Archive for Saturday, September 2, 2006

World War II comparisons don’t fit Iraq

September 2, 2006


On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan launched a sneak attack that devastated a U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. And the United States rose in righteous fury, immediately declaring war on Thailand. Because, you know, it was in the same part of the world as Japan and the people kind of looked alike and besides, those Thais had been getting a little uppity and were due for a smackdown.

Which is not the way it happened, of course, but if Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wants to use World War II allusions to describe the War on Terror, I submit that my fantasy comes a lot closer to the truth than his. Rumsfeld's fantasy, if you missed it, was shared in a recent speech before the American Legion in Salt Lake City. There, the Sec Def said that critics of the war in Iraq - a designation that now includes most Americans - are like those who thought they could avoid fighting by negotiating with, or "appeasing," the Nazis in the days before World War II.

The war's critics - again, that's the majority of us - need to crack a history book, he thinks. "Once again, we face similar challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism. But some seem not to have learned history's lessons."

Rumsfeld's rant was but the shrillest of several recent statements by members of the federal regime - Cheney, Rice and the great and powerful Bush himself - in defense of the war in Iraq. Which must mean - hold on, let me check my calendar - yep, there's an election coming.

The War on Terror has, after all, been this gang's get-out-of-jail-free card for years. High gas prices, a hurricane fiasco, red ink, an overall patina of ineptness overtopped by arrogance, and it's all forgotten the moment they say 9-11. Small wonder they say it loudly now with midterm elections looming and polls suggesting more Americans are seeing through the president like Saran Wrap.

Indeed, there was an interesting exchange between Bush and a reporter at a news conference last week. In the process of answering a question about Iraq, Bush reflexively invoked Sept. 11, leading the reporter to interrupt him.

"What did Iraq have to do with that?" the reporter asked.

"Nothing," Bush said irritably. The reporter somehow resisted saying, "Then why did you bring it up?"

Or maybe that's self-evident. After Sept. 11, the nation needed some Muslims to hit. And the Bush administration, already looking for a pretext to attack Iraq - which once plotted the assassination of Bush's father - gave us some.

Since then, the White House missed no opportunity to falsely conflate Iraq with the terror war. The most recent example came last month when anti-war candidate Ned Lamont defeated Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman in the Democratic primary. Vice President Cheney said this rebuke of the war would embolden "al-Qaida types."

For the record: On Sept. 11, 2001, we were attacked by men directed from a terrorist base in Afghanistan. We quickly knocked over Afghanistan and just as quickly forgot about it, turning instead to the troublesome dictatorship the president just knew in his gut was behind the carnage. Now we find ourselves mired in a poorly defined, poorly designed mission in a nation that, with all due respect to the presidential gut, had NO known connection to Sept. 11.

And with more than 22,000 U.S. casualties - meaning dead AND injured - and thousands more dead Iraqis, the nation finally begins to question this pig and poke it has been sold. We're all for killing the terrorists. Heck, after you kill them, dig them up and kill them some more. But people are beginning to see that the only terrorism in Iraq is that which we, by our presence, have helped create.

Donald Rumsfeld calls that kind of talk appeasement. I call it understanding.

And the bad news for the secretary is, it's spreading.

- Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald.


Klickhammer 11 years, 7 months ago

He certainly wasn't a threat when he gassed the Kurds with Bush the Elder's knowledge, using WMDs supplied by the US. In fact, Bush marked the one-year anniversary of this atrocity by declaring "normative relations" with Saddam, declaring that "[It will] serve our long-term interests and promote stability in both the Gulf and the Middle East."

dizzy_from_your_spin 11 years, 7 months ago

Leonard, I submit we wouldn't have won WWII if the devisive attitude that exists in America today would have existed back then. Whether they were for the war or not, Americans made winning the priority.

Now look at Viet Nam: was America united or divided? What was the outcome, did we win? The cut-and-run crowd prevailed and look what happened.

mklempner 11 years, 7 months ago

I wrote a less entertaining but more historically informative oped two years ago that examines the fallacy of comparing the war in Iraq with WWII. Entitled "Fearing 'Munich' Bush Misread Baghdad," it may be read at:

DS 11 years, 7 months ago

A few things jump to mind here. Most of them about irony. Learning from history, though unpopular lately, is a good idea. Here's an example:

"Gring spoke about war and extreme nationalism during the Nuremberg trials in an interview with Gustave Gilbert, a Jewish German-speaking intelligence officer and psychologist who was granted free access by the Allies to all the prisoners held in the Nuremberg jail:

'Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.

...Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.'"

There you have it. Words of 'wisdom' right from a bonafide Nazi. Not just any Nazi either, the second in command of the Third Reich.

Does any of that sound familiar? It should and here's why:

The leap made by Rumsfeld and the rest of this lame administration to comparing people who are exercising the very principles of democracy with those who sought to appease Hitler was an easy one to make since it's pretty obvious their new NeoCon PR strategy itself borrows so heavily from the Nazi playbook.

It is just a rookie salesman rehashing stupid company lines to get you to buy snake oil. "Cut and Run" sounds more like the latest in a string of bad Steven Seagal movies than an effective response to a failed policy.

If catch phrases were results, the "war on terror" would already have been won.

For those of you still all giddy from flag waving, you might find this helpful:

I thought using "9/11" over and over to sell this B.S. was bad, but now I see they are not above using "support the troops" to guilt people into falling into place. I am sure Gring is chuckling in someplace in hell at hearing Rumsfeld's attack on the American people.

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