Three Historical Footnotes You’ll Never See Again

Postmodern academics are right about one thing: history is written by the victors.  The Left hasn’t lost a major battle in our culture war for three generations.

Former President Herbert Hoover, who was continually recruited for delicate diplomatic and charitable missions after retiring from official service, brought both special insight and unique sources of information to the analysis of events surrounding World War Two.  The cosmetic technicians who pass for historians have often managed to suppress certain embarrassing truths about Hoover’s successor.  You would probably never have learned the following, for instance, unless you had read Hoover’s memoir—which you could not have done, for some reason, until a couple of years ago:

The Casablanca Conference was primarily concerned with military affairs.  However, out of this conference came the historic demand of Unconditional Surrender.

On January 24, at the close of the official meetings, President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill held a press conference.  At the end of the conference President Roosevelt added informally that there was another matter he wished to discuss.  He said that he and Prime Minister Churchill “were determined to accept nothing less than the unconditional surrender of Germany, Japan and Italy….”  Churchill says:

“It was with some feeling of surprise that I heard the President say at the Press Conference on January 24 that we would enforce ‘unconditional surrender’ upon all our enemies….  General Ismay was also surprised.  In my speech which followed the President’s I of course supported him and concurred in what he had said….”

Churchill quotes Harry Hopkins[,] who reported that the President had said to him:

“… then suddenly the Press Conference was on, and Winston and I had had no time to prepare for it, and the thought popped into my mind that they had called Grant ‘Old Unconditional Surrender’, and the next thing I knew I had said it.”(1)

It is entirely arguable that had the Honorable Franklin Delano Roosevelt not aspired in a passing whim to be known by the same sobriquet as one of his hirsute, hard-drinking, two-fisted heroes, the two atomic bombs would never have been dropped.  Had Japan retained some face-saving presence in Southeast Asia, it is more than likely that Mao Tse-tung would never have ascended to absolute power and ordered the execution of perhaps forty or fifty million human beings (an ascent lubricated by Winston Churchill’s servile accommodation of Josef Stalin).  The undeclared war in Vietnam and its subsequent killing fields, furthermore, would likely either have vanished from the twentieth century’s dismal butcher’s bill or at least have been reduced to mere thousands of victims.  Words matter.  Two words spoken thoughtlessly by an egotistical fool can open the gates of Hell.  They might be “unconditional surrender”… or, for a smaller mind more challenged by polysyllables, they might be “red line”.

When I first undertook to learn Russian a few years back, I naturally latched on to a book titled Russian for Beginners.  The work was first published in 1962, when the Cold War was at its warmest.  Among the final pages was a long reading about the achievements and ambitions of the USSR’s most visionary scientists.  A translation followed the piece (adapted from a 1960 publication).  Here is an excerpt from that translation:

Cold is the traditional and unappeasable enemy of builders.  According to the calculation of economists, it devours ten per cent of all capital investment.

Scientists of various countries have long been meditating over how to warm our planet.  This dream was conceived in the mind of P.M. Borisov, the accomplishment of whose engineering projects was so often impeded by eternal frost and rigorous cold.

A mining engineer and builder, he has step by step also become a climatologist, geographer, oceanographer, historian and paleontologist.  About 5,000 articles and books relating to all these questions are numbered in the card indexes of P.M. Borisov.  His keen mind has conceived the idea of increasing the flow of warm water from the Gulf Stream to the Polar Basin and letting it through the Bering Strait into the Pacific Ocean.  In this event the Gulf Stream would melt the drifting ice-floes of the Arctic and warm up vast expanses of territory in northern latitudes.  But for this enterprise it is necessary to build a dam on the Bering Strait.(2)

