~ Cross-posted from comment in diary by catnip I Am Not My Leaders ~

I am not my brother’s keeper, unless you begin to strike at him.

To debate the Iraq War and get hostile over WWII makes no sense to me. Such a complicated flow of events leading up to WWII, the Anschlüss of Austria and the Blitzkrieg of the Pantzer divisions of the German Army, the most disciplined group of men any Army has ever seen. The SS, Gestapo, occupying forces, later new battalions added with enlisted nationals from the Ukraïne, France, Belgium and the Netherlands fighting at the East Front of Stalingrad.

The rules of engagement in fighting a war has evolved from the period of Napoleon and his defeat at Waterloo, where both sides agreed on a timetable of warfare and breaks when hostilities would cease, and let the forces get some rest.

The worst kind of wars and most brutal are the civil wars between brothers and families of a single nation: U.S. Civil War, Rwanda and Yugoslavia in the nineties. The world community find it difficult to engage in these battles, the United Nations could not provide legality to intervene within a sovereign nation. This is starting to change, the reformed U.N. will also address these conflicts in the future.

Debate between Deward Hastings and Spiderleaf ::
German Occupation and Iraq Compared – below the fold  »»

The most devastating wars are the great World Wars in the 20th century, WWI fought in the trenches of northern France and parts of Belgium, the use of lethal gas killing millions of soldiers. Yet there were moments, soldiers from both sides got out of their respective trenches to call a period of truce at Christmas, shortly thereafter to retreat into the trenches and continue the slaughter of men. It’s very depressing to travel the route through Verdun in France and see acres filled with crosses of the slain, every small village has its WWI memorial in city square for their fallen heroes.

WWII was a direct consequence of the peace agreement imposed on the German nation, which made it easier for a dictator like Hitler to rise to power. The Germans are know for its discipline and commitment to the nation, Hitler made use of both and vilified the Jewish race and most minorities not meeting his standard of the Arian race. The German war industry, the cooperation with large corporations to meet the contracts supplied by the government, engaged and provided jobs for millions of citizens. Jobs, food and security gave Hitler all the support needed for him to win democratic elections to continue his path to occupy most of Europe.

WWII saw the battles fought in clear front lines, only when small towns or villages came into a cross fire, were they destroyed. Paris was saved by agreement between the aggressors and the French generals and government. The Netherlands was not involved in WWI after they declared to remain neutral, and was left alone by Germany. Quite different in May 1940 when Germany surprised the Netherlands with a Blitzkrieg invasion of pantzer divisions of the regular German army. They swept into Holland from the South and needed to cross the Rhine river bridges, the Moerdijk bridge near Dordrecht in the route to Rotterdam was crucial. My dad was engaged in the defense of the Moerdijk bridge on Sunday morning, May 10, 1940. The bridge was fully lined with explosive charges to be destroyed whenever the Germans approached. Of course the Germans had infiltrated the Dutch military and civilians with corroborators and that night all explosives had been defused and the German colonnes of armor and truck loads of soldiers crossed into central Holland. There was a Dutch defense on a few locations, and the Dutch authorities did not agree to surrender. That is when the Germans decided to bomb a defenseless civilian heart of the city of Rotterdam, of course not any harbor infrastructure, which the Germans needed to keep intact.

Later on, the Germans failed in their attempt to invade Great Britain and the bombing of cities started, often with V1 and V2 rockets from the coastline of the European continent. The Wernher von Braun designed rockets were launched from Dutch cities like The Hague, the launching pads were located in the city heart  Haagsche Bos. Trying to take the sites out with allied bombings led to a fatal mistake when a nearby residential area was bombed causing hundreds of civilian deaths. The Dutch know what warfare is, its destruction and the occupation of a foreign power. Yet the Dutch had relatively little destruction compared to Belgium, France and Germany itself of course. The Germans bombed not only London, the center of government, but also Coventry. In retaliation the allies bombed Dresden, killing more than 100,000 civilians in a single raid. The German people regard this bombing as a war crime, even today when a memorial is held to commemorate all victims of that one night.

The American people have no sense of the horror of war, one cannot have the emotions from tv coverage, photos or even from witness accounts. That is a profound reason why the Europeans are still reluctant to wage a war and get involved unless they themselves are under direct threat. The UK and USA with imperial political eyes cross that line much too easily and engaged in the Iraq War with no scruples.

Does the German people and nation bear a responsibility for Hitler, the war and its atrocities, and the death camps? The German people have the feeling that they are responsible, even sixty years later. I would agree, without having the new generation to be held responsible what their parents have done. Same question for the United States, are its people and nation as a whole responsible for the acts of its leadership, the elected President, his cabinet and Congress for their acts or instances when they fail to act. My answer will be once again: yes.

