Joe Mariani

Was WWII Also Unjustified?
July 20, 2003

The vociferous critics of President Bush are calling for his head -- some figuratively, some literally -- for picking and choosing which data to use in several speeches which made the case for war against Saddam Hussein. None of them can point out a single fact that was altered or incorrect, yet these critics claim that the American people were not told the strict, literal, unvarnished truth... and because of that, the removal of Saddam Hussein was unjustified. It's difficult for the President to defend against these allegations because intelligence, by its very nature, is rarely 100% verifiable. It was his job to make a decision based on the evidence he had. Of course, for most of these critics, a photograph of Saddam sitting on a 55-gallon drum of VX holding that day's newspaper in one hand and kissing a picture of Osama bin Laden held in the other would not have been enough evidence. They insist on proof not merely beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond any doubt whatsoever. (See my article Liberal "Rules" for Arguing #3: Raise The Bar)

If we were to assume, just for the sake of argument, that President Bush did emphasize certain pieces of evidence, that he did gloss over the doubts quietly voiced by some members of the Administration, and that he did pay more attention to intelligence that helped make the case for war... then my question is, would that really make the liberation of Iraq "unjustified"? How many of Bush's critics, I wonder, would call World War II "unjustified"?

"Roosevelt repeatedly deceived the American people during the period before Pearl Harbor ... He was faced with a terrible dilemma. If he let the people slumber in a fog of isolation, they might well fall prey to Hitler. If he came out unequivocally for intervention, he would be defeated in 1940."
-Thomas Bailey, The Man in the Street, 1948
From the time war broke out in Europe in 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt swore to the American people that his aim was to keep America out of the war. This declaration sat well with most of the American people, as most of the country supported neutrality. President Roosevelt made the following statements while campaigning for re-election in 1940:
"I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." (30 Oct)
"I am fighting to keep our people out of foreign wars. And I will keep on fighting." (1 Nov)
"Your President says this country is not going to war."(2 Nov)
"The first purpose of our foreign policy is to keep our country out of war." (3 Nov)
At the same time he was making these campaign promises, however, FDR was increasing the size of the US Army to three times the 500,000 the Army requested for domestic security. He also gave Britain a million rifles from US Army stockpiles and exchanged 50 American destroyers for control of British bases in the Caribbean. As John Flynn wrote in his 1948 book The Roosevelt Myth, "Next the President began to give out statements from the White House about submarines being found off our coasts. In a speech he told how German bombers could fly to Greenland and from there bomb Omaha." He never provided any evidence for these claims.

In March 1941, FDR enacted the Lend-Lease Act, which almost directly contravened the Neutrality Act and allowed the manufacture and sale of "any defense article for the government of any country whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States." In other words, this Act made America the direct supplier of military hardware to the Allies. Immediately after that, the Rainbow Plan was formed as the document stated, "to defeat Germany and her ally Japan in the Far East." This took place eight months BEFORE Pearl Harbor. 83% of the American people were still against involvement in the war in Europe, according to the Gallup polls at the time.

In April 1941, the American Navy was ordered to report any movement of German ships and submarines to the British Navy. Construction was begun on an American naval base in Northern Ireland at the same time. In May, FDR announced, "The war is approaching the brink of the western hemisphere itself. It is coming very close to home." At that time, Hitler was actually moving his troops to the Eastern Front to attack Russia in June... he had no intention of attacking America. However, Iceland was occupied by American troops in July 1941. Japanese assets in America were frozen on 25 July 1941. American ships were ordered to shoot German vessels on sight in September. On 26 November, the Japanese were practically ordered to withdraw from Indochina and China. Their refusal and declaration of war was delivered twelve days later as they attacked Pearl Harbor. After that, Germany declared war on America.

Was World War II unjustified because the American people had to be "goaded" into fighting it? In the words of Arthur Schlesinger, a professor of history at Harvard, "(Roosevelt) had no choice but to trick them into acting for what he conceived to be their best interests." There were approximately 295,000 deaths out of 405,399 total American casualties. Yet is there an American alive today who believes WWII was unjustified? Franklin Delano Roosevelt planned the war while promising Americans peace, lied about the intentions of the Germans to frighten them, and dragged them into a war they didn't want. Yet he is honored as a hero of the age, a visionary who clearly saw the dangers the rest of America did not, and acted as a leader should to protect his people.

This is something any honest critic of President Bush should consider before accusing him of "shading" data to convince us a war was necessary. I don't believe he did, but if he did, would it invalidate the removal of a brutal, sadistic dictator, liberating an entire nation, and removing a source of terrorist funding?



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