The Shawl

February 27, 2009

[A docudrama of the Holocaust first published on May 18, 2005] As a member of Lübeck’s Reserve Police Battalion 17, I was ordered to prepare for an assignment in Poland. I was told that we had an important mission there for the Fatherland, that we’d be involved in the final solution of the Jewish problem. Our battalion of 314 men was split up into companies and trucked separately to different camps.
When members of my undersized Third Company reached their temporary barracks, a converted brick dairy barn near the Polish town of Plock, we were ordered outside to listen as Oberleutnant Hans Schaefer gave us an orientational speech.
Standing stiffly, the heels of his boots touching each other, his officer’s cap square on his head, Schaefer began in a loud monotone, “Congratulations on being chosen for the work you are about to do, and welcome to Plock. You are here in the service of the Third Reich and the Fuehrer. It would take too many soldiers from the front lines to do this glorious work, and so you policemen are to replace them.
“Now, Jews from Plock will be collected from their homes at daybreak tomorrow and trucked to a field about a mile from here. You will be taken to the field after breakfast and calisthenics. There, you will take the Jews one by one into the adjacent woods, make them lie down on their stomachs, and shoot each in the back of the head.”
The oberleutnant abruptly stopped and looked at us, as though expecting a sudden outcry. Hearing none, he resumed, his voice taking on a sermon-like tone. “I know that this will be hard; I know that you may see these people as human beings. But, they are not. They are . . . ” Suddenly changing tone, he spit, “Vermin, cockroaches!” He punctuated the words by violently swinging one fist into his other hand. “And you are pest exterminators. You will be cleansing not only Germany of their filth, but the world.” Another beat of his fist accompanied the last word.
He settled himself, and put both hands behind him. His boots had not moved a millimeter so far. Again he spoke, “I recognize the personal strain this will place on each of you, however. You have been trained as policemen, to protect and save lives. Only those of us who are privileged to participate in this work will ever know what this will cost you emotionally, but that is your challenge and your heroism.”
He paused and scanned our faces. “If you cannot do this work, if you are psychologically or emotionally unable to, then you may stay here, cleaning the barracks and helping the cooks, until we are finished. Nothing will be done to you. There will be no mark on your record.
“Now, Doctor Alfred Helmut will show you how to carry out your task.”
The doctor had been standing nonchalantly off to the side with a large pad and a portable painter’s easel, which he now carried to the front of our group and set up. He put the pad on the easel. On the front page he had drawn an outline of the back of a human torso and head. He took a red crayon from his pocket and drew a small circle to indicate the precise point on the back of the head where a bullet would kill a person immediately. Then he took out a blue crayon and drew a rough picture of the barrel of a rifle with its bayonet attached.
He stood back to look at his drawing critically, and after a moment he nodded at it. He then partly turned to us, pointed with one unwavering finger to where the bayonet was pointed in the drawing, and announced, as though declaring the winner of a lottery, “Here!” He jabbed his finger closer to the spot. “Here you must aim the point of your bayonet. Then you can sight along it for the perfect shot into the back of the head.”
Looking self-satisfied, the doctor stood beside his pad, looked at us, and waited for questions.
When none came, the oberleutnant asked, “Are there any questions?”
Some of the policemen stared at the ground; others into the distance. Metal clanked on metal as one policeman shifted his position. Nearby tree branches rustled in the pleasant northern breeze.
“Okay, you men know what to do for the Fatherland.” The oberleutnant put his hands behind him again, and nodded to Unteroffizier—Sergeant—Rudolph Hermann.
Hermann saluted the oberleutnant and immediately ordered, “Dismissed.”
All of us were quiet as we headed into the dank barracks and found our bunks. I felt nauseous and my head ached from anxiety. I sat on my bunk with my head in my hands. My skin felt flushed. I could feel my heart beating rapidly. I can’t do this, I thought. But I must. If I don’t, they will all think I’m a coward. A Jew-lover. God in Heaven, what can I do?
