ROCKWELL: Well, good morning. This is the Lew Rockwell Show. And how great to have as our guest this morning, Judge John Denson. John's a practicing attorney in Opelika, Alabama, but, more important, a great historian. He's the author of A Century of War. He's the editor of The Costs of War and Reassessing the Presidency; an associated scholar of the Mises Institute.
And, John, it's wonderful how you keep finding the most important revisionist books, read them, and come on here to tell us about them. You're going to start this morning with Hiroshima's Shadow. Tell us about this book.
DENSON: Right. Well, it's a labor of love. And I enjoy doing this, of course, and really happy that the Mises Institute will allow me to do this. It's a lot of fun for me. I always enjoy being with you.
This book is not a new book. It's Hiroshima's Shadow, or Hiroshima's Shadow, and the subtitle is Writings on the Denial of History and the Smithsonian Controversy. So it's a book of, I think, 45 different essays in it. They have essays for and against the dropping of the bombs. But it arose out of the Smithsonian exhibit which was planned for 1995. And they were going to have the Enola Gay fuselage hanging up in the air there. And then they did a lot of historical research at the Smithsonian Institute to talk about whether the bomb should have been dropped or not. And it created such a storm of controversy that the Smithsonian was threatened with the cut in any money from the U.S. government. Veteran's organizations protested. Academics protested. Historians protested. A lot of historians were for it. And it became so controversial that it gutted the whole thing. They removed most of the statements about the bomb shouldn't have been dropped. And the statements from many of the congressmen were that this is a national museum; we don't want anything unfavorable said about the United States government
and World War II.
ROCKWELL: Especially if it's true.
DENSON: And it's true. I mean, my opinion after looking at this and I write about really the basics of this in the book Costs of War in pretty good detail, and cover the major points. But the true statements that really set off the controversy in the book, I think I said it came out in 1998. But back in 1995, they had statements by General Eisenhower and he spoke to both Secretary of War Henry Stimson and President Truman, telling them and asking them and pleading with them not to drop the bombs, not to drop the atomic bombs because Japan was already defeated. It would not take an invasion. It would not cause any problem other than simply accepting their proposal to surrender by allowing the emperor to remain in place and not be tried as a war criminal. And some of the thoughts that he had that were in the exhibit were, he said, "During Secretary Henry Stimson's recitation of the relevant facts, I have been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I could voice to him my grave misgivings" this is Eisenhower "first, on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary. And, secondly, because I thought that our country should avoid shocking the world opinion by use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with the minimum of face. And the secretary of war was deeply perturbed by my attitude." He then went on and talked to Truman and asked him not to drop the bombs.
The other quote was from Admiral William Leahy, who was, in effect, sort of the Joint Chief of Staff, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They didn't really have that title then but that was his function. And he made the statement that was in the exhibit, "It's my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima, or Hiroshima, and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we'd adopted the ethical standard common to the barbarians of the dark ages. And I was not taught to make war in that fashion and when wars cannot be won by destroying women and children."
Most of the reports on the first dropping of the bomb just talked about the destruction of the buildings and how it just wiped out the whole city. But actually, there were tens of thousands of children in school at the time these were dropped, and they were just vaporized. And the Just War Theory that arose in the beginning, I'd say, of the 17th century, was to stop the barbaric attack on civilians that had taken place by the people like Genghis Khan and so forth. And so one of the points of the Just War Theory was that you do not target civilians. And the bombing of Hiroshima was strictly it was not a military target. It was one of the few cities left that hadn't been fire-bombed. But it was simply, in my opinion, the conclusion I've come to, it was not for the ending of World War II, but it was for the beginning of the Cold War and to demonstrate to the Russians that we had the most powerful weapon in the world, and that we will negotiate from a position of power from this point on. And that was what Truman sort of indicated at the Potsdam Conference to Stalin, that we've got this big weapon. Stalin knew all about it because he had spies at Oakridge.
So it wasn't any surprise to him.
But the controversy was that there was going to be an invasion. And I remember, back at our Costs of War conference in Atlanta in 1994, I had a conversation with my cousin, Gene Sledge, and with Paul Fussell. And Paul Fussell has an essay on his supporting of the dropping of the bomb. And I remember what they said. They were both in the military service and they had been told that they were scheduled to be participants in the invasion of Japan. And both of them took the viewpoint that the dropping of the bomb saved their lives. And that was the position of the veterans who protested the Smithsonian exhibit. And, in fact, Paul Fussell said to me at that time, the same thing as his title here, Thank God They Dropped the Bomb. And they were both convinced. And, you know, if you don't look at the history of the thing and don't look behind and see the negotiations and what was going on you're ready to invade, you're told you're going to have to invade, and they drop the bombs and Japan surrenders. So it looks like the bombs did it, but really it had no bearing.
