|End of Page||Roosevelt vs. Churchill||Site Map||Overview|
It is Churchill who was right, and Roosevelt, who was wrong, in these matters, said Kissinger.
While the majority of Kissinger's elite audience was keenly aware of the bitter dispute between Roosevelt and Churchill, a different history has been made available to the average American: a mass of lies and half-truths about a so-called ``special relationship'' between Britain and the United States, based on common ideals, supposedly supported by both Churchill and Roosevelt, and intended to last into the next millennium. This rewriting of history began almost immediately with FDR's untimely death in April 1945, and has continued to this day.
Thus, what was perhaps the defining battle that shaped the course of current history remains unknown to most Americans. It is important that this story now truthfully be told, especially as a young American President has taken the steps to walk away from Britain and the ``special relationship.''
The historical evidence shows that Roosevelt entered into the military alliance with Britain with only one purpose in mind: the defeat of an enemy. The historical evidence also shows that Franklin Roosevelt was committed to dismantling the British Empire--and all other empires--and to replacing them with sovereign nation-states, modelled on the American constitutional republic, in which each citizen would be given, through access to modern scientific education and Western culture, the opportunity to create a better life for himself and his posterity.
It is this view of man, in the tradition of Western Judeo-Christian civilization, that places a value in each sovereign human individual, that the oligarch Churchill bitterly opposed, and that President Franklin D. Roosevelt espoused.
In 1946, as the history of the period was already being rewritten, FDR's son, Elliot, published a short book, titled As He Saw It. With pungency and force, using first-hand acccounts, Elliot told the truth about his father's bitter fights with Churchill, leading the historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. to state in a contemporary review that the book's central thesis was that Roosevelt saw Great Britain and its imperial system as a far greater adversary to the United States than Russia.
Some historians have charged the younger Roosevelt with inaccuracies in reporting. However, Elliot's reports have been subsequently supported by reams of declassified documents, as well as first-hand accounts from the day. What emerges is the story of a pitched battle between two powerful actors on the stage of history--often fought in the open--over two diametrically opposed visions for the postwar world.
During the period of his convalescence from an attack of polio (1923-27), during his early 40s, Roosevelt reevaluated his assumptions governing American foreign policy. Having once accepted the use of American military power as a vehicle to secure debt of bankers, Roosevelt, studying Lincoln and the Founding Fathers intensely, began to see such actions as immoral and against the principles on which the nation was founded. In addition, Roosevelt, in published papers, most notably a 1928 article in the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) journal Foreign Affairs, stated that moral principles must govern foreign policy, and that imperialist looting was contrary to documents that he regarded as sacred--the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Such views placed him within a faction of American patriots, whose interests were opposed to British imperialism and Britain's minions in the American financial and political establishment, centered around the Wall Street investment bankers, such as the Morgans. These patriotic interests transcended political parties, and included many Republicans as well as Democrats. Within the military, they included such figures as Douglas MacArthur. This patriotic faction was responsible for the drafting in the 1920s of War Plan Red, a contingency planning document for a war with Britain, and they had fought to maintain an independent U.S. naval power. Roosevelt, a former assistant navy secretary, was aware of these plans and disputes with Britain.
Roosevelt's new moral, foreign policy was embodied in his first inaugural and subsequent speeches as the ``Good Neighbor'' policy, first directed toward Ibero-America, but with a more general application to rest of the world. It was further elaborated in his initiation of steps to secure independence for the Philippines, a nation that the United States had ostensibly ``liberated'' from the Spanish, only to hold in thrall and poverty as a colony. In drafting the act that was to guarantee the Philippines' independence by 1946, Roosevelt stated: ``Our nation covets no territory; it desires to hold no people against their will over whom it has gained sovereignty through war or by any other means.''
The last statement was a direct attack on the concept of empire, including the British Empire. Its import was not lost on London. An official message asked whether the statement was meant to imply anything about the British Empire. The State Department, a bastion of British subversion within the American government, replied that it didn't; Roosevelt pointedly refused to respond to the British request to clarify his statement.
Britain's powers-that-be considered Roosevelt's implied attack on the empire unacceptable and dangerous meddling. While there may have been some important disagreements on the form and mechanisms of colonial rule between the ``Colonel Blimps'' of the Colonial Office and more ``enlightened imperialists,'' including those associated with the lords of the Labour Party, there was unanimity on the need to maintain the empire in one form or another, as the bedrock of the Venetian imperial system, whose head was the reigning ruler of the House of Windsor.
Already emerging as a spokesman for the race patriots and imperialists was the Conservative, Winston Churchill, the archetypical ``Colonel Blimp.'' Churchill, who had an American mother, nevertheless hated everything American, especially its republican government and its people's decidedly anti-imperial sense of charity. American civilization is ``doomed,'' he once wrote, by such views, to which fortunately, the less ``sappy'' of the British elites showed no inclination. Where Roosevelt believed in a Christian God, Churchill merely mouthed such beliefs, but spoke in terms of Wagnerian ``gods,'' who punished the good and wicked alike, at whim. In published locations, Churchill criticized the social programs of Roosevelt's New Deal, preferring to promote the survival of the fittest, rather than support by government for the less fortunate.
Here, then is a basic dividing line between the protagonists in our battle for the future of Western civilization. Roosevelt's New Deal program, with all its flaws in implementation, embodied the concept that lawful government must have a commitment to the general welfare of its citizens, especially the least fortunate. As Roosevelt stated it in 1936, it is a commitment to the Christian concept of ``caritas'' or charity, ``that does not merely share the wealth of the giver, but in true sympathy and wisdom helps men to help themselves.
