The argument that terrorists represent a graver threat than the Nazis did appears to be gaining traction among current and former Republican officials.
The latest to make the claim: GOP Rep Pete Hoekstra, at a press conference today announcing the GOP’s new “Keep Terrorists Out Of America Act,” which is designed to restrict the housing of Guantanamo detainees on American soil.
Asked by a reporter whether this wasn’t comparable to the detainment of Nazis in prisoner of war camps during World War II, Hoekstra said the two were “night and day” because of the threat of “homegrown terrorism” and because of 9/11…
This is a sign of how desperate these poor fuckwits are. They’re trying to equate a handful of fanatics to a political party that controlled an industrial war machine that devastated Europe, plunged the entire world into full-scale slaughter, and killed nearly 40 million people, including 6,000,000 Jews and other undesirables rounded up and butchered with less care and concern than we show for beef cattle. Al Qaeda’s killed what, maybe 10-20,000 people worldwide? Instead of a Reichstag, they’ve got caves.
But whatever. Let’s play the game. The terrorists are worse than Nazis, the horror, the horror. Obviously must compromise our moral standing, break domestic and international law, and torture the crap out of them in order to protect ourselves, etc. etc.
There’s a flaw in that so-called reasoning, even if we grant the “worse-than-Nazis” argument:
Christopher Hitchens has a column in Slate following up on President Obama’s mentioning of the British during World War II as an example of a nation that faced an overwhelming threat yet resisted the urge to torture those they had captured to get information from them. He adds some detail:
It would be reassuring to think that somebody close to Obama had handed him a copy of a little-known book called Camp 020: MI5 and the Nazi Spies. This was published by the British Public Record Office in 2000 and describes the workings of Latchmere House, an extraordinary British prison on Ham Common in the London suburb of Richmond, which housed as many as 400 of Hitler’s operatives during World War II. Its commanding officer was a man named Col. Robin Stephens, and though he wore a monocle and presented every aspect of a frigid military martinet (and was known and feared by the nickname “Tin-Eye”), he was a dedicated advocate of the nonviolent approach to his long-term guests. To phrase it crisply–as he did–his view was and remained: “Violence is taboo, for not only does it produce answers to please, but it lowers the standard of information.”
As Col. Stephens wrote, following the words quoted above about how “violence is taboo” and that it “lowers the standard of information”:
“There is no room for a percentage assessment of reliability. If information is correct, it is accepted and recorded; if it is doubtful, it should be rejected in toto.”
In other words, it is precisely because the situation was so urgent, so desperate, and so grave that no amateurish or stupid methods could be permitted to taint the source. Col. Stephens, who was entirely devoted to breaking his prisoners and destroying the Nazis, eventually persuaded many important detainees to work for him and began to receive interested inquiries “from the FBI and the North West Mounted Police, from the Director of Security in India to the Resistance Movements of de Gaulle, the Belgians and the Dutch.” It would be nice to think that even now, American intelligence might take a leaf from his ruthless and yet humane book.
This is the philosophy of a man who managed to break Nazi prisoners without so much as raising a finger. You can be ruthless without being Jack Bauer. And you tend to get better results by not running around living a Hollywood fantasy.
So, even if the terrorists really were worse than Nazis, we’re left with the fact that torture still isn’t justified. Oh, and as far as the Cons being too shit-scared to house terrorists in American prisons? I’ll leave it to Steve Benen and Jon Stewart to skewer their arguments:
The GOP argument is that the president, by closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, may move as many as 250 detainees to detention facilities in the U.S. Congressional Republicans want to make that next to impossible, arguing that Obama would put American lives at risk by bringing suspected terrorists onto American soil.
This is a very stupid argument.
There are multiple angles to this, but let’s cut to the chase: we already lock up some extraordinarily dangerous people in maximum-security facilities. Al Qaeda suspects may be scary, but they don’t have super powers. Obama isn’t going to just drop off bad guys on Main Street and ask them to play nice.
I’ll just quote Jon Stewart’s commentary from January, which summed up the problem nicely. In a message to Republicans, the “Daily Show” host explained:
“I know you guys are freaking out, but you know what we in these United States do better than anyone? Imprison people.
“We’ve got 2.3 million people locked up. Per capita, we’re #1… But these detainees are ‘the worst of the worst’; the creme de la crud; they want to kill Americans. Yeah, unlike our current inmate population of jaywalkers, cream puffs and boy scouts who only want to hug Americans [images of Charles Manson, Tim McVeigh, et al, on screen].
“Look, I know you’re Republicans so you don’t watch MSNBC, but check it out on the weekends. They have this 6-10 hour block called ‘Lockup.’ We can’t handle these piddly punks from Guantanamo? I’ll put a good, old fashioned, USA born and raised, brain-eater against any of those motherf***ers. Any of them. USA! USA!
From all of this, I can only conclude that the Cons are a snivelling bunch of morally-bankrupt cowards who believe making other people live out their Jack Bauer fantasies compensates for their lack of testicles. But then, we knew that already.