Seventy-two years ago today

December 8, 2013
"FDR asks for a declaration of war"

“FDR asks for a declaration of war”

On the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt delivered this speech to a joint session of Congress:

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.
Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.
Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.
Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island.
And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense, that always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

You can listen to FDR giving the speech here. (Real media file.)

Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the US. Four years later, Mussolini had been executed by his own people, Hitler had committed suicide, and Germany, Italy, and Japan were under occupation.

Today’s lesson: It’s not a good idea to make us angry.

(Reposting of an old post, somewhat edited.)

#CommonCore: turning History into anti-American propaganda

December 4, 2013
x

Necessary

I honestly haven’t followed the controversy over the proposed Common Core national educational standards all that closely (1), though I’m somewhat familiar with the questions of lowered standards, loss of local control, and the constitutional issue over a national curriculum. But I do not claim to be an expert.

If, however, this is representative of how American History is to be taught, I’ll be reaching for my pitchfork and torch. The textbook in question is Prentice-Hall’s “The American Experience,” and its chapter on the Second World War, as well as the accompanying teacher’s manual, takes a, shall we say, “slanted” view of the war:

The opening page of the slim chapter devoted to World War II called “War Shock” features a photograph of a woman inspecting a large stockpile of thousand-pound bomb castings. The notes in the margins of the Teacher’s Edition set the tone:

“In this section, nonfiction prose and a single stark poem etch into a reader’s mind the dehumanizing horror of world war. . . .”

The editors of the textbook script the question teachers are supposed to ask students in light of the photograph as well as provide the answer:

Ask: What dominant impression do you take away from this photograph?

Possible response: Students may say that the piled rows of giant munitions give a strong impression of America’s power of mass production and the bombs’ potential for mass destruction.”

Translation: Americans made lots of big bombs that killed lots of people.

The principal selection of the chapter is taken from John Hersey’s Hiroshima. It is a description of ordinary men and women in Hiroshima living out their lives the day the bomb was dropped. A couple of lines reveal the spirit of the document:

“The Reverend Mr. Tanimoto got up at five o’clock that morning. He was alone in the parsonage, because for some time his wife had been commuting with their year-old baby to spend nights with a friend in Ushida, a suburb to the north.”

Further prompts from the margins of the Teacher’s Edition indicate how the selection is to be read and taught:

“World War II has been called a popular war in which the issues that spurred the conflict were clearly defined. . . . Nevertheless, technological advances . . . [and the media] brought home the horrors of war in a new way. Although a serious antiwar movement in the United States did not become a reality until the 1960s, these works by Hersey and by Jarrell take their place in the ranks of early antiwar literature.

Have students think about and record in writing their personal feelings about war. Encourage students to list images of war that they recall vividly. [Conveniently, there is a photograph of the devastation in Hiroshima next to this prompt].

Tell students they will revisit their feelings about war after they have read these selections.”

The entire section is littered with questions and prompts in this vein and plenty of photos that show the destruction of Hiroshima. In case the students would be inclined to take the American side in this conflict, the editors see to it that teachers will remind the students repeatedly that there are two sides in every war:

“Think Aloud: Model the Skill
Say to students:
When I was reading the history textbook, I noticed that the writer included profiles of three war heroes, all of whom fought for the Allies. The writer did not include similar profiles for fighters on the other side. I realize that this choice reflects a political assumption: that readers want to read about only their side’s heroes.

. . . Mr. Tanimoto is on the side of “the enemy.” Explain that to vilify is to make malicious statements about someone. During wartime, it is common to vilify people on the other side, or “the enemy.””

After a dozen pages of Hersey’s Hiroshima (the same number given to Benjamin Franklin in volume one of The American Experience), students encounter the anti-war, anti-heroic poem by Randall Jarell, “The Death of the Ball Turrett Gunner.” The last line in this short poem sums up the sentiment: “When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.” The textbook editors zero in for the kill:

“Take a position: Jarrell based his poem on observations of World War II, a war that has been called “the good war.” Is there such a thing as a “good war”? Explain.

Possible response: [In the Teacher’s Edition] Students may concede that some wars, such as World War II, are more justified than others, but may still feel that “good” is not an appropriate adjective for any war.”

