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Chapter 16: A Peoples War? !

In this chapter, Zinn questions our motives for entering WWII and the Korean War, as well as for intervening in the Cuban Revolutionwere these truly Peoples Wars? It was the Communist party that actually invoked this label when, after repeatedly describ[ing] the war between the Axis Powers and the Allied Powers as an imperialist war, now called it a peoples war against Fascism(407). In many ways, this was one of the most popular wars the U.S. ever fought. In general, most people were rallied to fight against the horrific evil unfolding in Hitlers Germany. But, as Zinn questions, did the governments conducting th e warEngland, the United States, the Soviet Unionrepresent something significantly different, so that their victory would be a blow to imperialism, racism, totalitarianism, militarism, in the world?(408). Absolutely not. Zinn outlines three paragraphs-worth of U.S. military interventions between 1900 and WWII, and then concludes, if the entrance of the United States into World War II was (as so many Americans believed at the time, observing the Nazi invasions) to defend the principle of nonintervention in the affairs of other countries, the nations record cast doubt on its ability to uphold that principle(409). Given the ebb and flow of U.S. alliances, it would seem U.S. intervention is governed not by humanitarianism, but imperialism and protecting economic interests. In fact, Roosevelt was as much concerned to end the oppression of Jews as Lincoln was to end slavery during the Civil War; their prioritywas not minority rights, but national power(410). And so, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941, it was not Roosevelts humane concern for innocent victims that pushed us into WarJapan had attacked civilians in China in 1937 and Nanking, with no U.S. responsebut it was the fact that the Japanese had attacked a link in the American Pacific Networkand a valuable one at that.

And so the battle was onEnglish, Russia and the U.S. as the Allied Powers, against the Axis Powers of Germany and Italy. In August 1941, Roosevelt and Churchill met to sign and present the Atlantic Charter, declaring the right of nations to selfdetermination(412). And it would be only a few years until the U.S. was bombing the hell out of Japan, and intervening in both Korea and Cuba. While WWII soldiers were on the ground (and in the air) fighting, seemingly for democracy and humanitarianism, American diplomats and businessmen were working hard to ensure that once the war was over, American economic power would be stronger than ever. Following the war, The Open Door Policy [which characterized American foreign trade policy in the 20th century] of equal access would be extended from Asia to Europe, meaning that the United States intended to push England aside and move in. That is what happened to the Middle East and its oil(413). It quickly became clear (and probably was from the start, to be honest) that this was a war to save capitalism and to expand U.S. markets. Poet and Assistant Secretary of State Archibald MacLeish wrote, As things are now going, the peace we will make, the peace we seem to be making, will be a peace of oil, a peace of gold, a peace of shipping, a peace, in briefwithout moral purpose or human interest(414). How ironic for a war in which such unthinkable atrocities were occurring.

During this time, England the United States Despite widespread patriotism, opposition set up the International Monetary Fund to was still palpable. In 1944, a million help regulate international exchange of workers went on strike. Out of 10 million currency; not like drafted for the armed forces during there was a war going World as Zinn notes, this was on, or anything. As proportionally much larger than the would be expected, same number for World War voting was I. Many blacks saw the irony in proportional to enlisting. As one black student said contributed capital, so to his teacher, the Army jim-crows the United States us. The Navy lets us serve only as would always have messmen. The Red Cross refuses the majority. The IMF our blood. Employers and labor Japanese Internment Camp would serve nicely to unions shut us out. Lynchings ! regulate business in the newly expanded continue. We are disenfranchised, jimAmerican imperialist empire. The United crowed, spat-upon. What more could Hitler Nations was also established, perhaps as the do than social complement to the IMF, but it that?(419). too was dominated by Western Another imperial countries. Another really noteworthy aspect interesting point that Zinn brings up of WWII was the is that while we were fighting Hitler heavy reliance on and his ideas of white Nordic aerial supremacy over inferior races, we bombing. As Zinn were sending in troops that were notes, a mass segregated by race. Even on the boat base of support ride over to Europe on the Queen for what became Mary, black soldiers were forced into the heaviest the crowded depths of the ship, near Atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki bombardment of the engine room and away from fresh ! civilians ever airan eerie reminder of slave ship undertaken in any war: the aerial attacks voyages. Furthermore, Fascist nations were on German and Japanese cities(421). One notorious for insisting that women belonged of the worst was the 1945 bombing of in the home, yet the American Dresden, Germany, were more than 100,000 government was taking no special steps to died. How could we argue that we were change the subordinate roles of fighting a war for humanity when we were women(416). And the piece de blindly bombing innocent civilians? The resistance: FDR signed Executive Order worst of these attacks were undoubtedly the 9066, in February 1942, giving the army the August 1945 atomic power, without warrants or indictments or hearings, to arrest every Japanese-American Atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki on the West Coast110,000 men, women, bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where and childrento take them from their homes, a combined 150,000 lost there lives, and transport them to camps far into the tens of thousands more due to radiation interior, and keep them there under prison poisoning. Whats heartbreaking to learn is conditions(416). If WWII was truly a that (according to United States Strategic peoples war then why were American Bombing Survey reports, the Japanese citizens suffering the same injustices as would have surrendered even without these victims overseas? bombs, without Russia entering the war,

