I’m a big James Bradley fan. The author of Flags of our Fathers and Flyboys hooked me with the first book, a loving examination of his father’s role as one of the participants in flag-raising at Iwo Jima that we are all familiar with. The book was very interesting and obviously a labor of love.
His next book Flyboys was of a different tone altogether. This book not only examined the little-known story of a doomed aerial assault on an impregnable Japanese-held anti-aircraft battery on a remote island in the Pacific. George Bush Sr. was one of the pilots shot down in this attack and traveled with Bradley to the island during the research for the book.
The tone of the book was much different. Much of the book was devoted to the political issues inside of Japan at the time, how the Japanese people found themselves in this situation and why the Pacific theater turned out like it did. It was an interesting, critical look at a complicated set of issues and had political overtones missing from the first book. I found the book fascinating and learned things about Japan, its people and its history that I had not known before.
When Bradley’s third book, The Imperial Cruise came out, I bought it immediately. It reflects Bradley’s determination to find out what the real catalyst of the Pacific war was. When I was finished I was angry. Very angry. The new picture I had of President Roosevelt, then-Secretary of State Taft compared unfavorably with even George Bush and his neo-con fanatics. The new picture I had of our administration, policy, and nation was something that Howard Zinn and Mark Twain made reference to, but never with this level of detail. The following is part book review, part re-examination of period and person in our nation’s history that affected nearly every aspect of our foreign policy for the last hundred years.
I was so affected by this piece of work and the subsequent research and reading I did, that I felt compelled to share. I look forward to your comments and feelings about this topic and encourage you to read Mr. Bradley’s book. It’s changed how I view our nation, our role in the world, and my own feelings about much in it. More importantly it has made me want to learn more. The best books always prompt you to keep searching rather than be satisfied that you’ve found the answers.
With the recent events occurring in Japan, now seemed the perfect time to express my thoughts.
“In the summer of 1905, President Roosevelt sent the largest diplomatic delegation to Asia in US history. Teddy sent his secretary of war, seven senators, twenty-three congressmen, various military and civilian officials and his daughter on an ocean liner from San Francisco to Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, China, Korea, then back to San Francisco….Over the course of this imperial cruise, Theodore Roosevelt made important decisions that would affect America’s involvement in Asia for generations.” – James Bradley
His goal? Simple. “I wish to see the United States the dominant power on the shores of the Pacific Ocean..” The decisions he made during this time would result in numerous wars, including WW2, the Korean War, and the Communist Revolution in China. One of the seminal events at the center of this morass was Taft’s secret negotiation -at Roosevelt’s direction – of a secret pact to allow Japan to expand into and eventually conquer Korea, while simultaneously serving as mediator between Russia and Japan, who were at the time fighting an enormous war for territory. One year later, Roosevelt would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The following 4 wars that the US slogged through in Asia can be traced back to many of the ham-fisted unilateral decisions by Roosevelt. Ultimately, Teddy Roosevelt bears a striking resemblance personally and professionally to a more recent president George W. Bush. Like Bush, he left our nation with a basket of snakes to manage. Unlike Bush, he left with his reputation intact.
Like Bush, Teddy was east coast patrician, but frantically cultivated the image of frontier rancher. We have a rich library of Teddy in buckskins on a studio stage, replete with gun, knife, and steely stare. We have no pictures of Teddy enjoying his favorite past time, tennis.
Teddywas shaped as many were in the late 1800’s by the dual natures of Muscular Christianity and racial attitudes. In the first of four books in a series about the west, the first Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, Roosevelt wrote of how the west was “won”: “The vast movement by which this continent was conquered and peopled cannot be rightly understood if considered solely by itself. It was the crowning and greatest achievement of a series of mighty movements, and it must be taken in connection with them. Its true significance will be lost unless we grasp, however roughly, the past race-history of the nations who took part therein.”
Roosevelt and many in the government at the time viewed as duty the United State’s westward expansion of the Aryan race westward across the Pacific Ocean. Not only do we owe it to the ignorant savages of the “waste lands” of the Pacific to conquer them, but to civilize them as well. Congressman William Fell Giles of Maryland said it best: “We must march from ocean to ocean…straight to the Pacific Ocean, and be bounded only by its roaring wave…It is the destiny of the white race, it is the destiny of the Anglo-Saxon race.”
First came President Polk’s invasion of Mexico, a democratically elected government with a Constitution modeled after the U.S.’s. After three long brutal years, the war was over. The U.S. could have claimed all of Mexico, but powerful Senators like John Calhoun of South Carolina objected. “We have never dreamt of incorporating into our Union any but the Caucasian race….Ours sir, is the Government of a white race.” This invasion served as a model for many more to come.
By 1893, the end of continental expansion and a serious Depression created an environment where overseas expansion was seen as a cure-all for depression, over-civilization, and legions of unemployed men. Henry Cabot Lodge expressed dismay at the growing gap in colonies between the US and the rest of the civilized world: “The great nations are rapidly absorbing for their future expansion and their present defense all the wast places of the earth. It is a movement which makes for civilization and the advancement of the race. As one of the great nations of the world, the United States must not fall out of line of march.”
Roosevelt came to Washington with similar attitudes firmly in place and looking for a fight. As the under-secretary of the Navy under President McKinley he delivered memos to the President warning about dire situations within Cuba, and a speech to the Naval War College in Newport, RI extolling a “peace through strength” speech in which he mentioned “war” sixty-two times. In September of 1897 Roosevelt lobbied the President in person three times and advocated for immediate war against Spain over Cuba and the Phillipines. Roosevelt later wrote of this time: “In strict confidence…I should welcome almost any war, for I think the country needs one.”
After the successful conclusion of this war, the US couldn’t leave the liberated Cubans and Philipinos in charge of their own countries. They weren’t white and therefore were unable to govern themselves. As Teddy wrote in an article “National Life and Character” Blacks were “a perfectly stupid race” and it would take “many thousand years” before the Black became even “as intellectual as the (ancient) Athenian”.
The subjegation of the Phillipines involved indiscriminant slaughter of men, women, and children. Gang rape of the women, and waterboarding of every mayor, priest and town official that might have information about the Phillipino “terrorists” resisting the noble civilizing ways of the American military. As the popular U.S. Army marching song chorus goes:
Hurrah. Hurrah. We bring the Jubilee.
Hurrah. Hurrah. The flag that makes him free.
We’ve got him down and bound, so let’s fill him full of liberty.
Shouting the battle cry of freedom.
The Republican Party, impressed with Roosevelt nominated him to be Vice President on the McKinley ticket in the next election. The campaign slogan was, in retrospect, ominous: “The American flag has not been planted in foreign soil to acquire more territory but for humanity’s sake.”
Convinced of the rightness of his cause, the destiny of his nation’s and race’s expansion a confident, muscular Roosevelt set his sights upon bigger game…..
(End of Part 1)
- Imperial Cruise (James Bradley) (pclreads.wordpress.com)
- David Swanson: Did Roosevelt’s Racism Cause WWII? (grantlawrence.blogspot.com)