Wednesday, September 2, 2009

World War II: An Unspeakable Horror Now Encrusted in Myths (Bob Higgs)

Bob Higgs gives his take on the Good War, the biggest winners of which were obviously the monstrous tyrant (and U.S. "ally") Joseph Stalin and the great scourge of Communism:

Robert HiggsSeptember 1, 1939 — exactly seventy years ago today — is customarily considered the day when World War II began, owing to the German invasion of Poland. Of course, some belligerents, most notably the Japanese and the Chinese, had already been at war for years, and others did not join the fray until later. The United States actually began to participate in the war almost immediately, but its participation remained for the most part covert until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

I was born in the midst of this terrible event, and all my life, whenever anyone referred to “the war,” I have assumed, as most Americans have, that the reference was to World War II. It was the largest and the most horrible of all wars, although, sad to say, it no more proved to be “the war to end war” than its predecessor (1914-18) had been. In many ways the two world wars are best understood as two phases of a single conflict, although the matter is much more complicated than that formulation might suggest.

No one knows with much confidence how many people died as a result of the war. Estimates range widely, from a low of about 50 million to a high of nearly 80 million. Perhaps two-thirds of the dead were civilians. Countless others were wounded or harmed in various ways, as by malnutrition. Millions were spiritually scarred for life. The war was very productive of nightmares that, for some individuals, recurred for decades. After all that had taken place between 1939 and 1945, it was difficult to believe that the human beings of the mid-twentieth century, many of whom had regarded themselves as civilized, were any better than their savage ancestors of ten thousand years ago.

Yet, oddly enough, World War II has developed a reputation in this country as “the Good War” — an unfortunate turn of phrase, if ever there was one.

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