Updated: Feb 8, 2022
The 80th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor was marked this week by many moving memorials and testimonials. After 80 years, one would think that little could be added to the story of what is frequently referred to as the “Good War”—as if any war could be “good.” But as history is written by the victors, there are always stories to uncover and facts to re-interpret.
One rarely discussed fact is that in the US there were 42,000 conscientious objectors who refused to fight in World War II. Instead, many of them risked their lives in dangerous but non-combat situations. Thousands of others went to prison rather than participate in the war effort.
Robinson Jeffers, one of the major poets of the first half of the 20th century, was one of the few poets to oppose US entry into World War II. He was anti-interventionist and anti-imperialist, as well as being an environmentalist and pacifist. His powerful poem titled “Pearl Harbor” reflected his strong anti-war views.
Questions about FDR’s prior knowledge of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor continue to be raised. Eager to fight the Nazis in Europe, Roosevelt faced strong post-WWI anti-war sentiment. The Japanese attack solved this problem. Germany declared war on the US on December 11, 1941, and the US mobilized against the Axis powers.
We must never forget that the US has repeatedly used lies, deceptions, and manufactured incidents to justifying going to war. Think of the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin attack. It never happened, but was used to justify the US escalation of the Viet Nam War. Think of the tearful 15 year-old Kuwaiti girl testifying before Congress and the world that she witnessed Iraqi soldiers taking babies out of incubators and leaving them to die. It never happened, but was used to justify the first Gulf War in 1990.
We’ve all been taught that the attack on December 7th was a complete surprise. On December 7, 2021, Covert Action Magazine published a well-researched article that challenges this.
And Robinson Jeffers’ poem makes more sense now than ever as it deals with endless wars, immigration, and militant patriotism.
Robinson Jeffers, “Pearl Harbor,” Los Angeles Times, December 8, 1991, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1991-12-08-bk-304-story.html.