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Saturday, June 06, 2009

A Retrospective on American War, D-Day and World War II

Hello Papamoka Bloggers! I would like to personally honor the men and women who fought and served on D-Day to help liberate Europe 65 years ago today. I believe that we owe our freedom and our nation's survival to each and every one of them, and so I too honor their esteemed full measure of bravery and self-sacrifice.

President Obama delivered another eye-watering speech, this time at the American Memorial at Omaha Beach in France. Once again, he spoke eloquently about sacrifice and history, and his words were poignant and powerful in the way they honored the heroes of D-Day. We should remember those killed in battle, those who died since, and those who survive today. I hope you join me in honoring them all.

World War II, symbolized so well by important events like D-Day, was a critical time in our history for so many reasons. The biggest, and most obvious, was the battle to defeat global fascism - or what I like to call the far right gone mad! Most historians agree that World War II represented a new beginning in American history.

America Before World War II

It's important to put it all into perspective, so I hope you don't mind if I go on a little historical rant for a brief time. I hope you can bear with me. :)

Our nation survived numerous conflicts up until that period, but most were political wars involving land acquisition. Think about it, except for the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 involving our fight for freedom against the English Crown, the Indian, Mexican, Civil, Spanish-American, First World and Second Iraq Wars were all based on either manifest destiny and/or commerce. I admit I consider the Vietnam, First Iraq and Afghan conflicts unique, and too complicated for this one essay.

However, it's valid to point out, and plausible to assert, that Bush's Second Iraq War was similar to many of those 19th century wars. They were all fought to assure American hegemony and were - for the most part - wars of choice. Wow, it's weird to say, but it seems true.

Unless you prove me wrong, and I admit I'm no historian, it seems to me that America has fought many "wars of choice." Though most manifest-destiny-motivated-American-patriots would dispute that assertion, I don't see why I can't make it.

America didn't have to go West. The North didn't have to fight the South. America didn't have to help Europe despite submarines torpedoing our ships. We could have played it safe and sound, like so many countries. Instead, we were aggressive, the aggressors, and that aggression is part and parcel of who we are today - the land of the free and home of the brave.

Unlike Bush's contemptuous Iraq War, the 19th century represented the aggression of a different time, when men fought over land they perceived to be empty and available. The Atlantic kept them safe from the reach of European monarchies, so they benefited from over a hundred years of freedom to grab/steal land from the indigenous Native Americans, as well as the weaker Spanish/Mexican settlers. Except for a few infamous battles like Little Big Horn or The Alamo, most offered limited resistance.

Oceans and technology (the Winchester rifle, the Gatling Gun and the Iron Horse) kept us rich and safe for decades. Europe was nothing but a collection of outdated empires to us, whose kings and queens were forced to squabble over their own, less well-endowed properties. America grew into a fertile, cocky state, filled with over-confidence and a well-earned sense of complacency.

As time went by, unfortunately for us, the ultimate destruction of those European empires after the Great War led to very dark times. Except for a few places in Europe like Britain, France, Belgium, Poland, Luxembourg and Switzerland, the power vacuum left after the collapse of royalty was filled with the worst elements of society. Evil men powered by lies led to abuse of power and ultimately to genocide - Kurds, Armenians, Romany, Jews and others.

Power-hungry fanatics rose to power. Men like Hitler of Germany, Mussolini of Italy, Tojo of Japan, Franco of Spain, Salazar of Portugal, Antonescu of Romania, and Horthy of Hungary. Even the populist ideals of Marx and the communist revolution in Russia stalled and failed, sadly replaced by evil men like Stalin and one-party dictatorship.

It started to become clear that the militaristic/fascist leaders of the day were clearly right-wing ideologues hell-bent on using government to enrich themselves while imposing their own religious, political and societal beliefs on their citizens.

American Response to Global Extremism/World War II

So, after that little verbal tirade, I return to my original point that World War II was very different. It was the first modern war fought over our very survival, when Americans had to finally face what was happening in the rest of the world - and defeat it!

World War II forced us all to stand together, face our fears, and after Pearl Harbor, enlist in a struggle that threatened to destroy everything we believed in. I've heard that everything seemed more complex and dangerous after Pearl Harbor. Most older folks say it was more powerful than 9/11 is today. That should offer some perspective.

