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November 16, 2009

Dolchstosslegende IV: A New Beginning

Great choice of words, U.S. defense official:

A U.S. defense official said the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, feels he was "stabbed in the back" by Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

Three months ago, Eikenberry supported McChrystal's request for more troops, but last week it was revealed he sent a classified cable opposing it until Karzai shows that he can be trusted.

What we really need to win in Afghanistan and worldwide is simply to apply our will. Let's make a black and white documentary about that.


[T]he stab in the back has become the sustaining myth of modern American nationalism. Since the end of World War II it has been the device by which the American right wing has both revitalized itself and repeatedly avoided responsibility for its own worst blunders. Indeed, the right has distilled its tale of betrayal into a formula: Advocate some momentarily popular but reckless policy. Deny culpability when that policy is exposed as disastrous. Blame the disaster on internal enemies who hate America. Repeat, always making sure to increase the number of internal enemies...

The stab in the back first gained currency in Germany, as a means of explaining the nation's stunning defeat in World War I. It was Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg himself, the leading German hero of the war, who told the National Assembly, "As an English general has very truly said, the German army was 'stabbed in the back.'"

Like everything else associated with the stab-in-the-back myth, this claim was disingenuous. The "English general" in question was one Maj. Gen. Neill Malcolm, head of the British Military Mission in Berlin after the war, who put forward this suggestion merely to politely summarize how Field Marshal Erich von Ludendorff—the force behind Hindenburg—was characterizing the German army's alleged lack of support from its civilian government.

"Ludendorff's eyes lit up, and he leapt upon the phrase like a dog on a bone," wrote Hindenburg biographer John Wheeler-Bennett. "'Stabbed in the back?' he repeated. 'Yes, that's it exactly. We were stabbed in the back.'"

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at November 16, 2009 11:55 AM

Yes, a long B&W docu, showing the adoring crowd in Chicago Nov 2008, praising the new leader. Just what Stanley ordured.

Posted by: Stanley's Triumph at November 16, 2009 12:39 PM

That Kevin Baker article is irritatingly inaccurate in some peripheral ways. Baker asserts without examination (and without knowledge) that Alger Hiss was both a communist and a spy AND describes him as a minor figure. In fact, Alger Hiss was the principal author of the United Nations charter, which is no flunky's job, and he was neither a communist nor a spy. That slur is complete horseshit, but since nobody every goes back and reads the ridiculous evidence presented against Hiss when he was convicted of perjury and instead cites to some lame evidence from the Venona documents released after the USSR dissolved, the charge keeps getting repeated. People don't even seem able to remember that the United States and the USSR were ALLIES during WWII, which means we were ON THE SAME SIDE in the war, no matter how much the right wing wishes it had been otherwise.

Nixon as much as admitted that he framed Hiss. But the defamation of Hiss has all probably become undoable and historically true by repitition at this point, which is the major way history is created. (Senator Moyniohan didn't help but dropping a footnote in a book saying Hiss was guilty without even examining the issue, because for Moynihan's purposes it was again a peripheral point of no consequence.)

For anyone who wants reliable Hiss information:

Second, for some reason Baker omits a big part of how the original Dolchstosslegende got going. It could have been stopped dead in its tracks before it became part of Nazi mythology, but an interview by the great George Seldes of Hindenburg in which Hindenburg actually admitted that the German army had been defeated by the American infantry at the Argonne was blocked by Pershing's censors, who were probably concerned about further undermining the German military and fostering communism. This became the greatest regret of George Seldes' journalistic career. As he said:

"If the Hindenburg interview had been passed by Pershing's censors at the time, it would have been headlined in every country civilized enough to have newspapers and undoubtedly would have made an impression on millions of people and became an important page in history," wrote Seldes in "Witness to a Century.'' "I believe it would have destroyed the main planks on which Hitler rose to power, it would have prevented World War II, the greatest and worst war in all history, and it would have changed the future of all mankind."

Three cheers for military censorship.

But yeah, Baker is correct in his big claim. The right loves to complain about betrayal. They would never lose otherwise. Once all the treasonous lefties are taken care of, they never will. Just ask 'em.

Posted by: N E at November 16, 2009 02:58 PM

If Hiss had been a communist and a spy, what then?

Why aren't the Venona decrypt things reliable?

Posted by: Save the Oocytes at November 16, 2009 03:43 PM

I became convinced some time ago that American conservatives' scapegoating of liberals for everything since Vietnam was a modern Dolchstosslegende. Of course, that link became more pronounced after 2009's "Summer of Hate" and the remarkable degree to which the conservative base took to the streets to serve as stooges for corporate interests. Because the conservative movement always projects its own psychological motivations onto progressives, I saw the constant references to Hitler and the Nazis as a more ominous indicator of the real truth: what the teabaggers really want is a Hitler of their own.

