"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to great danger."
Who said that? Dick Cheney? Karl Rove? George W. Bush? No, it was Hermann Goering, the Nazi second in command who spoke those words at the war crimes trial in Nuremberg, Germany after World War II. His sentence was death.
Truth comes from odd sources. Could Goering's statement ever happen here? During the 2004 election, Vice President Cheney said if Democrats win, "We'll be hit again."
Did we get dragged along into war in Iraq? The reasons sure kept changing. It started with having weapons of mass destruction, changed to would make weapons of mass destruction, morphed to needed to remove a dangerous dictator, then to bring democracy to the people of Iraq, then better to fight terrorists there. To prevent civil war there that wouldn't have happened if we never went? To stay the course to prove we're not quitters? Stay tuned.
War is serious enough to get the reasons right the first time. With their lives on the line, we owe it to our troops to always get it right. Mention any concerns and the Bush administration and their supporters denounce your patriotism. That's exactly the strategy Goering identified.
OK, sometimes we have leaders who manipulate us. Maybe all the time, who knows? So what should we do about it? Don't trust any strategy learned from Nazis. Whatever they did can't be good. Trust our shared heritage as Americans.
In March 1865, Abraham Lincoln said in his inaugural address, "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
Lincoln reaches to us again from another century to put his long finger on our situation today. The contrast between Goering's words and Lincoln's is the difference between what the Bush administration gives us, and the America we hold in our hearts.
It's time to get off Goering's path and back onto Lincoln's. Elections are opportunities to correct the paths of nations. Real patriots do disagree. Real patriots work with each other to do much better than working against each other. Working together we can get back the proud nation of Lincoln.
Don't blame George W. Bush for doing what Goering said. We learn lasting lessons from bad examples. Blame him for forsaking Ol' Abe.