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Remembering and forgetting
March 21, 2003
I'm telling you once more that things cannot go on this way. I have a historic mission, and this mission I will fulfill because Providence has destined me to do so… I give you once more, and for the last time, the opportunity to come to terms. Either we find a solution now or else events will take their course. Think it over, think it over well.'
No, no, the above are not excerpts from George W Bush's televised ultimatum to Saddam Hussein the other day. Rather, the quoted words are from an outburst hurled at Chancellor Schuschnigg of Austria in a villa at Berchtsgaden, a mountain retreat, on February 12, 1938 by… Adolf Hitler.
As against Bush's two days to Saddam, Schuschnigg was allowed four days to give a 'binding reply' that he would carry out the ultimatum, and an additional four days -- until February 18 -- to comply with its specific terms.
Exactly a month later, 65 years ago, German forces were streaming into helpless Austria; 'a real plebiscite' was held on April 10 and Austria, as Austria, formally passed into history, a part of Germany. (Pages 446, 447 and 451, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Fawcett Crest, New York, 1983, by William L Shirer).
By April 10, 2003, Saddam Hussein's Iraq too may well pass out of history, courtesy George W Bush and his WMB --- weapons of mass bullying. Hussein himself may soon become one of those who are mostly forgotten, rarely remembered.
The Nazi governor of Vienna believed the reason behind Hitler's violent incorporation of Austria into Germany was his feeling of revenge against a city and a people which had not appreciated him as a young man. (ibid, page 473.)
However, Hitler himself said in his speech at Vienna on April 9, 1938, 'I believe it was God's will…the call of Providence had come to me…to me the grace was given to unite my homeland with the Reich.' (ibid, page 475).
A session in the shrink's couch at this milestone juncture of world history may reveal a striking similarity to that old event remembered here. It may well be that Bush Jr's rage against Saddam/Iraq is merely a son's vendetta for his father's failure to do the decimation job in the 1991 Gulf War. It could also be a purely political demonstration to expose the failure of the Democratic Party to overthrow Saddam despite the Iraq Liberation Act signed by President Clinton in October 1998 when the US Congress allotted $97 million for the purpose.
Like Hitler, Bush Jr may also well believe that the god he invokes at the drop of his Texas hat had marked him out to finish a long-incomplete job. Some writings in the American press have certainly indicated that. Thus, Georgie Anne Geyer wrote in the Chicago Tribune of March 7 that Bush's intention to invade Iraq 'is based primarily on religious obsession and visions of personal grandiosity.' Martin E Marty's opinion article in Newsweek of March 10 mentioned the President's 'evident conviction that he's doing God's will.' Bush's supporters seem no different. As Stephen Plant wrote in The Times, London of March 1, 'For them war on Iraq is America's next date with salvation.'
Meanwhile nasty analysts have ascribed Bush Jr's war on Iraq to one or a cluster among the following reasons:
B Raman, formerly with our foreign intelligence agency, RAW, is perhaps the only one who has come out with the exposition that the anger of Bush Jr against Saddam is 'because he funded the acts of suicide terrorism against Israel and failed to grieve over the deaths of Americans and others on 9/11.' In the view of Americans, believes Raman, 'a resumed march towards a political solution to the Palestine question would not be possible so long as his (Saddam's) regime continued in power and so long as the government of Iran continued with its support of the suicide bombers of the Hezbollah and the Hamas. They (Americans) think the war with Iraq would ultimately herald the beginning of peace in Palestine, send a strong message to Teheran to mend its ways and moderate the equally oppressive regimes in other parts of West Asia.'
What of those countries who have opposed Bush Jr? Some journalists -- presumably of the kind 'embedded' in the White House and its surrounds -- have only disdain for such protestors. Writing in The New York Times, William Safire for instance said 'remembrance has no place in their diplomacy' citing American 'sacrifices in freeing France, Germany and Russia from Hitlerism and Stalinism.' (The Asian Age, Mumbai, March 19, 2003). That indictment on 'remembrance diplomacy' is a cute and clever phrase, excepting that it forgets to remember one small fact of history: the US had stayed aloof from Nazism and Fascism till Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbour on December 7, 1941 by which time Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Denmark, Norway, France, England and Russia had been devastated by the war waged by Hitler and his Axis allies.
With regard to India, the US itself chooses not to remember the dismal record of its own brand of diplomacy. Thus, it does not remember
The US forgets all of the above and instead hectors to us no end about human rights in J&K, about the Gujarat strife, about the rape of nuns and the murders of the Staines, about religious freedom and about the need for dialogue with Pakistan to resolve the situation over what President Clinton had the audacity to call the 'most dangerous spot in the world.'
In lecturing to us on all of the above and much more from time to time, the US forgets the events in its own land of
In openly opposing the US action on Iraq, however euphemistically couched, India too has become guilty of forgetting 'remembrance diplomacy.' It forgot its silence on the Soviet Union's invasion of Hungary in 1956, of Czechoslovakia in 1969, and of Afghanistan in 1979. It is true that the cussed insensitivity of the Congress-led Opposition finally lured Prime Minister Vajpayee to make that statement he did in Parliament, but what is diplomacy if not to succumb precisely to such traps?
We may well have to pay for that moment of aberration. Meanwhile, let's watch as George W Bush delights in decimating Saddam Hussein's 'decades of deceit and cruelty'; why, even the Security Council will be a mere spectator after being declared as 'irrelevant' by what Newsweek recently labeled the 'Arrogant Empire.' It's an event truly worth remembering, not forgetting.