Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once wrote that the crime rate seemed to be getting better only because we were defining deviancy downward.
The current incarnation of this deconstructionist tendency is to define evil upward. The methods range from direct comparison of conditions at Guantanamo Bay with the actions of the most heinous mass-murderers of the 20th century, to knee-jerk silliness such as equating torture with playing Christina Aguilera tunes too loudly, or complaining that DoD staffers pretended to work for the State Department during interrogation sessions.
If ignorance of history causes us to repeat it, what does deliberately lying about history cause? One answer comes from David Gelernter, writing in the LA Times – We Are Our History — Don’t Forget It. He points out that the casual insertion of such terms into public discourse damages the very idea of what is “humane”:
…Ignorance of history destroys our judgment. Consider [comparisons of the] Guantanamo Bay detention center to Stalin’s gulag and to the death camps of Hitler and Pol Pot — an astonishing, obscene piece of ignorance. Between 15 million and 30 million people died from 1918 through 1956 in the prisons and labor camps of the Soviet gulag. Historian Robert Conquest gives some facts. A prisoner at the Kholodnaya Gora prison had to stuff his ears with bread before sleeping on account of the shrieks of women being interrogated. At the Kolyma in Siberia, inmates labored through 12-hour days in cheap canvas shoes, on almost no food, in temperatures that could go to minus-58. At one camp, 1,300 of 3,000 inmates died in one year.
“Gulag” must not go the way of “Nazi” and become virtually meaningless.
The increasingly twisted metaphors defining evil upward are exemplified by Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-IL). Speaking on the floor of “the greatest deliberative body in the world”, (a metaphor for “hot air”) he managed to damn Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot with feeble praise in a single sentence.
If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings.
Durbin poured gasoline on the flames of fanatic Islam and insulted American airmen, soldiers, sailors and Marines in one breath. Marvelous.
Senator Durbin expects us to accept the treatment of Guantanamo’s 500+ current inmates as morally equivalent to the 50 million people who died from medical experimentation, starvation, exposure, beating and assorted mass butchery at the hands of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot.
No Gitmo detainees have died. If there is medical experimentation going on it must relate to the Center for Disease Control’s concerns about obesity, because the average weight gain while incarcerated is 13 pounds.
In terms of death from exposure, the fact that manipulation of air-conditioning is one of the Senator’s examples of torture is highly instructive.
I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
However, that much reading might detract from the time spent preparing to act as an Al-Jazeera spokesperson on the floor of the Senate.
The fact that exhaustive investigations into the beating of a book resulted in the firing of a contractor and the fact that by June 2004 there had been at least 18 visits to Gitmo by the Red Cross, would tend to belie Durbin’s implication regarding beatings and mass murder.
The “or others” throwaway would include Mao and Castro, adding 70 million people to the rolls of state-sponsored murders in the first instance; and the regime that holds over twice the number of Guantanamo detainees, on the same island and in truly inhuman conditions, in the second.
A central tenet of Amnesty International used to be that of a prisoner of conscience who neither uses nor advocates political violence. However, since Amnesty agrees with Durbin on the point of “Gitmo=Gulag” one probably cannot expect them to redefine “political violence” to include hate speech by a Senator.
Let us not belabor the second ranking Senate Democrat’s tawdry political ploy. If Durbin can think of no better use for examples of abominable predation by soulless tyrants than to castigate the United States, we should take him at his word. If he feels compelled to trivialize utter disregard for human life in order to demonize the United States and its military forces for political advantage, that’s his baggage. He should take it home to Illinois with him.
Alas, the Senate Minority Whi
mp is not alone. Let me share a response to an Op-Ed I wrote recently in which I poked fun at the ACLU. Here’s what I wrote. This is a letter to the editor in response:
In a sneering commentary, Duane Hershberger did more to reveal his own thought process than to dispel the American Civil Liberty Union’s concern about the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo.
Not willing to even consider that a few of these Afghans may have been defending their country, Hershberger brands all of them “Islamofascists,” “jihadists,” “our declared mortal enemies,” “suicide-bomb-school washouts who’ve sworn to kill you and me.”
This inhuman imagery of the detainees makes their inhumane treatment easy to accept. Concern over sexual and physical abuse is dismissible. Concern over interrogation methods is laughable.
The relativist compassion of the Theocratic Right, delimited by its own definition of humanness, proves the adage that the more one hates something, the more one becomes like the object of that hatred.
