Jacob Hornberger, founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation, discusses the enduring myth of nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki to save the lives of countless U.S. soldiers, how FDR’s rejection of conditional surrender prolonged the war in Europe and the Pacific, how the US empire kicked into high gear after WWII, why purposely killing civilians is a war crime unless the Air Force does it, the firebombing of Japan that inflicted more casualties than Fat Man and Little Boy combined, operation Keelhaul and the forcible repatriation of Russian soldiers to certain death back home and the illegitimacy of killing civilians to save soldiers during wartime.
MP3 here. (20:40) Transcript below.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He is a regular writer for The Future of Freedom Foundation’s publication, Freedom Daily, and is a co-editor or contributor to the eight books that have been published by the Foundation.
Transcript – Scott Horton Interviews Jacob Hornberger, August 6, 2010
Scott Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio, I’m Scott Horton. And our first guest on the show today is Jacob Hornberger. He’s the founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation. That’s FFF.org. And in fact, let me be more specific here. Check out FFF.org/blog for Jacob’s regular writing there. How’s it going?
Jacob Hornberger: Hey, doing great. It’s an honor to be with you. Boy, I hear nothing but good things about all the great work you’re doing, especially from my colleague, Sheldon Richman. You are one of his heroes for sure.
Horton: Well, thanks, that’s nice to hear. And, yeah, Sheldon is a great guy. And, you know, I’ve learned a lot about libertarianism from him, for sure. So, he goes way back.
Hornberger: Well it’s a mutual admiration society, because all he tells me about is how he can’t wait to listen to his latest podcast of your latest show.
Horton: Well the thing’s getting out of hand. Now I’m doing – I was doing four days a week, two hours. Now I’m doing five days a week, three hours. Plus I’m doing some KPFK shows. So far, it’s Friday now, I’ve done… this is the 16th interview this week, Jacob.
Hornberger: Yeah, I really don’t see how you pull it off. Not only – I don’t see how you do the interviews. I don’t see how you line up all these guests – [laughs]
Horton: Well, that’s Angela Keaton gets all the credit for that.
Hornberger: Well, that’s incredible.
Horton: She’s the one that makes that part happen. If it was just me, I’d be interviewing you every week and that’s about it.
Hornberger: Well, Sheldon tells me that you are fully prepped for each guest; in fact that you know as much as the guest does about each subject.
Horton: Well, we’ll see about that. All right, here, let’s try it:
Harry Truman had to nuke Hiroshima because the Japanese would never surrender and it would have cost a million American lives or more to invade their home islands, and nuking Hiroshima is fair retaliation for attacking Pearl Harbor.
Do I sound like I know what I’m talking about?
Hornberger: Well, yeah. [laughter]
Horton: It was 65 years ago today that the butcher Truman dropped the first atom bomb on human beings, Jacob.
Hornberger: Yeah. It was a war crime to the full extent. You know, Americans don’t want to face that. They operate under these little myths that are all ingrained in us from the first grade in our public schools. But this was an intentional targeting of civilians – of old people, of women, of children – and if an infantryman were to do something like that, like Bill Calley did, everybody would go after him for war crimes, but because they happened to be pilots, all of a sudden people look at it differently. It’s no different. These were war crimes. Wars are supposed to be waged between soldiers, not the intentional targeting of civilians.
Horton: Well, and you know, I think something that the American people are really – somehow this is like a secret they’re not let in on, or something. And that is that all of the military guys that we think of as Republicans – many of them actual Republicans like Ike Eisenhower, jeez what’s the name, MacArthur – all those guys, they all opposed it. Right? It was Henry Stimson in the war cabinet and Harry Truman who basically decided to do this over the objections of everybody else.
Hornberger: Well, yeah, and I mean, you know, as you know the Japanese were putting feelers out. I mean they were on the ropes. It was just a matter of time. Everybody knows that, and everybody knew it at the time. They had put the feelers out through the Soviets and through the Swedish government that they wanted to talk peace, and you know that raises this whole notion of this unconditional surrender demand.
You know, everybody just automatically assumes, well, gosh, there’s no alternative to unconditional surrender. Well, that’s just nonsense. You could have easily negotiated a surrender that let them keep their Emperor and their imperial system, which they ended up doing anyway, and that most likely would have satisfied the Japanese. But instead they go off on this idiotic unconditional surrender demand and kill 200,000 people just to get that unconditional surrender, and then let them have their imperial system anyway.
