Naturally the common people don’t want war, neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood.
But, after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along….
All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to greater danger. It works the same way in any country.
–Rcichsmarshall Hermann Goering
Much of the moral basis for American leadership was destroyed by the dark parallels between Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939 and George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Adolf Hitler (third from left) with his generals
In 1970, Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler’s former architect and then Minister of Aramaments, published his bestselling postwar memoirs, Inside the Third Reich. In a striking passage, he revealed how the Fuehrer really felt about German soldiers who were suffering and dying in a war he had provoked.
One evening during the middle of the war, Speer was traveling with Hitler on the Fuehrer’s private train. Late at night, they enjoyed a lavish dinner in the elegant rosewood-paneled dining car.
As they ate, Hitler’s train slowed down and passed a freight train halted on a side track.
From their open cattle car, recalled Speer, wounded German soldiers from the Russian Front–starved, their uniforms in rags–stared across the few yards to their Fuehrer’s dining-car window.
Hitler recoiled at seeing these injured men intently watching him–and he sharply ordered an adjutant to lower the window shades.
Hitler had served as a frontline soldier in World War 1 and had won the Iron Cross for bravery as a dispatch runner.
As Fuehrer, he often boasted of his affinity with the average German soldier. He claimed that “my whole life has been one long struggle for Germany.”
Yet throughout the six years of World War II, he refused to visit German cities ravaged by British and American bombs.
Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, despaired at this.
Winston Churchill, prime minister of Great Britain, often visited cities hit by German bombers, and Goebbels knew these visits greatly boosted British morale.
Goebbels urged Hitler to make similar visits to bombed-out German cities, but the Fuehrer refused.
Albert Speer believed that Hitler couldn’t bear to see the carnage wrought by his decision to provoke a needless war.
George W. Bush “looking” for WMDs in the White House
GEORGE W. BUSH
Similarly, Bush showed his contempt for the soldiers suffering and dying in his own unprovoked war.
On March 24, 2004, at a White House Correspondents dinner, he joked publicly about the absence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).
To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were nothing more than the butt of a joke that night. While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.
“Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office.
“Nope-–no weapons over there! Maybe they’re under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.
In a scene that could have occurred under the Roman emperor Nero, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women–-the elite of America’s media and political classes–-laughed heartily during Bush’s performance.
Only later did the criticism come, from Democrats and Iraqi war veterans–especially those veterans who had suffered grievous wounds to protect America from WMDs.
In his Presidential memoirs, Decision Points, Bush failed to mention his joking about the “missing WMDs” at the correspondents dinner.
In writing about discovering insights into the human character, the ancient historian, Plutarch, said it best:
And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men.
Sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.
* * * * *
So add it all up:
- Two all-powerful leaders.
- Two nations lied into unprovoked wars.
- Adolf Hitler’s war costs the lives of 4.5 million German soldiers.
- George W. Bush’s war costs the lives of 4,486 Americans.
- Germany’s war results in the deaths of millions of Europeans and Russians.
- America’s war results in the deaths of an estimated 655,000 Iraqis, according to a 2006 study in the Lancet medical journal.
- Hitler is literally driven underground by his enemies and commits suicide to avoid capture, trial and certain execution for war crimes.
- Bush retires from office with a lavish pension and full Secret Service protection. He writes his memoirs and is paid $7 million for the first 1.5 million copies.
- Hitler is branded as a symbol of demonic evil.
- Bush becomes a target of ridicule for comics.
Who says history is irrelevant? Or that it doesn’t repeat itself?