Lindbergh, Fascism and World War II by Jay Knott (04/02/09) ⇌ (The Crisis)
Update: September 3, 2009
Again, Raimondo is on the ball at antiwar.com. He defends Pat Buchanan's analysis of 'the unnecessary war' against people who call him a 'fascist' and so on. I was raised to believe Briain 'had to' declare war on Germany in order to stop a madman taking over the world. This is quite a claim, since this declaration of war led to over fifty million deaths. You have to be pretty sure you are right to make such a claim. But in our topsy-turvy world, it is those who challenge the official story who are put on the defensive.
For the last few days, the media has been full of stories of the argument between the Polish and Russian governments about Russia's role in starting the war. The Poles claim the Russians carved up Eastern Europe with Germany, and this constituted an act of war. Conversely, the Russians claim the Poles were colluding with the Nazis. In fact, neither Germany nor Russia started the Holocaust. It was Britain.
In 2004, I posted a review of Philip Roth's novel The Plot Against America on Indymedia:
Since Indymedia has deleted another post on a similar subject, with the same politics, by me - http://pacificaforum.org/my-article-on-david-irving--banned-from-indymedia - I thought I'd repost it here for posterity in case they ban this too.
But first, here is one of the replies to my review by a fellow named 'Bakunin':
'Check into your history about Lindbergh and quit perpetuating the anti-semeitc argument that it's a "Jewish lobby" that motivates US policy in Isreal. It's geo-politics moron.'
Read the review, and decide for yourselft who is more of a moron, Bakunin or me. Below it, a more recent review by me of a book by Patrick Buchanan.
published by Houghton Miffin, New York, 2004
I like Philip Roth's robust writing style. It reminds me of Hemingway and Miller. There is a connection between attitude and style. Honesty isn't as easy as we like to think. Roth's strength has always been honesty about sex, violence, and family life. There is a shadow of this honesty in this novel, but this shadow is overshadowed by an agenda. This leads to bad politics and plot.
'The Plot Against America' is about what might have happened if the anti-war aviator Charles Lindbergh had stood against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940 and won the presidency: the US government negotiates with Nazi Germany and persecutes Jews, including Philip Roth's family. Before Pearl Harbor, there was a conservative isolationist movement in the USA consisting of Americans who didn't see why they should die in wars between European powers. Roosevelt did see why, and he won the 1940 election and pushed America into war.
This novel tries to convince us that 'War is Peace'. Roosevelt, the man who supported Britain's declaration of war on Germany by supplying her with guns, who provoked the Japanese, who used every trick in the book to drag a reluctant America into a massacre, is tarted up as a good guy, whereas Lindbergh, who wanted to keep America out of the war, is an accomplice of Nazi aggression.
It is true that Lindbergh was anti-semitic. He was also anti-black and anti-Asian. Anti-semitism is taken out of context, arbitrarily separated from other prejudices and given special importance. It never occurs to Roth to step outside of being Jewish and take a more generically human perspective. I know this is possible, as I've done it myself. I could use my own family's experience to excuse support for the Allied side during World War II - my mother was a refugee from German bombing - but I have risen above this and adopted a more balanced view. Both sides committed war crimes on an unimaginable scale. There is nothing to choose between Germany and Russia, Japan and America, Fascism and Democracy. Whining about the Nazis when you support the Allies is chutzpah. On page thirteen, Roth is outraged that Lindbergh accuses the Jews of supporting war. On page fifteen, he describes his Jewish neighborhood in New Jersey as being one hundred percent pro-Roosevelt - in other words, pro-war!
To his credit, Roth reproduces one of Lindbergh's actual speeches in an appendix. Lindbergh argued that both the British and Jewish 'races' had good reasons for wanting America to enter the war, but that Americans had equally good reasons for staying out (page 388). A bit archaic, but not quite the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Lindbergh believed in the significance of race. So did almost everyone at the time. Today, only the American left still considers race important. Roosevelt supported the Eugenics movement which led to the sterilization of perhaps 60,000 people. There's not much to choose between Lindbergh and Roosevelt in racism. But in Roth's imaginary 1940 election, there was one significant difference. Lindbergh was against war.