Apparently, hatred for “Islamofascists” has turned some into Judeo-Christofascists.
Let’s review. The word torture appears nowhere in my article, but for Mr. McGuire’s benefit, I’ll note that I do not condone torture, even that for which we have no evidence. That’s just the best reason I did not write about it.
My point was this: the ACLU (et. al.) will go to any extreme to claim that the Guantanamo prisoners are being mistreated. The utter lack of proportion that results takes us into a twilight zone where the word torture itself is, well … tortured. Welcome to the theater of the absurd. Have a chuckle.
Still, I do get it. If one points out the absurdity of an ACLU complaint about Defense Department staff masquerading as Department of State employees, a certain segment of the population will read this as condoning torture. It is not necessary even to mention it (torture, that is).
It is further obvious to this same demographic that anyone expressing such an opinion is automatically a foaming-at-the-mouth right-wing Christian zealot.
Moral equivalence junkies apparently have their own fetishes.
On the question of whether a “few of these Afghans may have been defending their country”, I am perfectly willing to concede that the vast majority were defending their country. Exceptions who were attacking their own country, like Johnny Walker Lindh, can here be ignored.
I suspect Mr. McGuire actually intended to say a few illegal combatants had some legitimate reason for plotting the deaths of US soldiers. He could not mean “defending their country”, since it was that very Taliban government that refused to give up Osama bin-Laden.
Al-Qaeda translates as “The Base”. That’s what Afghanistan was for OBL and that’s why we are there.
In terms of branding the detainees Islamofascists, Jihadists and our declared mortal enemies, I guess I will have to stand by my statement. Moreover, that list does include Johnny Walker Lindh.
The detainees complaining about Koran desecration are obviously Islamist. They defended a fascist government. They call themselves “jihadists”.
If a desire to kill Americans during the battle to disrupt Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan does not qualify one as a “declared mortal enemy”, at least let me say I don’t want to fly with any of them. They want to kill us whether they were actually Taliban Cabinet Ministers or not.
That leaves us with “suicide-bomb-school washouts” as indicative of “hatred”.
Two points. 1- It was irony. SBS dropouts are probably not the guys you want at your elbow when attempting the ambush of a Marine fire team. 2- Interrogation to find out who was actually doing the training in the suicide-bomb-schools is not to be dismissed because a DoD person pretended to be employed by the State Department. Hissy fits are out of place in wartime.
Anyone defending the country that harbored Osama bin-Laden should be in Gitmo, or underground. May those who claim otherwise reap the ridicule they deserve.
Now, if Mr. McGuire were contending that some Afghanis were just caught up in the general joy over the opportunity to kill Americans, but were not otherwise associated with the Taliban, I’d have to say “boo-hoo” to their plight.
Mr. McGuire apparently imagines one non-Taliban-Afghani-Buddhist-patriot exhorting the other two: “Hey guys, Allah has delivered some unclean minions of the Great Satan into our general vicinity, let’s go out and see if we can kill a few. Yeah, those pesky Taliban blew up our ancient statues and stoned our daughters, but gosh, my AK-47 ammo is about to be stale dated.”
Sexual and physical abuse? Some female interrogators embarrassed an Islamofascist by removing articles of their own clothing? I stand in awe of the interrogators’ dedication to their fellow soldiers and to me.
And I’m not taking any guff about the sexual harassment of individuals who dream of 72 virgins obtained by killing infidels, who won’t even let their own daughters go to school and who stone raped females as adulterers in order to save the “family honor”.
We’re speaking of medieval value systems here. The ACLU wants those values protected by the very document, the US Constitution, that codified their rejection.
Finally, Mr. McGuire’s presumption of my religious orientation is entirely incorrect and would be offensive if it weren’t so predictable.
I am not disconcerted by such Democrat talking points. I find solace in kindred spirits such as John Kass at the Chicago Tribune. In Guantanamo is no place for a pop princess, Kass gives appropriate weight to the pro-detainee complainers.
… Intelligence officials did their best to break the terrorists with unspeakable torments, including offering plenty of honeyed chicken, fruit, various breakfast cereals and, for the less devout, photographs of naked women.
Then they blew it big time by using Aguilera.
Her music reportedly was piped into the cell of Osama bin Laden’s henchman Mohamed al-Qahtani. He allegedly was the 20th hijacker, the only one kept out of the country, so he couldn’t make his plane on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I will tell the truth,” he was quoted as saying in Time magazine. “I am doing this to get out of here.”
