- Despite many differences, there are striking parallels
between Bush's invasion of Iraq and Hitler's invasion of Russia, and understanding
these parallels serves to warn of the coming storm Bush is calling down
upon all of us.
- Hitler's decision to invade Russia was a horrific turning
point in history, certainly the most consequential decision of the twentieth
century and likely the most destructive in all of history. We still live
with some of its terrible results.
- In material terms, America's invasion of Iraq cannot
be compared to the invasion of Russia. Germany took on a gigantic opponent,
arrogantly regarded as its inferior in civilization and technology.
- America's invasion was of a country with one-twelfth
its population and, of more importance from a military point of view, with
roughly one-twelfth its per capita income. America's tiny victim was sick,
too, with water systems, electricity, and other vital infrastructure demolished
by the first Gulf War, ten years of sporadic bombing by U.S. planes supposedly
enforcing a no-fly zone, and a cruel embargo which took countless lives.
- Germany greatly underestimated Russia's strength. Hitler
said privately it would all be over in three weeks. Naturally, with the
prevailing ethos of "working towards the Fuehrer," more accurate
assessments had a limited constituency. Besides encountering what must
rank as the most heroic human resistance in history, the Germans were shocked
to find that the Russians were not quite so backward after all, the T-34
tank for example proving superior to much of German armor. The invasion
of Russia gave us history's most terrible battle, Stalingrad, and its greatest
tank battle, Kursk. It left 27 million Soviets dead, a loss that dwarfs
the loss of any other country in any war.
- The military capability of Iraq was grotesquely over-stated
before America's invasion. Iraq's actual capabilities were well known to
a number of experts, including weapons inspectors, intelligence services,
and a number of international agencies and governments - not just its lack
of sophisticated weapons but the terrible state of its basic infrastructure
and the sheer physical exhaustion of its people. Informed voices were literally
drowned out by propaganda and manipulation. Skewed editorials, planted
news stories, deliberately provocative opinion pieces, forged evidence,
and phony expert books tumbled from all the outlets of America's Ministry
of Truth to make the declared enemy seem far more menacing than he was.
- Bush has quickly managed to forget weapons that never
existed, but to this day he continues to deliberately, falsely blur terrorism
with the invasion of Iraq, although every informed person on earth knows
that absolute governments like Hussein's are the most unfriendly to terrorism
or any other "ism."
- Both Bush and Hitler came to office determined in favor
of invasion. Their decisions reflected no informed judgment of new developments
or the discoveries of intelligence services. It was quite the opposite
in both cases. We know Hitler viewed the western Soviet Union in precisely
the same way that the early United States viewed western North America
- as a vast reservoir of resources and an expanse promising immense economies
of scale for future agriculture and industry. He wrote about these matters
as he served a brief prison term for the 1923 putsch. And his thinking
on this was not original. There had been Germans of the extreme right -
politicians, military men, journalists, and others - who thought in these
terms for decades.
- The decisions in neither case reflected genuine assessments
of the risk involved. Hitler's risk was immense, as events proved. The
only risk Bush saw was the alienation of constituencies for which his political
circle already had only contempt. There was never any question whether
America could defeat Iraq's armed forces. An apt comparison for the invasion
might be a dozen well-fed bullies beating up one poor, crippled man.
- Of course, Bush's genuine risks, the ones of which he
took no account whatever, were also large but longer-term. Unthinking people
tend to ignore the long term and anything requiring some imagination. You
might be able quickly to defeat Iraq's army, but could you defeat an angry
people humiliated by the squalid mess America made of their country? Could
you stop the intense sense of injustice and anger at such treatment sweeping
through the Islamic world? Could you keep American forces occupying Iraq
for years to come? Could you stop the deep unease felt by many old allies
at such high-handed tactics?