There were a few idle conversations going on, but most of the men ignored each other and avoided meeting anyone’s eyes. There was none of the usual banter.
I pulled a newspaper I’d brought from home out of my pack, stretched out on my bunk, crinkled the paper more than necessary just for the distracting sound, and pretended to read. Tomorrow I will be murdering Jews, I thought in disbelief. The Nazis say they are vermin, cockroaches, and subhumans. Even so, why kill them? Why not force them out of Poland or wherever they are? Send them to Africa or somewhere like that. Or put them in ghettos. From what I’ve seen, they prefer to live together anyway. But, to kill women and children?
I didn’t get to sleep until it was almost light. By then I had convinced myself that I could do it.
Early morning crawled by in a haze. Roll call, calisthenics, breakfast, and a few mumbled exchanges with the others. Then we received extra ammunition and clambered onto the trucks for the bumpy ride to the field outside of Plock.
I peered out the back of the truck as it slowed. There they were in the bright morning sun—the Jews. A few old men, old women, young women with children and babies. The last of the trucks that had brought them were just exiting the field by another road in a haze of exhaust fumes.
I gripped my rifle and got out of the truck with the other fully uniformed, helmeted policemen. Ukrainian Auxiliary Police guards around the Polish Jews began to organize them into ten columns, with about five feet between each. The Jews behaved as though they were at some civil function. They obeyed quietly. There were no screams. The only yelling came from the guards. Only the children were noisy, sometimes trying to talk to their mothers or to each other. Some of the babies cried.
The policemen lined up in front of Oberleutnant Schaefer, who stood now with his chest thrust out and, as usual, with the heels of his well-shined boots together and his officer’s cap squarely on this head. He held a typed page of instructions in one hand. Like the others, I stared at the oberleutnant as though only he existed, even ignoring the Unteroffizier, who stood beside him. Nobody looked at the Jews.
“First, are there any of you who cannot do this?” Oberleutnant Schaefer asked. He waited a few moments.
I heard the trucks that had brought us driving off in their own cloud of fumes.
“Okay,” Schaefer continued, “here is the way we will do this.” He paused to consult his instructions, and then barked, “There are twenty of you, so count off beginning on my left.” He pointed at the first man.
We counted off to twenty.
“Now,” said the oberleutnant, “those numbered eleven to twenty form a second line, eleven behind the first man, twelve behind the second, and so on. Go!”
When our two lines had formed and we stood awaiting further instructions, the oberleutnant glanced at his instruction sheet again, then said, “The men numbered one and eleven will take Jews from the first column on my left.” He turned, swung out his arm, and pointed to the appropriate column. “Men numbered two and twelve will take Jews from the next column, and so on. Keep the mothers and their children and babies together. Once you deal with the mother, the children will present no problem.
“You will take your Jews into the woods, down that path behind you. Unteroffizier Hermann will be along the path. He will point to the area in the woods where you are to take your Jew. Once you are assigned an area, pick your spot and do your work. When you are finished, come back out and pick the next Jew from the same column. Any questions?”
One of the policemen put up his hand, and when the oberleutnant looked sharply at him, he asked, “W-what will happen to the bodies?”
The oberleutnant looked confused for a moment. He looked at his instructions.
A baby somewhere among the Jews started crying loudly. I heard its mother trying to hush and comfort it. I couldn’t look away from the oberleutnant.
He finally said, “There is a small concentration camp a short distance from here. A Jew work crew will be marched here from the camp. They will dig a pit, drag all the bodies from the woods into it, and close it up. More questions?” He scanned the policemen ranked before him. “No? Then for the Fatherland, do your duty.”


