Sunday, February 19, 2012

In the Garden of Beasts: Do we learn anything from history? Regarding Iran, apparently not.

This is a fascinating portrayal of Germany's slow descent into terror and atrocity. The story begins in 1933 and is told through two lives: William Dodd, America's first ambassador to Nazi Germany, and Martha, his daughter. Dodd is an unusual pick for ambassador since he's not a member of the wealthy, good-old-boys ambassadorial club, and has great difficulty getting everyone except Roosevelt to see what is developing in Nazi Germany (unfortunately Roosevelt can't act because of political pressures). 

Martha, on the other hand, is blinded for almost a year by the glitz, glamour, and power of the Nazi regime, and fails to see the evil lurking in its heart. She throws herself into multiple affairs, including one with the head of the Gestapo and one with a Russian spy, and indulges in the society of the wealthy and well-known in Nazi Germany. The contrast between the two main characters is a powerful testament as to how so many people could fail to see the danger Nazi Germany posed to the whole world.

They witness the Night of the Long Knives and see a lot of their friends killed or gone into hiding or exile.

When the Dodd's first arrived in Germany, Hitler's power was not yet complete, the major obstacles being President Hindenburg and the army. In addition, there were rivalries and overlap among the SA (Storm Troopers under Ernst Rohm), the SS (security forces), and the Gestapo (the secret police). Any delusions of the world community that Hitler would follow rules of law and be confined to his duties as chancellor came to an abrupt end on the night of June 30, 1934, when he rounded up several hundred officials and others who he deemed to be a threat, including Rohm, and had them summarily executed. Even then, Hitler was able to convince the vast majority of Germans that his actions were in their best interests.

There are striking similarities between Hitler's rise to power in Germany and current day Iran led by the mad man, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Hitler pretended to be a man of peace so he could buy time to rearm and prepare for war. That's exactly what Ahmadinejad is doing in Iran. He puts up with our stupid, toothless, ineffective economic sanctions and the sanctimonious talk from Sec. of State Hillary Clinton just so he can buy time to pursue his nuclear capability. He has succeeded and we have failed. As of this week, he proudly displayed for the world, Iran's first nuclear rod and the ability to now make nuclear weapons.

On May 12, 1934, Hitler's  propaganda minister, Goebbels, delivers a speech where he called Jews “the syphilis of all European peoples.” Last week, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei insisted that Israel and all of its citizens be annihilated and offered assistance to anyone who would do the job. 

Hitler ranted, but the world scoffed. Few imagined that Hitler could be serious about his plans, even as the Third Reich increasingly institutionalized Jew hatred in law; later, few believed the reports emanating from Germany in the1940s that Hitler was systematically slaughtering the Jews.

Today, Iran’s leaders are pursuing nuclear weapons while threatening to wipe out Israel, referring to the Jewish state in the vilest terms. Most recently, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, endorsed a doctrine that explains why it’s “legally and morally justified” to eliminate Israel.

Israel is a cancerous tumor in the Middle East…” says a recent article by one of Khamenei’s top advisors, which he has endorsed and which has now appeared on many Iranian government and military websites. “The first step should be the absolute destruction of Israel. To this end, Iran could make use of long-range missiles. The distance between us is only 2,600 [kilometers]. It can be done in minutes.”

It has been observed that for evil to win all that needs happen is for good men to do nothing. That was what the United States government did, at least officially, for much of the lead-up to World War II. Too often chances to speak out and try to stop the madness that was engulfing Germany were ignored. Too frequently the atrocities were overlooked. Too many times our response to the crisis over there was nothing, nothing, nothing... and that's exactly what we are doing today: NOTHING! And, when Israel makes overtures towards self-defense, our esteemed president and secretary of defense throw Israel under the bus, or go so far as to reveal Israel's time-table for attacking Iran. 

Obama has been so conciliatory toward Iran, trying to "make nice" and win them over with his sweet talk  and supernatural ability to pick the winning team for March Madness. Yet, all the while behaving in a hard-nosed, disinterested and arrogant manner towards the one democracy in the U.S., the one authentic U.S. ally in the Middle East, Israel. With friends like Obama, Leon Pannetta and Hillary Clinton, Israel really doesn't need any enemies. 

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