Fading Illusions: D-Day and Ronald Reagan — An Interview with Mark Weber
by Kevin Alfred Strom
THIS WEEK MARKS two milestones in American history: the 60th anniversary of D-Day and the death of Ronald Reagan. With us to discuss these issues today is one of the most incisive historical minds our nation has produced, the courageous researcher, scholar, and publisher, the Director of the Institute for Historical Review, Mr. Mark Weber. Welcome, Mark.
Mark Weber: Thank you very much, Kevin. That’s very generous. It’s a pleasure being on the show again.
KAS: Mark, not far from where I sit, in Bedford, Virginia, is the National D-Day Memorial, where wreath-laying ceremonies took place a few days ago commemorating the 60th anniversary of D-Day. Americans of the World War II generation, and their children, remember that day, I think, as a milestone in the fight to preserve American freedom. And some of my younger listeners may only have a vague idea of what it was all about. What was D-Day, Mark — and was it a milestone in history as it’s presented?
MW: D-Day, of course, was the American-British landing in Normandy, France, on June 6th, 1944. As a purely historical event it was important because it was the largest naval operation in history. But it’s presented in our media — and quite a lot in just the last few days — as a kind of central turning point of World War II. There’s a natural tendency among everyone and every society to project the present back onto the past, and that’s nowhere more evident than in how we look at D-Day, because it was the very important great military operation by the United States in the Second World War in Europe. But the way that landing is presented is very misleading.
For one thing, the D-Day invasion did not decisively change the outcome of the Second World War. Now I know that sounds incredible, given all that we’ve heard about that, but the D-Day landing took place less than a year before the end of the war in Europe. The war ended in Europe in May, 1945; the D-Day landing was in June, 1944. The decisive battles of the Second World War had already been fought, on the Eastern Front. And in the emphasis on D-Day is a kind of playing down of the much more important military role that the Soviet forces played in World War II. Very few people realize that 80% — four fifths — of the German forces in World War II were defeated not on the Western Front, but on the Eastern Front by the Soviet forces. Germany’s decisive battles had already been fought — and lost — on the Eastern Front, such as in Stalingrad, which ended in early 1943. And then the final major German offensive of the Second World War was the Battle of Kursk, the largest tank battle in history, about which we hear very little in America; and that was in the summer of 1943. So when the American, British, and Canadian forces landed on Normandy in June 1944, German forces were already largely destroyed. And Germany was fighting a very, very desperate defensive war. That’s why, when the American forces landed on D-Day, I think there were only two German airplanes that could take to the air to fight off the landing armada. The German Air Force was very, very hard-pressed, what was left of it, to even defend the German homeland, which was under intense Allied bombardment from the air at that time, and of course on the Eastern Front.
So the battle of D-Day is important in our media, in large measure, because it comports with a kind of American-centric view of the Second World War. But in fact the role of the Soviet Union is one that many Americans, and especially American leaders, would like to forget.
And that brings us to Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan is remembered, in terms of foreign policy achievements, largely as a man who opposed Communism. But during the Second World War, the most important American ally in that conflict was in fact the Soviet Union. To put it another way, no country did more to defend the Soviet Union, to help the Soviet Union, than did the United States during World War II. And Ronald Reagan spent World War II as a propagandist for the American military. That is, in his actual deeds as a man working in Hollywood, he helped the American war effort which was at that time in alliance and concert with the Soviet Union.
But that’s forgotten a lot today because we want to uphold, and American leaders want to uphold, this kind of myth that on the one side of the Second World War were the ‘bad guys,’ the tyrants — that is, the Germans and the Japanese; and that on the other side, the Allied side, were the ‘good guys.’ But that in fact is not only simplistic, it’s just simply wrong. During the Second World War, the most tyrannical regime in the world at that time — the Soviet Union — was on the Allied side. And the most imperialistic regime in the world at that time — that is, the British Empire — was also on the Allied side in that conflict. While looking at history in simplistic terms of ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ may make people feel good, and it comports with how we like to have our motion pictures end and our books and so forth, it doesn’t correspond with reality in real historical terms.