Horton: Well and by that time – August 1945 – there was no Japanese navy or air force left to speak of, right?
Hornberger: That’s right. And we had broken the Japanese military codes by that time – which they didn’t know – so any defense of Japan to an invasion could have easily been circumvented, but they’ve inflated the numbers, for decades they’ve inflated the numbers. They’ve said, “Oh, you know, half a million American troops would have died, or a million Japanese would have died,” but the estimates at the time ranged in the tens of thousands, if it had even come to that, which is very unlikely.
But even if it had, you know, this is war, and in war soldiers die, and it’s never a moral justification to say, “Well, look, we killed 200,000 of their civilians, their women, their children, their old people, but that saved the lives of X number of American soldiers.” That is totally illegitimate. You go to war, and soldiers are going to die. That’s the fact of it. If you don’t want that to happen, then negotiate a peace before this unconditional surrender demand is implemented.
Horton: Right. Yeah. Well, it really is – it’s just like the War Party nowadays. They always start off with a premise that’s completely preposterous. They must give us an unconditional surrender. Who ever heard of that? I mean that’s ridiculous. And yet – nope, everybody knows that’s the starting point.
It’s also the starting point from any argument that anybody has about Hiroshima today. How else were we to get our unconditional surrender? And nobody ever questions whether that was proper or not.
I mean we could have got a conditional surrender from the Nazis. They would have got rid of Adolf Hitler, and, you know, probably could have gotten the German army to get ride of the Nazi party and ended that war long before Stalin had rolled into all of Eastern Europe! But no, we have to have an unconditional surrender.
Hornberger: You got that exactly right. There was a section of Germans, including within the military – I mean, that’s what that assassination attempt on Hitler was all about, people like Rommel and stuff – that would have been willing to talk about, you know, ousting the Nazi regime and installing another regime that would have been more palatable to sign a peace agreement. And Roosevelt would not negotiate with any of them. He had this unconditional surrender demand.
And also, as you point out, if they had negotiated a peace – let’s say even sent Hitler to Brazil or something – we could have saved all of eastern Europe from the Soviets. But instead, no, they had this unconditional surrender demand. Then, the Soviet Union, the Communists or their allies – they end up delivering them all of eastern Europe and East Germany and then say, turn around right when the war was over and say, “Now we have to have a huge cold war and a couple of hot wars and a huge military industrial complex to fight what used to be our ally.”
Horton: Yeah. You know, here’s something too that – I think this is in “Hiroshima and Nagasaki” by Ralph Raico, which is a wonderful article at LewRockwell.com, that is where I learned this – that Harry Truman was asked years later, “Well, how come you didn’t use three?” Because I think it took them still till the 12th or something before they surrendered, the 13th, I forget. And he said, “Well, you know, we considered that. But I thought that, you know, all those women and children.”
And so there he is himself admitting that, yeah, he knew that he was slaughtering, and that was kind of the point and whatever, not that he could have been ignorant of it, but the debate had always been framed before as, “Look, these were military targets” – which was a lie of course, for both cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki – and, “You know what, it’s terrible, but you gotta do what you gotta do.” But then later in his own words, “Naw, we couldn’t do it again because all those women and children.”
Like, two bombs, two atom bombs’ worth of women and children, that’s one thing, but three? That might be pushing it.
So it sounds to me like under Harry Truman’s own standards, he ought to just be lynched on fire over and over again for all of eternity in Hell.
Hornberger: That’s an incredible story. I didn’t know that he had said that. But obviously if he said it about a possible third bombing, the exact same principle is applied to the first two bombings.
And, you know, we also should point out, Scott, that, you know, as bad as the atomic bombs were, that the U.S. government was still doing some pretty bad things in terms of their fire bombings of Tokyo and the other Japanese cities. I mean, this is the type of thing that America, even in the midst of war, that America should not be engaged in, and that’s the intentional killing of women and children and old people and civilians.
Horton: Well, the music’s playing here, so we got to go out to break. But I do want to talk about that in more depth when we get back. After all, the only reason they nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki is they’re the two cities that hadn’t already been burnt to the ground, and so they made good tests for the new technology. It’s Jacob Hornberger. We’ll be right back after this. Antiwar Radio.
