Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Durbin was right

An interesting look at this controversy, from Jonah Goldberg.

So how is Dick Durbin partly right? It is true, as Durbin claimed, that if he were to read the allegations about depriving prisoners of food or forcing them to defecate on themselves, many Americans would be reminded of the Nazis. But that’s because vast swaths of the public and their opinion leaders prefer to live in historical and moral ignorance. (As for thinking of Pol Pot’s killing fields or the Gulag, it’s unlikely, as neither gets a fraction of the attention it deserves.) In the circles frequented by the likes of Durbin — where Howard Dean is a statesman and Michael Moore deserves the Nobel Prize — evil must automatically be associated with “Nazi.”

So it goes in our political culture, where Nazi has become so synonymous with “bad” that all bad things must be Nazi-like — particularly if these bad things have been (allegedly) committed by the United States. Durbin could have compared the alleged abuses to the behavior of the French in Algeria or even to the police in Chicago 20 years ago, and he would have been far closer to the truth. But that just wouldn’t have had the oomph he was looking for — and it would have left too many people scratching their heads.