The Business of War
By Wade Frazier
Revised July 2014
The Business of War
The "Good War"
Brown Shirts in America
A Brief History of Western Anti-Semitism and the Holy War Mentality
Wealth, Jews and the Age of Colonialism
The Modern Age and Jews
Toward the Holocaust
Debunking the "Myths"
Other "Myth Debunking" Concerning the Holocaust
A Different Kind of Holocaust Denial
The Last "Good War" Revisited
Justifying the Last Good War
Dropping the Bomb
Some More Myths
After the Bomb
The Aftermath in Europe
The Third World War and the Modern War Racket
In July 2014, after great trepidation, I finally decided to revise this essay. It was my website's last major essay to be revised, in order to align my site with my big energy essay. To do justice to this essay's subjects would take months of work, but I do not have the time or emotional reserves to do it. When I wrote the first draft of this essay in 1999, it was a harrowing ordeal and the process inspired me to quit drinking, which I accomplished the next year. This essay will not be an enjoyable read, particularly for Americans.
The beginnings of warfare can be seen in today's chimpanzees, who are our closest biological cousins. They are the only great ape to form ranked hunting parties and engage in warfare, with their goal being eliminating a neighboring band. Their lethal forays are based on cost/benefit decisions, which befit a chimp's relatively advanced cognitive abilities. If the aggressors succeed in killing all adult males in a neighboring band, they will then take the females as "booty," kill all the acquired females' infants, and take the neighboring territory. Genocide is not a purely human invention.
While preliterate human warfare has seemed ineffectual and ritualistic to modern observers, its death rate as a proportion of the population is about twenty times greater than warfare between industrialized nations in the 20th century. In the preliterate Maring culture in the mountains of New Guinea, they have had a religious cycle of warfare for probably thousands of years. Their cycle approximates ten years, with the warfare pattern beginning when the pigs they raise and the human population reach the land's carrying capacity. Then they have a ritualistic war that brings both the human and pig populations back to "sustainable" levels. Then their societies are peaceful for another decade or so, when the carrying capacity is again reached and they renew the warfare cycle. R. Buckminster Fuller noted that economic scarcity has always been the motivation of all soldiers, and Hermann Goering observed that the method to mobilize the men in any nation for warfare was to make them believe that their nation was under attack.
Anthropologists have long speculated that warfare between hunter-gather bands kept populations in balance with the land's carrying capacity before the development of agriculture, in a Malthusian population check. As humanity expanded across the planet from Africa, driving all other human species and most megafauna to extinction, it was a peaceful expansion, as simply moving to the next uninhabited valley was a "cheap" way to resolve the conflict. But when behaviorally modern humans filled Earth's inhabitable lands and the easy food was gone, warfare began in earnest, and when Europeans "discovered" Australia, for instance, they found the isolated natives in a state of almost constant warfare.
In short, warfare is organized murder, although heavy layers of ideology, deception, and other tricks have tried transforming violence and murder into noble deeds. Humanity’s violent ways are directly related to how humanity expanded its range across the planet, after humanity's ancestors left their fruit-rich home in the tropical forests several million years ago. The weaponry used to become super-predators had a dual purpose for preying upon fellow humans. Humanity’s carnivorous ways are directly related to its murderous ways.
Soldiers are nearly always young men whose hormones override their brains and hearts, and societies manipulate their vulnerable condition to turn them into murderers on behalf of their society. Probably no war in world history was really fought for the publicly stated reasons, unless somebody was honest enough to state that it was simply murder on behalf of economics. Although “defensive” violence might seem “justified,” it is always the least enlightened response to any “threat,” and virtually every murderer plays mental games to transform the crime into no crime at all, but something self-righteously justified.
People seem to need justifications for violence, so all military-oriented societies have huge cultural engines that labor to create superficial justifications. One rule seems to be that the more ornate the pageantry that accompanies militaristic displays (Nuremberg rallies, military parades, air shows, flag-waving holidays, and attractive uniforms covered with medals), the less “justified” the violence that it ultimately inflicts. Violence is always a violation of somebody’s free will, and until people can develop enlightened perspectives, humanity will probably always concoct rationales to justify violence. George Orwell wrote in his Politics and the English Language, “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible.” If anything, the situation has become worse since then.
One of this essay's major themes challenges the innumerable myths that Americans subscribe to regarding their wars. So, it took aim at America’s “best” war: World War II. This essay was designed to:
Illuminate the entire West’s complicity with the Jewish Holocaust, how few really cared much if the Jews were being exterminated, even in the USA, and I have never seen anybody make a convincing case to rebut that notion.
The Holocaust denier camp is delusional, and most in its ranks have tainted agendas, which are largely about rehabilitating fascism and Hitler’s image. However, many Jewish scholars have also abused the Jewish Holocaust by arguing for its historical exclusivity, while denying comparable and larger holocausts, and have turned the Jewish Holocaust into a lucrative industry.
Orthodox American historians to this day justify dropping atom bombs on Japan as a great life-saving technology, where they took a page from Orwell's book. The facts lend themselves to a more dubious interpretation.
Wall Street warmly embraced Hitler and his regime, including prominent American industrial empires such as Ford’s, Rockefeller's, and even one that George Bush the First’s father worked for. Some even supported Hitler's regime when the USA was at war with Germany.
World War II was a battle of empires, with Germany and Japan coming to the imperial table, as Germany also had before World War I, but the other Great Powers already “owned” the world; the Pacific Theater was nothing more than an intensely racist battle for empire.
The USA is history’s most racist nation, and much of the evil that Hitler wrought was simply copying what the USA did when it built its “great nation.” Hitler is a scapegoat. He was not so much an aberration of the Western mind, but its epitome. The USA hired many of the most of useful Nazis in Operation Paperclip (even if they performed human experiments in the death camps), quickly rehabilitated the most ardent Nazi supporters in Germany to run Germany, and quickly rebuilt the political-economic framework that led to the Third Reich’s rise, but subsumed under American power.
The USA's war planners had no illusions; World War II was a battle for global dominance, and the USA largely joined the fray so that it could come out on top, which it did. The subsequent Cold War was only because there was a hitch to Western Europe and its political descendants owning the entire planet; World War II was a huge financial windfall for numerous industrialists, and those same interests largely hold the world captive today, while hiding behind the American flag.
The Nazis were beaten by the Soviet Union, not the USA. The Eastern Front was where history’s greatest battles were fought. The Normandy invasion was more of a sideshow and an American attempt to limit Soviet influence in Europe.
This essay will deal with some of those issues, but not nearly in the breadth and depth that they deserve, because I do not have enough time, energy, and money to do so. Quite a few works have echoed my themes. On the complicity of the USA in the Jewish holocaust, see David Wyman’s The Abandonment of the Jews. On dropping the atom bomb and the American aftermath, see Robert J. Lifton and Greg Mitchell's Hiroshima in America: Fifty Years of Denial and Peter Wyden's Day One. On the intensely racist and take-no-prisoners approach in the Pacific Theater, see Eugene Sledge’s With the Old Breed and John Dower’s War Without Mercy. On the many myths, fabrications, and Disney-fications of World War II, see Paul Fussell’s Wartime, Michael Adams’s The Best War Ever, and Howard Zinn’s The Politics of History and Declarations of Independence. For a book that resembles the theme of my war essay regarding World War II, see Michael Zezima’s Saving Private Power, which was published the year after I drafted this essay (Michael and I were both surprised at how similar our work was) was an admittedly sarcastic title for a work that attempted to counterbalance the flag-draped cheerleading that Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and related works did soon before we wrote about World War II. Little did we suspect that the flag-waving had yet to really begin. On the burgeoning holocaust industry and how Jewish scholars have muddied the issue, see Ward Churchill’s A Little Matter of Genocide and Norman Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry (which even the redoubtable Holocaust scholar Raul Hilberg supported). On the continuity of the Native American and Jewish holocausts, see David Stannard’s American Holocaust. For the USA's hiring death camp Nazis and quickly “rehabilitating” the most ardent Nazi-supporters in Germany and putting them right back into the positions of power that they held before World War II, see Christopher Simpson’s Blowback and The Splendid Blond Beast.
The Business of War
Smedley Butler, one of America’s greatest war heroes, wrote a booklet titled War is a Racket. Many years ago, I heard a man describe the mentality of 18-year-old men when faced with battle. He said that if a commander spoke to a gathering of one thousand 18-year-old soldiers, telling them that tomorrow they would be in a battle and only three would survive, those soldiers would all look at each other, thinking to themselves, "Gee, I'm going to miss these guys."
One of the war racket's pillars is exploiting the immortal feeling that 18-year-old men feel. Those immortal feelings are engendered by the fact those men are nearly children, have not quite experienced the world's brutal realities, and are brimming with the power of their 18-year-old bodies. A man's physical fitness does not get any better than between eighteen to twenty years old. When that man described how the 18-year-old soldiers would take their commander's news, he also said that if that commander addressed one thousand 40-year-old men with the same speech, nobody would arrive for battle the next day. By age 40, men are acquainted with their mortality and have no desire to throw their lives away while attempting to take the life of somebody that they never met.
My life is a case in point. The USA has always been a warrior nation. I do not know about my family tree during the 1800s on my maternal grandmother's side (but they were almost certainly involved in the USA's Civil War), but during the 20th century one grandfather fought in World War I and was crippled by his participation. My other grandfather was in World War II in the South Pacific. My father was a Marine in the Korean War and a boot camp drill sergeant. My uncles and brothers were all in the military. Going up my family tree, I am the first man in my family that I know of who did not serve in the American military, and I nearly did.
My father spent his entire career working for the federal government, usually for the Department of Defense. My father helped instill the notion in me that I would not quite be a man unless I served in the military. He would talk about how one could tell if somebody had been in the military. According to my father, men with military backgrounds were somehow manlier, had few pretensions, and had been through the humbling experience of being a soldier. At age 17, I had little idea of my own mortality and did not really question that I would go through my rite of passage and become a soldier. As I look back, I have a difficult time believing that adult men would encourage that perspective, but they did. I was even told by a relative soon after I published this essay in the summer of 2002 that I should have served in the military.
During my senior year in high school, I applied and was quickly nominated by my Congressman for a slot at the USA's Air Force Academy. The next step was athletics testing. Thinking about whom I might be killing, or being killed myself, was the furthest thing from my mind. Part of my motivation was free college. War’s realities are never emphasized in the indoctrination process, and immortal youth rarely thinks about it. I was an indoctrinated cog in the machine.
Thankfully, somebody was looking out for me, and in that instance it was my mother. She realized that her gentle child would not enjoy the military experience, and probably shuddered to think of what it would do to me. People do not come back from war "normal." The war experience traumatized all of my soldier-ancestors.
My mother prevailed on my father to talk me out of further pursuit of an Air Force Academy position. One day my father sat me down and took me to task for my motivation in applying to the Air Force Academy. My answers were not convincing, even to myself, and I notified my Congressman that I would no longer pursue a position at the Air Force Academy.
My spiritual studies began in earnest that same year, and by age 19 I was a committed pacifist, but I nearly became an Air Force pilot. It is quite possible that I would have been dropping bombs on Iraq in 1991 if I had gone that route. The clever war planners know what they are doing, and part of their brainwashing strategy is evident in actions such as renaming the War Department the "Defense" Department right after World War II. They lifted a page from Orwell's 1984.
The "Good War"
Paul Fussell was a great iconoclast of the American military and warfare in general. Fussell was a World War II soldier and was wounded in France. He recounted his experience in Doing Battle: The Making of a Skeptic. His Wartime was considered by many to be the best book ever written about World War II.
This essay cannot do justice to Wartime. Wartime did not question the need to fight wars, but explored the psychology of warfare, both on the front and at home. Fussell finished Wartime with his most biting chapter, titled "The Real War Will Never Get in the Books." In Wartime, Fussell described the evolving psychological condition of soldiers. There are three stages. The first is that immortal perspective that all young soldiers have when joining the military. None of the soldiers think that they will die. It could not happen to them. As they go through training, talk to experienced soldiers, and see some of war's realities, it sobers them up a little, but their attitude is still that they are too smart, too talented, too good looking, or too lucky to get killed. They don their psychic armor as they believe themselves to be impervious to bullets.
Native Americans often had such delusions. They would go through involved rituals to magically protect themselves in battle, to make them bulletproof or invisible. European and American soldiers were charmed by the native fantasies as they unceremoniously mowed them down.
When a young soldiers finally get on the battlefield and sees what really happens when men are committed to killing each other, it is a shock. If they survive battle for long (a few minutes is usually enough), they quickly attain the next stage of their psychological awareness. They think, "Hey, it is dangerous out here! I should be more careful." They think that if they are careful and clever, they will survive. If they survive long enough, they arrive at their final psychological state: they know that they are alive by sheer luck. Those bullets whizzing by and exploding bombs have somebody's name written on them, and it is only a matter of time until their turn comes.
During World War II, and particularly in the Vietnam War, with soldiers engaged in heated battle for months on end, with the industrialized horror that wars of previous centuries did not see, war psychologists discovered that no human being's psyche could survive long in that situation. No matter how brave or heroic, if human beings survive modern battle situations for long (with intense battle, the time that they can hold their sanity together is measured in days), they will begin mentally falling apart. Even the USA's most heroic soldier, Audie Murphy, whose exploits on the battlefield may never be equaled, suffered from "shell shock" for the rest of his life. "Real men" did not admit to such frailty, but that did not make the condition disappear. War planners devised a concept called a "tour of duty," whereby if soldiers survived a year in the theater of combat, then they were relieved of duty. The human wreckage of Vietnam War veterans is a testament to the hazards of extended periods of battlefield conditions. Instead of "shell shock," the medical term in the early 21st century is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
In Wartime's final chapter, Fussell discussed war's reality. He made the case that the true horror of war is never depicted in the popular media. In the 21st century's high-tech wars, where pilots drop bombs and never see the enemy, America's soldiers do not usually see war's reality. Fussell wrote extensively on the "Disneyfication" of war that the popular media presents. He was writing about World War II. The situation is arguably worse in the 21st century, even in the world of electronic media, supposedly bringing the world to America's living room in an instant. With careful management by the Pentagon and complicity by the media, Americans were not treated to the reality of the devastation of Panama and Iraq in the 1990s, nor the imperial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 21st century.
In World War II, it was not quite as Orwellian, but Fussell wrote about how soldiers felt as they came back from the battlefield, with cheery Red Cross girls handing them candy and comic books. The soldiers realized that the folks back home knew nothing about war's reality, and frankly, they did not want to recall it, and nobody at home really wanted to hear it. It made many soldiers cynical and bitter, but they resigned themselves to the fact that the battlefield reality will never be shown to the people at home.
In a society that brainwashes young men into thinking that glory will be had by killing people in a flag's name, the grim realities are never revealed. The same mentality carefully hides slaughterhouses, factory farms, environmental devastation, and the immense human suffering that our system produces in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and America's inner cities. The cultural machine quietly covers up the ugly realities, presenting shrink-wrapped meat in butcher shops, leaving a strip of trees to conceal a clear cut, American reporters refusing to report on the "secret war" that America waged against Cambodia and Laos for years, covering up the mass murder at Jonestown, and so on.
Saving Private Ryan, released in 1998, came the closest that any American movie ever had to depicting the carnage of modern warfare. I thought that maybe young American men would understand if they saw it. I was in for a surprise. A friend took his fifteen-year-old son to see Saving Private Ryan. I asked him what his son's reaction was. His son was a computer gaming wizard who played war games with friends on computers.
While my friend watched the landing at Omaha Beach in Saving Private Ryan, his son reacted to the movie as if it was another computer game. As he watched the carnage, he told his father that those soldiers were doing it wrong, that their attack strategy was flawed, and that he could design a better attack. The lad was playing general and had no conception that he would have been getting his head blown off, not some general in a strategy room, looking at a map and moving toy soldiers and boats around with a stick.
My friend also had a younger brother in the Marines. His brother's commanding officer gave the whole platoon the afternoon off to go watch Saving Private Ryan. I wondered why a commanding officer would do something like that, showing those soldiers a glimpse of war's reality. My friend's response surprised me again. The commanding officer sent those soldiers to watch Saving Private Ryan to get them "pumped up.” I should have known better. When my friends were in the military, they usually talked about "seeing action" as if it would be the crowning moment of their lives. The Marines came storming out of watching Saving Private Ryan, beating their chests, eagerly looking forward to the day that they would see "action."
Howard Zinn was a World War II soldier and made many ironic observations about his military years. Zinn was highly critical of Saving Private Ryan (the review is available on the Internet). Sure, the carnage of war was depicted as never before, but as Zinn observed, the thrust of the movie was that those men were making a noble sacrifice, and that although war may be bloody, it is ultimately a noble undertaking. I thought about the movie again and realized that Zinn was right. Almost all war movies are antiwar movies, but Spielberg's masterpiece depicted the affair as noble, although he showed many of its warts. Saving Private Ryan is a pro-war movie, and it barely lost the Academy Award for best picture. Thank you Howard, for helping me see. That theme of Saving Private Ryan is one reason why those movie-going Marines came out pumped up.
World War II has always been portrayed in the USA as the last "good war," where the line between good and evil was easily seen, with those depraved Nazis and their death camps. Fussell, as he recounted his experiences in Doing Battle, and as he dissected the entire war experience in Wartime, made the case that the first casualty of war is the truth, as usual. Fussell made it clear that there were very few "heroes" in Europe in World War II. All soldiers were just like him: when they finally saw the battlefield and experienced its reality, they were all afraid of dying and nobody wanted to be a hero. Military indoctrination is designed to overcome a man's instincts for self-preservation.
Following orders, being manly, demonizing the enemy, conscription, and only putting young, naïve, immortal-feeling men into battle, along with severe regimentation, with rewards and punishments dangled before them, are all tools to overcome a man's instinct for self-preservation and his disinclination to kill somebody that he has never met, and who has done him no harm.
Audie Murphy took on hundreds of German soldiers and six tanks single-handedly near Holtzwihr France, while he was firing a machine gun from atop a burning vehicle filled with explosives. It stands as one of the most heroic feats from any war. Gary Wean vouched for Murphy’s respect for the common man. Yet, for every Audie Murphy there were thousands of soldiers who quickly decided that their only goal was staying alive, and they did not stick their nose out where it would be shot off. Fussell related in his own battlefield experiences, where there were no Murphy-esque heroes in his platoon, including himself. Fussell wrote:
"Although many in my platoon were killed and wounded, not one was ever captured or ever ran away, and that was true of F Company as a whole. What did we think we were doing, and why would we never flee or give up? Some few may have been following the higher morality and offering their lives and limbs for the Allied cause and the Four Freedoms, but 90 percent of us were engaged in something much less romantic and heroic. We were maintaining our self-respect, protecting our manly image from the contempt of our fellows. By persisting without complaint, we were saving our families from disgrace. We were maintaining our honor by fulfilling an implied contract. We were not letting others down. All of us desperately wanted to be removed from danger, but we now sensed that the war would not end in a few days and that only death or wounds would be likely to grant us our respite."
Audie Murphy’s heroic feats were seldom seen in any battle. Mostly, there were two armies facing each other, each terrified of the other, and while their official goal was killing each other, the primary goal of nearly every soldier was staying alive. Only the most fanatical (or heroic) soldier thought any differently. The indoctrination infrastructure and societal systems that put cannon fodder on the front lines were invisible hands pushing each soldier in the back. Few, if any, soldiers rushed into battle willingly. Once they got there, they would rather have been anywhere else. A study of American soldiers during World War II concluded that what kept the men in combat, once they got there, were two factors: not letting down their buddies and the risk of their families losing their pay and benefits if they refused to fight.
In the USA, ever since the Revolutionary War, the sons of the elite never served in the infantry unless they wanted to, which was rarely. In the Revolutionary War, draftees could buy their way out of serving in the military. In all wars, the rich nearly always found a way out, while the poor were coaxed or forced into the military. The rich man's exemptions have always existed in the American military in one form or another, into the 21st century, when the USA's military is largely mercenary, with everybody fighting for nakedly economic incentives. During the Vietnam War, middle and upper class boys got college deferments as their parents paid to keep their sons from battle. Poor boys who could not afford college or were not inclined (college was still a middle-to-upper-class place to be), found themselves going to Vietnam. There is no valid rationale for sending an uneducated boy off to war while the college boy stayed in school. The argument of needing educated soldiers, as if college would magically transform an 18-year-old boy into a battlefield wizard, is ludicrous, but is the only rationale possible to justify the college deferment. The real rationale was that the upper classes could protect their sons that way, while the lower-class boys marched off to battle.
In the early 21st century, it is a "voluntary" military in America. Today's voluntary American military works for a few reasons. One is that American soldiers rarely risk their lives anymore. Since Vietnam, the USA has only fought weak enemies that cannot fight back. That has been a conscious decision by the war planners, as the Vietnam War protests demonstrated that Americans would no longer support having their boys killed in foreign wars of dubious benefit. Although young boys feel that they are immortal, it is harder to get them to willingly sign up when the odds of being killed are high. They are not that naïve and ignorant. I probably would have rethought my 1975 application to the Air Force Academy if I had come of age in 1966.
The military recruiters still play on the "be all that you can be," "be a man" mentality. They make appeals to manly and patriotic motives, but the reality is that today's American military, particularly in the army and the infantry, are largely staffed by America's underclass, and the primary reasons why they have joined are the economic incentives waved under their noses. With America's real wages declining since 1973, the military is a viable option for the lower classes, which is why a disproportionate number of American soldiers are black. The American black man was ironically transformed from being not good enough to enjoy the honor of combat, to becoming the preferred infantryman alongside his lower-class white comrades. The underclasses fighting in the infantry is not something unique to America, but in probably every military of every people for all of history. Draft-dodging became an art form from the first civilization onward.
Fussell was an infantry officer in World War II. Officers usually came from the wealthy and educated classes. The infantry cannon fodder was mostly populated by America's lower classes. Fussell openly speculated that the strategy of staffing the infantry with the underclass was thinning out their ranks. When men are forced into battlefield situations, the most fiendish behavior emerges. Fussell witnessed his men slaughtering surrendering German soldiers with glee and laughing as they killed them. Fussell saw German soldiers being killed by the score, and when he saw them up close, many appeared to be about 14 years old.
Fussell was injured during a bombing attack in France. While no hero, huddling beneath a hail of bombs going off overhead, shrapnel from a bomb hit him. A sergeant lying next to him was also hit. Fussell was lucky and was only hit in the back and leg. The sergeant and lieutenant lying next to him died immediately. Fussell went behind the lines to a military hospital while recovering and developed the standard crush on his nurse. Fussell recovered and returned to his unit after the fighting in Europe was finished. His unit was surprised to see him, and surprisingly, his welcome was hostile. Fussell could not understand why he warranted such a reception from his fellow soldiers. It puzzled him for many years. In the 1990s, he obtained a document that made the unfriendly treatment by his fellow soldiers understandable. The sergeant that died next to him, huddled atop that German bunker as the bombs exploded overhead, was given a posthumous award of the Silver Star. The citation stated that the sergeant nearly pulled an Audie Murphy, heroically taking over command when the platoon's leader was wounded, led his men against heavy enemy fire, engaged the enemy single-handedly, and while mortally wounded sent his commander a message regarding the enemy's location.
The only true parts of that citation were the sergeant's death and that his platoon leader (Fussell) was wounded. Fussell's platoon concocted a fairy tale of heroism. Fussell had been lying next to the sergeant when he died, and his platoon knew that if he discovered their fiction, that it might not be pretty. The first casualty of war is the truth, and even "heroic deeds" may seldom truly be. Fussell wrote about when the fighting finally ended in Europe. The folks at home in America cheered wildly, but the feeling on the front was numbness. Eisenhower's mistress summarized the European attitude when Berlin was finally destroyed:
"No one laughed. No one smiled. It was all over. We had won, but victory was not anything like what I had thought it would be. There was a dull bitterness about it. So many deaths. So much destruction. And everybody was very, very tired."
In Europe, there was no euphoria regarding winning the "good war." The American soldiers in Europe were not finished. It appeared that the Japanese were going to suicidally fight to the last man. American soldiers in Europe were praying that Japan would surrender before they were shipped across the world to fight another war. A few months later, their prayers were answered when America dropped two atom bombs on Japanese civilians, which ended the war.
When Germany fell, the concentration camps were opened. Mountains of bodies were accompanied by mountains of clothing, shoes, glasses, hair, gold fillings, tattooed skin, and other items taken from the Jews and other "subhumans" in the death camps. It made for stark realizations.
History’s most intense and bloody warfare was fought between Germany and the Soviet Union during World War II. The Russian Revolution quickly degenerated from an attempt to create an egalitarian society into another power play. There are many conspiracy theories and controversies regarding that era. One thing is certain: the Soviet Union's "communists" did not govern very wisely. The reign of Stalin was as bloody as there has ever been. Between his Siberian labor camps, starvation policies, purges, and outright executions, more than ten million Soviet citizens lost their lives. Some think that number is too conservative. The Soviet system was evil, but was hardly the egalitarian system envisioned by Marx. It became another system where the few benefited at the expense of the majority. Most of those people died before the Germans arrived.
As Noam Chomsky and others have made clear, Western Europe and the USA did not hate the communist regime because of how it treated its citizens, or because the Soviet Union posed a military threat. The real threat of the Soviet Union was its rejection of capitalism, where a few rich capitalists got the spoils of exploitation. Communism was a major threat to capitalism, especially if it inspired other nations to drop out of the capitalist system. Unfortunately, the Soviet experiment failed in significant ways, and relatively few communists got the gravy while millions were murdered.
Fascism was no better. One of the many minimized chapters in American history was an attempted fascist coup in 1933.
Brown Shirts in America
Newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst, who manipulated the Spanish-American War into being with his yellow journalism, was quite taken with Hitler. Hearst spent a month in Germany in 1934, met with Hitler, and was apparently "charmed" by Der Führer. Hearst's newspapers began running favorable press coverage of the Third Reich in 1934, when Hearst returned from his delightful meetings with the Nazis. One of Hearst's guest columnists wrote an article justifying German rearmament. That guest columnist's name was Hermann Goering. There is evidence that the Nazis were greasing Hearst's palms for his sympathetic coverage.
Henry Ford, a notorious anti-Semite, thought that the Third Reich was wonderful. Beginning in 1933 when Hitler came to power, Germany initiated the Aryanization program. The program was a financial plundering of Jews, which foreshadowed the World War II experience. Jewish businessmen wanted out of Germany when Hitler came to power, and the Aryanization program forced Jews into selling out for bottom dollar. Ford Motor Company eagerly sidled up to the Aryanization trough if there was money to be made from it. German banks, industrialists, and major American trading partners jumped into the Aryanization program. The USA's investment in Germany increased by 48.5% between 1929 and 1940, while it declined sharply everywhere else in mainland Europe. Even in the United Kingdom, American investment only increased by 2.6% during the 1930s.
One major financier of the Third Reich’s rise was Union Banking Corporation, of which Prescott Bush, George Bush the First’s father, was a director and shareholder. The Bush family rose to power by being Eastern Establishment sycophants, with Prescott and his father being little more than errand boys for the Harriman and Rockefeller interests. The USA's government, under the Trading with the Enemy Act, seized Union Banking Corporation in 1942. The company’s board was composed of Prescott Bush, Roland Harriman, and some outright Nazis. Prescott Bush joined Yale’s notorious Skull and Bones Society, due to Rockefeller and Harriman patronage, and both George Bushes also belong to the club as of 2014. Prescott’s contribution to the Skull and Bones Society was apparently raiding Geronimo’s grave, with Geronimo’s bones now gracing the club’s meeting room (called “The Tomb”), where they sit among the remains of other obstacles to the American Empire, such as Pancho Villa’s and probably Omar Torrijos’s (secured by George Bush the First after he invaded Panama). George Bush the First’s other grandfather was a wheeler-dealer named George Herbert Walker, who was infamous for his corrupt dealings, being a front man for Morgan interests, among others. The Rockefeller Empire got in the same Nazi hot water that Union Banking Corporation did, although it escaped asset seizure.
Aryanization companies were formed in Germany, and bonds of those firms were even sold on the American securities markets, although not advertised as such. The Germans kept a tight grip on repatriation of profits, so the American firms investing in Germany had to keep plowing their profits back into the German economy. One of the most lucrative investments was the Aryanization program, which was where much of the profits were reinvested. Until 1938, the Aryanization program was "voluntary" for the Jews. The Third Reich was not closely involved in the Aryanization programs at first. The people making the early killing in the Aryanization programs were German bankers, industrialists, and other elites, with their rich friends from America and elsewhere also feasting.
The German corporations, clamoring for more cheap slave labor for their factories, encouraged the slave labor situation in the World War II death camps. The corporations made a killing with the cheap subhuman slave labor. The German corporations that eagerly used the slave labor were household names such as Daimler Benz and Siemens. Germany's industrial giants were using concentration camp labor in hundreds of factories.
In the USA, Hitler’s rise was not ominous. It was bad news for the more than four million Jews living in America, for the world's largest concentration of Jews, but the USA's government, the best friend that Jews had in the West, was silent in the face of what Germany did to its Jews. In 1934, a resolution was introduced in the U.S. Senate, asking that august body, along with the president, to officially express "surprise and pain" at Germany's treatment of its Jews, and ask for restoration of Jewish rights. The State Department, well-stocked with anti-Semites, "caused this resolution to be buried in committee."
When Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, the USA said it would not sell any more arms to Italy, but allowed American oil companies to continue their sales of oil to Italy, which ran its war machine. When the fascists overthrew the elected and popular Spanish socialist government, the Roosevelt administration hastily declared itself neutral. Soon after that act, Hitler and Mussolini's governments gave Franco massive assistance in enslaving the Spanish population. That situation of America's active or passive support of fascist governments in overthrowing egalitarian social movements, as happened in Spain, was something that America had been doing to Latin America for generations. It was also a prelude to the postwar years, where the USA instigated, installed and propped up some of the 20th century’s bloodiest dictatorships.
Smedley Butler was one of the most beloved military leaders in American history. Teddy Roosevelt called him, "The finest fighting man in America." Butler was known as "the fighting Quaker." Butler was only one of four Americans ever awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice. He tried returning one of them because he did not feel that it was earned, but was instead ordered to wear it. Rank-and-file American soldiers revered him. Butler helped run the Marines for a generation, carried a pack, and was in the trenches with his troops. Butler was known for his honesty and appreciation for the common man. In Butler's case, it was genuine.
Born in 1881, his father and grandfather were U.S. Congressmen, and Butler was born into the upper class of Pennsylvania. His family was Quaker, and traced back its Pennsylvania lineage to the days of William Penn. Although he could have pursued the life of an aristocrat, Butler evidenced a martial spirit from a young age. In 1898 he enlisted in the Marines, being swept up into the "Remember the Maine" fervor that began the Spanish-American war. He saw action in Cuba, and his career continued to the Boxer "Rebellion" in China in 1900, where he was twice wounded with bullets. His father was influential in the military establishment, as he chaired the House Naval Affairs Committee and served in Congress for 32 years. Butler then saw action in Nicaragua and Haiti, with a spying interlude in Mexico. Some of his most celebrated feats were nonviolent, such as when he disarmed one revolutionary leader and unhorsed another, while he was unarmed.
Butler was a curious mixture; a Quaker pacifistic background combined with the steely-eyed visage of a crusading knight. The élan and esprit de corps of the Marines was his surrogate religion for many years. Partly due to his father's stature, and partly due to his battlefield heroism, Butler rose through the ranks rapidly. Butler was outspoken, unrefined, and had a distaste for the "intellectual" aspect of the military hierarchy. He became a brigadier general before he was 40, and became a major general about ten years younger than was typical. He got into hot water regularly with the "brass." He made many enemies, yet he was an unparalleled leader of the rank-and-file soldier and regularly broke regulations in order to get the job done.
He was "loaned out" from the Marines to Philadelphia in the mid-1920s as he ran the police and tried enforcing Prohibition. Although Butler drank heavily, as most Marines did, when he took up the Prohibition cause he never drank again. He had his fair store of racist sentiments, which were muted for the times, and he was no pacifist, but he honestly lived by his beliefs.
Near the end of his career, he began questioning the issue of foreign wars. He began calling war a racket, and became adamant about the imperialist aspect of the USA's foreign interventions. He was far from a pacifist and came from a long line of republicans. When he had an opinion, however, he made it known. In 1935, after he retired, he published a slim book titled War is a Racket. Butler campaigned on that theme for the rest of his life.
Butler believed that all U.S. foreign interventions were self-serving acts, which lined the pockets of the rich at the expense of the nations it victimized, sending young boys to do the dirty work, wearing American uniforms. Butler's advice was that the first thing that should be conscripted in war was capital, to eliminate war profiteering.
People such as Franklin Roosevelt ("FDR") sidled up to the trough, to "invest" in Haiti after it had been secured for American interests. Roosevelt drafted the Haitian constitution that overturned more than a century of Haitian strategy of not allowing foreign land ownership to gain a foothold in Haiti, which would begin undermining its sovereignty. FDR was an integral part of the neocolonial strategy of pillaging Haiti, and Butler provided the muscle to accomplish it.
Butler's opinions did not come from reading radical literature, but from his experiences. His correspondence early in his career complained loud and long when commercial interests and Machiavellian plotting by his superiors would force him to go back on his word with those he negotiated with, as in Nicaragua, which he helped plunder, which is another situation that continues to into the 21st century. Back then, brute force was yielding to a neocolonial strategy of the Taft administration known as Dollar Diplomacy, where the USA sought to control its subject nations through economic manipulation rather than marching in the armed forces, as with Teddy Roosevelt's Big Stick Diplomacy. Butler carried out part of its early implementation. The famous Butler quote, where he admitted to being an unwitting “gangster for capitalism,” is vintage Butler.
Although Butler ran for a Senate seat in Pennsylvania as a Republican, when he began his anti-imperialist campaign, he did not care to whom he spoke. He ended up speaking at communist rallies and at other organizations, which would have given him problems if he had done it during Joe McCarthy's witch-hunt days. Butler did not care about ideology; he believed in telling the truth as he saw it. Whether his audience was made of communists, veterans groups, or the U.S. Congress, his line was the same, with the honest, outspoken style that made him an American icon, and made him many powerful enemies.
In 1931, Butler talked informally after a speech, and discussed how European conquerors became drunk with power and became "mad dogs." He related an apparently true story told him by Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr. Vanderbilt spent time with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, and they were driving in an armored car through the Italian countryside, with Mussolini driving. During their drive, Mussolini hit and killed a child. Mussolini did not even stop the car, telling Vanderbilt as he grabbed his knee, "Never look back, Mr. Vanderbilt, never look back in life." Mussolini passed off his hit-and-run incident with the observation that one life was insignificant when compared to the affairs of state.
Butler's comments caused an international outcry. Butler was arrested and court-martialed and ordered to publicly recant. He never apologized to Mussolini and instead retired. Today, Butler appears a prophet. That incident was the first time that Mussolini's image was tarnished in the USA. Back in 1931, fascism was the up-and-coming form of government.
Stimson court-martialed Butler because he and other high-ranking American officials openly admired fascism's "great experiment" in Italy. By 1934, the American ambassador to Italy, Breckenridge Long, President Roosevelt, and famous State Department negotiator Norman Davis were gushing over what was happening in Italy, with Roosevelt calling Mussolini an "admirable Italian gentleman" and the State department praising the sham 1934 Italian election where the fascists took 99% of the vote, stating that the election "demonstrate(d) incontestably the popularity of the Fascist regime."
The July 1934 issue of Fortune magazine praised fascism and its accomplishment in mere years what Christendom could not achieve in millennia. The article further stated:
"The good journalist must recognize in Fascism certain ancient virtues of the race, whether or not they happen to be momentarily fashionable in his own country. Among these are Discipline, Duty, Courage, Glory, Sacrifice."
A 1937 State Department report stated that "Fascism is becoming the soul of Italy." The fascist experiment was praised because it "brought order out of chaos, discipline out of license, and solvency out of bankruptcy." The report stated that in order to "accomplish so much in a short time severe measures have been necessary." The State Department in 1937 saw fascism as compatible with the USA's interests. Just as after World War II, the USA would embrace anybody as long as they were anticommunist. While the fascists were merely raping their own people and making the country safe for American investment, the USA's government minimized the suffering of that nation's people and eagerly participated. With Japan, Germany, and Italy, it was only when they began stepping on imperial toes that it became a matter of war.
When Butler retired amid the Mussolini furor, he became an even bigger national hero than before. Although many politicians and industrialists were avid fans of fascism, not everybody in the USA was. The veterans groups lionized Butler, and he was a big draw on the talk circuit, as he gave speeches to veterans' groups almost daily. Butler was a paragon to the veterans' groups and a populist hero, which made the 1933 event seem strange. A Wall Street bond salesman and former commander of the Connecticut American Legion approached Butler. Gerald MacGuire had a proposal. MacGuire said he was acting as a front man for wealthy industrialists and bankers, and J.P. Morgan, du Pont and other names came up in the conversations. The proposal was this: Butler would get elected as the American Legion's national commander. With that office, Butler would have the loyalty of 500,000 veterans. With that private "army" (du Pont would arm them through their controlling interest in Remington Arms Company) and up to $300 million of funding made available by the bankers and industrialists, they would take over the White House.
MacGuire said that the same people with the money also controlled the press and would concoct a rationale that Roosevelt was ill and needed a strongman to help run the country. The public would easily swallow it and Butler would be installed in a new cabinet position as Roosevelt's right hand, in a position dubbed the "Secretary of General Affairs." MacGuire had been studying the Italian and German fascist "miracles," and the plan was closely modeled after Hitler's Brown Shirt coup. They would ease Roosevelt out of office, and Butler would be America’s new Hitler.
They picked the wrong man. Although Butler had been openly critical of Mussolini, they thought that Butler could be controlled. MacGuire mentioned other candidates that they would approach if Butler rejected their entreaty, such as Douglas MacArthur. MacGuire even told Butler that his superiors doubted that Butler would obediently play the game right, but that nobody else in the USA could gain the ready allegiance of millions of veterans. Butler did not say anything publicly and played along, trying to find out more, such as who was behind it. Butler enlisted Philadelphia Record reporter Paul French to dig deeper. Butler introduced French to MacGuire, and French gained MacGuire's confidence. MacGuire told French the same story that Butler heard. They tried getting MacGuire to give them more names, but he was too smart for that. Butler met one rich conspirator who said that he would spend half his fortune to save the other half.
When he got all the information that he could, Butler went straight to the House Un-American Activities Committee ("HUAC") in 1934, telling them all he knew. As with many other official "investigations," the HUAC was decidedly timid in pursuing those allegations. They refused to subpoena the names that Butler had given them except for MacGuire, who predictably denied everything. The other names given by Butler to the HUAC were former-presidential contenders John Davis and Al Smith (who was a Morgan attorney), and Grayson Murphy, who was a co-founder of the American Legion, a board member of organizations such as Morgan Bank, Goodyear, and Bethlehem Steel, and MacGuire's boss. The committee, which went to great lengths to ferret out commies, lost their zeal when confronted with those rich and powerful names, and largely swept the affair under the carpet. However, Butler went public. Nevertheless, without official corroboration, no other investigations were launched, nor did anybody in government appear too concerned. The establishment and media went out of its way to either ignore or slam Butler, with Time magazine openly ridiculing him. The rich conspirator that Butler met threatened to sue Butler for libel, but Butler's stance on Mussolini showed how easily intimidated he was. The conspirator never sued, and Butler never backed down.
While the HUAC's public posture was a quiet folding of its tents, it issued an internal report to Congress which journalist John Spivak obtained. The HUAC internal report told a starkly different story. The report to Congress stated that its investigation confirmed that Butler's story was true in every particular they could verify, and that MacGuire had perjured himself when he denied it. The truth was there, even documented in a report to Congress, but it got swept under the rug, as with most American scandals that involve the rich and powerful. Case closed.
A Brief History of Western Anti-Semitism and the Holy War Mentality
Another minimized chapter in American history is that while Hitler was pursuing his Final Solution, anti-Semitism was reaching its high-water mark in America. Anti-Semitism in America reached its highest levels during the Jewish Holocaust of World War II, as it did throughout the West. Hitler was merely the most extreme of the bunch. One of America's most prominent historians, the self-taught Barbara Tuchman, described the mood of the West during those years when she said that with few exceptions, "The Gentile world…would fundamentally have welcomed the Final Solution."
No nation has been as intensely racist for as long as the USA has. It is still that way today as I write this in 2014, as my nation recently killed off more than a million children in Iraq in less than two decades. If they were white children, it would not have happened. When the USA was killing off millions of Southeast Asians during the 1960s and 1970s, America invoked the "mere gook rule" to absolve its soldiers of legal accountability for their mass murders of natives that they were supposedly saving. In the USA during the 1800s, the surest way to receive votes was to run for office as an "Indian fighter," which was often a euphemism for killing native women and children while the men were away on hunting expeditions. When Southern blacks were finally freed and the Reconstruction government left, blacks began hanging from trees in the South like Christmas tree ornaments. Lynching became so popular that late in the 19th century that the murderers would proudly pose next to the dead or burning black man, with women posing too, knowing that they would never be convicted, even when posing for photos to commemorate the occasion. The death squad regimes that the USA supported in places such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Indonesia in the late 20th century slaughtered non-whites. The USA will rarely support the slaughter of white people, except in the cancer racket and other hidden holocausts, but nearly all people of color are fair game. There was almost undoubtedly a strong racist motivation regarding the USA's dropping of atom bombs on Japan in 1945.
Here in Washington, my uncle told me about a place in the mountains called "China Cliff." Chinese coolies completed the railroad over the mountains, and when it came time to pay them, the railroad management had them pushed off a cliff into a canyon, which killed hundreds of coolies. Killing them instead of paying them was far cheaper, and earned the landmark the name of "China Cliff." If that had happened to white people, there would be a monument erected there. A friend told me of a similar coolie landmark in Idaho, where killing them was cheaper than paying them.
The USA is a nation built on the red man’s bones and the sweat and tears of the black man and other "inferior" races. Our hallowed Declaration of Independence grandly stated the self-evident truth that all men are created equal. When the even more hallowed U.S. Constitution was drafted years later, it gave force to those words of Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers, but qualified the sweeping language a little. All white, land-owning men were created equal. Women, slaves (white and black; white slaves were dubbed with the euphemistic term, "indentured servants"), natives and white men who did not own (recently stolen native) land were specifically excluded from having a hand in their governance. That was a slight improvement over the European monarchies. Founding Father John Jay voiced the day's mentality when he said that the people who own the country should run it. George Washington was reputedly America’s richest man when he became president, increasing his wealth by stealing native land. In 1783, Washington devised a plan to steal the native land by forcing them into signing treaties that the newly-freed colonies would never honor, the day's government quickly adopted, as evidenced by the fact that historians cannot find one treaty that the USA honored with Native Americans.
Jews were white people, sort of. Racism in America has become covert since the 1960s. There are not racist laws on the books anymore. America used to have de jure segregation, but now it is de facto. Nobody can publicly spew racist sentiments unchallenged, which is an improvement, but racism is far from dead in the USA. There are no more colored bathrooms, but other measures show how racist America still is. For instance, when the blacks were freed after the Civil War, their income was about 20% of white income. By 1900, it was clear up to 30%. Then the noted racist Woodrow Wilson came into office and reversed the gains that blacks had made. By 1940, black income was less than it was in 1900, as a ratio to white income. Then the golden era of black improvement occurred, during the post-war boom. Between 1940 and 1970, black income per capita reached to 60% of white income. It is not coincidental that those economic improvements happened during the Civil Rights era and unprecedented American global hegemony. From Martin Luther King's assassination in 1968, until 1990, black family income actually declined as a ratio of white income. Not only did it decline between 1970 and 1992 relative to white income, it also declined in real dollars. The laws are not explicitly racist anymore, but the system still churns out the disparity. The blacks won the legal battle, in a way, but lost the economic one. In 2011, black family income as a percent of white was 66%. At that rate since 1970, they will catch up to whites in a few centuries.
In 1940, Jews were a short step above blacks in America's hierarchy. There were many jobs that Jews could not have in America, similar to the restrictions they had lived under in Europe for centuries. Similar to signs in the South that said they did not serve "negroes," signs on America's East Coast often said "no Jews allowed." I saw one Jewish woman reminisce about her childhood before World War II, talking about going to an East Coast beach where the sign said "No Jews or dogs allowed." As this essay covers American anti-Semitism, bear in mind Leonard Dinnerstein’s words as he concluded in his Anti-Semitism in America, published in 1994:
"Anti-Semitism is unlikely to vanish in the United States. It is too much a part of the Christian culture to disappear. It must also be emphasized, however, that in no Christian country has anti-Semitism been weaker than it has been in the United States."
In August 1999, a member of the neonazi Aryan Nation group shot children at a Jewish school in Los Angeles, killed a Filipino postman, and was proud of his crimes, calling them a "wake up call for America." That shooting incident triggered many anti-Semitic acts across America, including the desecration of synagogues. Fortunately, most Americans were horrified, but that it even happened shows how far we have to go. In the West before World War II, the USA was the haven for Jews. Jews were treated better in America than anyplace else in Europe.
The Jewish people were originally one of many tribal peoples of the Fertile Crescent. In about 2000 BCE, with the environmental collapse of the first civilization, due to its unsustainable practices, many settled peoples of the Fertile Crescent (today’s Iraq and vicinity) migrated toward the Mediterranean, and a man today known as Abraham migrated with them and eventually settled in the vicinity of today’s Israel. Abraham also began something unique in that he seemed to have a relationship to one god instead of the teeming pantheon of gods that dominated the polytheistic religions of the time.
Those days were during that region’s Bronze Age, and they were extremely violent. Abraham’s tribe lived and grew in numbers in their new home, and over the generations they fragmented into distinct tribes. While the Old Testament is filled with tales of bloodshed and genocide, it appears to have been a political document that tried to give a small kingdom a story so that the people would have an ethnic identity that would see them survive being wedged between competing regional powers Egypt and Assyria. There is little historical or archeological evidence of the Jews invading Canaan, that Moses really existed, or that many Old Testament events actually happened. If there was no Exodus, then there would have been no parting of the Red Sea or manna from heaven.
Although Moses was likely a fictional character, the Jewish people developed a monotheistic code that was unique in the ancient world. Their oral histories tell of their God promising them a land, and under Moses’s bodyguard Joshua they invaded Canaan, with the slaughter of the citizens of Jericho (perhaps the world’s oldest city) being the most infamous example of how the “Israelites” secured their “Promised Land,” although once again, it is likely a fictional event which allegedly happened around 1200 BCE. The Jewish belief system, as practiced through Mosaic Law, created by a law-giving God, established a tribal coherence that was unique, yet it also made them a target. They saw themselves as God's chosen people, and often kept themselves rather apart from other tribes. With their strict dietary laws and rites such as circumcision, they often became outcasts, and even preferred that status at times.
The monotheism of the Israelites was also rather hostile to the notion of secular states; they elevated “God’s” laws over the laws of men, which created a tension in the relations of the Jewish church and state that continues to this day. The Jewish prosperity peaked with David, whose reign ended around 966 BCE. The Jewish state declined after that, beginning with David’s son Solomon, who began turning the conquered peoples into slaves, which was repugnant to church leaders who recalled their people’s days of Egyptian slavery. The church and state dichotomy went through various shades of unity and separation during those days, as the Mosaic code did not mesh well with state imperatives. The Israelites battled their neighbors and went through a long decline. The Assyrian Empire invaded and conquered the Israelites’ northern lands, climaxing with the conquest of Samaria in about 721 BCE, and carried away ten tribes of Israelites, with their assimilation into the Assyrian Empire being so complete that those people are lost to history.
The beginning of the Jewish Diaspora really began when the Babylonians rushed into the void created by the Assyrian Empire’s defeat and conquered Jerusalem, which the Assyrians never accomplished. In 597 BCE, the first Jewish elites were forced to migrate to Babylon, which began the Jewish Diaspora. The Babylonian Exile lasted until the Persian king Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon in 539 BCE, and the Jews were free to go home. Most preferred to stay, however, and Babylon became a center of Jewish culture for more than a millennium. Cyrus was a student of Zoroaster’s teachings, and the dualistic nature (good/evil) of Judeo-Christian thought came from Zoroaster.
In those lands of rising and falling empires, the Greeks made their ascendance after the Persians sacked Athens in 480 BCE. The Greek classic period peaked in about 432 BCE, just before their Peloponnesian War that began in 431, with a resulting epidemic in 430 that carried off about a third of Athens’s population. Greek culture, although early Greek writers looked up to Moses and other Jewish leaders, was markedly different than Jewish culture, with the Greeks becoming the West’s first humanists. Greek culture was very assimilative and readily adopted foreign gods into its pantheon, and even deified men who lived exemplary lives. Under the Macedonian Alexander the Great, whose reign conquered lands from Egypt to Persia and peaked in about 326 BCE, as he even conquered part of India, Greek (Hellenistic) culture spread far and wide. Jewish culture began assimilating into Greek culture, especially among its far-flung Diaspora. The Jewish homeland, however, was less cosmopolitan and more orthodox in its religious practice, and great division arose within the Jewish people, with those who wanted to “modernize” on one end of the spectrum and those who tried keeping Judaism “pure” on the other.
The antagonism between Greek and Jewish culture became heated by 150 BCE, especially as the Greek culture “conquered” the Roman one, with Rome assimilating Greek culture after it conquered them. Greek eventually became the official language of the Byzantine Empire and was the official language in some Roman provinces in Jesus’s day. By the time of Jesus, Greek culture was so dominant that the New Testament was entirely written in Greek, and the names Jesus and Mary are Greek versions of their Hebrew names Joshua and Miriam.
The Roman Empire conquered Jerusalem in 63 BCE. The Jews had a prophetic tradition that a messiah would one day appear to deliver them. They believed that their messiah would be a king to lead great armies to destroy their enemies. Well, their messiah probably did appear. Instead of a righteous warrior king, along came a crazy Jew who had a strategy for eradicating the enemy by a method never tried before: loving the enemy. Even today, such an idea is crazy and has virtually never even attempted in the intervening two millennia. Although he gave incredible demonstrations of the power of love, demonstrations that are called miracles today, his message of love was so bizarre that it was largely rejected. Unlike Moses and probably Muhammad, Jesus was a historical figure, although "miraculous" events of his life, such as the virgin birth and resurrection, were circulating in the region's religions before Jesus was born and are likely more priestly fabrications.
Jesus had followers, but the one who became the most famous corrupted his message. The "good news" was the infinite love of God, not Jesus, which was a distinction that Paul did not appreciate, nor did the religion that he founded in Jesus's name: Christianity. Jesus’s message was love, the greatest message ever told. It did not completely fall on deaf ears, but his message gradually became corrupted, beginning with Paul who altered the good news from Jesus into the good news about Jesus.
Ignoring Jesus's message about loving the enemy, the Jewish revolt in 66 CE brought the Roman fist down on the Jews. Jews had already been dispersed throughout the Roman Empire (about 70% of the world’s estimated eight million Jews of the day lived outside Palestine), but the Roman conquest of Jerusalem in 70 CE, turning it into an official part of the Roman Empire, dispersed the Jews throughout the Mediterranean periphery and into today’s France and Spain. The Jewish dispersal also dispersed the new cult known as Christianity. In great irony, the "Good Book" of the Christians was a book written by Jews about Jews. The Old Testament is a Jewish political-history book. Jesus, Paul, and John the Baptist were all Jews. The first Christians were Jews, and they spread Christianity. Through a series of tragic events, the people who embraced the teachings of a radical Jew, as taught by his Jewish followers, developed a hatred for the very people who produced such a master and teaching. Christians took to heart the Jewish history book and the teachings of their greatest prophet, but had no use for the people themselves.
Jews were largely scattered throughout the Roman Empire, although a fair number migrated to Arab lands in Mesopotamia and elsewhere. In those early days of Christianity, the Roman Empire was officially pagan, which generally meant that any belief was fine as long as people bent their knees to the emperor. What got the early Christians thrown to the lions was not their faith, per se. They put their faith and God higher in their esteem than the emperor, and their radical politics earned them the empire's enmity. They originally lived communally and austerely, sharing their possessions with each other, which was something quite out of step with the times. They also condemned paganism as wicked, which won them few friends. Christianity was not very old before it became a ruling class religion. Early Christian figures such as Paul, Augustine, Origen, Ambrose, and Jerome were either from the ruling class or catered to them.
Christianity was originally a radical Jewish splinter sect, which became many splinter sects, adopted by non-Jews as well, and especially the hated Greeks. The first revolt ended badly, capped off with the mass suicide at Masada in 72 CE. The Roman army crushed a second revolt in 135 CE, which killed hundreds of thousands of Jews. The revolts not only scattered the Jews, but also created a lasting rift between radical Jewish Christians and old-line Jews, and set in motion dynamics that plague Christian-Jewish relations to this day.
Early Christianity was diverse. By the year 200 CE, there were about forty Christian sects. There were about twenty different versions of the crucifixion drama circulating in those sects: Jesus died on the cross, he survived crucifixion, he was not crucified, the Romans were behind it instead of the Jews, and so forth. Those forty sects were not one big happy family. One Roman observer said that nobody hated Christians more than other Christians. Each sect had its own holy writings that justified its views, and they often thought that the other sects were wrong.
