Thursday, September 4, 2014

GENOCIDE – WAS WORLD WAR II THE LAST “GOOD” WAR?


Prior to the attack on the United States in Pearl Harbor, on December 7th, 1941, Winston Churchill was in nearly constant contact with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The two were trying to seek a way to bring the United States into the conflict in Europe. This war started on September 1, 1939, when Germany attacked Poland, over an act of fait accompli, engineered by Hitler, who then proceeded to eat up most of western Europe and was on the brink of invading the British Isles. Both Roosevelt and Churchill saw the necessity of America's involvement, as Britain was the only democracy still standing, but was a hair's-breadth away from falling. The summer of the Battle of Britain was behind them; Russia had been invaded by Nazi Germany on June 22nd, 1941, in violation of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Stalin and Hitler, and most of Eastern Europe, along with the USSR was losing territory that could be counted in miles – daily – so rapid was the German Army's invasion.


Without bringing down the approbation of an “isolationist” Congress, Roosevelt and Churchill were looking for any way they could to bring in the U. S. and the industrial might she could offer. The closest thing to this, before the attack on Pearl Harbor, was the famous “Lend-Lease” program, wherein Roosevelt likened our assisting both the United Kingdom, Russia and to a lesser extent, China a “garden hose to put out a neighbor's fire”. In this capacity the power-house of American industry was retooled from churning out American automobiles to building tanks, planes and other war materiél to send overseas. With the Japanese attack and then, Hitler's Declaration of War on the United States on December 8th, 1941, the United States entered the war for real. The hostilities went on for over three and a-half more years, not ending until August 15th, 1945, with the surrender of Japan.


Rather than repeat the punitive mistakes and treaties of World War I; the Versailles Treaty and Treaty of Trianon, which had a direct influence on the start of World War II, the Allies were merciful in their victory, for the most part. The lone exception being the USSR, which maintained her grip on every inch of territory gained during World War II, thus realizing both Winston Churchill's and General George S. Patton's fears. It was no different in the east; the USSR maintained a presence on Sakhalin Island (formerly part of the Japanese Empire), which was the site of the shooting down of a KAL airliner in 1983, due to the fact that the airplane had “strayed” over Soviet airspace. A little-known fact is that, indeed, the KAL plane was carrying spy equipment. The Russians never forget their history lessons, as we see today in what has become a confused mess in Ukraine.


I, for one, am not the least bit surprised by this at all. There are ethnic Russians living in Ukraine and on any given day, they may be for Ukraine, or Russia. They speak both languages, as do the ethnic Ukrainians. Yes, it's a bloody mess, but it's also something that has its roots in centuries of history and is not uncommon in that region. The lone exception has been Georgia, a former SSR, that was helmed by Eduard Sheverdnadze, until shortly before his death. A counterpart of Andrei Gromyko and a survivor under Stalin, he dealt with Vladimir Putin handily while President of his native Georgia, and relinquished no territory to Russia. Eastern Europe and western Russia have a long and complicated history, but they are more likely to resume amicable relationships without American or Western European involvement, if left alone. Russia's seemingly peculiar xenophobia is particularly pronounced towards the West, and we would do well to remember that.


My whole reason for this brief little history lesson is merely a framework for what I really want to discuss: wholesale genocide. Towards the end of World War II, the Allied soldiers were liberating towns with names like Oświęcim (Auschwitz), Treblinka, and Bergen-Belsen. What these towns held were horrors never before witnessed, but most certainly have been perpetrated before. In 1912, the Albanians were massacred in the Balkan Wars, but there were few pictures released to the public. There were pogroms in the Pale in Russia in the 18th and 19th centuries, with entire Russian-Jewish villages burned and looted; the stories have been handed down through the generations by survivors. I've heard stories of predations against Hindus by Sikhs and Indians by Pakhistanis, in 1947.


