Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo

May 28, 2001

Interventionist lies about WWII

I lived through it, but just barely. I'm talking about the "Pearl Harbor" movie, of course. Undaunted by the nearly unanimous jeers of the critics – bound, really, by a sense of duty, since I have written no less than three columns about the damn thing – I finally went to see it. Prepared for the worst, I was not disappointed.


I hated the character of Captain Doolittle, played by left-wing nutball Alec Baldwin, almost as much as I hated Roosevelt (clearly discernible as Jon Voight through the pasted-on make-up): in his unctuous self-righteousness, bromidic New Dealish sloganeering, and all-knowing smugness, Doolittle-Baldwin seemed the virtual embodiment of Roosevelt's America: "I know we're going to win this war," he says, looking adoringly at our corn-fed flying heroes, "because of them." In entering the war, Americans were merely fulfilling their destiny: one that tied them irrevocably to the fate of the British empire. This was the Rooseveltian view, and it suffuses the movie.


When Rafe goes over to England to fight in the Royal Air Force, a British officer remarks that there's "a certain amount of resentment of the Americans" for staying out of the conflict, but "If there are many more back home like you," he says, "God help anyone who goes to war with America." To that, Bob Kerrey's victims – not to mention thousands of Serbs, Iraqis, and others – can only add: "Amen!"


As for the old cripple himself, it was as if his malevolence seeped through, in spite of the intentions of the actor and director, like some evil spirit revisiting the scene of his earthly crimes. As Roosevelt feigned shock at the news of the attack, the look on Voight's face communicated the purest insincerity and the pure fakery of this film was suddenly transformed into a semblance of truth: for earlier in the film, a military analyst is shown warning of the imminent attack. He is not listened to, but the seed of doubt is planted, and the thinking viewer is prompted to wonder: how could Roosevelt not have known, or at least suspected?


The war, naturally, is shown as a noble cause, and our delayed entry is depicted as inexplicable: yet there are contradictory elements that pop up seemingly out of nowhere, such as the justification for the attack voiced by the Japanese commander, who complains that Japan "had no choice" due to the economic strangulation of his country by the West. The oil embargo is mentioned, and this undermines the rah-rah tone of the rest: in this context, the Japanese strike, when it (finally) comes – halfway through a three-hour movie – seems less like a "sneak attack" and more like a counterattack.


This intrusion of fact into fiction really bothers liberal-left critic Roger Ebert, who complains that "there is no sense of history, strategy or context; according to this movie, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor because the United States cut off its oil supply, and it was down to an 18-month reserve. Would going to war restore the fuel sources? Did it perhaps also have imperialist designs? The movie doesn't say." The movie may not say, but history does: the Japanese were fighting Stalin's allies in China, the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communists, a military adventure that may indeed qualify as "imperialism" – but no more or less so than the Dutch, British, and French efforts to hang on to their Eastasian colonies (fully supported, I might add, by the US). This kind of imperialism Ebert and Co. are not too interested in talking about: I wonder if Ebert will review "Merdeka," the Japanese film extolling the exploits of the 2,000 Japanese soldiers who volunteered to stay behind after the war ended to help the Indonesians fight off the Dutch and the Brits? Somehow I doubt it.


In noting the reaction to "Pearl Harbor" across the political spectrum, I was struck by how the lefties, like Ebert, seem clear about the issues involving this movie and the subject of World War II, and how the conservatives, as usual, seem generally clueless. The best reaction on the right, I thought, came from Lowell Ponte, in his Frontpage column, who seemed to like the movie because it gives us the opportunity to contemplate the achievements of the "quiet generation" which is now passing into history, but he is puzzled by the casting: he wonders what Alec Baldwin, "anti-American hyper-leftist actor and Clinton supporter," is doing in this movie? "The presence of Alec Baldwin in this film is so discordant, distracting, and off-putting to those with memory," writes Ponte. "He is literally the skunk at what should have been our positive collective memory of a great moment in American and cinematic history." But for those whose memory extends beyond the last presidential election – all the way back to the election of 1940, in which Roosevelt promised that he would keep us out of war – Alec Baldwin has been virtually typecast in his role as Roosevelt's willing instrument.


