Historical Amnesia Perverts Comparisons

by Philip Greenspan

June 23, 2003


The shock of 9/11 presented the media with a unique opportunity to play the fairy godmother. It transformed Baby George -- whose ratings had been continually dropping, and whose lack of intelligence and inability to speak coherently were becoming more and more obvious -- into an inspiring leader, equivalent to WWII's Churchill and Roosevelt. Is it conceivable that most of the public believe such a metamorphosis took place? Apparently, it is. The era of World War II -- with its supporting cast of Roosevelt, Churchill, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Hirohito, etc. -- commenced in the '30s, about seventy years before the trauma of 9/11. Those who lived through that period represent a small percentage of the overall public; the vast remaining majority has a limited knowledge of history.

A realization of what war engendered back then reveals how absurd those equivalences are. Many significant differences exist between the events of WWII and the leaders of that era, and what has been occurring under our current leader. A brief review might be in order.

The Attacks

Pearl Harbor was a shock that brought the American public behind the Administration's pro-war policies. FDR was anxious for the U.S. to enter WWII but was aware that 89 percent of the public were opposed. He was a master politician who knew that to win an unprecedented third term election he would have to campaign as an advocate of peace. He insisted that if elected he would keep the country out of war except, of course, if we were attacked.

Ample evidence establishes that he inveigled the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor. The public responded overwhelmingly with an endorsement for war.

9/11 was an equally shocking experience that caused a paralysis of critical thinking on the part of the public and flipped them completely around in support of the government. Efforts to conduct a major investigation to allay suspicion of how the terrorists were able to pull off such an abominable feat have been continually thwarted by the administration. Yet evidence has surfaced of prior knowledge of an attack.

World Situation at the Time of Attacks

Pearl Harbor: When the U.S. was attacked, major offensives were being conducted by it enemies, the Axis Powers.

In Europe Hitler had over the past few years taken over, by conquest or alliance, most of the continent. Only Britain and the Soviet Union opposed him, and six small countries -- Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey -- remained neutral.

In a few years, the German army intimidated Austria and Czechoslovakia and rolled over Poland, Norway, Denmark, Holland and Belgium. When it took on the major powers of France and Britain it seemed that it would finally get its comeuppance. Yet once the Germans initiated the Battle of France they were able to overrun France in six weeks. The British were extremely fortunate to evacuate most of their troops across the Channel but their equipment was abandoned in Dunkirk, France. After the French defeat most of the other European countries met the demands of the Axis and fell into line. Albania, Greece and Yugoslavia were crushed relatively quickly.

A grim Britain shorn of its armor stood alone, the sole opposition to complete dominance of that area of the world by the Axis. A channel crossing by the Nazis was expected and British soldiers, many holding wooden decoy rifles, guarded the shores. Meanwhile, battles raged in North Africa where the Brits held off the Germans who were attempting to cut off their life line to the east, the Suez Canal.

No longer fearing the weakened British in the west, Hitler decided to take on the Soviet Union. Pundits of the day predicted a German victory in six to ten weeks. The Wehrmacht moved rapidly into Russia but the arrival of the brutal winter stalled them one hundred miles short of Moscow and at the edges of Leningrad.

In the far east the Japanese, another formidable power, stormed across the South Pacific against the possessions of the Dutch, French, British and Americans. Within a relatively short time they occupied the southeastern landmass of Asia up to India and most of the islands of the Pacific, excluding Oceania and the Hawaiian Islands.

9/11: 19 independent suicidal terrorists, exploiting gross negligence at the highest levels of the US government, executed an ingenious plan to destroy major symbolic landmarks that resulted in almost three thousand deaths and billions of dollars in losses. Al Qaeda, an organization that has previously perpetrated terrorist acts, was presumed to be responsible. No credible evidence links the attack or others to planning, sponsoring or financing by any foreign government.

Pearl Harbor foreshadowed an ominous worldwide struggle. In contrast, a band of terrorists would cause sporadic localized bombings from time to time.

The Home Front

Pearl Harbor: War radically transformed the US domestic scene. An existing peacetime draft of one year's service for all able-bodied young men was expanded to the 'duration plus six months' and swelled the military to twelve million men under arms. Streets in cities and towns were denuded of young men except for occasional soldiers, sailors or marines home on furlough or leave.

