By John Chuckman <chuckman@YellowTimes.org>
YellowTimes.org Columnist (Canada)
May 30, 2003
While I find those images on the Internet of a blunt little
mustache digitally scribbled onto President Bush's upper lip feeble and
unhelpful, still, there are parts of Bush's character and behavior that
strikingly resemble at least one major biographer's interpretation of Hitler.
Ian Kershaw's two-volume Life of Hitler puts great emphasis on his being
a driving, high-stakes gambler -- with innate, animal cunning about human
psychology, few gifts of statesmanship or strategy, and little systematic
learning - attributing most of his success and all of his failure to his
When, for example, Bush waged his ferocious post-election
pursuit of legitimacy through threats and court actions, finally securing
appointment to office by America's Supreme Court, it resembled the way Hitler,
never actually elected, worked ferociously behind the scenes and on the
streets at a time of great political instability to secure appointment as
Chancellor by President von Hindenburg.
Several observers have commented that Bush's recent stunt
of flying to the deck of an aircraft carrier in order to make a televised
speech might well have been copied directly from Hitler's flight to the
gigantic Nuremberg rally, his plane dramatically circling in descent towards
a million people gathered in barbarian tribute, his purpose being to make
a filmed speech. Whether Bush's crowd consciously followed the script set
down by Hitler nearly seventy years ago matters less than that the thinking
is so similar, with the manipulation of dramatic, militaristic props for
propaganda being identical.
Bush never goes anywhere where his stage crew has not first
assembled giant flags as background. He always wears a sizeable American
flag pin on his lapel. This kind of totemic, obsessive use of flags was
absolutely characteristic of Hitler.
Hitler was a troubled, difficult person, but there is no evidence
of any genuine insanity or psychosis (see Dr. Fritz Redlich's excellent
study, "Hitler, Diagnosis of a Destructive Prophet").
It is precisely this fact that made him, and makes those like him, all the
more dangerous. It is easy to dismiss a genuine lunatic.
Given any circumstances other than those of the unique and
troubled period in which he embraced German politics, Hitler would have
been an utter failure, likely to be laughed off the stage with his sputtering,
eye-bulging speech and fantasy claims. He had never, except for extremely
brief and intermittent times, before entering politics in the revolutionary
ruin that was post-war Germany, made an honest living.
There is a close parallel here with Bush. Except when friends
of his powerful father made attractive, low-risk, undemanding opportunities
available to him, young Geroge Bush was a failure. He demonstrated no businessacumen,
no academic application, and he did a lot of aimless drifting, much like
Hitler's time in Vienna before the First World War. There are totally unexplained
periods in Bush's early adult life, an extraordinary thing for an American
national public figure.
Even as governor of Texas, Bush showed no skill other than
the kind of animal cunning one associates with some of the nation's shabbiest
politics. Many do not realize that the office of governor of Texas,despite
sounding important, is a relatively weak office, so the people putting Bush
forward at the time took a small risk of his doing any serious damage.
Bush was not a national figure when he was put up for the
Republican presidential nomination. Yet, suddenly, he appeared on the national
stage, pockets bulging with $77 million in campaign contributions, an amount
that could render even Kermit the Frog a formidable opponent inAmerica's
phoney, advertising- and marketing-drenched politics. Of course, as quickly
as these funds were depleted, they were topped up again.
The support of German industrialists was an important part
of Hitler'sbeing able to sustain his slow rise to power. Many of these business
people thought they would heavily profit from the success of the odd, theatrical,
little man they bankrolled. The one absolute certainty was that Germany
under Hitler would rearm, massively and quickly, with lots of profitable
contracts coming available. Bush's measures for defense and security after
9/11, almost instantly swelled to tumor-like masses,offer an unprecedented
opportunity for well-positioned people to make new fortunes.
Bush's apparent ability to be charming face-to-face has been
publicizedby insiders wishing to humanize his public image. Well, that is
a characteristic Hitler possessed in abundance: on the one hand, he could
intimidate people with fits of horrifying anger, and yet, as many attested,
he could be utterly charming. He could order wholesale murder and yet have
a gracious, polite tea with his hardworking secretaries.
Of course, the sense of charm assumed you did not have to
spend great periods of time with Hitler, as did the captive members of his
immediate party entourage. For them, Hitler was reduced to a boring, repetitive
self-proclaimed expert on everything who insisted on discussing everything,
endlessly. One can only imagine the tedious conversations of a Bush comfortable
with his cronies over a charred cow down in Crawford. We actually got an
unintended glimpse of this private world when the BBC "accidentally"
ran some television shots of Bush before a big speech sharing the kind of
gestures and comments to smiling flunkies one might expect from a small
town, grade school basketball coach.
Bush has demonstrated his capacity for vicious anger a number
of times, despite his handlers working very hard to hide this from the public.
