Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Abramsky on Bush-Hitler Rhetoric

Sasha Abramsky has written an excellent and thorough refutation of the all-too-casual and glib rhetoric equating Bush with Hitler and modern America with Nazi Germany. I agree with it completely. And before we get into the predictable attempts to dismiss him rather than engage his arguments, Abramsky isn’t exactly a Bush apologist; he’s a writer for the Nation, Mother Jones and other liberal publications. But he is absolutely right. Such hyperbolic rhetoric only serves to undermine the real and serious case against the Bush administration’s unconstitutional policies. He is absolutely right when he writes:

Yes, invading oil-rich countries in pursuit of national security goals is wrong – but it’s wrong on its own terms and in its own ways, without needing to be compared to the Third Reich’s Lebensraum goals. Yes, Guantanamo Bay is wrong – as was Britain’s use of internment against the IRA in the 1970s – but that doesn’t mean Gitmo or Abu Ghraib is a direct equivalent to Auschwitz or Birkenau. Yes, torture is wrong – in the same way as it was when used by the French in Algeria – but it’s wrong on its own terms, without the flip analogies to the Gestapo’s reign of terror.

It is counterproductive to undermine the rational and necessary case against Bush’s policies and against American excesses in general by making an irrational and unsupportable comparison that turns one’s claims in to a punchline rather than a serious argument against real abuses.

Comments

  1. #1 kehrsam
    May 30, 2007

    Are we at least allowed to say that Wolfowitz in drag would look a lot like Martin Bormann?

  2. #2 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    May 30, 2007

    I think Bush & Co deserve the comparisons. After all, it is they who invoked the mid-20th century analogy in their attempts to equate the ‘war on terror” with WWII.

  3. #3 Janine
    May 30, 2007

    One comparision that I get tired of is this; the Nazis were voted in. People who use that do not know what they are talking about. If anything, they lost voting. The Nazis were part of a collition government with other right wing parties and then worked towards absolute power wby using the Reichsrag fire as an excuse to grap power in order to “protect” the state.

  4. #4 Robert
    May 30, 2007

    Well of course they aren’t the same, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t similarities. Those similarities should be shown for what they are. Irrational and emotional comparisons should of course be avoided, but that is just an extension of Godwin’s Law.

    However there are some legitimate similarities such as the use of terrorist actions on prominate national landmarks as an excuse to grant power to the leader of the state, and the continuing state of fear and rabid “patriotism” (scare quotes because its not real patriotism) used to quell any dissent.

    Sure these weren’t only used by the Nazis, plenty of governments have used techniques similiar. But most people in this day and age revile the Nazis, so such comparisons may help to illustrate how far down the path we have gone already.

    You could argue that by making a comparison that is so wrapped up in emotion that you are actually hurting your cause as no one will think rationally about it. But that hardly invalidates the comparisons.

  5. #5 Orac
    May 30, 2007

    Ack!

    If Abramsky has his way, the Hitler Zombie will be no more!

  6. #6 Jesus
    May 30, 2007

    Yeah, Janine. That’s nothing like our government now.

    http://clipmarks.com/clipmark/61D22BF6-3657-4BF7-AEC9-9B916E830A2C/
    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2007/05/verschfte_verne.html

    The phrase “Verschärfte Vernehmung” is German for “enhanced interrogation”.

    The Nazi defense of the techniques is almost verbatim that of the Bush administration…

    The victims, by the way, were not in uniform. And the Nazis tried to argue, just as John Yoo did, that this made torturing them legit. The victims were paramilitary Norwegians, operating as an insurgency, against an occupying force.

    Also look up the “Enabling Act” of 1933 that was made possible by the Reichstag Fire and compare that to the recent Presidential Directive where Bush “gives himself” dictatorial powers in a “national emergency” which could be just about anything.
    http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=55825

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enabling_act
    An Enabling Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz in German) was passed by Germany’s parliament (the Reichstag) on March 23, 1933. It was the second major step after the Reichstag Fire Decree through which the Nazis obtained dictatorial powers using largely legal means.

    http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/511928.html

    An excerpt from
    They Thought They Were Free
    The Germans, 1933-45
    .
    “To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it–please try to believe me–unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.

    I think comparisons of our current government with Nazis is quite apt.

  7. #7 Orac
    May 30, 2007

    Actually, now that I’ve read it, Abramsky gets some history wrong. In fact, the vast majority of Germans did not “know” all the things he claims that they “knew.” What they heard from Hitler is that he would restore the greatness of Germany by rearming it, that he would reverse the indignities imposed on it by the Treaty of Versailles, that he would put the Communists in their place, and that he would reverse the “decadence” of Weimar Germany. They expected that the “Jewish control” of finance, etc., would be broken but did not expect that it would ultimately involve mass extermination. (Remember, Mein Kampf did not promise extermination, only removal of privileges and expulsion. They did not know that the entire nation would ultimately devolve into the demented Fuhrer worship to which it did. Part of it may have been a large measure of wishful thinking, but most Germans saw Hitler as a strong man who would set things right; few expected him to become absolute dictator within a year of becoming Chancellor.

    A few did, however, realize just how violent and nasty the Nazis would be, as documented very well in Ron Rosenbaum’s Explaining Hitler, in which he described a group of Munich journalists and their work exposing the Nazis for what they were in the years leading up to Hitler’s becoming Chancellor. The reports of political murders, blackmail, and various other thuggish tactics were quite clear and prescient of what would happen after Hitler assumed power, but these journalists were like a lone voice in the wilderness.

    So, although I like Abramsky’s sentiments and he is correct to some extent that the evil that the Nazis represented was there to be seen by those who were willing to look for it, his understanding of the history of Germany in the early 1930′s is a bit off base, and he overplays his hand.

  8. #8 Soldats
    May 30, 2007

    I’m just curious as to whether Mr. Brayton saw the torture article on Mr. Sullivan’s site with its startling similarity to Gestapo newspeak.

