Sunday, January 24, 2010

Okinawa, Japan, and China

At the end of World War II, the actions of the United States of America proved that much of Japanese propaganda about the USA had been true. Not only was Japan occupied, but the U.S. refused to support independence for other Asian nations. Under the scheme devised largely by U.S. and British leaders, China was to be ruled by a coalition of warlords headed by Chiang Kai-shek, an American puppet. South Korea was occupied by U.S. troops who installed a right-wing puppet there. The French were encouraged to reoccupy Vietnam. The Dutch went on another of their murderous rampages in Indonesia. Of the nations granted independence by the Japanese during World War II, only Burma was able to retain its independence.

To this day the Japanese government has never has quite been able to stick up for itself and become independent. That seems to be changing.

If the Japanese no longer want a U.S. military base in Okinawa, the U.S. should just withdraw.

After World War II, the Cold War began almost immediately. Although the U.S.S.R. (Russia) soon withdrew from Manchuria, turning it over to Chiang Kai-shek, and from North Korea, the U.S. kept up an imperialist posture. Japan, so recently an enemy, was well-treated because President Truman and General MacArthur wanted to keep make it an ally against the Russian communists. When China was finally united and independent under their native Communist Party's leadership, the U.S. really panicked. China was not quite united because the U.S. used a fleet of war ships to protect Chiang Kai-shek's last citadel, Formosa (now Taiwan).

Today, however, the old communist/capitalist divide has largely given way to new alignments. The Japanese have lived peacefully since World War II. The Chinese have seen some battles, but seem content within their traditional borders. Most East Asian nations have prospered better than most of the world in the last two decades.

China and Japan appear to be ready to set aside their World War II era quarrels. Russia is not much of a threat to anyone in the Far East.

It is time for America to withdraw its troops and war ships from Asia. This would allow all Asian nations to spend less on their military; it would allow the U.S. to spend less on its military.

We should encourage the unification of Taiwan and mainland China (it really is none of our business; it is an internal Chinese matter). We need to close our bases in Japan, Korea and the Philippines. These bases threaten Asian nations and destabilize the region. They are relics from a bygone era. Barack Obama might want to use this opportunity to earn his Nobel Peace Prize.

Our governments all need to focus on the prosperity of the people and on the grave environmental issues that confront all the species on this planet.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Supreme Court Dictates Corruption

The Supreme Court, not for the first time in its history, reminded us yesterday that in the end, it is Supreme. In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 08-205, they ruled that business corporations can spend unlimited money influencing political elections, even though Congress said they couldn't. At times like these American citizens seem to live in an oligarchy, not in a democracy, or even in a republic. [See also America: Republic or Democracy]

Recap: in 1772 the high court in Great Britain ruled, in the Somerset case, that a slave became free simply by stepping on British soil. The slavers of Virginia and their lawyers decided that they really did not want to be part of the British aristocracy in that case. So they united with New England merchants who were unhappy for other reasons, and launched the American Revolution.

During and after the revolution, the thirteen allied states operated under a document called the Articles of Confederation. Under that constitution, the federal aspect of government was weak. This created danger for wealthy Americans, who wanted a federal army available to crush any group of poorer citizens who might get dangerous ideas. Like that every adult male should have the right to vote, as in Pennsylvania. Or that taxes should not ruin a farmer, as in Massachusetts. So they (the infamous they) held a meeting and wrote a new Constitution for the thirteen states. Most people did not like this new Constitution, but mainly by force and fraud it was put into place. (See the Anti-Federalist Papers for the arguments against the Constitution. See any honest and detailed history book about the period for how this document was imposed.) The people who opposed the Constitution at least managed to get it amended with the Bill of Rights. But the new federal government, led by George Washington, showed it could do its duty by crushing the Whiskey Rebellion.

Most people thought the Congress would become the supreme branch of government under the Constitution. Some feared the Presidency would eventually become supreme. They were all wrong. In 1803, in Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court declared that it was supreme. The ruling class took a good look at that idea and liked what it saw. Supreme Court judges are not elected, and they serve into extreme old age.

For instance, the Supreme Court declared (in Dred Scott, 1857) that slaves did not become free when they stepped onto the soil of a free state. In fact, there was no such thing as a free state. The United States were one big slave plantation, according to the Supremes.

Which shows an important point: you can trump the Supremes, but it isn't easy. To get rid of slavery it took more than just an amendment to the Constitution; it took a civil war, then some Amendments that were passed while the slavers lost the right to vote for a while.

In fact, with the Supremes in charge, even amending the Constitution may not get you what you want. Take the Fourteenth Amendment. It was meant to make human citizens equal, regardless of race. But the Supreme Court decided it did not protect black citizens (culminating in Plessy). Even though the word corporation is not in the Amendment, the Supreme Court declared, in Santa Clara in 1886, that business corporations are covered by the Amendment. [See Santa Clara Blues: Corporate Personhood versus Democracy]

So here we are. Business corporations can spend unlimited money on "free speech." They already buy and sell most American politicians, and both the Democratic and Republican Party, but this gives them even more leverage.

