The Third International after Lenin

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

70 years ago: FDR and Wall Street wanted war

ROOSEVELT'S WAR-PLOTTING Now that hostilities have been concluded, significant facts are beginning to come to light concerning the hitherto hidden history of Roosevelt's preparations for US participation in World War II. A considerable portion of the vital information about the secret actions of the administration remain under lock-and-key, withdrawn from public inspection. But even although many pieces are still missing, from those already in our possession it is possible to reconstruct the main outlines of the pattern of the war-plot perpetrated behind the backs of the American people by the former occupant of the White House.

In the October issue of Fourth International Li Fu-jen gave a political analysis of the Pearl Harbor reports that incontestably established the following conclusions regarding Roosevelt's policy in the Pacific.

  1. President Roosevelt, while proclaiming his love of peace and hatred of war, was embarked on a deliberate course of war with Japan long before Pearl Harbor as the conscious policy of his administration.
  2. Roosevelt systematically exerted diplomatic and economic pressure to force the Japanese imperialists to commit the overt act which would touch off the long-prepared conflict in the Orient.

Since then additional information has been made public showing that Roosevelt was no less consciously preparing to intervene in the impending European war as early as the fall of 1937. These facts, based upon a study of official government documents, were first published by Thomas F. Reynolds in the September 29 Chicago Sun and reprinted in the Congressional Record for October 15. They reveal the inside story of how Roosevelt and his underlings conspired and maneuvered to drag the American people into World War II without their knowledge and against their expressed will.

"QUARANTINE THE AGGRESSORS" The story begins in the fall of 1937 when Roosevelt began his propaganda preparation for the coming bloodbath with his Chicago speech on "quarantining the aggressors." This bellicose proclamation, however, met with an apathetic response. It failed to inflame the people with the required degree of war-fever. Congress refused to vote the huge sums needed for the vast military budget envisaged by the plans of the administration.

Roosevelt, however, was determined to go forward with his projected military program regardless of the sentiments of the nation. Calling together his associates, he discussed with them his plans and perspectives. Here is how Reynolds describes what went on behind the scenes at the White House.

"A careful review of hitherto censored memoranda reveals that the late Herman Oliphant, then general counsel for the Treasury, first sounded the administration alarm on production difficulties inherent in the threat of war which Mr. Roosevelt had pointed out to the nation.

"That was in the spring and summer of 1938 – even before the late Neville Chamberlain, then British Prime Minister, had made his deal for 'peace in our time' with Hitler at Munich. Oliphant was encouraged to put a staff to work on those long range problems by Mr. Roosevelt and the then Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, Jr.

"Key man on this staff was a young lawyer, Oscar Cox, who later was to draft the Lend-Lease Act. In the fall of 1938, Oliphant came up with data to show that if war did break out, this country would have to assume that sooner or later it would be involved. On this data, Oliphant concluded that the only possible insurance policy would be to step up airplane production to 50,000 planes annually.


"Morgenthau, Oliphant, and Cox, by memoranda and personal conversation, put the 50,000 plane idea before Mr. Roosevelt. He was impressed, and consented to permit work on it to continue. But he told the planners that it would be impossible for him to make any such proposal at that time to a Congress which even then was trimming minor defense appropriations."

"The timing was wrong," he said. Thus the war-mongering Roosevelt was obliged to postpone the realization of his unprecedented arms program until a more favorable opportunity for pushing it through Congress presented itself. He did not find that propitious moment until two years later. Roosevelt hesitated even after the war in Europe had broken out, so powerful was the resistance of the American people to participation in the conflict.

The long-sought-for occasion came with the alarm created when the German Wehrmacht ran wild through France in May 1940. This mounted to panic proportions in America's ruling circles as France capitulated, leaving England open to invasion. Roosevelt extracted the ready-made project for 50,000 planes a year from his portfolio and rushed it through Congress. This and similar measures were pictured at that time by the capitalist press as masterful and ingenious improvisations and sold to the American people on that basis. In reality, however, the military, industrial and financial aspects of US intervention in the European war had been carefully worked out far in advance of the date when they were announced to the world.