Until Constantine organized the Council of Nicea in 325 CE, there was not appreciable unity within Christianity. The likely reason that Constantine chose Christianity as the state religion was to unite the slowly disintegrating empire under one faith, to help hold it together. Christianity had become successful enough that it was a logical candidate, and made an unprecedented rise from an obscure, marginal, radical movement, with more than forty sects, often battling with each other, to becoming the state religion. After the Nicean Council, Christianity became the Roman Empire's state religion. Many suspect that the Nicean Council is where a great deal of editing happened. There had to be one story, not many competing versions. The official story today is that the books of the New Testament were chosen based on how authentic they were, but there is plenty of evidence that political expediency and power issues had much to do with it. A primary thrust of the Nicean Council was condemning a Christian sect called Arianism, which believed that God was the highest power, and Jesus, being a Son of God, was of lesser stature. The Arian belief was largely responsible for the idea of a Holy Trinity (one of many Christian beliefs that are not in the scriptures), and the Nicene Creed was a direct response to Arian belief, as it stated that Jesus was God.
Even though they condemned Arianism, the Christian hierarchy nevertheless attempted to unite the faith. The documentation regarding that first council is sparse, but many suspect that writings not deemed politically acceptable were edited out of the Bible at the first council. Writings may have also been inserted to further the day's political goals. By burning the pagan works (including all the Classical Greek ones), Cathar writings, ancient libraries, the Aztec and Mayan books and so on, the Church was effective at completely eradicating what it did not approve, leaving historians scratching their heads, wondering how much was lost in the Catholic bonfires. It is argued that the Church's eradication philosophy is partly what brought on the Dark Ages. There is little overt evidence of what happened to the New Testament, but plenty of suspicious evidence. Probably the greatest evidence is the ungainly hole in Jesus's life. Sunday school children are told that Jesus spent his teenage and early adult years working as a carpenter. The New Testament gives zero evidence for such a belief. From age twelve to thirty, there is not one word about what Jesus was doing with his life. More than half of Jesus's life is missing. It vanished.
My mystical sources have long told me that the Council of Nicea was where much of Jesus's life was "weeded out" of the New Testament. That was partly because he spent those "lost" years traveling the world on his spiritual pilgrimage. He attained his enlightenment outside of the Roman Empire, gaining valuable insights from the Buddhaic and Hindu masters of the East, with their ideas of reincarnation and other ideas that were unacceptable to the imperial religion.
Thusly did Jesus's life and teachings make it to the big time, although what it became was probably nearly unrecognizable to Jesus. Yet, in its core, it was still about love. The adoption of Christianity by the Roman Empire was not as easy as Constantine may have hoped. His successors fought for years over the Christianity issue, and Christianity and Paganism went at it tooth-and-nail at times, and Christianity prevailed. In the end, Christianity adopted many of the Pagan rites, partly to market it, which further altered Christianity.
There is only one word worth remembering about Jesus's life: love. Using ancient teachings to justify judging, killing, punishing, or oppressing people is not enlightened. It is not what one believes that gets them into “heaven,” so much as it is how they act. All religions are corrupted, not just Christianity. The Dalai Lama may have said it best when he said, "My religion is kindness."
Regarding holy words, it is instructive to recall that neither Jesus nor Buddha left behind any writings. Spiritual teachings have stated that when the master has left earthly life behind, the teaching is finished, and any writings left behind belong to the realm of philosophical literature, not the basis of religions. Jesus and Buddha cannot have believed much in the holiness of written words if they did not leave any behind.
Early Christians were persecuted and killed, which was typical in those days. The Coliseum, along with other arenas around the empire, was the site of constant bloodbaths. The Roman equivalent of going to the movies was going to the arenas and watching staged battles, put on for the masses' entertainment, which was a tradition that lasted for about a millennium in that region. The prime attraction at the arenas was gladiatorial combat. Originally an Etruscan funerary rite, gladiatorial combat developed into the Roman Empire’s primary entertainment. The gladiators were one of many slave classes in the Roman Empire, which meant that they were people conquered and captured by Rome's armies. They were trained for battle in the arena. While one-on-one combat was most common, group battles could become extravaganzas. Augustus Caesar once had 10,000 men fight each other in eight battles. The battles were usually to the death.
Roman historian Michael Grant noted that history's "two most quantitatively destructive institutions are Nazism and the Roman gladiators." Modern estimates are that at least a million people died in the Roman arenas. Any appreciative musings about Roman achievements in the area of law, architecture, economics, and other "advances" of civilization need to be tempered by considering the unparalleled evil of forcing people to murder each other…for entertainment. The Romans themselves were not too proud of that form of entertainment, as imperial Roman coinage, which depicted all manner of Roman life and culture, never portrayed gladiatorial combat.
The thumbs up, thumbs down gesture came from those times, when a gladiator might be spared if he fought valiantly enough. So the audience would not become bored, the events were creative. People fought lions, tigers, and bulls. Fights were staged with lion against tiger, elephant against rhinoceros, and bear against water buffalo. Other novel offerings were dwarves and cripples against women. The Coliseum could be filled with water for naval battles. A gladiator was nearly always doomed to an eventual death in the arena, although many killed themselves first. If a gladiator became the day's "hero," he would be showered with gifts and applause, only to go into battle the next day. Sometimes it was declared that no warrior would be allowed to survive the day, and every one would have to fight to the death. Few survived long enough to "retire." That was the favored entertainment of the day. Criminals and Christians were among those condemned to die in the arena. Few Romans ever complained or questioned the nature of that entertainment. In those times, cruelty and bloodshed was equated with fun. The crueler that a spectacle was, the more that the crowd liked it.
What is generally credited with the end of gladiatorial combat was the spread of Christianity, although it was far from an immediate effect. Emperor Constantine, who made Christianity the state religion, issued an edict forbidding gladiatorial combat in 326 CE, the year after the Nicean Council, but never enforced the order. Constantine was hardly a "good Christian," having both his wife and son executed, with his wife by boiling her. Constantine staged some of the gorier spectacles that ever graced the Coliseum. For Constantine, Christianity was a strictly political matter. In 404 CE, a Christian monk from Asia Minor apparently leapt into the arena to try separating the combatants, and the enraged crowd tore the man to pieces. Gladiatorial combat was not finally abolished until 681 CE.
The earliest Christians were Jews, and Rome considered Christians to be a Jewish sect. By 212 CE, Jews became imperial citizens, and their life was as good as the times could dictate, until Constantine made Christianity into the state religion in 325 CE. Then the Jews began a hard ride. Although the Christian hierarchy at the time did not advocate anti-Jew violence, Christian mobs regularly burned down synagogues. Babylonia, outside of Christian and Roman influence, became the center of Judaism by 300 CE. Pagans were being wiped out too, even while Christianity appropriated many of their customs. Christian intolerance replaced the laissez faire spirituality that characterized pre-Christian Rome
Power corrupts, and as the Christian church became more powerful, pagans and Mosaic Law Jews paid heavily. Constantine's ploy was not very successful, as the Western Roman Empire crumbled in 476 CE.
Jews were dispersed across the Roman Empire and further, and when the Empire collapsed, the Catholic Church became Europe’s unifying institution. It was a different kind of Roman Empire. For all of its spectacular failures and the great evils that it would eventually wreak on its subjects, the Catholic Church may have held European civilization together for the next 500 years.
As the Catholic Church gained in strength as the state church, it became increasingly bigoted and racist. Although three early popes were black Africans (Miltiades, Victor 1, and Gelasius 1; saints Augustine and Benedict were also black) the Church became decidedly racist, and Vatican artists later "whited out" those African popes and saints.
When the Western Empire crumbled, the Eastern Empire, under almost wholly Greek influence, was not inviting, so Babylonia became the center of the Jewish world. Around 600 CE another radical splinter sect of Judaism took root, led by a prophet named Muhammad, who might also be a fictional personage. For Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the "sacred" texts emerged centuries after the events allegedly happened, and modern scholars do not credit any of them with escaping either radical alteration by their respective priest classes, as they have done since the beginnings of literate religion, or fabricating them wholesale.
Fictional or not, Muhammad was more the messiah that the Jews originally sought: a sword-wielding destroyer of his enemies, but one who also lived by a moral code, conversed with his God, and the religion of Islam took root and swept the Arab lands and further. Although the Muhammad of lore killed his fair share of Jews, they were treated far better by the Islamic code than the Christian one in those days. Although the spread of Islam was often bloody, and conversion by the sword was sometimes a method of Islamic proselytizing, it was a decidedly color-blind faith, which was part of its appeal to people of color. The rapid expansion of the Islamic faith in the 600s and 700s brought many Jews under Islamic rule. Jews existed more peacefully under Islamic rule than Christian rule, and consequently they lived in greater numbers in the Islamic world than the Christian one. Islam conquered the Mediterranean’s southern periphery, all the way into today's Spain.
In 711 CE, Islamic armies invaded the Iberian Peninsula, which eventually established Moorish rule. Jews of the peninsula had been suffering under the cruel rule of the Visigothic kings, who practiced forced conversion and executed those who remained "secret Jews." Those dynamics reappeared several centuries later. When Islamic armies overran the Iberian Peninsula, Jews were fighting right beside them. Under the subsequent Umayyad dynasty, Jews flourished as nowhere else. In Babylonia, they were still subject to persecution from the local rulers, but under Umayyad rule on the Iberian Peninsula, the Jews lived in a golden age. Life under the Umayyad dynasty in Moorish Spain was as good as Jews would have it until the nineteenth century.
By 1000 CE, Jews were widely scattered across Europe and the Middle East (even China), and Córdoba (Spain) became the most prosperous center of Jewish life, and Europe’s most civilized place. Until around 1000 CE, relative harmony existed between Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Unfortunately for the Jews, the Christian and Islamic worlds would soon make their lives more precarious. One of the earliest expulsions of Jews in Europe was from the Rhineland in 1012. Jews did not come to the British Isles until William the Conqueror invaded them in 1066.
Violent Berber Muslims made their play for power and seized Córdoba. When the Umayyad dynasty ended in 1036, Moorish Spain splintered into fractious petty kingdoms. While Christians fought the Islamic invasion from the beginning, in 1056 the Christian Reconquest was initiated, and Toledo was retaken in 1085. The conquest of Toledo reintroduced the Ancient Greek teachings to Europe from Islamic works that were not burned by the Christians, which led to the rise of reason and science in Christian Europe and helped lead to the decline in the Church's influence.
During the Reconquest, the Iberian Peninsula degenerated into a militarized land, with constant wars, not only between the Christians and Moors, but the Moors became mutually hostile and warred against each other. Soldiers became more important than poets, and life became harder for Jews as well. Virulent outbreaks of Islamic fundamentalism marred the times. In 1066, Islamic preachers incited the slaughter of about 5,000 Jews in Granada as they claimed that Jews had too much influence. Although Jews generally had a better life in Islamic cultures, there were periodic slaughters of Jews across the Islamic world, mainly in North Africa. Although Jews were "People of the Book" and had theoretically protected status, they were still a minority and held to be inferior to the Islamic overlords.
The rise of Europe as a cohesive entity took shape around that time, and the first Crusade of 1096 can be seen as the first act that "Europe" took. Europe began seeing itself as one people, united by Christian faith and white skin. By that time, the Catholic Church had become a great temporal power as well as religious institution and owned about a quarter of Europe's land. Tales were told of Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land being mistreated by Islamic people. Since Jews lived in the Holy Land also, Christians in those days barely distinguished the two. During friction between the Eastern Roman Empire and Turkey, Pope Urban II initiated the first Crusade in 1096 and whipped up European Christians to go battle the Turks. As the Europeans were riled up to do battle, the soldiers made a detour before "liberating" parts of the Eastern Roman Empire that the Turks had taken. Beginning in France and soon spreading to Germany, the Crusaders engaged in what is considered the first holocaust of European Jews by Christians. In a frenzy of bloodlust, the Christian soldiers engaged in mass murders of Jews. As many as 8,000 Jews perished in the massacres.
From that time forward, Jews would not be safe in Europe. There had been slaughters of Jews before, many times, but that part of the world was very violent. The massacres of 1096 were Christian Europe's first with a decidedly religious, anti-Jewish fervor. That first Crusade was the most successful, and was a thoroughly imperial venture that climaxed in "liberating" Jerusalem from Muslims. Christian fanaticism fueled the fire of those marching hordes. The Crusaders laid siege to the Holy City, and when they breached the walls they massacred nearly every inhabitant. The city was bathed in infidel blood. It was an Old-Testament-style bloodbath. One could not walk through the city without walking on bodies, sloshing through pools of blood, and navigating heaps of severed heads. As when Joshua’s Jews allegedly laid waste to Jericho, the Crusaders turned the slaughter into a sacred affair, the knights “sobbed for excesses of joy” as they bathed in infidel blood, cooked up Muslims and ate them, and other wonders. Those are not “Black Legend”-ish allegations, but events proudly written up by the Crusaders and their chroniclers themselves.
In England in 1144 were recorded the first European accusations that the Jews killed babies in their rituals. That accusation took on a life of its own, inciting mass murders of Jews in England, especially around Crusade time. The accusation of ritually murdering children is an old one, often combined with cannibalism and/or drinking their blood. Ironically, Roman pagans accused the new cult of Christianity of the very same crime.
While Jews were being massacred in England and France regularly, the first Jewish expulsion in France occurred in 1182 after closing the Jewish academy in Paris. While European anti-Semitism began rearing its head, the Catholic Church was becoming thoroughly corrupt. Popes were leading Crusade after Crusade, with Pope Innocent III calling for the fourth Crusade in 1199. There were also minor Crusades being mounted throughout Europe. The concept of Christian armies marauding through Europe was becoming ingrained, and the idea of a perpetual Crusade took root. Christianity was becoming the polar opposite of Jesus's teachings.
By the early 1200s, there were attempts made at reforming the increasingly corrupt Church. The Council of Evreux in 1195 mentioned the selling of indulgences by the clergy, and bishops selling holy oil and relics. The Council of Avignon in 1209 mentioned a priest who diced with his parishioners regarding their penances (double or nothing? – Ed.), and priests opening taverns with a priest collar as the inn sign. Priests had families, lovers, and concubines, and drank heavily, hunted, and gambled with abandon.
When the Christian Crusaders arrived in Constantinople to "help" in 1096, their Byzantine "hosts" were shocked, and saw their European "allies" as uncouth and barbaric backwoods rubes, as their most pronounced characteristics were their filthiness, fanaticism, and violence. The Hellenistic culture of the Eastern Roman Empire was far more refined than Christian Europe's.
While the Church was becoming increasingly degraded, the Islamic culture pursued a different path. By about 1200, the Islamic culture may have had the world's highest standard of living (the only “competitor” for the title would have been China). The Arabic Islamic culture emphasized learning and built some of the world's greatest libraries. The Catholic Church specialized in burning libraries. The West knows about the ancient Greek philosophers and culture largely because their work was preserved in Islamic libraries. The Catholic Church spent centuries eradicating any literature considered pagan or heretical, and all the Hellenistic writings in Europe were consigned to the flames.
The Church's intolerance would express itself quite violently after 1200 CE. Not only was the Church mounting Crusade after Crusade, its priestly ranks were filled with corruption, and Jews and Islamic people were not the only people on the Church's hit list. Because of the wholesale corruption and debauchery of European Christianity, with Crusades becoming perpetual, with gambling, drunken, philandering priests and the like, the Catholic Church did not inspire much obeisance from the flock. In France, while Jews were having a rough ride, there were two movements that tried getting back to the spiritual roots that the Catholic Church had largely forsaken.
In 1175 in Lyons France, Peter Waldo (or Valdés) sought the meaning of God. A theologian told him to sell what he had, give it to the poor, and follow Christ; Waldo did just that. His fervent passion for the essence of Christianity gave birth to a new religious movement. His followers were originally known as the "Poor Men of Lyons," and they eventually adopted Waldo's name, becoming Waldensians. Waldo was a devout Christian; too devout. He originally tried reforming the Church, to bring it back to its humble roots. The Church would not tolerate it, and Pope Lucius III excommunicated Waldo in 1184. In that same year, Lucius III issued a bull ordering bishops to "direct inquisitions" on heresy. The roots of the Inquisition are in Roman law, where the inquisitio, originally a routine act of Roman judicial investigation, degenerated into torturing confessions out of suspected criminals. The ancient Roman practice was revived to deal with heresy. Heresy was usually nothing more than refusing to be an obedient subject of the Church.
Waldo and his movement was a thorn in the Church's side, but there was a much greater threat to the Church's religious monopoly: the Cathars. Unfortunately, no Cathar writings exist today. Nearly all that is known about them derives from reading the attacks of Catholic scholars.
The popularity of the Cathars and Waldensians was partly due to the Catholic Church's spiritual and ethical bankruptcy. The Cathars exceeded the austere mien of the Waldensians. Their creed was dualistic, which meant that they believed in a good god in heaven and an evil god who ran Earth. It has been said that they were not really Christians, but that is misleading. A number of early Christian sects were also dualistic, such as the Gnostics. The dualistic aspect of Gnostic philosophy was older than Christianity. It can be argued that the dualistic creed of the Gnostics and Cathars was Christian in that it centered on Jesus. The Gnostics considered themselves Christians, as did the Cathars. The Gnostic philosophy antagonized other Christian sects, and the Gnostic sects lost the political battle of what Christianity would become. What is called Christianity today is merely the victorious viewpoint of the most powerful Christian sects, especially the one aligned with the Roman Empire’s might. Gnostic texts were carefully excluded from the New Testament, such as the gospels of Thomas, Peter, Mary, Philip, Nicodemus, and the Gospel of Truth. Dualistic thought is prominent in the Bible, especially in the New Testament, with apocalyptic struggles of good against evil becoming the philosophical underpinnings of Christian institutions such as the Crusades and the Inquisition.
The Cathars were dualistic, but so is any Christian who believes that the devil is influential on Earth. In theory, there is a distinction between the two. In the standard Christian view, God created all, and Satan was a fallen angel. Satan is not a creator as such, but a corrupter. The agent of darkness that the Gnostics, Manicheans and Cathars believed in was a creator in its own right. A good god ran heaven, and a dark god ran the physical world. Theologians have spent centuries arguing such matters, but if the evil is due to Satan or a dark creator is a relatively fine distinction, and in practice, the difference is on the order of splitting hairs. How one deals with the darkness is all-important.
The Manichean faith was a bona fide world religion and comparable to Christianity or Islam. Mani founded it in the late 200s CE, and it was an amalgam of Christianity, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and elements from other religions. Mani pursued a consciously syncretic attempt at a universal religion. The religion that he founded flourished in the Middle East and Central Asia, and even spread to China. The Manicheans practiced one of the gentlest religions. Believing matter to have inherent darkness within it, yet with God's light also inside, the Manicheans killed no animals, ate no animal flesh, and cultivated melons as a staple, as they would not kill the plant to gain the melon. They even apologized to their bread as they ate it. As with the Gnostics, women had a prominent place in Mani's religion and could become the "elect," (the priest class, but they could not take office, as even that religion was not entirely free of the day’s misogyny).
Christian doctrine states that souls are tainted with original sin. The Manichean doctrine stated that the only taint was from being in a physical body. The soul was untainted, and the path to salvation was through "gnosis," which means "knowing." Awakening the soul and purifying the inherent light in matter, sending it back to its source, were the goals of Manichean practice. As with all religions, Manicheanism devolved when it mistook the symbolic for the literal, or when it proposed spiritual regulations, with their inevitable dos and don'ts. Yet, a religion whose central tenet was causing no harm to living beings gets high marks, and they apparently lived by it. While the Catholic Church devolved to granting salvation to those who paid enough money, the Manichean faith largely avoided that corruption, although the faith had the "hearers" (similar to "the flock," in Christianity) financially support the "elect" (such as the priests).
Manicheans were first persecuted by the Roman Empire in about 300 CE. They were treated worse than Christians. The totalitarian nature of Christianity could not abide Manicheanism either, and as Christianity became allied with the Roman Empire, the Manicheans, like the Pagans and others, became the object of Christian destructive zeal. Long after Manicheanism had been eradicated in the Christian world, it continued flourishing in Asia, and the religion lasted for more than a millennium before finally being eradicated.
The world would be a gentler place if religions such as Manicheanism were not destroyed. As with other extinct religions, the Manicheans are not here to defend themselves, and until recently, the West knew of the Manichees largely by reading Christian polemics against them, which surely did not provide a sympathetic or balanced view. Mani, unlike Buddha or Jesus, put his words on paper and tried founding a religion, although modern scholars still do not know how he exactly practiced his craft. Apparently he could tailor it to his audience, be they Buddhist, Christian, or of any religion. Manichean missionaries, partly because of their syncretic views, were more successful in their recruiting efforts than their Christian counterparts. Christianity prevailed largely due to brute force and the temporal power that it cultivated.
The Cathars followed in the tradition of Gnostics and Manicheans, as did the Bogomils and Paulicians. The Cathars followed Jesus's living example the best they could, and took it to greater extremes. Cathars would not willingly kill any living thing, and the most accomplished Cathars, the Perfecti, fasted three times a year for forty days each and were celibate, which was similar to the Manichean Electi. The Cathars' most devout members would not even eat eggs, milk, or cheese, which were "unclean" foods associated with procreation. The Perfecti lived the simple and austere life that Christians imagined that Jesus lived, and their no meat and no wine policy took it further than Jesus did. Again, no Cathar writings have survived the Inquisition's bonfires. The Cathars' critics stated that the Cathars did not even believe in procreation, which led the great Inquisition historian Henry Lea to state that the Church's attack on the Cathars was probably justified because a few generations of Catharist abstinence would extinguish the species. The Manicheans apparently discouraged having children, although marriage was fine for the "hearers," and even keeping mistresses, as Saint Augustine did when he practiced the Manichee faith. Procreation was discouraged but not forbidden, particularly as Manicheanism was a pacifistic religion. They indeed were austere ascetics, but there is more to intrigue about their faith than deplore. Manicheans considered themselves Christian.
It is quite possible that their critics, to make them seem crazy, exaggerated their austerity. The Western mentality for millennia has been a bizarre and fanatical denial of the flesh, as demonstrated by the self-tortures that priests and nuns inflicted on themselves. It is perhaps too convenient that the Cathars were accused of autogenocide as a rationale for exterminating them.
The Cathar faith apparently came from the Balkan region, probably as a side-effect of the Crusades, arriving with returning soldiers. The Perfecti attained an outward holiness that made all priestly piousness pale beside it.
Catharism and Waldensianism spread like wildfire throughout France. In parts of France, half of the population became Cathar. The Catholic Church saw that development as a threat. Various analyses justify the Catholic Church's position toward the Cathars as "defending" itself from Cathar attacks, or defending the entire European worldview from such an affront. It appears that the "threat" was more like the threat the Washington electric companies felt when Dennis Lee appeared on the scene with a superior energy conservation technology. The main Cathar threat was that the Catholic Church's pews would become empty and their coffers would no longer be filled. Much of the spiritual and cultural theorizing is probably a smokescreen to disguise the dictates of raw power. The Cathars were a threat to the racket.
Innocent's strategy was one that businessmen can appreciate: put cement shoes on the competition while simultaneously marketing an ersatz version of their product. In the span of a few years, Innocent authorized the establishment of two new priestly orders. He authorized the Franciscans in 1209, and in 1214 the Dominican order was founded, which Innocent's successor officially approved in 1216. Those were the first two mendicant orders founded by the Catholic Church. As with the Cathars and Waldensians, the priests of the new orders took vows of poverty. In 1204, Innocent tried getting the Cistercians to preach against the Cathars. The Cistercians were founded during the first Crusade, in 1098, and were the dominant order of the 1100s. They originally had ascetic ideals, but were not mendicants, and by 1200 their mission had changed significantly. Forty-eight knights joined the Cistercian order in 1112, led by the man who became Saint Bernard. The notion of the oxymoronic monk-like, chivalrous knights, already on the rise, became more popular. In 1119, the Knights Templars were formed in Jerusalem. The Cistercians were not the ideal monks to counter Cathar preachings. Dominic tried bringing Cathars back to the Catholic fold in 1205.
Dominic had limited success, but his order became the Catholic Church's priestly army. In 1208, Innocent called for a Crusade on France to stamp out the heresy of Waldensians and Cathars. In 1209, the Crusade’s purpose was made evident when the Catholic army, led by the Abbott of Citeaux, Arnauld-Amalric, surrounded the city of Béziers. When asked how to distinguish faithful Catholics from heretics, the Abbott allegedly told his Christian soldiers to "Kill them all; God will know his own." The army, so instructed, proceeded to kill every resident of the city. Estimates range from 7,000 to 20,000 people dying in that slaughter.
The irony can be overwhelming. The Cathars were devout pacifists. They rarely put up any resistance. Many fled across Europe, making the murderous Christian task more difficult. Early Christians in the Roman Empire were also noted for their pacifistic non-resistance to Roman violence. A thousand years later, the Christians were the butchers, doing the same thing to those non-resisting Cathars. Burning the Cathars alive was a favored method of dealing with them, especially the Perfecti. The awesome violence that the Crusading army inflicted on the local populace was a method of terror, which was a timeless and effective method of pacifying the population and making examples out of the disobedient. The Albigensian Crusade waxed and waned in France for decades, and entire regions were depopulated. Perhaps a million people died in the Albigensian Crusade. The massacre at Montsegur occurred in 1247, which nearly put the last nail in the coffin of Catharism. Crusades were nearly a constant in those days, marching back and forth across Europe and into the Holy Land, in an unending orgy of bloodshed. Jews were being slaughtered, but Christian was slaughtering Christian also, something Jews and Muslims had difficulty comprehending at times. Jews were banned from France in 1254, and expelled from England in 1290.
One of Innocent's last acts was convening the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, which was perhaps the single-most ambitious conference in Christian history. Innocent tried reforming the church, restating the faith, calling for a new Crusade, and making annual reception of Holy Communion and confession a requirement for all Catholics. Innocent also raised Church taxes, condemned the Waldensians and Cathars, and made a further definition of heresy and how to deal with it. One of that council's edicts was forcing Jews and Muslims to wear clothing that marked them as non-Christian, which the Nazis would do much later. Although Innocent was responsible for initiating endless bloodshed with his Crusading zeal and political machinations, he did not initiate the Inquisition, as such. A series of bulls by Pope Gregory IX in the late 1220s and early 1230s further established the concept of the Inquisition, and by 1260 the Inquisition was firmly established as a Catholic institution. Dominicans and Franciscans usually ran the Inquisitions. There was not yet a central Holy Office as such, but the Inquisition was known and feared. Mendicant friars became the scourge of heretics. The almost total annihilation of Cathars by 1250 had eliminated the direst threat to the religious monopoly, and the Inquisition became a standard feature throughout Europe, where it was needed to keep the restive flock in line.
During the second half of the 1200s, Dominican monk Thomas Aquinas wrote what many consider the greatest works in Catholic history, as he tried to reconcile Church teachings with those rediscovered Greek teachings. His work also further solidified the Inquisition’s philosophical underpinnings and helped set the stage for later witch-hunts.
The Catholic Church may have helped hold Europe together back then, similar to Constantine's strategy of using Christianity to hold the Roman Empire together, with the Catholic Church being Europe’s only unifying institution. The Church often vied with kings and emperors for power, in an intricate dance that characterized Europe for centuries. Charlemagne became the first Holy Roman Emperor in 1800; the empire was an attempt to revive the union of Church and state that Rome had for a short time. For the next thousand years, European nations and the Catholic Church had a wide spectrum of interaction, with the Church often bringing the rulers to heel, but eventually losing power struggles with the Protestant Reformation.
The fate of European Jews was often the subject of European caprice. When times got bad, the Jews suffered for it. The 1200s, for all its bloodshed, possessed a pastoral calm compared to the 1300s. In the 1300s, warfare, famine and disease swept back and forth across Europe constantly. The Black Death swept across Asia from China. It killed tens of millions of people, with a third of China, a third of the Muslim world and a perhaps half of Europe dying, producing the greatest carnage in Europe in 1348-1349. Europe’s response to the Black Death was blaming Jews for introducing it. Tens of thousands of Jews were burned alive for "bringing" the plague to Europe, as well as lepers and other outcasts. Church policies fomented anti-Semitism, but when the mobs began murdering Jews, Church officials often tried preventing them. Church officials abetting anti-Semitism were usually not the same ones who tried saving Jews from the mobs.
Franciscans were the scourge of Jews in those days. Jews were restricted from numerous professions, but in one profession their religion and the Christian religion meshed. According to the Biblical code that guided Christians, they could not lend money to earn interest. The Jewish code allowed them to earn interest on money lent to "strangers," which came to mean non-Jews, and that was how the Jews became bankers and the source of many conspiracy theories.
With all of the anti-Jewish violence in Europe, European Jews fled to where they could, usually out of Christianity’s reach. It was not always nice for them, but present-day Spain was the safest place in Europe for Jews during those early anti-Semitic massacres. Under Moorish rule, Jews often flourished. The Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula transpired over several centuries. Jews who lived under Moorish rule for centuries suddenly found themselves the new subjects of Christian rulers. As one more Moorish city-state fell to the Christian armies, Moors and Jews fled to another Moorish city-state or tried fitting in under the new regime. With the degeneration of Moorish rule in Spain, sometimes Jews felt that they had a better deal with the new Christian overlords, and sometimes they did…for a while.
Dominican priest Vincente Ferrer preached many hysterical anti-Semitic diatribes in the late 1300s in Seville, which led to riots and mass murders of Jews in 1391. The slaughters spread out and dotted the Iberian Peninsula. One option of Jews finding themselves under Christian rule was converting to Christianity to stay alive. It amounted to conversion by the sword. Previously, the Jews often chose the sword, but in 1391 something broke in them, and many chose conversion. Those "New Christians" were called conversos or marranos, with marranos being derived from the Spanish word for swine.
A significant motivation for the mass murders of Jews that peppered Europe was greed. When Jews were murdered, their property was taken. Many of those inciting the massacres got rich from Jewish plunder.
After "conversion," many Jews strove to hide their Jewish heritage. For Christians, conversion still did not remove Jews from suspicion. The persecution became racial rather than religious. Jews were pretty fair-skinned, too, and it was not easy to distinguish them from other Europeans, especially in Spain. When the racial strategy proved unworkable, the strategy then became ferreting out New Christians who secretly practiced their Jewish faith. Throughout the 1400s, Jews in Spain were oppressed, with riots and massacres. Being a converso was no guarantee of safety, and some riots were specifically directed toward conversos. It escalated throughout the century, the Christian armies kept gaining ground, and Moors were pushed to the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula. The last remaining Moorish city-state was Granada.
In 1474, Ferdinand and Isabella ascended the throne, and idea of Spain grew from their rule. The peninsula was under one rule during the Roman days, but that was a thousand years previously. In 1480, Isabella initiated the Spanish Inquisition and life got much worse for Jews. The Inquisition specifically targeted conversos who secretly practiced their Jewish faith. Many Jews did keep their faith in secret, which was understandable. The Inquisition's job was hunting down those "traitors." The Inquisition's fires then began burning across the Iberian Peninsula, consuming Jews by the thousand.
Jews were not Europe's only oppressed group. As the Spanish Inquisition heated up, witches were burning from one end of Western Europe to the other. The Inquisition had a hand in the witch-hunts, but could feign clean hands. The Church never officially burned a heretic. They would condemn them and "relax" them to secular authorities for their punishment. Similarly, the Church wrote the handbooks for finding and dealing with witches, and their treatment of heretics was adopted to various degrees in the witch-hunts. While the Inquisition did not play in England, burning witches did. England had expelled its Jews centuries earlier, as had France, so Jew-hunting was not a sport for them. About 85% of the witches executed were women, and many were healers of some kind. The witch-hunts were a women's Holocaust. There were instances where villages committed effective suicide by killing all of its women.
In 1492, Granada fell to the Christian armies, ending several centuries of Moorish rule on the Iberian Peninsula. When the Spanish armies controlled everything on the Iberian Peninsula except for Portugal, the Spanish sovereigns issued a new decree: Jews faced the choice of either conversion or expulsion. The numbers for Spain's Jews were 160,000 expelled, 50,000 converts, and 20,000 deaths. Some estimates go much higher, with 400,000 Jews leaving Spain. During the 1400s, Jews were expelled throughout Europe: Vienna, 1421; Cologne, 1424; Bavaria, 1442 and 1450; Milan 1489; Florence and Tuscany, 1494, and many other places. Although Poland had anti-Jew riots in 1348-49 (Black Death) and 1407 and 1494, by 1500 Poland was considered the safest European location for Jews. Most Jews expelled from Spain went to the Ottoman Empire, where the Islamic culture welcomed them. About 10,000 went to Italy, but Spain invaded Italy during the 1500s and those Jews again ended up in the wrong place.
When Jews were expelled, ending up in a region already filled with Jewish refugees, that would often trigger expulsions in that region also. The Wandering Jew became a part of the folklore about that time. In 1517, Martin Luther initiated the Protestant Reformation with his Ninety-five Theses. In the long run, it probably helped Jews by dividing Christians. However, early protestant theologians were not kindly disposed to Jews. Martin Luther was perhaps the worst of them, with his 1543 pamphlet "On the Jews and their Lies." His diatribe is seen today as a stepping-stone to the Jewish Holocaust.
Virtually all of Western Europe was hostile to Jews, and those who did not flee to Islamic lands went to Poland. During the 1500s, the Jews thrived in Poland and nowhere else in Europe, except for some in Southern Italy. In 1541 in Venice, the first European ghetto was formed. Jews had lived in segregated living before in Europe and in Islamic lands, but the Venetian ghetto was a kind of Jewish prison. Some historians have questioned why the Jews accepted their fate in Venice, while others feel it was understandable, after all the demoralizing events during the previous centuries, climaxing with the mass murders and expulsions from Spain, and further expulsions and murders when the Spaniards conquered Northern Italy. There was a certain passivity and acceptance of their condition. It was partly due to their religious convictions. It was also an attitude remarked upon as they were being herded to their deaths in World War II.
Wealth, Jews, and the Age of Colonialism
In 1493, the New World's rape began with Columbus’s second voyage. Although the Crown had specific laws forbidding Jews from sullying the New World with their presence, it is estimated that of the 200,000 European residents in Mexico by 1570, a third were converted Jews and another third were converted Moors. That was a logical place for them to flee, but the Inquisition was not far behind, hunting for crypto-Jews and crypto-Moors. More Jews fled to the Islamic world. Poland was the last Jewish haven in Europe. Charles V was the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain when Cortés was conquering the Aztecs, while Martin Luther was protesting. Charles V was a Hapsburg and inherited a vast realm, and the Conquistadors were securing a much vaster one. Through the political and royal machinations of Europe, Charles ended up with the Netherlands as part of his realm. The Netherlands was full of merchants and tradesmen, and was prosperous.
Charles issued the edict condemning Martin Luther's work, which Luther defended at the Diet of Worms in 1521. Charles did not stop the Reformation from happening. The Reformation and Counter Reformation were exceedingly bloody affairs, with wars that lasted for generations. Charles was Europe's most powerful ruler in 1519, when he bribed his way into becoming the Holy Roman Emperor as well as being Spain’s king. In 1520, he became the King of Germany. Just as the first magnificent treasures arrived from Mesoamerica, which gave a hint of things to come, Charles was reaching his power’s peak, and his hegemony was short-lived. Wars, politics, and the Reformation eroded his empires, and when he stepped down in 1558, all he gave his son was Spain and the Netherlands, and his realm was bankrupt.
The Reformation found fertile soil among the educated mercantile class of the Netherlands. Charles tried stamping it out by bringing the Inquisition there in 1522. For more than forty years the Inquisition had raged in Spain, consigning thousands of Jews to the flames while keeping the rest terrified. Since they were mere Jews being burned alive, most of Europe did not get concerned about it. When The Inquisition came to the Netherlands however, putting real Europeans to the question, that was going too far. That was when anti-Inquisition polemics really began in Europe and when the Inquisition's popular image was formed as an antihuman organ of terror and oppression. It had always been that, but it was not until Protestants began being burned alive that Europeans got angry. The Spanish and Dutch Inquisitions were more nationalistic than religious, and not really backed by Rome.
The Reformation woke up Rome, and they revived the Inquisition in 1542, and for the first time made a central governing office to run it which they called the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Before that, the inquisitors operated without a central office coordinating their activities. The Holy Office was initially relatively tame, and largely confined to Italy for a dozen years. The Inquisition became more ambitious in 1555, with Pope Paul IV recommending hunting down heretical bishops and cardinals. In 1559, the Index of Forbidden Books was first published, which won the Catholic Church further infamy.
In 1566, the Dutch began rioting against the oppressive sway of the Catholic Church and Spain. That began a war that did not finally end until 1648. The Spanish war against the Netherlands was a major factor in bankrupting the Spanish Crown several times by the 1650s, and helped set the stage for Spain's decline. For opportunistic reasons, England began helping the Netherlands in 1585, and in 1588 prevailed over the Spanish Armada. By 1600, the Netherlands was free of Spanish domination. Jews flocked to Western Europe’s only haven, and in 1615 were legally allowed to stay if the province would have them.
Also, Jews migrated to nearby Hamburg, on the periphery of the Holy Roman Empire. When the Thirty Years' War broke out in 1618, Jewish financiers helped the Hapsburgs. The Thirty Years' War was Europe’s most brutal war to that time. Europeans had demonstrated for many years in the New World and elsewhere that they were masters of earthly violence, and honor and rules made no difference. The goal was winning at all costs by any means. The Thirty Years' War gave new meaning to war. The concept of total war, of killing the enemy at all costs and surviving to fight the next day, put down deep roots during a war that lasted thirty years and killed four million people, with half of them civilians, and most of them Germanic people. Jews were experts on resourcefulness, surviving on practically nothing, and that resourcefulness was useful in fighting that war. Christians put aside their enmity toward Jews if they could provide the resources to fight and survive. Their ascendant role as financiers, managers, and procurers of resources also won them enemies, and there were still Jew slaughters and other abuses, but they became an integral part of the region's economy.
The Ashkenazi Jews had been finance, management, and international trade in Eastern Europe since about 800 CE, and that specialization and genetic isolation has been hypothesized as the reason why not only Ashkenazi Jews have the highest IQs of any ethnic group on Earth, but the bell curve of intelligence distribution also gave the Ashkenazi Jews a greatly disproportional number of geniuses, which may be why they won so many scientific Nobel Prizes in the 20th and early 21st centuries.
The Dutch began their imperial expansion in about 1600, and sailed the high seas and made the Spanish pay whenever they could. The Dutch were the first great mercantile colonial power. The Dutch Republic of the United Provinces was Europe’s first republic and the heart of European liberalism. That did not mean that they were gentle colonizers. French pirates had been attacking Spanish ships since they first began coming home with New World plunder. England got into the game in the late 1500s, and the Dutch joined them in the early 1600s. That began the European scramble for the world. Whether it was in Asia, the New World, Africa, or the South Pacific, the English, Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedes, Danes, Russians, and others fought over who would loot the world. Some came to the game later than others. Germany and Japan were the two biggest latecomers, and when they found few foreign lands and peoples that they could call their own, humanity experienced two colossal wars.
The first two centuries of Europe’s New World hegemony was the most wasteful plunder of all time. Killing off nearly all the natives of a hemisphere was bad enough, but what did Europe gain from it? Europe supposedly gained wealth through its colonial exploitation. That was the reason why they did it. The benefits that Europe derived from the first two centuries of the New World's plunder, a plunder paid for with the lives of perhaps 70 million natives, were: gold, silver, sugar, tobacco, dyes, and furs.
Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations is considered the first major economic treatise ever written, and was published in 1776, long after the initial plunder was over. Smith wrote that a gold rush was one of humankind's stupidest events. Gold and silver are not wealth, and particularly back then. About the only intrinsic value that gold and silver had was ornamental. Making silver eating utensils was the only practical use of the metal until modern times, when it began being used in industry. Gold had even less practical use than silver. The only reason why gold and silver were perceived as valuable was their use as money. Anything can be used as currency, because currency is only representative of wealth, not wealth itself. The only thing that made scarce metals valuable was their scarcity.
Spain’s colonial experience is a perfect example of the uselessness of mining gold. There was a transfer of wealth that occurred when Spain brought back that gold and silver, bought with the lives of tens of millions of natives. Some Spaniards got their hands on the goods of other European nations, as they honored the "precious metal" as a form of payment. Spain’s elites lived relatively lavishly for a short while, although Spain as a whole declined, and it was arguably worse off in 1600 than it was in 1500.
There is little intrinsic value in any currency. Native Americans sometimes did similar things in their ignorance. Wampum belts were considered wealth in some societies, but making them was a waste of time. The less time and effort spent creating currency, the better off the society is. The Aztecs were a little better. They used chocolate beans for currency. They could make a drink out of the chocolate beans, so there was intrinsic value in the currency. Ears of corn would have been the ideal currency in Mexico, and it was. The Aztecs largely had a barter economy, and something as easily handled and relatively small in value as corn (per ear), became a useful unit of exchange. People could eat the money, which is the ideal currency. In a barter economy, gold is virtually worthless, and was one reason why the natives could not understand the Spanish obsession with gold.
Money is only the scorekeeper, not the game. When the rigging the scoreboard becomes the game, the system is broken. All gold rushes reflected the ignorance of the societies engaging in them. They ultimately impoverished the societies that had them, as the net result was wasting the effort of one segment of the population (the miners, refiners, etc.) so that they could steal from the other. The only way that Spaniards were able to avoid an even worse economic collapse was enslaving natives to do the work. They first stole the results of millennia of native effort in creating their gold artifacts. The Spaniards melted that all down and destroyed all the artistic value. Then they enslaved the natives, and millions of them died in the mining operations. If the Spaniards had to dig the gold, the 16th century gold rush would not have happened. Millions of natives paid with their lives so Spain could leech off of its neighbors for a brief time.
The other main product that Spaniards received from the New World was dyes. Again, what was the intrinsic value? Virtually none. Dyes are purely cosmetic and provide no real wealth. Enslaved natives killed small insects for their bodily juices that made the red dyes. Thousands of insects would be killed to produce an ounce of that dye. Again, it was a prodigious waste, but if there were natives to enslave and insects to kill, then they could give their lives to producing Spanish baubles. The materialism of that age echoes to the 21st century, with the rampant consumerism that plagues America and is infecting the world. More than 90% of the export “value” from the New World was gold and silver in that first century of "discovery."
What was the other great boon from those early colonial days? Sugar. The Portuguese specialized in that more than the Spaniards, especially when their plunder of Brazil did not find any El Dorados. The Portuguese specialized in producing sugar. What good is sugar? There has rarely been a substance more damaging to human health than refined sugar. All that one can say for refined sugar is that it tastes good and provided "empty" calories, while greatly contributing to diabetes, tooth decay, and obesity. Refined sugar is more of a drug than anything else, and provided about zero benefit for Europe's health.
Who did the Portuguese recruit to raise that sugar? When they first began raising sugar in Brazil, they enslaved the natives to work on their plantations. The natives died off in about a generation, just as they did in the Caribbean, under the slave conditions that the Portuguese subjected them to. As with the Spanish gold mines, silver mines, and plantations, the Brazilian natives were considered expendable assets. When the natives were exterminated, the Portuguese began importing African slaves. The sugar trade brought more African slaves to the New World than anything else. The natives were all killed off, and tens of millions of Africans lost their lives to ensure that Europe was well stocked with a drug that ruined their health but tasted good. The classic triangular trade of slaves, sugar, and rum was almost wholly evil. In the early 21st century, the sugar industry devastates Northeastern Brazil, with about thirty million people enslaved to the sugar system. Growing sugar is also devastating to the soils where it is raised. The only place in the sugar empire that has tried beaking the sugar-growing habit is Cuba.
When England, France, and the Netherlands came to the Empire Game in the 1600s, what were the benefits of their colonialism? The first thing that they always looked for was gold. Francis Drake became England's richest private citizen by his surprise plundering of the Spanish Empire's Pacific ports and filled his ship with silver bought with countless native lives. The first Englishman who looked for gold instead of stealing it was Martin Frobisher, who hauled hundreds of tons of fool’s gold to England. Walter Raleigh was after gold too, and his quest cost him his life.
When the English established their first military beachhead in the New World at Jamestown, the natives kept them alive with their corn and other food, which was the typical situation with all European invasions. If not for native food and help, the Europeans would have always died. The first thing that the Jamestown invaders did was look for gold. As with Frobisher and Raleigh, they did not find any. Something had to economically justify the invasion, and it was discovered, for another great "benefit" to Europe: tobacco. Tobacco was the primary export from Jamestown and the region throughout the 1600s. As the Portuguese did in Brazil, the English imported captured Africans to get the work done. Tobacco brought Africans to America, to grow another addictive substance that ruined European health.
Only two products came to Europe in those early colonial days that had any genuine value, and one was fur. Fur was used as clothing to conserve body heat. Humans are naked, and have stolen the fur from animals ever since they migrated from their natural range in the tropics. In all of the New World's plunder during those first two centuries, it was the only item of any intrinsic value, with the exception of wood. Wood for fires is far too cheap to transport by boat, and only the Roman Empire ever did it that I know of, for its baths. However, long wood for masts for sailing ships, especially warships, became coveted in New England in the early 1600s, so wood also brought some intrinsic value to England: the ability to defeat its rivals in warfare and conquer the world. All of the other "goods" had illusionary value, and in the case of gold, silver, sugar, and tobacco, they ultimately damaged European society. For that, a hemisphere was depopulated and another continent's population (Africa) was devastated. When the French joined the game in North America, it sought the fur trade, and its early “help” completely extinguished the Huron tribe.
When the USA joined the fray, trappers soon followed the Lewis and Clark expedition, completing the extermination of nearly all of the Northern Hemisphere's fur-bearing animals. That fur "business" was engaged in by some of most ruthless and primitive humans of all time. As with most interactions between indigenous and European cultures, the result of the fur trade was virtually an unmitigated disaster for the natives. The fur trade spread drunkenness, disease, and viciousness throughout the western lands, and early robber baron capitalists such as John Jacob Astor became rich from the process that ultimately swindled the natives out of their lands and lives.
Although the fur business was about the only one that created some actual "wealth" for Europe, it was short-lived wealth, as the animals that provided the fur were driven to extinction, and by the Revolutionary War, New England had been almost completely deforested. Beaver-skin hats became the day's fashion, which drove the beaver to extinction in most of the USA. Bison robes were another short-lived fashion item, which was a native "industry," while the natives and bison lasted. “Wealth-producing" activity that is really a short-lived plunder is not really wealth producing, which Carl Sauer remarked on. It is stealing wealth from future generations, and is really a net reduction of wealth. The issue of creating or husbanding sustainable resources was completely alien to European thought, and is not being practiced to any degree of significance even today. Throughout the long centuries of the New World's rape, there were few observations that plundering resources like there was no tomorrow, would guarantee that there was no tomorrow. Ironically, one of the few to observe it was the first on the scene. Columbus, himself the architect of the hand-severing gold tribute system, said that the reckless squandering of native life by the Spaniards on Española would be detrimental in the end, because dead slaves cannot perform any work. For the next four centuries, his voice was one of the few in the wilderness.
How much "benefit" did Europe receive from all of that New World booty? Europeans had their teeth rot and developed diseases from the sugar, but it tasted good. They enjoyed tobacco, while dying of the diseases that it gave them. They had their economies harmed and in some cases destroyed by relying on the influx of gold and silver, while thinking it was wealth. They wore fashionable and useful fur, while the fur-bearing animals lasted. They had natives make dyes that made fabric different colors. Deforested England got mast wood so that it could defeat its rivals. That was about it.
The eastern USA was deforested as the white man's "civilization" progressed across the continent. The New World tropics have been gradually deforested, largely to produce export crops such as sugar, bananas, beef, coffee, and the trees also became an export crop as they were chopped down. A few rich landowners (mainly large corporations today) got the benefits, the people who did the work became virtual slaves to the system, the environments were devastated, and the white people enjoyed import crops such as sugar, bananas, coffee, cocaine, etc. The disaster continues in the 21st century. Bringing the white man's ways was a disaster for the natives, but the white man benefited, somewhat.
For those who came to the New World in those early days, they had other benefits that did not accrue directly to Europe. The Spanish soldiers got the dream of a lifetime as they raped every native woman they could. If it was not rape, they had harems of as many as eighty women for one man. They enjoyed the benefits of native slaves and concubines, while they lasted. The sexual relations between the Spanish soldiers and natives were virtually never romantic love. They were not relations of equality. The Spanish soldiers were exercising the conqueror’s prerogative. They set themselves up as lords on the native backs. The English "settlers" stole the land from the natives, something that their American descendants excelled at. They killed off countless bison, passenger pigeons and fur-bearing animals while they lasted. They deforested many millions of acres in the name of "progress." Stealing native land, and enslaving and raping the natives were the "benefits" to the settlers. In addition, more than ten million Africans "migrated" to the New World in chains, while an equivalent number or perhaps even more than thirty million Africans did not survive the process.
Europe had so many wars that they had names such the Hundred Years' War, the Thirty Years' War, the Ten Years' War, the Seven Years' War, and the Seven Weeks' War. Other wars were named the Wars of the Roses (an English civil war which lasted 30 years, right on the heels of England’s Hundred Years' War with France), King William's War, Queen Anne's War, King George's War, the War of Jenkins' Ear, the Carnatic Wars, the Crimean War, the Franco-Prussian War, The War of Austrian Succession, the War of Spanish Succession, the War of Polish Succession, the War of Bavarian Succession, the War of the Devolution, the Wars of Religion, the War of the Grand Alliance, and the Napoleonic Wars. There were five major Crusades mounted by the Catholic Church, with numerous smaller Crusades, and the Albigensian Crusade. Later, Crusades became something that secular leaders could mount. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II led a Crusade, only to have the Pope declare a Crusade on Frederick. Later, King Louis IX of France mounted two Crusades.
Most of the bloodshed occurred in wars fought between the European powers on European soil. The Thirty Years' War and the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars killed about nine million people in total, and nearly half were civilian casualties. Others on that list were fought abroad, as the powers vied for the right to pillage the world, as with the French and Indian Wars, which included the wars of William, George, and Anne. Then their imperial descendants fought their own wars, as with the Boer War. The European powers also had internal wars, such as the French Revolution, the English Revolution, the Russian Revolution, and the Revolutions of 1848 (numerous nations). Their colonies had wars to break free from the mother countries, as with the Mexican Revolution, the American Revolution, the Haitian Revolution, the many Latin American revolutions, and in the postwar years of the 20th century, there were revolutions throughout the colonized world.
The USA is Europe’s most accomplished descendant. Since the Revolutionary War, the USA fought the War of 1812, constant wars against the native population, pushing the survivors across the continent. America also fought the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and numerous armed interventions throughout Latin America, as Smedley Butler commented on. Since World War II, the USA has fought the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and numerous smaller conflicts, such as bombing Laos, Cambodia, Libya, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Yugoslavia. The USA invaded Grenada and Panama, and helped overthrow the governments of Guatemala, Iran, Chile and dozens of other nations. The USA financed the Indonesian genocide in East Timor, brought the slaughter of Cambodia into being, and financed slaughter in places such as El Salvador and Nicaragua.
Finally, of course, there were two World Wars to top it off, followed by a forty year Cold War, and we may be heading for our third World War, probably fighting over oil, and one that we may not survive. The current “war on terror” looks a lot like World War III’s beginning. Some have called this period of global European domination the 500-year Reich. If humanity survives the coming transition, historians may look back to the white man's millennium of 1000 to 2000 CE and call it "The Thousand Year War." There were far more than 100 million war deaths in the 20th century, by far history’s most violent century. The 19th century is a distant second at about 20 million deaths. About 90% was initiated or performed by white men, with nearly all of them Christians.
While some Jews enjoyed their lives in the Netherlands, and resettled in the New World and elsewhere, the great magnet of Poland drew the world's largest concentration of Jews. It did not last forever, however.
In 1648, the Thirty Years' War was ending, and Poland was feeling the strain of thirty years of war. Then the peasants were led to an uprising that targeted Jews. As usual, a power-hungry aristocrat manipulated the peasants to kill Jews, which led to tens of thousands of Jewish deaths, which peasants and Cossacks performed. That time, the Jews could be "blamed" for their fate. The Jews had become prosperous middlemen and financiers, and managed a system that exploited the peasants. The peasants took it out on Jews, aggravated by elite manipulation. Many Jews fled west, and the English let some in, the first time in more than 350 years. They also fled to the Netherlands, Germany, and near Strasbourg, part of present-day France and part of the Holy Roman Empire then, which was the same empire that slaughtered the Jews around 1300 in numerous massacres and driving them to Poland in the first place.
When the Crusading armies took that detour in 1096 and massacred several thousand Jews on the way the Holy Land, one observation was that those who committed the slaughter were not trained soldiers, but more like rabble, and they could not be controlled or kept from their actions. The slaughter was engaged in by Europe's lower classes, who found a way to vent their frustration on their hierarchical competitors.
Jews were usually slaughtered by mobs. However, the elite created the intellectual framework that justified the murders. Thomas Aquinas wrote the influential works that further set the stage for the Inquisition. Other high-ranking Catholic officials wrote and published various treatises. The official manual for witch-hunting was the Malleus Maleficarum, which was published in 1488. Pope Innocent VIII wrote the work’s preface. The framework for witch-hunting was developed by elites, but common people carried out the oppression. Most of the "witches" who died in those years were poor, although as there was money in it from confiscating the accused’s property, the accusation began targeting people of higher economic status. Their accusers were also poor.