    I’d also like to point out that invoking Godwin’s Law doesn’t disprove such a similarity.

  9. #9 Jesus
    May 30, 2007

    There are major difference between Bush and Hitler, of course. Hitler was a genius and a madman. Bush is a retard controlled by retarded madmen.

  10. #10 Robert
    May 30, 2007

    Soldats: That is precisely my point.

  11. #11 dogmeatib
    May 30, 2007

    Actually Janine, you aren’t quite correct on that one. While the National Socialists, or Nazi party did lose roughly 35 seats in the fall election of 1932, they were still the second largest party in Germany at the time. Because of that, and the maneuvering to create a coalition government (which is required in most parliamentary systems), Hitler became the Chancellor of the Reichstag. Then you’re quite correct, they used the fire to round up the communists and held an election in March, 1933 which gave them roughly 44% of the Reichstag, with their DNVP allies they gained a majority with 52% of the chamber.

    So while there were manipulations in the process, the Nazis were elected.

    It’s still a stupid comparison though I’m not sure that Bush and his cronies wouldn’t love to have Hitler’s controls, in order to protect Democracy … of course.

  12. #12 Dunc
    May 30, 2007

    On those terms, almost no-one could ever be compared to Hitler. It doesn’t require an absolute identity to make a valid comparison. As Mark Twain had it, history never repeats – but sometimes it rhymes.

    The question is: where you regard the fundamental evil of the Nazis as residing? In their extermination program, or in the political approach that made that program possible? If it’s the former, then the Bush regime isn’t comparable. If it’s the latter, then there is a comparison to be made. Personally, I choose the latter – which is not to minimize the evil of the extermination program, but merely to recognise that it is the (almost inevitable) outcome of a political philosophy. Just as the Nuremburg tribunal regarded the waging of aggressive war as the supreme war crime, on the grounds that it contains the seeds of all other war crimes, so I regard vicious authoritarianism as the supreme political crime, as it contains the seeds of all other crimes. In this respect, Hitler and the Nazis were not particularly exceptional – the only thing that made them exceptional was their ability to implement their ideas, and the brazenness with which they did so.

    From a moral perspective, there is no real difference between sending people to extermination camps, bombing them from altitude, and starving them with sanctions. And I’m not convinced that the difference in degree between killing a million or so people and over 10 million makes any fundamental moral difference. (Serious radicals would also mention at this point that Bush is not exceptional, and merely represents the continuation of over 100 years of US foreign policy which has almost certainly killed more people than the Nazis)

    The idea that Nazism was a unique and exceptional evil is not in any way valid, in my opinion. Nor is the idea that Bush is any any way exceptional in terms of US foreign policy.

  13. #13 Robert
    May 30, 2007

    Oh, and here is a particulary apt quote I think:

    “Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.”
    – Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials

  14. #14 Bruce
    May 30, 2007

    Maybe Bushco is trying to win by causing the other side to invoke Hitler comparisons so they can claim a win by Godwin’s law? Isn’t that what “Unhinged” et. al. are all about?

  15. #15 RickD
    May 30, 2007

    I think there are several important issues regarding the comparisons between the US of today and Nazi Germany. One of the problems is that people get hysterical, invoke Godwin’s law, and think your entire argument is not credible if you simply point out that the US government is not behaving according to the moral ground that it purports to have, but is rather behaving along the more deranged lines of thinking that led to authoritarian Nazism. Unfortunately, it is difficult to address many of the egregious activities the current government has been involved in without resorting to dramatic examples from history.

    How can we talk about the policy of disappearing possibly innocent civilians of other nations, torturing them, and keeping them in prison camps for years on end with no legal rights? If we call such a camp a “gulag”, some people get all upset at that idea. But I think the resistance to unappetizing historical comparisons does not merely come from people who understand all of the shades of gray separating the different behaviors. I think it’s a knee-jerk response to any strong criticism of the United States.

    We face serious problems in the United States right now, and these serious problems will not be confronted unless we can dispel a lot of the illusions that people have had about the national character. If all of the current abuses of the Executive branch could be laid at Bush’s feet (or Cheney’s), then the problems would not be so grim, as they would likely disappate after the 2008 election. But, as I see it, the current line of neo-con foreign policy thinking, along with its aggressive attitude towards invasion and amoral attitude towards lawless detention, domestic spying, and torture, is in fact not new to the current administration. Many of these ideas have been festering in the system since the height of the Cold War, and we would really be better off it we could purge them once and for all.

    But the only way we can purge the nation of the evils of lawless detention, domestic surveillance, and torture, is to seriously keep the eye on what is going on. I agree that the US of today is nowhere near as bad as Nazi Germany – but that’s really a pathetically low standard to have. Worse, the direction the US is taking is more in the direction of Nazi authoritarianism than of benign republic along the lines that I had always expected of my country.

    I do think that the US is walking right down the path of arrogant imperialism that many of our European cousins walked down in the centuries past. We are making all of the same immoral decisions using the same morally dubious grounds of “national self interest” that end up visiting violence on the people in the nations the we invade and impose hegemony on. So, no, we are not as bad as Germany of the 1930s or the Soviet Union of the 1950s. But we are as bad as the English of the 18th century, and quite possibly worse than Napoleonic France.

  16. #16 SLC
    May 30, 2007

    There is one major difference between Bush and Hitler. Once in office, Hitler could only be removed by loss of the second world war, a military coup, or assassination. Bush will be gone on Jan. 20, 2008.

  17. #17 RickD
    May 30, 2007

    As to this point:

    Nor is the idea that Bush is any any way exceptional in terms of US foreign policy.

    Well, I suppose if you consider the Spanish-American war and the various shenanigans in Central and South American over the 20th century, I can see something to this point. But I do think Bush is unique in his callousness and utter lack of vision, and in his chickenhawked endorsement of violence as the first answer, not the last. Bush has taken the morally worst tactics of the Cold War and conjured a new enemy (Islamofascism!) in order to justify a new era of authoritarianism. Indeed, the bogeyman of Islamofascism is so non-credible that it calls the motivation of the Cold War into question!

