May 6, 2009

Pat Buchanan’s new book (Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War”: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World) is bound to raise controversy in Churchillian circles. And there’s nothing new about that. Quite by accident, we ran across this mention of Pat Buchanan seventeen years ago in Finest Hour. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Amusingly, we tackled Pat on this accusation in our colloquy last year, during his research for his new book about how Britain and Churchill messed up everything by causing World War II and losing an Empire. He denied ever saying it….

From Finest Hour 72, Autumn 1991
Datelines Column, page 4

WASHINGTON, AUG. 14TH-No sooner had the buzzing stopped after left-wing columnist Alexander Cockburn accused Churchill of wanting to gas the Iraqis to death in 1920 (FH 71, page 10; Churchill wanted to use tear gas) than right-wing columnist Patrick Buchanan weighed in.

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Buchanan accused Churchill of purposely not warning Roosevelt that Japan intended to attack Pearl Harbor, and repeated the old Anthony Cave Brown canard, long disproved, that WSC had “let Coventry burn” rather than tip off the Germans that Britain had cracked their code. Talk about rumbles left and right!

Buchanan is not half-cocked: he’s all-cocked. Of the Cave Brown-Coventry nonsense, comment here is hardly necessary. (See “Winston Churchill and the Bombing of Coventry”) As to deceiving Roosevelt, Buchanan merely repeats Eric Nave’s and James Rusbridger’s rubbishy revisionism, Betrayal at Pearl Harbor. Drs. Robin Ranger and Robert Kaufman replied suitably to this in The Washington Times:

“Even if the British could read the JN-25 [Japanese Navy] code (evidence is ambiguous), the coded message would not have told them that Japan was going to attack Pearl Harbor….Radio signals were limited to cryptic phrases making sense only to their Japanese recipients. For example, the attack date was set by the signal “Climb Mount Niitaka, 1208” (Dec. 8, Japan time; Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor time).

“As expert U.S. analysts have meticulously documented, from Roberta Wohlstetter to Gordon Prange, the British and U.S. governments knew a major Japanese attack was coming. But they did not know when or where. Their navies also knew they had yet again lost the location of the main Japanese carrier force….Cracked JN-25 codes would not have changed this situation. Nave and Rusbridger offer conspiracy theory at its most far-fetched. So, too, is their unfounded, undocumented speculation that Churchill refrained from warning Roosevelt because he feared the Japanese would learn of the warning and cancel the attack.”

Finest Hour can only add that such deceit would have been entirely out of character for Churchill. Recall his numerous messages to Stalin in May and June 1941 that a German attack was coming. Further, what could he have gained by not warning Roosevelt? What exactly would Japan have done if her attack planes had found a battle-ready American force at Pearl Harbor, or if they learned the Americans were expecting them? Would they have turned and gone home? What would America have done? Remained at peace? Ridiculous.



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