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A Macabre Remembrance: Tortured Memories of Auschwitz PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Saturday, 29 January 2005 02:58
A Macabre Remembrance: Tortured Memories of Auschwitz

To get at the deeper truth, perhaps the question we should ask is not, "How did Auschwitz happen?" but rather, "What exactly happened at Auschwitz?"

Global Eye
By Chris Floyd 
The Moscow Times
Friday, January 28, 2005 
This week, grim ceremonies marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, where the Nazis murdered 1.5 million people. These remembrances of horror provoked extensive commentary, summed up in a single agonizing question: How could this have happened?

Answers -- some simplistic, others more nuanced -- were offered by various pundits and scholars

It was one man's madness; it was the result of unique historical circumstances; it was the inevitable byproduct of a totalitarian system, and so on.

Implicit in these comments was the comforting notion that such deliberate mass atrocity is possible only under a tyrannical regime, led by brutal dictators, "madmen" like Hitler, Stalin and Saddam; it could never happen in a democracy, where a free people exercise its electoral will, and strong civic structures curb the excesses of state power.

Indeed, in his "fire sermon" at the inauguration, U.S. president George W. Bush claimed that democracy is a divine system, created by God Himself. It could therefore never be an instrument of evil.

Does this stance correspond to reality, to history?

To get at the deeper truth, perhaps the question we should ask is not, "How did Auschwitz happen?" but rather, "What exactly happened at Auschwitz?"

Well, here's what happened: Government leaders ordered the murder and torture of innocent people in the defense of "the Homeland" and the superior "moral values" of their culture. They produced copious justifications for their actions, including legal rulings from top government attorneys, while concealing the actual operational details from public knowledge in the name of "national security." When faced with undeniable evidence of atrocity, they blamed "bad apples" in the lower ranks.

Suddenly, viewed in this light, Auschwitz doesn't seem so strange, so otherworldly, so removed from us.

For we have seen all of these things come to pass today, perpetrated by the world's greatest democracy, by elected leaders whose initially dubious hold on power has just been ratified by the free vote of a free people. We have seen these democratic leaders launch a war of aggression on false pretenses -- a deliberate action which they knew would lead to mass murder.

We know this war has killed at least 100,000 innocent people, according to a scientific study by the respected medical journal The Lancet. The overwhelming majority of these 100,000 have been killed by direct military action of the U.S.-U.K. coalition, most of them long after "major combat operations" ended, The Lancet reports.

(It's fascinating to watch the Bushists quibble over this number -- "The death count's not really that high, it wasn't deliberate, it was collateral damage, it's anti-American propaganda," etc. -- like Holocaust revisionists disputing the reality of Auschwitz: "It wasn't really 1.5 million, it wasn't deliberate, it was disease, overwork, Jewish propaganda, etc.")

We know that thousands of Iraqis have been imprisoned unjustly; up to 90 percent of all detainees were innocent of any offense, the Red Cross reports. We know that many of these innocents have been tortured, using techniques and guidelines laid down by Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld and approved by Bush. We know that many people have died from this torture, as the pro-war Times of London reports, not only in Iraq but also in secret CIA prisons around the world, where thousands of people are being held without charges -- and where the administration's tepid restrictions on torture do not apply, as Bush's legal factotum, Alberto Gonzales, admits.

And we know that whenever fragments of truth about this widespread, thoroughgoing program of atrocity do manage to surface from the darkness, Bush and his apologists run for cover and cast the blame on underlings.

"This so-called ill treatment and torture in detention centers ... were not, as some assumed, inflicted methodically, but were excesses committed by individual prison guards, their deputies, and men who laid violent hands on the detainees."

These words have a familiar ring, echoed almost daily by a Bush official or a right-wing commentator -- but in fact the quote is from Rudolf Hoess, commandant of Auschwitz, as Scott Horton notes in the Los Angeles Times.

Horton and other writers also unearthed statements by Nazi leaders and jurists declaring the Geneva Conventions "obsolete" for the "new kind of war" they were fighting against Bolshevik "terrorists" on the Eastern Front -- precise equivalents to the language used by the Bush White House in its "torture memos."

