By Sherwood Ross
It's common for Americans to recall the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor of December 7, 1941, "a day that will live in infamy," and also September 15, 1945, when Japan signed an unconditional surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
Apart from the fact that it was unjustly attacked and responded heroically, there is a growing question about what America really learned from WWII. Studs Terkel even called it "The Good War": Uncle Sam and Rosie the Riveter, rolled up their sleeves and won the victory.
Their poster images are reinforced by Hollywood movies portraying the Yanks as selfless victors. The "History Channel" plays and replays dreary film footage of such epic war stories as "The Battle of the Bulge," reflecting the valor of U.S. troops.
Sixty years have passed since that awesome struggle. Looking back, it's striking how the defeated Axis nations --- Germany, Italy, and Japan --- have been trouble-free since WWII but America has had nothing but.
America's former enemies have proved themselves to be exemplary citizens of the post-war world. All are viable democracies; none are aggressors. Germany and Italy have enjoyed economic success; Japan has achieved prosperity undreamed of by its jingoist military clique of the Thirties.
By contrast, victor USA since has been embroiled in controversial wars and questionable acts of subversion that bear the stamp of tyranny. It has filled the power vacuum left by the Axis and its Cold War enemy Soviet Russia.
Peace activist/heroine Kathy Kelly, a schoolteacher who founded a Catholic Worker house in Chicago and once walked across a battlefield in Yugoslavia between opposing armies, kept a prison diary during her eight-month sentence for protesting the School of the Americas, at Ft. Benning, Ga.
An excerpt of her work appearing in the CovertAction Quarterly, Spring, 2005, states: "The U.S. must come to grips with having been, since WWII, a nation constantly at war: Korea, Vietnam, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada, Panama, the First Gulf War, Kosovo, Colombia, Afghanistan, the ongoing war in Iraq."
"We've waged hot war after hot war, and undergirding all these wars is the continuing war of western culture against the biodiversity of our planet. To preserve our pleasures and privileges, we have become the most dangerous warlike culture in human history," Kelly asserts.
In her article, Ms. Kelly doesn't begin to touch on the long record of USA's abuse of power since WWII. She might have added, for instance, the CIA's attempts to kill Zhou Enlai, China's Prime Minister, back in the Fifties, Kim Il Sung, North Korea's Premier, in 1951; India's Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1955; Cuba's Fidel Castro, (he claimed 24 attempts, a Senate committee said, nah, there were only eight); Charles de Gaulle, President of France (1965-66); Moammar Qaddafi, leader of Libya, 1980-86; Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of Iran, 1982; etc. (The foregoing examples are from "Rogue State" by journalist Bill Blum, Common Courage Press.)
Then, of course, there were the CIA "successes" --- murdering heads of state, including Mohammed Mossadegh, Prime Minister of Iran, in 1953; Congo Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, 1961; Salvador Allende, President of Chile, 1970, and others. They were slain not only without the knowledge of the American public but, as in the case of Chile, without the knowledge of America's own ambassador to Santiago. So much for attempts at diplomacy!
What the U.S. apparently learned from WWII is if the Axis used subversion, assassination, and invasion as instruments of national policy, so could the CIA and Pentagon. If all the Axis governments employed sadistic tortures, so could USA --- which is why peace activist Kelly went to prison for protesting the School of the Americas, in Ft. Benning, Ga., a notorious School for Sadism.
Some idea of the level to which the U.S. had sunk, if dropping atomic bombs on Japan is insufficient indication, is that President Truman allowed the Pentagon to take over the Japanese experiments in germ warfare without punishing the military criminals who had inflicted it upon Chinese prisoners. At the same time, the Pentagon brought home Germany's rocket scientists to develop the missiles that could carry the nuclear threat to all corners of the globe. Today, the U.S. spends more on its military than all other nations combined and its spending on germ warfare development in real dollars is greater than what it spent on the "Manhattan Project" to develop the atomic bomb. A good part of this sum is spent illegally by the Bush administration, in contravention of treaties the U.S. has signed.
Space is insufficient to recount the many nations USA overthrew or CIA support for Latin "Death Squads." Or the subversion of free elections around the world or American violations of the UN Charter. Comparing the record of the former Axis nations with its own since WWII, it is fair to say, what America learned from WWII was how to imitate the tyrants it defeated. #
(Sherwood Ross is a publicist for good causes and contributor to history magazines. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org).