Third in the first row, I moved stiffly toward a woman in the third column. She was perhaps in her middle thirties, with curly black hair that stuck out from her head and fell in a tangle to a shawl around her shoulders. She wore a shapeless blue dress, beneath which showed what might have been her slip. She appeared to have been suddenly roused from her sleep and forced to dress hurriedly. She was pleasant looking, with a square face, high forehead, and small eyes.
I grabbed her arm and said, “Gekommen—Come.” I pulled her toward the woods. She looked up at me with an entirely blank face and walked with me toward the path.
I couldn’t believe this was happening. This woman was so willing to go with me. She must be afraid. She must fear death. Is it that she doesn’t know? Maybe she thinks I’m just going to rape her, I thought. I was shaking. Could she feel it through my hand on her arm?
We reached Unteroffizier Hermann, who pointed to a patch of grass well into the woods on the right.
I heard the first rifle shot when we reached the assigned spot. It startled me. I heard another shot as I pointed to a small grassy area between a bush of white flowers and a tree. My hand now visibly trembled. I gestured for her to lie down. She lay down on her back. I motioned for her to turn over.
When she did, all I could see of her head was her black hair. At that moment, I heard somebody nearby. I looked to the left and saw a girl stretched out on her stomach. One of my fellow policemen had his rifle’s bayonet pointed at the back of her head. The scene seemed frozen in time, a still picture. It will be in my mind always. No day goes by that the image doesn’t appear to me, sometimes when I get up in the morning; sometimes before bed; sometimes in my nightmares. Even while I’m trying to make love it will flash into my mind, which immediately destroys all passion.
Then the rifle jerked just as I heard the shot, and blood and brain tissue splattered from the girl’s head.
I looked back at the woman on the ground in front of me. I already had my rifle’s bayonet pointed at her head and she still had not made a sound. I stood there for minutes, unable to move, unable to pull the trigger, barely able to breathe. When I did, I smelled gunpowder on the breeze, and something else I hadn’t smelled before. Maybe it was the smell of death, emanating from its executioners and their victims.
I heard more shots, but still I could not pull the trigger.
Finally, I patted her shoulder. She turned her head and looked up at me with empty eyes. I think she was already dead, but for the physical act. I collapsed next to her, pulled her into my arms, and cried, rocking my whole body. My tears seemed pulled from deep inside me, from my soul.
At first, the woman just hung in my arms as though also physically dead. Then she slowly put her arms around my shoulders and held me as well, without a sound, with no tears of her own. She pushed away after a couple of minutes, looked at the tears in my eyes, and for a brief moment her eyes came alive. In one quick motion of her hand, she removed her shawl. She wiped my tears away with it, and then shoved it inside my coat.
I heard another shot nearby. Neuberger, a fellow policeman, came over and grabbed my sleeve and shook it. He hissed, “What are you doing, Schmidt?”
I gently released the woman and she turned to lay back on her stomach. I got up in a daze. Without looking at Neuberger, holding the rifle listlessly in one hand, I plodded away, heading back to the field.
I heard a shot behind me as I passed by Unteroffizier Hermann.
I saw Oberleutnant Schaefer chatting with an officer of the auxiliary guard company that had brought the Jews to the field. They watched the progress of the cleansing operation while they spoke. I approached the oberleutnant, saluted, weakly apologized for interrupting him, and asked, “May I be excused, sir? I don’t feel well.”
The other officer looked away. Oberleutnant Schaefer gave me a steely look for what seemed like minutes, and finally ordered in a cold voice, “Stand at attention here until we’re all done with our work.”
The other policemen stared at me as each emerged from the woods to get another Jew. Shots from the woods were almost continuous, some muffled, some sharp. The light breeze carried the gun smoke into the field, and with it again the hint of death. Everything went as smoothly as it did for a Berlin speech by Hitler. There were no voices, no screams, no yells. It was like a silent movie with the offstage piano music replaced by staccato rifle shots.
After a while there were no more Jews left in the field, and our trucks returned and parked near me. With a sharp motion of his hand, the oberleutnant released me to join the others as they clambered into the trucks. No one spoke with me as we returned; no one looked at me. In the barracks, no one came near me. I just lay on my bunk staring at the ceiling, the image of the girl I had seen shot mixed in my mind with that of the woman who wiped away my tears.
An orderly came in, silently strode up to me, and gave me several papers. One was an order for me to be trucked to the local train station, another was an order for my passage to Lübeck, and the third was my pass. I was to depart within the hour.
Back home, I was reassigned to a police battalion largely made up of old and middle-aged men exempt from “exterminating vermin,” and from the front lines. I never got a promotion, of course. Word went around that I was unpatriotic, so many of the townspeople shunned my family.
I survived the war, saved all the money I could, and with my police contacts, played the black market for American dollars.
Four years after that day in the woods near Plock, I calmly walked into the law office of former Oberleutnant Hans Schaefer. Without a word to his secretary, I opened the door to his inner office and approached the astonished Schaefer, just as I had approached him in that unforgettable field, years ago. He was sitting at his huge mahogany desk, eyebrows arched, small eyes round and staring, his thin lips slightly parted, surprised by the unannounced intrusion. On seeing me, he put both hands palm down on top of his desk as though about to push his corpulent body up.
Before he could rise fully, I strode quickly behind him, jerked his head back, and sliced into his throat with my old bayonet. Blood spurted.
I pulled the still gasping Schaefer onto the floor. When he was finally still, I rolled his body face up. From my pocket, I pulled the shawl I had carried with me since that murdered Jewish woman had given it to me. I draped it over Schaefer’s open, unseeing eyes.

