"We, the governments of Great Britain and the United States, in the name of India, Burma, Malaya,
Australia, British East Africa, British Guiana, Hong Kong, Siam, Singapore, Egypt, Palestine,
Canada, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, as well as Puerto Rico, Guam, the
Philippines, Hawaii, Alaska, and the Virgin Islands, hereby declare most emphatically, that this is
not an imperialist war." Thus went a skit put on in the United States in the year 1939 by the
Two years later, Germany invaded Soviet Russia, and the American Communist party, which had
repeatedly described the war between the Axis Powers and the Allied Powers as an imperialist war,
now called it a "people's war" against Fascism. Indeed almost all Americans were now in
agreement-capitalists, Communists, Democrats, Republicans, poor, rich, and middle class-that this
was indeed a people's war.
By certain evidence, it was the most popular war the United States had ever fought. Never had a
greater proportion of the country participated in a war: 18 million served in the armed forces, 10
million overseas; 25 million workers gave of their pay envelope regularly for war bonds. But could
this be considered a manufactured support, since all the power of the nation-not only of the
government, but the press, the church, and even the chief radical organizations-was behind the calls
for all-out war? Was there an undercurrent of reluctance; were there unpublicized signs of
It was a war against an enemy of unspeakable evil. Hitler's Germany was extending totalitarianism,
racism, militarism, and overt aggressive warfare beyond what an already cynical world had
experienced. And yet, did the governments conducting this war-England, the United States, the
Soviet Union-represent something significantly different, so that their victory would be a blow to
imperialism, racism, totalitarianism, militarism, in the world?
Would the behavior of the United States during the war-in military action abroad, in treatment of
minorities at home-be in keeping with a "people's war"? Would the country's wartime policies
respect the rights of ordinary people everywhere to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? And
would postwar America, in its policies at home and overseas, exemplify the values for which the
war was supposed to have been fought?
These questions deserve thought. At the time of World War II, the atmosphere was too dense with
war fervor to permit them to be aired.
For the United States to step forward as a defender of helpless countries matched its image in
American high school history textbooks, but not its record in world affairs. It had opposed the
Haitian revolution for independence from France at the start of the nineteenth century. It had
instigated a war with Mexico and taken half of that country. It bad pretended to help Cuba win
freedom from Spain, and then planted itself in Cuba with a military base, investments, and rights of
intervention. It had seized Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, and fought a brutal war to subjugate the
Filipinos. It had "opened" Japan to its trade with gunboats and threats. It had declared an Open
Door Policy in China as a means of assuring that the United States would have opportunities equal
to other imperial powers in exploiting China. It had sent troops to Peking with other nations, to
assert Western supremacy in China, and kept them there for over thirty years.
While demanding an Open Door in China, it had insisted (with the Monroe Doctrine and many
military interventions) on a Closed Door in Latin America-that is, closed to everyone but the
United States. It had engineered a revolution against Colombia and created the "independent" state
of Panama in order to build and control the Canal. It sent five thousand marines to Nicaragua in
1926 to counter a revolution, and kept a force there for seven years. It intervened in the Dominican
Republic for the fourth time in 1916 and kept troops there for eight years. It intervened for the
second time in Haiti in 1915 and kept troops there for nineteen years. Between 1900 and 1933, the
United States intervened in Cuba four times, in Nicaragua twice, in Panama six times, in Guatemala
once, in Honduras seven times. By 1924 the finances of half of the twenty Latin American states
were being directed to some extent by the United States. By 1935, over half of U.S. steel and cotton
exports were being sold in Latin America.
Just before World War I ended, in 1918, an American force of seven thousand landed at
Vladivostok as part of an Allied intervention in Russia, and remained until early 1920. Five
thousand more troops were landed at Archangel, another Russian port, also as part of an Allied
expeditionary force, and stayed for almost a year. The State Department told Congress: "All these
operations were to offset effects of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia."
In short, if the entrance of the United States into World War II was (as so many Americans
believed at the time, observing the Nazi invasions) to defend the principle of nonintervention in the
affairs of other countries, the nation's record cast doubt on its ability to uphold that principle.
What seemed clear at the time was that the United States was a democracy with certain liberties,
while Germany was a dictatorship persecuting its Jewish minority, imprisoning dissidents,
whatever their religion, while proclaiming the supremacy of the Nordic "race." However, blacks,
looking at anti-Semitism in Germany, might not see their own situation in the U.S. as much
different. And the United States had done little about Hitler's policies of persecution. Indeed, it had
joined England and France in appeasing Hitler throughout the thirties. Roosevelt and his Secretary
of State, Cordell Hull, were hesitant to criticize publicly Hitler's anti-Semitic policies; when a
resolution was introduced in the Senate in January 1934 asking the Senate and the President to
express "surprise and pain" at what the Germans were doing to the Jews, and to ask restoration of
Jewish rights, the State Department "caused this resolution to be buried in committee," according to
Arnold Offner (American Appeasement).
When Mussolini's Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, the U.S. declared an embargo on munitions but
let American businesses send oil to Italy in huge quantities, which was essential to Italy's carrying
on the war. When a Fascist rebellion took place in Spain in 1936 against the elected socialist-liberal
government, the Roosevelt administration sponsored a neutrality act that had the effect of shutting
off help to the Spanish government while Hitler and Mussolini gave critical aid to Franco. Offner
... the United States went beyond even the legal requirements of its neutrality legislation. Had aid
been forthcoming from the United States and from England and France, considering that Hitler's
position on aid to France was not firm at least until November 1936, the Spanish Republicans could
well have triumphed. Instead, Germany gained every advantage from the Spanish civil war.
Was this simply poor judgment, an unfortunate error? Or was it the logical policy of a government
whose main interest was not stopping Fascism but advancing the imperial interests of the United
States? For those interests, in the thirties, an anti-Soviet policy seemed best. Later, when Japan and
Germany threatened U.S. world interests, a pro-Soviet, anti-Nazi policy became preferable.
Roosevelt was as much concerned to end the oppression of Jews as Lincoln was to end slavery
during the Civil War; their priority in policy (whatever their personal compassion for victims of
persecution) was not minority rights, but national power.
It was not Hitler's attacks on the Jews that brought the United States into World War II, any more
than the enslavement of 4 million blacks brought Civil War in 1861. Italy's attack on Ethiopia,
Hitler's invasion of Austria, his takeover of Czechoslovakia, his attack on Poland-none of those
events caused the United States to enter the war, although Roosevelt did begin to give important aid
to England. What brought the United States fully into the war was the Japanese attack on the
American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. Surely it was not the humane
concern for Japan's bombing of civilians that led to Roosevelt's outraged call for war-Japan's attack
on China in 1937, her bombing of civilians at Nan king, had not provoked the United States to war.
It was the Japanese attack on a link in the American Pacific Empire that did it.
So long as Japan remained a well-behaved member of that imperial club of Great Powers who-in
keeping with the Open Door Policy- were sharing the exploitation of China, the United States did
not object. It had exchanged notes with Japan in 1917 saving "the Government of the United States
recognizes that Japan has special interests in China." In 1928, according to Akira Iriye (After
Imperialism,), American consuls in China supported the coming of Japanese troops. It was when
Japan threatened potential U.S. markets by its attempted takeover of China, but especially as it
moved toward the tin, rubber, and oil of Southeast Asia, that the United States became alarmed and
took those measures which led to the Japanese attack: a total embargo on scrap iron, a total
embargo on oil in the summer of 1941.
As Bruce Russet says (No Clear and Present Danger): "Throughout the 1930s the United States
government had done little to resist the Japanese advance on the Asian continent," But: "The
Southwest Pacific area was of undeniable economic importance to the United States-at the time
most of America's tin and rubber came from there, as did substantial quantities of other raw
Pearl Harbor was presented to the American public as a sudden, shocking, immoral act. Immoral it
was, like any bombing-but not really sudden or shocking to the American government. Russett
says: "Japan's strike against the American naval base climaxed a long series of mutually
antagonistic acts. In initiating economic sanctions against Japan the United States undertook
actions that were widely recognized in Washington as carrying grave risks of war."
Putting aside the wild accusations against Roosevelt (that he knew about Pearl Harbor and didn't
tell, or that he deliberately provoked the Pearl Harbor raid—these are without evidence), it does seem clear that he did as James Polk had done before him in the Mexican war and Lyndon Johnson after
him in the Vietnam war-he lied to the public for what he thought was a right cause. In September
and October 1941, he misstated the facts in two incidents involving German submarines and
American destroyers. A historian sympathetic to Roosevelt, Thomas A. Bailey, has written:
Franklin Roosevelt repeatedly deceived the American people during the period before Pearl
Harbor. ... He was like the physician who must tell the patient lies for the patient's own good ...
because the musses are notoriously shortsighted and generally cannot see danger until it is at their
throats. .. .
One of the judges in the Tokyo War Crimes Trial after World War II, Radhabinod Pal, dissented
from the general verdicts against Japanese officials and argued that the United States had clearly
provoked the war with Japan and expected Japan to act. Richard Minear (Victors' Justice) sums up
Pal's view of the embargoes on scrap iron and oil, that "these measures were a clear and potent
threat to Japan's very existence." The records show that a White House conference two weeks
before Pearl Harbor anticipated a war and discussed how it should be justified.
