The Myths of World War II

by Harry Browne

March 25, 2002

A number of people have complained about my stand on the current War on Terrorism by citing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These events are recounted as evidence that sometimes the U.S. is attacked without justification and that sometimes innocent people must be killed for a greater good. Here is my reply to one such letter.

Dear Mr. :

Thank you for writing with your concerns.

The "Unprovoked Attack"

"The U.S. was minding its own business prior to December 7, 1941 but, we were still attacked by Japan."

Unfortunately, the U.S. (meaning Franklin Roosevelt) was not minding its own business. FDR browbeat the Japanese for a year before Pearl Harbor (1941). He cut off all exports to Japan, froze Japanese assets in the U.S., and demanded that the Japanese get out of Manchuria.

The U.S., Britain, and the Netherlands had already agreed that all three nations would go to war against Japan if the Japanese entered Thailand which they did a week before Pearl Harbor. So the U.S. was already committed to war (without the knowledge of Congress or the American people) a week before Pearl Harbor.

As Secretary of War Stimson reported in his diaries, FDR then told his cabinet that they had to figure out how to get the Japanese to fire the first shot. Fortunately for them, the Japanese had already decided to bomb Pearl Harbor if the U.S. didn't back down from its bullying.

I don't call Roosevelt's actions to be the U.S. minding its own business.

The Atomic Bomb

"The Japanese did not surrender until two nuclear bombs were detonated on their soil."

That also is not the case. The Japanese had sued for surrender several times during the year before Hiroshima. The Japanese asked for only one condition that the Emperor be allowed to remain in place.

The U.S. refused because FDR had coined the ridiculous phrase "unconditional surrender" and was determined to stick to it. When the Japanese eventually surrendered without condition, the U.S. allowed the Emperor to remain in place anyway.

Almost every leading U.S. general and admiral was appalled by Truman's dropping of the atomic bomb especially on two cities with no military significance whatsoever. You can read some of their comments by clicking here.

If terrorism is the act of killing innocent people to pressure a government to change its policies, what was the killing of over 100,000 innocent people supposedly to end a war, but a war that could have been ended months before?

Foreign Policy Is Simply Politics

How many Japanese and Americans died unnecessarily because of a megalomaniac in the White House who was conducting an aggressive foreign policy from 1939 onward without the knowledge of Congress or the American people?

Only when all his cabinet officers wrote their memoirs after the war did most of this become known and by then practically no one was interested in revisiting the causes of the war.

The same thing is happening today. The country is accepting the president's version of events without question. What he's doing makes no sense. But he has his own Pearl Harbor and so, like FDR, he's unstoppable.


"I don't think talking or appeasing the terrorists will do anything but embolden them."

I have no interest in appeasing anyone. I simply want the U.S. to stop bullying the world and creating enemies.

How Soon We Forget

"I will concede that we (the U.S.) stick our noses where it does not belong sometimes but like the Japanese, the terrorists have brought the fight to U.S. and it is time we showed them and the world what happens when you mess with the best."

I don't understand why so many Libertarians understood before September 11 how dangerous it was for the U.S. to be meddling in other people's affairs but now suddenly it's as though there's absolutely no connection between a dangerous foreign policy and an aggressive act against the U.S. 

And if foreign-policy meddling contributed to the events of September 11, what do you think is going to happen to us as a result of what President Bush is doing now? Shouldn't we be trying to stop an even-greater disaster from occurring?

I want only to speak the truth so that, as events unfold, I hope that more and more people will come to realize what a terrible mistake is being made.

I appreciate your concerns. Few people have the faintest idea what went on in World War II or what went on before September 11. Our government has created a terrible mess that is dividing Americans even dividing Libertarians. But if it's okay for people to spout jingoistic slogans without any knowledge of the facts, why is it wrong for someone to point out the obvious?

If I seem to be ignoring some historical event, I hope you'll grant me the possibility that I know about it already, and that I actually know what I'm talking about even if it doesn't conform to the one-liners in high school history books.

With best wishes,

Harry Browne

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