On Pat Buchanan's Holocaust denial

Martin Cothran, presumably upset that I keep pointing out that the supposed logic teacher prefers logical fallacies to honest data, has now sunken to defending Holocaust denial. In replying to his repetition of a screed by Pat Buchanan, I noted that not only was Barack Obama rightly dismissive of that sort of armchair quarterbacking ("Even within this imaginative crowd, I think you would be hard-pressed to paint a scenario in which U.S. interests would be damaged as a consequence of us having a more constructive relationship with Venezuela."), but that it was a bit odd to quote a known Holocaust denier on Yom HaShoah.

Cothran now objects, not to the actual basis for my rejecting his claims about Obama (which include a lengthy quotation from the President, and a rephrasing of an old saw about sticks and stones), but to my labeling Pat Buchanan an anti-Semite and a Holocaust denier. He also doesn't like my calling him a "stooge for Focus on the Family," even though he works for that group's Kentucky affiliate.

My point about his choice of source material stands. Cothran misses my point, which was that it is an odd choice to quote a Holocaust denier and anti-Semite on Holocaust Remembrance Day. This does not refute Buchanan's point per se, but it does give us reason to question Buchanan's and Cothran's judgement.

Is Buchanan an anti-Semite? Yes. He engages in all of the tropes of anti-Semitism, from claiming that Jews secretly control Congress and the media, to pimping Holocaust denial on neo-Nazi talk radio. He has repeatedly defended a Nazi war criminal, calling the alleged former camp guard and accessory to the deaths of Jews at Sobibor, an "American Dreyfus," scapegoated "on Good Friday" by "the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) at [the Department of] Justice," "its Israeli friends," and "its old comrades in the KGB."

Conservabloggers call him an anti-Semite. William F. Buckley found it "impossible to defend Pat Buchanan against the charge that what he did and said during the period under examination [the run up to Gulf War I] amounted to anti-Semitism." The Anti-Defamation League (which knows more than Cothran could ever hope to obscure about anti-Semitism) calls Buchanan an anti-Semite. Cothran's defense of Buchanan? He just "disagrees with Israeli foreign policy or positions of the Israeli lobby in Washington." Now, the nature and existence of an "Israeli lobby in Washington" is a fraught topic, with (misplaced, IMHO) charges of anti-Semitism being aimed at John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. But it could also be taken to mean something like the "Learned Elders of Zion," who were alleged, in an anti-Semitic forgery still circulated today, to "work 'behind the scenes' of all the Governments," from which position they "arranged … successes … for Darwinism (Evolution), Marxism (Communism), Nietzsche-ism (Socialism)."

It's one thing to criticize Israeli policy for being overly bellicose, undermining efforts for peace, and mistreating innocent civilians in the Palestinian Authority. It is another to reflexively attack anything Israel does just because it's the Jewish state, or to spawn elaborate conspiracies in which Israel and its agents pull all the strings in global geopolitics and geofinance. Substantial evidence exists that Buchanan is in the latter camp.

So what about his Holocaust denial? That topic continues below the fold:

Cothran claims simply that "Buchanan expressed doubt whether diesel exhaust from a Soviet tank killed prisoners at Treblinka." But that rather misses the point. Buchanan recycled a debunked claim that deniers, and only deniers, use to claim that mass killings were not undertaken by the Nazis. Buchanan also claimed, wrongly, that "half the 20,000 survivor testimonies in Jerusalem are considered 'unreliable,' not to be used in trials," and asserted the existence of "Holocaust Survivor Syndrome," which allegedly yields "group fantasies of martyrdom and heroics." These are all standard Holocaust denial claims. They are, needless to say, wrong, but rather than retracting or correcting the errors, Buchanan has defended that column as "the best journalism I ever did."

Does this amount to Holocaust denial? Cothran says it does not, because … well, it isn't entirely clear, but it seems like Cothran thinks that Holocaust deniers must believe that no Jews died under the Nazi regime. This is, I hope it is clear, a fairly narrow reading of Holocaust denial. The well-regarded Holocaust History Project cites this definition of the Holocaust, and of Holocaust denial:

the Holocaust may be correctly defined as follows: (1) the Holocaust was the intentional murder of European Jews by the Nazi government of Germany during World War II as a matter of state policy; (2) this mass murder employed gas chambers, among other methods, as a method of killing; and (3) the death toll of European Jews by the end of World War II was roughly 6 million. …

Before discussing how Holocaust denial constitutes a conspiracy theory, and how the theory is distinctly American, it is important to understand what is meant by the term "Holocaust denial." Holocaust deniers, or "revisionists," as they call themselves, question all three major points of definition of the Nazi Holocaust. First, they contend that, while mass murders of Jews did occur (although they dispute both the intentionality of such murders as well as the supposed deservedness of these killings), there was no official Nazi policy to murder Jews. Second, and perhaps most prominently, they contend that there were no homicidal gas chambers, particularly at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where mainstream historians believe over 1 million Jews were murdered, primarily in gas chambers. And third, Holocaust deniers contend that the death toll of European Jews during World War II was well below 6 million. Deniers float numbers anywhere between 300,000 and 1.5 million, as a general rule.