A State Department memorandum on Japanese expansion, a year before Pearl Harbor, did not talk
of the independence of China or the principle of self-determination. It said:
. . . our general diplomatic and strategic position would be considerably weakened-by our loss of
Chinese, Indian and South Seas markets (and by our loss of much of the Japanese market for our
goods, as Japan would become more and more self-sufficient) as well as by insurmountable
restrictions upon our access to the rubber, tin, jute, and other vital materials of the Asian and
Once joined with England and Russia in the war (Germany and Italy declared war on the United
States right after Pearl Harbor), did the behavior of the United States show that her war aims were
humanitarian, or centered on power and profit? Was she fighting the war to end the control by some
nations over others or to make sure the controlling nations were friends of the United States? In
August 1941, Roosevelt and Churchill met off the coast of Newfoundland and released to the world
the Atlantic Charter, setting forth noble goals for the postwar world, saying their countries "seek no
aggrandizement, territorial or other," and that they respected "the right of all peoples to choose the
form of government under which they will live." The Charter was celebrated as declaring the right
of nations to self-determination.
Two weeks before the Atlantic Charter, however, the U.S. Acting Secretary of State, Sumner
Welles, had assured the French government that they could keep their empire intact after the end of
the war: "This Government, mindful of its traditional friendship for France, has deeply sympathized
with the desire of the French people to maintain their territories and to preserve them intact." The
Department of Defense history of Vietnam (The Pentagon Papers) itself pointed to what it called an
"ambivalent" policy toward Indochina, noting that "in the Atlantic Charter and other
pronouncements, the U.S. proclaimed support for national self-determination and independence"
but also "early in the war repeatedly expressed or implied to the French an intention to restore to
France its overseas empire after the war."
In late 1942, Roosevelt's personal representative assured French General Henri Giraud: "It is
thoroughly understood that French sovereignty will be re-established as soon as possible
throughout all the territory, metropolitan or colonial, over which flew the French flag in 1939."
(These pages, like the others in the Pentagon Papers, are marked "TOP SECRET-Sensitive.") By
1945 the "ambivalent" attitude was gone. In May, Truman assured the French he did not question
her "sovereignty over Indochina." That fall, the United States urged Nationalist China, put
temporarily in charge of the northern part of Indochina by the Potsdam Conference, to turn it over
to the French, despite the obvious desire of the Vietnamese for independence.
That was a favor for the French government. But what about the United States' own imperial
ambitions during the war? What about the "aggrandizement, territorial or other" that Roosevelt had
renounced in the Atlantic Charter?
In the headlines were the battles and troop movements: the invasion of North Africa in 1942, Italy
in 1943, the massive, dramatic cross-Channel invasion of German -occupied France in 1944, the
bitter battles as Germany was pushed back toward and over her frontiers, the increasing
bombardment by the British and American air forces. And, at the same time, the Russian victories
over the Nazi armies (the Russians, by the time of the cross-Channel invasion, had driven the
Germans out of Russia, and were engaging 80 percent of the German troops). In the Pacific, in
1943 and 1944, there was the island-by-island move of American forces toward Japan, finding
closer and closer bases for the thunderous bombardment of Japanese cities.
Quietly, behind the headlines in battles and bombings, American diplomats and businessmen
worked hard to make sure that when the war ended, American economic power would be second to
none in the world. United States business would penetrate areas that up to this time had been
dominated by England. The Open Door Policy of equal access would be extended from Asia to
Europe, meaning that the United States intended to push England aside and move in.
That is what happened to the Middle East and its oil. In August 1945 a State Department officer
said that "a review of the diplomatic history of the past 35 years will show that petroleum has
historically played a larger part in the external relations of the United States than any other
commodity." Saudi Arabia was the largest oil pool in the Middle East. The ARAMCO oil
corporation, through Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, got Roosevelt to agree to Lend Lease
aid to Saudi Arabia, which would involve the U.S. government there and create a shield for the
interests of ARAMCO. In 1944 Britain and the U.S. signed a pact on oil agreeing on "the principle
of equal opportunity," and Lloyd Gardner concludes (Economic Aspects of New Deal Diplomacy)
that "the Open Door Policy was triumphant throughout the Middle East."
Historian Gabriel Kolko, after a close study of American wartime policy (The Politics of War),
concludes that "the American economic war aim was to save capitalism at home and abroad." In
April 1944 a State Department official said: "As you know, we've got to plan on enormously
increased production in this country after the war, and the American domestic market can't absorb
all that production indefinitely. There won't be any question about our needing greatly increased
Anthony Sampson, in his study of the international oil business (The Seven Sisters), says:
By the end of the war the dominant influence in Saudi Arabia was unquestionably the United
States. King Ibn Sand was regarded no longer as a wild desert warrior, but as a key piece in the
power-game, to he wooed by the West. Roosevelt, on his way back from Yalta in February 1945,
entertained the King on the cruiser Quincy, together with his entourage of fifty, including two sons,
a prime minister, an astrologer and flocks of sheep for slaughter.
Roosevelt then wrote to Ibn Sand, promising the United States would not change its Palestine
policy without consulting the Arabs. In later years, the concern for oil would constantly compete
with political concern for the Jewish state in the Middle East, but at this point, oil seemed more
With British imperial power collapsing during World War IT, the United States was ready to move
in. Hull said early in the war:
Leadership toward a new system of international relationships in trade and other economic affairs
will devolve very largely upon the United States because of our great economic strength. We
should assume this leadership, and the responsibility that goes with it, primarily for reasons of pure
Before the war was over, the administration was planning the outlines of the new international
economic order, based on partnership between government and big business. Lloyd Gardner says of
Roosevelt's chief adviser, Harry Hopkins, who had organized the relief programs of the New Deal:
"No conservative outdid Ilopkins in championing foreign investment, and its protection."
The poet Archibald MacLeish, then an Assistant Secretary of State, spoke critically of what he saw
in the postwar world: "As things are now going, the peace we will make, the peace we seem to be
making, will be a peace of oil, a peace of gold, a peace of shipping, a peace, in brief . . . without
moral purpose or human interest . . ."
During the war, England and the United States set up the International Monetary Fund to regulate
international exchanges of currency; voting would be proportional to capital contributed, so
American dominance would be assured. The International Bank for Reconstruction and
Development was set up, supposedly to help reconstruct war-destroyed areas, but one of its first
objectives was, in its own words, "to promote foreign investment."
The economic aid countries would need after the war was already seen in political terms: Averell
Harriman, ambassador to Russia, said in early 1944: "Economic assistance is one of the most
effective weapons at our disposal to influence European political events in the direction we desire,..
The creation of the United Nations during the war was presented to the world as international
cooperation to prevent future wars. But the U.N. was dominated by the Western imperial countries-
the United States, England, and France-and a new imperial power, with military bases and powerful
influence in Eastern Europe-the Soviet Union. An important conservative Republican Senator,
Arthur Vandenburg, wrote in his diary about the United Nations Charter:
The striking thing about it is that it is so conservative from a nationalist standpoint. It is based
virtually on a four-power alliance. . . . This is anything but a wild-eyed internationalist dream of a
world State.... I am deeply impressed (and surprised) to find Hull so carefully guarding our
American veto in his scheme of things.
The plight of Jews in German-occupied Europe, which many people thought was at the heart of the
war against the Axis, was not a chief concern of Roosevelt. Henry Feingold's research (The Politics
of Rescue) shows that, while the Jews were being put in camps and the process of annihilation was
beginning that would end in the horrifying extermination of 6 million Jews and millions of non-
Jews, Roosevelt failed to take steps that might have saved thousands of lives. lie did not see it as a
high priority; he left it to the State Department, and in the State Department anti-Semitism and a
cold bureaucracy became obstacles to action.
Was the war being fought to establish that Hitler was wrong in his ideas of white Nordic supremacy
over "inferior" races? The United States' armed forces were segregated by race. When troops were
jammed onto the Queen Mary in early 1945 to go to combat duty in the European theater, the
blacks were stowed down in the depths of the ship near the engine room, as far as possible from the
fresh air of the deck, in a bizarre reminder of the slave voyages of old.
The Red Cross, with government approval, separated the blood donations of black and white. It
was, ironically, a black physician named Charles Drew who developed the blood bank system. He
was put in charge of the wartime donations, and then fired when he tried to end blood segregation.
Despite the urgent need for wartime labor, blacks were still being discriminated against for jobs. A
spokesman for a West Coast aviation plant said: "The Negro will be considered only as janitors and
in other similar capacities. . .. Regardless of their training as aircraft workers, we will not employ
them." Roosevelt never did anything to enforce the orders of the Eair Employment Practices
Commission he had set up.
The Fascist nations were notorious in their insistence that the woman's place was in the home. Yet,
the war against Fascism, although it utilized women in defense industries where they were
desperately needed, took no special steps to change the subordinate role of women. The War
Manpower Commission, despite the large numbers of women in war work, kept women off its
policymaking bodies. A report of the Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor, by its director,
Mary Anderson, said the War Manpower Commission had "doubts and uneasiness" about "what
was then regarded as a developing attitude of militancy or a crusading spirit on the part of women
In one of its policies, the United States came close to direct duplication of Fascism. This was in its
treatment of the Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast. After the Pearl Harbor attack, anti-
Japanese hysteria spread in the government. One Congressman said: "I'm for catching every
Japanese in America, Alaska and Hawaii now and putting them in concentration camps. ... Damn
them! Let's get rid of them!"
