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Bush on Hitler: A view from Germany

by jandsm Fri Sep 1st, 2006 at 10:54:22 AM EST

For the record: I am a German citizen and history student and have been contributing at dailykos since November 2003. As far as I know, no member of my family was involved in war crimes or crimes against humanity. In fact, my grandfather was incarcarated by the Nazis in various prisons and concentration camps from 1933 to 1945. I am living in a city which was 85 percent destroyed at end of the war and just 30 km away from one of the most notorious concentration camps of the Hitler era: Bergen Belsen. I have been volunteering in memorial centers at concentration camps sites and I hate National Socialism as much as I am able to hate a polical movement.

I am sick and tired of the disgusting comments by president Bush and other members of administration trying to frame the 2006 election along the line: "are you for or against for or against fighting Hitler?".


The 12 year chancellorship of Adolf Hitler amounts to the worst period in the history of human civilization. The origins and the nature of this destructive regime are specifically German and cannot and shall not be easily applied on other political phenomena, i.e. a rather typical modern failed state full of war lords and ethnic infighting (Iraq). That murderous regime, whose policies left 50 million dead on the battlefields of Europe and in the mass graves of the conentration camps is a very serious thing to deal with and should not be used as an easy campaign tool.

As for references for the fight against it, one should note that the military defeat of Germany came largely from the East and was made possible because president Roosevelt was willing to cut a deal with Stalin in the common interest to put an end Hitler's regime.

Imagine Bush goint to Teheran personally and strike a deal with Chamenei on peace in Iraq and nuclear weapons and you see what I mean: things are a little bit more complicated, than Bush tries to portray them.

Hitler's regime is the prinicipal reference of evil and the easiest way to chicken out of a serious debate on the problem of islamic terrorism. Putting islamic terrorist movements in the same category as the Nazi era limits the strategic potential in defeating them. Because they do not represent a solitary global bloc but seem to be a fractuous system of different small scale and mostly regional organizations. Thus, there can be different local strategies to deal with the roots and structures of these movements. Linking them to Hitler however, leaves no other option than total destruction - which seems to be highly unlikely and thus causing a self-radicalizing military campaign.

And addtionally, it helps to perpetuate Hitler's image as a larger-than-life monster. He always wanted to be a super-human saviour of his race. But he was neither this nor a monster: he was a criminal and a psychopath.

As for islamic terrorist, criminals they are. As Matthew Parris argued recently so brilliantly in the Times:

Let's treat the plotters as common criminals, not soldiers in a global war

And that is what al-Qaeda and the ragbag forces of Islamic fundamentalism amount to: a big, bloody nuisance. To deal with the murderous plot that may have been uncovered this week, sharpened vigilance, extra intelligence-gathering and the ordinary criminal law should suffice. The statutes, enforcers and spies we and our allies already have, have proved themselves up to the job. We should greet with suspicion attempts by politicians to muscle in on what has been, at however critical a level, an operational matter.

Or it is insinuated that what distinguishes these new dangers from the old is that they are "coordinated" by a "shadowy network". But throughout history much serious criminality has involved conspiracy, including conspiracies of an international sort. Have we forgotten the Cold War so fast? The laws and the law-enforcers, as well as our intelligence services, have centuries' practice at cracking codes, tracing associations, and monitoring communications across the country or the world. Let this continue, but let us not pretend the need or the skills are new. Watch out for the commentary that "after this week's discoveries, nothing will ever be quite the same again" -- and prepare to spit. There is nothing new here, only new configurations of ancient troubles.

I cannot accept the characterisation of our troubles these past few years and days as amounting to a War on Terror, or a war on anything. There is an immense risk that if we see it this way we may be conjuring into existence networks and loyalties that were flimsy and uncoordinated until we dignified them with the name of Terror and advertised their prowess across the globe

Our enemies want a fight, so here's a novel suggestion. Let's not oblige. Let's keep our tanks and helicopters and cluster bombs locked within our armouries; let's keep listening and watching and arresting and bringing to court; let's keep our liberties and accord them theirs; and let's carry on treating these people for what they are: a big, bloody nuisance.

