Thursday, June 09, 2005

Never Forget

     I feel I have to explain why I don't feel like comparing the Bush administration to the Third Reich (although not necessarily Bush to Hitler himself) isn't as patently offensive and absurd as the Righties like to think.
I grew up with the mantra, "Never Forget". My grandparents reminded me that their parents and grandparents never thought that something like the Holocaust could possibly occur, either in their thoroughly modern urban Germany or their pastoral rural Poland or Russia. "Never Forget" taught us to never assume that everything was going to be all right - sometimes the very worst happens. And it may happen when you least expect it.
     Well, I've been hearing this long before Bush came to office. There's a certain paranoia to it. In 1996 when I went overseas for the first time and got my passport, my father decided it was time to get passports for the entire family too. You never know... Paranoid? Yes, but just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to get you. Or in other words, sometimes even paranoids have enemies. (In college, we termed one of our fraternity brothers, "pronoid" - he thought everyone liked him. He was wrong, by the way)
     Anyway, as I explained in "Who's Allowed to Talk About Hitler?", Hitler's life wasn't 100% dedicated to exterminating Jews and dominating Europe. He had a sophisticated plan to rule Germany - and he deftly turned Germany from one of the world's foremost democracies into its foremost evil dictatorship. It's not only useful and eye-opening to study how he did it, it's crucial to learn what he did so as to prevent it. A lot of his successes were directly or indirectly caused by well-meaning people looking to alleviate the strain on Germany from the First World War, reparations, and from the Great Depression. It behooves us not only to know what steps those well-meaning people did, but to look for similar patterns in our own government that would allow another Hitler to take advantage of the situation.
     No reasonable person seriously thinks Bush is Hitler II. But there are similarities in certain things going on in Bush's government that resemble things that allowed Hitler to come to power. And "Never Forget" calls for eternal vigilance - so that even though Bush most likely never intends or desires to exploit these things, there is most certainly someone out there who does.
     The Patriot Act allows the government to spy on U.S. citizens. It allows the government to secretly detain U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism. Suspected, not convicted. One argument I've heard over and over is that the current government won't abuse the power we've given it. But what about the next one?
     How is it so out of bounds to compare what this Bush administration and this Republican Congress are doing to what the Reichstag did in 1933 after a terrorist act in Germany. Thankfully, the Patriot Act is a kitten next to the Reichstag Fire Decree's lion. But what comes next? The American people seem to have agreed that security is more important than liberty, at least in some cases. Where's the line? Who draws the line?
     What I find interesting is that while every Right-wing voice declares that Hillary will be the next President (despite no Left-wing person seriously discussing that eventuality, as far as I know), I don't think they really believe it. They villainize Hillary to mobilize their base, but if they really thought she was going to be elected in 2008 or 2012, wouldn't they be putting more safeguards on our government and not less? Wouldn't they want to maintain the filibuster on judges? Wouldn't they want to restrict her ability to spy on the American people? Wouldn't they want to restrict her ability to make war with whomever she pleases? I really don't have an opinion on Hillary, believe it or not. But assume she's as bad as Rush Limbaugh claims she is (because who wouldn't believe everything Rush says) - don't you see her using these anti-terrorism tools that were created with the best of intentions to wreak havoc on the American way of life? We should never be closing our eyes to what is going on - we should never think that examining our own side is the same as giving a victory to the other side. If the Patriot Act and other acts like it are flawed, we need to know now so we can fix it - we can't shut down as soon as someone compares it to Germany. That's letting someone win, and that someone isn't America.


Ben said...

As far as I am aware, there has only been ONE case of a citizen beign detained for any significant amount of time under suspicion of terrorism, Jose Padilla, who was definitely a terorrist. I don't like that he was held the way he was, but one incident hardly makes this the 3rd Reich. If you could quote the part of the Patriot Act that says the government can detain people for being suspected of terrorism, I'd like to see it.

Wiretaps and the ability to spy on citizens are nothing new, and the Patriot Act requires the same judicial approval it always has. So I'm still not seeing where this is anything like the 3rd Reich. Also no one in their right mind, Rush Limbaugh included, would ever want to give Bush emergency dictatorial powers, as Hitler recieved in 1936 (or was it 1933?).

