February 04, 2012

Fixing Hitler, and About What We Can Do

[Update: Also see: The First Ad: Who Are the Nazis Now?]

It's all the talk in certain quarters of the internet -- an article at PJ Media titled, "Lessons About Iran from Hitler." We can easily see that the author (of yet another, additional, further, even more spine-tingling, bone-chilling, blood-freezing, dire warning about the existential threat that Iran represents to the West) is a man of temperate wisdom and infinite discernment, as the conclusion of his piece demonstrates:
It is too bad the West did not have the good sense to correct the problem in 2005. However much it costs in Iranian blood and well-being, it’s still worth it.
Such deep feeling for "Iranian blood and well-being"! I shall pause for several moments, during which time you can attempt to regain your equanimity.

While it greatly pains me to correct a person of such admirable character and keen perception, I detect an error in his approach. The error concerns an enormously subtle issue, and it should not cause the reader to question, in even the smallest degree, the high regard in which he undoubtedly holds the column's author. With this as our common understanding, I humbly submit a few editorial revisions in the hopes that the author's true intent might be made still clearer. My exceedingly minor corrections are indicated by strikeovers of certain words in the original text, followed by what I'm certain was the text he meant to include in brackets and bolded.

First, there is this passage:
An important insight into the character of the Iranian [West's] leadership can be gained from Adolf Hitler’s speech to the German army’s top commanders at Obersalzberg on Aug. 22, 1939, a week before the invasion of Poland. ... The question, then, was why begin war at that particular moment. And the answer had two parts: economic weakness and the threat of regime change.
Next, this excerpt:
Hitler, by his own account, acted out of fear: fear that the German economy would collapse under the burden of his military expansion, and fear that he “could be replaced at any moment.” I quoted this speech in a 2005 essay, adding, “Within a generation, both Iran’s [the West's] oil and demographic resources will be exhausted. Impending demographic collapse, I have argued in the past, impels Iran [the West, and the U.S. in particular] towards an imperial design ...
Finally, we have this passage:
Just like Hitler, Iran [the U.S.] has nothing to lose. Hitler was convinced that the Aryan race was doomed to corruption and extinction unless he restored its preeminence by force; Ahmadinejad [the U.S.] knows with certainty that Persian [English] will become an extinct language in a few generations given the present fertility trend. ... Iran [the U.S.] is dying a slow death. ...

What Hitler imagined in his nightmares, Ahmadinejad [the U.S. ruling class] fears in the full light of day. Hitler told his commanders in August 1939 that they had nothing to lose; Ahmadinejad [the U.S. ruling class] knows with certainty that he has [they have] nothing to lose.
There. I hope these suggestions will prove helpful.

I also direct your attention to the first part of an earlier series of mine: "Dispatch from Germany, Summer of 1939." That series was written exactly five years ago. Toward the end of that essay, I spoke of the Gleiwitz incident. I repeat the following passage in a further effort to locate where the Hitler comparison properly lies:
Let me offer the introductory paragraphs [from the Wikipedia entry] concerning the Gleiwitz incident:
The Gleiwitz incident was a staged attack by Nazi forces posing as Poles on 31 August 1939, against the German radio station Sender Gleiwitz in Gleiwitz, Upper Silesia, Germany (since 1945: Gliwice, Poland) on the eve of World War II in Europe.

This provocation was the best-known of several actions in Operation Himmler, a series of unconventional operations undertaken by the SS in order to serve specific propaganda goals of Nazi Germany at the outbreak of the war. It was intended to create the appearance of Polish aggression against Germany in order to justify the subsequent invasion of Poland.
This is our posture and strategy toward Iran: the posture and strategy of Nazi Germany toward Poland. But we are America the Good. We cannot commit evil of this kind. Many Germans believed the same thing about their country.
In the third part of the "Dispatch From Germany" series, I detailed a series of actions that might be taken to forestall a U.S. attack on Iran. While thinking about these issues, I reread that article recently. In its essentials, it remains a damned good program.

When I described what I thought needed to be done, I pleaded for help in trying to implement that plan. I also made clear that other people probably had more and even better ideas, and that I felt no proprietary interest in these ideas in any manner whatsoever (or in my writing, which I encouraged people to steal as they wished in connection with any and all efforts to stop an attack on Iran). I simply wanted people to do something. Except for four or five individuals, my post received no response at all. None.

But I didn't stop. I continued to refer to my suggestions, and then I repeated my plan and plea for action six months later, in July 2007: "Still Another Call to Activism: Prove Me Wrong, I Beg You." I wrote:
This past week, the United States Senate passed unanimously -- 97 to 0 -- what amounted to a declaration of war against Iran. A few weeks ago, the House passed a resolution -- 411 to 2 -- that similarly provided an alleged rationale for war against Iran. In this manner, Congress, nominally controlled by the opposition party, has granted the Bush administration advance approval for the commencement of hostilities against Iran.