The Vietnam war was in essence guerrilla warfare, not only in the jungle, but throughout South Vietnam in all rural area, small towns and villages. Friend and foe could not be distinguished, the battle very similar to civil strife with all its cruelties. The might of the U.S. meant unleashing air power with unprecedented bombing raids over Hanoi and North Vietnam, destruction meant also civilian populated areas, industry, infrastructure and harbor facilities. The number of deaths in excess of two million is a heavy prize to pay for a nation. The Christmas bombing of 1972 above the city of Hanoi, most likely can be considered a war crime by Nixon, Kissinger and the War cabinet. I’m glad Nixon was impeached for a burglary into the DNC HQ in Watergate, its cover-up and further acts of law-breaking by Nixon’s cabal.

I see no balance to compare the Iraq war with the acts of the Nazis during WWII, it’s sufficient to deal with the Iraq war by itself, and try to kick the Republicans out of the White House and all political power in Washington DC.

Compare the discipline and training of the German army during WWII and the U.S. forces in Iraq, comprised of  a large portion of NG forces. I do worry that the US army, in Iraq by comparison, is made up of a group of irregulars, poor leadership in Army command and some soldiers are little better than civilians armed with a M16 rifle. It’s very worrisome, looking at an article recently covered, a training stage of three months and send to the battle front!

That’s my take on the issue, but just do not make a comparison with Nazis, fascism, massive deaths and destruction and the holocaust.  That’s just not right, nor necessary.


Reply by both Deward Hastings and Spiderleaf ::

Re: You Can’t Get Me Angry, Even If You Tried


Thank you for the thoughtful (as usual) comments. Comparisons are always difficult, and I suppose it was too much to expect the kind of nuanced and reasoned response across the board that you and some others have presented. I sought to compare the behavior and tactics of the German Army in WWII with the US Army in Iraq . . . others chose to misread that as comparing the US Army to Nazis, neglecting both the distinction between Armies and political systems and the divisions within Germany at the beginning of WWII.

I did not make the comparison to defend the German Army. We rightly condemn, for example, the bombing of civilian Rotterdam and London, and rightly question the tactics used against the Yugoslav resistance, again directed largely against civilians. The comparison was made to remind all that the American Army in Iraq is no better, and in at least some ways is worse, both in strategic and tactical choices and in actual behavior in the field.

If I were comparing primarily the political systems I’d be comparing Nazi Germany in ’38 or ’39, or perhaps just after the invasion of Poland, with the Republican/Fundamentalist/Fascists of today . . . each about five years in power, each about equally far along in dismantling the democracies they superseded. It is at least possible that even at that late date the German people could have rejected the Nazis and changed the course of history. It is at least possible that at this late date the American people can reject Republican/Fundamentalist Fascism.

If we do then, and only then, there will be some slight opening for the argument that Americans are somehow, taken as a group, a little bit better than some of the rest of the world. There will still, of course, be at least fifty (not just five) years of blundered and wrongheaded foreign policy to be undone. At the moment the only thing to be noted about American exceptionalism is its exceptional blindness and arrogance . . .

by Deward Hastings on Tue Oct 11th, 2005 at 10:12:15 AM PST

Attached, reply by spiderleaf —

now this is a conversation I’d be open to have… but your original comment didn’t get us there. I apologize for my strident response, but generalities are never conducive to debate.
unfortunately I’m at work and can’t get into a lengthy reply right now, but I wanted to let you know I appreciated the continued discourse.


Jaded Reality ~ W apologist since 10/9/05

by spiderleaf on Tue Oct 11th, 2005 at 10:19:12 AM PST

DH and Spider …
I’m willing take this topic and put it up as a new diary, so that you can have a debate of substance. I do understand it important enough, for a debate between both of you.

I did my best to differentiate in an historical reference, that in time and other circumstances, comparisons always go lame. I always try to understand how war changes ordinary citizens, neighbors who choose for opposite sides, end up killing each other. In a state of occupation, the Dutch resistance acted without remorse to liquidate collaborators with the Nazis, both men and women, who forwarded strategic information to the Gestapo. See movie: “Resistance Fighter – the Girl with the Red Hair”.

By comparison, what the German troops were for the Dutch in WWII from 1940-1945, are the U.S. troops for a majority of Iraqis today: occupying forces. The Dutch underground, similar to other countries, kept communications with London to provide intelligence for Allied bombing raids. The film  A Bridge Too Far of Operation Market Garden led by General Montgomery, was only possible with support of Dutch intelligence. With failure to gain a position across the Rhine river, the Allied forces had to pull back, again supported by the Dutch underground organization.

The German occupying forces couldn’t tell the difference between the Dutch who were friendly or opposed the occupation. The worst part of the war in Holland, one could never trust a neighbor, friend or relative. The resistance had to operate in cells, to avoid Nazi raids where more than a few countrymen would be arrested, tortured, jailed or executed by German firing squad.

How similar to the circumstances the U.S. forces have to operate in Iraq today, not seen as liberators but as occupiers. The Germans never razed villages, bombed bridges or were confronted with resistance as the U.S. faces today in Iraq. The German SS did retaliate against civilians whenever an ambush led to the death or injury of a German officer.

Additional Reading ::

  • Nazi Party ◊ by Jewish Virtual Library
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