As far as Hillary goes, there are plenty of Dems who are talking about her running for President, herself included. The current administration is trying to do right for the country. Maybe a Democratic president would make or break laws so as to upset the potential next President, but Bush is actually trying to do his job, not screw up the next guy's job. I guess it's hard for a lefty like yourself to imagine that. Overall I'm not sure I understand the point of this entry. As far as your statement that examining our own actions is not the same as letting the other side win, you are absolutely correct. And if you ever listen to Rush, or Hannity, or even O'Reilly, you'll hear them blast Bush for one thing or another all the time. This idea of some monolithic Right wing where everyone agrees on everything is as ridiculous as me thinking that all Dems think exactly like Howard Dean. But there's a big difference between examining your own possible mistakes, and glamourizing every last little tidbit of info that might make the US bad, even if it's demonstratably not true like the Koran mess, while ignoring any and every bit of good being done at the same time. Yes, some mistakes have been made, but you seem to have this attitude that if one small mistake was made, then that invalidates all the good done (overthrow of an evil dictator, spreading democracy, freeing Afghanistan, killing or capturing terrorists). Maybe if our press put as much effort in to revealing the plans of our enemies (the ones that frequently say things like "all Americans must die") as trying to lynch Bush, they might have some more credibility. Instead they glorify our enemies and insult our leaders.

Scott said...

Ben, you make my point for me. The fact that there was ONE means that next time it could be TWO. or THREE. Or MORE. How many times will the next President do it because this government enabled it?

Also, there's a difference between Hillary talking about running and Neal Boortz calling her the next President. I'm sure Ralph Nader is running too. But nobody calls him the next President.

Mike said...

Well, this post lost me at "Third Reich" but I read on anyway.

First I'll have to admit I don't know all the details of the Third Reich, but my limited understanding is it was used to jail political opposition (i.e.-the jews and anyone else who posed a political threat to the Fuhrer). Bush is not jailing nor does he want to jail political opponents. If that were the case Howard Dean and Ted Kennedy would be rotting in a cell or pushing up daisies by now. Bush wants to stop those who want to kill us. From your post I guess you are against that, Scott. I guess you are in favor of Islamic Terrorists killing innocent Americans. I guess you are against giving the commander in chief the power to stop these fundamentalists from realizing their dream of the destruction of western civilization. You can't deny that is what they want to do. How many tapes has UBL put out telling muslims to fight until the last death against the Americans?

Let me ask you this. What good are our rights if we're dead? If allowing the government to see what books I check out of the library or which websites I hit means preventing a dirty bomb from going off in a New York subway, wouldn't it be kind of trivial of me to be offended by that?

Now switching to the totally off topic of Hillary in 2008, IF Hillary gets elected, I would still want to give her all the tools she needed to stop the terrorists. If a president abuses that power I have faith our system of judges and elections would fix the problem eventually. The people had a chance to throw out the patriot act in 2004, and they chose to re-elect Bush. I would support President Hillary's (Excuse me while I just throw up in my mouth) right to appoint judicial nominees without fear of them being filibustered. I'm in favor of upholding the Constitution first and the Republican party second. Of course, the filibuster wouldn't be necessary unless the Dems took back the Senate too, but even then I would not approve of a Republican filibuster, and that is not an idle statement.

ignerens said...

Here's the Patriot Act 2001. It'll make really interesting reading if I ever get the chance.Also, I don't know if either of you are TAL life fans but their Froggy Goes A-Courtin' story was highlarious.

Regardless, aren't the arrests and privacy invasions that you don't hear about much more worrisome?

Mike said...

"aren't the arrests and privacy invasions that you don't hear about much more worrisome?"

This is what drives me nuts about the left. You don't hear about them but you know they're out there? And you guys spread this crap in your little circles and become convinced it must be true since everyone is talking about it. Pretty soon it get's mentioned in some report from some radical left wing publication and next thing you know Howard Dean is demanding the Bush Administration free these mysterious people who have been secretly jailed. And when the Administration denies it and says it can't produce anyone who has been secretly jailed you convince yourselves it must be evidence of their guilt!

