Beyond Year Zero
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Author’s Note: In 1955 I was contacted and asked whether I would be interested in collaborating with Francis Neilson in a revision and expansion of his book The Makers of War, first published in 1950 and then out of print. The opportunity to work with so eminent a revisionist as Mr. Neilson, author of such milestones as How Diplomats Make War, Hate the Enemy of Peace, The Churchill Legend, and the five-volume The Tragedy of Europe, was accepted with alacrity. Much time was devoted to expanding his book, the revised edition of which was to be published under our joint authorship.
The somewhat enlarged revision, which included two new concluding chapters which would have been numbers XXI and XXII, written in their entirety by me, was submitted to Mr. Neilson’s secretary, Phyllis Evans, late that same year. On 4 February 1956 Miss Evans wrote me:
I am now retyping the manuscript of The Makers of War, and am hoping to complete the job next week. Despite Mr. Neilson’s aversion to footnotes, I am supplying the specific references for all of the original text, as you have done so thoroughly for your additions. Your work is magnificent, and the amount of labor you expended and your enthusiastic dedication to the cause impress me deeply.
The entire project was concluded on an amicable and satisfactory basis, but it was never published. Mr. Neilson, already suffering from grave impediments to both sight and hearing, was actually at work on three other books (all of which were published eventually) and these literary projects resulted in the diversion which prevented him from getting around to the additional labors the reprinting of this book would have required.
The last of the two new concluding chapters written for the revised edition of The Makers of War, “"The Pursuit of Peace Through War,"” is published here for the first time. It is presented as edited for publication in 1956, and no-post 1955 qualifications or sources are added anywhere, except in one instance, as indicated by brackets.
The decision to issue this material nearly thirty years later is partially influenced by purely bibliographic considerations, to place on the record a historical way of looking at things which largely was overlooked, ignored or suppressed when it was first produced, a decade after the end of the Second World War. The mid-1950s was not a time receptive to the approach found in this chapter, intended for a book which never came into existence. It w as the fate of much revisionist writing in the score of years followings the formal ending of hostilities in 1945.
There is nothing in it which this author would care to change now, about a generation after it was first written. The main criticism which might be entered at this time is that it is excessively moderate in the interpretative aspect, since the extensive revelations and admissions, and the documentary releases which have occurred since 1955, support a somewhat stronger position than has been taken here.
If the tenor of this chapter seems unduly somber today, one should be reminded that the mid-1950s were not quite the light-hearted and jolly time that moderns enamored with nostalgic imaginations for those days think it was. Much of the land was still reeling from the desolate, dreary and depressing just-concluded Korean war (1950–53], fully as traumatic then to most Americans as the Vietnam war was to be a generation later. (Few are yet able to come to terms with the realities of the previous war on the fringes of East Asia, the Pacific War of 1941–45 which, still hailed so noisily and boastfully as such a great “victory,” launched the train of incredible and breath-taking changes which are still profoundly sweeping America and the West. And in a major way it is responsible for disasters even more fundamental than those caused by Korea and Vietnam, which, after all, grew directly from the end of the Pacific War, and essentially were unsettled real estate problems left over from that war. When the self-serving and the self-promotion related to the war of 1941–45 ends, if it ever does, and a sober view of this conflict, its origins and consequences, takes place from a planetary instead of a local viewpoint, then maybe the American populace may come around to an understanding of why the war ending in 1945 made the next two East Asian wars almost unavoidable. It will also make the Korean and Vietnam disasters more understandable to those who still cannot fathom why they were such failures, given that the first of this trio of East Asian conflicts was such an unqualified “triumph.”) It may be well beyond the end of this century and into the next before Americans pay the full bill resulting from the three twentieth century wars in East Asia. But an inkling as to the stunning global revolution triggered in the Far East by the great mindless crusade of 1941–45 was beginning to sift through by the end of the first decade after V-J Day, and Korea had much to do with that.
The great historical dividing-line of our time is 6 August 1945. On this day the most senseless act of an unnecessary four year war was effected. Today, more than ten years after this fateful unleashing of the world’s first atomic bomb, we are still living in the war’s backwash, and the peace so solemnly promised us by the leaders of the West recedes before our grasp at an alarming rate. The wreckage of the ideals of this war lies about us in enormous heaps, revealing the utter lack of rational goals for which the Allied coalition fought: the impoverished motives of these powers were unmasked and laid open to the eves of the worm even sooner than they were after the debacle of 1914–1918. In addition. we have been graced with another “collective security” organization of far greater irrationality than the first, one which took but two years to rend it from top to bottom, instead of two decades. With what contemporary result?
