Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Singing Hitlers over here, dancing Hitlers over there

Glenn Greenwald on the Bush Leaguers' habit of crying wolf:

To pro-Bush war supporters, the world is forever stuck in the 1930s. Every leader we don't like is Adolf Hitler, a crazed and irrational lunatic who wants to dominate the world. Every country opposed to our interests is Nazi Germany.

From this it follows that every warmonger is the glorious reincarnation of the brave and resolute Winston Churchill. And one who opposes or even questions any proposed war becomes the lowly and cowardly appeaser, Neville Chamberlain. For any and every conflict that arises, the U.S. is in the identical position of France and England in 1937 – faced with an aggressive and militaristic Nazi Germany, will we shrink from our grand fighting duties in appeasement and fear, or will we stand tall and strong and wage glorious war?

Glenn goes on to take this one apart card by card, specifically in regard to Iran, but also generally, pointing out along the way that crying Hitler is an old Bush family trick. George the First did it to encourage us all in our yellow ribbon-tying back in 1990 when he was gearing us up for his war.

One of Glenn's important points is that, besides being cynical scare tactics, the Hitler comparisons are absurd, given the little tinpot dictators they're applied to and whom we're meant to be scared of.

It's not enough, says Glenn, to want to be a Hitler or to talk like a Hitler or even to try to mimic Hitler as a tyrant and murderer of your own people---you have to be capable of a Hitleresque scale of evil and mass destruction.

Which, as Glenn points out, the Bush League warmongers know. That's why they always back up their Hitler Warnings with outrageous lies.

They don't just say that their Hitler of the Day is as evil-minded as Hitler. They say that their little Hitler has Hilter's capablities and every intention of acting upon them any minute.

I suppose it's possible to be relatively Hitler-esque. An evil dictator can do to a region of the world or to his own country what Hitler attempted on a global scale.

But the warmongers don't argue that way. Probably because they know that a lunatic faraway playing Hitler in his own backyard wouldn't be sufficiently scary to most Americans, but possibly also because they realize that an argument to go to war to stop a tyrant from tyrannizing his own citizenry and his neighbors is an argument for humanitarian wars, which they don't want to fight.

Let's say this again, slowly. The we're here to save the Iraqi people from Saddam and bring them Freedom was an argument the Bush Leaguers adopted after they'd committed us to war, when they knew that after no Weapons of Mass Destruction turned up people might start asking uncomfortable questions. We did not invade Iraq to save the Iraqi people. We did not invade Iraq to take away Saddam's WMD. We invaded Iraq because George Bush wanted to and Dick Cheney saw financial and political profit in it.

The cynics in the Bush Administration don't want to fight humanitarian wars because there's nothing to be gained from them. And the neo-cons only want to fight wars that increase the power of the United States...or, to put it more realistically, which decrease their own fears and paranoia.

So the threat must always be said to be to us, and it must always be said to be immediate. The little Hitlers must always be portrayed as if they had ten thousand Panzers lined up on the borders of Poland and France, with their engines running and their cannon loaded.

Moving away from Glenn's post now. There's a wonderful historical irony in the Right's seeing Hitlers popping up from behind every sand dune.

These are people who are the ideological, "intellectual," political, cultural, social, and, in some cases, biological heirs of American conservatives who opposed FDR's attempts to get us ready to fight a war against the real Hitler. They weren't merely isolationist or obstructionist, they were in many cases actively admiring of der Fuehrer.

(The neo-cons are the ideological heirs of people who were intellectually whipsawed by Stalin's danse macabre with Hitler. Stalin's temporary separate peace with the Nazis fractured the American Communists sixteen ways from Sunday. I hope burritoboy stops by in the comments to explain how that has been playing itself out in the present.)

Point this out and some indignant conservative will come along to deny it. But for now let's just remember that over 10 years after he flew across the Atlantic Charles Lindbergh was not still a cultural hero just because of his contributions to the advancement of aviation.

The American Right has had no problem admiring militaristic strongmen who keep the riff-raff in line and the trains running on time.

Didn't then. Doesn't now.

The two great moral failings of the Republican Party in the last century were its pre-war isolationism and its resistance to the Civil Rights movement, and it makes psychological sense to say that the Party's obsession with identifying and waging war on little Hitlers is the sign of a collective guilty conscience. The Republicans, those that follow in lockstep behind President Bush, which is about all of them, may be trying to make amends in the present for their inherited sins of the past.

For all the talk about appeasement being the posture of the Left, they must know deep down that Hitler was betting on the United States not entering the war or at least not entering it soon enough to save England. And the reason he bet that way was because he knew that Roosevelt had strong opposition from the American Right.

We didn't get into the war soon enough, by the way. England very nearly was on the brink of surrender. Churchill had his own Right Wing appeasers to deal with and the Blitz was taking a terrible toll. The RAF saved the day. You want to know the secret to Churchillian rhetoric, Mr Bush? Speak the truth.

"Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

Well, it may be that some of the warmongers on the Right are trying to make up for the sins of their ideological fathers. It may be that some of them are trying to convince themselves that if they had lived back then they wouldn't have been among the isolationists.

But the reality is that crying Hitler is what they do because it has worked.

It could very well work again.

Certainly Karl Rove is hoping to turn 2006 into a replay of 2002. The Democrats were expecting to pick up seats in Congress that year too.

As many wiser bloggers have pointed out, the immediate goal of the sabre-rattling on Iran is to maintain the Republican lock on Congress.

That doesn't mean that Iran will cease to be the new Nazi Germany come the second Wednesday of November.

Even if the Democrats take control of one or even both houses, the Bush Leaguers will still be crying Hitler.

In fact, if the Democrats win, I expect George Bush will grow even more determined to bomb the mullahs.

Unless he's already done it.

End of Part One. Thanks to Shakespeare's Sister for the link to Glenn's post. See Melissa's post on The Administration Who Cried Hitler.


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