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Horton: All right, y’all, welcome back to the show. It’s Antiwar Radio. I’m Scott Horton. I’m talking with Jacob Hornberger. He’s the founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation, which is a hell of a thing. You know, the War Party has their WINEP and their CFR and their JINSA and their Foreign Policy Initiative and their Emergency Committee for Israel and their American Enterprise blah – pardon me, I can’t list all the think tanks, it would take the rest of the interview – they got their think tanks, well, we got the Future of Freedom Foundation, Jacob Hornberger’s place there.
And now, before we went out to break, we were talking about the firebombing of the Japanese cities before they actually went to the lengths of splitting uranium and plutonium atoms apart in the presence of women and children and the elderly. And, really, as somebody in the chat room was pointing out, there were far more casualties from the fire bombing of Japan by the U.S. Air Force, Jacob, than there ever were from the nukes.
Hornberger: Well, that’s right. And the principle is no different. I mean, the U.S. should not have been involved in doing this type of thing. I mean, you know, even the Japanese, you know, when they attacked Pearl Harbor, they attacked the military installations there.
And I’m not suggesting that they hadn’t committed war crimes over in China, which of course they had and so forth, but the point is is that the U.S. should stand above this type of thing. I mean, we’re different from everyone else. We’re supposed to be different. And the thought of bombing cities with women and children in there, noncombatants, that is not something that we’re supposed to be doing as a nation. It violates everything that we stand for in terms of moral principles, religious principles, just war, waging of just war, and so forth.
Horton: Yeah. Well, you know, again I think this is kind of the history that doesn’t get told. I mean, people say, “Well, yeah, you know, they firebombed Tokyo. What does that really mean?” Well, it meant that like 100,000 people who jumped into the river to try to avoid the flames boiled to death in one night. That’s what it means. It means the worst kind of nightmares that anyone could ever imagine happening, at the hands of Harry Truman.
Hornberger: Right, right.
Horton: I mean, 100,000 people boiling in the river! I mean, what –?! You can’t – I can’t even imagine that, and I’ve got a very visual imagination.
Hornberger: Right. I think in Tokyo they killed some 85,000 people, and they were firebombing some 50 or 60 other cities. They killed I think it was in the neighborhood of 300,000 people. And we’re not talking about soldiers, we’re talking about civilians, noncombatants.
Horton: You know what, I might have got a decimal point wrong there. That might have been 10,000 that boiled to death in one night in the river. Anyway. That’s too many to be boiling to death in rivers, if you ask me. And, again, for a country that was already defeated.
And now let me ask you about this, Jacob, because it seems like there was a purpose, it wasn’t just stupidity, there was a real purpose in demanding unconditional surrender, and that was we wanted to replace the Japanese Greater Co-Prosperity Sphere with our own, and as – I forget who said it, but it’s so great I’m gonna repeat it anyway – Hitler annexed Poland, America annexed the entire Pacific Ocean, during World War II.
Hornberger: Well, yeah, I mean there’s no question but that this was the rise of the American empire after World War II. I mean the United States, you know, didn’t have to fight any of the war over on our homeland, and we ended up with this huge, giant military and military-industrial complex, a new official enemy, communism, Soviet communists, specifically, which had been our ally throughout World War II. And yeah, this was the rise of the U.S. empire that had gotten its start back in the Spanish-American War. And well, we had the Korean War that resulted, the Vietnam War, all the invasions, incursions in Latin America, the Middle East stuff, and it goes on and on.
Horton: You know, when people ask about my favorite interviews that I’ve done, it’s really hard to pin them down because it’s been a long time. It’s been, you know, I don’t know, more than 1,000 interviews, anyway, 1,300, 1,400 of them or something by now, and there’s lots of apples and oranges to compare, but as far as, you know, revisionist history, one of my favorites, Jacob, is my interview with you about Operation Keelhaul, which is the other theater of this war, although for all I know they pulled the same trick in the Pacific. But tell the people, kind of briefly, would you, about Harry Truman and the Russian prisoners?
Hornberger: Yeah, this was just an absolute horror story of World War II. I mean, it really goes to show you how war can degenerate a civilized people into doing some horrible things. One of the fascinating parts of World War II is: the real battle in World War II is really between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. And it was really a matter of who was going to win between those two. And so you had Communism fighting Nazism, and in the middle of this thing there’s a huge Soviet army that’s taken captive by the Nazis, and it’s headed by a guy – oh gosh, his name escapes me right now, does it ring a bell for you?
