Roundup: Media's Take
This is where we excerpt articles from the media that take a historical approach to events in the news.
Michael Hill, in the Balt Sun (June 27, 2004):
...In the same way that the Bush administration prefers to portray American troops as liberators instead of occupiers, it would rather compare the Iraqi transformation to the aftermath of World War II in Germany and Japan instead of post-colonial independence in places like Africa.
But Jeffrey Herf, a historian at the University of Maryland, says there are significant differences. "As soon as people began saying that the war was over last April, I was making comparisons to Germany and pointing out that that war lasted six years and that when it was over in May of 1945, Germany was truly defeated, with millions of its people killed and its cities destroyed," he says.
"I view the various disasters that have befallen our actions as one consequence of having made the mistake of assuming the war was over when the Iraqi army was defeated in that first phase," Herf says. "The war has never ended, and you have to win the war. Everything else is secondary. If you don't do that, all the other talk about democracy is just nonsense."
Even with total defeat, Herf notes, it took fours years of Allied occupation after the end of World War II before Germany held a national election in 1949. And that occupation was not just a celebratory liberation of the German culture from the clutches of a handful of Nazis.
"There were several hundred thousand people arrested in Germany and about 5,000 convictions for war crimes," he says. "There were 800 death sentences issued and 400 carried out. That was in the Western zones alone. It was very harsh."
And, he points out, that was without any real armed opposition of the type U.S. forces are facing in Iraq. Herf says the United States should have realized that Hussein's Baath party ruled Iraq for 35 years, three times as long as Hitler's Nazis ruled Germany, and thus had roots that ran even deeper.
"The Baath party was very large, with several million members," he says. "It wasn't like it was Tony Soprano and 10 other people running the country. But (the Americans) actually seemed to think that once they got rid of those 55 people on the playing cards, that would take care of it. That was ridiculous."
"The basic problem is that we underestimated terribly the amount of resistance we would face, and I think that is unforgivable," says Herf, who says he supported the war....