The most obvious deficiency in today’s world is the total absence of the noble and vacuous objectives which were announced to the world after the famous original meeting “at the summit” off the coast of Newfoundland, 8–14 August 1941. The war aims of the Anglo-American combine led by Mr. Churchill and Mr. Roosevelt, incorporated in the purely imaginative “Atlantic Charter” exist in realization nowhere on the planet. After four years of the most revolting massacre of life and destruction of property followed by ten years of savage intermittent fighting on the fringe lands of Asia and Africa, is there a person so sanguine as to dare assert that the touted “Four Freedoms” are actually enjoyed anywhere? There has never been a time when the world knew more want and fear than now, and the vaunted civil liberties which were to appear on earth like flocks of gentle birds have vanished so thoroughly that the taut times of 1939 seem immeasurably more free by comparison. The world bristles with guns and men under arms, to the point that the world of the 1930s seems comparably a time of military and naval de-emphasis. Military budgets tower over domestic populations, and the whole earth has become accustomed to the endless movement of men in uniform as a matter of course. The goods and travelers of the nations move at a crawl through incredible physical and psychological barriers at all the national frontiers, when compared with the relative freedom that prevailed a half century ago while the thought of espionage and surprise atomic attack has made paranoia the most widely-prevalent state of mind the world over.
Still, the statesmen talk in a subdued manner about the desirability of peace, and at the same time prepare more resolutely for war. Their various peoples go about their tasks in a trance-like manner, so stunned by the enormity of what they have seen and heard and done these last fifteen years that the thought that they are now on the edge of radioactive oblivion drives them into unreality in the hope of escape. Their past conditioning nevertheless induces them even at this late hour to demand that no concessions be made in the interests of real peace, because the last time this was undertaken it was demolished by the war hawks as “appeasement.” No more fateful word ever was so misapplied, and it remains today as the semantic albatross tied under the chins of the world’s diplomats and heads of state, inhibiting even their most restrained gestures in the interests of holding back the chariots in our time.
We make such little progress toward a satisfactory peace because we suffer so grievously still from the results of vexations unleased during our most recent crusade to exterminate political sin. The dramatic summations by William Henry Chamberlin in his America’s Second Crusade and by Harry Elmer Barnes anal George Lundberg in Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace should not be missed by anyone who earnestly desires to know what the balance sheet looks like at this moment. Surely the biblical observation about the visitation of the sins of the fathers upon future generations was never more dramatically demonstrated than in our time, and contemporary trends hold out no hope that this process is bound to be interrupted for a substantial period of time to come. Instead of re-tracing our steps in an effort to restore the balance we have lost, we are beginning to make a system out of the lop-sided circumstances in which we have found ourselves since 1945. No peace prevails mainly because perpetual war on a limited scale has largely replaced peace as the ideal state of affairs under which men live their lives.
Can we profit at all from a close glance at the wartime, in the hope than we might see a glimmer of a rational formula or practical plan for an order of things superior to the one which the war camp found so repulsive that it felt the resources of the whole globe needed to be devoted to its obliteration? There is scant gain indeed. With the exception of florid messianic promises, the wartime was saturated with the most primitive emotions. Hate of the enemy leaders and fervent hopes that their peoples suffer annihilation redounded through the wartime days. In America a veritable anti-Japanese race war was preached, which led not only to the frightening violations of the civil rights and liberties of its citizens of Japanese extraction, but the fighting of one of the most vicious wars in history in the Pacific. The apocalyptic atom bombing properly concludes this imbalance. Americans on the whole have not yet revived from this all-consuming hate campaign and the position papers and atrocity stories of the psychological war departments of all the “Allies,” which partially explains the widespread confusion and paralysis of attitudes resulting from the changed postwar conditions demanding adjustment.