There is nothing new in this, of course. Richard Nixon, first elected on a deceptive platform of "ending" the Vietnam War, in fact expanded the conflict with secret invasions of Laos and Cambodia that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.

Even after these invasions came to light, Nixon was re-elected, democratically, by one of the largest margins in U.S. history. His infamous Oval Office tapes capture this democratic leader mocking aides who sought to restrain his most murderous impulses (including his repeated proposals to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam):

"You're so goddamned concerned about the civilians, and I don't give a damn. I don't care."

Yet as the Pentagon Papers showed, Nixon was just part of a decades-long, bipartisan record of U.S. deception and military escalation in Indochina that led to millions of deaths.

Yes, democracy remains the best system yet devised for the ordering of human society. But even the strongest democracy can be subverted by leaders bent on deception and aggression. Even the strongest democracy can give rise to a ruthless, corporate-driven war machine, to secret prisons, secret armies, torture regimens and mass slaughter. Democracy, for all its virtues, is not proof against systematic moral corruption -- or monstrous atrocity.

The ashes of Auschwitz are still falling on the innocents being murdered today.


A Nuremburg Lesson
Los Angeles Times, Jan. 20, 2005

100,000 Iraqis Dead: Should We Believe It?
Zmag, Nov. 3, 2004

Iraqi Civilian Deaths Get No Hearing in the United States
The Daily Star, Dec. 2, 2004

100,000 Iraqi Deaths Estimated in Iraq
Washington Post, Oct. 28, 2004

US Has Killed 100,000 In Iraq: The Lancet
Informed Comment, Oct. 29, 2004

100,000 Dead in Iraq
Alternet, Oct. 30, 2004

Coalition Forces Linked to More Deaths Than Insurgents
Houston Chronicle, Sept. 25, 2004

Bush and Hitler: What the Torture Memos Reveal
Information Clearing House, June 27, 2004

Gonzales excludes CIA from rules on prisoners
New York Times, Jan. 20, 2005

The Still Bad New Old Nixon
The Nation, March 5, 2002

Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers
Penguin Books, Sept. 1, 2003

The Pentagon Papers (Excerpts)
Mt Holyoke College International Relations Program

The Next Strategic Target
Democracy Now/Seymour Hersh, Jan. 19, 2005

Torture Treaty Doesn't Bar `Cruel, Inhuman' Tactics, Gonzales Says
Knight-Ridder, Jan. 26, 2005

The Ghosts of Torture
Village Voice, Jan. 25, 2005

Dancing in the Dark: Tortured Logic
Chicago Tribune, Jan. 23, 2005

In Terror Fight, Domestic Role for U.S. Troops
New York Times, Jan. 23, 2005

On Television, Torture Takes a Holiday
New York Times, Jan. 19, 2005

The Coming Wars
New Yorker, Jan. 24, 2005

Rumsfeld's Dirty Little Secret
Center for American Progress, Jan.

Pentagon's Secret Spy Unit Broadens Rumsfeld's Power
San Francisco Chronicle, Jan. 23, 2005

Pentagon Files Reveal More Allegations of Abuse in Iraq
Los Angeles Times, Jan. 25, 2005

New Files Provide Evidence Soldiers Not Held Accountable for Abuse
American Civil Liberties Union, Jan. 24, 2005

Torture in Iraq Still Routine, Report Says
Washington Post, Jan. 24, 2005

Records Released in Response to Torture FOIA Request
American Civil Liberties Union, Dec. 20, 2004

New Papers Suggest Detainee Abuse was Widespread
Washington Post, Dec. 21, 2004

Justice Department Memos to White House on Geneva Convention
Antiwar.com, May 22, 2004

Justice Memos Explained How to Skip Prisoner Rights
New York Times, May 21, 2004

Apologia Pro Tormento
Discourse.net, June 9, 2004

Torture, Incorporated
Counterpunch, June 14, 2004

The Torturers
Antiwar.com, June 14, 2004

Lone Star Justice: Gonzales' Strange View of International Law
Slate.com, June 15, 2004

Tortured Meanings
The Guardian, June 12, 2004

The Secret World of US Jails
The Observer, June 13, 2004

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 January 2005 02:58

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