Behind the Headlines
by Justin Raimondo

August 10, 2001

WorldNetDaily's Tom Ambrose defends the undefendable

My last column, "Hiroshima Mon Amour: Why Americans are barbarians," has provoked a storm of protest from the clueless and the humorless – reinforcing my own conviction that Americans, for the most part, are indeed barbarians, without the ability or the desire to overcome their brainwashing and engage in even the simplest tasks of reasoning. They don't know their own history, except as recycled and rewritten by CNN and the court historians, and, what's more, they don't want to know. As evidence of this brain-dead state, I submit a screed by Tom Ambrose, an assistant editor over at WorldNetDaily, imaginatively entitled "Raimondo's Wrong."


Ambrose revs up his readers with a prefatory note about how he's never ever felt the need to "spar with other columnists" – with one exception that proves the rule – "no matter how much I disagreed with them. Until today." To what do I owe this great honor? Ambrose writes:

"If his intention was to push people's buttons, he surely succeeded in that endeavor with me. I regard what he wrote as a thoughtless, warped rant – a pile of pacifistic pap with little redeeming value."


Pacifistic? Me? *Sigh* Okay, maybe I was a little unclear; maybe I waffled just a little bit, and didn't state my case against the US in unequivocally black-and-white terms, words even an Epsilon Minus Semi-Moron could understand, so here goes: I am not just saying that the US should have refrained from nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I am telling you that the war in the Pacific was a monstrous injustice from the word go. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's policy was to provoke, entice, and otherwise entrap the Japanese into war. He couldn't get into the war by the front door, in Europe, because the American people overwhelmingly opposed such a course, so he chose to go in through the back. Now this is a thesis not entirely unknown to Ambrose: indeed, he not only alludes to it later on in his rambling diatribe, but indicates his substantial agreement, admitting that:

"There is strong evidence that the US acted in a way that helped lead to the Japanese decision to draw first blood. To his credit, Raimondo previously got this part of the story right."


This is not just "part of the story," it is the whole story. It is astonishing that, to illustrate this one point of agreement between us, Ambrose links to my review of Thomas Fleming's The New Dealers' War, a book which shows how FDR, in response to the failure of his policies at home, sought US intervention in the war as the solution to his political and economic problems. But if Ambrose agrees that US involvement in that war was a colossal mistake – and not just that but part of a concerted policy by FDR and his closest advisors to socialize the American economy, smash domestic opposition, and build up the Soviet Union, as Fleming avers – then how could the murderous culmination of that very policy be justified? If the Pacific war was a mistake at its root, in its very origins, then surely its horrifying climax was something less than desirable.


Furthermore, in my review of the Fleming book, cited by Ambrose, I also discuss the thesis of Robert Stinnett's Day of Deceit, a book that proves FDR knew in advance about the Japanese "sneak attack" on Pearl Harbor. Stinnett, using the Freedom of Information Act, analyzes documents previously withheld from the public and shows just what the US government knew, and how and when they knew it, tracing the flow of information from US intelligence sources all the way up to the White House. Not only did they know about the Pearl Harbor "surprise" weeks in advance, but FDR and his cronies consciously engineered it, and were, in their own way, just as responsible as the Japanese warlords who gave the order to attack. Japan is entirely bereft of oil, rubber, tin, and virtually all of the natural resources necessary for the maintenance of modern civilization: she is forced to go abroad for them. But if the free flow of commerce is obstructed, and such items cannot be obtained peacefully, by means of trade, then Nippon must procure them in other ways – or else live a life of primitive privation. Faced with the prospect of death by strangulation or war, the Japanese chose the latter – and who can blame them? The Japanese attack, seen in the context of the economic blockade imposed on Japan by the Western powers, was a desperate act of self-defense.


Japanese diplomats desperately tried to come to some accommodation with the US, but FDR was intransigent: under no circumstances would he either lift the embargo, or permit a Japanese challenge to British, French, and Dutch hegemony in Southeast Asia. Seen against this backdrop, the attack on Pearl Harbor was a last resort, an act of final desperation. The Japanese may have struck the first blow, but it was the Americans who were the real aggressors. When I speculated, half-seriously, that the wrong side may have won the Pacific war – a remark that practically gave Ambrose, and several other readers, a coronary – I didn't realize, at the time, just how literally some people would take it. Surely they would realize, with the reference to Eminem versus the high civilization of classical Japan, that I was making a secondary point about the rotten state of our culture.


