REMEMBER THOSE LESSONS OF HISTORY BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE. IF NOT NOW, WHEN? IF NOT YOU AND ME, THEN, WHO? IT IS UP TO US, FOR WITHOUT US, THERE MAY BE NO FUTURE.
The other night, I was sitting at home watching the news on TV when Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of England, came on my screen to reaffirm his support of President Bush and his policies in Iraq. The image of this formerly liberal politician spouting the party line started my head spinning. It was almost as if some of that weird stuff that I had smoked in the ‘60s (Yes, Bill, I did inhale.) was coming back to haunt me.
The screen started pixilating, and as reality slipped further and further away, Blair began to morph into someone new, someone out of an entirely different era. Yet, this new image on my screen was vaguely familiar. It was the face of a man whose words were taught to me during my history lessons. It was the face of former the British Prime Minster, Neville Chamberlain.
There he was in his bowler hat standing upright before reporters on his return from the Munich Conference of September, 1938, looking the proper English gentleman that he was. There he was explaining that allowing Hitler to take over The Sudetenland (Czechoslovakia) would give the Nazi leader all that he had wanted and bring about, “Peace in our time.” Besides, Czechoslovakia was really part of Germany anyway and, since it had the best army on the continent at that time, it needed to become a part of a larger Reich, in order to prevent the Czechs from attacking their neighbors.
The image on my screen began to blur again, and there was Tony Blair once more. This time, however, it was not a present day image. It was Blair three years ago at a press conference telling the world that it was not only fine for George Bush to send troops to Iraq to protect the neighboring countries in the Middle East, but that such an attack was further justified by the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Sadaam Hussein’s arsenal. This mission was so important in securing the peace and an end to terrorism that Britain would even send it’s own army to join the Americans in restoring that peace to the Middle East.
The image blurred again, and there was a shouting Adolph Hitler speaking to cheering throngs about his people’s need for lebensraum. He spoke of the Third Reich as the successor to Rome in the world order and of the need to remove the less pure, the Jews, the homosexuals and those who did not believe in some weird form of Christianity from German society.
And again the image swirled in my mind to one of George W. Bush speaking to an equally animated American audience about Muslim terrorists in Iraq being harbored by Sadaam Hussein. It was our obligation, he said, to remove those terrorists, and to bring down Sadaam’s government to assure an end to the international terror being launched from Baghdad.
The scenes kept flashing back and forth. First there was an eerie view of Auschwitz with its starving inmates being led to the crematoria, and then there was Abu Ghraib and Cpl. Lyndie England smiling among the Iraqi prisoners lying there naked.
The images just kept flashing on my screen, Chamberlain to Blair, Hitler to Bush, Auschwitz to Abu Ghraib. They wouldn’t stop.
Finally, I woke up in a cold sweat. I couldn’t believe the images that had been tearing through my head. Was Tony Blair a modern day Chamberlain appeasing a tyrant in the hope that England would be spared from his wrath? Is George W. Bush nothing more than the rebirth of Adolph Hitler pandering to cheering crowds of the poor and uneducated who believe that their religious obligation is to serve their leader, even though their leader continually is violating every commandment of the god they worship, and are Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo nothing more than the early stages of a worldwide network of concentration camps to rival Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen?
These thoughts kept going through my mind, and the answers seem to always come out yes, Yes, YES!
George Sanatayana, perhaps the greatest 20th Century American philosopher is often quoted as saying, “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.” Certainly, the people of our once great land and the land across the pond appear to have forgotten the lessons they should have learned about Chamberlain and Hitler, because if they hadn’t, there never would have been a Tony Blair appeasing George W. Bush as he seeks to create an unending state of war for our country and our world.
Remember those lessons of history before it is too late. If not now, when? If not you and me, then, who? It is up to us, for without us, there may be no future.
HENRY A. HONIG – THE PUNDIT