Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Like Hitler

Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison made a statement that Bush used 9/11 to manipulate the public into granting him extraordinary power, the way Hitler used the Reichstag Fire in Germany for a grab for power. NOw, critics are condemning the comparison, accusing Ellison is implying that Bush was behind 9/11 or, just generally, asserting that it is wrong for anybody to make comparisons to Hitler. (Critics: Muslim rep. likened Bush, Hitler

This is a common form of political rhetoric that I detest. I wrote about this a couple of years ago in an essay that I titled, "Like Hitler".

One of my objections to this policy is that if we prohibit people from saying tha something is "like Hitler", then we prohibit warning people of political trends that are actually "like Hitler." I postulated a reincarnated Hitler seeking political office, protesting any attempt to say that he is "like Hitler" by playing on the national prohibition on making such comparisons, even when they are accurate.

In this case, the comparison being made is that Hitler knew that an attack on the nation is politically useful in grabbing power. Bush (or, perhaps more accurately, Bush's master Dick Cheney) recognized the usefulness of the 9/11 attacks.

Hitler could not wait around for history to hand him an attack that he could then exploit, so he engineered his own attack. However, there is no doubt that if communists would have actually attacked the Reichstag, that Hitler would have considered this a blessing and still exploited it to the future.

We may assume that Bush/Cheney would not have engineered an attack on the United States. (Some conspiracy theorists say otherwise, but I hold that conspiracy theories require extraordinary proof). Yet, like Hitler, they knew how to put an attack (whether engineered internally or externally) to good use.

All protests to the contrary, this is an objective fact. It would be legitimate to protest this claim by saying that it is not true. It is not a legitimate response to say, even though true, one is not socially permitted to utter this truth because it contains the word Hitler.

Some things in the real world really are "like Hitler".

1 comment:

Hume's Ghost said...

I'm not sure I've ever come across an absolute consensus on the Reichstag fire. In one or another of the books on fascism, the author notes that some historians think that Hitler genuinely believed that communists had attacked the Reichstag.

The proper area of comparison should be on the principle by which Hitler got his dictator powers.

Article 48 of the Weimar Republic's constitution stated that in case of emergency, parliament could grant the Chancellor the power to abrogate the rule of law (which they did after the fire, making HItler's dictatorship more or less Constitutional). This power was to be reviewed and renewed or ended every 5 years, although one marvels that the drafters of the Constitution could not foresee the futility in parliament trying to get a dictator to step down after 5 years in power.

The legal theorist behind the Article 48 principle was Carl Schmitt.

President Bush has such a theorist. His name is John Yoo, and he believes that our Article II actually grants the president the same right to abrogate the rule of law in the sake of responding to national crisis, with the exception that Yoo believes the President doesn't need the approval of Congress to invoke this power.

This is why I believe it imperative that Bush/Cheney be impeached, as the Yoo theory has been the legal prinicple upon which they've rested nearly all of the illicit activities, and it is a precedent that is dangerous to democracy. It must be repudiated before future administrations come into office.