    But I bring this up because I think it’s a bit too easy to blur the distinctions between Bush and his predecessors, and to say “Well, every President since FDR has pursued a militaristic, expansionist foreign policy.” While that criticism is true to a great extent, it really dosen’t account for the breathtaking incompetence of the Bush regime. Even when the US was mired in a pointless war in Vietnam, that war didn’t serve exactly the opposite ends of its purpoted goals. Bush wants to stop the possibility of nuclear terrorism (I do believe this is a sincere goal of his), but yet every single thing he does in the foreign policy arena has made nuclear proliferation and the growth of terrorism more likely, not less. There’s a world of difference between the incompetent arrogance of the Bush regime and the occasionally jingoistic policies of his three predecessors.

  18. #18 Kevin
    May 30, 2007

    I agree that Hitler comparisons are bad. However, have you looked at the work posted by Andrew Sullivan comparing the rhetorical gymnasitcs calling torture “enhanced interrogation techniques” as well as the actual techniques themselves to the early NAZI government? The same rhetoric. The same justifications. The same methods.

    Kind of creepy.

  19. #19 Kevin
    May 30, 2007

    I agree that Hitler comparisons are bad. However, have you looked at the work posted by Andrew Sullivan comparing the rhetorical gymnasitcs calling torture “enhanced interrogation techniques” as well as the actual techniques themselves to the early NAZI government? The same rhetoric. The same justifications. The same methods.

    Kind of creepy.

  20. #20 ji
    May 30, 2007

    Wow, you sure did stir up some emotions in people with this posting. It’s amazing how hard they try to defend their comparison of Bush to Hitler, which is certainly not apt. When Bush starts murdering Million’s of people based on some arbitrary principal, then and only then would the comparison be apt.

    This article isn’t a defense of Bush, but merely a reality check. Ask yourself who you would rather have for a president Hitler or Bush?

  21. #21 Robert
    May 30, 2007

    Ji: No, Bush is not Hitler, and we haven’t slaughtered Millions of people (yet). That doesn’t mean its stupid to point out the similarities in the methods used by both political parties to gain more power and suppress civil liberties in the name of security.

    America is on the road to somewhere dark and terrible and we need to get off. We are not the first country to go down this road, but we can learn from history (not that we will) and decide to make a change for the better.

    Ji, no one here would make the argument that Hitler would be a better leader, but that hardly makes Bush a good one. This isn’t the land of either/or.

  22. #22 Matthew Young
    May 30, 2007

    ji – I think you have missed the point.

    No-one is saying that Bush is as bad as Hitler at all. They are simply comparing certain rhetoric, policies and actions.

    The comparison is certainly valid, although it may be excessively and unhelpfully hyperbolic. But when you look at the torture discussion linked to above then it is impossible to deny that a comparison can be perfectly reasonably made. Not equating one to the other, just comparing them.

  23. #23 bebe rabinowitz
    May 30, 2007

    it depends on what in particular you’re comparing. i don’t like blanket statements that there are no comparisons to be made any more than the blanket statements along the lines of all muslims are terrorists. obviously as the repeated references to the andrew sullivan article point out, there are comparisons to be made in particular tactics, methods and ideological shortcomings/abuses. simple minded name calling along the lines of bush=hitler doesn’t help, but neither does not acknowledging the similarities of methods and ideas. hitler wasn’t a monster and neither were the german people and they shouldn’t be relegated to an untouchable/unspeakable position either if we want to try to prevent similar atrocities from happening again and again.

  24. #24 Matthew Young
    May 30, 2007

    hitler wasn’t a monster

    I am making a wild guess here, but I reckon this statement may prove more than just a little controversial.

    He wasn’t an idiot, Bebe, but he wasn’t exactly balanced either.

  25. #25 bebe rabinowitz
    May 30, 2007

    he wasn’t a monster. he was a pathetic, demented dictator who through the nazi party took advantage of the insecurity, fear and paranoia of the german people at the time and took it to levels of hysteria which unfortunately the human race seems all too prone.

  26. #26 S. Rivlin
    May 30, 2007

    “There is one major difference between Bush and Hitler. Once in office, Hitler could only be removed by loss of the second world war, a military coup, or assassination. Bush will be gone on Jan. 20, 2008.”

    I would not count on Jan. 20, 2009. One can easily imagine a catastrophic event (terrorists’ attack or Katrina-like disaster) that will give the Bushies the excuse to install “Martial Law” just prior to November, 2008, and cancel the elections.

  27. #27 yoshi
    May 30, 2007

    I am going to bring up a different point. When I hear someone bring up Hitler or Nazi’s in comparison to Bush and company it is usually a forgone conclusion that those two names are the only names that person associates with ‘bad stuff’. Meaning that their grasp of history is pretty limited (stalin, mao, anyone?) and they lack any proper perspective. This comparison comes up frequently from gay rights group who yell “Nazi!” with every little setback – completely ignoring the huge advances made in the last 30 years.

    Besides Bush is gone in 01/09 and will be delegated to the historians. I am already looking beyond him…

  28. #28 yoshi
    May 30, 2007

    @ S. Rivlin

    Ya know the irony – i’m naturally paranoid – comes with what I do for a living … but I don’t believe that one second – we’ve had elections through other wars (more real that this one) and this will be no different.

  29. #29 Matthew Young
    May 30, 2007

    took advantage of the insecurity, fear and paranoia of the german people at the time and took it to levels of hysteria which unfortunately the human race seems all too prone.

    Actually, if there is one important lesson to be learned from the Nazis it is just how easy it is to whip ordinarily sane humans into such a frenzy that they behave in unprecedented ways, casting all the normal rules of conscience and society out the window.