Truman knew as early as May of 1945 that the Japanese were ready to surrender if they could keep their emperor. And he made such a ferocious statement in the Potsdam Declaration that it would have to be an unconditional surrender. And then we drop both bombs and let them keep their emperor, and he's not a war criminal, so they accepted the terms that were available even to Truman as early as May '45. And MacArthur had told Roosevelt about the terms before Roosevelt died in April of '45. So the presidents of the American government and most of the military people knew that Japan was beaten. They had no air force left. They were surrounded. They were blockaded. And all they wanted was to keep their emperor.
And it's just a lack of understanding of their culture, how important the emperor was. He was considered divine. And their whole culture was built around this long tenure of this live emperor. So that was what held them together. And MacArthur realized that if we tried the emperor, it would be very hard to have an occupying force there and be safe. And because we did it this way, he was able to ride around in a vehicle in Japan without any guards. I mean, nobody bothered him. So his strategy paid off. And he understood the Japanese.
ROCKWELL: Didn't the U.S. government, Roosevelt, Truman and the rest of these people, want the war to continue as long as possible? I mean, isn't this why they wanted unconditional surrender? They didn't want to end the war. They didn't want to accept the Japanese surrender. They wanted to keep killing and keep spending and terrorizing the world. And also, of course, they were planning to start the Cold War against the Russians. The Russians were not interested in the Cold War. They were, among other questions, were economically prostrate because of Socialism and because of all the deaths in World War II. So aren't these people just blood-thirty war criminals, FDR and Truman?
DENSON: Well, you would think so.
And here's the thing that worries me. Has Western civilization lost its moral compass? You had Madeleine Albright, as secretary of state, in her official position, making a statement to the public she was asked, was killing 500,000 children in Iraq through our sanctions worth it, and she said, of course. (laughing) I mean, that is such an unbelievable statement. And how you can think about dropping these bombs just on women and children and with no military purpose? It makes you wonder, what is the 21st century, the nuclear century going to be about.
And that's one reason I like this book, is because it's not just about whether the bombs would have ended the war, or were necessary to end the war, but it's about what is our morality now. You know, whether you're religious or not, you have to realize that history shows that the Western civilization was a combination of Christianity and the Enlightenment. And the Just War Theory was there to take the barbarism out of war. So now, is all of that gone? We were faced with annihilation with the Cuban Missile Crisis and, fortunately, Kennedy and Khrushchev backed off. But what is the future? Everybody is trying to get nuclear weapons. And so there's got to be a study. This book should be a subject of some Ph.D. dissertation or some history course. And take all of these it's not just one viewpoint. It's got documents. It's got what Paul Fussell said, why we should have dropped the bombs, and why Secretary Stimson says we should have dropped the bombs, and then it's got a lot of them that said we shouldn't. But then it's got a lot of them that address this issue, what is our moral compass for the 21st century with nuclear weapons.
ROCKWELL: And, of course, this is the view of Classical Liberalism. As Mises said, that wars are supposed to be soldiers' wars, soldiers against soldiers.
ROCKWELL: Civilians shouldn't be involved.
DENSON: And World War I was that way. You know, they were in the trenches, ridiculously fighting for years over 50 yards. But those were soldiers who were killed.
The difference in World War II and they saw this coming with the airplane that cities might be bombed. But as I point out in The Costs of War, it was Churchill that started the bombing of civilians. He became prime minister on May 10, 1940. And on May 11th, they started sending bombers to bomb the cities of Germany. And it wasn't until November of 1940 that Hitler retaliated and bombed Coventry, a completely civilian thing. He retaliated after trying to settle with Churchill and reach an agreement. So part of the propaganda coming out of World War II is that Hitler started the war on civilians by bombing Coventry, and that's not true. It was Churchill that started that.
ROCKWELL: And also, of course, the U.S. started the bombing of civilians in Japan, too.
ROCKWELL: With the Doolittle Raid.
DENSON: Yes. And Curtis LeMay said to McNamara, during the Vietnam War, he said, well, of course, we were guilty of war crimes when we fire-bombed Tokyo. And they killed more people fire-bombing Tokyo than they did with the atomic bombs. But they had something like 300 planes. I mean, it was just saturation bombing everywhere. And at that time, that was when Japan was first beginning to try to surrender.
But one of the interesting things to me that I learned in this book for the first time was that the way the scientists were recruited to take on this project in America was that they knew, they had proof that the Germans were trying to develop an atomic bomb. So the push that was made to the scientists was, look, we need to develop an atomic bomb; it's never going to be used because all we need is to show the Germans that we have it and so it will be a deterrent to both; it won't be used. And so many of them went into this thinking that this is nothing that's going to be used; this is simply a defensive strategy, to keep it from being used against us. They didn't know at that time that the Germans abandoned their project in about 1942 or 1943. They couldn't do it. And of course, we didn't get it perfected until July, 1945. But in May of 1945, the Germans had surrendered. And that was one of the reasons many of the scientists petitioned Truman by saying, look, this was developed to deter Germany from bombing us. The Japanese don't have the bomb. There's no way. So this should not be used. We were recruited, being told this is not going to be used; we just need it as a deterrent. And that was part of their push, and that's what bothered at lot of them is that they felt they had been mislead and that it was unnecessary completely to drop the bomb. And, of course, Marshall, probably one of the most influential people, he said it should not be dropped on civilians; it should be demonstrated on an island or at least a military target.