Franklin D. Roosevelt did not share this frenzy, but he calmly signed Executive Order 9066, in
February 1942, giving the army the power, without warrants or indictments or hearings, to arrest
every Japanese-American on the West Coast-110,000 men, women, and children-to take them from
their homes, transport them to camps far into the interior, and keep them there under prison
conditions. Three-fourths of these were Nisei-children horn in the United States of Japanese parents
and therefore American citizens. The other fourth-the Issei, born in Japan-were barred by law from
becoming citizens. In 1944 the Supreme Court upheld the forced evacuation on the grounds of
military necessity. The Japanese remained in those camps for over three years.
Michi Weglyn was a young girl when her family experienced evacuation and detention. She tells
(Years of Infamy) of bungling in the evacuation, of misery, confusion, anger, but also of Japanese-American dignity and fighting back. There were strikes, petitions, mass meetings, refusal to sign loyalty oaths, riots against the camp authorities. The Japanese resisted to the end.
Not until after the war did the story of the Japanese-Americans begin to be known to the general
public. The month the war ended in Asia, September 1945, an article appeared in Harper's
Magazine by Yale Law Professor Eugene V. Rostow, calling the Japanese evacuation "our worst
wartime mistake." Was it a "mistake"-or was it an action to be expected from a nation with a long
history of racism and which was fighting a war, not to end racism, but to retain the fundamental
elements of the American system?
It was a war waged by a government whose chief beneficiary- despite volumes of reforms-was a
wealthy elite. The alliance between big business and the government went back to the very first
proposals of Alexander Hamilton to Congress after the Revolutionary War. By World War II that
partnership had developed and intensified. During the Depression, Roosevelt had once denounced
the "economic royalists," but he always had the support of certain important business leaders.
During the war, as Bruce Catton saw it from his post in the War Production Board: "The economic
royalists, denounced and derided . . . had a part to play now. ..."
Catton (The War Lords of Washington) described the process of industrial mobilization to carry on
the war, and how in this process wealth became more and more concentrated in fewer and fewer
large corporations. In 1940 the United States had begun sending large amounts of war supplies to
England and France. By 1941 three-fourths of the value of military contracts were handled by fifty-
six large corporations. A Senate report, "Economic Concentration and World War II," noted that
the government contracted for scientific research in industry during the war, and although two
thousand corporations were involved, of $1 billion spent, $400 million went to ten large
Management remained firmly in charge of decision making during the war, and although 12 million
workers were organized in the CIO and AFL, labor was in a subordinate position. Labor-
management committees were set up in five thousand factories, as a gesture toward industrial
democracy, but they acted mostly as disciplinary groups for absentee workers, and devices for
increasing production. Catton writes: "The big operators who made the working decisions had
decided that nothing very substantial was going to be changed."
Despite the overwhelming atmosphere of patriotism and total dedication to winning the war,
despite the no-strike pledges of the AFL and CIO, many of the nation's workers, frustrated by the
freezing of wages while business profits rocketed skyward, went on strike. During the war, there
were fourteen thousand strikes, involving 6,770,000 workers, more than in any comparable period
in American history. In 1944 alone, a million workers were on strike, in the mines, in the steel
mills, in the auto and transportation equipment industries.
When the war ended, the strikes continued in record numbers- 3 million on strike in the first half of
1946. According to Jeremy Brecher (Strike!), if not for the disciplinary hand of the unions there
might have been "a general confrontation between the workers of a great many industries, and the
government, supporting the employers."
In Lowell, Massachusetts, for example, according to an unpublished manuscript by Marc Miller
("The Irony of Victory: Lowell During World War II"), there were as many strikes in 1943 and
1944 as in 1937. It may have been a "people's war," but here was dissatisfaction at the fact that the
textile mill profits grew 600 percent from 1940 to 1946, while wage increases in cotton goods
industries went up 36 percent. How little the war changed the difficult condition of women workers
is shown by the fact that in Lowell, among women war workers with children, only 5 percent could
have their children taken care of by nursery schools; the others had to make their own
Beneath the noise of enthusiastic patriotism, there were many people who thought war was wrong,
even in the circumstances of Fascist aggression. Out of 10 million drafted for the armed forces
during World War II, only 43,000 refused to fight. But this was three times the proportion of C.O.'s
(conscientious objectors) in World War 1. Of these 43,000, about 6,000 went to prison, which was,
proportionately, four times the number of C.O.'s who went to prison during World War I. Of every
six men in federal prison, one was there as a C.O.
Many more than 43,000 refusers did not show up for the draft at all. The government lists about
350,000 cases of draft evasion, including technical violations as well as actual desertion, so it is
hard to tell the true number, but it may be that the number of men who either did not show up or
claimed C.O. status was in the hundreds of thousands-not a small number. And this in the face of
an American community almost unanimously for the war.
Among those soldiers who were not conscientious objectors, who seemed willing fighters, it is hard
to know how much resentment there was against authority, against having to fight in a war whose
aims were unclear, inside a military machine whose lack of democracy was very clear. No one
recorded the bitterness of enlisted men against the special privileges of officers in the army of a
country known as a democracy. To give just one instance: combat crews in the air force in the
European theater, going to the base movies between bombing missions, found two lines-an officers'
line (short), and an enlisted men's line (very long). There were two mess halls, even as they
prepared to go into combat: the enlisted men's food was different-worse-than the officers1.
The literature that followed World War II, James Jones's From Here to Eternity, Joseph Heller's
Catch-22, and Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead captured this GI anger against the army "brass." In The Naked and the Dead, the soldiers talk in battle, and one of them says: "The only thing wrong with this Army is it never lost a war."
Toglio was shocked. "You think we ought to lose this one?"
Red found himself carried away. "What have I against the goddam Japs?
You think I care if they keep this fuggin jungle? What's it to me if Cummings gets another star?"
"General Cummings, he's a good man," Martinez said.
"There ain't a good officer in the world," Red stated.
There seemed to be widespread indifference, even hostility, on the part of the Negro community to
the war despite the attempts of Negro newspapers and Negro leaders to mobilize black sentiment.
Lawrence Wittner (Rebels Against War) quotes a black journalist: "The Negro . . . is angry,
resentful, and utterly apathetic about the war. 'Fight for what?' he is asking. 'This war doesn't mean
a thing to me. If we win I lose, so what?'" A black army officer, home on furlough, told friends in
Harlem he had been in hundreds of bull sessions with Negro soldiers and found no interest in the
A student at a Negro college told his teacher: "The Army jim-crows us. The Navy lets us serve only
as messmen. The Red Cross refuses our blood. Employers and labor unions shut us out. Lynchings
continue. We are disenfranchised, jim-crowed, spat upon. What more could Hitler do than that?"
NAACP leader Walter White repeated this to a black audience of several thousand people in the
Midwest, thinking they would disapprove, but instead, as he recalled: "16 my surprise and dismay
the audience burst into such applause that it took me some thirty or forty seconds to quiet it."
In January 1943, there appeared in a Negro newspaper this "Draftee's Prayer":
Dear Lord, today
I go to war:
To fight, to die,
Tell me what for?
Dear Lord, I'll fight,
I do not fear,
Germans or Japs;
My fears are here.
But there was no organized Negro opposition to the war. In fact, there was little organized
opposition from any source. The Communist party was enthusiastically in support. The Socialist
party was divided, unable to make a clear statement one way or the other.
A few small anarchist and pacifist groups refused to back the war. The Women's International
League for Peace and Freedom said: ".. . war between nations or classes or races cannot
permanently settle conflicts or heal the wounds that brought them into being." The Catholic Worker
wrote: "We are still pacifists... ."
The difficulty of merely calling for "peace" in a world of capitalism, Fascism, Communism-
dynamic ideologies, aggressive actions-troubled some pacifists. They began to speak of
"revolutionary nonviolence." A. J. Muste of the Fellowship of Reconciliation said in later years: "I
was not impressed with the sentimental, easygoing pacifism of the earlier part of the century.
People then felt that if they sat and talked pleasantly of peace and love, they would solve the
problems of the world." The world was in the midst of a revolution, Muste realized, and those
against violence must take revolutionary action, but without violence. A movement of
revolutionary pacifism would have to "make effective contacts with oppressed and minority groups
such as Negroes, share-croppers, industrial workers."
Only one organized socialist group opposed the war unequivocally. This was the Socialist Workers
Party. The Espionage Act of 1917 , still on the books, applied to wartime statements. But in 1940,
with the United States not yet at war, Congress passed the Smith Act. This took Espionage Act
prohibitions against talk or writing that would lead to refusal of duty in the armed forces and
applied them to peacetime. The Smith Act also made it a crime to advocate the overthrow of the
government by force and violence, or to join any group that advocated this, or to publish anything
with such ideas. In Minneapolis in 1943, eighteen members of the Socialist Workers party were
convicted for belonging to a party whose ideas, expressed in its Declaration of Principles, and in
the Communist Manifesto, were said to violate the Smith Act. They were sentenced to prison terms,
and the Supreme Court refused to review their case.
A few voices continued to insist that the real war was inside each nation: Dwight Macdonald's
wartime magazine Politics presented, in early 1945, an article by the French worker-philosopher
Whether the mask is labeled Fascism, Democracy, or Dictatorship of the Proletariat, our great
adversary remains the Apparatus-the bureaucracy, the police, the military. Not the one facing us
across the frontier or the battle lines, which is not so much our enemy as our brothers' enemy, but
the one that calls itself our protector and makes us its slaves. No matter what the circumstances, the
worst betrayal will always be to subordinate ourselves to this Apparatus, and to trample underfoot,
in Its service, all human values in ourselves and in others.
