Jewish World Review April 28, 2003 / 26 Nissan 5763

Paul Greenberg

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SOUND FAMILIAR? Truman meets the press | CNN: President Truman, now that it's become clear that the occupation of Germany and Japan will be far more challenging than our military victory .

HST: You ever been in the service, son? You have any idea how many good men gave their lives so you could stand up here and tell me how easy the war was compared to how hard the peace is going to be? Any of you people have a serious question?

MSNBC: Mr. President, we have footage of a huge number of Japanese marching in an ancient religious procession that could turn into an anti-American riot any minute and .

HST: Freedom of religion is a part of our Constitution, which you'd do well to read, and so would any new government we're going to set up overseas. We didn't win this war to squelch anybody's freedom. This was a war against fascism pure and simple, against a bunch of brutal thugs, not against anybody's religion. Got that? Why, I remember growing up in Independence, Mo., fine town, with the widest variety of faiths, from Pentecostals to hard-shell .

The Washington Post: Speaking of these democratic freedoms that are going to be instituted in Europe and Asia, Mr. President, how can you expect the Japanese, who have had no real experience with democracy, to accept Western ideas like free elections, and even women voting in them? Shouldn't we be showing more respect for a different culture and its ancient .

HST: Don't worry about the Japanese, fella. You'd be surprised how fast the Japanese people will catch on. And if I didn't have proper respect for their traditions, I wouldn't have put MacArthur in charge of the whole shootin' match over there; he's got more imperial pretensions than Hirohito .

BBC: But I say, sir, what about the Germans? Suppose you do install your model little democracy in Bonn -- a most unlikely eventuation considering all the political and cultural obstacles -- and the first thing the Germans do is elect another fuehrer, why, don't you see, it'd be a sticky wicket. As Macauley pointed out, or maybe it was Trevelyan .

HST: If you limeys would read a little American history, you'd know that a fella named Lincoln had to deal with pretty much the same problem about a hundred years ago, and came up with the answer. He was all for government of the people, by the people and for the people, but if the people wanted to deprive a minority of their rights, or even enslave them, well, we can't have that in a free country. So you've got to have a constitution that protects everybody. Now understand, I'm not saying Lincoln was right about everything. He was a Republican, you know, but on this question, like I told Margaret when she was taking history in high school .

CBS: But Mr. President .

HST: Wait your turn. And if you think we're going to stop with free elections and women's suffrage over in Japan, you've got another think coming. By the time we're through, the Japanese are going to renounce war, redistribute land, have an anti-trust law that'll break up their cartels the way we did Standard Oil, and we'll even get 'em some labor unions -- so long as they don't let John L. Lewis run 'em -- and, they'll eat it up, I assure you, like any other red-blooded Americans. We're going to build the kind of ideal society there that we've never been able to have over here, thanks to Senator Taft and that reactionary, do-nothing 80th Congress .

The Nation: With all due respect, Mr. President, are you out of your mind? Thousands of innocent civilians have been killed, nobody knows how many enemy soldiers have lost their lives -- the Pentagon stubbornly refuses to tell us -- and worst of all, valuable antiquities are missing. How do you account for that?

HST: Ma'am, there's been a war.

Chicago Tribune: According to our sainted Colonel McCormick, this war has marked the end of America as a republic and its degeneration into an aggressive empire hell-bent on ruling the world. With plans afoot to divide Germany into four zones, how can you seriously contend that we've occupied the country in order to liberate it? And how are you going to run the place if you insist on disbanding the ruling Nazi Party, which was the only thing that held it together?

HST: Mark my words, the Germans will have their first free elections soon, probably turn pacifist, and it won't be long before they feel free enough to start criticizing our policies. Which is just fine with me. Free speech and all that. As for the Japanese, they'll create a democracy that'll be one of our staunchest allies in the years to come. And both nations will set an example for the spread of democracy throughout their respective regions .

CBS: That sounds a bit visionary, Mr. President. Anyway, even though our troops have discovered signs of awful conditions for political prisoners -- and ethnic minorities --there's no evidence that the Germans were working on weapons of mass destruction . . .

HST: You ever hear of a guy named Heisenberg? Or heavy water? And I'm not talking about bourbon. You think they were building those missiles just to deliver firecrackers across the Channel? I can't share all the classified intelligence I've got with you right now, but I assure you, it'll make some fascinating reading one of these days. History always does. Grew up on it. You'd be surprised the different point of view it gives you. Only geese and fools wake up in a new world every morning. Right now we've got a whole team of experts going through captured documents and tracking down German scientists -- we've got our eye on a fella named Von Braun or Van Black or something -- and I'm sure they'll lead us to whole bunkers full of .

Chicago Tribune: On another subject, does the secretary of war really intend to transform the Army and Navy departments into some kind of futuristic department of defense -- which our military experts and various retired generals have assured us will never work? And as for this Marshall Plan that's going to miraculously turn these war-torn countries into some kind of booming economic powerhouses, is that realistic?

HST: Wait and see. You might be surprised. Your paper often is. Usually about how a presidential election will turn out.

Fox News: How do you explain this unconditional victory achieved by the might of a free country, the vision of our military planners, the courage of our armed forces, and your outstanding leadership?

HST: Well, I think you've pretty well summed it up. Excuse me, gentlemen and Miss Thomas, but it's time for my morning constitutional.

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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Any similarity between Harry S. Truman's verbal style and that of the current secretary of defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, is purely coincidental. Send your comments by clicking here.

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