Thursday, June 23, 2005

Dick Durbin is Partly Right

Jonah Goldberg has written a thoughtful piece about Sen. Richard Durbin and the use of Nazi references. It's a good column, even for those of you who don't agree with my positions. I urge you to read the entire piece. Meanwhile, here is an excerpt:

Now, I don't mean this as a defense of Durbin, who is without a doubt one of the most unimpressive - or should I say most impressive? - hacks in American politics. But he's largely right.

No, not because the comparison is in any way valid on the merits. The Nazis, Soviets and Cambodian Communists murdered millions of entirely innocent men, women and children. The Nazis performed medical experiments on children and gassed whole families. Under Pol Pot, merely showing grief for a murdered husband, wife, parent or child was punishable by summary execution. And the Soviet gulag earns the top "honor" of having killed the most people, some 15 million to 20 million, most of them having had no clear idea why their own country found it necessary to terrorize and kill them.

Meanwhile, the 500 or so men in Guantanamo may be terrorized, but they know why they are there. They declared a terrorist war against the United States and the West. They openly embrace the slaughter of women and children. They defy all the rules of war set down by man and even their own God. That may not justify some of the alleged abuses committed by Americans, but it justifies a great many things America's critics call abuses but aren't.

And it shouldn't tax the intellects of even the Dick Durbins of the world that, say, plucking a child from the arms of his executed mother and sentencing him to a slow death at a work camp is different from plucking a terrorist from the mountains of Tora Bora and sentencing him to a holding facility where he gets three square meals, a Koran and, during interrogation sessions, a heavy blast of hip-hop and lousy air conditioning.

So how is Dick Durbin partly right? It is true, as Durbin claimed, that if he were to read the allegations about depriving prisoners of food or forcing them to defecate on themselves, many Americans would be reminded of the Nazis. But that's because vast swaths of the public and their opinion leaders prefer to live in historical and moral ignorance. (As for thinking of Pol Pot's killing fields or the Gulag, it's unlikely, as neither gets a fraction of the attention they deserve.) In the circles frequented by the likes of Durbin - where Howard Dean is a statesman and Michael Moore deserves the Nobel Prize - evil must automatically be associated with "Nazi."

Thanks to Kenna Amos at Straight Face Test for leading me to this piece.

The entire Goldberg piece is available at

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