Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK coincided with the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Trump joined the Queen in Portsmouth to commemorate the allied attack on German forces across beaches in Normandy, France. The whole event, however, was doused with a historical revisionism that seriously overlooked the Soviet Union’s colossal war efforts. It was also marked by a colonial imagination of a post-war ‘peace’.
Who defeated the Nazis?
At the state banquet, Trump announced:
This evening, we thank God for the brave sons of the United Kingdom and the United States, who defeated the Nazis and the Nazi regime, and liberated millions from tyranny. The bond between our nations was forever sealed in that great crusade.
At the same event, the Queen remarked:
While the world has changed, we are forever mindful of the original purpose of these structures: nations working together to safeguard a hard won peace.
The D-Day landings and subsequent liberation of Europe are, beyond doubt, events worthy of celebration. But Trump’s suggestion that it was the US and the UK alone which “defeated the Nazis and the Nazi regime” is not consistent with the facts.
According to the National WWII Museum, the Soviet Union suffered 24,000,000 military and civilian deaths during the war; the UK, meanwhile, suffered 450,700, and the US suffered 418,500. The German army invaded the Soviet Union, and the Red Army was ultimately the first to reach Berlin. Even Winston Churchill, a Conservative with little esteem for the Soviet Union, claimed that it did “the main work in tearing the guts out of the German Army”.
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Recognising these basic facts does not imply an apology for Stalin or the Soviet Union’s crimes.
Propagandising the past
The Queen’s reference to a “hard won peace”, meanwhile, overlooks decades of US- and UK-sponsored post-war violence. It plays into an imperial imagination that, once the Nazis were defeated, the problem of foreign aggression largely became a closed book. By contrast, the defeat of the Nazis and the later fall of the Soviet Union turned the world’s power structure into a ‘unipolarity‘, with the US essentially holding the monopoly on global violence. And it’s difficult to argue that the US, with the support of the UK, has used this power to further global peace. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
The Queen also noted:
Tonight we celebrate an alliance that has helped to ensure the safety and prosperity of both our peoples for decades, and which I believe will endure for many years to come.
What is, in your opinion, the nation which most contributed to the defeat of Germany in 1945?
The poll was conducted in 1945, 1994, 2004, and 2015, in order to monitor how perceptions of the war effort change over time.
In 1945, the pollster explains:
a very clear majority (57%) consider that the Soviet Union is the nation that most contributed to the German defeat, whereas the US and England, while liberators of the French national territory, only received 20% and 12% respectively.
This came despite the issues of “censorship and the difficulty under the occupation to access reliable information”.
A ‘spectacular inversion’
As time passed, the poll shows how the perception of who most contributed to the defeat of the Nazis “inversed spectacularly”. By 2004, a clear majority of 58% believed the US contributed most to the allied war effort; the Soviet Union receiving only 20%.
The poll’s findings suggest a global process of re-education – an unquestionable product of US cultural hegemony and the corporate media’s reluctance to report on war in terms that don’t flatter the West. The US government, for instance, collaborates behind the scenes with Hollywood, which produces blockbusters presenting the US at the forefront of heroic war efforts. As files obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act showed:
between 1911 and 2017, more than 800 feature films received support from the US Government’s Department of Defence (DoD), a significantly higher figure than previous estimates indicate.
And “Hollywood’s ‘Captain Marvel’ blockbuster”, explains journalist Ben Norton, “is blatant US military propaganda”. In this light, it’s also concerning that Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea are now forming a production company, “making a foray into Hollywood after decades in the public eye”.
Trump’s state visit, however, ultimately sits as a minor event in the longstanding project of global cultural re-education. As Noam Chomsky famously wrote:
Propaganda is to democracy as the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.
In short, we can only truly challenge Washington’s global hegemony by unravelling the narratives it tells about itself.
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