Still, the vast bulk of the American population was mobilized, in the army, and in civilian life, to
fight the war, and the atmosphere of war enveloped more and more Americans. Public opinion
polls show large majorities of soldiers favoring the draft for the postwar period. Hatred against the
enemy, against the Japanese particularly, became widespread. Racism was clearly at work. Time
magazine, reporting the battle of Iwo Jima, said: "The ordinary unreasoning Jap is ignorant.
Perhaps he is human. Nothing .. . indicates it."
So, there was a mass base of support for what became the heaviest bombardment of civilians ever
undertaken in any war: the aerial attacks on German and Japanese cities. One might argue that this
popular support made it a "people's war." But if "people's war" means a war of people against
attack, a defensive war-if it means a war fought for humane reasons instead of for the privileges of
an elite, a war against the few, not the many-then the tactics of all-out aerial assault against the
populations of Germany and Japan destroy that notion.
Italy had bombed cities in the Ethiopian war; Italy and Germany had bombed civilians in the
Spanish Civil War; at the start of World War II German planes dropped bombs on Rotterdam in
Holland, Coventry in England, and elsewhere. Roosevelt had described these as "inhuman
barbarism that has profoundly shocked the conscience of humanity."
These German bombings were very small compared with the British and American bombings of
German cities. In January 1943 the Allies met at Casablanca and agreed on large-scale air attacks to
achieve "the destruction and dislocation of the German military, industrial and economic system
and the undermining of the morale of the German people to the point where their capacity for
armed resistance is fatally weakened." And so, the saturation bombing of German cities began-with
thousand -plane raids on Cologne, Essen, Frankfurt, Hamburg. The English flew at night with no
pretense of aiming at "military" targets; the Americans flew in the daytime and pretended precision,
but bombing from high altitudes made that impossible. The climax of this terror bombing was the
bombing of Dresden in early 1945, in which the tremendous heat generated by the bombs created a
vacuum into which fire leaped swiftly in a great firestorm through the city. More than 100,000 died
in Dresden. (Winston Churchill, in his wartime memoirs, confined himself to this account of the
incident: "We made a heavy raid in the latter month on Dresden, then a centre of communication of
Germany's Eastern Front")
The bombing of Japanese cities continued the strategy of saturation
bombing to destroy civilian morale; one nighttime fire-bombing of Tokyo took 80,000 lives. And
then, on August 6, 1945, came the lone American plane in the sky over Hiroshima, dropping the
first atomic bomb, leaving perhaps 100,000 Japanese dead, and tens of thousands more slowly
dying from radiation poisoning. Twelve U.S. navy fliers in the Hiroshima city jail were killed in the
bombing, a fact that the U.S. government has never officially acknowledged, according to historian
Martin Sherwin (A World Destroyed). Three days later, a second atomic bomb was dropped on the
city of Nagasaki, with perhaps 50,000 killed.
The justification for these atrocities was that this
would end the war quickly, making unnecessary an invasion of Japan. Such an invasion would cost
a huge number of lives, the government said-a million, according to Secretary of State Byrnes; half
a million, Truman claimed was the figure given him by General George Marshall. (When the
papers of the Manhattan Project-the project to build the atom bomb- were released years later, they
showed that Marshall urged a warning to the Japanese about the bomb, so people could be removed
and only military targets hit.) These estimates of invasion losses were not realistic, and seem to
have been pulled out of the air to justify bombings which, as their effects became known, horrified
more and more people. Japan, by August 1945, was in desperate shape and ready to surrender. New
York Times military analyst Hanson Baldwin wrote, shortly after the war:
The enemy, in a military sense, was in a hopeless strategic position by the time the Potsdam
demand for unconditional surrender was made on July 26.
Such then, was the situation when we wiped out Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Need we have done it? No one can, of course, be positive, but the answer is almost certainly
The United States Strategic Bombing Survey, set up by the War Department in 1944 to study the
results of aerial attacks in the war, interviewed hundreds of Japanese civilian and military leaders
after Japan surrendered, and reported just after the war:
Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts and supported by the testimony of the surviving
Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and
in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic
bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had
been planned or contemplated.
But could American leaders have known this in August 1945? The answer is, clearly, yes. The
Japanese code had been broken, and Japan's messages were being intercepted. It was known the
Japanese had instructed their ambassador in Moscow to work on peace negotiations with the Allies.
Japanese leaders had begun talking of surrender a year before this, and the Emperor himself had
begun to suggest, in June 1945, that alternatives to fighting to the end be considered. On July 13,
Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo wired his ambassador in Moscow: "Unconditional surrender is the
only obstacle to peace.. .." Martin Sherwin, after an exhaustive study of the relevant historical
documents, concludes: "Having broken the Japanese code before the war, American Intelligence
was able to-and did-relay this message to the President, but it had no effect whatever on efforts to
bring the war to a conclusion."
If only the Americans had not insisted on unconditional surrender-
that is, if they were willing to accept one condition to the surrender, that the Emperor, a holy figure
to the Japanese, remain in place-the Japanese would have agreed to stop the war.
Why did the United States not take that small step to save both American and Japanese lives? Was
it because too much money and effort had been invested in the atomic bomb not to drop it? General
Leslie Groves, head of the Manhattan Project, described Truman as a man on a toboggan, the
momentum too great to stop it. Or was it, as British scientist P. M. S. Blackett suggested (Fear,
War, and the Bomb), that the United States was anxious to drop the bomb before the Russians
entered the war against Japan?
The Russians had secretly agreed (they were officially not at war with Japan) they would come into
the war ninety days after the end of the European war. That turned out to be May 8, and so, on
August 8, the Russians were due to declare war on Japan, But by then the big bomb had been
dropped, and the next day a second one would be dropped on Nagasaki; the Japanese would
surrender to the United States, not the Russians, and the United States would be the occupier of
postwar Japan. In other words, Blackett says, the dropping of the bomb was "the first major
operation of the cold diplomatic war with Russia.. .." Blackett is supported by American historian
Gar Alperovitz (Atomic Diplomacy), who notes a diary entry for July 28, 1945, by Secretary of the
Navy James Forrestal, describing Secretary of State James F. Byrnes as "most anxious to get the
Japanese affair over with before the Russians got in."
Truman had said, "The world will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, a
military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the
killing of civilians." It was a preposterous statement. Those 100,000 killed in Hiroshima were
almost all civilians. The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey said in its official report: "Hiroshima and
Nagasaki were chosen as targets because of their concentration of activities and population."
The dropping of the second bomb on Nagasaki seems to have been scheduled in advance, and no
one has ever been able to explain why it was dropped. Was it because this was a plutonium bomb
whereas the Hiroshima bomb was a uranium bomb? Were the dead and irradiated of Nagasaki
victims of a scientific experiment? Martin Shenvin says that among the Nagasaki dead were
probably American prisoners of war. He notes a message of July 31 from Headquarters, U.S. Army
Strategic Air Forces, Guam, to the War Department:
Reports prisoner of war sources, not verified by photos, give location of Allied prisoner of war
camp one mile north of center of city of Nagasaki. Does this influence the choice of this target for
initial Centerboard operation? Request immediate reply.
The reply: "Targets previously assigned for Centerboard remain unchanged."
True, the war then ended quickly. Italy had been defeated a year earlier. Germany had recently
surrendered, crushed primarily by the armies of the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front, aided by the
Allied armies on the West. Now Japan surrendered. The Fascist powers were destroyed.
But what about fascism-as idea, as reality? Were its essential elements-militarism, racism,
imperialism-now gone? Or were they absorbed into the already poisoned bones of the victors? A. J.
Muste, the revolutionary pacifist, had predicted in 1941: "The problem after a war is with the
victor. He thinks he has just proved that war and violence pay. Who will now teach him a lesson?"
The victors were the Soviet Union
and the United States (also England, France and Nationalist China, but
they were weak). Both these countries now went to work—without
swastikas, goose-stepping, or officially declared racism, but under
the cover of "socialism" on one side, and
"democracy" on the other, to carve out their own empires of influence.
They proceeded to share and contest with one another the domination of
the world, to build military machines far greater than the Fascist
countries had built, to control the destinies of more countries than
Hitler, Mussolini, and Japan had been able to do. They also acted to
control their own populations, each country with its own
techniques-crude in the Soviet
Union, sophisticated in the United States—to make their rule secure.
The war not only put the United States in a position to dominate much
of the world; it created conditions for effective control at home. The
unemployment, the economic distress, and the consequent turmoil that
had marked the thirties, only partly relieved by New Deal measures, had
been pacified, overcome by the greater turmoil of the war. The war brought
higher prices for farmers, higher wages, enough prosperity for enough
of the population to assure against the rebellions that so threatened the
thirties. As Lawrence Wittner writes, "The war rejuvenated American
capitalism." The biggest gains were in corporate profits, which rose
from $6.4 billion in 1940 to $10.8 billion in 1944. But enough went
to workers and farmers to make them feel the system was doing well for
It was an old lesson learned by governments: that war solves problems
of control. Charles E. Wilson, the president of General Electric
Corporation, was so happy about the wartime situation that he
suggested a continuing alliance between business and the military for
"a permanent war economy."