But, you know the general feeling that you run into with laymen is that, look, the Japanese deserved this and the Germans deserved Dresden because, look, the war was started by Hitler invading Czechoslovakia and Poland, and by Japan for bombing Pearl Harbor. And they don't know any of the background to all that and
ROCKWELL: They don't know that the U.S. wanted Japan to bomb Pearl Harbor.
DENSON: Yes. They don't realize they were provoked into that.
ROCKWELL: And Prince Konoe, another from the peace faction within the Japanese government, tried to appeal.
ROCKWELL: And, of course, they were kicked in the teeth.
DENSON: Right. So the other major point I want to make about this is contained in the subtitle, about the writings on the denial of history. This shows that the whole historical moment to be portrayed about this was gutted. And they were not allowed the people in the Smithsonian were not allowed to say the truth about the background of this. That exhibit was cut down to practically nothing, and nothing was said bad about it, and no truth was said about the fact that it wasn't necessary. And it shows you how the government and certain powerful people can cause history, the truth about history not to be written. That's what they did. They changed the perception of history by the way they put on that exhibit. And that has been the line ever since that, you know, it was necessary to drop the bomb.
So if we're ever going to reevaluate our moral compass of what war is going to be like and with nuclear weapons, then we need to know the truth about this. And you're never going to develop any consensus about what should be done if you don't know the truth. And so this book is part of the protest, simply, that the government should allow the truth to be stated so that the issue can be fairly presented to the American people.
ROCKWELL: And, John, when you talk about what we face in the 21st century, we have Obama threatening all the time to nuke Iran. I mean, that's what he means when he says, "There is nothing off the table."
ROCKWELL: I mean, that's what he's talking about, the possible use of nuclear weapons against a country that's never done anything to us, obviously.
DENSON: Yes. And North Korea, you know, they've got a weapon. I mean, you never know when this nuclear thing is going to burst forth. And if everybody gets it we have the power now to destroy civilization. Have suicide through nuclear war. And so it's an issue that needs to be on the table. What is the morality of the use of weapons to kill civilians and so forth? Have we abandoned the Just War Theory?
Let me move on to a second book that I think is important. And this is something brand new to me. This is a book called Red Republicans and Lincoln Marxists. And the subtitle is Marxism in the Civil War. It's by Walter D. Kennedy and Al Benson Jr. It's been out several years. But is it about the effect of the 1848 revolutions in Europe and what they did to America.
You know, when I look at the European history, and you see the Congress of Vienna Mitterrand put together, 1814, 1815, to bring the Napoleonic Wars to an end, historians and I have praised that settlement because it, in effect, brought general peace to Europe for 100 years until World War I. Now there were some revolts in there. The Classical Liberals didn't particularly like it. They wanted less government. But the Socialists and Communists arising out of the French Revolution did not like it at all. And so in 1830, there was a tremendous revolt in France that overthrew Charles X, but that was about it.
1848 in Europe, everybody but England and Russia suffered the revolt. 17 countries put on efforts to overthrow the Congress of Vienna settlement and they were all suppressed. None of them were successful. And so I've sort of dismissed that in my mind as a significant event in history.
And then you get to the Franco-Prussian War, 1870, 1871, and then you get the Nationalist Germany being made more into a national government rather than a confederacy. But I never really read anything or thought about the fact that a huge number of the rebels in 1848, primarily in Germany, were run out of the country. Some of them sought asylum in England, some in Switzerland. But a huge number came to America because they saw that, in the War Between the States, this was exactly what they were trying to do in Germany, and that is create a national government. They wanted a strong central government. They wanted a graduated income tax. They wanted government control over the money. And they saw an opportunity in American. So there's a listing of so many of them, but several of them became generals in the Union Army; colonels in positions of military leadership.
And a guy named Charles Dana, D-A-N-A, was a good friend of Karl Marx, and so he convinced Horace Greeley to let Marx write a regular column in the New York Tribune. And Carl Schurz, I've read about from time to time. In fact, he was the only one I thought had anything to do with the 1848 revolution, and came here. He had a very high military position and was eventually elected Senator of Missouri and became secretary of Interior under Hayes. And he was about as red as you could get. (laughing)
And so these ideas that were not successful in Europe in 1848 became successful under Lincoln in the War Between the States. And they were all attracted here and thought Lincoln was doing exactly the right thing, to eliminate a confederacy and have a strong central government; do away with the ability of the states to do anything.
ROCKWELL: Didn't Marx write Lincoln wasn't Marx an admirer of Lincoln personally, too?
DENSON: Yes, absolutely. He was very much in praise of what Lincoln was doing.
