Ever since the war in Iraq began I’ve been dying to write the blog entry you’re about to read. When contemplating the generalship of President Bush and the decisions he has made as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military I’ve been striving to find comparisons between Bush and other historical figures who combined politics with war and after a relatively brief period of consideration I have stumbled upon the historical figure who reminds me the most of President Bush, military strategist: Adolf Hitler.
Today is Hitler’s birthday and how better to mark this ignominious anniversary than to explore the similarities in command style of Hitler and Bush.
Both leaders used false pretexts to invade foreign countries (Hitler manufactured a bogus border incident to justify his invasion of Poland in 1939). Both leaders had self-proclaimed messianic views of themselves and considered themselves Chosen Leaders. (Hitler although not spiritual by any means had a view that he was an instrument of Providence. After he survived the July 20 bomb plot he took his survival as “a sign of Providence that I must continue my work…”)
Both leaders used their military forces carelessly and thoughtlessly while imposing unreasonable expectations upon their armies. In the mid 1970s there was a twenty-six part prime-time documentary called The World at War. One of the best episodes in that Emmy award-winning documentary was about the battle of Stalingrad which took place between September 1942 and February 1943. That episode (more than any other) illustrated how Hitler’s lack of military sense and also reveals eerie parallels with President Bush’s tactics in Iraq. In the episode when the German armies were sweeping through the Caucasus region towards the Volga River and Stalingrad, a German general remembers how Hitler would stare at the map and give orders which moved divisions like they were chess pieces on a board, saying, “the Fuhrer’s hands would sweep over the map, saying ‘press here’ or ‘move there’ all without considering practical military difficulties.”
President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq so soon after committing significant portions of the American army in occupying Afghanistan has the same odor. If the War in Iraq has demonstrated anything it is that the all volunteer U.S. Army simply does not possess the enough personnel and equipment to effectively wage a sustained war on two fronts. Despite the “success” of the surge, it was obvious that the forces committed to the surge were stretched beyond the range of their endurance. The fact that weeks ago General Petraeus has urged a postponement of the scheduled scale-down of the forces committed undermines any assertion of “success”. Personally it is my earnest belief that inside the Pentagon there are probably innumerable files and memos composed by mid-level Pentagon officials which warned the Bush Administration of the potential problems and strains that an Iraqi invasion would pose on U.S. forces. Sadly those potential problems and strains became all too real and the U.S. military has been placed in the most ragged and over-worked condition in its long heroic history. Never in the annals of American history has a President run the military into the ground like President Bush has in Iraq. No President has done a greater disservice to the soldiers he has commanded.
Both leaders possessed overly optimistic natures—allowing themselves to be deluded that they had achieved their goals when actually the outcomes were still in doubt. The late William Manchester used in his biography of Douglas MacArthur a quotation from the Duke of Wellington on William Pitt the Younger to illustrate this weakness, “he was too sanguine….He conceives a project and then imagines it is done.”
In the World at War episode on Stalingrad there is a tape recording of a November 8 speech Hitler gave at a Party rally in Munich while the battle for Stalingrad was being waged. Narrator the late Sir Laurence Olivier did a sensation impersonation of Hitler’s remarks, “I wanted to reach the Volga…at a particular city. By chance it bore the name of Stalin himself (sounds of crowd laughter)….I wanted to capture it and, you should know…we have as good as got it! There are only a couple of small bits left. Some say: ‘why aren’t they fighting faster?’…Time is of no importance.” In reality the battle of Stalingrad remained at a fever pitch and the same night as Hitler’s speech, American and British forces were landing in North Africa and eleven days after Hitler’s speech the Russians launched a massive counteroffensive that destroyed the German armies that occupied Stalingrad and started the long bloody road of defeat and withdrawal which would culminate in Hitler’s suicide in the Bunker in Berlin.
And of course who could ever forget the May 1, 2003 ceremony where President Bush’s plane landed on an aircraft carrier and the President emerged brandishing a sign “Mission Accomplished” and that is before four thousand innocent Americans had to die in order to help the President live up to that claim.
The parallels could go on and on but I’ve had enough. Too many innocent people have had to die because of the egomania of both men. It’s a shameful record written in the blood of murdered innocents.
Give peace a chance.