Friday, October 27, 2006

Guantanámo: the unquestioning repetition of unverified atrocity stories, outright misrepresentation, and the hyper-inflationary conception of genocide

According to [Manfred Nowak's] latest proposal, the vast majority of current detainees (all but "5-10%") should either be repatriated to their countries of origin or—presumably in case they might face "persecution" in the latter—taken in as "refugees" by "European countries or others such as Chile and Argentina."4 Were this proposal implemented, it would transform captured combatants in what are by all accounts ongoing hostilities into political asylum-seekers—an act of benevolence toward the enemy that is surely unprecedented in the annals of warfare!
writes John Rosenthal in a chilling article that looks deeper into the Europeans' antecedents than has been done before (emphasis in bold is mine).
…the revisionism of Ermacora and his colleagues has not involved denying the crimes of Nazi Germany, but rather diminishing their significance by affirming the commission of commensurate crimes by the Allied powers. In this sense, they pioneered the practice of moral equivalence that is the hallmark of so much of the criticism leveled against the U.S. in its current war with Islamist terror groups. Thus, in 1991, in a commissioned "expert opinion" for the Bavarian government, Ermacora concluded that the expulsion of the Sudeten-Germans constituted a "genocide and crime against humanity." Thereby, the unquestionable suffering that Allied policies inflicted on Germans was upgraded to a "crime" on par with those committed by Germans against the populations that had been previously subjected to Nazi rule and, in particular, to the "signature" crime of Nazi Germany: the systematic extermination of European Jewry. Thereby too, the concept of genocide gets banalized, making the enormity of Nazi Germany's crimes more difficult to grasp and impossible to name.

Such revisionism has often been accompanied by unmistakable tones of resentment—and sometimes, indeed, outright revanchism—toward the United States and its WWII allies. The authority whom Ermacora cites for his "scientific" account of the Potsdam Agreement and its consequences, the American-born Alfred de Zayas, has, for instance, in a recent interview with the Germany weekly Junge Freiheit, denounced Roosevelt and Churchill as "war criminals." In a similar vein, yet another influential German NGO, the Society for Endangered Peoples (GfbV), published a memorandum in 1998 titled "For an Independent International Criminal Court! Remember [the] Crimes of the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council!"

The GfbV has made a hyper-inflationary conception of genocide into its calling card. GfbV founder Tilman Zülch has declared the 20th century the "Century of Genocides" and in his seemingly endless enumeration of modern genocides the crimes of Nazi Germany—in his words, "the most terrible in German history" (my italics)—fade into relative insignificance. In keeping with Felix Ermacora's "expert opinion," Zülch includes the forced transfer of the Sudeten-Germans in his enumeration. Indeed, it turns out on closer inspection that the Allied powers that defeated Nazi Germany are made either directly or indirectly responsible for the bulk of the alleged crimes included in Zülch's account, with the United States, at least as measured in Zülch's expenditure of verbiage, seemingly topping the list.

…Manfred Nowak's charges of "torture" against the U.S. can be understood as just the latest instance of the debased usage of key categories in international humanitarian law that Ermacora and his revisionist colleagues pioneered. It was perhaps only to be expected that the challenges faced by America in its current war should provide renewed impetus for the old anti-American resentments that have animated this usage. To close Guantanamo in deference to such resentments would not serve the cause of justice. In light of the potential risk to American security, however, it could well end up serving the cause of a furtive and long-awaited revenge.
Update: The hyper-inflationary conception of genocide, holocaust, and other Nazi crimes never seems to cease (merci à RV).
The phrase ‘climate change denier’ is meant to be evocative of the phrase ‘holocaust denier
Update 2: Medienkritik quotes the Washington Post's Charles Lane as reporting on yet another instance of forward-looking Europeans' principled "stand" against reactionary American "crimes" hiding an uglier picture.
…the actual history of the German death penalty ban casts this claim [that of the lessons learned from Nazi state-sponsored killing] in a different light. Article 102 was in fact the brainchild of a right-wing politician who sympathized with convicted Nazi war criminals — and sought to prevent their execution by British and American occupation authorities. Far from intending to repudiate the barbarism of Hitler, the author of Article 102 wanted to make a statement about the supposed excesses of Allied victors' justice.
In other words, when Europeans say their lofty principles stem from their experience during the Second World War, it is far from false, albeit not always in ways that the proud current masses think…

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