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Hermann Goering speaks from the grave about war in Iraq

by Michael Heggen
October 14, 2002
Salem, Oregon

I am extremely uncomfortable with the Bush administration's rhetoric, as well as the oratory coming from the majority in Congress, regarding the pre-emptive use of force in Iraq. Actually, I am beyond uncomfortable -- I am appalled and shaken.

The climate in our nation is becoming increasingly hostile to dissent. "America must speak with one voice," we hear. "We must be united!" "The Congress must support our President!" At the same time, it is becoming increasingly easy to ignore history (we generally try to avoid attacking unless we are ourselves attacked, all the way back to the first shots of the American revolution) and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

No, it is far easier to simply slip into the rising river of American anger and shout for President Bush to open the floodgates of war, drowning not only our enemies, but anyone who opposes a pre-emptive strike. It is easy to be angry, especially when "everyone else is doing it".

I have a number of reasons for opposing a pre-emptive war with Iraq. Some of them may coincide with your reasons; some may not. One reason is due to my Christian faith; another reason is that the United States has historically tried to avoid pre-emptive strikes.

But the most chilling reason to oppose a pre-emptive strike against Iraq began developing for me a couple of weeks ago. I believe it is a universal reason that everyone in opposition can agree upon.

My wife Kim and I are history buffs. We were watching a 1943 film series called "Why We Fight". We were hoping for a documentary, but were disappointed to find that the film was an attempt at patriotic motivation for new American recruits during World War II. It was directed by Frank Capra, but made specifically for the U.S. government. The propaganda was so thickly laid on that we almost stopped watching it.

But we decided to continue watching it and learn what we could from it. As the film moved more into what Nazi Germany had done in the late 1930s and why the citizens of the Axis powers went along with their fascist leaders, the amount of Hollywood war propaganda in the film began, fortunately, to decrease. At the same time, the discussion about the Axis powers' domestic propaganda machines and their "justifications" for the Axis invasions of Manchuria, Ethiopia, the Rhineland, the Sudetenland, and Poland were beginning to feel increasingly familiar.

This 1943 film felt familiar because the Bush administration's Iraq rhetoric is very similar what the Axis leader were telling their own people in the 1930s. It was actually creepy to hear such similarities. Ironically, our national leaders would also have us believe that Saddam Hussein's Iraq poses a threat to the world not unlike the threat posed by Hitler's Germany prior to its invasion of the Sudetenland and Poland. (Perhaps the pot is calling the kettle black?)

A few days later, I read a guest opinion by Caroline Dennis, a 17-year-old high school student here in Salem. Her well-written piece crystallized this particular reason for my opposition to pre-emptive war with Iraq. Ms. Dennis quoted, of all people, Hermann Goering from an interview while he was imprisoned in Nuremberg during his war crimes trial in 1946. For those of you slept through history class, Goering was the head of the Luftwaffe and one of Hitler's right-hand men. His words are utterly chilling -- especially today (October 14, 2002).

What follows is quoted from the book "Nuremberg Diary", by Gustave Gilbert, who interviewed Goering in prison.

We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

"Why, of course, the people don't want war," Goering shrugged. "Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship."

"There is one difference," I pointed out. "In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."

"Oh, that is all well and good, but, 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 danger. It works the same way in any country."

Goering's comments cemented what the U.S. government's film "Why We Fight" said. The combination of "Why We Fight", the words of the hawkish majority on Congress, the sabre-rattling of President Bush, and the words of war criminal Hermann Goering made my skin crawl.

In the film, Capra took pains to illustrate that the American people were NOT united in their opinion about going to war in the late 1930s. This U.S. government film actually applauded the dissent because it demonstrated that the United States was a free society that was unlikely to be steamrolled by its leaders into attacking another country for questionable reasons. What is happening in our country?

Are we seeing the same thing happening in these United States that happened in pre-war Germany, Italy, and Japan? Perhaps -- only yet-to-be-written history will know for sure.

Could it happen here in America? Yes, it could.

Will it happen here in our country? It might very well -- especially if the people who oppose a pre-emptive, unilateral strike against Iraq do not make their voices heard.

According to the last data I saw on the topic (ABC News Poll, see below for citation), about a third of all Americans oppose a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. About one-third of the Congress opposes it, as well.

And it is not just so-called "peaceniks" who are opposed. It is people like you and me -- computer professionals, police officers, physicians, retail workers, clergy, firefighters, personnel directors, attorneys, carpenters -- who think a pre-emptive strike is wrong. More than 70 million people think it is not the right thing to do.

No matter what our national leaders say, America does NOT speak with one voice. The entire nation is NOT behind our president.

I saw a bumper sticker recently that said, "Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes." So, if you're one of those 70 or so million people, make your voice heard! It is not enough to shrug your shoulders and wait for the opportunity to shake your head and say, "See, I told you so."

Continue to e-mail the White House with your opposition.

Continue to let your Congressional delegation know you oppose a pre-emptive strike against Iraq.

Support the Congress members who courageously voted their consciences.

Continue to write letters to the editor of your local newspaper.

Put a sticker on your car, or a sign in your yard.

Pray that our leaders will seek a better road to dealing with Saddam.

But no matter what you do, don't let our leaders (and the world) come to believe that the entire nation is behind them. Don't let "patriots" tell you that opposing this war is unpatriotic.

Don't be part of the lie. Don't let it happen here -- not in our country.


To order "Attack Iraq? NO!" stickers, visit:

Caroline Dennis' guest opinion in the Salem Statesman-Journal:

Thanks to for the complete Goering quotation:

ABC News poll on war against Iraq, 10/7/02:

A copy of this essay can be found at:

Copyright 2002 by Michael Heggen. All rights reserved. Permission to redistribute copies of this essay is granted so long as the content remains unchanged and this copyright notice is attached. For questions, please e-mail the copyright holder at

Page created 10/14/02.
Last updated 02/23/03 at 22:19.

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