Was Harry Truman the Worst President in US History?
Harry S. Truman became President of the United States in 1945 when Franklin D. Roosevelt died. During his eight year presidency, Truman dropped atomic bombs on Japanese civilians, brought about the creation of Israel, entered the Korean War, began the Cold War, and created the CIA with a mandate for foreign intervention and assassination.
Truman is highly ranked in polls of the best US President, with an average ranking of 7th. However, many of these polls rely on popular opinion, or are limited to events that occurred during his presidency. While dropping atomic bombs on civilians was barbaric, and entering the Korean War was ill-advised, lesser known decisions had a far more protracted and disastrous effect on the world.
This article will focus on what Truman did wrong in his presidency. It will explore the fallout from a plethora of calamitous decisions, citing examples that still resonate today. A number of factors will be collectively considered in order to make the case for Harry Truman being the worst president in US history.
Harry Truman: "a revolutionary increase in destruction"
Hiroshima and Nagasaki
After the defeat of Germany in WW2, Harry Truman travelled to meet Stalin and Churchill at the Potsdam conference. Here he boasted to Stalin that the US was about to use a new destructive weapon against the Japanese.
When Truman ordered the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, he killed approximately 250,000 people, 90% of whom were civilians. Many took months or years to die from radiation sickness and cancer.
The academic community is divided over whether the bombings saved or cost lives. Regardless, it is always wrong to willfully kill civilians by dropping bombs on populated cities. An exclusively military target may have been a far better choice. Truman remarked in his diary that the bomb "may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark". He clearly saw himself as the man to wield this Biblical power.
The Creation of Israel
At a 1943 rally, Truman assured Zionists of his support for a Jewish state in Palestine. Following his meteoric rise to the office of President in 1945, Truman reiterated his support, ignoring the recommendations of diplomats, advisers, and his own government. When diplomats said he was playing with fire, Truman replied "I have few Arabs among my constituents". Not only was this an acknowledgment of favoring one race over another, but it suggested Truman was receiving a little more than verbal support from American Zionists.
Truman campaigned for the creation of a Jewish state at the UN. War-torn Europe, dependent on the US for aid, was easily convinced and voted in favor of Truman's partition plan. All of Israel's neighbors voted against the plan, but America and her dependent allies carried the vote. America became the first nation to recognize the state of Israel in May 1948.
Following the creation of Israel, Truman's 1948 election campaign miraculously turned from complete disaster to surprising success. The Zionist dominated press was chiefly responsible for this reversal via the creation of positive propaganda. Truman won a second term but later regretted his decision and even derided the Jewish people, writing in his diary:
"I fear very much that the Jews are like all underdogs. When they get on top they are just as intolerant and cruel as the people were to them when they were underneath. I regret this situation very much because my sympathy has always been on their side."
Indeed, since Truman's partition plan, Jewish Zionists have seized almost all of the country, and have breached numerous UN resolutions against settlement building in Palestinian areas. The Palestinian people are now refugees in their own country.
Creation of the CIA
Truman signed the National Security Act in 1947, which created the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The CIA would go on to interfere in the internal politics of numerous foreign nations, organizing coups, assassinations, and regimes of torture for several decades.
Operation Ajax was a 1953 CIA coup that removed the elected Iranian Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, from power. The US installed a ruthless dictator whose oppressive rule led to the Iranian revolution 26 years later, and the current animosity between the US and Iran.
About 30 countries from 5 different continents were denied their democratic right to choose their own leaders. The CIA systematically destroyed democracy around the world, subjecting populations to oppressive dictatorships that were loyal to the US government.
As many as 6 million individuals died as a direct or indirect result of CIA interference and intervention. This is perhaps the main reason why America is hated so much around the world.
The Cold War
In 1947 Truman initiated the `Truman Doctrine' to counter Soviet influence in Greece and Turkey. Eventually, this spread to the rest of the world, contributing significantly to the emergent Cold War. Truman painted his doctrine as an attempt to help free people escape the tyranny of Soviet oppression. What actually transpired was the use of the CIA to deny free people the right to choose any kind of remotely left-wing government, whether mild socialism or communism.
Truman's declaration began four decades of armament and espionage. Indeed, it was a policy of the Truman government to arm quicker than the Soviets. When the Soviets detonated their first atomic bomb in 1949, Truman responded by detonating a hydrogen bomb, which he announced to the world in 1953.
The Korean War
Without consulting Congress, Truman ordered troops into the Korean War in 1950. After a successful counter-attack against North Korean forces, China intervened on the side of the North Koreans, forcing the war into a stalemate at the 38th parallel.
The stalemate lasted two years, with 30,000 Americans killed in action. Truman's approval rating dived to 22% as he attempted to blame General MacArthur. Eventually an armistice was signed in 1953, ending the brutal and unnecessary conflict.
In another dictatorial move, Truman instructed his Secretary of Commerce to take control of steel mills that were inactive due to labor disputes. Truman claimed he needed the raw materials for the Korean War effort. A group of 9 justices decreed Truman's actions unconstitutional, and reversed the order.
Immaturity and Nastiness
When Truman's approval rating dropped to 32% in 1946, Senator Fulbright suggested that he should resign. The president's infantile response was that he "didn't care what Senator Halfbright said."
This jejune, embittered attack was followed by another in 1950. After a music reviewer failed to appreciate his daughter's singing, Truman wrote to him: "It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful. ... Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below! ... I hope you'll accept that statement as a worse insult than a reflection on your ancestry."
In 1973, Truman was posthumously quoted about firing General MacArthur in the Korean War, saying "I fired him because he wouldn't respect the authority of the President. I didn't fire him because he was a dumb son of a <expletive>, although he was, but that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail." He had previously called the General's speech about the war "a bunch of damn bull<expletive>."
Should someone so childish and unstable have been put in a position to drop two atomic bombs, and shape world events for half a century?
Truman's presidency was one of the most unpopular in history, with approval ratings lower than Nixon after Watergate. His presidency was also plagued by corruption concerns, such as his favoritism in judicial appointments, though nothing could be conclusively proven. Despite this, Truman was allowed to preside over America's transition from reluctant WW2 participant to world policeman. The America hated around the world today was formed on Truman's watch.
The number of people who died during Truman's presidency pales in comparison to the number who died over 40 years of foreign intervention and interference as a result of his policies. However, the number in both cases was far too high and preventable.
For dropping atomic bombs that killed thousands of Japanese non-combatants; for creating the CIA with a mandate to destroy undesirable democracy around the world via assassination and coups; for instigating the Cold War; for involvement in the Korean War; and for playing a major role in the establishment of Israel, Harry Truman should be known as the worst president in US history. Perhaps in the decades to come, historians will begin to realize when America lost its way, and who was at the helm when it happened.