You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

March 05, 2008

The Liberal Media, Circa 1965

Above is a picture of Nguyen Cao Ky huddling with Lyndon Johnson. Ky was one of our main Vietnamese lackeys during the midsixties, first as Air Marshall and then as Prime Minister.

Therefore, from the perspective of the U.S. media, he was someone to gush over. This CBS News segment appears in an obscure documentary about I.F. Stone:

CRONKITE: Air Force Marshall Ky is a dynamic man—at 34, said to be one of the best public speakers in Vietnam. He gets to work around 7:30 in the morning, works late at night. He has broken the habits of siestas, there is none here. He doesn't even go out to lunch, but like an American businessman, he eats off the corner of his desk. Ky is a hero to the Vietnamese people. We had an opportunity to talk to him today.

KY: We need more American troops, allied troops.

From the same period, here's General Ky speaking in an interview with the London Sunday Mirror:

KY: People ask me who my heroes are. I have only one—Hitler. I admire Hitler because he pulled his country together when it was in a terrible state.

God damn that god damn liberal media!

In any case, this is why I say that Ahmadinejad's statements about wiping Israel off the map (whether he actually said that or not) have nothing to do with our policy toward Iran. All that matters is whether you take orders. If you do, you're free to say or do anything you want. Grow a Hitler 'stache while eating Hitler-flavored ice cream and screaming "I WANT TO BE THE HITLERIST HITLER OF ALL" and it's perfectly okay. Knock yourself out.

(The Ky-Hitler quote appears in the documentary, but I was also reminded of it by Rick Perlstein.)

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at March 5, 2008 08:00 PM
People ask me who my heroes are. I have only one—Hitler.

The kind of guy that pays top dollar on eBay for Hitler memorabilia and commemorative naziware. Top dollar.

But I feel for the guy. Whodaknown back when that obscure documentaries and web mashup was coming down the pike? However, he did feature prominently in "The Ten Thousand Day War".

"But the situation here [Vietnam] is so desperate now that one man would not be enough. We need four or five Hitlers in Vietnam."

The man had no imagination; he had Henry the K, who is clearly worth a baker's dozen.

Posted by: at March 5, 2008 08:28 PM

Ain't history grand. In 2008 unser Fuehrer manages to capture the imagination and space hardly any other figure comes close to. What's missing since those final days in the Bunker and today? Whether with the deserved loathing or the snickering admiration on Stormfront, Adolf inspires a tingling curiosity and nervous excitement none of the genocidal "leaders" or mass murderers since can capture. I think Mel Brooks understood this.
Stalin? Pol Pot? Our own mad bombers of Cambodian peasantry? Nobody can hold a Pol Pot Sticker to the Austrian Corporal. The fascination seems endless.
Clues can be found in a gem of a small book, "Htler: The Fuehrer and the People," by J.P. Stern. (UC Press, still available.) The Germans screaming for him or American silence at the Nixon/Kiinger slaughters are rooted in unspoken"pacts" between leaders and their people, only understood and very rarely acknowledged after the leaders' fall.

Posted by: donescobar at March 5, 2008 08:55 PM

Why leave the goddamned sainted Democrats out of this? Johnson sucked us into Vietnam with the Tonkin Gulf incident which was just as phony as WMD in Iraq. Johnson even admitted that it he created it for political gain. This set the stage for the whole rest of the Vietnam War with Kissinger and Nixon. Then there was Saint Truman who used the A bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to impress the Russians even though he new Japan was trying surrender. Just what does a body have to do to be a monster these days? Is there a set number of people you need to slaughter to reach the Olympian heights of Adolph Hitler? Bill Clinton was no slouch when it came time to get the old butcher knives out and cutting loose with the bombs in Serbia not to mention the one half million Iraqi children who died because of the sanctions he urged the UN to put in place. Oh God we just HAVE to have a Democrat despite the fact that they are among the biggest warmongers of space and time. Talk about the silence, lets ignore the entire past and go pick some posies and smell some roses, maybe get some pictures of big eyed kittens and put them on a wall, look, there’s a butterfly, pretty, pretty!

Posted by: rob payne at March 5, 2008 09:16 PM

He ended up being exiled in California btw where he harmlessly ran a liquor store.

But let me share with you the eccentricities of other cultures.

When I was taking a Vietnamese course and reading a Vietnamese textbook, we had to say things like "Ong Hitler la nguoi Duc" ie. "Mr Hitler is a German" as practice, and I was flabbergasted that this was in the texbook in the first place. The same cannot be said for French class, we were shown pictures of Napoleon and told at least that he started a lot of wars and killed a lot of people.

