The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Movie Review:
Pearl Harbor

Jun 11, 2001

Hollywood released the movie Pearl Harbor just in time for the Memorial Day holiday. The film portrays the Japanese attack on the Hawaiian naval base which occurred 60 years ago. The movie, which stars Ben Affleck, Alec Baldwin, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Jon Voight, presents a picture of the attack through the lives of a group of young pilots and their friends.

The film realistically depicts the violent horrors of war. It shows the death and destruction during the defeat suffered by the U.S. navy in the attack and the impossible conditions the sailors stationed at Pearl Harbor faced. It gives a glimpse of the manner in which the ordinary troops are kept in the dark about their missions by the officers, although this is portrayed as necessary for the sake of secrecy. The film also touches on the racism in the military, through Gooding’s character, who has enlisted in the Navy only to be assigned the position of cook along with the other black sailors.

All of this is the window dressing in a movie which is nothing but a vehicle for covering over the significance of the attack at Pearl Harbor.

The film sticks with the standard propaganda version about the U.S. and Japanese governments’ roles. The film shows the Japanese military leaders deciding to make a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, sending out false reports of the movements of its naval fleet to confuse any U.S. spy efforts.

The film does nothing, however, to explain the reasons for the Japanese decision to attack. Nor does it say anything about the struggle the U.S. government was then waging against Japan to control Southeast Asia for the benefit of its own national ruling class. It ignores the fact that the U.S. government froze Japanese assets. It also does not mention the economic embargo that the U.S. government placed against the sale of oil and scrap iron to Japan, which provoked Japan to declare war.

Above all it ignores what has since been shown in the U.S. government’s own cables and documents: that the U.S. government at its highest levels not only was aware of the impending Japanese attack–but that it had provoked it and welcomed it as a way to overcome the staunch opposition to the war which existed in the whole American population. (A recent book by Robert Stinnett, Day of Deceit, clearly demonstrates that the U.S. government was bending every effort to bring the Japanese to attack first.)

The picture shows President Roosevelt as being completely surprised by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In fact, to the contrary, there is considerable evidence that the U.S. government and the president had information about and were following the movements of the Japanese fleet toward Hawaii in the days before the attack. There is evidence that they not only withheld this information from the admiral at Pearl Harbor, but they prevented him from carrying out exercises which would have allowed him to discover the approach of the Japanese fleet.

The U.S. government wanted to enter World War II. The war would decide how the world’s economy would be divided up. The politicians probably didn’t anticipate the enormous blow the Japanese would issue to the Pacific naval fleet in Pearl Harbor, but they had wanted the Japanese to carry out the first blow to overcome the population’s strong opposition to entering the war.

The film mentions none of this, nor anything about the internment of 120,000 JapaneseAmericans from the West Coast in American concentration camps that was carried out just a few months later.

Instead it plays on the suffering of U.S. sailors to reinforce the myth of a U.S. victimized by Japan.