Thursday, December 8

Pearl of Wisdom

Tammy Bruce, "We Will Never Forget: Pearl Harbor Day"

The first question is, does it really count as "not forgetting" when you make about half of it up?

In my youth you couldn't swing a cat without hitting someone who was in the middle of telling everyone unlucky enough to be within earshot that the reason Rome fell was moral decay. This seems, mercifully, to have disappeared. I don't know if that's because nobody gives a shit about Rome unless Hollywood figures out a way to make Gladiator II, or because a generation discovered, courtesy of I, Claudius, that even at the height of Empire the Romans didn't exactly have the same moral code as Ozzy and Harriet. I think it's safe to to rule out the sort of person who says such things suddenly becoming historically savvy enough to realize the last two centuries of the West's decline coincided with Christianity as the state religion.

Tammy Bruce may provide an answer, namely, that it's easier, more relevant, and a lot more fun to simply make up moral lessons from sixty years ago. Maybe the final ascension of modern advertising has hipped our public moralists to the fact that the average attention span is now so short you can make up shit about stuff that happened in some people's living memory:
I've noted a number of times how we owe Europeans, and especially the English,...

Wait a minute. Why especially the English? Because your knowledge of WWII comes from watching Richard Burton flicks?
...a deep apology for not intervening sooner in World War II. Until the strike on Pearl Harbor, we allowed so-called Pacifists and isolationists to determine this nation's (non)reaction to genocide and naked aggression.

Wait a minute. Why so-called Pacifists? A Pacifist is a Pacifist, and though I wouldn't consign everyone so-called to a refusal to fight under any and all circumstances, I think it's safe to say that many so-called Pacifists between the wars were, in fact, genuine Pacifists. This sort of devolution of language is contemptible. It happens on the teevee news all the time--you're supposed to supply the argument for the speaker after she gives you a hint about her opinion in the matter.

It is, in fact, the "isolationists" who deserve that so-called, because the term was and is meant to be derogatory. The majority of Americans in the 20s and 30s opposed being drawn into another European war. You can look this sort of thing up. There was strong sentiment, particularly in the agrarian Midwest and West, that banking interests and armaments manufacturers had greatly influenced the decision to enter the war for their own profit. The Senate investigated the munitions industry from 1934-36, and passed Neutrality Acts in '35, '36, and '37. And many of the loudest voices for what came to be denigrated as "isolationism" came from the business community, which feared that Roosevelt would use foreign entanglement to tighten the grip of the New Deal. You can look that up, too. The suggestion that "isolationists" were starry-eyed proto-hippie peaceniks is completely unwarranted, except that Tammy doesn't like them either.

Beyond the recasting of the historical record to fit the demands of her morality tale, Tammy's got her facts wrong. The high-water mark of isolationism was passed in the late 30s. By the time the real nature of Nazi aggression was clear, the majority of Americans had switched sides. Wendell Wilke, the Republican, was the isolationist candidate in 1940 ("I shall never send an American boy to fight in a European war!"). He lost to FDR. You can look that up. The Lend-Lease Act, which kept Britain afloat and which assuredly would have led to our involvement in Europe within a short time, was passed in the spring of 1941. The country's first pre-war conscription began with the fall of France in 1940.

Suggesting, by the way, that the American people were aware of, but indifferent to, the Holocaust before the war began is simply repugnant and a smear of the very people you're pretending to celebrate. Yes, the world knew the Nazis were anti-Semites, but it's a vast leap to imagining the unthinkable, that they were actually trying to exterminate every Jew in Europe. People's attention was focused mainly on the military actions of the war. My father tells me that he first heard anything about the death camps was when we overran them in '45. He also says, difficult as it is to believe for someone who hasn't a clue what went on at the time, that no one realized that FDR was confined to a wheelchair until after his death. It's one thing to mistake hindsight for insight. It's quite another to demand to know why people didn't get it before it happened.
Because we waited and did nothing as the Axis powers raped the world, millions died. Of all the things we learned during World War II, from its beginnings in 1933 when Japan invaded China, it is to never mistake not being at war for peace.