The indicies to understanding the comprehensive hate of things Italian and German may be narrowed down to two: the triumphant whoop by Mr. Churchill upon hearing of the sickening murder of Mussolini by a Communist criminal, and a poll on London’s streets taken by a London newspaper before D-Day, commented upon by two American reporters of the service newspaper Stars and Stripes. When queried: “If you could press a button and kill every German in the world, would you press it?” almost 50 percent of the British citizens “thought they would jump at the chance.” (Quoted in “Bud” Hutton and “Andy” Rooney, Conquerors’ Peace, p. 63.) Surely these incidents suggest that the newer methods of emotional engineering far surpassed the primitive ones of the First World War in effectiveness. It is little wonder that the frightened leaders have discovered that it is easier to extend the hate campaigns than to decondition a people so fundamentally affected by such Neanderthalic appeals. It is not surprising that the most devoted supporters and instigators of hostile feelings in the war have given up in despair with respect to the hope of peace in our time, and now trumpet for unceasing bloodshed in pursuit of their delirious dreams. We need cite only the hysteria of such self-appointed leaders of the new blood-drenched “liberals” in our land as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., with his callous and horrifying “log-jam” theory of war. According to this, using the analogy of a river log jam and dynamite, the affairs of men periodically get so inextricably tangled that a war periodically is needed to set things aright. A little further down the road to annihilation is the latest emanation of still another of the tribe of these “right-thinking” folk, Elmer Davis, the George Creel of America’s second war of propaganda against its people. In his Two Minutes Till Midnight, he begs us to resign ourselves to the inevitable – hydrogen bomb warfare – in the supreme effort to bring into the world the reign of righteousness and virtue that his most recently promoted planetary butchery somehow failed to flush out into the open. Mr. Davis’ line that our only alternatives are world Communist slavery or atomic disintegration is the most dishonest fakery yet spawned by this bloody tribe. It does not appear that Mr. Davis learned a particle from the four brain-chilling reports of Dr. Ralph E. Lapp in the November 1954 and February, May, and June 1955 issues of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, on the now predictable effects of even a restricted hydrogen bomb war.
There is little to learn from what the academic camp as well has to say on this issue. Their books and other contributions grind along, proclaiming the unchanging message of the utter depravity of Hitler, Mussolini, and Japan, and the virtuousness of the combine they faced, with recent adjustments to cover their trail since the defection of Russia from the circles of the “peace-loving nations,” of which the Soviet was a charter member just a short time ago. A new generation of historical camp-followers now preaches the necessity of World War Two and the virility of the United Nations, as a preceding one extolled World War One and the League. What we have passing as the history of the war is largely the collective value judgments of British- or Russian-inspired intellectuals frozen into a seeming finality.
Porter Sargent, morosely commenting in his Getting US Into War (p. 44) on the war which was rapidly coming up on America in 1941, concluded:
Propaganda has always been Britain’s best paying export. There has always been a demand for it. Americans lap it up, pay for it, and derive a sense of morality, religious exaltation and self-righteousness after gobbling it down. It was five or six years after the first World war before our university professors began to feel the first pangs of pain from their gullible gluttony. So secret and unsuspected have been the methods this time that it may take even longer. They were not immunized but apparently left even more susceptible.
At the heights of the Harvard faculty’s hysteria for participating in the war, a student demonstration protesting the zeal of the draft-exempt academic elders for bloodshed took place in the Harvard Yard, one poster suggesting: “Send 50 Overage Professors to England.” But the recommendation was ignored by the administration, and the cloistered warriors remained all over the land to repeat the experiences of the fold of Clio two decades earlier, under the direction of George Creel’s spiritual descendants. The part played by this battalion of editorial and microphone commandos in manufacturing belligerent psychology remains to be chronicled. It is ironic and poetic justice that from the economic point of view, the interest-group whose purchasing power has suffered most in America from the inroads of the war-created inflation of the past fifteen years has been the professors, and no other interest group acclaimed the coming of the war with such rousing enthusiasm as this same academic element.
As we look back over the last two gory decades, and contemplate the public apathy of mass-killing which exists around the world, it appears fruitless to sum up what has happened to the moral sense of mankind. The actions of the armed forces of all belligerents under stress erase the possibility of creating clearly-defined categories of righteous and evil participants. After years of annihilating women and children in undefended cities, starvation blockades, shooting and torturing prisoners of war, and systematic political murder, there should not be much wonder that so much world opinion remains unimpressed with the dreadful possibilities inherent in atomic warfare. Nobody can be blamed for wilting under such an assault as we have witnessed, all carried out in the name of re-establishing political virtue in the world and the installation of various praiseworthy social and economic objectives.
