Rall Is Wrong

Monday, February 28, 2005

Rall Is Wrong

I like Ted Rall's work. Like not a few others, I think some of the stuff he's done recently has been in questionable taste at best, and he's perhaps "crossed the line," whatever the hell that means. I certainly don't agree with everything he says; again in company with quite of few other liberals, I don't agree with his views on the war in Afghanistan. But I do agree with a lot of what he says, and the rage he shows in his cartoons is often the most appropriate response to reality.

I like the concept behind the current cartoon. Rall "puts to rest" ridiculous comparisons of Bush to Hitler by showing how they differ in so many ways. The catch is that as Rall conveys it, the differences all make Hitler seem better than Bush. Clever trope. But I don't think he pulls it off.

Here are the four panels:
  1. Adolf Hitler was democratically elected. A common misconception, but a misconception nonetheless. The Nazis never got a majority in any national election (in fact, they never really got close), and Hitler was never elected Chancellor. The Nazis did OK in the last reasonably fair election under the Weimar constitution, but they had to form a coalition with the traditional conservatives. Only after the phony Reichstag fire and by physically preventing Communist and Social Democratic deputies from attending votes on legislation giving Hitler dictatorial powers could Hitler seize control, which he then used to crush opposition and turn the government into an arm of the Nazi Party. Even in March 1933, when Hitler had basically banned the leftist parties and the SPD and KPD candidates were being beaten and killed, the Nazis still couldn't get a majority of the votes, though they did get enough seats to control the Reichstag. But that election could not possibly be considered "democratic." It was also the last election held in Hitler's lifetime. Bush, of course, did win a democratic election a few months ago, even if one thinks the win was tainted by his rather less democratic "win" in 2000.

  2. Hitler was a reasonably intelligent man. OK, maybe he was, and maybe Bush isn't the sharpest tool in the box.

  3. Hitler won most of his military campaigns. This just isn't right. The invasion of Western Europe in 1940 was a smashing success. After that, it went downhill. The consensus view has been that Hitler overruled the military experts, the career Army staff officers and generals, whom he thought were too cautious and pessimistic (remind you of anyone?). Instead, he put the SS and the Waffen SS at the head of the military effort and ordered a disastrous invasion of the Soviet Union. Most of the war was a series of overly optimistic misjudgments by Hitler (again, does that remind you of anyone?). This may be overstated; it's possible that Hitler and the General Staff were both incompetent. But you just can't say that Hitler won most of his military campaigns. If he had, the Soviet flag wouldn't have flown from the Brandenburg Gate in 1945. (My favorite quote on this came from Major Field-Robertson of the British Special Operations Executive's (SOE) German Section, when the British were thinking about trying to assassinate Hitler in 1944.
    He agreed with the Chiefs of Staff that Hitler's incompetence as a military strategist was invaluable to the Allies. "Hitler has been of the greatest possible assistance to the war effort," he said. "His value to us has been the equivalent to an almost unlimited number of first class SOE agents strategically placed inside Germany.")
  4. Hitler took personal responsibility. No, he didn't. Rall illustrates this point with an image of Hitler's suicide. But by the time he killed himself, Hitler was a dead man anyway. The Russians were all over Berlin, and there was nowhere for Hitler to run. If he had taken personal responsibility, Hitler would have stepped down when it became clear that the war was lost, which was really no later than the winter of 1942-43. He would have faced the music. Instead, he sacrificed millions of other people in order to prolong his regime until the last possible moment. Consider the Hitler Youth--badly equipped, badly organized children who were ordered to defend Berlin to the last boy, even though there was absolutely no chance of holding off the Soviets. And the boys (and a few old men) had to be relied on because Hitler had already shredded the military, not to mention conscripts from occupied or friendly states like Romania. At the end, when he had done his best to destroy Germany, Hitler had an enraged fit in which he blamed his generals for losing the war and said everything that was going wrong was someone else's fault. Whatever Hitler's disease was, it was one that required everything and everyone in the world to serve as instruments of his ego. Bush has a miserable record of taking personal responsibility, or even of holding his incompetent underlings responsible for their failures. But that doesn't differentiate him from Hitler.
So, good idea, but the execution isn't quite there, I think.

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