This is what it's really like. The concept of a figure like Hitler exists in an entirely different kettle of fish for most of them and just does not have the same implications. I have no doubt that Ky was the same.

PS For the interested, there is also a kitschy syncretist religion in Vietnam called Cao Dai, which is just soooo wacko it has to be real. Inside the Holy See of Cao Dai there is a painting showing three guys: Sun Yat Sen, Victor Hugo (in a Napoleonic tricornered hat no less) and a Vietnamese mandarin, being elevated to the level of saints and signing a covenant with God.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at March 5, 2008 09:29 PM

No, they're totally different. See Ahmadinejad is both harder to spell and is also friends with Hugo Chavez, who is going to be charged with genocide. Nguyen Cao Ky was not, and I mean not, friends with Hugo Chavez! Get it straight.

Posted by: hugo at March 5, 2008 09:47 PM

I think Mr Hee hits on it, though your general point remains valid. The whole Hitler / Nazi / Holocaust thing simply isn't as iconic in Asia as it is in Europe and the Anglosphere - nor should it be, except in the sense that such things should touch all of humanity. But are comparable tragedies of the East and South as much attended to in the West as we expect the world to commemorate Western tragedies? I don't think so, except where there's some political point being made.

Remember the furour over Hitler's Cross, the Adolf-themed restaurant set up by an Indian proprietor? At the time I thought, well, I guess Indians won't ever have to suffer the indignity of seeing a Jallianwala Bagh Massacre themed restaurant, coz almost no-one in the West's freaking heard of it.

One might also contrast how much Ahmadinejad haters know about his Holocaust denialism with their ability to put a face to the name Mossadegh.

But the general point holds - Ky's opinions on Hitler, like his thuggish authoritarianism, were as irrelevant to media opinion of him at the time as Ahmadinejad's thuggish authoritarianism and opinions on the Holocaust (and his quoting of Khomenei's line about "wiping this regime from history") are irrelevant today. Mahmoud's a bad boy coz he's disobedient, like you say.

Posted by: at March 5, 2008 10:11 PM

@donescobar -- You know, I've heard variants of this before among the drunk or hopped up.

...admire Hitler because he pulled his country together when it was in a terrible state.

Also, something about the nazi organizational skills and efficiency, and the discipline of Germans in general.

Now, I can only assume that Ky was saying these things out of sheer dumbassedness that come from being a thirtysomething in charge of a broken country, and even dumber than our thirtysomethings because the US military and politicians were firmly up his ass, whispering sweet nothings.

Does it not occur to these people, that the logical conclusion of the Hitler/nazi worship is that the country gets hammered and pulverized as a consequence of these coveted leadership and organizational skillz? Does anyone look at post-war Germany, and say, "Gosh, I wish my street was more like theirs -- what this burb really needs is more death, rubble and firebombings?"

Posted by: at March 5, 2008 10:23 PM

Thanks, Jon, for helping promote "Savage Mules." You're a little early, but every bit is appreciated.

Posted by: Dennis Perrin at March 5, 2008 10:40 PM

popular leaders don't need outside help? does that stand up?

Posted by: hapa at March 5, 2008 11:51 PM

Alan Dershowitz proposed that we should torture because it worked for the Nazis...... and I guess no one told him that the Nazis lost the war.

In October, Dershowitz claimed that McCain's campaign was in the sewer because McCain wants a "Christian" nation. That really upset Dershowitz, but torture is okey dokey.

Posted by: Susan - NC at March 6, 2008 01:22 AM

This fantasy mindset isn't just propaganda for the rubes, but is actually believed by many of our elites, including policymakers.

Here's a funny episode between General Maxwell Taylor and 2 reporters, as related in Halberstam's "Best & Brightest":

Taylor would take two New York Times reporters aside and tell them that if Ky got the premiership, he would give up the Air Force, the vital power balance in any coup, since government troops, unlike the Viet Cong, were unused to being strafed.

Jack Langguth, one of the reporters, was somewhat startled by the suggestion and asked, "Do you relly think he'll give up the Air Force, which is the only power base he has?" Taylor said he did. "Why?" asked Langguth. "Because he promised me," answered Taylor.

And Ky kept his word -- just like Hitler!

