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Monday, November 05, 2007

So who was this Godwin guy, anyway? 

As I'm sure you've all heard by now, Bush broke that holiest of debate laws when he likened the Democratic Congress's debate over the Iraq War and torture to... well, I'm not even going to bother rewriting it, just read this paragraph:

Bush argued the debate over the Iraq war and the administration's anti-terror methods harkens back to debates decades ago over resisting action when Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin first talked about launching a communist revolution, when Adolf Hitler began moves to establish an "Aryan superstate" in Germany and in the early days of the Cold War when some advocated accommodation of the Soviet Union.
As it just so happens, I've picked up and am reading a fascinating and multi-award winning YA book called Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow. It lays out a very factual, straightforward, almost dry accounting of the creation and rise of the Hitler Youth. What adds the little extra are the huge number of photographs and access to several people who were members of the HY, whether by choice or by force. Reading it, I pulled some altogether different lessons re: Iraq/Iran from the lead-up to World War 2 than Bush did. A handful of pertinent quotes follows, sans editorial emphasis; you'll find none is needed.

"The Treaty [of Versailles] also installed a democratic government, called the Weimar Republic. Unaccustomed to democracy, many Germans had little faith in their president and elected Reichstag [parliament]. They longed for a strong leader who promised them jobs and a better life, even if he had extreme ideas. Tired of poor living and working conditions, they wanted a simple but drastic solution. And so, on February 1, 1933, as Hitler's voice boomed over the radio, the German people felt grateful for his leadership. "This time, the front lines are at home," Hitler told them. "Unity is our tool. We are not fighting for ourselves but for Germany."
[...]
"The children also listened to special Hitler Youth radio broadcasts on official Nazi radio sets, called the People's Radio. These inexpensive radios could only be tuned to radio stations approved by the Nazi party. Eventually, the law would forbid Germans from listening to foreign news or other "impure" or "un-German" broadcasts."
[...]
"On February 27, 1933, one month after Hitler's appointment, a known Communist and arsonist set fire to the Reichstag, the parliamentary building. Claiming a Communist plot, Hitler declared a national emergency. He asked the Reichstag members to suspend civil rights, and they did. They took away the sanctity of home, privacy of mail and telephone conversations, and the freedom of speech, press, and assembly."
[...]
"The Jehovah's Witnesses held out, too, refusing to salute the Nazi flag even though it meant persecution. The Nazis rounded up Jehovah's Witnesses and trucked them off to concentration camps where many were killed. Eventually, it became dangerous for Germans to have friends who were Jewish or who belonged to the Jehovah's Witness faith. Those who dared were fined or jailed. Calling them unfit parents, the Nazis threatened to take away their children."

No, I am not saying ZOMG BUSH IS HITLER or ZOMG THE NEOCONS ARE TEH NAZIS or even ZOMG WE ARE CREATING A NEW NAZI GERMANY IN IRAQ. There's no simple 1:1 history lesson here. But there are lessons, warning signs, and trends that illuminate our present. This lesson, for instance: Whenever an outside nation (or coalition thereof) attempts to create a new nation and its borders, it never fucking works out, ever. EVER. Please see: Israel/Palestine, Iraq, post-WWI Germany, the Sudan, the former Yugoslavia.

We ignore these examples at our peril.

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