancouver and Pasco, Washington, and Lewiston, Idaho. During the next six months, Northwest interstates could be overrun by another 300 transports of these two-lane wide, 500,000-pound “megaloads” escorted by aggressive, industry-sponsored state police. This is the second front in the fight against the tar sands oil frenzy in Canada. Wild Idaho Rising Tide is leading the battle against ExxonMobil’s scheme to turn all available Northwest and Northern Rockies highways into permanent corridors to the largest industrial project on Earth.

The Pearl Harbor essay is adapted from an article that appeared in the June 2001 edition of CounterPunch.

Jeffrey St. Clair is the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature, Grand Theft Pentagon and Born Under a Bad Sky. His latest book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion. He can be reached at:

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

Source: Counterpunch