- We know from good anecdotes that from the beginning of
his administration, Bush was ready to invade Iraq were there an opportunity,
and we know from the Downing Street Memos that Bush realized he had been
given his opportunity after 9/11. After all, the Neo-cons, upon whom he
seems to depend for his only association with anything superficially intellectual,
had advocated an invasion for a decade as the way to end America's complicated,
nasty involvement with Iraq. And nothing could better please the majority
of American Jews, who traditionally support Democrats, than knocking out
Israel's most implacable foe. I think many Neo-cons advising Bush, apart
from their usual sheer relish in advocating military force, probably believed
an invasion offered the foundation for a new national political coalition
in the United States. In this at least they may have been correct.
- Strategic thinking clearly is not part of Bush's mental
endowment, but the Neo-cons stand ever ready to supply the deficiency.
It wouldn't take great arguments to convince Bush because always in the
background, there was Bush's murky relationship with his father, predisposing
a weak son towards one-upmanship and revenge. We don't know for sure, but
Hitler's fairly successful and apparently brutal father, may well have
helped set him on the path of destruction.
- Attacking a relatively insignificant country is an easy
way in America for a shabby politician to gain credentials for strength
and determination, Americans already possessing considerable suspicion
and contempt for the strange ways of faraway places. It's a tired old political
act, performed many times, but it still works.
- Hitler and many Germans viewed Russia as a threat, one
that could only grow over time as the Soviet Union developed economically.
The invasion was justified in terms of stopping a menace before it became
unstoppable. Long before the invasion, Hitler repeatedly appealed to the
prejudices of Western countries concerning the horrors of a growing Bolshevik
monster. Bush's obtuse "Doctrine" concerning pre-emptive attacks
on those regarded as threats is an exact mimicry of Hitler's attitude towards
- Hitler's way of explaining to Germans his vision for
gaining resources and the economies of scale to assure Germany's future
greatness was the word "lebensraum." He hoped to duplicate the
economic advantages of America's size through a single great stroke in
- Bush's invasion was supported by a more modern and limited
notion of lebensraum. Generally over the last half century of America's
world ascendancy, force is no longer used to extend the lands under direct
American rule. There are minor exceptions, but directly ruling large additional
portions of the world would be costly, inefficient, and often counterproductive.
America's homeland long ago reached a size adequate to guarantee it many
future economic advantages. Locals may rule abroad so long as they do not
question American policies and privileges. Force is used to intimidate
or eliminate those who disagree.
- The reason for the invasion of Iraq was to crush Israel's
chief opponent, a man who regularly put difficulties in the path of American
freedom of action in the region, while putting great oil resources into
friendlier hands and striking terror into any Middle Eastern leaders in
whose hearts might lurk such evil as questioning America's role. Bush and
the Neo-cons like to talk of this last effect as bringing democracy to
the region, but there is no basis for accepting such fatuous language.
You don't "bring" democracy to people, especially by killing
large numbers of them and building air bases on their territory. We may
be sure the Neo-cons will be happy to see the region's clutch of suitably
intimidated presidents-for-life and princes continue with their ways altered
just enough to make Washington feel no sense of challenge.
- Hitler gave no serious thought about how Germany would
manage the tens of millions of Slavs falling under his rule. The long-term
prospects, even had the invasion proved more successful, were not bright.
Talk about reducing them to slavery to serve the Reich was easy enough,
but just what would be entailed in such a vast scheme? The migration of
Germans into the region, pushing Slavs from their homes, also would be
a vast and long-term project. Would the German army have to occupy these
lands in force indefinitely? Would they fight guerilla war for decades
against enraged people? Perhaps some awareness of these problems generated
Hitler's demand for absolute ruthlessness in the conquered territories.
Whole categories of people and officials were murdered outright. Prisoners
were treated with no regard for law or humanity.
- Bush faces something of the same problems on a smaller
scale, and all indications are that little thought or planning was given
to them. Hussein's party had spent decades favoring friendly and tribal
groups over the Shia majority and the Kurds. Huge amounts of land had been
redistributed to the favored, and the original owners want their places
back. The pressure on the U.S. would be all the greater since any effort
to even begin establishing democratic institutions, Hussein's repressed
majority would be the people with whom you must work.