Unfortunately, defeating fear and fascism was easier said than done at the time. Few Americans today realize just how great the threat of fascism was in the world of the mid-20th century, and that includes fascists within our own borders. It's true, the fascist threat existed within our own homeland.

It's fascinating to look back at how easily fascists flew under the radar (although not yet invented), and were often considered fashionable among wealthier circles. Both covert and overt Nazis could be found across America. That alone is different compared to today, since Muslim extremists are usually not your next door neighbor, or party leader.

Republicans and the American Extremists

Even though the right will accuse me of being malicious, history shows us the Republican Party was the home of most Nazi sympathizers within America. American fascists and anti-Semites were quite at home within Republican ranks. Despite what Limbaugh and Hannity say, I think they are still, since most of the pro-Israeli GOP are merely Christians who see the Holy Land as a means to an end. We Democrats were unfortunately plagued by the far less competent Communists - and they were the ones too stupid to realize that Marx's dream of a worker's paradise died with Marx.

So, what might have unfolded if D-Day failed? It's entirely possible the Third Reich would have outlived Roosevelt and Churchill, while the GOP may have sued for peace, ultimately selling the nation out to fascists based on extremist pressures and bigoted propaganda. Hey, it's a reasonable theory, when you consider the way they tick!

It would have taken so many years to rebuild another force of such magnitude (thousands of ships and airplanes along with hundreds of thousands/millions of combat troops), and in that time it's highly likely that right-wing forces would have taken over in Great Britain and America.

Men like Charles Lindbergh, Burton Wheeler, Joseph Kennedy, and the now infamous Prescott Bush (yes, George's grandfather) all argued against fighting the Nazis, and sought to defeat Roosevelt and the Democrats - all hoping to sue for peace with the despots. Look it up! It's true!

It's a fact that Republicans received campaign contributions at the time from Hitler and the Nazis, while corporate and political leaders from General Motors and many other great American corporations met with leading fascists of the time (led by Baron Manfred von Killinger). Of course, most Republicans today would deny their history.

American Ideals

Of course it all changed when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor - weird, but it really did wake a sleeping giant. That boosted American solidarity and was directly responsible for silencing American fascism and the far right movement of the 1930s and early 1940s. That attack, not unlike 9/11 today, powered the American public to defeat extremism. It also washed away most of the self-satisfaction and self-reliance that America wrapped itself in since the 19th century.

Of course, World War II - and D-Day - are now proud moments etched in our collective consciousness. Roosevelt, Truman, MacArthur and others were shining examples of how to fight a war, as well as how to win the hearts and minds of the enemy. Unlike today, they stressed the highest ideals of our nation, and with the exception of Japanese internment camps, did everything they could to hold America up as a light of freedom and decency to the world.

I would go so far as to compare their actions to the late 1700s and George Washington. They had a depth of spirit and humility we often credit to our founding fathers. They too struggled against seemingly insurmountable odds, and faced the prospect of death in the cause of freedom.

Reflection and Perspective

Unfortunately, despite what the GOP and Bush supporters believe, history will judge our most recent actions harshly. It's now clear through real evidence that America abandoned most of its core principles under today's GOP. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their Republican supporters should feel ashamed of themselves, but for unknown reasons they do not. Sadly, our nation's response to 9/11 will go down as a very dark period in our history.

So, once again, if D-Day had failed, it's entirely possible that Europe may have remained fascist, and it may have ultimately spread to Great Britain and America. You could make a very good case that D-Day's success is the main reason why you're able to read these words right now. You could make a very good case that D-Day is the reason why we are now free.

So, if that is the case, today is a very important day. In some ways it's as important as July 4th, since it guaranteed our very independence. Therefore, I would like to say THANK YOU once again to all the men and woman who served to make D-Day possible. For those in my family who served (mostly uncles), I would like to send you guys special thanks and warm regards! You are all American heroes, and for all intents and purposes, you deserve the distinction as "America's Greatest Generation."

Michael Boh
Papamoka's Left Coast Contributor
from Rants & Raves Blog

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Blogger Machinist said...

How interesting. You say you are honoring the men who fought the nazis but you also say that the Supreme Allied Commander directing that fight would have sold out to the Nazis. You did know that Eisenhower, The first Republican President after Truman, led the fight didn't you? What an unfortunate smear of a great man and great leader.

