Historians study the Hitler and try to answer the question: how did he do it? How did he motivate his country to attack, conquer, occupy, and plunder other countries without provocation? How did he convince his people to round up Jews, throw them in ghettos and later into ovens? His tools were fear, paranoia, insecurity, and lies. What does it say about our country when the man we have re-elected as president uses those same tactics to stay in power?
I’m afraid historians will view us in the same light as the ignorant Nazi populace who participated while their government broke treaties, disregarded international law, amassed a huge military, tried to destroy the Jews and take over Europe, and push their world-view, Fascism, on anyone within bombing range. All of this perpetuated, not based not on facts, but on fear and suspicion.
In the early 30s the German people were angry. They were blamed for World War One and hard sanctions were forced on their country. Hitler channeled that anger and found a few scapegoats to collect in concentration camps, and countries to dive bomb into submission, invade with shock troops and control without provocation.
The Americans were angry after 9/11. George W. Bush channeled that anger and found a few scapegoats in the Iraqi people. He played on the fears of the American people, the fictional “smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud”, to throw suspects into prison without cause where they were tortured, to break international law, invade and control countries without provocation.
Hitler saw enemies from all sides. The Jews were the enemy and so was the rest of Europe. The communist neighbors to the East were godless and evil. Nothing short of total victory was required, no matter what the cost, to form a Third Reich. Of course there are no facts to back up such outrageous claims, but that never stopped the KKK from lynching a few African Americans either. It never stopped the church from burning heretics at the stake. It did not stop the US from invading Iraq.
Where are the WMDs now? Where was the immanent threat? In the form of garbage truck shocks that could potentially be used as rocket launchers? In the form of mythical ties between secularist Saddam and fanatical Al Quida? Worse, does anyone seem to care at the lack of evidence for war? Apparently not. To this day, almost 50% of Americans still think Iraq had ties to Al Quida, or WMDs. Shame on the US. Who is worse? The ignorant German people who had no independent panels to tell them their leaders were inept and misleading? Or us who refuse to listen when told?
Hitler used the idea of perpetual war to keep his people paranoid. Anyone questioning the need for so much aggression was labeled a traitor. Herman Goering once said, “All you have to do is tell the people they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.” I can’t help but draw the parallels. Perhaps the greatest feat of the campaign was turning John F. Kerry, a decorated war veteran, into someone “unfit for command” because he questioned Vietnam and the need for senseless wars.
George W. Bush has fashioned a perpetual war on terror. Right now we have troops in over 50 countries, we have terror alerts, and watch lists, and scare tactics. When people question the need for all of it, Bush replies “they don’t understand the war on terror.” The message is clear: without our aggression, you are less safe. When anyone questions the need for force and aggression, for the Patriot Act, for bunker busters, sidewinders, and tomahawks, they are labeled as unpatriotic.
I have done the same thing. I questioned a friend’s patriotism as he spoke out during the first days of the Iraq war. It was a shameful thing for me to do, and it turns out he was right, and I was wrong. I believed the hype. We were going to go in and secure Iraq and keep America safe. Is this how the Germans felt about invading Poland or Russia? What’s the difference between fabricating Poland’s invasion of Germany to justify invasion, and the US fabricating WMDs in Iraq to justify invasion?
It’s bad enough when it happens once. But it is shameful to ever let it ever happen again. So, shame on us. Shame on us for allowing it to happen, and worse, for showing the world we approve of it. At least the German people were ruled forcefully by Nazi storm troopers. The only thing keeping George W. Bush in power is fear, verbiage, and the vote of the ignorant. So, shame on us for being scared and allowing ourselves to be pushed around by the likes of Bush and Cheney.
I am not a Kerry fan. I do not hate Bush. I believe leaders will use as much leverage as they are granted to forward their goals. The blame goes to those who allow it, and give license to it and in a democracy that blame goes to the people. The world looks to us to elect a sensible leader because it does matter to them. We have given Bush the big stick he swings around, and the freedom to walk loudly and terrorize. Shame on us. And the world looks as us and doesn’t understand. And neither do I. And neither will historians. There is a greater shame on the US for not learning from history, for being fooled again, for being a weak and emotional people.
Now the most powerful country in the world is in the hands of people who don’t know which way to aim the gun. No wonder the world views us with suspicion, and countries race to acquire nuclear weapons to keep themselves safe. And the message we send to the world is this: fear and terror work. It wins elections.