At one time, Americans believed that wholesale rewriting of history could happen only in the Soviet Union.
“The problem with writing about history in the Soviet Union,” went the joke, “is that you never know what’s going to happen yesterday.”
A classic example of this occurred within the Great Soviet Encyclopedia.
Lavrenti Beria had been head of the NKVD, the dreaded secret police, from 1938 to 1953. In 1953, following the death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, Beria was arrested and executed on orders of his fellow Communist Party leaders.
But the Great Soviet Encyclopedia had just gone to press with a long article singing Beria’s praises.
What to do?
The editors of the Encyclopedia wrote an equally long article about “the Berring Straits,” which was to be pasted over the article about Beria, and sent this off to its subscribers. An unknown number of them decided it was safer to paste accordingly.
In the 1981 film, “Excalibur,” Merlin warns the newly-minted knights of the Round Table: “For it is the doom of men that they forget.”
Forgetting our past is dangerous, but so is “understanding” it incorrectly.
In Texas, state-mandated “history” textbooks omit selected events and persons from the historical record–such as Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King.
This can be as lethal to the truth as outright lying.
Joseph Stalin, for example, ordered that school textbooks omit all references to the major role played by Leon Trotsky, his arch-rival for power, during the Russian Revolution.
Similarly, in Texas students are required to study Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ inaugural address alongside President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Such “teaching” should be seen for what it is: A thinly-veiled attempt to legitimize the most massive case of treason in United States history.
(The Civil War started on April 12, 1861, when Confederate artillery opened fire on Fort Sumter, a United States fort in Charleston Harbor. Fort Sumter surrendered 34 hours later.
(At least 800,000 Southerners took up arms against the legally elected government of the United States.)
The late broadcast journalist, Edward R. Murrow, would have referred to this practice as “giving Jesus and Judas equal time.”
Recently, Jeb Bush has entered the “Rewriting History for Americans” contest.
On August 13, speaking at a national security forum in Davenport, Iowa, he defended the unprovoked 2003 invasion of Iraq by his brother, President George W. Bush:
“I’ll tell you though, that taking out Saddam Hussein turned out to be a pretty good deal.”
And he went on to defend the 2007 troop “surge”, calling it “a great success that made Iraq safer.
“I’ve been critical and I think people have every right to be critical of decisions that were made. In 2009, Iraq was fragile but secure. It was–its mission was accomplished in a way that there was security there.”
(Ironically, the phrase, “its mission was accomplished” proved an embarrassing reminder for the Bush family.
(A banner titled “Mission Accomplished” was displayed on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln as George W. Bush announced–wrongly–that the war was over on May 1, 2003.)
Jeb Bush claimed that President Barack Obama had prematurely withdrawn troops from Iraq during his first term, thus allowing ISIS to “fill the void.”
One dissenter to Jeb Bush’s effort to rewrite his brother’s history is David Corn, Washington bureau chief for Mother Jones magazine.
Addressing Bush’s claims on the August 15 edition of The PBS Newshour, he said:
“I mean, I have to laugh a little bit, because I think he was setting a record for chutzpah.
“…It wasn’t until after his brother’s invasion of Iraq that you had something called al-Qaida in Iraq. And that was the group that morphed into ISIS.
“So ISIS is a direct result of the war in Iraq right there. And so he’s wrong on the history.
“But then he said what happened was that Obama and Hillary Clinton orchestrated this quick withdrawal after everything was secure. Nothing was really secure in 2009-2010.
“…But it was George W. Bush in December 2008 who created the agreement with [Iraqi] Prime Minister [Nouri] [al-]Maliki that said that U.S. troops had to be out by 2011.
“And then Obama didn’t renegotiate that. And there is a lot of question as to whether he could even have, given the political situation in Baghdad itself.
“So Bush is totally–Jeb Bush is totally rewriting this.”
This is no small matter. George W. Bush’s needless and unprovoked war on Iraq:
- Cost the lives of 4,486 American soldiers.
- Wounded another 32,226 troops.
- Resulted in the deaths of an estimated 655,000 Iraqis.
- Cost the American treasury at least $2 trillion.
- Turned up no Weapons of Mass Destruction–Bush’s pretext for going to war.
- Led to the rise of Al-Qaeda–and later ISIS–in Iraq.
- Strengthened theocratic Iran by removing its major secularist opponent.
All of which simply proves, once again, that the past is never truly dead. It simply waits to be re-interpreted by each new generation–with some interpretations winding up closer to the truth than others.
Or, in this case, each new Presidential candidate of the Bush family.