The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, July 22, 2005

Truman among the Zionists

Pursuing McCullough doggedly, I pass, for the moment, on the famous memo, The Politics of 1948, scribed by James Rowe, but purloined (in name, at least) by Truman's political Jeeves, Clark Clifford - McCullough says (p592) of the memo's influence on Truman's actions
Probably it was very little - certainly less than later claimed.

But the memo (or a draft of it) is available online [1]. So, on the Willie Sutton principle, I'll no doubt be returning to it.

Apparently, Rowe says that the Democratic Party
had been so long in power that it was "fat, tired and even a bit senile"

And by then, the party had only had control of Congress for 14 years: think how bad it had got by 1995!

Anyhoo - Zionists.

Partly, it was those 47 electoral votes of New York - Thomas Dewey's home state - that Truman had in mind. (In the end, Dewey got 'em, for all the good it did him.)

But it was also an emotional thing for Truman - David Niles, his special assistant for minority affairs (!) and a Jew, sensed, saith McC (p596),
a fundamental sympathy for the plight of the Jews that he had never felt with Roosevelt. Had Roosevelt lived, Niles later said, things might not have turned out as they did.

A matter to ponder as we get closer to a trial in the AIPAC espionage case.

McC does point out that, at the time, the Zionist cause was popular among Americans generally. King David Hotel, just summer high spirits...

But the souk of Zionist lobbyists leant toward Der Stürmer parody, and got right royally up Truman's nose. As with one Abraham Feinberg, a New York clothing manufacturer who was visited by Assistant Interior Secretary Oscar Chapman (McC quoting James Rowe - p598):
[Oscar] walked in and there was Feinberg standing with an umbrella. And when he saw Chapman, he put the umbrella up and all these bank rolls fell onto the floor.

If Truman would do something about Israel, all this moolah would be his. Chapman reported back.

Truman's reaction - according to Rowe:
Tell the bastard to go to hell.

Did he say bastard?

Apparently, he told the Cabinet at one point (p599)
Jesus Christ couldn't please them when he was on earth, so how could anyone expect that I would have any luck.

But his Zionist sympathies persisted.

The State Department's more balanced approached brought accusations of anti-semitism - plus ça change - and not being team players. Apparently, Niles told a guy from State
the most important thing for the United States is for the President to be reelected

That, of course, was the sentiment informing Vietnam policy in 1964.

Eventually, of course, the British (who were broke at the time [3]) and slashing their overseas commitments) gave in to Jewish terrorism, and the UN voted for partition as of March 14 1948 (nicely timed for the campaign!).

There is also a blast from the past on the military front[4] (p602):
Truman was warned by the Chiefs of Staff that military intervention to protect a new Jewish state would require no less than 100,000 troops.

The hard truth, as [Navy Secretary James] Forrestal reported to Truman, was that the deployable troops then available totaled less than 30,000, plus perhaps 23,000 Marines.

Thank the Bring Daddy Home' clubs for that. The pols had taken the line of least resistance, but the American people - who had had an incredibly comfortable war, compared to most other participants - were the ones to blame.

  1. Though - ugh! - in JPEG form!

  2. The UK had suffered the humiliating sterling convertibility crisis of July-August 1947 forced by the terms of the Shylockian American Loan of 1945.

  3. Greece had gone earlier in 1947, leading to the Truman Doctine, etc.

  4. There was a Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, but the JCS was given statutory authorisation in PL 81-216 §211 and, as such, came into existence on August 10 1949.

    On the JSC site: all I could find was this (PDF). And there's this from the DOD.


The Politics of 1948 is available in manageable form - as Appendix B to an oral history interview with James Rowe at the Truman Library site. Thank Goodness...

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