In 1941, you see, it was the Left that was gung-ho for the war, and the Right that fought tooth and nail to keep us out. With German panzer divisions at the gates of Moscow, Commies the world over (in league with Roosevelt) were agitating day and night to get the US into the war. The cry to open up a "second front" was heard throughout the land, as Stalin's American amen corner launched a campaign to drag us, by hook or by crook, into a war that would not only save Stalin's despotic regime, but also destroy the last vestiges of our old Republic and usher in the Welfare-Warfare State. The Alec Baldwins of 1941 were certainly agitating for entry into the war, and the pro-interventionist propaganda (actively aided by British intelligence) being churned out by Hollywood was so blatantly obvious that antiwar Republican senators had called hearings on the matter: indeed these were in progress on the eve of the Pearl Harbor attack.


Thankfully, the self-conscious sappiness of this flick, along with the drippy love story, makes it ineffective as propaganda. The music was really embarrassingly deployed: every time one of the heroes does something patriotic, the schmaltzy notes of the movie score soar, as if reminding us that it's time to emote. But you don't manipulate your audience by pulling that hard on their strings: this is far likelier to arouse resistance than patriotic fervor in any but the most uncritical audience. I hereby withdraw my contention that its release will prove dangerous for Japanese-Americans. For it is far more likely to inspire its audience to fall asleep than to go out and commit a hate crime. The main danger of "Pearl Harbor" is to the careers of everyone connected with this clunker.


The release of this movie – filled as it is with lies from beginning to end – is an opportunity for opponents of our globalist foreign policy. Let them replay World War II to their heart's content, because we're more than ready for them: by all means, let us reexamine the events, the manipulations, the power politics and internal machinations that dragged us into the bloodiest conflict in world history and shaped the twentieth century: the War Party is not likely to come out of it looking all that good. It's interesting that Mr. Ponte, in his piece, felt obliged to not only mention Robert Stinnett's Day of Deceit – which shows how Roosevelt not only knew about the attack well in advance, but also how he did his best to provoke it. Ponte ends his piece by stating his eloquent dissent from the conventional liberal reading of our wartime history:

"We should remember the 120,000 patriotic Japanese-Americans thrown into concentration camps by 'liberal' Democrat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose staff had received advance warning of the attack on December 7, 1941. Why did FDR do nothing to prevent it, nor to save American lives?"


Why indeed. This is a question that thinking conservatives – and thinking lefties, if there are any – will be asking as the debate over the real nature, meaning, and origins of World War II goes into high gear. And it is bound to lead to many others, such as: what, exactly, did our great "victory" consist of, besides saving Stalinism from destruction and delivering half of Europe and a good deal of Asia to the Kremlin? The renewed debate over the whys and wherefores of World War II can only work to our advantage: for once the facts come out, and the consequences of that horrific conflict are weighed in the balance, the non-interventionists of yesteryear are bound to come out ahead – and this, in turn, bolsters our case in the present. For the arguments for war, and America's alleged "destiny" as the great protector and de facto ruler of the world, may have changed in tone and emphasis over the years, but essentially they have remained the same: if we don't intervene, they say, then terrible things will happen: millions will perish, the economy will fall, and our enemies, in the end, will overthrow us.


Of course, the lesson of history is that all this happened anyway, in spite of (or, as I would contend, because of) our entry into World War II. Millions did perish, our economic malaise was undiminished (but masked in the guise of wartime privations), and our old Republic was overthrown – not by foreign invaders, but by the enemies of human freedom right here at home. So, let the debate begin – let's get it on! We have nothing to lose but our illusions.


I want to direct your attention, while I have it, to's newest feature: "Backtalk," our rip-roaring no-holds-barred letters-to-the-editors column that lets you sound off and engage in what can only be called spirited dialogue with our editors, columnists, and staff. The letters column, at least so far, is one of the best features of this site: the consistent quality of the letters received is, of course, the measure of the high quality of our readers – even when they respectfully (or disrespectfully) disagree with us. Believe me, if you haven't seen it, you're missing something: we get lots of letters and so the page is constantly filled with new stuff: as they say, there's never a dull moment. Thanks to letters editor Sam Koritz, whose volunteer work on behalf of the Cause is waaaaay above and beyond the call of duty.

Please Support

A contribution of $25 or more gets you a copy of Justin Raimondo's Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans, a 60-page booklet packed with the kind of intellectual ammunition you need to fight the lies being put out by this administration and its allies in Congress. And now, for a limited time, donors of $40 or more receive a copy of Ronald Radosh's classic study of the Old Right conservatives, Prophets on the Right: Profiles of Conservative Critics of American Globalism. Send contributions to
520 S. Murphy Avenue, #202
Sunnyvale, CA 94086

or Contribute Via our Secure Server
Credit Card Donation Form

Your Contributions are now Tax-Deductible

Back to Home Page | Contact Us