One last suggestion, try something out. Whenever you want to make a historic analogy, try one out of your own cultural context.

I would love to see the president of the U.S - who claims to be an heir of Licoln - or anyone  tell the world that al-Zarqawi was "a modern times Robert E.Lee", or that "Osama bin Ladin is as evil as Jefferson Davis". Last not least the struggle for a survival of an Iraqi statte may also be part of the eternal stuggle against "southern segrationism".

All the best.

Cross-posted at dkos

Display:
There was a diary or a story not so long ago (on dKos, I think) which described terrorists as gangsters and advocated the same law and order solutions that are used against organised crime, which it effectively is.

I fully agreed then and fully agree with you, as well as with your additional point that the comparison to Hitler's Germany is insulting and counterproductive to the resolution of the current problem.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 1st, 2006 at 11:23:58 AM EST
...I'll be back more regularly starting after September 10th and I have a hell of a story to tell about my first own election campaign. All the best and see you all soon.
by jandsm on Fri Sep 1st, 2006 at 12:06:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
on September 11?!

That sounds mighty suspicious, I must say... (sorry)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 1st, 2006 at 12:08:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...we have local elections in Lower Saxony on September 10.

All I am planning for September 11 is awaking very late and not sober and a press conference.

by jandsm on Fri Sep 1st, 2006 at 12:13:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, I mentionned your diary on Alain Gresh latest blog post.
by Laurent GUERBY on Sat Sep 2nd, 2006 at 04:53:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by jandsm on Sat Sep 2nd, 2006 at 05:12:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To re-post some data:

The number of murders in 2001 was 15,980.
The 9 Sept 01 terror attacks killed 2,973.
Adding these raises the total killings to 18,953.
This is an increase of less than 20%.
There were more murders in 1995: 21,597.

Briefly:

Adding the 9/11 deaths to that year's murders raises the total by less than 20%.
There were more murders in 1995.

Quick, burn the Constitution!

------------------
Here, "murders" = instances of "MURDER AND NONNEGLIGENT MANSLAUGHTER" from the FBI's uniform crime reports.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Fri Sep 1st, 2006 at 05:04:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Deaths in road traffic accidents in the USA exceed 42,500 a year (incidentally in about 45th place in terms of per head of population).

Clearly it is time for Bush to declare a war on driving as a major killer of Americans.

by Londonbear on Sun Sep 3rd, 2006 at 09:19:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Total agreement, jan. They keep on doing this (Rumsfeld was at it again the other day). Presumably they think it pays off.  But it's an obvious insult to everyone's intelligence -- every single designated "enemy" is Hitler, how convenient. Above all, it's an insult to historical truth and to the immense suffering and death of that time.

Hey, as Jérôme says, welcome back, good to see you!

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Sep 1st, 2006 at 11:52:14 AM EST
Jandsm:
Are you familiar with the book "Behemoth" by Franz Neumann?

I just took it out of the library, but haven't started it yet. As far as I can tell from online references he attempts to analyze the rise of the Nazis from the period of the Weimar Republic onward. Much of his writing is about legal frameworks for societies and the role of the separation of powers.

Many other books I've read have looked at the period from economic and nationalistic points of view. Certainly the extreme economic dislocation after WWI was unique for an advanced industrial society.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Fri Sep 1st, 2006 at 12:29:29 PM EST
A book that takes a cultural perspective, starting in the late 19th century, is "The Politics of Cultural Despair" by Fritz R. Stern. I read it many years ago and felt that I'd learnt something. What could be described as "cultural despair" has been prominent in certain parts of U.S. politics for some time now.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Fri Sep 1st, 2006 at 05:11:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I am familiar with it. "Behemoth" was written during World War 2 and is one of the first analytical works on Nazi-Germany.

If I may recommend you another great book of this early era, I would like to point your attention to Ernst Fraenkel's "The Dual State" "Der Doppelstaat".

