NEW YORK -- The potentates who run the taxpayer-subsidized Corporation for Public Broadcasting have an exquisite sense of timing. To honor America's 232nd birthday, PBS is bracketing our nation's anniversary with a three-part documentary on the horrors of warfare in the 20th century. Regrettably, nearly two-thirds of the series is a dubious assessment of American motives and methods during and after World War II. Given that we are at war against brutal adversaries who despise our belief in being endowed by our "Creator with certain unalienable Rights" -- as in "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" -- the decision to air this demoralizing critique now is, at best, unfortunate.
The PBS series is actually a condensed version of a six-hour production, "The War of the World," which aired two years ago on Britain's Channel 4. Written and narrated by famed British historian Niall Ferguson, the U.S. adaptation takes on the daunting task of explaining mankind's bloodiest century in a mere three hours. In so doing, Ferguson traveled the globe with a camera crew, visiting the places where wars began and battles were fought. He is unequivocal in depicting Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and Mao as bloody tyrants and totalitarian warlords. However, he is also downright hostile to his Anglo-Saxon forebears and only slightly less disparaging of American conduct during and after the war against Nazi Germany and Fascist Japan.
In support of his thesis that wars are perpetrated by "imperial rivals" during times of "economic volatility" and that they occur on "ethnic fault lines," Ferguson alleges that the Western Allies -- meaning the U.S. and Britain -- adopted "aspects" of our adversaries and became "fellow travelers" of the totalitarian regimes we opposed. While his descriptions of Soviet-era genocides and repression, Japanese atrocities, and Hitler's aggression and mass murders are stark and spot on, his charge that World War II was not a just war "between evil and good, but a war between evil and less evil," is simply wrong.
To make such a charge stick, Ferguson accurately observes that during WWII, the U.S. and Britain allied with Stalin -- a brutal dictator -- to defeat the Nazis. However, what his PBS rendition fails to ask is, "What was the alternative?" By June 22, 1941, when the Wehrmacht launched Operation Barbarossa, Britain stood alone against Hitler's legions. Had the U.S. not helped arm the Russians and the Nazis prevailed, Ferguson might well have grown up in Scotland speaking German.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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