This is not a history lesson. It is anti-war propaganda masquerading as history. This is garbage designed to at best place America and Imperial Japan on an ambiguously equal moral ground, and at worst to make us out to be a villain or aggressor in the conflict. To focus on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki without presenting the reasons for the attack is intellectually bankrupt. The Truman administration dropped the bombs because of the experience of fanatical Japanese resistance along a whole string of islands, where again and again Imperial Japanese Army units fought until nearly wiped out. Imagine that occurring on the Japanese Home Islands themselves, in the event of invasion; bear in mind that the Japanese government was not of a mind to surrender and indeed was talking about “70 million dead” (essentially, fighting to the last man, woman, and child), and then look at the casualty estimates for just the American invasion forces, for which figures of 500,000 killed and wounded were common. And, should the invasion have been delayed until 1946 or the islands simply besieged, there was a very real risk of famine and the  mass starvation of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, because transportation networks had been destroyed. And that doesn’t even begin to account for hundreds of millions suffering under Japanese rule and who needed the war to end as swiftly as possible.

Beyond the question of military necessity and the lesser of two evils, Common Core “standards” engage in moral relativism. While quoting Hersey’s “Hiroshima” (actually, a good book) and Jarrell’s poem, students are apparently left in the dark about Japan’s aggressive intentions and regular atrocities from the 1930s through the end. No mention of the invasion of Manchuria, the war on China, the Rape of Nanking, the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, Unit 731, or the horrors suffered by prisoners of war and civilians living under Japanese rule.

But we do get pictures of American bombs, vivid descriptions of the wreck of Hiroshima, and the lasting impression that we were the ones committing evil, not doing what was necessary to end it.

Let me be blunt: Imperial Japan was evil and had subjected Asia and the Pacific to a horrific nightmare, all to satisfy a national ideology that dehumanized everyone else. Once the war had started, it had to be crushed; the Truman administration was right drop the atomic bombs to force Japan’s surrender (2). It would have been a greater evil to let the war drag on. And while innocent people died in the fight against Japan, to teach any sort of moral equivalence between the two nations is insulting and obscene.

And yet these are the new standards? This isn’t education, it’s pedagogical malpractice.

Footnote:
(1) On the other hand, Michelle Malkin has been an avenging angel on the topic.
(2) A superb book on the end of the war and the decision to use atomic weapons is Frank’s “Downfall: the End of the Imperial Japanese Empire.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Want to know how badly China has bungled its foreign affairs?

December 10, 2012

map east asia

The Philippines says it supports Japanese rearmament:

The Philippines would strongly support a rearmed Japan shorn of its pacifist constitution as a counterweight to the growing military assertiveness of China, according to the Philippine foreign minister.

“We would welcome that very much,” Albert del Rosario told the Financial Times in an interview. “We are looking for balancing factors in the region and Japan could be a significant balancing factor.”

The unusual statement, which risks upsetting Beijing, reflects alarm in Manila at what it sees as Chinese provocation over the South China Sea, virtually all of which is claimed by Beijing. It also comes days before an election in Japan that could see the return as prime minister of Shinzo Abe, who is committed to revising Japan’s pacifist constitution and to beefing up its military.

Anyone who knows anything about the history of World War II in the Pacific knows the brutal, almost unspeakable suffering the peoples of East Asia suffered under Japanese occupation. The Philippines alone lost roughly one million people. Many who survived were nonetheless subjected to torture and starvation, or knew those who were. That’s still in living memory for many Filipinos, making it understandable why they would fear a militarily powerful Japan, and why Rosario’s announcement is such a shocker.

Walter Russell Mead comments:

Today, the Philippines is thought to be one of the countries most subject to Chinese pressure. It has a weak economy and a small military. That a country like this is rallying against China rather than joining up with it, and doing it in such a dramatic way, tells us a lot about what is going on in Asia and the effect Beijing’s foreign policy is having on its neighbors.

China has been anything but deft in its handling of its neighbors, making aggressive claims to islands in the South China Sea, possession of which would give it control of potentially vast oil wealth under the sea bed. This, however, has also had the effect of frightening its neighbors and leading them to seek allies from amongst old enemies.

And now the Philippines, worried by Beijing’s ambitions, wants a rearmed Japan to balance China. (How soon will they be inviting us back into Subic Bay, I wonder?)

This has implications for Japanese politics, too. Japan has a general election in a few days, and the expected winner, Shinzo Abe, has advocated changing Japan’s highly pacifist, restrictive constitution to allow for greater military spending and a larger overseas role for Japan’s military. Concerns about China, where nationalist anti-Japanese protests have become a regular occurrence, and a growing approval of Japanese rearmament from her former enemies could give Abe’s party a boost, in which case we could expect to see Sino-Japanese relations become much more strained.

