The Long View 2004-09-28: How Bush's grandfather helped Hitler's rise to power

Most of the attention has been focused on how the Clintons were frustrated in their political ambitions by the election of Donald Trump, but he also easily bested the Bush family. I wouldn't count either family out, especially the Bushes, who have been in this game for a very long time.

How Bush's grandfather helped Hitler's rise to power

You really can't improve on headlines like the one above. It's the title of a recent piece in The Guardian, which tells its readers this:

George Bush's grandfather, the late US senator Prescott Bush, was a director and shareholder of companies that profited from their involvement with the financial backers of Nazi Germany....The debate over Prescott Bush's behaviour has been bubbling under the surface for some time.

Actually, it must have been bubbling so far under the surface that the reporters who researched it for this article may have discovered that the Earth has a nugget center. But some specifics:

In 1924, [Prescott's] father-in-law, a well-known St Louis investment banker, helped set him up in business in New York with Averill Harriman, the wealthy son of railroad magnate E H Harriman in New York, who had gone into banking...One of the first jobs Walker gave Bush was to manage UBC. Bush was a founding member of the bank and the incorporation documents, which list him as one of seven directors, show he owned one share in UBC worth $125. ...The bank was set up by Harriman and Bush's father-in-law to provide a US bank for the Thyssens, Germany's most powerful industrial family.

The argument that Hitler's rise to power was financed chiefly by German industrialists has been pretty thoroughly refuted. Still, the steel magnate Fritz Thyssen is an example to the contrary. He supported Hitler in the second half of the 1920s, when the Weimar economy was doing fine and the Nazi Party was down on its luck. This had nothing to do with his business relations in the US, which were in any case managed through a Dutch subsidiary.

During the 1920s, it was the policy of the US government to encourage American investment in Germany, in order to keep the various war-reparations schemes afloat. Nonetheless, those unremarkable contacts, and their equally unremarkable continuance into the 1930s, have been God's gift to conspiracy theorists ever since. There is progress, however. Now, there are lawyers:

The two Holocaust survivors suing the US government and the Bush family for a total of $40bn in compensation claim both materially benefited from Auschwitz slave labour during the second world war...The petition to The Hague states: "From April 1944 on, the American Air Force could have destroyed the camp with air raids, as well as the railway bridges and railway lines from Hungary to Auschwitz. The murder of about 400,000 Hungarian Holocaust victims could have been prevented."...The case is built around a January 22 1944 executive order signed by President Franklin Roosevelt calling on the government to take all measures to rescue the European Jews. The lawyers claim the order was ignored because of pressure brought by a group of big American companies, including BBH, where Prescott Bush was a director.

The wonder thing about "stories" like this one in The Guardian is that it lets you mention "Bush's Nazi colleagues" in paragraph after paragraph, provided you mention the in first one that you mean Prescott, or possibly people who served on the same boards as Prescott.

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All these people overlook the most important 20th-century Bush, by the way: Vannevar Bush, the physicist who is credited with inventing the idea of hypertext, as well as with organizing scientific research for the federal government during and after World War II. I was crushed to discover recently that he was not GWB's uncle, or any other near relation. (Anyone who knows of a relationship, please tell me.)

I also learn that the physicist's name is not as cool as might appear. "Vannevar" looks as if it should be spoken with a fine Viking ring, but in fact it rhymes with "receiver."

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Meanwhile, that Other Spengler who writes for Asia Times has contrived to bring the Culture and the Terror Wars into harmony:

Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, reduced his city's crime rate by applying pressure on petty criminals, such as the "squeegee men", derelicts who cleaned windshields for a tip. The police bore down on marijuana dealers, vandals and other minor offenders they previously ignored, in the correct supposition that they would have information leading to more dangerous criminals. That is the anti-terror strategy of the Department of Homeland Security, which has criminalized not only the terrorists, but also ideological sympathizers of the terrorists as well. That is, the American definition of "terrorist sympathizer" includes not only the local mosque official who took donations for charities associated with Hamas, but also otherwise peaceful men who offer mere ideological justification for jihad, including Islamic scholars of global reputation and job offers at leading universities. It is an unpleasant but efficient policy.

It is sometimes said that Islamicism has no realistic hope of success because, unlike Soviet Communism, it has no native allies in the West. However, as Christopher Hitchens remarked today, that just isn't true:

A few [Kerry supporters] pin a vague hope on the so-called "debates"—which are actually joint press conferences allowing no direct exchange between the candidates—but most are much more cynical. Some really bad news from Iraq, or perhaps Afghanistan, and/or a sudden collapse or crisis in the stock market, and Kerry might yet "turn things around." You have heard it, all right, and perhaps even said it. But you may not have appreciated how depraved are its implications. If you calculate that only a disaster of some kind can save your candidate, then you are in danger of harboring a subliminal need for bad news. And it will show. What else explains the amazingly crude and philistine remarks of that campaign genius Joe Lockhart, commenting on the visit of the new Iraqi prime minister and calling him a "puppet"? Here is the only regional leader who is even trying to hold an election, and he is greeted with an ungenerous sneer.

The roots of treason go deeper than mere electoral politics. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the defense against Islamicism will require the end of the multicultural ideology that made the threat invisible and unmentionable for so long. Elements of the academy and the media are willing to trade the increase in physical danger, which a Kerry victory would obviously bring, for the preservation of their social and cultural status.

The assessment is quite rational, even compelling. Don't expect it to change, no matter what happens on the battlefield.

Copyright © 2004 by John J. Reilly

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