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February 26, 2013

Some Vital History, Revisited - 'Welcome to the 1930s'

By Ritt Goldstein

Hindsight is easy, but facing the reality one later discovers can be far different. It was a decade ago when I wrote an article described as a "chilling commentary upon the growth of contemporary fascism", with events that have since transpired arguably, and profoundly, emphasizing the issues then raised.


(Article changed on February 26, 2013 at 20:06)

Some Vital History, Revisited - 'Welcome to the 1930s'

It was a decade ago when I wrote the following article, the below version yet appearing at 'Indybay' Indymedia, unchanged from the way it's stood for the last ten years.  Unfortunately, it arguably seems the devastating truths I discuss have sadly become increasingly evident... and, now we face the question of 'where do we go from here?'

by Chiara Marra

As reposted from Indybay...

Investigative journalist Ritt Goldstein's chilling commentary upon the growth of contemporary fascism. Versions have been printed in Europe, but this is the first time in English, this version created for Goldstein's fellow Americans.
Versions of this piece have been printed in Europe (ie, Memorie moleste degli anni Trenta, April 30, 2003 -, but while the US maintream media has refused to print it, I felt it time to release this painful truth to America. This piece has never been printed in English.

By Ritt Goldstein

On the floor of the US Senate, the senior senator from West Virginia, Sen. Robert Byrd, charged that the American people "have been lured into accepting the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign state", Iraq. He added, "like it always does, the truth will emerge".

As regards that truth, "Iraq Bloodbath" had read a wartime headline of Scandinavia's largest daily, Aftonbladet, corpses dotting a picture of what the Bush administration's war machine manufactures. The article reported an American officer as saying that mounds of the dead were piled on sidewalks, a large proportion of the dead feared to be civilians. And amid numerous allegations of Administration fabrications, the much proclaimed weapons of mass destruction have yet to be found, most now believing they never existed. But Iraqi democracy has been put on hold, and a Defense Department report (Strategic Assessment 1999) has surfaced that starkly highlights Oil War as Pentagon policy. So as those who perceive themselves grossly wronged threaten to strike back at us, visions of another era's Blitzkrieg, occupations, attempts to build Empire - is this what they were seeing.

Explaining the Iraq War, of course it is easy to understand that terrorism must be fought, the killing of innocent women and children stopped. But most experts agree that Iraq had no meaningful ties to al Qaeda, and what of dead Iraqi women and children? What of the price our Country's loyal troops have paid and are paying.

As early as 1996, former US National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brezinski described a vision of American empire quite succinctly, discussing "the grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy". But, only recently is the pressing question of American Empire under debate.

While the horror of the Iraqi conflict is disturbing, more disturbing is the issue of its being a symptom of an older, deadlier disease, a social disorder that previously claimed the lives of tens of millions. And what if the return of this fatal societal contagion had gone largely unrecognized?

In 2001, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi trumpeted the superiority of Western values. In retrospect, Berlusconi's vision of the West "bound to occidentalize and conquer new people" does seem chillingly accurate regarding President Bush's actions.

Of course, the 1930s saw Italy attack Ethiopia, and today's Bush administration has finished Afghanistan, is working on Iraq, and both Iran and Syria have been "warned". If human nature doesn't essentially change, does history merely repeat.

As regards the nature of such questions, in 1941 the social psychologist Erich Fromm published his classic analysis of the impact of social and psychological forces on society, "Escape from Freedom". In it Fromm describes how conditions, similar to today's, meant that human relationships were "poisoned" by a "struggle for the maintenance of power and wealth... by a passionate egocentricity, an insatiable greed". But of course one cannot just say the Enron, WorldCom, Xerox, Halliburton, and other numerous business scandals provide ample testimony to that. Nor can one merely refer to the seemingly all-too-valid complaints of mass-exploitation that the anti-globalization movement voices. However, Fromm charged that "individuals were looked upon as 'objects' to be used and manipulated, or they were ruthlessly destroyed if it suited one's own ends". And such logic does provide good explanation for modern-day robber barons, mass-exploitation, media manipulation, and War. And Senator Byrd did charge that the "events of September 11 have been carefully manipulated".

Escape from Freedom depicts the rise of 1930s fascism. Over a year ago I published an editorial entitled "Deja Vu: The 1930s" - one version contained a WWII picture of the German Wehrmacht marching through a town.

But maybe this isn't only about the limits of human greed and the capacity for ruthless ambition. Maybe this is also about faith, trust, and the so-many-good people among us who might have had those precious gifts harshly abused. Maybe, while bombarded by the endless circuses our society cranks out, a lot of good and decent people are just simply and cruelly seduced.

Fromm had observed how leaders have played upon their public, Hitler doing so with protestations that he sought only "peace and freedom... that his actions serve the best interests of civilization". But hindsight is always easy, and in the 1930s it must have been extremely difficult for most to appreciate the implications of what was occurring. As repression and world aggression grew, the public's apprehension and misplaced trust meant that devastating issues were simply explained away.

Paralleling such concerns, several mainstream European articles have recently noted that Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was condemned by the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunals for conspiring in a War of Aggression. Also noted was that President Bush has committed actions strikingly similar to those for which Mr. von Ribbentrop was hanged. Strengthening the comparison, the US commander of the Iraq War, Gen. Tommy Franks, was charged by Belgium under Crimes-Against-Humanity statutes.

Perhaps envisioning such circumstances, Fromm had warned that "there is no greater mistake and no graver danger than not to see that in our own society [the US] we are faced with the same phenomenon that is fertile soil for the rise of Fascism anywhere".

Copyright February 2013

Submitters Bio:
I am an American investigative political journalist living in Sweden, and have lived in Sweden since July 1997. My work has appeared fairly widely, including in America's Christian Science Monitor, Spain's El Mundo, Sweden's Aftonbladet, Austria's Wiener Zeitung, and a number of other global media outlets. I personally believe the news media's role includes the protection of Democracy, providing a nation's citizens with the facts they require to genuinely appreciate the circumstances surrounding them.

I have been particularly fortunate in that sometimes it's been apparent my efforts have made a difference. Under the proper circumstances, the revelation of an untold truth can provide a powerful tool in the arsenal of Justice.

In 2002, Wikipedia highlights I broke the news on a Bush administration program to recruit more Americans to be 'citizen spies' than the notorious East German Stasi had. The program, Operation TIPS, was fortunately killed within the week by then House Majority Leader Dick Armey. Following this, I had the honor of having one of my articles read in its entirety on the floor of Congress, an article revealing a drift towards martial law and internment camps. The article - titled "Foundations are in place for martial law in the US" and published in Australia's Sydney Morning Herald - was written at a time when, in retrospect, many of the decisions then taken by the Administration have since been regretted, its 'torture questions' not least among them.

On a daily basis, headlines shout the many problems we face, with my seeing a key job for us all in sorting the news that's 'real' from those many items which only serve to effectively distract us from it. As ever larger numbers of us increasingly feel the weight of those many unanswered questions we have for too long carried, be assured that the necessary truths, the answers, are out there.

From my own experience, I am too well aware of the tremendous injustice that our present circumstances can hold, but simply complaining about things won't change them. We, the people, were once the rationale for the creation of that great democratic experiment called The United States of America, and there's no avoiding that what happens to our Country is indeed yet up to us.