  30. #30 Ed Brayton
    May 30, 2007

    I’ve heard innumerable people over the last few days claim that Bush is preparing to declare martial law and cancel the November elections in 2008. All I can say is this: anyone who thinks that who would like to place a wager on it, feel free to email me and put your money where your paranoia is.

  31. #31 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    May 30, 2007

    There is one major difference between Bush and Hitler. Once in office, Hitler could only be removed by loss of the second world war, a military coup, or assassination. Bush will be gone on Jan. 20, 2008.

    1) Of course you meant 2009, so I’ll let that slide.
    2) That and Bush doesn’t have a mustache.

  32. #32 Orac
    May 30, 2007

    I’ll second Ed’s offer. ;-)

  33. #33 Thony C.
    May 30, 2007

    held an election in March, 1933 which gave them roughly 44% of the Reichstag, with their DNVP allies they gained a majority with 52% of the chamber.

    and janine just for the record the DNVP party was to the right of the NSAPD and not the left!

  34. #34 Lee
    May 30, 2007

    I think people are missing the key point of Andrew Sullivan’s article, among the furor over use of the word ‘nazi.’

    The key fact Sullivan is pointing out is that following WWII, we tried, convicted and executed people as war criminals, for actions that are indistinguishable from the ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques that Bush has approved and is defending. And that the rhetoric and justifications they tried to use to excuse themselves – unsuccessfully, they WERE war criminals – are indistinguishable from that being used by the Bush administration to justify torture today.

    Forget ‘nazi’ or ‘hitler.’ The relevant and true comparison is between Bush, and convicted and executed WWII war criminals.

  35. #35 Orac
    May 30, 2007

    ctually, if there is one important lesson to be learned from the Nazis it is just how easy it is to whip ordinarily sane humans into such a frenzy that they behave in unprecedented ways, casting all the normal rules of conscience and society out the window.

    Actually, it’s not that easy. In the case of Nazi Germany, it took a relentless propaganda campaign of demonization of Jews, which built on the basis of the anti-Semitism prevalent in Germany at the time. It took the Reichstag Fire. It took the gradual passing of laws stripping Jews of their citizenship rights. It took huge patriotic rallies like the famous one at Nuremberg. Even after all of that, in 1938, when Hitler was making threats over the Sudetenland, the vast majority of the German public did not want to go to war over the issue despite pervasive and continuous propaganda and, in fact, were terrified that war was imminent. When Hitler ratcheted up the accusations and rhetoric against Poland in the run-up to the September 1, 1939 invasion, the vast majority of the German people did not want war.

    Read William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich or Berlin Diary. Although Shirer was a crappy historian, he did live in Germany from 1934-1941 and he had the eye of an experienced reporter. His first-hand description of the reaction of the German people in Berlin to the news on September 1 that Germany had invaded Poland and was now at war is striking in how little enthusiasm anyone had for the war, how fatalistic everyone was.

    No, it’s not nearly as easy as it’s often portrayed to whip up hysteria to go to war. It takes a lot of work, a lot of propaganda, and, often, some recent traumatic event to shock the populace to the leaders’ way of thinking.

    You are correct, however, that, once the frenzy is successfully whipped up, it is very unpredictable how far it will go.

  36. #36 Raging Bee
    May 30, 2007

    I wouldn’t compare Bush to the later Hitler — the one who had already started WW-II and kllled all those noncombattants — but I would compare him to the early Hitler: lazy, self-important, unwilling to adopt good work habits, cowardly, lacking will and perseverence, unwilling to function in social situations he can’t predict or control, blind and unconcerned toward people not like himself, unconcerned with truth, unwilling to admit complicated ideas into his head, and, as a result, tending to be attracted to the simplest and most radical solution proposed to whatever problem is complicating his privileged life at the moment.

  37. #37 S. Rivlin
    May 30, 2007

    Ed, Orac,

    I have brought the martial law issue simply because I remembered reading recently this article:
    http://www.towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/911/

  38. #38 Left_Wing_Fox
    May 30, 2007

    Personally, I don’t forsee a martial law type situation. My bigger concern is a continuation of authoritarianism, torture,decimation of civil liberties and regressive politics by another Republican or Authoritarian Democrat.

    The question is; even with less than a third of the American people approving of George Bush, how many will still vote for a Republican based on brand affiliation, fear/hatred of the Democratic party, Christian Dominion politics or single issue concerns? Will that, combined with the electoral college, Left-wing apathy for the Democratic party and aggressive voter disenfranchisement allow another republican presidential candidate to continue the destructive policies of the Bush administration?

    Ultimately, we may never lose the right to vote, it may simply not count for anything anymore. Just another Banana Republic where every vote brings more of the same.

  39. #39 Sean
    May 30, 2007

    *clap clap*

    I would like to applaud both sides of the commenters here. After reading the blog entry, but before hitting the mass of comments, I would have been quite willing to bet fifty quatloos that there would be dismissing comments in the style of, “Ed is a prowar Bushie concern troll!”

    Instead there was actual discourse from both sides without personal shots for about forty comments. Thank you. I shall be a tad less cynical about the human race than I was yesterday. (at least until I read the letters to the editor in my local newspaper)

  40. #40 Ed Brayton
    May 30, 2007

    Sean-

    I think my readers know me better than that. And I think there are good points here in the sense that one may be able to point to specific rhetorical devices or arguments that have parallels, but they parallel the behavior of any government, even those that are not particularly authoritarian.

  41. #41 Chuck C
    May 30, 2007

    S. Rivlin wrote:

    I would not count on Jan. 20, 2009. One can easily imagine a catastrophic event (terrorists’ attack or Katrina-like disaster) that will give the Bushies the excuse to install “Martial Law” just prior to November, 2008, and cancel the elections.

    One can also imagine immediate, widespread, violent, armed reaction to such a move. The populace has been complacent so far: but if the folks that I know, many of whom were supportive of Bush in the past, are any indication, the US population would not take such a move sitting down. We are a pretty heavily armed people, and not just on the right side of the aisle.

