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The Sinfulness and Destructiveness of Conspiracy Theories

The American Navy believed that a Japanese attack would likely target the Panama Canal or the Philippines, with a fast battleship fleet, not the well defended base at Pearl Harbor. The cross ocean attack by five large carries and supporting ships was a daring innovation, and something that was only devised early in 1941. The ability to launch a massive 500 plane attack was something not anticipated by American naval planers, especially as they believed the Japanese to be technically behind our forces. In fact Japanese carrier operations, including ground crew training and their Zero fighter, were superior to ours.

Indeed, an important diplomatic message from Tokyo was decoded by American code-breakers a few hours before the attack. It was to the Japanese staff in Washington informing the delegation to end negotiations with Washington on December 7, and that “things will automatically happen.” This seems to be a huge red flag to the American decoders, and an indicator to place all the Pacific Forces on a war footing. However, the warning message had a problem in transmission via short wave radio and was sent via telegram, which was much slower. The telegram arrived in the middle of the Japanese attack. There was a sin and arrogance fueled mistake here. The Army officer in charge of the decoding saw the problem at the Army short wave facility and suggested the message be sent via the Navy short wave radio. His superior officer ridiculed the idea, believing the Navy short wave could not be clear if the Army one was not—in fact it was.

At Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7th the newly installed Army radar operators saw the massive Japanese attack coming and warned the duty office. He had been briefed the night before that a squadron of B-17s was coming in to reinforce Pearl. He disregarded even the second warning by the radar operator as some sort of inexperience and exaggeration. There was no conspiracy in these events, merely carelessness and arrogance which led to mistakes.

In Battle of Jutland, the greatest naval battle of World War I, there was a similar communications error. The German Navy could have been trapped and destroyed in the battle, possibly ending the war earlier. The German naval code had been broken by a secret group of British mathematicians. However an important message deciphered during the battle and giving the location and destination of the German fleet was delayed as the officer in charge thought it was of little importance. Again, the mistake was made in part because of the sin of pride, as the officer was an aristocrat who disdained his middle class cryptographers.[22]

Japanese planes over the Philippines sending MacArthur a message that his idea of a neutral Philippines was not going to work.

We should also note about the Pearl Harbor conspiracy theory, its writers, who are passionately anti-Roosevelt, have never invented a conspiracy theory about how General MacArthur “allowed” the American Army in the Philippines to be surprised by the initial Japanese attack, which took place twelve hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Most of the American planes were destroyed on the ground, just as at Pearl harbor.

The truth is clear but somewhat complex. MacArthur wore two hats in the Philippines. He was commander of the American Armed forces there, but also the commander of the semi-autonomous Philippine Armed Forces. He and Philippine President Quezon had a hope that a war between the US and Japan would bypass the Philippines. Thus MacArthur initially avoided any aggressive moves against Japanese targets, as in sending out his B-17 bombers. Also, his Air Corps chief, who knew more about aerial warfare than MacArthur and would have immediately dispersed the aircraft, was in Australia coordinating with that government for the possible war. It was a misjudgment on MacArthur’s part.[23] Of course, General MacArthur is one of the heroes of the American Right and so there is no emotional gain from forming a conspiracy theory about how he supposedly enticed the Japanese to attack.

Lack of Historical Wisdom is Costly

We in the West live in societies that are normally supportive and appreciative of historical knowledge and the wisdom it gives. Conspiracy theories are normally looked upon with suspicion. This heritage of sound historical understanding is due to the Biblical foundations of Western culture, with an assist from the Greek and Roman classical tradition.[24] Here in the West, it is possible to find a wide variety of well written histories that ultimately follow the biblical model of telling the truth. They attempt to understand the true motives and goals of all the persons involved, which may include criticizing the faults and mistakes of national heroes.

Cultures that do not have this biblical and classical heritage are less historically conscious, and their history books are often little more than propaganda for the national or religious elites. This is most obvious in Islamic cultures. Bernard Lewis, the great Arab scholar noted this in his recent book, What Went Wrong? The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East. He saw that Arab countries have been anxious to adopt Western technology and science, but have been disinterested in adopting the Western tradition of critical historical thinking and writing.[25]

The Koran has no separate historical books such as 1 & 2 Chronicles, Acts, etc. Rather, there are historical vignettes scattered about the Koran, with no clear chain of historical consequences. There is nothing in Koran to parallel the magnificent and tragic ending of 2 Chronicles where the author relentlessly exposes the ultimate cause of the destruction of Solomon’s Temple via the apostasy and disobedience of the Jewish people:

The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there (2 Chron 36:15-19, NIV).

Nor does the Koran have any prophetic books similar to Isaiah or Jeremiah which criticize the People of God for forsaking the Law of God. In the Bible, even the historical books blend in the prophetic and reproof motif, as in Nathan’s reproof of David for his sins of murder and adultery (2 Sam 12:1-13).

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Category: Living the Faith, Spring 2015

About the Author: William L. De Arteaga, Ph.D., is known internationally as a Christian historian and expert on revivals and the rebirth and renewal of the Christian healing movement. His major works include, Quenching the Spirit (Creation House, 1992, 1996), Forgotten Power: The Significance of the Lord’s Supper in Revival (Zondervan, 2002), and Agnes Sanford and Her Companions: The Assault on Cessationism and the Coming of the Charismatic Renewal (Wipf & Stock, 2015). Bill pastored two Hispanic Anglican congregations in the Marietta, Georgia area, and is semi-retired. He and his wife Carolyn continue in their healing, teaching and writing ministries. He is the state chaplain of the Order of St. Luke, encouraging the ministry of healing in all Christian denominations. Facebook AnglicalPentecostal.blogspot.com

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