Will the Real Hitler Please Stand Up?

President Bush is justifying his proposed pre-emptive war against Iraq on the grounds that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, and that this dangerous dictator has ties to the international terrorists, Al Qaeda. Some say that this U.S. justification for pre-emptive war is unprecedented in U.S. history. But whether or not that is true, such a pre-emptive justification is certainly not unprecedented in world history. Indeed, perhaps the most famous precedent for the current U.S. justification was the one espoused by Adolf Hitler in his war against his nemesis, Russia.

It is, or should be, well known to any historian that Hitler justified his belligerence, and ultimately his invasion of Russia, by citing the classic pre-emptive justification. That citation included, naturally, the charge that a hostile Russia possessed too many weapons of mass destruction, and that it supported a long-standing international terrorist organization known as the Comintern.

Hitler’s primary justification for his hostility towards, and his invasion of Russia, was his accusation that the Soviet Red Army was growing to dangerously large proportions and that the purpose of that intolerably large Red Army was to ultimately invade Germany.

Hitler also based his assessment of Russia’s inevitable hostility on the history of the Comintern. The Comintern was, to the nations of the West and the world, the Al Qaeda of its day. Throughout the 1920s and 30s, the Comintern was considered by the West, including Germany, to be an international terrorist organization that was funded and orchestrated by the Kremlin for the purpose of committing political violence in various nations of the world. The Comintern’s ultimate purpose was to incite Communist revolutions.

Even if the name Comintern may not be remembered by many today, they surely remember the persistent U.S. Cold War accusation that the Soviet Union continued to fund and orchestrate political violence around the world for the purpose of fomenting Communist revolutions. This U.S. Cold War charge against the Soviet Union was identical to Hitler’s pre-war charge. Whether or not the U.S. replicated, during the Cold War, Hitler’s pre-emptive invasions is a question that has long been debated by historians, right and left.

But historians have been quite clear that Hitler did indeed launch a pre-emptive invasion of Russia, and those historians have rightly labeled his pre-emptive invasion to be aggression – a war crime, as judged at Nuremberg. Moreover, most historians have judged any so called pre-emptive or preventative invasion to be merely naked aggression covered only by the fig leaf of rhetoric mouthing the hollow word "pre-emptive". Historians have therefore overwhelmingly judged so-called pre-emptive wars to be nothing more than aggression, a war crime.

The only justification for war that President Bush has enunciated is this classic pre-emptive justification. The imperial president has not even bothered to try and explain how his pre-emptive war could possibly differ from Hitler’s. Nor has any reporter or pundit even asked him that question, apparently. President Bush has, however, taken great trouble to liken Saddam to Hitler. By using this timeless analogy, the president has again followed in the footsteps of his father.

But perhaps some reporter, pundit, or historian might still ask, hopefully, will the real Hitler please stand up? And perhaps they might further ask this: if Hitler and all the other pre-emptive aggressors were unjustified, then how does President Bush differ from them in this regard? Is it, perhaps, that the rules of age-old morality have now changed? Perhaps we now need a new morality because we now have a new century. Now that it is the 21st century, the simple possession of weapons of mass destruction and ties to terrorists makes a state justifiably liable to pre-emptive invasion.

That means that, by the president’s own morality, a U.S. invasion of Iran and Syria are certainly next after Iraq. And then, as other nations of the world begin increasingly to fear the U.S. pre-emptive juggernaut, they will scramble to secure weapons of mass destruction with which to protect themselves against the onrushing U.S. imperial tide. And, in addition to stockpiling such defenses, they will take further defensive measures by consorting with long-standing U.S. enemies, the terrorists. This was, of course, the progression of events that constituted the Cold War. So, the president will thus get the ball rolling towards a new cold war, a global turmoil in which the Republicans believe they will do well at the polls, just like the old days.