Bush: the anti-FDR

Cindy Sheehan and her entourage have left Crawford, TX, as Bush ended his vacation a few days early in response to the disaster in New Orleans. She is taking her act on the road with a “Bring Them Home Now Tour” which will culminate in an anti-war march in Washington DC Sept. 24. (AP, Aug. 31)

Bush, meanwhile, three days ahead of the 60th anniversary of Japan’s formal surrender at the end of World War II, made a speech explicitly invoking that conflict at Southern California’s North Island Naval Air Station, and vowed to “stay on the offensive” in Iraq. “The men and women who served in World War II belonged to a generation that kept its faith even when liberty’s ultimate triumph was far from clear,” the president told thousands of sailors, Marines and World War II veterans at the Air Station. “President Roosevelt believed that free nations are peaceful nations that would not threaten America. He knew that it was the lack of democracy in Japan that allowed an unelected group of militarists to take control of the state, threaten our neighbors, attack America and plunge an entire region into war. And he knew that the best way to bring peace and stability to the region was by bringing freedom to Japan.” Similarly, of course: “We’ll build a free Iraq that will fight terrorists instead of giving them aid and sanctuary. A free Iraq will offer people throughout the Middle East a hopeful alternative to the hateful ideology being peddled by the terrorists. A free Iraq will show that when America gives its word, America keeps its word.” (San Diego Union-Tribune, Aug. 31)

Et cetera, ad nauseum. Can it be that there are really Americans with such a poor sense of history that they will fall for this propaganda? The differences between the war that followed Pearl Harbor and that which has ensued since 9-11 are so vast and obvious as to make even mentioning them superfluous, if this nation weren’t so chronically attention-span-challenged. World War II saw genuine economic sacrifice for the war effort—taxes were raised, recycling and rationing imposed, over 10 million men drafted into the Army, and women massively conscripted into the workforce. The current conflict is one for a culture of profligance, and conspicuous consumption itself is being portrayed as a patriotic duty. In World War II, government propaganda asked travellers “Is This Trip Necessary?” After 9-11, Bush exhorted Americans: “Go about your business, fly, go to Disneyland!” (As blogger John Rechy recalls.)

In World War II, FDR won over the working class for the war effort with the New Deal, of which Bush is now dismantling the final remnants, even seeking to privatize Social Security. The working class is being thrown to the winds by “free trade” and deregulation policies. (This same hideous irony was in evidence in last year’s media linking of the D-Day anniversary with the lionization of Ronald Reagan, who began the rollback of FDR’s legacy.)

But the most egregious distorition of Bush’s analogy is that his own unprovoked invasion of Iraq is what invites analogies with Axis aggression in China, the Philippines, Czechoslovakia and Poland. International law scholar Francis Boyle reminded us as Bush was preparing for the Iraq attack in 2003: “This doctrine of pre-emptive warfare or pre-emptive attack was rejected soundly in the Nuremberg Judgment.” Former Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin Ferencz also pointed this out in the prelude to the war, stating: “A preemptive military strike not authorized by the Security Council would clearly violate the UN Charter.” As Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, US prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, said in his opening statement to the tribunal in November 1945: “Our position is that whatever grievances a nation may have, however objectionable it finds the status quo, aggressive warfare is an illegal means for settling those grievances or for altering those conditions.”

See our last report on the Iraq war, and Cindy Sheehan and the propaganda war at home. See also our last post on the legacy of World War II in the contemporary propaganda wars.