But did not candidate Barack Obama offer us hope? It was a five-to-four decision, so maybe one of the majority will die. Then Barack can put in a Supreme who is not owned by the ruling class. Ha, but Barack himself is owned by the ruling class. As he showed by continuing the war in Afghanistan, which only benefits merchants of death.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

General MacArthur, the Philippines, and Japan

I just finished posting my notes on Ameican Caesar, a biography of Douglas MacArthur by William Manchester. This is part of my Asian War book project. So the notes are not particularly for military buffs, or MacArthur history junkies. They reflect my interest in the historic relations (mainly war) between the United States and the nations of Asia.

General MacArthur's story is most relevant to the history of the Philippines. His father, Arthur MacArthur, Jr., would now be classified as a war criminal by any fair-minded person. The U.S. invaded a nation, which is a war crime, and Douglas MacArthur killed both Filipono independence fighters, and civilians, for daring to not go along with the conquest. The Filipino upper class, themselves exploiters of their lower classes, were happy to collaborate with American occupiers just as they had collaborated with Spain. When Douglas MacArthur in turn became military commander of the Philippines he had good relations with these upper-class Filipinos. Guerrilla insurgents were a minor problem for America by the 1930s.

Before World War II every Asian nation had an independence movement. All these movements felt betrayed by the League of Nations, which was dominated by the British Empire and which, in practice, supported "national self-determination" only in white-majority nations. U.S. presidents often used independence rhetoric, but always supported colonial powers like Britain, France, and the Netherlands in practice. Of the Asian nations only Japan was truly independent. China was a particular trouble spot. It had numerous governments, including one run under Japanese protection and the government (if you can call it that) of Chiang Kai-shek, who was essentially an American puppet, but whose government really was just a collection of war lords.

MacArthur's job was to defend the Philippines against Japan. Because the U.S. had about ten times the industrial capacity of Japan, President Franklin Roosevelt knew that Japanese civilian leaders did not want war with the U.S. By insulting and bullying Japan, however, Roosevelt was able to bring the Japanese military leaders to greater influence. If Japan had not gone to war, the U.S. would have been in a position to take over Japan and China at a minimal cost.

Men like Roosevelt and MacArthur were, however, overconfident of easy victory. They were shocked by the successful military strategy and tactics of Japan in the opening days of the war. The Japanese quickly liberated Vietnam from the French, the Philippines from America, the British from Singapore and Burma, and the Dutch from the East Indies (later Indonesia). The problem for the Japanese was that they probably needed another decade of eocnomic development to make this new "Co-prosperity" sphere into something that could stand up to the imperialist powers in a war. In America, even before Pearl Harbor, planes, tanks, and war ships were rolling off assembly lines in numbers the Japanese could not match. Only the need to train new recruits and to send most military material to help the British Empire fight the new German Empire prevented the U.S. from quickly kicking the Japanese out of their new possessions.

Within two years of Pearl Harbor, U.S. submarines had sunk almost all Japanese merchant shipping. The Japanese military, for all its faults, did not think any honor accrued to commanders that killed civilians or sank civilian shipping. So they failed to create an effective submarine fleet. With almost no internal deposits of iron, oil, or coal, and no ships to bring those materials in, the Japanese could produce planes and battle ships only from reserves already on their islands. At first the Japanese sank more U.S. Navy vessels than vice versa, but those were hollow victories. When a Japanese vessel sank, it could not be replaced. Every American vessel that sank was quickly replace by three or four more.

In the end, we had Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Strangely, General MacArthur, usually thought of as a right-wing zealot, wrote a very liberal constitution for Japan and even did a land redistribution program that was right out of the communist handbook. His motives, however, were not liberal. He wanted to weaken Japan's military capability and military culture.

Meanwhile, America's military culture was greatly stengthened by our victory in World War II. We quickly betrayed the peoples we made promises to during the war. No one got immediate independence except Burma. But in the Japanese wake the independence movements were much stronger. The U.S. granted the Philippines independence. Then the Netherlands decided the cost of war was too high, after trying it, and granted independence to Indonesia. Mao and the communists created an independent China. Vietnam, however, was returned to colonial status under the French.

Another interesting note for me was having to add another senior policy advisor to those who opposed using atomic weapons on civilian cities in Japan. I already knew that Eisenhower opposed using the atomic bomb. According the Manchester, MacArthur also opposed using these weapons of mass destruction. So, for all of you who want to get out your partisan scorecards, all Democratic Party senior officials involved favored committing these war crimes. The two Republicans who were consulted, Eisenhower and MacArthur, were against committing these particular war crimes.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

President Franklin Roosevelt's Iron Fist

In January 1929 Franklin Delano Roosevelt could have had little hope of becoming President. Herbert Hoover had just been elected President by a landslide. Despite the grip the Democratic Party had held on the Solid South since the civil war (maintained by denying African-Americans the right to vote), Hoover was so popular that he won several former Confederate states. He won the popular vote with 21,391,381 votes to Al Smith's 15,016,443.