Of course, Kass was accused of sneering. Here is his response:
…there are legitimate legal concerns as to how to treat them [detainees] under the law. There also are immediate issues–such as finding out what they know in order to protect Americans here and overseas.
But on Thursday, I had some fun with a Time magazine report about the use of Christina Aguilera’s music by interrogators to loosen tongues at Gitmo.
Why? Because I thought it was funny. And because most of the debate is calculated, having little to do with the merits and much to do with midterm elections.
By the way, I’d like to thank all those who sent in their favorite songs to be offered as new Guantanamo musical interrogation tools, now to be referred to as “Interro-Tunes.”
The incomparable Mark Steyn also weighs in on the topic here:
…One measure of a civilized society is that words mean something: “Soviet” and “Nazi” and “Pol Pot” cannot equate to Guantanamo unless you’ve become utterly unmoored from reality. Spot the odd one out: 1) mass starvation; 2) gas chambers; 3) mountains of skulls; 4) lousy infidel pop music turned up to full volume. One of these is not the same as the others, and Durbin doesn’t have the excuse that he’s some airhead celeb or an Ivy League professor. He’s the second-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Don’t they have an insanity clause?
Now let us turn to the ranking Democrat, the big cheese on the committee, Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Leahy thinks Gitmo needs to be closed down and argues as follows:
“America was once very rightly viewed as a leader in human rights and the rule of law, but Guantanamo has drained our leadership, our credibility, and the world’s good will for America at alarming rates.”
So, until Guantanamo, America was “viewed as a leader in human rights”? Not in 2004, when Abu Ghraib was the atrocity du jour. Not in 2003, when every humanitarian organization on the planet was predicting the deaths of millions of Iraqis from cholera, dysentery and other diseases caused by America’s “war for oil.” Not in 2002, when the “human rights” lobby filled the streets of Vancouver and London and Rome and Sydney to protest the Bushitler’s plans to end the benign reign of good King Saddam. Not the weekend before 9/11 when the human rights grandees of the U.N. “anti-racism” conference met in South Africa to demand America pay reparations for the Rwandan genocide and to cheer Robert Mugabe to the rafters for calling on Britain and America to “apologize unreservedly for their crimes against humanity.” If you close Gitmo tomorrow, the world’s anti-Americans will look around and within 48 hours alight on something else for Gulag of the Week.
And more Steyn, here, echoing some previous Other Club posts.
…By now, one or two readers may be frothing indignantly, “That’s not funny! Bush’s torture camp at Guantanamo is the gulag of our time, if not of all time.” But that’s the point. The world divides into those who feel the atrocities at Gitmo “must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others” …, and the rest of us, for whom the more we hear the specifics of the “atrocities” the funnier they are. They bear the same relation to the gulags (15-30 million dead), the Nazi camps (nine million dead) and the killing fields of Cambodia (two million dead) as Mel Brooks‚ “Springtime For Hitler” does to the original. Nobody complained at Auschwitz that the guards were playing the 78s of The Merry Widow (the Fuhrer’s favorite operetta) with the volume knob too high. When that old KGB hand Yuri Andropov succeeded Brezhnev as the big guy in the Kremlin, he was reported in the western press to be a big Glenn Miller fan. But to the best of my knowledge no-one suggested he was in the basement of the Lubyanka torturing the inmates with “I Got A Gal In Kalamazoo”.
So, never mind that the ACLU angst over “pretending to be a diplomat” is laughable and is explicable only by political opportunism of the worst sort and/or a deep seated anti-Americanism.
Never mind that comparing Guantanamo to the Gulag, the Killing Fields and Auschwitz in the service of partisan politics so debases the memory of what happened in those places as to be obscene even if it did not give aid and comfort to the enemy.
Never mind all that. Since the United States isn’t populated entirely by Saints we should immediately release the detainees in Gitmo and withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Never mind what that would mean to the people who live there. They can take their own damn chances with torture, rape and mass murder. At least it won’t not be happening in Gitmo.
In closing, another thought from Mark Steyn:
This isn’t a Republican vs Democrat thing; it’s about senior Democrats who are so over-invested in their hatred of a passing administration that they’ve signed on to the nuttiest slurs of the lunatic fringe.
Update: 20-Jun, 7:44PM – Winfield Myers has some worthwhile comment at Democracy Project: Did Our Minutemen et al. Torture? Are Terrorists “Freedom Fighters?”, as does Hugh Hewitt: Breaking the Durbin Code.