The edifice of lies that houses America's ruling establishment was not built
in a day. Deception and manipulation on a scale and level of sophistication
upon which it is currently practiced has taken time to perfect. Once a
technique has been hit upon that works you can expect to see it used over
and over again.
Take the example of the special board of inquiry, headed up by someone supposedly detached from partisan politics. Most recently we have seen it in the case of the Danforth Commission, named for former Senator John Danforth. The stench of the Waco slaughter simply refused to go away so the reputation of Yale alumnus Danforth was offered up in an attempt at air freshening.
The authorities know that the public hasn't the time to pick through the actual report, and they know as well that the public's putative eyes and ears, the press, can be counted on to act simply as the government's mouthpiece.
The best known example of the method, of course, is the Warren Commission. Robert B. Stinnett reminds us, however, in his life's work of a research effort, Day of Deceit, that the technique was prefigured immediately after the Pearl Harbor disaster.
Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts was quickly chosen to head up a commission to tell us how we could have possibly left ourselves so completely open to such a disastrous sneak attack. President Roosevelt's confidante, Justice Felix Frankfurter, described Roberts as the most "forthright of men."
After many days of public hearings, a 13,000 page report was released in less than two months after the "date that will live in infamy, December 7, 1941." The UPI story that was carried throughout the nation on January 24, 1942, summarized the report, saying, "After a thorough investigation in Washington and Hawaii, it told an amazing story of lack of preparation, arbitrary conclusions reached by [Admiral Husband E.] Kimmel and [General Walter C.] Short in conflict with advice from Washington."
Were they actual independent critics and had they taken the time to evaluate it, the press might have agreed with Admiral James Richardson who said of the Roberts report: "It is the most unfair, unjust, and deceptively dishonest document ever printed by the Government Printing Office. I cannot conceive of honorable men serving on the commission without greatest regret and deepest feeling of shame."
Stinnett's book is not a dissection of the Roberts report, however. That job has already been performed by the historian, John Toland, with his "Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath." Stinett has gone far beyond Toland through use of the Freedom of Information Act and years of digging in the archives and hunting down U. S. military personnel and foreign diplomats who knew with great precision exactly when and where the Japanese would attack. They had duly relayed the information to Washington, but, as it turned out, Kimmel and Short were systematically kept in the dark.
The case, as Stinnett lays it out, is open and shut. We had broken all the Japanese radio codes. We knew what the commanders were telling the ships at sea. We knew what Tokyo was telling its diplomats around the world. We even knew what a spy in Hawaii was reporting back to Tokyo. Even without having broken the codes, we knew from directional analysis that there was a large fleet in the North Pacific poised to strike Hawaii. The Japanese attack fleet had been forced to abandon radio silence when a fierce storm had separated the ships beyond the reach of light signals.
Honor bound to protect their men, Kimmel and Short might have taken pre-emptive measures that would have deprived Roosevelt of the dramatic national affront that he needed to persuade the country to join in the battle against the Axis powers, particularly Germany. Germany and Japan had signed a mutual defense treaty which obligated each to go to war against the belligerent opponents of the other. That Germany would oblige Roosevelt and declare war on the United States as soon as the U.S. was at war with Japan was therefore a given.
Stinnett has been faulted for reading too much into a policy recommendation from a junior Naval Intelligence officer that he discovered in the Archives in 1995. In that document, a series of provocations against Japan are prescribed as a means of forcing Japan into war with the United States. It so happens that Roosevelt followed the recommendations almost to the letter. It is indeed remarkable that a lieutenant commander in the Navy should have so much influence over the nation's commander in chief, even if his suggestions were endorsed by his superior, a captain.
Had he waited a couple more years to publish his book, Stinnett would not have had to lean so heavily upon this document to show that Roosevelt was determined to bring the U.S. into the war against Germany, whether by provoking Japan or by any other means. He would have had the new book by Thomas E. Mahl, Desperate Deception, British Covert Operations in the United States, 1939-1944, to refer to. The British certainly wanted the United States to join the war, and whatever the Brits wanted, Roosevelt was more than willing to deliver, even if he had to subvert American democracy to do it. Mahl doesn't explain exactly why Roosevelt was so compliant except to suggest that he and his advisers had superior knowledge to that of the American public about the unique evil of Britain's Nazi adversaries.
Such high mindedness, however, has hardly been the hallmark of the numerous instances of official deceit that have followed the Pearl Harbor trickery. Perhaps it was a matter of Roosevelt being as much in thrall to those awful "money-changers" he denounced in his speeches as were the British. Mahl notes, after all, that a whole floor of Rockefeller Center in New York was used by the British intelligence service that was corrupting our institutions to get us into the war, and with no rent charged by the owners. When one begins to unravel a web of deceit, it's hard to know when he has reached the end.
September 10, 2000
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