The principles of FDR and his party were diametrically opposed to the principles of George Washington and the other founders. Your attempt to link them is perhaps the worst smear of all on our founding fathers.

And you think the Democrats who fought to preserve Jim Crow laws and legal discrimination were the true supporters of the Jews that risked their lives to go South and march with the leaders like MLK who were fighting for equality? You do know that the Southern States that wanted to succeed to preserve slavery were Democrats don't you? You do know that George Wallace, "Bull" Connor, and Lester Maddax were Democrats don't you?

Compare the populist demagoguery of the fascists with the class warfare that has characterized the Democratic Party and if you have any integrity at all the similarity will cause you to be embarrassed by what you just wrote.

I agree with you that you need to learn a great deal of history. I'm afraid you will not learn it from Kos and DU.

I know my words mean nothing to you but your characterization of me as a Republican was so hatefully false I had to comment. Good Day.

12:50 PM  
Blogger Machinist said...

What should have impressed you about the struggle against fascism was the way we came together against an evil force. When Americans work together the results can be awesome! Your attempt to use this Day as a partisan smear makes it clear you missed that point. Unfortunate and sad.

1:04 PM  
Blogger by Michael Boh said...

Machinist, I completely disagree with your interpretation of my work.

1) I'm a great admirer of General Eisenhower. I believe he was a great Republican president. I also never criticized him as you describe. You obviously took what you wanted from my work.

2) Unlike you who seem unwilling to admit GOP mistakes, I am completely comfortable admitting the horrible actions of "conservative" Democrats in the past that led to the support of slavery, Jim Crow, and many other miserable decisions. I would argue that much of that bigotry has left my party, however, and that your party now offers them a willing home - in this day and age.

3) It is a fact that Nazis were at home in the GOP prior to Pearl Harbor while Communists were in the Democratic ranks. For good or bad, those are the facts. Draw your own conlusions, but I personally believe it's a clear sign that fascists have traditionally been more at home within the GOP.

4) As usual, you Republicans question the integrity and patriotism of others. I don't know you, but I would say that I'm probably as pro-American as you or any Republican. Stop with the vicious name calling - it's tiresome and absurd.

5) Did you even read my post? I complimented the way we Americans came together in crisis. You are wrong about my "attempt to use D-Day as a partisan smear." I was merely pointing out the rise of fascism - and how it all came about - in the 20th century.

Overall, I would say you ignored the practical analytics of the post. I'm a pretty damn good amateur historian, so unless you can prove my facts wrong, you're characterization of me is way off base.

You seemed to only see what you wanted to see, and conflict where there was none. Simply put, your characterization of my work is wrong and unfair.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Machinist said...

"vicious name calling "
What name calling? When did I call you or anyone a name, or question anyone's integrity or patriotism?

You claim "you who seem unwilling to admit GOP mistakes". Where did this come from? When? What have you read where I am a blind supporter of Republicans? I am a conservative and have serious issues with the liberal or "moderate" Republicans of today and the past, but to call us bigots and nazis is silly.

I am old enough to remember the rational for discrimination used by Southern whites in the sixties and it is a bitter irony to to hear almost the exact same words being used today by Democrats who continue to be obsessed with racial politics. Government should be colorblind. You will never have a unified society as long as politicians play off racial groups against each other. Prop 209 in California was closely worded after the civil rights act yet the Democrats called this racist. When the supporters quoted MLK in their adds the Democrats went to court to stop them. They knew the hypocrisy of their position but wanted government to continue to track and separate people by race. Social trends and power ebb and flow. The only protection for any of us is top insure equal status under the law for all of us. It is the Republican party that is pushing for an end to government discrimination by race, as they have done for half a century. I don't know how you can call this racist but I have not commented on your motives or intentions.

I believe strongly in civil discourse and make a point of not doing the very things you accuse me of. Personal attacks have no place in reasoned debate. It was the unfair portrayal of your post that prompted me to comment at all.

2:40 PM  
Blogger by Michael Boh said...

You are wrong Machinist. I'll admit your name-calling was subtle and indirect, but it was there. Like when you said that "and if you have any integrity at all the similarity will cause you to be embarrassed by what you just wrote." That sir is pretty much passive-aggressive name-calling, believe it or not.

