What If…

There are two major currents in the today’s news.

The first involves the ongoing tremors from the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, which continue to rattle political leaders all over the world. The second is the sixty-ninth anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Both currents have been brought together by Srdja Trifkovic in a commemorative essay for Chronicles. Some excerpts are below:

WikiLeaks, 1941
by Srdja Trifkovic

December 7th, 2010

Pearl Harbor — The ArizonaOver two thousand four hundred American sailors, soldiers and airmen were killed in Pearl Harbor 69 years ago today. Had we had an equivalent of WikiLeaks back in 1941, however, the course of history could have been very different. FDR would have found it much more difficult to maneuvre the country into being attacked in the Pacific in order to enable him to fight the war in Europe, which had been his ardent desire all along.

One leak—just one!—almost torpedoed Roosevelt’s grand design. In mid-1941 he incorporated the Army’s, Navy’s and Air Staff’s war-making plans into an executive policy he called “Victory Program,” effectively preparing America for war against Germany and Japan regardless of Congressional opposition and the will of the people. His intention was to lure public opinion into supporting the Program because the increase in weapons production promised meant more jobs and a healthier economy. A supporter of the America First Committee, Senator Burton K. Wheeler, obtained a copy of the Victory Program, classified Secret, from a source within the Air Corps, and leaked it to two newspapers on December 4, 1941, the Chicago Tribune (a serious newspaper back then) and the Washington Times-Herald (long defunct). Vocal public opposition to the plan erupted immediately, but ceased three days later, on December 7, 1941. Congress soon passed the Victory Program with few changes. The Japanese performed on cue.

Imagine the consequences had the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Times-Herald published a series of other leaks over the preceding few months, including the following:

Berlin, 27 September 1940. U.S. Embassy reports the signing of the Tripartite Pact, the mutual assistance treaty between Germany, Italy, and Japan: “It offers the possibility that Germany would declare war on America if America were to get into war with Japan, which may have significant implications for U.S. policy towards Japan.”

Washington, 7 October 1940. Having considered the implications of the Tripartite Pact, Lt. Cdr. Arthur McCollum, USN, of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), suggests a strategy for provoking Japan into attacking the U.S., thus triggering the mutual assistance provisions of the Tripartite Pact and finally bringing America into war in Europe. The proposal called for eight specific steps aimed at provoking Japan. Its centerpiece was keeping the U.S. Fleet in Hawaii as a lure for a Japanese attack, and imposing an oil embargo against Japan. “If by these means Japan could be led to commit an overt act of war, so much the better,” the memo concluded.

Washington, 23 June 1941. One day after Hitler’s attack on Soviet Russia, Secretary of the Interior and FDR’s advisor Harold Ickes wrote a memo for the President, saying that “there might develop from the embargoing of oil to Japan such a situation as would make it not only possible but easy to get into this war in an effective way. And if we should thus indirectly be brought in, we would avoid the criticism that we had gone in as an ally of communistic Russia.”

Mr. Trifkovic lists a number of other cables leading up to that infamous day. Go over to Chronicles to read the rest — which, as the author points out, is history.

13 thoughts on “What If…

  1. Here is another what if, what if it had been leaked to the Japanese that we had broken their codes before the battle of Midway? In that battle we destroyed enough of the Japanese fleet that they never went on the offensive again. If they code breaking had been leaked we would have lost the battle and possibly the war.

    Government Secrets are a secret for a reason. And what the media is ignoring about the leaks is the vast number of people who will die because our intelligence sources will no longer trust us.

  2. Yeah, if only we could have stayed out of WWII long enough for the Nazis and Imperial Japanese (who had their own nuke program twhich is generally and p.c.-conveniently overlooked) to develop their A-Bombs, that would have shown the power of “transparency” and leaking confidential details about “government corruption” brilliantly.

    The Japanese and Germans were just regular folks with no designs on global tyranny, after all, and should have just been left alone by America.

    Deathcamps? Nanking? V-3 rockets? Fighter jets? Biowarfare research?

    None of our beeswax.

    Assange should be treated like any other dangerous espionage problem.

