|The very first line of the article by Arindam Banerji calls for
scrutiny. From the quote it is evident, that Dilip D'Souza is making a
much larger point and a sentence has been isolated out of his
discussion and represented in such a manner that it would seem that
Mr. D'Souza is being unpatriotic (at the very least). Please read Mr.
D'Souza's article first before even going through Mr. Arindam
Banerji's - so that we can evaluate for ourselves what Mr. D'Souza
My country, right or wrong?
May 03, 2003
On July 20, 1944, a briefcase exploded under a conference table in
Rastenburg, Germany. At the table, holding a war meeting, were Adolf
Hitler and several officers. The explosion wounded Hitler, but did not
kill him. Joseph Goebbels, his propaganda minister, moved swiftly
against the men who had plotted this assassination attempt. By
evening, most of them had been shot, including Claus von Stauffenberg,
leader of the conspiracy and the man who actually left the briefcase
bomb under the table. Hitler also believed that his finest war
officer, Erwin Rommel, was part of the July 20 plot and later drove
him to suicide.
The conspirators were executed as traitors; shot by men defending
their fatherland and leader against these traitors. In other words,
men who believed they were doing their duty as German patriots. No
matter that well before 1944, Hitler's crimes were apparent to anyone
-- including German patriots -- who cared to look. But that didn't
matter, because wasn't Hitler simultaneously chanting 'Deutschland
über alles', or whatever is the German equivalent of 'my country,
right or wrong'? Wasn't he also restoring, or claiming to restore,
German pride and honour after the disgrace of the First World War?
Doing those things, and Hitler and Goebbels were masters at this
charade of German pride, they were hailed as staunch German patriots.
After all, in 1935 -- before Hitler wreaked his worst destruction,
true, but he had already shown evidence of his intent -- even Winston
Churchill described him as charged with 'patriotic ardour' and 'a
passionate love of Germany' (from 'Hitler and his Choice', in Great
Contemporaries). Did Churchill still call it love, I wonder, when the
man went on to slaughter millions of his fellow citizens and destroy
But today, we can ask: Who were the patriots? Those who rallied to the
defence of a murderous madman who, less than a year after the plot,
had completed the job of leading his country into devastation? The
Or were the patriots the men like Stauffenberg, who tried to rid their
country of the disease of Nazism and died trying? What about Rommel,
who fought hard and with immense distinction in North Africa even as
he grew disillusioned with Hitler? Was he a patriot?
Sixty years on, another war has come and gone. As wars do, this one
has left in its wake many of the same questions about patriotism that
Stauffenberg raised when he slipped that briefcase under that table.
During the weeks of war in Iraq, we heard a lot about Iraqis -- not
just soldiers, but ordinary citizens -- fighting hard for Saddam and
country. Some had even returned to Iraq from abroad, leaving behind
jobs and family to 'defend the fatherland'. Many hated Saddam, but
nevertheless believed that their duty as Iraqis was to battle the
invaders from Britain and the US: 'my country, right or wrong',
haven't we heard that before? Patriots all: in various Indian corners,
what these warriors -- particularly the men who came back to fight --
felt for Iraq was hailed as patriotism distilled to its purest. There
was much wistful yearning for India to be filled with such patriotism.
But juxtapose that patriotism with the scenes as Saddam's regime
finally crumbled. Euphoric Iraqis poured into the streets to kick at
his fallen statue, to celebrate in myriad other ways. You need not
support George Bush in what George McGovern called a senseless and
immoral campaign in Iraq -- and I was repulsed by it -- to recognise
that euphoria for what it was: the joyful relief of release from the
grip of another murderous tyrant.
So let's ask again: who are the Iraqi patriots? The men who fought to
defend a regime like Saddam's? Or the ecstatic hordes who dragged his
bullet-ridden bust through Baghdad's streets? The non-resident Iraqis
who rode into battle for God and Saddam and country? Or the grateful
Iraqis who welcomed victorious foreign troops with hugs and kisses?
Or let's ask variations on those questions: is it patriotic to support
a tyrant and killer solely because your country is under attack and he
rules it? Is it traitorous to long for your country to be rid of that
killer by whatever means: yes, including Bush's 'senseless and
immoral' invasion across your borders?
Back in India, many were appalled by Bush for this reason more than
most: what if he decided on a similar venture into India? But if he
did, how should a patriotic Indian react?
Stand and fight, of course! Naturally.
But let's make the questions a little harder to answer. Leave aside
the hypocrisy Bush and his cronies have flaunted. Let's build a
hypothesis instead: that, like Iraq, India is ruled by a despotic
Suppose it has ignored -- and by ignoring, aggravated -- the suffering
of millions of miserably poor Indians, many of whom go to sleep hungry
and sick every single night. It has stoked hatreds among Indians,
hatreds that have led to regular massacres all over the country. Too
often, state machinery has participated in these great crimes. It has
paid no attention to the need to punish the perpetrators of such
massacres. Too often, it has rewarded them with power and protection,
status and wealth. It has snuffed out any public faith in the rule of
law -- not just by perverting the courts and police, but by installing
criminals as the makers and keepers of the law. And, in this thought
experiment, the greatest criminal of all heads the regime.
Remember: just a hypothesis.
But now, still in this hypothesis, how must a patriotic Indian react?
Does she defend this ghastly junta to the world, because after all and
always, it's 'my country, right or wrong'? Does he take up arms to
fight its wars, to defend it to the death against foreign aggression,
because of his love for India? (Does this love mean you must die for
Then what do we say about those who might plot against the obscenity
that blights their land, as Stauffenberg did, who fight to free India
of it? Are they patriots? If so, what if they welcomed a force from
abroad that toppled this hypothetical regime, as many Iraqis did? Are
they still patriots?
In his superb history of the Second World War, John Keegan writes that
Stauffenberg recognised the mortal danger of defeat into which the
Führer had led the fatherland and anticipated the disgrace and
punishment that the iniquity of Nazism would bring to his countrymen
in its wake. Stauffenberg's motives, in short, were patriotic.
Churchill called Hitler a patriot. Keegan calls Stauffenberg a
patriot. You can make your own call. But think of this: If
Stauffenberg had succeeded that July day, he would have saved Germany
from the ruin Hitler left in 1945. From the crumbling wasteland of 'my
country, right or wrong'.
That's why he was a German patriot. That's why he died.
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