A GREAT HONOR?
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:
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
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,
is strong evidence that the US acted in a way that helped
lead to the Japanese decision to draw first blood. To his
previously got this part of the story right."
THE WHOLE STORY
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
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.
THE TRUTH ABOUT
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
THE REAL AGGRESSORS
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.
COME TO THINK
OF IT ...
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
Door to War, the historian Charles Callan Tansill
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.
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?
JUST THE FACTS
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:
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
12 "It is His Majesty's heart's desire to see the swift
termination of the war."
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."
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
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."
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:
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 BOMB BOMBED
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.
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.
A TWO-WAY STREET?
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?
DYING FOR THE
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.
A FEW "MISTAKES"
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."
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
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."
IT FEELS SO
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."
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.
A YUCKY EVIL
Ambrose addresses me directly:
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
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.
WE HAVE MET
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)
contribution of $50 or more will get you a copy of
Ronald Radosh's out-of-print classic study of the
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