Wednesday, January 04, 2006

We all need to feel validated sometimes

And today, I felt validated by Rad Geek, who has relunctantly gotten involved in the 10 Worst Americans list meme. He names Harry Truman for murdering hundreds of thousands of Japanese people, and he names Ronald Reagan and Woodrow Wilson, two other sometimes overlooked bad Americans whose names came to my mind right away when I heard about the list.

I have thought a lot about this list, and it is hard for me to narrow it down to 10, but if Rad Geek can do it, I guess I can, too:

In no particular order:

1. Ronald Reagan, the racist, imperialistic, misogynistic Saddam-supporter who exploited Americans' fear and hatred of all things non-white male. Reagan, who kicked off his first presidential campaign in racially symbolic Philadelphia, Mississippi, stood by silently while hundreds of gay citizens died of AIDS. He popularized the disgusting term, "welfare queen," and caused the deaths of hundreds of Nicaraguans by blocking their medicine shipments. He also had protesters removed from colleges and sang loudly and frequently to the McCarthy Commission.

2. Andrew Jackson, world-class racist who created the Trail of Tears, displaced thousands of native Americans without even giving them a chance to gather their belongings, and causing massive death by starvation, disease, exhaustion, and military attack. (It should be noted here that many presidents before him shared his racist beliefs.)

3. Joseph McCarthy, who ruined the lives of many of America's brightest citizens by smearing them as Communist or Communist-sympathizing.

4. J. Edgar Hoover, who ruined the lives of many and controlled the government through spying, lying, terrorizing, and blackmailing.

5. Woodrow Wilson, the racist, sadistically misogynist, democracy-hating enemy of civil liberties.

6. Harry Truman, for the mass murders of the Japanese.

7. George W. Bush, whom I suppose, on some level, gets credit for this latest American campaign to destroy democracy, poison the citizens, destroy the environment, illegally invade another country, decrease civil liberties, make right-wing Christianity a state religion, oppress the poor, deny citizens health care, oppress gays, line the pockets of the already wealthy, complete the corporatization of America, and invite terrorist attacks.

8. Dick Cheney, author of everything in number 7.

9. John C. Lester, James R. Crowe, John D. Kennedy, Calvin Jones, Richard R. Reed, and Frank O. McCord--all get equal billing as the founders of the Ku Klux Klan.

10. John C. Calhoun, slavery's greatest supporter


Thanks for the link. Liberals' and lefties' ongoing failure to name Truman and LeMay as two of the worst evildoers of the past century (whether due to inattention or to unwillingness) is definitely galling. I'm increasingly beginning to think that if antiwar folks want to make some serious changes to the intellectual and political climate, we need to spend less time harping on obvious disasters like Vietnam and more time taking on the hard cases -- like the "Last Good War" mythology surrounding U.S. conduct in World War II. Lots of people who think of themselves as liberal, leftist, or progressive sorta kinda realize how horrible some aspects of the U.S. war effort were (internment, say; maybe also the atomic bombings, depending on whom you're talking to), but very few seem to realize it in any way that puts the pieces together or makes a serious difference to how they judge that war effort in particular or the basic tenets of modern warfare in general. And it seems increasingly to me like that's a big part of what we need to work at changing. What do you think?

Incidentally, it looks like the cut-and-paste wires got a bit crossed, though; the link under my name goes to one of Jill's astonishingly cute dog photos. My addenda to the lists I've seen going around are at GT 2006-01-04: Evildoers.

By Blogger Charles Johnson (Rad Geek), at 12:09 AM  

I couldn't agree more. But more and more, I see myself as separate from so-called liberal interests. I not only find liberal warmongers repulsive, I also fight for the rights of non-humans. Those activities do not go over well in most liberal circles. Neither does any kind of non-superficial feminism.

No country fights a "good" war, and when a war is over, the alleged winners gloss over the atrocities and the reasons for going to war. World War II is a good example. The U.S. showed little interest in trying to save the lives of millions of Jews, Gypsies, mentally ill persons, and gay persons, but when it became politically important, we entered the war. And once the war ended--with 11 million of the aforementioned dead, hundreds of thousands of Japanese citizens bombed (their descendants still have thyroid cancer), and thousands of Amerians imprisoned in their own country, we said we saved democracy. But it was more complicated than that.

