20 SEPTEMBER 2003, Page 69

In times of conflict


An email from Sir Roger Moore concerningcerning two prominent Hollywood Hungarians whom I failed to mention last week. Did you know that Bernie Schwartz, aka Tony Curtis, was Hungarian? As was the wonderful director Michael Curtiz. The latter pronounced the words `Bring on the empty horses' during the shooting of The Charge of the Light Brigade, or some cavalry epic like it. He meant the props, but David Niven used the Hungarianism as the title of the second volume of his memoirs. Roger also pointed out that Taki means waterfall in Japanese, something I knew but had kept awfully quiet about until now.

And, speaking of the Land of the Rising Sun, are you aware that in July 1941 FDR froze Japan's assets, shut off her oil, sent military aid to China under lend-lease and dispatched B-17s to Manila to prepare to attack Japanese islands? All this before Pearl Harbor, of course. FDR was warned that his actions meant war, by Admiral Richard Kelly Turner, to be exact. But that's what FDR wanted. When he cut off Japan's oil supplies, it was a de facto declaration of war. What troubles me greatly is the fact that FDR fell into the Japanese militarist trap. The government of Prince Konoye, a civilised, dignified and humane gentleman, did not want war. The mili tarist clique did. Konoye offered to meet FDR anywhere. and stated that, if the oil shipments were renewed, Japan would pull back from Indochina and have FDR mediate the Sino-Japanese war. Konoye was given the back of FDR's hand. Konoye killed himself after the war rather than face trial as a war criminal.

At Yalta, FDR ceded to Stalin Chinese lands that were to be taken away from Japan, and Truman ended up dropping two atomic bombs on the unarmed population of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. All this does is prove that FDR did not provoke Japan because of his love for China. Americans have always claimed to be goody-goodies, but the facts do not always support them. FDR provoked a war with Japan because he needed to get involved in the European conflict. Cordell Hull, FDR's secretary of state, handed an ultimatum to Japan either to get out of Indochina and Manchuria, or to face total economic ruin through an oil embargo. The Japanese had to go to war, and, had they caught the two aircraft carriers which were out cruising during their attack on Pearl, they could have managed a draw. (Wishful thinking.) But, as always, I digress. Sixty-two years later, an American government, closely followed by a supine British one, once again provoked a conflict, this one against weapons of mass destruction threatening Palm Beach and Blackpool. We got Uday and Qusay and Chemical Ali, but the Iraqi Tojo is still missing. (Waterfall also almost went missing; I fell in a hole while climbing a stupid mountain and had to miss the Annabel's blast. But be fighting fit for Ben Goldsmith's wedding this weekend, and look forward to meeting women born after the fall of Saigon or even the fall of the Shah.) A good deal has been written about corrupting the intelligence services to serve political interests. I don't think Bush and Cheney corrupted the CIA to serve notice that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was ready to use them against the Bath and Tennis club in Palm Beach. This was accomplished by the neocons and their outlet, the Murdoch network of newspapers, magazines and TV.

Presidents have habitually lied to the people about reasons for going to war, It destroyed LBJ, but it made FDR a great hero, It will not affect Tony Blair, except for the next time he tries to pull a fast one.

In the meantime, I've had a great summer. One week total karate, one week total tennis. Next month my tiny organ, the American Conservative, celebrates its first year of publishing the truth. I'm off to Washington for the party, but first I plan a little R&R in London, a place now safe from weapons of mass destruction. Heaven help us.