And these ideas, it was like a contagious virus that came over here from Europe. And these ideas continued to bubble into the populous movement and into the progressive movement. And it all begins with this virus hitting us over the 1848 revolutions in Europe that were unsuccessful, but very successful here.
And this is a book that needs to be studied because not many people know how strongly the Union Army was led by the rebels from Germany (laughing) and it was not just Germany but primarily Germany and how many of those ideas were put into place by people like Schurz, becoming a Senator and secretary of Interior, and Marx being able to write in a New York paper the benefits of Communism and centralized government. It's a very revealing book to me, that I had never thought about (laughing) why the European history of 1848 was important to American history.
ROCKWELL: And these German Marxists and other Leftists had a very bad effect on American academia, too.
ROCKWELL: I mean, really we can trace
DENSON: It does talk about that.
ROCKWELL: the statism in academia to these German immigrants.
DENSON: Yes. These people were highly intelligent, highly educated people that were leading this revolt in Germany. And when they had to leave and would be prosecuted if they stayed they came over here and took academic positions and military positions and political positions. They found a home here. And Lincoln was their hero. And they felt that they had not all been in vain in losing the '48 revolution in Europe because it was so successful in America.
ROCKWELL: Interestingly enough, Ron Paul's ancestor came to this country to avoid be conscripted in the whole 1848 business. So not everybody was a Commie.
DENSON: You know, the way Grant and Lincoln looked at it, they had an unlimited supply of people with all the immigrants coming here from Ireland and other places to work were conscripted and thrown into the army; whereas, nobody was immigrating into the South. And so they just we're going to have a war of attrition. And that's what caused the New York draft riots. You know, the Irish got tired of being drafted into an army they had no interest in and no real purpose in.
Another book that I'm very interested in is Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg. The subtitle is The Secret History of American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. And one reason I like this is because, in my book, A Century of War, I quote Mussolini, who was the leader of the European Fascism, and he made a statement he took control for 21 years in Italy. And I would say he is the founder of European Fascism. Goldberg takes the position that Woodrow Wilson was the actual founder of Fascism, earlier than Mussolini. Mussolini did it after the war and Wilson did it before the war.
But here's a statement and I've had people e-mail me from all over the world about it "Fascism is of the right." It's the right extremists, and it's conservatives that have gone mad. And it's to be distinguished from Communism and Socialism. And they take this right/left thing so seriously because, as we know from the French Revolution, the right and left came from that because of what the various political parties that were relevant in the French Revolution, the ideas that were put on left and right. The Communist/Socialists on the left.
And Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, in the book he wrote called Leftism Revisited, he points out how Fascism got put on the right. And he points out in his book, in Chapter 4, "Left and Right," that, in Germany, they had divided their assembly into factions of the Internationalists, who were on the left, and that was Communism and Socialism; but on the right, that were seated on the right, were the Nationalists, and those were the Monarchists and the Conservatives. So when Fascism takes hold with the Nazis and they become the dominant political party, they were a national movement. They were fighting International Communism, International Socialism with National Fascism, so they were seated on the right. And yet, their ideas are just as collectivists as Socialists and Communists. So it's an error to say that the extreme right are the Fascists.
And, to me, the main danger in America is not Socialism and Communism, but Fascism, because you are sort of lulled into a thinking that you've got democracy, you've got the right to vote, you've got private ownership of property. Businesses are owned privately, and you've got a Constitution, even though it's not followed. But anyway, they don't see the danger of Fascism. But Fascism allows the resemblance of private ownership but they've got to have control through regulation. And one of their main ways to exercise control and to keep doing it and Hitler did this. Everything looked like it was going to be OK until you get a crisis. And the main crisis is war. So what the Fascists definitely believe in is the necessity of war in order to accomplish their purposes, their ultimate purposes.
And this is exactly what Mussolini said. And this is in A Century of War I quote. He said, "Fascism believes neither in the possibility, nor the utility of perpetual peace. War alone brings up to its highest tension all human events and all human energy, and puts the stamp of nobility upon the people to have the courage to meet it. It may be expected" and this is in 1927 "It may be expected that this will be the century of authority, a century of the left, a century of Fascism. For the 19th century was a century of individualism. Liberalism always signifies individualism. It may be expected that this will be the century of collectivism and, hence, the century of the State. For Fascism, the growth of empire, that is to say, the expansion of the nation is the essential manifestation of vitality, and its opposite is the sign of decay and death."
And you see people today like the Neo-Conservatives that glory in war. You see people like Teddy Roosevelt and Wilson, who gloried in war. It gave them an opportunity for control. And that's what Fascism is. You may have private property and you may have the right to vote, but they're going to use war, primarily, or any other crisis, like Bob Higgs talks about in Crisis and Leviathan, to bring in the controls. And at some point, they drop the hammer and then you've had it, like it happened in Germany.