KAS: The legacy of D-Day, in broad terms, is the legacy of the Second World War. That’s how we see it from our media-saturated, from our — as you say — American-centric view. Maybe D-Day wasn’t a watershed in the conduct of the war, but that war was a watershed in diminishing traditional Americans’ power over our own country, in increasing globalism, and in increasing Jewish power. And it was a watershed in breaking down the old order in Europe, destroying not only German power, but French and British power as well. And it brought about the complete collapse of Eastern Europe, which was swallowed up by Communism for almost half a century.
MW: Right. There are several points to be made in that regard, I think. And it again, I think, relates to Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan is remembered as the great American conservative president. But his idea of conservatism was really just to present the best view of American history during the Second World War.
The greatest and most decisive conflict of the twentieth century was the Second World War, in which the United States fought openly for a ‘New World Order’ in which the United States and the Soviet Union, above all, would rule the entire world. When Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met at Teheran, Iran in 1943, and then at Yalta in 1945, the three men did what they accused the Axis leaders of wanting to do: That is, they decided the fate of the entire planet. And, in that, the United States regarded the Soviet Union as not only a worthy ally, but a trustworthy ally, an ally with which Roosevelt and the United States were willing and even eager to cooperate in ruling the entire world.
You know, the wrongness of the simplistic view of how the Second World War was fought is pointed up in the tragedy of Poland. In 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany because Germany had attacked Poland. And, supposedly, British and French concern for the sovereignty of Poland was the reason for the declarations of war against Germany. (By the way, this was a war that Germany and Hitler wanted at all costs to avoid. They didn’t want war with Britain and France.) At the end of that terrible conflict, six years later, in 1945, Poland was no more free than it was in 1939. It was swallowed up and brutally occupied by the Soviet Union. So the principles that Britain and France proclaimed when they declared war on Germany in 1939 — and which America proclaimed in fighting the Second World War — were betrayed by the Allied leaders in how they actually conducted the war. They not only permitted but they actively cooperated with the Soviet Union in expanding its tyranny over half of Europe — including Poland, which was the first victim of the Second World War.
KAS: How does Jewish power fit into all of that?
MW: Ronald Reagan, throughout his presidency, was very pro-Israel and very pro-Jewish. He’s not alone, of course. Every American president since Harry Truman has been committed to supporting the state of Israel and its policies. Now fortunately for Reagan, there was no great war in the Middle East as there was in 1967 or 1973. And, also fortunately for Reagan’s legacy, there was no conflict like the current situation in Iraq. Nevertheless, Ronald Reagan was entirely subordinate to and supportive of Israel and its policies, even though this meant supporting Israel in actions which were violations not only of the principles that we as Americans try to uphold, but even of American law.
Specifically, in 1982, when Reagan was President, Israel invaded Lebanon. It invaded Lebanon on the deceitful basis of a pretext that the Israeli ambassador in London had been shot by a member of the PLO. In fact, the person who shot the Israeli ambassador in London was not even with the PLO. But on the basis of that pretext, Israel invaded Lebanon, costing thousands of lives and creating hundreds of thousands of refugees. Enormous destruction was the result. And Ronald Reagan supported Israel in this.
One of the speakers several years ago at an IHR conference was US Congressman Pete McCloskey. And he spoke out at the time on the floor of the House about Israel’s violation even of American law in that conflict. But Ronald Reagan put America’s ‘special relationship’ with Israel above even his oath as President to uphold American law. This was pointed up in the case of that conflict, in which America helped and cooperated with Israel in this completely illegal, horrible, destructive invasion of Lebanon.
And this is a parallel with the present. In the aftermath of the Lebanese fiasco, the United States sent military troops to Lebanon. And Reagan made a big issue at the time about ‘staying the course’ and how we were ‘going to have troops there until Lebanon was a free and democratic country,’ and how this was part of a big campaign to bring ‘democracy’ and ‘stability’ to that part of the world — pre-echoes of exactly the same kind of rhetoric we’ve heard from the White House during the past year with regard to the war in Iraq.
But in 1983, when a Marine barracks was blown up, and 240 some American Marines were killed, Reagan cut his losses, abandoned all his rhetoric, and just simply pulled the American troops out. For all his rhetoric, Reagan was a very pragmatic man. He was not one to let principles stand in the way of political expediency. And he was willing to cut his losses when things went wrong or things went bad. And if he was President, and had engaged in a fiasco like the one we’re dealing with now in Iraq, he would have long ago cut his losses and pulled out, and saved face in the best possible way — whereas George W. Bush seems incapable emotionally of admitting a mistake.
