Every day is dumb letter day at the San Francisco Chronicle, and Eric Cripe is a repeat offender of facts and logic. The following is the super-size version of a reply I sent the Chronicle in answer to Mr. Cripe's. Of course, I heavily edited the letter I sent in hopes that its brevity would increase its slim chances at being selected by the Letters Editor. It wasn't, so here is the full version.
Editor - Eric Cripe of Pacifica serves up tripe as historical fact. His answer to “Don Tayloe’s dissertation on British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and liberal appeasement (Letters, “The new appeasers,” Aug 5)” was historically inaccurate. Like the man with only a hammer, to whom every problem looks like a nail, Mr. Cripe bends history to find a conservative designing harm to a liberal. In order to do this, Mr. Cripe first conforms the protagonists to the proper labels. Therefore, Mr. Cripe states “Chamberlain was, in fact, a strong conservative.” That would be headline news to Chamberlain and armies of historians. Chamberlain himself never liked to use the term "Conservative," preferring instead "Unionist."
Chamberlain’s political philosophy was most like the socialist Fabians, whose purpose was “to advance the socialist cause by reformist, rather than revolutionary, means.” His domestic policies were close to socialist, and far from conservative. Among them were workplace reforms to limit working hours of women and children, setting workplace regulation standards, slum clearance and the relief of overcrowding, the promotion of exercise, good diet, compulsory medical inspections, nationalizing coal mining royalties and passenger air services, and fixed holidays with pay.
Mr. Cripe was also mistaken about French and British roles over Czechoslovakia. He omits mention that the guarantors of Czech borders were the Soviets and the French, not the British, and none were ready to fight Hitler.
Mr. Cripe’s assertion that Chamberlain said “an attack on the liberal Czech government would be better for everybody” is incongruous, since his famous words were that the quarrel between Hitler and the Czechs over the heavily German Sudetenland was “a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.” Further, Mr. Cripe’s statement that “France begged England to stop Hitler over Czechoslovakia” is equally at odds with the historical record, since it shows both France and the Soviet Union had alliances with Czechoslovakia, and that the French, Soviets, and English chose to appease Hitler. Hitler, Mussolini, Daladier of France, and Chamberlain signed the Munich Agreement, then Hitler and Chamberlin signed an additional resolution that all future disputes would be resolved through peaceful means. The French, British, and German military and diplomats were pleased, but Hitler was furious, and Stalin was unhappy.
Concerns that the Europeans wanted the Soviets and Germans to fight while they watched led Stalin to sign the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939.
Mr. Cripe amuses rather than educates with his liberal mythology.
The following is Mr. Cripe's letter:
Editor -- I understand that Don Tayloe's dissertation on British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and liberal appeasement (Letters, "The new appeasers,'' Aug. 5) was meant to offend, not to educate, but the opportunity for the latter should not be missed.
(Mr. Cripe, your perversion of "educate" is offensive to the educated. Strong Ox)
Chamberlain was, in fact, a strong conservative, who believed Hitler was a good attack dog against his liberal enemies. This is historical fact: When France begged England to stop Hitler over Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain said publicly that an attack on the liberal Czech government would be the best thing for everybody. Chamberlain was not a liberal appeaser, who wanted peace at any cost, but a conservative fool, who thought he could keep Hitler on a leash.
(As the British would say, the above is poppycock! Strong Ox)
This philosophy did find an echo in America at the time -- not among liberals, but among conservatives, who saw only good in the violent defeat of liberalism in Europe. Of course, it was liberal President Franklin D. Roosevelt who stood up to, and helped defeat, Hitler.
(Mr. Cripe gives short shrift indeed to the very illiberal Winston Churchill, who played no little part in the defeat of Hitler. Strong Ox)
History may indeed repeat itself, for today many conservatives believe, yet again, that evil can be used in the service of good. But we may not have a happy ending this time, for we have no strong liberal in the White House to balance the equation.
(Mr. Cripe, could you actually name an evil that conservatives believe can be used in the service of good? We have already determined that your version of history is at odds with the historical record, so which of your fantasy scenarios is poised to be repeated? As for a strong liberal in the White House, we have no such a one in the nation. If Al Gore or John Kerry had been elected, we still would have no strong liberal in the White House. Strong Ox)
ERIC CRIPE Pacifica
This is the letter Mr. Cripe refers to:
The new appeasers
Editor -- People in the San Francisco Bay Area are America's new Neville Chamberlains. In the 1930s, when the Nazi's were coming to power, Winston Churchill warned of the approaching evil. He was labeled a "war monger" by the London press.
Then as now, appeasement was rabid. Then as now, newspapers came to the defense of the appeasers because "peace of the world was at stake." It was not the terrorists who were the enemy, but the very people who were trying to raise the alarm.
Chamberlain, in a final peace effort, sold out the Sudetenland. That was just the weakness Hitler wanted to see. In a final twist of fate, before the bombs started to fall, the appeasers labeled those who wanted to confront evil as the evil force themselves. Finally, of course, appeasement ended as it always must, and millions and millions of people died.
Now Islamic terrorists are on the rise, and I see from "Normal America speaks out" (Letters, July 29) that history is repeating itself. Soon Iran will have a nuclear warhead. If we do not confront the Islamic menace now and with force, millions and millions will die.
DON TAYLOE Fresno