War, Freedom and Fascists

Westbrook Pegler

Spartanburg Herald-Journal/May 21, 1940

Washington, May 20.—Now wait a minute—just a minute. It is all very well to talk of preparedness for defense in a general way, but this thing is beginning to get personal. It is getting personal to everybody.

Gen. Peyton C. March, who was chief of staff in the first world war, is saying that the problem calls for an army of a million men, which is a fine figure. But what men? Which men? At this point, the discussion gets intimate. does he mean to say that a man has got to throw up his job, which was so hard to get, pack away his civilian clothes, swear away his right to smoke and drink when he likes, stay out as late as he likes and say what he likes about the boss or the president of the United States, and go off somewhere to live in wooden shed with a hundred total strangers and no privacy, dig holes all day and wear a suit that is practically nothing but brown overalls, and never speak out of turn and always say “Sir” to the boss?

Does he mean that a young fellow in college who has been running a temperature about a dream number whose picture is on his dresser has got to drop out and join the fellow who has quit the job, in the same restricted conditions? Are these million men to be actual individuals or just theoretical men without identity or personality or private plans and ambitions? And will they include men above the arbitrary, theoretical age limits according to the recent suggestion of Col. Bill Donovan, late of the 69th New York, who holds that fitness, not age, should be the first consideration? Why not?

It begins to seem that the million men are to be actual individuals with personality and all that, and not just “they.” And because you won’t get a million fit volunteers just by blowing bugles, they will be subpoenaed, not invited.

But this is nonsense. They can’t do that. This is a free country and not at war. Free, in a way, and not at war, either, in a way, but getting ready to fight a war if the Germans and the Italians smash the Allies, and after pausing a while to pull themselves together, start messing around on this side of the Atlantic. The Germans and Italians are great hands to slug people who make the mistake of regarding them as friends and neglecting to go thoroughly armed at all times, and they do admire South America.

It all seems so unnecessary. This country wants no part of Germany or Italy. Couldn’t the government just send them a written guarantee that this country positively will never attempt to take any part of Germany io Italy or attack either of them, and just wants to rock along? Maybe, but there were half a dozen countries in Europe which gave and lived up to the same guarantee, and the Germans and Italians ganged them anyway. It is a man named Hitler who decided when other people must abandon their homes, their hopes and their lives for war. Hitler and an ex-Communist named Mussolini. They are the ones who have decided that a million personal, individual Americans, to use General March’s figure for a starter, will have to drop everything pretty soon and go soldiering.

Their decision gets personal in other ways, too. It makes it practically useless for Americans here in their own homeland and bothering nobody to make plans for their personal future. Their earnings and savings will be skimmed and skimmed to pay taxes or buy bonds to pay for uniforms and guns, airplanes and tanks, ships and shells and great military camps just at a point when it seems that the old system can’t stand another ounce of strain. Nobody knows, but everybody is entitled to a guess at what that means.

One guess which worked out in other countries is that it will mean that everybody who has anything will wind up with nothing, and that those who have nothing will still have nothing. This phase of it is deeply personal, too, although not as physical as the affair of the million men and, perhaps, a second, third and fourth million.

There are some, not many, who think it would be better to do nothing at all about it, and send Hitler and Mussolini a note saying we will hold them responsible before the public opinion of the world and before God if they kill unarmed, defenseless Americans and conquer the United States. It might work, but it seems a very chancy way of dealing with the problems, necause it has been tried before without success. Hitler and Mussolini say they are world opinion, and they say there ain’t no God.

(Source: Google News, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=SFOYbPikdlgC&dat=19400521&printsec=frontpage&hl=en)