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November 20, 2011

A Glitch in the Matrix

Something malfunctioned this weekend and the Washington Post helped its readers learn something from history by recommending the November 17, 1947 memo written for Harry Truman by his adviser Clark Clifford about the upcoming presidential election. The Clifford memo contains one of the most straightforward statements I've ever seen that U.S. politicians like conflict with other countries:

There is considerable political advantage to the administration in its battle with the Kremlin. The best guess today is that our poor relations with Russia will intensify. The nation is already united behind the President on this issue. The worse matters get, up to a fairly certain point -- real danger of imminent war -- the more is there a sense of crisis. In times of crisis the American citizen tends to back up his President.

Too bad about this validating and strengthening the crazy right-wing in both countries and how it led to 40 years of nuclear terror. That's small potatoes compared to a slightly increased chance of Harry Truman getting elected! (Immediately afterward the memo explains how Truman's new "Government employee loyalty investigation procedure"—the beginning of the Red Scare—was also undertaken for political advantage.)

Of course, the Washington Post just recommends this memo generally; they don't point out this part specifically. You wouldn't want this incredibly obvious fact about politics to be mentioned directly in the main newspaper in the nation's capital.

I assume there's a memo like this floating around somewhere right now in Mike Bloomberg's City Hall.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at November 20, 2011 11:20 AM

Clark Clifford was an unprincipled asshole, and Harry Truman was made V.P. and then President because he was an easily manipulated moron. It is an illuminating memo, especially with a fuller understanding of the history.

Further reading for the motivated to get that fuller understanding:

Frank Kofsky, Harry S. Truman and the War Scar of 1948 (a book showing much more along the lines of that memo)

Carolyn Woods Eisenberg, Drawing the Line: The American Decision to Divide Germany, 1944-1949 (Woods shows how the U.S. prevented the unification of Germany).

Bruce Cumings, The Origins of the Korean War (two volumes) (explaining not just the Korean events, but at times some of the political civil war in the U.S. between the Atcheston containment anticommunists, who controlled Truman, the Army, and State Dept., and the rollback anticommunists, who controlled the Navy, CIA, Air Force, the FBI).

David Caute, The Great Fear (about how that great fear was used in the 50s for political purposes)

There's lots more, but that's a good start.

Posted by: N E at November 21, 2011 09:18 AM

NE, can I borrow your brain? I have no time to read all these books you recommend - and I want to, very desperately.

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at November 21, 2011 10:10 AM

Let the new textbooks show that a coup and occupation of the U.S. has been in place long enough to now be a plutocracy, long enough that the economy has become a plutonomy, and long enough that a counter-coup, counter-revolution, and yes technically an insurrection is taking place.

The Occupy movement wants to remove the 1% coup and replace them with those a constitutional republic has authorized by law.

Government by the undeceived people.

Posted by: Dredd at November 21, 2011 10:22 AM

The "glitch" is merely deja vu. Hermann Goering 19 months earlier to this memo had already said, "Of course the people don't want war [...], the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. [...] All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked [...]" This particular paragraph of Clifford's is just another iteration of a very similar but all too common crime against peace, in America's history and elsewhere.

Posted by: biernini at November 21, 2011 11:42 AM

Aaron, why thanks, maybe one of you smart scientists eventually will figure out how to do knowledge implants that don't adversely affect the rest of the brain, but i suppose such technology will more likely be used to do evil. A.I. will outshine us all soon enough.

i don't have time to read that stuff now either, but I occasionally try to find a few minutes to try to remember a little of it, since it feels to me a bit like what is forgotten never happened.

Posted by: N E at November 21, 2011 11:50 AM

Without OUR pretenses, why, WE couldn't have OUR wars.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at November 21, 2011 08:48 PM

biernini, the glitch is that this basic truth got out in the US corporate media. Hence "the Matrix."

Truman was already fucking with democracy in post-war Italy and helping destroy Greece, for example, at this time, so he (yes, and his advisors, N E) can take credit for more than validating the crazy right wing.

Posted by: Save the Oocytes at November 22, 2011 11:15 AM

The most sardonic comment of the 20th century was delivered by Gore Vidal, concerning Truman's enactment of the national security state: "Thanks, Harry."

Posted by: Paul Avery at November 22, 2011 01:18 PM

Harry could EASILY pull 20,000 votes out of ANY ward. Even if only 10,000 voters lived there.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at November 22, 2011 04:52 PM

Calling the folks around Truman "advisers" gives Old Harry a little more credit than he deserves. He was, after all, a guy who signed an Order authorizing his Generals to drop both nuclear bombs on Japan without having to come back to him to ask for permission to drop the second one, which seems like sort of a big decision to me. So Harry certainly could delegate quite a lot despite all that "buck stops here" crap, at least when the right folks were asking.

Then again, Harry deserves credit for not letting Macarthur and those maniacs drop abombs all over Manchuria to create an impenetrable radioactive zone around Korea, which was a favored plan. Our military has some good officers, but it also always has been amply populated with lunatics, fascists, maniacs, and warmongers. Too few Smedley Butlers, too many Douglas Macarthurs and Curtis Lemays.

Posted by: N E at November 22, 2011 05:44 PM

Let's not forget how he recognized the Zionist State 11 hours after it was declared. One of the main reasons for ME terrorism today. Thanks again Harry.

Posted by: par4 at November 23, 2011 04:16 PM


Clifford "advised" old Harry on that too, because New York was a crucial state to Truman in 48 and the Jewish vote was crucial to New York.

Marshall threatened to resign about that, because he opposed the decision as not in the interests of the US, though antisemitism was then so rife in the military and among Marshalls mentors in particular, that it is hard to believe Marshall didn't share some of the commons right wing views of the day that admired the German military a lot more than Jews, who were resented and disliked as seeking vengeance against the germans and special treatment.

One of Marshall's mentors, General George Van Horn Mosely, wrote around this time in a private letter:

We pay great attention to the breeding of our hogs, our dogs, our horses, and our cattle, but we are just beginning to realize the....effects of absorbing objectionable blood in our breed of human beings. The pages of history give us the tragic stories of one-time leading nations which...imported manpower of an inferior kind and then...intermarried with this inferior stock....Those nations have either passed out of separate existence entirely, or have remained as decadent entities without influence in world affairs.

I once read something by Macarthur in which he lamented the same thing and complained that winning in Korea with so many troops of inferior races (blacks, latinos, etc.) was a real challenge. Those sort of views weren't really limited to Moseley, Macarthur, Patton, etc.--that's not far from how the military brass looked at the world back then. And I'm a little skeptical about how much has changed, though as a result of the military reaching the decision that it lost Vietnam beacuse of US public opinion rather than any military defeats, we now have so much military PR and advertising that it's hard to peel the opinion to find out what the officers corps really thinks, and how deep the bigotry runs.

Posted by: N E at November 24, 2011 07:18 AM