So what Jonah Goldberg points out is that really the progressive movement and populism also had a lot of the same ideas that it was a revolt of the agrarians against the railroads and so forth. And the progressives were the revolt of the scientific professors and so forth to control through regulation. But they all had the purpose of centralization of power. And his book is about that we have Fascism beginning with Wilson and the progressive movement and culminating at its height in 1913 with the Federal Reserve, the income tax and having Senators elected popular rather than the states. And he says that that's sort of a Liberal Fascism. It's not as harsh as it was in Mussolini's day or Hitler's day, but it's there. It's the same ideas. And he says that this is what we need to guard against. So it's an important book saying that Fascism, Communism and Socialism are all collectivists on the left and will try to completely destroy American individual freedom.
So I recommend this book. It's well written by Jonah Goldberg. And he analyzes American political history very well, I think, in the early part of this century, and warns us about our future.
And I see the Neo-Conservatives today as part of the main threat that we've got, the people that desperately want war, and stirring up everything they can in the Mideast. So a lot of people dont think that people want war, but there are people that do. And Fascism is built on the concept, you don't want perpetual peace. You've got to have war to maintain control over people that still own property and can still vote.
ROCKWELL: I might just mention that in one of his other great books called I think one of the greatest titles ever the Menace of the Herd, written during World War II, Erik does a voting analysis of where the Nazi vote came from and shows that it was all the ex-Communists who voted to put Hitler into power. And the conservative parties were the areas where mostly the Catholic parties but the conservatives didn't vote for Hitler. It was all the Communists. And, of course, the Brown Shirts were frequently ex-Communists. And really, they were peas in a pod, the Communists and the Nazis.
DENSON: I remember he visited here, to the Mises Institute, shortly after the book Costs of War came out, and he and I talked about that a lot. He liked that book a lot.
ROCKWELL: And, of course, he was a friend of Mises'.
DENSON: Right. He was from Austria.
ROCKWELL: Patron of Otto von Hapsburg and a great he called himself an old liberal. He said, "I'm not a conservative. I'm an old liberal." In other words, a Classical Liberal. He was polymath and a very great man.
The fourth book is mainly interesting for the fact that this is written by a retired German general. He was in the German army for 37 years. Of course, this was not while Hitler was there, and he's no defender of Hitler or Nazism. He lives in Hamburg, Germany.
And the way I came in contact with him is he either heard this podcast you and I did on the Herbert Hoover book and some officer in Germany gave him that book and he wrote a review of it. And he had some criticism of who he didn't understand a lot about European history, which
I can understand.
He doesn't understand a lot of American history. But anyway, he sent me his review of the Hoover book and told me about this book that he had written about World War II. And the title is 1939, The War That Had Many Fathers, the Long Run-Up to the Second World War. And it is a book of great (laughing) European history.
His conclusion starts at page 633, and he shows England's contribution to the outbreak of the war, then France's contribution, Poland's contribution, the Soviet Union's contribution, and the United States' contribution, and then Germany's contribution. And, of course, he's reacting somewhat to World War I where, I think, Clause 231 of the Versailles Treaty placed the whole guilt of World War I on Germany. And he's pointing out here that all of these countries contributed to the war. But he says to understand World War II and this is what I agree with you've got see it as a continuation of World War I. World War II, we had just had a 20 year recess from 1919 to 1939. And you have to understand how, through European history, it was so horrible that people with different ethnic backgrounds and history were forced into the countries of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia that didn't exist before. Just, the people in Versailles drew these lines around these people and forced them together. And, of course, Poland didn't exist at the time of World War I. And that was one of the main points in the 14 Points was to recreate Poland, so they recreated Poland. And here's all these people hating each other and forced to live together. And in Czechoslovakia, Czechs weren't even in the majority, but they were in control.
So anyway, it's an interesting book. I don't agree with all of it, but I've learned a lot of European history by reading it. So he and I have been corresponding back and forth. And I've sent him my book, A Century of War, and he likes it very much about Pearl Harbor. And he had never seen a lot of that. And he's bought the book Day of Deceit, and reading that.
So one of the points I want to make, one time, my children told me to stop reading so much history and read novels more and relax a little bit.
And so I said, look, I've read a lot of novels. They said, well, what are they, and what do you learn from them? So I gave them a list in what I learned. And as you would expect, one was To Kill a Mockingbird. But I want to mention that in connection with this book, because one of the themes, I think, that comes out of the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, is you need to see the world from someone else's front porch. If you'll remember, the children were scared of this monster they had heard about that lived in this house, who never came out. And to show their courage, they would hide and then run up and touch the screen door on that porch and then run back. And it turns out, at the end of the book, he saves their lives. This monster turns out to be a very gentle person; saves their lives. And the little girl walks hand-in-hand with him back to his house and then she turns and stands on his porch and says, "This is the first time I've seen the world from his front porch."
So it's not only a good rule of conduct about interaction of people personally, but I think it's a very important point in reading history. And so I've tried to stand on the front porch of this German general in writing this and have him stand on my front porch and look at it. And I think it's so important that you get as many perspectives as you can from people and from their front porch to see what history is all about. So it's been an interesting experience and I've enjoyed it a lot.
