Remember That Time America Started World War II? I Don’t Either.

In the course of complaining about cyber attacks from the United States against Iran’s nuclear program (a program, by the way, condemned by the United Nations), Salon’s Glenn Greenwald makes a bizarre complaint. Even for him. Greenwald:

Isn’t it amazing how the U.S. is constantly the world’s first nation to use new, highly destructive weapons — at the same time that it bombs, invades, and kills more than any other country by far — and yet it still somehow gets its media to tell its citizenry that it is America’s Enemies who are the aggressors and the U.S. is simply a nation of peace seeking to defend itself.

Greenwald makes this statement after posting the following, from a New York Times story:

Mr. Obama, according to participants in the many Situation Room meetings on Olympic Games, was acutely aware that with every attack he was pushing the United States into new territory, much as his predecessors had with the first use of atomic weapons in the 1940s, of intercontinental missiles in the 1950s and of drones in the past decade.

So, the first reference is to the use of atomic weapons in the 1940s. That would obviously be the explosions of the bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. America was not the “aggresor” in World War II. Even putting aside Japan’s alliance with the Germans and Italians, Japan was the one who invaded the Phillipines and China, in addition to bombing Pearl Harbor. I doubt the victims of atrocities like the Rape Of Nanking would dispute that.

The second reference is about ICBMs.

Both the United States and the USSR developed ICBMs as part of the Cold War arms race. I fail to see how this fits into the template of America as “aggressor” nation either. Both nations created and stockpiled these weapons in a multi-decade arms buildup. Were the Russians being “aggressors” when they paraded their ICBMs through downtown Moscow?

The last reference from the Times is about drone strikes. The drone strikes are being targeted at Al Qaeda members, the organization who was the primary aggresor in our most recent conflict.

The problem with this analysis, like so much of what he has written, is that there are clear and distinct instances of America being an aggressor nation. There are times when we were clearly in the wrong and killed people that caused catastrophic, murderous blowback against us.

Events like the invasion of Iraq and the Vietnam War would provide you with numerous, clear-cut instances of this behavior. Instead we’ve got the shoehorning of episodes like America’s response to World War II’s provocateurs and our mutual arms build-up with the Soviet Union into a false narrative.

I’m without a doubt not the sort of person who thinks we make any headway with simplistic narratives about the pure unsullied virtue of the United States, but a perversion of basic historical fact in order to forward a similarly bizarre “America = bad guy” narrative is a failure as well.

History is complex, facts are not subject to debate. Let’s keep it that way.

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  • db

    But the concept of “strategic bombing” was heavily discussed during the 1930s.

    The Nazis specifically targeted civilian cities for the purpose of instilling terror and breaking the civilian population’s will to continue the war. Didn’t work in London.

    I can assert that the atomic bombings were not larger in terms of destruction than the bombings of Tokyo or Dresden.

    But mostly it is still hard for me to work up much outrage at any action that ended WWII sooner & thus saved Allied lives.

    On the other hand I’m still puzzled by the claim of American use of ICBMs in the 1950s.

  • oi ly

    Him – “Isn’t it amazing how the U.S. is constantly the world’s first nation to use new, highly destructive weapons … .”

    You – “So, the first reference is to the use of atomic weapons in the 1940s. That would obviously be the explosions of the bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. America was not the “aggresor” in World War II.”

    America is the first nation to USE highly destructive weapons. In the quote you cite, he never said that America was the AGGRESSOR in WW2. That’s quite a vast difference between what he actually said and what you said he said. Knots.

    “History is complex, facts are not subject to debate. Let’s keep it that way.”