Jul 13, 2008

Human Smoke - Nicholas Baker(BC July 08)


This is a book of facts taken out of context and used to reinforce the author's predetermined views. An odd format, but not new. The author creates a scatological background of anti-Semitism, bigotry and greed, as he systematically destroys heroic personalities with implied logic. For example he claims:

  • Anti-Semitism was THE cause of the unnecessary World War II.
  • Churchill and FDR were the most responsible and evil promoters of WW II.
  • All wars are caused and ultimately fought by political leaders that lie.
  • Churchill, FDR, and Hitler lied.
  • They convincingly pre-sold World War II to the participants.

Winston Churchill is presented as an anti-Semite, an alcoholic failure, and an incompetent bureaucrat. (Surely a one sided picture of a complex person). FDR, Arthur (Bomber Harris), Boom Trenchard, Hugh Dowding, Claire Chenault, James Doolittle and many other wartime leaders, are blamed for provoking World War II. The author doesn't balance his essay with other contributing causes:

  • The scorched earth severity of the Versailles Treaty at the end of WW I.
  • The irrational German fear of Bolshevism at the time.
  • Depressing economic conditions in Germany after World War I.
  • The NAZI desire for economic and military expansion.
  • The actual military invasion of other nation-states.
  • The prospect of German aggression gaining control of our ally Great Britain.
  • And the Aryan superiority nonsense.

The time line is important.

1. During the 1930's America, France and Britain sold tanks and bombers to Hitler despite the Amnerican Jewish Congress advice not to - and despite Germany's military expansion, known human rights violations, and rising anti-Semitism.

2. In 1934 Japan complained that the increasing American military presence in Hawaii was a clear provocation to Japan - but at the same time Japan continued their violent military expansion in Asia.

3. In 1935 FDR gave(?) Wake Island to the U.S. Navy, and granted Pan Am airfield permits on Midway and Guam. The Japanese considered these actions hostile.

4. In 1936 America loaned China one hundred million yuan to buy American made armaments, and our Treasury Dept. drafted an agreement wherein the U.S. agreed to purchase 26 million dollars worth of silver from China. China was to use the money to by airplanes, ships, tractors, oil, and railroad equipment from America.

5. By 1940 Japan had invaded China and caused FDR to devise a war plan that included the consideration of bombing Japanese cities. By this time Great Britain was already bombing German cities night and day.

6. Juanuary 5, 1937 Capt. Philip S. Mumford (Peace Pledge Union) asked in a speech:

"What is the difference between throwing 500 babies into a fire and throwing bombs and fire from airplanes on 500 babies?"

7. In 1941 the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor.

  • Was that a sneak attack or a pre-emptive strike?
  • The author suggests it was a logical result of American policy that was trying to provoke an excuse for FDR to enter a war with Japan.
  • Further, that American leaders made many mistakes on pupose at Pearl Harbor.
  • The Japanese threat was known, but we did nothing to prepare.
  • FDR wanted Japan to move first.
  • The author tries very hard to make the case that incompetent American political irresponsibility provoked the war with Japan.


The feudal Chinese, in the midst of a civil war between Nationalist warlords and Communist agitators, were threatened by Japan. America stepped in with manufactured arms and backhanded support for the Nationalists. Much of this aid was channeled through Gen. Claire Chenault - who eventually directed our military intervention between China and Japan - well before Pearl Harbor.

During the 1930's Japan began an aggressive expansion by military force in the region. They intended to enlarge their living space, sphere of influence, political and military power. The more agrarian Chinese, Korean, and South East Asians were almost defenseless without help. FDR decided Japan needed to be stopped before radically impacting American interests in the area. War resulted.


The British began bombing raids on German cities BEFORE the Germans could respond and long before America entered the war. When equipment and crew losses began to hurt badly, the British switched to indiscriminate high altitude and night time bombing of the German cities. They KNEW that they were hitting only 1% or 2% of their military targets, and 98% or 99% of their bombing was on non-combatent and innocent men, women, children, aged, and the infirm.

During the 1930's Germany began an aggressive campaign of expansion by military force. They first attacked their neighbors who buckled under without much resistance. This emboldened Germany to press on. Almost all of continental Europe came under German control before Great Britain, to their credit, stood and said: "no more". They fought bravely against insurmountable odds. Long into the war America helped them by becoming an armaments supplier, the living supplies, amd finally joining the British as a full fledged partner and ally.


  • I remain unconvinced that FDR and Churchill and the rest of the allied leaders were bloodthirsty and disgustingly evil. Not true.
  • My view of indiscriminate aerial bombing has changed completely. I'm against.
  • The murder of non-combatent men, women and children for the purpose of forcing a much smaller number of violent thugs out of power, is not effective or acceptable.
  • A person of Baker's talent should direct his intelligence toward eliminating war - rather than formulating a biased structure to examine the past.