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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

ISOLATION, RETRIBUTION, APPEASEMENT, AND THE DECLINE OF EMPIRE

In a comment on a recent post my good friend Tony Alva used a neat sounding phrase; ‘Hitler lied, and millions died’. We love sayings like this. They sound good, and they make us feel good about ourselves, but, unfortunately, it is quite untrue. Hitler was surely an evil monster, and a ‘mass murdering fuck-head’ as a recent historian has stated, but he did not lie. Years before he even came to power he wrote a book about what he’d like to see happen. When he came to power he told the world what he’d like to see happen. No, Hitler was not a liar. He had liars working for him, the Nazi propaganda machine was full of lies, mostly to their own people, but he himself was, unfortunately, quite above board as to his intentions.

We love to blame. That’s why scapegoats are so popular. Germany blamed their ills on a scapegoat – the Jews. We blame the Second World War on Hitler, but again, this is an easy out, a scapegoat.

The Second World War was the fault of the poorly thought out Treaty of Versailles which was drawn up at the end of the First World War.

If we must blame, blame the French, the responsible party for the absence of reason in the Treaty of Versailles. Or better yet, blame the Serbs, who started the First World War. Yes, we can even blame ourselves for our Congress' decision to opt out of President Wilson's League of Nations, a situation that prompted many nations to lose interest in the idea.

The Treaty of Versailles was a travesty of injustice directed at Germany. Although the Germans did not start the war, they were treated as if they did, and, although their army was never actually defeated in the field, again, they were treated as if they had been. Germany had much of its industry shut down, or handed over to the French. They were forced to pay war reparations absurdly beyond their capacity to achieve. Germany became a pariah nation, a bankrupt nation, an unemployed nation with no recourse to overcome their ills.

This was the primordial tide-pool that created the possibility of a Hitler. It was these circumstances that enabled a psychopathic, socially inept ex-con (and vegetarian) to seize the reins of power and enact his unholy vision of a new world order.

But, even then, Millions of lives could have been saved. France and Britain could have taken Hitler out of the picture early on, but they didn't. They didn't take him seriously. Fascism was rampant in the 1930’s. In Italy, England, Spain, even the USA, fascist groups were popping up out of the woodwork. The writing was on the wall, and nobody did shit about it. The Allied nations gave the Spanish to the wolves. We turned a blind eye, and millions died. That’s what Tony Alva should have said, and I’m quite sure it’s what he meant.

Vigilance is due diligence. As a nation, or as a citizen, one must always be watchful. When outrageous injustice, genocide, or crimes against humanity are committed, action must be taken. This policy of vigilance is not exclusive of isolationism. One can mind their own business and not interfere in the self determination of others. Vigilance does not mandate bully tactics. Vigilance does not require undermining another’s ability to develop at his or her own pace. Vigilance is not exploitation. Vigilance is readiness, watchfulness.

Britain was too busy with empire to quash the causes of the First World War, and too busy trying to save their empire in the wake of it to mind the cause of the sequel.

I hope, as a concerned citizen, that the US drops the idea of empire before it becomes a moot point.

Hope is all I got, man.

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