Statehood Countdown #4 (Dulles)

August 18, 2009
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With four days left to this Statehood Countdown, I’ve posted a 1956 letter between the Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles to Senator Knowland. Following Sunday’s posting, Dulles is responding to correspondence Knowland sent him on the removal of Hawaii and Alaska from the list of non-self-governing territories.

The context for Dulles’ response touches upon the involvement of Senators Vandenberg and Connally in 1946. Arthur Vandenberg, a republican from Michigan had strong isolationist principles and was initially very much against an an international agency like the United Nations. During the international sessions at Dumbarton Oaks, however, he became a leading proponent for internationalism and confronted Senators like Sen. Wiley who said “Since then the world had been contracted and made smaller, the islands surrounding our continent are our outer bulwarks.” (Congressional Record from Sept 5, 1944) in regard to the status of territories in the Dumbarton Oaks proposals.

After 1941, when Roosevelt announced his plan for a “United Nations,” and the Atlantic Charter was signed between Roosevelt and Churchill, Congress continued to debate the role of the United States towards the aggressions of Germany and Japan, with many Senators and Congressmen voting to maintain its isolationist policy under the “neutrality acts.”

That all changed later that year when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

Three years later, in 1944, the United States, the Soviet Union, the U.K. and the Republic of China met at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington D.C. to continue with the post-war peace planning that began with the Atlantic Charter and was followed up with other postwar international meetings. It was headed by U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull and later, because of illness, Edward Stettinius. Both Hull and Stettinius testified before Congress on the importance of creating an international mechanism through which international peace can be pursued, hence, the United Nations.

Congress naturally, wanted to be kept abreast of all negotiations and demanded that they be present at these conferences and sent Vandenberg and Connally to watch over these proceedings and report back to Congress. In time, issues of “secrecy” became of concern to Congress in part, because the news media began leaking rumors over treaties being signed between the U.S. and the Communist countries. The idea that Congress did not have the same high level of authority as those making decisions over an international body rankled many, and Senators Vandenberg and Connally spent considerable time assuring Congress that the Secretary of State was in full cooperation with the Congressional representatives.

During these proceedings, several senators accused both Secretaries of State as being “Communists,” and if it wasn’t for the respect that Senator Vandenberg from Michigan and Senator Connally from Texas had, there is a very strong possibility that the U.N. Charter would not have been ratified. This becomes very critical to the idea of world peace when you consider that Congress did not ratify the League of Nations under Woodrow Wilson, which arguably contributed to its failure and led to WWII.

Senator Vandenberg, (CR.7175) defending this process, testified:

“I think I owe it to the Secretary of State to add at this point that he personally communicated with me, representing the minority group of the special committee, and personally placed at my disposal any information I may seek at any time regarding any phase of the Dumbarton Oaks conference.”

A year following Dumbarton Oaks, was the San Francisco Conference in which the United Nations Charter was signed by representatives of 50 nations. This Charter included Chapter XI, the Declaration Regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories, in which the United States had submitted Hawaii and Alaska as one of the territories that would, under Article 73(e) regularly submit information as to the status and conditions of the territories and prepare them for a full-measure of self-governance.

One of these conditions as was stated in Resolution 648 was educational oversight– which having been addressed earlier in the Midkiff posting– had definitely not occured:

Political advancement. Political advancement of the population sufficient to enable them to decide upon the future destiny of the territory with due knowledge.

Opinion of the population. The opinion of the population of the territory, freely expressed by informed and democratic processes, as to the status or change in status which they desire.

So the questions that comes to mind, are: how then, with these treaties and resolutions that had been discussed in this statehood countdown, did Hawaii get removed from the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories? If the plebiscite had been misapplied and fraudulent; if the education process had been manipulated to suppress the information and knowledge required to make decisions about our future; if Hawaii was simply being used by the State Department to “set an example to the other nations of fulfilling a territory to self-government;” if the U.S. led anti-communist red scare tactics on the ILWU were part of a greater design to break the pro-independence international unions which the ILO in the UN supported: how then, could the Secretary General of the United Nations not challenge the U.S. request for removing Hawaii from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories?

Pertinent to this posting, in 1944, two years before Trygvie Lie was elected the first Secretary-General of the U.N. in February of 1946 (Dag Hammarskjold became the second Sec. Gen from 1953-61), the U.S. Secretary of State, Stettinius chaired the Dumbarton Oaks conference and headed the San Francisco conference, so the Charter that was signed and the negotiations that took place during and before were primarily guided by the U.S. Secretary of State. Stettinius acted as the Secretary-General!

The story about Hawaii and Alaska’s inclusion on the NSGT list– according to John Foster Dulles, the Secretary of State in 1956– was that Hawaii and Alaska had already been listed as territories in the early discussions leading up to the formation of the U.N., and it does not seem out of place to suggest that the reason Hawaii and Alaska were given special considerations in the United Nations and so easily removed from the list of NSGT, was simply that these were the negotiations that were conducted between Stettinius, Vandenberg and Connally previous to 1946.

When in 1959, Dag Hammarskjold, was presented with UNGAR 1469, the “Cessation of transmission of information of Article 73(e) of the Charter in respect of Alaska and Hawaii”, he simply passed it through with only a modicum of changes to the information sent by the Department of Interior from the Territorial governments, presumably changes that needed to reflect the statistical information acquired by the other Specialized Agencies and the latest U.S. Census findings. There was no credible opposition to statehood, other than the majority or eligible voters not participating in the plebiscite vote.

Again, why should they vote? If you want neither territory nor statehood, why vote? Dag Hammarskjold would have known this since, he invalidated the South African referendum in which the majority of people did not vote. I think the answer was simply a lack of information on the process, as well as a lack of organization around the option for independence.

This however, does not make any decolonization efforts today any less credible for Hawaii or Alaska. Rather, this simply suggests an alternative condition by which Hawaii and Alaska were removed from the list.

Another view of Hawaii’s removal from the list of NSGT is that the State Department knew that the United Nations was to soon vote upon Resolution 1514, The Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples in 1960 and so hurried the statehood process through. I personally, have found no evidence substantiating any memos or correspondence between the State Department and Congress on this matter, so am unable to comment either way, other than to note that Resolution 1514 inevitably did pass in 1960 and changed the territorial status for the majority of territories, leading to their independence.

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Dear Bill

Upon receiving your letter of June 19, I asked my staff to prepare a memorandum, which I have enclosed, describing the reasons for our decision to transmit information to the United Nations on Alaska and Hawaii in accordance with Article 73(e) of the United Nations Charter.

The problem was given careful consideration at the time in 1946. It was only after consultation with certain members of the Congress, including Senators Vandenberg and Connally, and with the Department of Interior, and after obtaining an opinion on the legal status of the territories from the Department’s Legal Advisor, that the decision was taken.

For the reasons outlined in the memorandum, I hope you will agree it would be unwise for the United States to discontinue transmission of information on Alaska and Hawaii, until after they have made further constitutional advancements.

Sincerely yours,
John Foster Dulles

go to #3 of the countdown

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