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A President Who Should Live in Infamy

Today, December 7, is the anniversary of the “day that will live in infamy,” as President Franklin Roosevelt put it after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The mainstream editorialists and op-ed writers will undoubtedly cart out the standard tripe about how Japan initiated an unprovoked attack on the United States, which, they will say, totally surprised the United States. What they won’t point out is that a Japanese attack on U.S. forces is precisely what Roosevelt wanted and had instigated.

Roosevelt knew that the American people were overwhelmingly opposed to entry into World War II. That’s because American intervention into World War I had proven to be so disastrous. In World War I, President Wilson had sent tens of thousands of American men to the deaths in with a dual aim:“making the world safe for democracy” and to finally bring an end to all war. Neither objective was achieved, which was confirmed with the ascendancy of Hitler to power in Germany and the renewed outbreak of war in Europe. At the same time, Wilson succeeded in destroying civil liberties here at home, jailing American citizens who had the temerity to oppose his destructive intervention.

Americans were fiercely opposed to doing it again. But Roosevelt felt differently. He believed that he knew better than the American people. He felt that interventionism was necessary once again.

Of course, that’s not what he told the American people when he was running for an unprecedented third term in 1940. He told them that he would never ever send “your boys” into another foreign war.

He was lying. In fact, FDR was doing everything he could to maneuver and manipulate Japan into attacking U.S. forces so that he could then exclaim: We have been attacked. It’s a surprise. We are shocked. This is a day that will live in infamy. We now have no choice but to defend ourselves.

Under America’s system, the Constitution is the highest law of the land. It is designed to control the actions of U.S. officials. Under the Constitution, Congress, not the president, decides whether or not the country is going to war. If the Congress declares war, the president and his military forces then wage war. If Congress fails to declare war, the president is prohibited from waging war.

What Roosevelt did was intentionally subvert America’s constitutional order. Knowing that he could never secure a declaration of war from Congress, he did everything he could to provoke Japan into attacking U.S. forces so that he could get his declaration of war under a theory of “We have been attacked and therefore we now need to defend ourselves.”

The biggest thing that Roosevelt did was to impose a extremely effective oil embargo on Japan, one that succeeding in squeezing Japan into having to choose between two unattractive options: One, scale back its war efforts in China or, two, attack the U.S. Navy to enable Japan to get oil in the Dutch East Indies without U.S. naval interference.

That wasn’t all. Roosevelt also froze Japanese bank accounts in the United States, despite the fact that he had no legal authority whatsoever to do that, especially given that the two nations were not at war. Moreover, when Japan reached out to the U.S. in an attempt to resolve differences, Roosevelt proposed terms that he knew would be too humiliating for Japan to accept.

It’s also worth mentioning that Roosevelt left battleships at Pearl Harbor, which had all the characteristics of bait for the Japanese. (The wily Roosevelt was smart enough to remove American carriers from the island.) He also left thousands of American soldiers in the Philippines, which also turned out to be nice bait for the Japanese.

Some mainstream writers will undoubtedly say that Japan was out to conquer the United States, but that is sheer nonsense. Japan lacked the military capability as well as the supply lines to undertake such a massive operation. With its attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan’s aim was much more limited — to simply prevent U.S. interference with its acquisition of oil in the Dutch East Indies.

It’s also worth mentioning that U.S. officials had broken Japan’s diplomatic code (and possibly its military code as well) and knew that an imminent Japanese attack was virtually certain. Yet, FDR intentionally took scant efforts to warn the military commanders at Pearl of the high probability of an attack. Of course, if the commanders at Pearl had been warned and had mobilized to defend against an attack, Japan might have been deterred from attacking, which would have foiled Roosevelt’s plan.

On December  7, 1941, Roosevelt got what he wanted — “a day that would live in infamy.” With the high number of U.S. soldiers sacrificed at Pearl and in the Philippines as a result of Roosevelt’s shameful subversion of America’s constitutional system, America had a president who should live in infamy.

The post A President Who Should Live in Infamy appeared first on The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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About The Author

Jacob G. Hornberger

The Future of Freedom Foundation was founded in 1989 by FFF president Jacob Hornberger with the aim of establishing an educational foundation that would advance an uncompromising case for libertarianism in the context of both foreign and domestic policy. The mission of The Future of Freedom Foundation is to advance freedom by providing an uncompromising moral and economic case for individual liberty, free markets, private property, and limited government. Visit

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