Also worth reading is Hannah Arendt's great Origins of Totalitarianism

One last recommendation: Deborah Lipstadt published her account of her trial against Holocaust denier David Irvin in the great book:

"History on Trial: My Day in Court With David Irving," by Deborah E. Lipstadt (Echo, 2005) $25.95.

It contains the expert statements on the origins and the dynamics of the Holocaust, by i.e. Peter Longerich and is a fascinating book. For more on the book, go to her blog

by jandsm on Sat Sep 2nd, 2006 at 06:19:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Brilliant diary and eloquently written, although it is sad that you first need to be serisouly ticked off to climb the pen/keyboard...

Good to see you posting here again, and good luck with the election campaign!

by Nomad on Fri Sep 1st, 2006 at 01:49:13 PM EST
Good diary, and glad you'll be back around some, we've missed your perspective!
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Sep 1st, 2006 at 01:58:36 PM EST
Good old police work, not bombs or technology indeed, thanks for this diary!

Daily Kos link

by Laurent GUERBY on Fri Sep 1st, 2006 at 02:07:58 PM EST
A diary worthy of wider dissemination...

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Sep 1st, 2006 at 05:33:39 PM EST
Fabulous, just fabulous.
Oh, and you can forget getting a visa to enter Bush's US.  Sorry about that, but Freedumb ain't free.
by cambridgemac on Fri Sep 1st, 2006 at 11:28:10 PM EST
Now what if every conniving politician's use of the word 'Freedom' was mistranscribed in reports as Freedumb?

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat Sep 2nd, 2006 at 11:09:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Extraordinarily lucid diary. Thanks.
by Quentin on Sat Sep 2nd, 2006 at 03:40:50 AM EST
I was so pumped up by this diary that I was going to straight off send it to some pro-"War on Terror As The Next Cold War-cum-War Against Fascism and Evil" friends of mine for a long overdue dose of reality-check.  That conventional war against terrorists is counterproductive; that comparisons to Hitler are insulting; that ignorant and bellicose rhetoric rhetoric has only dignified, consolidated and strengthened what would otherwise be a bunch of international criminals with a demented ideology; that the politics of "good" and "evil" historically have always been complex and not clear-cut... on these points I could not agree more.

But then at the end I was stopped short by the proposed comparison to the U.S. Civil War.

While I agree there are some parallels, from the point of view of people who are in favor of Bush's "War on Terror", this comparison is a non-starter.  Why?

For one thing, from their point of view, the Confederacy was not trying to conquer the North, much less the world.  (Neither do I believe that Al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists want to conquer the world; but that point is one you will have to first argue to make plausible the larger comparison from their perspective.)

Second, the Confederacy was not driven by an extremist religious ideology.  (Again, I do not believe Al-Qaeda is driven by religion as much as it is by political motivations; however, the rhetoric of these terrorists is religious through and through, in contrast to the Confederacy's.  Again, this point would have to be argued before the larger comparison even has a chance of being considered.)

Third, while no doubt some of its soldiers, like some soldiers in any army, killed innocent civilians, the Confedearcy did not target and kill innocent civilians as a matter of policy or tactics (at least, not to my knowledge.)  (On this point, I do believe this is a valid and very significant difference: even if your original cause is just, you compromise it in proportion to the immorality of your means of warfare, as well as to how much you rely on these.  The end-game becomes "might is right".  One of the primary reasons the Confederates wanted independence was to preserve slavery: so their original cause was already unjust.  But while many Islamic terrorists may have legitimate and even just political qualms, their method of achieving them -- by targeting and killing innocent civilians to pressure democratic governments to alter their policies -- are not just.  And this, I think, is a significant difference.)

I want to emphasize that I agree with pretty much everything you say in your diary.  In fact, I think using historical analogies to invalidate the War on Terror rhetoric would be great, as their impact can be dramatic and immediate on how people frame and view such issues.  But I think the Islamic terrorists = Confederacy analogy in particular -- while I agree it is valid in several respects -- should be handled with care, lest it alienates even more the very people we would like to persuade to our point of view.