This would be an indisputable example of criminal, aggressive war, a crime against peace condemned by the Nuremberg Principles -- those principles we ourselves devised after World War II to condemn the kind of horrors perpetrated by the Nazis. Now our governing class, with only two exceptions, has officially approved in advance a crime of the same exact kind. And if the United States were to use nuclear weapons of any kind, the crime would be ungraspably worse.

In half a century, the roles have been completely reversed, and the United States now assumes the part played by those we defeated in World War II. But the worst and most soul-shattering aspect of this development is the following: almost no one in the United States itself appears to have even noticed or begun to appreciate the nature of this profound shift -- although many people in the rest of world certainly understand it, and judge us accordingly. We have become the monsters, and we continue to insist that we represent the Good.
With regard to the proper application of the Nuremberg Principles, see "A Choice of War Criminals," written before the 2008 presidential election.

Returning for a moment to the PJ Media article with which we began, recall that author's discussion of "demographic collapse," and how "Persian will become an extinct language within a few generations..." He mentions this as a factor in Iran's motives for war. Once again, however, my essay from July 2007 identified how this factor applies not to Iran, but to the United States. I offered the conservatives' viciously motivated -- but highly effective -- opposition to the then-proposed immigration bill as an example of how protest can actually work:
Perhaps people think that nothing they do at this point can alter what seems close to inevitable. It may be that even large-scale, continuing public protest would change nothing -- but we don't know that. Since it hasn't been tried, it is impossible to predict what the effects might be. And permit me to offer a recent example, an instance where activism on the part of a large number of "ordinary" Americans did in fact change an outcome of some significance.

In terms of substance, I view the example as a profoundly unfortunate one, for it has to do with the defeat of the immigration bill. I viewed that bill as a terrible one, but for reasons directly opposed to those offered by its loudest opponents -- for their opposition was obviously racist in nature. Of course, they denied their objections were racist, but they all finally resorted to discussions of "demographics," and what they viewed as terrifying changes in our "culture" and to "way of life." Such coded words fool no one, and this kind of viciously disapproving attitude toward immigrants has a long and awful history in the United States.

But with regard to the following observations, I am not concerned with why opponents of the immigration bill fought it so vehemently: I am focused only on the fact that they opposed it so strenuously, and that their opposition had the intended effect.
Consult the earlier article for the details.

When I repeated my plea for action against an impending attack on Iran in the summer of 2007, I still received no response at all, save for a handful of individuals.

Nonetheless, I continued to repeat my suggestions in the ensuing months. Finally, in March 2008, my anger and disgust boiled over: "Thus You Lose the World: What the Fuck Is Wrong With You?" This will give you the flavor of my mood at that time:
Since "Building an Effective Resistance" appeared, I have seen many comments -- on various comment threads at different blogs, and in my email -- telling me that many people are already taking the steps I proposed, as well as other similar ones. That's a goddamned lie. Show me the newspaper and television ads; show me the op-eds; show me the fucking blog posts mobilizing opposition to an attack on Iran. NO ONE IS DOING A GODDAMNED FUCKING THING.
I offer this personal history for two reasons. I've recently written several posts about what may now be an inevitable U.S. attack on Iran: here, here and here. I'm certain that at least some people have "disapproved" of those posts, that they thought I was saying the situation is entirely hopeless, that an attack is inevitable and we must resign ourselves to it. And my critics probably think I'm just sitting on my fat, lazy ass and not doing a damned thing to at least try to stop it.

But you see, I've tried to get people to take action -- and I've tried to get people to take action on this specific issue. I didn't just try once: I tried over and over and over, and over and over again. Except for four or five people, NO ONE GAVE A DAMN. As I said in that post: NO ONE DID A GODDAMNED FUCKING THING. That was true when a Republican administration was leading the drive to war with Iran. Does anyone think that more people will respond with a goddamned fucking Democrat as the leading warmonger? Please.

History, as well as events over the last decade, establish one proposition with almost full certainty. If the U.S. ruling class wants war, they will have war. But I don't hold a grudge -- and I certainly don't hold a grudge when the results of an attack on Iran would be ungraspably catastrophic. I said the proposition has been established with almost full certainty. I have some additional thoughts about what might be done, building on the program I described five years ago. As I said, it was a damned good program in its basic approach. (I would make one major tactical alteration in the first step: I'd use numerous, repeated television/internet ads and spots in place of newspaper ads.) I'll offer my further thoughts in the next several days, once I've considered them a bit more myself. Protests, at least protests as they are commonly thought of today, are not nearly enough. In my view, the basic problem in how most people think about this issue is that they don't think big or differently enough.

Yet I have to say that I still think very, very few people will respond. But I'll give you the opportunity to prove me wrong, one more time. And I deeply hope you do.