Andrew Sullivan Notices Nazi Parallel

Monday, October 08, 2007

"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."

-- President George W. Bush

"The receptivity of the masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan."

-- Adolf Hitler in "Mein Kampf"

It's ever so politically incorrect to compare anyone at all to the Nazis, even when the similarity is obvious, but maybe Andrew Sullivan can get away with it. He is a conservative, after all, if not a neoconservative. As Glenn Greenwald has explained, if right-wingers do it, it's all good.

In a column entitled "Bush’s torturers follow where the Nazis led," Sullivan catalogs his unfolding horror as he learned that the Bush Administration did, indeed, authorize torture. Hurts to learn that you've been a good German and enabled atrocities, doesn't it.

I remember that my first response to the reports of abuse and torture at Guantanamo Bay was to accuse the accusers of exaggeration or deliberate deception. I didn’t believe America would ever do those things. I’d also supported George W Bush in 2000, believed it necessary to give the president the benefit of the doubt in wartime, and knew Donald Rumsfeld as a friend.

. . .

They redefined torture solely as something that would be equivalent to the loss of major organs or leading to imminent death. Everything else was what was first called “coercive interrogation”, subsequently amended to “enhanced interrogation”. These terms were deployed in order for the president to be able to say that he didn’t support “torture”. We were through the looking glass.

. . .

So is “enhanced interrogation” torture? One way to answer this question is to examine history. The phrase has a lineage. Verschärfte Verneh-mung, enhanced or intensified interrogation, was the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the “third degree”. It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation.

. . .

The Nazis even argued that “the acts of torture in no case resulted in death. Most of the injuries inflicted were slight and did not result in permanent disablement”. This argument is almost verbatim that made by John Yoo, the Bush administration’s house lawyer, who now sits comfortably at the Washington think tank, the American Enterprise Institute.

I think Sully has a rather idealized image of America's past, but at least he's awakened to its present. We are now a country that worships at the altar of Jack Bauer and venerates idiocy as long as it looks really bad-ass.

"It's better to be strong and wrong than weak and right."

-- Bill Clinton