and without invasion at all (422). Zinn argues that American leaders clearly knew this fact before they dropped the bombs, but that this was a deliberate attempt on our part to claim Japan before the Russians: the Japanese would surrender to the United States, not the Russians, and the United States would be the occupier of postwar Japan(423). With the defeats of Italy, Germany, and Japan, the fascist powers were destroyed. But what about fascismas idea, as reality? Were its essential elements militarism, racism, imperialismnow gone? Or were they absorbed in the already poisoned bones of the victors?(424). Could we really say we had won, when the same injustices were parading around the world under the cover of Socialism in the Soviet Union or Democracy in the United States? And far from solving problems at home, the war had actually rejuvenated American capitalism. With such an economic boost, what capitalist leader would want to end the wartime economy? As Zinn notes, when right after the war, the American public, war-weary, seemed to favor demobilization and disarmament, the Truman administrationworked to create an atmosphere of crisis and cold war(425). If they could keep the nation in a permanent state of suspended war, then production and patriotism would remain steady, without having to actively engage in war. The results was an ideological attack on Communism. In a series of moves abroad and at home, [the U.S. government] established a climate of feara hysteria about Communismwhich would steeply escalate the military budget and stimulate the economy with war-related orders(425). Under the atmosphere of Red Scare, President Truman issued his Truman Doctrine, which gave $400 million in military and economic aid to prevent revolutions in Greece and Turkey. Truman claimed that the U.S. must help free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by

outside pressures. Truman went on to say that the world must choose between alternative ways of life. One was based on the will of the majoritydistinguished by free institutions; the other was based on the will of a minorityterror and oppressionthe suppression of personal freedoms(426). Perhaps in response to our own fears at home, the Truman Doctrine justified the U.S. intervention to help stave off foreign revolutions. Maybe they were hoping other nations would do the same for them when the time came, or they just wanted even more assurance of overseas economic holdings. After Greece and Turkey, once of the first places the Truman Doctrine played out was dictator Chiang Kai-shek. The U.S. had already given $2 billion in aid to Chiang Kaisheks forces, but in January 1949, Chinese Communist forces took over Peking, ending the civil war victorious. As Zinn notes, The United States was trying, in the postwar decade, to create a national consensus excluding the radicals, who could not support a foreign policy aimed at suppressing revolutionof conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, around the policies of cold war and antiCommunism(427). Its interesting to see how much conservatives and liberals moved closer together in the period, particularly in opposition to Communism. I dont know that I would have drawn a line between liberalism and Communism, but as a product of the capitalist political system, I guess liberalism would have to be drastically removed from communism on the political spectrum. I guess it just hammered home for me the danger of the two-party system in Americathe illusion of choice. In 1950, when Truman was leading an undeclared war on Korea, this liberalconservative bloc really came together. Korea had been occupied by Japan fro 35 years, but was liberated after WWII and divided into North Korea, a Socialist dictatorship under Soviet influence, and

South Korea, a right-eing dictatorship under the influence of the U.S. On June 25, 1950 NorthKorean forces moved south in an invasion of South Korea and the United Nations (dominated by the U.S.) called for help in repelling the attack. Truman famously said, a return to the rule of force in international affairs would have farreaching affects. The United States will continue to uphold the rule of law(427). HA! In three years, the U.S. had reduced North and South Korea to a shambles with bombing and shelling. Zinn makes the ironic observation that perhaps 2 million Koreans, North and South, were killed in the Korean war, all in the name of opposing the rule of force(428). Hypocrites! Somehow the Korean War managed to mobilize liberal support, creating the coalition needed to sustain a policy of intervention abroad, militarization of the economy at home(428). As Zinn notes, if the Establishment, after World War II, was to make capitalism more secure in the country, and to build a consensus of support for the American Empire, it had to weaken and isolate the left(429). One way to do this was to isolate and condemn the most radical among them. On March 22, 1947, Truman issued Executive Order 9835, which was a program designed to search out any infiltration of disloyal persons in the U.S. government (429). Thus began the ant-Communist policies that led to the Red Scare fury. With Communist activity erupting across the globe, this was not difficult. As Zinn suggests, World events right after the war made it easier to build up public support for the anti-Communist crusade at home. In 1948, the Communist party in Czechoslovakia ousted non-Communists from the government and established their own rule. The Soviet Union that year blockaded Berlin, which was a jointly occupied city isolated inside the sphere of East Germany, forcing the United States to airlift supplies into Berlin. In 1949, there