I don’t know if the earth’s climate patterns are changing or not.  As a mere layman in such matters, I should be very surprised to learn that they are remaining static, for my impression is that they have never done so in the planet’s history, even over cycles of just a few decades (covered, for instance, by my own lifetime).  Now, I don’t like automobile traffic, and I don’t like the dishes of concrete macaroni—overpasses, underpasses, bypasses, merging highways, exit ramps, and the rest—created by traffic in the name of urban development.  But the notion that capitalist greed is solely responsible for degrading our natural environment is patent nonsense.  Our interstate highway system itself was the bastard child of pay-to-play cronyism, with shovel-ready politicians deciding to favor certain transportation alternatives to the delight of certain corporate donors (and certain labor unions).  In the passage above, we see that even those champions of equity and justice, the Soviets, were proceeding with plans to turn the planet’s climate upside-down—almost literally—in pursuit of greater wealth and power.  The same people gave us Chernobyl, and they turned Lake Baikal into a lifeless drainage ditch.  How have these facts escaped our children’s history books?  Answer: by means of the same gymnastic chronicling as has sanitized FDR.  Rest assured that Global Warming, if it even exists, will be recorded as the exclusive creation of the Far Right (which the custodians of our history obtusely equate with the neo/pseudo-conservative corporatist elite).

From the monumentally tragic to the shamelessly “revisionist” to the salaciously mean-spirited we go… for Pascal was right about the soul’s having no sense of proportion: the same squalid arrogance as makes one man cheat another in a business deal can leave the door to genocide ajar, and with no more serious reflection in one case than the other.  Tabloids and yellow journalists (whose difference from scholarly journals and college professors is merely a matter of style and audience) like to pillory Alex Rodriguez, or A-rod.  He was the original Billionaire Ballplayer (not really—but so the public sees him), he plays in the Big Apple, he briefly hung out with Madonna, he has now been implicated several times in using performance-enhancing drugs (PED’s)… and he is neither white nor black (to paraphrase Catullus) but something dangerously close to “White Hispanic”.  In a desperate gambit to evade suspension long enough to conclude his maculate career, A-rod has lately charged the Yankee organization with lying both to him and the public about the existence of a severe hip injury.  Doctors, in this version of the saga, covered up the results of X-rays a) in order to keep the inspirational Alex on the field, b) in order to throw a scapegoat for Yankee flops to a carnivorous fandom and press corps, c) to exploit some legal escape-hatch in Alex’s contract, or d) all of the above.  That Rodriguez supported Mitt Romney for president doesn’t exactly impede the crew at ESPN from sneering at his counter-charges.

What nobody at that professional birthplace and final rest of Keith Olbermann will ever divulge is that the same organization—the New York Yankees—committed the very same fouls against Roger Maris half a century ago.  I quote now from a recent biography:   

Into September, Yankee management continued to insist Maris was well enough to play, and he repeatedly told them his hand was too tender.  Finally, Julie Isaacson [a local Jewish strongman, name notwithstanding] arranged for Roger to see a doctor apart from the Yankees, and without their permission.  A young technician placed Roger’s elbow on the table and stuck his hand straight up in the air and shot the X-ray straight down through the fingertips.  It detected that Maris had fractured the hamate bone, a roughly triangular bone at the base of the hand, consisting of two parts, a body and a hook.  The hook had detached from the body, or main part of the bone.  Finally, the source of Roger’s continuous pain had been revealed.

With about two weeks to go in the season Maris went to see [manager Ralph] Houk to tell him about the X-ray and inform him that he was going back to Independence.  Faced with Roger’s evidence, Houk said, “Rog, I might as well level with you.  You need an operation on that hand.”  The words “I might as well level with you” etched themselves in Maris’s brain.  He would quote them often over the years to convey his sense of betrayal by Houk and a Yankee organization that had known the severity of his injury but had kept it from the press, the fans, and him….

Their ruse uncovered, the Yankees quickly held a press conference.  Dr. Gaynor explained the injury and stated Maris would under go surgery to fix it.  He then said, “We had hoped that nature would reunite the hamate bone, which often happens [though not when the patient is actively playing baseball].  We had hoped that surgery wouldn’t be necessary, but when we saw that the hook was not going to rejoin the main bone, we decided to operate.”  His self-incriminating words made it seem that the Yankees had been monitoring Maris’s injury since June 28, not denying its existence.(3)