The Ugly Reality of Democide — a photo

February 26, 2009

[First published November 3, 2005]I have collected on my website a number of democide photos (here). Words do not well communicate a feel for what democide means. Pictures help express the horror of helpless lives stolen forever by some government or military butcher. Some of these photos are sickening and I don’t suggest looking at them unless you have a strong stomach. I recently came across a photo somewhere on the Taiwanese site here (I didn’t record the specific directory on the site) that is the most sickening of all.

To see it, click the tiny image below. But, don’t do so unless you have a strong stomach and don’t want to be haunted by the picture. It was a Japanese atrocity somewhere in China during the Sino-Japanese War. Perhaps, it was taken during the Rape of Nanking, but no matter. What happened there happened throughout China when the Japanese Army captured a city or town.

I think we all have an obligation to such poor souls to reveal their murder in its full horror. Maybe then, when the awful meaning of such democide for a life is seen we can recognize the true gist of such abstractions as militarism, fascism, communism, absolutism, tyranny, and jihad.

Pray tell, my brother,
Why do dictators kill
and make war?
Is it for glory; for things,
for beliefs, for hatred,
for power?
Yes, but more,
because they can.

The Wisdom of the Demos

February 24, 2009

[First published January 2, 2006] James Surowiecki’s book, The Wisdom of Crowd (2004) argues that if groups are diverse in membership and their members are independent, then the collective wisdom of the group is often better than that of even the brightest, best informed members. However, there has to be some way of aggregating and organizing the wisdom of the members to arrive at the wisdom of the group.

For example, consider the question as to how many beans (marbles, pennies, etc.) there are in a jar. Now, if each member of large and diverse group independently makes a guess, and then all the guesses are averaged, the average will almost always be closer to the actual number than any one guess. Surowiecki provides many other examples, some real world, such as how the free market illustrates the wisdom of the group (nation). He arrives at the underused concept that I employ for the working of a free market and a democracy, which is Hayek’s idea of a spontaneous society.

Surowiecki concludes his book on democracy, on which he says that democracy:

is not a way of solving cognition problems or a mechanism for revealing the public interest. But it is a way of dealing with (if not solving once and for all) the most fundamental problems of cooperation and coordination: How do we live together? How can living together work to our mutual benefit? Democracy helps people answer those questions because the democratic experience is an experience of not getting everything you want. It’s an experience of seeing your opponents win and get what you hoped to have, and of accepting it, because you believe that they will not destroy the things you value and because you know you will have another chance to get what you want. In that sense, a healthy democracy inculcates the virtues of compromise — which is, after all, the foundation of the social contract — and change. The decisions that democracies make may not demonstrate the wisdom of the crowd. The decision to make them democratically does.

And thus, democracy is a method of nonviolence

A problem with changing one’s mind in public from X to -X, is that it takes a long time for the public to recognize -X, and then one is stuck with saying, “Oh, I no longer agree with myself then.” Thus, regarding Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Anonymous posted a comment yesterday that I should answer now before it confuses visitors. Anonymous says:

With all due respect: Your arguments seem a bit weak and a bit other-wordly.

1) Real people in the real world have to make judgment calls. Your pretending that the millions of lives saved by dropping the bomb – most of them Japanese civilians who would have been killed in the invasion or in continued fire bombings – were speculative and therefore you seem to disregard them altogether. But any real person in a position of real authority would have had to make an estimate of what the costs would have been. They really are not speculative. Based on all the available evidence, it would have been a long, drawn out bloodbath.

2. Your pretending that “maybe Japan would have just surrendered without a large invasion” is a leap into the realm of let’s pretend; maybe such and such could have happened; – but you refused to do any speculating in Issue number 1, above. Not fair.

3. Acoording to Victor Davis Hanson, the Chinese were dying at a phenomenal rate because of continued Japanese occupation. If I recall correctly, they were dying at the rate of 250,000 per month. And the Japanese probably killed about 15 million total. It is difficult to gather much sympathy for a population that supported that kind of slaughter. Plus, your position that they were all brainwashed automatons doesn’t work – they never heard from the soldiers who came home what was happening? And if you insist on the point, are you willing to grant the same to the German population that allowed the extermination of the Jews? Are they totally innocent as well?