That is what happened. When, right after the war, the American
public, war-weary, seemed to favor demobilization and disarmament, the
Truman administration (Roosevelt had died in April 1945) worked to
create an atmosphere of crisis and cold war. True, the rivalry with
the Soviet Union was real—that country had come out of the war with
its economy wrecked and 20 million people dead, but was making an
astounding comeback, rebuilding its industry, regaining military
strength. The Truman administration, however, presented the Soviet
Union as not just a rival but an immediate threat.
In a series of moves abroad and at home, it established a climate of
fear—a hysteria about Communism—which would steeply escalate the
military budget and stimulate the economy with war-related orders.
This combination of policies would permit more aggressive actions
abroad, more repressive actions at home.
Revolutionary movements in Europe and Asia were described to the
American public as examples of Soviet expansionism-thus recalling the
indignation against Hitler's aggressions.
In Greece, which had been a right-wing monarchy and dictatorship
before the war, a popular left-wing National Liberation Front (the
EAM) was put down by a British army of intervention immediately after
the war. A right-wing dictatorship was restored. When opponents of
the regime were jailed, and trade union leaders removed, a left-wing
guerrilla movement began to grow against the regime, soon consisting
of 17,000 fighters, 50,000 active supporters, and perhaps 250,000
sympathizers, in a country of 7 million. Great Britain said it could
not handle the rebellion, and
asked the United States to come in. As a State Department officer
said later: "Great Britain had within the hour handed the job of world
leadership . . . to the United States."
The United States responded with
the Truman Doctrine, the name given
to a speech Truman gave to Congress in the spring of 1947, in which he
asked for $400 million in military and economic aid to Greece and
Turkey. Truman said the U.S. must help "free peoples who are resisting
attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures."
In fact, the biggest outside pressure was the United States. The
Greek rebels were getting some aid from Yugoslavia, but no aid from
the Soviet Union, which during the war had promised Churchill a free
hand in Greece if he would give the Soviet Union its way in Rumania,
Poland, Bulgaria. The Soviet Union, like the United States, did not
seem to be willing to help revolutions it could not control.
Truman said the world "must choose between alternative ways of life."
One was based on "the will of the majority . . . distinguished by free
institutions"; the other was based on "the will of a minority . . .
terror and oppression . . . the suppression of personal freedoms."
Truman's adviser Clark Clifford had suggested that in his message
Truman connect the intervention in Greece to something less
rhetorical, more practical—"the great natural resources of the Middle
East" (Clifford meant oil), but Truman didn't mention that.
The United States moved into the Greek civil war, not with soldiers,
but with weapons and military advisers. In the last five months of
74,000 tons of military equipment were sent by the United States to
right-wing government in Athens, including artillery, dive bombers,
stocks of napalm. Two hundred and fifty army officers, headed by
James Van Fleet, advised the Greek army in the field. Van Fleet
policy—standard in dealing with popular insurrections of forcibly
thousands of Greeks from their homes in the countryside, to try to
the guerrillas, to remove the source of their support"
With that aid, the rebellion was defeated by 1949. United States economic and military aid
continued to the Greek government. Investment capital from Fsso, Uow Chemical, Chrysler, and
other U.S. corporations flowed into Greece. But illiteracy, poverty, and starvation remained
widespread there, with the country in the hands of what Richard Barnet (Intervention and
Revolution) called "a particularly brutal and backward military dictatorship."
In China, a revolution was already under way when World War II ended, led by a Communist
movement with enormous mass support. A Red Army, which had fought against the Japanese, now
fought to oust the corrupt dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek, which was supported by the United
States. The United States, by 1949, had given $2 billion in aid to Chiang Kai-shek's forces, but,[A]ccording to the State Department's own White
Paper on China, Chiang Kai-shek's government had lost the confidence
of its own troops and its own people. In January 1949, Chinese Communist
forces moved into Peking, the civil war was over, and
China was in the
hands of a revolutionary movement, the closest thing, in the long
of that ancient country, to a people's government, independent of
The United States was trying, in the postwar decade, to create a
consensus excluding the radicals, who could not support a foreign
aimed at suppressing revolution-of conservatives and liberals,
Republicans and Democrats, around the policies of cold war and anti-
949, had given $2 billion in aid to
Kai-shek's forces, but, according to the State Department's own White
Paper on China, Chiang Kai-shek's government had lost the confidence
its own troops and its own people. In January 1949, Chinese Communist
forces moved into Peking, the civil war was over, and China was in the
hands of a revolutionary movement, the closest thing, in the long
of that ancient country, to a people's government, independent of
The United States was trying, in the postwar decade, to create a
consensus excluding the radicals, who could not support a foreign
aimed at suppressing revolution-of conservatives and liberals,
Republicans and Democrats, around the policies of cold war and anti-
Communism. Such a coalition could best be created by a liberal
Democratic President, whose aggressive policy abroad would be
by conservatives, and whose welfare programs at home (Truman's "Fair
Deal") would be attractive to liberals. If, in addition, liberals and
traditional Democrats could-the memory of the war was still fresh-
support a foreign policy against "aggression," the radical-liberal
bloc created by World War II would be broken up. And perhaps, if the
anti-Communist mood became strong enough, liberals could support
repressive moves at home which in ordinary times would be seen as
violating the liberal tradition of tolerance. In 1950, there came an
event that speeded the formation of the liberal-conservative
undeclared war in Korea.
Korea, occupied by Japan for thirty-five years, was liberated from
Japan after World War II and divided into North Korea, a socialist
dictatorship, part of the Soviet sphere of influence, and South Korea,
a right-wing dictatorship, in the American sphere. There had been
threats back and forth between the two Koreas, and when on June 25,
1950, North Korean armies moved southward across the 38th parallel in
an invasion of South Korea, the United Nations, dominated by the
United States, asked its members to help "repel the armed attack."
Truman ordered the American armed forces to help South Korea, and the
American army became the U.N. army. Truman said: "A return to the
rule of force in international affairs would have far-reaching
effects. The United States will continue to uphold the rule of law."
The United States' response to "the rule of force" was to reduce
Korea, North and South, to a shambles, in three years of bombing and
shelling. Napalm was dropped, and a BBC journalist described the
In front of us a curious figure was standing, a little crouched, legs
straddled, arms held out from his sides. He had no eyes, and the
whole of his body, nearly all of which was visible through tatters of
burnt rags, was covered with a hard black crust speckled with
yellow pus. . . . He had to stand because he was no longer covered
with a skin, but with a crust-like crackling which broke easily. . . .
I thought of the hundreds of villages reduced to ash which I
personally had seen and realized the sort of casualty list which must
be mounting up along the Korean front.
Perhaps 2 million Koreans, North and South, were killed in the Korean war, all in the name of
opposing "the rule of force."
As for the rule of law Truman spoke about, the American military moves seemed to go beyond that.
The U.N. resolution had called for action "to repel the armed attack and to restore peace and
security in the area." But the American, armies, after pushing the North Koreans back across the
38th parallel, advanced all the way up through North Korea to the Yalu River, on the border of
China-which provoked the Chinese into entering the war. The Chinese then swept southward and
the war was stalemated at the 38th parallel until peace negotiations restored, in 1953, the old
boundary between North and South.
The Korean war mobilized liberal opinion behind the war and the President.
It created the kind of coalition that was needed to sustain a policy
of intervention abroad, militarization of the economy at home. This
meant trouble for those who stayed outside the coalition as radical critics.
Alonzo Hamby noted (Beyond the New Deal) that the Korean war
was supported by The New Republic, by The Nation, and by Henry Wallace (who
in 1948 had run against Truman on a left coalition Progressive party
ticket). The liberals didn't like Senator Joseph McCarthy (who hunted
for Communists everywhere, even among liberals), but the Korean war,
as Hamby says, "had given McCarthyism a new lease on life."
The left had become very influential in the hard times of the
thirties, and during the war against Fascism. The actual membership
of the Communist party was not large-fewer than 100,000 probably-but
it was a potent force in trade unions numbering millions of members,
in the arts, and among countless Americans who may have been led by
the failure of the capitalist system in the thirties to look favorably
on Communism and Socialism. Thus, if the Establishment, after World War II, was to
make capitalism more secure in the country, and to build a consensus
of support for the American Empire, it had to weaken and isolate the
Two weeks after presenting to the country the Truman Doctrine for
Greece and Turkey, Truman issued, on March 22, 1947, Executive Order
9835, initiating a program to search out any "infiltration of disloyal
persons" in the U.S. government. In their book The Fifties,
Douglas Miller and Marion Nowack comment:
Though Truman would later complain of the "great wave of hysteria"
sweeping the nation, his commitment to victory over communism, to
completely safeguarding the United States from external and
internal threats, was in large measure responsible for creating that
very hysteria. Between the launching of his security program in
March 1947 and December 1952, some 6.6 million persons were
investigated. Not a single case of espionage was uncovered, though
about 500 persons were dismissed in dubious cases of "questionable
loyalty." All of this was conducted with secret evidence, secret and
often paid informers, and neither judge nor jury. Despite the failure
to find subversion, the broad scope of the official Red hunt gave
popular credence to the notion that the government was riddled with
spies. A conservative and fearful reaction coursed the country.
Americans became convinced of the need for absolute security and
the preservation of the established order.
