While probing the past is always worthwhile, revising it, is something else altogether.
In the latest epidemic to contaminate our understanding of World War II, two publications assert that the brutal British and the aggressive Americans, not the genocidal Germans, are the true villains.
Roy Williams’ assessment of - and let’s not mince words here, Nazi sympathiser - Patrick J. Buchanan’s book Churchill, Hitler and “The Unnecessary War”: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World exposes the latest strain of the virus (see December’s edition of the Australian Literary Review).
Buchanan argues that had the savage Winston Churchill not corralled a certain Austrian into an untenable corner, Der Fuehrer might not have, on September 1, 1939, dispatched 1,850,000 soldiers, 3,100 tanks, 10,000 artillery pieces and 2,085 airplanes to subjugate Poland. And in turn, have the Allies “unnecessarily” declare war, two days later. Elsewhere in the book, among other distortions, Buchanan opines that it was the Allies’ folly and not Hitler’s long standing desire of ridding Europe of Jews, which was responsible for the Holocaust.
Tens of millions of Europeans died needlessly because the Allies fought a war they chose not to avoid, seems to be what Pat Buchanan is selling. And Roy Williams is buying. And to boot, he wants us to buy too. But at what price?
The liberties we currently enjoy are the going rate, I suspect.
In an equally twisted review by Williams, this time of the leftist Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization, the case is promoted that the Allied bombing of German cities was tantamount to a war crime. Baker seemingly frog marches in lock step with one Jorg Friedrich, a most unattractive apologist for Nazi conduct during the war, who has railed for years against what he deems are Britain’s “war crimes”.
Baker says that there was no need to carpet bomb German towns and to pulverise infrastructure. This was so “unnecessary”, he declares. Suggesting, I infer, that less destructive ways (such as negotiations) were available to say, the Royal Air Force, to stop the flow of fuel, storm troopers, collaborators and bullets, earmarked for the mobile Nazi death units called the Einsatzgruppen which pillaged and raped, before merrily shooting and gassing their way through Europe and Russia.
Both Buchanan and Baker either mourn Hitler’s defeat or they are talking through their respective hats. They reveal the absurd demand (rekindled recently when asked of Israel while the Jewish State was fighting terror outfits like Hezbollah and Hamas, and asked of the United States when combating the jihadists in lraq) that western democracies be not just better than their adversaries, but must do battle with one arm tied behind their backs. Even it would seem, when fighting, an existentialist threat.
A major piece of heavy-duty revisionist artillery the sympathisers wheel out is what they label as the vengeful Treaty of Versailles, claiming that it ended World War I on a bitter note for the defeated Germany. The revisionists wilfully ignore that the terms offered to Germany were far better than what Germany itself had offered France in 1871 (after the Franco-Prussian War), or what Germany had planned for Britain and France had it won WWI. Such inconvenient truths by-pass the authors and their reviewer.
What led to World War II was not Allied malice to Germany between the two wars. The Allies’ mistake was in not occupying all of Germany after the WW I. Such an occupation would have shown the German people what the post WW II occupation of Germany demonstrated: first, that the Allies were committed to reintegrate Germany into Europe, and second, that an occupation dedicated to producing a robust democratic Deutschland bred 60 years of peace.
All three: Baker, Buchanan and Williams are guilty of waving selective quotes to suit their prejudices. Not surprising really. After all, it was the great Irish politician and writer, Conor Cruise O'Brien who wryly observed that all quotation is selective, otherwise it wouldn't be quotation.