There is certainly nothing that can be pointed to in the conduct of the Allies from beginning to end that merits substantial unqualified praise on the moral level. Anyone who examined closely the behavior of these Allies in victory between 1945 and 1948 saw how thin and shabby the Allied ethico-moral superiority protestations were. The savage and nauseating things described by the courageous British Leftist publisher Victor Gollancz in his books Our Threatened Values and In Darkest Germany, and the stirring volume by Freda Utley, The High Cost of Vengeance, were sufficient to cancel out of consideration every scrap of lofty ethical and moral pretension of the war winners over the Nazis. These were books which the Allied policy-makers in Germany were surely sorry to see published. The admissions, some unconscious and inadvertent, in Hutton and Rooneys’ Conquerors’ Peace on the practices of the occupying powers in the chopped-up zones of Germany, additionally document the absence of principled distinctions.
The robbery, rape, murder and insolent strong-arm tactics so commonly reported in the first few years of occupation cannot be separated from official policy which encouraged such attitudes. Most noteworthy are the infamous “Unconditional Surrender” and Morgenthau Plan policies; the consequences of these crackbrained schemes will be with us for many years to come, in addition to having furnished myriad headaches this past dozen years. One can hardly imagine a policy madness which would have so reflected the goals of the professional anti-Germanism of Vansittart and Duff Cooper, even though Americans conceived them and with massive Soviet support largely carried them into such existence as they enjoyed.
The former was the logical extension of the Churchill-Duff Cooper-Vansittart sloganeering of 1940–44, when the Germans were being told incessantly that the war was to continue until Nazism was “extirpated.” Just which Nazis were to be “extirpated,” and how one was to recognize when “extirpation” was an accomplished fact, never was explained. Ultimately this fraud was abandoned and the outrageous “Black Record” program of comprehensive German extermination substituted. The Nazis were able to develop a tenacious and dogged resistance in Germany by pointing to the anti-German racialism of their righteous opponents. A Treaty of Berlin dictated by this trio and Roosevelt was threatened, which would make Versailles seem a feather bed by comparison. What this doctrine did to extend the war at least two more years, during which time most of the loss of life and destruction of property occurred, is already well known and hardly needs repetition here. All that followed was a lamentable hanging bee which got rid of most of the important Nazi leaders and the ones most likely to rock the Allies’ boat by revealing what they knew was being suppressed.
But Germany was converted into a collection of smoking craters first by a bombing campaign which has been subsequently denounced as a failure insofar as its professed objectives were concerned by experts ranging from Harold Urey to Major General J. F. C. Fuller. Those among the Allies who acclaimed this enthusiastically as revenge, overlooked the real nature of the situation completely. Not only were they guilty of staggering proportional obtuseness, in which the return of a thousand tons of bombs for one was considered proper retaliation, but they also conveniently ignored that it was Hitler who had proposed that the bombing of undefended cities be outlawed. We call to mind Frederick J. P. Veale’s conclusive study Advance to Barbarism, which places the responsibility for the bombing of civilian populations where it properly belongs, upon the British Air Ministry.
But this was not revealed until after the incredible pulverization of urban Germany was completed topped off by the mass terror bombing of the undefended cultural center of Dresden on 13 February 1945, causing a quarter of a million casualties in a single day. The survivors elsewhere in the land were so stunned that they had little energy remaining to devote to noticing what Joseph Stalin, Harry Dexter White, and Henry Morgenthau, Jr. had contemplated as Germany’s post-war “new look.” The industrial and commercial pillaging of the land and its planned reduction to a bleak cabbage-raising helotry has long been abandoned. But, despite all the optimistic talk and the banal “healing of the wounds,” the aims of these three remain largely effected. Territorially, Germany has been partitioned, restructured and truncated, despite all the furious activity since 1948 to salvage the scraps remaining after the Russian vandal holiday.
What is the story elsewhere? Five years ago Captain B. H. Liddell Hart, in his Defence of the West, entitled a chapter “Were We Wise to Foster Resistance Movements?” His conclusion was definitely in the negative. These largely-Communist and criminal-dominated enterprises have created as many political nightmares for the parliamentary democracies as Red China and Russia combined. Working under the full approval of the Western Allies, these sinister gatherings made such inroads that they remain behind the political weakness and instability of France and Italy to this day. The part they played in converting Yugoslavia into a Communist state is formidable. The ghoulish gloating of Churchill over the butchering of Mussolini and the rushed “trial” and execution of Laval have carried a big political price tag. In France we should not forget the 125,000 brutal political murders committed by the criminal-infested Maquis and other “resistance” elements during the years Germany was being given the Carthaginian treatment. This has been effectively described by Sisley Huddleston in his France: The Tragic Years and the novel Terreur 1944. The similar proscription in Italy has not received the attention it deserves, and an account of this shameful episode is badly needed. [It finally appeared in 1959, with the publication of Luigi Villari’s The Liberation of Italy. – JJM, 1984]
And what of the behavior of the “democratic” Czechs? For sheer ferocity is there anything that matches the barbarous treatment accorded their German minorities after the glorious “liberation,” as described for us in the symposium headed by Roger Baldwin titled The Land of the Dead and in Jurgen Thorwald’s Flight In the Winter? Lidice pales into insignificance compared to this gout of primitive savagery.