World events right after the war made it easier to build up public
support for the anti-Communist crusade at home. In 1948, the
Communist party in Czechoslovakia ousted non-Communists from the
government and established their own rule. The Soviet Union that year
blockaded Berlin, which was a jointly occupied city isolated inside the Soviet sphere of
East Germany, forcing the United States to airlift supplies into
Berlin. In 1949, there was the Communist victory in China, and in that year also,
the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb. In 1950 the Korean
war began. These were all portrayed to the public as signs of a world
Not as publicized as the Communist victories, but just as disturbing
to the American government, was the upsurge all over the world of
colonial peoples demanding independence. Revolutionary movements were
growing—in Indochina against the French; in Indonesia against the
Dutch; in the Philippines, armed rebellion against the United States.
In Africa there were rumblings of discontent in the form of strikes.
Basil Davidson (Let Freedom Come) tells of the longest recorded
strike (160 days) in African history, of 19,000 railwaymen in French
West Africa in 1947, whose message to the governor general showed the new mood of
militancy: "Open your prisons, make ready your machine guns and
cannon. Nevertheless, at midnight on 10 October, if our demands are
not met, we declare the general strike." The year before in South
Africa, 100,000 gold mine workers stopped work, demanding ten
shillings (about $2.50) a day in wages, the greatest strike in the
history of South Africa, and it took a military attack to get them
back to work. In 1950, in Kenya, there was a general strike against
So it was not just Soviet expansion that was threatening to the United
States government and to American business interests. In fact, China,
Korea, Indochina, the Philippines, represented local Communist
movements, not Russian fomentation. It was a general wave of anti-
imperialist insurrection in the world, which would require gigantic
American effort to defeat: national unity for militarization of the
budget, for the suppression of domestic opposition to such a foreign
policy. Truman and the liberals in Congress proceeded to try to create
a new national unity for the postwar years-with the executive order on
loyalty oaths, Justice Department prosecutions, and anti-Communist
In this atmosphere, Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin could go even
further than Truman. Speaking to a Women's Republican Club in
Wheeling, West Virginia, in early 1950, he held up some papers and
shouted: "I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that
were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the
Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping
policy in the State Department." The next day, speaking in Salt Lake
City, McCarthy claimed he had a list of fifty-seven (the number kept
changing) such Communists in the State Department. Shortly afterward,
he appeared on the floor of the Senate with photostatic copies of
about a hundred dossiers from State Department loyalty files. The
dossiers were three years old, and most of the people were no longer with the State Department, but McCarthy read from them anyway, inventing, adding, and changing as he read. In one
case, he changed the dossier's description of "liberal" to "communistically inclined," in another form "active fellow traveler" to "active Communist," and so on.
McCarthy kept on like this for the next few years. As chairman of the
Permanent Investigations Sub-Committee of a Senate Committee on
Government Operations, he investigated the State Department's
information program, its Voice of America, and its overseas libraries,
which included books by people McCarthy
considered Communists. The
State Department reacted in panic, issuing a stream of directives to
its library centers across the world. Forty books were removed,
including The Selected Works of Thomas Jefferson, edited by
Philip Foner, and The
Children's Hour by Lillian Hellman.
Some books were burned.
McCarthy became bolder. In the spring of 1954 he
began hearings to investigate supposed subversives in the military.
When he began attacking generals for not being hard enough on
suspected Communists, he antagonized Republicans as well as Democrats,
and in December 1954, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to censure him
for "conduct . . .unbecoming a Member of the United States Senate."
The censure resolution avoided criticizing McCarthy's anti-Communist
lies and exaggerations; it concentrated on minor matters on his
refusal to appear before a Senate Subcommittee on Privileges and
Elections, and his abuse of an army general at his hearings.
At the very time the Senate was censuring McCarthy, Congress was
putting through a whole series of anti-Communist bills. Liberal
Hubert Humphrey introduced an amendment to one of them to make the
Communist party illegal, saying: "I do not intend to be a half
patriot. . . . Either Senators are for recognizing the Communist Party
for what it is, or they will continue to trip over the niceties of
legal technicalities and details."
The liberals in the government were themselves acting to exclude,
persecute, fire, and even imprison Communists. It was just that
had gone too far, attacking not only Communists but liberals,
that broad liberal-conservative coalition which was considered
For instance, Lyndon Johnson, as Senate minority leader, worked not
only to pass the censure resolution on McCarthy but also to keep it
within the narrow bounds of "conduct . . . unbecoming a Member of the
United States Senate" rather than questioning McCarthy's
John F. Kennedy was cautious on the issue, didn't speak
out against McCarthy (he was absent when the censure vote was taken
and never said how he would have voted). McCarthy's insistence that
Communism had won in China because of softness on
Communism in the
American government was close to Kennedy's
own view, expressed
in the House of Representatives, January 1949, when the Chinese Communists
took over Peking. Kennedy said:
Mr. Speaker, over this weekend we have learned the extent of the
disaster that has befallen China and the United States. The
responsibility for the failure of our foreign policy in the Far East
rests squarely with the White House and the Department of State.
The continued insistence that aid would not be forthcoming unless a
coalition government with the Communists was formed, was a
crippling blow to the National Government.
So concerned were our diplomats and their advisers, the Lattimores
and the Fairbanks [both scholars in the field of Chinese history,
Owen Lattimore a favorite target of McCarthy, John Fairbank, a
Harvard professor], with the imperfection of the democratic system
in China after 20 years of war and the tales of corruption in high
places that they lost sight of our tremendous stake in a non-
Communist China. . . .
This House must now assume the responsibility of preventing the
onrushing tide of Communism from engulfing all of Asia.
When, in 1950, Republicans sponsored an
Internal Security Act for the
registration of organizations found to be "Communist-action" or
"Communist-front," liberal Senators did not fight that head-on.
Instead, some of them, including Hubert Humphrey and Herbert Lehman,
proposed a substitute measure, the setting up of detention centers
(really, concentration camps) for suspected subversives, who, when the
President declared an "internal security emergency," would be held
without trial. The detention-camp
bill became not a substitute for, but an addition to, the Internal
Security Act, and the proposed camps were set up, ready for use. (In
1968, a time of general disillusionment with anti-Communism, this law
Truman's executive order on loyalty in 1947 required the Department of
Justice to draw up a list of organizations it decided were
"totalitarian, fascist, communist or subversive . . . or as seeking to
alter the form of government of the United States by unconstitutional
means." Not only membership in, but also "sympathetic association"
with, any organization on the Attorney General's list would be
considered in determining disloyalty. By 1954, there were hundreds of
groups on this list, including, besides the Communist party and the Ku
Klux Klan, the Chopin Cultural Center, the Cervantes Fraternal
Society, the Committee for the Negro in the Arts, the Committee for
the Protection of the Bill of Rights, the League of American Writers,
the Nature Friends of America, People's Drama, the Washington Bookshop
Association, and the Yugoslav Seaman's Club.
It was not McCarthy and the Republicans, but the liberal Democratic
Truman administration, whose Justice Department initiated a series of
prosecutions that intensified the nation's anti-Communist mood. The
most important was the prosecution of Julius and F.thel Rosenberg
in the summer of 1950.
The Rosenbergs were charged with espionage. The major evidence was supplied by a few people
who had already confessed to being spies, and were either in prison or under indictment. David
Greenglass, the brother of Ethel Rosenberg, was the key witness. He had been a machinist at the
Manhattan Project laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico, in 1944-1945 when the atomic bomb
was being made there and testified that Julius Rosenberg had asked him to get information for the
Russians. Greenglass said he had made sketches from memory for his brother-in-law of
experiments with lenses to be used to detonate atomic bombs. He said Rosenberg had given him
half of the cardboard top to a box of Jell-O, and told him a man would show up in New Mexico
with the other half, and that, in June 1945, Harry Gold appeared with the other half of the box top,
and Greenglass gave him information he had memorized.
Gold, already serving a thirty-year sentence in another espionage case, came out of jail to
corroborate Greenglass's testimony. He had never met the Rosenbergs, but said a Soviet embassy
official gave him half of a to a box of Jell-o, and told him to contact Greenglass, saying, "I come from
Julius." Gold said he took the sketches Greenglass had drawn from
memory and gave them to the Russian official.
There were troubling aspects to all this. Did Gold cooperate in
return for early release from prison? After serving fifteen years of his
thirty-year sentence, he was paroled. Did Greenglass-under indictment
at the time he testified-also know that his life depended on his
cooperation? He was given fifteen years, served half of it, and was
released. How reliable a
memorizer of atomic information was David Greenglass, an
ordinary-level machinist, not a scientist, who had taken six courses
at Brooklyn Polytechnical Institute and flunked five of them? Gold's
and Greenglass's stories had first not been in accord. But they were
both placed on the same floor of the Tombs prison in New York before
the trial, giving them a chance to coordinate their testimony.
How reliable was Gold's testimony? It turned out that he had been
the Rosenberg case
by four hundred hours of interviews
with the FBI. It also turned out that Gold was a frequent and highly
imaginative liar. He was a witness in a later trial where defense
counsel asked Gold about his invention of a fictional wife and
fictional children. The attorney
asked: ". . . you lied for a period of six years?" Gold responded: "I
lied for a period of sixteen years, not alone six years." Gold was the
only witness at the trial to connect Julius Rosenberg and David
Greenglass to the Russians. The FBI agent who had questioned Gold was
interviewed twenty years after the case by a journalist. He was asked
about the password Gold was supposed to have used-"Julius sent me."