was the Communist victory in China, and in that year also, the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb. In 1950 the Korean war began. These were all portrayed to the public as signs of a world Communist conspiracy(429). And so the government began a rule of terror that has not relented to this day. Its no longer Communists, but terrorists, but the idea remains the same keep a citizenry scared enough, and theyre easier to control. Even outside of Communist-controlled countries, revolutionary groups were overthrowing corrupt governments. It was a general wave of anti-imperialist insurrection in the world, which would require gigantic American effort to defeat: national unity for militarization of the budget, for the suppression of domestic opposition to such a foreign policy(430). Something tells me this had been done before. Zinn then outlines some of the ridiculous policies and actions that came about during the Red Scare, such as changing the description of liberal to communistically inclined. What surprises me is that Senator McCarthy was actually considered to have gone too far by the government. Most government officials were trying to oust those with Communist affiliations, but McCarthy was trying to expose liberals as Communists, endangering the critical liberal-conservative coalition. I guess that was too much. In 1950, Republicans sponsored the Internal Security Act which required the registration of any organization that conducted Communistaction. At one point, a bill even proposed a detention camp for Communists ready for use during times of unrest. Although the bill passed, it was repealed in 1968. Perhaps one of the most well-known stories of the Red Scare is that of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who, in the summer of 1950, were charged with espionage, specifically the sharing of sensitive information with the Soviet Union. Despite inconsistent stories and mass appeals from writers and personalities worldwide, the

Rosenbergs were sentenced to death in the electric chair. Again, there was mass opposition worldwide, a brief stay granted, but ultimately the Rosenberg were executed June 19, 1953. It was clear that the American government was coming down hard on Communism, in both law and enforcement. With so many of its leaders in prison, the remaining organizers went underground. And thus, the system, so shaken in the thirties, had learned that war production could bring stability and high profits. Trumans antiCommunism was attractive(436-7).

aid, it was a short step to military intervention. What Truman had said at the start of the Korean war about the rule of force and the rule of law was again and again, under Truman and his successors, contradicted by American action(438). To really drive this hypocritical point home, Zinn closes the chapter with a brief discussion of the United States role in the Cuban Revolution.

With Communism a constant threat, the weapons industry had a field day. By 1962, the U.S. had the equivalent of 1,500 Hiroshima0size atomic bombs, 50 intercontinental ballistic missiles, 80 missiles on nuclear submarines, 90 missiles on stations overseas, 1,700 bombers capable of reacher the Soviet Union, 300 fighterbombers on aircraft carriers.the list goes on, but the bottom line is that we were far and away the nuclear superpower, which makes sense when you realize we were spending $80 billion on the military alone by 1970 making a few industrial corporations very rich (437). Just think how things would be different if that even 1/10 of that money was redistributed throughout society. Instead, all this extra money was being used to provide economic aid to certain countries, creating a network of American corporate control over the globe, and building its political influence over the countries it aided(438). The Marshall Plan of 1948 gave $16 billion in aid to Western European countries, which meant the building up of markets for American exports. And, as Zinn notes, from military

! After spending some time in prison, Fidel Castro traveled to Mexico, where he met the Argentine revolutionary Che Guevra. In 1956, they returned to Cuba, and by 1959 were leading rebel forces in the overthrow of Americanbacked dictator Fulgencio Batista. The rebels used guerilla warfares from the jungles and mountains and on New Years Day 1959, the Batista government fell to the revolutionaries. What followed was a series of moves that seriously changed the relationship between Cuba and the U.S. As Zinn summarizes, Cuban needed money to finance its programs, and the United States [after the fall of Batista] was not eager to lend it. The International Monetary Fund, dominated by the United States, would not loan money to Cuba because Cuba would not accept its stabilization conditions, which seemed to underline the revolutionary program that had begun. When Cuba now signed a trade agreement with the Soviet Union, American-owned oil companies in Cuba refused to refine crude oil that came from the Soviet Union. Castro seized these companies. The United States cut down on its sugar buying from Cuba, on which Cubas economy depended, and the Soviet Union immediately agreed to buy all the 700,000 tons of sugar that the United States

would not buy(440). Each one of these seems like smart business move on Cubas partwhy wait around for the U.S. to play catty games of alliance, they had a new country to build. At the same time, the U.S. was welcoming Cuban exiles, Batista loyalists, and training them in military tactics. On April 17, 1961, the CIA-trained force, with some Americans participating, landed at the Bay of Pigs on the south shore of CubaIn three days, the CIA forces were crushed by Castros army(440). So much for Trumans rule of law instead of force.