Out of the Dark Age came the most magnificent thing we have in our society: the recognition that people can have a society without having a state.

by marco on Sat Sep 2nd, 2006 at 05:15:37 AM EST
The last paragraph of my diary is intended to be an ironic twist: of course it is umimaginable within in the white U.S.American political context to use an anology between Osama bin Ladin, Hitler and Jefferson Davies. The point I was trying to make was that no historical analogy actually works. Islamic terrorists, Southern segrationalists and German national socialists are distinct historical phenomenons within a certain time and space. They have nothing to do with each other. Of course it is possible to make historical comparisons but one should always note that the totality of a certain historical situation is always unique and cannot be repeated, unless one has rather boring deterministic concept of history - which I wouldn't share.

So, I would always prefer to legitimize a certain policy with a serious argument based on the current circumstances and not week paralells with a distant past. History tells us how we got here and not where we should go.

But while we are at it, I am willing to accept your points on the Confederation. And since I am not qualified, I do not want to go into a serious debate in the multifold origins of the American civil war.

Then again, I was thinking of something else: The Confederate States was political regime designed to deliver its citizens the right to hold others as slaves on the notion of their racial infiority. This makes it a pretty racist and evil regime, by all imaginabe standards of western civilization.

So why is it, that saying so would still cost you any election in the South even 140 years after the war ended? This is the interesting question. There are huge "undercurrents" in the American political discourse I find scary. If I were to give Americans an advise, I would recommend them to come to a joint understanding of their common past - good or worse. By limiting the official historical discourse on a warped version of the own national history, the U.S. has created an unnecessary gap between itself and the rest of the world: slavery, civil rights movements, the inability to fight poverty, decades of senseless military intervention are part of the historical consciensce of many people outside the U.S., yet seem to be seen as irrelevant inside. Thus, the American political leadership lost the moment it ended to be the worlds moral superpower.

I would recommend an American Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It worked well in South Africa.

by jandsm on Sat Sep 2nd, 2006 at 06:05:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Got it.  I missed your point about historical analogies being invalid as a rule.

Regarding America's past with respect to racism, slavery, civil rights, I agree that there is still a large amount of denial and hypocrisy, and these do dramatically invalidate our claims to be a force of righteousness and good in the world.  (My impression is that Germany, ironically, may be in a unique position among Western countries, in that it has done more than any other to "come clean" with its national "sins": a repentance forced upon it by its defeat in World War II.)

The Confederate States was political regime designed to deliver its citizens the right to hold others as slaves on the notion of their racial infiority. This makes it a pretty racist and evil regime, by all imaginabe standards of western civilization.

True.  I guess there are many ways to be "evil".

Out of the Dark Age came the most magnificent thing we have in our society: the recognition that people can have a society without having a state.

by marco on Sat Sep 2nd, 2006 at 06:22:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Then again, I was thinking of something else: The Confederate States was political regime designed to deliver its citizens the right to hold others as slaves on the notion of their racial infiority. This makes it a pretty racist and evil regime, by all imaginabe standards of western civilization.

So why is it, that saying so would still cost you any election in the South even 140 years after the war ended?"

Being a white Southerner, I don't exactly agree with your facts or analogies regarding the confederacy and the implications you draw, but I get the point and have no issues with your diary. I agree with the basic premise.  Bush and his rhetoric are such hopeless cases that I hardly bother to criticize him anymore.  Had he not been elevated to a position of power, who would ever bother to listen to him?  The sad thing is that he is where he is.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Sat Sep 2nd, 2006 at 11:32:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So why is it, that saying so would still cost you any election in the South even 140 years after the war ended?

As a white Southerner myself, I always find it interesting to read an outsider's opinions of the U.S. South and the Civil War, etc., and I thank you for sharing yours.

I agree with most everything said in this thread, above and below, except for the one quote I have noted above.  In the state of Mississippi, where I live, we have many majority African-American electoral districts.  We have quite a number of African-Americans in our state legislature and many black Mayors of cities and towns throughout the state, including the mayor of our capital city, Jackson.  So, the above quote is definitely a false statement.