But, it wasn't until the mid-20th century that we, as a civilization were faced with whole-sale genocide, and bone-chillingly, a very economic and organized slaughter, at that. It's not just the pictures of the families being led off to the trains with their belongings and wearing their Sunday best; the little ones often very formally dressed, in hats, gloves and looking for all the world as if they're going to a formal outing. Then, in later pictures, you see the mass graves with naked bodies being bulldozed into the pits. The bodies, arms and legs askew, heads all shaved (the Nazis saved their hair, eyeglasses, even prosthetic arms and legs for some hellish reason, and neatly catalogued and stored them) are pitiful; no dignity, no hope. Mercifully, you seldom see their faces. What must their last moments have been like?


Initially, the Nazis machine-gunned their victims and just pushed them into the pits, but this was too inefficient. A better, faster method of extermination was needed, so Hitler went back to his doctors and scientists, who tried various types of gases; thus, the infamous “showers” were born. The earliest of these gaseous concoctions didn't kill quickly enough. People were screaming, and clawing the walls; urinating and defecating and pummeling one another in a desperate attempt to escape. The Nazi guards and doctors complained that it took too long for them to die; the howls and screaming were unnerving and the clean-up was too messy. Eventually, the Nazis found the right combination, Zyklon-B and that was quickly distributed to the Death camps.


Killing Jews and other undesirables became so much more efficient! This way, the Nazis killed over eleven million people in the camps, five million of them Jews, before they were stopped. Not every camp was a Death camp. The actor Robert Clary, who played “Labeau” on the 60s T.V. comedy, "Hogan's Heroes" was in eight different camps, before being liberated. A french Jew, he was snapped up early, after the French surrendered. He somehow managed to survive through his wits and cunning, by working and taking odd jobs; he was transferred from work camp to work camp. He was also in the West, while most of the death camps were in Eastern Europe; Hitler had a hierarchy from least desirable – Jews of Eastern Europe – to less desirable – Lutheran Pastors who dared to speak out, late in the war.


Still, if the United States had not entered the war, where would Hitler and his ilk have stopped? Or would they? Would the killing machines have just kept going? Where would the line have been drawn? Or would it? Stalin was infamous for doing away with his "enemies". He had no Army High Command when Russia was attacked, and it took several years to build an efficient leadership for the Red Army. After World War II, he was taking down scientists and archaeologists for not teaching "Soviet Science", whatever that is. He was on his way to killing off physicians in the infamous "Doctor's Plot", again, a mystifying thing, only he was aware of, when he mercifully died in 1953; where would he have stopped? He had already killed off his most famous assassin, Lavrenty Beria of the Lubyanka and was using substitute assassins, I guess. Their names are lost to history. But it is a tail of a snake eating itself, tail first, in all cases. There is no end until the evil is dead.

courtesy: deviantart.com

It is often said that World War II was the “last good war” primarily because of the atrocities we discovered in the East. We cannot forget that we were attacked and it took THAT act to get us into the war; in that sense, we were “fighting for democracy”. But, we've managed to overlook the horrible genocide in Cambodia, during the reign of Pol Pot and his return to “Year Zero”, later in the 70s. A beautiful country, Cambodia had a population of five million people. By the time Pol Pot was through, he had killed two-fifths of his compatriots. That's two million people. The United States bears some responsibility for the destabilization of that region.


We had promised, during the Nixon administration that we were going to cease bombing North Vietnam, yet in secret, the administration had been bombing North Vietnam and parts of Cambodia for months. We expanded that in 1970, although the administration had promised “Vietnamization”. We did eventually do that, but in such a haphazard and slap-dash way, that the North Vietnamese quickly took over the South and a war broke out between Vietnam and Cambodia. The United States had left the building, long ago.


