Lessons – Not distractions from the attack upon Pearl Harbor

It is widely believed that it was Edmund Burke who declared, “The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.” But regardless of who made this now famous observation, it clearly fits current history and is the undeniable truth.

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SAN JOSE, CA, Dec. 7, 2016 — Seventy five years ago, on a sleepy Sunday morning a few minutes before 8am, all hell broke loose at the naval base that the United States maintained in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Contemporary military historians usually agree that the surprise bombing and torpedo assault on U.S. planes and ships on December 7, 1941, was one of the most successful in the history of warfare.

However, it  is not as clear as it once was, who was actually responsible for the insidious attack. Immediately afterward, amidst the death and destruction, it was evident that the Empire of Japan had initiated the attack and was proud of the success. Yet, intellectuals and scholars now dispute whether the U.S. government was responsible.    

Contemporary historians and common American citizens today may disagree regarding a number of variations of conspiracy theories attached to the basic cause of the horrific attack. Despite blame or doubt that may be leveled at Franklin D. Roosevelt or the F.D.R. Administration, the essential fact is that the source of the horrific attack was the Imperial military of the Japanese government. Regardless of internal U.S. politics and sheer intellectual speculation (minus hard evidence), there have been a number of conspiracy theories that claim the U.S. government, including F.D.R., was aware of the pending bombing of the military installation. In a similar manner, conspiracy theories surfaced after the terrible terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Amazingly, the popularity of conspiracy theories often outweighs actual evidence or simple truth, and often do not easily go away. The human mind is quite capable of manufacturing creative explanations when truth cannot be discovered or revealed. Nevertheless, such conspiracy theories have served to primarily confuse, distract, and churn distrust of the U.S. government during turbulent and uncertain times.


In the case of the attack on Pearl Harbor, disinformation has caused Americans to question reality,  and to wonder whether the U.S. could actually be the cause of such devastation and destruction. Actually, revisionist historians had a field day with the disaster at Pearl Harbor, and their way of stirring up distrust of the government plays into the hands of politicians seeking to make use ofa blame game to dent or destroy the credibility of any political opposition. Disinformation or real propaganda has proven to be effective time and time again in creating chaos throughout human history. Yet, in the midst of all the conspiracy mumbo-jumbo, many Americans may simply conclude: The U.S. was attacked! What else is there to know?’

The Pearl Harbor attack was an act of war and a horrendous atrocity. This at least is crystal clear. In just two hours, over 2,400 Americans had been killed. 1,178 military personnel and civilians had been wounded, 188 aircraft had been destroyed with an additional 159 more aircraft damaged, and approximately 20 ships were either completely sunk or severely damaged. That vision is usually the limit of what citizens may recall about the horrific incident, but Americans  need to know that there was much more.

Sadly, the tragedy at Pearl Harbor was compounded, and ultimately went far beyond Hawaii and the U.S.  By the time President Roosevelt addressed Congress on December 8, 1941, the Empire of Japan “had undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area.” F.D.R. had reported to Congress that he was aware that the Japanese imperial government had launched simultaneous attacks against Hong Kong, the Philippine Islands, Malaya, Guam, Wake Island, and Midway.

The confusion or doubt that continues to linger over the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor provides little assistance with understanding this infamous event within a meaningful set of parameters. However, the attack on Pearl Harbor can offer a clear warning to all who want to heed the more obvious lessons, and while many are fairly familiar with the events of the day of the attack, many more are not familiar with the history of Japan that led to this horrible tragedy. Despite efforts to incite doubt about the U.S. government, or the Democrat Administration, of F.D.R., or or self-guilt in American citizens, it needs to be absolutely clear that a tyrannical-imperialistic government deliberately attacked the U.S. for purposes designed to expand an already growing empire.