In adopting the denial of gas chambers, Buchanan has one strike against him.

As the Anti-Defamation League points out, Buchanan has been a consistent advocate for accused Nazi war criminals, and an opponent of the Office of Special Investigation, which chases Nazis:

Since the early 1980s Buchanan has repeatedly attacked those he has called "the hairy-chested Nazi hunters" in the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigation. …

In a 1982 television interview with Allan Ryan, Jr., then OSI director Buchanan questioned teh wisdom of funding the OSI. "You've got a great atrocity that occurred 35-45 years ago, okay? Why continue to invest… put millions of dollars into investigating that? I mean why keep a special office to investigate Nazi war crimes… Why not abolish your office?" In that same interview Buchanan also said he saw no "singularity" about the Holocaust that would justify maintaining a special prosecution office.

Buchanan wrote in 1989 that "the demand [that] we be more 'sensitive' to Jewish concerns [over the Holocaust, and the use of sites like Auschwitz] is becoming a joke." Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting notes, based on reporting in the New York Times and The New Republic:

Buchanan was vehement in pushing President Reagan -- despite protests -- to visit Germany's Bitburg cemetery, where Nazi SS troops were buried. At a White House meeting, Buchanan reportedly reminded Jewish leaders that they were "Americans first" -- and repeatedly scrawled the phrase "Succumbing to the pressure of the Jews" in his notebook. Buchanan was credited with crafting Ronald Reagan's line that the SS troops buried at Bitburg were "victims just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps."

Holocaust denial does not just consist of insisting that no Jews were killed by the Nazis. Holocaust denial involves the claim that those deaths were not a result of any overarching anti-Semitic policy by the Nazis (as in the line from Reagan's speech, above). It consists of denying the elaborate machinery of mass murder constructed by the Nazis, as in Buchanan's recitation of denier propaganda in defense of one of several Nazi war criminals Buchanan stood up for. It consists of the claim that the Holocaust was not as big a problem as people claim, as in Buchanan's erroneous insistence that half of Holocaust testimonies are false, and that survivors of those death camps actually suffer from some sort of mass hysteria.

The Holocaust denier claim that there was no grand Nazi plan for the Holocaust, merely a series of unfortunate events which happened to kill a lot of Jews, is central to Buchanan's recent book, Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War. Reviewing the book for the libertarian Reason, senior editor Michael Moynihan dissects Buchanan's claims. Moynihan summarizes Buchanan's claims thusly:

So for Buchanan, because the Nazi regime commenced with the meticulous and industrialized killing of Jews after America entered the war and because there had been no genocide during the prewar years, it correlates that without a war, there would have been no Holocaust. And because England, in Buchanan’s view, provoked the war, then he presumably holds Churchill responsible, to some unknown degree, for the fate of European Jewry.

Even as poor a logician as Cothran is should be able to locate the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy here. And Moynihan observes that no historian would endorse the factual claims: "Beyond the absurdity of implicitly blaming Churchill for the Holocaust—because that is what he is really saying when he writes 'no war, no Holocaust'—Buchanan ignores an enormous amount of evidence that contradicts his position." Buchanan claims that the Holocaust only began after the US and England went to war with Germany (ignoring that Germany declared war on us). This is readily disproven, as there is ready documentation showing Nazi plans for a genocidal campaign well before Churchill guaranteed Poland's safety against German invasion (which invasion then precipitated England's entry into the war), and there is ample evidence that the groundwork for the massive slaughter was well under way before the Wannsee Conference, at which plans for the Final Solution were formalized.

Indeed, Hitler had been promising to slaughter the Jews beginning no later than January, 1939. Even as Hitler precipitated a war in Europe, he laid the blame for any coming war on "Jewish financiers in and outside Europe" whose goal was "the Bolshevizing of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry." If this war broke, out, Hitler "prophesied," it would lead to "the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!" I am disturbed by the similarities between this claim and Buchanan's statement in 1990 that "There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East -- the Israeli defense ministry and
its 'amen corner' in the United States."

