Author’s Note: I consider Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’ book, The Untold History of the U.S., of such importance to a real, as opposed to mainstream media fake democratic dialogue, that I intend to review it in several parts, this being Part 1.
The 1944 Coup
Skipping straight to the most explosive item in the early part of this important history: Franklin Roosevelt was elected because the ruling elite, in their unbridled greed, had transgressed all bounds, forgetting their vulnerability to democracy. Toward the end of World War II and Roosevelt’s approaching unprecedented fourth term, the millionaire-backed powers that vehemently opposed his progressive programs banded together to dump his vice-president. Knowing Roosevelt would likely die in office they moved to replace Wallace with a more malleable Harry Truman, activated at Roosevelt’s death in 1945. Their unscrupulous and spectacular success at the convention amounted, in effect, to a coup. This was referred to as “Pauley’s Coup” in honor of the Democratic Party treasurer and oil millionaire who directed it, Ed Pauley. His statement that, “It is cheaper to elect a new congress than to buy an old one.” gives us some insight into his values. Without this coup, subsequent U.S. history would have been an entirely different story, much more benign, probably avoiding slaughterhouses in Korean, Vietnam and other sites around the world. Wallace was not only anti-colonial and anti-empire. He advocated an active role in dismantling colonialism and promoting the liberation of those suffering the colonial yoke. He would not have returned Vietnam to France after the Japanese defeat nor passively accepted the division of the third world into houses of plunder for the other colonial powers. He would not have, as was done under Truman, supported former Nazi/Japanese collaborators against former resistance fighters, nor interfered with free elections in post-war Western Europe and elsewhere. To the empire enthusiast, former collaboration was a sterling resume item, demonstrating that one could be bought and so trusted to represent elite rather than national interests.
It is worth noting that Britain assigned a spy to befriend Vice President Wallace. When he reported Wallace’s post-war plans, which involved championing labor unions, women and African-American rights, anti-colonialism, well this provoked hysteria in class conscious Britain, providing yet another stream of pressure on Roosevelt to dump his Vice President. Polls at the time showed Wallace with a 67% favorable rating over Truman’s 3%. Once again the 1% exercised its disproportionate influence, consequently enriching themselves while sending the U.S. on a course disastrous for the rest of us.
The elections of 1897 were an earlier decisive moment where the path of Empire, in the form of McKinley/Roosevelt (Teddy), triumphed over the anti-empire platform of Williams Jennings Bryan. The U.S. electorate certainly has a history of voting against its own interest for it is well established that the general population pays the extensive costs of colonial or empire-building, while only a tiny elite is enriched. This is reflected in the enterprise itself on the ground, where a local elite, the collaborators, are privileged so long as they maintain “discipline” for the masses, involving a forced acceptance of poverty, disease and general misery. At home, where force is less an option, the rulers’ commission tames academics to study the population, its superstitions and prejudices to exploit. Roosevelt’s election represented a partial breakdown of this system and the Truman “coup” represented a return to the fold. The political system since has been a struggle between varying factions of the elite, a gradient running from hysterical-right to just-to-the-right of “moderate” (called Liberal), the latter being a firm believer in capitalism-as- savior but with some modest programs for the poor. Anything outside this spectrum has been ruthlessly excluded, categorized as subversive by the embracers of the religion of anti-communism or anti-sharing, the cult of the individual. The post-war leadership that came to power with Truman’s ascendancy, the Dulles Brothers, etc; had been early admirers of Hitler and Mussolini. The struggle between empire and anti-empire or democracy can be further reduced to a patriarchy/matriarchy tension with the root values of patriarchy being fear of death, that of matriarchy joy of life. The two basic impulses produce very different societies, the former characterized by domination and competition, the latter equalitarian cooperation. Obviously the patriarchal dominates our culture with only sporadic, mostly ineffectual or minor manifestations of matriarchal values… but of some consequence – social security for example, women’s suffrage, the abolition of slavery.
During World War II Allied behavior is instructive. Russia sustained far higher casualties than Britain and the U.S., suffering perhaps twenty million deaths. Stalin plead with the U.S./Britain to relieve their situation by invading France but Churchill, worried about England’s colonies in North Africa, insisted on invading there first. Agreements were made among the allies that sort of divvied up post-war Europe into spheres of influence; agreements that Stalin honored while the West did not. Russia, having been repeatedly invaded from Europe, Napoleon to Hitler, was concerned to control Eastern Europe as a buffer against future invasion. The West, fearful of the spread of a philosophy hostile to elite capitalist rule, portrayed Russian security concerns as part of its worldwide conspiracy to suffocate “freedom”. Britain and the U.S. shamelessly allied themselves with former Nazi collaborators in Greece (and elsewhere) against the resistance, crushing those forces and installing pro-capitalist dictatorship. In Italy and France, bribery and alliance with gangsters were used to insure similar factions came to power there, hypocritically crushing unions and democracy, preferring corruption and thuggery to “freedom”.