Nor are the Russians to escape mention in this bleak saga without reference to their systematic elimination in Poland of elements considered incapable of incorporation within a Communist order. The account of the massacre of Polish officers in Joseph Mackiewicz’ The Katyn Wood Murders and the thick volumes of incriminating evidence compiled in the United States Senate reports on this event emphasize why this incredible atrocity was not successfully pinned on the Nazis at the time of the Nuremberg war crimes trials. The grisly humor of the Communists in trying to bluff their gullible democratic Allies on this point is probably the high-water mark for wartime cynicism.
Stalin’s cold-blooded plans for a similar but far larger slaughter in Germany failed to obtain the approval of both his partners “at the summit,” largely due to Churchill’s obdurate resistance to the idea of shooting prisoners of war as a policy. Western commentators such as Dorothy Thompson have been inclined to cast too many huzzas in Sir Winston’s direction for this stand, forgetting his description of Germany as a nation of 65 million “all killable.” What a mockery this was to make out of his protestations, when he stood by in silence as Stalin ordered the execution of all German prisoners who had previously been members of the German Communist Party! There is little better evidence to indicate that the Soviet considered Communists the world over as loyal subjects of the Kremlin first and citizens of their own lands second. The crowning insult, and the total erasure of Churchill’s plea that British entry into the war was primarily due to the pledge to preserve the integrity of Poland, occurred when he again kept his tongue while in full possession of proof during the war that the Russians had murdered the cream of Poland’s officers, 15,000 in number, after taking them prisoner. But it stands to Roosevelt’s perpetual discredit that he showed great enthusiasm for the casually-suggested monstrosity at both the Teheran and Yalta conferences, while Sir Winston at least had the temporary decency to object to such criminal savagery.
There is little doubt that the worst political blunder committed by the Allies was the decision to atom-bomb Japan, even after possessing full knowledge that this nation was beaten and seeking surrender terms which did not strip them bare of all self-respect. The one which rivals it closely is the hanging of the German and Japanese leaders after the trumped-up trials at Nuremberg, Manila. and Tokyo. The aftermath of these judicial farces has led to a formidable defensive and apologetic literature written mostly by citizens of the nations which sat in judgment on their enemies and consigned them to the gallows. Nothing done by the Allies through out the war so closely followed the Russian Communists’ doctrine of political biology: the obliteration of all elements of the enemy elite considered incapable of assimilation into the order of the winners. Contrary to the fevered opinions of the camp-follower legalists, who still strive in the most unconvincing manner to justify these juridical assassinations and to sell them to the home front populations as novel departures in international law, they were no newer than the systematic executions by Assurbanipan and the other Old Testament Assyrian terrors.
For sheer dramatic irony it is difficult to surpass the comment by Charles Duff in his A New Handbook on Hanging (p. 126) on the circumstances immediately preceding the killing of these German military and political personages:
Forever memorable in the proud annals of execution will be the Great Hangings at Nuremberg in the Year of Grace 1946. Eleven leaders of the Nazi movement who had been tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity sat down one October evening (23rd) to their Last Supper of canned American-German sausage and cold cuts with potato salad, bread and tea. The same evening the cinema of the Court of Justice announced next day’s screen attraction which had been well chosen for the occasion. It was “Deadline for Murder.”
