Quotes for our times:
The Toronto Star, Editorial, March 8, 2003:
- U.S. President George Bush may insist "Saddam
Hussein is not disarming. That is a fact. It cannot be
But the U.N. inspectors' reports flatly contradict his
... [G]iven that Saddam is bending, is this the time for the
Security Council to adopt a new resolution authorizing war by
March 17 unless Saddam does the impossible and persuades his
most implacable critics that he is giving "full,
unconditional, immediate and active" co-operation?
Hardly. However grudgingly, he is disarming. Why
Francois Géré, director of the Foundation for Defense
Studies in Paris, March 7, 2003:
- The maneuver began, in effect, with a first logical
absurdity. If WMD are found in Iraq, Saddam should be punished.
But, if none are found, that proves a contrario that they
are being hidden. You might as well say that Baghdad was condemned in advance.
Second absurdity: Washington's line is that Saddam must prove
he's disarming cooperatively; the inspectors aren't there to
discover infractions, but to verify Iraqi goodwill. Now, where and
how can you find anything like that, given that there is nothing but
defiance and hostility between Baghdad and Washington? By
definition, cooperation can't be found. Washington demands what it
knows it can't get, except by changing the regime. ...
If it wants a new resolution, the United States ought to declare
its goals and not demand a blank check. Their silence demands a
Mahesh Daga, Assistant Editor, Times of India, March
The moral case for the war against Iraq has hardly been
made. Saddam Hussein is no saint, but he is no mad monster
either. Besides, this world is only too full of bullies and
despots, many of whom owe their life and existence to
American blessings. Saddam too was a friend of the White
House once, but somewhere along the line his ambitions ran
ahead of him. As for democracy and decency, they have seldom
been requirements for America's "imperial dependencies". Who
can forget the Batistas, the Suhartos, the Pehlavis, the
Chung Hees, not to mention the long list of military
dictators in Latin America, that Washington has patronised at
different times, in every part of the world? ...
Truth is, the US war has no moral purpose. Contrary to
Thomas Friedman's fervent imperialist plea -- Please, Mr
President, "do it right" -- the Bush people have no plans of
installing a "self-sustaining, progressive, accountable"
government in Baghdad. At the end of the long siege, the
Iraqi people will not get a democracy, but another client
regime, with an obligation to carry out Washington's
strategic brief. "Armed democratisation" might be a noble aim
in theory, but it has few strategic benefits in practice. A
democratised Arab world is sure to be more viscerally
anti-American than the pliant autocracies that currently rule
in Cairo, Riyadh and elsewhere.
Martin Merzer, Knight-Rider news, January 12, 2003:
Two-thirds of the respondents [to a national poll] said they thought they had a good grasp of the issues surrounding the Iraqi crisis, but closer questioning revealed large gaps in that knowledge. For instance, half of those surveyed said one or more of the Sept. 11 hijackers were Iraqi citizens. In fact, none were.
Avedon Carol, November 16, 2002:
When I was a kid, my many Jewish elders had a short-hand phrase they'd use to explain their objections whenever some suggested legislation (censorship, for example) or discrimination against blacks or gays left them gasping in horror: "The Nazis did that." (Or sometimes just: "The Nazis....") These were people who remembered how it took place, with not too much disruption of everyday life, at first, and most people going unmolested and therefore not making much of it. Nothing to see here, just a few commies and Jews and a couple of queers, not any of us Normal people.... These were, you understand, people who would have been crushed if their son turned out to be gay or their daughter married "a Negro", but by god they knew better than to give an inch on these things. They didn't have to like pornography to know it shouldn't be illegal - they knew what censorship was about. They understood, with crystal clarity, that there are no good excuses for dismissing people's civil liberties.
William L. Shirer, Berlin Diary, August 10, 1939:
- How completely isolated a world the German people live
in. A glance at the newspapers yesterday and today reminds you of
it. Whereas all the rest of the world considers that the peace is
about to be broken by Germany, that it is Germany that is
threatening to attack Poland over Danzig, here in Germany, in the
world the local newspapers create, the very reverse is being
maintained. (Not that it surprises me, but when you are away for a
while, you forget.) What the Nazi papers are proclaming is this:
that it is Poland which is disturbing the peace of Europe; Poland
which is threatening Germany with armed invasion, and so forth. ...
"POLAND? LOOK OUT!" warns the B.Z. headline, adding "ANSWER TO
POLAND, THE RUNNER-AMOK (AMOKLAUFER) AGAINST PEACE AND RIGHT IN
Or the headline in Der Fuhrer, daily paper of Karlsruhe, which I
bought on the train: "WARSAW THREATENS BOMBARDMENT OF DANZIG --
UNBELIEVABLE AGITATION OF THE POLISH ARCH-MADNESS (POLNISCHEN
... But the German people can't possibly believe these lies? Then
you talk to them. So many do.
