Monday, September 24, 2007

Hitler on the Brain

Regular updates begin again. Huzzah!

Kids: What's wrong with this picture?

Analogies: they aren't for the painfully stupid. Hitler was directly responsible for the Holocaust. Ahmadinejad was...related to 9/11 in what way exactly? First it was Osama Bin-Laden, then Saddam Hussein, and now most recently Ahmadinejad (who was not even President of Iran at the time) who was somehow intimately involved with the 9/11 attacks in the eyes of conservatives. Reality for them is an inconvenience. Ahmadinejad is Hitler, just as Saddam was, just as whoever is next on the list will be.

According to Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, Ahmadinejad "exhibit[s] all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator." Those signs apparently include not being in charge of Iran's armed forces, not having the ability to declare war, and not even being the most powerful man in his own government. There is nothing dictatorial about Ahmadinejad, and it factually accurate to say that President Bush is much closer to being a dictator than Ahmadinejad is.

Conservatives love their Hitler comparisons. Every Big Bad is Hitler and every liberal is Chamberlain. Yet in US politics conservatives play the role of Paul von Hindenburg, the German president who issuedthe Reichstag Fire Decree:

Ordnung des Reichspräsidenten zum Schutz von Volk und Staat

Auf Grund des Artikels 48 Abs. 2 der Reichsverfassung wird zur Abwehr kommunistischer staatsgefährdender Gewaltakte folgendes verordnet:

§ 1. Die Artikel 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 und 153 der Verfassung des Deutschen Reichs werden bis auf weiteres außer Kraft gesetzt. Es sind daher Beschränkungen der persönlichen Freiheit, des Rechts der freien Meinungsäußerung, einschließlich der Pressefreiheit, des Vereins- und Versammlungsrechts, Eingriffe in das Brief-, Post-, Telegraphen- und Fernsprechgeheimnis, Anordnungen von Haussuchungen und von Beschlagnahmen sowie Beschränkungen des Eigentums auch außerhalb der sonst hierfür bestimmten gesetzlichen Grenzen zulässig.

Loko familiar? Conservative policies read so much better in the original German, but for those of you not German-inclined a translation:

Order of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State

On the basis of Article 48 paragraph 2 of the Constitution of the German Reich, the following is ordered in defense against Communist state-endangering acts of violence:

§ 1. Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. It is therefore permissible to restrict the rights of personal freedom [habeas corpus], freedom of opinion, including the freedom of the press, the freedom to organize and assemble, the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications, and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

Look familiar now? I handily bolded the parts currently applicable in the US -- nearly all of it.

The incontrovertible fact is that the Reichstag Fire Decree is remarkably similar to current US policies in both motivation and substance. Ahmadinejad-to-Hitler analogies are nonsensical past anything beyond "they are both bad people" -- but it's easy to draw direct, accurate comparisons between pre-WW2 German policy and our own. Our Big Bad is terrorism, not communism, but the rest remains largely the same.

I'll belabor the point a little and make those comparisons explicit:

  1. rights of personal freedom [habeas corpus] - I've covered this here. Habeas Corpus, despite being ensured in the Constitution, is a right we no longer enjoy.
  2. the freedom to organize and assemble - The continuing expansion of the oxymoronic "free speech zones" are an illustration of this, as is the Presidential Advance Manual that instructs event organizers on a variety of ways to suppress the right to assemble.
  3. the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications, and warrants for house searches - The PATRIOT and Protect America Act (The FISA "fixes") largely obliterate these, another example of rights specifically granted in the Constitution but no longer functional.
  4. orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property - According to a recent executive order various members of the executive branch can freeze the assets of those who may be planning to impede progress in Iraq, directly or indirectly.

That executive order is a good primer on how our government works. Unlike the Germans we don't explicitly suspend articles in our Constitution -- instead we ignore them:

For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that, because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render these measures ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 and expanded in Executive Order 13315, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to section 1(a) of this order.

Translation: pesky Constitutional rights are getting in the way of my ability to (supposedly) fight the Big Bad, so I'll ignore them. In the US these days Constitutional rights, like the rest of our laws, are mere guidelines to be discarded as needed.

Hitler comparisons tend to lose meaning when they are employed on a constant basis without any rationale other than "ooh scary!"

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