I loved learning about T.R.’s youthful trials and tribulations in David McCullough’s ‘Mornings on Horseback’.
I envied Roosevelt’s undaunted courage as told through the words of Candice Millard in her superb ‘River of Doubt’.
And I was amazed (and grateful) to learn of Teddy’s foresight in protecting America’s environment after perusing Douglas Brinkley’s ‘The Wilderness Warrior’.
So, you can imagine my shock and disgust in discovering that Roosevelt was a white supremacist, who singlehandedly laid the foundation for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Korean War and the rise of Communism in China! At least that’s the premise of James Bradley’s shocking book, ‘The Imperial Cruise’. Teddy, say it ain’t so!
Bradley is no novice to writing. His two books about World War II are considered classics. In fact, Clint Eastwood (yes, the old guy who recently spoke to the empty chair at the Republican Convention) thought enough of ‘Flags of Our Fathers’ that he directed and produced a major motion picture that brought the riveting tale to life.
Bradley said he researched and wrote ‘The Imperial Cruise’ because he wanted to know the origins of the War in the Pacific.
In his truly jaw-dropping tale, Bradley paints T.R. as a product of his environment. In the late 19th century, says Bradley, all upper class whites considered the Aryan race to not only be far superior to every other one, but predestined to dominate the globe. They justified their imperialistic ways with such jingoistic slogans as "carrying the white man’s burden," Manifest Destiny, and others. First, Native-Americans fell prey to Westward-moving European whites. Later, having conquered the 48 contiguous states, the U.S. seized Hawaii and, then, the Philippines. Bradley’s stories of atrocities committed by white Americans in the name of progress are deplorable to say the least.
Bradley quotes Teddy as describing black-Americans as “…a perfectly stupid race.” T.R. was equally contemptuous of Asians, calling them “Pacific Negroes” who were incapable of governing themselves.
That said, T.R. thought the Japanese were superior to Koreans, Chinese and other Asians. He saw them as an Asian version of the Aryan master race.
Roosevelt encouraged the Japanese to embark on their own imperialistic ways and become “…the Great Britain of the Pacific.” He even secretly supported Japan’s invasions of Manchuria and Korea, respectively and, later, their war with Russia. Roosevelt not only sold out the Koreans, says Bradley, but bent over backwards to broker a peace treaty that was lopsided in favoring the Japanese over the Russians (whom T.R. saw as “backward Slavs”). Nice, no?
The Imperial Cruise was a diplomatic mission T.R. arranged in 1905. On board the S.S. Manchuria were Roosevelt’s Secretary of War, William Howard Taft, his daughter, Alice, and a team of Congressmen. Their assignment? Forge an agreement with Japan that would literally divvy up Asia between the two countries: a clandestine and wholly unconstitutional act. The skullduggery fell apart because, in brokering the peace agreement between Russia and Japan that, ironically, would win him a Nobel Peace Prize, T.R. refused to make Russia pay war damages to Japan. That ‘betrayal’ set in motion Japan’s anger towards the U.S. A betrayal, says Bradley, that set the stage for World War II, The Korean War and the Communist Revolution in China.
In Sasha Baron Cohen’s movie, ‘The Dictator,’ a fictitious Middle Eastern potentate, Admiral General Aladeen pays a visit to New York City. Reveling in the sights and sounds of a ticker tape parade, Aladeen sighs, “Ah, America. I love it. Built by the blacks and owned by the Chinese.”
I wonder what T.R. would make of the Chinese (and the success of other “Pacific Negroes”) were he alive today?