The "investigations" and sentences were carried out by officialdom, but the executions of witches, heretics, and conversos were often attended by mobs of average folks, in an often-festive atmosphere. People would come from miles around to watch the executions. In America, when they had public executions, even public lynchings, and the people came from miles around, sometimes undertaking great journeys to witness the executions. Why? Usually those being executed came from the same social strata as those watching them. Witches, heretics, and Jews were not dying for anything that anybody would call a crime today. Those who eagerly watched the executions bore significant responsibility for those people's deaths. The elites who invented and ran the system also bore responsibility.
If I had joined the Air Force Academy and become a pilot, I may have dropped bombs onto Iraq, wiping out one of their water treatment facilities, which the USA specifically targeted during the Gulf War. Destroying one of those water treatment facilities led to the deaths of thousands of children. If I had done that, how responsible would I have been for the deaths of those children? How responsible would my father have been for those deaths, as he influenced me into believing that being a soldier was what turned me into a man? How responsible would the person have been who fueled my plane? How about the one who loaded my bombs? How about my commanding officer? How about George Bush the First? How about the crew who built my plane at the defense contractor's factory in America? How about Saddam Hussein? How about Winston Churchill, who was an integral part of Britain's colonial exploitation of that region many years ago, who set in motion dynamics that are still playing out? How about the media reporters and others who played a part in the disinformation campaign by the USA's government, as they uncritically repeated the story of the Iraqi incubator incident and George Bush lying about Iraq's intentions for Saudi Arabia? The media should have known better, given the government's record of lying to the public, especially regarding matters of warfare. How about all those mothers and housewives around America who tied yellow ribbons around trees, waved flags, and screamed, "Support our troops!"? How about the 90% of American citizens who approved of what we did to Iraq? How about me, filling my gas tank with cheap gasoline, partly bought with the deaths of those Iraqi children?
A lawyer's response to that list might be interesting. Human beings do not have the capacity to rationally assess "responsibility" for those participants that I just mentioned. Does that mean that they are not responsible? The person buying cheap gasoline is not as responsible as George Bush was when he lied to the public about Iraq's intentions regarding Saudi Arabia, stonewalled Iraq's attempts to negotiate a withdrawal, authorized an attack that amounted to biological warfare, and initiated a series of events that took several million lives in Iraq. The person buying that cheap gasoline still has some responsibility. The public cheering the post-war parades has some responsibility for it. In order for the system to work as it does, it needs willing participants. Just as the cancer racket needs lemmings marching into the oncology wards, if the American public did not cheer and march to war, there would be no war.
The masses bear some responsibility, and arguably nearly all of it. Part of my motivation for pursuing free energy with Dennis Lee was eliminating the industrialized world's dependence on Middle East oil. I foresaw what happened in Iraq, and far worse (which may yet come to pass), when I was a teenager. I have devoted my adult life to preventing what is happening in the Middle East today. If there is any American not responsible for what is going on Iraq today, I must contend for the honor; yet, nearly every time I put gasoline my car, I think about those dead Iraqi children. I think about the bloodshed in Nigeria, East Timor, and elsewhere so that the oil companies can keep pumping that cheap oil, and we can have cheap gasoline. I know that I bear some responsibility what is happened in Iraq, even though I marched in the streets to protest the impending invasion.
The net can be cast much wider than the USA. All of those so-called diplomats at the United Nations, who supposedly represented the people of their nations, nearly all knuckled under to American and British pressure. If the diplomats at the United Nations had any spine, there likely would never have been a Gulf War, Iraq would have negotiated a withdrawal, and all those Iraqis would not have died, and the 2003 invasion would not have happened. How about the people in those nations, whose representatives acted so cowardly? People can talk about elites all day long, and how they do not really represent the people of their nation. It is a Political Science 101 concept that every government, to some degree, needs the consent of the governed in order to exist. Using that perspective, one it is difficult to deny, every person on Earth bears some responsibility for what happened in Iraq.
Being responsible does not mean feeling guilty, not guilt in the way the West defines it. The root of the word responsible means being able to respond. My goal with making the case for our responsibility is getting across the idea that we can all do something about it. Some are in better positions to act than others. It is within each of us to decide what we will do. Just not cheering the violence would be a big step for most Americans. What goes around comes around. Those who rationalized the death and destruction in Iraq as a noble undertaking, or heaped all the responsibility onto Saddam Hussein's shoulders, will one day, usually in another lifetime, have the roles reversed, suffering and dying while others look on, as they rationalize their fate while benefiting from it. Then they may realize that killing, exploitation, and destruction are never "justified."
This topic will end with what Noam Chomsky said on this issue, from a "rational" perspective. Chomsky said that in the area of warfare, for instance, those in society that look at the violence and atrocities with clinical detachment, equanimity, and apathy bear a great burden of responsibility for Hitler and others like him coming into power. Hitler could not appear on the scene if it were not for the complacent acquiescence and complicity of the masses. It is easy to blame the Hitlers and Husseins of the world, and much more difficult to stop shuffling along with the herd, helping to create the herd that is so easily manipulated.
Jews participated in Europe's rape of the world. Jewish financiers helped fund New World expeditions, they owned many of the ships used in the slave trade, and were part of the money economy that craved gold and silver. They were largely forced into those positions, but they could have migrated to the Islamic world and been treated better than Europe did, but for a number of reasons, such as increased economic opportunity, the Jews stayed in Europe, although the Middle East was more their "natural" home.
The Modern Age and Jews
There are various lines of demarcation used to separate one period of history from another, with all being artificial to a degree. The waning of Church power was critical to Europe's evolution. The Thirty Years' War was a war of the Counter Reformation, waged by the Catholic Church to bring Protestants back into the fold.
The Thirty Years' War marked the end of Catholic military attempts to regain its religious hegemony in Europe. The influence of Catholic dogma eroded. Luther initiated a movement that did not go away. Killing up to a million people in France to wipe out Catharism kept the Catholic Empire together awhile longer. In the late 1300s and early 1400s, there was the spectacle of the Great Schism, as various "popes" vied for the throne. At one point three people declared themselves the one, true Pope. It did not inspire the flock to watch such power struggles among "holy" men.
Luther's revolution would not be stopped, no matter how many millions of people were slaughtered by the Catholic armies. By 1650, Northern Europe had become Protestant and would never reenter the Catholic fold. Dogma was eroding in other ways. In 1543, a devout and powerful Polish Catholic who was strongly opposed to Luther's work, Nicolaus Copernicus, had a book published on his deathbed. Publishing it while dying turned out to be a smart move. In 1514, Copernicus was invited by the Lateran Council to help reform the calendar that had become quite inaccurate. That led him to observing the Sun and Moon, which led him to propose a radical theory: Earth orbited the Sun.
It is impossible to say exactly what Copernicus thought, but it appears that he was not worried about the Church's reaction to his work. He should have been. For the next sixty years, few embraced his work. In 1600, Dominican monk Giordano Bruno was burned alive in Rome for his heresies, with one of the most significant being his belief that the universe was infinitely boundless and the earth revolved around the Sun. Bruno was not really a scientist as the term is defined today, but more of a mystic (although the world’s greatest scientists were all mystics), but his execution would put the work of a seminal scientist at risk not long afterward.
In 1609-1610, a devout Italian Catholic was making and using a new instrument: the telescope. In January of 1610, Galileo Galilei saw the moons of Jupiter through his homemade telescope, and observed that not everything in the cosmos revolves around Earth. He announced his findings, which soon had him examined by the Inquisition. During the next generation, Galileo had conflicts with Church authorities, and in 1633 was brought to his knees and forced to recant his statements. Earth was the center of the universe because the Church said so. Galileo was not executed, but spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Yet, he resolutely held to his conviction that observation was more important than merely referring to something that an ancient scholar wrote about the nature of reality. If Galileo could see with his own eyes that moons orbited Jupiter, then they did, and the Church's decrees could do nothing to change it.
The work and ordeal of Galileo is seen as the beginning of the age of science in Europe. His treatment at the hands of the Church terrified other men of reason, and Rene Descartes, a French contemporary of Galileo's, was decidedly intimidated by Galileo's treatment, and backed off from Copernican philosophy when the Church pronounced it heretical. Science and observation eventually prevailed, but not without a cost. Joseph Schwartz made the case in The Creative Moment that Galileo, and later Newton, couched their work in mathematics to make it less susceptible to the Church's attacks. Schwartz argued that those strategic decisions sent science awry and made it rely on mathematics too much, which made it more occult than it needed to be. I have never run into a scientific theory that could not largely be explained without mathematics. Math is useful, but many textbooks and other presentations of scientific theories that get so deeply into mathematical minutia that the basic theories themselves get lost under the microscope. Math has been used to make science less accessible to the masses, and even ends up confounding scientists at times, and that is a tragedy. Einstein avoided math whenever he could, and said that the more elegant and beautiful the math used to describe a theory, the more likely the theory was wrong.
Galileo, Descartes, and Newton were major figures in liberating thought from religious dogma, although all were devoutly religious. The scientific revolution that was beginning, along with the failed Counter Reformation, along with the scramble for Earth by the European powers, eventually made life better for Jews. Jews were not without their own intellectual intolerance, and the probable greatest Jewish philosopher of all time, Dutch citizen Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), was excommunicated by the Synagogue for his rationalist philosophy.
After the Polish massacres in 1650, for the next 150 years, Jewish life in Christian Europe was better than it had ever been. Although many Jews fled Poland, it still had Europe's largest Jewish population. During those years, Jews slowly migrated to the New World, to parts of Western Europe, and they were not being slaughtered.
During the 1700s, and gaining steam after 1750, a movement began in France called the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was a movement that stressed the power of reason and humanity's common bonds. It was the maturation of the work of people such as Descartes and Spinoza. Its goal was replacing dogma with reason. It took the Protestant Revolution a step further and largely abandoned religion. It was a heady time in Europe. As with all movements, its promise was much greater than its realized potential.
The Renaissance was a movement that spread throughout Europe between the 1400s and 1600s. Some of the greatest art that humanity has yet produced came from that period. Social advances were still limited, although the Renaissance was related to the Reformation. Artists were largely subservient to a system of royal patronage, and their artistic themes were still largely religious. While the Renaissance was flourishing and humanism developed in European thought, Machiavelli and others were writing their treatises, and witches, books, and heretics burned across Europe, and the New World was being quickly shorn of its native population. Nevertheless, one can see glimmers in Renaissance thought that blossomed during the Enlightenment.
In some ways, musical art reached its apex during the Enlightenment, with figures such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn producing masterpieces that may not be possible today. Although the artists were still largely subservient to the royal patronage system, sardonic paintings such as Goya's were being created. Art was becoming more political. Revolutionary political writing became the backbone of the American and French revolutions.
In theory, the Enlightenment would make the lives of Jews better. Its promise was greater than its reality. Prussian Emperor Frederick the Great was supposedly a man of the Enlightenment, and he passed a law regarding Jews in 1750. The law was a mixed blessing, which distinguished between "ordinary" and "extraordinary" Jews, and enacted some oppressive economic measures, but the Enlightenment did improve the lives of European Jews. In 1773, the King of Sweden allowed Jews to migrate there, and in 1782, the Austrian Emperor issued an edict of tolerance for the Jews. However, where the Enlightenment really helped Jews was across the ocean in the British colonies of North America. There were about a thousand Jews in the colonies, which was a number that would grow greatly. The Enlightenment began in France, and was probably partly inspired by the Native Americans’ egalitarian societies, which many Frenchmen had profound respect for. One endemic problem of settling the Americas was the settlers running off and "going native." European settlers often saw the native way of life as superior to European ways, and ran off to join the Indian tribes. The converse, Indians running to join the white man's "civilization," almost never occurred.
Enlightenment ideals became influential, and men such as Thomas Jefferson were children of the Enlightenment. Again, that is relative. Jefferson was a slave owner. George Washington was a slave-owning aristocrat who married into more money, and made it big in land speculation and stole native land. There is significant evidence that the USA modeled its constitution after the Iroquois Confederacy, which had the world's only functioning democracy at that time and profoundly influenced Ben Franklin.
The Enlightenment was influential, and one tenet was religious toleration, which was nearly impossible to find during Europe's previous 1500 years. Much Enlightenment theorizing on religion was a breath of fresh air that could not have been published earlier. Unfortunately, in rejecting religion, they also ultimately rejected spirituality, although many were "deists." In ways, the Enlightenment helped pave the way for the crass materialism that is seen today in mainstream science, economic theory, and other areas of Western thought.
Nevertheless, America's Founding Fathers embraced religious tolerance, although they were in many ways as racist, bigoted, violent, greedy, and elitist as could be expected of European descendents. The "Great Experiment" of the USA proved quite beneficial for European Jews. Jews were sometimes prominent supporters of the American Revolution. When the Constitution was finally ratified, it specifically stated that there would be no state religion. Fundamentalist Christian beliefs aside, America has never officially been a Christian nation. In the West, a secular nation was a big improvement over Europe's past 1500 years. Still, nearly all Americans were Christians, and while they could not quite shake their heritage of religious bigotry, Jews were treated better in the USA than in any European country. In the West, America became the Jews' best friend.
While the U.S. Constitution was being ratified, another revolution influenced by the Enlightenment happened on European soil. The Enlightenment began in France, and the French Revolution was supposed to be a movement of the common man, which sought equality for all. The Jews had great hopes for the French Revolution. In 1784, King Louis XVI abolished the head tax on the Jews of Alsace, and the Bastille was stormed in 1789. In 1791, Jews were officially emancipated in France. It was not a complete emancipation. The decree was only issued after intense political battles, and part of the decree put the government in charge of collecting debts owed to Jews in eastern France. That addendum was not inserted for the Jews' benefit. Nevertheless, Jews were officially free in Europe for the first time. Ghettos were torn down wherever the French had influence.
Along with the step taken forward, events were set in motion that would later haunt the Jews. Voltaire was the leading Enlightenment philosopher, and his later works attacked religion and attacked the Jews for their "superstitions," and accused them of only being good at usury. The Jewish faith was largely what held the Jewish people together. Not all Jews were happy with the anti-religious nature of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, and one Enlightenment outcome, influenced by Voltaire's anti-Jewish writings, was the development of a secular form of anti-Semitism.
In 1797, the Netherlands and Venetian Republic also emancipated their Jews, under pressure from France. Life began looking better for European Jews. The French Revolution became a bloodbath, with the guillotine being invented and getting avid use. Then a new kind of dictator grabbed power, crowned himself emperor, and Napoleon initiated a series of wars that led to more European bloodbaths. The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars killed about five million people, with more than forty percent of them civilians. Napoleon is a French national hero.
There are many conspiracy theories surrounding those days, with the founding of the Illuminati, the machinations of the Jewish Rothschild family of financiers, the Freemasons and the Founding Fathers, etc. While there are many secret societies, and to a degree they do pull the world's strings, and maybe a lot of them, they do not really have that much real power. They can pull the strings because the masses are so easily manipulated. If the masses woke up, the games of manipulation would end.
While Jews were freed in parts of Western Europe, events in Poland were less auspicious. Russian expansion met Western Europe. Between 1772 and 1795, Russia annexed and partitioned Poland and acquired the world's largest Jewish community. While Western Europe was being fitfully "enlightened" regarding Jews, Russia was behind the times. The czars had little love for their new Jewish subjects, and laws such as taking Jewish boys from their families at age twelve and turning them into soldiers were little short of genocidal.
In Germany, the Enlightenment brought with it another trend that led to the Holocaust. Much of today’s Germany was once part of the Holy Roman Empire, which tried reviving the Roman Empire’s glory days, wedded to its state religion of Christianity. The Holy Roman Empire began in 800 CE, when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne the first Holy Roman Emperor. Its ideal of a union of church and state did not last that long, but the empire still existed when Napoleon's armies invaded in 1806. Napoleon was socially progressive, in a sense, by enacting social reforms such as guaranteed rights, freedom of religion, centralizing the school systems, etc. They were not voluntary for the subject states that he conquered, while installing his relatives on several thrones. Germany was not as swept up into the Enlightenment as England and France had been, and when Napoleon rammed the Enlightenment down their throats, Germans were not happy with it. With the occupation of the Germanic region, Jews there were given rights that they never had before. While from the Jewish perspective it was a positive development, the humiliating reign of Napoleon created a yearning in German people for the good old days of imperial glory. They longed for the good old days, and part of the good old days was Jews knowing their place.
Thus began a trend in anti-Semitism that waxed and waned during the next century, which culminated in the rise of Hitler. Jews became German scapegoats. Part of the relative prosperity of their French and English rivals was due to the fact that Germany came late to the global empire game. The Prussian Empire was a northerly empire in the German regions, and they became Europe’s most formidable army. Yet, they did not have vast imperial hinterlands to plunder as England and France did. The industrialized world is "rich" not because they are so smart, but largely because they enslaved and plundered the rest of the world. That latecomer factor with Germany had a lot to do with the world wars. The same went for Japan, which was an imperial aspirant that came to the game late, but England, France, Russia, and the USA already controlled most of the globe. Even the Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese empires still had some life in them. Japan and Germany did not have much that they could call their own, from an imperial perspective, and they nurtured their ambition over generations.
In the meantime, the Industrial Revolution, which was partly a product of the Enlightenment, was taking off. What is today call capitalism was first described by Scottish Enlightenment philosopher Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations, which was published in 1776, which was the same year that Scottish inventor James Watt first commercially installed the modern steam engine, which powered the Industrial Revolution. Capitalism and industry created a new phenomenon in Europe. Great wealth was theoretically being created in the factories that sprouted up across Europe. It was not royalty getting rich, but a new class of people called capitalists. It was a new form of exploitation. How beneficial capitalism has ultimately been for humanity is doubtful, and the issue not yet resolved. One positive thing that capitalism and industry did was help to make the institution of chattel slavery obsolete. People did not need the muscle and sinew of black men when a machine could do the job. The rich did not need to own people any more; they could rent them. The defenders of slavery made the not-easily-rebutted argument that somebody takes better care of something they own than something they rent.
Ironically, the American Revolution inspired the French Revolution, which in turn inspired the Haitian Revolution in 1791. The Haitian Revolution was history's only successful slave rebellion, where a land of slaves freed themselves. Although America was the "land of the free," it had nearly a million African slaves when the revolution began, and what happened in Haiti was ominous for the Founding Fathers, with many of them slave owners, such as Jefferson, Washington, and Patrick Henry. Those Virginia planters built their fortunes on the triple-evil of raising tobacco with slave labor on stolen native land. Their worst nightmare would be for their slaves to stand up in the tobacco fields, shaking their fists, and shouting, "Give me liberty, or give me death!" The USA was about the last nation to officially recognize the Haitian Revolution, and did so largely due to the Civil War's political exigencies.
By 1840, there were still only 15,000 Jews in America, and they did not have full citizens' rights. They could not vote at first, and in Connecticut, for instance, full citizenship was granted only to Christians. After three decades of bitter political fighting, the "Jew Bill" was finally passed in Maryland in 1826, which gave Jews the right to vote, hold office, and practice law, but Jews still had restrictions on their rights. Although the First Amendment of the Constitution forbade the recognition of religion, the states all passed pro-Christian, and necessarily anti-Jewish, laws. The USA's European heritage could not be completely shaken, and anti-Semitism was an integral part of the American experience.
The USA's Jews were not slaughtered as they were in Europe. They did not have to wear Jew clothes. The main reasons why Jews got that treatment was because of American society's dynamics. There were few Jews in America in the beginning, and Americans were obsessed with slaughtering and dispossessing Native Americans for most of the nineteenth century. There was also another group more feared than Jews: African slaves. In Europe, they did not have to contend with a large population of slaves of another race, nor a race that they were exterminating to give them "living space."
If the USA was not so intent on clearing the continent of its natives and keeping its slaves in chains, the Jewish American experience may have been starkly different. In the 1840s, the Industrial Revolution was accelerating in Britain, which complemented its colonial hegemony. America was also industrializing, but was slower, partly because it was busy securing the North American continent.
By 1830, the movement that began with the humanists, and was furthered by the Enlightenment, flowered in the liberal movements in Europe between 1830 and 1880. Industrialization may have had something to do with the slaves being freed, but factory workers were often not much better off. While the capitalists were getting rich, the workers were severely exploited. It led to unionization movements and other attempts to improve the workers’ lot. Those years were the era of Charles Dickens’s writings. Along with the worker movement were political movements. In the 1830s and 1840s, there were revolutionary activities throughout Europe, and along with the increasing freedoms won by workers and other commoners, Jews were emancipated across Europe. In 1848, one of Jewry's greatest theorists envisioned a classless system, and proposed a revolution to permanently end the exploitative rule of the European oligarchy. Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto was a call to arms for Europe’s oppressed.
Jewish emancipation activities began with Belgium in 1830, and continued with Denmark in 1848, Prussia in 1850, Norway in 1851, Sweden in 1865, Italy in 1870, Switzerland in 1874, and Bulgaria in 1878, along with many other European nations. Not all European nations became enlightened regarding Jews, however. Spain continued four hundred years of anti-Semitic policies, and in 1914, Jews still had no rights in Spain. That also went for Russia and Romania.
In America, Jewish migration began flooding in. Between 1830 and 1865, the Jewish population in America rose from 4,500 to 150,000. Other European immigrants came, as American immigration skyrocketed. Between 1830 and 1870 the American population tripled, from 13 to 39 million. Between 1870 and 1900 it nearly doubled, from 39 to 76 million. Europe’s oppressed masses were flooding into America. The USA's population nearly doubled again from 1900 to 1950, from 76 to 150 million. It more than doubled again since 1950, to nearly 320 million in 2014. In about 1850, the USA's slave issue became heated, and American xenophobia became an issue. Native Americans were virtually extinct east of the Mississippi River by 1840, and Americans focused their neuroses onto the newcomers. Jews were not the only oppressed group; Irish and German immigrants also felt the projected fears.
In Poland and Russia, Jews were oppressed. Under Alexander II the Jewish situation improved somewhat, but when he was assassinated in 1881, the Jewish Russian situation became grim. Jew slaughters, called pogroms, became commonplace throughout the Russian Empire. Jews were expelled from Moscow in 1882. There were more than five million Jews in the Russian Empire in 1880. They fled with the initiation of the pogroms. In 1881, Eastern European Jews were only 0.9% of annual immigration into America. By 1887, it had risen to 6.5%. 1.7 million Jews immigrated to America between 1890 and 1914. If there is anything that I can view in American history with some pride, it is that it was a haven for Europe's oppressed people, although at awesome cost to Native Americans and their lands.
Jews were not exactly welcomed to America. Beginning during the 1840s and 1850s, as American xenophobia increased, anti-Semitism began rearing its head, which intensified during the Civil War, with both the North and South blaming Jews for the Civil War's vagaries. General Ulysses S. Grant expelled Jews from his military district in Tennessee in 1862, as he blamed them for the mayhem surrounding the war, which Lincoln apparently did not really mind Grant doing, but he rescinded the order for political reasons.
Publicly vented anti-Semitism during the Civil War became heated and extreme, but subsided after the war. Nevertheless, America was well on its way to becoming a thoroughly anti-Semitic culture. By 1900, the USA was quite anti-Semitic, but far from alone. The gains that Jews had been making in Western Europe began eroding. In France, the first Western European nation that emancipated its Jews, was the birthplace of a new anti-Semitic fervor that helped lead to the Holocaust.
In 1853, the French diplomat Comte Joseph de Gobineau published a book that distinguished between Aryan virtue and Jewish degeneracy. In 1847 and 1863, Frenchman Ernst Renan published books that argued for the inferiority of Jews. In 1886, Edouard Drumont published an infamous anti-Semitic tract, La France juive. Those writings were hugely popular and influenced millions of Europeans, and anti-Semitism was on the rise throughout Europe again. Then there was World War I, the Russian Revolution, the fiscal collapse of Germany after the war, the Great Depression, and the rise of Hitler and fascism. Those days are well known, so I will not belabor them here. What I wish to make clear is that anti-Semitism was not an aberration in Germany. Anti-Semitism was universal throughout the Christian world in those days, and was the most muted in the USA.
It is probably an integral part of the human condition at this time, but when people are under stress they often lash out at others, and during times of war and other calamities, Jews were nearly always singled out for persecution in the Christian world. From the first Crusade to the Great Depression, Jews had a difficult time when their host nation underwent strain. That was partly due to the "cohesion" of the Jews, who kept themselves separate and distinct from the majority population.
In the USA, the Civil War initiated a virulent strain of anti-Semitism, which gradually escalated with the millions of Jewish immigrants that fled Europe, and after World War I it erupted into outright hatred of Jews in many places. In the early 1900s, a document emerged that was almost certainly a forgery by the Russians during the pogrom days. It was titled the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. That document has given life to various conspiracy theories of Jews taking over the world. It was nearly incoherent in places. Anti-Semitism is alive and well in the 21st century, with many right-wing groups still believing that the Protocols are genuine and that Anne Frank's diary is a fake.
The Israeli government is ruthless. They are grabbing for as much power as they can, as all governments do. Menachem Begin was little more than a gangster. Every government exploits its people. Israeli government officials do not read the Protocols nightly before bedtime, but they probably study Machiavelli. Self-serving, power-hungry people run every government. That is the nature of the beast today. When anybody looks at an ethnic or racial group and thinks that they are the problem, they are not seeing the full picture and are easily manipulated against their own interests. Fortunately, in the late 20th century in Israel, they began to teach their children the nation's history more truthfully, with textbooks giving more factual accounts of the Six Days War, where Israel was anything but the underdog, and their textbooks for the first time mentioned the word "Palestinian." That progress was undone by the Israeli war against the Palestinians since 2000.
The American right wingers, who see Israel as a problem, standing in the way of world peace, are right. Yet so is the USA, and far more so. The Jews are not taking over the world; the capitalists already have. They are not one and the same. A lust for power and greed are not limited to any one ethnic or religious group, although Europeans and their descendants have refined it to a science. There is one aspect of the Jewish journey worth mentioning: peculiarly Jewish pathologies are partly due to the persecution that they endured for so long. Being forced to hide their identities, and fleeing back and forth across Europe, while the only "valuable" things they could take during their flight were gold and jewelry, probably created neuroses and fears common to the Jewish people. All oppressed people have their characteristic pathologies, which are largely due to their journeys.
Gary Wean stumbled into a dark cabal of gangsters that runs Ventura County. Their influence appears to be vast. Gary found that many of them were Jewish. He apparently stumbled onto Jewish organized crime activities, which robbed the taxpayers of billions of dollars. The biggest gangsters run the government. There are probably Jewish gangsters with plenty of influence in California government and elsewhere, as in the federal government. Again, those are self-serving Jews. They seem to have a racial/ethnic allegiance, just as organized crime figures do everywhere. The Mafia has its Italian brotherhood. The Chinese have their triads. Japan has its Yakuza. There is the Mexican Mafia. There is the Irish mob. The George Bushes helped run the Northern European Mafia, which is perhaps the world’s most powerful organized crime group. At the game’s highest levels, the lust for power is colorblind, and there might even be a woman or two playing there.
In significant ways, the Jews of Israel have been treating the Palestinians worse than Hitler treated the Jews in the 1930s. It is extremely saddening to watch people who should have learned a big lesson from their own history, doing the same thing to others. Children who are beaten by their parents often grow up to beat their children. People cannot seem to keep themselves from inflicting onto others what happened to them. When the Jews said, "never again," after the death camps were opened, they meant "never again" to Jews, not "never again" to anybody. If they could do it to others, they would, and with the Palestinians, they have. Noam Chomsky has written extensively about that phenomenon, and is a Zionist Jew himself who lived in a kibbutz.
In Europe, anti-Semitism was probably the most muted in Britain. Britain made the first legal move to give the Jews a "homeland," with the Balfour Declaration in 1917. For Arabs who had been living in Palestine for thousands of years, dumping a Jewish state on top of them was not salutary. In 1917, of the 600,000 people living in Palestine, perhaps 100,000 were Jewish, and they had largely come there during the previous generation, driven there by the Russian pogroms, and the settlements were almost completely funded by the legendary Rothschild family (and naturally the subject of many conspiracy theories, and many are likely true). Although Arabs had been more tolerant of Jews than any other people, most did not like the idea of their land becoming a Jewish state.
European Jews probably would not have much wanted to relocate to Palestine if they had not been subject to a millennium of persecution in Europe. I am half-Scandinavian, and I have no yearning to move back to Norway, although the Vikings did not have the "Promised Land" myths that Jews had. The Jewish "homeland" efforts by the Europeans were in some way related to the African "homeland" effort by America after the slaves were freed, creating new countries in Africa, such as Liberia, so that they could ship all the blacks back to Africa. There was certainly some altruism with those homeland plans, but there was also a motivation to export undesirable people.
European imperial ambition had been nibbling at the margins of the Ottoman Empire for centuries, and by 1900, British and French imperialism had conquered the Middle East. It was the logical conclusion of Britain's quest for global hegemony. A quarter of the globe was under British rule in 1914. As with other empires at the height of its power, the decline would soon come, and Britain would be unseated from its imperial perch by its offspring and rival: the USA. The early 21st century may be eventually seen as the beginning of the end of the American Empire. Our economic hegemony has been deteriorating since the oil crises of the 1970s, as Britain's had for generations before their empire disintegrated.
Most Middle East friction in the early 21st century is obviously related to it sitting on the world's biggest oil reserves. The genocide inflicted on Iraq by the USA was only the latest in a century of the white man's greedy meddling in Arab affairs and visiting disaster onto them.
While Britain was carving out a homeland for Jews in Palestine during World War I and wresting it from the Turks, anti-Semitism in Europe would soon reach all-time highs. When World War I began, many Jews saw Russia as their mortal enemy and Germany as their savior. When the German army freed Poland from Russia, Polish Jews thought they had been delivered from the enemy, and at that time, they were. Jews in Britain were reluctant to enlist to fight Germany, when it was freeing the Jews of Poland and Russia. After World War I was over, anti-Semitism subsided in some places, while it rose elsewhere. There were pogroms in Poland and the Ukraine immediately after the war, but Jews shared in the general prosperity of the 1920s, and they did not significantly migrate to Palestine until the Great Depression hit and anti-Semitism began its final, tragic climb.
Arabs resisted Jewish/British efforts in Palestine, the British did not help it by diplomatic bungling, and the United Kingdom ("UK") originally restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine and opened it back up in the 1920s, but few Jews migrated there. A vocal Jewish faction was fervently anti-Zionist, and anti-Zionist fervor from the Jews themselves hampered the deal with the UK. Jews led the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, and throughout the West people began equating Jews with communists. To a degree that perception was true, as the classless, collective spirit of Marx was related to the kibbutz tradition of the Jews in Palestine, first begun in 1906 (Marx was partly inspired by Native American societies), but what happened in Russia was starkly different from what Marx had envisioned. It became another power grab and a bloodbath for Jews.
An effect of the Enlightenment and the social movements of the 1800s was a new kind of Jew. Marx was one of them, as was Leon Trotsky and Rosa Luxemburg. They were non-Jewish Jews, and they were a significant fraction of Jews. They saw themselves as human beings whose Jewishness was a byproduct of the social structure in their host nations. They were the Jews behind the communist movements, and they felt that when the political-social changes happened that overthrew capitalism and the social conditions it helped create, they would all become just people: no class, no ethnicity, just people. In short, they denied their Jewishness as it is commonly understood. They saw themselves as completely secularized, de-ethnicized, and highly politicized. It is a fascinating ideal, but it has not yet been attained on Earth. What happened in the Soviet Union was a grotesque caricature of attempting that ideal, mainly because it was not voluntary. They were going to force uniformity onto humanity. Banning religion altogether was part of the program. It was forced secularization and a grotesque distortion of the Enlightenment. The Bolshevik Revolution became very bloody. It became another power grab, not a realization of humanity’s unity. Yet, Jews became identified with that revolution, but when it came time to take it out on Jews, “Jewish” Jews were slaughtered, and about 70,000 Jews were murdered in the civil war that raged in the Ukraine in the 1920s. Across Eastern Europe, Jewish communities were attacked because they were associated, however inaccurately, with communism, which led to many deaths.
Meanwhile in the USA, the Communist Revolution scared our capitalist society. Henry Ford owned The Dearborn Independent, and in 1920 the paper began running a series of articles attacking Jews, which ran for almost two years solid and prominently featured The Protocols of Zion. Henry Ford was one of the most committed anti-Semites that America ever had. Another noted anti-Semite was the hero of transatlantic flight: Charles Lindbergh.
When Ford mounted an all-out propaganda attack on Jews, Germany was dealing with the disastrous aftermath of World War I. Both World Wars were incidents where the West battled over world dominance. Germany came late to the Industrial Revolution and they were not a traditional maritime nation as other Great Powers were. When Germany finally came to the imperial table, there were only crumbs left for them. Britain, France, Russia, and the USA controlled most of the globe, and the other European powers had imperial domains that were relatively adequate, although the empires of Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands were but a shadow of their former glory. Germany took what it could, and lost the battle. Instead of coming to a responsible understanding of Germany's motivation, or even looking at the iniquities that they themselves inflicted upon the world, the "winners" of World War I foisted on Germany onerous war reparations and took most of its empire, which contributed to a series of events that damaged the German economy.
In the early 1920s, a failed artist and soldier, who hated the humiliation that Germany had been subjected to at war's end, gained inspiration from Henry Ford's attacks of the Jews, and also lauded Martin Luther's diatribes against the Jews. The man would later tell the Detroit News that his inspiration was Henry Ford. That failed artist's name? Adolf Hitler. The anti-Jewish diatribes of one of America's greatest industrialists and the father of Protestantism directly inspired Hitler. In 1938, the Third Reich presented Henry Ford with a medal.
Anti-Jewish discrimination was widespread in America. Again, although American Jews had it better than in any other Western nation, it was not wonderful. In the 1920s, the industries that practiced discriminatory hiring practices against the Jews were: utilities, banks, insurance companies, publishing houses, engineering and architectural firms, advertising agencies, school districts, major industrial firms, hospitals, universities, and law firms. Help wanted ads of the day specifically stated that only Christians need apply. The peak year for that type of discrimination was in 1926. An examination of 27,000 job openings found that 90% discriminated against Jews. As in Europe, the careers and jobs that Jews held were the ones they were forced into, when all other avenues of gainful employment were closed to them, and America was where Western Jews had it the best.
In 1927, there were more than four million Jews in America, for the world's single-greatest concentration of Jews. After more than a century of Russia's brutal rule, Poland won its independence during World War I as the Russian Empire collapsed during the revolution. When Wall Street collapsed and the Great Depression began in 1929, Poland and the Soviet Union contained about three million Jews each. In 1924, the USA began setting immigration quotas by nationality, which greatly reduced Jewish immigration to America. One consequence was an increase in immigration to Palestine.
The Great Depression was a global event, and Germany's recovering economy was hammered by the Depression. In the depths of the Great Depression, as national desperation vaulted people such as Hitler into power, Franklin Roosevelt was desperately trying to flog the USA's economy back to a semblance of health. 1933 was the darkest year of the Great Depression. During 1933, my father's parents traveled back and forth across America, Grapes of Wrath style, while trying to find work and food. The Dust Bowl drove them out of Kansas where they had been raised, and they lived in Arkansas, Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho before hearing about jobs in the shipyards in Bellingham, Washington. When my father was born in 1936, his mother was so malnourished that my father was born with rickets, weighed four pounds, and nearly died. He was the smallest child in his class until a growth spurt at age fifteen.
Toward the Holocaust
As with the JFK assassination and other controversies, if somebody wants to have their head spin, they can spend time assimilating the various points of view regarding the years 1933 to 1945, especially pertaining to European Jews and World War II. In many far right circles, Hitler was a tragic hero who lost. The Jewish Holocaust never happened or was overblown, according to some "scholarship." There are those who criticize the Holocaust deniers, and those who criticize them. Another perspective is that the German people were largely responsible for the Holocaust. Another perspective is that Hitler was nearly solely responsible for it. Another perspective is that the USA and the West had a hand in letting it happen or stood by and watched, which includes David Wyman and many others, including most mainstream historians. Another perspective sees German industrialists having a big hand in it, as they clamored for concentration camp labor, then the USA hired some of the worst Nazis after the war was over (Christopher Simpson). There are standard texts on the Jewish Holocaust (Raul Hilberg, Lucy Dawidowicz, Leni Yahil). There are large, comprehensive tales of the war. There are books about how crazy it all was (Paul Fussell, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky), or how the Jewish Holocaust was similar to the Native American Holocaust (David Stannard, Ward Churchill.). There are books about Japanese atrocities (Iris Chang), or about how badly Germans suffered in the war's aftermath. There are books about building the bomb and nuking Japan (Peter Wyden, Richard Rhodes, Gar Alperovitz). There are many documentaries on Jewish Holocaust survivors, perpetrators, witnesses, etc. Lifetimes can be spent digesting the various viewpoints of those times and events.
Hitler came to power in 1933, and Jews began fleeing Germany. America was not frightened by what happened in Germany, just as Christian Europe was not too bothered when Spain's Inquisition oppressed mere Jews and Spain killed off millions of New World natives in its lust for gold, what Germany was doing to its Jewish citizens soon after Hitler came to power did not excite much comment in the USA or anywhere else in the West. Anti-Semitism was not only rising to unparalleled levels in Germany, but throughout the West. In America, as it again dealt with a national calamity, Jews became the scapegoats. Anti-Semitism reached all-time levels in the USA during the 1930s, only to be surpassed during World War II, to peak after the Jewish Holocaust was over.
When Hitler came to power, the greatest physicist of all time was in America and weighing his options in an increasingly anti-Semitic world. In 1933, Albert Einstein visited Cal Tech in California. In 1919, there was a supposed confirmation of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, whereby starlight was bent more than Newton's theories predicted when it passed by the sun during a total eclipse. Einstein became a huge international celebrity in the wake of the announcement of those findings, and "relativity" was the word on everybody's tongue immediately after World War I. In Germany, however, where the Jewish Einstein had been persuaded to live as his scientific career blossomed, anti-relativity companies sprouted up, led by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Phillip Lenard and others. Relativity was being called a Jewish plot to corrupt physics.
In 1933, while Einstein was heading back to Germany to begin planning his move to America, Nazi storm troopers ransacked Einstein's Berlin apartment and eventually seized his home, and declared that Einstein was an enemy of the state. Einstein never returned to Germany. Although Einstein was the world's most celebrated scientist, American groups were trying to prevent Einstein's migration, most particularly the Women's Patriot Corporation, that labeled Einstein, "a Communist and menace to American institutions," and part of a conspiracy to take over the world. There was a rumored Nazi-sponsored $5,000 price on Einstein's head, and he hid out in England for a few weeks before coming to the USA to stay.
Einstein was fortunate in being able to migrate because of his celebrity. Other prominent Jews also found haven in the West. Most German Jews were not so fortunate. Similar to the argument that everybody in the world has some hand in what happened in Iraq, nobody in the West could claim that they had nothing to do with the Jewish Holocaust of World War II. Most Jews would have left Germany in a heartbeat, but there was no friendly haven to flee to. Nobody in the West wanted Jews coming to their countries. Anti-Semitism was at its all-time high in Europe on the eve of World War II. The capitalistic system had collapsed due to its systemic greed and nobody wanted to take in Jews. In America, the Western Jewish haven, it was hard times. During the 1930s, the USA severely tightened its immigration laws, and Jews in particular were denied admittance.
In 1932, one British publication stated:
"A crusade of anti-Semitism has been raging from the Rhine to the Vistula, from the Baltic to the Aegean Sea, during the past six months, with a vindictiveness that almost surpasses all previous manifestations of anti-Jewish hatred since the end of the war."
That was six months before Hitler came to power, and it only escalated after that. In those years, Jews were nearly down there with blacks in America. Franklin Roosevelt became president in 1933. He was a politician from New York, and brought Jews into his New Deal agencies (furthering the "commie" perception of Jews). That led to murmurs throughout America that Jews were running the country. The 1934 resolution submitted to Capitol Hill to express "surprise and pain" at the Jewish treatment in Germany died in committee.
The Jews were fleeing to where they would be taken in. They began pouring into Palestine, and Arabs were not happy about it. In Palestine, the Arab leadership was militant and uncooperative. In 1936, there was an Arab uprising in Palestine, and the UK drastically curtailed Jewish immigration there. Zionist plans were deeply divided by Jewish factionalism.
In America, Father Charles Coughlin personified the ancient animosity of Catholics toward Jews. He had a weekly national radio show heard by millions of Americans. He was the Rush Limbaugh of the 1930s. His diatribes against Jews were breathtaking. Across America, anti-Semitism was raging. Even a place as genteel as Minnesota began having anti-Jewish campaigns. There were even Nazi rallies in the USA in 1939. During November 9th and 10th, 1938, Germany had its infamous Kristallnacht, which made the world collectively awaken a little. That event even made Roosevelt speak of his shock, but like the politician he was, nothing was done about it in the USA. A little more than a week after Kristallnacht, Coughlin gave his most amazing speech, which minimized the barbarity of Kristallnacht and went into a long attack on the Jews, and he produced forged Nazi documents to support his bizarre contentions.
Coughlin's diatribes helped stir up immense anti-Jewish hatred in America. Coughlin inspired an organization called the Christian Front, which in 1938 had chapters in America's eastern cities, where 85% of America's Jews lived. At Christian Front rallies there were calls to "liquidate the Jews of America." That was four years before anybody in the USA heard of Hitler's Final Solution. At one Christian Front rally, the speaker invoked General Sheridan's apocryphal observation regarding the natives, and said that the only good Jews were in the cemetery. When a passing Jew retorted that he was a good Jew and still alive, he was immediately arrested for disturbing the peace.
In Europe, German Jews were desperate, and many fled anywhere they could. Others thought that they could ride it out in Germany, and other nations were not exactly welcoming them. Jews had been mistreated in Europe for a millennium, and it eventually got better. Those relative few chose what they thought was the frying pan, but it turned out to be the fire. A year before the outbreak of World War II, Europe closed its doors to fleeing Jews. In late 1938, France and Holland closed their doors to fleeing Jews. Sweden and Denmark tightened already severe restrictions on Jewish immigrants, and even forcibly returned Jews to Germany who did not have proper papers. In the USA, the mood was often one of sheer hatred.
In 1938, a public opinion poll found that 77% of respondents were against the idea of letting more German-Jew refugees into the USA. In 1939, there was a bill introduced in Washington to allow 20,000 refugee Jewish children into America. The bill met with strong and vociferous opposition across the USA. Roosevelt refused to endorse the wildly unpopular bill, and it died a quiet death. The next year when war broke out, America opened its arms to English children fleeing the UK.
In May 1939, the world observed the spectacle of the Saint Louis's voyage. A boatload of more than 900 desperate Jews set sail from Hamburg, who were told that they could gain entrance to Cuba, although Cuba had already invalidated their permits. Upon arrival in Cuba, they were denied admittance, and they then began a desperate series of negotiations for a haven someplace in the world. Many of them had quota numbers for the USA. The USA refused them entry, as did every other country. The boat ended up sailing for days along the Florida coast on its way back to Europe, with it passengers looking longingly toward America, but the door was closed. With great effort and a payment of $500,000 by the Jewish Defense League, Belgium, Holland, Britain, and France were persuaded to take in the passengers. Most of those not taken in by Britain eventually ended up in concentration camps. That was how the West reacted to the Jewish plight on the eve of World War II.
One argument directed toward my work has been that European nations refused to admit Jews because they knew that the Germans would overrun them soon, so they could not protect the Jews, even if they let them in. That argument has no agreement with any historical facts that I could find. For one thing, no nation expected to be overrun by the Germans. Germany was militant, but there was the Soviet Union, the UK, and France nearby, and nobody expected them it to run over Europe as it did. The success of the German Blitzkrieg amazed even Germany's generals. At the war's beginning, the Soviet Union, which was Germany's ally of the moment, was shocked at how rapidly Germany's forces marched across Poland, and scrambled to get in on Poland's spoils. No historian has hinted that the people of the occupied countries resisted Jewish immigration because the Germans would overrun their nation and exterminate the Jews anyway. The Final Solution was disbelieved by most who heard about it while it was happening, even by Jews. When the rare Jew would escape the death camps and make it back to his community, his neighboring Jews would often think that he was crazy, and refused to believe his wild tale.
The rapid German victories over the Dutch, French, and British forces amazed all involved. An axiom of warfare is that the generals are always prepared to fight the previous war. The French heavily fortified the Maginot Line (the point of conflict during the trench warfare of World War I) in 1939, as their strategists prepared for the previous war. The German Blitzkrieg easily defeated the French, and the Maginot Line was meaningless. In May of 1940, Winston Churchill, the new Prime Minister, was awakened by the French Premier, who told him excitedly, "We have been defeated! We are beaten!" Churchill refused to believe that the French army could have been defeated in a week. The modern warfare of the Germans took Western Europe by surprise.
Nobody in the Gentile world expected the Final Solution to be enacted by the Nazis. Barbara Tuchman said that if the Gentile world knew that the Nazis were about to exterminate the Jews, they would have applauded. I will be gentler, and say that if the rest of Europe knew what was about to happen, they may have done something about it. In light of what happened in Iraq and the West's response to it, that may be too generous an assessment. In a sense, the extent that Germany took anti-Semitism was incomprehensible to the general populace. Again, if people had known what Hitler and the Germans were capable of, they may have been more welcoming to Jewish refugees.
All the same, another argument directed at my work is that because nobody really knew what the Nazis were capable of, their inaction does not make them "culpable." Culpability is not this essay's point. If somebody comes begging to my door and I send them away, and the next week I see them dead alongside the road, I can tell myself that I had no idea that they would end up dead. Does that mean that I had no contribution to their fate? Lawyerly types make that exact argument. Claiming ignorance of the future (which we can all do) does not lessen my responsibility, and my lesson should be to ask myself what I could have done, so that the next time I do not slam the door in the face of another beggar. While legalistic attitudes prevail, we will continue to chart our path of disaster, and when the next one happens, we can say, as the German people said after the death camps were opened, "We did not know." Germans who could smell the scent of burning flesh from the nearby camp’s ovens, and who watched prisoners being beaten in town by their guards, still said, "I did not know."
That nobody let in Jews before World War II is evidence that they did not expect the Final Solution to be enacted, whether the nations were in the shadow of Germany, as the Netherlands was, or as distant as the USA. The Jews had been fleeing back and forth across Europe for nearly two thousand years, and desperate attempts by Jews to flee Germany in the 1930s, and nobody else in Europe wanting to take them in, has rich historical precedence.
Sweden was a neutral power during both World Wars. They did not open their arms to fleeing Jews during the 1930s. On the eve of war, they even tightened the restrictions on Jews moving there. A main reason was that labor unions and others did not want aliens in their nation who would compete for jobs. When war broke out, Sweden hosted 24,000 foreign citizens, for 0.4% of its population. Sweden was one of the "generous" European nations that let Jews in, although Aryans were let in to stay three times as often on the eve of war. The Swedes approved an "extraordinary gesture" of letting 500 children refugees in, because a women's group agitated for it. The Swedes knew the status of the Final Solution as it developed, and as it was being carried out, Sweden did nothing.
Switzerland behaved the best of the Continental nations, but that is not saying much. Anti-Semitism was rampant there too, and in 1942 they further tightened their restrictions on refugees, which was not reversed until July 1944, when Germany's defeat was a foregone conclusion. Many thousands of Jews died because of Switzerland's policies. In the late 20th century, they were haunted by the scandal of knowledge that the Swiss banks laundered the Jewish assets that the Nazis plundered, such as the gold from teeth that were extracted from the Holocaust victims in the death camps. The Swiss prevailed upon the Nazis to put a "J" on Jewish passports so that the Swiss could identify them, so they could turn them back. Germany resisted that Swiss policy, because they felt they would not be able to get rid of Jews to places such as Switzerland, but the Swiss prevailed.
For every Jewish refugee that made it into Switzerland (about 22,000 made it into Switzerland), another was turned back, usually to their deaths. The Swiss banks stonewalled attempts by survivors of the Holocaust to withdraw their money from the banks, or recovery attempts by the heirs of Jewish depositors who died in the Holocaust. The banks demanded documentary proof for people who died in Auschwitz, similar to the USA's demands of citizenship for Americans interned in the camps. Some of it was understandable, but hiding behind bureaucratic procedures has been used for millennia, and was no exception regarding the Holocaust. Some Swiss banks' behaviors were truly scandalous. The banks set up a Holocaust survivors' fund, as did the Swiss government, as a very belated gesture, but better late than never. American officers also looted Nazi plunder at the end of World War II.
As with nearly all Jewish Holocaust narratives, a hero here and there dots the landscape, with rare acts of human kindness. Paul Grueninger was one of the few Swiss heroes. In 1938, the border captain altered about 3,600 Jewish refugee passports to allow them to stay in Switzerland. For those heroic acts of a true humanitarian, he was fired, prosecuted, fined, and spent the rest of his life, until 1971, living in poverty, unable to get a job, and was even the subject of a smear campaign regarding letting in those Jews. He died a broken man. He was not acquitted of the charges against him until 1995, after his family had tried clearing his name for many years, after five attempts. All too often, that is the fate of the true heroes in this world, vilified while they live, with posthumous recognition, if any. As in all nations, not all Swiss citizens agreed with what their government was doing, and Swiss citizens were more critical of Hitler's regime than their government was, and many Swiss citizens voluntarily housed the Jewish refugees who made it into Switzerland.
Along Europe's periphery, some nations were relatively heroic, their anti-Semitism not as entrenched as in Europe's heart. During the war, Denmark, Finland, and Bulgaria saved a substantial portion of their Jews. Denmark saved about 100% of their 5,000 to 7,000 Jews, smuggling them to Sweden, who, when prevailed upon by their neighbor, finally took in the Jews. Finland saved their 2,000 Jews. Bulgaria was a more mixed affair, with most of its Jews being spared, but the Bulgarian army also rounded up thousands of Jews and sent them to Treblinka and other death camps. About 10,000 Jews were saved by a few nations' heroic actions, while more than five million Jews went to their deaths. Reducing the Jewish death toll by 0.2% by peripheral nations is something that people can look to in finding some hope and consolation from the Holocaust.
Here and there across Europe, and even in Germany, some people risked their lives by hiding Jews. Those people have been lionized, yet they nearly invariably said that their actions were not heroic, but something that anybody would have done. Their modesty was understandable, but they were extremely rare. Noam Chomsky said that what has driven his tireless efforts for human rights since the 1960s was so he could look himself in the mirror. Yes, he did, but the highly developed conscience of a Noam Chomsky is extremely rare. For those who hid Jews or engage in activities as Chomsky did, their answer is the same. They say they are only doing the decent thing, or trying to keep their consciences' clear. They are not superhuman, just rare.
On the Jewish Holocaust's causes, there is a vast spectrum of opinion. One of this site’s themes, as the staunch pacifist that I am, is that violence always begets violence. There will be no war to end all wars, except the one that extinguishes the human species. The Jewish Holocaust took place in the world’s most violent culture: Europe. The Holocaust took place in the middle of a war that killed about sixty million people (and perhaps even 100 million), which was the bloodiest war of all time, so far. The Jewish Holocaust was only about ten percent of that total, or less. On one hand, it was merely part of the scenery of murder that raged across the white man's world. Yes, the Jews were singled out (the Romani (AKA Gypsies) and Slavs were too) for a unique fate, a fate that was the culmination of a thousand years of abuse by the Christian world. Yet, what made Germany into such a hotbed of it?
In Paul Johnson's A History of the Jews, he discussed the constellation of reasons for the Holocaust. First, and perhaps most primary and immediate, was World War I. The German people had just experienced a period of unprecedented prosperity and modernization when World War I happened. They were flexing their muscles as a nation. As with Japan, who nurtured their imperial ambition for generations, wanting to be successful imperial overlords as the British, French, Russians, and Americans were, Germany had grand designs for coming to the imperial table. The British, French, and Americans had to be their role models, to an extent. Yet, they had already gobbled up the globe. The British Empire spanned the globe and owned a quarter of it. The French Empire was second to Britain's in size, where their imperial domains included parts of the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa, and a share of China.
The USA, the first breakaway colony, had come to dominate the entire Western Hemisphere. It had its Monroe Doctrine and Roosevelt Corollary, which staked out the entire Western Hemisphere (with the exception of Canada) as its imperial domain. It was refining a new form of colonialism that the British were experimenting with, known as neocolonialism, whereby the American flag did not necessarily fly over its subject nations, but the USA was in charge nevertheless. European nations were not allowed a free hand in plundering Latin America; it was the USA's game and nobody else's. Even so, the USA expanded its empire impressively. Other nations such as the Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese had remnants of their empires dotting the globe. The white man had a claim on virtually every valuable acre of Earth, and the Germans had little of it to befit their new stature as a great nation.
The Germans had few distant lands to plunder, and to the east of them was another empire: the Russian Empire. The Russian Empire spanned northern Asia and bordered Germany. Those realities led Germany to war against the other imperial powers. After the war, the imperial powers humiliated Germany with onerous war reparations and took most of its imperial hinterland. As Johnson observed, a primary effect of World War I, besides stunting Germany's ambition, was making German society more violent. Where violence in civil life was unknown in the years before World War I, one consequence of the war was a generation of men who were intimately familiar with the art of murder.
