Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo

June 22, 2001

Pearl Harbor: the court historians strike back

The sixtieth anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and America's entry into World War II has a special significance for the War Party, and particularly for its liberal-left wing. The veritable storm of memorials, movies, documentaries, books, articles, and ceremonies is designed to inculcate, in the public mind, the official mythology of the war that pulled an "isolationist" America onto the world stage resisting every step of the way. Central to this myth is the saintliness of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who supposedly was so much more far-sighted than his contemporaries and therefore knew that, in the words of Roosevelt idolator Doris Kearns Goodwin, "we just had to get into that war." Surrounded by selfish "isolationists" who, inexplicably, saw no reason why Americans should die to preserve the colonial empires of Britain, France, and the Netherlands FDR was more farseeing in that he realized America's entry into the war was somehow "inevitable." But was it? Amid the fanfare, and the panegyrics to FDR the Great and Wonderful as exemplified by his portrayal in the recent Pearl Harbor movie the facts are coming out, at long last, and the priests of the Roosevelt cult are taking it very hard. . . .


The publication of Robert Stinnett's Day of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor, which proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that FDR knew about the attack well ahead of time, has spoiled the orgy of warmongering and Roosevelt-worship planned for the occasion. The would-be celebrants are so mad they could spit and it is quite natural that the left-liberal should give vent to their venomous bile: But, alas, the venom of such an enfeebled snake proves to be very weak stuff, and that tells us something about the nature of the beast. . .


Judith Greer's hackish attack on Stinnett is so embarrassing that one can only wonder if its publication practically simultaneous with Salon's being thrown off the stock exchange had a direct connection to its ignominious delisting. Incredibly, it appears that Greer not only failed to read the book, but also didn't even bother opening it. She airily dismisses Stinnett's uncovering of "129 intercept reports that indicate that the Japanese didn't maintain radio silence during the approach to Hawaii. (None of them are reproduced in the book.)" Put on your reading glasses, Ms. Greer, and check out pages 46, 49-51, and 57, just for starters: the contents and significance of these intercepts are summarized and discussed throughout the book, but especially on pages 210-15, in chapter 13, and their contents are itemized and further summarized in the afterword to the paperback edition.


But Greer didn't have to read Day of Deceit: she already knew what she thought of it. Yet she really ought not to have depended so heavily on the ignorance of her audience, some of whom might actually pick up the book: for one has only to peruse it for a few minutes to see that Greer is clearly deluded. The cause of her delusions may or may not be drug abuse, alcoholism, or mental retardation, but all three seem possible when we read:

"Stinnett then blandly states that these intercepts came from a three-week period from Nov. 15 to Dec. 6. In other words, all of them could have been obtained before the fleet ever left Japanese waters, and before radio silence was imposed. I don't know how Stinnett could believe that his readers wouldn't notice this critical detail, but then, most of the book displays little respect for our intelligence."


The Japanese fleet was given the command to begin hostilities on November 20, 1941, and from that point on we are supposed to believe that they kept radio silence: but recently declassified documents, obtained by Stinnet under the Freedom of Information Act, as well as the personal testimony of American cryptographers and others who were there and were interviewed by Stinnett, prove that they did not keep radio silence. How these intercepts could have been obtained before the fleet even set sail is a mystery known only to Ms. Greer, who had better lay off the crack pipe if she knows what's good for her. I don't know how she believes that her readers wouldn't notice this "critical detail" in her argument, but then, Salon and its writers display little respect for the intelligence of their (presumed) audience. What is galling, though, is her crack about the novelist Gore Vidal whom she calls a "populist horsefly" (doesn't she mean gadfly?). Vidal committed the grave sin of dramatizing Stinnett's revelations in The Golden Age, his latest bestseller. He praises Stinnett, she writes, "I can only assume without having read" Day of Deceit. There's only one possible riposte to such brazen effrontery: look who's talking!


Like so much of the liberal-left catechism these days, Greer's shoddy "defense" of poor old persecuted FDR consists mostly of an argument from authority. Why, so-and-so says that this book is full of sh*t, and we are supposed to be impressed. The idea is to intimidate the reader into believing what the author wants him to believe without having to actually confront the subject matter. "As with other such conspiracy books," Greer disdainfully declaims, "Day of Deceit received reviews in responsible academic journals like Intelligence and National Security that demolished it, citing its nonexistent documentation, misdirection, ignorance, misstatements, wormy insinuations and outright falsehoods." We are not treated to a single syllable of these alleged demolitions, but it is strange that, in the age of the Internet, Greer thinks she can get away with this kind of thing.