``We seek not merely to make Government a mechanical implement, but to give it a vibrant personal character that is very much the embodiment of human charity.''Roosevelt, Churchill was to say later, was a man of ``dangerous moral sentiments.''
But Roosevelt found himself constrained from playing a more important role in international politics by a number of factors. For one thing, the State Department was effectively run from the British Foreign Office, making accurate policy assessments impossible, and even implementation of presidential policy problematic. The situation was compounded by a lack of competent foreign intelligence estimates, beyond simple military questions, caused by an unreliable and undermanned intelligence service. (Roosevelt, over the course of his presidency, attempted to overcome this through the creation of private intelligence and diplomatic channels.) Further, the American military, weakened by treaty arrangements in the naval area in the 1920s and early 1930s, and further emaciated by the effects of the Great Depression, was incapable of projecting American power in Europe and/or most other parts of the world. This state of affairs was not to be corrected until long after the start of World War II in 1939, and the U.S. mobilization to win this war.
Moreover, the American people were not ready to stand behind a President who wanted the nation to assume global leadership. Years of misleadership and disinformation, circulated by British operatives and their ``anti-British'' dupes, had led America down the blind alley of ``isolationism,'' away from its historic mission of world leadership. Roosevelt saw it as his personal responsibility to reverse this miseducation, and did so through a series of speeches and messages on foreign policy from 1937-41.
In October 1938, as the British led the world down the path towards war at Munich, Roosevelt proposed privately to the British that a conference be held to repudiate the Versailles Treaty and its onerous conditions, and declare the world committed to equal access for all nations to raw materials. The Chamberlain government, sensing that such a conference might turn into an attack on the imperial arrangements that gave the British the exclusive looting rights in their colonies, told Roosevelt to back off. Under pressure from his own State Department to support the British, Roosevelt withdrew the idea.
The outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939 demonstrated the utter bankruptcy of British and French policy. From his letters and correspondence of the period, it appears that the motion toward war had caused Roosevelt to again reevaluate the assumptions of the Versailles system. While it is not clear that he understood the responsibility of the British for creating Hitler and the Nazi state, he did see that the Versailles system--the perpetuation of the British imperial system in another form--was at its root. He had long since given up his former support for the League of Nations, because, as he wrote to a friend in 1936, it was little more than a debating society for the British and their interests; the League, with its mandate system, had, in fact, reinforced the claims of the colonial powers for sovereignty over their empires, while redistributing the colonial ``booty'' from the losing powers of World War I to the victors.
``Imperialism equals war,'' Roosevelt later told his son Elliot. While not the only factor in creating the new world war, the desire of the imperial powers, led by British, to maintain the colonial system had been a major factor leading to the war. Conversely, if, after this war, a just and lasting peace were to be created, the entire edifice of the imperial system had to be dismantled. America would be Britain (and France's) ally in the coming war, but must not agree to allow the British to dictate the shape of the peace, whenever that peace came.
He described these views to Elliot in 1943:
``I've tried to make it clear ... that while we're [Britain's] allies and in it to victory by their side, they must never get the idea that we're in it just to help them hang on to their archaic, medieval empire ideas ... I hope they realize they're not senior partner; that we are not going to sit by and watch their system stultify the growth of every country in Asia and half the countries in Europe to boot.''
Roosevelt, with calculation, declared America in November 1940 to be the ``arsenal of democracy,'' announcing plans for a major conversion of industrial capacity for military production. The need to supply Britain, and later, in 1941, even before the German invasion, the Soviet Union, with weapons was a cover for the President's plans to make America the foremost military power on the face of the earth.
To cover his back, so to speak, and with the recognition that American entry into the war was inevitable, Roosevelt crafted a government of national unity, opening his cabinet prior to the 1940 election (in which he was running for an unprecedented third term) to members of establishment factions whom he knew to oppose basic components of his domestic and foreign policy; however, the consensus among these scoundrels--who included the new Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, the founder of the anglophile Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)--was that Britain had to be saved, and that Germany had to be defeated. They obviously did not agree, nor did his State Department, with his developing anti-colonial strategy, nor his views on building a lasting alliance with Soviet Russia and Stalin. Roosevelt, not naive in political intrigues, knew that Stimson, Dean Acheson (whom he had once fired because of support for British economic policy), Frank Knox, the Navy Secretary, and the others could not be trusted; but, as he remarked to an associate, he would might as well have them in place where he could keep a good eye on them, as they were going to attempt to subvert his policies anyway.
In November 1940, Roosevelt demanded an accounting from Churchill of British financial resources. What came back, in a classified communication, were the details of the London's effective bankruptcy: London could not pay for any aid. Roosevelt's advisers created the Lend-Lease program to meet this contingency, but Roosevelt had all the evidence he needed that Britain was a bankrupt power, dependent upon the United States for survival--and from this position, unable to dictate the terms of the future peace. The future belonged to the United States.
On Jan. 6, 1941, Roosevelt, the President of a nation that was not yet formally at war, presented in his State of the Union address, the principles around which the war was to be fought. The ``Four Freedoms'' speech defined for a whole generation the aspirations that would guide Roosevelt's vision of the postwar world.
After describing the necessary dependency of Britain upon the U.S.A., FDR stated:
``As men do not live by bread alone, they do not fight by armaments alone. Those who man our defenses, and those behind them who build our defenses, must have the stamina and the courage which come from the unshakable belief in the manner of life which they are defending. The mighty action that we are calling for cannot be based on disregard of all things worth fighting for...Having stated these principles from a standpoint accessible to the average American citizen, FDR universalized them so as to apply to the rest of the world, not from the standpoint of an existing world, but as principles of change, to move the world from its current wretched state to a new and better postwar war.
