Yesterday, the news media reported that President Trump told the acting U.S. “Defense” Secretary that he does not want war with Iran, which has caused some people to breathe a sigh of relief that the United States might yet avoid another deadly and destructive regime-change war.
Don’t be too sure. After all, if Trump really means that, then the former television reality star has two words that he could deliver to John Bolton, the old Cold War anti-communist dinosaur who remains totally committed to embroiling our nation into a war with Iran: “You’re fired!” Instead, Trump keeps National Security Advisor Bolton on his federal payroll.
Another distinct possibility is that Trump is lying and is simply playing Good Cop, Bad Cop with Bolton. That way, if Iran attacks “U.S. interests” in the Middle East, Trump can exclaim, “Woe is me! I didn’t want another war, but Iran has forced it on me.”
The Trump-Bolton model for initiating a war with Iran could easily be President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who, amidst a multiplicity of lies, succeeded in maneuvering Japan into “firing the first shot,” which enabled FDR to essentially exclaim: We have been attacked! It was a surprise attack! We had no idea that this was going to happen! We have nothing to do with it! We are innocent! We were just minding our own business! This is a day that will live in infamy!
FDR was lying about the whole thing. He not only wanted Japan to attack “U.S. interests,” he actually concocted a plan to provoke Japan into attacking the United States, a plan that bears remarkable similarities to what Trump and Bolton are doing to Iran.
In his 1940 presidential campaign, Roosevelt, like Trump, told Americans that he was firmly opposed to U.S. entry into another European war. He knew that after the horrific fiasco of U.S interventionism into World War I, the American people were overwhelmingly opposed to another intervention. So, he campaigned on that premise — that he was aligned with the American people in opposition to entering the war. He told American voters:
And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.
As it turns out, however, FDR was lying. Fulfilling secret assurances he had given to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, FDR was secretly doing everything he could to embroil the United State in the European conflict.
Why didn’t Roosevelt simply intervene in the conflict, just as presidents do today? Because at that time presidents were still following the declaration-of-war requirement set forth in the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits presidents from waging war without a congressional declaration of war. FDR knew that given the overwhelming opposition to another intervention, there was no way he could secure a congressional declaration of war from Congress.
Roosevelt decided to maneuver Nazi Germany into “firing the first shot,” which would enable him to secure his declaration of war from Congress on the basis of “self-defense.” He sent U.S. vessels into the Atlantic hoping that he could provoke Germany into attacking them.
Unfortunately for FDR, however, the Germans refused to take the bait. The last thing Germany wanted was another war with the United States.
That left the wily FDR with but one alternative — to go into the Pacific and try to maneuver the Japanese into attacking the U.S. A war with Japan wouldn’t necessarily guarantee U.S. entry into the European War but it was the FDR’s best chance for a “back door” to entering that conflict.
FDR initiated steps against Japan that bear a remarkable similarity to what Trump and Bolton are doing to Iran. He placed an oil embargo on Japan that severely threatened Japan’s ability to maintain its war machine in China. Successfully squeezing Japan into “talking” with U.S. officials, FDR intentionally imposed “peace terms” that were only designed to humiliate and demean Japanese officials, just like Trump and Bolton are doing today with Iran.
Roosevelt also provided the Japanese with bait in the form of American destroyers stationed at Pearl Harbor like sitting ducks as well as a large contingent of U.S. troops in the Philippines. Roosevelt was smart enough to remove his aircraft carriers from Hawaii so that they would still be available once the war got underway.
The oil embargo squeezed Japan so tightly and FDR’s peace terms were so onerous and humiliating, the Japanese had only one possible way to break out of FDR’s ever-tightening noose: attack the U.S. Pacific fleet at Pearl and then take over the oil fields in the Dutch East Indies without U.S. naval interference.
Japan took the bait and attacked. Aligned with Japan, Germany declared war on the U.S. FDR then played the innocent and got declarations of war from Congress against both Japan and Germany. Roosevelt’s plan worked magnificently.
In the early years after the war, FDR acolytes, including many of the historians, maintained that FDR was innocent of having intentionally embroiled the United States in World War II. In later years, however, as evidence of guilt reached critical mass — for example, U.S. officials had broken Japanese diplomatic codes and possibly also its military codes — the FDR acolytes conceded what Roosevelt had done but justified it by saying that he saved America and the world from being taken over by the Nazis. It was okay, they say, that he intentionally sacrificed those 3,000 troops at Pearl for the “greater good” of America and humanity.
Perhaps the person who best explained the FDR/Trump-Bolton model for war was Nazi official Herman Goering, who stated during his testimony before the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal:
Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.…
Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.