Bush’s Teams Evocation of WWII Backfires

September 1st, 2006 - by admin

Associated Press & John Prados / Tom Paine.com & Rupert Cornwell / The Independent – 2006-09-01 23:29:15


Rumsfeld Compares Bush’s Critics to Nazi Appeasers
Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday the world faces “a new type of fascism” and likened critics of the U.S. war strategy to those who tried to appease the Nazis.

In unusually explicit terms, Mr. Rumsfeld portrayed the White House’s critics as suffering from “moral or intellectual confusion” about what threatens US security. His remarks amounted to one of his most pointed defences of the administration’s war policies and was among his toughest attacks on President George W. Bush’s critics.

Speaking to several thousand veterans at the American Legion’s national convention, Mr. Rumsfeld recited what he called the lessons of history, including the failure to confront Hitler in the 1930s. He quoted Winston Churchill as observing that trying to accommodate Hitler was “a bit like feeding a crocodile, hoping it would eat you last.”

“Can we truly afford to believe that somehow, some way, vicious extremists can be appeased? Can we truly afford to return to the destructive view that America — not the enemy — is the real source of the world’s troubles?” he asked.

His remarks brought angry rebukes from Democrats.

“It’s a political rant to cover up his incompetence,” said Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Senate armed-services committee. Mr. Reed said he took particular exception to the implication that critics of Pentagon policies are unpatriotic, citing “scores of patriotic Americans of both parties who are highly critical of his handling of the Department of Defence.”

Rumsfeld’s Misuse Of History
John Prados / Tom Paine.com

(August 31, 2006) — Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, said the philosopher George Santayana a century ago. Knowing the facts of history is crucial to much of what we do as a nation and a people, but so is how it is used. And the Bush administration’s use of history — and specifically its use of “appeasement” — requires comment because it is both dangerous and misleading.

In the past week Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has twice invoked the historical analogy to appeasement — referring to the years just before World War II, culminating in the Munich conference of September 1938 — to frame the globe’s current struggle with terrorism in apocalyptic terms. Vice President Dick Cheney has used the same analogy, without even gracing it with a name, to defend what he calls the “battle for the future of civilization.”

Both sought friendly audiences, confident they would not be challenged. Rumsfeld, most recently, spoke before the American Legion (interesting, isn’t it, how the Legion and the VFW have been treated to so many key public manipulations in the past few years) and Cheney at Offut Air Force Base in Nebraska, famous as the home of the Strategic Air Command and today the center of the United States Strategic Command.

Cheney’s line, which he has used before also, was that today’s jihadists are “not an enemy that can be ignored, or negotiated with, or appeased. — Cheney speaks of the enemy as a “totalitarian empire,” Rummy refers to it as “the rising threat of a new type of fascism.”

At least Rumsfeld acknowledges his resort to historical analogy, recounting his little portion of the Munich story and adding that “once again, we face similar challenges.” His history is directly tied to Munich, where Britain and France negotiated with Adolf Hitler a “settlement” that skewered Czechoslovakia but succeeded only in gaining the Allies a few months before Hitler invaded Poland, igniting global conflict.

The Bushies clearly intend to evoke an atmosphere of shattering events, but their history is fractured and misleading, and their use of this analogy is a throwback to the methods that led America into Vietnam, among the nation’s greatest errors of the last century.

In invoking Munich, Secretary Rumsfeld claims that the Western approach was based upon “a sentiment that took root that contended that if only the growing threats . . . could be accommodated, then the carnage . . . could be avoided.” He further presents this as “cynicism and moral confusion” and “a strange innocence” about the world.

None of this is true. There was no mass political movement demanding appeasement of Germany. Rather there was a specific policy choice — made primarily by Sir Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister of the time — to mollify Hitler and gain time for rearmament. In fact, the French wanted to stand on their alliance with the Czechs and fight Hitler, but were persuaded to back down.

The British might even have been right within a certain narrow framework: For years they had restricted defense spending and were just starting to correct that, while Hitler’s promises — both to his military and his Italian allies — envisioned no war before 1942, which could have enabled an allied military buildup to bear fruit.

The widely accepted charge that the Allies were wrong to “appease” Hitler stemmed in part from Neville Chamberlain’s extravagant declaration that Munich had brought “peace for our time” — when only a short time later World War II broke out.

That was the lesson of Munich, at least until Vietnam. There the Munich analogy was used repeatedly to justify intervention and escalation. Here is President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954, writing to Sir Winston Churchill: “We failed to halt . . . Hitler by not acting in unity and in time . . . the beginning of many years of stark tragedy and desperate peril.” Eisenhower wanted support to jump into the Vietnam War at the time of Dien Bien Phu. Ironically, Churchill, whom Rummy today makes the hero of his Munich triptych, turned Ike down.

In February 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson invoked Munich in his reasoning for responding to a terrorist incident in the Central Highlands by beginning the bombing of North Vietnam.