    Now, if the Bush administration were to start advocating gun control in the next few months, I might worry. But otherwise, the scenario you raise is entirely unrealistic.

  42. #42 Colugo
    May 30, 2007

    Dunc: “Serious radicals would also mention at this point that Bush is not exceptional, and merely represents the continuation of over 100 years of US foreign policy which has almost certainly killed more people than the Nazis”

    That’s one reason why Bush-Hitler comparisons are so contemptibly stupid. Because if Bush is Hitler, then by the same standards so are a lot of other US presidents – not just on foreign policy, but also (and especially) on domestic civil liberties. If someone wants to argue that many US presidents were Hitler-like, they are free do so – as long as they don’t mind having most Americans view them as crackpots.

  43. #43 Janine
    May 30, 2007

    So, Jesus, because Nazi Germany and the Bush administration used torture and used simular terms for it. So it seems just about every government through out history. Sadly, nothing new there. Keep attacking dubya’s use of torture because few useful information comes out, because people will say what the interigators want to hear so the pain will stop. Because the use of torture is worse than useful. Compare it to the Nazis and one should compare to every government through out history use of that.

    Dogmeatid, so you are admitting the won their post Reichstag Fire election after they rigged the election. I was not saying that they were not to be a force to be ignored when the collition was formed. But the election was a sham. In american history, the closest thing there is to that is the violence southern Democrats used during elections in the 1870′s and 1880′s. So let us just say that power won.

    And I just want to point out, in no way do I like or support anything dubya done or supports. Being an anarchist queer atheist, I am everything dubya’s supporters believe is wrong with modern life. But I prefer to go after these people on their own terms. I have no doubt that if they could, they would love to set up a theocracy. And we must be on guard for this. But this pointless game of calling people Nazis does nothing productive. And Nazis are hardly the only evil that can be found in history.

    Thony C, what is your point? I said nothing about the german left. I pointed out that the collition was of right wing parties.

  44. #44 S. Rivlin
    May 30, 2007

    Chuck,

    I am the last one to believe in conspiracy theories. Nevertheless, to judge based on the Bush’s administration actions since 9/11/2001, including a policy of fear mongering, color coded risk scale that was used heavily prior to the 2004 and 2006 elections, etc., I would not count on the portion of the US population that owns firearms to object to his martial law. Bush probably would invite them to join in the fight on his side to protect our “freedom” and they would willingly join him in enforcing his martial law.

  45. #45 Colugo
    May 30, 2007

    Remember all of the “coming stolen election” paranoia in October 2006? We all know how that panned out.

  46. #46 Thony C.
    May 30, 2007

    Janine wrote:

    One comparision that I get tired of is this; the Nazis were voted in. People who use that do not know what they are talking about. If anything, they lost voting.

    and

    Thony C, what is your point? I said nothing about the german left. I pointed out that the collition was of right wing parties.

    My point is that the Germans did indeed elect an extreme right wing i.e. fascist government something that you appear to want to deny in your first post.

    Orac wrote:

    It took huge patriotic rallies like the famous one at Nuremberg.

    It wasn’t just one Orac but one a year for several years on the Reichsparteigelände now the home of yearly rock festivals the next of which takes place on this weekend.

  47. #47 Chuck C
    May 30, 2007

    Rivlin, I could not disagree more. I have witnessed over the last few years people who supported this administration in the past falling away and viewing it with nothing but embarrasment, contempt, and mistrust (in fact, one of them is typing this comment).

    I AM part of the US population that owns firearms, and know many others. I know not one who would support what you describe, even among the most conservative. You might have some skinheads and Minuteman-style whackjobs who’d sign on, but there would be as many or more survivalist-style whackjobs who’d immediately start to retrieve the weapons they’ve been caching over the years and start organizing resistance. And the survivalist-style whackjobs would get a lot of support from the populace.

    Americans may outwardly seem complacent and apathetic about the abuses of this administration, but I’m seeing a growing undercurrent of real anger and frustration everywhere I look. I think that would be enough to set everyone off.

    And let’s not forget that recent weeks have revealed members of the administration itself rebelling against what they thought were illegal and unethical activities. I think that regardless of the ambitions of a few people, there would be extreme resistance from within the administration, and probably within the millitary as well.

    In the end, I think that the only way the administration could pull off cancelling an election (were one to accept the idea that they want to, which, I should point out, I don’t) would be by disarming the populace: and any attempt to do that would backfire on them in spectacular fashion. They know this. And that is why I think that such speculation is entirely unrealistic.

  48. #48 Tyler DiPietro
    May 30, 2007

    Godwin’s Law is an important rhetorical device for another reason. While Bush-Hitler comparisons are rightly viewed as overwrought, hysterical and crackpottish, in the realm of the foreign policy it is a different situation. Hawkish pundits in America get away with similarly overwrought, hysterical and crackpottish comparisons of some foreign autocrat to Hitler when they want to justify some intervention. In the run-up to the Iraq war, everyone remembers hearing neocons blather about how “we could have stopped Hitler at Munich”. This despite the fact that Saddam’s military was in shambles, he could barely control Iraq’s northern regions and the only thing he had ever accomplished militarily was the conquest of a sandbox half the size of Denmark.

  49. #49 Sean
    May 30, 2007

    would not count on the portion of the US population that owns firearms to object to his martial law.

    Short of the odd Canadian referencing all us ignorant Americans or an evangelical stereotyping all the world’s Muslims, that is one of the broadest brushes I have ever seen waved.

    The first appropriate stat that Google tossed my way was from Injury Prevention 2007;13:15-19 in an article describing the results of a 2004 firearm study. According to it there are 57 million adult gun owners in the United States. We’re not all right wing nutjobs. *grin*

  50. #50 Sean
    May 30, 2007

    I think my readers know me better than that. And I think there are good points here in the sense that one may be able to point to specific rhetorical devices or arguments that have parallels, but they parallel the behavior of any government, even those that are not particularly authoritarian.