``For there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:
``Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
``Jobs for all those who can work.
``Security for all those who need it.
``The ending of special privileges for the few.
``The preservation of civil liberties for all.
``The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.
``These are simple, basic things that must never be lost in the sight of the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations....
``In future days, which we seek to secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.Roosevelt deliberately enunciated the word ``everywhere,'' as he repeated it in cadence with each of the Four Freedoms, and in relation to the struggle for human rights and freedom. According to his aide, Sam Rosenman, Roosevelt had dictated the draft of this section of the speech himself. As he dictated, his trusted advisor Harry Hopkins questioned the use of the word ``everywhere,'' saying that the American people didn't care about people in Africa or elsewhere. ``They had better start caring, Harry,'' replied the President.
``The first is the freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world.
``The second is the freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--everywhere in the world.
``The third is the freedom from want--which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants--everywhere in the world.
``The fourth is freedom from fear--which, translated into world terms, means a worldwide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor--anywhere in the world.
``That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.
``To that new order, we oppose the greater conception--the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.
``Since the beginning of American history, we have been engaged in change--in a perpetual peaceful revolution--a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly, adjusting itself to changing conditions--without the concentration camp or the quicklime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.
``This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or to keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose.
``To that high concept there can be no end save victory.''
Later that year, Norman Rockwell's illustrations of the ``Four Freedoms'' were hanging in homes, barber shops and post offices throughout the land.
In March 1941, Roosevelt reiterated those principles, speaking of an end to the subjugation of men by other men. Speaking of the end of the war, FDR stated, ``then our country must continue to play a great part in the period of world reconstruction, for the good of humanity.
``...There never has been, there isn't now, and there never will be, any race of people fit to serve as masters over their fellow men...Roosevelt's remarks, each more provocative that the previous, did not go unnoticed by Churchill. Cables flew across the Atlantic to British operatives to determine how much support Roosevelt might have for his anti-colonial positions among the American people. Churchill did not like what he was told. As Sir Norman Angell reports, Roosevelt was speaking for a majority opinion within the population:
``We believe that any nationality, no matter how small, has the inherent right to its own nationhood.''
``How could a man like Franklin Roosevelt, of all people, come to hold the [anti-British, anti-colonial] views he did? His view was that of so many of his countrymen who differentiate sharply between the British people and the British government. The British people are regarded generally as decent, honest, law-abiding, freedom loving. But their government is usually represented as a class or caste rule, maintaining often against the will the people, a world tyranny compounded of imperialism, colonialism and power politics which violates all the political morals, and, in particular, denies the elementary human rights of all peoples to be independent like the United States.''
While the normal histories of the ``Atlantic Charter'' conference, speak of a ``deepening'' relationship between Churchill and Roosevelt, first hand accounts, including Elliot Roosevelt's, give a different story. The anti-British sentiment within parts of the American delegation permeated the discussions among the working bodies. Elliot recounts one top American military aide telling him that the public ``British love fest'' was phony:
``Love us? All they want is our birthright!''FDR told Elliot as meetings got underway.
``The British Empire is at stake here,''
``We've got to make it clear to the British from the very outset that we don't intend to be simply a good-time Charlie who can be used to help the British Empire out of a tight spot, and then be forgotten forever.There were bitter arguments over Roosevelt's plan to provide the Russians with American material support, with Churchill declaring that such aid was wasted, and that Russia--and the aid--would fall to the Germans. But the most intense clash came over the question of the future of the British Empire. Roosevelt initiated the discussion by cleverly turning the British ``free trade'' ideology against themselves, demanding an end to the ``Empire preferences.''
``...I think I speak as America's President when I say that America won't help England in this war simply so that she will be able to continue to ride roughshod over colonial peoples.''
``|`The British Empire trade agreements,'' he [Churchill] began heavily, `are--'|''Meanwhile, Roosevelt was determined to have the British commit themselves now to the principles of the Four Freedoms, knowing that they were incompatible with the continued existence of the Empire. The text of the proposed Atlantic Charter was drafted by Roosevelt ally in the State Department, Sumner Welles; it was fined-tuned in Argentia by Roosevelt.
``Father broke in. `Yes. Those Empire trade agreements are a case in point. It is because of them that the people of India and Africa, of all the colonial Near East and Far East, are still as backward as they are.'
``Churchill's neck reddened and he crouched forward. `Mr. President, England does not propose for a moment to lose its favored position among the British Dominions. The trade that has made England great shall continue, and under these conditions prescribed by England's ministers.'
``|`You see,' said Father slowly, `it is along in here somewhere that there is likely to be disagreement between you, Winston, and me.
``|`I am firmly of the belief that if we are to arrive at a stable peace, it must involve the development of backward countries. Backward peoples. How can this be done? It can't be done obviously by eighteenth-century methods. Now--'
``|`Who's talking about eighteenth-century methods?'
``|`Whichever of your ministers recommends a policy which takes raw materials out of a colonial country, but which returns nothing to the people of the that country in consideration. Twentieth-century methods involve bringing industry to these colonies. Twentieth-century methods include increasing the standard of living, by educating them, by bringing them sanitation--by making sure that they get a return for the raw wealth of their community...'
``|`You mentioned India,' he [Churchill] growled.
``|`Yes, I [Roosevelt] can't believe that we can fight a war against fascist slavery, and at the same time not work to free people all over the world from a backward colonial policy.'
``|`What about the Philippines?'
``|`I am glad you mentioned them. They get their independence, you know, in 1946. And they've gotten modern sanitation, modern education, their rate of illiteracy has gone steadily down...'
