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George Stern

Behind the Lines

(1 December 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 91, 1 December 1939, p. 1.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

The war atmosphere so carefully created by Roosevelt, by the State Department and by the entire press, naturally assumes its sharpest forms the closer you get to the probable zones of US participation in actual hostilities.

While Wall Street diplomacy hopes to bring Japan into conflict against Russia and thus save itself part of the overhead expenses of the war, Japan remains the principal prospective foe. For even if it realizes its cherished hope of smashing the Soviet State, US imperialism still has the primary task of crushing the Japanese threat to its supremacy in the Pacific.

The most spectacular American war moves are consequently directed at Japan – for the immediate purpose of exerting pressure upon Japan’s own policies and for the ultimate policy of ending forever the Japanese dream of conquest.

This is apparent enough from the public declarations of high officials like Senator Pittman, from the inflammatory editorials in leading papers like the New York Times and Herald Tribune.

But in Hawaii, Wall Street’s principal Pacific outpost, these moves are felt, seen, and heard in their most substantial form. There the inhabitants are closest to the actual war preparations. There the war-jingoes in the press are loudest, most blatant.

Take for example an editorial in the Hawaii Sentinel, a Honolulu weekly, which has taken as its holy and sacred mission to get Washington to crack down on the large Japanese population of the islands as spies, aliens, and tools of the hated Nipponese emperor.

“There is a feeling of unrest in Hawaii,” this paper says “... American battleships are entering and leaving Pearl Harbor ... Their comings and goings are practically under a censorship.

“In the sky above Honolulu can be heard from time to time the roar of planes, that are being detailed to duty along the air bases, now functioning on the Islands that make us America’s biggest Maginot line in the Pacific. Other planes are taking off in formation for the Philippines. Destroyers and submarines of the latest type drop into Hawaii ports and then sail under secret orders toward the west in the Pacific.

“America is on guard in the Pacific. There is some grim business afoot. Hawaii is the hub of that grim business.

“Which brings us to the question: when is Uncle Sam going to move into Hawaii and see that the elements behind America’s Maginot line in the Pacific are not a menace to all this grim activity.

“Hawaii, whether she likes it or not, is being prepared for a grim role. Her silly days, as the playground of silly tourists, are over; as is her role at playing indulgent godfather to Shinto- Americans ...”

In Hawaii the Japanese form a good third of the population; and the number of those born in the Islands, thereby making them American citizens, is fast reaching the point where they will normally come into vote-control if permitted to do so.

That is why also when the “grim business” comes to the point, Hawaii will be one of the first to feel the heel of the war dictatorship.

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