Well, Pat Buchanan (whose name came up in the recent unpleasantness over anti-Semitism on this blog) noted the 60th anniversary of VE Day in his own inimitable way: by asking in a May 11 opinion piece “Was WWII Worth It?” And, of course, by promptly answering his own question: “For Stalin, Yes.” What is truly appalling is less that Buchanan has written this execrable piece of revisionism than that it was run (with no rebuttal) by AntiWar.com, which mysteriously continues to have credentials on the “left” even as it becomes more and more transparently linked to the populist right.
It is always a dilemma whether to risk legitimizing evil claptrap by stooping to argue with it. But given how Buchanan’s poison is insidiously creeping into the supposed “left,” a few responses are probably in order.
For starters, Buchanan seems to forget that the U.S. wasn’t involved in WWII until Pearl Harbor, at which point all three Axis powers declared war on us. So we’d love to know how staying out of it was even an option after December 1941. Worse, there is absolutely nothing here about how in fighting the Axis the U.S. began (imperfectly and nowhere near equivalently, but horrifically enough) to mirror the Axis in the forcible internment of the Japanese-Americans; nothing about the war crimes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; nothing about how U.S. involvement in WWII led to the nuclear arms race and the rise of the U.S. to global superpower, ultimately leading to the nightmares of Vietnam and Iraq. These are powerful arguments which apparently mean nothing to Pat.
Instead we get a tirade about the betrayal of Eastern and Central Europe into the hands of the Soviets, and glib pronouncements about how Stalin was just as bad as Hitler. Now, that is a defensible position, but it is clear that Buchanan doesn’t really think so. He has chosen for Hitler and fascism as the defender against the commie menace (as many Americans of his ilk did until Pearl Harbor). He lacks the courage to say so aloud, but it is obvious nonetheless. It is Stalin who wins his title as “the most odious tyrant of the century.” For all his outrage at half of Europe falling under Soviet influence in 1945, he seems quite comfortable with the prospect of fascism stretching from the Volga to Gibraltar—which it did until the Allies started to beat it back after Stalingrad and D-Day.
The clearest evidence is Buchanan’s sentimentality about how “small nations” like Lithuania and Estonia lost their independence to the Soviet monolith in WWII. Yet (as Steve Rendell of FAIR notes in his excellent dossier on Buchanan), Pat has elsewhere written admiringly of Spain’s fascist dictator Francisco Franco (who shot his way to power with the aid of Nazi intervention in 1939), calling him a “Catholic savior” and a “soldier-patriot.” Upon assuming power, Franco (in addition to massacring his enemies by the thousands) immediately rescinded the hard-won political and cultural autonomy of the small nations within Spain–the Basque Country, Catalonia, Galicia–even banning their languages (just as Stalin did in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia).
It seems the suffering of small nations is meaningless to Buchanan when it is at the hands of fascists rather than communists. For good measure, Buchanan also writes, in his weasily pseudo-equivalism: “Where Hitler killed his millions, Stalin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, and Castro murdered their tens of millions.” Not only is the “tens of millions” figure questionable at best, but it is only through the sophistry of using a collective figure that he can throw Ho and Castro in with the rest. His pal Franco’s reprisals in ’39 far outstripped those of Castro in ’59. Even within Latin America, Chile’s anti-communist savior Augusto Pinochet (another of Pat’s fond “soldier-patriots”) killed far more people in his ’73 coup than Castro did in ’59–probably exponentially more. Buchanan is in no moral position to lecture us about mass murder.
But, again, what is more appalling than this hypocrisy (we expect nothing less from this crypto-fascist buffoon) is that more and more folks on the supposed “left” are falling for it.