Now, I do agree that in certain districts within my state, the premise of your statement is true, that a white person would have some difficulty getting elected if they made such a statement as you have outlined in your comment.  This is also somewhat the case for our statewide and our Federal elected officials, as the white population of the state still outnumbers the minority population.

However, we Democrats and Independents here in Mississippi do occasionally elect a white person who runs on a platform that includes racial reconciliation and recognition of past wrongs.  We always need the African-American voters to help us do so, though.

My larger point is that the South is not as monolithic or rock-solid backwards as it may appear to be from afar.  I do not deny that we have serious problems that need to be resolved, but we have made SOME progress in the past 140 years.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -Margaret Mead

by blueneck on Sun Sep 3rd, 2006 at 12:24:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the Confedearcy did not target and kill innocent civilians as a matter of policy or tactics (at least, not to my knowledge.)

Sidenote to the analogies in history discussion: IMO a much better analogy for terrorists in US history would be, say, Geronimo. By modern standards, he was a terrorist, he purposefully killed women and children. He also had a political cause and religious framing.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Sep 2nd, 2006 at 05:34:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is an extremely thought-provoking -- and troubling -- comparison.  I do not know much about native American resistance to U.S. expansionism, territorial appropriation and ethnic cleansing.  I would definitely like to read more about it.

I still say killing civilians for political purposes is unjustified: even if you're own people are getting ethnically cleansed, even if your own family was murdered by the invaders (as in Geronimo's case).

Out of the Dark Age came the most magnificent thing we have in our society: the recognition that people can have a society without having a state.

by marco on Sun Sep 3rd, 2006 at 01:31:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary....bush and company here in the good old US of A repeated use of Hitler/Nazi's/Fascism and so on is nothing more than a complete hot button obfuscation of any real problem by terrorists groups-who are out there but not in any way, shape or form that bush grandiosely imagines-or wishes.

Bush has to make 'terrists' into the globally evil rock stars that he has or his 'War on Terror' would be pointless wouldn't it.

I read somewhere last week that the lead prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials came out and said publicly that our Mr. Bush is guilty of the same kind of war crimes as Hitler for invading pre-emptively Iraq-wonder if anyone happened to mention that to bush----doubt it. How much more damming can you get when a person like this states bush is guilty of war crimes.

"People never do evil so throughly and happily as when they do it from moral conviction."-Blaise Pascal

by chocolate ink on Sat Sep 2nd, 2006 at 04:01:55 PM EST
Another way to confront such Hitler rhetoric is to contrast it with opposed analogies from the same period. Say, let's compare the fake border incident that started the war on Poland with the lies to start the war on Iraq, or compare rhetoric about saving the world from evil bogeyman Stalin to that about Saddam, or compare the Nazis' method to 'fight' partisans by punishing the population to US practice in Fallujah and elsewhere...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Sep 2nd, 2006 at 05:31:02 PM EST
Another way to confront such Hitler rhetoric is to contrast it with opposed analogies from the same period. Say, let's compare the fake border incident that started the war on Poland with the lies to start the war on Iraq, or compare rhetoric about saving the world from evil bogeyman Stalin to that about Saddam, or compare the Nazis' method to 'fight' partisans by punishing the population to US practice in Fallujah and elsewhere...

Bad idea. It's equally ridiculous as the right's Hitler rhetoric.  
 

by MarekNYC on Sat Sep 2nd, 2006 at 05:52:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, that's the whole point! (Shakes head)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Sep 2nd, 2006 at 05:58:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But there's a fair amount of non-snarky reductio ad hitlerum among anti-Bush admin writing already and this only reinforces it. Plus I'm just allergic to the stuff.
by MarekNYC on Sat Sep 2nd, 2006 at 06:04:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I totally agree this should be a police action.  However, those in power get their contributions from the defense industry. So, if you have these toys, why not use them.

Plus, the religious right is touting this as foretold in   Revelations.  

Pretty scary stuff.

by tobysmom (tobysmom) on Sun Sep 3rd, 2006 at 01:09:31 AM EST


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