Vol: 69 Issue: 29 Friday, June 29, 2007
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been characterized many times as the 21st century’s answer to Hitler.
Before declaring Ahmadinejad as the 21st century’s Hitler, Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as members of their respective candidates, declared Saddam Hussein to be the Adolf Hitler of this generation.
The Hitler/Nazi Germany analogy can be a powerful indictment. Whenever it is used, stark associations flood the mind: appeasement, war, gas chambers, genocide, and the deaths of millions of people. Once we cry Hitler, all attempts at detente or diplomacy are dismissed as mere appeasement.
The ghost of Hitler was invoked in a speech by former Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Nentanyahu at the General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities this month. As the Jewish Telegraphic Agency recently reported:
“Netanyahu warned that Iran is aiming to develop 25 nuclear weapons a year, ultimately with a range that can reach the East Coast of the United States.
It s 1938 and Iran is Germany. And Iran is racing to get atomic weapons, Netanyahu repeated again and again. When someone tells you he is going to exterminate you, believe him and stop him.
The former prime minister said he had been trying for a decade to warn world leaders that Iran represented the greatest threat not just to Israel but also to Europe and America but nobody seems to care very strongly.
While Hitler started a war and then tried to develop an atomic bomb, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is building nuclear weapons first and then will start a war, Netanyahu warned. Unlike 1938 and its aftermath, however, this time the Jewish people will not be the sacrificial lamb, Netanyahu declared to prolonged applause.”
Hitler was a singular evil in the pantheon of history. On many levels, his brand of evil is incomparable; any attempt to compare him to tin-pot dictators like Saddam or even Ahmadinejad tends to minimize Hitler more than it maximizes the target of such comparisons.
Hitler was evil unbound — he answered to no one, was beholden to his own ideology, which was uniquely Hitlerian. A comparison between Hitler and a common thug like Saddam Hussein is like comparing Al Capone and a common car-jacker.
Comparing Ahmadinejad to Hitler is similarly unsatisfactory on most levels, since, as evil as Ahmadinejad might be, he doesn’t stand alone the way Hitler does. Ahmadinejad is the product of a wider evil ideology, whereas Hitler was the founder and author of an evil without parallel in human history.
Ahmadinejad’s evil is replicated many times over within Islam; Hitler’s evil is such that it will be replicated only once more in the course of history. Ahmadinejad’s qualification as the 21st century answer to Hitler rests on the fact that Ahmadinejad is a head of state, as Hitler was a head of state.
But Ahmadinejad’s hatred of the Jews and his desire to wipe them from the map is rooted in the wider ideology of Islam. Ahmadinejad sees the destruction of Israel as a duty imposed on him by Islam.
Hitler’s destruction of the Jews was not rooted in a religious duty, but rather a matter a personal joy.
Ahmadinejad’s hatred is aimed at the ‘Zionist State’ which his religious convictions demand be eradicated. Hitler’s hatred was aimed at the individual Jew.
Ahmadinejad wants to see the elimination of the Jewish state as a corporate Zionist entity for the crime of usurping Islamic control over Jerusalem.
Hitler’s goal was the elimination of every living Jew for the crime of being Jews.
The only figure whose comparison to Hitler would be appropriate would be the antichrist — and only in that Hitler can be compared to the antichrist — and not the other way around.
That being said, Ahmadinejad is about as close to being the next Hitler to disgrace the ground he walks on as one can come without rising to the level of the antichrist. It isn’t my intention to dismiss him or minimize the threat that he poses.
I just don’t want to do an historical injustice to the evil that Hitler was, or to the victims of his evil. If anything, Hitler was Satan’s ‘trial run’ for the antichrist. But while Ahmadinejad doesn’t rise to Hitler’s level, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez makes a pretty good historical repeat of Hitler’s henchman, Benito Mussolini.
Like Mussolini, Chavez is little more than a thug and a buffoon. In and of himself, he is not much of a threat, but when partnered with Ahmadinejad, the resulting combination increases the danger posed by both leaders by several orders of magnitude.