His response to the nomination challenge of John McCain was manic. His response
to the rightful and fitting challenges of France or Germany to his Iraqi
policies has been ugly; with pathetic factotum, Colin Powell, given the
job of announcing various gibes, slights, and threats in the aftermath (Harry
Belafonte's description of Powell, I regret to say, has proved devastatingly
The closest parallel to Hitler's behavior was in Bush's approach
to Iraq. It is clear that he was determined -- despite all facts contrary
to his claims, despite the heroic efforts of weapons inspectors, despite
the voice of most of the world's diplomatic community, and despite demonstrations
by millions -- to invade Iraq. The litany of false and even irrelevant claims
made over and over combined with his lack of shame or embarrassment when
found out time and again, closely mimics a behavior pattern of Hitler who
more or less invented the "big lie" technique.
Even more closely resembling Hitler was Bush's insane rush
towards a huge, high-stakes gamble on quick success in Iraq. He displayed
not an ounce of statesmanship. It mattered not at all that he put the U.N.,
NATO, and the E.U. through a crisis and embarrassed long standing allies
to get what he wanted. Had the invasion bogged down into bloody streetfights
and had large numbers of Americans been killed, Bush could not have survived
the political results. This was the purest, obsessive, go-for-broke gamble.
What we witnessed leading up to the invasion bore uncanny
similarities to the Munich crisis of 1938, but not the ones to which so
many American commentators point about a weak-willed Chamberlain appeasing
a brutal dictator. People seem to forget Bush was making the threats, not
Hitler was going to invade the Czechs, and that was that,
but he was willing to toy with war-weary Western statesmen to gain a bit
of time or psychological advantage, and to appear open to argument before
hurling his divisions over the border. So, too, Bush paused in invading
Iraq, allowing Western statesmen to argue their case a bit and make various
proposals, but he never listened to them, only hoping he might gain a few
more allies, a shred of legitimacy, or a bit of psychological advantage.
This provides a very good example of how we do not learn from
history.We are, most of us, always looking for exactly the same lesson from
a vaguely similar historical situation, much as generals are said to be
always prepared to fight the last war. But history, as has been accurately
observed, is a flowing river which is not the same when touched a second
time. Current events are never quite parallel with those of an earlier time
despite superficial similarities. However, human character, patterns of
behavior, and human interactions are things that may be profitably studied,
being constant enough to make valid comparisons over time.
Here, too, is an example of how history can be manipulated
to abuse political opponents. Critics on the left, in opposing the invasion
of Iraq, have been accused of supporting a dictator. This is nonsense, of
course, but like many bits of propaganda that become lodged into day-to-day
understanding through endless repetition on television and in newspapers,
it is nevertheless a powerful nonsense.
Too many people do not understand that the preponderance of
forces in Germany before the Second World War were for peace. Hitler sometimes
spoke of peace eloquently, but, as we now know, he had a rather odd definition
of the word. When it looked like Germany was on the brink of war, great
waves of despair went through Germany. All the bands and panoply of Nazi
propaganda could not cover up people's sullen reaction displayed even under
But when Hitler quickly defeated Poland and then quickly defeated
France, the mood in Germany immediately changed. Hitler had achieved a relatively
bloodless victory of stunning proportions. He became a hero,a national savior.
And so with Bush's massive, high-tech assault on pathetic little Iraq. Anti-war
feelings and demonstrations did not rise so suddenly at the start of the
much greater conflict in Vietnam, but with a quick, safe victory (safe for
Americans, that is), Bush has become something of a shining figure, so much
so that at a recent dinner, a single dinner, Bush raised
$18 million in campaign funds.
Hitler's manipulation of the idea of peace is paralleled in
Bush's manipulation of the idea of justice. Both are complete distortions.
Bush's genuine feeling for justice was perhaps best captured during the
election campaign with his smug, joking response to a question about a soul
on death row in Texas. For those with acute perceptions, still not dulled
on a steady diet of synthetic emotions and cardboard ideas from television
and Hollywood, there could be no surer sign of how potentially dangerous
this man is.
John Chuckman is former chief economist for a large Canadian
oil company. He has many interests and is a lifelong student of history.
He writes with a passionate desire for honesty, the rule of reason, and
concern for human decency. He is a member of no political party and takes
exception to what has been called America's "culture of complaint"
with its habit of reducing every important issue to an unproductive argument
between two simplistically defined groups. John left the UnitedStates as
a poor young man from the South Side of Chicago when the government embarked
on the murder of millions of Vietnamese in their own land because they happened
to embrace the wrong economic loyalties. He lives in Canada, which he is
fond of calling "the peaceable kingdom."
John Chuckman encourages your comments: chuckman@YellowTimes.org
Web posted at: http://www.yellowtimes.org/article.php?sid3D1377
Forward courtesy of Rick Stanley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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