Pearl Harbor Day and the Fantasy of US Victimhood
By David Swanson
08 December, 2015
The USS Nevada is aground and burning off Waipio Point, after the end of the Japanese air raid in Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.
The United States is indisputably the world's most frequent and extensive wager of aggressive war, largest occupier of foreign lands, and biggest weapons dealer to the world. But when the United States peeps out from under the blankets where it lies shivering with fear, it sees itself as an innocent victim. It has no holiday to keep any victorious battle in everyone's mind. It has a holiday to remember the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor -- and now also one, perhaps holier still, to recall, not the "shock and awe" destruction of Baghdad, but the crimes of September 11, 2001, the "new Pearl Harbor."
Similar to Israel, but with a variation, the United States is deeply obsessed with World War II, overlaid of course on a Southern obsession with the U.S. Civil War. The Southern U.S. love for the Civil War is love for a war lost, but also for victimhood and the righteousness of the vengeance wreaked on the world year after year by the U.S. military.
The U.S. love for World War II is also, fundamentally, love for a war lost. That may seem odd to say, because it is simultaneously very much love for a war won. World War II remains the U.S. model for potentially some day winning a war again, as it's been losing them all over the world for the 70 years since World War II. But the U.S. view of WWII is also strangely similar to the Russian view. Russia was brutally attacked by the Nazis, but persevered and won the war. The United States believes itself to have been "imminently" attacked by the Nazis. That, after all, was the propaganda that took the United States to war. There was not one word about rescuing Jews or anything half that noble. Rather, President Franklin Roosevelt claimed to have a map of the Nazis' plans for carving up the Americas, a map that was an amateurish forgery provided by British "intelligence."
Hollywood has made very few movies and television shows about all other wars combined, in comparison with dramas about World War II, which may in fact be its most popular topic ever. We're really not drowning in movies glorifying the theft or northern Mexico or the occupation of the Philippines. The Korean War gets little play. Even the Vietnam War and all the more recent wars fail to inspire U.S. storytellers like World War II, and some 90% of those stories relate to the war in Europe, not Asia.
The European story is much preferred because of the particular evils of the German enemy. That the U.S. prevented a peace without victor in World War I by crushing Germany, and then punished it viciously, and then aided the Nazis -- all of that is far more easily forgotten than the nuclear bombs that the United States dropped on Japan. But it is the Japanese attack of December 7, 1941, together with the fantasized Nazi invasion, that persuades the U.S. public that waging war in Europe was defensive. So the history of the United States training Japan in imperialism and then antagonizing and provoking Japan must be forgotten as well.
Amazon.com, a corporation with a huge CIA contract, and whose owner also owns the Washington Post, has launched a television series called the Man in the High Castle. The story is set in the 1960s with the Nazis occupying three-quarters of the United States and the Japanese the rest. In this alternative universe, the ultimate redemption is found in Germany being the nation to have dropped nuclear bombs. The Axis victors, and their aging leaders, have created and maintained an old-fashioned empire -- not like U.S. bases in proxy states, but a full-blown occupation, like the United States in Iraq. It doesn't really matter how implausible this sounds. It is the most plausible scenario that can embody the U.S. fantasy of someone else doing to it what it does to others. Thus U.S. crimes here in the real 2015 become "defensive," as it is doing unto others before they can do unto it.
Nonviolent resistance does not exist in Season One Episode One of this soothing victim adventure, and apparently hasn't for years at that point in the tale. But how could it? A force stoppable through nonviolence -- even an imaginary one -- cannot serve to justify the violence of the actual U.S. military. The German and Japanese occupiers have to be confrontable only through violence, even anachronistically in an age in which nonviolent techniques were known, in which the civil rights movement was resisting U.S. fascism to great effect.
"Before the war ... every man was free," says one of the attractive young white people who constitute all the heroes and some of the villains in this drama. Instead of race riots, McCarthyism, Vietnam, and the sterilizing and experimenting on the powerless that actually happened, this alternative United States includes the burning of Jews, the disabled, and the terminally ill. The contrast to the imagined pre-Nazi past in which "every man [but not woman?] was free" is stark.
Amazon also shows us Nazis behaving much like the actual United States behaves: torturing and murdering enemies. Rikers Island is a brutal prison in this TV show and in reality. In this fantasy, the symbols of U.S. and Nazi patriotism have been merged seamlessly. In reality, the U.S. military incorporated much Nazi thinking along with the many Nazis it recruited through Operation Paperclip -- another way in which the U.S. actually lost WWII if we imagine victory as democracy defeating the sort of society in which someone like Donald Trump could thrive.
The United States today manages to view refugees from the wars it wages in distant lands as dangerous enemies, as new Nazis, just as leading U.S. politicians refer to foreign leaders as new Hitlers. With U.S. citizens shooting up public places on an almost daily basis, when one such killing is alleged to have been done by a Muslim, especially a Muslim with any sympathy for foreign fighters, well, then that's not just a shooting. That means that the United States has been invaded. And that means that anything it does is "defensive."
Does Venezuela elect leaders the U.S. disapproves of? That's a threat to "national security" -- a somewhat magical threat to invade and occupy the United States and compel it to torture and kill wearing a different flag. This paranoia doesn't come from nowhere. It comes from programs like The Man from the High Castle, which -- the world should be warned -- is only at Season 1, Episode 1 so far.
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson's books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.