Glenn Beck's History of World War I

Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

Amid his various attacks on Obama administration aide Cass Sunstein, President Woodrow Wilson, Walter Lippmann, and Media Matters, Glenn Beck today offered a rather ... unique take on U.S. entry into World War I:

BECK: I hate this S.O.B., and the more you learn about this guy, the more you will too. This is the most evil guy I think we've had in office. 1916, Woodrow Wilson won re-election in part -- large part due to a commitment to keep America from entering World War I. One of the campaign slogans boasted, "He kept us out of war." There was a very strong anti-war sentiment in America at the time. Americans -- if Americans favored a side, they would have gone with the Germans, because Germans were the largest ethnic group in America at the time. Most people weren't paying attention; the Germans were. OK. So on the eve of asking Congress to declare war on Germany -- yeah, remember, he ran I'm not going to get us into war -- it was a month later -- I've got to give you the exact date, because this is amazing: 1916, he was running for election. 1917, his inaugural address, March 4, 1917, he said we're going to pursue peace and even though we have been injured by the effects of war, we're not going into war. That was March 4, 1917. April 13, 1917, America goes to war.

So if you're following, Beck says Wilson is a flip-flopping S.O.B. who ran on keeping America out of World War I, but changed his mind and declared war on Germany, even though Americans were overwhelmingly against the war, and in fact were actually pro-German.

Wow. That is pretty evil.

Unless, of course, events transpired between Wilson's re-election and the declaration of war that might have, say, turned public opinion and cause Wilson to abandon his anti-war stance. That would kind of destroy Beck's theory.

Like, for instance, if the Germans had sent a telegram offering Mexico U.S. territory if they entered the war, and that telegram had been intercepted and published. That probably would have pissed some people off:

In January of 1917, British cryptographers deciphered a telegram from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to the German Minister to Mexico, von Eckhardt, offering United States territory to Mexico in return for joining the German cause. This message helped draw the United States into the war and thus changed the course of history. The telegram had such an impact on American opinion that, according to David Kahn, author of The Codebreakers, "No other single cryptanalysis has had such enormous consequences." It is his opinion that "never before or since has so much turned upon the solution of a secret message." In an effort to protect their intelligence from detection and to capitalize on growing anti-German sentiment in the United States, the British waited until February 24 to present the telegram to Woodrow Wilson. The American press published news of the telegram on March 1. On April 6, 1917, the United States Congress formally declared war on Germany and its allies.

Or, say, if the Germans had stepped up their submarine warfare efforts and targeted U.S. merchant ships:

March 12, 1917: Steamship Algonquin, gross 2,832 tons; sunk with gunfire and bombs by German submarine U-62, 65 miles west of Bishops, off Scilly Islands, Great Britain, no casualties.

March 16, 1917: Steamship Vigilancia, gross 4.115 tons; torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-70, 145 miles west of Bishops, off Scilly Islands, Great Britain; 15 killed.

March 17, 1917: Steamship City of Memphis, gross 5,252 tons; sunk with gunfire by German submarine (UC type), 33 miles south of Fastnet, Ireland; no casualties.

March 18. 1917: Steamship Illinois, tanker, gross 5,225 tons; sunk with bombs by German submarine (UC type) in the English Channel, 20 miles north of Alderney, Channel Islands; no casualties.

March 21, 1917: Steamship Healdton, tanker, gross 4,489 tons; torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine 25 miles north of Terschelling, Holland, 20 killed.

April 1, 1917: Steamship Aztec, gross 3,727 tons; torpedoed and sunk by an enemy submarine (UC type), off Ushant Light, Quessant Island, northwest coast of France; 28 killed.

Ladies and gentlemen: Glenn Beck, historian.

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