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Les responsables politiques peuvent-ils écrire l’histoire ?

STANFORD – « L’histoire ne se répète pas, mais elle aime les rimes », pour reprendre le mot de Mark Twain. Voici des générations que les dirigeants politiques, soucieux de polir leur héritage, s’emploient à vérifier cette affirmation, s’attribuant le mérite de ce qui a réussi et rejetant sur leurs prédécesseurs ou sur leurs opposants les torts de ce qui a échoué.

De nombreux responsables politiques continuent, longtemps après la fin de leur mandat, de tourner les faits à leur avantage. « L’histoire me sera indulgente, car j’ai l’intention de l’écrire », trancha Winston Churchill, qui revendiquait ses faveurs. Et les nombreux volumes de ses mémoires sur la Seconde Guerre mondiale contiennent non seulement ses formules les plus mémorables – « Ils vécurent là leur heure la plus belle » ou « Jamais […] tant d’hommes ne durent autant à si peu » –, ils sont aussi tissés de la justification des décisions qu’il eut à prendre durant le conflit.

 Il est possible que les écrits de Churchill ne soient pas impartiaux ; ils offrent néanmoins, de l’intérieur, des informations et des détails qui se laissent difficilement déduire des notes et des rapports, souvent incomplets et au style guindé. Comme le savent les historiens, les pressions sont grandes pour que la mémoire du passé soit celle que veulent les vainqueurs. Napoléon Bonaparte eut ainsi cette formule : « L’histoire n’est qu’un mensonge que personne ne conteste. »

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