The psychology of warfare and soldiers shows that young men do not naturally desire to murder other people, particularly those that they have never met. What turns young men into murderers is a culture that encourages violence, as in its media and ideology. The appeal to patriotism is a primary brainwashing tactic, which Hermann Goering said was common to all nations. In addition, dehumanizing the "enemy" is a vital component of the program. If the young men do not feel that they are killing fellow human beings, they can do it much easier. Even with all that, young men do not readily commit violent acts. In numerous accounts, whether it is the Japanese raping Nanking citizens, the Germans annihilating Jews in Eastern Europe, American soldiers killing Native American women, Japanese soldiers, or Vietnamese civilians, or French revolutionaries killing each other, their first kills do not come easily. The witnesses and participants to the acts describe an inner revulsion at first, but with each kill, their inhibitions gradually cease, and some even glory in it after awhile. They are on the highway to hell, but most people readily develop inner mechanisms that allow them to continue doing it. Many American soldiers crossed that threshold in macabre ways.
Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men examined the phenomenon of German Reserve Police Battalion 101 that became a Jew-killer squad in Poland. The men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 were largely drafted from Hamburg, and were simple barbers, plumbers, and the like, and largely more than thirty years old. They were not Nazis, but typical Germans and relatively apolitical. They eventually became adroit Jew-killers and directly killed about 40,000 Jews and deported another 45,000 to the death camps. The book’s most chilling sentence is its last one:
“If the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 could become killers under such circumstances, what group of men cannot?”
As with a famous prison experiment at Stanford, where “normal” people played the prisoner and guard game, about a third of the guards quickly became sadistic, about half became “tough but fair,” and less than 20% became “good guards,” who tried being kind to their charges (or in the case of Reserve Police Battalion 101, somehow shirked their killing duties). Similar statistics applied to the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101.
After World War I, violence in German society became increasingly commonplace, and political ideologies readily adopted violent strategies. That was not only in Germany, but also in other war participants, such as the Soviet Union and across Eastern Europe. The rise of Hitler was not such a great aberration, although historians still grope for a full understanding of it. Anti-Semitism was an integral part of the day’s German mentality, and the aftermath of World War I made violence an increasingly acceptable aspect of the day's ideology. Murdering Jews and other political/ideological targets became commonplace in German society immediately after the war, with the perpetrators rarely brought to trial and given light sentences even if convicted. Hitler's philosophy helped create an atmosphere where the Jew eventually became seen as subhuman. "Vermin" was a typical appellation given to Jews back then.
When Germans were killing Jews in the early 1920s, in the USAS similar events were happening. In the late 20th century, mass graves were discovered from the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. In the wake of the oil boom in Oklahoma, many blacks escaped the South and its lynch-happy, Jim Crow environment. They formed one of America’s most prosperous black communities. Booker T. Washington characterized the Greenwood section of Tulsa as the "Negro’s Wall Street." Racists referred to Greenwood as "Little Africa."
Blacks were forced into segregated living, as the Jews in their ghettos had been for centuries. The Tulsa police were virulently racist and allied themselves with the Ku Klux Klan. The event that touched off the "race riot" was when a black shoeshine man was falsely accused of accosting a white woman in an elevator. The Tulsa Tribune ran an editorial entitled, "To Lynch a Negro Tonight" the next day, and a mob of 2,000 white people surrounded the jail, and were ready for a lynching. About 75 black men heroically stood in front of them, to prevent the lynching. As often happens, as the whites assaulted the black men a shot rang out, and then it was "open season" on the blacks. Armed bands of whites rampaged through the black section of town, burning buildings and shooting any black on sight. The "riot" made history when a plane dropped dynamite onto the black neighborhoods, for history’s first bombings by plane. Several days later, hundreds of black people lay dead, and they were buried in mass graves. Six thousand blacks were rounded up and imprisoned. The official report stated that less than forty people died in the "riot." Possible mass graves were discovered in the late 20th century, but at the time of this writing in 2014, the political climate resists further investigation. The death toll is probably at least 300 people.
Is what happened in post-war Germany so difficult to understand, particularly as the USA killed off millions of people in Afghanistan and Iraq, largely children, and still is in Afghanistan as I am writing this in 2014? Between Southeast Asia and Iraq alone, the USA has been primarily responsible for the deaths of far more people than the number of Jews who died in the Nazis' death camps, which are distant nations that did us no harm, not by any stretch of the imagination. Hitler, no matter how crazy he was, had perhaps more justification for what he did to Jews than the USA had for what it did to Southeast Asia and Iraq. If the Nazis were the most evil regime of all time, what does that make today's USA? Hitler and his boys were practitioners of evil, but they have also been scapegoats. Nazi Germany was not that greatly different than today's USA, especially as the USA had an unelected president in the early 21st century, from a family that openly supported Nazi Germany.
The USA has the world's largest prison population, which is increasingly filled with political prisoners and people who did not commit what any rational person would consider a crime. Since World War II, our nation has been primarily responsible for the deaths of more than ten million people and the continued misery of hundreds of hundreds of millions, if not billions. The Nazis were minor leaguers; imperial aspirants who could not make the grade, who did not really take it out on the Jews until their military advances were blunted and they realized that they would not roll over the world. Hitler had no monopoly on telling the Big Lie. In Nazi Germany and the occupied nations, some noble souls stood up to the evil and risked their lives to hide Jews. They were extremely rare, but they existed. Some Americans are trying to end the awesome injustices that the USA inflicts on the planet today. They are also rare, but they exist. German citizens themselves were not at great risk for not playing the game properly, but a person in the Nazi-occupied Ukraine, for instance, would be summarily executed along with their families for hiding Jews. In America, a death squad does not usually visit dissident writers, although it happens, as with the FBI's COINTELPRO program and what it did to Fred Hampton. In the imperial hinterlands however, El Salvadoran dissidents to the American Empire were taken out and shot without a second thought by USA-trained troops, and their heads mounted on poles alongside roads as an instructive lesson for other dissidents who might dare to raise their voice.
The Holocaust was a phenomenon that derived from a millennium of Western racism and anti-Semitism. It also derived from the incessant warrior mentality of Europe, which was a culture far more warlike and deadly than any other in history. It also derived from the greed that drove the quest for empire that characterized all the European nations, which has evolved into global capitalism.
For all of the heroic actions of Denmark during World War II, they had a small Jewish population (the nearby Netherlands had a Jewish population of 140,000 in 1939) because they were less than welcoming to Jews over the centuries. Many Jews were in Eastern Europe because they had been ejected from Western Europe centuries earlier. The anti-Semitism in Scandinavia was more muted than that of mainland Europe, but was far from noble.
We all have a hand in world events, although the causal relationship can be difficult to see. As a rule, people do not see the relationship between pumping cheap gasoline in America, for instance, and the deaths of children in Iraq, East Timor, and Nigeria. Those pumping the cheap gasoline are beneficiaries of the carnage, however indirect they may think it is. In the USA, people do not usually see that their fast food hamburgers were produced by the unspeakable suffering of animals enslaved to an incredibly inhumane system, served by people oppressed by the capitalistic system. Those Americans usually do not see the relationship between their cheap running shoes and the neocolonial system that has virtual slaves making those shoes in ghastly working environments in USA's client states such as Indonesia. Americans rarely see the relationship between their cheap bananas and the mass murder and capitalistic oppression in Central America that keeps those cheap bananas coming. Projecting the "evil" onto Saddam Hussein or Hitler (or the large corporations) is convenient, but is one more way to play the victim game.
Another painful aspect of the Jewish Holocaust is that the Third Reich did not originally want to exterminate the Jews. They wanted to get rid of them, but nobody wanted them.
Howard Zinn wrote in his Declarations of Independence:
"Not only did waging war against Hitler fail to save the Jews, war itself bought on the Final Solution of the genocide. This is not to remove responsibility from Hitler and the Nazis, but there is much evidence that Germany's anti-Semitic actions, cruel as they were, would not have turned to mass murder were it not for the psychic distortions of war, acting on already distorted minds. Hitler's early aim was forced emigration, not extermination, but the frenzy of war created an atmosphere in which the policy turned to genocide. This is the view of Princeton historian Arnold Mayer, in his book Why Did the Heavens not Darken, and it is supported by the chronology - that not until Germany was at war was the Final Solution adopted.
"Hilberg, in his classic work on the Holocaust says, 'From 1938 to 1940, Hitler made extraordinary and unusual attempts to bring about a vast emigration scheme… the Jews were not killed before the emigration policy was literally exhausted.'
"The Nazis found that the Western powers were not anxious to cooperate in emigration and that no one wanted the Jews."
The Saint Louis's voyage was part of Germany's forced emigration strategy. They forced Jews onto boats and made them sail down the Danube, or forced them into frontiers where they then snuck into Western nations, but nobody wanted them. Many Jews wanted to get into Palestine, but in the interest of preserving "stability" in the region (placating the Arabs by not dumping Jews on them), Britain drastically limited migration to the region. Consequently, Britain let in some Jews, and were the only European nation that did to any significant degree. Its policy was more to keep the Jews out of Palestine than it was welcoming the Jews to Britain.
Raul Hilberg was likely the world's greatest Holocaust scholar. He wrote Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders, which provided penetrating insights into the mentalities of the players in the Jewish Holocaust. The word "hero" did not appear in the book's title. The most noble and heroic people of those days were those who simply helped others when they could give it. Those few who hid Jews at the risk of their lives in Europe were probably the most heroic of all, and as a group the only people whose deeds were truly selfless. Hilberg observed that those "altruists and humanitarians" sometimes were embarrassed by the praise heaped on them after the war, and usually replied that they were only doing the decent thing, something that anybody would do. Hilberg demonstrated that nearly everybody had a hand in the Jewish Holocaust to one degree or another. Whether it was lawyers and accountants doing the technical work of digesting the loot from the Aryanization program, doctors actively involved in barring German Jews from the medical profession to eliminate the competition, churches that provided certificates of Aryan descent of its parishioners, or "bystanders" such as the allied nations, or the Pope quietly watching the Nazis seize and ship Jews from Rome, within shouting distance of the Vatican, everybody had a hand in it. Some were more actively involved than others, but there were few heroes and saints, and various levels of complicity for virtually everybody else.
World War II began on September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland, and the Jewish fate became clearer. While the Final Solution was finally formulated and carried out, anti-Semitism in America increased. In a 1942 opinion poll, when Americans were asked to name the greatest threats to America, Jews came in third, behind the Germans and Japanese. In polls given in the 1940s to the question, "Have you heard any criticism or talk against the Jews in the last six months?" It steadily climbed from 46% in 1940, to an all-time high of 64% in 1946. In 1942, a poll asked American high school students which groups, of seven listed, would be their last choice as a roommate. Only two groups received more than a ten-percent response rate. Blacks were 78%, and Jews 45%. In the same month, factory workers were asked which groups they least wanted to move to their neighborhood. It was the same list that the high school students saw, and was 72% blacks, 42% Jews, and 28% Chinese.
The first official news in America that the Nazis were exterminating European Jews was reported in the New York Times on November 25, 1942. The article stated that the State Department confirmed that the Nazis had already systematically murdered two million Jews. That story was reported on page ten. There was no outrage in America. Roosevelt made no comment on the story, and no reporter asked him about it. No politician made an issue of it. It was a non-story. Few really cared if Jews were being slaughtered, especially when there were Nazis and (especially) Japs to fight. A 1942 poll showed that 66% of Americans wanted the battle against the Japanese in the Pacific to take precedence over fighting Germany.
While the Final Solution was being carried out, the State Department purposefully tightened restrictions on Jewish immigration to America. Many American Jews did not want more Jews immigrating to America, because each new Jew further inflamed American anti-Semitism, and the USA was the great savior of Jews in World War II.
The Saint Louis's infamous voyage, the national protest regarding letting in 20,000 Jewish children refugees smuggled out of Germany and Austria, the Nazi rallies in America, and the pervasive anti-Semitism were all part of 1939 America. Across America were Silver Shirt stores that sold anti-Jewish propaganda. The anti-Semitism was naturally the worst where Jews lived, mainly on America's East Coast. The embrace of the fascist systems of Germany and Italy by American industrialists, the mainstream media and politicians, was also part of the terrain. Jews were seen as communists in America, which furthered anti-Semitic hatred. Many Americans saw Jews getting jobs in New Deal agencies as ominous. More than half of Americans wanted Jews segregated as blacks were. Every nation tightened down the screws on Jewish immigration on the eve of war.
While Jews found employment in New Deal agencies, old-line agencies such as the State Department, War Department, etc., were dominated by Eastern Oligarchy types that were against hiring Jews. The State Department guided foreign policy, just as it does today. They controlled immigration. Ivy Leaguers staffed the State Department. They were decidedly unsympathetic to the Jewish plight. In early 1940, Breckenridge Long, the American Ambassador to Italy who thought that fascism was great, became the assistant Secretary of State. Long soon began directing the State Department to curtail Jewish immigration into America, and in an infamous June 1940 memo, Long informed his people how to bureaucratically thwart potential immigrants. At that time, Jews were desperately trying to flee Europe, particularly via France and Spain. Long's leadership provided the desired result, and the already paltry immigration to America was quickly cut in half. Long initiated other measures, which brought immigration to a standstill by the summer of 1941. That was months before Pearl Harbor, and America was the world's "great neutral power" at that time.
By the summer of 1941, Hitler's euthanasia policy was underway in Germany. It was not covered up very well, and Germans discovered what was happening and protested. The first crematoria incinerated the insane, retarded, and otherwise flawed of Germany. As German people began protesting the euthanasia program, the Third Reich began tightening the security of such extermination projects, which paved the way for death camp security afterwards.
By the winter of 1941, the German offensive was blunted in Russia, and the Hitler's grandiose designs for a purified world, under glorious German hegemony, began evaporating, and the turn to the Final Solution at Wannsee in January 1942 gave a new direction to the German goal. If Germany could not conquer the world, it would at least cleanse its corner of the world of inferior races.
The Final Solution was well underway by early 1942, and the industrialization of genocide was undertaken for the first time. The death factories of Poland were built and began churning out their unspeakable product. The November 1942 New York Times article was a tardy admission of what knowledgeable observers of World War II already knew. Jewish leaders began lobbying the White House in late 1942, to no effect.
In early 1943, American Jews began agitating for American action regarding the slaughter of Europe's Jews. While Jews began pressing for action, the State Department was instructing its Swiss office to stop forwarding reports of the Final Solution. They were actively covering-up the Holocaust, in an early instance of Holocaust denial. Jewish activism got the USA's government to convene a conference at Bermuda between British and American diplomats, who were the Jews' best friends in the West. The April 1943 Bermuda conference accomplished nothing, mainly because the attendees were told to not accomplish anything. The conference was calculated to give the appearance of concern. By late 1943, the Third Reich's death machine had consumed millions of Jews. There were a handful of national politicians in America who sided with the Jewish plight, with the most prominent being Will Rogers, Jr., who was a congressional representative from Oklahoma and the part-Cherokee son of Will Rogers. Rogers joined the Bergson Group, which was a small but highly active group in America, lobbying for U.S. government action. On October 6, 1943, 4,000 rabbis presented a petition to the White House to plead for action on behalf of Europe's Jews. Roosevelt begged off from attending the presentation due to a schedule conflict, and had his vice-president accept the petition. Roosevelt's calendar for that day showed that he had time to accept the petition, but chose not to.
There were some highly placed Jews in the USA's government. The relatively few Jews saved by America in World War II can partly thank the Jewish Henry Morgenthau, Jr., who was the Secretary of the Treasury, for directing the Treasury Department to investigate why Jews were not getting into America while the death factories were at full production.
An infamous incident regarding the USA, the UK, and the Jews occurred over an offer that the Nazis made to sell 70,000 Romanian Jews for about $9 million. The State Department blocked the deal. The Treasury Department became involved and approved the deal. During the Treasury Department investigation that Morgenthau initiated, documents surfaced which detailed further State Department complicity in the Jewish Holocaust. Not only did the State Department memo surface that ordered its Swiss office to not forward Holocaust reports, but two other documents were discovered, with one created by the State Department and the other by the British Foreign Office.
The State Department and the British Foreign Office were of like mind on the Romanian deal, which they worked in unison to sabotage. The British document stated that they opposed the Romanian Jew purchase due to the "difficulty of disposing of any considerable number of refugees should they be rescued." The State Department document stated the "danger" that the Nazis might "turn over" a large number of Jewish refugees. Those two diplomatic bodies were genuinely afraid that the Nazis might give them those 70,000 Jews instead of gassing them. Morgenthau wrote that those two august bodies' behavior amounted to "diplomatic double-talk, cold and correct and adding up to a sentence of death" for European Jews. While that scandal was hatching, Long testified in a session on Capitol Hill, where he lied about how many immigrants (he greatly exaggerated it), and Jews in particular, had been let into the USA during the critical years.
Morgenthau's Treasury Department issued a report on the scandal, titled "Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of the Jews." Morgenthau met with Roosevelt on January 16, 1944 and laid out the facts. Ever the politician, Roosevelt foresaw a stinking mess coming up soon in the Congress and Senate, and other activism that was about to make the Jews' fate a public event. Six days after the meeting, Roosevelt issued executive order 9417, creating the War Refugee Board ("WRB"). It prevented the looming scandal, yet the wording of his statement carefully excluded the word "Jew," and the agency had virtually no funding and almost no cooperation from any other governmental agency. John Pehle of the Treasury Department was named to head the agency, and with little funding and almost no cooperation from any other agency, the WRB did its best to help Jews escape the death machine in Europe, and may have saved some. The WRB was virtually alone among all of the USA's governmental agencies in helping Europe's Jews.
There are other acts by the USA's government worth reporting. Part of the charade of America caring about Jewish suffering was establishing a refugee camp on American soil. It was established in the countryside in New York. It took in less than 1,000 Jews, and its stated intention was to ship them back to Europe when the war was over. It was more of a public relations stunt than any help to the Jews.
Jewish leaders continually lobbied the White House during the war's last year, and one request repeatedly made was for the Allied forces to bomb the crematoria at Auschwitz. The military gave interesting excuses for why they could not bomb Auschwitz. They said they could not fly a mission from England, as it was too far for fighter support. Ironically, while the ovens at Auschwitz were running night and day, the USA flew numerous bombing missions in the region, based out of Italy. The USA even targeted the Farben facility next to Auschwitz, while giving the excuse that they could not bomb Auschwitz. There is a photograph taken from a bomber that dropped bombs on the Farben facility. In the photograph, the Auschwitz facilities are directly below the plane as the bombs were dropping, aiming at the Farben facilities. Some American bombs even landed on Auschwitz accidentally, which killed nearly a hundred inmates and guards. The USA helped about 150,000 Jews lose their lives at Auschwitz while they refused to bomb the crematoria. John McCloy, who helped cover-up the CIA's involvement in John Kennedy's murder and who was a war profiteer, controlled the decision-making about bombing Auschwitz. He was determined that nobody outside of the military would influence the targeting.
As the death camps were opened at war's end, it could no longer be denied what the Nazis had done. It stands as one of history's most evil mass murders. The Jewish Holocaust was the culmination of a millennium of anti-Semitism in Europe, several hundred years of incessant European warfare, European greed, and other factors. The entire West had a hand in what happened. Blaming Hitler and the Germans is convenient and makes them scapegoats, but they were merely the most accomplished practitioners of anti-Semitism. They took the game to a new level.
Perhaps the best documentary on the rise and fall of Hitler is the 1961 British production Mein Kampf. It is an understated account of those times that used German footage for nearly all of it. The introduction of Mein Kampf stated:
"This account of Hitler's Hell on Earth is dedicated in guilt to his victims. As human beings we are responsible - for he was one of us and we permitted it to happen.
"May we be wise enough and strong enough to prevent this from ever happening again!"
When Hitler's Mein Kampf was published in the USA in the 1930s, it was sanitized, with his most vicious anti-Semitic passages edited out. People such as FDR read the unedited version, but did not publicize it.
At battle's end in Europe, the death camps were opened and the surviving inmates staggered out. Not only did the death camps, Einsatzgruppen, and other actions consume more than five million Jews, which was about a third of the world's Jews, but a million or more Romani also died in the conflagration as well as other assorted unfortunates, such as Jehovah's Witnesses. Four million Soviet soldiers died in the Nazi prison camps in Eastern Europe, with their deaths part of the Nazis’ overall plan of death and destruction of "inferior" people. After the world was cleansed of Jews and Romanis, next on Hitler's list was ridding Eastern Europe of the Slavs, clearing the land for settlement by Germans. World War II was an insane orgy of violence that left about sixty million people dead (or as many as 100 million), and as with all wars of the 20th century, at least half of the deaths were civilian. Millions more were displaced, and many millions more lives were shattered. More than thirty million civilians died in World War II. They were the most devastating few years in world history, as white people fought over global control, with Japan joining the fray, killing at least ten and perhaps fifteen million (with estimates as high as twenty million) Chinese citizens during their brief but brutal rule. That was on top of the more than twenty million who died a generation earlier in World War I, with half of them civilians, and another fifteen million or so who died in the Soviet Union's purges and general Soviet repression. That is at least 100 million deaths in events that spanned a generation. The devastation that Europe wreaked on the planet finally came home to terrifying effect, in the final consequence of all militarism.
When the death camps were opened, the world was shocked, but not that much. A few months later the USA dropped atom bombs on Japanese cities, which killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. The firebombing of Dresden and Tokyo by the USA and its allies in early 1945 was merely a sign of the times. One Nazi strategy during the Jewish Holocaust was reducing the Jews to what appeared a subhuman state, to further justify their extermination. The people who designed the programs, such as Himmler, were diabolically sane. Forcing the Jews into ghettos where they starved to death in squalor was part of a plan to reduce them to their lowest state. The dignity with which many Jews faced their extermination was amazing.
Genocide researchers such as David Stannard, Ward Churchill, and Robert Jay Lifton have commented regarding the high emotional toll that such research takes. The denied darkness is a big reason why the West is so sick. Turning Columbus, Washington, Custer, Serra, Bush, and the rest of that mass-murdering rogues gallery into heroes indicates a people that cannot face their darkness, who are consequently doomed to keep recreating the same disasters.
Those who survived the death camps had deep physical, emotional, and mental trauma. The numerous survivor accounts attest to the immense psychological burdens that they endured. Not every concentration camp was an outright extermination camp, and children grew up in some of them. Of all the Jewish Holocaust accounts I have read and watched over the years, one in particular has haunted me. It is not a heart-wrenching tale of horror and survival, but regarding the psychological responses that attended the camp experience. Werner Weinberg was interned at Bergen-Belsen for fifteen months in 1944-1945. Weinberg wrote that life there did not become the hell it became infamous for until the war’s last few months, when the supply lines were cut and the Nazis fled the Eastern Front before the Soviet armies. The huge influx of prisoners from the East, coinciding with cutting the supply lines, turned Bergen-Belsen into a living hell. Yet, it still was not an extermination camp, as such. Weinberg wrote that there was a code of ethics of sorts, such as the prisoners frowning on cannibalism. In the camp's last days, the prisoners reminisced about the camp's "good old days," when they ate better and death was not as ubiquitous.
One day, Weinberg was on a work detail that transported a cart across the camp, as they acted as the horses that normally drew the cart. Dying inmates lied everywhere in those final days. The Nazis called them musselmen. Musselmen lost so much weight that they became human skeletons and lost all semblance of sentience, lying in the mud, waiting to die. Dying musselmen were obstacles for the cart, and the crew had to stop the cart and move the musselmen (alive or dead) out of the way. One of Weinberg's crew had recently been transferred from Auschwitz, and was disgusted with the spectacle of musselmen littering the camp and blocking the progress of their cart. The inmate from Auschwitz boasted, "No musselmen in Auschwitz! They were the first to go up the chimney!" Weinberg was speechless. He was impressed by the new inmate's observation, and felt shame that Bergen-Belsen could not match the cleanly efficiency of Auschwitz. Weinberg wrote prolifically about his Holocaust experience, including why he and so many other like him did not flee Germany when they had the chance.
Anti-Semitism in America increased after the camps were opened, as measured by the poll that showed American anti-Semitism peaking in 1946. Even in September of 1945, after the world knew of the death camps, 22% of American soldiers thought that the Nazi treatment of Jews was justified, and another 10% were not sure. Arno Mayer, an officer in the war, was handed a note that stated, "When we finish with the Germans and the Japs, we'll come back and kill the Jews and the blacks." More Japanese than Germans were executed following the war crimes trials.
In Europe, anti-Semitism did not abate with opening the camps. The wretches that walked out of the camps often elicited disgust more than pity. General Patton stated that the camp survivors in his care were a "subhuman species without any of the cultural or social refinements of our time." He said that no ordinary people "could have sunk to the level of degradation these have reached in the short space of four years." Jews newly freed from the camps begged to not be sent to where they lived before the Jewish Holocaust. As American soldiers herded Jews onto trains bound for Poland, men would fall to their knees, yelling, "Kill me now! You might just as well kill me now, I am dead anyway if I go back to Poland." They were right in many cases. The last half of 1945 saw many anti-Jew riots in Poland, and there were 350 anti-Semitic murders in Poland during those months after the war.
Those post-war attitudes had a major bearing on the establishment of Israel. The Jews had their Promised Land tradition, which went back millennia. Before the Holocaust, there was a marked difference of opinion in the Jewish population about having a Jewish state, which is a concept known as Zionism. After the Holocaust, the need for a Jewish state was obvious to all surviving Jews, and Israel was founded. Unfortunately, their Promised Land became more of a refuge from a world that hated them. If not for the Christian/European hatred of Jews, today's state of affairs in Israel would probably not exist. The Jews established a state right on top of Arabs that had lived there, in relative harmony with Jews, for thousands of years. The Jews did not enjoy peace and plenty throughout the Islamic world. Jewish/Islamic relations deteriorated over the centuries, and the situation in Northern Africa was quite bad, with massacres from time to time. There were anti-Jewish riots in the 1940s in Islamic nations, which killed about a thousand Jews. Yet, the Palestinians who had lived in Palestine for two thousand years suddenly were expelled by the creation of a Jewish state right on top of them. The establishment of Israel was a crime, no matter if the United Nations was behind it. To Jewish credit, many have debated the establishment of a Jewish state. The issue of state versus human rights has been at the center of Jewish life since the first Jewish kingdom.
In 2014, Israel has a nuclear arsenal with hundreds of nuclear warheads, with about a hundred missiles aimed at Arab cities. Israel’s craziness and paranoia can be partly attributed to centuries of persecution, with the Jewish Holocaust topping it off. Many Arabs saw the establishment of the Jewish state as more of an outpost of Western imperialism than a refuge from Western anti-Semitism. Einstein had the right idea when he remarked that a Jewish state should be established in an atmosphere of peace and friendship with the Arabs. That did not happen. Neither party was amenable to negotiation, and the British helped bungle things, partly by inventing the position of Grand Mufti for Jerusalem, then appointing a militant Arab to the post. The insanity of World War II affected both Jews and Arabs. Menachem Begin was a bona fide terrorist, with his Irgun terrorist group blowing up a hotel, killing many people. Stern Gang, another Jewish terrorist group, even sought collaboration with the Nazis, offering to fight alongside the Nazis and proposing that the Jews have a racist empire in the Middle East, while Germany had one in Europe. Yitzhak Shamir, the future Prime Minister of Israel, ran Stern Gang after Avraham Stern was killed, and Shamir never renounced Stern Gang’s support of Hitler. The peaceful Jews of Europe had largely been herded into the death camps, with their loss incalculable. Their peaceful and accommodating collective voice may have made the situation in Israel in the early 21st century a very different one.
Although opening the death camps was somewhat shocking to American sensibilities, the steep fall in anti-Semitism in America between 1946 and 1950 had more to do with other factors than a twinge of conscience over America's hand in the Jewish Holocaust. Racism and bigotry in America was deeply ingrained. The death camps showed how low humanity could stoop in its hatred. War crimes trials began in late 1945. The USA assumed a self-righteous posture regarding the Nuremberg trials, calling what the Nazis did an unparalleled crime. The USA was in a curious position. The war crimes trials were definitely a winners’ court. The USA had completed the "ethnic cleansing" of its land of natives only a few generations earlier. During World War II, black Americans in the military were often treated abominably. Having its face rubbed in racism and bigotry and seeing the extremes that Hitler and friends could take the game, led to American introspection. Returning American soldiers' major goal for their nation was wiping out racial and religious bigotry. Native Americans during those days were subject to varying conditions, with the 1934 Wheeler-Howard Act giving them their first light at the end of the tunnel, to only be undermined after the war was over, to intensify in the 1950s. It was not until the 1970s that Native American activism, on the tail of the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s, began significantly improving their plight.
The arrival of the white man in the Western Hemisphere spelled the annihilation of native tribes, and even after they were reduced to tiny remnants of their original population, "humanitarians" such as U.S. Senator Henry Dawes proposed laws that ended up further decimating the natives. The USA's government practiced involuntary and secret sterilization of native women, forced native children to live in white-run boarding schools to "take the Indian out of them," and other genocidal practices. Even in 2014, the life expectancies of reservation Indians are at Third World rates, of less than 50. That is an extraordinary number, among the lowest on earth. A nearly thirty-year disparity between two population groups, reservation natives and the general U.S. population, is something not found outside of death camp scenarios.
It is not widely known, but the African slave trade deposited relatively few Africans to North America, less than five percent of the total that came from Africa. That was because the USA was nearly alone in being able to successfully breed slaves. The main determinant was that life expectancy in the USA was among the highest in the world, which was significantly higher than Europe's. Slaves tended to have life expectancies that paralleled those of the free population, provided they were not considered "expendable," as the Taino were to the Spaniards. A longer life expectancy among American slaves meant that slave women could have longer and more productive breeding careers (and their masters were more than happy to inseminate them for as long as they could bear children), and therefore America could breed its own slaves and not be as dependent on slave imports as its southern neighbors were. There were other reasons peculiar to the USA's growing slave population (such as tobacco operations not being as labor-intensive as sugar plantations), but a longer life expectancy was critical. When the slave trade was outlawed by the civilized nations, one salient reason why the USA did not object was that it could keep breeding slaves indefinitely, and they made a legal distinction between Africans who were enslaved in their lifetimes and Americans who were born into slavery. In 1980, with a nearly thirty-year life expectancy disparity between reservation Indians and the white American population, black life expectancy was "only" 5.6 years behind white life expectancy.
The USA had a challenging time being self-righteous regarding the Nazi activities, especially when it eagerly hired death camp Nazis in programs such as Operation Paperclip. Comparisons of the Nazi death camps to the California Mission system began as early as 1946, when the Nuremberg trials were still being held. World War II’s aftermath can be seen as a major event in improving racial and ethnic relations in the USA. The struggle was long and hard, but Jews, Native Americans, blacks, and other historically disenfranchised groups began making gains after World War II. The Truman administration created numerous commissions that discovered widespread racism and bigotry in America, and made recommendations to end it. The armed forces were officially desegregated in 1948. Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Dodgers in 1947 and won the very first Rookie of the Year Award, which was generously handed out to black players for the next decade. Frank Sinatra starred in The House I Live in in 1945, which pled for racial and religious tolerance, followed by other movies soon afterward that made the same plea, particularly regarding anti-Semitism. Those were precursors to the modern Civil Rights era that largely began in 1954 when the Supreme court struck down legal segregation with the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, and in 1955, when Rosa Parks refused to sit on the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama.
The progress was a mixed bag. Much of the progress of the late 1940s was set back by the McCarthy years in the early 1950s, and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. coincided with the end of black economic progress in America. Down there with the blacks and Hispanics are the natives, probably at the bottom of the barrel. The Sioux reservation on Pine Ridge, site of the Wounded Knee massacre, is in the poorest county in America today with life expectancies at Third World levels.
Native Americans were still subject to Cowboys-and-Indians stereotyping in the movie industry. One remarkable comparison of the progress was the two receptions given by the Academy Award audience, a generation apart, when a Native American woman took the stage. When Marlon Brando refused his Oscar for his portrayal of Don Corleone in The Godfather, and had a Native American woman read a short speech from Brando, and gave his reason for rejecting the Oscar being the movie industry's horrid depiction of Native Americans, the crowd booed the woman off the stage. Contrast that reaction and its reason to the reception granted a Native American women who took the stage with Kevin Costner when he accepted the Oscar for best picture for Dances with Wolves, less than twenty years after The Godfather won best picture. The woman was given a standing ovation.
In World War II's aftermath, the newly formed United Nations actively tried preventing genocidal holocausts from happening again, and the newly coined term "genocide" was the subject of the Genocide Convention. The resolution that emerged from the convention was unanimously adopted by the member states, and soon ratified by all the world's nations, almost. The only significant exception to ratifying the Genocide Convention's resolution, a resolution that was ratified to the extent that it became binding international law in 1951, was the USA. To this day, the USA has not properly ratified what all the civilized nations of the world rapidly ratified over soon after World War II. Why? Because to do so would make a crime what the USA is still doing to native tribes, what it did to Iraq, what it did to Southeast Asia and Korea, what it supported in Central America, East Timor, what it is still doing to Afghanistan, and so on.
The USA is the world's leading practitioner of genocide, and signing on with the rest of the world in denouncing genocide is contrary to the pursuit of our "national interests." In my lifetime, particularly in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the USA has been virtually the only "civilized" nation in the world, and often the only one, to fail to ratify international treaties to preserve the environment (such as the Rio Summit or Basel Convention), outlawing children from becoming soldiers, and so on. No European nation has a death penalty, and the USA is only one of six nations that execute people for crimes committed while they were children. Our august co-executioners are some of the world’s most brutal and anti-humanitarian nations: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Yemen, Pakistan, and Nigeria. The USA executes more children than all of those nations put together, and also has the world's largest prison population and highest incarceration rate.
Debunking the "Myths"
There is plenty of myth-debunking happening regarding World War II, but many "myth-debunkers" often seemed to be grinding axes, and can be establishment apologists pretending to be myth-debunkers, acting as if they were bringing historical "balance" or “clarity” to the situation, but merely bringing another kind of bias to the table.
David Wyman wrote The Abandonment of the Jews, and he is considered the pioneer of historical investigation regarding America's reaction to the plight of Jews in the 1930s and through the end of World War II. The thesis of Wyman and numerous others was that the Western nations did almost nothing while the Jewish Holocaust took shape and was carried out. Wyman's work sparked significant scholarly discussion. One response was The Myth of Rescue by William Rubinstein.
In the first chapter, Rubinstein surveyed the phenomenon of recent scholarship on the issue of "rescue." He surveyed the vast literature on the subject that has been produced, and told the reader he will demonstrate that all the scholarship that makes the case that the Western world could have done anything to minimize the Holocaust is wrong. Rubinstein began his assault on the myths by attacking the first one, the "Myth of Closed Doors, 1933-9." In that chapter, Rubinstein made the case that anti-Semitism was not nearly as pronounced in American society, and European society in general, as Wyman and others would have us believe. Rubinstein devoted great attention to the notion. He presented tables to show that contrary to the assertion of Wyman and friends, that most of Germany’s Jews escaped to Western nations before the war broke out, so the closed-door idea was a myth. He presented several tables of numbers to make his case. He presented tables on how many Jews fled Germany, when and where they went, and presented results of public opinion polls on the issue of Jewish immigration and their attitude toward the Nazi regime. With Rubinstein's book as the sole source of information, his thesis might have been convincing. As with Julian Simon's work, reading statistical data needs to be performed carefully, because creative ability can make numbers say almost whatever people want them to, and there are various ways to interpret them. What numbers an author presents and omits can disclose a great deal regarding his/her motivation.
Rubinstein set himself a strenuous task in attempting to puncture the "myths," and the most credible way is to simply present the data, or summarize it for the reader, so that an "objective" assessment of the "myth" could be made. Many times, Rubinstein criticized the "ahistorical" arguments that he challenged. Rubinstein noted that Americans during the Great Depression were averse to letting in immigrants, and "paradoxically" they detested what was happening in Nazi Germany. He presented survey results that showed that on the eve of World War II, most Americans were opposed to an active campaign against Jews in the USA. Rubinstein’s equation of American anti-Semitism and revulsion of what the Nazis were doing in Germany was misleading.
Rubinstein was born and raised in the USA. No nation has ever been as intensely racist for as long as the USA has. Even in 2014, racism and bigotry is alive and well. The wolf has simply donned sheep's clothing. That phenomenon is an old one. For instance, the surest way to get votes in America during the nineteenth century was running for office as an Indian fighter, with Indian killers such as Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor parlaying their bloody deeds into the presidency, while Custer probably tried the same thing, and failed.
Many people celebrated those gruesome deeds, even universally at times, as in Denver when the conquering heroes came back from Sand Creek. They proudly showed off the severed genitalia of murdered women, wearing it on their hats, while the Rocky Mountain News celebrated the events, writing that "Cheyenne scalps are getting as thick as toads in Egypt…Everybody has got one and is anxious to get another to send east." Yet, that did not mean that everybody in America thought it was great. The more "civilized" folks back east, with the local natives long ago annihilated, developed the rudiments of a conscience and many were shocked at the Sand Creek Massacre. That did not mean that they liked Indians, it just meant that when their fellow citizens indiscriminately killed them, specifically targeting women and children, their sensibilities were offended. Regarding Iraq, most Americans prefer to not know about the vast numbers of Iraqi people (largely children) that our policies killed. They averted their eyes and our mainstream media presented very few images of that carnage. That America killed off millions of Iraqis since 1991 is not pretty, but most Americans, if faced with pictures of starving Iraqi infants and pertinent scenes of our "diplomats" helping to create those situations, would not cheer.
We are still an intensely racist nation, but if somebody goes on the American airwaves and calls black people "niggers," they have taken things too far, and will be publicly upbraided. People can be racist and bigoted, but they cannot say it too loudly, or like Rush Limbaugh, couch it in "humor." Several publicly visible careers have come to a screeching halt in America in the since 1990 when somebody made a comment that could have been construed as racist (Al Campanis of the Dodgers is one example, and Jimmy the Greek another). That such a display would be subject to merciless derision does not conflict with the fact that those witnessing it are racist. It just means that some had the poor taste to say it openly, which is not acceptable in our genteel society, and the anger with which they are attacked is often an aspect of denial coming forward. Ex-KKK Grand Wizard David Duke could even make a respectable showing in a gubernatorial election; he just could not say the word "nigger" in public.
For instance, if George Bush or Bill Clinton called the Iraqi people "sand niggers" during a press conference, they would have never heard the end of it, and something like that could have even created an atmosphere of impeachment. Yet, those two men presided over the deaths of more than a million Iraqi citizens, with about half of them children. In America, killing a million people is no crime and barely registers on America's conscience yet, as with our devastation of Southeast Asia and Central America. Yet, calling those people a racist appellation would bring the American people’s wrath. The major crime against humanity passes without mention, or even justified by people such as Madeleine Albright. Call those murdered people a racist name however, and people invite the wrath of those responsible for the murders.
Rubinstein made much of the fact that Charles Lindbergh ended his political career with a 1941 speech that outlined the threat that Jews posed to America. America acted self-righteously in lambasting Lindbergh for speaking out. His crime was voicing his opinion. How could it be otherwise, when Jews of the day were subject to discriminatory hiring practices that excluded them from many professions? How could it be otherwise, when they were denied admittance to many hotels, beaches and other public places? How could it be otherwise, when more than half of America believed that Jews should be segregated? Lindbergh was saintly compared to Henry Ford, whom Rubinstein did not mention. There was no widespread boycott of Ford cars due to his attacks on Jews.
Similarly, most Americans did not approve of newsreel footage and reports of Nazi barbarities in the 1930s. It did not mean that most Americans did not have anti-Semitic sentiments. It was just that openly burning books and beating Jews on the street was going too far. Particularly disheartening was that in 1930s America, about six percent of Americans openly approved of what the Nazis were doing. Rubinstein, however, made the case that only six percent openly approving of what the Nazis were doing, while 94% disapproved, shows that American was not all that anti-Semitic. That is a questionable analogy, and impressive data regarding American anti-Semitism was completely ignored in The Myth of Rescue.
The chapter was titled "The Myth of Closed Doors," because he made the case that the doors were open. He presented statistics that supported his position that anti-Semitism was not pronounced in the USA. Disapproval of the Nazi book burnings and other barbaric acts provided little evidence for how muted anti-Semitism may have been in America. What it gave evidence of was how many people would approve of open and vicious anti-Semitism, and depressingly, six percent of Americans openly approved of what the Nazis were doing to the Jews.
That would be as if Americans watched the documentary The Panama Deception and approved of what the USA did to Panama. It is highly unlikely that even one percent of Americans could watch that documentary and wave the flag over the American invasion of Panama. If it was Italians invading Panama in that documentary, for instance, probably not one American in ten thousand would cheer what happened and call the Italians unparalleled barbarians. Six percent of Americans openly approved of what the Nazis were doing in the 1930s, and is shockingly high (six percent "strongly" approved for America to begin a similar program, while another six percent "mildly" approved of such plans). Anti-Semitism had to be quite high for people to openly approve such barbarity.
Rubinstein wrote that the data plainly showed that barriers to Jews fleeing Germany after Kristallnacht came down in the "democracies" once it became very apparent what the Nazis were doing to the Jews. People such as Weinberg, who was there, told a starkly different story. Rubinstein tellingly left out facts that would have painted a fuller picture.
The issue is: "Did the 'democracies' let in Jews in numbers great enough to help minimize the Holocaust?" More importantly, what were the intentions of the "democracies" on the eve of war? Did they do all they could, but it was not enough? Also, did they do very little, and if so, how much was due to anti-Semitism and other biases? Those are the important questions that Wyman and others bring up, and are the crux of the matter. Rubinstein continually tried to demonstrate that whatever good intentions the "democracies" may have had, all attempts to act on them would have been uniformly futile.
Rubinstein showed that most German Jews fled Germany before World War II started, with more than 80% of Jews under forty years old succeeding. That is true. What Rubinstein failed to mention was that those fleeing Jews often did not get where they wanted to, but accepted wherever would take them. For instance, France accepted German-Jew refugees rather readily, until 1938, when it began tightening the screws, as everybody else did, which was contrary to Rubinstein's assertion. Rubinstein mentioned that fact, but then tried mitigating it by showing that there were between 40,000 and 60,000 Jews in France when war broke out. What Rubinstein failed to mention was that many if not most were trying to go elsewhere, particularly America. That situation existed for all the peripheral nations that took in Jews on the eve of war. The USA, however, was erecting what Wyman called "paper walls." The world’s largest Jewish population was in the USA, and Jews were treated better in the USA than anywhere else in the West. After Kristallnacht, the situation of Jews in Germany became increasingly desperate, and the "democracies" moved to limit immigration, not open their doors further. For all the statistical analysis Rubinstein engaged in, he could not obscure that fact, and ignored or minimized events that clearly spelled it out.
Probably the signal event that demonstrated America's attitude toward German Jews fleeing Germany was the fate of the Wagner-Rogers bill, which was introduced in early 1939. It would have allowed a special allotment of Jewish children into the USA who had fled the Third Reich. Those children had been separated from their parents and smuggled out of Germany and Austria. Opposition to the bill was widespread and vociferous in America, even though America's newspapers nearly all took the editorial stance of supporting the bill. President Roosevelt's cousin even stated that 20,000 charming children would all too soon grow to be "20,000 ugly adults." Roosevelt bowed before the public outpouring of sentiment and let the bill die quietly, and took no action. That was the salient and pertinent opinion poll of the day, and Rubinstein did not mention it. Faced with an unavoidable decision to take in Jewish refugee children, America slammed the door. The next year, legislation to take in English children refugees passed with enthusiasm.
The other event, on the eve of war, after Kristallnacht, was barely mentioned by Rubinstein, and he used it to criticize critics of the West's role in the Jewish Holocaust. The Saint Louis's horrific voyage is a monument to the West's attitude toward the Jewish plight on the eve of war. It was an acid test of the West's attitude, but Rubinstein kept throwing numbers at the reader, attempting to divert their attention from the entrenched anti-Semitism that pervaded the West at that time.
The Saint Louis's voyage is also an example of the hazards of relying on secondary historical accounts. In Yahil's The Holocaust, she wrote that not of all the passengers aboard the Saint Louis were taken in, and some sailed back to Hamburg. For years, I believed that that was the case. While researching this essay, I saw other scholars say that all the passengers were taken in by the nations of Britain, Holland, Belgium, and France. In order to resolve the discrepancy, I dug up an authoritative work on the Saint Louis's voyage and obtained Voyage of the Damned by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts, and I found that those nations indeed took in all passengers. Yahil's account was wrong, and for years, I was misled. That is the hazard of relying on secondary history. In my work, I usually do not make historical assertions, especially when relying on secondary history, unless I see a number of sources agree on the events. The fact that all the passengers were taken in instead of some sailing to Hamburg is significant. It does say something about the Allies. Yet, reading the voyage’s account is sobering. In the USA, news accounts and editorials in American newspapers ran while the ship was stranded in Havana harbor. The Cubans were derided by numerous American papers for not letting them in, and the Christian Science Monitor castigated the passengers of the Saint Louis for being so selective about their destination, and invoked the image of pioneers carving their homes out of the wilderness, and reminded the Jews to consider that option.
The Christian Science Monitor conveniently ignored that Jews had been doing exactly that in Palestine, and that there was not another option like that in the world, and by that time, Palestine had been closed off as a destination by British restrictions. In 1939, on the eve of war, Jews fleeing Germany comprised more than half of all immigration to Palestine, which was the highest proportion of any pre-War year, but the number of Jews immigrating to Palestine from Germany in 1939, 8,500, was less than immigrated each year from 1934-1936. The British clamped down on immigration after anti-Jewish riots by Palestinian Arabs in 1936. Britain's relative openness to Jewish immigration was partly due to the fact that they did not want them immigrating to Palestine, which Rubinstein glossed over. However, Rubinstein scored some points by pointing out that many German Jews did not go to Palestine when they may have been able to. There is truth to that, which partly had to do with the anti-Zionist element in Jewish circles. Not everybody wanted to go to the Promised Land. When the Saint Louis sailed, however, Palestine apparently was not an option.
Another unmentioned event did serious damage to Rubinstein's thesis, which was the voyage of the SS Struma. In December 1941, the ship was filled with 769 Romanian Jews at port in Istanbul. The ship was not seaworthy, but those Jews were desperately fleeing to wherever they could. Turkey was another "neutral" power during World War II. The ship lay in Istanbul's harbor for more than two months, and the British denied them permission to continue to Palestine. On February 24, 1942, the Turkish government ordered the ship to leave and the Struma was towed out into the Black Sea, where a Russian submarine sunk it by torpedo, apparently by accident. Two people survived that sinking. Raul Hilberg wrote of the incident, "The Balkan area had a large Jewish population, and henceforth the Turkish government needed no confirmation of Britain's policy to frustrate the immigration of these Jews to Palestine."
The detailed account of the Saint Louis's voyage is a searing reflection on the USA and the West. One of the Saint Louis passengers, Aaron Pozner, was a stowaway who had been incredibly kicked out of Dachau with a small group of men who were told that they could leave Dachau if they left Germany in two weeks. Pozner made his way to Hamburg and hid in a stack of curing animal hides on the waterfront, while enduring that awesome stench. Pozner saw prisoners regularly executed in Dachau by fiendish methods. One guard specialized in castration by bayonet. Hiding in curing hides was a minor inconvenience compared to the rigors of Dachau. Other Saint Louis passengers were beaten by gangs of SS soldiers on their way to the boat.
Yahil's account was not as wrong as it first appeared. When the Saint Louis had the door slammed in its face in Havana, its sister ship the Orinoco was sailing from Hamburg with 200 Jewish refugees, following the Saint Louis's example. After witnessing what happened to the Saint Louis, the Orinoco did return to Hamburg. The only intervention that the West apparently took regarding the Orinoco's voyage was taken by the USA's ambassador to Britain, Joe Kennedy, who informally warned Hitler to refrain from seizing those passengers when they disembarked in Hamburg and throwing them into concentration camps. The Germans apparently took Kennedy’s threat seriously, because those hapless Orinoco passengers went home unmolested…although they likely ended up in concentration camps before it was all over. Britain and France flatly rejected taking in the Orinoco's passengers.
The Saint Louis's plight was so dire, with the situation of finding no safe harbor, that those aboard made several suicide attempts, by poisoning, slashing their wrists, jumping overboard, and hanging themselves. A few attempts were successful, and there was genuine fear that the passengers would stage a Masada-like mass suicide, so there was a constant suicide watch on deck. While that was going on, there were desperate negotiations taking place to get some nation to take them in. In the Western Hemisphere, there were a few offers of dubious nature, by the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and the Panama Canal Zone. There was a great deal of lobbying in the USA by Jewish groups, but America slammed the door hard, although many passengers had American quota numbers. When the Saint Louis set sail for Europe, it sailed up the Florida coast, in sight of Miami. A U.S. Coast Guard ship escorted the Saint Louis as it sailed along the American coast. Why did it escort the Saint Louis? The fear was that Jews would jump ship and try swimming to America's shores. The Coast Guard was under orders to look for Jews jumping overboard, capturing them, and redepositing them back aboard the Saint Louis.
When those four European nations were finally persuaded to take in the refugees, only after being paid about $500,000 by Jewish groups, they nearly battled each other in getting the passengers with the lowest quota numbers for the USA, so that they could quickly get rid of them. Holland interned the Jews with other Jews who were trying to flee Europe, made clear that their asylum was only temporary, and they refused any passenger who did not have a American quota number. The internment camp in Holland was surrounded by barbed wire and was watched by guard dogs. The passengers who disembarked in Belgium were viewed with great distrust and essentially treated like prisoners. France welcomed the Jews relatively graciously, yet were in almost open contest with Britain to take in Jews with the lowest American quota numbers. When the final stop was made in England, about 60 men were immediately interned in a camp of about 5,000 Jews who all hoped to go somewhere, anywhere, that would take them.
The Saint Louis Jews who went to Belgium, Holland, and France mostly ended up in death camps before it was all over. If America had taken them in, they would have survived. The voyage of the Saint Louis alone renders highly dubious Rubinstein's "myth of closed doors" argument. The ill-fated Wagner-Rogers bill, that Rubinstein did not mention, dealt his arguments a fatal blow.
To gain a fleshed-out understanding of the situation, watch the documentary America and the Holocaust; Deceit and Indifference. It featured the real story of Kurt Klein and his parents. As with many German Jews, the Klein family first got their children out of the country and planned to follow them when they could. After Kristallnacht in November of 1938, the Klein parents were in the long line of Jews trying to escape to America. In December of 1938, the Kleins were part of a horde of Jews besieging the American consulate in Stuttgart. They were in line to get out of Germany and into America, but were informed that there were over 22,000 cases ahead of them. The waiting list was more than two years long.
In August 1940, after nearly two years of waiting, the Stuttgart consulate revoked the Klein's tentative approval for immigration. Soon after the American consulate in Stuttgart slammed the doors in their faces, they were deported by Germany to Vichy France, and took up the immigration issue anew with the American consulate in Marseilles. Vichy France was not occupied by the Nazis, but collaborated with them. The Kleins were kicked out of Germany, not put into concentration camps. The Kleins lived in an abysmal refugee detention camp, given starvation rations, and desperately sought a way to the USA. By that time, the American State Department was acting very consciously to limit Jewish immigration to America. That was when the "paper walls" escalated and eventually cut off almost all Jewish refugees from coming to America. That situation was a primary issue that Wyman investigated.
In July of 1941, nearly two years into World War II, the American consulate again informed the Kleins that all their previous efforts to immigrate were for naught, and that they would have to start over. The Kleins were also forced to live apart in the refugee camp. In December of 1941, a few days before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the Kleins had their last glimpse of freedom. Their children had been able to book them passage to America. All was in readiness, except for approval from the American consulate. The consulate informed the Kleins that the quota for German immigrants had been exceeded and that they would have to wait for the quota to open up to admit them. By that time, the Final Solution was underway in Eastern Europe, with the Einsatzgruppen performing their mass executions in the newly conquered territory, as Germany invaded Eastern Europe during the double-cross of Stalin.
After the final failed attempt in December 1941, after three years of desperate attempts to gain entry to the USA, the Klein children stopped hearing from their parents. Their mail to their parents was eventually returned to them undeliverable, and after the war it became known that the Klein parents were sent to Auschwitz in August of 1942.
That can disparagingly be called an "anecdote," although a heart-wrenching one. About 100,000 Jews in peripheral nations to Germany were in the same situation as the Kleins were. How many Jews saw the impossibly long waiting line into America and did not even try? In his debunking of the "myth of closed doors," Rubinstein puts in several anecdotes, but of a very different nature. His anecdotes are all about how nobody thought that the Jewish Holocaust would happen, which was why many German Jews did not emigrate when they had the chance. His anecdotes were about how much everybody hated Nazi Germany (except for American industrialists). Again, hating Nazis did not mean that they loved Jews.
The 1936 Olympics were staged in Berlin, and there was little outrage over it. America participated in it, Jesse Owens became a legend, and the Olympics became a huge propaganda coup for Germany, as the American press generally wrote glowing accounts about Nazi Germany. The Jewish issue was nearly invisible in the American press during the Olympic coverage. Although Jewish and other groups tried to organize a boycott of the Berlin Olympics, one never happened, and prominent Olympic officials such as Avery Brundage even spoke out against the Jewish-led attempts to form a boycott. America did not enter the war until the Japanese were egged into bombing Pearl Harbor, and Germany declared war on America, when the European war was more than two years old.