Nearly a dozen brave books have appeared since 1948 demolishing the validity of the contentions of the Allied judges. Montgomery Belgion’s Victors’ Justice; Lord Maurice Hankey’s Politics, Trials and Errors; Captain Russell Grenfell’s Unconditional Hatred; the previously mentioned volumes of Freda Utley and Frederick J. P. Veale; Viscount Maugham’s UNO and War Crimes; R. T. Paget’s Manstein: His Campaigns and His Trial, and the logical crusher by A. Frank Reel, The Case of General Yamashita, make the sickly justifications of the courts’ trained seals sound unbearably unconvincing. Nevertheless, these Iynchings under the cloak of legality were the logical conclusion of the wartime crusade, and followed through with hardly a pause where their predecessors had faltered after their vainglorious “Hang the Kaiser” rabblerousing. But the fat now is in the fire for sure. These trials have made it a crime to lose, and in the future we may expect the most exaggerated recourse to martial paraphernalia on the part of all belligerent leaders in desperate efforts to avoid defeat and an ignominious end on the victor’s gallows. There is little doubt but that the sobering after-effects of these war crimes trials have reached upon the military leadership of the whole world, and upon the West in particular. The “United Nations” war in Korea partially illustrated what we may take to be customary procedure in future wars: both sides rapidly compiled lists of “war criminals” in anticipation of victory and another morality pageant to be played before another planetary audience on new scaffolds. The stalemate result undoubtedly was a bitter disappointment to those who were fired with the righteous zeal of Nuremberg and Manila, even though the now-hostile sides had been joint participants at these former spectacles.
If the Allies wished world approval of their case, they should not have so lightly betrayed the principles and traditions of vaunted Anglo-Saxon juridical and legal practice. We frown on courts where the judges have already made up their minds on the guilt of the accused and are in partnership with the accusers. We disapprove of courts which refuse the accused the right to present evidence on their own behalf because it might undermine the case of the accusers, and ignore the fact that the accusers have been guilty of the identical things they charged against the accused. Why did the Allies abandon honest pursuit of justice and conduct a trial along the line of Soviet Communist “purge” farces, where the trial is simply advertising for the case against already sentenced persons? Something nearer the value system the West was supposed to be defending in this frightful bloodbath might have been established if the winners had created a court staffed by judges exclusively from neutrals and who tried the winners for their “war crimes” as well.
Charges against the “Axis” leaders (was there ever really an “Axis”?) for such offenses as collective punishments and “enslaving” the laborers of adjacent lands overlooked the monstrous acts of the Russian ally of more comprehensive scope in these departments. And do not documents prove that even while the Allies were considering such charges against the Germans, hundreds of thousands of Germans were being shipped to Russia as involuntary labor with full approval of the other nations? In the decade since the war ended in the West, we have seen impressive evidence of British and French callousness toward the matter of collective punishment. British asperity toward recalcitrant Asians and Africans in Malaya and Kenya proves without a doubt the willingness of England to employ such practices when it is profitable to do so. There is no record of Mr. Churchill condemning the actions in these two lands, actions which match anything on the German or Japanese dossier. Nor have there been any indignant protests among the articulate, who viewed the Nazi razing of Lidice as the crime of the century, at the repetition of this in the jungles of Asia and Africa under Christian British auspices, during these last three years. The press in England has reported these with a straight face, but the wells of moral protest seem to have run dry among those who had made moral protestation a veritable occupation when it involved the behavior of a formidable antagonist.
The ability which the French displayed in starting the tears of the world with their tales of woe in the recent war with Hitler rates very high in the annals of world propaganda history. Bailed out of their sagging descent toward fourth-rate status as a power by the American industrial and military machine, all former sentiments have been discarded while a desperate and losing battle for the maintenance of their colonial prestige in Asia and Africa goes on. Their austerity in handling Algerians, Tunisians and Moroccans fully matches any story told of German behavior in France during the Occupation. Morally the two accounts are precisely equal. As for the Indo-China debacle, one cannot break off his attention to this theater before reading the incredible tale of the campaign against the civilian population as told by the young French parachute trooper Philippe de Pirey in his Operation Waste.
But, once more we have fallen for the propaganda stunts which paint the violence of the favored side in the most favorable hues, while that of the antagonists, as l.M. Read has pointed out in Atrocity Propaganda, is denounced as the blackest behavior to the credit of a sub-group of homo sapiens. Unfortunately, there has been no long recuperative period after this great war as there was beginning in 1919. No comprehensive decontamination process has been possible anywhere, and the continuation of war in cold, hot and lukewarm forms this past decade has also served the purpose of hardening into permanency the propaganda which accompanied the global assault on Hitler, Mussolini, and Japan. No lessening of the pressure to believe has converted the world’s masses into even more compliant believers. It is incorrect to speak of the contemporary generation as skeptics and scoffers; Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer accurately describes the current world as one desperately anxious to believe, and to follow such beliefs even to annihilation. Underlining this is their patient support of the vast war machines and economies today in the hope that in this way the peace they have been denied will eventuate.