But now that I think about it, I find that I do indeed mean it literally: for the entire history of US-Japanese relations in the years preceding that day of infamy is a well-documented saga of unprovoked hostility and relentless aggression on the part of the United States. In spite of Japanese efforts to conciliate the United States, and the active opposition to war by many in the Japanese government, the President of the United States would have none of it. In the monumental Back Door to War, the historian Charles Callan Tansill points out that Secretary of State Cordell Hull, reading intercepted Japanese diplomatic traffic, knew full well the Japanese government was desperate for peace: yet he refused to entertain any of the Japanese proposals.


Instead, Japan was ordered to leave China to the good graces of Mao Tse Tung and his Kuomintang allies, and, in addition, "Japan should abandon any thought of preserving in China, or anywhere else in the Pacific area, a 'preferential position.'" In other words, Japan must be content with its rocky isle, whilst the British, the French, the Dutch, and even the Portuguese must be allowed to feast, undisturbed, at the banquet of Asia. Now, doesn't that sound fair to you?


My big problem, according to Ambrose, is that I'm relying on the arguments of "revisionists" who don't have any "hard facts to substantiate their allegations." Okay, bud, you want facts, here's a few. Take a gander at the following series of intercepted messages between Tokyo and the Japanese ambassador to Moscow, which Truman had full knowledge of:

July 11 – "Make clear to Russia... We have no intention of annexing or taking possession of the areas which we have been occupying as a result of the war; we hope to terminate the war."

July 12 – "It is His Majesty's heart's desire to see the swift termination of the war."

July 13 – "I sent Ando... to communicate to the [Soviet] Ambassador that His Majesty desired to dispatch Prince Konoye as special envoy, carrying with him the personal letter of His Majesty stating the Imperial wish to end the war."

July 21 – "Special Envoy Konoye's mission will be in obedience to the Imperial Will. He will request assistance in bringing about an end to the war through the good offices of the Soviet Government." This notes also reveals that a conference between the Emperor's emissary, Prince Konoye, and the Soviet Union, was sought, in preparation for contacting the U.S. and Great Britain.

July 25 – "It is impossible to accept unconditional surrender under any circumstances, but we should like to communicate to the other party through appropriate channels that we have no objection to a peace based on the Atlantic Charter."


Clearly, the Japanese were willing to surrender, but not unconditionally. Their chief concern, as Ambrose acknowledges, was preservation of the imperial system as an institution: once assured of this, their surrender would have been swiftly forthcoming. Ambrose dismisses the alternative of abandoning unconditional surrender with a breezy "and if pigs had wings," but why wouldn't this have been preferable to the incineration of more than 300,000 civilians? Yes, the buck does stop with Harry Truman, as Ambrose avers, and this is why that malignant pygmy ought to be remembered, not as a great man, or a good president, but as a war criminal.


I can also see that my subtleties are wasted on Ambrose, who fails to understand my point about the Japanese unwillingness to surrender even after Nagasaki. He writes: 

"The obvious question one must ask, then, is if the Japanese were still bent on continuing their nasty war – even after two atomic bombs were dropped in their backyard (and the threat of Tokyo soon to follow) – what possible rationale could one reasonably suggest to support the efficacy of those lesser 'alternatives' which Raimondo is apparently enamored with?"


The point is that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki made no difference as to the outcome of the war, or the speed at which the American victory was arrived at. The Americans could have dropped as many A-bombs as they could muster, and still the Japanese would have failed to surrender but for the Emperor's firm belief that his throne would not be snatched out from under him. It was only this belief that gave the peace party the edge to win the internal fight against the warlords, who would have had the entire nation commit a collective seppuku before acknowledging the victory of the hated Westerners. In the end, it wasn't the Bomb, or even two such bombs, that ended that war: it was the recognition that a compromise was the only way to avoid a huge number of American casualties.


"Lesser alternatives" have nothing to do with it. In reality, no "lesser" alternative, such as a demonstration bomb, was necessary: if only Truman had taken the advice of his top advisors, such as Joseph Grew, the former ambassador to Japan, he would have dropped the unconditional surrender proviso, ensured the continuity of Japan's imperial dynasty, and negotiated an end to the war.


Ambrose naturally brings up all the favorite atrocity stories of the Japan-bashers, Nanjing, the Bataan death march, etc., but what is the point? Is this supposed to somehow justify the atom-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? He doesn't quite say this, but the implication is clear enough: burning the eyeballs out of Japanese schoolchildren is a justified act of revenge, not only for Pearl Harbor but for all those terrible kamikaze pilots (he mentions them specifically) who played havoc with our ships. But is that really an admissible defense: pointing to the crimes of the other side? The attempts by the lawyers for the defense in the Nuremberg war crimes trials to introduce evidence of Allied atrocities was thrown out, nor was a similar effort in the case of the Japanese warlords permitted. So how come this principle doesn't work both ways?