``|`There can be no tampering with the Empire's economic agreements.'
``|`They are the foundation of our greatness.'
``|`The peace,' said Father firmly, `cannot include any continued despotism. The structure of the peace demands and will get equality of peoples...'|''
The Atlantic Charter, as signed by Churchill, states that the signatories ``seek no aggrandizement'' and ``no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned.'' Its most-debated clause states:
``They will respect the rights of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; they will to see the sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcible deprived of them.''Churchill insisted that this only applied to occupied nations. Roosevelt, however, demanded the inclusion of the term all, meaning that its applicability was universal--it included all colonial peoples, including the British Empire.
The British leadership now knew first hand, if they had only feared or suspected as much before, that Roosevelt, as a matter of absolute conviction, was at war with the British Empire. Elliot recounts the following outburst from Churchill:
``Mr. President, I believe you are trying to do away with the British Empire. Every idea you entertain about the structure of the postwar world demonstrates it.... But in spite of that, you constitute our only hope. You know it. We know it. You know that we know that without America, the British Empire won't stand.''
As sat in his map room, surrounded by his most trusted aides, and adjutants, Roosevelt looked upon a world radically different from when he took office. The British Empire was an economic, political, and military shambles, as were all the other empires--the French, the Dutch, the Portuguese. They could not be out back together without the agreement of the American superpower, and Roosevelt would not give that agreement.
Assuming that full weight of American military power were brought to bear, the defeat of the Japanese and Germans was inevitable; the question was how to do this most efficiently, in the shortest period of time, with the least loss of life, with no regard for British colonial interests. FDR was determined to prevent British intriques to dismember or destroy the Soviet Union and to ``disintegrate'' China as a nation-state. In Roosevelt's eyes, both China and Russia were needed as allies to counterbalance the British after the war, to create a stable environment for the dismantling of the imperial Versailles system.
On the other side of the Atlantic, at 10 Downing Street, in Churchill's situation room, similar maps and deployments were on display. Churchill's main goal, however, was to preserve the British imperial system, in one form or another. In that regard, the United States and Franklin Roosevelt represented a greater strategic threat than either the Germans, whose Nazi government had been created by British bankers, or the Japanese, whose royal family was manipulated by British assets; a potential American postwar alliance with the Russians merely enhanced that threat.
Churchill's strategy was to sacrifice part of the empire, including Australia, to the Japanese, to trap the United States in a long Pacific War, that would bleed the nation and last well beyond Roosevelt's lifetime. In addition, the second front in Europe would be delayed to prolong the slaughter of the Russians. Thereby, the British would gain time to regain control over their empire.
Roosevelt, with his eyes fixed on the creation of just postwar order, did not go for the bait.
In a mid-December 1941 conference with U.S. military leaders, he supported plans to anchor U.S. military strategy in the Pacific around the defense of Australia, a nation whom he regarded as crucial to postwar plans for the development of China and the former colonial empires. In early 1942, FDR dispatched Patrick Hurley, the secretary of war in the Hoover administration under whose direction the War Plan Red (against the British) had been maintained and updated, to Australia, to develop close relations with the prime minister, the Australian patriot John Curtin. Hurley and Curtin worked out the plans to have Gen. Douglas MacArthur lead the Allied counteroffensive in the Pacific.
Roosevelt also reportedly gave orders that no American troops were to be deployed to fight for British colonial possessions, no matter how much Churchill raved, except where such deployments might have bearing on the defense of either Australia or China.
``The President's mind was back in the American War of Independence and he thought of the Indian problem in terms of thirteen colonies fighting George III at the end of the 18th century...''
With Churchill continuing to insist that the Atlantic Charter had no relevance to the British Empire, Roosevelt asked Undersecretary of State Welles to deliver an address that would make the universal application of the charter's principles clear as a bell. The speech, delivered on Memorial Day 1942 at Arlington National Cemetery, called the war ``a people's war'' which ``cannot be won until the fundamental rights of peoples of the earth are secured.'' Speaking from a text approved by the President, Welles declared that the system that divided thr world into ``the haves'' and ``the have nots'' must be ended:
``If this war is in fact a war for the liberation of people, it must assure the sovereign equality of peoples throughout the world, as well as in the world of the Americas. Our victory must bring in its train the liberation of all peoples. Discrimination between peoples because of race, creed, or color must be abolished. The age of imperialism is ended. The right of a people to their freedom must be recognized as the civilized world long since recognized the right of an individual to his personal freedom. The principles of the Atlantic Charter must be guaranteed to the world as a whole--in all oceans and all continents.The British ambassador, Lord Halifax, cabled London that Roosevelt was a ``liar'' and no friend of the British; the American President, he said, was leading a crusade against the British Empire and everything it stood for. Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, who had come to Washington for talks, cabled Churchill that the Roosevelt position ``contemplates the dismantling of the British and Dutch empires....''
``And so, in the fullness of God's time, when victory is won, the people of the United States will once more be afforded the opportunity to play their part in the determination of the kind of world in which they will live. With courage and with vision, they can yet secure the future safety of their country and of its free institutions, and help the nations of the earth back into the paths of peace...''
In July 1942, Roosevelt sanctioned a world tour by former 1940 GOP presidential candidate Wendell Willkie, whom he had recruited into a tactical alliance against British imperialism. Willkie carried personal instructions and messages from Roosevelt, and his speeches spoke publicly of the anti-imperial content of American foreign policy. Wherever Willkie went, he spoke of the ``coming tide of freedom'' which would roll back imperialism. On Oct. 6, in Chungking China, he declared ``We believe that this war must mean an end to the empire of nations over other nations. No foot of Chinese soil, for example, should be or can be ruled from now on except by the people who live on it. And we must say so now, not after the war.
