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7 DECEMBER 1941 . . . December 7, 2012

Posted by wmmbb in Modern History.
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The past is after all done and now dusted. So we should then sweep it aside from our consciousness, and focus on now, so we can be ready for tomorrow.

The problem is that we seem caught in the recurring patterns. The story has not stopped and the music keeps playing, even those motifs we do not perceive for the moment, although the players change.

World War II was the good war, right? Well that depends on how the sequence of events are remembered, and perhaps who is telling the story. In telling this, or any other story, we are probably going to be influenced by motivated reasoning. Myth is a function of the human mind, and might even be essential in organizing the data.

For example, I like to think of FDR as a good guy. Perhaps applying this prejudiced worldview I less inclined to put Robert Menzies in the same category, although I am not blind to the qualities he had. David Swanson relates:

On May 11, 1941, Robert Menzies, the prime minister of Australia, met with Roosevelt and found him “a little jealous” of Churchill’s place in the center of the war. While Roosevelt’s cabinet all wanted the United States to enter the war, Menzies found that Roosevelt,

. . . trained under Woodrow Wilson in the last war, waits for an incident, which would in one blow get the USA into war and get R. out of his foolish election pledges that ‘I will keep you out of war.'”

Menzies, without doubt, as a good Imperialist, was probably angling to get FDR involved in the war. I know this is speculation without evidence. He was, I would guess, no pacificist, like that wretched Gandhi.

David Swanson does get the events organized in chronological order, concluding the overt act of 7 December 1941 was induced in large part by American behavior. The evidence produced warrants consideration. He concludes:

Why does it matter? Because the legend of Pearl Harbor, re-used on 9-11, is responsible not for the destructive pro-war policies of the 1920s and the 1930s that brought World War II into being, but responsible for the permanent war mentality of the past 71 years, as well as for how World War II was escalated, prolonged, and completed.

“Disturbed in 1942,” wrote Lawrence S. Wittner, “by rumors of Nazi extermination plans, Jessie Wallace Hughan worried that such a policy, which appeared ‘natural, from their pathological point of view,’ might be carried out if World War II continued. ‘It seems that the only way to save thousands and perhaps millions of European Jews from destruction,’ she wrote, ‘would be for our government to broadcast the promise’ of an ‘armistice on condition that the European minorities are not molested any further. . . . It would be very terrible if six months from now we should find that this threat has literally come to pass without our making even a gesture to prevent it.’ When her predictions were fulfilled only too well by 1943, she wrote to the State Department and the New York Times, decrying the fact that ‘two million [Jews] have already died’ and that ‘two million more will be killed by the end of the war.’ Once again she pleaded for the cessation of hostilities, arguing that German military defeats would in turn exact reprisals upon the Jewish scapegoat. ‘Victory will not save them,’ she insisted, ‘for dead men cannot be liberated.'”

Hitler killed millions of Germans, but the allies killed as many or more, Germans ordered into battle by Hitler or Germans in the wrong place when allied bombs fell. And, as Hughan pointed out at the time, the war drove the genocide, just as the vengeful settlement of the previous war a quarter century before had fueled the hostility, the scapegoating, and the rise of Hitlerism. Out of the resistance to war by U.S. conscientious objectors would come, finally, the development of civil resistance to racial segregation in U.S. prisons that later spread to the nation outside the prisons as activists sought to duplicate their victories on a larger scale. But also out of that very worst thing our species has ever done to itself, World War II, would come the permanent military industrial complex. We would extend the power to vote to more and more Americans while, in the cruelest of jokes, transforming voting into an ever more meaningless enterprise. We would paint a fresh coat of glossy pretense on our democracy while hollowing it out from the inside, replacing it with a war machine the likes of which the planet had never seen and may not be able to survive.

We then to blame the Germans for the scapegoating and murder of the Jewish people, and that atrocity lead to the creation of Israel and the recent example of callous murder of Palestinians by weapons and weapons systems supplied by the United States. So it goes. How can we as human beings, who universally can recognize and appreciate each other as human beings, get off this escalator? Events are processes that encapsulate our consciousness, and despite the technology we are not spectators to history.

Nonetheless, understanding events presupposes context, which the linear framing of the world. It sometimes depend on the arbitrary starting point and perspective. All the details are not those we see, and those things seen, such as planes, can be wrongly attributed.

History continues on its trajectory. Here is a stimulation which might get you involved in current events (via Metta Center).

Postscript:

So who was the one dissenting  vote? Infoplease provides the following answer:

One day after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt went to Congress to ask for a declaration of war against Japan. The Senate unanimously approved the resolution 82-0, while the House of Representatives vote was 388 to 1. That one vote was from Montana Republican Jeannette Rankin.

As a woman, I can’t go to war and I refuse to send anyone else, she explained on the floor of the House after being booed and hissed at by other members of Congress .

Rankin was a lifelong pacifist whose passionate support for women’s suffrage earned her the distinction of being the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1916. She served two separate terms in the House, from 1917-19 and from 1941-43.

In 1917, Rankin also voted “no” to declare war on Germany during World War I.

She spent her entire life working for causes that promoted peace and women’s rights. In 1968 she ran the Jeannette Rankin Peace Brigade, a anti-war group, and in 1971 she continued her efforts by writing a letter to President Richard M. Nixon, asking him to end the war in Vietnam.

She died two years later, at age 92.

Here is a link to a biography of Rankin from the official web site of the U.S. Senate.

—The Editors

ELSEWHERE:

Democracy Now interviews filmmaker Oliver Stone and historian Peter Kuznick on the “Good War” and the good guys:

    Part One:
    Part Two:

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