Posted by: Carl at March 6, 2008 02:04 AM

En Ming Hee,

years ago there was an SC TV sketch in which an American astronaut returned to earth and landed in a remote island somewhere with natives who watched satellite tv and picking up Hawaii 5-O reruns, had formed a religion around worshipping Jack Lord. Now I'm wondering if the writers had heard of the religion you mention.

(although I also note that Victor Hugo was a great lion of 19th c. liberalism, which is part of the reason I named my blog after him.)

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at March 6, 2008 03:19 AM

well, the man knew some history. Hitler's government in the 30s did actually increase employment, promote monetary stability, and restore national sovereignty over the Ruhrland. What's wrong with that? And only silly jerk-offs take at face value government political statements. Duh of course our policy re Iran has nothing to do with Ahmedinijad's ridiculous statements, or their occasional mistranslation.

Posted by: xyz at March 6, 2008 04:38 AM

oh, and incidentally, Ho lost the war after all. The communists managed to impose misery and poverty on the Vietnamese people for two decades and change, but now Goldman, Merrill, Citibank, McKinsey, PWC, and our colleagues have managed to help our little Viet brothers prosper. Really, along with fine companies like Nike and McDonalds, we helped these poor people recover from misery you wished upon them : )

Posted by: xyz at March 6, 2008 04:46 AM

oh, and one more note. US and Vietnam have a very close military relationship, including special privileges in access to their harbours. Everybody pretty much wants a close relationship to the US military, escept for a few countries acting like hysterical women. Even Serbia is member of NATO's PFP program, a Jr ROTC version of NATO for loser countries who do want to join the club. For all their jabbering like monkeys right now, the Serbs will soon be in Brussels, hats in hand. I will laugh my ass off : )

Posted by: xyz at March 6, 2008 06:38 AM

But didn't you hear? Fascists are Liberals! Jonah says so!

Posted by: Curtin at March 6, 2008 07:55 AM

Thanks, Jon, for helping promote "Savage Mules." You're a little early, but every bit is appreciated.

Why is the book called "Savage Mules"? Is it because "Liberal Fascism" was taken?

Posted by: SteveB at March 6, 2008 08:11 AM

"Why is the book called 'Savage Mules'? Is it because 'Liberal Fascism' was taken?"


Posted by: Dennis Perrin at March 6, 2008 08:26 AM

oh that goldberg fool misses the point. Fascism was popular because in a limited sense, it delivered. but he's right in a sense, modern statist liberalism does resemble many key elements of fascism, not the nasty bits, like burning jews in ovens, but the nice bits, like did you know Germany completely reformed the Czech pension system when they took over? Oh and Poland? They begged for and actually got a tiny slice of Czech territory in the German absorbtion of Bohemia and Moravia. Something most Poles, if they knew, would prefer not to talk about : )

Posted by: xyz at March 6, 2008 08:27 AM

If the cover doesn't feature a donkey with a Hitler mustache scrawled on it in black marker, I'm going to be very disappointed.

Posted by: SteveB at March 6, 2008 09:43 AM

Sorry, SB -- no Hitler mules on the cover. In fact, it's a bit understated, which was my request, lest the art dept. get all Steadmanish and show a mule with a knife in its mouth, or feeding on Iraqi dead, etc. As for the text inside . . .

Posted by: Dennis Perrin at March 6, 2008 10:03 AM

Dennis, maybe there could be a British edition with a cover image along the lines of the British paperback of Krugman's "The Great Unraveling" --

-- complete with a blurb from Al Franken, gushing that you're his personal hero.

Posted by: Duncan at March 6, 2008 11:36 AM

As I recall the Diems had been collaborators with the Japanese during WWII. In fact, most of the regimes we propped up in our informal colonial system after WWII had in some way collaborated with the Axis powers during the war.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at March 6, 2008 12:45 PM

It's the UNIFORM, those Nazi's had really snappy uniforms.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 6, 2008 03:12 PM

'Cause EVERY girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed MAN.---xy ZZ Top

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 6, 2008 03:17 PM

Bob in Pacifica:

Not ALL of the Axis powers had an equal foreign policy. Japan in particular was fine with "liberating" the peoples of Southeast Asia while killing lots of Chinese. Hell, it's hard not to find ANY ONE of the Southeast Asian nationalists that DID NOT COLLABORATE with the Japanese for a while even if it be a marriage of convenience, even the estimable idealist Aung San (Father of Suu Kyi) was trained by the Japs before turning on them. This was of course, only excepted by the Communists.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at March 6, 2008 10:34 PM