The British were furious. Were Willkie's statements American policy, they demanded to know. Roosevelt said nothing and told the State Department to acknowledge only that the President had sanctioned the trip.
On his return to the U.S.A., Willkie delivered a nationwide radio broadcast report on his findings. He declared:
``In Africa, in the Middle East, throughout the Arab world, as well as in China, and the whole Far East, freedom means the orderly but scheduled abolition of the colonial system. I can assure you that this is true. I can assure you that the rule of people by other people is not freedom and not what we must fight to preserve....The next day, Roosevelt was asked at a press conference for his comment on this last section of the Willkie speech. He stated that Willkie had merely restated a well-accepted point, that ``the Atlantic Charter applied to all humanity.''
``When I say that in order to have peace this world must be free, I am only reporting that a great process has started which no man--certainly not Hitler--can stop. Men and women all over the world are on the march, physically, intellectually and spiritually. After centuries of ignorant and dull compliance, hundreds of millions of people in Eastern Europe and Asia have opened the books. Old fears no longer frighten them. They are no longer willing to be eastern slaves for western profits. They are beginning to know that men's welfare throughout the world is interdependent. They are resolved, as we must be, that there is no more place for imperialism within their own society than in the society of nations. The big house on the hill surrounded by mud huts has lost its awesome charm.''
Churchill could no longer contain himself. On Nov. 10, 1942 he rose in the British Parliament to acclaim the allied landings in North Africa. Instead, he launched into a defense of British war aims, stating that they had not entered the war for profit or the expansion of territory under the Union Jack. Then, he stated,
``Let me, however, make this clear, in case that there should be any mistake about it in any quarter. We mean to hold our own. I have not become the King's First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.''
Roosevelt made no direct comments on Churchill's remarks. In a letter to an aide, he wrote:
``We are going to have worse trouble with Britain [after the war] than we do with Nazi Germany now.''As Churchill fumed, Roosevelt was refining his views on the mechanisms for the transition from the Versailles colonial order to a new order of independence, freedom, and development. He expressed concerns about how to guard the peoples of the colonial world from further exploitation at the hands of the British and other imperialists. But it were not possible to set the colonies free without adequate preparation, or their peoples would be set up for exploitation by other, indirect means.
His answer was a plan to create ``trustees''-- a group of nations--which would guarantee the development of nation-states in the former colonies, while having the sovereignty of those areas reside with their inhabitants. In some extreme cases, where it were impossible to create sovereign nations for reasons of size or location, trustees could create internationally guaranteed ``free ports,'' to be developed for the benefit of all nations.
While there were some within the British elites, including Lord Hailey, who believed that Britain would have to give in to a new type of imperial mechanism developed from the Commonwealth, proposals that would subject the empire to ``trusteeship'' were regarded as tantamount to a declaration of war.
Behind Churchill's back, Roosevelt discussed his anti-colonial strategy with Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov when the latter visited Washington in late 1942. He told Molotov that he felt that after the war it was going to be necessary to take colonial possessions away from the mother countries, ``for their own protection.'' Molotov indicated that he was certain that Stalin would agree to these ideas, as he was favorable to other proposals for the postwar world.
It was apparently Roosevelt's own idea that he should make a stop in Liberia on his trip to the meeting. Roosevelt made brief public remarks highlighting the fact that Liberia had been founded by American slaves and was a free nation, but he was outraged at what he saw: substandard living conditions; he privately blamed the State Department for having no policy on economic development for Liberia or for anywhere else in the ``poor'' world, and saw this as undermining his foreign policy.
As embarrassed as FDR was by what he saw in Liberia, he was, according to first hand accounts, visibly shaken by what he viewed in a brief stop in British Gambia. On his arrival at Casablanca, FDR told his son:
``The thing is, the colonial system means war. Exploit the resources of a India, a Burma, a Java, take all the wealth out of those countries, but never put anything back into them, things like education, sanitation, decent standards of living, minimum health requirements--all you are doing is storing up the kind of trouble that leads to war...I must tell Churchill what I found out about his British Gambia today.... This morning at about eight-thirty, we drove through Bathurst to the airfield. The natives were just getting to work. In rags ... glum-looking.... They [his British hosts] told us that the natives would look happier around noontime, when the sun would have burned off the dew and the chill. I was told that the prevailing wages of these men was one and nine. One shilling, nine pence. Less that fifty cents ... a day! Fifty cents a day! Besides which they are given half a cup of rice.... Dirt. Disease. Very high mortality rate. I asked life expectancy. You'd never guess what it is. Twenty six years! These people are treated worse than livestock. Their cattle live longer!... Churchill may have thought I wasn't serious last time [at Argentia]. He'll find out this time.''We have some idea of what Roosevelt was saying from an account of discussions, at which Churchill was present, with the Sultan of Morocco. Roosevelt, speaking in French, stressed the need for Morocco to develop and control her own resources. To do this, he said, required: ``the elevation of the living standards of Moroccans; only by doing that could Morocco be free of imperial intrigues (Morocco was at the time controlled by the French). The Sultan expressed a desire to obtain modern education and health standards.
``Father pointed out,'' Elliot Roosevelt wrote, ``that to accomplish this, the Sultan should not permit outside interests to obtain concessions which would drain off the country's resources.''
