Column No. 67 By Steven Jonas, MD, MPH - July 7, 2005
A moderate rises on the floor of the nation's legislative body, one that is dominated by conservatives. He notes with anguish that his nation has begun to treat imprisoned enemies in a manner that many consider to be inhumane. He uses as his source a member of one of the national security services who has seen first-hand what is going on. He is particularly critical of the personnel who are carrying out the inhumane treatments. He compares them to those who did similar things in the Soviet Union. The events of which he speaks have been widely reported upon, from a variety of sources, not just the one he cites, and not in the official media. Members of the government and the official media that support it immediately and ferociously attack him. The attacks on him for "demeaning our young men and women" become so vicious that he eventually apologizes for his remarks, even though it is well known that they were right on target.
So let us see. What is the setting, what is the facility and program, and who is the cast of characters here? The Senate, Dick Durban, Guantanamo, the Patriot Act, Dick Cheney, the Fox”News”Channel? Well, yes. And was Dick Durban right? Well, yes. The process of arbitrary arrest, with the arrestees not being told of any charges against them, not being provided with either legal representation or trial, with the claim being made that because they were a “danger to the nation” they could be held indefinitely, that is just what happened in Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union. Conditions in and the treatment of prisoners held at Gitmo bears many similarities to the situation in Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union, as well. To illustrate the point, and to bring the Nazi-Georgite comparison into even sharper focus, specifically, let us note that the setting for such a speech and what happened subsequent to it laid out above could easily have been the following.
The German Reichstag shortly after the passage of the Enabling Act could have been the setting. The Act gave Hitler and his designees the power to arrest anyone deemed a "terrorist" and then imprison them indefinitely without charge, representation, or trial, just on his own say-so, just as the Patriot Act does for Bush. The person rising could have been one of the few centrists left in that body, say a member of the Catholic Center Party just before it joined up with the Nazis. The facility and program could have been the first concentration camp set up by the Nazis in March 1933, at Dachau, to house political prisoners labeled as "terrorists" by the regime, arrested arbitrarily without charges, and etc.
The attacker could easily have been Joseph Paul Goebbels, the Nazis' chief propagandist, just as Cheney is for the Georgites. And then there was the national Nazi Party newspaper, the Volkischer Beobachter, the Fox”News”Channel of its day. "How dare you," they would all say, "compare our brave young men and women [members of the SS] with the barbarians of the Bolshevik monsters? You could not possibly be more un-German if you tried.” And they would hammer this message home day after day, never, ever, ever dealing with the substance of the charges, known most widely (although in Germany not reported by any of the media, and this is an important difference, giving us some hope for the future) to be absolutely correct.
Sen. Durban was thus more right than he likely knew. What then, is the "disaster" of this episode? He attacked the Georgites the wrong way. He focused on the guards personally, or at least focused on them enough to allow the Georgites to treat everything he was saying about what is going on at Gitmo and elsewhere in the gulag and what went on in Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union, as an attack on our "fine young men and women." Sen. Durban should have been focusing on the powers the Patriot Act gave the President to arbitrarily arrest and imprison forever, if he so pleases, anyone he labels as a "terrorist." He should have been focusing on the presidentially sanctioned policy that not only condones torture but also encourages it. He should have been focusing on how both types of Presidential action violate the Constitution.
He should have made it clear that in referring to Nazi Germany he was referring to all the totally abhorrent things that went there for years, well BEFORE the Holocaust got underway, AND that were certainly very important enabling factors in its development. He then should have referred to the prison guards at Gitmo and elsewhere as victims of this policy, forced to act in ways that every true American rejects as totally abhorrent to our traditions of fairness, justice, and Constitutional government. (Remember the "we were only following orders" SS refrain if any of the U.S. war criminals ever come to trial somewhere.) The Senator should have counter-attacked strongly, demanding a discussion of the reality of the situation, exposing the Georgites for what they do over and over again, killing the messenger so that they can avoid dealing with the message. Apologize? For getting the facts right, but not phrasing them in quite the right way? Never should have happened.
Dick Durban's heart was in the right place. What he said was absolutely correct, historically. However, we face a very determined and highly skilled enemy, just as intent upon destroying American Constitutional democracy as the Nazis were intent on destroying German Constitutional democracy. All of us opponents of the regime are going to have to hone our skills of verbal attack/counter-attack and searing debate to a much higher level, if the atrocious violence and seared landscape of theocratic-fascism and a resultant Second Civil War are not to be visited upon the nation of the United States of America.
Shortly after the famous “Karl Rove Speech” of June 22, 2005, in which he reintroduced with a vengeance the Bush Policy Doctrine of “you’re either for us or against us” and “anyone who disagrees with me is aiding and abetting the enemy,” I received an email letter from John Kerry. (I will be dealing in detail with the major significance of the Rove Speech in my column next week.) I reproduce it here in part. It is a prime example of exactly how not to deal with the Georgites. Sen. Kerry said:
“Just hours after learning about an outrageous speech delivered by Karl Rove, President Bush's most senior advisor, I went to the Senate floor -- and I spoke from my heart. I want to share those words with you -- not as a Democrat or Republican, not as a liberal or conservative -- but as an American.”
Sorry, John, Rove is right. There is a difference, a big difference, between liberals and Democrats and those who call themselves “conservative,” (“reactionaries” or Republican Religious Rightists” are much better terms). Our side, our Congressional representatives included, have to recognize that before it is too late. The Georgites are the enemies of Constitutional democracy. They make that clear over and over again. You do not combat that by saying “we are all in this together.” Kerry went on to say:
“[L]ook again at what Karl Rove said: ‘(P)erhaps the most important difference between conservatives and liberals can be found in the area of national security. Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers.’”
Yes indeed, John, Rove lied through his teeth about the facts of who said what about whom, and who did what in response to the 9/11 tragedy (which the Sen. later mentioned). But then Sen. Kerry went on to say further:
“I hope you will join me right now in signing an open letter to the President urging him to thoroughly reject Karl Rove's purposeful attack on the patriotism of those who dare ask the tough questions that best protect American troops. . . . This is not the first time that Karl Rove and other White House officials have sought to divide America in ways that make it harder to keep our country safe and our democracy strong. But, it should be the last. That's why I ended my speech with a call on President Bush to fire Karl Rove.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Bush would not fire Karl Rove in a million years. He agrees with everything Rove says. Everything he says is reflected every day in Bush’s words and deeds. (Actually, since it is highly likely that Rove runs Bush rather the other way ‘round, Bush couldn’t fire Rove if he wanted to.) Leaders like Kerry must stop dealing with Bush as if he were a) above the battle, b) not an integral part of the enemy of Constitutional democracy, c) not joined at the hip with Karl Rove (and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld), d) someone who can be appealed to by our side, and e) someone who can be appealed to on the basis of reason.
Wake up, John, and all of the other Democratic leaders who do the same thing. Bush is not above the battle. He is leading the other side. Instead of appealing to him to do something about the latest outrage coming from a member of his Administration, with the brush of the outrage, paint him all over with it. “This is what Karl Rove said. This is what Karl Rove charged. This is what Karl Rove thinks of “freedom and democracy.” And Karl Rove is the President’s man.” Do we want to win? Do we really want to restore and preserve our precious Constitutional democracy and above it, the Rule of Law? The first thing we have to do is recognize that there are sides in this battle and then recognize who is on which side.
This column is based in part on my Short Shot No. 67: “The Dick Durban Disaster,” that appeared at http://planetmove.blogspot.com/on Thursday, June 23, 2005