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July 28, 2005
Stop Me Before I Violate Godwin's Law!

Dick Durbin disgraced himself and the Senate by comparing our detention facility at Guantanamo Bay with the deathcamps of Auschwitz and the killing fields of Pol Pot, and the resulting chorus of derision should have warned anyone else from following suit. Some people cannot learn from experience, however. Today's violation of Godwin's Law comes from the Washington Post, with Richard Cohen giving us the worst of theatrical reviews and political analogies in a single column:

I need to be very careful here, to say precisely what I mean and leave nothing to chance. I have just seen the play "Primo," which is performed by a single actor, Antony Sher, with material taken from Primo Levi's incomparable "If This Is a Man," the book that made the obscure Italian chemist an international literary sensation. It is an account of his time spent in Auschwitz. I could not help but think of Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo.

Of course, Cohen writes, he would never compare American soldiers to Nazis. Never, never, never (emphasis mine):

One must never compare anything to the Holocaust. One must never invoke Nazism except in reference to the Nazis. One must isolate that era as a way of honoring the victims, keeping it pristine and removed from all other human experience because it was so uniquely awful. I know all this -- and I believe it, too. What's more, I am not likening what happened at Auschwitz and the other camps to what's happening or happened at Guantanamo and other places where America's enemies -- real or supposed -- are kept. Our purpose is not to murder. We do not engage in slave labor. We are not evil, and our intent is to safeguard the innocent both here and abroad, not to kill them for whatever reason. I hope I have made myself clear.

Having made himself clear, he then goes on to do exactly what he says he won't do -- make an allegory between Primo and its explicit setting of Auschwitz and our detention facilities in Guantanamo and elsewhere. He decries the treatment of the character in this one-man play as an "inventory tag", a mere number intended for nothing but destruction. Primo has to avert his eyes as his fellow inmates ("the recalcitrant and the brave") get executed and tortured while he remains silent. He shames himself by following the Nazis' commands while they torture him, either explicitly or implicitly in the slave labor and utter neglect and contempt with which they treat him.

I'd like to ask Cohen what part of this made him think of Guantanamo Bay and the detention of terrorists. After all, the Jews did nothing wrong, while the people held at Gitmo got captured in open combat with American forces, out of uniform. The Jews (and others, the many others) at Auschwitz and other deathcamps were rounded up because of their religion and ethnicity and sent to their torture and degradation without any hint of process. The detainees at Gitmo have all received military hearings to determine their status, and some have been released (and went on to rejoin the jihad, too).

So if their status has nothing in common, then what evokes Gitmo from this play? The inventory status? Perhaps Cohen would like to explain the difference between the common practice in American prisons of identifying inmates by number instead of name and whatever he imagines happens at Gitmo. Maybe that's not it; maybe Cohen believes that our servicepeople have made the detainees watch while they execute and torture other terrorists held at the facility, heaping even more shame onto their heads.

Or maybe Cohen just decries the shame the terrorists must feel, having been captured by infidels and living under their control after attempting to kill as many of us as possible. Well, boo hoo for them. Cohen wants us to feel pity because we've shamed terrorists? He wants to stoke our outrage because their self-esteem has suffered?

Take a look at Ground Zero, Mr. Cohen, and think about 3,000 people who lost more than just their self-esteem. Take a drive past the Pentagon, where one of our officers on duty that day barely survived the plane crash that carried his ten-year-old son, who had been on his way to a Little League championship. Watch the tapes of the Madrid bombings, the London bombings, the Sharm el-Sheikh bombings, and the ongoing terrorist actions in Iraq intended on enslaving an entire nation under Islamofascist rule.

It's hard to remember when I've read such an intellectually dishonest and patronizing column in a major publication. Cohen should be ashamed of himself instead of projecting his shame onto Islamist terrorists as a means to turn them into the victims of this war.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 28, 2005 7:08 AM

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I'm using the word a former employer used when she wanted to convey her belief that a Jew had done something that he, as an educated man, knew better than to do. It was worse than personal shame, it shamed the group that the person doing it was, in a... [Read More]

Tracked on July 28, 2005 10:28 AM

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