Churchill was described as growing increasingly furious at these comments, and repreatedly tried to change the subject. Roosevelt persisted, telling the Sultan that the postwar world would differ sharply from the prewar world, ``especially as they related to the colonial question.'' The Sultan asked FDR what he meant by ``differ sharply.'' Roosevelt explained that in the past, French and British financiers combined into self-perpetuating syndicates for the purpose of dredging riches out of the colonies; he then said that there were likely large oil deposits in Morocco that needed development. The Sultan said, that while he would like to pursue such possibilities and use the wealth to develop his nation, he was unable to do so without going to the colonial powers, since his country lacked scientists, engineers, and technicians needed to develop a petroleum industry. Roosevelt suggested that the U.S.A. could establish a reciprocal aid program that would have as its purpose the development of skilled engineers and scientists and technicians, using American universities for the training. Roosevelt then suggested that the Sultan could engage American firms to carry out the development program he had in mind, on a fee or small percentage basis. American aid would not be exploitative, said FDR, nor would it ask for control of resources or political institutions.
Churchill was described as ``glowering'' when he left the room.
A year later, in a speech to the Negro News Publishers Association, Roosevelt gave additional description of the conflict with Churchill, referring to his view of colonial rule in Gambia:
``I am taking up with Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the present time--I think that he will see the point--the general thought that the United Nations ought to have an inspection committee of all these colonies that are way, way down the line, that are not ready to have anything to say because the owning country has given them no facilities.
``And if we send a committee from the United Nations, and I used the example of Gambia, to go down to Gambia, `If you Britishers don't come up to scratch--toe the mark--then we will let the world know.
``Well, the Prime Minister doesn't like that idea. And his comeback was: `All right, the United Nations will send an inspection committee to your own South in America.'' (Laughter)
``I said, `Winston, that's all right with me. Go ahead and do it. Tell the world. We call it freedom of the press, and you call it `pitiless publicity'--you can right a lot of wrong with `pitiless publicity.'|''
In December 1943, FDR expressed his frustration to his son Elliot:
``You know, any number of times the men in the State Department have tried to conceal messages to me, delay them, hold them up somehow, just because some of those career diplomats over there aren't in accord with what they know I think. They should be working for Winston. As a matter of fact, a lot of the time, they are [working for Churchill]. Stop to think of 'em: any number of 'em are convinced that the way for America to conduct its foreign policy is to find out what the British are doing and then copy that!''The State Department prepared voluminous briefing books and policy papers for the November 1943 Cairo meetings with Chiang Kai-shek and Churchill and the Teheran meetings with Stalin and Churchill. Roosevelt not only left the books behind--he left all State Department officials behind, to stew in Washington!
``I was told,'' his son reports the President as stating, ``six years ago, to clean out that State Department. It's like the British Foreign Office....''
``I'll take care of these matters myself,'' was Roosevelt's now usual response on matters of crucial policy. ``I am the only person I can trust.''
According to first-hand accounts, Roosevelt went to Cairo with the outlines of a global ``grand design'' for the last stages of the war and the postwar world. The war in Europe was to be ended as quickly as possible, with the cross-Channel invasion of the continent, long postponed by Churchill's maneuvers, implemented at a fixed date certain within six months. In the meantime, full support was to be given to MacArthur's strategy of moving toward Japan, by bypassing strongholds, with no ``sideshows'' as proposed by the British. Japan was to be isolated and effectively destroyed, without a costly invasion of the mainland, by conventional military means. Its collapse was to be insured by a Soviet invasion of Manchuria and possibly Korea, as soon as the war in Europe ended. China was to be maintained as a whole nation, as envisioned by Dr. Sun Yat-sen.
To sweep away colonialism as rapidly as possible, the U.S. would form alliances with the Russians and Chinese, as a block against the fourth allied power, the British. Together, the Big Four, or as FDR called them, ``The Four Policemen,'' would militarily guarantee the peace, with the United Nations organization serving as a coordinating body to promote global economic development.
Roosevelt believed that he could sell this vision to both Stalin and Chiang; if he could do that, Churchill and the British could be dragged kicking and screaming into the new order.
Roosevelt saw it as necessary to attack the defacto imperial alliance between the French and the British; the French, he told his son, while outwardly hating the British, had adopted Britain's imperial outlook, and taken their side on such issues. For that reason, Roosevelt said that he would not allow Indochina to be returned the the French. When his son raised some issue with this, stating that her colonies ``belonged to France,'' the President shot back:
``How do they belong to France. Why does Morocco, inhabited by Moroccans belong to France? Or take Indochina. The Japanese control that colony now. Why was it a cinch for the Japanese to conquer that land? The native Indochinese have been so flagrantly downtrodden that they thought to themselves: `Anything must be better than to live under French colonial rule!' Should a land belong to France? By what logic and by what historical rule.... I am talking about another war, Elliot. I am talking about what will happen to our world, if after this war we allow millions of people to slide back into semi-slavery!''At Cairo, Roosevelt huddled for hours, alone, with Chiang, while Churchill fumed. He told the Chinese leader that the U.S. was prepared to help make China into a great power, but that Chiang would have to find a way to create a government of national unity with the communists, rather than allow the country to split. He informed Chiang that he was prepared to force the British to return Hong Kong to the Chinese, provided that Chiang would then agree to place it under international trusteeship to operate as a ``free port.'' Roosevelt assured the Chiang that he was prepared to end ``all colonial empires'' in the Pacific, and assured him that this would not be replaced by an American ``imperium.''
In Teheran, in one-on-one meetings with Stalin, Roosevelt told the Soviet leader of his plans to end all empires. Stalin, according to some reports, became scared at the implications. Didn't the President understand that this might mean war, with the British, and explosions in the former colonial sector? he asked. Roosevelt replied that risks were going to have to be taken to create a better world. The two leaders agreed that Indochina would be ``liberated,'' as well as other colonial areas.