The FBI man said:
Gold couldn't remember the name he had given. He thought he had
said: I come from - or something like that. I suggested, "Might it
have been Julius?"
That refreshed his memory.
When the Rosenbergs were found guilty, and Judge Irving Kaufman
pronounced sentence, he said:
I believe your conduct in putting into the hands of the Russians the
A-bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would
perfect the bomb as already caused the Communist aggression in
Korea with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000 Americans and
who knows but that millions more of innocent people may pay the
price of your treason. . . .
He sentenced them both to die in the electric chair.
Morton Sobell was also on trial as a co-conspirator with the
Rosenbergs. The chief witness against him was an old friend, the best
man at his wedding, a man who was facing possible perjury charges by
the federal government for lying about his political past. This was
Max Elitcher, who testified that he had once driven Sobell to a Manhattan housing
project where the Rosenbergs lived, and that Sobell got out of the
car, took from the glove compartment what appeared to be a film can,
went off, and then returned without the can. There was no evidence
about what was in the film can. The case against Sobell seemed so
weak that Sobell's lawyer decided there was no need to present a defense. But the jury found
Sobell guilty, and Kaufman sentenced him to thirty years in prison.
He was sent to Alcatraz, parole was repeatedly denied, and he spent
nineteen years in various prisons before he was released.
FBI documents subpoenaed in the 1970s showed that Judge Kaufman had
conferred with the prosecutors secretly about the sentences he would
give in the case. Another document shows that after three years of
appeal a meeting took place between Attorney General Herbert Brownell
and Chief Justice Fred Vinson of the Supreme Court, and the chief
justice assured the Attorney General that if any Supreme Court justice
gave a stay of execution, he would immediately call a full court
session and override it.
There had been a worldwide campaign of protest. Albert Einstein,
whose letter to Roosevelt early in the war had initiated work on the
atomic bomb, appealed for the Rosenbergs, as did Jean-Paul Sartre,
Pablo Picasso, and the sister of Bartolomeo Vanzetti. There was an
appeal to President Truman, just before he left office in the spring
of 1953. It was turned down. Then, another appeal to the new
President, Dwight Eisenhower, was also turned down.
At the last moment, Justice William 0.
Douglas granted a stay of execution. Chief
Justice Vinson sent out special jets to bring the vacationing justices
back to Washington from various parts of the country. They canceled
Douglas's stay in time for the Rosenbergs to be executed June 19,
1953. It was a demonstration to the people of the country, though
very few could identify with the Rosenbergs, of what lay at the end
of the line for those the government decided were traitors.
In that same period of the early fifties, the House
Un-American Activities Committee was at its heyday, interrogating
Americans about their Communist connections, holding them in contempt
if they refused to answer, distributing millions of pamphlets to the
American public: "One Hundred Things You Should Know About Communism"
Communists be found? Everywhere"). Liberals often criticized the
Committee, but in Congress, liberals and conservatives alike voted to
fund it year after year. By 1958, only one member of the House of
Representatives (James Roosevelt) voted against giving it money.
Although Truman criticized the Committee, his own Attorney General had
expressed, in 1950, the same idea that motivated its investigations:
"There are today many Communists in America. They are everywhere—in
factories, offices, butcher shops, on street comers, in private
business—and each carries in himself the germs of death for society."
Liberal intellectuals rode the anti-Communist bandwagon. Commentary
magazine denounced the Rosenbergs and their supporters. One of
Commentary's writers, Irving
Kristol, asked in March 1952: "Do we defend our rights by
protecting Communists?" His answer: "No."
It was Truman's Justice Department that prosecuted the leaders of the
Communist party under the Smith Act, charging
them with conspiring to teach and advocate the overthrow of the government by force and
violence. The evidence consisted mostly of the fact that the
Communists were distributing Marxist-Leninist literature, which the
prosecution contended called for violent revolution.
There was certainly not evidence of any immediate danger of violent
revolution by the Communist party. The Supreme Court decision was
given by Truman's appointee, Chief Justice Vinson. He stretched the
old doctrine of the "clear and present danger" by saying there was a
clear and present conspiracy to make a revolution at some convenient
time. And so, the top leadership of the Communist party was put in
prison, and soon after, most of its organizers went underground.
Undoubtedly, there was success in the attempt to make the general
public fearful of Communists and ready to take drastic actions against
them—imprisonment at home, military action abroad. The whole culture was
permeated with anti-Communism. The large-circulation magazines
had articles like "How Communists Get That Way" and "Communists Are After
Your Child." The New York Times in 1956 ran an editorial: "We
would not knowingly employ a Communist party member in the news or
editorial departments . . . because we would not trust his ability to
report the news objectively or to comment on it honestly. . . . An FBI
informer's story about his exploits as a Communist who became an FBI
agent—"I Led Three Lives"—was serialized in five hundred newspapers
and put on television. Hollywood movies had titles like I Married a
Communist and I Was a Communist for the
FBI. Between 1948 and 1954, more than
forty anti-Communist films
came out of Hollywood.
Even the American Civil Liberties Union, set up specifically to defend
the liberties of Communists and all other political groups, began to
wilt in the cold war atmosphere. It had already started in this
direction back in 1940 when it expelled one of its charter members,
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, because she was a member of the Communist party. In the fifties, the
ACLU was hesitant to defend Corliss Lamont, its own board member, and
Owen Lattimore, when both were under attack. It was reluctant to
defend publicly the Communist leaders during the first Smith Act
trial, and kept completely out of the Rosenberg case, saying no civil
liberties issues were involved.
Young and old were taught that anti-Communism was heroic. Three
million copies were sold of the book by Mickey Spillane published in
1951, One Lonely Night, in which the hero, Mike Hammer says: "I
killed more people tonight than I have fingers on my hands. I shot
them in cold blood and enjoyed every minute of it. . . . They were
Commies . . . red sons-of-bitches who should have died long
ago. . . ." A comic strip hero, Captain America, said: "Beware,
commies, spies, traitors, and foreign agents! Captain America, with
all loyal, free men behind him, is looking for you. . . ." And in the
fifties, schoolchildren all over the country participated in air raid
drills in which a Soviet attack on America was signaled by sirens:
the children had to crouch under their desks until it was "all clear."
It was an atmosphere in which the government could get mass support
for a policy of rearmament. The system, so shaken in the thirties, had
learned that war production could bring stability and high profits. Truman's
anti-Communism was attractive. The business publication Steel had
said in November 1946-even before the Truman Doctrine that Truman's
policies gave "the firm assurance that maintaining and building our
preparations for war will be big business in the United States for at
least a considerable period ahead."
That prediction turned out to be accurate. At the start of 1950, the
total U.S. budget was about $40 billion, and the military part of it
was about $12 billion. But by 1955, the military part alone was $40
billion out of a total of $62 billion.
In 1960, the military budget was $45.8 billion—9.7 percent of the budget. That year John F. Kennedy was elected President, and he immediately moved to increase military
spending. In fourteen months, the Kennedy administration added $9
billion to defense funds, according to Edgar Bottome (The Balance
By 1962, based on a series of invented scares about Soviet military
build-ups, a false "bomber gap" and a false "missile gap," the United
States had overwhelming nuclear superiority. It had the equivalent,
in nuclear weapons, of 1,500 Hiroshima-size atomic bombs, far more
than enough to destroy every major city in the world-the equivalent,
in fact, of 10 tons of TNT for every man, woman, and child on earth.
To deliver these bombs, the United States had more than 50
intercontinental ballistic missiles, 80 missiles on nuclear
submarines, 90 missiles on stations overseas, 1,700 bombers capable of
reaching the Soviet Union, 300 fighter-bombers on
aircraft carriers, able to carry atomic weapons, and 1,000 land-based
supersonic fighters able to carry atomic bombs.
The Soviet Union was obviously behind—it had between fifty and a
hundred intercontinental ballistic missiles and fewer than two hundred
long-range bombers. But the U.S. budget kept mounting, the hysteria
kept growing, the profits of corporations getting defense contracts
multiplied, and employment and wages moved ahead just enough to keep a
substantial number of Americans dependent on war industries for their
By 1970, the U.S. military budget was $80 billion and the corporations
involved in military production were making fortunes. Two-thirds of
the 40 billion spent on weapons systems was going to twelve or fifteen
giant industrial corporations, whose main reason for existence was to
fulfill government military contracts. Senator Paul Douglass, an
economist and chairman of the Joint Economic Committee of the Senate,
noted that "six-sevenths of these contracts are not competitive. . . .
In the alleged interest of secrecy, the government picks a company and
draws up a contract in more or less secret negotiations."
C. Wright Mills, in his book of the fifties, The Power Elite, counted
the military as part of the top elite, along with politicians and
corporations. These elements were more and more intertwined. A Senate
report showed that the one hundred largest defense contractors, who
held 67.4 percent of the military contracts, employed more than two
thousand former high-ranking officers of the military.
Meanwhile, the United States, giving economic aid to certain countries, was creating a network of
American corporate control over the globe, and building its political influence over the countries it
aided. The Marshall Plan of 1948, which gave $16 billion in economic aid to Western European
countries in four years, had an economic aim: to build up markets for American exports. George
Marshall (a general, then Secretary of State) was quoted in an early 1948 State Department bulletin:
"It is idle to think that a Europe left to its own efforts . .. would remain open to American business
in the same way that we have known it in the past."
