Last week the two sides of the war in Iraq were clearly put before the American people and the world by two opposing presentations. The first to appear was a full page ad that the Democrat organization called moveon.org placed in the New York Times and which the paper subsidized with a $102,000 discount. It was headlined: "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?" and begins with: "General Petraeus is a military man constantly at war with the facts." A few sentences later the ad makes a totally false statement previously made by Times columnist Paul Krugman who wrote: "The Pentagon has adopted a bizarre formula for keeping tabs on violence. For example, deaths by car bombs don't count."
The other side of the war in Iraq was the speech by President George W. Bush from the Oval Office last week which he called, "The Way Forward in Iraq." In that speech President Bush bluntly presents the other side of this argument: "In Iraq, an ally of the United States is fighting for its survival. Terrorists and extremists who are at war with us around the world are seeking to topple Iraq's government, dominate the region, and attack us here at home. If Iraq's young democracy can turn back these enemies, it will mean a more hopeful Middle East and a more secure America. This ally has placed its trust in the United States. And tonight, our moral and strategic imperatives are one: We must help Iraq defeat those who threaten its future and also threaten ours."
After watching the president speak I immediately went to see the dress rehearsal of a live production of "The Sound of Music" at the Center Street Musical Theatre in Provo, Utah. That show is based on a true story that occurred in the 1930s when Adolf Hitler used tactics quite similar to the terrorist tactics now facing the USA and the world to seize control of Austria. The star male role of Captain Georg von Trapp, played by my son, Gavin Grooms, includes a scene where Capt von Trapp, who had been a U-boat captain for the Austrians in World War I, refuses to fly the Nazi flag, give the Nazi salute or accept a commission in the German Navy.
In real life, and in the show, that led to the von Trapp family fleeing their magnificent home in Austria and settling in the USA to make their living by singing. The German aggression against Austria on March 12, 1938 was soon followed by the appeasement of Hitler by the Allies at the Munich Conference on September 29, 1938 when Germany was given the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, then by Hitler's entry into Prague to take over what is now the Czech Republic on March 15, 1939. This was followed by the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, then the invasion of Norway and Denmark on April 9, 1940. On December 7, 1941, Japan, an ally of Adolf Hitler, bombed Pearl Harbor and on December 9, 1941, Germany declared war on the USA, following Congress' declaration of war against Japan.
So, what exactly was going on in the USA during the three and a half years between Germany's seizure of Austria and Japan's bombing of the United States? Did we then decide that allowing Adolf Hitler to completely ignore the provisions of the Versailles peace treaty following World War I was dangerous? We didn't. We were just as divided between 1938 and December 1941 as we are now.
During those years popular American leaders, celebrities and heroes such as Charles A. Lindbergh, who piloted the first solo flight across the Atlantic, Senators Burton Wheeler, a Democrat and Senator Gerald P. Nye, Republican, along with socialist presidential candidate Norman Thomas, film producer Walt Disney and architect Frank Lloyd Wright were all members of the America First Committee. Like moveon.org today the America First Committee totally opposed the president-in their case, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's efforts to rearm America and support Winston Churchill blocking Hitler.
Lindbergh, who headed the America First Committee, said in a speech following Hitler's seizure of Austria: "If we enter fighting for democracy abroad we may end by losing it at home. We must not be misguided by this foreign propaganda to the effect that our frontiers lie in Europe. What more could we ask than the Atlantic Ocean on the East, the Pacific on the West? An ocean is a formidable barrier, even for modern aircraft."
Lindbergh accused President Roosevelt of lying about the threat of Hitler, just as today moveon.org and its supporters are accusing President Bush of lying about terrorism. Had America listened to Roosevelt, rather than Lindbergh in the 1930s, perhaps most of the 60 million people who died in World War II could have lived out their lives. On April 7, 1954, President and World War II General Dwight D. Eisenhower warned that if Vietnam fell to communism, the rest of Southeast Asia would soon follow like a "row of dominoes." He was not believed and now the reporters can't even remember who said that. Had America believed Eisenhower, rather than disgruntled malcontents in the anti-war movement, such as John Kerry, we could have avoided the deaths of millions of people following the communist takeovers in South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia after the American army was pulled out in 1975.
Yesterday President George W. Bush made a very similar warning when he said: "The success of a free Iraq is critical to the security of the United States. A free Iraq will deny al Qaeda a safe haven. A free Iraq will counter the destructive ambitions of Iran. A free Iraq will marginalize extremists, unleash the talent of its people, and be an anchor of stability in the region. A free Iraq will set an example for people across the Middle East. A free Iraq will be our partner in the fight against terror - and that will make us safer here at home.
"Realizing this vision will be difficult, but it is achievable. Our military commanders believe we can succeed. Our diplomats believe we can succeed. And for the safety of future generations of Americans, we must succeed."
Who will die by the millions if we again turn to isolationism and abandon Iraq to cope alone with a nuclear armed Iran that wants to take control of the rest of the Middle East oil fields, destroy Israel and force its form of religion on the entire world, including America?