    Ed, are you some sort of closet faith-in-the-people populist! Go eat some granola with your tree-hugging hippy friends.

    Yes, yes, imagine a smirk in there.

    I have seen, and been on the receiving end, of too many cases where one difference of opinion is twisted by a True Believer into a massive schism.

    What is that old joke about the fellow who comes across the guy about to jump off a bridge. Turns out they are both Baptist, both Reformed Baptist, both….so on and so on until a difference is finally found after many iterations. Man one pushes man two off the bridge, “Heretic!”

    That joke makes me sad.

    And back on topic. Bush is a dork. I believe the bulk of his damage is correctable and will prove a valuable object lesson with the passage of time. Hitler was evil. His object lesson came at too high of a price.

  51. #51 SLC
    May 30, 2007

    For the information of many of the folks who fear that the 2008 elections will be canceled, I would point out that the same kinds of fears were expressed in 1972, namely that Nixon would cancel the 1972 elections and declare martial law.

  52. #52 David Durant
    May 30, 2007

    I’ll agree with Ed that anyone who thinks that the Republicans will go do the Martial Law route are barking. Why do they need to? They mostly own the mechanics of the voting system anyway so if they wanted to cheat (again) they’d be more than capable of it.

    No, I think they’ll let the Dems in – block everything they try to do as much as possible – and then cheat their way back in 2012.

  53. #53 Mango
    May 30, 2007

    “When Bush starts murdering Million’s of people based on some arbitrary principal,”

    Dude the last lancet study had the most likely number at over 600 000, I am sure you will have your million plus soon enough. Of course this will all be shoved down the memory hole, like the 3 million + in Vietnam.

  54. #54 doctorgoo
    May 30, 2007

    Durant: You appear to be just as barking mad if you actually believe the following:

    1. That all the Republicans who won office in the past few years only won because they “mostly own the mechanics of the voting system”. (Only a tiny percentage of elections were ever contested… if what you said is true, then why didn’t Republicans win EVERY election?)

    2. Even if we accept your premise that the Republicans can and do cheat to win elections any time they want, then why in the world would they be stupid enough to “let the Dems in” until 2012?? To trick everyone into NOT realizing that they aren’t cheating the elections?

    I’m sorry David, but this is some major-league foil-hat you’ve got on display here.

  55. #55 Sean
    May 30, 2007

    Yeah, Mango, that was the point you just missed.

    Trying to equate the deliberate and systematic mass murder of a body of people with the body count achieved over several years of war and insurgency is not appropriate.

    Lord knows we have plenty of reasons to rip on the administration of the past seven years. No need for hyperbolic Nazi naming flinging.

  56. #56 doctorgoo
    May 30, 2007

    And as for all those who compare Bush to Hitler… well these are just people who aren’t creative enough to think of a better analogy.

    Since Hitler/Naziism is (arguably) the worst government in modern history, any government or political group that either side disagrees with will ALWAYS be compared to Nazis by a certain number people on the other side of the discussion.

    Why? Because they hope for an overly emotionally negative response to whoever it is they’re applying the Nazi analogy to. So why bother making valid criticisms of your political opponents if you can simply villify them with Hitler comparisons?

    It happens all the time, and it’s stupid. I think every US President and every other leader in the western world probably received such comparisons from their opponents at least once a month, if not more.

    It happens so much, that I just tune it out. If the best you can do is a strained analogy to Hitler, then I really don’t think you have anything good to say at all… I won’t waste my time listening to you further.

    Abramsky said it best in his parting paragraph:

    So, let’s end the cheap shot analogies. Bush isn’t Hitler; America isn’t the Third Reich. That doesn’t mean the Bushies are good guys. But they’re not in the same psychopathic, criminally insane league as were the Nazi elite.

  57. #57 beepbeepitsme
    May 30, 2007

    Authoritarian regimes have much in common with other authoritarian regimes. The more conservative an individual is the more likely they are to embrace an authoritarian mentality or a strictly defined political or religious hierarchy. Perhaps it is these factors which people allude to when they attempt a comparison between Bush and Hitler.

  58. #58 xebecs
    May 30, 2007

    Certainly, Bush and cronies have not gone as far as the Nazis did. This does not, however, convince me that they would not take us into that territory given the chance.

    Please forgive me if this point has been made. I must to bed, and have no time to read the earlier comments.

  59. #59 Trinary_Code
    May 30, 2007

    Whatever criticisms can be made of the current administration, most of the anti-American rhetoric one hears these days is grotesquely hypocritical, and this has been true for decades, not just in the Bush era. Yes, there have been all sorts of blind spots and errors in U.S. policy, foreign and otherwise, and plenty of crimes, but this is true of every world power that has ever existed throughout history, and it’s even true of every group that has ever been dominant over any other. As a Canadian, I can only suggest to those of my countrymen who indignantly decry American arrogance that they consider which of America’s current opponents they would feel safer living next to. Iran? China? Russia? North Korea? The simple fact of the matter is that if you look at the historical record of any of these nations, their behaviour has been far worse than the worst that the U.S. has done. Even this marvellous showcase of human rights and peaceful multicultural tolerance that I live in has one of the most sordid histories of abuse of aboriginal people in the world. This is not to let either the U.S., or the Bush administration or its allies, off the hook but these facile “Nazi” comparisons are idiotic, they hit below the belt, and they only show how weak the arguments the people using them are and how difficult it is to defend their own positions.

    But enough of this argument from negation. Here’s something I hope everyone enjoys. I first heard it broadcast on CBC radio a day or two after 911. It’s brief but speaks volumes.

    http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/gordonsinclairtheamericans.htm

  60. #60 Russell
    May 30, 2007

    Ed Brayton writes:

    anyone who thinks that who would like to place a wager on it, feel free to email me and put your money where your paranoia is.