I regard Roosevelt as the greatest war criminal in history - greater even than Stalin or Hitler. It was Britain which started world war two, the worst conflict in history, by declaring war on Germany. Chamberlain announced 'this country is now at war with Germany' as though it were a fait accompli and he could do nothing about it. He claimed he had to attack Germany because Germany attacked Poland. Bad luck Poland, but is it my problem? In any case, Russia also attacked Poland a few days later, and Chamberlain didn't declare war on Russia. On the contrary, Britain allied herself with a country similar to Nazi Germany. Even an average person, stupified by democracy, should be able to see the absurdity of allying with Stalin against Hitler. Stalin also murdered millions of people in concentration camps, but not many of them were Jewish, so it's OK. Britain found itself batting from a sticky wicket, and called on the colonies. Faithful retainer Franklin D. Roosevelt supplied arms - an act of war - and risked American merchant seamen's lives among the U-boats. Pearl Harbor is still a hotly contested topic today. There is no room here to go into it, but it was certainly not an unprovoked attack. But Roosevelt's greatest crime was this: in 1943 he persuaded Churchill to adopt the policy of 'unconditional surrender'. This was his offer to Hitler and Tojo: "Here's the deal - you surrender, we occupy your countries, then we hang you". This insanity prolonged the war and condemned millions to death.
Roth makes some good points about the futility of compromise, about the need to stand up to violence, about the cowardly tendency we all have to blame the victim. The journalist Walter Winchell is accused by more moderate Jews of 'playing into the hands' of anti-semites by being too extreme. A common mistake. Always defend extremists on your own side. Grovelling to authority gets the Jewish leaders as little as it got Yasir `Arafat. There is a clear analogy between the Jews who collaborate with Lindbergh's regime and European Jews who thought they could ingratiate themselves with the Nazis. Chief among these were the Zionists (see Lenni Brenner - http://www.marxists.de/middleast/brenner). For some reason, Roth misses the opportunity to discredit Zionists by imagining them collaborating with an anti-semitic American government.
As a child, Roth is acutely aware that an African American was featured on a postage stamp before a Jew, and that there was only one Jewish baseball player in 1942. He is right to say there was anti-semitism in pre-war America, but he takes it out of context. There was all sorts of racism. The biggest lynching in American history claimed the lives of eleven Italians (http://www.niaf.org/milestones/year_1891.asp). But anyone with a brain, and a heart, can see that the overwhelming racism issue in the USA is anti-black racism. Roth ignores this completely. This is not only politically insensitive, it leads to some implausible events. He imagines anti-Jewish riots with the complicity of Lindbergh's government. Jews are attacked in their cars driving through the midwest. But hang on a minute - how do the rednecks know they are Jews? Perhaps this is one of the reasons racism tends to focus on black people - they're easy to spot. Roth views the Ku Klux Klan and other American racist organizations as being primarily anti-semitic. This is not true.
Jewish identity colors his view of the whole world. On page 157, he describes with horror Japan's 1942 offensive in the Pacific. Doesn't he know that the British and the Americans also ruled with 'all the righteous cruelty of the racially superior', from the Philipines to Tasmania? The Japanese showed that racism is not the prerogative of the white man. Roth could easily see this, but his typically Jewish obsession with the evils of Nazism leads to a similar one-sidedness in his view of Germany's ally.
It is well known that the Allies did nothing to stop the Germans killing Jewish and other civilians. They could have bombed the railroads leading to the concentration camps, but instead, bombed German cities, adding to the holocaust rather than subtracting from it. I don't know if this made German anti-semitism worse, but certainly, bombing doesn't bring out the best in people. Take my family for example. They still think Roosevelt was a good guy.
Towards the end of the novel, Roth's hypersensitivity gets the better of him, and the novel races from plausibility to paranoia and unintended comedy. Not satisfied with amalgamating anti-war conservatives with pro-Nazis, he throws in the whole history of anti-semitism. Lindbergh's government ends up not only taking orders from the Nazis, but spreading old Russian stories about child sacrifices and so on. I won't spoil the reader's enjoyment by telling how Roth explains the true story of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. I will reveal that he tries to get his revenge on the Germans by imagining them committing crimes as fantastic as any that anyone has alleged against the Jews.
'The Plot Against America' is a fun read, and deservedly popular. I expect most of its readers agree with its pro-war politics. Yet its timing is odd. Fascism in America today hasn't come from the isolationist right, but from the war party, subordinated to Israel by the American Jewish lobby. The continuing importance of world war two is illustrated by the fact that 'appeasement' is used to insult opponents of the 'war on terror'. The answer to these taunts should be that appeasement was right then, and it's right now. It's close to the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the second world war. It's a tribute to the propaganda machine in which Roth is a small wheel that most people see Roosevelt as a hero. But we have our media too - Antiwar.com being the most prominent. One day, we'll bury the war party and burn their flag.
Published by Crown Publishers, New York, 2008
When the Bush administration announced it was going to invade Iraq in 2003, some of its supporters compared Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler, and compared opponents of war to those who had 'appeased' the Nazi leader. The usual response to this slur is to say that Saddam Hussein was not a threat to the world, as Hitler had been.
