Real history is complicated and nuanced

It is no secret that, aside from STEM programs, most colleges are bastions of progressive advocacy. In my view, the worst offenders are history departments. They’ve gone from teaching Western Civ to Anti-Western Civ.

Recently, the New York Times has joined the Hate America First chorus. 1619 was the long opening salvo. The premise of the series was that America was not conceived in 1776 or 1789, but was an economy and society birthed by the importation of the first African slave in 1619.

Let’s get some context. Slavery has been around for at least 5,000 years. Maybe longer, but we have no written records. It exists in some small and ugly pockets today. Most of the geography and economy of America in the 17th and 18th centuries has few or no slaves. Even in what became the Confederacy, a small minority of large land owners owned almost all the slaves. Somewhere between 10 and 15% of Africans who were chained in slave ships came to America. Almost all the rest went to the Caribbean and Brazil to work on sugar plantations, where they were worked to death. Some freed slaves were sent back to Africa after the Civil War. They founded the nation of Liberia and promptly enslaved some of the local population. At least 90% of Americans alive today have no ancestors who were slave owners.

1619 is not history; it’s propaganda. Slavery in America was a ghastly injustice. Reconstruction failed and segregation was an abomination. America has made other mistakes and has numerous flaws. However, on balance, we have been a beacon of freedom and opportunity and a force for good in a chaotic world. And we continue to try to fulfill the promises of 1776 and 1789. We’ve made a lot of progress, even if we have some ways yet to go.

The latest desecration of American history from the Times was last Sunday’s section memorializing the 75th anniversary of the end of WW II. The majority of the text was about the firebombing of Japanese cities, the dropping of two nuclear devices, the mistreatment of Black men and women in uniform, the internment of Japanese citizens, and the failure to properly credit colonials who volunteered and served. With two minor exceptions, the Americans who fought and died went unmentioned.

The most egregious inaccuracy was the failure to explain the reasoning that went into the bombing of Japan. The impression left was that we were simply barbarians slaughtering innocents. Nothing could be further from the truth. The militarists who ran Japan concluded in 1944 that they could not win. They decided that Americans were weak and casualty adverse, and that their weakness could be exploited by inflicting maximum casualties on American Marines, sailors and soldiers. That would induce America’s leaders to seek an armistice and allow them to rearm.

Beginning with the Kamikaze campaign (a flying suicide vest), which killed thousands of sailors, they set out to kill for the sake of killing. Peleliu was the first ground operation. The Japanese garrison was informed they would receive no relief or supplies. They were to devise a defense to the last man designed to inflict maximum casualties. The First Marine Division was eventually rendered combat ineffective. They were relieved when the Japanese perimeter was down to a few hundred square yards because they couldn’t go on. It was probably the most brutal fighting in the history of our species.

On Okinawa, this hell was played out on a much larger scale. In addition to mandating suicide for each and every solder, the civilians were instructed to kill themselves and most of them did. American casualties were horrendous.

American leaders were presented three choices. They could end the fighting and leave Japan’s leadership in place. They could invade the home islands. Or . . . they could attempt to bomb Japan into submission. The choice was between Japanese casualties and an a very realistic estimate of 500,000 to 1,000,000 American casualties. Even after the first atom bomb was dropped, Japanese military leadership was prepared to fight on. They were overruled by the Emperor. Numerous officers were prepared to arrest the Emperor to prevent him from making the surrender broadcast. Fire bombing and atom bombing were ugly choices inflicting untold suffering, but they were fully justified by the alternatives on offer.

That is the real history. As with 1619, the Times is not presenting fact based history.

A Different View