ROCKWELL: You know, it's interesting, another point that Eric von Kuehnelt-Leddihn made in connection with World War I yielding to World War II, even though Woodrow Wilson claimed to be for self determination of peoples of course, he wasn't actually and Austria wanted to join with Germany after the war, after they lost their empire, Wilson wouldn't allow it. But because all the Catholic areas of Germany voted against Hitler in those early elections, Erik argues that Hitler never would have come to power, at least that way, democratically, if Austria would had been allowed to join with Germany. But because Wilson blocked that, Hitler was able to get the democratic votes from northern Germany, against the people in the south, to have that alleged mandate and legitimacy from, you know, so-called democracy.
DENSON: Right. I write a little bit about that effort of Austria to try to reach a separate peace. And the delegate that Wilson sent was a Reverend Herron, who was a dedicated Socialist. And he met with the representative of Austria and said he was very tempted to try to do the separate peace with Austria, but then he felt like he'd been tempted by the devil and so he turned them down. Then he left there and went to Russia and told Wilson he had seen the future and this was where the great future of the world lay, was in Russia and Communism. So that's the delegate that Wilson sent to negotiate the proposed Austrian peace treaty (laughing).
ROCKWELL: You know, another Eric von Kuehnelt-Leddihn story and I don't want to take up all the time on these but he tells the story of Teddy Roosevelt visiting the Austrian emperor this was before World War I and asking him sort of typical arrogance "So what role does an emperor have in our modern democratic era and why should there be an emperor"? And Franz Joseph II said, "My role is to protect my peoples from their governments." (laughing) So interesting. Erik always thought that, like his student, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, monarchy was better than democracy.
DENSON: Yes. I think my opening line in my speech I gave at Calloway is that the definition of a patriot today in America is a person who defends his country against its government.
ROCKWELL: Darn right.
DENSON: And as Judge Napolitano says, "It's dangerous to be right when your government is wrong." But that's why it requires some courage to be a patriot today, to criticize power, speak truth to power.
Let me skip now to a couple of movie reviews.
ROCKWELL: Please, yes.
DENSON: I've seen these two movies in the last two weeks. And I knew what they were about and I knew I went there I restrained myself through
just not say anything during the movie. But Argo is a movie in great praise in the heroism of the CIA in getting people out of Iran after the Shah was overthrown. And so I don't want to ruin the movie for everybody, in the plot, but here are these irate Iranians, hating Americans, it starts off with, and they are going to be killed unless they can get out. So this CIA agent comes in and surreptitiously and deceitfully creates like they're going to make a movie, and gets them out of Iran and he's awarded some Medal of Freedom and so forth. And he just cheers the CIA and how wonderful it is.
It leaves out the early part of the history of how America came to be known as the Great Satan in the Middle East. And so there's a book that is the best book on this, called All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. And it has a new preface of it called "The Folly of Attacking Iran." The author is Stephen Kinzer.
ROCKWELL: Yes, great book.
DENSON: And he tells the story of Mossadegh, who was the elected leader in Iran, who was educated in Europe. Very, very popular; had united the country of Iran in the '50s. And England was right at the peak of their imperialism and they sort of felt like they owned Iran. And so they put an oil company there, and a refinery, and they were extracting oil without any real benefit to Iran at all. And they had promised Iran high royalties and so forth. I think the Americans used to split 50-50, and Britain just paid pennies and gave all the worst jobs to the Iranians.
And so Mossadegh decided to run the British out. So he nationalized the British oil company. And so Churchill took a role in this, and other British, and came to Truman, who was still president, and said, you need to use your CIA to overthrow Mossadegh. And Truman said, well, no, I created the CIA only to gather information (laughing). They're not a regime-changing organization. And so he refused to do it.
So the next year, in '52, Eisenhower was elected and brought in John Foster Dulles and Allen; John Foster as secretary of state and his brother, Allen, head of the CIA. And they were warmongers to the nth degree. And they told Eisenhower, if he didn't overthrow Mossadegh, the Communists would take over. So they devised a plot by the CIA, led by Teddy Roosevelt's grandson, Kermit Roosevelt, to overthrow Mossadegh and install the Shah. And then they trained the secret police. The SAVAK, I think, is the way you pronounce it.
DENSON: And they become the most oppressive organization. And the Shah is just a demon.
And so when the movie Argo starts, this is when the people have had their fill of the SAVAK and the Shah and have overthrown him. So it's America that has started all this. The people knew that it was the American CIA that came in and overthrew Mossadegh and installed the Shah and this oppressive government. So it's natural and very understandable that they hated these Americans that were still there in the embassy. So it's when you just tell half the story you know, the rest of the story needs to be told. And it's told by this really good book, All the Shah's Men, by Stephen Kinzer. And he followed up with a book called Overthrow, which gave the whole history of the CIA as a regime-changing organization. So this whole nature of the CIA was changed by the term of Eisenhower. And I think Eisenhower realized what a mistake he made because, at the end of his term, he labeled the CIA as a "legacy of ashes." And he condemned the CIA for what they had done.