For the reality is that Stinnett's book, while not universally hailed, was praised by major reviewers: the respected Kirkus Reviews said that "Stinnett has left no stone unturned in this account, which should rewrite the historical record of WWII." Booklist, another major source consulted by librarians and bookstores, wrote: "Although Stinnett's accusatory light doesn't definitively fall on FDR, it illuminates fishy aspects of the case. . . . Whether the result of simple dereliction or sinister dereliction of duty, Pearl Harbor holds fewer secrets because of Stinnett's research." The HistoryNet opined that "Stinnett's book is a triumph of historical scholarship and a valuable contribution to the record of World War II." John Toland, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Infamy, says: "Step by step, Stinnett goes through the prelude to war, using new documents to reveal the terrible secrets that have never before been disclosed to the public. It is disturbing that eleven presidents, including those I admired, kept the truth from the public until Stinnett's Freedom of Information Act requests finally persuaded the Navy to release the evidence."


I could go on, but I won't belabor the obvious point: Greer's contempt for her readers is virtually limitless. After all, why would such dolts bother to check her facts, when they can take her word for it? Somehow, I don't think Salon's fact-checkers would have caught this even if they hadn't all been laid off. This completely dishonest portrayal of the Stinnett book's critical reception is, however, but a prelude to her real argument, which I must admit I was shocked to read in the pages of a supposedly liberal periodical. Continuing her argument from authority, Greer grandly informs us that

"The consensus among intelligence scholars was 'pretty much absolute,' CIA senior historian Donald Steury told me in an e-mail. Stinnett 'concocted this theory pretty much from whole cloth. Those who have been able to check his alleged sources also are unanimous in their condemnation of his methodology. Basically, the author has made up his sources; when he does not make up the source, he lies about what the source says.'"


Dr. Donald Steury (in this picture, seated on the far left) is on the CIA History Staff: he manages the CIA's Historical Intelligence Collection, located in the CIA Library. Forgive me if I don't take the CIA's word for it that there is nothing to Stinnett's book and that we should all just move along, but is it really the position of today's liberals that we should just accept the "official" pronouncements of government agencies at face value? After all, we aren't talking about the Peace Corps here. So this is what it has come to: the Left is now reduced to – citing the CIA in order to smear and discredit those dangerous iconoclasts who would do irreparable damage to the plaster saints of American liberalism. The CIA would never lie – unless, of course, it was for our own good – now would they?


The Pearl Harbor debacle was a "sneak attack," and we know that because our government tells us so: this is the unassailable dogma of the Pearl Harbor anti-revisionists, who blithely wave off a growing mountain of evidence with a curt reference to "conspiracy theories." Greer and her ilk are hot to blame Admiral Kimmel and General Short, the two commanders in charge at Pearl Harbor, but there's two big problems with that. The first is that both were exonerated by an act of Congress, and the second is that, as Stinnett shows, on November 27 and 28, 1941, Kimmel and Short were ordered by President Roosevelt to remain in a defensive posture for "the United States desires that Japan commit the first overt act."


But Greer isn't going to let a few inconvenient facts get in her way. Her strategy is to depict the exoneration of Kimmel and Short as a Republican conspiracy, and dismiss Stinnett by labeling him a liar whose book "was eagerly clasped to heaving right-wing bosoms from sea to shining sea." Yet Stinnett is hardly some right-wing ideologue. In his book, he states that he understands why Roosevelt thought he had to deceive the nation, even as he exposes the deception, an excuse no rightist would make. Rather than following some ideological lodestar, Stinnett started out on this line of research as the result of writing a routine newspaper story for the Oakland Tribune that bastion of rightist radicalism! where he worked as a reporter. At a conference sponsored by the Independent Institute, Stinnett, in answer to a question, said:

"Did I expect to find this? No. I started my quest on this project I had read a book called At Dawn We Slept by Gordon Prange. It's a very fine book about the attack. And in that book, he had mentioned, just sort of a throw-away line, that the Navy was intercepting Japanese Naval messages in Pearl Harbor. Well, that was the first I had read about that. This was in 1982. And I thought, well, that would be very (inaudible) to check it out. I was on the Oakland Tribune staff at the time. Told our editor, Bob Maynard, that I thought this might be worth while for our December 7, 1982 Pearl Harbor story. All newspapers do that. And he said, fine, go."


