Thursday, June 08, 2006
Forget the Iraq civil war; the U.S. cultural war rages on
At a time when the GOP seems to have adopted Nazi tactics —rewriting history among them —it is more than merely suspicious when a right wing, GOP apologist gets on television and tells the nation that it was U.S. troops who massacred SS combatants at Malmedy —and not the other way 'round. The facts are these: it was the SS —not U.S. troops —who did the shooting. The SS literally set up a machine gun and mowed down U.S. troops who had been taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge.
During the Ardennes Offensive (Battle of the Bulge) the Combat Group of the 1st SS Panzer Division, led by SS Major Joachim Peiper, was approaching the crossroads at Baugnes near the town of Malmédy. There they encountered a company of US troops (Battery B of the 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion) from the US 7th Armoured Division. Realizing that the odds were hopeless, the company's commander, Lt. Virgil Lary, decided to surrender. After being searched by the SS, the prisoners were marched into a field adjacent to the Cafe Bodarwé. The SS troops moved on except for two Mark IV tanks Nos. 731 and 732, left behind to guard the GIs. A couple of GIs tried to flee to the nearest woods and an order was given to fire. SS Private Georg Fleps of tank 731 drew his pistol and fired at Lary's driver who fell dead in the snow. The machine guns of both tanks then opened fire on the prisoners. Many of the GIs took to their heels and headed for the woods. Incredibly, 43 GIs survived, but 84 of their comrades lay dead in the field, being slowly covered with a blanket of snow. No attempt was made to recover the bodies until the area was retaken by the 30th Infantry Division on January 14, 1945, when men from the 291st Engineers used metal detectors to locate the bodies buried in the snow.It's easy enough to dismiss O'Reilly as either stupid or ignorant. It's hard to believe, however, that he's never seen a movie —many of which accurately portray the events at Malmedy. What's O'Reilly's excuse? What's his motive for defending Nazis?
Either O'Reilly is appallingly ignorant of American history which means he is both the product and the victim of GOP public education policies. Or —he deliberately reversed the roles of Americans and Nazis during World War II. If this is the best the right wing has to offer, then we are in deep stuff. Interestingly, right wing "commentators" —most prominently Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill O'Reilly —are mean spirited and venomous. They will bend facts, lie, and re-write history to serve the interests of right wing propaganda. Their morality is a relative one; every crime is justified if it serves the party agenda.
Nevertheless, we can mourn the German war dead today as human beings crushed by a vicious ideology!I rather think Ronald Reagan missed the point. The SS were not the common foot soldiers Reagan described. They were the Nazi elite; they were not the victims but the co-conspirators in Hitler's dreams of absolute dictatorship and vainglorious world conquest.
—Ronald Reagan at Bitburg
New York Times (6 May 1985): "It's over, but the Bitburg blunder, too, should not be forgotten. President Reagan's regret at having promised such a cemetery tribute was palpable. He walked through it with dignity but little reverence. He gave the cameras no emotional angles. All day long he talked of Hell and Nazi evil, to submerge the event. . . . Not even Mr. Reagan's eloquent words before the mass graves of Bergen-Belsen could erase the fact that his visit there was an afterthought, to atone for the inadvertent salute to those SS graves."
Click and watch it all.
Bill O'Reilly's outrageous attempt to paint the Nazis as victims of an American atrocity at Malmedy when in fact Nazis slaughtered American troops should have led to his immediate firing and ostracism from American airwaves. What did Fox do? They tried to scrub the transcript, but were caught and restored it.But that's not all. Watch and marvel at the sordid history of right wing denial of the Malmedy atrocity, complete with genuinely ugly eruptions of American homegrown anti-semitism. And don't miss a cameo appearance by Joe McCarthy, which should thoroughly discredit anyone malicious enough to try to whitewash that scoundrel's reputation.And you know what's the worst part of this? No one really cares that much, no one that matters. "Oh, that's just Fox News, that's just O'Reilly, whaddya expect?" The level of bullshit, ignorance, bigotry, and malicious stupidity is so high we don't even notice it anymore. Worse, the stench is so bad and is so far over our heads already, we don't even notice when it's reached a new height.But we're not done yet. If O'Reilly can keep his job - and he can and will - after smearing American WW II soldiers (as well as sending covert signals of support to all the David Irvings in America), then he will feel compelled to top that. Anyone care to predict the next O'Reilly outrage?I don't. If you had told me that Bill O'Reilly could get away with rewriting Malmedy, I would have said you were mad. But what we do know is that the goal posts have moved and right wing extremism is just is only slightly less extreme than it had been.Let's call it the Neiwert Effect, in honor of the expert in how extreme rightwing memes get mainstreamed. Last week's racist anti-immigrant remarks seem downright moderate compared to re-casting Nazis as innocents when they were cold-blooded murderers. And since there were no consequences for him doing so, O'Reilly now has permission to be as publicly bigoted against Mexicans and Hispanics as Stephen Douglas was against African Americans.