That Stalin was able to get control of nearly a third of Europe beyond his pre-war frontiers, and establish the Russian policy of recalcitrancy and contumely which has sparked the last rancorous decade, is due almost entirely to Roosevelt and Churchill. When it comes to the political blunders of modern times, none surpasses that of the former and his adviser Harry Hopkins in confidently predicting that the Communists would be amenable to a world settlement which would find the same old post-Versailles Anglo-Franco-American combine dictating all fundamental world policies, with Russian collaboration. It was with such blithe hopes that the destruction of Europe was so lightly undertaken. Sir Winston’s change of heart was too late. Although he hypocritically announced late in 1944 that the war was “no longer an ideological war” as he and the ponderous Allied propaganda factories had proclaimed it even before it began, there was faint hope that any successful salvage of the situation was then possible. The real issue was not sudden Communist perfidy but repeated and unpardonable Anglo-American misjudgment of Communism.
It is hard to reconcile Mr. Churchill’s belatedly discovered and asserted suspicion of the Soviets with the way in which the war was prosecuted in the last ten months. Of course, the launching of the Cold War in March 1946 signified a relatively rapid policy-somersault on the part of the “Democratic Leader,” but his assertions to the press in the spring of 1955 that he had authorized the stockpiling of German arms for possible reissue to the soldiers of his hated enemy should Russian advances into the West continue aroused wry smiles of incredulity. The Potsdam agreement unfortunately is on the record, and its specific provisions dismiss any feeble gestures on the part of Sir Winston to ensconce himself further as an omniscient sleuth when it came to divining the intents of things Russian. The editor of The Economist in an article published on 11 August 1945 made probably the most realistic contemporary resume of this whole deplorable settlement:
The conviction that the peace proposed at Potsdam is a thoroughly bad peace is not based on any sentimental softening towards Germany. It is based on the belief that the system proposed is in the fullest sense unworkable. It offers no hope of ultimate German reconciliation. It offers little hope of the Allies maintaining its cumbrous controls beyond the first years of peace. Its methods of reparations reinforce autarky in Russia and consummate the ruin not only of Germany, but of Europe. Above all, it has in it not a single constructive idea, not a single hopeful perspective for the post-war world. At the end of a mighty war fought to defeat Hitlerism, the Allies are making a Hitlerian peace. This is the real measure of their failure.
The remarkable disintegration of the United Nations Organization as the cure-all for the world’s conflicting national interests is the most impressive evidence of the basic defectiveness of design in the postwar plans of the Allied victors. Like its direct ancestor it was little more than a gathering of the most powerful conquerors and several levels of satellites, as exclusive as its predecessor. The defeated nations are not in it yet, and there exists little evidence that they will be admitted in the near future. Little wonder that much of the perpetual debate is so unrealistic. The two great-power concentrations whose wheeling and dealing has occupied most of the UN’s time since 1945 are the consequences which indicate the transparency of the great statesmen who in the majesty of their wisdom imagined that another diplomatic Potemkin-village such as the League was all the world needed to bring about peace. And the military alliances of the West – NATO, SEATO, and the like – are the best proof of the fundamental lack of faith of the West in their own creature. The futile wars fought in Korea and Indo-China since 1945 add emphasis to the contention that the UN is mainly an instrument for the encouragement and spreading of wars rather than a device for their prevention or limitation. So after all the disparagement and ridicule, we are back to conferences, agreements, alliances, understandings, balances of power and conciliatory gatherings in the hope of reconciling conflicting national interests. How protagonists can claim with a straight face that the organization has inhibited fighting anywhere is dissimulation beyond compare.