Obama has made a “pivot to Asia” a focus of his administration’s foreign policy. That’s actually logical (1), but no one should underestimate the challenges Washington faces there.

Footnote:
(1) Yes, I’m surprised. Given the general incompetence Obama, Clinton, and the rest of the Smart Power team have shown in foreign affairs, they’ve generally done a good job in East Asia. I’m sometimes tempted to think it’s the doing of some Undersecretary acting on his own, hoping the bosses won’t notice…

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Anniversary of a bad idea

December 11, 2011

On this date in 1941, Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini declared war on the United States in support of their Japanese ally.

Benito, I have this great idea...

How’d that turn out for you, guys?

Mein Führer?

Berlin, 1945. Second thoughts?

Il Duce?

Not what you'd hoped for?

Prime Minister Tojo?

That worked out well, didn't it?

Maybe you should have thought about it a bit more. See, it’s generally not a good idea to make us angry.

In fact, it’s a really bad idea.

Morons.

Note: This is one of a few WWII anniversary posts I put up every years.


Amazing video of the Japanese tidal wave

March 27, 2011

I may have seen this one before, but, still, this is just incredible:

via Verum Serum


The future of US nuclear power after Japan

March 18, 2011

Reason Magazine has a good article online looking at the the implications for the just-reviving nuclear power industry in the wake of the Sendai earthquake and tidal wave. After reviewing the damage at the Fukushima plants (they actually withstood the temblor surprisingly well, but the tidal wave that killed power to the cooling systems was the back-breaker) and the situations of nuclear plants in the seismically active American West (including California’s San Onofre), Ron Bailey examines newer technology that would make for safer reactors, even in the event of a huge natural disaster:

One hopeful possibility is that the Japanese crisis will spark the development and deployment of new and even safer nuclear power plants. Already, the Westinghouse division of Toshiba has developed and sold its passively safe AP1000 pressurized water reactor. The reactor is designed with safety systems that would cool down the reactor after an accident without the need for human intervention and operate using natural forces like gravity instead of relying on diesel generators and electric pumps. Until the recent events in Japan, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was expected to give final approval to the design by this fall despite opposition by some anti-nuclear groups.

One innovative approach to using nuclear energy to produce electricity safely is to develop thorium reactors. Thorium is a naturally occurring radioactive element, which, unlike certain isotopes of uranium, cannot sustain a nuclear chain reaction. However, thorium can be doped with enough uranium or plutonium to sustain such a reaction. Liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTR) have a lot to recommend them with regard to safety. Fueled by a molten mixture of thorium and uranium dissolved in fluoride salts of lithium and beryllium at atmospheric pressure, LFTRs cannot melt down (strictly speaking the fuel is already melted).

Because LFTRs operate at atmospheric pressure, they are less likely than conventional pressurized reactors to spew radioactive elements if an accident occurs. In addition, an increase in operating temperature slows down the nuclear chain reaction, inherently stabilizing the reactor. And LFTRs are designed with a salt plug at the bottom that melts if reactor temperatures somehow do rise too high, draining reactor fluid into a containment vessel where it essentially freezes.

While recent research shows that the United States has far greater reserves of coal, oil, and gas than previously thought, nuclear is still the cleanest economical alternative energy source around and has to be a crucial part of any coherent* national energy strategy. Rather than react in panic (as we did after Three mile Island) and again cripple the development of nuclear power, we must recognize that there is no risk-free magic solution and should instead draw the appropriate technological, engineering, and disaster-planning lessons from Japan’s trauma, apply them to our own situation, and keep on a rational path toward energy self-sufficiency.

Our future prosperity and national security depend on it.

*While I give Obama props for sticking by nuclear power, his energy policy is anything but coherent or rational.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Japan earthquake: before and after photos

March 15, 2011

Want to see something impressive, in that “so shocking my brain almost can’t process this” kind of way?

Australia’s ABC News has before and after photos of areas in Japan devastated by the Sendai quake and tidal wave. Roll you mouse over the photos to see the difference, and then go donate some money to relief efforts.

By the way, the US Geological Survey has “upgraded” the quake from magnitude 8.9 to 9.0. To give you an idea of the force generated, the 6.7 Northridge earthquake that trashed Los Angeles in 1994 equaled the force released by the explosion of a 168-kiloton nuclear bomb. What was the equivalent for last Friday’s 9.0 temblor?

474 megatons. The largest warhead we ever deployed was the 9-megaton W53, and it would take 52 of those to match the power of last week’s quake.

Like I said, the mind almost can’t process it.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


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