Like Mussolini, Chavez has no ideology of his own, apart from magnifying his own importance on the world stage. Mussolini introduced strict censorship and altered the methods of election so that in 1925-1926 he was able to assume dictatorial powers and dissolve all other political parties.
Skillfully using his absolute control over the press, he gradually built up the legend of the “il Duce, a man who was always right and could solve all the problems of politics and economics.”
Italy was soon a police state. In foreign policy, Mussolini soon shifted from pacifist anti-imperialism to an extreme form of aggressive nationalism.
While Mussolini had nothing particular against the Jews, when he allied himself with the Nazis, he adopted the Nazi racial policies that included the persecution of Jews and participation in their deportation to the Nazi death camps.
Like Mussolini, Chavez’ domestic supporters view him as a socialist liberator. He is seen as a champion of nationalism and anti-imperialism. He has used his popular support, as Mussolini did, to create the myth of a Latin American il Duce, a man who is always right and has the answers to all Latin America’s problems’.
As Venezuela’s il Duce, he has consolidated his power, claiming the right to rule by decree. He has assumed absolute control of all state institutions and achieved total political control. Like Mussolini, he has absolute control of the media and is not shy about using it.
An editorial posted at Venzuelaanalysis.com yesterday asked rhetorically;
“Why would the U.S. government go to such lengths to discredit Chavez when he is a democratically elected President who is more popular to his own people and to people of other countries than any president or leader in the history of the world?”
(The “most popular national leader” in the “history of the world”? No megalomania here.)
But Chavez, like Mussolini, knows that alone, the world views him as just another tin-pot dictator. As part of a wider alliance with Iran, however, Chavez importance on the world stage is more in keeping with his own self-image as a force to be reckoned with.
Ahmadinejad is playing Chavez like a bass fiddle. Last year, the Iranian president awarded Chavez its highest state medal in return for Chavez’ support of Tehran’s right to nuclear power. Chavez reciprocated for the honor by opening Terrorist Airlines, an air corridor from Tehran to the Americas via Caracas.
Last week, Tehran instituted gas rationing, which resulted in riots in the streets. While Iran has plenty of oil, it doesn’t have any refining capacity and is therefore 50% dependent on foreign suppliers for gasoline. Venezuela is awash with US-built refineries that he nationalized last year.
This week, Chavez went to Tehran, where he was received as a national hero. He emerged from the meeting to announce Venezuela is considering its own nuclear program.
Ahmandinejad emerged to announce gas rationing was only a ‘temporary’ measure.
While Ahmadinejad is playing Chavez like a bass fiddle, the orchestra conductor isn’t Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It is Vladimir Putin.
Before his visit with Ahmadinejad, Chavez met with Putin for ‘talks’ outside Moscow. A Russian spokesman confirmed that the agenda was economic and military-technical cooperation between Russia, Iran and Venezuela.
Chavez expressed interest in purchasing Russian submarines. Caracas already has purchased some US$3 billion worth of arms from Russia, including 53 military helicopters, 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles, 24 SU-30 Sukhoi fighter jets and other weapons.
(The purchase of 100,000 Kalishnikovs is intriguing. Venezuela’s army, including reserves, numbers 83,000 men. Assuming they already had one rifle for each soldier, Venezuela’s arsenal of small arms is three times the number of men Chavez could deploy to use them.)
Ahmadinejad is no Adolf Hitler but Islamist Iran makes a passable Nazi Germany. Chavez makes a pretty fair Benito Mussolini, and Venezuela an historical clone of Fascist Italy. And ulling all the strings for both is the ubiquitous Vladimir Putin.
Benjamin Netanyahu was right on in his historical analogy that this is 1938 all over again. But this time, il Duce isn’t on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. He’s on the other side of the Rio Grande.
With 100,000 more Kalishnikovs than he has soldiers to carry them.