ROCKWELL: That's before they helped kill Kennedy. And go on to other great deeds as well.
ROCKWELL: That's another topic.
DENSON: That's another book, too.
The last thing, Sunday two, three or four days ago, I saw the movie Lincoln, and I was expecting the worst sort of thing, but it is just it is really awful. And I brought you the current issue of Smithsonian magazine with Lincoln on the front. It says, Lincoln Goes to Hollywood: Stephen Spielberg Takes On Our Greatest President. So you can see the Smithsonian learned their lesson with the (laughter) the exhibit with Hiroshima, and they're now praising whoever the government wants them to praise.
But they've got a review in this issue, and it talks about the book that supposedly it was to be based on. And the author of the book is Doris Kearns Goodwin. Her husband, I think, was a speechwriter for Kennedy and others. So Stephen Spielberg ran into her and said, what book are you working on. She said, I'm working on a book about Lincoln. He said, I want the movie rights. She said she was sort of cool to the idea but thought it might be OK, so she sells him the movie rights.
And the book is 754 pages long, and only four pages mentioned the 13th Amendment. But it points out that when Spielberg took over, it says, "But the battle for the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery nationwide and permanently, is confined to just five of 74 pages." But Spielberg decided that I'll read you this. It says, "He decided in the middle of making the movie to change the whole focus." The focus of the book, called Team of Rivals, was how Lincoln put together people that were opposed to him in many ways in his cabinet. So it was working with these rivals. But Spielberg decided it would be much more dramatic to make the movie about passage of the 13th Amendment. So he created what I consider blatant false history and made the whole movie about Lincoln's efforts to get the 13th Amendment passed and how heroic it was. And he points out that Lincoln was always against slavery.
Well, you know, Lincoln was never against slavery where it already existed. He was only against slavery where he wanted to keep it out of the new territories and states. And in Lincoln's inaugural address, he actually supports the first 13th Amendment. The first 13th Amendment was to legalize slavery constitutionally. And he said, in his inaugural address, he had no objection to that.
Then the movie ends with the Hampton Roads Settlement Conference, or peace conference, which he completely distorts. Spielberg makes the movie on the basis that Lincoln was willing to bribe, cajole, give jobs to people, to bribe them in any way to get them to vote for the 13th Amendment so it could be passed before the war ended, because the South might come back in and vote against it. So he was this determined advocate of the 13th Amendment, according to Spielberg.
But the account of the Hampton Roads Conference is that the three delegates from the South came and they wanted to see what the possibility was for a settlement. And here was a Mr. Blair that had promoted this idea, because the French had come into Mexico. And the proposal was to call off the war for a while and let the union army keep the French from bringing the Mexicans in and taking back California. But anyway, Lincoln said he wasn't going to delay the war any, but if the South wanted to end it, he would go along with it. And his proposal to the South and Seward was there, the secretary of state. And their joint proposal to the Southerners was if you will lay down your arms and simply rejoin the union, then you've got enough votes to kill the 13th Amendment. And so Lincoln was not pushing for it.
All he wanted was to rejoin. The movie completely distorts the Hampton Roads Conference. Lincoln had no sympathy really for the 13th Amendment. And, in fact, his post-war solution was that the slaves should be colonized. And he told them that it was just up to "root, hog, or die," when slavery was abolished.
ROCKWELL: And, of course, the Emancipation Proclamation didn't actually free any slaves.
DENSON: And he talks about that in the Hampton I mean, Lincoln actually talked about that in the real Hampton Roads thing. He says, look tells the Southerners that Hampton Roads in the true account, that the Emancipation Proclamation was a military necessity. He doesn't say this, but other books say he was trying to keep the British from intervening. And if the war could be made to appear to be a war against slavery, England would not come in and recognize the South and join with the South. So it was a military necessity.
So he tells the Southerners, look, that was just a temporary thing in my opinion. He says that only 200,000 people were freed under the Emancipation Proclamation; the courts will probably allow that to stand. But he said, if you'll join, that Emancipation Proclamation goes away and people will remain slaves.
ROCKWELL: And when he was a lawyer, didn't he defend plenty of slave owners to get back their runaway slaves?
DENSON: Yes, right.
Here is something The New York Times opinion page, written by David Brooks, November
ROCKWELL: Neo-Con. Big Neo-Con.
DENSON: It says that this is one of the greatest movies made. And he's concerned about young people who, today, have become disillusioned with politics.
ROCKWELL: Yes, great.