- The Sunni whom Hussein favored are naturally at the heart
of the fierce resistance movement that now has emerged. They not only lost
their favored positions and good jobs but face the possibility of losing
homes or farms. The resistance has in turn created such feared conditions
that little progress has been made to repairing the vast destruction done
to the country. Bombings in the occupied country within a week of the London
Underground bombing killed many times as many people. People are still
without work and without such basics as dependable electrical service.
They must stay in broken homes without electricity, in fierce temperatures,
avoiding the streets. All this might well have been anticipated, but thoughtless
ideologues aren't interested in such gritty realities when they launch
their grand schemes at the expense of others.
- American forces may not be engaging in assembly-line
murder, but their behavior has been deplorable. The worst horrors of Abu
Ghraib prison have been kept secret, including the rape of children. A
gulag of secret prisons has been established in several locations of the
world, including Afghanistan and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and nobody
knows what goes on in these places. Activities at the Guantanamo torture
chamber, approved and supported at the highest levels of the American government,
rightly have damned any claims the nation has as being a leader in human
rights. The CIA has such an extensive system of transportation for torture
abroad there is a special name for it, rendition. The CIA also has murdered
suspects. The disappearance of about three thousand Afghan prisoners still
has received no official explanation, although witnesses say they were
horribly murdered by warlords with American troops quietly watching. No
one should forget Rumsfeld's Reinhard Heydrich-like statement at about
that time that prisoners in Afghanistan should be done away with or walled
away for life.
- Hitler was a fervent believer in raw Social Darwinism.
He actually was a convert to a form of brutal paganism, captivated by the
notion that brutality offered the necessary infusion of strength for a
people somewhat enfeebled by the ethical norms of his time. He regarded
Christianity as a weakness, although he could not openly speak that way.
He often clearly misjudged who in fact were the fittest, but his enthusiasm
was palpable when talking of the necessity for his generation of Germans
to show utter ruthlessness in order to earn future greatness.
- The talk of American Neo-cons is more tempered, but it
comes from exactly the same moral and intellectual root stock. Social Darwinism
and worship of force are conspicuously on display in Washington. Rather
than hating Christianity, the Neo-cons have harnessed it, at least a substantial
American portion of it, to their purposes.
- Importantly, the Neo-cons have different Christian material
with which to work: America's fundamentalists display many attitudes and
behaviors more in keeping with paganism than Christianity. This is particularly
true when it comes to war and the military. America's Jesus, the one embraced
by millions of fundamentalists, seems to be heartily cheered by war. He
doesn't appear to oppose hate either since preaching against groups like
gays comes pretty close to an obsession for many of His most prominent
ministers. He can't be opposed to money changers in the temple because
that's the main work of all those financial empire-building evangelists.
- The invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan is not isolated.
Reports of American troops recently firing on Syrian troops along the border
intensify concerns about threats towards Syria and Iran, and although the
ongoing mess in Iraq makes another invasion seem unlikely that says nothing
of other aggressive or surreptitious acts. It cannot be stressed strongly
enough that 9/11 was a direct result of the CIA's huge dirty war in Afghanistan
and that Al Qaeda is - or was, for I doubt its continued existence as an
organization despite silly reports that somewhere on the Internet it continues
taking credit for many acts - in great part an American creation.
- What the Neo-cons call terror is not the true focus of
their frenetic efforts. What they are after is control over change in key
parts of the world that are now changing rather quickly. And their concern
is not just with western Asia. China has become the target of new verbal
attacks in Washington. American politicians, always friendly to foreign
ownership so long as it is Americans doing the buying, have made ridiculous
statements about China's efforts to buy North American companies, particularly
- The Neo-con's idea of a globalized world is one in which
America owns all that it wishes abroad while getting to choose which nations
abroad are acceptable to own something in America. This is quite revealing
of the nature of their commitment to a globalized world, not a world of
international give and take, relatively free trade, and fairly negotiated
agreements but a world which operates by a biased set of rules laid down
and enforced by the United States. It is free trade and internationalism
according to the arrogant and oleaginous Thomas Friedman.