To go back to the legacy of D-Day: Especially for Americans, it is simply the legacy of World War II. And it wasn’t simply a defeat for Germany in World War II; it was, in a sense, the defeat of Europe — because the great victorious powers of the Second World War were the Soviet Union and the United States, which together imposed a hegemony and occupation over Europe. And the European homeland, the European heart, ceased to have any independent political power or even cultural vitality of its own, and was subordinate to the United States in the West and the Soviet Union in the East.
Now the legacy of that whole period is receding into the past, because the Soviet Union has disappeared as a power and a force — but the cultural and intellectual legacy persists, because Europeans have been browbeaten by decades of propaganda.
The Second World War was the triumph in 1945 of the principles of egalitarianism and universalism — and those principles are fundamentally at odds with any kind of patriotic or conservative principles.
And that’s part of the paradox or contradiction of the Reagan legacy. He’s remembered as a conservative — but what did he actually conserve?
KAS: Good question.
MW: What did he actually conserve? This morning on the radio, in a tribute to Ronald Reagan, one commentator said “He was a president who made us feel good about ourselves.” Well, that’s true. But that’s about all he did. He made us feel good.
But in terms of conserving or preserving anything of real substance, Ronald Reagan presided over America’s forward advance — or, should I say, backward advance — in the same direction she had been going since the 1940s and has been going ever since. When Ronald Reagan was elected, many conservatives thought that Reagan was going to make good on his rhetoric and dismantle, for example, the unconstitutional portions of the federal government such as the Department of Education, which had no constitutional validity. There’s nothing in the Constitution to permit the federal government to be involved in education.
KAS: Yes, I can remember all of that. In 1980, Mark, it was almost a sense of euphoria — he was going to reclaim America, he was going to remake America back into the Old America that people felt had been betrayed and abandoned.
MW: Exactly. But, to the amazement of many of his conservative followers, he did none of that. He didn’t dismantle the federal government; he expanded it. The irony is that his actual policies were in contradiction to his supposed principles as a conservative and to his rhetoric. But most Americans didn’t really care. The hard core of his supporters, those patriotic Americans, were satisfied with the mere trappings and symbols and mythology of America rather than the reality.
KAS: We’ve seen that in the celebrations of his life that we’ve witnessed since he died. For many people, I think he still embodies the Old America — the America he helped destroy while he was paying lip service to it. Do you think that, now that he’s gone, Americans are going to wake up from their illusion that we’ve really had a continuity of government?
MW: Whatever the harmful effects of his policies, it’s hard to dislike Reagan, because he was such an affable guy. Apparently, in his private life, he was kind, courteous to people, and wasn’t deceitful; that is, really, he believed the things that he said.
What Americans are mourning, I think, this week with the death of Ronald Reagan is not merely a man, but an America that’s past and which he personified. The America that Ronald Reagan believed in, that he came out of, is an America that’s gone. It’s an America of Norman Rockwell paintings. It’s an America of Leave it to Beaver television. It’s an America of It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s an America that really existed to some degree before the Second World War, up until the 1940s or 50s. But it’s an America that just doesn’t exist any more. The Los Angeles that Ronald Reagan lived in in the 1940s or 50s — that Los Angeles is gone forever. California itself is changing dramatically. And what many Americans are mourning with his passing, I think, is that America that’s gone.
Now will Americans wake up? I think a number of commentators have made this point: the President that we now have, who also calls himself a conservative, isn’t able to pull it off the way that Ronald Reagan could, not merely because he’s not as smooth as Ronald Reagan, but because the reality is now harder and harder to avoid — the reality that the America that so many Americans nostalgically look back upon is really gone.
Having said that, though, I think that the majority of George Bush’s hardcore supporters are still impressed by — and loyal to — the mythology or the trappings of America, which are very different from the reality.
KAS: I remember Ronald Reagan signing the ‘Martin Luther King’ holiday bill. I remember his unkept promises to roll back the intrusive judicial and other federal power over us. I remember his giving an award to Elie Wiesel; his continuation — and expansion — of the anti-European-American policies of all the previous administrations going back to the Roosevelt administration. It’s hard not to see Reagan, from my point of view, as man who — perhaps — did believe in the Old America, but who just wasn’t quite bright enough to understand that his employers, those who ‘handled’ him, who organized his campaigns, who were behind him all the time, were destroying that Old America.