Horseshit. You people haven't quite learned that even as the world's only military superpower we can't dictate everything that happens on the face of the globe. We weren't anything close to a superpower in the 30s. We had no army to send to Europe in September 1939. If you wish to argue that now, as a superpower, we ought to do what we can to prevent those sorts of horrors, do so. But "we did nothing as the Axis raped the world" is just another of your repulsive fairy tales.
Today is the 64th anniversary of that tragic day when the disease of fascism attacked us at home. Eventually it always does and on December 7, 1941 our looking away emboldened the enemy as they struck without warning. That, like September 11th, was a day of murder forcing our reluctant nation into war.

Sigh. I suppose the good news is that sixty years hence there won't be many people left with this particular hatchet of an historical analogy to grind. Compare an attack on a military installation with a murderous terrorist act all you wish, but let's stay clear on the history. The attack on Pearl Harbor came without warning, but the Japanese intended to inform us that a state of war existed before the attack, but their envoys were an hour and a half late in delivering the message. We had been in tense negotiations with them for some time, and by September had informed our commanders in the Pacific that war was imminent. Roosevelt had specifically rejected the suggestion that we attack first, saying that "democracies do not do that."

Make of either situation what you will, but 9/11 is not a repeat of Pearl Harbor.
And to the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, at Pearl Harbor and throughout that horrific war and the wars that followed, thank you for your gift to this nation, and a free world.

I guess I'll just wait for the follow-up column that explains how the "wars that followed" have brought the gift of freedom to the nation.


Anonymous said...

Now, see, American helicopters are still being shot down in Afghanistan, a country that actually did have some ties with the 9/11 terrorists. Didn't we manage to make Japan into a fairly safe and functional democracy in a similar span of time after WWII?

Or am I just as wrong as Miss Bruce?

nolo said...

Beautiful smackdown. Beautiful.

julia said...

silly wabbit. Especially England because they suffered much more than Poland and France, and besides, they don't talk (as) funny.

Of course, there are those who say that the jews of eastern europe probably had a little more of a bone to pick with us on that one, but most of them are dead, so we can hardly apologize.

Even if some of us are sorry.

Anonymous said...

"... we allowed so-called Pacifists and isolationists to determine this nation's (non)reaction to genocide and naked aggression."

"The suggestion that "isolationists" were starry-eyed proto-hippie peaceniks is completely unwarranted, except that Tammy doesn't like them either."

How, pray tell, do you even connect isolationists as ...proto-hippie peaceniks from your quote? Are significant passages not quoted? Otherwise your commentary afterwards, particularly the one above doesn't follow from the quote.

The rest, hmmmm....we had information that we discounted...radar stuff and such on Pearl Harbor...the growth of Al-Qaeda through the 90's...Clinton's withdrawal from Somolia, his concentration on the economy (being President is more important than the welfare of the country), intelligence knowledge that cells totaling 1200 folks existed within the borders of the US, and that al-Qaeda had attacked and was going to attack.

Well, the neo-cons, right-wingers and other who justify the war in Iraq will love you. If 9-11 is not a repeat of Pearl Harbor then Vietnam is not a repeat of Iraq. (Actually the big difference is that in Iraq the US has acted as an imperialistic power while in Vietnam they tried to manipute and cajol a corrupt government and ruling class. "A Bright Shining Lie " by Neil Whittaker.

Actually, most of this post characterizes the histories of the times. It is just that, well, I have been indoctrinated in the critical thinking stuff of the modern university, and well, I have to work to overcome the indoctrination. Actually, most of the quotes reminds me oh Oprah at the Astrodome..."America owes you an apology." crap.

Keep on truckin' on!

btw...if you have the time, could you archive your blog?

Did I get it right this time? Am I in the right place?