    Because you can’t let freelance anarchist spies play with national security.

  3. @Richard:

    It needs to be pointed out that US intelligence management partially has itself to blame for this leak. The practice of allowing full access to all information to all users was a disaster waiting to happen. If sources cannot trust the US in the future it is because the US treated confidential information cavalierly. In this case a low ranking soldier (grunt?) had access to a wealth of sensitive information which there was no reason for him to have access to.

    Let’s say you are a source for a newspaper story and you want to stay anonymous. Would you trust the newspaper if you discovered your identity was revealed to all eployees of the paper, typists, cleaners, etc?

    Q: If a bank leaves a bundle of money on the counter unattended, and someone steals it, who is to blame? The bank or the thief?
    A: Both.

  4. Hi all, As a former government defense contractor, I hold an expired Top Secret clearance. I personally find it hard to believe that one little guy in a remote office somewhere could get his hands on a large amount of sensitive information – EXCEPT if the information was purposely fed to the little guy by enemies of America who way outrank this little guy.

    Start at the top and work your way down on this one, folks….

  5. In hoc signo vinces

    If a government can not protect its secrets then how can it be trusted to protect its people.

    Grotesque hypocrisy and political posing to attack wikileaks and indulge in the political elites witch-hunt and scapegoating of Julian Assange.

    In this 21st century the political elite of the western democracies see the arch enemey being the constiuency of the nation as a greater threat than the nation states abroad.

    I want to know that the spineless government of the British political elite coward in the face of threats by Colonel Gaddafi, OFF WITH THEIR HEADS.

  6. In hoc signo vinces

    If knowledge is power then imagine how much power the United States hands over everyday to foreign nationals in its research institutes and universities.

  7. Egghead – having been in a similar position (location/etc) as that PFC – let’s just say I find an overhead conspiracy very unlikely given what I used for reading material on a slow work-day.

  8. I can’t believe that you would publish tripe like this, dear Baron. The “Roosevelt planned Pearl Harbor all along” fetid conspiracy theory continues in this rant despite being debunked by all sane historians. And the second subtext, that we should have let Germany beat the USSR and Russia into submission by staying neutral, is even more repellent.

    Shame on you, Baron.

  9. The Poster Formerly Known as Gordon said…
    I can’t believe that you would publish tripe like this, dear Baron. The “Roosevelt planned Pearl Harbor all along” fetid conspiracy theory continues in this rant despite being debunked by all sane historians. And the second subtext, that we should have let Germany beat the USSR and Russia into submission by staying neutral, is even more repellent.

    Shame on you, Baron.
    ………errr…you might want to check out AVG2.

  10. Gordon, it’s one thing to keep a fleet in a prominent position as a provocation, and another to say that it was specifically planned to be attacked.

    Pearl Harbour was the US’s westernmost major naval harbour at the time; massing a large portion of the pacific fleet there (which would usually be a prelude to a major naval operation of the sort that might see the US pushing Japan back from its new Imperial holdings) would be enough to provoke Japan into attacking something, like one of the US’s western territories, in order to draw the fleet out for a good pounding, which would in turn force congress to accept the need to fight an obviously belligerent enemy. I doubt the US expected the Japanese to attack the fleet in Hawaii itself. It’s ludicrous on its face – which is why the Japanese did it. They took the most unlikely course to neutralise what they saw as a provocative threat to their continued conquest of the pacific.

    So, to repeat, putting the navy in Hawaii as a provocation is not the same as saying that it was put there in order that the japanese would attack it, when there were other targets that would have seemed more likely to be attacked and would have served the required purpose of justifying US entry into the war.

  11. Graham Dawson (Archonix) said…

    …there were other targets that would have seemed more likely to be attacked and would have served the required purpose of justifying US entry into the war.

    12/08/2010 4:42 PM

    It is not like Pearl Harbor was the only site attacked.

    As FDR noted in his address to Congress:

    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.

    This morning, the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

    Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday 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.

    Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. ” -12/8/1941

    Pearl Harbor’s “provocation” was thus a relatively negligible aspect of Japanese Imperial aims.

Comments are closed.