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Des Moines Speech
It is now two years since this latest European war began. From that day in
September, 1939, until the present moment, there has been an over-increasing
effort to force the United States into the conflict.
That effort has been carried on by foreign interests, and by a small minority
of our own people; but it has been so successful that, today, our country
stands on the verge of war.
At this time, as the war is about to enter its third winter, it seems
appropriate to review the circumstances that have led us to our present
position. Why are we on the verge of war? Was it necessary for us to become
so deeply involved? Who is responsible for changing our national policy from
one of neutrality and independence to one of entanglement in European
Personally, I believe there is no better argument against our intervention than
a study of the causes and developments of the present war. I have often said
that if the true facts and issues were placed before the American people, there
would be no danger of our involvement.
Here, I would like to point out to you a fundamental difference between the
groups who advocate foreign war, and those who believe in an independent
destiny for America.
If you will look back over the record, you will find that those of us who
oppose intervention have constantly tried to clarify facts and issues; while
the interventionists have tried to hide facts and confuse issues.
We ask you to read what we said last month, last year, and even before the war
began. Our record is open and clear, and we are proud of it.
We have not led you on by subterfuge and propaganda. We have not resorted to
steps short of anything, in order to take the American people where they did
not want to go.
What we said before the elections, we say [illegible] and again, and again
today. And we will not tell you tomorrow that it was just campaign oratory.
Have you ever heard an interventionist, or a British agent, or a member of the
administration in Washington ask you to go back and study a record of what they
have said since the war started? Are their self-styled defenders of democracy
willing to put the issue of war to a vote of our people? Do you find these
crusaders for foreign freedom of speech, or the removal of censorship here in
our own country?
The subterfuge and propaganda that exists in our country is obvious on every
side. Tonight, I shall try to pierce through a portion of it, to the naked
facts which lie beneath.
When this war started in Europe, it was clear that the American people were
solidly opposed to entering it. Why shouldn't we be? We had the best
defensive position in the world; we had a tradition of independence from
Europe; and the one time we did take part in a European war left European
problems unsolved, and debts to America unpaid.
National polls showed that when England and France declared war on Germany, in
1939, less than 10 percent of our population favored a similar course for
America. But there were various groups of people, here and abroad, whose
interests and beliefs necessitated the involvement of the United States in the
war. I shall point out some of these groups tonight, and outline their methods
of procedure. In doing this, I must speak with the utmost frankness, for in
order to counteract their efforts, we must know exactly who they are.
The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war
are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration.
Behind these groups, but of lesser importance, are a number of capitalists,
Anglophiles, and intellectuals who believe that the future of mankind depends
upon the domination of the British empire. Add to these the Communistic groups
who were opposed to intervention until a few weeks ago, and I believe I have
named the major war agitators in this country.
I am speaking here only of war agitators, not of those sincere but misguided
men and women who, confused by misinformation and frightened by propaganda,
follow the lead of the war agitators.
As I have said, these war agitators comprise only a small minority of our
people; but they control a tremendous influence. Against the determination of
the American people to stay out of war, they have marshaled the power of their
propaganda, their money, their patronage.
Let us consider these groups, one at a time.
First, the British: It is obvious and perfectly understandable that Great
Britain wants the United States in the war on her side. England is now in a
desperate position. Her population is not large enough and her armies are not
strong enough to invade the continent of Europe and win the war she declared
Her geographical position is such that she cannot win the war by the use of
aviation alone, regardless of how many planes we send her. Even if America
entered the war, it is improbable that the Allied armies could invade Europe
and overwhelm the Axis powers. But one thing is certain. If England can draw
this country into the war, she can shift to our shoulders a large portion of
the responsibility for waging it and for paying its cost.
As you all know, we were left with the debts of the last European war; and
unless we are more cautious in the future than we have been in the past, we
will be left with the debts of the present case. If it were not for her hope
that she can make us responsible for the war financially, as well as
militarily, I believe England would have negotiated a peace in Europe many
months ago, and be better off for doing so.
England has devoted, and will continue to devote every effort to get us into
the war. We know that she spent huge sums of money in this country during the
last war in order to involve us. Englishmen have written books about the
cleverness of its use.
We know that England is spending great sums of money for propaganda in America
during the present war. If we were Englishmen, we would do the same. But our
interest is first in America; and as Americans, it is essential for us to
realize the effort that British interests are making to draw us into their war.
The second major group I mentioned is the Jewish.
It is not difficult to understand why Jewish people desire the overthrow of
Nazi Germany. The persecution they suffered in Germany would be sufficient to
make bitter enemies of any race.
No person with a sense of the dignity of mankind can condone the persecution of
the Jewish race in Germany. But no person of honesty and vision can look on
their pro-war policy here today without seeing the dangers involved in such a
policy both for us and for them. Instead of agitating for war, the Jewish
groups in this country should be opposing it in every possible way for they
will be among the first to feel its consequences.
Tolerance is a virtue that depends upon peace and strength. History shows that
it cannot survive war and devastations. A few far-sighted Jewish people
realize this and stand opposed to intervention. But the majority still do
Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and
influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio and our government.
I am not attacking either the Jewish or the British people. Both races, I
admire. But I am saying that the leaders of both the British and the Jewish
races, for reasons which are as understandable from their viewpoint as they are
inadvisable from ours, for reasons which are not American, wish to involve us
in the war.