That summer, when LBJ sent US armies to fight in Vietnam, he invoked Munich again. As Johnson’s secretary of state, Dean Rusk repeatedly mentioned the dangers of appeasement. It was the effort to avoid another Munich that led to years of stark tragedy and desperate peril in Vietnam.

The correct lesson to be drawn from Munich today is that when presidents and their administrations raise its specter, it is a sure sign they want to pursue extravagant policies, usually of violence, based on narrow grounds with shaky public support. Today the Munich analogy functions as a provocation, a red flag before a bull. It is dangerous because it claims that the only solution to any situation is to fight — Cheney’s point exactly.

Having done nothing beyond silly propaganda — despite its own claims — to undermine the jihadists by eliminating the economic and political oppression that form the basis of jihadist appeal, the Bush people counsel that the fight is everything and that talking is “appeasement.” We have seen in Lebanon lately just how misguided is that approach.

Bush administration history is like their reality — faith-based. President Bush himself, along with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, characterized those who saw and spoke the truth about the run-up to the Iraq war as “revisionists” — historians who try to change the conventional wisdom about the past.

Cheney not long ago declared it was “inexcusable — to repeat that truth. The same speeches that contain the Munich claims portray the Iraqi and Afghan people as “awakening to a future of hope and freedom” (Cheney) and say the US strategy in Iraq “has not changed” (Rumsfeld).

The faith is that if you repeat falsehoods enough times the public will believe them. There is another historical analogy there — a real one — to Adolf Hitler’s henchman, Josef Goebbels. He called it the “Big Lie.” No wonder the administration’s flacks need friendly audiences.

John Prados is a senior analyst with the National Security Archive in Washington, DC. His forthcoming book is Safe for Democracy: The Secret Wars of the CIA (Ivan Dee Publisher).

Another Miserable Milestone for Bush’s War
Rupert Cornwell / The Independent

(August 28, 2006) — A miserable milestone was passed the other day. America’s (and Britain’s) disastrous war in Iraq has now lasted longer than the US involvement in the Second World War. Yes, this conflict has outlasted a war that ended with total victory over Nazi Germany. Hitler declared war on the US on 11 December 1941. Exactly 1,244 days later, on 7 May 1945, Germany surrendered. The US invaded Iraq on 19 March 2003, and this weekend it is 1,267 days later, with no end in sight.

Sticklers among you will have noted that the interval between the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Japanese surrender on 2 September, 1945 was 1,364 days. But even that record will tumble at the start of December. And if you do measure Iraq against the longer American war with Japan, the contrast is even starker. Victory in the Pacific was even more conclusive than in Europe.

It produced no post-war entanglement with the Soviets and no Berlin airlift. The Iraq war unfolded the other way round: Baghdad fell barely three weeks after the invasion. Since then, however, it’s been downhill all the way.

Yes, US casualties have been lighter, some 2,620 dead at the latest count, and four times as many seriously wounded. Adjust for respective populations, and Israel’s loss of around 116 soldiers in the Lebanon war translates into 5,800 US dead in barely a month. As for Iraqi civilians, more of them are getting killed per month than all the American troops lost since the very start of the war.

But forget the statistics,the endless terror alerts, the war in Lebanon and the looming showdown with Iran. Iraq is the issue that America keeps returning to. It haunts George Bush and – barring Democratic screw-ups – it will probably send his Republican party to defeat in the mid-term elections this November.

Joe Lieberman’s loss in the Connecticut Senate primary this month was just one straw in the wind. One of the seemingly most impregnable Democrats in the land could not even retain his own party’s support. He was beaten because of his support for the war by a businessman with a simple campaign mantra: “Bring the Boys Home.”

Republicans, of course, pretended to love it. They raised the shade of George McGovern, the anti-Vietnam war candidate thrashed by Nixon in 1972. Once again, they said, the Democrats had turned into a party of left-wing pacifists who could no more be trusted to fight the terrorists than to “see the job through” in Iraq.

Sadly, this argument that worked so well in 2002 and 2004 works no longer. Even the wilfully blind can see that Iraq is a disaster. Bush, who yields to no one in that category, lambasted the Democrats for pusillanimity. But even he could not bring himself to use the word “progress” apropos of events in the country that he once claimed would be a beacon of peace and democracy for the entire Middle East.

Nor does the terror card have the force it once did. True, the President’s ratings went up slightly after the foiled UK airliner bomb plot (but they could hardly have sunk much lower). Far more revealing, Chris Shays, a Connecticut Republican who had supported the war, last week broke ranks with the White House and called for a firm timetable for withdrawal. If you’re seeking re-election to the House in November, there’s really no choice.

Bush’s problem is that two-thirds of Americans — according to a recent poll — no longer buy his argument that Iraq has become “the central front in the war on terror”. Iraq, they now realise, had nothing to do with 9/11, and the foreign fighters who are now in Iraq went there only after the 2003 invasion.

They believe the Mesopotamian adventure has made them less safe. Put another way: if you start a war that lasts as long as the Second World War, you’d better have something to show for it. George Bush does not.

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