I should have put LeMay on my list; I kind of used Truman as a catch-all for that event.

By Anonymous Diane, at 9:30 AM  

I have heart burn with Harry Truman. Japan would have fought to the last person had there been an invasion. They had armed and drilled women, kids and old men for the invasion. Remember it took two bombs not just one to end the war and that was a Japanese decision to not surrender. They were given the chance.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:32 AM  

Diane: I couldn't agree more. But more and more, I see myself as separate from so-called liberal interests. I not only find liberal warmongers repulsive, I also fight for the rights of non-humans. Those activities do not go over well in most liberal circles. Neither does any kind of non-superficial feminism.

Oh, I certainly agree. Insofar as I address myself to "liberals" (and for that matter "progressives") at all these days, it's because I think that some of them have some confused grasp of values, or at least pay lip service to values, that might lead them to see what I'm talking about -- and thus lead them away from what "liberal" (and even "progressive") mean these days, and move towards a more genuine and worthwhile form of Leftism, feminism, etc.

Anon: They were given the chance.

Who was given a chance? The victims of the bombing? I don't recall that Japanese civilians had any particular control over the militarist dictatorship's actions in March - August 1945.

Maybe you mean that the Japanese command was given the chance, and, having (in your judgment) spurned it, the civilians over which they maintained dictatorial control were fair game for massacre. If so, I think that's a despicable way to treat innocent people.

That said, one of the background premises you're operating on is also factually incorrect.

Anon: Remember it took two bombs not just one to end the war and that was a Japanese decision to not surrender.

Even if you think that the incineration of Hiroshima was justifiable or even excusable (I don't), that does you no good with respect to Nagasaki. Only three days passed between the bombing of Hiroshima and that of Nagasaki; the Emperor and the War Council had not even received on-the-ground reports of the level of destruction at Hiroshima until August 8 (the same day that they were informed that the Soviets were entering the war), and they did not meet to decide what to do until 11:00am on August 9 (the bomb was dropped on Nagasaki at 11:02am). There is absolutely no reasonable defense for the massacre of 75,000 civilians simply because of the failure to communicate surrender terms to the Americans less than a day after the War Council was fully informed of their situation, or less than 2 minutes after they had convened the meeting (as it happens, the War Council was unanimous, solely in light of Hiroshima and the Red Army's advances in Manchuria, that Japan should surrender. They were divided only over the conditions under which they should surrender.)

Of course, even if the United States had waited weeks and the War Council had duly communicated that they refused to surrender, I don't think that would have justified the massacre of 75,000 civilians who played no part in that decision. But as the facts stand, your own attempt at a justification or excuse for the bombing fails to give any good reasons for Nagasaki.

Anon: Japan would have fought to the last person had there been an invasion.

This presupposes that the U.S.'s demand for unconditional surrender, followed by occupation, by any means necessary -- or, at least, by means up to and including the massacre of 500,000 - 1,000,000 civilians by atomic, incendiary, and high explosive terror-bombing -- was a necessary or proper war aim in March - August 1945. I deny that it was. Japan was clearly defeated in March 1945 and there was absolutely no justification or excuse for standing on the Potsdam demands at the cost of civilian lives, whether to starvation due to the blockade, "conventional" firebombing, atomic bombing, or a hypothetical amphibious invasion.

Generally speaking, before you can justify this or that enormity in terms of "military necessity," you first have to show, at the very least, that the war aims for which the enormity was supposedly "necessary" were in fact just aims to pursue by those means.

By Blogger Charles Johnson (Rad Geek), at 10:58 AM  

The development of the bomb was, in my opinion, pure evil. Once it was developed, it was going to be used. As Rad says, the citizens of Japan were not given any choice about having their cities, their loved ones, and their own bodies exploded to bits and poisoned by toxic gases.

By Anonymous Diane, at 7:08 PM  

It's hard for me to consider any list of bad Americans that doesn't include Milhous.

By Anonymous broncobob, at 9:21 PM  

A good observation. He is on my runner-up list.

By Anonymous Diane, at 9:25 PM  

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