The divisive history of Japan in the first half of the 1900s reveals what led to the violent events at Pearl Harbor, and the brutal confrontation between the U.S. and Imperial Japan. Japan’s history  of this period can help to provide answers to the questions over responsibility for such death and destruction on such a massive scale. More specifically, this turbulent history reveals a slow and deliberate ascent to absolute power of a small faction of military elitists who strongly believed in the old Japanese Empire and the romanticized notions of an Asian feudal system under the orderly protection of the legendary Samurai.

Essentially, the empire-building ambitions of militarists ran back centuries, and in the mid-1800s, Japan attained victory in a war with China and could eliminate Chinese influence in the region as Japan had colonial ambitions with regard to the Korean peninsula. At the turn of the century, the Japanese gained strong economic and military influence over Korea. Yet, rivalry with Russia over greater control of the developing nation led to the Russo-Japanese War, fought from 1904 to 1905. Through victory in this war, Japan eliminated the major remaining potential rival for dominion over Korea, which became a protectorate through the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1905.

Ironically in the early 1900s, President Teddy Roosevelt succeeded in hosting the peace negotiations in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, while his cousin, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was the one to ask Congress to declare war against the Empire of Japan less than   40 years later. Through the Portsmouth Treaty, the U.S. government recognized Japan’s “paramount political, military, and economic interests in Korea” and permitted the Imperial government to attain complete dominion over Korea. and the colonization of Korea eventually    led to the Empire of Japan’s formulation of a workable model of colonial dominion.

“Reforms,” which were designed to weaken any chances of Korean resistance, transformed the new colony. The Korean Army was reduced from 20,000 to 1,000 troops as Japan disbanded all garrisons, leaving only one garrison in the capital, Seoul. Japan also eliminated the Korean police in Seoul and installed a Japanese police inspector in each of the Korean prefectures. Korea was an established and pacified colony of the Empire of Japan long before the outbreak of the Great War in Europe.

After the Great War, significant efforts among the Japanese people pushed the Japanese government toward greater democracy; but from 1921 to 1941, Japan gradually became a divided nation, and at its center was a bitterly fractious government, that ultimately proved powerless to control the mad dog behavior and tactics of the Japanese Imperial Army whose military leaders were intent on world dominion. And, as the extreme militarists within Japan’s army ascended to power, they trampled upon the quest for democracy. They even murdered democratically-inclined political leaders that got in the way of their treachery.

A study of the efforts of the militarists in this period reveals the violent internal political strife within Japan and unprovoked aggression against neighboring nations. The extreme militarists eventually initiated a chain of events that culminated in the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, which essentially was the result of a clever plan intended to limit or eliminate any opposition from the U.S. to Japan’s ultimate goal of complete domination of the nations in the Pacific Ocean region from China to Australia.

Especially in light of current global tensions and recent international terrorist atrocities, remembrance of the Pearl Harbor atrocities should not evoke hatred or ill-will toward Japanese people; but, it should be directed at unrestrained government power. Clearly, a devious, destructive, and deadly dictatorship deliberately attacked the U.S., and this brief moment in history should serve as a reminder for all in the “Free World” to be absolutely wary of extreme militarists. A nation’s free citizens must be quite vigilant to prevent too much power being concentrated in the hands of extremely determined and poorly restrained absolutist leaders.

It is widely believed that it was Edmund Burke who declared, “The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.”  

But regardless of who made this now famous observation, it clearly fits current history and is the undeniable truth.

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Dennis Jamison
Dennis Jamison reinvented his life after working for a multi-billion dollar division of Johnson & Johnson for several years. Now semi-retired, he is an adjunct faculty member at West Valley College in California. He currently writes a column on US history and one on American freedom for the Communities Digital News, as well as writing for other online publications. During the 2016 presidential primaries, he worked as the leader of a network of writers, bloggers, and editors who promoted the candidacy of Dr. Ben Carson. He founded the “We the People” Network of writers and the Citizen Sentinels Project to pro-actively promote the values and principles established at the founding of the United States, and to discover and support more morally centered citizen-candidates who sincerely seek election as public servants, not politicians.