…when a nation’s leader refuses to face reality.
Immediately following the German attack on Poland, on September 1 of 1939, Neville Chamberlain’s government temporized. A message to was sent to Germany proposing a ceasefire and an immediate conference, promising that “If the German Government should agree to withdraw their forces, then His Majesty’s Government would be willing to regard the position as being the same as it was before the German forces crossed the Polish frontier.”
According to General Edward Spears, who was then a member of Parliament, the assembly had been expecting a declaration of war. Few were happy with this temporizing by the Chamberlain government. Spears describes the scene:
Arthur Greenwood got up, tall, lanky, his dank, fair hair hanging to either side of his forehead. He swayed a little as he clutched at the box in front of him and gazed through his glasses at Chamberlain sitting opposite him, bolt-upright as usual. There was a moment’s silence, then something very astonishing happened.
Leo Amery, sitting in the corner seat of the third bench below the gangway on the government side, voiced in three words his own pent-up anguish and fury, as well as the repudiation by the whole House of a policy of surrender. Standing up he shouted across to Greenwood: “Speak for England!” It was clear that this great patriot sought at this crucial moment to proclaim that no loyalty had any meaning if it was in conflict with the country’s honour. What in effect he said was: “The Prime Minister has not spoken for Britain, then let the socialists do so. Let the lead go to anyone who will.” That shout was a cry of defiance. It meant that the house and the country would neither surrender nor accept a leader who might be prepared to trifle with the nation’s pledged word.
Greenwood then made a speech which I noted that night as certain to be the greatest of his life; a speech that would illuminate a career and justify a whole existence. It was remarkable neither for eloquence nor for dramatic effect, but the drama was there, we were all living it, we and millions more whose fate depended on the decisions taken in that small Chamber.
I was reminded of this occasion by the upcoming Bibi Netanyahu speech to Congress and the hostile political reactions to it. The reality is that Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons represents a severe threat not only to Israel but to the entire world, and by speaking to this point, he is serving not only his own country, but all of us.
Not only has Obama failed to represent the security interests of United States on this matter, he has failed the entire civilized world. By inviting Netanyahu to address Congress, John Boehner has effectively said “Speak for the world!”, just as Leo Amery called on Arthur Greenwood to “Speak for England!”
General Spears asserted that “no loyalty had any meaning if it was in conflict with the country’s honour.” Today in America, very sadly, there are numerous individuals–in Congress and elsewhere–who have chosen to put their party and ideological loyalty ahead of our country’s honor and the world’s safety.
There has been a firestorm of criticism directed against the Netanyahu speech, and the Democratic Party leadership is evidently encouraging members to boycott it. I have seem multiple comments on pro-Israel Facebook threads asserting that the speech should be cancelled because it “politicizes Israel’s security”…as if that security was not already highly politicized. ADL head Abraham Foxman has called for Netanyahu to cancel the speech, asserting that the matter has become a “circus.”