DENSON: And he says they need to see this movie and see what you can do in politics. He said this is the most amazing thing that Lincoln went to every extreme to get the 13th Amendment passed. And he said, what you have to do in politics, you have to be willing to sacrifice your principles and your integrity in order to do great things. And this is wonderful that Lincoln is shown in the movie as bribing people to get their votes and doing all kinds of underhanded things and telling these people, do whatever it takes. And they are threatening people. They're doing everything. And Brooks is saying, this is the wonderful thing about politics, is that you can do evil things as long as your ends are good. It's the end justifies the means. It's an atrocious article by David Brooks.
And it reminds me of my last book I want to talk about. Another novel that I like is All the King's Men, by Robert Penn Warren. And, as you know, it's a story, a fictional account, but really based on Huey Long.
But Willie Stark is this uneducated guy who really sees some wrongs that have been done, so he wants to get locally elected to correct some things. And you realize that he's cheated out of winning that election. So then he decides to run for governor and he realizes he's been cheated out of that. So he comes to the conclusion that you have to cheat and you have to do underhanded things in order to get into political power. And then when he gets into political power, he realizes that you can get much more done if you're underhanded and cheat and lie and steal, but you can then build a charity hospital. So the end justifies the means. And the moral of that novel is that by sacrificing your principles and your integrity in order to do good really causes you to become corrupt yourself and destroys you.
And so the advice (laughing) that Lincoln and David Brooks are showing here is that corruption is good when, in fact, if you use corrupt means to do "good things," you stand to be corrupted yourself. And that power tends to corrupt. When you get absolute power, it corrupts absolutely.
ROCKWELL: You know, John, there was one interesting review of this movie in Salon, which is a left wing site. And the writer said that if you look at this movie, you'd think that Lincoln was a battler against big corporations on behalf of the people. And the author says, in fact, he was a tool of the railroad interests. He had been, of course, a railroad lobbyist. He was the highest-paid lobbyist in America before becoming president. He wasn't chopping logs in the forest like they say.
ROCKWELL: And he promoted the railroads, and, in fact, made huge money himself off the railroads as president. And so this review is saying Spielberg is hiding this part of Lincoln. But, of course, as you point out, there are many parts of the truth about Lincoln that Spielberg is engaged in hiding and distorting.
DENSON: Exactly. You know, he was a railroad lawyer back in 1856 when he got inside information as to where the Transcontinental Railroads where coming, from the east to the west, to meet at some point. And he found out that the designated area was this particular city at a particular location. So he bought a lot of land there before he became president.
And then while he was president, during the War Between the States, he had a bill passed that allowed the president the sole discretion as to exactly where the railroads would meet. And it was exactly on his land.
I mean, it is the most corrupt thing I believe I've ever seen.
I read about this while I was on a train trip called "Hear the Lonesome Whistle Blow." And when I read it, I wrote Tom DiLorenzo a letter about it. I said, Tom, you've got to get this in your books. And he did put it in there. I mean, it's the most corrupt use of political power, to designate the Transcontinental Railroad to meet on your land so you can make a ton of money.
ROCKWELL: You know, one of the things I like about Tom DiLorenzo's two books on Lincoln is he has photographs of what Lincoln actually looked like before he was retouched. I mean, Lincoln is maybe the first politician to be Photoshopped, in a sense, to have himself made to look much better. He's actually of course, it's not his fault but he was a very ugly guy. Even on the $5 bill, it's a prettified portrait. Daniel Day Lewis, on the front of the Smithsonian
ROCKWELL: makes him look, of course, infinitely better than he looked in real life. So they lie even about what this guy looked like.
DENSON: Yes. Some people referred to him as looking like a gorilla.
ROCKWELL: Well, yes.
DENSON: But, you know, we're never going to learn all the lessons we can from history unless we're truthful about what the history is. And you know, most people are going to come out of that Lincoln movie hating the South, as they have I've told this general in Germany I've told Gido Hughes (?) this. I said, you know, the Germans and the Southerners have a lot in common. We both were conquered by the American government and then put through horrible reconstructions. And then theyve written the wrong history about us ever since. And this is the old canard of, you know, the South wanted to go to war to protect slavery and the North wonderfully went to war to abolish it, and that's what the Spielberg movie says, and I think that's absolutely incorrect.
And in my book, Century of War, in the Chapter "Lincoln and the First Shot," I go into all of this, the history about what the war was really about. So you can find my views there.
But that's my two movie reviews and some of the books I've been reading.
ROCKWELL: Well, John, this has been terrific. And it leads people to some more great reading and some more truthful telling of history. This is why historic revisionism is so important, right, to revise history to bring it into accord with the facts of the situation.
ROCKWELL: So thanks for this help, and look forward to having you back.
DENSON: Thank you very much. I enjoyed it.
ROCKWELL: Well, thanks so much for listening to the Lew Rockwell Show today. Take a look at all the podcasts. There have been hundreds of them. There's a link on the upper right-hand corner of the LRC front page. Thank you.
December 13, 2012
John V. Denson [send him mail] is a practicing attorney in Alabama and an adjunct scholar at the Mises Institute. He is the author of A Century of War, and editor of The Costs of War and Reassessing the Presidency.
Copyright © 2012 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.