Politics & Policy

An Obsession Too Far

RT manages to find the hidden anti-Ukrainian angle in an Anglo-American World War II battle In Holland.

RT, the Russian-government-owned news network formerly known as Russia Today can’t change its mind but also won’t change the subject.

The international channel is marking a tragic anniversary from the Great Patriotic War: Operation Market Garden. Seventy years ago Wednesday, the Western plutocracies, ravenous to grab land and resources from the international workers before the mighty Red Army completed its liberation of Europe, launched the largest airborne operation in history.

Market Garden dropped 40,000 British, American, and Polish paratroopers along a narrow corridor in the Netherlands, with the intention being for the airborne troops to seize and hold an intricate network of bridges and create a carpet over which a British armored corps would roll, eventually gaining the Allies a toehold on the east bank of the Rhine in the Dutch city of Arnhem. The tough and ultimately unsuccessful offensive has been commemorated in Cornelius Ryan’s excellent 1974 book A Bridge Too Far and in Richard Attenborough’s woefully underappreciated 1976 Hollywood adaptation of that book. (The 1946 British movie Theirs Is the Glory is also available in its entirety on YouTube, focusing on the battle of Oosterbeek and featuring many veterans of the campaign, with shooting in original locations.)

But RT’s Tony Gosling, in the article “A betrayal too far: Only brutal honesty will do at Arnhem’s 70th anniversary,” says the dwindling handful of veterans of the 1944 struggle are seeing their pride overshadowed by, of all things, the misbehavior of Russia’s pro-Western opponents in 2014 Ukraine:

The objective was to liberate a large slice of Holland, cross the Rhine, grab a bridgehead into the industrial heartland of the Ruhr’s Nazi war machine, and end the war by Christmas 1944. Instead the mission’s failure brought a colossal 16,000 casualties, and left a 60-mile finger of Allied troops sticking into German-held territory leading nowhere. A disastrous “Hongerwinter” of bitter starvation followed the military failure, where an estimated 22,000 Dutch civilians starved to death under Nazi occupation.

But as both sides gather in 2014 to remember, and puzzle over, one of the most enigmatic and engaging battles of the war, the organized evil of fascism is again legitimized, active and growing in Europe. Right now the legacy of Hitler’s “Crooked Cross” is a political force, notably in Greece, with the Golden Dawn party, and Ukraine, with the openly pro-Nazi Pravy Sektor party.

“Did we,” many of the old soldiers will be wondering, “really finish the job in 1945?” “Have our leaders set us on the right path with their War on Terror determined to vanquish terrorism from the face of the Earth?” “Or has that enemy been deliberately ‘cooked up’ by the real enemy within?” “Will our children again have to confront this totalitarian menace in our midst before social justice triumphs and the cult of fascism and gangsterism is winkled out forever?”

Gosling, for reasons of his own, declines to quote any actual Market Garden veterans expressing any of the sentiments he attributes to them — let alone engaging in Soviet-style rants against “gangsterism” and fascism in Ukraine. You may be a little foggy on what a long-ago battle in the Netherlands has to do with Russia’s struggle over Ukraine today (maybe it’s that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 originated in Amsterdam?), but Gosling’s a big-picture man. (It is true that many Ukrainians initially welcomed the Nazi invasion as a liberation from the USSR and that Germany found many willing Ukrainian collaborators.)

© Obrugman | Dreamstime.com - Airborne March Oosterbeek Arc Photo

Operation Market Garden saw some feats of breathtaking heroism, in particular from the American 82nd Airborne Division and the British First Airborne Division, which held out around Arnhem for nine hopeless days, suffering 80 percent casualties and eventually evacuating a remnant back across the Rhine at night. (Some Brits ended up swimming buck-naked across the legendary river.)

The causes of the operation’s failure have fascinated generations of armchair generals, but they are not particularly mysterious. Market Garden was built around nearly impossible logistics, a highly unrealistic timetable, and an excessive number of high-impact variables, the failure of any one of which (several ended up going wrong) could doom the operation. Most scandalously, the airdrop was made in the face of credible intelligence indicating two German armored divisions were positioned along the route. History has also looked unfavorably on British armored forces who failed to push quickly enough through the final eight miles of the route while there was still hope of capturing the Arnhem bridge.

But Gosling says the failure of Market Garden was Bush’s fault:

Hitler had friends amongst the Allies, particularly in the United States where, in 1934, the patriarch of the Bush dynasty, Prescott Bush, attempted to overthrow the US government in a military coup which was only thwarted by plucky US Marine Colonel Smedley Butler. The unrepentant Prescott Bush was prosecuted twice during WWII under the “Trading With The Enemy Act”.

Deals were done toward the end of the war through the OSS with this US Nazi faction in exchange for Hitler’s war machine technology, particularly for rockets and missiles as well as uranium and plutonium for the Manhattan Project’s nuclear weapons. Apart from a shared hatred for anything left-wing, particularly communism, the Germans also held bargaining chips of a massive hoard of artworks, gold and securities their armies had looted from the treasure houses of European capitals.

Operation Market Garden’s failure put the conduct of the remainder of the war and arrangements for post-war Europe firmly into US hands but it would need the cooperation of some of the top Brits to throw the fight.

Gosling in his bio claims to have been “trained by the BBC,” and his Bilderberger fantasias are tricked out with erudite references to Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger as well as some comments on the unsavoriness of the Dulles brothers. But failures like Market Garden (of which there were many along the western Allies’ road to victory) brought long-term pain for reasons Gosling isn’t professionally inclined to mention. At that late date, the World War II end game had begun, and the final shape of the postwar zones of influence (between the West and the Soviet empire) was still being determined. Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman gave away too much to Stalin, but to some degree they were constrained by facts on the ground. Every day wasted on the Western Front meant more square miles captured by the Russians in the east. Ending the war by Christmas might have spared countless Eastern Europeans from postwar oppression.

But maybe that’s giving Gosling’s tortured connections more attention than they will bear. The real revelation here is how grim it must be to labor in Vladimir Putin’s international media gulag. When you have to lace even your World War II–anniversary thumbsuckers with denunciations of the “parasitic, gangster elite” that threatens Putin’s troubled commonwealth, you’ve got less in common with the heroic paratroopers of 70 years ago than with the escapees from a local insane asylum who (true story) greeted them when they landed.

— Tim Cavanaugh is news editor of National Review Online. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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