It is these contemporary attempts to find a common meeting ground with Communism that illustrate best of all the sheer lunacy of the war. They undermine completely the argument that fighting Hitler to the end was a moral necessity on the grounds that such a sinner and such an evil program could not be permitted to survive. The most pathetic spectacle of all has been Mr. Churchill’s groping for peace in his declining days, after a lifetime of unbroken devotion to solving his problems and those of Britain in generous baths of hot lead, steel and blood. After all his thunder-words and belligerency comes the interlude, at the conclusion of his career, of sweetness and reconciliation. Are we to thank the hydrogen bomb for this, rather than an intellectual conversion to the machinery of peace? For those of us who have watched him for five decades, and in particular the period since the Bolshevik revolution, it is the paradox of the century that Sir Winston should end his political days as the champion of a policy of peace with an element, the Soviet Union, of which he has been one of the most vitriolic critics, even though he found it possible to swallow his scruples and accept them as allies not a very great time ago. In just what way do the Soviets exceed the Nazis in moral rectitude? Are we to believe that the guiding consideration in seeking this understanding is the vast material power of this potential adversary in still another war? If not, Sir Winston concludes his career as a statesman in complete absurdity. The editorialist (Sir Oswald Mosley) in the May 1955 issue of The European has summed it up most succinctly:
… none can deny – least of all Sir Winston Churchill – that the Soviet leaders in undoubted fact have committed crimes against humanity which have surpassed anything even suggested against the Nazi leaders.
So Churchill’s moral desire for peace today removes his last moral excuse for war yesterday. No one can say that peace with Nazi Germany was morally impossible while he clambers up the “throne of skulls” to seek peace with the Soviet “monsters” at yet another vodka banquet.
He returns to the true tradition of British policy which sought peace and the interests of the country without requiring any certificate of domestic virtue from the other side. He is right to seek peace today; he would have been still more right to seek peace yesterday.
That we are now deep in a stage of world affairs best described by George Orwell is a conclusion that is nearly impossible to reject. In his novel 1984 the three power agglomerations now glaring at one another and the motivations easily recognizable today have been laid down with implacable literary skill. One should not miss the remarkable summaries of this situation in Harry Elmer Barnes’ The Struggle Against the Historical Blackout, Chapter 10, titled “Orwellian Warfare,” of Veale’s Advance to Barbarism, and the symposium Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace. Orwell’s analysis is the fruit of a fairly long intellectual tradition which begins with Bakunin, and courses along through Waclaw Machajski, Max Nomad and James Burnham. The latter’s The Managerial Revolution first brought this thesis to a large public, but it was already fully developed. The capture of the machinery of the modern state by the new intellectual “managerial” elite, using the working class as camouflage, describes in brief the main argument. The entrenchment of this new managerial elite in power by utilization of the strategy of endless but limited global war is the subject of Orwell’s brilliant tour de force. The chances for peace and comity in the world appear grim and dark in view of this set of circumstances. But it may be that the mind-shrinking potential of fission warfare may intervene and bring the world back to sanity; the speech of General MacArthur in Los Angeles in January 1955 is a straw in the wind which suggests a way out. A more summary condemnation of the present managerial war trends has never issued from the lips of anyone, let alone from those of a person whose whole life has been spent in military proclivities.
Still again, the chief reason for the failure to break out of this new circle of death may be that people have lost interest in foreign affairs, and although still living in the cloud-castles created for them by propaganda, have woven a fact-proof screen about themselves out of sheer distrust of their representatives. One’s intelligence can stand just so much blunting by war censorship edicts and palpably misleading news and informational fare. This accounts in large part for the widespread apathy and state of torpor, regardless how pressing the issues of the day are. Our wartime project which sought to batter down the moral conditioning which looked upon the taking of life with disfavor was a rousing success. Resistance to this has been largely obliterated, a fact which can be verified by attendance at moving picture theaters where war pictures and news reels are shown. A sober, ruminating audience accepts scenes of obliteration bombing, napalm, and flame-thrower incendiarism and automatic weapon massacres with hardly a flicker of reaction. Do we really think that this kind of psychological conditioning is going to be lightly brushed away by the application of the new post-war fad of juke-box religion? No, perhaps we still face the necessity of paying a fabulous price beyond what already has been paid. Another war may find us grazing the possibility of racial annihilation.
We are again at the stage which the world was in twenty years ago. Will we act any wiser this time, or will the counsels of the makers of war again prevail and the bloody burden once more be taken up by the world’s peoples? We cannot approach this new situation as complacently as a large part of the spectators did in 1935. The new weapons urge us to seek a just settlement, and eliminate the gnawing grievances which clamor for equitable assessment. We simply cannot afford anymore the heavy-handed obtuseness which precipitated 1914 and 1939. The time to begin a realistic reeducation in the ways that wars are made is already long overdue.
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Additional information about this document
|Author(s):||James Joseph Martin|
|Title:||Beyond Year Zero, The Pursuit of Peace Through War|
|Sources:||The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 5, no. 2, 3, 4 (winter 1984), pp. 349-366|
|First posted on CODOH:||Nov. 8, 2012, 6 p.m.|