Sunday, May 4, 2008

Murdering History: The Holocaust was the Allies' Fault

Former New Statesman editor, Peter Wilby, has come up with an absurdly stupid self-serving argument in the name of attacking the Iraq war.

In an article in The Guardian he argues that, now that all the other reasons for the Iraq war have proved to be a bust, war supporters fall back on the claim that it was worth it because it got rid of a terrible dictator, just like World War II.

He then goes on to passionately argue that the only reason the Allies went to war against Hitler was for self-interest not for moral reasons.

This is, of course, is a complete straw man. No historian worth his or her salt argues anything but that. Wilby seems to believe that because they entered the war for self-interested reasons nothing they accomplished has any moral value.

But where he goes way over the top is when he argues that the Jews would have been better off if the Allies had not gone to war against Germany.

Would the Holocaust have happened if there had been no war or if the western democracies had acted against Nazi Germany earlier? We can never know - though it is likely that, if Britain had made peace in 1940 after the fall of France, the Jews would have been sent to Madagascar. What is certain is that the war prevented any concerted attempt at rescue.

Wilby ignores the fact that Madagascar would have meant a slow death for the Jews. It was uninhabitable particularly for millions of urban people. it was meant to be a place where Jews would die not thrive.

Furthermore, as blogger Marko Attila Hoare points out, Britain controlled the naval routes to Madagascar so it would have had to cooperate with Nazi Germany to get the Jews there.

He then goes on to take his argument to even more absurd heights, that by going to war resources that the Allies would have used to help the Jews were diverted to fight the war.

Resources used to help Jews would be diverted from the war. . Any mass movement of refugees ran the risk of the Germans planting agents among them. Oil supplies were too vital to Britain to risk upsetting Arabs by evacuating them to Palestine. Any of the suggested swaps - Jews for German POWs, for example - might suggest allied weakness. Besides, why should the allies assist Hitler to rid Europe of Jewry? The best we could do, as Anthony Eden, the British foreign secretary, observed in 1944, was to "hope that the German government will refrain from exterminating these unfortunate people".

What makes him think that the Allies, who in Evian in 1938 would not open their doors to Jewish refugees, would have run to help the Jews?

Moreover, he seems to have convinced himself that Hitler would not have gone to war with the USSR and, in the course of so doing, would not have murdered millions of Jews. With an assurance that the West would not fight him, Hitler would have wasted no time in declaring war on the USSR. He wanted their lebensraum and he wanted their resources to allow the German people to live in luxury.

He might well have won and, if so, millions of more people -- among them many more Jews -- would have been murdered.

Wilby can be against war in general and the war in Iraq all he wants [who precisely is for war? And who, with the exception of John McCain and George Bush, still believe in the rectitude of this war?] But he should not murder history in the process.


Ludovic said...

"And who, with the exception of John McCain and George Bush, still believe in the rectitude of this war?"

Hillary Clinton. She said that the war was a mistake, but if she really meant it, she would resign, taking responsibility for her vote.

Rebecca said...

I think that's really too harsh. Why should she resign? She should just be explicit that she made a mistake in voting the war. Senators make plenty of mistakes, and we don't require them to resign for them. (I speak as a supporter of Obama, by the way).

Ludovic said...

In 1985 the French secret services sunk a boat in the port of Auckland, New Zealand. They were supposed to only sink the boat, not to kill anybody, but as a result of maybe, some "mistake", a man was killed. Only one man was killed but the defense minister had to resign.

Rebecca said...

The analogy isn't really apt - Clinton is a member of the opposition party, she wasn't in the cabinet when the decision was made. On your principle, all of the senators who voted for the war should now resign.

Ludovic said...

"she wasn't in the cabinet" but under the US constitution, the responsibility to declare war belongs to the Congress, not to the Pentagone or the White House.

"all of the senators who voted for the war should now resign". Wouldn't that sound better to the ears of the US military families (not to speak of the collateral-damaged iraki families) who lost one of their members, than "your son/brother/father/husband died for a mistake, but I stay as if nothing happened" ? Or is there some truth in what Bush and Mc Cain say ?

Ian Thal said...

Technically speaking, the authorization that Clinton voted for in 2003 was not to authorize an invasion of Iraq but to authorize the use of the United States military in enforcing a U.N. Security Council resolution that Iraq had to open its borders to arms inspections and that any such banned weapons were to be destroyed. John Kerry explained this several times in the 2004 but it wasn't a fact easily fit into a sound-bite.

By invading Iraq before the inspectors had finished their work, it was the Administration who was not complying with either U.S. Senate or U.N. Security Council.