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Was 9/11 a “New Pearl Harbor”? Many scholars believe that President Franklin D. Roosevelt lied about the alleged surprise attack on Pearl Harbor—and that the lie was a justifiable “noble lie.” Before Pearl Harbor, American public opinion was overwhelmingly against U.S. entry into the war. Pearl Harbor, some believe, made it possible for the U.S.A. to defeat Hitler. Did Roosevelt manipulate the Japanese with an eight-point plan to force Japan to strike first so as to enrage the American people and allow U.S. entry into the war? Did he know about the attack beforehand and intentionally fail to prevent it? Did he make it happen on purpose by way of the eight-point plan?58
Paul Wolfowitz, a student of Strauss and leading neocon geopolitical strategist, has long been fascinated by the immense strategic value of Pearl Harbor, which mobilized America for total war. Wolfowitz has exhibited a lifelong obsession with a remark by Albert Speer to the effect that if Germany had been blessed with a Pearl Harbor it would have won World War II.59
If the official myth of the Pearl Harbor surprise attack is a lie, is it a noble lie? Wolfwitz, and the other cult followers of Leo Strauss, would undoubtedly say so.
The popular myth of the dastardly Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and the heroic American response, transformed Americans’ understanding of themselves and their role in the world. Before Pearl Harbor, Americans agreed that there should be no standing army, and that George Washington’s foreign policy of 33 neutrality, non-alignment, and non-involvment in foreign quarrels was the American way.60 That is why, on the eve of Pearl Harbor, 80% of Americans opposed entering World War II.
After Pearl Harbor, Americans accepted their new role as the world’s policeman (some would say the world’s biggest bully). A gigantic military-industrial complex mushroomed, and more noble lies were told to gain the people’s consent. The negligible military threat to the U.S. posed by the Soviet Union was wildly exaggerated in order to pump up the military budget, and the memory of the alleged sneak attack at Pearl Harbor fed Americans’ sense of vulnerability. In this way, an aggressive imperial strategy was made to appear defensive. While pretending to be a purely defensive power, the U.S. regularly threatened other nations with the use of nuclear weapons.61 It launched illegal, unconstitutional attacks on dozens of nations that posed no threat whatsoever, killing millions of innocent people in the process in what one scholar of U.S. empire, William Blum, has called “the American holocaust.”62
The Pearl Harbor myth changed history. It turned the U.S.A. from a peace-loving nation into the world’s biggest and most aggressive military empire. How did it exert such immense power?
To find out, the U.S. military hired anthropologist Bob Deutch, one of the world’s leading experts in using focus groups to understand and manipulate irrational popular beliefs. Deutch discovered that Pearl Harbor shattered Americans’ sense of invulnerability: “Because Japan disrupted America’s selfmythology of being invincible, the nation would never be forgiven in the irrational American sentiment.”63 Could those who hired Deutch have concluded that a new Pearl Harbor, blamed on Arab Muslims, could provide the kind of “searing or moulding event” that would convince the American public to mobilize for wars on behalf of oil and Israel?
Deutch discovered that at the deep psychological level, the American public, like members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, engages in aggression as a defense against a sense of vulnerability and loss: “They are protecting themselves. That’s what their core story is about. Images are created to defend loss, not maximize gain.”64
Another U.S. military psychological expert, S.L.A. Marshall, discovered just how fundamentally defensive and non-aggressive human nature really is, and how powerfully people must be psychologically manipulated if they are to go to war. After an exhaustive study of that vast majority U.S. infantrymen and airmen who, during World War II, covertly refused to kill, Marshall wrote that “the average and healthy individual...has such an inner and usually unrealized resistance towards killing a fellow man that he will not of his own volition take life if it is possible to turn away from that responsibility...At the vital point (the soldier) becomes a conscientious objector.”65 Normal human beings only kill when under direct threat and extreme duress, as a fear-and-anger-inspired defensive response to an aggressor. To motivate a nation to engage in military aggression—mass killing abroad—the people must be brainwashed into believing that they are under attack.
Zbigniew Brezezinski, a leading U.S. foreign policy strategist, notes that the U.S. public’s attitude toward the “external projection of American power” is “ambivalent” and depends on the sort of fear and vulnerability awakened by Pearl Harbor: “The public supported America’s engagement in World War II largely because of the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.”66 Brezezinski’s use of the term “shock effect” recalls the thesis of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine.67 According to Klein, individuals and even whole societies can be forced to accept radical, unpleasant changes by way of sudden shocks engineered, or taken advantage of, by unscrupulous elites.
