Herman Goering, Nazi Reichsmarshall and Luftwaffe-Chief, made the following statement when he was on trial at Nuremberg. He was speaking to Gustave Gilbert, a German-speaking intelligence officer and psychologist, who had access to all the prisoners held at Nuremberg:
Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.
I was reminded of this chilling quote by the recent claims from conservatives that Barack Obama is somehow unpatriotic because he doesn't wear an American flag lapel pin, and was once seen without his hand over his heart during the singing of the national anthem.1
I'd like to ask these conservatives a couple of questions:
Since when was it patriotic to lie2 your country into an illegal (and seemingly endless) war that has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, woman and children, and thousands of American troops?3
Since when was it patriotic to refuse to supply your troops4 with what they need to best protect themselves5 in that illegal and ill-thought-out war?
Since when was it patriotic to force those troops (and reservists, and members of the National Guard) into returning to the battle front again and again6 without giving them sufficient time in between tours of duty to recover from their injuries or spend time with their families?7
Since when was it patriotic to deny the right of a soldier (or a reservist, or a member of the National Guard) to leave the army when his or her agreed tenure is complete?8
Since when was it patriotic to virtually ignore those veterans who return injured in mind, body or spirit, to deny them the help they need9, and to create an environment where more and more of them are ending up on the streets, homeless and alone?10
Since when was it patriotic to be all gung-ho for war now, while at the same time knowing that you avoided the Viet Nam draft by jumping to the head of the queue for the Texas National Guard (George W Bush, on account of being a congressman's son, despite having scored a pitiful 25% on the "pilot aptitude" test)11, or by getting a total of five deferments in a row (Dick Cheney, including one for being a new father nine months and two days after the Selective Service lifted its ban against drafting married men who had no children)?12
Since when was it patriotic to systematically remove the constitutional rights of one's citizens?13 Perhaps the Center for Constitutional Rights14 might have something to say about that, or the Movement to Impeach George W Bush...15
Since when was warrantless wiretapping patriotic?16
Since when was it patriotic to violate the agreements of the Geneva Conventions?17
Since when was it patriotic to destroy the Bill Of Rights18 by removing from prisoners the right of habeas corpus?19
Since when was torturing people considered patriotic?20 (Especially when you lie about doing it for years and years first).21
But wait! All these clear demonstrations of the Bush administration's total lack of patriotism can be forgiven and forgotten - nay - be overridden and ignored - in two easy steps:
1) Wear an American flag lapel pin
2) Put your hand on your heart when singing the national anthem (as well as while swearing the Oath of Allegiance)
In a classic example of It's OK If You're A Republican, you can simultaneously wage illegal wars, fail to take care of your troops, listen in to your citizens' phone calls, torture prisoners and keep them locked up for years on end without charge or trial, break the Geneva Convention and quietly remove the constitutional rights of your people - and still remain patriotic - as long as you wear the pin and do the hand on your heart thing.
And then you can attack Barack Obama for his lack of patriotism, because of his lack of pin-wearing and hand-on-hearting.22
How truly, hypocritically, pathetic.
In response, Barack Obama said he didn't believe Republicans had a lock on patriotism:23
A party that presided over a war in which our troops did not get the body armor they needed, or were sending troops over who were untrained because of poor planning, or are not fulfilling the veterans' benefits that these troops need when they come home, or are undermining our Constitution with warrantless wiretaps that are unnecessary?
That is a debate I am very happy to have. We'll see what the American people think is the true definition of patriotism.
In a speech in Ohio back in October, Obama said:24
Somebody noticed I wasn't wearing a flag lapel pin and I told folks, well you know what? I haven't probably worn that pin in a very long time. I wore it right after 9/11. But after a while, you start noticing people wearing a lapel pin, but not acting very patriotic. Not voting to provide veterans with resources that they need. Not voting to make sure that disability payments were coming out on time.
My attitude is that I'm less concerned about what you're wearing on your lapel than what's in your heart. And you show your patriotism by how you treat your fellow Americans, especially those who served. You show your patriotism by being true to our values and our ideals and that's what we have to lead with is our values and our ideals.
And just for fun, and to see what kind of a man Obama really is, check out this November 2006 article - The Legend of Barack Obama. It makes fascinating reading.
And a couple more articles just for fun: What you missed while watching the Red Sox win and American flag pins are for idiots.
1. Various items (2) - Questions on Patriotism! Is he exposed?
2. Ten Appalling Lies We Were Told About Iraq
3. Casualties in Iraq
4. U.S. Troops in Iraq Have Limited Body Armor
6. Troop morale in Iraq hits 'rock bottom'
7. Tour of duty extensions 'devastating' for loved ones
8. 'Stop Loss' Continues
9. Witness slams 'nightmares' of Army medical system
10. Surge Seen in Number of Homeless Veterans
11. At Height of Vietnam, Bush Picks Guard
12. Cheney's Five Draft Deferments During the Vietnam Era Emerge as a Campaign Issue
13. Bush Administration vs the US Constitution Scorecard
14. Center for Constitutional Rights
15. Movement to Impeach George W Bush
16. ACLU v. NSA: The Challenge to Illegal Spying
17. U.S. Violates Geneva Conventions
18. The death of habeas corpus
19. Habeas corpus in the United States
20. American Soldiers Will Pay the Price for Bush's Torture Policy
21. Sins of Commission
22. Obama shows that dismissing slimy right-wing attacks is not difficult
23. Obama fights back on questions about his patriotism
24. Obama's Lapels
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