I bring all of this up for the simple reason that we, as a civilization are now faced with something akin to the Nazis: ISIS, or ISIL, and this is a group of people who are hell-bent on spreading their ideology. They're different, obviously, in certain aspects from the National Socialists of post-World War I Germany, but their methods are similar. They not only use terror and humiliation to strike terror into the hearts of their “enemies” which more often than not, tend to be people from their own countries, but they use the media and propaganda to huge advantage, much in the way Joseph Goebbels used it to sway people who were indecisive about the wonders of National Socialism. Let it not be lost on us that ISIS or ISIL are of the wahabbi sect, and extreme fundamentalists; they are also relentlessly focused on replacing the Saud family as the reigning faction in the Middle East.


When I started to write this article, I had a couple of things that I wanted to bring home to any readers here in the United States. Typically, I have written my posts for a global audience and this should not be lost on them, either. The United States made a conscious decision to invade Iraq after September 11, 2001. Why on earth we ever did that was beyond me, because it really didn't make sense. We were after Osama bin Laden, who was the leader of Al Qaeda at the time, and in Afghanistan. Sadam Hussein, as big a villain as he was, was the strongman of Iraq, who did keep the peace, much like Tito did in Yugoslavia. Sadam Hussein also never invaded or attacked the United States, much as George W. Bush likes to try and paint some kind of devil's horns on the man.


Whatever. We ended up there, much as we ended up in Afghanistan, now fighting Al Qaeda, who in case anyone has forgotten, we helped in the early 80s, when they were fighting the still-then USSR. We sowed some dragon's teeth on that one. But, General Colin Powell, during his term as Secretary of State under Dubya said something very cogent, and something I think bears repeating. He called it the “Pottery Barn Doctrine”; you break it, you own it. I have to agree with this, because of the horrifying scenes I've seen coming out of northern Iraq in the last several weeks. We've not only broken it and not fixed it, but we've created the kind of vacuum that allows sectarianism to rise and fundamentalists to have free rein. The result is a charnel-house of horrific proportions and atrocities that are nearly unimaginable. Yet, our response to date, has been tepid and measured, the only true outrage coming from Vice-President Joseph Biden, and I am not sure if it's over the entire situation, or "just" the fact that two American journalists were beheaded.


Like South Vietnam at the time, there is now a weak leader propped up in Baghdad. The Iraqi Army, as trained by the United States Army is not a good fighting force, yet we spent billions to make an army to replace the soldiers we sent there. The new Iraqi Army's leaders are weak and corrupt, again, much like the South Vietnamese Army was, after we left that quagmire. The forts in the north of Iraq, have seen their leaders desert, when approached by ISIS or ISIL forces and the men left behind are ill-trained and easily captured.


I understand President Barack Obama's hesitation to act, but what kills me is he is not moved to act by the sight of Iraqi soldiers, stripped bare – a horrifying humiliation to any Muslim, by the way – lying face down, in the hundreds and being machine-gunned to death, or being forced to march for miles, bent over. He is not moved to act by the sight of little children with their heads bashed in, lying in gutters. He is not moved by the sight of men, marching in lock-step, in black, with weapons and missiles on platforms that can level villages. No, he is not moved by this.


He is moved by the beheading of two American journalists; a gruesome act. Horrifying enough to contemplate, but even more so when we realize that ISIS or ISIL has many hundreds more hostages to torture, crucify, behead and machine-gun and push into trenches, after taking away their last shred of dignity. I just wonder this: is there not somewhere some ISIS or ISIL group of doctors and scientists looking for a more efficient way to kill even more people in a single act? Do we really want a repeat of the Third Reich?


I realize that this is a tremendous sacrifice for the free world to undertake, but this is a scourge like none I've ever countenanced. I know there are people who will say, “Well, it's in the Middle East, we're in Gloucester, U. K.” or “Sorry, but we don't do violence here in Sweden.” That's all well and good, but these people, this ISIS or ISIL will not rest until they are the only ones left. That is what jihadists and National Socialists do. The only reason we aren't speaking German today, is because the United States stepped in and helped with Lend-Lease and then, when Hitler declared war, we had no choice, but to fight. It was a good war. This might be another one.

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