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Familiar, Haunting Words
Published on Friday, March 21, 2003 by the Long Island, NY Newsday
Familiar, Haunting Words
by Jimmy Breslin
 

At 8 o'clock last night, the Sikh in a blue turban in the subway change booth at 42nd Street gave me a little wave and I waved back. Suddenly, he was a front-line soldier in a war. I designate the subway at Times Square as a prime target in America in the war with Iraq.

I had just been at the public library, where I discovered the speech that started World War II. I print much of it here. It is darkly familiar to what we have been hearing here, when for the first time in American history we became all the things we ever hated and invaded another country. Herewith the speech:

Address by Adolf Hitler to the Reichstag, Sept. 1, 1939.

For months we have suffered under the torture of a problem which the Versailles Diktat created - a problem that has deteriorated until it becomes intolerable for us ...

As always, I attempted to bring about, by the peaceful method of making proposals for revision, an alteration of this intolerable position. It is a lie when the outside world says that we only tried to carry our revisions through by pressure. Fifteen years before the National Socialist Party came to power there was the opportunity of carrying out these revisions by peaceful settlements and understanding. On my own initiative I have, not once but several times, made proposals for the revision of intolerable conditions. All these proposals, as you know, have been rejected - proposals for the limitation of armaments and, even if necessary, disarmament, proposals for the limitation of warmaking, proposals for the elimination of certain methods of modern warfare ... You know the endless attempts I made for peaceful clarification and understanding of the problem of Austria, and later of the problem of the Sudetenland, Bohemia and Moravia. It was all in vain.

It is impossible to demand that an impossible position should be cleared up by peaceful revision, and at the same time constantly reject peaceful revision. It is also impossible to say that he who undertakes to carry out the revisions for himself transgresses a law, since the Versailles Diktat is not law to us.

In the same way, I have tried to solve the problems of Danzig, the Corridor, etc., by proposing a peaceful discussion. That the problems had to be solved was clear. It is quite understandable to us that the time when the problem was to be solved had little interest for the Western Powers. But time is not a matter of indifference to us ...

For four months I have calmly watched developments, although I never ceased to give warnings. In the last few days I have increased these warnings ...

I made one more final effort to accept a proposal for mediation on the part of the British government. They proposed, not that they themselves should carry out the negotiations, but rather that Poland and Germany should come into direct contact and once more pursue negotiations.

I must declare that I accepted this proposal and worked out a basis for these negotiations which are known to you. For two whole days I sat in my government and waited to see whether it was convenient for the Polish government to send a plenipotentiary or not. Last night they did not send us a plenipotentiary, but instead informed us through their ambassador that they were still considering whether and to what extent they were in a position to go into the British proposals. The Polish government also said they would inform Britain of their decision.

Deputies, if the German government and its leader patiently endured such treatment Germany would deserve only to disappear from the political stage. But I am wrongly judged if my love of peace and my patience are mistaken for weakness or even cowardice. I, therefore, decided last night and informed the British government that in these circumstances I can no longer find any willingness on the part of the Polish government to conduct serious negotiations with us.

The other European states understand in part our attitude. I should like all to thank Italy, which throughout has supported us, but you will understand for the carrying on of this struggle ... we will carry out this task ourselves.

This night for the first time, Polish regular soldiers fired on our territory. Since 5:45 a.m. we have been returning the fire and from now on bombs will be met with bombs. Whoever fights with poison gas will be fought with poison gas. Whoever departs from the rules of humane warfare can only expect that we shall do the same ... until the safety, security of the Reich and its rights are secured.

***

On that night, Hitler used this dry, unimaginative language to start a world war that was to kill 60 million, and they stopped counting.

Last night, George Bush, after speech after speech of this same dry, flat, banal language, started a war for his country, and we can only beg the skies to keep it from spreading into another world war.

Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.

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