WHAT HITLER TAUGHT US
Pennsylvania April 1, 2003
The defeat of Hitler and the destruction of the Third Reich were absolute. And yet a defeat may have compensations, if the defeated significantly influence the victors, who then resemble what they fought to destroy. Does Hitler survive in the policies of those who destroyed him? Has the Bush administration come to resemble the Third Reich? Strange as such a supposition may appear, similarities are striking.
The unprovoked aggression of Hitler's regime resembles that of President Bush. Poland was not a threat to Germany in 1939, when it was invaded by German forces. Iraq was no threat to America when it was invaded. In either case, the aggressor tried elaborately to justify his aggression; Hitler by alleging the mistreatment of Germans in Danzig, President Bush by citing weapons of mass destruction, none of which could have come within 5,000 miles of the United States, and by the implausible relation of Iraq to terrorism (September 11 was carried out by Arab nationals.) Hitler displayed contempt for international law and for the League of Nations, which his aggression helped to terminate. The Bush administration displays contempt for international law and for the United Nations, which its aggression reduces to insignificance. Hitler boasted arrogantly of his military power. How much of the same arrogance have we heard from President Bush and his Secretary of Defense?
In the Third Reich the legislative body, the Reichstag, was reduced to impotence. Our Congress has reduced itself to impotence, rejecting its Constitutional obligation to declare war, and though Senator Daschle deplores President Bush's war policies, as minority leader of the Senate he did little to oppose it. Hitler had a grand strategic design in his aggression: To neutralize the West, as he did in 1940 with the defeat of France, and then to move East, as he did in 1941 with the invasions of the Soviet Union, in order to obtain the grain and oil of the Ukraine and Caucasus. The grand strategic design of the Bush administration is to control the oil of the Middle East by conquest and intimidation. Hitler's regime had willing, ruthless subordinates" Goering, Goebbels, Hess and Ribbentrop. We used to speak of them as "The Hitler Gand." President Bush has a similar team in Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Rice and Powell. In the Third Reich civil rights were abrogated in the name of state security. Civil and Constitutional rights have been abrogated under the Bush Administration for the same pretense.
One difference between the two regimes is that as early as 1939 German military leaders planned to depose Hitler, for they feared that his war policies would ultimately bring disaster to Germany, as in fact happened. There is no move even effectively to question President Bush's war policies. Another difference is that Germany faced immensely powerful adversaries. France had a larger army than Germany in 1939, the Soviet Union and even larger army, Britain had control of the seas and America was a potential adversary of overwhelming force. Today the Bush administration has no adversary of comparable strength and is free to pursue its policies without serious opposition at home or abroad. Hitler would be envious.
When Germany went to war in 1939 the German people were far from enthusiastic, in fact were apprehensive and dejected, remembering the millions of German causalities in World War I only 20 years earlier. Americans have never suffered such casualties, and yet even they have doubts about the war, despite their patriotism and despite the misinformation fed to them by the administration and a subservient press. Perhaps an increasing number of Americans will understand that to "Support Our Troops" can mean to reject a policy that puts the troops in combat, where they can be killed, and to approve one that avoids war by diplomacy and the services of the United Nations.