These last weeks since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia have affected me a lot. I feel hopelessness because the Russian invasion of Ukraine matches so much the US invasion of Iraq, and then Afghanistan, which matches the Russian invasion of Afghanistan previously. These all, and more, match the German invasion of Poland in 1939 which led to the start of the second World War.
In the wake of second World War there seemed to be some hope that we had learned something from that war and the great economic depression that preceded it. The New Deal politics of the middle twentieth century showed a desire, with much effectiveness, to move away from the politics and policies that created the great economic helplessness that was the depression, and the Cold War represented a recognition of the horrors potential within conflicts pursued by overly powerful militaries in the modern world.
Today in the US one vision of the second World War sees the war primarily only as a conflict between the US and the German Nazis. In this narrative US soldiers bring an end to the genocidal violence of racist nonethical villains. A vision of a complete German public does not function as a part of the picture and the totality of a military motivated by a desire to invade and conquer surrounding nations hides behind a focus upon antisemitic horrors.
The eastern front, the war on Russia, an invasion that produced the death of 27 million Russians, remains almost completely absent from a narrative of the war as seen through US media and cultural lenses. The invasion and dominance of Poland similarly remains a footnote. (As does the conquests of Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Yugoslavia and Greece.) The Nurenberg trials which followed the war did recognize nationalistic conquest as a criminal offense, but a history of the war more and more through US eyes sees such militarism as nonproblematic. The story of the war becomes reduced to nothing but brave American soldiers saving a helpless European Jewish population from the barbaric hostilities of Nazi violence.
The British and the French do appear within a US vision of the war to a degree more substantially than the other nations on German borders. The description of the people of the two nations shows the ease with which US prejudice can frame a narrative with a most complete lack of thoughtfulness, empathy, and even accuracy. The people of Britian are seen through the US lens as heroically withstanding the horrific onslaught brought upon them as the German military bombed its cities in an attempt to conquer the British nation. The French public is seen in quite the opposite manner. The French are seen as being weak and feminine, and as such almost deserving of German conquest.
A comparison of the US vision of British citizens with French citizens though contains more innocence than a comparison of European Jews with French citizens. Imagine a narrative in which the victims of the holocaust were seen with a prejudice as that imposed upon the people of France. Imagine a vision of the war which sees the Jewish population as weak and cowardly and deserving of their fate. Of course, this would be barbaric, or disgusting. But why does such a vision of the French fail to be received in such a way?
In the years since the end of the second World War the US army has bombed, attacked, and/or invaded Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, and Afghanistan, while providing arms and supporting insurrections and violence in Nicaragua, Honduras, Yemen, and a substantial list of nations throughout South and Central America, and the Middle East and Africa.
The Nurenberg Trials found Germany guilty of criminal violence not only because of its genocidal violence against the Jews, but also, and as much, because of its militaristic hostility toward other nations. The US desire to ignore the criminality of such conventional militaristic violence allows it to promote similar violence as it is imposed by the US military on other foreign nations.
It would be hypocritical to see the German military as unethical in its unprovoked or unwarranted invasion of other countries but to see similar US militarism as heroic, necessary, or good. Similarly, it is hypocritical to critique the Russian invasion of Ukraine in terms too drastically different from the most recent US invasion of Iraq.
The most powerful nations in the world today use their militaries unethically and barbarically in a fashion not unlike Hitler used the German army throughout the second World War. The US population waves flags and supports its military enthusiastically like fans of their local sports teams, and Russian nationalism it might seem functions in a similar manner.
No real anti-war sentiment exists in the US. Quite to the contrary the US public loves and supports war, even as it wishes for the Russian people to be critical of their armies. A perspective which recognizes the horrors of the war more completely, as it existed more closely in the wake of the second World War has been lost.