All our readers, no doubt, know that our lawmakers in Washington are debating the merits and demerits of the “Lease-Lend Bill,” known as H.R. 1776. By the time this number of our Standard Bearer appears it may have been adopted, either with or without important amendments and modifications. For we are making history fast.
The bill is designed to make is possible for our government to produce and deliver to Great Britain all the war material she may need with the greatest possible speed.
It is divided into nine sections, the most important of which is the third, which we here quote:
Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law, the President may, from time to time, when he deems it in the interest of national defense, authorize the Secretary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, or the head of any other department or agency of the Government—
To manufacture in arsenals, factories, and shipyards under their jurisdiction, or otherwise procure, any defense article for the government of any country whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States.
To sell, transfer, exchange, lease, lend, or otherwise dispose of, to any such government any defense article.
To test, inspect, prove, repair, outfit, recondition, or otherwise to place in good working order any defense article for any such government.
To communicate to any such government any defense information pertaining to any defense article furnished to such government under paragraph (2) of this subsection.
To release for export any defense article to any such government.
The terms and conditions upon which any such foreign government receives any aid authorized under subsection (a) shall be those which the President deems satisfactory, and the benefit to the United States may be payment or repayment in kind or property, or any other direct or indirect benefit which the President deems satisfactory.
Let us try to realize what this implies. It means:
That the president will have the power to dispose of whatever war material we now have at hand, of our own Army and Navy, by delivering it to any nation he chooses on any condition he pleases (“to sell, transfer, exchange, lease, lend, or otherwise dispose of”). It has been correctly stated that under the terms of this bill the President could give our entire Navy to Great Britain. Section 2 of this bill describes “defense article’’ as including: “any weapon, munition, aircraft, vessel or boat; any machinery, facility, tool, material, or supply necessary for the manufacture, production, processing, repair, servicing or operation of any article described in this subsection; any component material or part of or equipment for any article described in this subsection; any other commodity or article for defense.” The power here given to the President, or proposed to be given to him, is very comprehensive.
Besides, it means that the President will have the power to dispose in the same way of any implements of war or munitions that is now being manufactured in our country, allegedly for “self-defense.” This is the implication of subdivision (1) under Section 3. We must bear in mind that “self-defense” by this time means approximately the same as aiding Great Britain, or “any country whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States.” It does no longer signify that we are attacked and fight a foreign invader.
That the President will be empowered to release to any nation he chooses our official Navy and Army secrets. This is, evidently, the meaning of paragraph (4) under Section 3.
That the President will have the power to open American ports to belligerent nations to whom we are friendly, for the purpose of repairing or reconditioning their defense articles. Paragraph (3).
Section 4 of this bill stipulates that all contracts or agreements made for the transfer of any defense article by the United States to a foreign government shall contain a clause forbidding such foreign government to transfer the title of such defense article to anyone else. It may sound a little sarcastic, but would it not be expedient to make such foreign government also sign a clause restraining it from ever using our defense articles against our own country?
The bill is being hotly debated and is severely criticized.
Opponents of the bill have two main objections: 1. It sets up a dictatorship in our country. 2. It will lead us into war.
We also are opposed to it.
Our chief objection is not that it will give the President too much power, and that it will be the end of our own democratic form of government if the bill is passed; although it must be admitted that the bill is rather a concession to Hitler’s point of view regarding democratic forms of government. Then, too, it may be questioned whether Congress, under the Constitution has the right to delegate all this power to the Chief Executive. After all it is Congress that, according to Article VIII of the Constitution has the power to declare war, to raise and support armies, to provide and maintain a navy, to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces, and “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers.” This, it would seem, also covers the disposal of any “defense article” to another government.
But our main objection to the lease-lend bill is that, as it is proposed, it means war. And it is our firm conviction that, both for utilitarian reasons and for the sake of justice, our country should keep out of this war.
The adoption of the bill as it stands at the time of this writing will undoubtedly mean that we will send defense articles to Great Britain in our own ships, convoyed by our own cruisers. And that means that the Axis powers will attempt to destroy them. As soon as this happens, we are in it.
Besides, the bill provides for the opening of our ports to a friendly belligerent nation for the purpose of repairing, reconditioning or otherwise placing in good working order its defense articles. And this is really an act of war in itself.
There are those in our country that would welcome the entrance of our country into the European conflict.
There are a good many others who still speak of the expediency of giving all possible aid to Great Britain “short of war,” but who, nevertheless, are leading our country directly into the war.
They claim that it would be a great calamity for the United States if Great Britain would be defeated, that the British Navy is our first line of defense, that allying ourselves with Great Britain (even though “short of war”) means that we will save the world for democracy, that the Axis powers will attack our country if they are victorious.
We are of the opinion, however, that we ought to be ashamed of ourselves if the British Navy is our first line of defense; nor do we believe that it is true. We believe that this is no more a war to save democracy or to make the world safe for democracy than was the former world-war, nor should we allow ourselves to be fooled twice by the same story. We are convinced that if we permit ourselves to be drawn into this war, we will be fighting only another European war for power; and the outcome will show it, just as did the outcome of the recent world-war. We are of the opinion that we should calmly and with determination prepare for self-defense, so that we are ready in case of an attack by any foreign power. But let us wait to defend ourselves until we are attacked, and not make ourselves believe that Great Britain is really fighting our war, and that we are defending ourselves by aiding England.
From history we do not receive the impression that Great Britain is the unselfish neighbor that fights in the interest of other nations.
And if we continue telling the story that she is fighting in defense of the United States, she might probably expect in the end that we ought to pay her for the aid we give her.
But above all we should not become involved in this war, because, apart from all utilitarian considerations, we are not justified before God to enter it, unless the Axis powers commit an act of war against us without provocation on our part.
It is true, that Nazism in all its implications must be considered a great evil, especially also from a religious viewpoint.
It is also true, that the Axis powers have lost all moral right to complain of any unneutral act that might be committed against them by other nations, after their attack upon the small neutral nations of the continent of Europe.
However, that it cannot be Great Britain’s motive, nor ours, to avenge the wrong committed against small nations is evident from the “hands-off” policy that was adopted in the case of Italy’s brutal attack upon Ethiopia.
And before the question of justice can even be considered the Treaty of Versailles should be repudiated. For, apart from that treaty the present war cannot be explained.
By all means, therefore, let us keep out of this war.