Capitalism, however, came unraveled in 1929. The Depression led to a total reversal of fortunes. In 1932 Roosevelt, a former Governor of New York and Assistant Secretary of the Navy, took the Presidency with 22,821,857 votes to Hoover's 15,761,841.

Roosevelt is usually portrayed as the great American Good Guy President. He is credited with ending the Great Depression and winning World War II. If, however, you want to have a factual history and a sound knowledge of economics and politics, you have to consider whether everything Roosevelt ("FDR") did really was both effective and good.

In the short, sweet version of U.S. history, on December 9, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese military attacked the Philippines, then a "commonwealth," under the "protection" of the United States of America. Douglas MacArthur was in charge of U.S. troops there. They lost after putting up heroic resistance, but General MacArthur was transferred to Australia. As the U.S. military geared up, sailors and troops led by MacArthur eventually retook the Philippines from Japan. The Japanese surrendered after their cities were firebombed or nuked. The takeaway is: don't mess with the good guys.

The Devil is in the details. Recall that the Filipinos did not have an election and voluntarily join the United States. They had their own Revolutionary War to throw out the Spaniards. Just when they were succeeding, the U.S. "bought" the Philippines from Spain, and proceeded to murder the George Washingtons and Thomas Jeffersons of the Philippines, and about 500,000 Filipino soldiers and civilians. [See Philippines Conquest] Resistance to U.S. rule continue right on up to World War II, but for the most part the richer Filipinos found they made out well pimping for the U.S. The U.S. even promised the Philippines eventual independence, so most Filipinos in favor of independence decided patience was the better part of valor.

MacArthur, who at other times acted like a military genius, acted like a complete idiot in defending against the Japanese invasion. Roosevelt told MacArthur to hold on, help was on the way. But Roosevelt was lying. He had no intention of sending any help in time to save the U.S. and Filipino soldiers fighting the Japanese on the now-infamous Bataan Peninsula.

President Manuel Quezon, head of the commonwealth, had already tried to get Roosevelt to allow the Philippines independence before the war started. When he realized that FDR was not sending help, he again, with the backing of his cabinet, demanded independence. Since the Japanese had promised independence, Quezon believed the Philippines could become a neutral state. But Roosevelt said no. Fight to the death for America, Roosevelt said. And so many American soldiers and their Filipino comrades fought to their death to no point. MacArthur and Quezon skipped out to Australia.

It seems to me that Roosevelt's Iron Fist landed a solid punch on an oppressed, colonial people. If you look too closely at the details, you can see that U.S. war propaganda was just that, propaganda. The U.S. did not stand for democracy and freedom. The government of the Philippines did declare independence during the war. When American troops came back with General MacArthur, the U.S. asserted that the Filipinos had not, in fact become independent.

You might argue that this is a gray area, but the U.S. policy towards other Asian nations in general confirms that the policy towards the Philippines was no exception. With Japanese help, the Vietnamese declared independence from the French, the Burmese independence from the British, and the Indonesians independence from the Dutch (the Netherlands). They did not allow for an independent Korea. The U.S. promised Korea independence, then changed its mind and set up a puppet government in South Korea.

All of this is well documented. The facts about the Philippines in this case come straight out of William Manchester's highly acclaimed American Caesar, but can be found in multiple sources.

The more I look at Roosevelt, the more I see just another American rascal of a politician. I'll be documenting this more, over time, on my President Franklin Roosevelt page.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

$30 Billion for Afghanistan, Nothing for California

It is a wacky world. People who are better than me at things like fixing cards and punching into 9 to 5 jobs and target practice believe that President Obama is a Moslem, or a communist, or was not born in the United States. Nothing could pursuade them otherwise.

Barack Obama is asking for another $30 billion or so for the war in Afghanistan. Which will force the Taliban, which is for the most part the people of Afghanistan, to retreat into rural areas, and patiently wait for the patience of the American taxpayer to run out.

No federal money for California to help with its budget deficit, however. Not that CA deserves the money. Our collective stupidity, borrowing money to buy houses at bubble prices, does deserve some punishment. What better punishment that cutting government services to the homeless right when so many formerly middle class people have become homeless? But what with Obamaville homeless encampments popping up all over the state, real estate is becoming scarce again.

There's been so much news lately that is self-satirical one pauses to even comment on it. The Catholic Church, under the Nazi-youth Pope Benedict, on the one hand is recruiting married priests from the Church of England. On the other hand, it is threatening to burn married priests in Africa at the stake. That is only the slightest of exagerations: it is truly threatening to use its influence with African governments to have members of a new break-away priest-marrying Catholic splinter church put in jail.

Throw a good idea into a pack of jackals, and all you get is some less hungry jackals. But then the jackals reproduce and are hungrier, and more dangerous, than ever. That is how I feel about Congress and health care reform. They scrapped almost every good idea and came up with this: all Americans will be forced to buy private insurance from predatory private insurance companies with no real government oversight. The law will be far more complex, of course, making it a sort of full-employment act for lawyers, but that is the meat in the stew.

$30 billion for war in Afghanistan. Hell, much as I hate them, I'd rather it go to bonuses for banking executives. At least the money would stay in the U.S. It might even trickle down to the rest of us.