According to Bush World War II Began with the Attack on Pearl Harbor. Say What?
On June the 3rd, 2004 the Globe and Mail reported that in a televised commencement speech to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Bush said that " 'like the Second World War, our present conflict began with a ruthless attack on the United States,' ... in an apparent reference to the Sept. 11 attacks and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941." A White House press release gave the text of Bush's speech in which he was to say "Like the Second World War, our present conflict began with a ruthless, surprise attack on the United States. We will not forget that treachery, and we will accept nothing less than victory over the enemy."
As a Canadian historian I had a good belly laugh over this interpretation of history by Bush, so throughout the week I have been telling my friends and relatives on the Canadian prairies that I had read reports that Bush had claimed that the Second World War began with the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. All of them reacted either with disgust or uproarious laughter. Several said they knew he was "ignorant about history," but they wondered what is wrong with his speech writers.
The idea of the Second World War beginning with the attack on Pearl Harbor is, of course, ironic in light of Bush's current campaign to get more allies to support him in Iraq. If he cannot even give us credit for two years of doing battle during the Second World War before the Americans entered, how on earth does he think we would decide to support him in his current war?
Like Queen Victoria, my 92 year old mother, who is as bright as a new penny, was "not amused" by all of this. She lost two dear friends from Alberta who were in British air crews during the Battle of Britain. She is so angry at Bush that yesterday she spoke up at a political meeting in a small town in Alberta for the first time in her life when the local Conservative candidate made a positive reference to Bush. A friend, who was sitting beside my mother, urged her to speak up so she interrupted the Conservative candidate and said "Did you know that Bush says the Second World War began with Pearl Harbor?" A man who was sitting behind her angrily agreed with her. She then added "and the Americans did not come in during the First World War until 1917!" Again the man behind her agreed forcefully. The Conservative candidate meekly acquiesced and wisely changed the subject. My mother remembers how angry her mother was when her aunt, who had moved to the states, bragged in a Christmas card in 1917 about how well "our American boys are doing" in the war. My grandmother had immigrated to the Canadian prairies to homestead from England and she knew how many men from Britain, Canada, and the allied countries had died by the time the Americans entered the conflict.
In other words, my mother does not have to be a historian to know that many Canadians, Brits, and their allies had died before the Americans entered both of the World Wars. Let's face it Bush has a real knack for making enemies of people in Canada and other countries, such as my mother, who thought during both World Wars that the Americans were johnny-come-latelies. Needless to say, she will not change her mind no matter how much flowery rhetoric she hears from Bush.
Personally, I can hardly wait to read further reports of any comments Bush makes about history. Reading his interpretations of history is as good as reading 1066 and All That.