    This never, ever works. I’ve had old jarheads on other boards tell me how well the Iraq war is going. But when I offer to let them pick an objectively measurable benchmark and date, so we can make a wager of it, they never do so. My experience is that 99.98% of all people on the web who dare to predict the future have mouths that run far, far ahead of their money. ;-)

  61. #61 Cheddar
    May 31, 2007

    Any comparisons of Bush to Hitler are simply a reflection of how polarized American politics can be. It is not really a serious discussion about historicaly parallels. Rather it is an exercise in wanting to believe the worst possible things about your political opponents. It is the same kind of nonsense that Ann Coulter spews when she accuses liberals of hating God and America. Remember during the Clinton years how much the religious right detested Bill. They circulated a video at the time called “The Clinton Chronicles” which essentionaly accused Clinton of every imaginable crime. I watched it and can honestly say it was one of the stupidest things I have ever viewed. But members of the religious right swallowed it whole. Why? Because they wanted to believe the worst.

  62. #62 Matthew Young
    May 31, 2007

    Is the mistake in the Hitler/Bush comparison perhaps more in people over-estimating the uniqueness of the Nazi regime?

    As people above have pointed out, the tactics which are being used as the basis for comparison are not particular to just these two regimes, they have been used by all sorts of repressive regimes throughout history.

    Saddam Hussein, although far less efficient than Hitler and far less economically and technologically advantaged, had a lot of his less appealing characteristics, as well as some from the ever-adorable Stalin, too.

    Bush has certainly made liberal (see what I did there?) use of various other techniques beloved of the Nazis, from torture to isolationism to a lot of creepily Manifest Destiny-esque rhetoric.

    You could name any slightly bonkers world leader and draw a lot of parallels. Kim Jong Il is the most obvious example. The homophobic, anti-semitic nutters in Iran also spring to mind. Even Tony Blair’s single minded evangelism can be compared, albeit extremely tenuously.

    Maybe the Nazis were not all that unique in many of their traits – perhaps it was the fact that so many of them came together at once that was the problem: despotic leader who is an insecure megalomaniac, economic and military might to actually be dangerous, country with a major sense of injustice and isolation after Versailles, and all sorts of other things.

    In this sense, combatting any of these tendencies in the likes of Bush is not all that crazy. You can imagine the sense of paranoia and isolation he is creating combined with the flagrant disregard for the international community and international law being compounded with a natural disaster and, say, another major terrorist attack on the American mainland and it’s not beyond the realms of imagination to picture it all turning very ugly indeed. If we mitigate the paranoia and isolationism, it takes away a couple of the key building blocks and hopefully stops the other aspects having something to play off in the unlikely event they were to coincide.

    Of course, this is a completely unlikely scenario and I am not for a second suggesting that I think it ‘really’ could happen. Also, I don’t think comparing Bush to Hitler is terribly useful or accurate. But it’s not a scenario that is completely off-the-scales crazy. That’s why we fight all these smaller battles, isn’t it? Because history is full of catastrophic examples of where they can lead if unchecked.

  63. #63 jw
    May 31, 2007

    This never, ever works. I’ve had old jarheads on other boards tell me how well the Iraq war is going. But when I offer to let them pick an objectively measurable benchmark and date, so we can make a wager of it, they never do so. My experience is that 99.98% of all people on the web who dare to predict the future have mouths that run far, far ahead of their money. ;-)

    An alternative explanation is that your wager culture makes up only a small minority of people on the net. I don’t know anyone who’s ever made a wager on anything, and the idea that you can make a decision about the quality of someone’s argument based on someone’s willingness to practice an antiquated custom with a random anonymous identity on the net is bizarre. Even if I did disagree with you and believed in wagering, I certainly wouldn’t be willing to exchange money over the net with a random guy who may or may not be who he claims to be. Well-known corporate sites are dangerous enough to shop at, as the dozen or so data breaches each week show.

  64. #64 jw
    May 31, 2007

    I would not count on Jan. 20, 2009. One can easily imagine a catastrophic event (terrorists’ attack or Katrina-like disaster) that will give the Bushies the excuse to install “Martial Law” just prior to November, 2008, and cancel the elections.

    I doubt that anything that blatant would occur in the next century or so. If the U.S. loses its republic, it will lose in a way similar to the way Rome lost its republic. Congress and Presidents will still be elected as always, just as the Senate and Consuls of Rome were, but someone else will hold the real power.

  65. #65 jw
    May 31, 2007

    1. That all the Republicans who won office in the past few years only won because they “mostly own the mechanics of the voting system”. (Only a tiny percentage of elections were ever contested… if what you said is true, then why didn’t Republicans win EVERY election?)

    Of course, he’s wrong as the mechanics of the voting system are owned by both parties, but he’s right in that it’s a serious problem that partisan officials often decide election results by deciding who can vote, who can be voted for, how accessible voting stations and ballots are, and how votes are counted.

    The US needs to make some major changes in standardizing how votes are counted, federally funding elections, so that the right to vote isn’t dependent on living in a well-funded local precinct with plenty of voting machines, making election day a national holiday (let’s move Preisdent’s Day again) so that the right to vote doesn’t depend on your employer, securing voting machines (they should meet at least the same security standards that slot machines do), running elections in a non-partisan way (selecting the people by lottery instead of electing and appointing them in a partisan way as is currently done), and improving voter registration (perhaps by making it mandatory like Australia).

  66. #66 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    May 31, 2007

    I think Bush & Co deserve the comparisons. After all, it is they who invoked the mid-20th century analogy in their attempts to equate the ‘war on terror” with WWII.

    To further develop this, which mid-20th century leader established an arhcipelago of secret prisons, demanded strict loyalty from appointees, and favored anti-science? It wasn’t FDR. Maybe Uncle Joe would be a better comparison for Bush.

  67. #67 Raging Bee
    May 31, 2007

    I can admit that Bush=Hitler comparisons are wrong — if Bush and his supporters can admit that their liberal=terrorist comparisons (not to mention their liberal=Chamberlain=Hitler comparisons) are wrong.

