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Rick Atkinson quotes
Almost everything about American society is affected by World War II: our feelings about race; our feelings about gender and the empowerment of women, moving women into the workplace; our feelings about our role in the world. All of that comes in a very direct way out of World War II.
American audiences tend to underappreciate the British, but 240 years ago they were us: They were the most powerful nation on Earth. Their mercantile empire spanned the planet. They had the most potent and experienced army and navy the world had ever seen.
Hitler had a police state of the first order. And those who showed any sign of being weak-kneed faced prison or often summary execution. That prevented a lot of people who knew that the war was not going to turn out well for Germany from giving up.
I conduct very few interviews with veterans. The contemporaneous, or near-contemporaneous, record for WWII is so spectacularly deep that latter-day recollections are largely unnecessary for a historian. Of course, in considering any account, I'm looking for additional sources that can confirm or enlarge that version of events.
I think the Bush Administration had basically inherited a policy toward Iraq from the Reagan/Bush Administration that saw Iraq as a kind of fire wall against Iranian fundamentalism. And as it developed over the 1980s, it became a real political run-a-muck... even though the Iraqis were known to be harboring Palestinian terrorists.
I was born in Munich, and my father was stationed in Salzburg. For the first three years of my life, I lived in Austria back when the American Army was still in Austria. I grew up subsequently in posts around the country around veterans.
I was with the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq, really in the middle of nowhere, about 80 miles south of Baghdad. And it was almost midnight, and I got a computer message from the home office of the Washington Post asking me to call them. I did call them and was told that I'd won the Pulitzer Prize.
I'm going to leave WWII. I considered and rejected doing something on the Pacific. Fourteen years is enough. I'd like to take on a different challenge and probably a different era. But it will be another war. It's what I do.
In searching for a rationale to go to war, Bush settled on the notion of Saddam as an incarnation of evil, basically, and convinced himself that Saddam was fundamentally Adolf Hitler reborn. I think his feelings towards Saddam were in fact quite genuine and quite legitimately hostile. He was not play acting.
It's my belief that by demonizing Saddam, by raising the stakes in this war to the point where we're talking about a great moral crusade, that Bush in fact planted the seeds of discontent in the country, because this was fundamentally a limited war with limited objectives and with limited gains.
That was a pretty fine Army that we had in 1965. By 1973, it was in tatters. It was a disgrace to the country and to itself, to its own heritage, really. So it's, you know, the Army belongs to all 307 million of us. It is our common possession, it's our common heritage. As goes the Army, so goes the republic.
The people who write official histories for the Army believe that a generation needs to pass before you can tackle the official history. It's useful to have some distance. Sources become available. Passions cool. It allows an opportunity to make some real assessments and judgments about personalities and characters.
The spring of 1942 was given over to a very impassioned, strategic debate about where we should first attack in counterpunching against the Germans and Italians. The British argued very persuasively on the part of Winston Churchill, prime minister, that this was a very green American Army, green soldiers, green commanders.
The U.S. Army records alone for World War II weigh 17,000 tons, and even the best historians have not done more than just scratch the surface. The story is such that 500 years from now people will be writing and reading about it.