MW: Ronald Reagan personifies that contradiction, that paradox — the belief that, somehow, the Old America that he believed in and was part of could be kept in place and preserved while at the same time supporting and promoting policies that inevitably must destroy that very America. That’s the tragedy of it all –presuming he was sincere.
I saw Ronald Reagan speak in person only once, and that was at a large gathering of ‘Holocaust survivors,’ of all places, in Washington, DC. And, as he usually was, he was very eloquent on that occasion. But what he did was give a tremendous boost during his administration to Jewish power, a power that was working and has been working feverishly to tear down and corrode the very America that Ronald Reagan loved and represented. As you say: Was he stupid? — or just ignorant, or whatever?
I think it’s part of the mythology of America that people of whatever background can come to this country and through some kind of magic can be made into part of the America of motion pictures and Norman Rockwell paintings.
KAS: Well, some ethnicities melt better than others…
MW: Well, of course (laughter). No group — no ethnic group, no religious group — in America is so determined to preserve and hold onto its identity and further the interests of its own group as are Jews. No group is as self-aware, as focused, as determined as are Jews in America. And that’s not surprising, because Jews have been focused, determined, and have had a very high sense of purpose and identity for centuries. In fact, if Jews didn’t have such a very very strong sense of self — of peoplehood — they would have long ago disappeared as a people, under the pressures of assimilation and so forth. In America, as in every other country where Jews have settled in large numbers, they persist in — and insist on — furthering their own interests, even as those interests clash and compete with the interests of the people among whom they live, here in this country and elsewhere.
KAS: Well, if Ronald Reagan understood that about his employers, then he was a much more subtle person than I took him to be. I tend to think that he was a man with a magnetic personality but a nearly empty mind. That made him a perfect ‘leader’-type for those who surrounded him. After all, did he not take Jewish direction in Hollywood, and in his radio network jobs; and all through his career as a politician, was he not surrounded by powerful Jews?
MW: Margaret Thatcher, who of course is going to be here in the United States for the Reagan funeral, and who was an ally of Ronald Reagan when she was Prime Minister of Britain, said privately on one occasion that he was a great guy, but there was very little between his ears. I don’t think Reagan did understand these larger things. But what drove him, what kept him going, was a kind of mythology about America. And it’s a kind of attractive mythology. In life, I think that most people — certainly most people in any kind of electorate or collective — prefer a pleasant lie to an unpleasant truth. And Ronald Reagan was a master at telling people the pleasant untruth that they wanted to hear.
KAS: You at the Institute are trying in some sense to give people enough perspective to see some of those dangers ahead. Can you tell us what lesson you’d like to leave my listeners with on these subjects?
MW: The best guide to the future is an understanding of the past. And that means not just American history, but world history. This is very difficult here in the United States, in many ways, because this is a country in which there’s a kind of national mythology that America is an exception from history. The idea that we can be an exception from history is childish. And it’s only through an understanding of history, of the past, that we can have a real understanding of our present plight and think wisely and intelligently about the future.
The power of historical consciousness is an immensely important one. It’s one of the reasons Jews are as successful as they are. In fact, their entire religion underscores and emphasizes their sense of history — of Jewish peoplehood. It’s a distorted, kind of mythologized history — but nonetheless, it’s a sense of history.
Americans, as a people, have a great deal of difficulty with that, because we are encouraged in this country to think of ourselves as individuals. And people who think of themselves as individuals are not going to think much about history, because as individuals, we simply die. A historical consciousness also carries with it an awareness of the continuity of history — that we are part of something larger than ourselves. That’s one of the reasons history is so important, and why the work of the IHR [http://www.ihr.org ] is so important. Fostering historical awareness and historical consciousness is a task of very very high importance.
KAS: Mark, I want to thank you for the work you’re doing for Ernst Zündel [ http://www.zundelsite.org ], of course; I also want to thank you for what is always a bracing intellectual adventure being on the show and talking with me; and I want to thank you for the work you’re doing to bring the truth to light through the Institute for Historical Review.
MW: Thank you very much, Kevin, and it’s always a pleasure to be on your show and I admire your work as well.
KAS: Thank you.
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Source: American Dissident Voices broadcast, June 12th, 2004