The most formidable work of scholarship on American anti-Semitism is Leonard Dinnerstein's Anti-Semitism in America, published in 1994, three years before The Myth of Rescue appeared. Anti-Semitism in America is considered the first comprehensive treatment of American anti-Semitism's history. Rubinstein's treatment of Dinnerstein's work reminded me of the JFK assassination debunking by Gerald Posner, where the appearance of dealing with the all the pertinent evidence was feigned. Posner would dismiss entire bodies of work with footnotes while plowing to his foregone conclusion that Oswald was a lone nut who was murdered by another lone nut. The only mention of Anti-Semitism in America in Rubinstein's book was in a footnote, where he dismissed Dinnerstein's work as being unbalanced and failed to note how much Americans were opposed to the Nazis. Rubinstein tried linking shock and disgust with what the Nazis were doing with love for the Jews (literally, "philo-Semitism").
Another book crippled Rubinstein's "open doors" thesis. Mitchell Bard's harrowing Forgotten Victims is the story of Americans who ended up in the death camps. As with stories like it, denial has been the prominent American reaction to the plight of American citizens, many not even Jewish, who ended up in the death camps, including American soldiers. Bard's work was the first to try summarizing the experience of Americans in the Final Solution. Bard remarked on the paucity of documentation on the subject, as he sifted through archives and hunted down and interviewed survivors.
As can be seen in many other war accounts, Bard showed how the Red Cross had a hand in the Jewish Holocaust, as it accepted at face value the Nazi explanations for why Jewish prisoners were segregated from the general prison populations, and never really spoke out about the holocaust that was obvious to its people in the field as they visited concentration camps. The official explanation was that they were afraid to jeopardize access to the camps if they spoke out. The head of the Red Cross even used the term "the Jewish Problem," which the Nazis used.
The Red Cross's timid silence and acquiescence is another dark chapter of the Jewish Holocaust. The aspect of Bard's book which further eradicates Rubinstein's "open doors" thesis is recording how the USA prevented fleeing Americans from coming back from Europe. In 1939, about 80,000 Americans were living abroad, with tens of thousands in Europe. On November 25, 1939, only a few months into World War II, the assistant Secretary of State, George Messersmith, wrote that Americans living abroad who were not planning on returning could not expect any help from the USA's government if they became ensnared in war zones. Messersmith wrote:
"Their real status does not differ very much from that of the many thousands of unfortunate persons deserving of our sympathy, and having no claim to American citizenship, who would desire to come to this country in order to escape from danger zones or for other reasons and who seek immigration visas and passport visas to that end…This government considers that by reason of having already met this particular responsibility, no situation should arise, even if conditions should become more aggravated in certain places, that would warrant it in providing further special facilities to enable Americans to return to this country."
Bard wrote that Messersmith's attitude "would condemn hundreds of Americans to death." The Germans regarded any Jew, regardless of their nationality, as fair game. When the Germans began requiring American Jews to register in occupied France, William Leahy, the ambassador to France at the time, protested, and the Germans stated that it was required to "ensure the recovery of the country." The USA apparently did nothing. Americans caught in German-occupied Europe were often given special consideration, while America was officially neutral. In January of 1941, American Jews in Hungary became subject to new anti-Jewish laws. The American government was again virtually inert.
When America closed German consulates in America in the summer of 1941, the Germans retaliated by closing American consulates in occupied territory. American business was conducted through the Swiss Legation after that. When Jewish property was seized in Hungary, the State department specifically did not support the claims of Jews living in America if they had not yet earned American citizenship.
When Americans began getting rounded up in Romania, and Cordell Hull, the Secretary of State, was informed of the Final Solution being carried out in Romania, with Americans being deported to Eastern Europe, where their fate was uncertain (we know today that it was pretty certain), Hull responded like the bureaucrat that he was, and allowed some small deviation from policy to provide passports to American-Jews who were in threat of being rounded up with other Jews. Nothing was suggested for helping the non-American Jews.
In the day’s correspondence, the State Department’s attitude was clear. Cavendish Cannon, of the State Department's Division of European Affairs, objected to the plan to rescue Jews from Romania because it would encourage other persecuted people to seek refuge in the USA. Many in the State Department, who thought that rescuing Jews would pose a danger or “take the burden or the curse off Hitler”, held Cannon’s attitude.
Breckenridge Long, who was a prominent villain in the Jewish plight and America's response to it, proposed to not only restrict immigration to America by refugees, but also for American citizens by citing that they could really be spies and subversives, keeping in line with the "Fifth Column" fears of the day, which were exaggerated. Long even wrote that not all Americans wanting to come home would be allowed in, stating that, "only those we want should be accepted." If Long felt that way about American citizens who wanted to come back to America, what chance did Jews of European citizenship have? That situation prodded David Wyman into writing The Abandonment of the Jews.
In January 1943, the USA's government discovered that American Jews in France were being treated just like other Jews in France, and our government gave a tepid response that the Germans had better watch out, or Germans in American hands might suffer. In September 1944, 30,000 Americans were still in Europe. American Jews in the internment camps were treated worse than the others, and Americans began ending up in concentration camps.
Bard related the tale of Barry Spanjaard. Spanjaard was only ten years old in 1940. He was born in America, but his parents were Dutch. The American consul told Barry to return to America and leave his parents behind in Europe. When given that choice, Barry stayed with his parents. Spanjaard had his birth certificate, but not an American passport. Because he did not have a passport, the Germans deported him and his parents to Bergen-Belsen, where they spent the next year. In January of 1945, the Germans let Barry and his parents go free. Barry carried out his father, who weighed sixty-five pounds by that time. They headed for Switzerland, but his father died a few days later. Years later, Barry learned that the Germans had tried to trade him to America for a German, and our government refused. Barry later fought in the Korean War, and when he found out about how his government refused to trade for him, he said that he would have never gone in the American military to fight "for this country" if he knew that then. Barry witnessed his father being beaten and other horrors. As an American, he had a somewhat privileged status at Bergen-Belsen: he was not forced to beat his inmates, as other boys were.
Bard believes that hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans would have had their lives spared if our government had done anything substantial about it, instead of erecting "paper walls" for American citizens. In one instance, the American government demanded that an intern at Auschwitz produce proof of citizenship before they would help. Those stonewalling behaviors condemned many Americans to death in the camps.
Ancillary to the point of demonstrating how untenable Rubinstein's "open doors" thesis is, what follows is some more of Bard's devastating book. American citizens ended up in the Warsaw ghetto, and Bard recounted the story of Mary Berg, who was an American teenager who lived in the Warsaw Ghetto for more than two years. Berg wrote a diary that is a much different account than Anne Frank's. Frank hid in a house in Holland. Berg walked the streets of the Warsaw Ghetto daily and witnessed the death and suffering that surrounded her.
Jewish-American soldiers wore dog tags with an "H" on it, which identified their religion as Hebrew. The "H" was officially so that their spiritual rites could be ministered properly. The problem was, however, that a Jewish-American solider could go his entire tour of duty and never see a rabbi. The "H" became a bull's-eye for Jewish-American soldiers captured by the Germans. Their buddies often tried hiding them by swapping dog tags, giving them their Bibles, and the like.
American soldiers ended up at Buchenwald and Mauthausen. Perhaps three hundred American soldiers went to Buchenwald. Most lived to tell about it, but many also died. Most were not Jewish. Many ended up at Mauthausen, which was perhaps worse than Auschwitz. Mauthausen was where the Nazis engaged in the infamous practice of forcing the prisoners to haul stones. Prisoners were forced to carry huge stones up the 148 steps of the quarry, then rush back down to haul another one back up, over and over, until they died. American soldiers were forced into that duty. The Nazis would execute their collapsed rock-haulers on the spot, including American soldiers. Bard provided an example of one day, September 5, 1944, when Dutch, English, and American POWs arrived at Mauthausen. They spent the first day getting baths and being assigned barracks. The next day they carried stones all day long, and then were all shot, that same day. American soldiers would die by beating and torture during interrogation, with their bodies being fed to the crematorium.
OSS (Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA) Lieutenant Jack Taylor ran numerous special American missions behind enemy lines, but was finally captured and ended up at Mauthausen. Taylor was slated for execution, but was assigned to a work detail to build a crematorium. Taylor endured unimaginable horror, with fellow prisoners resorting to cannibalism. Because he was an American, other prisoners used him as a repository so that he could tell the stories of what happened, as he had a better chance of surviving than they did. He was told of human experiments and executions by every means imaginable, such as being shot, gassed, hanged, beaten with sticks, hammers, pickaxes and shovels; being torn apart by dogs, forced off of cliffs, injected with chemicals in human experiments, drowned, crushed in cement mixers, buried alive, eyes gouged out, red hot pokers shoved down their throats, etc. Taylor had seen enough himself that nothing that they could say amazed him.
Human experiments were routinely carried out, and prisoners with unusual features were killed and their unusual features preserved, such as tattoos, strange lesions, and deformities. A doctor told Taylor that, "A hunchback and a dwarf, who had come to the notice of one of the SS doctors, were executed and their skeletons cleaned and mounted for specimens."
Taylor survived Mauthausen and was freed when the camp was liberated. He was a prominent witness, and Mauthausen was not even an extermination camp. Testimony like Taylor's is difficult for Holocaust deniers to tear apart as Jewish propaganda, especially American-flag-waving Holocaust deniers.
Bard spent more of his book on a group of American prisoners who had it probably worse than any other group of American POWs in Europe. In late 1944, the Germans made their last desperate offensive, known as the Battle of the Bulge. They took the American troops by surprise and captured thousands of them. They slaughtered many American prisoners at what became known as the Malmédy Massacre, where the SS again demonstrated their heroic penchant for executing unarmed prisoners. The Nazis tried separating the Jewish-American soldiers from the four thousand soldiers that they captured. Again, their buddies tried hiding them, but with threats the Nazis were able to get 130 Jewish-American soldiers to identify themselves. They took those 130 soldiers, added 220 other soldiers from the ranks, and sent them off by train to the camp at Berga, which would have the highest mortality rate of any POW camp during the war. Berga was a slave labor camp, where the soldiers were forced into mining activities. They were starved and worked to death for fifty days, and then the Allied armies drew close and the survivors were sent on a death march, just as Jews were being marched around the countryside in those last days. When their guards finally abandoned them, American soldiers, who could not believe at first that those human skeletons were American soldiers, discovered them. More than 70 of those 350 soldiers died in the span of two months. They had been reduced to the same "subhuman" condition that Patton said the Jews in the concentration camps had been reduced to. While in their ghastly prison conditions, the esprit de corps deteriorated a little, and stealing from each other was what most soldiers did, as their survival partly depended on it. They always wore all of their clothes, because they would disappear if they took them off. One soldier awoke to find a buddy trying to take his boots off his feet while he slept.
The USA's response to Berga was typical: denial. The army went so far as to send one survivor to a psychiatrist, saying that he had to be making up his story of Berga. When a soldier who survived Buchenwald applied for assistance at a VA hospital, the doctor who interviewed him wrote in his record, "Claims he was in Buchenwald." Another Buchenwald survivor was told by the Air Force Records Center that there was no record of him being a POW. When he wrote to federal agencies, their reply was invariably: "There were no Allied airmen at Buchenwald." The government made returning POWs sign secrecy agreements, which further paved the way to burying their story. Even at the end of the 20th century, the USA's government was still covering up what happened. Until the late 20th century, the survivors of the other four thousand Battle of the Bulge POWs, who remained after the 350 prisoners were separated and sent to Berga, knew nothing about where those 350 soldiers went, or their fate. The survivors often had their experiences received with disbelief when they brought them up, so they kept silent.
The two fiends who ran the camp at Berga were prosecuted in the war crimes trials, but the American soldiers' testimonies were generally not entered into evidence, and those two had their convictions commuted, to the bitterness of many surviving soldiers. As with most who survive such ordeals, the men were not eager to relive the experience by talking about it, and most people did not want to hear it. Many of those men to never came to grips with their Berga experience, and many died crippled in one way or another.
In his first chapter of debunking the "myth," Rubinstein’s thesis collapsed. He was obviously an apologist posing as a myth debunker. Rubinstein's efforts in his other chapters fared similarly under scrutiny. This essay will present one more example.
Rubinstein devoted a chapter to exploding the "myth" that the allies could have bombed Auschwitz. If something that was seemingly well intended could have been done, Rubinstein went to lengths to show how it would not have helped. At every turn, he absolved American and Allied inaction. Rubinstein’s strategy was showing that any plans would have been ineffective, or they had been enacted, they would have been too late, etc. In Rubinstein's view, the Americans and the Allies were full of good intentions, but were helpless in the face of Nazi evil. He castigated others repeatedly for their hindsight, proposing things today that nobody proposed back then, but when he dealt with things that were proposed back then, Rubinstein used hindsight himself to show how even if the Allies had tried to bomb Auschwitz, it probably would have saved few Jews, from what we know today.
When Rubinstein noted that nothing was proposed or a proposal rejected, such as the ransom of 70,000 Romanian Jews by the Nazis, Rubinstein ignored the anti-Semitism that likely fueled the rejection, and instead showed that even if attempted, it would have been futile.
When something was proposed and ignored, such as bombing the crematorium at Auschwitz, Rubinstein then showed how the inaction was somehow justified because it would not have mattered if they tried anyway, because of logistical problems or that it was too late. Rubinstein seemed to have completely ignored the entire purpose of the work of Wyman and others (even though he stated that his work was a response to Wyman’s), which is basically, "What can we learn from those events to prevent them from happening in the future?" On that score, Rubinstein provided no answers and heaped all the blame for the Holocaust on Hitler's and his cronies' shoulders. Rubinstein emphasized one "feasible" solution not tried: assassinating Hitler.
For another example of Rubinstein's tactics, he made a bold statement on page 84:
"Not one plan or proposal, made anywhere in the democracies by either Jews or non-Jewish champions of the Jews once the mass murder of the Jews in Europe had begun, could have rescued one single Jew who perished in the Nazi Holocaust."
The parents of Kurt Klein were just two of many thousands of Jews who tried getting out of Europe but were stymied by the "paper walls." The Kleins died in Auschwitz. Rubinstein can probably argue that those Saint Louis passengers who died in the death camps, in spite of the desperate actions by Jewish organizations and others to get those people into America, were stranded in Europe before the Final Solution was carried out.
One issue that Rubinstein failed to deal with, and others have mentioned this "lapse" in his logic, was that many plans would have been proposed if the proponents felt that they had a prayer at being implemented in the day's political climate. For instance, most American Jews would have wanted Kurt Klein's parents to be able to come to America, and there in fact were attempts to raise immigration quotas, but when the most innocent of victims, Jewish children, were given the cold shoulder by America when the Wagner-Rogers bill died, how realistic was it to campaign to let in more Jewish adults? Jews in America at times did not want more Jews being let into the USA, because every Jewish refugee admitted further fanned American anti-Semitism. The Jewish groups themselves have been roundly criticized by many for doing very little to avert the fate of those in the Jewish Holocaust. Kurt Klein, as a teenager, even naïvely went to Washington D.C. himself and pled with the government to do something about his parents' plight. His response to Rubinstein's assessment might be intriguing.
Regarding Auschwitz particularly, Rubinstein devoted a chapter to debunking the notion that bombing Auschwitz would have been helpful or even really possible. Early in his Auschwitz chapter, Rubinstein flatly stated:
"As we have seen from the detailed discussions of the plans for 'rescue' actually put forward during the war, the bombing of Auschwitz was never, at any time, included among the proposals made by Jewish or non-Jewish groups concerned with the plight of Europe's Jews."
In the pages after that unequivocal statement, Rubinstein discussed the proposals for the bombing of Auschwitz that were made by "Jewish and non-Jewish groups," noting the individuals who originally presented pleas to bomb the railroads leading to Auschwitz, then the proposals put forth by groups to bomb Auschwitz itself, again by various concerned groups, both Jewish and non-Jewish. He even mentioned how the War Refugee Board initially rejected the idea of bombing Auschwitz in August 1944, to eventually make the suggestion tentatively in October and emphatically in November. That hardly jibes with Rubinstein's statement that nobody ever proposed to bomb Auschwitz.
Then Rubinstein made the case that when the proposal to bomb Auschwitz was made, that it was too late to do any good. In particular, Rubinstein assailed Wyman's notion that the Allies could have successfully bombed Auschwitz, and he cited expert critiques of Wyman's work, and concluded that bombing Auschwitz was not feasible.
Rubinstein, while doing zero original work on the subject, nearly hung his hat on the analyses of James Kitchens and Richard Levy, noting that their analyses devastate Wyman's analysis. The last word that I saw on the issue was the analysis done by Stuart G. Erdheim, who argued more convincingly than Levy and Kitchens that yes, Auschwitz could have readily been bombed if the Allies had made it a priority. Erdheim essentially took apart Kitchens and Levy's arguments. According to Robert Herzstein, he asked Levy the Auschwitz bombing question after Levy had given a speech at the Holocaust Museum. Levy's immediate response was that the allies could have "plastered" Auschwitz. I do not advocate any violent solutions, but bombing the crematoria at Auschwitz would have killed very few people if done during the daytime when the Jews were working outside the camps. The issue here is whether Rubinstein disposed of another myth. He tried to, but had dubious success. His entire book is like that, and was the most prominent response to Wyman’s work.
Why write history? What is history good for? To understand what happened, in order to apply the lessons to today, and perhaps avoiding the same mistakes from being repeated? That is my view. Rubinstein regularly mentioned the "ahistorical" nature of the work that he critiqued. Rubinstein concluded his book with the sentiment that the "democracies" did all they could to prevent or minimize the Jewish Holocaust, which was nearly nothing at all, because nothing was possible. He finished with:
"Conversely, it cannot be emphasized too strongly that responsibility for the Holocaust lies solely and wholly with Adolf Hitler, the SS and their accomplices, and with no one else. In searching for a rational explanation of modern history's greatest crime, it is important that we do not assign guilt to those who were innocent."
With that finale, Rubinstein took the lawyer's position: making a select few culpable and exonerating everybody else. It is an example of the "head-on-a-platter" approach. In that perspective, there are only a few bad guys in the world who make victims of the rest of us. The system or general populace is never responsible for bad things happening - it is only a few bad apples, which is the standard establishment apologist rationale. There is nothing to reform because everything works fine. If something such a holocaust or Watergate happens, it is because a few bad people brought it into being. In a sense, it is almost the conspiracy theorist's worldview. The institutional analysis of people such as Edward Herman, Noam Chomsky, and Howard Zinn are anathema to establishment apologists. The Chomsky-types spread wide the responsibility for mass events such as the Jewish Holocaust. They understand that making a few people the only guilty parties avoids the main issue, which is that each one of us become a little introspective, asking ourselves what we can do to help make sure that such events never happen. Rubinstein had a lawyer's view of the world, assessing guilt to the open perpetrators, sometimes, while exonerating the larger dynamics that helped it happen.
Rubinstein ignored the millennium of anti-Semitism in the West as a contributing factor, and its steep climb during the 1930s and 1940s. Rubinstein also ignored the geopolitical factors that stunted Germany's imperial ambition, including the humiliation and deliberate lack of understanding shown by the other Western nations for why World War I happened. Invisible to Rubinstein is the thousand years of nearly continual warfare that characterized the West and how such a culture of violence helped spawn such ideas as the Final Solution, which was not hatched until the insanity of war gripped Germany and they began losing. Rubinstein might argue that such an analysis is beyond the scope of his work, but his work is little or no help in understanding why holocausts happen or how to prevent future ones.
Hindsight can be misused, and all the Monday-morning quarterbacking that people have used regarding the Jewish Holocaust and many other events can be a dubious undertaking. Yet, should not the point be this: "What could we have done?" Even if such acts may partly be wishful thinking in hindsight, can it be a valuable process of understanding what happened and preventing it from happening again? It is in that spirit that I wholly approve of the work of Wyman and others like him. The presentism arguments have a certain merit, especially when trying to make FDR more culpable for the Jewish Holocaust than he really was. For his time, FDR was a Jew-lover who placed many Jews in his administration, which engendered a lot of animosity and fear in America, where many called his New Deal the "Jew Deal." FDR was a politician and he bowed to the winds of public opinion often. Blaming FDR for America's inaction during the Jewish Holocaust is related to blaming Hitler for the Jewish Holocaust. That mentality is: "blame the leaders, exonerate the herd." No American president has ever been a visionary leader. That is not how American politics works.
Perhaps the closest thing that America has had to a visionary president was John Kennedy ("JFK"), but that is also a mixed bag. He made visionary statements that inspired millions of Americans, such as his landing-on-the-moon-by-1970 speech, his "What can you do for your country?" speech, his Peace Corps and New Frontier ideas, etc. Kennedy did not dream it all up himself. He had speechwriters and advisers who helped polish that image. He was a politician also, and reading the record on his administration is not always pleasant. He was not exactly at the forefront of the Civil Rights issue, but played the politician who bowed to the winds of change and trying to seem like a leader when it was advantageous. He was close buddies with Joe McCarthy, for instance, and agreed with the witch-hunt mentality that prevailed during the McCarthy days. Kennedy presided over the beginning of the Vietnam War, but very reluctantly.
JFK was probably killed because he angered some powerful people and had to go. Noam Chomsky would disagree with me, but it looks like JFK's decidedly tame outlook angered the hawks in the military and other high places. He would not call in air support for the Bay of Pigs invasion, refused to invade Cuba over the Missile Crisis, over the protestations of his advisers, and was thinking about pulling out of Vietnam. Busting the Mafia made him hated in those circles, and they had a hand in his death. The most formidable JFK assassination book published in the early 21st century made the case that JFK was killed by the very military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned America about. JFK realized that the USA almost triggered World War III during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and he tried to end the Cold War. In 2013, for the first time, the Kennedy family revealed that they did not believe the Warren Commission's "lone nut" conclusion, and that Robert Kennedy considered the Warren Report to be a "shoddy piece of craftsmanship."
Jack Ruby was far from the small-time nightclub owner that people such as Gerald Posner made him out to be. My friend Gary Wean saw Ruby in the company of Mick Cohen, and Gary once had a conversation with Ruby in 1947 where he frankly told Gary, even knowing that Gary was a cop, that the mob was moving its operations to New Orleans and Havana, where all the action was. Castro's revolution ended the Mob's Havana dreams. JFK was not exactly a Christ-like figure, but he was not nearly as bellicose as the hawks would have liked. The Eisenhower years were characterized by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, whose notion of diplomacy with the Soviets was to continually threaten nuclear war. Dulles's "diplomacy" coined the term "brinksmanship." Kennedy was far too gentle for that kind of stance, and it probably led to his death, with Allen Dulles covering up the CIA's involvement in JFK's murder.
Winnowing the innocent from the guilty is a nearly pointless exercise in the end. The question that always faces us is this: "What will I do?" We face it each and every day, and our collective answer to that question determines what kind of world we live in. It is lunacy to argue that the day’s anti-Semitism, which pervaded the West, had nothing to do with the Jewish Holocaust, except in Hitler's fevered mind. It is lunacy to argue that the West's constant war-like mentality had nothing to do with what happened during World War II. It is blind to not consider the political-economic realities that led a Hitler to come to power, realities that every single citizen of the West had a hand in, to one degree or another.
It annoys me when people "debunk" myths, acting as if they are objective, when they are really performing apologetics. There is probably no true objectivity anywhere. There are personal truths, national truths, and even universal truths, but each one is at least partly dependent on who is perceiving the truth and making it their own truth. I am not objective. I am not even disinterested, which is the ideal historian's perspective, in many circles. Mitchell Bard, for instance, was far harder on Rubinstein's work than this essay has been. A review by Robert Herzstein was scathing. The point of scholarship such as Wyman's is that few people really cared about what happened to the Jews, which was the primary reason for the inaction. That is the central point and the one to argue with, which Rubinstein does not really address.
In support of Rubinstein's thesis, once the stage had been set, through:
Long centuries of anti-Semitism that had caused Eastern Europe to be so highly populated with Jews;
The incessant warring of the European nations for a millennium;
The stunting of Germany's imperial ambition by the other imperial powers that led to World War I, and them deciding to punish Germany instead of trying to get of the root of the problem, which is imperial ambition itself;
The subsequent economic hardships of war reparations, hyperinflation, and the Great Depression that allowed Hitler to come to power; and
For the Jews of Western Europe in particular, the stage was further set through Western nations barring/limiting the immigration of fleeing Jews;
then when Germany invaded Poland and eventually Eastern Europe, those Jews in those regions were largely doomed, although many in the local populations were willing accomplices, eagerly moving into empty Jewish homes, hunting Jews, etc. If the Allies had committed themselves to trying to mitigate the Jewish Holocaust, and there is no evidence that they did to any significant degree, it is questionable how successful they would have been. Yet, that is also a judgment in hindsight. Regarding bombing Auschwitz and other potential attempts to mitigate the Jewish Holocaust, such as buying those Romanian refugees, there is no evidence that they were taken seriously. With the Romanian Jew purchase, the American and British bureaucrats were genuinely afraid that the Nazis would actually sell them and put tens of thousands of refugees in their hands. In the end, the Allies simply did not care what was happening to the Jews, as they also did not care if millions of Soviet soldiers were dying in Nazi POW camps as part of a conscious Nazi strategy. In light of the firebombings of Dresden and Tokyo in early 1945, the atomic bombing Nagasaki after Hiroshima, then having a "grand finale" bombing after that, as the Japanese were trying to surrender, gives the lie to the notion that the war planners had much concern for civilian lives. In the insanity and horror of the times, the Jewish fate was simply part of the landscape. As Hilberg observed, the Allies were only really concerned with the success of failure of the combatants, and victims such as Jews, Poles, and Soviet POWs were barely considered among the Allied press and governments.
Yes, those European Jews were doomed once the fireworks began, but to ignore all the factors that led to that situation was the fatal flaw in Rubinstein's work, as he heaped all the blame for the Jewish Holocaust on a few shoulders, and Hitler's most prominently. Hitler certainly deserved a lion's share of responsibility for what happened. He was its primary architect. Yes, the Jewish (and Romani) Holocaust was one of history’s greatest crimes. Yet, it has plenty of competition for greatest crime, and Hitler had many, many accomplices, including all of Western Civilization. It would be nice to point out the great efforts that the Allies engaged in to limit the Jewish Holocaust, but there is virtually no effort to point to. Most effort was token and taken after the Allied governments were badgered into doing something, even after they knew full well what was happening.
The point of this historical narrative on anti-Semitism is to emphasize the broad historical trends that led to a maniac like Hitler deciding to eradicate the Jews and the Christian world playing along, with varying levels of complicity. The Jews also have some responsibility for their fate. Their insular ways among a fanatical and intolerant Christian culture made them logical scapegoats when something went wrong, as with the Black Death. Many thousands of Jews were burned alive for "bringing" the Black Death to Europe. The Jewish Holocaust is the most extreme example of scapegoating that the world has ever seen.
Hilberg's Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders provided keen insights into how everybody had a hand in the Holocaust, to one degree or another. The rare "altruists" in the Holocaust, who risked much for no temporal gain to help the Jews, are the only people who could even try to avoid some responsibility. Yet few, if any, of them will point the finger at anyone, and all likely asked themselves everyday what more they could have done. The European nations that had relatively small populations of Jews were in that situation because they had historic hostility to the Jews. Places such as Poland and the Netherlands had large Jewish populations precisely because they welcomed Jews when nobody else in Europe did. Denmark can hold its head high for saving its Jews in World War II, as can Finland, but centuries of Lutheran-inspired persecution of the Jews is primarily why those nations had such small Jewish populations in 1939. The militarism of those nations over the centuries also contributed to the mentality that made events like the Final Solution possible. They all had a hand in the Jewish Holocaust, to one degree or another. Making Hitler the fiend who was responsible for it all might seem comforting, but it deflects responsibility, and helps people avoid the introspection that asks: "What could I have done? What can I do today?"
The point I am trying to make is not feeling guilty and worthless about it, but asking ourselves how we contribute to our world in every waking moment, and how we affect the world for good or ill with our every action. Should not the study of history be about learning from the past, so we are inspired by the noble actions of our ancestors, educated by the less than noble, so we can avoid the pitfalls that our ancestors stumbled into, and aspire to attain or exceed their loftiest moments? Histories that make fake heroes, scapegoats, and invisible victims do not seem useful, and even worse, can give us a false sense of how the world has worked. Understanding the actions of our ancestors and the tapestry of dynamics behind them is very different from justifying them, or condemning them.
Other "Myth Debunking" Concerning the Holocaust
There is a booklet is titled The Facts - and the Myths - about the Holocaust. It was banned in Germany, and was published by Andrew Carter. I got my copy through The Spotlight, which was a far right publication that some called neonazi. I subscribed to The Spotlight for years, and it was obsessed with Israel. Carter's pamphlet summarized the main lines of argument that the Jewish Holocaust deniers have taken. Holocaust denier scholarship is some curious scholarship indeed.
A classic piece of Holocaust denier literature is Richard Harwood's (not his real name) Did Six Million Really Die? It is easily found on the Internet today. Harwood began his work with an unfortunate fact: wartime propaganda by the Allies against the Germans in World War I, with tales of Germans gleefully killing babies, smells like the story of the Jewish Holocaust. The truth is always the first casualty of any war, and all governments lie to their subjects in time of war. People need to be fed lies to justify murdering others. Beginning with that fact, Harwood made his case. He equated nationalism with Nazism, which in a sense it was, which says something about nationalism (Pol Pot was a nationalist more than a communist). Harwood discussed how Britain and America were threatened by "alien races in their midst." White people in America, like me, are among the "alien races" in America. To argue that white America is threatened with "alien races" in its midst is virulently racist. That is the kind of false argument that the Aryan Nation and other far right groups engage in. Harwood also mentioned the Jewish attempts over the millennia to keep their race pure, which is also true. Jews have been racist in that respect. Score another point for Harwood. The problem is, however, that a spoonful of truth helps the BS go down, as with all disinformation. Harwood began making his case that six million Jews did not die in the Jewish Holocaust, that it was a fiction that the Jews have used to further their aims, such as establishing Israel and wresting huge reparations from Germany.
Harwood then discussed the Nazi policy of getting Jews to emigrate from the Reich. That is also true. Harwood discussed issues that other historians have made, and it is hard to argue with his point of pre-war Nazi policy toward the Jews, such as the plan to ship the Jews to Madagascar. Harwood then discussed America's internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and how the Nazis were still trying to expel Jews well into the war, which was also true. Harwood's used facts to make his case, but they were selectively presented. European anti-Semitism received only passing mention in Harwood's presentation, which was the fatal flaw in his arguments. Harwood was grinding an ax. In his next section, titled, "Population and Emigration," Harwood's arguments took a steep slide into the bizarre.
Being a CPA and corporate controller and playing other roles in my career, I am a specialist in the creation and presentation of statistical data, and have done it for a living since the 1980s. Data alone fails to impress, as it often needs to be subjected to various kinds of analyses, to see how it was generated, how it was presented, what was being left out, what it did not measure, etc. Analyzing the statistical games that William Rubinstein, Julian Simon, Elizabeth Whelan, Steven Milloy and other establishment apologists have played has been educational. I have also seen people from the "left" also play games in presenting statistical data, to make their cases. Much of those kinds of analyses are deeply flawed, if not dishonest. Yet, the presentations can be subtle in their deception, and some statistical sleights of hand better done than others.
Harwood's calculation of the Jewish population subject to Nazi control is about the shoddiest statistical manipulation I have ever seen, reminiscent of watching somebody play the shell game with his "customers." Harwood took one number from one source, subtracted numbers from other sources, and developed a highly creative arithmetic, arriving at a number of only three million Jews under Nazi control during the Final Solution, and made the case that there were not even six million Jews that could have been annihilated by the Nazis. There are numerous sources of information on the Jewish populations in Europe during the Jewish Holocaust and how many died. Accurate numbers are difficult to perfectly adduce given the circumstances, but Harwood made millions of Jews vanish with his arithmetic gamesmanship. Responsible scholarship puts the number of Jews subject to the Final Solution at around ten million. Nazi documents show that they had planned to deport nearly six million Jews in late 1940. Comparing Harwood's methodology with the responsible scholarship on the issue can be informative.
Harwood continued his analyses, and again used facts to make his case, such as the fact that no signed orders for the Final Solution can be gathered from the historical record. It is another creative rendition of the facts. Yes, there is no written order from Hitler that has survived which ordered the liquidation of Jews. Does that mean there was no "Final Solution," or that they were playing the plausible deniability game, which all politicians know how to play, especially for something as damning as exterminating an entire ethnic group? Harwood's arguments become increasingly weak, and his numbers games moved his work into the category that Ward Churchill called "tripe." With all the other Holocaust denial (or as they prefer calling themselves, "Revisionists") literature I have seen, the trends are the same.
What most Holocaust deniers do is take events out of context, greatly exaggerate them or minimize them, depending on their rhetorical need, or misrepresent the evidence to make their claims. This essay will not take the reader down the long sordid trail of their "evidence" and how they play their game, but will summarize their main lines of attack, and give some examples of their craft.
One common charge by the Holocaust deniers is that the accounts of concentration camp survivors are uniformly unreliable, an angle that is particularly insulting to the survivors. The "skeptical" movement uses a nearly identical tactic to deny that UFO contactees had legitimate experiences and other "paranormal" activity. Mr. Skeptic, whom I debated for months on the Internet, was expert on that angle. In his theorizing, everybody associated with Dennis had faulty memory, or was deluded about what was really happening. With that line of reasoning, he was able to boldly state that Dennis's perception of persecution was a "delusion." All we know are our human experiences. What goes on between our ears is all we truly know. Many thousands of people have testified to the death camp conditions, from guards who worked there, to residents who lived near the camps, to camp survivors, to camp visitors, etc. There also a mountain of physical and documentary evidence to support the testimonies. Some camp testimony is fabricated and some is inflated, but that does not mean that the entire phenomenon is a mass delusion. It is amazing that somebody would concoct a body of reasoning to dismiss it all in one way or another, yet that is a primary line of reasoning used by Holocaust deniers.
Another fact that Holocaust deniers use is citing that Zyklon B was used to delouse inmate clothes. That was true, but then they made the case that delousing was all it was used for.
Andrew Carter's The Facts - and the Myths - about the Holocaust, summarizes the lines of evidence and argumentation that the Holocaust deniers use. Carter also played the numbers game on the Jewish population and death toll, called Anne Frank's diary a fake, mentioned Red Cross relief at the camps, called Auschwitz a resort and rest home for sick Jews, stated that there is no proof of gassings, cited unreliable survivor memories, how nice the Theresienstadt ghetto was, and other "facts."
Theresienstadt was in fact the Nazis’ "showcase" ghetto. It was the best camp in the Nazi regime, where "privileged" Jews were sent. Not all camps were the same. Some were work camps (and working the prisoners to death was a goal), some outright extermination camps, and Theresienstadt was the great exception. Yet, Carter made that case that if the Jews had it "good" at Theresienstadt, then there was no Final Solution. What Theresienstadt proved is that the Final Solution was complex in its envisioning and execution, and no mass event is monolithic. That impression is richly received by digging into the Holocaust literature. Carter, however, used the anomaly of Theresienstadt to make the case that there was no Final Solution of extermination.
One pertinent aspect of Holocaust denial scholarship casts a harsh light on the far right. By definition, the Final Solution was a conspiracy. It is about the biggest conspiracy of all time. The Nazis killed several million people in secret, but not all that secret. Plenty of word got out about it, but few believed it and few really cared that much. One reason it was not believed at first was because the British lied so badly about the Germans in World War I, as they manufactured atrocities out of the thin air. The stories were treated by many as the tale of the boy who cried wolf too many times, which was one more way that the British contributed to the Jewish Holocaust.
Nevertheless, when the word got out, it was acted on by very few people and met a general wall of apathy, as there was a war to fight. The Jews were not alone in their secret suffering. The millions of Russian POWs who died in German captivity also generally died out of sight of the Western media. After all, they were the hated communists. The Romani died unmourned, as did the Slavs of Eastern Europe. The Germans kept it quiet, and the Western press did not dig too far, aided by Western diplomats actively keeping it quiet. Even so, the Nazi Holocaust is one of the better-documented conspiracies of all time. Not only were numerous documents captured to plot the trajectory and execution of the Final Solution, but thousands of survivors testified about the concentration and death camps, including American soldiers. Also, many who were involved in one way or another in the Final Solution testified, and far more than just the Nazis who were tried in war crimes trials. Spectacular physical evidence of the Nazi Holocaust survived, such as the camps themselves, piles of clothing, hair, and teeth taken from the victims. The Nazi Holocaust is perhaps the most undeniable conspiracy that there is.
Right-wing activists are those who most often specialize in conspiracy theories, sometimes concocting them with the flimsiest evidence. On one hand, they theorize about vast international banking conspiracies, even though there exists virtually no documentary evidence or witnesses. The international banking conspiracy does exist to a degree, but there is hardly any overt evidence of it. The problem with conspiracy theories is that they are conspiracy theories. Conspiracies, by their very nature, do not leave paper trails, and they are generally uncovered by circumstantial evidence, which is a shaky way to determine anything. Weighing conspiratorial evidence is one of the most difficult investigations to perform, because there is little open evidence and numerous ways to interpret it. Many conspiracy theories may not be true, but many are quite plausible. Conspiracy theorists are often laughed at and derided. Their theories are often assailed and debunked, many times for good reason, but also many times for poor reasons. In my experience, those who debunk conspiracy theories are usually defending the establishment.
Conspiracy theorists usually hail from the right end of the political spectrum, and their scholarship is often poor. Some of it is acceptable, but more poor scholarship comes from the right wing than anywhere else, partly because right wing politics are too frequently the politics of the paranoid and deluded, which also manifests in racism and bigotry all too often, with a penchant for violence. Right-wing scholars often propose conspiracy theories constructed from little solid evidence, and have their theories analyzed and debunked by many. The very same crowd that proposes conspiracy theories on the most tenuous evidence debunks the Nazi Holocaust conspiracy, which has a vast amount of evidence for it. That is because Holocaust deniers apparently have an agenda, which is:
Rehabilitating fascism and Hitler, and justify racist attitudes; if Hitler was not such a bad guy, then fascism is not either;
Paranoia about Jews, Israel and how the world is out to get them.
Yes, there are international conspiracies, and some of them center on Israel, but Zionists do not rule the world. Jews do not solely run the banking conspiracies, and the people who offered my partner about $1 billion to go away were not Jews. Some Jews are probably part of it, but as far as I have seen, the high end of the game is not based on Jewish heritage but other factors, such as greed, which is far from a Jewish monopoly. There is Jewish organized crime, it is highly sophisticated, and I think that Gary Wean stumbled into some of it, partly because California was a place that Jews migrated to in great numbers early in the 20th century as they sought one more refuge from anti-Semitism. Today’s Arab hatred of Israel and the USA is understandable. The Protocols of Zion are almost certainly fake, made in France in conjunction with the Russian secret police. Anne Frank's diary is almost certainly genuine, especially in light of the discovery that Anne's father removed some pages from her diary that frankly spoke about her parents’ marriage. There are many accounts like Anne Frank's. To believe that her diary is part of the Jewish conspiracy is pretty far out.
A fair amount of right wing theorizing and scholarship is probably dishonest, while many have honestly fallen for it. I have born some of the brunt of some pretty huge conspiracies, and know that wide-ranging conspiracies do exist, but the international Jewish conspiracy is one that the crazed Adolf Hitler fell for, and it led to the deaths of about six million Jews. Using the same standard that Holocaust deniers have applied to the Final Solution, no conspiracy theory holds up.
However, the Holocaust denier ideologies are no worse than what pervades the mainstream media. Collectively, much bigger lies than denying the Jewish Holocaust happened are believed by the mainstream, such as there was no American Holocaust (Native American and internationally, such as Central America, Indonesia, East Timor, Southeast Asia, etc.), that fluoride is good for teeth, that attack the tumor works, that America exports freedom and democracy, that our system “works,” and that America "restored democracy" in Panama, tried to "save" Vietnam, and "liberated" Iraq.
Holocaust scholars themselves have given the denier's grist for their mill at times, as there is plenty of dishonest and biased scholarship in the Holocaust scholar ranks, which brings this essay to its next topic.
A Different Kind of Holocaust Denial
Two primary works that "debunk" the work of the Holocaust deniers are Denying the Holocaust by Deborah Lipstadt and Holocaust Denial by Kenneth Stern. Lipstadt and Stern wrote works to specifically confront the Holocaust denier arguments. In Denying the Holocaust, Lipstadt did a creditable job of deflating the arguments that Holocaust deniers use. She capably tackled the Holocaust denier arguments that there were no gas chambers, that there was no "Final Solution" of extermination, that Anne Frank's diary is a forgery, and she exposed the fascist/racist agenda of Holocaust deniers. She probably should have stopped there, as she descended into making the case that the Jewish Holocaust was history’s unique crime. She has good company. Elie Wiesel is considered the first to make the "exclusivist" argument for the Jewish Holocaust.
The Black Legend of the Spanish legacy in the New World was black indeed. Its European rivals also used the Black Legend for propaganda purposes. Spain's rivals in the global colonial sweepstakes were every bit as genocidal in attitude as the Spaniards, and were even sometimes worse, such as the English, who considered the natives subhuman, taking it a bit further than the Spanish did. The Spanish considered the natives inferior human beings, and thus justified their great crimes. The fact that Spain's rivals used its crimes against humanity for propaganda purposes did not make Spain's crimes any less. Spain was the first on the scene and plundered "virgin" grounds before its rivals joined the fray. The Inquisition also became a political football during the Protestant Reformation.
Because people exploit events for political ends does not make them less true. One area where the Holocaust deniers made a strong case is in the area of Jewish exploitation of the Holocaust for political ends. Norman Finkelstein’s book is a step in the direction of serious scholarship tackling the subject. The fact that many Holocaust scholars have abused the notion of the Holocaust's exclusivity does not make the Holocaust any less horrible or evil. Lipstadt was far from alone among Holocaust scholars in making the case for the unparalleled evil of the Jewish Holocaust. What that crowd has done, and it even takes in some of the most respected Holocaust historians such as Lucy Dawidowicz, is minimize the suffering of other groups subjected to genocidal policies.
For instance, the Jewish Diaspora endured nearly 2,000 years of forced migrations at the hands of Christendom and the West. The Jews have not had a pleasant journey. While Holocaust scholars (almost all Jewish) go into great depth about the genocidal policies of the Nazis toward the Jews, quite often they minimize or ignore the suffering of Romanis and Slavs at the hands of the same butchers. While the Jews were kicked out of everyplace in Europe at one time or another, the Romanis were truly nomadic, whose philosophy was never staying in one place for long. The Romanis probably originally came from India (the "Gypsy" label came from the incorrect idea that they came from Egypt), displaced due to the Islamic invasions of India many centuries ago, and the Romanis were possibly low castes that fled the region, being at the bottom of the hierarchy when the Muslims invaded.
Romanis have lived in Europe for several hundred years. The "Jewish Question" was not the only ones the Nazis considered. There was also the "Gypsy Question." The solution crafted for the Romanis was the same one that the Nazis came up with for the Jews: extermination. Probably at least a half million Romanis died in the death camps, with another half million or more being killed by the Einsatzgruppen wherever they were found in the Nazi-controlled regions. Because the Romani were nomadic, getting accurate numbers of pre-war populations and the death toll is more problematic than the Jewish death toll, but figures of a million or more are regularly estimated for the Romani Holocaust. Even today, the estimates of the world's Romani population are guesses subject to wide variation. While Lipstadt made her exclusivist arguments, the word "Gypsy" or "Romani" was never mentioned. Two-thirds of Europe's Jews perished in the Holocaust, and about half of the European Romani population died at the same time. Hitler's genocidal policies killed far more Slavs than Jews and Romanis combined. Perhaps more than fifteen million Slavs died due to a conscious extermination program by the Nazis to clear Eastern Europe to give the Germans "living space." The Nazis targeted and murdered perhaps more than 25 million people, and up to six million of them were Jews. That does not minimize what the Jews endured, but for Jewish Holocaust scholars to constantly minimize or ignore the suffering of Romanis and Slavs, among other targeted groups, such as Russian POWs, is grim.
Mainly because of Jewish influence in the USA, there is now a Holocaust museum in America, in Washington D.C. Romanis were originally almost entirely absent from the museum's exhibits. In a telling event, Romanis were specifically excluded from a candle ceremony to remember those who died at Auschwitz. In the British press (and not in the American press, as usual) were photos of the candle ceremony and pictures of Romanis "staring mournfully through a wire fence, with a caption reading, 'Cold-shouldered: Gypsies, whose ancestors were among Auschwitz victims, are forced to watch the ceremony from outside the compound.'" Jews who have created deplorable scenes such as that are trying to corner the market on victimhood, playing up their suffering to the maximum, and denying the suffering of those who died right alongside them. Holocaust denial is Holocaust denial, and Jewish scholars have tarred themselves with the same brush they have painted the deniers of the Jewish Holocaust with, for tragic irony. There is no Holocaust Museum for Native Americans. During the late 1990s, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a Jew (who belatedly discovered her hidden heritage), justified the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, killed mainly by the USA-instigated economic embargo of Iraq, calling it a price that we were willing to pay in the name of "freedom."
Many Jews tried cornering the market on the word "holocaust," as if they are the only ones in history to have suffered it. Jews are white people, and the situation around the holocausts of colored people is the single greatest body of Holocaust denial in the West. The genocide of Native Americans is the single greatest holocaust in history, and a holocaust so thoroughly denied for hundreds of years that it has only recently come into American awareness, a holocaust denial that continues with what America did to Southeast Asia, and what America did to Iraq, what it is still doing to Afghanistan in 2014, and so on. There is a holocaust denial far, far more egregious than anything that the lunatic Jewish Holocaust denier crowd has ever tried foisting on the public, mainly because "responsible" scholarship has actively abetted it, and the holocaust is still happening in 2014.
William Blum began his monumental Killing Hope with:
"In 1993, I came across the review of a book about people who deny that the Nazi Holocaust actually occurred. I wrote to the author, a university professor, telling her that her book made me wonder whether she knew that an American holocaust had taken place, and that the denial of it put the denial of the Nazi one to shame. So great and deep is the denial of the American holocaust, I said, that the denyers are not even aware that the claimers or their claim exist. Yet, a few million people have died in the American holocaust and many more millions have been condemned to lives of misery and torture as a result of U.S. interventions extending from China and Greece in the 1940s to Afghanistan and Iraq in the 1990s. I enclosed a listing of these interventions, which is of course the subject of the present book.
“In my letter I also offered to exchange a copy of the earlier edition of my book for a copy of hers, but she wrote back informing me that she was not in a position to do so. And that was all she said. She didn't ask to see my book. She made no comment whatsoever about the remainder of my letter - the part dealing with denying the American holocaust - not even to acknowledge that I had raised the matter. The irony of a scholar on the subject of denying the Nazi Holocaust engaging in such denial about the American holocaust was classic indeed. I was puzzled why the good professor had bothered to respond at all."
When I read Blum's words in 1996, I suspected that he was writing about Lipstadt, and I wrote him, asking him if it was. He replied that indeed it was Lipstadt, and gave me permission to make that fact public, so I am.
What happened to East Timor during the 1970s may have had a proportionally greater genocide happen to its people than the Jewish Holocaust, a genocide that was actively sponsored and abetted by the USA and nearly every Western nation. The complicity in genocide by Lipstadt and others has helped ensure that the American Holocaust continues, as the USA continues to kill millions.
A better work on Jewish Holocaust deniers is Kenneth Stern's Holocaust Denial, which discusses the "hesitation" in the Jewish community to acknowledge other genocides because they believed that to do so would diminish what happened to the Jews. To his credit, he mentioned Gypsies a couple of times in his book, and discussed how all holocausts need to be discussed and their nature understood. Stern wrote, "By focusing only on one's own tragedies, strategies, lessons, and power are lost." Yet, he also gave a questionable treatment to the situation of Noam Chomsky and Robert Faurisson. Chomsky is a Jew who lived in an Israeli kibbutz for a short time. Faurisson is a Holocaust denier from France. Although freedom of speech in America is problematic and not nearly as free as our mainstream media presents to the public, it is less free in supposedly genteel nations such as Canada, France, and Sweden, where Holocaust deniers have been put on trial and jailed for their writings.
When Faurisson was put on trial in France, hundreds of academics signed a petition to defend Faurisson's right to deny the Jewish Holocaust in his writings, even if they detested his views. It was an issue of freedom of speech. As Chomsky stated regarding the Faurisson affair, freedom of speech is not something that we grant only to views that we agree with. If we believe in freedom of speech, we grant it especially to those with views that we "despise." Otherwise, we do not believe in freedom of speech. Chomsky and hundreds of other academics were defending Faurisson's freedom of expression, even though they despised what he had to say. Chomsky received endless attacks for his stance. Chomsky wrote a brief essay on the nature of freedom of speech that Faurisson's publisher inserted as the introduction to Faurisson's book.
In Lipstadt's Denying the Holocaust, she called Chomsky's defense of Faurisson’s right to free speech his "antics." In Stern's book, he published a decidedly one-sided account of the affair, and even relied on a secondary source to smear Chomsky to make him seem a Holocaust denier of the Cambodian Holocaust, something that I have never seen in any of Chomsky's work. However, Stern also made the exclusivist argument in his book and pointed out that other genocides had economic or other incentives behind them, while carrying out the Jewish Holocaust hampered the Nazi war effort. Every holocaust is unique in its own way. What was uniquely worse, the Nazi genocide, which was ideologically motivated from a cultural hatred for Jews and other "subhumans," a genocide that exterminated two-thirds of European Jews and half the European Gypsies, or the genocide of the Taino of the Greater Antilles, which was a mere side-effect of the first gold rush in the New World, and the world's most complete genocide of a million or more people? The genocide of the Taino has been so deeply denied in America that the genocide’s initial architect has a national holiday in his name. How would Jews feel if there was a Hitler Day in Germany, which celebrated the invasion of Poland?
The words “never again,” should apply to all peoples, for all time.
The Last "Good War" Revisited
World War II is described in the USA as its last “good war.” The reason for the "good war" description is that America's wars since then have been more problematic, with the delineation of good and evil clear in World War II, and rather muddled since then, contrary to the rhetoric of George Bush the Second. In World War II, America was the white knight on a steed that saved the world from the evil of Hitler and his henchmen.
Our leaders were not alarmed by the rise of Hitler, nor was the public enamored with Jews. FDR was not too high on Hitler, and is considered the West’s only leader who figured our Hitler early on, and was opposed to his rule. That is true, but relative. Stalin was little better than Hitler, and in some ways worse, and FDR took part in remaking Stalin into "Uncle Joe" while there were Nazis to defeat. Stalin was Time’s “Man of the Year” in 1943. George Orwell could not initially find a publisher for his Animal Farm because it was a satire on Britain’s ally of the moment.
The hypocrisy related to the USA's position toward the Soviet Union is enough to make the "good war" sentiments collapse. Long before Hitler became a threat to the world, Stalin's hands were bloody with the deaths of millions of Soviet peasants, where the official policy was starving them to death. The Western governments were wary of those communists and everything that they stood for, until they became allies of convenience to defeat the Nazis after Hitler double-crossed Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union, after they divvied up Poland and Eastern Europe. Then one of history's greatest butchers became "Uncle Joe," with the American press sanitizing his image. It was a remarkable makeover, from butcher to buddy. Churchill and Roosevelt actively covered up the 1940 Katyn Massacre, which Stalin ordered.
The shifting alliances of those times, among all imperial parties, clearly demonstrated that issues of right and wrong had little meaning to anybody, but winning was everything. Almost anybody would side with anybody, if it meant winning. The Soviet Union was in the middle of many of those diplomatic machinations, from alliances with Germany, Italy, Japan, and the Allies, to declarations of war. The Soviets hoped the Germans and British would wipe each other out in the Battle of Britain, just as the British and Americans hoped that the Soviets and Germans would wipe each other out during the invasion of the Soviet Union. The Germans and Soviets hoped that the Japanese invasion of Eastern Asia and the Pacific would preoccupy America. The Soviet Union eventually declared war on its erstwhile ally Japan, and the USA atom bombed Japan to end the war quickly to prevent the Soviets from controlling too much of Eastern Asia. The USA used Japanese troops immediately after the war to try putting down China's Communist Revolution, and Japanese troops were also immediately put to work to try recolonizing Vietnam, even though Ho Chi Minh was an American ally against Japan during World War II, and was the overwhelming favorite of the populace to lead Vietnam to independence. Butcher as buddy, buddy as butcher, allies thrown to the wolves, nations playing off one against the other, etc. The last "good war." After Michael Adams finished briefly summarizing the imperial dynamics between the major players of World War II, in the years that led to the war, he wrote, "Looking back, we might say that the history of the period does not reflect particularly well on any of the major players." For the vast majority of humanity, living under the boots of those major players, it was an obvious sentiment.
America stayed "neutral" throughout the war's first two years, except for providing aid to Britain, closing off the Panama Canal to Japan, and other sanctions against them, with Standard Oil, Ford, General Motors, du Pont, and others helping build the German war machine.
Beginning with George Washington's strategy of coercing Native American nations into signing treaties that would never be honored, fraudulent diplomacy and statecraft has been an American specialty. Staging military incidents to justify warfare has also been in the American bag of tricks since the Mexican-American War. I know somebody whose work for the Navy was used to stage the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which the USA used as the excuse to begin the Vietnam War. There is entire cottage industry devoted to the idea that the 9/11 terror attacks were simply too convenient a "gift" for the Bush administration, who used the event to invade a nation that had nothing to do with 9/11 but was sitting on history's greatest material prize. In that spirit, there is a great deal of suspicion that the FDR and the military brass goaded Japan into "starting something" to draw the isolationist American people into World War II, and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor became that event.