Posted by: Mulciber at November 16, 2009 04:14 PM




If Hiss had been a communist and a spy, then he would have been a communist and a spy, but since he wasn't, he wasn't. It wasn't good enough then to call Hiss an arrogant liberal.

The little cottage industry of folks interested in the Venona documents are biased. Few other people care enough or have time enough to research that stuff anymore, so the claims of that little National Security clique just get repeated. The idea that people like Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White were communists because someone in a secret document allegedly was referring to them by a code name is one hell of a reach. Hiss and White never were communists any more than women burned in Salem in the 16th century were witches; they were destroyed by unprincipled, nasty political enemies.

If people understood how much of the rationale for the Cold War was phony, they would be much more skeptical of what is now The Long War, formerly known as the Global War on Terror.

Posted by: N E at November 16, 2009 05:07 PM

one would think the double intelligence failures of 9/11 and WMDs in Iraq would be enough to make any thinking person skeptical of what the US government is up to.......for the rest of our natural lives.

Posted by: Susan at November 17, 2009 01:31 AM

Susan, they really weren't "intelligence failures" so much as "leadership failures". Bush and company had plenty of good intelligence they just blew it off or decided to make up their own in the 2nd instance. It was a bigger journalistic failure than intelligence failure, our media just jumped right in with the Bush program and performed like the Bush lap dogs they were and still are. A distinction worth noting. We had FBI agents, I'm not a fan, but who knew something was up and got smacked down by their superiors for their trouble and concerns about people learning to fly without interest in learning to land. Anyway, just a slight distinction I would suggest.

Posted by: knowdoubt at November 17, 2009 06:35 AM

"leadership failure" v. "media failure"

It's only a failure if you don't get what you want. It sure looks like a whopping big success to me from the perspective of both the leaders and the media, all of whom attend the same parties.

Posted by: N E at November 17, 2009 11:02 AM

N.E., I don't know if you saw it or not, but driftglass had an excellent short clip from youtube here:

that really illustrates what/how journalism (MSM) has become today.

Posted by: knowdoubt at November 17, 2009 11:32 AM

Repeating Arthur Silber's argument which shouldn't be original around here, "intelligence" is created to serve policy, not vice versa. The average person has all the information needed; the claim to secret knowledge just allows the government to engage (even more so) in actions without the consent of the populace; and arguing in terms of this "intelligence" in the end loses the argument, because they can change the intelligence at will to something more conducive.

N E will talk your ear off about 9/11, but as for Iraq WMD: massive intelligence success. The proper people were enriched.

The failure was only a moral one.

Posted by: Save the Oocytes at November 17, 2009 04:08 PM


true to life


I'll talk you ear off about all kinds of things, even Warren Harding!

Arthur Silber is smart and extremely moral and I admire his thinking and writing. His essay on why intelligence agencies should NEVER be trusted is good, and he's rigth that one should never accept their premises in argunent. And that's only the tip of the iceberg as to their sneakiness. But of course it's all hidden and uniformly denied or it wouldn't be effective (or for that matter sneaky).

I agree there was no intel failure as to Iraqi WMD. There may have been a usurpation of power by Cheney et al on the heels of 9/11, and made possible by it, but Team Langley (Poppy Bush, James Baker, Scowcroft, all the Clinton/Obama internationalists, the banks, and probably the oil majors put the kabosh on further aggressive wars started by Cheney. I'm not sure that even Petraeus was willing to attack Iran. The Middle East is our Golden Goose, and others don't seem to have been as eager as Cheney to endanger it as dramatically as Cheney might have if it had been left up to him.

Starting an unnecessary war that kills a million or more people is definitely a major moral failure.

Posted by: N E at November 17, 2009 05:37 PM

"stabbed in the back" seems to be on McCrystal's mind a lot these days.

"Not surprisingly, the Sorley book is getting a lot of attention at the upper levels of the Pentagon and at McChrystal's headquarters in Kabul. Told that NEWSWEEK was looking into the parallels between the Sorley book and General McChrystal's situation in Afghanistan, a senior Marine general exclaimed, "You're on to something there!" (Like other senior military officials contacted by NEWSWEEK, the general declined to be quoted praising a book that argues, though not in so many words, that the military was stabbed in the back by its civilian leaders.)"

Notice that he got Newsweek to say something absolutely outrageous AND praise him for being too noble discrete to say so himself.

Here's the whole irritating story:

Posted by: N E at November 18, 2009 06:02 PM