Bankers of the world, unite!
Near the end of the war a conference at Bretton-Woods established the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). The U.S., possessing 2/3 of the gold supply, insisted on the gold standard and dollar-based economy, insuring, along with the Bank and IMF, U.S. economic hegemony. In conferences at Yalta and elsewhere, an ill Roosevelt, though anti-colonialism in sentiment, gave in to demands from France and Britain to keep their colonies. Further, Truman, once president, was given deliberately false versions of the Yalta agreements by members of the church of anti-communism, Truman mentor Senator Byrnes of SC, proudly brandishing his 8th grade education, and millionair business tycoons who thought so little of Truman’s intelligence that they decided they’d better “take over.” With this leadership, with its unmistakable disdain for democracy, there was precious little to prevent the use of the doomsday weapon just developed, the atomic bomb. Roosevelt holdovers, especially experts on the Soviet Union, occasionally reached Truman with their concerns but inevitably he slipped back under the influence of the “hard-liners”. The decision to drop the bombs on a civilian population (which included some U.S. prisoners of war) was publicly justified with yet more misinformation, including exaggerated predicted losses for a U.S. invasion force, description of Hiroshima as a military base, suppression of Japanese offers to surrender and later misrepresentations of the numbers of deaths, 200,000 by 1950. Under all the obfuscation, the real reason for the decision was to intimidate the Soviets. That Truman felt the need to dissemble illustrates clearly enough that he didn’t trust the public to come to the same sadistic conclusion he did.
In Iran at one of the allied conferences, Truman was negotiating somewhat meekly with Stalin on the first day. That evening he was told that the bomb test in New Mexico had been successful. The next day Truman astounded Stalin with his macho posturing and rude arrogance, taking him aside at the end of the day and telling him about the bomb. Pro-empire forces used Truman just as later Reagan and George W. Bush were – actually, every president since Truman has had to accommodate this legacy. Not that the immediate predecessors of Roosevelt were measurably different. The Missouri Senator was an appointed judge by the corrupt Missouri politcal machine run by Boss Prendergast. When his first choice turned him down Prendergast asked Truman if he’d like to be a senator. Accepting the offer he became an extension of the machine that “hired” him. Once in the senate he was taken in (in more ways than one) and mentored by reactionary SC Senator Byrnes, he of the 8th grade education.
A Committee headed by Dean Acheson was appointed to chart a U.S. nuclear future. Depending heavily on the esteemed “Father of the bomb” Robert Oppenheimer to write the proposal, the final draft proposed to place all nuclear projects under the direction of an international body. Truman paid a political debt by inviting right wing financier Bernard Baruch to present the proposal to the U.N., adding that Baruch could edit the proposal in any way he saw fit. Baruch made changes carefully designed to guarantee a Soviet rejection. So yet another opportunity was missed or we should say, deliberately sabotaged. We live today with the consequences of such missed opportunities, which over the years were only multiplied.
Acheson also was given the assignment of coming up with a document to “scare hell out of the people” to justify military spending. The early version of the Domino Theory became, “one rotten apple can ruin the whole barrel”… thus we must oppose all “rotten apples”, that is, any nation that seeks a course independent of what later we might call global corporate rule. The Korean War or “Conflict” was apparently part of this effort to “scare hell” out of U.S. taxpayers. “Communism” was portrayed as monolithic, tyrannical, brutal and dictatorial, not to mention “Godless”. Of course any close look at this question reveals that the enemy the anti-communist church had in mind wasn’t brutality or lack of democracy or “God”. What threatened the elite was the notion of sharing, of breaking with the system that served them so well. The “rotten apple” theory was correct but not the way its proponents presented it to the public. Their real fear was that if nations were allowed to be guided by egalitarian principles and they were successful, why other nations might get ideas… hell, U.S. citizens might get ideas. That threat cannot be tolerated, no more then than now.
The 1947 National Security Act created the Department of Defense, separated the Air Force from the Army (think nukes), created the CIA and National Security Council (NSC). Even Truman feared the CIA would become a U.S. Gestapo or military dictatorship. Loyalty oaths were instituted and witch-hunts for “communists and fellow travelers” begun. Careers were destroyed based on statements or opinions that ought to be protected in a free speech democracy. There was more to come in the 50s. But in the late40s there was plenty. Tim Geitner, in his CIA history, Legacy of Ashes, documents much of the foolishness that further entrenched Soviet control of Eastern Europe and smoothed the way for Soviet hardliners to rise in the Moscow juggle for power.
Thus Truman ideologues were in power at a time when worldwide policies were being shaped regarding the Soviet Union, Colonialism, Capitalism, Third World policy, mid-east oil and Israel. The exact wrong people were in charge at a critical juncture in our history. Their legacy makes it extremely difficult for citizens to rise to positions of power in the U.S. whose point of view strays from blind allegiance to the policies that are ushering us to a cliff that is far more threatening to our survival than any fiscal metaphor, namely nuclear war and environmental collapse.