Horton: No, I’m sorry.
Hornberger: Okay, well a very famous Russian general. He had saved I think it was Leningrad and so forth. But he gets captured. And so they bring him back, and he starts doing some reflecting and he starts realizing the jerk that Stalin is, you know, just a you know Communist no-good, and he realizes that this is not good for his homeland, the Soviet Union. And so he tells the Nazis, “Look, I will help you defeat – ”
Horton: Vlasov, that’s who you’re thinking of.
Hornberger: Vlasov. It was General Vlasov. So he formed his own army under Nazi command to defeat the Soviet Union, the Soviet communists. It’s obviously somewhat naive, thinking that, you know, if they win that the Nazis would let him establish his own free country.
But in any event, so the war is over and Stalin, of course, knows what Vlasov has done, along with a lot of other Russians that were fighting against the Communists in their own country – the Cossacks, for example – and so he demands that the U.S. turn over these Russians to him. And there’s also some of them that are being held prisoner here in the United States.
And so what does the U.S. do? It honors this request. It’s just an absolute horror story.
I mean, what they really should have done was not forcibly repatriate these people to what was certain death. But they did. They deceived them. They rounded them up, told them that they were being trucked for some other purpose, and they turned them over to the Soviets. And the ones that they were taking to the ships over in Seattle and the other parts of the United States, they were actually – they were fighting, violently, with resistance to this, and then begging that the U.S. just kill them rather than turn them back over to Stalin. And of course we all know what the Communists and Stalin were susceptible of.
Well, they undoubtedly tortured Vlasov, and they tore his body into several pieces and hung the body parts around Moscow to send a message to everybody that this is what happens to traitors. And –
Horton: –This is what happens to people who trust Harry Truman.
Hornberger: Right. Well, and today, you know, what’s interesting – since the fall of the Berlin wall and the demise of the Soviet Union, Vlasov has been resurrected, I guess is the right word, where he’s treated as a hero now. I mean, the Russian people recognize that this was a man that was standing on principle. Yes, he was fighting against the government of his own country, but it was an evil government. He recognized that. And of course we ended up recognizing that it was an evil government, which was of course what the Cold War was all about.
Horton: Right, and of course they were evil all along, and Stalin had killed 30 million Russians before Hitler had ever even come to power.
Horton: Or at least during the same time that Hitler was coming to power.
Hornberger: Right. And that shows you, you know, that the other real horror story of World War II that – you know, Great Britain and France declare war on Nazi Germany for invading Poland, when actually the Soviet Union invaded Poland at about the same time, a couple weeks later, pursuant to the agreement they had, but the idea was that we’ve guaranteed Poland that we’re going to bring them freedom.
Well, what happens at the end of World War II? Well, you know, the Americans are celebrating, the British are celebrating, the French are celebrating. Well, the Poles are not celebrating. Because while they’ve been freed from Nazi control, they’ve been turned over to the clutches of the Communists, and stayed that way for the next 50 years. That’s why they don’t celebrate World War II like the U.S. and the Brits and the French do.
Horton: Yeah. And meanwhile, a border conflict between the Soviets and the Nazis inside divided Poland is, you know – without the deal that the Nazis and the Soviets, that really the Nazis cut with the Soviets in order that they could take the time to deal with Britain and France first – there would have been a war between the dictators quicker, and instead of going to the west and destroying all the Western democracies and killing all the people that died in Denmark and Belgium and France and the rest, and on down into southern Europe as well, he’d have just gone east. And the way I think it would have happened too, Jacob – which is just making stuff up because you can’t go back in time – but I think the Nazis probably would have been able to destroy the Soviet Union. But then they would have been destroyed attempting to occupy Russia. And of course the ideology of Nazism couldn’t have outlived Hitler anyway.
And, what, things could have been a lot different, a lot better – and especially that Keelhaul though is the – that’s the greatest treason, taking two million prisoners and sending them back to Stalin to be executed. That’s as bad as Hiroshima, right there, if you ask me. All right, well, hey, thanks, I really do appreciate your time on the show.
Hornberger: Thank you, Scott. Keep up the good work, man.
Horton: All right, everybody, that’s Jacob Hornberger. He’s the founder and the president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.