It's like the Salem witch trials where they tied up the woman and threw her in the river. If she floats she's a witch and we'll kill her. If she sinks, she must be pure and not a witch. Either way she dies!

Anonymous said...

I think it was Goebbels that once said (paraphrase)"the best way to galvanize a country towards war is to call the pacifists cowards and the voices of dissent as traitors."
Hmmm. Funny thing about that.

sideshow bob said...

I hereby take credit for Anonymous's comment. Don't like it "Anonymous"?...Do something!

alex said...

Scott I think you need to read a bit more on the patriot act. Everything in it still requires a court order by a judge. All search and wiretaps allowed under the patriot act including things such as sneak and peak were already allowed in organized crime and drug cases ( i think that everyone right and left can agree that anti terrorism cases are much more important then mafia and drug cases). As far as the Natioanl Security Letters which allow taking of records from third parties such as library records.

NSLs do not involve private items in a person's own possession; they relate, in very limited instances, to information in the hands of third parties — such as phone records, bank records, and the like, in the files of service providers. The Supreme Court reaffirmed over a quarter century ago (in Smith v. Maryland (1979)) that records in the hands of third parties do not trigger any legitimate expectations of privacy. How could they when, by definition, a third party has free access to them?

Consequently, the government has for decades been able to obtain such information with ease. Routinely, this is done by grand-jury subpoena, without any court supervision. To move things along in cases where speed may be important, and because these records are not private, Congress has also permitted the FBI in certain contexts to compel their production by "administrative subpoena" (i.e., a subpoena the FBI can issue on its own authority, without relying on the compulsive power of the grand jury or the federal courts). Finally, in the narrow arena of national security, even before 9/11, the FBI was allowed to compel this type of information by a mere NSL if it reasonably suspected a person of espionage.

Now if you have a problem with certain aspects of these laws fine but these are not new laws that were created under bush but mearly an extension of existing laws to matters of terrorism.

As far as the germany comparisons perhaps if we had not ignored the mounting threat of terrorism just as the french and british ignored the mounting threat of germany we would not have gotten into this mess in the first place. That is the part of NEVER FORGET that my family (which also lost realtives to the germans) ingrained in me

Scott said...

Alex, you make a good point. My POV for Never Forget has been that of the citizens of the affected countries. Taking the POV of Germany's neighbors is something to consider as well.
But we should still consider both when we make public policy.

Ben said...

What about the point of view of Iraqis that no longer have to live under Saddam with the fear of death or torture an always present part of their lives? What about the point of view of Americans that see their countrymen decapitated on video and don't want to see it happen again. What about the point of view of soldiers that need valuable information from prisoners to save the lives of their fellow soldiers, but instead have to let the prisoners go because Amnesty International wants to get on TV?

Anyone see that interview with the President of Amnesty International, where he admitted the Gulag comparison is not fair, but he got to go on TV because of it? Talk about the ends justifying the means.

ignerens said...

"You don't hear about them but you know they're out there? And you guys spread this crap in your little circles..."

You think I'm wrong, Mike? Fine. Then cite the law and prove it!

Mike said...

Ignerens, the burden of proof does not lie with me. You're the one making a crazy charge that there are illegal arrests and privacy invasions going on we don't hear about. Why should I take your statement at face value? Why is it up to me to prove YOU wrong? If you said the Easter Bunny is real and I said no it isn't, why would the burden of proof lie with me? Shouldn't you be the one who has to prove the existance of the Easter Bunny since nobody has ever seen it?

Alisa said...

The burden of proof lies with the prosecution... prove the facts of the charge beyond all reasonable doubt.

I don't think, we as average citizens, have lost any rights.

The homeland security has only affected me in regard to airport security. (I have been flagged, thus get molested every time I fly... And I'm a U.S. Marine! You'd think they'd feel safer with me on board.. sheesh).

Hitlers "powers" stemmed from his ability to turn a downtrodden economy into a flourishing successful one. The masses saw the good he did that affected their day to day life and did not look too deeply into the bad. This is what gave him the power of autonomy as a leader.

We still have checks and balances and even though areas of our nation are recessed (or even depressed) in their economies, there is no one leader who can come in and save all of those areas in one fell swoop, thus not having the entire support of the masses so needed in order to become the next Hitler.