Ah yes, the late Robert Maynard, publisher of the Oakland Tribune and a leading light of Northern California's distinctly left-of-center journalism some heaving right-wing bosom! Lazy writers, who appeal to what they imagine to be the prejudices of their audience, merely assume that their readers are as clueless and lethargic as they are themselves: but is this really a safe assumption? If I were the editors of Salon, I would drop the pretenses, stop asking myself why my business is going under, and start looking at the virtually unedited dreck that is getting past them.


What really worries Greer, however, are not all those heaving right-wing bosoms, but that people like Gore Vidal and Alexander Cockburn give credence to Stinnett's thesis. She seems particularly miffed at Cockburn, whom she berates for a column he wrote for the New York Press giving credence to Stinnett's charges. She complains that he doesn't even mention Stinnett, but of course he did in his much stronger and I thought more definitive column for on the subject. She attacks him for daring to mention a report in Naval History, which shows that Roosevelt ordered the Red Cross to make special preparations in the days before Pearl Harbor, and secretly sent in extra medical personnel and supplies. Oh, but of course this is not at all suspicious to our every-so-trusting fan of the CIA's monopoly on historical truth:

"These facts, like so many of those cited as proof of FDR's vile plot, can be explained quite readily without resort to the idea of a conspiracy. FDR had pledged to keep America out of foreign wars. At the same time, he was aware that our diplomatic efforts with the Japanese were only likely to buy us time, not permanently prevent war. No responsible leader could neglect the responsibility to be ready for any eventuality, but FDR also wouldn't have wanted the press to become aware of the necessary preparations. That would have been a political disaster and might have derailed his effort to quietly enhance our capabilities before war broke out."


So, according to Greer, Roosevelt believed that a Japanese attack was inevitable: in that case, however, why send in extra nurses and bandages, rather than beef up the island's defenses unless, of course, the President was anticipating a slaughter? Aside from that rather obvious point, there remains the issue of why Kimmel and Short were not only kept out of the intelligence loop but also undercut at every turn. As Stinnett and others have shown, military resources were bled out of the Pacific and routed to the Atlantic, the theater of operations that really interested the President. Prior to the Pearl Harbor attack, the US Navy was cleared out of the northern Pacific on orders from the very top and all but the oldest vessels in the Pacific fleet were sent west, toward Midway and Wake islands, at the very last moment. Naturally, this is not at all cause for Greer to doubt the dewy innocence of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but then again what would shake her faith? Perhaps only an admission of FDR's guilt by the CIA "senior historian."


In the meantime, "there is little hope of reasoning with people like" Stinnett and, I guess, me but the real problem is folks like Cockburn and Vidal, who are supposed to be lefties. Yes, but they won't pay lip service to the Pearl Harbor "sneak attack" mythos or genuflect before the divine FDR, and so they, too, must be discredited, even smeared as "dishonest." Greer opines:

"Cockburn and Vidal are certainly intelligent enough to recognize the holes in a poorly supported thesis if they choose to educate themselves about it. But they seem to want to believe it anyway and, worse, to actively promote it. Many other ordinary people I talked to about the theory also seemed to implicitly believe it, most of the time without having read a single book outlining the accusations."


How does Miss Know-it-all know what Cockburn, or Vidal, have read? And note the authoritarian tone of her pretentious proclamation: the two of them will have to be "re-educated," they must cast out their rightist demons and stop cavorting with those horrible Roosevelt-haters. Poor Ms. Greer: she really does have no idea why "ordinary people" (as opposed to herself) would "implicitly" believe the crux of Stinnett's thesis. Why would any "ordinary person" believe that their government would provoke an attack on their own military base, and condemn American soldiers to death, all the while covering up the whole thing for going on 60 years? Gee, I don't know: perhaps they've heard of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and, if not that, the Nixon tapes left out in plain sight, like many of the documents that prove Stinnett's case. Perhaps they are subversive enough to distrust not only this government, but government per se and this, really, is the root cause of Ms. Greer's stubborn blindness. While it is clear to practically everyone else that governments our own not excluded are quite capable of lies, staged provocations, murder, and much worse, this skepticism of "official history" and disbelief in the face of the court historians' bland assurances is something that has been bred out of American liberals.


All but a precious few, that is and we have one of them! We wish there were more Alexander Cockburns leftists who nonetheless do not feel compelled to defend barbarity and mendacity for partisan political reasons. If, however, Ms. Greer's apologia for FDR's crimes is any indication of the left-liberal mindset these days, then it's no wonder that the Vidals and Cockburns are in such short supply. There was a time when liberalism did not mean prostration before the conventional wisdom and the mindless echoing of "official" sources: sadly, that time has long since passed.

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