Hitler and Göring knew it. See below. George W. Bush and Cheney knew it. See Iraq and Afghanistan. Now Obama knows it too. See Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Naturally the common people don’t want war…. 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…. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
Hermann Göring (or Goering), Nazi military leader, Commander of the Luftwaffe, and President of the Reichstag
The quote is taken from an interview G. M. Gilbert had with Göring in the jail cell where Göring was being held during the Nuremberg trials. I cannot, of course, reproduce the entire interview, but here is some context for the quote, beginning with Gilbert’s words:
We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.
“Why, of course, the people don’t want war,” Goering shrugged. “Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that 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 is 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 a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.”
“There is one difference,” I pointed out. “In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare war.”
“Oh, that is all 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 exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”
G. M. Gilbert, Nuremberg Diary (New York: Da Capo Press, 1974) 278-9
We continue to this day to tell our voters they are in danger of attack from religious fanatics on the other side of the world, so they are willing to send our seemingly infinite supply of young men and women to far-away countries so they can lose their lives, limbs and sanity.
We tell our son that he is a hero, but we don’t tell him that:
…the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece.
— Hermann Göring, Nazi and Master of War
Will we ever learn?