Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Infamy, Then and Now

Roosevelt held the small scrap of paper in his trembling hand. It was a crude drawing of ships exploding in a harbor, with bodies flying through the air. Even the fish in the water were crying out in anguish. Written above the sketch were the words "You damned! Go to the devil!" and Japanese characters were jumbled at the right margin.

"Where ... where did you get this?"

"It was dropped over the harbor by a Japanese pilot, Mr. President," Admiral King replied. "The Japanese portion of it says, 'Hark to the Voice of the Moment of Death. Wake up, you fools.'"

"Merciful God." Roosevelt let the paper fall from his fingers. "How many dead, Ernie?"

"We don't know yet, sir. The Oklahoma capsized during the attack, and the Arizona exploded. The decks were crowded with men attending Sunday services. Perhaps as many as two thousand, sir."

"Two thousand ..." Roosevelt raised his spectacles and covered his eyes with his hand.

"This is terrible," Henry Wallace muttered. "Sir, why do they hate us so much?"

"I think the answer to that is rather obvious, Mr. Vice President," Secretary Hull said sadly. "Our country is founded on murder. Basically, we came over here and just started killing people. And we stole Christmas from the Indians."

"No we didn't," Secretary Stimson objected. "We stole it from the pagans."

"Indians are pagans, Harry. I think. Indians are pagans, right, George?"

General Marshall blinked. "How the fuck should I know?"

"Well, I thought you Army people might have noticed, while you were chasing them around and setting fire to their pointy tent things."

"Teepees, Cord," Secretary Knox put in. "Indian tents are called teepees."

"Enough!" The President glowered at them. "I want a plan of action, and I want it now."

"We have to withdraw from the Philippines, of course," Knox said. "Our occupation of the Philippines has made us a target."

"Frank, they bombed Hawaii, damn it, not the Philippines!"

"Yes, but they're on their way to bomb the Philippines now. Sir, have you taken a look at the polls lately? Sixty-five percent of Italians want us to withdraw from the Philippines. Seventy-two percent of Hungarians!"

"Eighty-six percent of Germans, sir!" Secretary Hull interjected. "Eighty-six percent of Germans in a Der Sturmer poll want us to end our military occupation of the Philippines! Everybody hates us, sir."

"And one can hardly blame them, can one?" Stimson sighed. "After the way we stole Alaska from the Russians. And California ... who did we steal California from, again?"

"The French, I think," Wallace replied.

"California, Henry, not Florida!"

"No, no, no," Hull said. "We stole Florida from the Spanish, and Louisiana from the French. California we stole from the Mexicans."

"The hell we did," General Marshall growled. "You mean Texas, not California."

"Well, it was one of those two. Which one has the Alamo thing in it?"

"The what?"

"Everybody shut the hell up!" Roosevelt slammed his fist on the desk, rattling the tea cups. "Cord, I want reports from all our embassies in allied countries. A co-ordinated plan of action ..."

"Sir, haven't you been listening? We have no allies, everybody hates us."

"The British, I mean!"

"Yes, we're all alone," Stimson said sadly. "The French are gone, the Belgians are gone. The Swedes won't help us, either. The Turks ... I think the Turks hate us, too."

"I'm talking about Britain, God damn it! You want me to show where it is on a map?"

"What about the Spaniards?" Admiral King asked.

"Hate us," Wallace sighed.

"Britain!" the President bellowed, jabbing at the map on the wall. "Crumpets and umbrellas! Steak and kidney fucking pie! Even that worthless son of a bitch Kennedy knew where it was! Are you people listening to me?"

"What if we just offer to give Hawaii back to Japan?" Stimson mused.

"Okay, I'll do this thing myself." Roosevelt turned the scrap of paper over and began writing. "Dear Winston ..."

"Sorry we stole Massachusetts," Wallace suggested.

"And I'm making a radio address, as well." Roosevelt scribbled furiously. "December 7th, 1941 ... a day that will live in infamy!"

"Will live where?"

"Sir -"

"Infamy! Infamy! Infamy! Do you hear me, you sons of bitches? Infamy!"

"Frankly sir," Secretary Hull said, "that kind of talk scares me worse than the Japanese attack does."