Saturday, March 15, 2014

Vladimir Golstein: On uses and abuses of historical memory

March 14, 2014.

Comparing Russia to Nazi Germany is not only a historical mistake but also immoral abuse of the memory of millions.

Russia considers World War II a key moment
 of unity in its recent history [EPA]
My grandfather moved to Moscow in the 1920s and that saved his life. His brothers and cousins, who stayed in Kiev, were killed by the Nazis at the notorious Babi Yar massacre of 1941. My father was drafted into the Red Army to fight the Nazis. He was wounded, and this wound, as well as the hard life in the Soviet Union, took his life at the early age of 55.

I just visited his grave two days ago. I wonder what the World War II veterans would think of the indiscriminate use of the term Nazi nowadays. How do they feel, when this word gets applied to Russians who lost 20 million people in their war against them, or Serbians who were one of the few nations which heroically resisted the German occupation? I certainly feel outrage. Thousands of sacred memories worldwide, Russian, Serbian, Polish, Ukrainian and others are violated when the word Nazi is misapplied.

I understand that all is fair in love and war; that a propaganda war has started; that the first victim of the war is truth. But there are degrees of use and abuse, and the Western propaganda machine has steeped very low indeed, with blatant impunity, one might add. There are objections here and there, including the one from the great film director, Emir Kusturica, but where is the outrage?

Where is the Jewish Lobby when one needs it? Who will stop this linguistic pollution, this attack on the sacred memory of the victims and fighters against the Nazis. How does this Lobby feel about some former Nazis (I am sure some of them are still alive) feeling shadenfreude over the fact that their bitter opponents who dared to stand up to them are not getting the thrashing?One wants to believe that the Holocaust is not just an industry, with its advertisement or promotion campaigns: Call this product historic and sell it, call this group of people "Nazi" and bomb them. Or maybe we are already so confused in our moral sense, that we can't tell things apart?

And this campaign is gaining strength. Now Hillary Clinton compares Putin to Hitler. It seems that for some US politicians any NATO enemy can now be called Nazi and then bombed. Now various posters have flooded the internet depicting Russians in Nazi uniforms, while Russian demagogues compare the potential Russian annexation of Crimea to Hitler's Anschluss.

Russia gives plenty of ammunition to its critics: Its leader is authoritarian; its economic and political system is corrupt; it harasses its political opponents; it neglects and abuses its own population. There are plenty of arguments to be made for anyone who wants to criticise Russia.

However, do we really need this verbal nuclear option here, the invocation of the N(azi) word, the blatant abuse of truth? And why? Just to score a talking point and utilise the world's simplest and most abused metaphor? Is it a sign of intellectual laziness of the West, that doesn't want to waste time on arguments, when simple naming will do? Or maybe it is an attempt to hide something and to acknowledge that without the N-word, we cannot win the ideological war?
Read the rest here.
Comment: It is amazing to me how someone like Hillary Clinton can invoke the word Nazi in relation to President Putin yet remain blissfully ignorant (seemingly) of her real role as a mass murderer alongside President Obama in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Libya - to name a prominent few.

This article by Professor Golstein is a thoughtful and provocative argument.  Of course, if we are to know how memory is being abused in this case then we would also have to know how the American propaganda machine has disfigured its role in World War II.

Few observers should be surprised that a sizable majority of Americans and their leaders believe that the US saved Europe and the world from Nazism in WWII.

And of course the self bloating continues with the war on communism and now, of course, the war on terrorism (which should read the war on Muslims and Islam).

The point being that it is not the word that is being evoked (Nazism) but rather the political mechanics/framework that has been put in place to make the US and its allies the purveyor of all political interests.

For this reason, what lies at the crux of the attack on President Putin and the crisis in the Ukraine has everything to do with oil interests in the Crimea and very little to do with the ideological and terror abuses that comes with invoking the history of Nazism.

The US and its allies are seeking to secure oil interests in this latest geopolitical dance; they couldn't care any less about the historical correctness and immorality of the slander and propaganda they are slinging at Putin.


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