4. The very sad part of this is that people who take your position seem to have unlimited sympathy for Japanese children, while speaking not one word about the truly innocent Chinese, Burmese, Vietnamese, Korean, etc. children who were starved to death by the Japanese, used in experiments or just plain murdered. They continued to die every day the war went on. The critical thing about the war was that it be ended as soon as possible.

War is hell. But when an A-bomb saves millions of lives by finally shattering the Japanese war machine it was a very, very good thing. It was the Japanese who put us in a very bad position. They made it very clear they would go on killing Americans and everyone else in their grasp for as long as they could – only American might saved them from becoming one of the most brutal empires ever known.

How odd that it took 60 years – and the deaths of most of the generation who were alive at the time and who actually witnessed these events – for the brave academy to come out in opposition to the dropping of the bomb. And by selectively looking at the conflict from the side of the country that started the entire bloodbath.

RJR: I agree with all that Anonymous says, leaving aside some of the wording. The problem is that Anonymous must have been reading my earlier post, “Hiroshima-Nagasaki was Democide,” where I made the assertions to which Anonymous is apparently responding. He must have missed my reluctant change of mind to accept the bombing in my “Rethinking Hiroshima and Nagasaki”, and especially, my complete acceptance of the bombing, for many of the reasons Anonymous mentions, in “A Just Democide Doctrine?”

While agreeing with Anonymous, I want to be sure that everyone who reads this understands that what is implicitly involved here is a “Just Democide Doctrine. This is to say that under certain conditions, we are faced with the ugly choice of murdering hundreds of thousands of civilians as the lesser of two evils. I want this upfront and faced directly, for it is taken as a moral absolute that one does not commit genocide or democide.

Facing this virtually indigestible moral dilemma even further underlines and capitalizes the moral good of democracy. For as democratic freedom is universalized, then the wars in which such awful choices have to be made will never inflict humanity again.

The World’s Greatest Unknown Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing

February 23, 2009

click me^–>

[First published October 6, 2005] You virtually never read about it, nor do genocide scholars generally discuss it, or include it in their books. Yet, about 15,000,000 people were simultanously expelled from 5 countries because of their nationality, and probably around 1,800,000 died in the process or were murdered outright. Did this occur in Africa? No. Surely Asia, maybe China? No. Okay, the Midde East. Wrong again. Well, it had to be in the 17th or 18th Century. And that’s why we con’t know about it. Right? No.

It occurred in Eastern Europe 60 to 66 years ago with the defeat and retreat of the German Army. As Eastern Europe recovered from the Second World War and the occupying victorious Red Army assurred that their post-war governments would be communist and Soviet controlled, ehtnic Germans, most of whom had settled in Eastern Europe well before the war, and Germans who had taken up residence there during the German occupation, were systematically expelled to East and West Germany. True, some may have worked for or supported the German occupation. True, some may have been traitors to their native Hungary, Czechoslavia, Rumania, Yugoslavai, and Poland. However, many of them rereated with the German Army. In any case, whether bemedaled by their native country for previous military service, opposed to Hitler and the occupation, whether having live in the country for generations, they were deported or murdered.

Age or loyalty to their country of birth did not matter. The old and the young, the babies and the crippiled were all expelled into the economic, choatic, defeated, starving, and destroyed Germany, approximately 15,000,000 of them.

The most reprehensible expulsions were about 8,000,000 from the Eastern Terrirories, including German East Prussia, Eastern Pomerania, Eastern Brandeburg, and Silesia. These were part of the German homeland. But, the Soviets took a chunk of the eastern part of Poland, and in compensation gave Poland these Eastern Territories as agreed to at the Yalta Conference. Being part of Germany, they were of course populated by German citizens, over 7,100,000 of them. All were expelled, while 1,400 died from maltreatment (they were systematically denied food), or murdered.

The table below provides the estimate of etthnic or Reich Germans expelled from each Eastern European country and the parallel genocide (genocide is one kind of democide).

See my Statistics of Democide, Table 7.1 for the sources, calculations, and estimates (here).