Roosevelt, at least according to the records, never briefed an angry Churchill on his dealings with Chiang and Stalin, causing the volatile prime minister to accuse him of ``secret deals.'' However, during the Cairo sessions, Roosevelt made quite clear his intentions, and the two leaders clashed openly. The President demanded that the conference declaration include specific timetables on the independence of British colonies in Asia--which Churchill absolutely refused to consider. Still the draft declaration, as proposed by Roosevelt, pointedly refused to make reference to restoration of any colonies to their former masters
Although the communiqué was better for London that what FDR wished, he came away with the feeling that he had British in retreat. Churchill, in London, found himself under attack in his cabinet for making concessions. ``We did the best we could,'' he told them, cursing at Roosevelt's persistence on the colonial question.
To give economic substance to his postwar vision, he had a number of groups within the government working what was dubbed ``the global New Deal.'' While an examination of the plans finds them disjointed and often partially filled out, one can't help but feel exhiliration at their breath and the boldness of their concepts. Even today, these plans find no parallel in scale, except in the economic programs proposed by Lyndon LaRouche and his cothinkers.
The initiation for each of these plans came directly from Roosevelt. It appears that this President was keenly interested in economic development, and had ideas about how to do it in every corner of the globe.
A small sample of what was under discussion gives a sense of what he was thinking--and what must have scared the living daylights out of Churchill and the British imperialists:
At another, he laid out far-reaching plans for Asian development. At Roosevelt's direction, the U.S.A. submitted a general plan for postwar development that FDR intended as a model for other areas. Titled, ``After the War: Security,'' it was premised, to anger of Halifax and London, on the end of colonial empires, and was focussed in large part on economic development. It was divided into two general concepts, with specific planks: 1) the coordination of the economies of each country for development purposes and their coordination with other countries in the world; and 2) finance and the matter of payment of obligations. The plan called for the creation of a world standard monetary unit, and suggested that it be called the ``Demo,'' for democracy. Roosevelt, according to reports, enthusiastically presented the proposal, explaining the benefits that each and every citizen would derive.
At one point, Roosevelt began a discourse on debt. He noted that too many Pacific nations had borrowed money from the United States and its private banks to finance their public works. These loans usually called for repayment at high rates of interest, creating long-term indebtedness. He did not want that to happen anymore in the postwar world. FDR said that he wanted to create low-interest credits for projects and programs and wanted to work toward a coordinated plan to eliminate the interest rate problem completely. He proposed that steps be taken by governments to bring this about. Halifax sensed that something bigger was at stake and questioned how there could be such a broad plan only for the Pacific. The President, he said, was proposing major changes that would have impacts on the rest of the financial world, including his own country. ``So be it,'' replied Roosevelt.
The President was asked what economic experts thought of such radical ideas. Roosevelt said that he welcomed ideas from everyone, including the people at this table. He stated that ``cooperative allies'' did not need to be, or need, ``economic experts'' to make their plans work. ``I realize that the `experts' would probably attack this proposition [about debt and interest] with enthusiasm,'' Roosevelt said, ``however, I have come to realize that nearly all taught me in college about economics by the `experts' has been proven wrong!''
Speaking at the meeting of the International Labor Organization in May, was broadcast nationally, Roosevelt dsecribed the horrors of the British imperial system in Gambia, he said:
``I think that we can get somewhere if we keep that idea of being `agin'--as we say in Irish-American--`against' exploitation everywhere. It would be an awfully good thing for all of us....''However, Roosevelt balked at enlisting the American people into his fight against Churchill and the British Empire. That would have to wait, he told aides, until after the war was won on the battlefields.
The British responded to the threat Roosevelt represented through the mouth of GOP candidate Thomas Dewey, who was controlled by John Foster Dulles. Dewey claimed that Roosevelt and the New Deal apparatus responsible for his economic proposals were ``communists'' and that Roosevelt, if elected, would turn the country over to the ``Reds.''
Churchill, meanwhile, was prepared to stall. FDR suffered from serious heart problems and hypertension, although his own physicians thought that he could survive through a fourth term. By late 1944, Churchill was in receipt of a secret briefing on the President's health by Churchill's personal physician Lord Moran: Roosevelt had only several months to live, at best, perhaps a year.
(It cannot be ruled out that the British may have had a direct hand in the President's deteriorating health. it is certainly the case that Churchill, through his insistence on two summits in Canada during the height of the campaign, and his delay of the proposed summit with Stalin until it required a precarious, 12,000-mile mid-winter trip to Yalta, deliberately caused strain and helped wear out Roosevelt. Doctors have since stated that the strain of the Yalta trip may have taken several months or even a year from Roosevelt's life.)
At Yalta in February 1945, Roosevelt continued to doggedly pursue the policies that had guided him since 1941. He sought and won from Stalin an agreement to keep China whole, to allow for a coalition government between the Communists and Chiang, and to make it one of the ``Big Four.'' He also gained specific agreement for Russian entry into the war against Japan; for Roosevelt, who was in possession of secret military briefings from MacArthur's spies in Japan, a Russian invasion of Manchuria and attacks on Korea would mean that an invasion of the Japanese mainland was not necessary. (Immediately upon his return to the United States, Roosevelt, in reviewing invasion plans, with MacArthur's full consent, put them all on hold. His son Elliot, as well as others close to him, say that FDR already believed that the military use of the atomic bomb was unncecessary to gain a victory over Japan and would have never consented to its use on populated areas.)
Roosevelt believed that he would be personally able to force Stalin to abide by his agreements; he expressed more fear about duplicity from the British than from the Soviet leader.