Pat Buchanan, old-time conservative and opponent of war and empire, takes a different tack. He says "Well, what if we had appeased Hitler? How could it have made things worse?".
There are numerous ways in which it can be argued that Germany's foreign policy, up until the invasion of Russia in 1941, was no more aggressive than Britain's. The key argument, ably disinterred by Buchanan, is that Britain's guarantee of Poland's independence, given in March 1939, encouraged the Polish dictator to think he didn't have to give an inch to Germany, even though some of the latter's demands were reasonable attempts to claim back land which had been unfairly taken at the end of World War I. This provoked Hitler, who didn't want a war with Britain, and couldn't see why she had any quarrel with his ambitions in Central and Eastern Europe, particularly when she couldn't do anything to stop him.
There is not a shred of evidence that the Nazis wanted to take over the world. They believed Britain should keep her Empire. Hitler refused to support Indian independence because of his racism; he thought the British had the right to rule there.
War didn't 'break out'. Neither did Hitler start the war. When Prime Minister Chamberlain announced, on September 3rd 1939, that 'this country is at war with Germany', he made it sound like something which had just happened, rather than admitting that he had just declared war. Britain started the worst disaster in history.
Churchill's wholehearted incorporation of left-wing propaganda into his already deranged world-view made it worse. The alliance between Britain and Russia is difficult to understand. Ideologically, from a Western democratic conservative perspective, there is nothing to choose between Hitler's and Stalin's regimes. Stalin attacked Poland sixteen days after Hitler, so how could Britain's guarantee to Poland justify war with Stalin against Hitler? Buchanan gets a bit carried away in his denunciation of 'Bolshevism', showing no sympathy whatever for how the Russian Revolution started. However, he is right to say that in 1939, Stalin had killed a helluva lot more people than Hitler.
Just as today it is crucial to understand what makes people become Islamic fundamentalists, rather than moralistically and hypocritically denouncing them for their 'hate', so Buchanan tries to understand the appeal of fascism and the origins of the Axis, the alliance of Japan, Germany, Italy, Hungary and Romania during World War II. In a nutshell, it was the shabby treatment of Japan and Germany by Britain and France that caused their adoption of imperialism, and the other countries jumped on board because they thought Germany and Japan would win. Japan was offended by Britain's renunciation of the Anglo-Japanese treaty. It was interesting to read of the Australian Prime Minister trying to persuade the authorities in London to keep this treaty going - he knew that Britain couldn't defend his country. The best course was to allow Japan to rampage around at will north of Malaya, and agree to allow Britain to keep its existing possessions. Instead, the Brits tore up the treaty, and threw themselves into the arms of Uncle Sam, who at the time had no commitment or ability to defend them. So the Japanese rampaged around anyway, and got as far south as Darwin.
A thought experiment: I used to believe that, in 1939, I would not have fought for Britain, because Britain had no real quarrel with Germany. On the other hand, I reasoned, in 1941, when Japan started moving toward Australasia, I would have joined up, hoping to defend its people from a repeat of the horrors the Japanese army had inflicted on the inhabitants of Asia. In other words, I admit to a trace of 'ethnic identity' - though in theory I should defend the people of Nanking, in practice, I would no more defend them than today I would volunteer to defend Rwandans. On the other hand, Australians and New Zealanders are not foreigners to me. There is no rational or moral reason for this attitude - it just happens that I had it.
Buchanan has restored me to a pure 'revolutionary defeatist' position - I would try to avoid national service in any of the wars at that time. I would attempt to subvert Australian loyalty to Britain, and argue for a separate peace with Japan. I would be the Lenin of the South Pacific, sailing to Sydney in a sealed submarine.
Germany's conquests up until after Britain and France declared war on her consisted mostly of taking back land that had been stolen from her at the end of World War I. France and Britain achieved this by deliberately causing mass starvation, and threatening more if Germany didn't capitulate. Buchanan is so determined to show Germany's lack of culpability, he claims the bombing of Rotterdam and Guernica was not really 'terror bombing' because they were being invaded at the time, so they were military targets, and it was just traditional 'siege warfare'! On the other hand, Britain started 'terror bombing' of civilian targets in earnest from the day Churchill took over in May 1940.
Some people use the Nazi Holocaust as an excuse for the massive bombing raids on German civilian targets. The problem is, the raids started before the Holocaust. Those who blame the Holocaust on the bombing are on more logical ground, although admittedly, that's not saying much.
Historians such as Buchanan, and some even further to the right, are useful in helping undermine anti-fascism, the fusion of socialism and barbarism on which we have all been fed since birth. Buchanan mentions Italy's invasion of Albania, when King Zog was forced to flee. Perhaps one day Buchanan and his supporters will repeat the exercise in America.