But so far the press limits itself to Danzig. ... Any fool knows
they don't give a damn about Danzig. It's just a pretext. The Nazi
position, freely admitted in party circles, is that Germany cannot
afford to have a strong military power on her eastern frontier, that
therefore Poland as it is today must be liquidated, not only Danzig
.... Then when Hungary and Rumania and Yugoslavia have been
similarly reduced (Hungary practically is already) Germany will be
economically and agriculturally independent .... Germany can then
turn on the West and probably beat her.
Well, so much for Godwin's law.
The problem with parallels to
Nazi policy, as net wisdom long has had it, is that they drag in so
many associations that the point is likely to get lost. Dubya has
certainly not been implicated in genocide. Quite to the contrary,
he was reportedly deeply affected by Samantha Power's superb study
of recent American indifference to genocide in Rwanda and elsewhere,
which I have no reason to doubt. And much as his followers
themselves might want the cops to come for critics
of the government, or to round up people of the
wrong religion or suspect
ethnicity, or to crack down on inconvenient trade
unions, that all has limits, and ordinary citizens can speak in
confidence that the cops won't be coming for them.
And even if you look at the history recounted by Shirer, you see
huge differences between our situation and that of the Germans in
the 1930s. For one thing, Hitler in the 1930s showed remarkable
skill in gaining the acquiescence of other major powers of the day
for his various projects -- as, for instance, when he lured
Germany's major World War I enemies into coalition of the willing
which backed the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. Dubya, by
contrast, has two veto votes currently promised for his own project
in the Security Council, from France and Russia, and the possibility
of a third from the Chinese.
But to point up the differences is to avoid the clear similarity,
which is this: The Germans in 1939 were no dopes. They had hundreds
of years of sophisticated culture, dominating classical music back
almost to Bach, and some of the best technology and technologists
anywhere. But smarts weren't enough to keep them from being
stampeded into a disastrous war by short-sighted, overreaching
leaders, particularly those who weren't shy of stretching the truth
to serve their agenda -- in Dubya's case, the one set forth by the
"Project for a New American Century", which was making a case for a war
to displace Saddam Hussein and dominate the Persian Gulf long
before the supposedly pivotal events of Sept. 11, 2001, and hinting
at a whole stack of dominoes to be pushed over behind Saddam. (Nor
did it help the technically sophisticated Japanese leadership from
letting their own paranoia drive them through a series of initially easy victories into suicidal overreach, as I
quote John Dower pointing out a
bit lower down).
And Dubya's crew clearly is stretching the truth, to promote an attack on a regime which, for the past ten years, has posed no immediate threat to anybody. (Not even by sponsoring terrorism -- other governments, including some of our current allies, have been far more active in that sphere). Though, in
another marked contrast to Shirer's situation, the press here is
reporting at least a few of the real embarassments, as when Dubya's crew has built their case on out and out forgeries. (Though by no means all. Remember the "mobile
anthrax factories"? Blix made a point of saying what they found
when they followed up those American leads -- mobile food-testing
labs). But with the bulk of the media following the administration
line most of the time, that has relatively little impact. Indeed, as I point out above, by
assertions with questionable evidence, or none, and constantly
stuffing the phrases "Saddam Hussein" and "September 11th" into the
same sentences, the administration had actually managed to convince
half the Americans in a
poll from last January that there were Iraqis involved in the 9/11
attacks, which just isn't true.
That poll also shows, as of two months ago that there wasn't a
huge enthusiasm for combat. But even the duped Germans of 1939 went
into combat against the Polish "threat" without much enthusiasm.
Berlin, August 31, 1939 (morning)
Everybody against the war. People talking openly. How can a
country go into a major war with a population so dead against it?
People also kicking about being kept in the dark. A German said to
me alst night: "We know nothing. Why don't they tell us what's
Later. Three Thirty A.M. -- A typical Hitler swindle was sprung
this evening. At nine p.m. the German radio stopped its ordinary
program and broadcast the terms of German "proposals" to Poland. I
was taken aback by their reasonableness, and having to translate
them for our American listeners immediately, as we were on the air,
I missed the catch. This is that Hitler demanded that a Polish
plenipotentiary be sent to Berlin to "discuss" them by last night,
though they were only given to [British Ambassador] Henderson the
night before. An official German statement (very neat) complains
that the Poles would not even come to Berlin to discuss them.
Obviously, they didn't have time. And why should Hitler set a time
limit to a sovereign power? ...
Tonight the great armies, navies, and air forces are all
mobilized. Each country is shut off from the other. We have not
been able today to get through to Paris or London, or of course to
Warsaw, though I did talk to Tess in Geneva. At that, no
precipitate action is expected tonight. Berlin is quite normal in
appearance this evening. There has been no evacuation of the women
and children, not even any sandbagging of the windows. We'll have
to wait through still another night, it apperas, before we know.
And so to bed, almost at dawn.
Berlin, September 1, 1939:
At six a.m. Sigrid Schultz -- bless her heart -- phoned. She
said. "It's happened." I was very sleepy -- my body and mind
numbed, paralysed. I mumbled: "thanks, Sigrid," and tumbled out of
The war is on!
Edit: Avedon Carol quote added late