Honest reading

To the Editor:

Dick Atlee’s op-ed column titled “A Long Trail of Falsehoods” in last week’s Islander confuses containment with confabulation.

President Franklin Roosevelt deceived no one when he set in place a foreign policy that sought to limit the military expansion of imperial Japan before WW II. He was even more vigorous in supporting England and trying to contain Hitler.

Atlee points to no manipulation of intelligence by FDR, as we saw with George W. Bush in the lead-up to his invasion of Iraq. Instead, he points to a failure of intelligence to adequately assess the Japanese threat to Pearl Harbor. He would then have the reader believe that FDR, a former under secretary of the Navy in WW I, deliberately left American soldiers and sailors to die, knowing full well that the Japanese were preparing to attack them. This is a monstrous calumny which no honest reading of the historical record can support.

Containment of Japan and Germany was announced to Congress and funded through such devices as aid to the British and Chinese. It was no different than the containment we successfully practiced with respect to the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The Soviets wisely avoided a direct confrontation while Japan recklessly attacked a nation that would ultimately defeat it. Similarly, the intelligence failures in the lead-up to Pearl Harbor were the product of a military intelligence system that had failed us on occasion in the past and would fail us again in the future, notably at the Battle of the Bulge just three years later.

To believe that FDR deliberately left our soldiers and sailors to die assumes that he wanted a total defeat at Pearl Harbor. Had he wished a Japanese attack and known one was coming, would not he have warned the fleet so that it could respond and preserve a Navy ready to strike back quickly? Surely, America would have rallied to the defeat of Japan whether an attack on Pearl Harbor was a total defeat or a less drastic outcome.

Yes, some presidents have twisted the facts to goad the nation into war. Polk, LBJ, and George W. Bush all were guilty of this. To place FDR into their company is to ignore history and logic.

The Mexican-American War, the Vietnam War and the Iraq War were all wars of aggression. World War II was not. It was a response to imperial aggression. The vision that FDR had of the world we would create after the carnage had ended, as expressed in his “Four Freedoms” speech and his plans for the United Nations, demonstrate that convincingly.

He joins Lincoln as one of our two greatest Presidents.

Arthur J. Greif

Bar Harbor

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