What about the ethnic Germans living in the Soviet Union? During the war Stalin deported over 1,000,000 of them to the barren wastes of Siberia and Northern Kazakstan. About one out of five died during the deportation or immediaitely there after. In this case, however, Stalin’s ethnic cleansing was nondiscrimantory. He also deported (cleansed) the Crimean Tartars, Georgian Meskhetians, Greeks, and Ukrainians. Overall, the death toll was about 750,000. (see here, from my book Lethal Politics) This was genocide, but you don’t hear about this either.

Links Of The Day


When I was a student of history at Harvard back in 1970, I knew nothing at all about the Expulsion of Germans. None of my history professors considered this event sufficiently notable to mention it, much less to assign a research paper on it. It was curiously not in history class, but in a seminar on Law of War that I first heard about the Expulsion. . . .

Now, when I first approached the subject matter, I thought naively enough that it was a legitimate field of research, like any other. But I soon learned that it was no accident that there was nearly nothing written in English on the theme — it was taboo, it was not chic, it was not fashionable to do research or to publish in this field.

After all, Germans were looked at in a rather monolithic fashion as all Nazis, and not deserving any degree of human sympathy. As citizens of the “evil empire” they were morally disqualified “ad illicio.”

When I read this kind of thing about any genocide, I think of the babies and children who could have nothing to do with any evil doers, but were murdered simply because they shared their nationality, ethnicity, religion, or race.

White House Outline of Bush’s speech before the National Endowment for Democracy (Oct. 6, 2005)

This was an excellent war speech and well done in stessing the necessary elements.

Tidbits from the speech:

This Extremism [the jihadist terrrorists] Cannot Be Given Concessions, Bribed, Or Appeased. We Must Never Accept Anything Less Than Victory”

The murderous ideology of the Islamic radicals is the great challenge of our century. Yet, in many ways, this fight resembles the struggle against communism in the last century. [RJR: Yes, and the leftist opposition to the war in Iraq is like their anti-anti-communism of the past]
The stategy to win:

Prevent terrorist attacks before they occur
Deny weapons of mass destruction to outlaw regimes and their terrorist allies
Deny radical groups the support and sanctuary of outlaw regimes
Deny the militants control of any nation
Deny the militants future recruits by advancing democracy and hope across the broader middle east

And, by standing for the hope and freedom of others, we will make our own freedom more secure.

Links I Must Share

“1918 killer flu ‘came from birds'”:

The Spanish flu virus that killed 50 million people in 1918-19 was probably a strain that originated in birds, research has shown.

The informed speculation was that the virus first infected pigs in Kansas, and then mutated to infect humans. Because of the overcrowded conditions of military camps during WWI, and the continuous deployment of many soldiers overseas, the virus spread rapidly around the world. The toll may have been twice the 50,000,000, since many deaths occurred in remote areas of such countries as India.

“US Looking Sideways: Bird Flu” Senate Majority Leader William H. Frist, M.D. gave a speech on bird flu and said:

“. . . we will not be able to sleep through what is likely coming soon — a front of unchecked and virulent epidemics, the potential of which should rise above your every other concern. For what the world now faces, it has not seen even in the most harrowing episodes of the Middle Ages or the great wars of the last century.

We are unprepared for rampant epidemics. And even worse, we haven’t taken sufficient note of the fact that though individually each might be devastating, they are susceptible of either purposeful or accidental combination, in which case they could be devastating almost beyond imagination.

“Senate supports setting interrogation limits”

The Senate defied the White House yesterday by voting to set new limits on interrogating detainees in Iraq and elsewhere, underscoring Congress’s growing concerns about reports of abuse of suspected terrorists and others in military custody.

If the House approves and Bush signs it, the limits will only last until the next 9/11 type attack on the U.S. If it is believed that a captured terrorist has information that will save hundreds of American lives, if not thousands. Then the law will be breached, and rightly so.

Why Democide

The World’s Greatest Q and A

February 21, 2009

[First published February 27, 2005] I’ve been running a website on the democratic peace since 2001 (links in the sidebar) and over that time have collected tons of questions from visitors to my site about the democratic peace, war, democide, genocide, and so on. I have now collected and organized all the best questions and my answers in a way useful to those interested in the website and this blog. (link here)

I have also added the link and that for my democratic peace bibliography to the sidebar on the right.