All business activity was reoriented to the war effort. Civilian products vanished from the market place. Manufacturers of automobiles, appliances, etc. were retooled to turn out military equipment and munitions. Women, often referred to as 'Rosie the Riveter,' replaced men in factories to produce those wartime products.

To finance the war, new taxes were enacted at such high rates that a 'pay as you go' system of payroll deduction was necessary. War Bonds were sold to soak up money that found few salable products. An excess-profits tax precluded corporations, the beneficiaries of government wartime contracts and boom conditions, from corralling gluttonous profits.

Farmers were urged to plant abundantly harvested bumper crops, and the food was distributed throughout the world to feed the fighting men and alleviate the hunger that war was causing.

Civil defense measures were enforced. Practice air raid alerts were conducted. To stymie German U-boats operating off the Atlantic coast street-lights and headlights of automobiles were blackened to eliminate a bright night sky with their silhouette targets. Those U-boats were winning the battle of the Atlantic, sinking tons and tons of allied shipping.

Rationing of food, clothing and gasoline with quotas based on need was instituted. Rent, wage and price controls on every rental unit, job and commodity were enacted to prevent inflation from spiraling out of control. Unscrupulous operators were foiled from exploiting shortages.

9/11: The current crisis has brought few discernable sacrifices and inconveniences; instead government has encouraged the public to spend more.

Drastic reductions in taxes for the rich and exorbitant government contracts awarded to favored political contributors have produced soaring deficits without noticeable concern.

Wartime Leaders

Pearl Harbor: During WWII, the allied leaders were Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin; the Axis leaders, Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito. This time it is Bush and Blair against Hussein.

Churchill and Roosevelt were extremely effective speakers. Not only was their delivery persuasive and convincing but their speeches were so vibrant and moving that key phrases can rekindle dramatic moments of the past.

Churchill's eloquence stirred and inspired a grim populace after the fall of France and the British retreat at Dunkirk with these famous lines, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat." In several speeches to parliament he extorted the members with, "We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender." On a later date, "Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Commonwealth and the Empire last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour'." And then, "Never in the field of human conflicts was so much owed by so many to so few."

When the allies took the offensive, landing in North Africa, "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Roosevelt's first inaugural address delivered during the bleakest days of the depression gave hope to a desperate people with, "So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

In his speech to Congress the day after Pearl Harbor seeking a declaration of war, "Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan."

Both leaders, with their joint declaration of the Four Freedoms, galvanized the world with optimism for the future.

Adolph Hitler's horrors set a standard of evil that exceeds all others because his atrocities were compounded by his control of the previously described vast area that became his playground. This monster was a master political tactician who crushed formidable opposition and manipulated the powerful and influential so that he could become dictator of a country that had embraced democratic principles. By the skillful application of mass psychology using the specter of the defeat in WWI and an onerous treaty he became a godlike savior to the German people.

Since WWII various presidents have designated several dictators as another Hitler. To compare Hitler with any tyrant -- in fact, combining all of the subsequent ones together -- could not place their evils in his league.

To compare Bush and Hussein to the WWII leaders denotes a lack of historical knowledge.


A media that equates the current presidential impostor, whose personality more closely resembles Elmer Fudd, to those giants of leadership Roosevelt and Churchill, and Saddam Hussein with the master of evil Adolph Hitler, follows the precepts of the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, "Repeat a lie, often, and it becomes the truth."

The domestic and foreign policies of the American Fuhrer, the media's superhero leader, are opposite of those of the former giants.

Roosevelt required sacrifice from all. The young fought; women worked; all paid high taxes and bought bonds; available goods were rationed to all; excess profits were taxed; etc. The fighting troops were given a range of benefits known as the 'GI Bill of Rights' that provided for education, loans, medical care, etc. This is what is expected of a leader, and the U.S. got it. How does Junior compare?

Around the world Roosevelt was regarded as a savior. The U.S. was the envy of all. Today the world fears Bush and the U.S. more than any other country. The media might more properly focus on the similarities of Bush with Adolph and the U.S. with the Third Reich!

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America the 'beautiful' on Swans


Philip Greenspan on Swans (with bio).

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Published June 23, 2003
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