FRESNO -- Everybody's mad because Eastwood's Iwo Jima movie, Flags of Our Fathers, bombed. I read this one review that said every citizen ought to go pay to sit through it even if it is a bad movie, like it's some kind of patriotic duty for me to put $25 in Clint Eastwood's offshore account. (And yeah, I know movies don't cost $25 but I can't sit down in a darkened room unless I've got a Humpback-size diet coke in one hand, a Maxi-tub popcorn in the other, and a spare clip of Milk Duds in my ammo pocket.)
I've got my own theory about why all these WW II movies went down in flames like Zeros in the Marianas Turkey Shoot: because WW II is way overrated. Next to the guy who directed Pearl Harbor, the men who set that war in motion and made all the decisions from 1939-1945 were the biggest idiots in history. And that's why all the lessons of WW II, everything it's supposed to teach us, is either dead wrong or as obvious as a ballpeen hammer in your face, so obvious that even Barney could teach it to his diaper demographic between commercial breaks.
The biggest lie about WW II is that it was a war between good and evil. Bullshit, because there were no good European countries.
Fact No1: They Were ALL Fascists. At a military level, let's face a nasty fact: WW II was Stalin vs. Hitler. The rest was window dressing. Stalin won because--because what, he was a nicer guy? Nope, he won because his brand of fascism was actually way more ruthless and bloody and effective than Hitler's smalltime snobbery, and because Stalin had the whole US industrial machine backing him. There's no moral lesson in that that I can see.
Of course, most of these WW II fans try real hard not to think about Stalin, so they prefer to think about Britain and the rest of Western Europe. Those are officially the good guys. Well, got some bad news for you: they were all fascists too, just weaker than Stalin and Hitler, more sly and suckup-y. The only lesson they've got to offer is that if you want to survive, start out as a raving fascist and when that becomes uncool, turn coward and start pretending you were always in favor of niceness.
Europe before Stalingrad was an alien planet, as crazy and bloodthirsty as any Aztec priest. Nobody realizes the complete flip-flop Europe did in 1945. Before that, it was a continent full of insane fascists. Some were braver, better soldiers, or smarter; those are the only real differences.
And when I say "smarter," I don't want to overdo it, because the Greatest Generation was a bunch of morons. Hitler was the stupidest of all, I grant you that, but he was just the standout in graduating class full of mongoloids in fedoras. Take Churchill, who's supposed to be a God of courage and decency and smarts. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Churchill was a buffoon. He was the moron who got Allied armies into useless Mediterranean campaigns in both World Wars. Gallipoli had Churchill's autograph all over it, and he was so stupid he tried the same crap 25 years later with the Italian adventure. He had this obsession with the "soft underbelly of Europe" which conveniently forgot about these things called "mountain ranges," like the Alps and the Apennines.
There's another inconvenient fact about Churchill: he was a fascist too, every bit as much as Hitler. Only thing is, you can't blame him much for that, because, and I want y'all to listen up here, everybody in Europe was a fascist until 1943--if they were quick on the uptake enough to see the Wehrmacht was doomed--or 1944, by which time it was obvious even to the moron majority that fascism was now officially taboo. I repeat: everybody in Europe. Fascist to the core.
Churchill's one and only reason for fighting Hitler was that he didn't want Germany challenging England for world domination. In 1936, Churchill told a British general, "Germany is getting too strong; we must smash her." That was his only objection to the Nazis. No way he could have minded their brutality, because Churchill was always in favor of violence against anybody who opposed British interests. Long before the war, he supported using concentration camps for the Boer women and kids, strafing Indian villages--and here's his enlightened democratic quote on how to deal with the Iraqi Kurds, everybody's favorite persecuted minority, from a 1919 memo: "I am strongly in favour of using poisoned [sic] gas against uncivilized tribes."
That doesn't make him a bad guy; it just makes him a standard European, pre-1945. They were all like that, only more so. You can go down the list of European countries and come up with a list of homegrown fascist parties, all totally popular and democratic, that make the Nazis look like squeamish moderates. Some of them, like the Iron Guard in Romania, make even me flinch.
And if we rotate the globe, voila!: the Asian theatre also turns out to be a classic battle of fascism vs...more fascism. The Imperial Japanese military caste was beyond fascist. Seriously, they were so hardcore that it was taboo even to suggest the possibility of anything going wrong with the grand plan for total victory, which is why nobody dared to develop anything resembling a strategic plan. That was a good way to get yourself hacked into Kobe beef. The Japanese brass responded like Travis Bickle to questions like that: "You talkin' to us? You askin' us that question? Cuz we don't see any other Japanese brass around here..." Cut to: arterial sprays where the insolent questioner used to be.
And in the opposite corner: Chiang Kai Shek, the Asian Churchill: a totally incompetent military leader and lifelong fascist who saw how the wind was blowing and repackaged himself as a crusader for democracy in order to get aid from the gullible Americans. Chiang only valued one thing: obedience. And he only trusted one guy: himself. That's why he personally held 82 official positions in China, including head of all the armed services. He picked his generals for their incompetence, because he suspected that talented men might turn against him. Any sign of independent thinking, never mind criticism, meant the chop, and I mean that literally. Chiang even had himself declared the head of the Chinese Boy Scouts, that breeding ground of coups. That was the Good Guy of the Asian theatre. Oh wait, I'm forgetting Mao, another champion of human rights.