Ever since Japan sank the American warship Panay in 1937, no military incident with Japan could have been very surprising to the USA's military. In October 1940, a memo was written by the Office of Naval Intelligence, which outlined an eight-part plan designed to confront Japan, and concluded:
"If by these means Japan could be led to commit an overt act of war, so much the better. At all events we must be fully prepared to accept the threat of war. "
In the next year, to one extent or another, the USA performed all of eight of the recommended actions, and the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941. There have been numerous battles in American academia over how much complicity the USA may have had in Japan's attack, ranging from purposefully making Pearl Harbor vulnerable to key military officials literally waiting with FDR for the attack to come to simply goading Japan and hoping that they backed down, but there is no way that the attack could have been very surprising to the American military. In early 1941, Secretary of War Henry Stimson received a memo from Rear Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner that warned of an attack on Pearl Harbor. That memo was merely part of a chorus of warnings and studies from military officials in those days. A bloody and seemingly unprovoked attack would be needed to spur the isolationist American people into another foreign war, similar to how Americans were manipulated into entering World War I. Those men at Pearl Harbor may have been expendable, which no American official would ever admit even if true. Count me among the skeptical that Pearl Harbor was a great surprise to FDR and his advisors.
War is evil business and always has been. Violence is always a violation of another’s free will. Warfare extracts a great psychological, emotional, and spiritual price from all of its participants. There is no glory in it, and a comprehensive and sophisticated system manipulates young men into becoming soldiers.
Intense indoctrination accompanies the evolution of all imperial soldiers, whether they are American, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, European, etc. During World War II are many instances of the psychological resistance of young men to the horrific barbarities that they inflicted upon the "enemy," whether it was Jewish children, Chinese women, Japanese civilians, Romanis, Slavs, and so on.
Before World War II began, the Japanese were bludgeoning Eastern Asia and periphery. As with Jews and Spaniards around 1492, if one took a Japanese and Chinese citizen, stripped and physically examined them, one could not be discerned from the other. Japanese are physically nearly indistinguishable from Chinese, and their culture originated in Chinese culture. Japan, like China, had a long-standing imperial culture, although both were rather insular for centuries. China resisted Europe's imperialism for centuries before succumbing to British ambition in the Opium Wars and subsequent events. Japan did not succumb to the West until two atomic bombs were dropped on them. Japanese indoctrination viewed China as a great adversary, not unlike European indoctrination of their people to hate their neighbors, where Frenchmen killed Englishmen, etc. for centuries.
Japan invaded China several years before World War II, with their invasion of Manchuria in 1931. In 1937, the Japanese invaded China and took the capital city of Nanking. Their initial occupation of Nanking is now known as the Rape of Nanking. Ever since Japan received their wake up call in 1853, by a massive show of American force led by Commander Matthew Perry's "diplomacy," they nurtured their imperial ambition, wanting to become imperial powers like the USA, Britain, France, and Russia. They stated that they only wanted to control Southeast Asia as the USA controlled Latin America, which was a reasonable request in Japanese eyes. The USA and the other European powers had already divvied up Eastern Asia and were not about to let a local imperial presence take over. After all, China was theirs; the Philippines were ours.
The Japanese developed a strident imperial nationalism, building on their "Bushido" ethic, which made possible the Kamikazes and other fanatical soldiers. Some Japanese theologians believed that their emperor outranked the Creator. When the Japanese took Nanking, they slaughtered the Chinese men and raped the Chinese women. The Japanese had a tradition of swordplay, and decapitating Chinese men was the pastime of Japanese soldiers during the Rape of Nanking. Japanese newspapers recorded the "contest" of two Japanese officers, Mukai Toshiaki and Noda Takeshi. They vied to see who could kill one hundred men first with their swords. The contest was extended when both exceeded their mark, with Mukai at 106 and Noda at 105. The "finish line" was extended to 150. Their "heroic" acts were often enacted on kneeling Chinese men, waiting for the blade to do its work. Decapitating a Chinese man became quite the art form among Japanese soldiers. The goal was taking the head off cleanly with one artful stroke, with the resultant spout of blood shooting in a majestic arc from the severed carotid artery supplying the head. Japanese soldiers used Chinese men for bayonet practice, with Chinese men being tied up on wooden crosses, like scarecrows, to be run through repeatedly by Japanese soldiers in training. Satanic violence was far from a European monopoly.
How could Japanese soldiers enact such evils against people who were virtually indistinguishable from themselves? In the same way the Englishman was indoctrinated against a Frenchman, the same way a Nazi was indoctrinated against a Jew, the same way that an American was indoctrinated against Japanese, German, Vietnamese, and Native American citizens, etc. We all have two arms, two legs, were born from our mothers, went to school, raised our crops, etc. Even with all their intense indoctrination, the "virginal" Japanese soldiers, when faced with slaughtering kneeling Chinese, men, women and children, had to be cajoled and forced into their first kills. They had to be reminded that they were "only" killing the "subhuman" Chinese, as if they were "only" killing dogs. One Japanese soldier spoke of how his mass-murdering comrades looked like predatory animals, when looking into their eyes. After getting into the swing of things, his buddies no longer looked so feral.
The atrocities of the Japanese against China in the 1930s and 1940s is one of the history’s greatest mass murders, with more than ten million Chinese citizens dying at the hands of their Japanese overlords.
One of my grandfathers served in the Pacific Theater, and as with most soldiers who survive such calamities, he was not an eager fireside raconteur of his glory days. He preferred to forget them, although he kept in touch with his war buddies until they all died, and I visited two of them in my youth. His sober recollections of his comrades’ skull collecting and other practices are not out of step with those days.
The curator of the Smithsonian's Division of Anthropology announced that the Japanese skull was 2000 years less developed than the Americans' were, and because Japanese eyes were "slanted," they could not shoot straight. During the fighting in the Pacific, one correspondent reported in the pages of Atlantic Monthly:
"We shot prisoners in cold blood, wiped out hospitals, strafed lifeboats, killed or mistreated enemy civilians, finished off the enemy wounded, tossed the dying into a hole with the dead, and in the Pacific boiled the flesh off enemy skulls to make ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones into letter openers."
In Life magazine in 1944, an attractive blond American woman posed with a Japanese skull that her fiancé sent her. In 1944, the American press reported that FDR received the gift of a letter opener from a U.S. Congressman made from the forearm of a Japanese soldier. When American homesteaders washed across the plains of North America, occupying newly stolen land, there was often more money to be made in plowing their homesteads to find Indian bones than in raising crops. Indian skulls brought up to $1.25 in Dodge City, and arm and leg bones, "properly cleaned and polished, made knife handles, 'beautiful to behold.'"
Two of the world's most prominent war scholars, Paul Fussell and John Keegan, considered the memoirs of Eugene B. Sledge one of the greatest first-person accounts of warfare ever written. This war essay would not be complete if it did not recount some of war’s stark realities, which the American press carefully hid from the public. Sledge’s tale will serve that purpose well. Readers who do not want to read about such matters can skip this section and resume reading by taking this link.
Unpretentiousness was one of Sledge's greatest virtues as he told the story of being a U.S. Marine at two of the fiercest battles ever fought. He was an average American boy, growing up during the Great Depression. He enlisted in the Marines in 1942 as "cannon fodder," as he forsook the deferment and officer-rank safety that was offered him as a member of the Marion Military Institute.
Early in his account, Sledge commented on a primary aspect of the Pacific war between the Japanese and American soldiers. There was an unremitting hatred between the two. Sledge cited the fate of the Goettge patrol during the Battle of Guadalcanal, as he watched one of the survivors walk past. During the first week of the battle, a captured Japanese soldier claimed that his starving comrades near a distant river would surrender if the Marines would "liberate" them. Twenty-five men, none of them fighters, but a linguist, a surgeon, and intelligence specialists went to "rescue" those stranded Japanese. The Japanese had, like Europeans of long ago, discarded the idea of fighting honorably. The Japanese ambushed the Goettge patrol as it landed, and only three Marines escaped. That incident was part of the Marine lore, and it fueled their anti-Japanese hatred.
Sledge's account depicted the typical lives of American infantrymen, and his first taste of battle was when he stormed ashore at Peleliu. He prayed a lot. His chapter recounting his first days of battle is appropriately titled, "Assault into Hell." The hail of fire from both sides was devastating. Sledge described the absolute helplessness that he felt while being subject to such a barrage, while watching Marines being blown to bits. During the initial landing, Sledge watched as one of his friends, a non-commissioned officer ("NCO"), was hustled to the rear with a bloodied arm in a field dressing. Sledge yelled, "Hit bad?" The NCO grinned and said, "Don't feel sorry for me. I got the million dollar wound. It's all over for me." The NCO got the wound coveted by most American soldiers: a wound bad enough to spell the end of their days as a soldier, but not bad enough to permanently cripple them. They could "retire" with honor, and live to tell about it.
During the landing, Sledge saw a Japanese corpsman's corpse, killed while trying to give aid, by an American shell. The innards of the Japanese dead shocked Sledge, and his buddies arrived and began fieldstripping the corpses. Sledge watched mutely as his buddies worked over the corpses. One Marine "deftly plucked a pair of hornrimmed glasses as casually as a guest plucking hors d'oeuvre from a tray at a cocktail party." Sledge wondered if the day would ever come when he would become so nonchalant about stripping enemy corpses. Sledge noticed that when he tried smiling, his face felt "stretched tight as a drumhead." Genuine smiling was impossible. He noticed that the faces of those around him were similar. The carnage of that first day of battle was one of the worst that any U.S. Marine ever experienced. Sledge watched men being turned into hamburger all around him. On that first night, as Sledge was becoming familiar with the numbness and terror that would be his companion in the coming months, he heard a voice shout, "You will survive the war!" Sledge looked around and asked his buddies if they heard that statement, and they looked quizzically at him. Sledge believed that God spoke to him that night, and he resolved to make something of his life after the war.
Early in the Peleliu campaign, Sledge came to perhaps the salient realization of all his days as a soldier. After digging in for the night while they were moving across Peleliu, in the dark of night an uncomfortable notion appeared in Sledge's mind: he was expendable.
One night soon after, while they inhabited their foxholes, one Marine went mad, and began yelling that the Japs had him. After efforts were made to quiet him, the Marines had to kill one of their own to keep him silent. Sledge watched one of his own kill a buddy in the dark, executing him with a shot to the temple, as they mistook him for a Japanese infiltrator. Sledge was nearly killed by "friendly fire" during his first day of battle. Sledge repeatedly stressed the vast gulf between himself and those mere miles behind the front, even mere yards behind at times. Those on the front lines and those just behind it lived in different worlds, with the support troops unable to fathom the world that the front lines inhabited. The same night, a Japanese infiltrator snuck into the lines. When he ended up in a foxhole with a Marine, they both lost their weapons and the Marine won when he put his finger through the Japanese soldier’s eye socket and killing him during their unearthly screaming.
A few days after securing the beachhead of Peleliu, Sledge was fieldstripping corpses himself when a Marine decided to obtain the gold fillings in the mouth of a fallen Japanese soldier. He put his kabar knife to the golden tooth of the Japanese soldier and drove the point home. It missed, partly because the owner of that coveted tooth was still alive. The blade struck deeply in the Japanese soldier's mouth, and the Marine cussed out the Japanese soldier while he sliced the man's mouth open from ear to ear. He put his boot to the man's mouth and tried again, as blood poured from the soldier's mouth. Sledge had already seen a Japanese soldier's reaction as he killed him, but as that Japanese soldier began gurgling, Sledge shouted, "Put the man out of his misery." Then another Marine ran up and planted a bullet in the Japanese soldier's brain. Sledge saw his pals quickly slip into almost unimaginable barbarity.
While taking a break in the fighting, Sledge rested next to a Japanese machine gun squad that had been killed. The gunner looked poised to fire his weapon…except that the top of his head had been blown off. While they sat there resting, one of his buddies had a handful of coral pebbles in his hand, and was pitching them toward the opened skull of the Japanese machine gunner. Every "hit" was accompanied by a small splash as the pebble found its mark in the gunner's open skull. The soldier was not being malicious, but just playing as a child might; doing something to pass the time.
Sledge was then saved from his own descent into barbarity, as he began taking gold teeth from Japanese mouths. A medic saved him, appearing on the scene when Sledge was about to make his extractions. He discouraged Sledge by disingenuously telling him that he could get disease from the Japanese mouths.
The Battle of Peleliu, of dubious strategic importance for the USA's Pacific effort, was until that time one of most vicious battles that American forces had ever engaged in. At the end of the battles, one of Sledge’s buddies showed Sledge his prized souvenir: a Japanese hand he liberated from a soldier's corpse. He had been carefully trying to dry it out so that it would not stink. After a razzing by Sledge and his fellow Marines, and defiantly defending his right to the souvenir ("How many Marines you think that hand pulled the trigger on?"), the Marine reluctantly threw his prize away.
The Japanese did worse things to American bodies. One day Sledge passed three dead Marines lying on stretchers that the Japanese had come upon. Sledge's buddy groaned, "Jesus!", and Sledge looked on in disbelief. The Japanese had decapitated one Marine and placed his head on his body, next to his severed hands, and his penis had been cut off and placed in his mouth. The Marine next to him was treated similarly, and the third had been butchered like a steer. After they returned to their gun pit, his buddy said, "Did you see what them poor guys had in their mouths? Christ, I hate them slant-eyed bastards!" Sledge stated that from that point onward, he never had any pity for the Japanese soldiers, no matter what happened to them.
The horror of Peleliu made hardened veterans recoil. In one incident, a camouflaged Japanese artillery gun hid until the Marines were right on top of it, then it let loose at point blank range. One veteran who Sledge previously saw laughing and cursing at the Japanese while under heavy fire was stricken and the most devastated that Sledge saw him before or since. The tough soldier told Sledge how he and another soldier tried carrying a buddy they all knew to a stretcher in the aftermath of the gun's firing, but as they carried him, the man’s body fell apart.
Sledge began losing his sanity at that time, with the battle taking its inexorable toll. He received a pep talk from his lieutenant and was somehow able to stay sane for the next two weeks. The only escape was by death or wounding, and despair settled over the soldiers. The only cheerful soldiers were those leaving with the million-dollar wound. The Marines never left a wounded soldier in the field because the Japanese would invariably torture him to death.
Sometimes, nearly as despised as the Japanese were the souvenir hunters from the rear echelon; they were not veterans of the grisly front lines, but opportunists who followed the advancing line and searched for souvenirs among the Japanese corpses. One Marine major commandeered any souvenir hunters that he found in his area and put them into his line. One day during a lull in the fighting, two souvenir hunters from the rear walked past Sledge into enemy territory. Just was Sledge was about to warn them where they were, one turned back and asked Sledge where the front line was, and Sledge "serenely" answered, "You just passed through it." Those men quickly fled to the rear.
Right about that time, Sledge endured the greatest grief that he experienced during the entire war, when his beloved captain was killed. All the soldiers looked up the captain, and news of his death hit all the men hard. It was as if they had lost a parent.
The tableau of Peleliu was like no other on earth. War had seen fields strewn with dismembered corpses, but Peleliu was in a class by itself, with coral ridges, rubble-filled canyons, corpses strewn everywhere, with crabs and flies gorging on the dead to the degree that they could barely move. Low clouds scudded by during the dismal daytime and the hellish landscape was lit at night by flares. Sledge thought it looked like another planet. The smell of excrement was mingled with the stench of death, as the coral was not amenable to digging a latrine hole. In addition, many soldiers had dysentery. The island became a huge cesspool of death and decay. Sledge wondered if he would ever remove the stench from his lungs. DDT was used for the first time ever at Peleliu, in an attempt to reduce the fly population. It did not work, as far as Sledge could see.
Sledge and his buddy took over a mortar pit when replacing another mortar crew. The Marine that he replaced did not appear happy to be relieved. He warned Sledge what had happened the night before. Two Japanese soldiers snuck into the pit and began stabbing the mortarmen before nearby ammo carriers came to the rescue and killed them. One Marine had already died from the ordeal. The Marine left with a warning for Sledge and his buddy to watch out at night for Japanese soldiers sneaking into their pit. Sledge was long since used to the sight of blood, but as he began settling in, the bloodstains in the pit got to him. He tried covering up the Marine blood with scraps of cardboard. He reported that the flies stayed glued to the blood-smeared rock, and Sledge realized how empty was a politician’s rhetoric about young men giving their lives for their countries, as, “only the flies benefited."
Each day was a new horizon in loathing, with each new macabre scene competing to outdo the others. Even the most hardened veteran found something to make him “recoil in horror and disbelief."
The Marines lost more than half of its landing force on Peleliu, with more than 5,000 casualties and more than a thousand dead. More than ten thousand Japanese soldiers died during the siege, and only seven Japanese soldiers were taken prisoner. It was a fight to the finish. The hatred that the Japanese and American soldiers held for each other made it so that there were few prisoners taken by either side.
As Sledge got aboard ship after Peleliu had been subdued, he asked one of the old salt Marines what he thought of Peleliu. That old Marine had been in the trenches in World War I and was looked up to by all the young Marines as the Marine's Marine: the epitome of the corps. Sledge had nothing to compare Peleliu with, so he asked the old salt what he thought. Sledge expected the Marine to respond with, "You think that was bad, you oughta been in the Old Corps." Instead, Sledge was surprised when the old timer blurted out, "Boy, that was terrible! I ain't never seen nothin' like it. I'm ready to go back to the States. I've had enough after that."
Sledge’s belief in basic human goodness died at Peleliu, and his faith in politicians who send young men off to war. While recovering from Peleliu, Sledge experienced something that many American soldiers commented on, including my father. When they reached Pavuvu, their staging ground for Peleliu, a woman from the Red Cross, who was handing out grapefruit juice, greeted them. A number of Sledge's buddies sullenly tolerated her presence. Sledge and some other Marines took her up on her offer of grapefruit juice, but Sledge was bewildered and deeply resented her presence. It was no place for women or politicians to be.
Sledge was proud to have been a Marine. He did not speak out against the necessity of war. He just told is like it was, from a grunt's-eye perspective. Sledge was interviewed for candidacy for an officer position, but he was too frank with the interviewer and did not "snow" him. In responding to the question "How do you feel about it now that you've been in combat?," Sledge candidly remarked that he has seen enough on Peleliu to satisfy his curiosity about fighting. Sledge said, "I'm ready to go home." He would not, quite yet.
While preparing for the siege of Okinawa, Sledge heard with sympathy the reports coming back from the terrible fighting on Iwo Jima, which was another fierce battle with tremendous casualties. Sledge got hepatitis while at Pavuvu. In peacetime, hepatitis warrants hospitalization, but in wartime, Sledge was given some pills and was only able to get out of several days of work details, such as picking up trash. They all got a round of painful inoculations before departing for Okinawa, which made them grouchy.
For all the sufferings of Peleliu, Okinawa made Peleliu pale to insignificance. Okinawa was part of the Japanese archipelago, and the Japanese would fight as never before to defend it. More than 100,000 of Japan's finest soldiers were defending it.
While preparing for Okinawa, Sledge's crew got a new officer named Mac, from New England. Mac was the only officer that Sledge ever heard who talked up taking on the Japanese. Mac told in detail about how he would whip the Japanese single-handedly when one of his men was wounded. The combat veterans rolled their eyes when he started in with his speeches. Sledge was embarrassed for him, and the other veterans looked forward to when the big-talking “Yankee” saw combat for the first time. Sledge trained on Guadalcanal for Okinawa and remarked on how generous the Seabees were with their food for the Marines, which was much better than their Marine rations. He may have met my grandfather, who was a Seabee at Guadalcanal.
The Marines expected fierce resistance to the landing on Okinawa, of more than 80% Marine casualties on the first landing, but were amazed that there was practically no resistance. The first day, they marched across the island unopposed. They knew it was too easy. They marched to the fighting soon enough, and Sledge was in heavy battle for fifty nearly solid days in some of the most horrific fighting that humanity has ever seen. Being a veteran, as he approached battle, Sledge no longer felt panic as he had in Peleliu, but knew that he could control his fear, and the only thing to do under Japanese shelling was lay low and curse them.
Sledge was blessed with a little humor at the battle’s beginning, when they first came under fire. That braggart officer Mac made an amusing display. A couple of their men had been killed, and they finished digging in and were settling in when they noticed that Mac was still feverishly digging his hole. One of the soldiers then reminded Mac that he said he would charge the Japanese single-handedly with is kabar knife when one of his men was hit. Mac barely looked up as he continued digging frantically. Sledge offered him his kabar knife so he could charge the Japanese. One soldier remarked that if Mac dug much deeper, he would dig all the way through Earth, back to the USA, and they could all go home. Mac’s cavern was ruined in minutes, to his men’s satisfaction, and Mac never bragged about what he was going to do again.
Sledge was ashamed that Mac was a Marine officer. While marching across Okinawa, Mac alarmed the troops by shooting at something, and a detachment of Marines approached, thinking that there was a Japanese ambush. Corpses were strewn across the land. When they came upon the source of the gunshots, it turned out that Mac was shooting the skull of a dead animal to see if he could shoot any teeth out of the animal's jaw. Another time, Mac located a Japanese soldier's corpse and carefully shot off the end of its penis. When it came time to urinate, most Marines found a nearby bush. Not Mac. He would find a Japanese corpse, and send his stream into its mouth. Sledge watched such behavior with shame for the Marine Corps, as did his buddies. He was an officer, however, so they did not slap him upside the head (or as my father once told me, somebody like Mac would become a quick casualty of some “accidental” friendly fire). Just before the real battle was engaged at Okinawa, Mac almost took out his mortar section himself by trying to empty a grenade of its charge then tossing it into a group of Marines and get a sadistic delight as the Marines dove for cover. Mac failed to completely empty the grenade and almost took his men out of action before it began. If Mac's "joke" had given Sledge his million-dollar wound, Sledge would have gladly taken it, in retrospect.
The Japanese spent 6,000 lives in an early failed effort to cut off a detachment of Marines from the main force. During the fighting, news had come that the Germans had surrendered, but nobody on Okinawa cared much. Sledge wrote, "Nazi Germany might have well been on the moon." The casualties were mounting, with more than 1,400 casualties in Sledge's Marine division so far. Then the fighting really got fierce. The warmup for the fierce fighting was Sledge hauling ammo through the mud, which he said surpassed all the drudgery that he had ever done before.
Sledge found that each time he faced going into battle, it became harder, where death or maiming became a more certain fate with each passing hour. When he wrote his book many years later, Sledge still had nightmares about going up the lines on Okinawa, trudging through the mud.
Although the Marines were the elite infantrymen of the American military, seeing the worst action, they did not all live up to those high standards of the Marine ideal, and Sledge wrote of his disgust from time to time with his comrades. He watched an officer called Shadow chew out a man for a heroic act of moving ammo under heavy fire to where it was needed. The men watched in disbelief as Shadow launched into his tirade against the man, whom Sledge thought deserved a medal for his act.
Sledge got a letter from home in a lull in the fighting. His parents wrote that his dog had been hit by a car and killed. That dog was Sledge's childhood companion, and as he read his letter in his foxhole, with death and destruction all around him, big tears rolled down his cheeks as he thought of his beloved dog.
He soon was thrown back into battle, and had a continuous headache from the barrage of artillery, which sent him into a stupor. Then Sledge got into the really heavy fighting. He was in the battle around Sugar Loaf Hill. With all that Sledge had been through, his most horrifying experiences were still ahead of him. The Japanese dead laid everywhere in the mud. When they would dig in, they would try burying the dead Japanese soldiers in the mud to try cutting down the stench and flies. Then Sledge saw the sight that shocked the veterans in the ranks: dead Marines lay everywhere as they slowly rotted away. The Marines had a tradition of going to great risk to recover their fallen. The reason why those Marine bodies had not been recovered quickly became apparent. The fighting was so intense that recovering the bodies was impossible.
The next ten days were Sledge's personal visit to hell. The fighting on Peleliu was more vicious, but the fighting on Okinawa was more horrifying. After digging into the mud at Wana Draw in a constant deluge of rain and artillery fire, Sledge looked around. The craters made by shells surrounded him. Each of them was filled with water, and many held a Marine corpse, covered with swarms of flies. Maggots and discarded equipment lay everywhere, with an awesome stench that never went away. Amoebic dysentery broke out amongst the troops, and Sledge sat in his hole with his mortar, thinking that death was preferable to what he was experiencing. It was if he had been “flung into hell's own cesspool."
To top it off, their commanding officer came down with malaria so badly that he had to be evacuated, and the hated Shadow became their commanding officer. There came a moment during a lull where Sledge and a buddy were looking at picture of a dancing girl that the buddy had an adulterous affair with stateside. The scene was surreal, of two men in the bowels of hell, looking at a picture of a scantily clad, voluptuous woman. The scene struck Sledge hard, and he realized that he was beginning to lose his sanity. At that moment, he made a fervent pledge to himself that no matter what happened he would not lose his mind. His resolve got him through the days. At times during the nights, he felt that he was slipping, but he recovered in the daylight. In retrospect, Sledge realized how heroic yet hopeless the battle was for those Japanese soldiers. They would form skirmish lines and advance at the Marines from hundreds of yards away, to be blown to bits long before they got close enough to return fire. It was a "turkey shoot" for the Marines. They were nearly having fun for awhile.
Sledge related one episode where ten Japanese soldiers came at them in formation, and the Marines let loose with their machine guns and mowed down eight of them in seconds. The two remaining soldiers realized how hopeless their plight was and went back the way they came. Most of the Marines stopped firing, but not all, and just before reaching safety, one soldier pitched forward. The lone soldier left kept running, and just as a "cease fire" order came from the CO, Sledge's buddy with the stateside dancing girl squeezed off shots from his machine gun. Sledge was standing behind him and looking down his barrel. He saw the tracers deflect through the lone soldier's back, and he dropped. The soldier began crawling out of the hole where he fell, and the Marines began firing at him again. One Marine surprisingly told his buddies to stop shooting, saying he had no chance of survival anyway. His buddies yelled at him for defending that dying soldier, kept firing away, and finally killed him. Sledge remarked that the families of those dead Japanese soldiers would receive a letter, telling of their family’s noble sacrifice, when the reality was that the soldier threw his life away on a muddy hill for no good reason at all.
The mud and stench and maggots made for an awesome experience if a soldier slipped out of his position and slid down the steep hill he had dug into. Sledge saw it happen more than once, where a soldier lost his footing and slid down the hill, to be covered in maggots and mud when he reached the bottom, to the soldier’s horror.
Sledge called the front the "meat grinder." It was a huge sausage machine that continually chewed up young men and spit out its product. The attrition in the Marine's ranks was awesome, with "replacement" troops coming to the front at all hours, and wounded and dead being taken to the rear. It was like an assembly line, but it was a disassembly line. Many soldiers die in the first moments of battle before they learn some quick survival skills, and replacements came to the lines and went back dead or bleeding so quickly that the veterans rarely even knew their names. On the Okinawa campaign, Sledge's battalion landed with 235 soldiers. They had 250 replacements added to their ranks, and at battle's end, only 50 men were left, and only 26 of them were part of the original landing, for an attrition rate of about 90%.
Another psychological phenomenon accompanied the experience of that war and the soldiers who had gone back to the states. When a Marine returned home, his letters back to his buddies reflected relief at being home, and enjoying "wine, women and song." Later letters, however, increasingly became bitter and disillusioned. Some soldiers wanted to return to the front to be with their buddies, as it was the only place that they felt as if they fit in. Some did. The civilians, although often respectful of the soldier's experiences and sacrifice, also could not comprehend what the soldiers had been through. Many soldiers felt that the civilians had no idea what it was "all about," because they have had it "so easy." People like Sledge found it hard to believe that those Marines who had escaped the meat grinder wanted to return to it, until they returned to the states themselves and heard people griping about the USA because it was not perfect, or had to put up with the minor inconveniences such as standing in line to wait for a bus. The Marines saw them as whiners.
During his stay in hell, Sledge's imagination took odd flights as he watched the scene around him. One constant companion during his ordeal on that muddy ridge was a rotting Marine in a nearby crater, who was an obvious replacement soldier who died by a shell, with his decaying face staring up at Sledge and seeming to mock him. Sledge had to look at that decaying Marine for days. In the incessant rain, with the raindrops falling around that Marine, Sledge recalled his childhood, as he watched rain falling around a frog sitting in a puddle, with the raindrops seeming like dancing elves. The Marine in the crater was similar, although those raindrops were like dancing ghouls, as Sledge’s imagination wandered.
Eventually the Marines took “Shuri Castle,” and then Sledge moved to a ridge where he and his buddies began digging in. The mud was clay-like, and each spadeful had to be forcibly knocked off, as it stuck like glue. Sledge and his buddies were under orders to dig the holes five yards apart on top of the ridge. When Sledge had dug about six inches into the mud, a stronger than usual stench of rotting flesh hit his nostrils. He was under orders and had to keep digging. A spadeful unearthed squirming maggots, and told his NCO what he was digging into, and the NCO replied, "You heard him, he said put the holes five yards apart."
Sledge kept digging, and soon unearthed buttons and parts of a Japanese army jacket. Then he hit the breastbone of the rotting Japanese soldier. Sledge was horror stricken as his shovel glanced off the ribs and hit the corpse's abdomen and made a squishing sound. Sledge was overwhelmed by the horror and stench, and yelled, "I can't dig in here! There's a dead Nip here!" The NCO came over, looked at Sledge's problem, and told him to keep digging. Just then an officer came by and asked Sledge what the problem was. Sledge showed him, and the officer told the NCO to let Sledge dig his hole a little out of alignment with the others. Sledge thankfully dug his foxhole, not straight through the Japanese corpse, but the hole he dug reeked of death. Sledge was amazed that he endured that ordeal without vomiting. Sledge's buddy in his foxhole stepped out, slipped, and lost his footing. Sledge watched him slide on his belly all the way down the slope. Sledge went down the hill to help him, and his buddy, about the toughest soldier he ever met, looked with horror at that the maggots and mud that covered him, and Sledge helped clean him up.
The battle at Shuri Castle was finally over, and then it was right back into the meat grinder at Kunishi Ridge. Sledge's account is not one unending horror story. There are funny moments, strange encounters with belligerent Japanese POWs, buddies getting killed at odd moments, and Marines regularly cracking up and losing their minds. One buddy, a veteran of Peleliu, went berserk and began charging at the Japanese. He was only barely restrained from his suicidal rampage toward the Japanese line.
The Battle of Okinawa was finally over, and the officers began reasserting their elite privilege over the enlisted men, and Sledge was kicked out of a nice place that he happened upon where he was eating a meal, because the area was reserved for officers. Just as Sledge grudgingly began moving from the area, a shot rang out. A Marine veteran who Sledge knew well keeled over dead, shot by his buddy, where they played a "dare you" game with a loaded weapon that they thought was empty. The man who just killed his best friend wore a shocked expression on his face continually for the next few weeks, until he was shipped off for a court martial and probable prison term. That may have been a minor inconvenience compared to living with killing his best friend so stupidly.
The Americans finally conquered Okinawa, but there was no end in sight for cannon fodder like Sledge. Laying siege to the main islands of Japan was next, and no soldier wanted to think what that would be like. On Okinawa, the First Marine Division lost more than 7,000 men to death and wounding, more than 6,000 on Peleliu, for a casualty rate of 150 percent of its strength. More than 7,000 Americans died on Okinawa, with another 26,000 succumbing to psychological disorders. More than 100,000 Japanese soldiers died on Okinawa, with 10,000 taken prisoner, with another 20,000 buried alive by either the Americans or the Japanese themselves. More than 40,000 civilians died on Okinawa in the crossfire of battle.
Just as Sledge and company began pondering the next battle, an atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, another on Nagasaki, and the Japanese surrendered on August 15, 1945. It was the best news that Sledge could hear, as he felt that the Japanese would never surrender. Incredibly, Sledge was never wounded in all the fighting. The voice that he heard on his first night of battle was right. Sledge was an anomaly in the Marine infantry, being college educated from an upper class family. My father was also an anomaly, as he forsook college to enlist in the Marines. The Marine infantry was the ultimate cannon fodder, especially in the Pacific Theater's fighting.
Justifying the Last Good War
Howard Zinn volunteered for World War II in 1943 at age 21 and went to bomber school. So eager to crush the Nazi evil, Zinn traded places with another man scheduled to go to Europe before he did. Zinn flew mission after mission against the Nazis. Zinn hated war, but believed that it was justified in fighting Nazi Germany. Zinn described his experiences in a chapter titled, "Just and Unjust War" in his Declarations of Independence. Zinn made the case that if there was ever a "just war," it was World War II.
Zinn's first exposure to war was a series of books that he read at age ten, about "the boy allies," which was a series of sanitized, idealized books about heroic boys defeating the Germans. By age eighteen, those early views were largely gone, and were completely shattered when Zinn read Johnny Got His Gun, which was a searing anti-war novel. Zinn hated the idea of war after reading it. Then Zinn read The Road to War, which described the lies and deceptions that led the American public into entering World War I.
The German sinking of the Lusitania is the event that finally propelled America into World War I. The American media presented the sinking of the Lusitania as a barbaric act against a harmless passenger vessel. It later turned out that the Lusitania, just as the Germans claimed, was secretly carrying munitions to Britain to be used against Germany. Such "barbarity" becomes far more problematic in that light. The day that the Lusitania sailed, Germany ran ads in American newspapers that warned Americans to not board British ships. Germany later agreed to reparations for sinking the Lusitania, and agreed to not sink passenger ships without warning. All warfare is barbaric, but the Lusitania’s sinking, if Americans were given the facts, would not have been seen in quite the same light. Americans were being shamelessly manipulated into going to war, with Americans speaking out imprisoned under the Espionage Act, which made it a crime to speak out against that "war to end all wars."
Zinn was partly motivated by the class politics that directed war. The ancient Greek biographer Plutarch wrote, "The poor go to war, to fight and die for the delights, riches, and superfluities of others." It has never changed in the millennia since then. Zinn, however, was convinced that the evil of fascism had to be stopped. One of his war buddies constantly spoke about how the war was really a battle for empire between the imperial nations. Zinn's buddy was a member of the Socialist Workers Party. Zinn asked his buddy that if he was so opposed to the war, why was he flying bombing missions as Zinn was. His buddy replied, "I'm here to speak to people like you." Zinn's buddy was killed two weeks later.
When Zinn packed up his bags after the war, he wrote "Never Again," on a folder with his war mementos. Years later, Zinn began questioning the motives, conduct, and results of the heroic war against fascism. What did the USA really fight for? The rights of nations to independence and self-determination?" The evidence did not support that notion. The USA had engaged in a brutal campaign against Native Americans for a century, until they were nearly wiped off the map, as the USA expanded its borders. Soon after the national borders extended from coast to coast, it seized Hawaii from the Hawaiians, the Philippines from Spain, and then engaged in a brutal, exterminatory war against the Philippine people to keep them under American control. During those same years, America continually sent its troops to Latin America to keep those nations subjugated in the kinds of activities that Smedley Butler engaged in. The USA was actively involved during those same years in carving up China into colonial spheres of influence, shared between Britain, France, Russia, and Japan, brutally putting the Chinese down in events such as the Boxer “Rebellion.” The notion that the USA was fighting for the freedom of foreign nations was difficult to take seriously in light of its record.
What about fascism, that evil system? The rise of Hitler and Mussolini were alternately cheered and sanitized by the American media and politicians, with Smedley Butler being court martialed in 1931 for telling an apparently true story about Mussolini's callous disregard for a child's life. When Italy invaded Ethiopia, where industrialized warfare met African natives throwing spears at the invaders, the USA suspended munitions sales to Italy while allowing the oil companies to continue selling oil to them, which fueled their war machine. During the Spanish Civil War, when Germany and Italy both helped arm the fascists who violently overthrew the elected socialist government of Spain, Roosevelt hastily signed the Neutrality Act that shut off aid to the legitimate Spanish government. Hitler had conquered most of Europe by late 1941, and the USA did nothing. Not until Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and Germany declared war on the USA, did America declare war on Germany. Our government was obviously not too upset about fascism.
It obviously was not a war to save the Jews. What about Japan? They were imperial aspirants who wanted to control their end of Asia, similar to how the USA controlled Latin America. Only when Japan's expansion threatened American interests in the region, particularly the tin, rubber, and oil of Southeast Asia, did America begin the steps that goaded Japan into war with the USA, such as closing the Panama Canal to Japan, embargoing oil and scrap iron in the summer of 1941, and freezing Japanese assets in America.
What was Japan's great, infamous act? Attacking an imperial outpost of America's, on land that America had stolen less than fifty years earlier, in an attack that Roosevelt may have had foreknowledge of. Japan also invaded the Philippines, which the USA had stolen less than 50 years previously and brutally killed hundreds of thousands (200,000 to 600,000 is the range of estimates) of its citizens to keep the USA's claim on their land as it enslaved a nation as part of America’s Manifest Destiny.
America’s rage at Japan seemed far less than righteous and justifiably aggrieved. While Japan was invading China and committing horrific atrocities against the Chinese people, the USA did not speak out against their barbarities. During the Rape of Nanking, Japan intentionally bombed the American warship the Panay, sinking it and killing two people. Although the Panay was sunk during one of the greater acts of barbarity in modern times, what outraged Americans was that an American ship had been fired on, not that it was done in the midst of murdering hundreds of thousands of helpless Chinese citizens. Roosevelt even had footage of the attack of the Panay edited, so that the obvious nature of the Japanese attack - intentionally attacking a American gunboat - would be obscured, to support Japan's dubious claims that the sinking had been unintentional.
In 1942, a Roosevelt representative promised France that the USA would help France keep its colonial domain in Southeast Asia, which it honored after the war, and then took over on its own, killing millions of Southeast Asians, all the while saying that they were "saving them" from Communism. That is the standard imperial rationale, voiced while killing millions, keeping them enslaved while telling the world that it does it for its bludgeoned victims’ own good. There is no self-determination argument regarding the USA's involvement in World War II that seems to hold up, except perhaps for saving Germany's neighbors from paying German taxes. America's overthrow of democratic movements in Italy and Greece immediately after the war gave the lie to the notion that America was fighting for Europe’s freedom.
Was World War II fought by the USA to eliminate racism? The USA is history’s most racist nation. During World War II, black soldiers were segregated, treated to the military’s worst living conditions, and denied jobs in the USA. A spokesman for a western aviation plant said, in response to the completely unenforced orders of the newly established Fair Employment Practices Commission, "The Negro will be considered only as janitors and in other similar capacities…Regardless of their training as air craft workers, we will not employ them." Jim Crow still existed in the South. A student at a black college told his teacher:
"The Army Jim-Crows us. The Navy lets us only serve as messmen. The Red Cross refuses our blood. Employers and labor unions shut us out. Lynchings continue. We are disenfranchised, jim-crowed, spat upon. What more could Hitler do than that?"
The student's statement was repeated at an NAACP meeting to thousands of black people. The speaker was expecting that the crowd would disapprove of the student's words. Instead, the speaker recalled, "To my surprise and dismay the audience burst into such applause that it took me some thirty or forty seconds to quiet it."
The internment of more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II was deeply fueled by racist sentiments. Most of those interns were American citizens. Documents have since surfaced that the USA felt that those Japanese Americans were definitely not a military threat to the USA, which John McCloy edited out of the brief given to the USA's Supreme Court to justify Japanese-American internment. When Japanese men escaped the American concentration camps by joining the military, they were the most decorated American regiment in the European Theater. At the same time, the remnants of the Native Americans were living in abysmal reservation conditions, which persist to this day.
Was America fighting for the freedom of its citizens? As in World War I, America imprisoned hundreds of people for speaking out against the war, with most of them socialists, such as Zinn's bombardier buddy. About 6,000 Americans were in America's federal prisons, one-sixth of the federal prison population, because they were conscientious objectors and refused to kill people during World War II. The USA's government froze wages during World War II, while the arms suppliers attained profits only dreamed of in peacetime. McCloy was in investor in a shipbuilding company that made $44 million on an investment of $100,000. The workers were not so snowed, and there were more worker strikes during World War II than in any other period in American history.
Was the war fought to save civilian life in the warring nations? There is little evidence that supports that notion. In fact, Churchill specifically approved of bombing German civilians as a way of "undermining the morale of the German people." Some generals even objected to bombing civilian targets, but were overruled by their civilians governments, and the saturation bombing of German cities began, which culminated with the firebombing of Dresden (napalm had only been invented a few months earlier, and was quickly used to firebomb cities), which was a city filled with refugees that posed no military threat, with Germany on the verge of surrender. Churchill, just as he approved of chemical weapons being used against the Iraqi people, had anthrax bombs made (the war was over before he could deploy them), and called for the complete extermination of the Japanese people, which was identical to what Hitler said about the Jews. American planes strafed civilians trying to escape the Dresden inferno by escaping across the Elbe River. About 100,000 people, nearly all civilians, died that night. A month later, America did the same thing to Tokyo, which was helpless to the American bombardment. American fighter pilots could see the flames of Tokyo from 150 miles away. The planes literally chased fleeing people as they dropped napalm on them. More people may have died that night in Tokyo than have ever died in any night in history. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were entirely directed toward civilian populations. There were even American POWs being held in those cities, and the USA knew it, but it did not dissuade them from bombing those cities and killing those "expendable" American soldiers.
After the war, Zinn slowly became aware of nagging issues regarding that last "good war." He read accounts of bombing missions that he flew, to thwart the Nazi evil. One mission he flew was on the city of Pilsen, Czechoslovakia. Those Czech citizens were among the first people to suffer from Nazi expansionism, and Zinn happily bombed them in a mission that killed several hundred civilians. He never thought of the irony of his actions while bombing those Czech civilians, who were the very people he was supposedly saving.
Another bombing run Zinn participated in was near Royan, France a few weeks before the war ended in Europe. There was no military threat posed by the region. Several thousand German troops were stationed there, trapped, and waiting for the war to end. The USA poured nearly a half million gallons of napalm on Royan, which devastated German soldiers and French civilians.
Was it, like World War I, a war to end all wars? There have been more than 150 wars in the world since then, which claimed more than twenty million casualties. The USA, the "hero" of World War II, has killed far more people worldwide since World War II than any other nation. Nobody else comes close. Since World War II ended, the USA has been alone in the world in its unchallenged ability to send troops wherever it wants, to bludgeon whomever it wants, for the flimsiest of pretenses. The people of Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, East Timor, Indonesia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Laos, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Chile, Iran, Panama, Afghanistan, etc., etc., have got to wonder what would have been worse, Germany or the USA winning World War II.
After the war was over, millions of people starved to death while the war's winners allowed it, sometimes actively, in the interest of politics. Some military leaders began denouncing all war. British Air Marshall Sir Robert Saundby stated after the bombing of Dresden:
"It was one of those terrible things that sometimes happen in wartime, brought about by an unfortunate combination of circumstances…It is not so much this or the other means of making war that is immoral or inhumane. What is immoral is war itself. Once full-scale war has broken out it can never be humanized or civilized… so long as we resort to war to settle differences between nations, so long will we have to endure the horrors, the barbarities and excesses that war brings with it. That, to me, is the lesson of Dresden."
An American soldier who fought in the last "good war," Tommy Bridges, had this to say:
"It was a useless war, as every war is…How goddamn foolish it is, the war. They's no war in the world that's worth fighting for, I don't care where it is. They can't tell me any different. Money, money is the thing that causes it all. I wouldn't be a bit surprised that the people that start wars and promote 'em are the men that make the money, make the ammunition, make the clothing and so forth. Just think of the poor kids that are starvin' to death in Asia and so forth that could be fed with how much you make one big shell out of."
One slogan that Sledge's buddies regularly uttered was, "If the country is good enough to live in, it's good enough to fight for." How was what happened in the Pacific Theater "fighting for" America? How was it protecting the USA? The only two American places that the Japanese attacked (if a gas station in California, shelled by a Japanese submarine, does not count) were the Philippines and Hawaii (Japan seized other minor American imperial holdings in those days, such as Wake Island and Guam, and Guam was also stolen from Spain in 1898). Both were American colonies; de facto imperial outposts recently seized. The troops that the USA stationed to keep the Philippine people in bondage were the same soldiers that ended up on the Bataan Death March. Where are the heroes in that tale? Perhaps the Philippine people that resisted the imperial overlords, whether they were Spanish, American, or Japanese, were the only heroes. Was the Japanese attack on Hong Kong an attack on the UK, which was half a world away? No battles took place on American soil. Just what were our boys defending, besides imperial privilege?
Many black Americans were decidedly unimpressed with America's rationale for World War II. Zora Neale Hurston wrote:
"All around me, bitter tears are being shed over the fate of Holland, Belgium, France and England. I must confess to being a little dry around the eyes. I hear people shaking with shudders at the thought of Germany collecting taxes in Holland. I have not heard a word against Holland collecting one-twelfth of poor people's wages in Asia. Hitler's crime is that he is actually doing a thing like that to his own kind…
"As I see it, the doctrines of democracy deal with the aspirations of men's souls, but the applications deal with things. One hand in somebody else's pocket and one on your gun, and you are highly civilized…desire enough for your own use only, and you are a heathen. Civilized people have things to show their neighbors."
That passage was from Hurston's Dust Tracks on a Road. Just before it was published, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and Hurston's publisher removed those words from her book, which did not reappear until a 1984 edition of her book.
Dropping the Bomb
The two defining events of World War II were the Nazi death camps and dropping atom bombs on Japan. By August 1945, when the atom bombs were dropped, Japan posed no threat to anybody, with its citizens huddling under daily American bombardment, with Japan completely surrounded, largely in ashes, and waiting for the final blows. History's most destructive weapons were used on that defeated people. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki immediately claimed more than 100,000 lives, more than 100,000 within a few months after the bombing, from radiation and other trauma, and around another 300,000 people suffered from its effects. Those bombs affected millions of lives, and few in salubrious fashion. While the German government turned the Dachau camp into a museum (I visited it in 1974) and paid out billions of dollars in reparations to Israel, America has never apologized for dropping atom bombs on Japan. Harry Truman proudly justified the atom bombs long after he had left office. In 1958, regarding the bombing of Hiroshima, Truman wrote that he had "no qualms about it whatsoever." Truman's words were widely circulated throughout Japan, which led the Hiroshima City Council to state that if Truman actually wrote those words, it was a "gross defilement" of the victims of Hiroshima. The City Council finished with:
"We, the City Council, do hereby protest against it in deep indignation shared by our citizens and declare that in the name of humanity and peace we appeal to the wisdom of the United States and her citizens and to their inner voice for peace that said statement be retracted and that they fulfill their obligations for the cause of world peace."
Truman responded with a press conference where he again justified the bombing, and added that it would not have been necessary, "had we not been shot in the back by Japan at Pearl Harbor in December, 1941."
Truman openly voiced the vengeance-for-Pearl-Harbor sentiments that fueled the ire of Americans during World War II. War skeptic Paul Fussell wrote:
"Revenge is not a rational motive, but it was the main motive in the American destruction of the Japanese empire. A compiler of An Oral History of the War Years in America observed:
"'I distrust people who speak of the (atom) bombings today as an atrocity they strongly opposed in 1945…I don't believe them. At the time virtually everyone was delighted that we dropped the bombs, not only because they shortened the war and saved thousands of American lives but also (quite irrationally, notice) because the "Japs" deserved it for the terrible things they had done to our boys at Pearl Harbor, Bataan, Guadalcanal, and all the way through the Pacific.'"
After the atom bombs were dropped on Japan, the American mood was jubilant, with 23% of Americans wishing that there were more atom bombs to drop on them. In 1995, Bill Clinton stated that the USA did not need to apologize to Japan because Truman made the right decision, "based on the facts before him," which continued the attitude of American presidents, with the sole exception of Dwight Eisenhower (sentiments only voiced before and after he left office), since 1945.
The day that the USA bombed Hiroshima, Truman first voiced his vengeance for Pearl Harbor theme, stating:
"The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor. They have been repaid many fold."
Truman repeated the "vengeance for Pearl Harbor" sentiments until his death.
When I began the process of revising this essay in July 2014, I knew that this section would be one of the more painful to revisit. Not only was it painful, I spent more time revising this section than any other. Similar to orthodox historians who argue that the USA was the innocent party whom the Japanese caught by surprise at Pearl Harbor, the orthodox position, soon after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, has been that those atoms bombs saved lives, as they quickly ended the war. A few years later, "War is Peace" became the ruling party's slogan in Orwell's 1984, and orthodox American historians have defended the atom bombs ever since 1945 as life-saving weapons, without a trace of irony.
I have far closer connections to the mentalities that justified dropping the atom bombs than it might seem to casual readers. During the Vietnam War, my first professional mentor invented a bomb that would destroy weaponry and machinery and not harm people. The USA's Department of Defense (an Orwellian renaming of the War Department soon after World War II) immediately moved to suppress that bomb, and a decade later, the Soviet Union and Reagan administration began to make neutron bombs, which was my mentor's idea inverted, as it preserved weapons and machinery and killed all of the people. A few years after his harmless bomb was suppressed, he sat in meetings similar to those that Truman and his military advisers had when discussing the atom bomb. The euphemisms and technical talk seemed intended to obscure the fact that the conversations were about killing vast numbers of people in the most effective way possible, as if it was a science project. He saw the kind of groupthink that was enforced in those meetings and realized that if he had stayed in that environment much longer, he would been "lost in their paradigm," and would lose his soul. He quit his military career a few years later.
Getting at the truth of the motivation behind dropping the atom bombs has been a far murkier exercise than orthodox historians have portrayed. The lies about the atom bombing began with Truman's announcement of bombing Hiroshima, as he called the city a "military base," but the reality was that the first people incinerated by the Hiroshima bomb at Ground Zero were patients in hospital beds and children on a playground.
The revisionism soon began, by the officials themselves, as they tried to attribute humanitarian motivation to unleashing history's most destructive weapons. In 1947, Henry Stimson made the first public rationalization for dropping the atom bombs, in Harper's Magazine, in the face of criticisms from people such as Albert Einstein. In reality, Stimson's name was attached to a federal effort to defend dropping the atom bombs. An article in the New York Times on August 19, 1946, titled, "Einstein Deplores Use of Atom Bomb", stated:
"Prof. Albert Einstein... said that he was sure that President Roosevelt would have forbidden the atomic bombing of Hiroshima had he been alive and that it was probably carried out to end the Pacific war before Russia could participate."
Less than a year before he died, Einstein said to Linus Pauling (who would later receive a Nobel Prize for his anti-nuclear activism):
"I made one great mistake in my life - when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made…but there was some justification - the danger that the Germans would make them."
One incensed reader of the Harper's article was Joseph C. Grew, who was the USA's ambassador to Japan from 1932 to the day after the Pearl Harbor attack. Grew was in intimate contact with Truman and Stimson and was behind the effort to put language into the Potsdam Declaration that Japan could retain its imperial family. Grew strongly believed that if Japan had been given assurances regarding their emperor's status, it would have surrendered months before the USA dropped the atom bombs. Grew confronted Stimson regarding the glaring omission in the Harper's article. While defending himself, Stimson wrote to Grew in the wake of the Harper's article that those who decided to bomb Hiroshima were "very fine men," but they "should have known better."
The Manhattan Project was history's biggest science project to that time (exceeded only by the race to the moon), and used about 600,000 Americans in various aspects of it, and it was top-secret. Virtually no Americans knew anything about the Manhattan Project until those bombs were dropped on Japan. Richard Rhodes's The Making of the Atomic Bomb is the defining history of the Manhattan Project. The entire Manhattan Project was classified for many years. Not until 1960 were the informal names of the bombs, Fat Man and Little Boy, declassified. To the day that I wrote this in 2014, the Manhattan Project's research into the brain-damaging effects of the fluorine used to refine the uranium for the bombs remains classified. Also, what has been declassified often shows how badly the officials lied to the public. Japanese officials destroyed most of their records at World War II's end, to prevent them from being used in war crimes trials. Consequently, any historian who tries to create a picture of what really happened is assembling a jigsaw puzzle with many critical and incriminating pieces missing. With those caveats, I will briefly explore the decision to drop the atom bombs.
The repeatedly stated rationale by Truman, that it was vengeance for Pearl Harbor, may be one of the most honest public statements made by any American official, and helps Truman earn his reputation for honesty. Also, after witnessing the devastation that the Hiroshima bomb inflicted, Truman decided to approve any further bombings, because he hated to kill 100,000 people per bomb, especially, "all those kids," which is once again at variance with his "military base" announcement. Being one of the most honest presidents is not saying much.
Today, in 2014, there are three academic "camps" regarding the decision to drop the atom bombs. The first is called the "traditional" or "orthodox" position, which largely takes the government's position at face value, with their primary claim being that the bombs were used to end the war quickly and save lives, first and foremost. Another camp is the "revisionists", and its central contention is that the primary purpose of using the bombs was to impress the Soviet Union, and could be considered the Cold War's first overt act. That camp also agrees with the traditionalists that an American goal was ending the war quickly, but not for the "saving lives" rationale that the traditionalists defend, but so that the Soviet Union would not enter the war against Japan and the USA could limit their influence in East Asia. Revisionists argue that there was little military necessity for dropping the atom bombs, particularly from the "saving lives" perspective. The third camp is the "consensus" historians, who generally agree with the revisionists that the bombings were not militarily necessary, but they also generally reject the revisionists' "nuclear diplomacy" arguments. See this discussion by Derek Ide. Here is a good repository of many of the primary documents regarding the decision to drop the atom bombs. The traditionalists, particularly Robert James Maddox, often accuse the revisionists, particularly Gar Alperovitz, of academic misconduct in presenting their documentary support, and their attacks can be vicious. Those camps could also been seen as the political right, left, and center, as traditionalists celebrate the bombs, revisionists are critical of the government's motives, and consensus historians are relatively neutral.
