Saturday, June 14, 2008

McCain's relied upon the Dolchstoßlegende before,

so what's to stop him from doing it again? In a rare fit of usefulness, New Pravda gives some hints as to McCain's mindset by reporting and making available his 1974 National War College thesis. A couple paragraphs from the article:
“The biggest factor in a man’s ability to perform credibly as a prisoner of war is a strong belief in the correctness of his nation’s foreign policy,” Mr. McCain wrote in a 1974 essay submitted to the National War College and never released to the public. Prisoners who questioned “the legality of the war” were “extremely easy marks for Communist propaganda,” he wrote.
Americans captured after 1968 had proven to be more susceptible to North Vietnamese pressure, he argued, because they “had been exposed to the divisive forces which had come into focus as a result of the antiwar movement in the United States.”
I've discussed the Dolchstoßlegende before over the last few years. To summarize, let's visit a quick description of Dolchstoßlegende in Wikipedia that I dug up a few years ago:
The Dolchstoßlegende or Dolchstosslegende, (German "dagger-thrust legend", often translated in English as "stab-in-the-back legend") refers to a social mythos and persecution-propaganda and belief among bitter post-World War I German nationalists, that lay blame for the loss of the war upon non-Germans and non-nationalists.

Many Germans who supported, fought in, or had otherwise known people lost in the enormously costly war, believed the causes for the German/Austrian involvement in the war were justified. They had hoped it would bring a restoration of past glory and a unified German nation-state. Instead, the war caused the deaths of 1,770,000 German soldiers and 760,000 German civilians, devastated the economy, and brought losses in both territory and national sovereignty.

Conservatives, nationalists and ex-military leaders sought others to blame. The common scapegoats were Weimar Republic politicians, socialists, communists, and "international Jewry" — a term referring to Jews with a perceived excess of wealth and influence. These "November criminals", nationalists alleged, had "stabbed them in the back" on the "home front," by either criticizing the cause of German nationalism, or by simply not being zealous-enough supporters of it. In essence the accusation was that the accused committed treason against the benevolent and righteous common cause.

[snip]

Nevertheless, this social mythos of domestic betrayal resonated among its audience, and its claims would codify the basis for public support for the emerging Nazi Party, under a severely racialist-based form of nationalism. The anti-Semitism latent in Germany society was intensified by the Bavarian Soviet Republic, a Communist government which ruled the city of Munich for two weeks before being crushed by the Freikorps militia. Most of the Bavarian Soviet Republic's leaders were Jewish, a fact exploited by anti-Semitic propagandists to tar all Jews with the brush of Communist treason.

[snip]

Due to the highly potent imagery of a "stab in the back", and the common perception amongst political conservatives that politically hostile homefronts defeat otherwise winnable wars, the stab in the back legend is a common legend in a number of modern societies. In particular, the stab in the back legend is often used by conservatives to explain the defeat of the United States in the Vietnam war. In the context of the US involvement in the Vietnam War the stab in the back legend is part of the Vietnam Syndrome complex.
Based on that brief characterization, I noted about three years ago that:
Not only did the Nazis utilize the "stab in the back" legend to its advantage during its rise to power and of course in maintaining its grip on power, but our own right-wingers have been relying on the same basic approach since the Vietnam war ended. I'm sure if I had a nickel for every GOP politician who has used that strategy since the early 1970s, I could retire in style. The "stab in the back" legend has been most recently utilized by our own hardline nationalists in order to silence dissent regarding the Iraq debacle. These folks are bound and determined to spread the myth that shining a light on Bu$hCo's lies to get our military sucked into what is now Mess o'Potamia as well as shining a light on the debacle that the war has truly become is somehow a "stab in the back" to those unfortunate souls who got shipped over there. The true stab in the back to these men and women was committed by the very White House and Congress critters who had that jones comin' down for a war in the first place.
Eric Alterman made an observation last September that I think bears repeating:
Having exposed their country to the ignominy of certain defeat in Iraq, the Bush Administration and its neoconservative allies are seeking to salvage their crumbling reputations by blaming their critics for the catastrophe their policies have wrought. We are witnessing the foundation for a post-Iraq "stab in the back" campaign.

The tactic--Dolchstoßlegende, which means, literally, "dagger stab legend"--is associated with attacks by German anti-Semites on Jews in the aftermath of World War I and is a familiar response for frustrated American right-wingers when reality fails to live up to their ideological fantasies.

[snip]

The coming campaign's foundations are already in place. They rest on three building blocks: an attack on the loyalty of those willing to recognize reality; the construction of an alternative reality in which victory is deemed to be imminent; and, finally, a shifting of blame for a supposedly premature withdrawal to those who refuse to play along.

Matthew Yglesias, in the Center for American Progress's "Think Again" column, noticed preparations for such a campaign as early as May 2004. Roll Call's Morton Kondracke pretended that "the media and politicians" were "in danger of talking the United States into defeat in Iraq," while Tony Blankley of the Washington Times added, "the president's political and media opposition want the president's defeat more than America's victory." Two years later, when most Americans had turned against the war, Spencer Ackerman, writing in The New Republic, noticed that not a single contributor to a National Review symposium advocated withdrawal. Typical were comments like those of former Bush Pentagon analyst Michael Rubin, who announced, "The US is losing in Iraq because American politicians and the general public have not decided they want or need to win."

George W. Bush has both feet firmly planted in the "stab" camp, and offered it aid and comfort when he tried to link the "unmistakable legacy of Vietnam"--"boat people," "re-education camps" and "killing fields"--to calls for withdrawal from Iraq. Podhoretz's recent entry into the sweepstakes is, appropriately, a retread of his 1982 attack on his ex-friends and former self. In his clinically delusional book World War IV, Podhoretz paints Bush as a "great president" and professes to see in Iraq "enormous strides that had been made in democratizing and unifying the country under a workable federal system." No less implausibly, he compares war opponents, like former National Security Advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, to a "domestic insurgency" with a "life-and-death stake" in America's defeat. Podhoretz flatters himself and his fellow armchair generals with his claim that his screeds in Commentary and the Wall Street Journal editorial pages represent a "war of ideas...no less bloody than the one being fought by our troops in the Middle East."

Podhoretz's paranoid ravings notwithstanding, it is likely that he has been less effective in laying the groundwork for the post-Iraq stab campaign than second-generation neocon generalissimo William Kristol, who despite mountains of contrary evidence professes to detect an "astoundingly" successful surge and a military situation that is "better than anyone expected." Kristol's Weekly Standard recently ran a cover drawing of an American soldier viewed from behind within the sights of an unseen weapon, beneath the headline Does Washington Have His Back? Another Standard headline reads: They Don't Really Support the Troops.

Such visual, visceral propaganda attacks would have fit in perfectly with those employed against Jews by right-wing anti-Semites in the days before Hitler. One might have imagined that American neocons would have pulled back before crossing that line.

The campaign is coming; forewarned is forearmed.
A candidate already on record as favoring perpetuating the current occupation phase of the Iraq War for about another century is someone who will readily resort to Dolchstoßlegende when forces such as economic collapse (which may well be around the corner) require a retreat. The campaign is here. Be vigilant.

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