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Message Randolph Holhut
DUMMERSTON, Vt. - The Bush administration picked last week's 88th annual American Legion National Convention in Salt Lake City to roll out its new propaganda theme - this nation is fighting against "Islamic fascism" and critics of the so-called war on terror are "appeasers."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld compared those who oppose this nation's ongoing debacle in Iraq to those who did not take Adolf Hitler seriously in the 1930s.

"It was a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among Western democracies, when those who warned about a coming crisis, the rise of fascism and Nazism, were ridiculed and ignored," said Rumsfeld of the 1930s. "Indeed, in the decades before World War II, a great many argued that the fascist threat was exaggerated, or that it was someone else's problem. ... I recount this history because once again we face the same kind of challenges in efforts to confront the rising threat of a new type of fascism."

President Bush followed Rumsfeld by stating that "the war we fight today is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century," and that "the security of the civilized world depends on victory in the war on terror, and that depends on victory in Iraq."

Oh, and by the way, he said that "the world now faces a grave threat from the radical regime in Iran," and that "it is time for Iran to make a choice." Any similarities between these words and the word directed at Saddam Hussein and Iraq in the fall of 2002 are purely coincidental, right?

Let us leave aside for now the absurdity of Rumsfeld and Bush conflating Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida and the "war on terror" with Hitler, Nazi Germany and World War II. Instead, let us look at Bush and Rumsfeld's interpretation of history and the Bush administration's attempt to direct the familiar old cry of "appeasement" to today's critics of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.

In the 1930s, when Hitler and Benito Mussolini rose to power, it was the Republican Party who pushed for appeasement. While Franklin Roosevelt and his fellow internationalists in the Democratic Party sounded the first alarms about fascism, conservative Republican leaders like Robert Taft and Arthur Vandenburg maintained their isolationism right up until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

After the Munich Pact in September 1938, where France and Britain handed over Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany, it was Roosevelt who pushed for an arms embargo against Germany and Japan over the objections of the isolationists. It was Roosevelt who pushed for increased aid to Britain after World War II began and who had to fight the isolationists who opposed it.

The people - mostly liberals - who did speak up against fascism before Pearl Harbor, and in the case of those who went to Spain to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, were smeared as communists by conservatives.

In 1940 and 1941, when it was growing clear that the United States was eventually going to fight the Axis, 80 percent of Americans still opposed any declaration of war. Many supported the America First Committee, a isolationist group that opposed American involvement in the war.

Even the American Legion itself, formed after World War I, never spoke up against fascism until the United States entered World War II. It even offered Mussolini an honorary membership. The Legion sided with the major corporations and industrialists which aided the fascist cause up to and, in some cases, well after Pearl Harbor.

Henry Ford supported Hitler and lent the Nazis money from the early 1920s until the start of the war. The House of Morgan fronted Mussolini $100 million to keep his government from going bankrupt. Many other American bankers - including Prescott Bush, grandfather of George W. Bush - lent money to Nazis. The Hearst newspapers published columns by Josef Goebbels and other Nazi luminaries and many major newspapers and magazines lauded Hitler and Mussolini right up to Pearl Harbor.

Standard Oil (Esso then, Exxon now) and Texaco both sold gasoline and other petroleum products to Francisco Franco's army in Spain and to the German and Italian military forces up to and after Pearl Harbor. Esso was a member of the same industrial cartel as I.G. Farben and shared patents with the Germans for making high octane aviation fuel and synthetic rubber. Other U.S. corporations which were members of Nazi cartels included Alcoa, General Electric, General Motors and Du Pont.

GM's Opel subsidiary in Germany built the planes and tanks for the Panzer divisions all the while GM dragged its heels at home about building equipment for the U.S. military. Pratt & Whitney, Curtiss-Wright and Douglas Aircraft all sold aircraft parts to Hitler. Curtiss-Wright salesmen demonstrated the then-secret technique of dive bombing to the Germans in order sell planes.

The histories of the "Good War" tend to gloss over this stuff, but all of the corporate involvement on the Nazi side was documented by the late muckraking journalist George Seldes in his 1943 book, "Facts and Fascism."

The myth persists in the minds of today's conservatives that they bravely stood up to fascism in World War II while liberals cowered in fear. They always trot out the Munich Pact and cry "appeasement" whenever they need to win an election, even though the forefathers of today's conservatives were the appeasers. Amd just as corporate America and their conservative political allies aided fascism in the 1930s, they did the same in Iraq in the 1980s and 1990s.

Remember that 12,000-page report that Iraq presented to the United Nations in December 2002 that outlined its alleged stockpiles of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons? The report that the Bush administration found so embarrassing, it edited out 8,000 pages before it presented the report to the 10 non-permanent members of the UN Security Council?

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Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at randyholhut@yahoo.com.
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