Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bush’s Revisionist History

With the mainstream media fixated on remarks by preachers at Trinity United Church in Chicago, it has largely ignored far more consequential comments by the president of the United States. Unlike the church sermons, these remarks go to the heart of how George W. Bush has governed as the leader of the free world as well as the likely approach of John McCain, who endorsed what Bush had to say.

In remarks before the Israeli Knesset, President George Bush implicitly conflated Barack Obama’s willingness to talk with hostile foreign leaders with appeasement of the Nazis. To strengthen his case Bush cited an unnamed Senator who allegedly said, “As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland … ‘Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.”

The Senator to whom this quote is attributed was not a Democrat, but Republican William Borah of Idaho. If Borah is to be a negative exemplar for today’s foreign policy, the upshot is the opposite of what President Bush would have us believe.

Unlike Obama, Borah was not an advocate of multilateral foreign policy committed to engagement with an often messy and unpleasant world. Like most other Republicans in the years between the world wars, and much like President Bush today, Borah was a nationalist who believed that America should act unilaterally to protect and advance its exceptional civilization and not tie its destiny to foreign peoples and regimes.

“I obligate this government to no other power,” Borah said during the debate over American participation in World War I. No “vital issue,” he said should be submitted “to the decision of some European or Asiatic nation.”

In 1919, Borah joined with a majority of other Republicans in the Senate to defeat the Versailles Treaty that would have committed the U.S. to joining the League of Nations. America’s disengagement from the world during the interwar years contributed to the rise of Nazi aggression under Adolf Hitler. After Germany’s invasion of Poland Borah again joined with a majority of Republicans in Congress to oppose revision of the Neutrality Act to permit trade with the allies. In 1940, Borah and most congressional Republicans opposed the draft and in 1941 they also opposed the provision of Lend Lease aid to the allies. Without these measures, the Nazis would almost certainly have conquered Great Britain and possibly Russia as well.

Conservative attacks on political leaders for negotiating with our alleged enemies are nothing new. In the waning days of the Cold War, conservatives blasted one of the own, President Ronald Reagan, for pursuing arms control agreements with Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.

In 1987, Republican Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina and his political operative Tom Ellis formed The Leadership Coalition For Freedom Through Truth to “delegitimize the Soviet Union.” They urged Reagan to cease negotiating with the Soviets and to recognize that Gorbachev was not “a new kind of Soviet leader.” Conservative columnist Michael Johns charged that. “Seven years after Ronald Reagan’s arrival in Washington, the U.S. government and its allies are still dominated by the culture of appeasement.”

Conservative leaders Richard Viguerie and Howard Phillips forged an Anti-Appeasement Coalition that compared Reagan to Hitler’s notorious appeaser, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. Republican Senator James A. McClure of Idaho said, “We still have a lot of faith in Reagan but there is a lot of distrust of the negotiating process, a feeling that it leads to concessions that are unwise.”

Undaunted by such criticism from the right, Reagan negotiated with Gorbachev the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty that eliminated Soviet and US missiles from Europe. Reagan scorned conservatives who “have accepted that war is inevitable” and sold the treaty to the American people. Without the removal of these deadly, hair-trigger missiles and the mutual trust that the Treaty engendered it is unlikely that the Berlin Wall would have fallen in 1989 and that freedom would have come to the satellite states of Eastern Europe without a single Soviet soldier firing a shot in defense of Communism.

The final irony in Bush’s revisionist history is that Borah may never have said the words that Bush quoted. The line about Hitler was not reported in the press at the time and doesg not appear in Borah’s correspondence. The line comes from a single source, journalist William K. Hutchinson error-filled memoir, in which he claims attributes the line to a private conversation with Senator Borah.

ALLAN J. LICHTMAN is a professor of history at American University. His latest book is White Protestant Nation.

 

More articles by:
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Wild at Heart: Keeping Up With Margie Kidder
Roger Harris
Venezuela on the Eve of Presidential Elections: The US Empire Isn’t Sitting by Idly
Michael Slager
Criminalizing Victims: the Fate of Honduran Refugees 
John Laforge
Don’t Call It an Explosion: Gaseous Ignition Events with Radioactive Waste
Carlo Filice
The First “Fake News” Story (or, What the Serpent Would Have Said)
Dave Lindorff
Israel Crosses a Line as IDF Snipers Murder Unarmed Protesters in the Ghetto of Gaza
Gary Leupp
The McCain Cult
Robert Fantina
What’s Wrong With the United States?
Jill Richardson
The Lesson I Learned Growing Up Jewish
David Orenstein
A Call to Secular Humanist Resistance
W. T. Whitney
The U.S. Role in Removing a Revolutionary and in Restoring War to Colombia
Rev. William Alberts
The Danger of Praying Truth to Power
Alan Macleod
A Primer on the Venezuelan Elections
John W. Whitehead
The Age of Petty Tyrannies
Franklin Lamb
Have Recent Events Sounded the Death Knell for Iran’s Regional Project?
Brian Saady
How the “Cocaine Mitch” Saga Deflected the Spotlight on Corruption
David Swanson
Tim Kaine’s War Scam Hits a Speed Bump
Norah Vawter
Pipeline Outrage is a Human Issue, Not a Political Issue
Mel Gurtov
Who’s to Blame If the US-North Korea Summit Isn’t Held?
Patrick Bobilin
When Outrage is Capital
Jessicah Pierre
The Moral Revolution America Needs
Binoy Kampmark
Big Dead Place: Remembering Antarctica
John Carroll Md
What Does It Mean to be a Physician Advocate in Haiti?
George Ochenski
Saving Sage Grouse: Another Collaborative Failure
Sam Husseini
To the US Government, Israel is, Again, Totally Off The Hook
Brian Wakamo
Sick of Shady Banks? Get a Loan from the Post Office!
Colin Todhunter
Dangerous Liaison: Industrial Agriculture and the Reductionist Mindset
Ralph Nader
Trump: Making America Dread Again
George Capaccio
Bloody Monday, Every Day of the Week
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Swing Status, Be Gone
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail