Doonesbury has been getting contacts from WWII vets — but from the Americans. The ones they need to hear from are the Germans. Why? Because we're in their shoes, now.
When we went into Iraq, my German friends began to email me: "Are you people stupid? Are you crazy? Don't you know our history?"
They were appalled when I informed them that the average American's knowledge of their extremely important history was limited to Hogan's Heroes, or, at most, Schindler's List.
For 60 years, they've been trying to tell us how democracy was twisted, how they were terrorized and lied to, and finally what happens to a soldier in battle, and what he can commit.
Did we listen?
We obviously didn't.
We can only hope that we will learn what the Germans learned — for the same reasons. They looked at 500 years of European conquest around the world and asked themselves the following question:
"If it's all right to conquer, occupy, enslave and mass-murder native Ameicans and black people — why is it wrong to do it to white people?"
Europe discovered, at the hands of the Germans, what it felt like to be a Lakota or a Congolese. They understand, and they never want anything to do with it again, as perpetrators or victims.
But the United States? 500 years of rapine, pillage, slavery, resource theft and conquest — we've never paid for it. We've committed our crimes and refused to face them. Just as an example, we slaughtered — murdered — one of the great animals of the world, the bison, just so we could make money on our cattle. Did we learn? Are we learning now?
The native peoples of this continent fell before us not because we were great warriors, but because we were diseased. We've never gone into battle until the enemy was decimated by smallpox or the Russians — and then sometimes we still get sent home with our helicopters thrown into the water. We're up against an enemy we can't isolate or sicken to death, and whose basic battle unit is not the expensive machine or trained soldier — but the plain human being. Our enemy can continue to produce battle units as long as their women have wombs — and those units will grow up to hate and kill us for every one of their families we destroy. The vicious cycle will continue, and we can't stop it.
The horns are turning our way. Perhaps, after the stampede, we'll be able to heal and become a truly decent people.
And never, ever forget what we did.