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April 18, 2008



There is even a trivial parallel between the "Merchants of Death" theory about the origins of the World Wars and the 9/11 Counterfactual Conspiracy theorists. Senator Gerald Nye was an isolationist politician and chairman of the US Senate Committee which investigated the role of the arms industry in WW1 in the mid-thirties. When he was told about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour (ironically enough during an 'American First' rally in Pittsburgh), he initially refused to believe it and suspected it was a hoax. At least his state of denial only lasted a matter of hours in that instance.


"Human Smoke is a trivial, tendentious, ignorant, and more than moderately disgusting work..."

Stop sitting on the fence. Tell us what you really think.


Written in 1925 at the outbreak of WW1? Do you mean 1915, or am I missing something important?


Ah, I'm failing to read properly. My mistake.

Barry Larking

"The most generous thing you can say about Baker’s thesis is that it is not of his own devising."

Indeed it is not. I have long awaited revisionist history of the Second World War (1942-45) from across the Atlantic to re-assert itself. Mr Baker's view's were once common in certain political circles in the USA. Evenso, he might just have done everyone a favour. I am encouraged that a certain realism is coming back into the study of the war and its origins and that many will be surprised to learn that Britain was not popular in the US even during the Blitz and there was no enthusiasm there before Pearl Harbor to support her, the last nation left in the field to fight against European fascism.

America First and the even more airbrushed out of history German American Bund organisations are overdue for reappraisal. Yet it is shameful to have to say this sort of thing when one has seen the graves of so many young Americans who fought and died for something better. Let Mr Baker answer one question: Would the world have been better or worse if Hitler had won?

Oliver Kamm

Lee, I realise now that my phrasing, while technically correct, is easy to misread. I should therefore have said it more clearly, this way. Sir Edward Grey was Foreign Secretary at the outset of WWI; he wrote those words in retrospect, in 1925.


Viktor Frankl seems to have secured a measure of inner purpose or joy from his holocaust experience.

Of course it doesn't follow from this that suffering is a desirable route to that end, or that the Allies were wrong to fight the Nazis.

David Duff

Does anyone know of a modern, that is, post WWII, biography of Sir Edward Grey? I have 'googled my way up the Amazon' to no avail but one can never under-estimate my incompetence in such matters. All tips gratefully received.


David, there is:

Keith Robbins - Sir Edward Grey: A Biography of Lord Grey of Falloden (1971).

Not sure how widely available it is though.

David Duff

SteveF - thank you very much and I'm sure the always excellent abebooks will find me a copy. Incidentally, apropos this particular post, Keith Robbins also wrote:

"The Abolition of War: The "Peace Movement" in Britain, 1914-1919".

I've never heard of Keith Robbins's work but he has a fascinating range of subjects to his credit so I might splash out on some more of his stuff. Once again, thanks, Steve.


Oliver's critique is thorough and convincing. I would just like to qualify this remark of Baker's because it throws an interesting light on current mores: "Churchill and Roosevelt are fingered for having made sly (and sometimes not so sly) anti-Semitic insinuations."

Assuming for the purpose of argument that this is true, I am sure that both men would have sheltered Jews, even at great personal risk, were they in flight for their lives. This highlights the poor quality of the current debate on racism and anti-Semitism. While disdaining Jews as people and wanting them all dead are both unpleasant anti-Semitic thoughts, there is a world of difference between them which is far too often trivialised, particularly by the "We are all Hezbollah now" naifs.


Pedant mode: it sould be "suffering voluntarily undergone". The misquote you currently have conveys the opposite of the intended meaning.


Off topic but has antisemitic ever meant anything other than hatred/disdain for Jews? E.g. anti-Arab as some people seem to claim since Arabs and Arabic are of semetic descent.



Whilst it is true that Arabs are Semites, antisemitism has always referred to anti-Jewish racism. The word antisemitism is widely attributed to Wilhelm Marr who founded the League of Antisemites in 1879.

The charge that some people try and make that Arabs cannot be antisemites as they are Semites themselves is simply nonsense and exposes their ignorance about the history of the word.

Whether the term antisemitism was the correct word for Marr to apply to anti-Jewish racism is neither here nor there, the term was used to mean anti-Jewish racism by Marr and that is the way it is has always been used.

There may also exist a separate debate about whether antisemitism is a form of racism as it assumes that Jews are a race. In fact, it was pointed out by Louis Harap that the word "racists" itself is very modern: "The term is so new that the Second Edition of the unabridged Webster Dictionary does not even contain the word in the body of the book, but only among the special section on "New Words," "added in 1939."


I haven't read the book, but I saw Baker being interviewed on C-Span, and his take on the Japanese entry into World War II was pretty similar - blamed it on the US sanctions (neglecting the fact that the latter were a response to Japan's occupation and war crimes in China) and hinting pretty heavily that he feels that FDR had foreknowledge of Pearl Harbour.


Thanks Mikey.

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