Friday, September 09, 2005

God Help Us All!

Bush's Story Isn't History

John Brown

September 09, 2005

John Brown, a former Foreign Service officer who resigned over the war in Iraq, compiles a daily "Public Diplomacy Press Review" posted on the internet  here and available free by request at johnhbrown30@hotmail.com.

As we commemorate the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Americans are keenly aware of just how disastrously the Bush administration mismanaged the aftermath of that first September catastrophe. The documented failures are many, such as the failure to provide meaningful homeland security, the failure to capture Osama bin Laden, and the deceptive linkage made between 9/11 and Iraq.

And now we are witness to the start of another. Bush's August 30th speech reframing the historical meaning of 9/11—claiming that his war on terror is comparable to World War II—is not reasoned explanation or convincing persuasion, but rather base propaganda that does violence to history. Result: We're as confused as ever about what the "Global War on Terror" is all about.

True, Bush seems somewhat familiar with history. At Yale, he majored in the subject. This summer his reading list reportedly included Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky, Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar by Edvard Radzinsky and The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History by John M. Barry.  Professional historians may despise Bush ("His presidency has been remarkably successful," one historian stated, "in its pursuit of disastrous policies") but he has publicly claimed to be concerned about their discipline, at one point even condemning historical "revisionism."

Bush's familiarity with history hasn't translated into his understanding of it. His latest ruminations in his speech commemorating V-J day link his Global War on Terror (GWOT) and World War II.  Not surprisingly, they show our Chief Executive simply doesn't grasp the complexity and ambiguity of history. For him, the past is just a version of the present—the present as he (or as he's told) to see it.

In those remarks, addressed to WWII veterans and thousands of sailors against the backdrop of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, Bush the commander-in-chief did all he could to claim that his misbegotten GWOT was analogous to Franklin D. Roosevelt's victorious leadership in the Second World War.

Once again, war came to our shores with a surprise attack that killed thousands in cold blood. Once again, we face determined enemies who follow a ruthless ideology that despises everything America stands for. Once again, America and our allies are waging a global campaign with forces deployed on virtually every continent. And once again, we will not rest until victory is America's and our freedom is secure.

As numerous commentators (1234567 ) have observed, Bush's analogy doesn't pass history 101. The enemies in these two vastly different conflicts were not at all the same: Germany and Japan were industrialized nation-states with powerful military machines, while Al Qaeda is a terrorist group and Afghanistan and Iraq third-world countries with armies that could hardly match ours.

Japan first attacked us; we first attacked Iraq. Germany declared war on the United States; not so the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan. During World War II, America had strong allies; in Iraq, there is a loose, depleted "coalition" as part of the U.S. effort. American troops in Europe were liberators; in Iraq, many argue, we are increasingly despised occupiers. The American-funded reconstruction of Europe after 1945, carried out in a peaceful local environment, was, most specialists in the period would say, a success; in 2005, the U.S. is increasingly unable to assist in building the so-called "New Iraq," in large part because of the precarious security situation there. The U.S. occupation of Iraq continues to cause tragic American deaths; in Germany and Japan "the total number of post-conflict American combat casualties...was zero."

The U.S. national spirit today was nothing like what it was during World War II. In WWII, the country was mobilized and ready to sacrifice, having been persuaded by FDR what we were fighting for: to defeat inhumane regimes in Germany and Japan. Today, Americans increasingly don't know why we are in Iraq, and many don't see a connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. There was a draft then: now we have a professional army with problems getting recruits. Four of Roosevelt's sons served in the war; the Bush twins don't intend, for all we know, to die for daddy in Iraq.

In WWII, there were no anti-war activists outside FDR's "Little White House," in Warm Springs, Georgia. Yet a major event in the summer of 2005 was the dissenting presence of Cindy Sheehan and her supporters near the current president's ranch in Crawford, Texas. As World War II progressed, most historians would agree, Americans sensed that they were on our way to victory; in 2005, more than a year after Bush's claim that our "mission" was "accomplished" in Iraq, we increasingly fear that we have gotten ourselves into a Vietnam-like quagmire with no clear exit strategy.

Finally, our actions in World War II helped the credibility, image and prestige of the United States (among our friends and allies, and among some in enemy nations, even before the end of the war), opening up the world to American ideas and products. But, since Bush's declaration of "The Global War on Terror" and preemptive attack on Iraq, we are witnessing the birth of an anti-American century, with the United States a pariah country whose commercial goods are loosing their "American" appeal, much to the long-term detriment of our national interests—and resulting in the loss of jobs for ordinary Americans.

Meanwhile, Bush, clearly unable to draw lessons from his major in college, continues to use history not as a source of enlightenment, either for himself or the nation, but as raw material for his favorite activity: "to kind of catapult," as he puts it with his usual verbal virtuosity, "the propaganda."  

http://www.tompaine.com/articles/20050909/bushs_story_isnt_historyphp

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