The records of the February 1945 Yalta meeting, now public, also show that Roosevelt put on the table his plans to place the British Empire under international supervision, as a step toward dismantling it. According to Elliot Roosevelt, Churchill responded with rage:
``I will never agree to the fumbling fingers of 40 or 50 nations prying into the existence of the British Empire.... While there is life in my body, no transfer of British sovereignty will be permitted.''On Feb. 23, 1944, during his return from Yalta aboard the U.S.S. Quincy, Roosevelt held an ``off the record'' press briefing for reporters. He told them of his extraordinary plans to make the deserts bloom in the Middle East, using oil resources for vast irrigation programs. Roosevelt explained that, in his mind, this was what the new United Nations was going to be all about.
He then stated that he was not going to allow the French to reclaim Indochina and that Stalin and Chiang were in agreement with him:
``With the Indo-Chinese, there is a feeling that they ought to be independent but they are not ready for it. I suggested at the time, that Indo-China be set up under trusteeship--have a Frenchman, one or two Indo-Chinese, a Chinese, and a Russian because they are on the coast, and maybe a Filipino and an American--to educate them for self-government....A reporter asked FDR whether Churchill's position weren't ``inconsistent with a policy of self-determination [as expressed in the Atlantic Charter, for example]?''
``Stalin liked the idea. Chiang liked the idea. The British don't like it. It might bust up their empire, because if the Indo-Chinese were to work together and eventually get their independence, the Burmese might do the same thing to England. The French have talked about how they expect to recapture Indo-China, but they haven't got any shipping to do it with.
``It [Roosevelt's idea of trusteeship for Indo-China] would only get the British mad. Chiang would go along. Stalin would go along. As for the British, it would only make the British mad. Better to keep quiet, just now.
``Is that Churchill's idea on all territory out there, that he wants it back just the way they were?'' Roosevelt was asked. He replied, ``Yes, he is mid-Victorian on all things like that.''
``Yes, that is true,'' Roosevelt replied. The reporter informed the President that Churchill had just the other day reiterated that the principles in the Atlantic Charter, including the clause that gave all peoples held against their will a fundamental right to freedom, was ``not a rule, just a guide.''
``Do you remember that speech the prime minister made about the fact that he was not made prime minister of Great Britain to see the empire fall apart?'' a reporter asked the President.
``Dear old Winston will never learn on that point,'' said Roosevelt. ``He has made his specialty on that point. This, of course, is off the record.''
In his last days, Roosevelt was working on plan, which he had preliminarily dubbed ``Food for Peace,'' which involved the unleashing of American agriculture to feed the world, while deploying American technology to make the hungry nations food self-sufficient. He was also preoccupied with trying to prevent the British, in particular Churchill, from staging provocations that would split the United States from Russia, using territorial disputes in Europe as a pretext; at a cabinet meeting on March 16, one of the last attended by FDR, according to the notes of one participant:
``The President indicated considerable difficulty with British relations.... He stated that the British were perfectly willing for the United States to have a war with Russia at any time and that, in his opinion, to follow the British program would be to proceed toward that end.''
Orders that were being prepared for U.S. ships and marines to take Hong Kong and turn it over to the Chinese, were aborted. Other plans to prevent the French from retaking Indochina were cancelled, and American troops in the area were told to stand aside. The imperial flags went back up, as Churchill had been demanding, all over the world.
Later that same month, in San Francisco, the American delegation to the United Nations conference voted against proposals that were aimed at placing the British and French colonial possessions under international supervision and with a definite timetable for independence. America, said delegation leader Harold Stassen, had but one true ally, the British, and we must always stand by her side. The United Nations, taken over by a pack of British agents, including Julian Huxley, soon became a tool for British imperial interests.
In August, President Truman, manipulated by the British agent Henry Simpson, dropped atomic bombs that Roosevelt never planned to use on a nation already prepared to surrender, claiming to ``save'' American lives in an invasion of Japan--which FDR and his top military commanders knew was unncessary.
Not one of the economic development projects proposed by Roosevelt and already in planning stages, ever saw the light of day.
Roosevelt had failed to develop a leadership cadre to carry on without him. This was, in part, because of his own leadership style, which tended to centralize important decision-making in himself and which often manipulated even his closest aides against each other. Ultimately, he found that aides, like Hurley, were unable to generate ideas or policy. He groomed no political successor, and within the patriotic faction which had, sometimes reluctantly, been forced to follow his leadership, there was no one who could hold a candle to FDR.
But, Roosevelt was also unable, because of his own limited comprehension of the history of the ideas that informed his thinking, to explain them in their most profound sense to others. He was a patriot, with great instincts, and human compassion, but he had an imperfect understanding of the history of the conflict that he found himself in the middle of: The battle between the American republican tradition and British oligarchism. Those closest to him, often themselves infected with the disease of anglophilia, failed to understand this fight; and without him present, they were easy pickings for skilled British operatives.
FDR was arguably the greatest American President of this century, who understood how to use the power of the presidency as no individual before or since. He was, as President, the best at organizing the American citizenry behind a program. Yet, though at war with the British Empire and all it stood for, Roosevelt never brought the American people fully into that battle, never told them of the depths of his disagreements with Churchill. He said he was waiting to do this until the war's end, but it never happened. In the absence of a population mobilized against the British, the invidious Harry Truman, handled for the British by Simpson and Jimmy Byrnes, could reverse the direction of Roosevelt's policies. We thus continue suffer the consequences from this fatal error of Roosevelt's judgment.
|Top of Page||Roosevelt vs. Churchill||Site Map||Overview|
Readings from the American Almanac. Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.