Ambrose points to the destruction wrought by kamikaze pilots as among Japan's more heinous deeds, worthy of punishment. However, instead of inspiring a desire for revenge, the kamikazes should evoke our admiration. For how many American fighter pilots would have committed suicide in the name of the "Four Freedoms"? Yet many thousands of Japanese willingly plunged their planes into the flaming sea for the glory of the Emperor.


We may have made a few "mistakes," writes Ambrose, such as setting up concentration camps in the US where Japanese-Americans were imprisoned – oh, and by the way, Justin, you're right about how we got into the war – but, that said,

"Dropping the atomic bomb on Japan was not one of them. The Japanese alone must shoulder the responsibility for their choice to initiate a bloody war with the United States rather than looking for one of those other 'alternatives' that Justin is so fond of when he points his finger at the United States. That the US then used every means at its disposal to put an end to the war is absolutely justifiable even though Justin Raimondo would like you to believe otherwise."


So, the US was justified using any and "every means"? What about killing every man, woman, and child in Japan? Would that have been okay? In a civilized society, the ends can never justify the means: some methods of warfare, by their very nature, are ruled out from the very beginning, such as, for example, indiscriminate slaughter of unarmed civilians. This is what it means to commit a war crime. To point out that the enemy has indulged in such tactics is no defense, but merely an admission of guilt: and, in any case, the sheer scale of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings is on an entirely different level of evil from any atrocity carried out by the Japanese.


The war, as the majority of the Japanese Cabinet realized, was already lost: at issue were the conditions for the Japanese surrender. As for the original responsibility for the war, it is not the Japanese but the Americans who blocked off every avenue to compromise, who backed their British, French, and Dutch allies in an ultimately fruitless quest to hold on to their Eastasian possessions. I note that Ambrose, like the New York Post and the rest of the know-nothing neocon Right, also brays about how the double nuking of Japan "ultimately saved many lives"! It's obscene balderdash, naturally, but leave it to Ambrose to defend such counterintuitive folderol with typical Ambrosian illogic:

"Having seen the horrible devastation wrought by those two ghastly events, political leaders everywhere have so far refrained from actually using the even more powerful, more devastating weapons they have built."


So maybe someone should drop a bomb on, say, Washington DC, or perhaps Mr. Ambrose's place of abode, just to remind us all of how truly terrible these weapons are, and in order to avert an even greater catastrophe. The idea that we were "spared further anguish" by Truman's policy of mass murder is akin to the curious notion of the madman who, when asked why he kept banging his head against the wall, replied: "Because it feels so good when I stop."


Ambrose concludes his polemic by going into the old song-and-dance about how war is inevitable, and some things, such as freedom, are worth fighting for because "the alternative is completely unacceptable." But the alternative would have been not to enter the war to begin with. Short of that, the alternative course would have been a negotiated peace with Japan, especially since Germany had already been defeated. Unlike nuking two cities only marginally connected to the Japanese war effort, that would have saved millions of lives. Ambrose claims that "pacifism" could have cost us our freedom "had we failed to decisively win WWII." But a negotiated peace, at the point when Truman was weighing his decision, would have left both our victory and Japan intact, the latter acting as a buffer between a Communized China and the West. Far from threatening our freedom, a negotiated peace would have helped defend us against the rising threat of Soviet Russia.


Finally, Ambrose addresses me directly:

"To Justin Raimondo, I conclude with this: Wake up. There are stupid, yucky, evil people in this world and no matter how much you and I wish they didn't exist, the fact is they do exist."

Yes, Mr. Ambrose, I'll grant you that, they certainly do exist – and their main headquarters is in Washington, DC. For it was from that vantage point that FDR "lied us into war," as Clare Booth Luce put it. It was from there that the campaign to drag us into the war, and Communize half of Europe and a good deal of Asia, was hatched, and carried out with amazing success. And it was from there that the evil spread, throughout the world, until, today, its dominion is global. These are the same sort of yucky people who bombed the h*ll out of the former Yugoslavia, invaded Somalia, bombed an aspirin factory in the Sudan to get a scandal off the front pages, and continually strafe the cratered moonscape of Iraq on the chance that they might hit a few more innocent civilians. I refer, of course, to our esteemed rulers and leaders, officials of the US government and its intellectual amen-corner – the locus of evil in the world.


And that really is the lesson of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the thesis that is irrefutably proven by the dark history of these events and by one incontestable fact: only the US, among all the nations who possess these deadly weapons of mass destruction, has actually used them. Now that ought to tell us something: indeed, it is all we really need to know. So, to Tom Ambrose, I conclude with this: You wake up, buddy. We have met the stupid, yucky, evil people in this world, and they are us – or, more precisely, our elected (and unelected) representatives.

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