We cannot blame them for looking out for what they believe to be their own
interests, but we also must look out for ours. We cannot allow the natural
passions and prejudices of other peoples to lead our country to destruction.
The Roosevelt administration is the third powerful group which has been
carrying this country toward war. Its members have used the war emergency to
obtain a third presidential term for the first time in American history. They
have used the war to add unlimited billions to a debt which was already the
highest we have ever known. And they have just used the war to justify the
restriction of congressional power, and the assumption of dictatorial
procedures on the part of the president and his appointees.
The power of the Roosevelt administration depends upon the maintenance of a
wartime emergency. The prestige of the Roosevelt administration depends upon
the success of Great Britain to whom the president attached his political
future at a time when most people thought that England and France would easily
win the war. The danger of the Roosevelt administration lies in its
subterfuge. While its members have promised us peace, they have led us to war
heedless of the platform upon which they were elected.
In selecting these three groups as the major agitators for war, I have included
only those whose support is essential to the war party. If any one of these
groups--the British, the Jewish, or the administration--stops agitating for
war, I believe there will be little danger of our involvement.
I do not believe that any two of them are powerful enough to carry this country
to war without the support of the third. And to these three, as I have said,
all other war groups are of secondary importance.
When hostilities commenced in Europe, in 1939, it was realized by these groups
that the American people had no intention of entering the war. They knew it
would be worse than useless to ask us for a declaration of war at that time.
But they believed that this country could be entered into the war in very much
the same way we were entered into the last one.
They planned: first, to prepare the United States for foreign war under the
guise of American defense; second, to involve us in the war, step by step,
without our realization; third, to create a series of incidents which would
force us into the actual conflict. These plans were of course, to be covered
and assisted by the full power of their propaganda.
Our theaters soon became filled with plays portraying the glory of war.
Newsreels lost all semblance of objectivity. Newspapers and magazines began to
lose advertising if they carried anti-war articles. A smear campaign was
instituted against individuals who opposed intervention. The terms "fifth
columnist," "traitor," "Nazi," "anti-Semitic" were thrown ceaselessly at any
one who dared to suggest that it was not to the best interests of the United
States to enter the war. Men lost their jobs if they were frankly anti-war.
Many others dared no longer speak.
Before long, lecture halls that were open to the advocates of war were closed
to speakers who opposed it. A fear campaign was inaugurated. We were told
that aviation, which has held the British fleet off the continent of Europe,
made America more vulnerable than ever before to invasion. Propaganda was in
There was no difficulty in obtaining billions of dollars for arms under the
guise of defending America. Our people stood united on a program of defense.
Congress passed appropriation after appropriation for guns and planes and
battleships, with the approval of the overwhelming majority of our citizens.
That a large portion of these appropriations was to be used to build arms for
Europe, we did not learn until later. That was another step.
To use a specific example; in 1939, we were told that we should increase our
air corps to a total of 5,000 planes. Congress passed the necessary
legislation. A few months later, the administration told us that the United
States should have at least 50,000 planes for our national safety. But almost
as fast as fighting planes were turned out from our factories, they were sent
abroad, although our own air corps was in the utmost need of new equipment; so
that today, two years after the start of war, the American army has a few
hundred thoroughly modern bombers and fighters--less in fact, than Germany is
able to produce in a single month.
Ever since its inception, our arms program has been laid out for the purpose of
carrying on the war in Europe, far more than for the purpose of building an
adequate defense for America.
Now at the same time we were being prepared for a foreign war, it was
necessary, as I have said, to involve us in the war. This was accomplished
under that now famous phrase "steps short of war."
England and France would win if the United States would only repeal its arms
embargo and sell munitions for cash, we were told. And then [illegible] began,
a refrain that marked every step we took toward war for many months--"the best
way to defend America and keep out of war." we were told, was "by aiding the
First, we agreed to sell arms to Europe; next, we agreed to loan arms to
Europe; then we agreed to patrol the ocean for Europe; then we occupied a
European island in the war zone. Now, we have reached the verge of war.
The war groups have succeeded in the first two of their three major steps into
war. The greatest armament program in our history is under way.
We have become involved in the war from practically every standpoint except
actual shooting. Only the creation of sufficient "incidents" yet remains; and
you see the first of these already taking place, according to plan [ill.]-- a
plan that was never laid before the American people for their approval.
Men and women of Iowa; only one thing holds this country from war today. That
is the rising opposition of the American people. Our system of democracy and
representative government is on test today as it has never been before. We are
on the verge of a war in which the only victor would be chaos and
We are on the verge of a war for which we are still unprepared, and for
which no one has offered a feasible plan for victory--a war which cannot be won
without sending our soldiers across the ocean to force a landing on a hostile
coast against armies stronger than our own.
We are on the verge of war, but it is not yet too late to stay out. It is not
too late to show that no amount of money, or propaganda, or patronage can force
a free and independent people into war against its will. It is not yet too
late to retrieve and to maintain the independent American destiny that our
forefathers established in this new world.
The entire future rests upon our shoulders. It depends upon our action, our
courage, and our intelligence. If you oppose our intervention in the war, now
is the time to make your voice heard.
Help us to organize these meetings; and write to your representatives in
Washington. I tell you that the last stronghold of democracy and
representative government in this country is in our house of representatives
and our senate.
There, we can still make our will known. And if we, the American people, do
that, independence and freedom will continue to live among us, and there will
be no foreign war.
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