- It occurs to me, part of the attitudes now on display
in Washington go back a very long time, far before the Cold War. The cliff-hanger
movie serials of the 1930s were filled with them. From Ming the Merciless,
ruler of the planet Mongol, in Flash Gordon to the Dragon Lady of Terry
and the Pirates, China has been a troubling psychological presence in the
American mind. Western Asia featured heavily, too, in serials about the
Foreign Legion. An early one, called The Three Musketeers, had an American
adventurer-pilot (John Wayne, in an early role) throwing in his lot with
a group of Legionnaires somewhere on the Sahara fighting the evil of one
El Shaitan, head of a secret organization called the Devil's Circle opposed
to the French. Everything about this pot-boiler prefigured the saga of
Osama and Al Qaeda by half a century. Most interestingly, the secret identity
of El Shaitan turned out to be some kind of vaguely western merchant.
- The recent words of Rumsfeld on the threat of China's
new build-up of arms read almost like black humor. Here is a man a man
who has presided over two invasions, a man who actually called for killing
prisoners, a man who supports torture, a man who encourages a new generation
of "usable" nuclear weapons, and a man who has a military budget
greater than the combined military spending of half the planet, expressing
concern over China's modernizing of some of its military forces. Washington's
just-announced plans for nuclear cooperation with India are threats aimed
directly towards China.
- Ironically, important parts of China's modernization,
more and longer-range missiles, represent precisely the response experts
warned Washington of if it insisted on proceeding with its high-risk project
for missile defense which, of course, carries a threat of neutralizing
the nuclear deterrents of China and Russia. Russia earlier had announced
a dramatic new technology for its long-range warheads to avoid interception
as a response to the same American developments. Other parts of China's
build-up reflect concerns over American threats to block China's claim
to Taiwan, a claim Washington accepted in writing under Nixon, but one
over which Neo-cons today are making all kinds of threatening noises.
- American hostility towards China is all the more fascinating
since China with regard to the external world has been a relatively peaceful
country for half a century. Over that same time, America has chalked up
dozens of bloody interventions and wars. Fifty-five years ago, when China
did enter the Korean War, it was only after strenuous efforts to warn Washington
that MacArthur's army must not approach North Korea's main border with
China, the Yalu River, warnings that simply were ignored.
- Bush's Washington has been periodically bellicose towards
China from the beginning, taking cues from the Neo-cons who singled out
a rising China years ago as a potential case for Cartago delenda est. But
now the pace of threatening gestures and remarks is becoming steadier and
more dangerous. Any one who knows anything about modern China understands
that serious American efforts to undermine China's claim to Taiwan will
result in conflict. The case is just as certain as someone provoking the
United States by claiming California is ready for independence and actively
working to promote it. This does not necessarily mean all-out war, for
the Chinese are subtle and understand American technical superiority (for
now) in advanced weapons. There are many ways for China to strike at the
United States, including at the extreme of allowing some of its excellent
missile technology and nuclear know-how to fall to the spies of hostile
- Bush is working hard to give us a world characterized
by divisiveness, resentments, suspicions, and violence because that is
the kind of world in which America may freely act as arbiter, seeming to
stand above the turmoil like Zeus with his thunderbolts. In part this derives
from lack of understanding, in part arrogance, but control over the lives
and institutions of others is the greatest motivator for Bush, just as
it was for Hitler. Of course, he believes, or pretends to believe, that
he is working towards a world of peace and democratic values, but it is
to be a world where peace, democracy, and rights are defined exclusively
on his terms. Recent events in London and earlier in Spain show exactly
what Bush's legacy is to be, a world full of people seething with resentment
over what the U.S. has done, angry and frustrated enough to attack even
those browbeaten and bribed into the fatuous Coalition of the Willing.
The London bombers appear to have been home-grown, not imported. Moreover
we live in a world, particularly considering Eastern and Western Asia,
where there are far more of "them" than "us."
- "War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly
the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is
the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits
are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described,
I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the
people. Only a small inside, group knows what it is about. It is conducted
for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of
war a few people make huge fortunes."
- "I spent 33 years in the Marines. Most of my time
being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the
bankers. In short, I was a racketeer for capitalism."
- USMC Major General Smedley Butler