To suggest that Hitler's plans to annihilate the Jewish race were nonexistent before 1942, or that the Holocaust is Churchill's fault, is Holocaust denial. It meets the definition quoted above, and any other non-tendentious definition anyone else could offer. Pat Buchanan is a Holocaust denier.

Which returns us to the question I raised yesterday: Why did Martin Cothran endorse the claims of a Holocaust denier on Holocaust Remembrance Day?


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Fuck the Holocaust. Fuck the Anti-Defamation League.

Rosenau is a little hysterical here. Finding fault with elements of the Holocaust story is Holocaust Denial? In that case the mainstream historians are all Holocaust Deniers, because apart from laymen who have taken no trouble to investigate the matter, only a few crackpots accept the soap and lampshade stories anymore.

The label Holocaust Denier implies that Buchanan had in mind the conclusion, "No Holocaust," before he ever looked at any facts. If Buchanan only points out what he thinks are real problems in certain elements of the Holocaust story and does not arrive at the conclusion that no Holocaust occurred, then "Holocaust Denier" is a misrepresentation and empty namecalling.

How can you blame poor Pat. He is the result of thousands of years church brainwashing. at is really not different that billions of other brainwashed people that would rather believe in the fairy tale their church tells them rather then what their own eyes show them. Religion has done a number on almost every slow & shallow thinker on this doomed planet we all live on. They have brainwashed the foolish believers into a beginning & what is truly sad they have also brainwashed them into an end. People like Pat spew this crap for two reasons, one for the church but more importantly for power, money & self conceit. Pat loves to hear himself spew garbage & delights in the fact that ignorant shallow thinking frightened people believe him. Look at his laugh when he talks, he is laughing at the fools that watch & believe him, not at the garbage he is saying. Pat in the end is nothing more than the result of all religions teachings, plain & simple.

By Marty Arnold (not verified) on 22 Apr 2009 #permalink

i disagree with marty arnold's suggestion that pat buchanan spews what he believes to be "garbage." if buchanan says something, he means it. i disagree with much of what he has to say, but pat buchanan is not an intentional liar. he's much too straightforward a person for that. pat may be mistaken, but he's not mendacious.
i appreciate marty arnold's skepticism with respect to religion, but he doesn't appear to be skeptical with respect to some aspects of ideology. it's best to be skeptical with respect to everything, including the holocaust. the myth of the holocaust is part of an ideology, the popular front ideology of world war ii. parts of these myths (the holocaust myth and the larger "popular front" myth) may correspond with reality, yet the holocaust mythology has taken on a life of its own above and apart from any reality it may have possessed. according to popular from mythology, the western democracies went to war alongside the soviet union against the axis powers becaue both western democracy and marxism were "rational" systems, systems under which people were judged on the basis of what they had allegedly done, not on the basis of who they were. fascism, on the other hand, was an irrational, racist ideology in which people were judged on the basis of their ethnicity. the holocaust "story" (in which millions of people were killed on the basis of their nationality or "race") resonated so well with popular front mythology that it became lodged in the popular imagination. yes, there WAS a "holocaust" in the sense that jews died at the hands of germans during world war ii, and in all likelihood some of them may have been put to death merely becaus they WERE jews. yet the holocaust myth possesses elements of hyperbole and sensationalism. the wannsee conference DID occur, but it may not have set policy for the entire third reich. it may not have actually "set policy" at all. i happen to believe that gas chambers WERE used in the execution of some jews (we have the credible testimony of concentration camp guards who entered the chambers after the gassing had taken place), yet there is dispute about the number of jews that were killed. there is dispute about the number of jews killed during the holocaust, period. "many" jews certainly were killed, but how many is "many"? historically, when there has been mass killing, there has been mass exaggeration. when in doubt understate; when in doubt, underestimate. and in most cases (including the holocaust) there is doubt. as a rule of thumb with respect to mass killings, it is best to STEP DOWN the given figure by a factor of ten. thus, six million is almost certainly an exaggeration. the real figure was probably closer to six hundred thousand. i am not a holocaust "denier." i don't "deny" anything. nor do i "believe" in anything in an unqualified manner. i'm a skeptic, period. with respect to the holocaust as well as everything else. if one is a skeptic, one should try not to have any blind spots with respect to one's skepticism. everything should be deemed worthy of skeptical examination. one should try to rid oneself of "sacred cows" that one feels should NOT be examined.

By jonbecker03 (not verified) on 27 Dec 2009 #permalink