Opinion | ‘Let Them Kill as Many as Possible’: The Roots of US Militarism in Russia and Around the World | Brian Terrell

In April 1941, four years before he was to become President and eight months before the United States entered World War II, Senator Harry Truman of Missouri reacted to the news that Germany had invaded the Soviet Union: “If we see that Germany is winning the war, we ought to help Russia; and if that Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and in that way let them kill as many as possible.” Truman was not called out as a cynic when he spoke these words from the floor of the Senate. On the contrary, when he died in 1972, Truman’s obituary in The New York Times cited this statement as establishing his “reputation for decisiveness and courage.” “This basic attitude,” gushed The Times, “prepared him to adopt from the start of his Presidency, a firm policy,” an attitude that prepared him to order the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with “no qualms.” Truman’s same basic “let them kill as many as possible” attitude also informed the postwar doctrine that bears his name, along with the establishment of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the CIA, the Central Intelligence Agency, both of which he is credited with founding.

A February 25 op-ed in The Los Angeles Times by Jeff Rogg, “The CIA has backed Ukrainian insurgents before- Let’s learn from those mistakes,” cites a CIA program to train Ukrainian nationalists as insurgents to fight the Russians that began in 2015 and compares it with a similar effort by Truman’s CIA in Ukraine that began in 1949. By 1950, one year in, “U.S. officers involved in the program knew they were fighting a losing battle…In the first U.S.-backed insurgency, according to top secret documents later declassified, American officials intended to use the Ukrainians as a proxy force to bleed the Soviet Union.” This op-ed cites John Ranelagh, a historian of the CIA, who argued that the program “demonstrated a cold ruthlessness” because the Ukrainian resistance had no hope of success, and so “America was in effect encouraging Ukrainians to go to their deaths.”

It is true that the United States is not solely to blame for every war, but it bears some responsibility for most of them and its people may be in a unique position to end them. Truman’s successor as President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, may have been thinking particularly about the U.S. government when he said “people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.” The security of the world at this moment of heightened threat of nuclear destruction demands the neutrality of the countries of Eastern Europe and reversing the expansion of NATO.  What the United States can do for peace is not imposing sanctions, selling weapons, training insurgents, building military bases around the world, “helping” our friends, not more bluster and threats, but only by getting out of the way. 

commondreams Opinion | ‘Let Them Kill as Many as Possible’: The Roots of US Militarism in Russia and Around the World | Brian Terrell