The work done by Oliphant's staff formed the genesis of Lend-Lease which was designed to service the Allied powers and build up US military might without open entry into the war. Roosevelt had been Assistant Secretary of the Navy during the First World War and was familiar with the problems his predecessor Wilson encountered in acting as a belligerent while technically remaining "neutral." His subordinates devised Lend-Lease as a means of getting around these legal and financial difficulties.

LEND-LEASE OPENS WAY Oliphant's staff pioneered the way into purchasing by Anglo-French air missions which began buying planes here when the war broke out in September 1939. It went to work on problems of standardization of certain plane models to enable producers to swing toward mass production. It took up the problem of ammunition for small arms.

When Great Britain was in desperate need of arms in 1940 and was running short of dollars to pay for American-made weapons, Cox dug up an old 1892 statute which permitted the Secretary of War to lease certain properties for five years. Although that made certain limited types of war materiel available to Britain, this country's neutral status still blocked the way to large-scale aid.

The State Department ruled that the United States could not provide arms to Britain because this country was still neutral and to do so would violate international law. But the same State Department obligingly pointed out that it was perfectly legal for private firms to sell arms to another country. So the supplies of weapons in the government arsenals were turned over to the munitions corporations who shipped them at a handsome profit to England.

This scheme served additional purposes. Since many of the guns on hand were growing aged, the War Department was pleased to have the material replaced with new ammunition and weapons. The supplies of weapons in the warehouses were therefore traded in to private companies such as United States Steel Export and others, which undertook to replace them for the War Department with new weapons.

US SPEEDED INTO THE WAR This arrangement satisfied everyone concerned. Britain obtained much-needed arms; the War Department 'as enabled to modernize obsolete military equipment; the armament corporations received lucrative new contracts. But even this proved insufficient to meet the demands of large-scale warfare. In the fall of 1940 Roosevelt ordered Morgenthau to move full speed ahead in arming the United States to the teeth and eliminate all remaining restrictions upon the shipment of arms and ammunition.

The original Lend-Lease Act was thereupon drafted in twenty minutes and hurried from department to department by messenger within a few hours in one day.

"Then," relates Reynolds, "it was rushed to the White House. President Roosevelt studied it for ten minutes, then leaned back in his chair and slapped his desk. 'Boy – that's it,' Mr. Roosevelt said."

After all preparations had been made to line up Congress, Roosevelt personally took over the task of selling Lend-Lease to the American people on the false pretext that it was insurance against American participation, although he was well aware it meant complete commitment to the war. In December 1940 he called the correspondents to the White House to launch the final drive which led a year later to full-fledged participation in the world conflict.

This account of steps taken by Roosevelt from 1937 to 1940 – a full year before Japan's attack upon Pearl Harbor – serves to demonstrate how his administration proceeded toward war behind a veil of secrecy in brazen defiance of the people's will for peace. When imperialist purposes dictated, the governmental deputies of Wall Street did not hesitate to violate the laws they had been sworn to uphold or to unscrupulously get around them.

ROOSEVELT BETRAYED AMERICAN PEOPLE These officially verified facts brand Roosevelt as a double-dealer and betrayer of the American people. While he ran for a fourth term in 1940, declaring his hatred of war and promising not to send American boys to fight overseas, he not only knew that full-scale American intervention was inescapable. Since 1937 he had stealthily and steadily steered the United States along the road toward war and by 1940 had already heavily committed the nation to participation in the slaughter.

Roosevelt had to lie and deceive in this fashion in order to overcome the opposition of the American people to the imperialist war and to camouflage its real reactionary and predatory aims with phrases about "the Four Freedoms." Washington propelled the country into World War II under relentless pressure from Wall Street which sought to amass colossal profits, crush its imperialist rivals, and gain mastery over the world and its wealth.

It is true that Hitler, Mussolini and the Mikado dragged their helpless countries into war for equally reactionary ends. But the Allied rulers cannot absolve themselves from their rightful share of war-guilt by unloading all responsibility upon the Axis leaders. The butchers of the second imperialist war will not succeed in transforming Hitler and his gang into scapegoats for their own sins. Both sides were equally responsible for unleashing the bloody conflict. Both must answer to the peoples for their crimes. Not least among the war-conspirators must be placed the arch-hypocrite in the White House who preached peace while preparing for war.

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