Take this, John Bolton and Don Rumsfeld! Who’s got the macho creds now, you weinie chickenhawks! Via MetaFilter:

   “The history told about the defeat of Nazism and the founding of the United Nations in the 1940s has become distorted. A false view of the past is being used today to shape how we think about our future. The military power of the victorious wartime allies is offered as a model for running the world, while the UN’s supposed utopianism is seen as ineffective and irrelevant. This is a travesty of the facts.”

Open Democracy‘s article “rediscovers a forgotten story of the 1940s: how the United Nations was forged, beat the Nazis and established a lasting peace.” Below, the U.N. as “strategic engine of victory” — and a U.N. WWII poster:

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This is a travesty of the facts (see the boxed timeline). We are taught that the UN began with the signing of the Charter in 1945. In fact, that agreement was the culmination of a complex military and political effort that began in 1941. Understanding the UN”s wartime origins provides a powerful and much-needed reminder that the UN is not some liberal accessory but was created out of hard, realistic political necessity.

The historical records show how Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt created the United Nations to win the war both militarily and politically, and to create the foundations for a lasting peace. Their first expression of Anglo-American policy was in the Atlantic Charter of 1941; this included freedom from want, social security, labour rights and disarmament as well as self-determination, free trade and freedom of religion. Churchill himself remarked during the height of the fighting in 1944 that the “United Nations is the only hope of the world”.

In the documentary records of the war years, countless references demonstrate the UN’s origin as a strategic engine of victory in the second world war. The document that formalised the Nazi defeat in the war includes the words: “This Act of Military Surrender is without prejudice to, and will be superseded by, any instrument of surrender imposed by, or on behalf of, the United Nations on Germany …” President Truman broadcast on 8 May that: “General Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations”.

These references may seem odd today. But at the time, it was normal to talk about the United Nations fighting the war. …

It was normal to talk about the United Nations fighting the war. Impressive.

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A real coalition

The “United Nations” had been the official name for the coalition fighting the axis powers since January 1942, when Roosevelt and Churchill had led twenty-six nations, including the Soviet Union and China, in a “Declaration by United Nations“.

The declaration committed the twenty-six not to cut separate peace deals with the Nazis and to subscribe to the principles of the Atlantic Charter for the post-war world. The Charter provided the political basis for countering Nazi ideology; it caught the imagination of people around the world, including the young Nelson Mandela and other anti-colonial activists.

The United Nations was a real entity, not a spin-doctored slogan offering a gullible public the promise of world peace at the end of the war. The allies fought the war as the United Nations and created organisations in its name and on its foundation. The British Library holds scores of wartime publications by or about the United Nations. It was celebrated in music, prayer and exhibitions. Anthologies were published of the exploits of “Heroes of the United Nations”.

In Europe, General Eisenhower accepted the surrender of Fascist Italy in September 1943, declaring: “Hostilities between the armed forces of the United Nations and those of Italy terminate at once. All Italians who now act to help eject the German aggressor from Italian soil will have the assistance and the support of the United Nations.” He was soon sent to Britain to begin planning for D-Day. His orders told him to do so in “conjunction with the other United Nations”.

Eisenhower’s broadcast to the troops aboard their landing craft reminded them that “the United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man”. …

So the next time someone tells you the U.N. is a money-sucking, unaccomplished, corrupt facade, tell them what Churchill, Eisenhower, Roosevelt and others said.

Full article, with timeline and more historic U.N. posters, at Open Democracy.”

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