Pulling back for a moment from that fray can be advantageous. Professional historians try to avoid presentism and look at historical events through the participants' eyes. For instance, the traditionalists exonerate Truman and his advisors, and state that they did the best that they could with the events that they faced, such as Maddox did. Maybe Truman could have been acquitted in a court of law, but winners never face war crimes trials; only losers do. However, such an exercise can only be performed with numerous framing assumptions and similar approaches that few may accept as valid. Truman and his advisors can only be found innocent by descending into a pit of darkness, where evil is relative, where Hitler and Stalin can be compared, to see who was better (or less evil), and where the lesser of two (or four) evils may be seen as good. However, even if historians can avoid the presentism issue in defending Truman, being happy that those days are behind us, if they truly are behind us, is a practicing a presentism that I am happy to be accused of.
All warfare is a societal failure, and all warfare has been primarily economic in nature. Even since George Washington's fraudulent plan, the USA has almost always picked fights with weak adversaries so that it could easily gain land or economic plunder from its targets. Americans only built upon the openly genocidal practices of their ancestors, so there is little need to "credit" Yankee ingenuity. Whether it was George Bush the First's phony "negotiations" with Iraq in 1990-1991, or the Clinton administration's fraudulent diplomacy that preceded the American bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, or George Bush the Second's obviously fraudulent rationales provided for invading Iraq in 2003, the USA has long engaged in Roman-style "diplomacy," which the United Nations' Secretary-General finally realized. A standard American tactic, which Hollywood movies have used as a formula for generations, is that if the other party "starts it," then any amount of retribution is "justified," and the more extreme, as in the Biblical hundred-fold, the better. The USA did it from the beginning, and activities such as provoking the Mexican-American war provided Hitler with a blueprint to justify invading Poland. Hitler also drew inspiration from the American treatment of the Indians in formulating his Jewish policies. Pearl Harbor and the terror attacks of 9/11 were only some of the more controversial events, as far as how much American complicity there may have been in provocations that the USA used to justify wars that it knew it would win, for reasons that were never officially stated.
There had long been a conceit in the West of engaging in "civilized" warfare, which the World Wars finally disabused Europeans of, and one of those civilized ideals was that non-combatants would not be military targets. The various Geneva Conventions made "laws" regarding "civilized" warfare, which the USA has regularly disregarded (1, 2, 3, 4), while it has set up kangaroo courts to try "war criminals," with even "human rights" organizations supporting such shams.
As Noam Chomsky often stated, by the standards of the Nuremberg trials, every American president since World War II would have swung by a noose, beginning with Truman. At the Nuremburg trials, the Nazis' defense was literally that if the Allies did it, then it was not a war crime. Even then, German and Japanese officials were executed for activities that the Allies regularly engaged in, but again, winners are never prosecuted at war crimes trials. Long before the war was over, both sides intentionally bombed civilians, and cities in particular. The Geneva standards had long since been abandoned, and the greatest bombing crimes were inflicted by the Allies, with the napalm attacks on Dresden and Tokyo being particularly infamous. The USA had long-since crossed a line into previously unthinkable barbarity as they developed their atom bombs. By lowering the bar for acceptable behavior to where incinerating cities is "normal" and even a celebrated "good deed," maybe the case can be made for acquitting Truman and his advisors in a fantasy court.
The difference between those three camps – traditionalists, revisionists, and consensus historians – is partly an issue of emphasis. For instance, the issue of where in Truman's decision-making process the postwar relationship with the Soviet Union is more about which undeniable events represented the dominant thinking. It is undeniable that key members of the atomic bomb project were looking far beyond "defense" against the Nazis and even defeating Japan, but were looking toward the Soviet Union.
Here is an example of how those making it viewed the atomic bomb. By the spring of 1943, the Allies were gaining on all fronts, and the war's outcome was becoming inevitable. The early and easy victories of the Germans and Japanese had turned into a grinding battle of attrition, and the Allies had far more industrial resources and men to throw at it, with the USA having an industrial capacity greater than all other belligerents combined. The Allies never really achieved any easy victories over the Japanese and Germans; they simply could more easily absorb the attritional losses. By late 1943, the war's eventual outcome was apparent. The decisive battles of the Coral Sea and Midway happened in the spring of 1942, which marked the end of Japanese expansion. Germany overextended itself with the invasion of the Soviet Union, which was a miscalculation that climaxed in the winter of 1942-1943 with the disaster at Stalingrad. The great majority of German casualties were on the Eastern Front, and the Soviet Union beat the Nazis, not the USA and the UK. The Allies also began winning in North Africa in late 1942. By the summer of 1943, the Allies invaded Italy. The Americans won the battle of Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands by early 1943, which was the pivotal battle of the Pacific.
In April 1943, the Manhattan Project began building a factory to produce wire mesh with nickel plating, made by the Norris-Adler process, which resisted corrosion better than the failing copper components. The nickel mesh wire would work in the diffusion process used to separate Uranium-235 (U-235) from the U-238. In October 1943, a barrier more promising than the Norris-Adler screens was invented. The Norris-Adler screens were adequate to get enough U-235 to make the atom bombs, and changing barriers would delay making an atom bomb for months. Harold Urey, the 1934 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry for his discovery and isolation of deuterium (the first elemental isotope ever isolated), which was an important part of making nuclear weapons, came into a heated conflict with Groves regarding the conversion to the new barriers. Urey argued that changing barriers in midstream would delay making the atom bomb by months. By January of 1944, Groves authorized the switch to the new process. Rhodes wrote:
"By changing barriers rather than abandoning gaseous diffusion he confirmed what many Manhattan Project scientists had not yet realized: that the commitment of the USA to nuclear weapons development had enlarged from the seemingly urgent but narrow goal of beating the Germans to the bomb. Building a gaseous-diffusion plant that would interfere with conventional war production, would eventually cost half a billion dollars but would almost certainly not contribute significantly to shortening the war meant that nuclear weapons were thenceforth to be counted a permanent addition to the U.S. arsenal. Urey saw the point and withdrew [he resigned his position - Ed.]; 'from that time forward,' write his colleague biographers, 'his energies were directed to the control of atomic energy, not its applications.'"
In light of that event, shortening the war was obviously not the Manhattan Project's top priority, but was part of a long-term strategy, which Groves said was "to subdue the Soviets." When another scientist, Joseph Rotblat, heard Groves say that, he also quit the Manhattan Project and won his Nobel Prize for speaking out against nuclear weapons. As I discovered during my adventures and subsequent studies, personal integrity is the world's scarcest commodity, and of the 5,000 scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, only two quit when it became evident that the Nazis would not develop an atom bomb before they were defeated. Beating the Nazis to the bomb motivated Einstein, and all Manhattan Project scientists initially worked under that assumption. After the Nazis were defeated and the development of the bomb continued at a breakneck pace, what were the scientists thinking, when defense was no longer an issue, as everybody knew that the Japanese posed no nuclear threat? In the words of Richard Feynman, "We stopped thinking." In the highly compartmentalized and secret Manhattan Project, scientists ceded ethical issues to the politicians and military leaders.
Groves was not the only official to make such comments in front of Manhattan Project scientists; in a meeting in May 1945, James F. Byrnes, Truman's Secretary of State and a negotiator at the Potsdam Conference, who nearly became president instead of Truman, told Leó Szilárd (who got Einstein to sign his letter to FDR about developing the atom bomb) that:
"[Byrnes] was concerned about Russia's postwar behavior. Russian troops had moved into Hungary and Rumania, and Byrnes thought it would be very difficult to persuade Russia to withdraw her troops from these countries, that Russia might be more manageable if impressed by American military might, and that a demonstration of the bomb might impress Russia."
Byrnes stated that sentiment more than once, and as late as 1960. Byrnes's statements are what formed the basis what became Gar Alperovitz's "nuclear diplomacy" hypothesis, with Alperovitz writing:
"…the then available evidence 'strongly suggested' that the view James F. Byrnes had reportedly urged to three atomic scientists (also in May 1945) was an accurate statement of policy: 'Mr. Byrnes did not argue that it was necessary to use the bomb against the cities of Japan in order to win the war….Mr. Byrnes’….view (was) that our possessing and demonstrating the bomb would make Russia more manageable in Europe.'"
Byrnes actively managed his visibility in the documentary trail behind the atom bombing decisions, with secrecy and fabrications that still mar the official record. The traditionalists and consensus historians have discounted such evidence or lack of it, and largely deny that "impressing" the Soviet Union with atomic bombs was a prominent motivation. The traditionalists argue that ending the war quickly trumped all other motivations, in order to end the risk to American soldiers. The traditionalists also cast a humanitarian light on the decision-making, in that it would also spare far more Japanese lives to repel the American invasion of Japan, as they would fight off napalm and saturation bombing with hoes and swords.
A primary focus of contention was the relative influence of Secretary of War Stimson and Secretary of State Byrnes, which represented the conflict between the military and civilian leaders that later was evident in how the CIA was founded, for instance. Stimson was in his second stint as Secretary of War; he court-martialed Butler during his first stint for his accurate statement about Mussolini. With his military background, Stimson was initially leery about targeting cities with atom bombs, and in the spring of 1945, as the Nazi atrocities were coming to light and the USA was firebombing Japanese cities, Stimson wrote of his objections made to Truman regarding the firebombings:
"[F]irst, because I did not want to have the United States get the reputation of outdoing Hitler in atrocities; and second, I was a little fearful that before we could get ready the Air Force might have Japan so thoroughly bombed out that the new weapon would not have a fair background to show its strength."
Truman's response was to laugh and reply that he understood. Stimson and George Marshall were from the Old School, where soldiers did not kill women and children. Marshall also expressed his reluctance to bomb cities, but those men were in the distinct minority among the younger "total war" advocates.
The idea that Japan would have been so incinerated by the time an atom bomb was ready that there would be nothing left to be destroyed was common among military officials in the spring of 1945. Hap Arnold, who ran the Army Air Force, in the spring of 1945 informed Major General Curtis LeMay, who eventually ran the Strategic Air Command in the USA, that by October 1945, there would be nothing left in Japan worth bombing, as the entire nation would be in ruins.
While Stimson was reluctant to bomb cities, the Manhattan Project was developing bombs specifically designed for dropping on cities. The reason why Hiroshima was bombed was because it would make a showcase for the bomb's devastating power. Hiroshima was one of the few Japanese cities not yet reduced to rubble, precisely because it was of little military significance. The planners wanted to bomb a city that was relatively intact, which was why they chose Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Declassified files have shown that the initial criteria for selecting the atomic bomb targets were:
"(1) they be important targets in a large urban area of more than three miles diameter, (2) they be capable of being damaged effectively by a blast, and (3) they are likely to be unattacked by next August."
The Target Committee also noted:
"that psychological factors in the target selection were of great importance. Two aspects of this are (1) obtaining the greatest psychological effect against Japan and (2) making the initial use sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognized when publicity on it is released."
Hiroshima was initially on the list partly because of, "the advantage of being such a size and with possible focusing from nearby mountains that a large fraction of the city may be destroyed."
Alperovitz summarized the memorandums and thinking that went into the bombing decision and wrote, "This meant targeting large numbers of civilians."
The four cities on the initial targeting list were purposely not bombed by the USA in the months leading up to dropping the atom bombs so that they could showcase the bombs' devastating impact to the world, not just Japan.
Stimson initially rejected targeting cities, but then acquiesced when he was assured that a military structure within the city would be the target, which would provide a fig leaf of justification. Those kinds of debates in those days reflected what one consensus historian called "macabre and shallow reasoning" among the decision-makers. Stimson became the first government apologist for the Hiroshima bombing with his 1947 Harper's article, which summarized what became the traditionalist position.
The general thinking among consensus historians is that the traditionalists exaggerated the Japanese will to fight to the end and their ability to resist, the potential casualties to Allied troops in future operations to subdue Japan, and far overplayed the concern that American authorities had for civilian casualties, while they underplayed Japanese attempts to negotiate their surrender.
The Japanese had been putting out feelers for ending the war as early as 1943. The Americans had cracked the Japanese code before Pearl Harbor and knew the content of internal Japanese cables. Throughout July 1945, Japan was making attempts to negotiate the war's end. In his diary of July 18, 1945, Truman wrote: "Stalin had told P.M. [Prime Minister Churchill] of telegram from Jap [sic] Emperor asking for peace." Just three days before bombing Hiroshima, an aide recorded in his diary that Truman and his advisors knew that the Japanese were seeking surrender, and Truman was, "afraid they will sue for peace through Russia instead of some country like Sweden."
The sticking point with Japanese surrender was the retention of the office of the emperor, who was the central and deific figure of the state religion. Grew was far from the only official who knew that, and below are some quotes regarding that situation.
On May 28, 1945, former president Herbert Hoover visited President Truman and suggested a way to end the Pacific war quickly:
"I am convinced that if you, as President, will make a shortwave broadcast to the people of Japan - tell them they can have their Emperor if they surrender, that it will not mean unconditional surrender except for the militarists - you'll get a peace in Japan - you'll have both wars over."
On August 8, 1945, two days after Hiroshima was bombed, Hoover wrote to Army and Navy Journal publisher Colonel John Callan O'Laughlin, "The use of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and children, revolts my soul."
Douglas MacArthur's biographer William Manchester described MacArthur's reaction to the issuance by the Allies of the Potsdam Proclamation to Japan:
"...the Potsdam declaration in July, demand(ed) that Japan surrender unconditionally or face 'prompt and utter destruction.' MacArthur was appalled. He knew that the Japanese would never renounce their emperor, and that without him an orderly transition to peace would be impossible anyhow, because his people would never submit to Allied occupation unless he ordered it. Ironically, when the surrender did come, it was conditional, and the condition was a continuation of the imperial reign. Had the General's advice been followed, the resort to atomic weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki might have been unnecessary."
Norman Cousins consulted for General MacArthur during the American occupation of Japan. Cousins wrote, "MacArthur's views about the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were starkly different from what the general public supposed." He continued, "When I asked General MacArthur about the decision to drop the bomb, I was surprised to learn he had not even been consulted. What, I asked, would his advice have been? He replied that he saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it later did anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor."
Less than a week before bombing Hiroshima, in a letter to his wife, Truman wrote that in his geopolitical card game with Stalin, he had "an ace in the hole," which historians consider to mean the atomic bomb. That "ace" was also likely behind American demands that Japan unconditionally surrender. At the Potsdam Conference soon before Hiroshima was nuked, Stimson tried to insert language into the declaration that Japan could retain its emperor, but Byrnes and Truman removed it. The fact is that alternatives to Japan's surrender, short of nuclear bombs, were never seriously pursued by the USA. They had their "ace" and were eager to play it.
Other than vengeance and ending the war quickly, few other official rationales withstand much scrutiny. To gain a better understanding of those days, reviewing the Japanese mentality might help. By World War II, Japan was the only significant place on Earth not ruled by white men. That was because Japan knew the Empire Game and would not get into position to be conquered. They had a warrior society that was quite insular, and their isolation protected them from the imperial powers conquering the globe. That insularity also put them behind technologically. Until the 1850s, Japanese military technology had not advanced beyond the musket and sword. Japan's isolation lasted until 1853, when American Commander Matthew Perry stormed into Tokyo harbor in a great show of military force. The "diplomatic invasion" of Japan by Perry was humiliating for the Japanese people. Perry's mission was a wake-up call for Japan. Japan had plenty of nearby examples of what the European/American presence meant to indigenous peoples, and planned to avoid their fate.
The American intrusion spelled the end of feudal Japanese society, and in 1868 a revolution ended Shogun rule, elevated Shintoism to the state religion, with the installation of the emperor as the divine, sovereign being. Militarily however, in World War II, Japan sought only to carve out an imperial domain on its end of Asia and eject the white men.
Japan became obsessed with catching up with the white man's world. In 1800, Europe, which occupied less than seven percent of the world's land, controlled 35% of it, 67% in 1878, and 84% in 1914. Japan was playing catch-up, and in the early 1900s it began gaining ground, although by 1938 it was still far behind the USA, the UK, and Germany, as it was only about a third as industrialized as those nations.
Industrialization was accomplished by raping the world and stealing the natural resources and exploiting the labor of the world's less violent nations, in a pattern that continues into the 21st century. Preventing those nations from industrializing and "needing" those resources stolen from them has been an integral part of colonialism and neocolonialism. The USA and Soviet Union stole large swaths of continents and made them contiguous parts of their empires, so were able to plunder "internally," although both also raped neighbors that were not de jure parts of the empire, such as the USA in Latin America and Russia in Asia and North America, and the Great Game that Russia played with the UK in Afghanistan. Island nations such as Japan and the UK, however, had to resort to plundering abroad, which was the essence of colonialism. For instance, pre-Hitler Germany had to import 33 of the 35 raw materials that it needed for industrial production. Along with their brutal conquest and exploitation of the world's people, Europe adopted involved and often racist ideologies to justify it, as if they were "civilizing" the world as they murdered and exploited the world's dark-skinned people.
Japanese society quickly evolved from feudalism to a fanatical nationalism, as it followed the West's lead. By 1885, Japan was fighting with China over Korea. In 1894, Japan defeated China in a short-lived war, and Japan came to the table with other imperial powers in partitioning China. In 1904-1905, Japan surprisingly won a war against Russia. Japan was on the Allied side in World War I, as it eagerly supplied arms and other goods to a white man's world at war. The aftermath of World War I, however, saw a collapse in demand for Japanese goods, and the Great Depression was hard on Japan, as it was to all industrialized nations. Unlike Germany, which received a great deal of foreign investment during the Great Depression, foreign investment bypassed Japan for more profitable fields in China, which led to further Japanese enmity toward the West. Japan is an island nation and experienced a great population increase, more than doubling from 1868 to 1930, to 65 million people. As with other nations in its situation, increasing food imports largely fueled the population increase, and the Great Depression led to Japanese deprivation, which bordered on mass starvation. Destitute Japanese fathers sold their daughters into prostitution. Japanese politicians began seeing China in much the same terms as the USA had seen the western half of North America during the previous century: land there for the taking, in the name of Manifest Destiny. That other peoples or nations occupied the lands did not matter. Hitler’s Lebensraum ideology was also lifted from the American handbook, with Hitler seeing Eastern Europe in much the same way that America’s Founding Fathers saw North America: land there for the taking, to be cleared of “subhuman” races.
The aftermath of World War I saw a militant fanaticism grip Japan. The indoctrination of Japanese boys was intense and brutal. They were trained especially to hate the Chinese. Their study was intense. A Japanese officer had more than twice as much classwork as a British officer, and more than ten times as much private study. Beating Japanese military students, and other tortures, was standard in the indoctrination process, which nobody protested. Ritual suicide was an integral aspect of Japanese culture, which later manifested in the Kamikaze pilots who ran their planes into American warships. The Japanese soldiers felt that they could roll over China in a few months, but when taking Shanghai alone took months, the Japanese self-image took a beating, which played a part in the brutal Rape of Nanking.
Even after the atomic bombs were dropped, a fanatical faction in the Japanese military did not want to surrender, and they seized the recording of Emperor Hirohito, as they preferred to die instead of surrender. They felt that the USA had ten more atom bombs ready to drop on Japan, and that they could withstand it. The man who crafted the Kamikaze strategy came to a meeting on August 13th, four days after the Nagasaki bomb dropped, and the day before Hirohito recorded his surrender address to Japan, with a plan to "sacrifice twenty million Japanese lives in a special (Kamikaze) attack." There may be proportionally more right-wing fanatics in Japan than in the USA, and they can be more fanatical than Americans. Vengeance perpetrated against those who voice views at odds with the right-wing image of Japan is common. Japan’s fanatical military leaders did not prevail, however, and saner members of the government did. Hirohito made an unprecedented move when he asked the cabinet to surrender. The "god" of Japan had never before lowered himself to deal in Japan’s temporal affairs. When his surrender speech was broadcast to Japan’s citizens, it was the first time that his voice was publicly heard in Japan. To the Japanese, it was as if their god spoke to them.
One reason for the fanaticism, however, was to protect the emperor from war crimes prosecution, which the doves and hawks in the Japanese government were united on. The Japanese people saw the emperor as deific. By August of 1945, Japan was defeated. They were completely surrounded by enemy troops. Its navy was gone, its air force was gone; it was not even shooting at American airplanes that dropped bombs. The Japanese had been exploring surrendering for more than a year when the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. After the USA's victory at Saipan in July of 1944, Japan's future was plain to all. Allied forces were rolling across Europe by that time, and all observers knew that it was only a matter of time before Japan and Germany were defeated. The Japanese began exploring surrender options in July 1944, and the USA knew it.
The Japanese government naturally wanted "good" peace terms in the early stages, and was anxious to negotiate a peace. The USA's government was aware of the contents of those Japanese cables, but did not publicly admit that they knew what was in the Japanese cables until 1960, and only in the late 20th century, our government, in response to Freedom of Information lawsuits, began revealing what it knew during World War II about Japanese intentions. The new information has been used by "revisionists," but that is what revisionism is partly about: revising views in light of previously unknown information.
By May of 1945, when Eugene Sledge was living in hell on Okinawa, the bulk of the Japanese military was eager to surrender, even under hard terms, provided that they were somewhat honorable. The only condition that the Japanese were asking for was sparing the imperial family from retribution. The Emperor was involved heavily in the war and Japan’s monstrous war crimes. It is a vile tale, no doubt, yet letting sparing one man was all that Japan was asking for. Their sentiments are easily understandable. Hirohito was a religious figure, and priesthood has been deifying elites since the earliest civilizations. Imagine how the British people would have reacted if the Germans wanted to publicly execute the King of England as a term of surrender. The British people might have fought to the last man to prevent that from happening, and the Japanese were far more fanatical than the British regarding their royalty.
The USA, throughout the period of Japanese exploration of surrendering, continually stressed that surrender had to be "unconditional." Even after the unconditional surrender, the USA allowed Japan to keep its emperor anyway.
Consensus historians such as L. Samuel Walker consider the traditionalist claims of American lives saved (which American officials began to inflate after the bombings) and the "need" for the bomb to be exaggerations, and consensus historian William Lanouette's list of reasons for the bombings makes a certain horrific sense, which were:
Ending the war quickly;
The bureaucratic momentum reason is one of the more sickening, and the logic was that since the USA invested $2 billion in 1945 dollars into making the bombs, they had better get a "return on investment" for them, which I suppose was an understandable sentiment in a nation that was the heart of capitalism and about to enter its golden age as history's richest and most powerful society. Even more grotesque speculation regarding that reason has been that two different bombs were used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with the simple uranium bomb on Hiroshima and the complex plutonium bomb on Nagasaki, so the two primary bomb-building operations had their cost justified. The other reasons are only slightly less agonizing to explore.
I will give Truman the benefit of the doubt that he would happily sacrifice hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians to spare thousands of American soldiers. The evidence strongly supports the idea that the lives "saved" by the atom bombs were steadily inflated by Truman and his advisors after the war, to retroactively make their decisions seem more humane, but I'll side with those who think that it did not matter how many American lives would be saved by the bomb. Even though people such as Sledge knew that they were expendable cannon fodder, I will accept that Truman wanted no more of them to die than was necessary, and if nuking Japan could save any lives of American soldiers, then he was for it, although his invasion of Korea makes the argument questionable. Such one-sided calculations have been seen many times in the USA's military since then, and I'll even accept that Truman believed in the welfare of his in-group. Out-groups have been fair game for the entirety of human history, and even going back to chimpanzees, so Truman was doing nothing different in kind, but just on a scale and violent intensity that was unprecedented.
Paul Fussell was one of the most vigorous defenders of dropping the bomb, mainly because he would have been shipped from Europe for the invasion of Japan, which no American in the European Theater eagerly anticipated. The "anybody but me" view of the cannon fodder is understandable, but did not make bombing Hiroshima "righteous."
Bombing Hiroshima was a direct violation of the Geneva Convention, although Truman's advisors sought a legal loophole for their novel weapon. According to the standards used at Nuremberg, Truman and his advisors (and others such as Churchill) should have been at the business end of a hangman's noose for bombing Hiroshima, and especially Nagasaki.
Extreme secrecy was used regarding dropping the bomb. The decision-makers were against any warning to Japan about what was going to happen. Although in the later propaganda years, Hollywood would depict America as dropping leaflets to warn the Japanese of the Hiroshima bombing, that notion is a complete fabrication.
Alperovitz noted that Truman and his advisors did not choose to drop the atom bombs out of:
"…evil intent. Their motives, broadly speaking, were good; their intentions well-meaning. Mainly they were people who had experienced two world wars in one generation who did not want to see a third one occur - and who believed the new weapon gave them the power to shape events to achieve a truly enduring peace."
"Around the world Americans are famous for a certain naive self-righteousness, even arrogance. We like to see ourselves as possessed of special, unique virtue. Ours is a great nation. So long as we accept a distorted, overly idealized image of ourselves and our society, however - so long as we see all "good" here and all "evil" elsewhere - I believe we must inevitably err in our relationship with others. Many of the excesses of the Cold War - and the overreaching that produced the Vietnam War - can be traced in part to such attitudes."
In essence, Alperovitz enunciated the attitude of Nazi Germany as it marched off to war, as Japan did, as Great Britain, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, and Spain did when they conquered the world, etc. The self-image that Americans have is the same one that all imperial societies have. It amounts to, "We are the good guys." Because we accept that "self-evident truth," as seen through our eyes, we blithely justify Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We cheer acts such as the Gulf War. We stand by as our national apparatus bludgeons Guatemala, El Salvador, Panama, Vietnam, Chile, Iran, Nicaragua, Iraq, and so on. We inflict great evil on others, while telling ourselves that we are the good guys. Hitler thought the same way, as does every butcher and mass murderer. The means become the ends. They always have, and always will.
The most involved account to ever appear on network television was in 1965, in the documentary titled The Decision to Drop the Bomb. It was far from even-handed, and ended up recapitulating Stimson’s distortions, but it was the most frank account that ever appeared on network television. The USA is still a nation in denial regarding Hiroshima, nearly 70 years since it happened.
Alperovitz was the first to claim that Truman delayed the Potsdam Conference until the USA could test an atomic bomb. At the time, he was attacked for such observations, but today they are widely accepted in scholarly circles, even if our politicians and mainstream media continue to deny it. In 1978, the discovery of Truman's "Potsdam Diary" confirmed key Alperovitz claims. Truman was well aware that the threat of the Soviets entering the war against Japan would lead to their immediate surrender, which was why they tried delaying the Soviet entrance into the Asian war. The picture became clearer, and Alperovitz's "radical" scholarship was vindicated. Along with Alperovitz, British physicist Patrick Blackett was vindicated. He was the 1948 Nobel laureate for his work in nuclear physics, and was knighted for his work. He wrote the first book to challenge the Disneyfied version that Secretary of War Henry Stimson and others concocted long ago. Blackett's book was titled, Fear, War and the Bomb, published in the 1940s. Blackett called the Hiroshima bombing the first shot of the Cold War.
While the Hiroshima bomb had some arguable justification, almost nobody on Earth except for the traditionalists argues for the justification for the Nagasaki bomb. There was no pressing need to rush things in the wake of Hiroshima, other than keeping the Soviets from gaining too much influence in Eastern Asia.
Here is a sampling of opinion by men who were obviously not revisionist scholars, and what they thought of dropping the atomic bombs.
"…the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing." - Dwight Eisenhower.
"It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.
"The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children." - William Leahy.
"On June 28, 1945, a memorandum written by Under Secretary of the Navy, Ralph Bard the previous day was given to Secretary of War Henry Stimson. The memorandum stated in part:
“'Following the three-power [July 1945 Potsdam - Ed.] conference emissaries from this country could contact representatives from Japan somewhere on the China Coast and make representations with regard to Russia's position and at the same time give them some information regarding the proposed use of atomic power, together with whatever assurances the President might care to make with regard to the Emperor of Japan and the treatment of the Japanese nation following unconditional surrender. It seems quite possible to me that this presents the opportunity which the Japanese are looking for.
"'I don't see that we have anything in particular to lose in following such a program.' He concluded the memorandum by noting, 'The only way to find out is to try it out.'"
George Kennan, one of the most fervent Cold Warriors, wrote the following, in "A Christian's View of the Arms Race":
"(T)he readiness to use nuclear weapons against other human beings - against people whom we do not know, whom we have never seen, and for whose guilt or innocence is not for us to establish - and, in doing so, to place in jeopardy the natural structure upon which all civilization rests, as though the safety and perceived interest of our own generation are more important than everything that has ever taken place or could take place in civilization: this is nothing less than a presumption, a blasphemy, and indignity - an indignity of monstrous dimensions - offered to God."
John McCloy asked Truman in June 1945 to somehow end the war before the USA invaded the Japanese mainland, and to also let Japan know that they could retain their emperor. In McCloy's July 1945 diary, written after he learned of the successful test of the bomb in New Mexico:
"I hope it does not augur the commencement of the destruction of modern civilization. In this atmosphere of destruction and the callousness of men and their leaders, the whole thing seems ominous."
McCloy helped write the initial Potsdam Declaration draft, which repeated the widespread understanding that unless Japan could retain its emperor, it would not surrender. Truman and Byrnes had other ideas.
As with the Jewish Holocaust, there are dots of light in the black firmament that hovers over the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. In 1954, Norman Cousins successfully agitated for "Hiroshima Maidens" to come to the USA for surgery to try healing their disfigurement from the atom bombing. They were warmly received by many, yet the USA's government was extremely nervous about those maidens being in America, and feared that there would be anti-nuclear criticism following in the wake of Americans witnessing what the bomb did to Japanese citizens. The arrival of the Hiroshima Maidens was the first time that the American public openly saw the results of the atom bombs. Until that time, the footage of the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a state secret. The Hiroshima Maidens played a part in the healing that has taken place between the USA and Japan. The Maidens accepted their state, consistent with their religion and worldview, and did not blame America. Also, there were more than a thousand nuclear-disfigured American citizens living in America at the time, generally Nisei who were trapped in Japan when war broke out, who were bombed by their own government, as with those American POWs held at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, whom our government knew full well were down there when the atom bombs were dropped.
At present, my home state of Washington will be dealing with the issue of nuclear weapons for the next 200,000 years or so, with the immense wisdom that led to the Hanford facility, which is leaking plutonium today into the Columbia River. Since civilization is about 7,000 years old, it took some incredible foresight to plan for 200,000 years into the future so that we could subdue Japan.
The issue here is not condemning Truman, Hitler, or anyone; it is deflating the moral superiority that Americans have adopted regarding that war, and all wars since, thinking that they are the force of light and righteousness, defeating the forces of evil as they bomb helpless Vietnamese farmers, Iraqi conscripts, Yugoslavian peasants, Panamanian tenement dwellers, pharmaceutical factories, Afghanistan "rebels" that America armed and incited, etc. The greatest evils are committed by the self-righteous. During World War II, the killing had escalated to such levels that incinerating a city or two was not out of step with the times. Nuking Hiroshima was a sign of the times in which my parents grew up.
My studies of the issue yielded one insight above all; of all the bombing reactions that have been witnessed since 1945, easily the most crazed is celebrating it, which was similar to Denver's celebration after the Sand Creek Massacre. There is no reason for waving the flag over bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Truman's statements, made the day of the bombing and for long afterward may be the first and last words on the issue: it was vengeance, and it never troubled his sleep.
Some More Myths
In Michael C.C. Adams's The Best War Ever, he noted that contrary to the popular image, most returning soldiers from World War II did not get parades, were often "treated like scum," and one anonymous soldier said, "If you ever got the boys all together they will probably kill all the civilians."
No American or Japanese newspaper carried any stories of atrocities carried out by their own soldiers, although there were plenty. White American servicemen beating and killing black servicemen was covered up. The media, similar to today in many ways, were government cheerleaders, not journalists. The scene of MacArthur wading ashore on his return to the Philippines was staged and filmed several times until they got a take that they liked. The famous picture of Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima was of the second flag being raised, with the first not being large enough to satisfy the Marines. Patton, Eisenhower, and other icons staged their famous photos, such as at Normandy and Sicily. The American film industry was in overdrive, churning out endless movies about the noble Allies and the evil enemy. When disfigured soldiers from the plastic surgery hospital in Pasadena were allowed to go downtown, the newspapers received letters that asked why the soldiers were let out, and asked why they could not be "kept on their own grounds and off the streets?"
The average American soldier did not say a sentence that did not have a four-letter word in it, and their favorite noun, verb and adjective began with the letter "f." The phony war movies starring John Wayne and other jingo-actors unfortunately influenced a generation of boys who went to Korea and Vietnam, thinking that they were somehow saving the world from evil as they bombed Korean and Vietnamese farmers and their families. The Reagan-Bush gang attempted to regain World War II's mythos. Reagan was an actor who was in those World War II movies as Wayne was, and Saddam Hussein was turned into the next Hitler by Bush's lying rhetoric. Reagan was living in a fantasy world so delusional that he told war stories as if he had lived them, but they were really scenes from movies he was in or saw. Reagan never left America's shores as a soldier and never saw combat, but he told war stories.
For a man who gave shoot-to-kill orders to the National Guard, to be executed against protesting students while he was California's governor, for a man who liked telling jokes about black people, for a man who presided over the genocide in Central America, for a man who hated the Soviet Union and did his best to conquer it, as well as being an eager collaborator of Joe McCarthy’s witch-hunts, a man with his delusional wartime fantasies, for a man who was a failed artist (he played the straight man to a chimpanzee) who resurrected his fortunes when he pursued politics, for a man who ran for office on the platform of making his nation great once more by citing a golden age that never was, Reagan had many parallels to Hitler. The accounts we can now read about both men, where they could be nearly incoherent in private conversation, yet those around them, including the press, portrayed both men as dazzling conversationalists, gives one pause. For the death toll they racked up, they were different, but in other ways, they were blood brothers. Hitler was a real soldier; Reagan was a fake soldier. Hitler euthanized the mentally ill; Reagan threw them onto the streets to fend for themselves. I met Reagan's handiwork on the streets of Skid Row Los Angeles every day. Compare the Nuremberg rallies to the Democratic and Republican conventions in American politics. Reagan presided over the biggest imprisonment effort the world had seen since…Hitler's concentration camps and Stalin's gulags. As a child, I had to say the pledge of allegiance every day to begin school. How different was my indoctrination than what a German child underwent? As I was saying my pledge to the flag, with my hand over my heart, my nation was killing millions of "subhuman gooks" in Southeast Asia for the crime of wanting to be free. We were able to accomplish invasions that Hitler could only dream of, as we sent repeatedly troops across a vast ocean to annihilate the "enemy."
World War II built the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned about. Joe Marcus was the head of the Civilian Requirements Division in World War II. Marcus later reflected, "the single most important legacy of the war is…the military-industrial complex. In the past, there were business representatives in Washington, but now they are Washington."
During World War II, an empty-headed nationalism took over American brains. Critical thinking was out, and being a member of the team (herd) was what counted. Nearly two-thirds of American soldiers in World War II were drafted. The baby boom began during the war, as millions of men got married and immediately had a child to avoid being drafted. As with Vietnam, the college deferment was available, which got the middle and upper class men out of combat, which were loopholes that have been available for the rich in every single American war. Being a conscientious objector was a felony offense. Gandhi and Jesus would have been felons in America. "Thou shalt not kill" did not apply when there were enemy to kill, whether they were Japs, Injuns, Krauts, Rag Heads, or Gooks.
The military hierarchy in the regular Germany army was far more democratic than America's and encouraged camaraderie between officers and enlisted soldiers, which was radically different from the caste system that pervaded the American and British ranks. The German, British, and Japanese soldiers were considered far more capable than American soldiers. The German arms were generally of much better quality than American arms, such as the Panzer versus the Sherman tanks, where the military planners calculated that it took five Sherman tanks to take out one Panzer. Proportionally, minorities such as Mexican-Americans and Native Americans served in far higher numbers than the white population. The discrimination against them was evident, but was the most extreme with African-American soldiers, who served in segregated regiments. Blacks generally did not serve in combat, mainly because carrying a weapon was a traditional way to claim full citizenship rights. The Blacks rode on the back of the bus, cleaning out the stables, for World War II. One striking American worker during the war said, "I'd rather see Hitler and Hirohito win the war than work beside a nigger on the assembly line." That worker was expressing common sentiments in America, which was the majority opinion in the South and West. During the "zoot suit" riots in 1943, American servicemen roamed Los Angeles and beat up any Mexican-Americans that they found. The Japanese-Americans were already locked up, so they were not assaulted.
One more minimized aspect of the war was homosexuality in the foxholes. The military had long associated manliness with heterosexuality, and witch-hunts for homosexuals regularly swept the American military ranks. There is nothing "wrong" with homosexuality, and many soldiers engaged in it not because they were homosexuals by nature, just as few prison inmates are homosexuals by choice. If people are desperate for food and sex, they will get it however they can. There was also widespread discrimination against women in the American military. It was a rather backward attitude compared to Europe, where British female officers commanded men. The American infantry, as in all armies, was manned by America’s lower classes. Most combat soldiers coveted the million-dollar wound. Divorces in the USA hit their all-time high during World War II.
The British, for instance, did not look at black American soldiers as "niggers" (a term that Truman regularly used in private), but just as American soldiers. British women who dated black American soldiers, however, were subject to being beaten up by American soldiers, and American soldiers killed people over white women dating blacks, several times, in Britain. The Americans harbored racist hatred for the Arabs and Japanese particularly, but they could even be boorish toward their French and English allies for their "primitive" ways, such as not having refrigerators in their homes.
Seventy-five percent of American soldiers admitted to having sex while overseas, and World War II veterans told me stories where having sex with the local women (who were reduced to prostitution) was a long-standing pastime for imperial troops, such as in the Philippines. Those kinds of war stories are not told at family picnics. American men were considered the most sexist and racist of the Allies. Any woman associating with American soldiers was immediately suspected of being a prostitute. More American soldiers were casualties of venereal disease in Northern Europe than of the V-2 rocket, and during the Italian campaign, venereal disease caused more casualties than battle. A similar trend also happened at home, with the venereal disease rate of girls aged fifteen to eighteen doubling between 1941 and 1944, in New York City.
More than a quarter of all American casualties were psychological problems, usually called shell shock. My ancestors came back from war "changed" men. The common epithet for men getting shell shock was "coward," and Patton struck men who suffered from it. Even the most heroic soldiers got shell shock. Audie Murphy, perhaps the greatest war hero that America ever produced, suffered from shell shock for the rest of his life. One reason why shell shock was so much higher with Americans than other nations (Germany's was less than 2%) was that America had a huge bureaucratic military structure that had only about 20% of its soldiers slated for combat, with the rest performing support duties. Consequently, those 20% had no relief, as the whole effort depended on them. They were the "point of the spear," and were doomed in the heat of the Asian and European theaters, with casualty rates so high that a soldier was almost guaranteed to get maimed or die, which led to playing Russian roulette and other suicidal behaviors. "Take no prisoners" was the motto of even Audie Murphy. Machine gunning a parachuting soldier who had bailed out, torturing prisoners to death to gain information, killing surrendering soldiers, etc., were behaviors that every army in World War II displayed.
At home, history books were revised to minimize or delete the parts that dealt with slavery or the dispossession of the natives, because it promoted "disunity." Unsupervised youth began getting drunk, vandalizing property, and joining gangs. One way for women to show their patriotism was by having sex with soldiers. It is estimated that 85% of the women who lived near army camps and had frequent sex with soldiers in the USA did not charge. They were called Victory Girls, and many if not most were teenagers. Once the war was over, Rosie the Riveter was supposed to go back home and get pregnant. When Valium hit the market in the early 1960s (following Librium in the 1950s), the biggest customer class was American housewives, as they got the newspaper, slippers, and pipe ready for her man for his return from the factory or office. Leave it to Beaver and Ozzie and Harriet only existed in Hollywood’s imagination. All in the Family was more realistic.
Hitler's entire program was based on a racist nationalism, just as in the USA (the original U.S. Constitution exempted slaves and natives from having those "inalienable rights"). Hitler was not as much of an aberration as Westerners like pretending. He was in significant ways the Western mentality’s logical conclusion. Hitler may have done the world a favor, in the end, by taking commonly-held attitudes to their logical extreme.
World War II was not a golden age. Admiral Gene LaRocque told Studs Terkel:
"…I had been in thirteen battle engagements, had sunk a submarine, and was the first man ashore in the landing at Roi. In that four years, I thought, what a hell of a waste of a man's life. I lost a lot of friends. I had the task of telling my roommate's parents about our last days together. You lose limbs, sight, part of your life - for what? Old men send young men to war. Flags, banners, and patriotic sayings…
"You could argue that World War Two had to be fought. Hitler had to be stopped. Unfortunately, we translate it unchanged to the situation today…
"I hate it when they say, 'He gave his life for his country.' Nobody gives their life for anything. We steal the lives of those kids. We take it away from them. They don't die for the honor and glory of their country. We kill them."
After the Bomb
After two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in the span of a few days, Japan surrendered. It was no surprise that the Japanese surrendered after two cities were incinerated. The USA's government fully expected it. In one of the many ironies of Japan’s surrender, although the Americans stonewalled the Japanese surrender with their "unconditional" mantra, after the Japanese surrendered the Allies did exactly what the Japanese wanted: spare Hirohito from prosecution and humiliation. Hirohito remained an untainted emperor until his death in 1989. It appears that retaining Hirohito was a useful strategy for the USA, as a way of controlling post-war Japan, which helped prevent them from going communist or some other unfavorable (from the USA's perspective) path. The last several months of fighting, particularly the kind that Sledge participated in, never needed to happen, as if any of it ever "needed" to happen. That must be a devastating realization, if ever achieved, for those who survived the Pacific Theater battles in 1945, and the families that lost sons in those battles, both American and Japanese.
Bombing Nagasaki was not the last act of the war. The Japanese were not engaging in attacks at that time. They were a defeated people, reduced to huddling under the American bombardment. Hiroshima was bombed on August 6, 1945, and Nagasaki on August 9th. On August 14th, as Hirohito was making his surrender speech, Hap Arnold, who ran the Army Air Force (the Air Force as such did not yet exist) staged what is called the Grand Finale. It was something like our Fourth of July fireworks that celebrate what a great nation we are. The Grand Finale was this: Arnold wanted to get more than 1,000 planes in the air at one time, for one last glorious bombing of Japan. On August 14th, Arnold accomplished his enormous task. He got 1,014 planes aloft for one last bombing run on the main Japanese island of Honshu. Those planes dropped twelve million pounds of bombs on Japan that day, half as much explosive power as was dropped on Hiroshima. It is history's greatest bombing run.
Noam Chomsky, who was sixteen when the bombs were dropped, was "shocked" by the atomic bombing. He did not talk about it with his friends, because nobody seemed to care. Chomsky said about the Grand Finale, "That one didn't kill as many people as the atom bombs, but in a way it's more depraved." The planes dropped leaflets with those bombs during the Grand Finale, which informed the Japanese civilians below that Japan had surrendered. America delivered the news with the bombs. Japan had been reduced nearly entirely to rubble by that time. When I have mentioned the Grand Finale to my fellow Americans, they either say in bewilderment, "no!" or they stare at me with an amazed look on their face. The Grand Finale is described rather cheerily in the official Air Force history.
Japan then surrendered, still kept its emperor, and the Cold War heated up immediately. The first thing that our government did at the war's end in Europe was hire the Nazis. Christopher Simpson's Blowback is the defining history of those events, which have serious repercussions to this day.
The Cold War may have begun with the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The USA sent several thousand troops to Russia to counter the Bolshevik Revolution. Communism was a threat to capitalism. The ideal of communism was share and share alike. The problem with communism, as with capitalism, is that it was not free. Capitalism is anything but free. Its coercive mechanisms are different and subtler, but it is not "free." Free markets are a myth. The free press is a myth. Workers are free to rent themselves to the capitalists, who own everything, if they want to eat and have roofs over their heads. For all the spectacular failures of the Bolshevik communist system and its evils, it was still a great threat to capitalists, if the colonized people adopted it and were no longer subject to imperial exploitation. The war against Soviet communism lasted from 1918 to 1989, when the Soviet Empire collapsed.
One reason why American industrialists and politicians embraced the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini was it meant that communism would not get a foothold. Fascism was still a capitalist system, with German industrialists prominent, with heavy American investment.
After the disaster at Stalingrad in 1942-1943, many Nazis foresaw how the war would end. General Reinhard Gehlen had been planning his surrender to the Americans since the autumn of 1944, and perhaps earlier. Gehlen copied and buried the Nazi intelligence files on the Soviet Union. On May 22, 1945, Gehlen surrendered to an American Counterintelligence Corps team. Gehlen's surrender demonstrates how fractious governments can be, with various groups vying for power. According to the Yalta agreements, Gehlen and his men were supposed to be turned over to the Soviets, while the Soviets were finding and returning American POWs during its advance on Berlin. In addition, many in the American military and governmental hierarchy were extremely hostile to the idea of making any deals with any Nazis. Gehlen, however, found himself in the middle of a power struggle in the emerging USA intelligence field. The CIA was not formed until 1947. At the end of World War II, there were two rival intelligence organizations, the Office of Strategic Services ("OSS") and military intelligence. The OSS and military intelligence would engage in a power struggle that culminated in founding the CIA.
The USA has a tradition of civilian control of the military, and the CIA was a civilian organization, although military intelligence wanted it to be a military organization. The CIA being a civilian organization has been a double-edged sword for America and the world. On one hand, an unbridled military can lead to dictatorships rather easily. On the other hand, the military hierarchy was nearly united in its opinion to not drop atom bombs on Japan's cities. For all its great failings and dubious justification, the American military had a code of honor, of which one aspect was only killing enemy soldiers (sometimes even adhered to!), and another was that there was no honor in defeating a weak enemy. If the military had been in charge of the war effort, the atomic bombs likely would not have been dropped on Japan. The civilian leadership wanted to drop the bombs, and their opinion directed the military action. Having civilians in charge of the military can be bloodier than having soldiers running the government.
Because the CIA is a civilian organization, people such as Ralph McGehee have been able to publish memoirs of their CIA days, albeit only after terrific struggle. Ralph, however, was one of a handful of CIA-critical employees who have ever published their memoirs. If they worked for the military NSA (National Security Agency), they would have never been able to publish their memoirs. I know of nobody who worked for the NSA and published memoirs that were critical of the NSA, as McGehee, Phil Agee, Victor Marchetti, and John Stockwell have regarding the CIA.
Bill Donovan (known as "Wild Bill") and Allen Dulles ran the OSS, and both would later run the CIA, with Donovan being its first director. Dulles ran the Secret Intelligence Branch ("SIB") of the OSS. Members of Dulles's SIB that became CIA directors included Richard Helms and William Casey. Donovan was a Wall Street lawyer, and his recruits were from Wall Street, Ivy League schools, and large corporations. Fittingly, the CIA was a capitalistic organization and suited to wage war against communism. It was an Eastern Establishment organization from the outset, and the half-joke of calling the CIA the "standing Army of the Fortune 500" can be traced to those men who founded and ran the OSS and subsequently the CIA. Wall Street lawyer William Nelson Cromwell, the man who largely manipulated Panama into being, as he made big money for himself and his robber baron pals, chose Allen Dulles’s brother John Foster to run his empire, and John Foster became Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, when Allen also ran the CIA during the McCarthy witch-hunt days. During their tenure, the Dulles brothers directed the overthrow of the Guatemalan government on behalf of the corporation that brings Americans Chiquita bananas (the Dulles brothers had a financial stake in the affair), and they helped overthrow the Iranian government on behalf of oil interests. John Kennedy seems to have tried to end the Cold War, which may well have led to his assassination. Allen Dulles was one of the prime suspects and he led the Warren Commission's "investigation."
With the strong capitalist bent of the OSS hierarchy and American government, the communist Soviet Union was seen as the true threat to American hegemony, which was evident in the comments of Leslie Groves and James Byrnes. The OSS was ripe for what Gehlen had to offer: Nazi intelligence files on the Soviet Union. The Nazis' intelligence-gathering program on the Soviet Union was one of history’s most evil undertakings. The bulk of the intelligence was received from Soviet POWs. The Nazis intentionally murdered somewhere between three and four million Soviet POWs. They offered Soviet prisoners the chance to betray their people and collaborate with the Nazis. The choice was collaborate or die. The majority of Soviet prisoners chose death rather than betray their people, and they were summarily executed, starved to death, etc. They were even shipped to the death camps to go straight into the gas chambers and ovens. Those who cooperated provided the bulk of Nazi intelligence on the Soviet Union. Gehlen's greatest accomplishment during the war was designing the strategy of interrogating those POWs. After a POW told what he knew, he was often shot immediately afterward or suffered the same fate of the uncooperative prisoners. POWs that were more useful became cooks, chauffeurs, and even troops that fought for the Nazis. They also, as with others in Eastern Europe, became the muscle in the extermination squads that roamed Eastern Europe, as they played their role in murdering more than 25 million people. The carnage of Eastern Europe under Nazi occupation has no comparable event except for maybe the Mongol invasions. For sheer single-mindedness, scale, and intensity, it was a slaughter only rivaled by the Mongols, with the death camps only part of the scenery.
From that charnel house came Gehlen's coveted intelligence files. The OSS was soon vying with military intelligence over control of Gehlen's records. A power struggle ensued that the OSS eventually won, which culminated with the CIA’s formation. Gehlen and his men were hired into the American intelligence network. There were cases of Nazis working in the death camps on human experiments and going on the American payroll weeks later. When the Klaus Barbie Affair became notorious in 1983, with the revelation that the USA actively protected the "Butcher of Lyons" from war crimes prosecution, it was only the tip of the iceberg. Operation Paperclip specialized in bringing Nazis secretly to America.
The space programs of the USA and Soviet Union were largely built from the German scientists who were spirited out of Western Europe at World War II's end. There was a fierce competition between the USA and the Soviets to get the best German scientists from the spoils of Germany, as they converged on the V-2 rocket works at Nordhausen. America got Wernher von Braun, Arthur Rudolph, and Walter Dornberger from the German V-2 program, men who worked with concentration camp labor, and worked them to death.
The dapper and aristocratic von Braun was an SS man, hobnobbing with Heinrich Himmler and educating him about rocketry as Himmler promoted him to a major in the SS, with von Braun wearing his slick SS uniform. Von Braun was an accomplished liar long before he became famous, and was an accomplished showman. More than 20,000 concentration camp inmates died at the V-2 rocket works, as they were worked to death. Not only Jews died at the Dora and Nordhausen concentration camps, but also expendable technically oriented prisoners of other ethnicities, with a substantial number of them being Allied prisoners of war. More than 700 French political prisoners died there. Sadistic SS personnel ran the Dora camp, and even by concentration camp standards Dora was exceedingly bloodthirsty, with daily executions by hanging, machine gunning, and torture. There were even turf wars over who could beat the inmates. The civilians who worked at the rocket works would beat the prisoners for fun, and after the doctor at Dora complained about it, the SS formally notified Arthur Rudolf that his people were not to beat the prisoners; only SS personnel could.
Count von Braun regularly visited the subterranean facility at Dora. According to a surviving inmate, there was an ever-growing pile of bodies that lay next to the infirmary, where the executed and tortured were thrown, and von Braun walked so close to the pile as he performed his duties that he could have practically reached out and touched it. Even the inmates would stare at the pile in horror, while von Braun would stroll past it, seemingly unaffected. Desperately in need of prisoners with technical skills, von Braun personally handpicked inmates from the nearby Buchenwald camp to become slaves at the rocket works.
Hitler was skeptical for years about the military potential of rockets, especially when most tests ended in failure, and spectacularly so. When they finally got a rocket to fly as it should, von Braun took that footage, combined cartoon footage with it, and produced a movie extravaganza that bowled Hitler over in 1943. According to the author of The Nazi Rocketeers, “Fritz Lang could not have done it better.” Hitler then gave massive support for the rocket program, to develop a weapon of “annihilation.” At Dornberger’s request, Hitler then bestowed a professorship on von Braun, and Hitler compared him to Alexander the Great and Napoleon.
Werner von Braun and friends were no different than all the other Nazis who tried escaping post-war retribution. For von Braun, Gehlen, and gang, they sold themselves to the Americans as being useful, and instead of swinging from a noose at Nuremberg, they became American heroes, and lived very comfortably in the USA. Those rocket scientists became key figures in the USA's space program, as did German scientists who came under Soviet control.
The space program was the least of it. The Gehlen organization was hired nearly wholesale by America, and the Gehlen group became almost the sole source of American information about the Soviet Union for years, which nearly led to World War III, as the Nazis continually lied about Soviet military capacity and intentions, and our government eagerly believed what it was told, because it wanted to believe it. It is one of the darkest chapters in American foreign policy: hiring Nazis to tell us what Soviet intentions were. The Gehlen organization greatly contributed to the arms race and Cold War as it exaggerated Soviet capability and intent. The Soviet Union was not planning on invading Western Europe. They were trying to recover from a generation of bloodshed that cost 40 million lives or so. Hiring the Nazis undoubtedly helped lead to the CIA’s evil policies and other American security organizations, with Nazi-inspired programs such as MKUltra. Also, the Allies (America particularly) quickly re-armed Japanese soldiers captured in Asia, and set them to work as colonial thugs to try bringing Vietnam and China back into European/American control.