    What goes around comes around, chumps. If you can’t take it, don’t dish it out. Don’t like the polarization? Stop polarizing your country and start uniting it.

  68. #68 Robert
    May 31, 2007

    You know, all the people who have been protesting the comparisions of America to Nazi Germany have yet to offer any clear refutation of the comparisions. I keep hearing how they are tired or strained but no one ever gives any examples.

    So tell me why the comparision to the extreme interrogation techniques that the gestapo used is invalid for our current considerations about extreme interrogation.

    Tell me why we can’t talk about the similarities between the Nazi’s power grab after the Reichstag fire, and the Bush administration’s grab for power after 9/11.

    Tell me why the allusions to the gradual loss of civil liberties in Nazi Germany isn’t particulary apt when considering our current dicussions over the right of habeus corpus, classifying people as enemy combatants, and warrentless wiretapping.

    I thought the point of learning history was to learn from it. We saw where Nazi Germany went. We admit we don’t want to go there. Sure Nazi Germany isn’t unique in its methods, but its immediately recognizable and almost everyone knows about them. Its still fresh in our collective minds, and that makes it a good source for comparision.

    Also I think Abramsky’s claim that all the Nazi’s were psychopathic and criminally insane highlights exactly why this conversation is important. The majority of the Nazi political party was not criminally insane, they were dragged along by a few who were. Trying to say that we are in no way similiar is like saying we could never be capable of that kind of evil. I imagine thats what most of Germany thought also.

  69. #69 doctorgoo
    May 31, 2007

    I can admit that Bush=Hitler comparisons are wrong — if Bush and his supporters can admit that their liberal=terrorist comparisons [...] are wrong.

    Great point Bee. I’m just as tired of that too. I agree entirely that the “liberal=terrorist supporter” rhetoric is just as unjustified. Unfortunately, it doesn’t keep the Limbaughs and the Coulters of the world from constantly getting away with making such comparisons.

    Sickening…

  70. #70 Ian
    May 31, 2007

    No, of course Bush shouldn’t be compared to Hitler. The Nazis got the trains to run on time, and used their military spending to bring prosperity to the people. They built the autobahn. The came up with Volkswagen. They demolished the slums and resettled the slum dwellers into better housing. And no one can accuse Hitler of trying to fight a war on the cheap – everyone shared the suffering experienced by “the troops”. Sure, they were the epitome of evil, but at least they made government work for the (non-Jewish, non-Roma, non-Socialist) people.

    No one would ever accuse Bush of doing anything efficiently.

  71. #71 Bill Poser
    May 31, 2007

    I can’t help but think that the people who equate the Bush clique with the Nazis have very little knowledge of history. Not only is the equation not very good, but a much better comparison leaps out at anyone with a broad view of history: the Roman Empire. For much of the time it was inept and corrupt yet nonetheless the most powerful player in the game. The rulers were often amoral, authoritarian, and vicious but to a certain extent the system managed to get by anyhow. It became increasingly dependent on foreign labor (e.g. in the armies, which were filled mostly by non-Romans, and in its reliance on Greek slaves as teachers and intellectuals).

  72. #72 Bunjo
    May 31, 2007

    As an outsider looking on from the UK I confess that every time I hear the phrase ‘Homeland Security’ my brain echoes it as ‘Fatherland Security’. Do the Homeland Security people have nice uniforms?

    Just asking.

  73. #73 Dunc
    June 1, 2007

    Colugo:
    That’s one reason why Bush-Hitler comparisons are so contemptibly stupid. Because if Bush is Hitler, then by the same standards so are a lot of other US presidents – not just on foreign policy, but also (and especially) on domestic civil liberties. If someone wants to argue that many US presidents were Hitler-like, they are free do so – as long as they don’t mind having most Americans view them as crackpots.

    Is that supposed to be an attempt at refutation? ‘Cos I don’t actually see a refutation there… Notice that I also said “The idea that Nazism was a unique and exceptional evil is not in any way valid, in my opinion”. Loads of authoritarian rulers have been like Hitler (note carefully: like, not is. Similarity, not identity).

  74. #74 Jesus
    June 1, 2007

    Janine,
    My point is that you can compare the two governments. I think the overarching concept is that the Nazis weren’t some odd freakshow historical fluke, that fascism could arise in a similar way just about anywhere’ even here. I’m not trying to demonize Bush or our current government simply because I don’t agree with them. Think of it as a warning. We can’t sit idly by and let our country slip into fascism the way so many others have and we have a better chance of preventing it when we are aware of our own similarities to those we consider evil.

  75. #75 daenku32
    June 1, 2007

    How about Bill O’Reilly? Can we use Nazi references to him?
    http://mediamatters.org/items/200705310008?f=h_latest

    He goes on to accuse NYT of “wanting to change the complexion of America”. O’Reilly is hiding his own xenophobia and racism (fear of losing “white Christian majority”) by accusing his opponents of being the racists. This reverberates quite a lot of the Nazi rhetoric of “Jews are undermining our Germanic Aryan race. They hate US.”

  76. #76 Pierce R. Butler
    June 1, 2007

    When a government makes a move towards a Nazi-oid condition, is it not valid to point out the direction of the trend? When that government makes a hundred such moves, is it a compelling rebuttal to its critics that they’re repeating themselves, and that it’s not all the way there yet?

    And for those who think a well-armed populace can protect American democracy: imagine yourselves in a New York of late September, 2001, in which the mayor had acted on his stated desires and cancelled the scheduled elections. Just whom would you go and shoot, and how, and how many of his deluded supporters & orders-following cops would you have to blast your way through to get him?

  77. #77 trevor
    June 14, 2007

    If Bush is Hitler is Tony Blair Mussolini and what country will produce the next Sir Winston Churchill equivalent to stop these mad men? This lunitic G.B, now wants to put misile in Eastern Europe but we in the west are more intersted in the latest fashions and will probably allow this crazy to do what he wants.