You also wonder why I accuse you of not admitting to GOP mistakes. Allow me to explain. I posted a lengthy article detailing American history related to war and the rise of 20th century fascism, and then factually characterizing many leading Republicans [prior to Pearl Harbor] as being sympathetic to that fascism.

Instead of debating that bit of history, you changed the subject and started on slavery and Jim Crow. That is called changing the subject, or distration, and it's a method of not admitting to the truth, or the facts presented - whether you believe it or not. FYI, it's one of Karl Rove's favorite means of avoiding a subject - as well as to avoid any admission of an error.

You also claim to be concerned about civil discourse. Really? Then why did you falsely accuse me of smearing a great president (I never said what you claim I did), our founding fathers, and much more. If that's civil discourse, presenting lies, then I prefer uncivilized discourse - it would probably be more honest.

In the end, I reject your characterization of my work, and your attempt to paint me as an unreasonable smear-merchant.

5:02 PM  
Blogger by Michael Boh said...

PS - I did NOT call you a Nazi, or even all Republicans. I simply pointed out that there were numerous Nazi-sympathizers within the Republican Party prior to World War II. Look it up, it's a fact. Please read more carefully what I said next time before putting words in my mouth - or article.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Machinist said...

So when I ask you to defend your accusation of name calling you say they were invisible and fail to point out one instance.

Of the best known "nazis" you mentioned Limberg was not a Republican and Kennedy was a Democrat, and you feel I should dispute this? I preferred to avoid getting into your view of history as it is so biased and revisionist that I knew there would be no interest in finding agreement. Your response confirms that. If there is no evidence then you chose to see it as "indirect" and "subtle". I would say imaginary.

You claimed the Republicans would make peace with the Nazis as that is "the way they tick". I pointed out that the most prominent Republican was in fact the man in charge of defeating them. How was he not included in the Republicans you spoke of? As he was the next Republican President you can't say he was outside the party. This is the problem when you paint with a broad brush, but if you are not concerned with civil discourse it need not concern you.

5:15 PM  
Blogger Machinist said...

There were nazi sympathizers in the Republican party, in the Democratic party, in the America First Party, and in others. Why single out the Republicans? Kennedy had powerful presidential ambitions until he was brought home in disgrace. That is when he turned to grooming his sons for the job.

I put no words in your mouth. You are creating strawmen to fight. Have fun.

5:21 PM  
Blogger Machinist said...

Perhaps you should read what the founding fathers wrote and compare it to the redistributionist agenda of the Democratic Party before you call me a liar. They not only considered it bad government but immoral for the state to take from one citizen by force and give it to another who had not earned it. You compared their ideals to the Democrats when in fact they specifically opposed your ideals. I pointed this out as being disingenuous and you call it a lie. Can you mention any writing by any of the founding fathers that would justify your position?

"Look it up"

"Lie" is a strong word denoting not only being wrong but intending to deceive. I hope you can justify that accusation, or is that just more of the civil discourse silliness you don't believe in?

Truth tends to sell itself without the negative and hateful propaganda. You may find this helpful in determining who is being honest with you and who is trying to deceive and manipulate you as you go through life.

5:39 PM  
Blogger by Michael Boh said...

I'm tired of your distractions, so I do not plan to respond to your specifics this time. Your first paragraph is pretty inane to be honest.

I stand by my research and my suggestion that you "look it up" before you comment.

To accuse one of lying is no small thing, but I stick by it. You lied about what I said, plain and simple. Go back and look at my article and what you said about it. You went beyond simple distortions. You lied.

Finally, I find your last paragraph patronizing and misleading. My article was based on truthful research, so your point means little in this case. You're also condescending. Didn't your mother ever tell you that it's rude to talk down to people. Some say it's often the sign of a defensive or weak mind.

6:21 PM  
Blogger Machinist said...

As you would then, Sir. Good day.

6:23 PM  
Blogger by Michael Boh said...

Good debate sir - it was starting to go nowhere fast. I will move on to other posts soon and perhaps you can offer new opinions then. Good day to you too.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Machinist said...

Thank you for the suggestion but I don't lie. This is something even my worse enemies have learned they can count on. As such, when someone calls me a liar there is little room for discussion unless we are face to face. Good day.

6:37 PM  

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