The Aftermath in Europe
As the dust was clearing in Europe, millions of German soldiers came under Allied control. Germany had been on the losing end of two World Wars in less than a 30-year span, and the Allies would make sure that they could not wage war again. France, Britain, the Soviet Union, and the USA carved Germany up into spheres of influence, including the capital city of Berlin. Henry Morgenthau, a Jew who ran the U.S. Treasury, developed what became known as the Morgenthau Plan, which was plainly stated in his 1945 book Germany is our Problem. Morgenthau proposed to de-industrialize Germany and turn it into a land of peasants. Morgenthau's plan was made public in October of 1944, and the Republicans publicized Morgenthau's plan to try gaining political points on the eve of the presidential election. The Nazis used the disclosure for propaganda to its people, which probably contributed to them fighting to the bitter end in Berlin. In November of 1944, Bill Donovan wrote:
"The horrible prospects of exile to Siberia, eternal slavery, de-industrialization, breakup of Germany and even sterilization, have been carefully portrayed to the Germans by their Nazi leaders. It is considered that the German spirit of resistance has been bolstered greatly by fear of the consequence of unconditional surrender."
Their fears were not so farfetched. All Allies extracted a measure of vengeance on the Germans, similar to the aftermath of World War I, except far more extreme. The Soviet Union nearly eliminated Germany's industrial capacity in its sphere of influence and dismantled Germany's factories and shipped them to Russia to be rebuilt. France performed similarly. France and Britain turned their German POWs into slave laborers, with Britain keeping theirs until 1948. The Soviet Union brutally expelled several million Germans who lived in Eastern Europe. German POWs in Soviet hands died in vast numbers. As the Soviet Army fought its way to Berlin, the Soviet soldiers raped every German woman that they could get their hands on, while often forcing their husbands to watch, and other delights.
Roosevelt held an opinion wholly at variance with the scholarship of William Rubinstein and others. In the summer of 1944, Roosevelt wrote:
"Too many people here and in England hold the view that the German people as a whole are not responsible for what has taken place - that only a few Nazi leaders are responsible. That unfortunately is not based on fact. The German people as a whole must have it driven home to them that the whole nation has been engaged in a lawless conspiracy against the decencies of modern civilization."
Roosevelt died before the war's end, Morgenthau's influence waned under Truman, and in April 1945, the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued JCS 1067, which was supposed to guide the denazification of Germany after the war ended. It attempted to lay an American capitalistic framework on the post-war German economy, but demilitarized. How JCS 1067 was implemented, however, demonstrated how similar Nazis and Americans were. The denazification of German industry was well underway before the Americans began imposing their rule on Germany. Unfortunately for American plans, those denazifying Germany were anti-fascists. The anti-Nazis were generally left-wing, labor-based groups, the same kind that formed labor unions in America and were derisively labeled "communist." In the end, American rule suppressed that democratic movement and installed in prominent positions many of the same people who abetted Hitler's rise to power. Allen Dulles was friends with many of the pro-Nazi industrialists, and whitewashed their bloodstained records and helped reinstall them high in German industry and banking, such as Karl Blessing. Dulles also hired the Nazis to staff the CIA's intelligence network in Eastern Europe, while protecting people such as Karl Wolff, the highest-ranking SS officer to survive the war, and who was a principal sponsor of the Treblinka extermination camp. Dulles had no problem with Nazis as long as they were "his" Nazis.
James Bacque, a Canadian, published Other Losses in 1989. Bacque made the case that after the European war ended, about one million German soldiers died in the Allied prison camps. Bacque claimed that Allied leaders largely induced the deaths of those German soldiers, intentionally. Bacque took particular aim at Dwight Eisenhower, who came to hate the Germans as he witnessed the destruction of Europe and opening the death camps. Bacque's most ardent critic was Stephen Ambrose, who was Eisenhower's biographer and the director of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans. Ambrose, although he initially hailed Bacque's work, later denounced it and edited a book to rebut Bacque's thesis in Eisenhower and the German POWs, Facts against Falsehood in 1992. Bacque's research and arithmetic was questionable, although Ambrose was the epitome of an establishment historian. Bacque responded with Crimes and Mercies in 1997, as he dug into the newly available Soviet archives to further bolster his case. Bacque also made the case that up to ten million Germans died under Allied occupation between 1945 and 1950, and largely from starvation.
Regarding the Bacque and Ambrose imbroglio, Michael Adams wrote:
"The truth is probably somewhere in the middle…One wrote, 'I witnessed the atrocities that Stephen E. Ambrose tried to deny or gloss over'…As another American guard admitted, 'we sometimes slipped over the boundary of civilized behavior and resembled what we were fighting against.'"
Zora Neale Hurston wrote after World War II:
"I am amazed at the complacency of the Negro press and public. Truman is a monster. I can think of him as nothing else but the Butcher of Asia. Of his grin of triumph on giving the order to drop the Atom bombs on Japan. Of maintaining troops in China who are shooting the starving Chinese for stealing a handful of food."
When establishment historians defend American soldiers and others, as if we are saints in our foreign policy, with our noble boys going abroad to "defend freedom" and "fight for our country," I am reminded of the experiences told me by Vietnam veterans, both firsthand and secondhand. The viciousness that Eugene Sledge recounted in his memoirs is typical in World War II accounts. Paul Fussell wrote how his men shot a group of twenty German soldiers, huddling in a crater, "most in tears of terror or despair" as the Americans came upon them. For no reason at all, the Americans opened fire on the surrendering and quite helpless Germans. Fussell called it the Great Turkey Shoot, writing:
"Laughing and howling, hoo-ha-ing and cowboy and good-old-boy yelling, our men exultantly shot into the crater until every single man down there was dead. A few tried to scale the sides, but there was no escape. If a body twitched or moved at all, it was shot again. The result was deep satisfaction, and the event was transformed into amusing narrative, told and retold over campfires all that winter. If it made you sick, you were not supposed to indicate. I was beginning to understand what a marine sergeant told Philip Caputo during the Vietnam War: 'Before you leave here, Sir, you're going to find out that one of the most brutal things in the world is your average nineteen-year-old American boy.'"
Noam Chomsky admitted that the facts surrounding Bacque's thesis are debatable, but:
"On the other hand, there are things about which there's no controversy. Ed Herman and I wrote about them back in the late 1970s. Basically, the Americans ran what were called "re-education camps" for German POWs (the name was ultimately changed to something equally Orwellian). These camps were hailed as a tremendous example of our humanitarianism, because we were teaching the prisoners democratic ways (in other words, we were indoctrinating them into accepting our beliefs).
"The prisoners were treated very brutally, starved, etc. Since these camps were in gross violation of international conventions, they were kept secret. We were afraid that the Germans might retaliate and treat American prisoners the same way.
"Furthermore, the camps continued after the war; I forget for how long, but I think the US kept German POWs until mid-1946. They were used for forced labor, beaten and killed. It was even worse in England. They kept their German POWs until mid-1948. It was all totally illegal.
"Finally, there was public reaction in Britain. The person who started it off was Peggy Duff, a marvelous woman who died a couple of years ago. She was later one of the leading figures in the CND (the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) and the international peace movement during the 1960s and 1970s, but she started off her career with a protest against the treatment of German POWs.
"Incidentally, why only German POWs? What about the Italians? Germany's a very efficient country, so they've published volumes of documents on what happened to their POWs. But Italy's sort of laid back, so there was no research on their POWs. We don't know anything about them, although they were surely treated much worse.
"When I was a kid, there was a POW camp right next to my high school. There were conflicts among the students over the issue of taunting the prisoners. The students couldn't physically attack the prisoners, because they were behind a barrier, but they threw things at them and taunted them. There were a group of us who thought this was horrifying and objected to it, but there weren't many."
Chomsky stated that the first chapter in an honest history of the aftermath of World War II would be about how food was used as a political weapon. It is true that many Americans were in favor of feeding and helping out the people of Europe (much less so for those hated, non-white Japs), and the generous spirit of the average American is to be commended in that instance, yet their politicians all-too-often used the Marshall Plan and other help for political leverage.
The aftermath of World War II was in some ways a turning point for humanity: the next World War would extinguish humanity. Another total war would mean the potential extermination of the human race, or at least the total destruction of civilization, which was not lost on people such as Einstein. The USA had the early lead in atomic weapon development, but the Soviet Union, Britain, Canada, and France were not far behind. The next war could annihilate the species and take complex life with it. That sobering realization hit all parties. Probably the only thing that kept another World War from happening was that the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction was understood.
Nevertheless, the people who run America's military establishment had the idea they could win a nuclear war. John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, had a concept of diplomacy that gave rise to Dr. Strangelove and other works of art. Dulles threatened the Soviet Union with nuclear attack as his style of diplomacy. Dulles's style became known as "brinksmanship."
The disparaged Hiroshima revisionists surely did
not have to connect many dots to make their case.
By 1948, noted dove George Kennan authored a study
for the State Department that baldly advocated
American global domination and subjugation of the world's peoples.
Paul Nitze, who co-authored the
controversial study that concluded that the atom
bombs were not necessary to end the war, also wrote a study
for the Secretary of State in 1950 that targeted the Soviet Union for
In 1949, the Soviet Union exploded its first nuclear weapon, and the two powers began an arms race that saw them build enough nuclear weapons to incinerate Earth’s surface many times over. Also in 1949, the USA had a plan to attack the Soviet Union with atomic weapons. The plan was to deliver about 70 nuclear weapons onto the Soviet Union over a 30-day period, which would destroy about 40% of the Soviet Union's industrial capacity. The Joint Chiefs of Staff realized, however, that dropping 70 nuclear bombs onto the Soviet Union would not be enough to assure victory. They realized that they would also need ground troops, and the members of the infamous Bloodstone program (staffed with Nazis and Nazi-collaborators that the USA hired after World War II was over) would engage in completing the American victory over the Soviet Union. The Bloodstone mercenaries were to be flown to the glowing ruins of the Soviet Union to complete the job. A major aspect of the plan was to foment an uprising of the Soviet people against the Stalin regime. Christopher Simpson wrote:
"The thirty day atomic assault, the Pentagon concluded with considerable understatement, 'might stimulate resentment against the United States' among the people of the USSR, thus increasing their will to fight."
In November of 1997, Bill Clinton issued a Presidential Decision Directive that authorized the American military's use of nuclear weapons on nations that may have weapons of "mass destruction."
The Third World War and the Modern War Racket
Cooler heads prevailed regarding those Stangelovian plans of 1949. It soon became evident that such events would bring the annihilation of the human species, and the few survivors might wish they were dead. It became evident that the imperial nations could no longer wage open war against each other. So, logically, the USA reverted to neocolonial warfare against the world’s colored people, hence Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Panama, etc. Since World War II, the USA has always picked on nations that could not effectively fight back and without any atomic weapons to retaliate with. American war planners considered dropping atomic bombs on Vietnam, and Cal Thomas and friends openly argued for dropping nuclear weapons on Iraq during the Gulf War Turkey Shoot. In the name of making sure that Iraq never acquired the kinds of weapons that we have, America caused the deaths of several million Iraqi citizens since 1991, with about half of them children.
Astute commentators from across America’s political spectrum called the USA's war against the world’s poor the Third World War. When the lies and rhetoric are stripped away, it is obviously a continuation, with slight variation, of the age-old imperial game, with the USA elbowing the other imperial players out of the way. With the collapse of its empire after World War II, the UK was a relatively impoverished nation before they began exploiting North Sea oil, and has been trying to ride the USA's coattails since the Cold War ended, helping out with bludgeoning Iraq and carrying the USA's bags during its “war on terror.”
Cold War rhetoric and disinformation largely obscured the colonial aspect of the postwar years, at least from the American people. During the Cold War, the more fortunate Third World nations, generally those who had something that the West coveted, were able to play the capitalist and communist powers off against each other. However, when the Berlin Wall fell, marking the end of the Soviet Empire, America quickly showed the world what the global dynamics really were; the USA invaded Panama a couple of weeks after the Berlin Wall fell, while concocting rationales so transparently ridiculous they should have been considered jokes, except that the American invasion killed thousands of Panamanian civilians. With the Soviet Union out of the picture, the USA quickly found an excuse to establish a military presence in the oil-rich Middle East, which it largely could not do before. The USA may well have baited Iraq into invading Kuwait. If not, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait was a convenient excuse for America to invade the Middle East, and its subsequent genocide in Iraq and military presence in Saudi Arabia were possibly the two largest factors behind the World Trade Center attacks of 2001. Saudi Arabia hosts the holiest sites of Islam, and Osama bin Laden was particularly dismayed when Arabia’s rulers allowed an American military presence there. Before the USA invaded Iraq, Saudi Arabia made it clear that it would not allow the USA to use its nation as a staging ground, as it did in 1990-1991.
The USA has been throwing around its weight since the Cold War ended with predictable impunity (the USA is called a “hyper-power” in France), and just as predictable were the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks of 2001: the global Godzilla finally got punched in the nose, and the USA used it as the excuse to seize history's greatest material prize. Just as the “war on drugs,” “war on cancer,” “war on communism,” and other phony wars, the “War on Terror” is the new fabricated rubric under which the world’s people have been subjected, and largely as Orwell predicted. In Colombia, many thousands of peasants were slaughtered as part of the war on communism, with those peasants being called Soviet pawns. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the same groups of people (Colombian government military and paramilitary) killed the same peasants, but then the killings were part of the “war on drugs.” During the summer of 2002, Bill Clinton called the government military effort in Colombia part of the war on terror. How can anybody take the rhetoric seriously, with the same peasants being communists one day, drug growers and dealers the next, and then terrorists? What is really happening is that American corporations, particularly oil companies, covet the region's resources. When one phony term wears out, our “leaders” just make up another.
Numerous foreign relations scandals hatched since the Vietnam War, with the most notorious being the Iran-Contra Scandal, at least before the invasion of Iraq. Although the USA's government did its best to cover-up what happened, enough came into the open to see the game being played. The USA was selling weapons to Iran and the Contras, and airplanes were flying to the Nicaraguan Contras with arms, and flying back with drugs, which has been a longtime method to finance covert action. The Iran-Contra Scandal was directly related to the Savings and Loan Scandal, as the CIA used savings and loan institutions to launder drug money. The Iran-Contra Scandal was an embarrassment, with government officials dragged onto the witness stand, with document-shredding parties coming into the open and other activities. Accordingly, the USA's covert action has been getting more privatized ever since, especially since the Cold War ended. The USA began privatizing covert action after the 1953 overthrow of the Iranian government. If private individuals and organizations do the dirty work, instead of operating out of the White House as Oliver North did, the likelihood of government officials being subpoenaed and airing out the government’s dirty laundry is minimized. The privatization effort is a new tactic to avoid public accountability and create more plausible denial, which naturally further shreds the U.S. Constitution, with American wars being planned and carried out by mercenaries and those who employ them.
The racketeering aspect of warfare has been long with us. Smedley Butler wrote War is a Racket before World War II and the rise of today’s military-industrial complex. Dwight Eisenhower stated:
"People in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our government...One of these days government had better get out of their way and let them have it."
"…Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."
Being an American arms manufacturer is one of the world’s most lucrative deals, and they can be quite ruthless. After World War II, the lucrative aspect of the military-industrial complex, which Eisenhower warned against when he left office as president, became big business, and may well have been responsible for John Kennedy's murder.
America’s national debt is mainly due to the war industry, which is measured in trillions of dollars. It is well known that trying to keep up with America in the arms race, which the USA instigated, not the Soviets, helped bankrupt the Soviet Empire. That was admitted and even bragged about by Reagan and his policy-makers. Trillions of dollars went into arming both sides to the teeth, and the only winners were arms manufacturers and the imperial exploiters. In the early 21st century and ever since World War II, the USA has been the leading international arms dealer. America’s "foreign aid" is generally in arms sales. Far more money is spent on arms internationally (about 20 times as much) than is spent on helping the poor and hungry. Other side-effects are the widespread environmental devastation that the war industry inflicts on the world, even when they are not fighting wars. The war industry is probably the most costly and unnecessary undertaking on Earth today, especially if World War III exterminates the human species.
The "defense" industry in the USA has raked in trillions of dollars since World War II (one authoritative estimate put it at nearly twenty trillion dollars, and that was before the imperial invasions of the 21st century). When the Cold War ended, there were literally no more enemies worth worrying about. Once the "Soviet Menace" evaporated, the defense establishment searched high and low to find enemies to keep justifying the pork barrel. Muammar Qaddafi, Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, drug dealers, Castro, etc., had to be magically transformed into malevolent demons that threatened America’s very existence. America has the biggest killing machine that the world has ever seen, and no military rivals. The Gulf War and pounding Yugoslavia were excuses to test weapons and increase America’s hegemony. The war racket is related to the government racket. Ronald Reagan told tall tales about welfare mothers driving Cadillacs, while he threw mentally ill people onto the streets. A small book summarized all the ways that the American public has been bilked to buy Cadillacs for the rich, not welfare mothers.
The Savings and Loan Scandal lined the pockets of the rich to the tune of about $150 billion at the taxpayer's expense. It was a scandal that my CPA profession actively abetted, taking in its huge audit fees for signing off on fictitious financial statements. And it all paled beside what has happened since 2007. The authors of Take the Rich off Welfare summarized the many ways that the rich got handouts from the American government, such as: social security tax inequities, accelerated depreciation, capital gains deductions, homeowner's tax breaks, agribusiness subsidies, aviation subsidies, insurance loopholes, tax free bonds, timber subsidies, oil and gas tax breaks, nuclear subsidies, etc. Those laws primarily benefit the wealthy. The rationale is that they are subsidies that benefit the economic producers and give them incentives or help to make the economy more productive. The media, being owned by those corporate welfare recipients, rarely highlights the real welfare. When I was a tax accountant, I saw the scam in action. Politicians write laws that benefit their constituencies, which are the rich people who bankroll their campaigns and basically own them. The accounting in Take the Rich off Welfare was conservative, as the authors added up all the boondoggles that rip off the American taxpayer to benefit the rich. The biggest single category of rip off was what the authors called, "military waste and fraud." The waste and fraud were for weapons systems that nobody in the military wanted, but billions were still spent for them, and other outrages. The authors summarized some of the defense contractors’ pricing schemes:
A nut that can be bought at a hardware store for a few cents that McDonnell Douglas charged $2,043 for;
A pair of pliers that Boeing tried charging $2,548 for, but the Air Force slashed the price to $748;
The famous toilet seat that Lockheed charged "only" $640 for;
A $240 flashlight from Grimes Manufacturing;
The authors' favorite was a plastic cap that goes over the end of a stool leg, that Boeing charged $1,118 each for.
That barely scratched the surface of the waste and fraud that is a daily part of America’s military-industrial establishment. Billions of dollars in military equipment simply "disappears" every year. There are many weapons systems that cannot be justified by the most fervent imagination, especially with the Soviet Empire gone, but America keeps upgrading nuclear missiles, transport planes, jet fighters, submarines, and the like to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. Some items, such as the Seawolf submarine, the Navy itself said that it does not need or want it, but they are getting one for a few billion dollars. There is the Black Budget, the totally unaccountable budget of about $30 billion a year to fund the NSA and other spook agencies. If Americans found out what really happened in the spook world, it would curl their hair. I have had friends who worked in that world, and it can be sickening and nearly beyond belief at times.
The authors of Take the Rich off Welfare, published in 1996, conservatively calculated how much of the military expenditures were a complete waste of money, and arrived at $172 billion a year. When they add up merely the major categories of welfare for the rich, their conservative calculation is that it costed America at least $448 billion a year, money that lined the pockets of the rich for no perceived public benefit. That is partly how the rich get richer. The authors then calculated how much public money went to serving the needs of the poor in America. The number was about $130 billion. That situation became far worse in the 21st century, as we are seeing the beginnings of class warfare, where the rich are plundering the system as never before. In reality, the American government is a mechanism that makes the rich richer, taxes the middle class, and throws some crumbs to the poor who do the work. Add in that it is a primary vehicle to prevent disruptive energy technology from ever making it to the public, which could well halt the sled ride to oblivion that humanity is on and even turn Earth into something that resembles heaven, makes the American government a tool of evil, putting aside nuking women and children and the rest.
I have professional friends who have justified why poor Mexicans pick America’s food and make its clothes, why poor Indonesians and Filipinos staff luxury cruise ships and make America’s tennis shoes, why black Americans work in the most wretched factories in the worst jobs, and the like, as if it was the natural order of things, with them at the top of the heap due to their unique virtue. Then they say that we are trying to help Indonesia by putting our shoe factories there, to get them "capital." They read the Wall Street Journal too much.
The war racket makes huge sums of money for certain people, while others die horrible deaths or live in unspeakable misery. There are persuasive arguments that the same interests arm both sides in the wars, and do not really care much who wins, just as long as everybody "plays." The Soviet and German war machines in World War II were partly built, some say largely built, by American industrialists. Chomsky's Year 501, the Conquest Continues, looked at this 500-year period of European dominance of the world from another, non-conspiratorial, perspective. C. Wright Mills's The Power Elite looked at the post-war evolution of the power structure that ran the USA, and Mills endured great grief for daring to publish his book.
There is another facet of the war racket, and perhaps the most important of all. Those behind the scenes, pulling the strings, truly enjoy all of the death and suffering that warfare creates. That may be their biggest payoff: watching all the death and suffering they manipulate into being, and it may nourish them, literally. Healing our hearts is the great task before us, and time is short.
 See Nicholas Wade's The Faith Instinct, chapter 9.
 See The Orwell Reader, 1984 edition, p. 363.
 I trained for the testing. My weak point in the testing regimen was pull-ups, so I did them daily and got up to twelve at a time, which would have been plenty to pass their standard. One test was throwing and another was jumping. I was a high jumper and long jumper in high school, and a javelin thrower and high jumper in college. The athletics testing would have been no barrier.
 See Paul Fussell's Doing Battle, pp. 124-125.
 See Michael Adams's The Best War Ever, p. 87.
 In 2008, blacks comprised 17% of the military but 13% of the general population, and blacks were markedly underrepresented in the officer class. See "Blacks still rare in top U.S. military ranks", USA Today (authored by the Associated Press), July 23, 2008.
 See Paul Fussell's Doing Battle, pp. 171-173.
 See Paul Fussell's Doing Battle, pp. 143-144.
 See Paul Fussell's Doing Battle, pp. 157-161.
 See Paul Fussell's Doing Battle, p. 154.
 See Robert Conquest's The Great Terror, pp. 484-489 for his initial estimate of twenty million dead. This issue has been highly controversial. In 2007, Conquest revised his estimate to thirteen to fifteen million in the preface of the 40th anniversary edition of The Great Terror.
 See, for instance, Noam Chomsky’s Year 501, pp. 68-76.
 See The National Insecurity Council's It's a Conspiracy!, pp. 66-67.
 See Christopher Simpson's The Splendid Blond Beast, pp. 60-63.
 See Christopher Simpson's The Splendid Blond Beast, p. 64.
 These are not controversial facts, being part of the U.S. government record. For some narratives regarding those early Bush days, see Russell Bowen’s Immaculate Deception, pp. 1-12. See also Val Valerian’s Matrix III, which contains The Secret History of George Bush, beginning on p. 563.
 See Christopher Simpson's The Splendid Blond Beast.
 See Christopher Simpson's The Splendid Blond Beast, pp. 290-310.
 According to Arnold Offner, see Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, p. 400.
 See William Blum’s Killing Hope.
 See Hans Schmidt's Maverick Marine, pp. 90-91.
 See Hans Schmidt's Maverick Marine, pp. 38-57. For more excerpts from Butler's correspondence in those days, see General Smedley Darlington Butler, The Letters of a Leatherneck, 1989-1931, edited by Anne Cipriano Venzon.
 See Hans Schmidt's Maverick Marine, pp. 208-211.
 See Noam Chomsky's Deterring Democracy, p. 40.
 See The National Insecurity Council's It's a Conspiracy!, p. 180.
 See Noam Chomsky's Deterring Democracy, p. 41.
 See Christopher Simpson's Blowback, pp. 156-175.
 See Jules Archer's The Plot to Seize the White House. See The National Insecurity Council's It's a Conspiracy!, pp. 179-184. See Jonathan Vankin and John Whelan's 50 Greatest Conspiracies of all Time, pp. 233-238.
 See Leonard Dinnerstein's Anti-Semitism in America, p. 145.
 See Edward Herman's Beyond Hypocrisy, pp. 54-56.
 See James Loewen's Lies my Teacher Told Me, p. 167, for a picture of a lynch mob proudly posing next to a burning black man. In the foreground of the crowd is a woman who appeared dressed for a night on the town. The reason for such bold and murderous lawlessness was that the killers knew that no white jury would ever convict them of murder, even with a picture of them proudly posing beside their prey. The book Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America, showed how common, even festive, American lynchings were, not so long ago. Loewen had a history book of his rejected partly because of that photo by the Mississippi State Textbook Board. During the 1864 Democratic campaign, in their songbook was a song sung to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy. The song was one of the favorites of that campaign year, when a war was being waged to supposedly free the slaves. The song was titled "Nigger Doodle Dandy." Here is one verse: "Blubber lips are killing sweet, and kinky heads are splendid; and oh, it makes such bully feet to have the heels extended." Then the Chorus: "Nigger Doodle's all the go, Ebony shins and bandy, "loyal" people must all bow to Nigger Doodle Dandy." See Loewen, Lies my Teacher Told Me, p. 155. Loewen would ask his history classes to sing along with him, singing the words of those noble democrats. The students would be so shocked by the words that they sat in stupefied silence.
 See Julian Simon's The State of Humanity, p. 183. See The American Almanac, 1996-1997, table 710. For a dramatic and unanswerable depiction of that income stagnation among blacks, see table 717. In 1970, black family income was 61% of white income. In 1994, it had declined to 60%. Not only that, 1994 was a "good year" for blacks as it reversed the trend that saw 1993 family income actually lower than 1970 family income, in constant dollars.
 Source:"2012 3rd Quarter: Bureau of Labor Statistics
– 16 Years or Older & 2011 Census
Bureau American Community Survey".
 There is an eye-opening documentary about America and the Holocaust titled America and the Holocaust: Deceit and Indifference, which is part of the American Experience series. That woman's reminiscence and other facts I recite in this section come from that documentary. I also have used Leonard Dinnerstein's Anti-Semitism in America, Leni Yahil's The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry, Paul Johnson's A History of the Jews, Gerard Chaliand and Jean-Pierre Rageau's The Penguin Atlas of Diasporas, Raul Hilberg's Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders, David Wyman's The Abandonment of the Jews, Lucy Dawidowicz and David Altshuler's Hitler's War Against the Jews, and other sources I will cite as I use them.
 See Leonard Dinnerstein's Anti-Semitism in America, p. 245.
 See Edward Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 1, pp. 347-453. See Michael Grant's The Fall of the Roman Empire, pp. 155-171 and 185-202. See Daniel Fogel's Junípero Serra, the Vatican and Enslavement Theology, pp. 4-9.
 See an iconoclastic survey of those early Christian days in Michael Parenti's History as Mystery, pp. 35-127.
 See Michael Grant's The Fall of the Roman Empire, pp. 155-171.
 See, for instance, Bart Ehrman's The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. See L. David Moore's The Christian Conspiracy. See Robin Lane Fox's The Unauthorized Version. See Nicolas Notovitch's The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ. See Holger Kersten's Jesus Lived in India. See Elaine Pagels's The Gnostic Gospels.
 See L. David Moore's The Christian Conspiracy, pp. 233-236.
 See Michael Parenti's History as Mystery, for his compelling arguments on that issue.
 See Nicolas Notovitch's The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ. See also Kersten, Jesus lived in India.
 See Michael Grant's Gladiators, p. 8.
 See Michael Grant's Gladiators, p. 38.
 See Milton Meltzer's Slavery, A World History, pp. 161-174.
 See a discussion of the pitifully few contemporary Roman writers who challenged that institution in Michael Grant's Gladiators, pp. 116-122.
 See Michael Grant's Gladiators, p. 113.
 See Michael Grant's Gladiators, p. 123.
 See David Stannard's American Holocaust, pp. 175-176. See Jonathan Riley-Smith's The Crusades, A Short History, pp. 16-20. See Armstrong, Holy War, The Crusades and Their Impact on Today's World, pp. 71-75. See Paul Johnson's A History of the Jews, p. 217.
 See Noam Chomsky’s discussion of the “Sacralization of War” in his Rogue States, pp. 156-159.
 See Paul Johnson's A History of the Jews, pp. 209-210.
 See Edward Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 1, pp. 407-408.
 See Edward Burman's The Inquisition, The Hammer of Heresy, p. 16.
 See Edward Peters's Inquisition, pp. 11-39.
 Some of my sources for the Cathars and the Crusade that Pope Innocent III directed against them are Zoe Oldenbourg's Massacre at Montségur: A History of the Albigensian Crusade; Henry Charles Lea's A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, vol. 1; Edward Burman's The Inquisition, The Hammer of Heresy; Karen Armstrong's Holy War, The Crusades and Their Impact on Today's World; Jonathan Riley-Smith's The Crusades, A Short History.
 See, for instance, Elaine Pagels's The Origin of Satan.
 Among my sources for the Manichees were: Kurt Rudolf's Gnosis; L. David Moore's The Christian Conspiracy, Robin Lane Fox's Pagans and Christians, Richard Seddon's Mani: His Life and Work - Transforming Evil.
 See Richard Seddon's Mani: His Life and Work - Transforming Evil, p. 42.
 See Edward Burman's The Inquisition, The Hammer of Heresy, pp. 18-21.
 See Karen Armstrong, Holy War, pp. 396-397.
 See Paul Johnson's A History of the Jews, pp. 172-174.
 See Gerard Chaliand and Jean-Pierre Rageau's The Penguin Atlas of Diasporas, p. 30.
 See Ward Churchill's A Little Matter of Genocide, p. 107, footnote.
 For a brief summary of the disaster of the sugar economy on the native lands and populations (and the imported slaves), see Eduardo Galeano's "King Sugar," in Confronting Columbus, pp. 76-82.
 See a rather informal but accurate discussion of those fur trade types in John Terrell's Land Grab, pp. 117-178. For a broader summary of the fur trade's progress across North America, in its English, French, Russian and American aspects, see Eric Wolf's Europe and the People Without History, chapter six, pp. 158-194.
 For a brief summary of what the white man's ways have done to the economy of South America, see Luis Guillermo Lumbreras's "Misguided Development", Confronting Columbus, pp. 76-82.
 See Michael Renner's "Ending Violent Conflict", The State of the World, 1999, p. 154.
 See Michael Renner's "Ending Violent Conflict", The State of the World, 1999, p. 153.
 Noam Chomsky can be seen talking to William F. Buckley on TV about that issue in the documentary Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media. Chomsky was talking about the Vietnam War and the complicity of Americans who watch the tube, nod, and grab another beer, as contributing to such activity continuing.
 See Angus Armitage's Copernicus, The Founder of Modern Astronomy, pp. 56-67.
 See David Stannard's American Holocaust, pp. 103-105.
 See Leonard Dinnerstein's Anti-Semitism in America, p. 43.
 See Leonard Dinnerstein's Anti-Semitism in America, p. 32.
 See Leonard Dinnerstein's Anti-Semitism in America, p. 83.
 See Leonard Dinnerstein's Anti-Semitism in America, p. 89.
 See Denis Brian's Einstein, A Life, pp. 236-255.
 See Leonard Dinnerstein's Anti-Semitism in America, p. 107.
 See the comparison in Charles Kelly’s The Great Limbaugh Con.
 See Leonard Dinnerstein's Anti-Semitism in America, p. 121.
 See Leonard Dinnerstein's Anti-Semitism in America, p. 121.
 See Leni Yahil's The Holocaust, p. 118.
 See William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, 30th Anniversary Edition, pp. 829-830.
 See William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, 30th Anniversary Edition, pp. 948-949.
 See Leni Yahil's The Holocaust, pp. 602-603.
 See Leni Yahil's The Holocaust, pp. 596-600.
 For a summary of that situation, see Adam LeBor's Hitler's Secret Bankers, the Myth of Swiss Neutrality during the Holocaust.
 See a broadside against Jewish manipulation of that Swiss banking situation, calling it a shakedown of the banks, in Norman Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry.
 See Adam LeBor's Hitler's Secret Bankers, the Myth of Swiss Neutrality during the Holocaust, pp. 136-139.
 See Paul Johnson's A History of the Jews, pp. 470-517.
 See Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men, p. 189.
 See Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men, pp. 167-168.
 See Noam Chomsky's Deterring Democracy, William Blum's Killing Hope and Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall's The COINTELPRO Papers, for a good introduction.
 See Howard Zinn's Declarations of Independence, pp. 84-85.
 See Raul Hilberg's Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders, pp. 213-214.
 Cited in the documentary America and the Holocaust.
 See Leonard Dinnerstein's Anti-Semitism in America, p. 151. Generally, American anti-Semitism is considered to have peaked in 1944.
 See Leonard Dinnerstein's Anti-Semitism in America, pp. 131-132.
 See Michael Adams's The Best War Ever, p. 7.
 See Christopher Simpson's The Splendid Blond Beast, pp. 146-147. See historian David Wyman, who wrote The Abandonment of the Jews, which was the source for Simpson's work on that issue, talk about that incident and others in the documentary America and the Holocaust. See Wyman's The Abandonment of the Jews, pp. 79-103. See also Leni Yahil's The Holocaust, pp. 608-609. See also Leonard Dinnerstein's Anti-Semitism in America, pp. 143-146.
 That photograph can be seen in the documentary America and the Holocaust.
 See Gerhard Weinberg's A World at Arms, p. 894. See Michael Renner's "Ending Violent Conflict", State of the World, 1999, pp. 151-168.
 See Werner Weinberg's "The Shame of Bergen-Belsen," first published in the Journal of Reform Journalism and later in Self-Portrait of a Holocaust Survivor. The version I read is in the Connecting Link, issue 26, 1994, pp. 105-106, by Weinberg's daughter, Susanne Konicov, the Connecting Link's editor and publisher.
 See Leonard Dinnerstein's Anti-Semitism in America, p. 132. It is generally considered that anti-Semitism peaked in America in 1944.
 See Michael Adams's The Best War Ever, p. 147.
 See Michael Adams's The Best War Ever, p. 147.
 See Paul Johnson's A History of the Jews, p. 513.
 See Paul Johnson's A History of the Jews, p. 513.
 See Paul Johnson's A History of the Jews, pp. 423-448.
 See Michael Zezima’s Saving Private Power, pp. 70-72.
 See Leonard Dinnerstein's Anti-Semitism in America, pp. 150-174.
 For discussions of those and other practices, with a number of them surviving to the present day, read Ward Churchill's Since Predator Came, Struggle for the Land, and A Little Matter of Genocide. For current American practices from a non-Indian, see Rex Weyler's Blood of the Land.
 See The American Almanac, 1996-1997, table 118.
 In 1989, in constant dollars, native, black and Hispanic family incomes were all comparable, at about 60% of the white income, with the Hispanic population having a slight edge. A problem with "Hispanic" however, is that it is not a racial distinction as black and native are, and many in the Hispanic category are white people, such as the ruling classes of Latin America. If the "Hispanic" population was broken down into categories such as "primarily European descent" and "primarily native descent," there would be two very distinct populations. Members of the white ruling class of Latin America are not to be found in the "Hispanics" who pick America's produce. I do not know if such data has even been collected, but it would evidence two distinct strata, with the "native Hispanics" having a lower income level than the "average" Hispanic. My wife is Hispanic, but is about the furthest thing that one can imagine from a bean picker. Her family hails from Spain, and has lived in New Mexico for centuries with land "granted" to them from the Spanish Crown. They are ruling class Hispanics who own vast ranches, not those who pick our beans. The native tribes show great variation in income levels. The "civilized" Cherokee and Iroquois tribes do very "well," at around 60% of white income. Other tribes that have resisted assimilation and are more confined to their reservations, such as the Sioux and Navajo, have income levels as low as 30% of white income. They are also the natives with such low life expectancies. See The American Almanac, 1996-1997, table 52.
 Still, America's literati were not always happy with Costner's far more honest depiction of native life before the white man, and they engaged in attacks on the movie. See Ward Churchill's Indians are Us?, pp. 115-137.
 See Ward Churchill's A Little Matter of Genocide, pp. 363-398.
 As Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman and others make quite plain, "national interest" is a code word for "corporate interest." America does not send troops to defend and promote democracy, but to defend its grip on cheap labor and resources, to keep the chips flowing the corporate way, and their customers'. Yet, the customer benefit is in some ways an unintended byproduct. The Holy Grail of corporations is profits, not a well-served public, which is the whole point of my racketeering for fun and profit thrust.
 I have discovered a “myth-debunking” stance, which seems more like establishment apologetics, in several areas during my research for this site, including the Inquisition, the career of George Custer, health and medicine.
 See, for instance, Verne Newton's FDR and the Holocaust. Just as all the responsibility for the Jewish Holocaust should not be heaped on Hitler's shoulders, FDR should not be held mainly accountable for the USA's reaction while the Jewish Holocaust was coming and being carried out. In both instances, proponents of the “culpability” theory subscribe to the "Great Man" view of history.
 See William Rubinstein's The Myth of Rescue, p. 33.
 See William Rubinstein's The Myth of Rescue, tables 5, 6 and 7 on page 49.
 See David Stannard's American Holocaust, p. 133.
 See William Rubinstein's The Myth of Rescue, p. 20.
 See William Rubinstein's The Myth of Rescue, p. 18, table 1.
 See William Rubinstein's The Myth of Rescue, p. 39.
 See Deborah Lipstadt's Beyond Belief, pp. 112-114.
 See Leonard Dinnerstein's Anti-Semitism in America, p. 143. See also the documentary America and the Holocaust, Deceit and Indifference, made for PBS by the American Experience series.
 See Leni Yahil's The Holocaust, p. 119.
 See Deborah Lipstadt's Beyond Belief, p. 117.
 See Raul Hilberg's Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders, p. 257.
 See Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts's Voyage of the Damned, p. 183.
 See William Rubinstein's The Myth of Rescue, p. 228.
 See Mitchell Bard's Forgotten Victims, pp. 4, 134-141.
 See Mitchell Bard's Forgotten Victims, pp. 7-8.
 See Mitchell Bard's Forgotten Victims, p. 9.
 See Mitchell Bard's Forgotten Victims, p. 10.
 See Mitchell Bard's Forgotten Victims, p. 10.
 See Mitchell Bard's Forgotten Victims, p. 13.
 See Mitchell Bard's Forgotten Victims, pp. 19-20.
 See Mitchell Bard's Forgotten Victims, p. 25.
 See Mitchell Bard's Forgotten Victims, pp. 57-58.
 See Mitchell Bard's Forgotten Victims, p. 67.
 Mitchell Bard's Forgotten Victims has photographs of those surviving American soldiers, who look just like the Jews who were liberated from the death camps.
 Regarding that situation and others like it, see Leonard Dinnerstein's Anti-Semitism in America, chapters 6 and 7.
 See William Rubinstein's The Myth of Rescue, p. 158.
 See William Rubinstein's The Myth of Rescue, pp. 158-164.
 James H. Kitchens III, “The Bombing of Auschwitz Reexamined”, originally in The Journal of Military History (April 1994), pp. 233-66. Reproduced in Newton's FDR and the Holocaust, pp. 183-217. Levy's argument is reproduced in FDR and the Holocaust, pp. 219-272.
 Stuart G. Erdheim's “Could the Allies Have Bombed Auschwitz-Birkenau?”, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Fall 1997, pp. 129-170.
 See Herzstein, "Is It Time to Stop Asking Why the West Failed to Save More Jews?", Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Fall 1998, p. 335.
 See William Rubinstein's The Myth of Rescue, p. 216.
 For instance, Howard Zinn made a compelling case for the head-on-a-platter aspect of the Watergate scandal, where Nixon and his cronies were publicly crucified, while the system that created the Nixons were left intact and not questioned. See Zinn, A People's History of the United States, pp. 529-569.
 See Robert Edwin Herzstein's "Is It Time to Stop Asking Why the West Failed to Save More Jews?", Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Fall 1998, pp. 326-338.
 See Raul Hilberg's Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders, p. 249.
 See Götz Aly's Final Solution, pp. 195-197.
 For instance, see the map and numbers presented in Lucy Dawidowicz and David Altshuler's Hitler's War Against the Jews, immediately after the book's introduction, for typical estimates of the fate of European Jews, which are faithful to the historical evidence. See the table on p. 197 of Götz Aly's Final Solution, for a detail of Jews that came under Nazi control leading up to the Final Solution, which tabulated more than eleven million Jews subject to the Final Solution, as compared to Harwood's three million.
 See Ward Churchill's A Little Matter of Genocide, p. 19.
 See, for instance, Norman Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry, pp. 81-83.
On Holocaust Denial, among my sources are Andrew Carter's The Facts - and the Myths - about the Holocaust, Richard Harwood's Did Six Million Really Die?, Kenneth Stern's Holocaust Denial, and Deborah Lipstadt's Denying the Holocaust. Also, there is a great deal of material on the Internet devoted to the issues both pro and con, such as transcripts from the Canadian trials of Holocaust denier Ernest Zündel.
 See Deborah Lipstadt's Denying the Holocaust, pp. 209-222.
 See Norman Finkelstein’s The Holocaust Industry, which Raul Hilberg said is “going in the right direction.”
 See Ward Churchill's A Little Matter of Genocide, pp. 36-53.
 For instance, see Gérard Chaliand and Jean-Pierre Rageau's The Penguin Atlas of the Diasporas, p. 109, for a summary of the world estimate of the Gypsy population, which ranges between eight and fifteen million people.
 See Ward Churchill's A Little Matter of Genocide, pp. 48-49.
 See Ward Churchill's A Little Matter of Genocide, p. 42.
 Ward Churchill made the very compelling case for that opinion in his A Little Matter of Genocide, pp. 19-62.
 See William Blum's Killing Hope, p. 1.
 See Kenneth Stern's Holocaust Denial, p. 94.
 See Kenneth Stern's Holocaust Denial, pp. 53-54 and notes 125 and 126, on pp. 172-172. What Chomsky has always done regarding the Cambodian genocide is to demonstrate the hypocrisy regarding how the American media handled it. Chomsky compared it to the mass slaughters in Indonesia and East Timor, for instance. The Cambodian genocide was partly an American media fabrication, and the first major killings in Cambodia the United States performed (at least a half million killed), a fact unmentioned in the drumbeat of "genocide" that dominated the American press. When it later turned out that Pol Pot’s “nationalistic” project was indeed genocidal, the USA's press was accidentally correct. See Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman's The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, pp. 19-22. See Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman's After the Cataclysm, pp. 135-294. See The Chomsky Reader, pp. 289-297. See Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent, pp. 260-296. Regarding the Faurisson affair, see the documentary Manufacturing Consent. See also Milan Rai's Chomsky's Politics, pp. 131-132, 201-202.
 See Kenneth Stern's Holocaust Denial, p. 55.
 To be fair, some in the American press covered for Stalin at the height of his genocidal purges, such as Walter Duranty of the New York Times. See S. J. Taylor's Stalin's Apologist.
 See Michael Adams's The Best War Ever, p. 42.
 See Michael Zezima’s Saving Private Power, pp. 79-86. See Jonathan Vankin and John Whelan's 50 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time, pp. 259-262. See The National Insecurity Council's It's a Conspiracy!, pp. 9-13.
 See photos of these activities in Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking.
 For numerous accounts of those types of activities, see Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking.
 Quoted in David Stannard's American Holocaust, p. 252.
 See David Stannard's American Holocaust, pp. 252-253, where the Vietnamese people are likened to termites in the prose of the famous General William Westmoreland.
 See David Miller's Custer's Fall, p. 32.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. xi.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 34.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 63.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 64.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 91.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 100.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 109.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 120.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, pp. 123-124.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, pp. 152-153.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 148.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 125.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 147.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 146.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 147.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 156.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 156.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 164.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 170.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 206.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 235.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 244.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 253.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, pp. 258-259.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 260.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 267.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, pp. 269-271.
 See Eugene Sledge's With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa, p. 278.
 Imperial rhetoric can always be counted on to frame events such as the Boxer uprising as a “rebellion,” “mutiny,” and the like, as with Pontiac’s ”Rebellion,” the Sepoy “Mutiny,” etc., as if loyal subjects irrationally rebelled against their natural masters.
 See Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking, pp. 106-107, 144-149.
 See William Blum's Killing Hope, chapters 2 and 3.
 See Howard Zinn's Declarations of Independence, p. 88.
 See Howard Zinn's Declarations of Independence, p. 88.
 See Howard Zinn's Declarations of Independence, pp. 89-90.
 See Noam Chomsky's Class Warfare, pp. 60-61. See Howard Zinn's Declarations of Independence, pp. 94-95.
 See Howard Zinn's Declarations of Independence, pp. 96-97.
 See William Blum’s Killing Hope and Rogue State, for instance.
 See Howard Zinn's Declarations of Independence, p. 98.
 See Howard Zinn's Declarations of Independence, p. 104.
 See Howard Zinn's Declarations of Independence, p. 100.
 See Gar Alperovitz's The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, pp. 562-565.
 See Paul Fussell's Wartime, pp. 284-285.
 See Michael Adams's The Best War Ever, p. 73.
 See Robert J. Lifton and Greg Mitchell's Hiroshima and America, pp. 211-222.
 See Peter Wyden's Day One. See the map on the book cover, of the hardback version, and read the descriptions of what it was like for the few survivors near ground zero.
 See Gar Alperovitz's The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, chapters 36-40.
 Albert Einstein, in a conversation with Linus Pauling, in Ronald Clark's Einstein: The Life and Times, p. 672. Also, many thanks for Doug Long's website, where I found quotes such as this one summarized.
 See Herbert P. Bix's "Japan's Delayed Surrender: A Reinterpretation", Hiroshima in History and Memory, edited by Michael Hogan, chapter 4. See Gar Alperovitz's The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, chapter 39.
 See Gar Alperovitz's The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, p. 637.
 See Richard Rhodes's The Making of the Atomic Bomb, p. 743.
 See Derek Ide's "Dropping the Bomb: A Historiographical Review of the Most Destructive Decision in Human History," published online by The Hampton Institute, June 19, 2014.
 See, for instance, Understanding Power; The Indispensable Chomsky, edited by Peter R. Mitchell and John Schoeffel, p. 56.
 See Richard Rhodes's The Making of the Atomic Bomb, p. 496.
 See Joseph Schwartz's The Creative Moment, p. 80.
 See Joseph Schwartz's The Creative Moment, p. 217.
 See Spencer Weart and Gertrud Szilard's, Leo Szilard: His version of the Facts, p. 184.
 See Gar Alperovitz's The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, pp. 5-6.
 See Gar Alperovitz's The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, chapter 46.
 See Gar Alperovitz's The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, pp. 337-338.
 See Gar Alperovitz's The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, p. 524.
 See Gar Alperovitz's The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, p. 524.
 See Gar Alperovitz's The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, p. 528.
 See Gar Alperovitz's The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, p. 415.
 Herbert Hoover is quoted in Richard Norton Smith's An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover, pg. 347.
 Hoover quoted in Gar Alperovitz's The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, pg. 635.
 See William Manchester's American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964, pg. 512.
 See Norman Cousins's The Pathology of Power, p. 65, 70-71.
 See Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, p. 150.
 See Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, p. 200.
 See Michael Adams's The Best War Ever, p. 30.
 See Norman Rich's Hitler's War Aims, pp. 8-9.
 See Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking, p. 32.
 See Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking, pp. 199-214, especially pp. 213-214.
 See Richard Rhodes's The Making of the Atomic Bomb, p. 744. See Wyden, Day One, pp. 296-307.
 See Gar Alperovitz's The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, p. 601.
 See Gar Alperovitz's The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, p. 637.
 See Gar Alperovitz's The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, p. 638.
 See Robert J. Lifton and Greg Mitchell's Hiroshima in America, Fifty Years of Denial, pp. 270-273.
 See Dwight Eisenhower's "Ike on Ike," Newsweek, 11/11/63, pg. 107.
 See William Leahy's I Was There, p. 441.
 Memorandum on the Use of S-1 Bomb, Manhattan Engineer District Records, Harrison-Bundy files, folder # 77, National Archives (also contained in: Martin Sherwin's A World Destroyed, 1987 edition, pg. 307-308).
 See Gar Alperovitz's The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, p. 638.
 See Lifton and Mitchell, Hiroshima in America, pp. 253-258.
 See Michael Adams's The Best War Ever, p. 7.
 See Michael Adams's The Best War Ever, pp. 11-12.
 See Michael Adams's The Best War Ever, pp. 11-12.
 Reagan began his political career as a fervent supporter of the McCarthy witch hunt trails, even “ratting” on people in Hollywood for McCarthy’s tribunal. Reagan testified at it. Reagan met his wife Nancy when she discovered that her name was in the Hollywood back list and she went to him for help, and he got her off it. His activities also wrecked many Hollywood careers.
 See Michael Adams's The Best War Ever, p. 75.
 See Michael Adams's The Best War Ever, pp. 75-80.
 See Michael Adams's The Best War Ever, p. 120.
 See Michael Adams's The Best War Ever, p. 93.
 See Michael Adams's The Best War Ever, p. 94.
 See Michael Adams's The Best War Ever, p. 128.
 See Studs Terkel’s “The Good War,” pp. 190-193.
 See Noam, Chomsky's Class Warfare, pp. 59-61. See Gar Alperovitz's The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, p. 419. See Zinn, Declarations of Independence, pp. 95-96.
 See Gerhard Weinberg's A World at Arms, pp. 300-301. See Churchill, A Little Matter of Genocide, p. 48. See Christopher Simpson's Blowback, p. 14, 18, 19, 44. The main source of my information about the early CIA days is mainly Simpson's Blowback, but for my general knowledge of the CIA I also used other sources of information such as William Blum's Killing Hope, Ralph McGehee's Deadly Deceits, Rodney Stich's Defrauding America, CIA operatives I have known, the work of Noam Chomsky and other sources, some thoroughly establishment, such as Loch Johnson's America's Secret Power.
 See the summary of that grisly toll in Ward Churchill A Little Matter of Genocide, pp. 43-49.
 See Dennis Piszkiewicz's The Nazi Rocketeers: Dreams of Space and Crimes of War, pp. 94-97.
 See Dennis Piszkiewicz's The Nazi Rocketeers: Dreams of Space and Crimes of War, pp. 24-26.
 See Dennis Piszkiewicz's The Nazi Rocketeers: Dreams of Space and Crimes of War, p. 159.
 See Yahil, The Holocaust, p. 535.
 See Dennis Piszkiewicz's The Nazi Rocketeers: Dreams of Space and Crimes of War, p. 167.
 See Dennis Piszkiewicz's The Nazi Rocketeers: Dreams of Space and Crimes of War, p. 101.
 See Christopher Simpson's Blowback for the most thorough account of those days.
 See H. Bruce Franklin’s Vietnam and other Fantasies, p. 50, and William Blum’s Killing Hope, p. 21.
 See James Bacque's Crimes and Mercies, p. 28.
 The accounts of that Soviet behavior are many. For one first-person account, see the account of Klaus Fuhrmann, a Berliner, who describes the Soviet entrance to Berlin and how they raped his wife in their bedroom, while the husband stood there with a pistol pushed against his chest, in John Carey's Eyewitness to History, pp. 625-630.
 See Christopher Simpson’s The Splendid Blond Beast, pp. 175-176.
 See Christopher Simpson’s The Splendid Blond Beast, especially pp. 217-231.
 See Michael Adams's The Best War Ever, p. 138.
 See Howard Zinn's Declarations of Independence, p. 100.
 See Paul Fussell's Doing Battle, p. 124. As an anecdote regarding such brutality, one interrogation tactic of American soldiers in Vietnam was taking prisoners up in a helicopter, and when one would not talk, they would throw him out of it to see if it might loosen the lips of the prisoners who witnessed that act. That "helicopter therapy" was the least of it. One close relative of mine knew a man who specialized in that brand of interrogation. Throwing them out of the helicopter to their deaths was easy and unimaginative. My relative's buddy specialized in the high art of interrogation. He manned one of those high-caliber machine guns mounted on those helicopters. They would throw out a hapless prisoner, but he would not fall to his death. My relative's buddy would shoot the prisoner with his machine-gun while the prisoner was in mid-air. It was macabre skeet shooting. He could keep the prisoner aloft with the force of the bullets hitting his body. The bullets’ force overcame gravity and kept the body in the air. He could keep a body in the air for quite some time. With each shot the body would move further away from the helicopter and spin with the force of the bullets hitting it. In a particularly successful episode, the body would stay in the air until the bullets began to disintegrate the body.
 See Noam Chomsky's Secrets, Lies and Democracy, pp. 97-98.
 See Christopher Simpson's Blowback, p. 140, and pp. 138-155 regarding those American plans.
 See David McGowan's Derailing Democracy, p. 165
 See Donna Abu-Nasr’s “Saudis: Don’t Attack Iraq from Here,” Associated Press, August 7, 2002.
 See Ken Silverstein’s Private Warriors.
 See William Thomas's Scorched Earth: The Military's Assault on the Environment.
 See Ken Silverstein’s Private Warriors, p. viii, published in the year 2000.
 See Mark Zepezauer and Arthur Naiman's Take the Rich off Welfare.
 See Mark Zepezauer and Arthur Naiman's Take the Rich off Welfare, pp. 16-17.
 See Mark Zepezauer and Arthur Naiman's Take the Rich off Welfare, pp. 157-162.
 For instance, see A. Ralph Epperson's The Unseen Hand, An Introduction to the Conspiratorial View of History.
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