If Today's Reporters Had Been Around Back Then

Sunday, July 30, 2006

I think Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Henry Stimson, and George C. Marshall conducted the Second World War brilliantly, despite “thousands of mistakes.” But I can also envision how our present intelligentsia and punditocracy would have sized up their sometimes less than perfect efforts or applied their own reporting to the struggle against Japan and Germany. So imagine something like the following oped appearing, say, around May 1, 1945.


Meanwhile, we are no closer to victory over Japan. Instead, we are hearing of secret plans of invasion of the Japanese mainland slated for 1946 or even 1947 that may well make Okinawa seem like a cakewalk and cost us a million casualties and perhaps involve a halfcentury of occupation.

We are only now coming off even more terrible losses in Europe, after being surprised by a supposedly defeated enemy in the Ardennes where another 20,000 Americans were killed and another 60,000 wounded or missing—again, due to our continued strategic incompetence and abject intelligence failures. Tragically, this is not the first, but the fourth year of this war, when victory rather than endless bloodshed has been long promised.

A number of issues arise. Why is Henry Stimson still Secretary of War? After the debacle at Pearl Harbor, the Philippines tragedy, the Kasserine Pass disaster, the Anzio mess, the surprise at the Bulge, the bloodbath at Tarawa, and now the Iwo Jima and Okinawa nightmares, is not five years of his incompetence and arrogance enough?

As we see thousands of Americans dying and our enemies still in power after four years of war, it is also legitimate to question the stewardship of Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall. The man at the top must take full responsibility for mistakes that have now cost thousands of American lives. The recent publication of “The Sherman Tank Scandal” follows other revelations published in “Asleep at the Philippines,” “Do Americans Execute POWs?” “Torture on Guadalcanal,” and “Civilian Massacres in Germany”—publications that suggest a military out of control as often as it is incompetent.

Such problems start at the top. Recently we have learned that President Roosevelt, the former law school dropout, once again has violated basic freedoms enshrined in our Constitution. Supposed German suspects were subject to military tribunals, tried in secret, and then executed. Tens of thousands of Italian, German, and Japanese war captives are detained in American prison compounds, without charges and often in secret.

Unfortunately this violation of American values comes not in isolation but on the heels of the unlawful internment of thousands of American citizens in Western concentration camps, the coverup of the Cobra disaster in Normandy, and still more rumors that hundreds of American soldiers perished in secret training exercises on the eve of the Normandy invasion.

Remember as well that these clandestine transgressions of this administration follow a long record of constitutional disrespect—whether trying to pack the Supreme Court with compliant justices, unilaterally turning over our destroyers to the United Kingdom, or, well before Pearl Harbor, ordering, by fiat, attacks on the high seas against German submarines. Such abuses of presidential authority, characterized by intrigue with British agents and unauthorized spying on foreign nationals, go a long way in explaining the German decision to declare war against us on December 8, 1941, presenting the United States with the present catastropheof a two-front conflict.

We can envision that when this lamentable war is over, fought with such malfeasance, the real heroes will not be General Marshall, Secretary Stimson, or yes-men like General Eisenhower, but courageous mavericks such as Charles Lindbergh and Senator Robert Taft, who long ago warned us that we were provoking an unnecessary war, one that, as they feared, was susequently to be waged barbarically and yet incompetantly at the same time.

The final irony is that we may well end up friendlier with out current fascist enemies than with our communist allies. We have it on good authority that already there are postwar contingency plans to train and reformn the Japanese and German militaries to serve as a bulwark against a communist Soviet Union and a soon-to-be communist China, as America readies for yet another war, one that may last not five, but 50 years. How ironic that a struggle that started out in 1939 to ensure a free Eastern Europe and China may well end up, at best, guaranteeing their enslavement to totalitarians every bit as cruel as Hitler and Tojo.

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