The Marshall Plan also had a political motive. The Communist parties of Italy and France were
strong, and the United States decided to use pressure and money to keep Communists out of the
cabinets of those countries. When the Plan was beginning, Truman's Secretary of State Dean
Acheson said: "These measures of relief and reconstruction have been only in part suggested by
humanitarianism. Your Congress has authorized and your Government is carrying out, a policy of
relief and reconstruction today chiefly as a matter of national self-interest."
From 1952 on, foreign aid was more and more obviously designed to
build up military power in non-Communist countries. In the next ten
years, of the $50 billion in aid granted by the United States to
ninety countries, only $5 billion was for nonmilitary economic
When John F. Kennedy took office, he launched the Alliance for
Progress, a program of help for Latin America, emphasizing social
reform to better the lives of people. But it turned out to be mostly military aid to
keep in power right-wing dictatorships and enable them to stave off
From military aid, it was a short step to military intervention. What
Truman had said at the start of the Korean war about "the rule of
force" and the "rule of law" was again and again, under Truman and his
successors, contradicted by American action. In Iran, in 1953, the
Central Intelligence Agency succeeded in overthrowing a government
which nationalized the oil industry. In Guatemala, in 1954, a legally elected
government was overthrown by an invasion force of mercenaries trained by the CIA at military bases
in Honduras and Nicaragua and supported by four American fighter
planes flown by American pilots. The invasion put into power Colonel
Carlos Castillo Armas, who had at one time received military training
at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
The government that the United States overthrew was
the most democratic Guatemala had ever had. The
President, Jacobo Arbenz, was a left-of-center Socialist; four of the fifty-six seats in
the Congress were held by Communists. What was most unsettling to
American business interests was that Arbenz had expropriated 234,000
acres of land owned by
United Fruit, offering compensation that United Fruit called
"unacceptable." Armas, in power, gave the land back to United Fruit,
abolished the tax on interest and dividends to foreign investors,
eliminated the secret ballot, and jailed thousands of political
In 1958, the Eisenhower government sent thousands of marines to
Lebanon to make sure the pro-American government there was not toppled
by a revolution, and to keep an armed presence in that oil-rich area.
The Democrat-Republican, liberal-conservative agreement to prevent or
overthrow revolutionary governments whenever possible whether
Communist, Socialist, or anti-United Fruit-became most evident in 1961
in Cuba. That little island 90 miles from Florida had gone through a
revolution in 1959 by a rebel force led by Fidel
Castro, in which the American-backed dictator, Fulgencio Batista, was overthrown. The
revolution was a direct threat to American business interests.
Franklin D. Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy had repealed the Platt
Amendment (which permitted American intervention in Cuba), but the
United States still kept a naval base in Cuba at Guantanamo, and U.S.
business interests still dominated the Cuban economy. American
companies controlled 80 to 100 percent of Cuba's utilities, mines,
cattle ranches, and oil refineries, 40 percent of the sugar industry,
and 50 percent of the public railways.
Fidel Castro had spent time in prison after he led an unsuccessful
attack in 1953 on an army barracks in Santiago. Out of prison, he
went to Mexico, met Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara, and returned
in 1956 to Cuba. His tiny force fought guerrilla warfare from the
jungles and mountains against Batista's army, drawing more and more
popular support, then came out of the mountains and marched across the
country to Havana. The Batista government fell apart on New Year's
In power, Castro moved to set up a nationwide system of education, of
housing, of land distribution to landless peasants. The government
confiscated over a million acres of land from three American
companies, including United Fruit.
Cuba needed money to finance its programs, and the United States was
not eager to lend it. The International Monetary Fund, dominated by
the United States, would not loan money to Cuba because Cuba would not
accept its "stabilization" conditions, which seemed to undermine the
revolutionary program that had begun. When Cuba now signed a trade
agreement with the Soviet Union, American-owned oil companies in Cuba refused to refine
crude oil that came from the Soviet Union. Castro seized these
companies. The United States cut down on its sugar buying from Cuba,
on which Cuba's economy depended, and the Soviet Union immediately
agreed to buy all the 700,000 tons of sugar that the United States would not buy.
Cuba had changed. The Good Neighbor Policy did not apply. In the
spring of 1960, President Eisenhower secretly authorized the Central
Intelligence Agency to arm and train anti-Castro Cuban exiles in
Guatemala for a future invasion of Cuba. When Kennedy took office in
the spring of 1961 the CIA had 1,400 exiles, armed and trained. He
moved ahead with the plans, and on April 17, 1961, the CIA-trained
force, with some Americans participating, landed at the Bay of Pigs on
the south shore of Cuba, 90 miles from Havana. They expected to
stimulate a general rising against Castro. But it was a popular regime. There was no rising. In three
days, the CIA forces were crushed by Castro's army.
The whole Bay of Pigs affair was accompanied by hypocrisy and lying.
The invasion was a violation—recalling Truman's "rule of law"—of a
treaty the U.S. had signed, the Charter of the Organization of
American States, which reads: "No state or group of states has the
right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever,
in the internal or external affairs of any other state."
Four days before the invasion-because there had been press reports of
secret bases and CIA training for invaders-President Kennedy told a
press conference: ". . . there will not be, under any conditions, any
intervention in Cuba by United States armed forces." True, the landing
force was Cuban, but it was all organized by the United States, and
American war planes, including American pilots, were involved; Kennedy
had approved the use of unmarked navy jets in the invasion. Four American pilots of those
planes were killed, and their families were not told the truth about
how those men died.
The success of the liberal-conservative coalition in creating a
national anti-Communist consensus was shown by how certain important
news publications cooperated with the Kennedy administration in
deceiving the American public on the Cuban invasion. The New
Republic was about to print an article on the CIA training of
Cuban exiles, a few weeks before
the invasion. Historian Arthur Schlesinger
was given copies of the article in advance. He showed them to
Kennedy, who asked that the article not be printed, and The New
Republic went along.
James Reston and Turner Catledge of the New York Times, on the government's request, did not run a story about the imminent invasion. Arthur Schlesinger
said of the New York Times action: "This was another patriotic act, but in retrospect I
have wondered whether, if the press had behaved irresponsibly, it
would not have spared the country a disaster." What seemed to bother
him, and other liberals in the cold war consensus, was not that the
United States was interfering in revolutionary movements in other
countries, but that it was doing so unsuccessfully.
Around 1960, the fifteen-year effort since the end of World War II to
break up the Communist-radical upsurge of the New Deal and wartime
years seemed successful. The Communist party was in disarray-its
leaders in jail, its membership shrunken, its influence in the trade
union movement very small. The trade union movement itself had become
more controlled, more conservative. The military budget was taking
half of the national budget, but the public was accepting this.
The radiation from the testing of nuclear weapons had dangerous
possibilities for human health, but the public was not aware of that.
The Atomic Energy Commission insisted that the deadly effects of
atomic tests were exaggerated, and an article in 1955 in the Reader's
Digest (the largest-circulation magazine in the United States) said: "The scare
stories about this country's atomic tests are simply not justified."
In the mid-fifties, there was a flurry of enthusiasm for air-raid
shelters; the public was being told these would keep them safe from
atomic blasts. A government consultant and scientist, Herman Kahn,
wrote a book, On Thermonuclear War, in which he explained that
it was possible to have a nuclear war without total destruction of the world, that people should
not be so frightened of it. A political scientist named Henry
Kissinger wrote a book published in 1957 in which he said: "With
proper tactics, nuclear war need not be as destructive as it
The country was on a permanent war economy which had big pockets of
poverty, but there were enough people at work, making enough money, to
keep things quiet. The distribution of wealth was still unequal.
From 1944 to 1961, it had not changed much: the lowest fifth of the
families received 5 percent of all the income; the highest fifth
received 45 percent of all the income. In 1953, 1.6 percent of the adult population owned
more than 80 percent of the corporate stock and nearly 90 percent of
the corporate bonds. About 200 giant corporations out of 200,000
corporations—one-tenth of 1 percent of all corporations—controlled
about 60 percent of the manufacturing wealth of the nation.
When John F. Kennedy presented his budget to the nation after his
first year in office, it was clear that, liberal Democrat or not,
there would be no major change in the distribution of income or wealth
or tax advantages. New York Times columnist James Reston summed
up Kennedy's budget messages as avoiding any "sudden transformation of
the home front" as well as "a more ambitious frontal attack on the
unemployment problem." Reston said:
He agreed to a tax break for business investment in plant expansion
and modernization. He is not spoiling for a fight with the Southern
conservatives over civil rights. He has been urging the unions to
keep wage demands down so that prices can be competitive in the
world markets and jobs increased. And he has been trying to
reassure the business community that he does not want any cold war
with them on the home front.
. . .this week in his news conference he refused to carry out his
promise to bar discrimination in Government-insured housing, but
talked instead of postponing this until there was a "national
consensus" in its favor. . . .
During these twelve months the President has moved over into the
decisive middle ground of American politics. . . .
On this middle ground, all seemed secure. Nothing had to be done for
blacks. Nothing had to be done to change the economic structure. An
aggressive foreign policy could continue. The country seemed under
control. And then, in the 1960s, came a series of explosive
rebellions in every area of American life, which showed that all the
system's estimates of security and success were wrong.