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Lesson from recent history

Gustave Gilbert, an intelligence officer at the end of World War II, interviewed on-trial (Nuremberg Trials) Hermann Goering. The Reichsmarschall and Gilbert had long, uninterrupted conversations, recorded in Gilbert’s journals, meticulously kept. 

The trial was not going in the Reichsmarschall’s favor. Here are Gilbert’s recorded observations. They warrant thinking about, deeply and clearly, especially with tensions rising around the world to which Congress seems no longer to have any oversight nor control of United States leaders’ response.

Gilbert: “We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I’d not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them to war and destruction.”

Goering: “Why, of course, the people don’t want war,” he snapped. “Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war, neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That’s understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or fascist dictatorship or a Parliament of a Communist dictatorship.”

Gilbert: “There is one difference. In a democracy the people have some say on the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.”

Goering: “Oh, that is all very well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

 

Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now lives in New Mexico.