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Some Vital History, Revisited - 'Welcome to the 1930s'

It was a decade ago when I wrote the following article, the below version yet appearing at 'Indybay' Indymedia, unchanged from the way it's stood for the last ten years.  Unfortunately, it arguably seems the devastating truths I discuss have sadly become increasingly evident...and, now we face the question of 'where do we go from here'?

As reposted from Indybay...

WELCOME TO THE 1930'S
By Ritt Goldstein

On the floor of the US Senate, the senior senator from West Virginia, Sen. Robert Byrd, charged that the American people "have been lured into accepting the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign state", Iraq. He added, "like it always does, the truth will emerge".

As regards that truth, "Iraq Bloodbath" had read a wartime headline of Scandinavia's largest daily, Aftonbladet, corpses dotting a picture of what the Bush administration's war machine manufactures. The article reported an American officer as saying that mounds of the dead were piled on sidewalks, a large proportion of the dead feared to be civilians. And amid numerous allegations of Administration fabrications, the much proclaimed weapons of mass destruction have yet to be found, most now believing they never existed. But Iraqi democracy has been put on hold, and a Defense Department report (Strategic Assessment 1999) has surfaced which starkly highlights Oil War as Pentagon policy. So as those who perceive themselves grossly wronged threaten to strike back at us, visions of another era's Blitzkrieg, occupations, attempts to build Empire - is this what they are seeing.

Explaining the Iraq War, of course it is easy to understand that terrorism must be fought, the killing of innocent women and children stopped. But most experts agree that Iraq had no meaningful ties to al Qaeda, and what of dead Iraqi women and children. What of the price our Country's loyal troops have paid and are paying.

As early as 1996, former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brezinski described a vision of American empire quite succinctly, discussing "the grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy". But, only recently is the pressing question of American Empire under debate.

While the horror of the Iraqi conflict is disturbing, more disturbing is the issue of its being a symptom of an older, deadlier disease, a social-disorder which previously claimed the lives of tens of millions. And what if the return of this fatal societal contagion had gone largely unrecognized.

In 2001, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi trumpeted the superiority of Western values. In retrospect, Berlusconi's vision of the West "bound to occidentalize and conquer new people" does seem chillingly accurate regarding President Bush's actions.

Of course, the 1930's saw Italy attack Ethiopia, and today's Bush administration has finished Afghanistan, is working on Iraq, and both Iran and Syria have been "warned". If human nature doesn't essentially change, does history merely repeat.

As regards the nature of such questions, in 1941 the social psychologist Erich Fromm published his classic analysis of the impact of social and psychological forces on society, "Escape from Freedom". In it Fromm describes how conditions, similar to today's, meant that human relationships were "poisoned" by a "struggle for the maintenance of power and wealth...by a passionate egocentricity, an insatiable greed". But of course one cannot just say the Enron, WorldCom, Xerox, Halliburton, and other numerous business scandals provide ample testimony to that. Nor can one merely refer to the seemingly all too valid complaints of mass-exploitation which the anti-globalization movement voices. However, Fromm charged that "individuals were looked upon as 'objects' to be used and manipulated, or they were ruthlessly destroyed if it suited one's own ends". And such logic does provide good explanation for modern-day robber barons, mass-exploitation, media manipulation and War. And Senator Byrd did charge that the "events of September 11 have been carefully manipulated".

Escape from Freedom depicts the rise of 1930's fascism. Over a year ago I published an editorial entitled "Deja Vu: The 1930's" - one version contained a WWII picture of the German Wehrmacht marching through a town.

But maybe this isn't only about the limits of human greed and the capacity for ruthless ambition. Maybe this is also about faith, trust, and the so many good people among us who might have had those precious gifts harshly abused. Maybe, while bombarded by the endless circuses our society cranks out, a lot of good and decent people are just simply and cruelly seduced.

Fromm had observed how leaders have played upon their public, Hitler doing so with protestations that he sought only "peace and freedom...that his actions serve the best interests of civilization". But hindsight is always easy, and in the 1930s it must have been extremely difficult for most to appreciate the implications of what was occurring. As repression and world aggression grew, the public's apprehension and misplaced trust meant that devastating issues were simply explained away.

Paralleling such concerns, several mainstream European articles have recently noted that Nazi Foreign-Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was condemned by the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunals for conspiring in a War of Aggression. Also noted was that President Bush has committed actions strikingly similar to those for which Mr. von Ribbentrop was hanged. Strengthening the comparison, the US commander of the Iraq War, Gen. Tommy Franks, was charged by Belgium under Crimes Against Humanity statutes.

Perhaps envisioning such circumstances, Fromm had warned that "there is no greater mistake and no graver danger than not to see that in our own society [the US] we are faced with the same phenomenon that is fertile soil for the rise of Fascism anywhere".

Copyright February 2013

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