What has Yankee Stadium to do with Rome or Jerusalem?  Probably not much; but as I say, people in any circumstances—whether waging a war, playing politics, rearranging the planet, or marketing a baseball club—are apt to grow dizzy in high places.  In this case, Dan Topping and Del Webb apparently felt that in Maris they had purchased an all-purpose slave.  When he wasn’t winning a pennant, he could be fed in steady morsels to the press; and if he was suffering from an unhealed injury, he could be lied to and badgered into taking the field, where his mere presence improved the team’s success rate: a range of abuses identical to those alleged by Rodriguez.  The Yankee proprietorship has shifted several times in the interim, of course, and A-rod is no Roger (who was, by the way, a JFK Democrat, like teammate Tony Kubek and Stan Musial—all children of Eastern European immigrants who had toiled in squalid factory towns).  Yet in the difference lies the proof.  Power breeds lies, and the powerful lie even to themselves so as to forget the humanity of those they oppress.  People who acquire power over you will use you, sooner or later, to the full extent of their sway.  In good times, they take your bows: in bad times, you carry the burden of their own incompetence and stupidity. 

If they have the scribbling class on their side, this sort of exploitation scarcely even requires an orchestrator.  The hacks and sycophants already know what they have to scrawl and babble in order to secure the reputations of their precious heroes and the patronage of their precious benefactors.  Sometimes the noisiest propagandists, having blared a personal path to fame with the numbing volume of their trumpet, will keep blasting the old fanfare as if they were our national conscience.  Bob Costas will never film an hour special telling the truth about Roger Maris: he’s too busy planning the next feature for Jackie Robinson Day that will warn us of racism’s persistence and alert us to the supernatural Costas sensibility in such matters.

Roger never liked the press, and he didn’t mince words with its all-powerful mouthpieces.  A-rod, though much less of a man, is much better at singing their song.  FDR will be exonerated by history departments everywhere even if their minions have to rip pages out of suspect books and crash suspect websites.  Krushchev’s empire acquires a little more nostalgic gilding every day (tarnished only by a run-in with JFK—which cannot be airbrushed from the books only because it was so laboriously designed to become Camelot’s finest hour).  Uncle Fidel should appear as a huggable toy in time for Christmas, judging by the energy which Hollywood and the glitterati are lavishing upon his rehabilitation.

It has become impossible to trust but verify at any level of our communal existence, frankly—or even to distrust and verify.  The truth has grown too frayed in crosscurrents of disinformation, and those whose profession was once to quest after it have opted for the instant gratification of being paid off for disseminating fairy tales and barnyard fodder.  I blunder upon stray facts such as those above from time to time that make my head spin, and I wonder how many dozens or hundreds of others I will never know. 

I can only conclude that we must mistrust everything and everyone; and as for verification, I rely increasingly on what I have learned—and learned painfully—of human nature.  For instance, I knew instantly that the Syrian rebels had employed poison gas in order to manipulate a pompous idiot into attacking their enemy.  I don’t need to see Vladimir Putin’s hundred-page report, which of course is working its own side of the street; I already know that an evil, cutthroat dictator does not squander a valuable weapon slaughtering mere women and children in an exercise certain to create a public relations bonfire (fanned by an already hostile international press).  Roger Maris is my hundred-page report: so is Herbert Hoover.  I know when people lie because I understand what makes them lie.  Unlike progressives, religious zealots, and other fanatical “visionaries”, I do not attend merely to the profession of faith and not the tone of voice or the actions outside of the temple.  We’re hearing lie upon lie right now, and the final sum of them all could well be hundreds of thousands of wasted lives.


(1)  From the e-book version of Herbert Hoover, Freedom Betrayed (Hoover Institution Press, 2011), Chapter 46, “The Casablanca Conference”.  The book was essentially ready for publication at Hoover’s death almost fifty years ago, yet the educational-publishing establishment was so heavily invested in promoting FDR’s apotheosis that it has only now seen the light of day.

(2)  From Russian for Beginners, eds. Charles Duff and Dmitri Makaroff (New York: HarperCollins, 1962 [reprinted 2002]), 269.

(3)  From Tom Clavin and Danny Peary, Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero (New York: Touchstone, 2010), 296.  Roger’s hand remained permanently damaged, by the way, shortening his career and encumbering his activities in later life.

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