Even the noncombatant states were fascist before the Marshall Plan showed dictators that there was more profit in talking nice. Countries tried to copy the big, bad fascists with little comedy monsters of their own, like Trujillo in the Dominican Republic or Peron in Argentina. And in their humble way, all these guys did their best to do their worst. Trujillo actually tried to prove that the Dominicans were the lost tribe of Aryanism, and ordered something like 30,000 Haitian immigrants hacked to death with machetes for being "black." Even the Mexicans tried to do the Fascist two-step, only being Mexican they went for the gaudiest color they could find, so while Germany had the brownshirts and Mussolini had the blackshirts, Mexico came up with...the Gold Shirts! "And put some frilly cuffs on that while you're at it!"
After Stalingrad, the world's fascists just figured out that if you wanted to win, you needed US backing like Stalin got, and that meant you needed a cleaner line of patter than the Nazis and Japanese used. Those hick Jerries and Japs talked death, skulls, slaughter, suicide--tsk tsk, way uncool. Stalin, on the other hand, talked peace, friendship between peoples, justice for the working class...and not only killed far more civvies than Hitler did but got funded for it by the American taxpayer. It was the original no-brainer--which was lucky because this was the Dumbest Generation since the Thirty Years War.
Fact No2: The Holocaust is a One-Shot Exception; Genocide DOES Pay.
The Holocaust is the next-biggest non-lesson of WW II. Everybody loves to talk about this particular case of genocide because it failed, or so we're told. The Germans paid a terrible price for what they did to the Jews. Nope; the Germans paid a terrible price for invading Russia. If they'd stuck to holding their half of Eurasia, Stalin would have continued his love affair with Hitler, the only human being he ever liked, and the European Jews would have been a shared buffet, divvied up between concentration camps flying the swastika or the red star.
What made the Holocaust totally unlike most genocides is that we remember the victims; and the only reason we do is, once again, the USA. The European Jews were totally vulnerable and despised over there, but their kin in America were doing fine and cared enough to remember their relatives who died. Compare this to almost any other example of genocide, and there are literally thousands of examples, and you'll see the difference: most of the time (I mean DUH!) the tribe that gets genocided is the most despised, weak and helpless tribe in the region. That means nobody remembers them at all, or if they do they consider the genocide an example of Progress, or just one of those things. If you doubt that, then tell me quick what tribe lived 400 years ago in the city where you're reading this now. I still, after years of trying to find out, don't know what tribe lived around Fresno. Nobody even mentions them on the web--that's how most genocides work. The tribe vanishes forever. That's why they call it genocide, for God's sake! And once it's gone--Duh!--nobody remembers it or cares.
The reason people love to talk about Nazis killing Jews is that, thanks to the Jews in America, there were people who insisted on remembering the victims. If people thought about the genocide of, say, the tribe that lived where you lived, they'd get bummed. They'd realize the world is a slaughterhouse and there are no moral lessons. That's why they'd rather talk about Auschwitz than...Fresno.
Fact No3: There Are NO Military Lessons to Be Learned from WW II
This is my real pet peeve about WW II, because frankly I care way more about bad military history than all that moral bla-bla. Every military lesson people WANT to take away from WW II is wrong, and the one they COULD learn is the one they don't want to learn.
So for starters, here's the real lesson of the war: military superiority in the narrow sense isn't nearly as important as economic strength and propaganda working in tandem.
Now that is a real depressing lesson for all military buffs, and one that took me years to accept, but we have to face it. If military superiority settled things, the Germans and Japanese would have won because they were by far, and I mean by FAR, the best soldiers. A military historian with the unlucky name of Nutter has done a really good job of demolishing the hometown writers who try to assert that allied troops came close to Wehrmacht soldiers in combat power. I'll leave it to him to deal with diehard Greatest Generation fans: http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/wwii/armies/introduction.aspx
Until Hitler poured its strength out on the Russian wasteland the Wehrmacht had total supremacy. Once you realize that you can drop a lot of myths, such as the crap that the French were cowards and the Brits brave heroes. The French lost because they had a land border with Germany, period. The British Army did as badly or worse than the French in combat with the Wehrmacht during the invasion of France, and survived for one reason: Hitler, the moron, had this idea that Britain would stand with him against Bolshevism when the Brits came to their senses, so he cancelled the invasion, codenamed Operation Sea Lion. If the invasion had gone ahead, Churchill's speech about fighting them on the beaches, etc., would have had a sequel: "We shall fight them on the beaches...for about ten minutes. We shall fight them in the hills...for about a week," and so on.
The key military struggle of the war was on the plains of Russia, and Hitler lost not because he was evil--what, Stalin wasn't just as evil?--but because he was too much of a snobby hick idiot to look for allies. If he'd courted the Belorussians, Ukrainians, Poles, the peasant landholders forced onto kolkhozes and all the other anti-Commie groups in Eastern Europe he'd have won hands down. And if Stalin had been one smidgen LESS evil, he'd have lost anyway. Stalin won because his soldiers were way more afraid of the NKVD than the Nazis. If a Russian soldier was captured, he was considered a traitor. If he retreated, the commissars were waiting to shoot him. If he bitched, he'd have his fingernails removed and end up begging to be shot.
So the real legacy of this shitty war was a Soviet world, where the way to win is to mix propaganda about love and peace for grabbing US tax dollars with a new kind of violence, a mean cowardly kind that happened in Moscow basement interrogation cells, with 70-year sentences to Office World as the alternative for us lucky Fresno-ites.
Everything they told you is wrong. Everything you believe is wrong, and worse than that--it's dull, too. At least the fascists tried to make it interesting for us non-execs, non-surfers, non-golfers. They were brutal scum, sure...but I have to ask, "compared to who--YOU assholes?"