Brezezinski seemed to be calling for a shocking event like 9/11 and the War on Terror it spawned, when he wrote in 1997: “Moreover, as America becomes an increasingly multicultural society, it may find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstances of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat.”68
Hollywood, like Brezezinski, seemed to be preparing the American public for 9/11. The run-up to 9/11 saw a rash of patriotic, militaristic, apocalyptic films including the 135 million dollar flop, Pearl Harbor.69 Most American-made action films feature an American hero who is threatened by an evil foreigner, and whose self-defense unfolds into extreme aggression that the audience is 35 taught to accept as legitimate. A grossly disproportionate number of Hollywood’s evil foreigners are Arab or Muslim, including in pre-9/11 films.70 Is this because Hollywood was founded as, and remains, a Jewish enclave with a strong pro-Israeli bias? Or is it because 80% of the world’s sweet, easily-extracted oil lies under Arab and Muslim sand, even as an age of energy scarcity looms?71
Did 9/11 function as a “new Pearl Harbor” that mobilized Americans for a aggressive war, disguised as a defensive one, against Arab and Muslim countries? T.H. Meyer has called attention to Donald Rumsfeld’s bizarre Pearl Harbor propaganda campaign that had begun even before the Bush Administration took office.72 Rumsfeld spent 2000 and 2001 carrying around extra copies of Roberta Wohlstetter’s Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision, praising the book to the skies, and offering free copies to journalists. (Wohlstetter’s hawkish Zionist husband Albert, named in his obituary “the world’s most influential unknown figure of the past half century,” was Wolfowitz’s mentor and Richard Perle’s father-in-law.)73 Roberta Wohlstetter’s Pearl Harbor book, while it ostensibly supports the official myth that Pearl Harbor was a perfidious surprise attack, includes enough information to the contrary to enlighten the discerning reader to the unspeakable but implicitly acknowledged truth: The Roosevelt Administration provoked the attacks, knew they were coming, and left thousands of sailors in harm’s way as an offering to the gods of war. Wohlstetter’s book is a perfect illustration of neocon doublespeak: Tell a vivid, simplistic, emotionally-charged lie to the masses (“Perfidious surprise attack! Heroic purple-fury response!”) yet include as a subtle subtext the unspeakable truth that only the elite is smart enough to discern and strong enough to handle: Roosevelt sacrificed thousands of American lives to the greater good of getting the U.S. into the war.
Rumsfeld’s pre-9/11 Pearl Harbor precognitions were echoed on 9/11 itself. On Air Force One, as Bush flew from Florida to Nebraska, the event was already being framed as a new Pearl Harbor.74 Senator Chuck Hegel and Henry Kissinger quickly echoed the Pearl Harbor comparison. Brezezinski himself pronounced: “It (9/11) is more murderous even than Pearl Harbor, and the psychological impact is the same.”75 On the evening of September 11th, 2001, George W. Bush reportedly confided to his diary: “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today.”76
Before the nano-thermite-laden dust77 that was all that was left of the World Trade Center had cleared, the corporate media were echoing the Pearl Harbor meme. Time Magazine wrote: “What’s needed is a unified, unifying, Pearl Harbor sort of purple American fury—a ruthless indignation that doesn’t leak away in a week or two.”78 After 9/11 family members shamed a reluctant administration into finally mounting an official investigation, the 9/11 Commission told us that 9/11 was just like Pearl Harbor “except it wasn’t the Japanese, but it was al-Qaeda.”79
58 Robert Stinnett, Day of Deceit (NY: Free Press, 1999).
59 Brian Bogart, radio interview, “The Dynamic Duo,” December 27, 2006 (www.
60 George Washington, Farewell Address (www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/washing.
61 Joseph Gerson, Empire and the Bomb: How the U.S. Uses Nuclear Weapons to
Dominate the World (London and Ann Arbor: Pluto Press, 2007).
62 William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World
War II (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2004).
63 Douglas Rushkoff, Coercion (NY: Penguin, 1999), 140.
64 Rushkoff, 141.
65 Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill
in War and Society (Boston, NY, Toronto, London: Little, Brown, 1995).
66 Zbigniew Brezezinksi, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its
Geostrategic Imperatives (NY: Penguin, 1997), 25.
67 Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (NY: Henry
Holt and Company, 2007).
68 Brezezinski, 211.
70 Jack Shaheen, Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (Northhampton,
MA: Interlink, 2001).
71 Matthew Simmons, Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the
World Economy (Hoboken, NJ: 2005).
72 T.H. Meyer, Reality, Truth, and Evil (Forest Row, UK: Temple Lodge Publishing,
73 Meyer, 68-69.
74 Meyer, 39.