The Q&A amounts to about 170 pages single-spaced in hard copy, which is too much for even the dedicated scholar to go through. So, I set up initial links to the topic headings, and from there, the visitor can use his eyeballs or the browser search engine to find something specific.

For example, on the topic “Democracy,” are linked the following Q&A subtopics: “DEMOCRACY: Democracy, Freedom, Alternative Types of Governments, Stability, Specific Governments, Nondemocracies.”

Examples of a few of the Q&As:

Q: What color is freedom to you? Why?
A: White. This is the mixture of all colors, as freedom is the mixture of different beliefs, faiths, and political parties. Its flag would have the primary colors at the edges, all merging with each other and toward a central white circle.

Q: When it comes to totalitarian regimes, how come you like to choose the figures that are on the high side, while you tend to downplay the butcher bill of democratic states?
A: Simply not true. As a study of my many tables would show, I give both highs and lows and then a conservative estimate. Usually this estimate is closer to the low than the high. Overall the democide in this century, my range is 76,543,000 to 359,348,000 murdered, with my much quoted prudent estimate being 169,187,000. Note how much closer to the low than the high this is. Now, as to playing down the “butcher bill” of democratic democide versus totalitarian regimes, your accusation is too general. What specific estimates are too low or too high?

Q: I hear that a Russian submarine sank a ship filled with German refugees fleeing from the East around 1944-45. It is said that many more lives were lost than in any ship sinking before or since. Is this true?
A: The ship was the Wilhelm Gustloff. I estimate 7,700 lives were lost compared to about 1,503 in the sinking of the Titanic.

Q: What shocked you the most about democide?
A: That the Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and communist Vietnam, at least, would order their cadre to kill a certain number of people. They were given a quota of murders they had to reach.

Q: During the Cold War, did not the U.S. intervene in many countries, some democracies such as Chile, Guatemala, and El Salvador, support death squads murdering rebels, and help behind the scenes mass murder, such as in Indonesia?
A: Even if true, none of the events you mention was a war. No collection or list of international wars would include them. They are therefore irrelevant to the proposition that democracies do not make war on each other, and cannot be used as evidence to disprove it. Now, dealing with the events, in each case there appeared to be a communist revolution/overthrow in the making. They should be looked at as part of the Cold War and the American attempt to contain communist expansionism, particularly in Central and South America.

Any problems with this Q&A, please let me know.

Link of Note

“’Realists’ have it wrong” (1/31/05) Mark Steyn

The Afghan election worked so well that, there being insufficient bad news out of it, the Western media’s doom-mongers pretended it never happened. They’ll have a harder job doing that with Iraq, so instead they’ll have to play up every roadside bomb and every dead poll worker. But it won’t alter the basic reality: that the election may be imperfect but more than good enough.

The election was more than “good enough.” It surpassed the expectations of even the optimists.

Torture? Yes, Of Course

February 20, 2009

[First published May 26, 2005] Important human rights groups, such as Amnesty International (AI), and important opinion makers in the media and politics mark certain behavior as so wrong, so bad, with moral certainty and even vehemence, that no one dare question it for fear of social and political ostracism. Yes, even though the moral claim is not only morally wrongheaded, but . . . and I’m selecting my words carefully . . . stupid.

There has been much ado about the American incarceration of terrorists in Guantánamo, and their treatment under conditions that are claimed to amount to torture. One recent AI report is titled, “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
– Human Dignity Denied: Torture and accountability in the ‘war on terror’” (link here). It says:

The struggle against torture and ill-treatment by agents of the state requires absolute commitment and constant vigilance. It requires stringent adherence to safeguards. It demands a policy of zero tolerance. The US government has manifestly failed in this regard. At best, it set the conditions for torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by lowering safeguards and failing to respond adequately to allegations of abuse raised by Amnesty International and others from early in the “war on terror”. At worst, it has authorized interrogation techniques which flouted the country’s international obligation to reject torture and ill-treatment under any circumstances and at all times.

Note how absolutists this is. Torture is wrong always and at all times. This argument, wildly accepted and constantly reiterated is itself morally guestionable. I could describe any number of scenarios in which torture was legitimate:

1. A man has raped a 14 year old girl, sealed her in a box, and buried it. He is caught, confesses, and then realizing what he has done, withdraws the confession. And realizing that if the girl is uncovered alive, she will point a finger at him, he refuses to say where the girl is, even though probably still alive. Torture him to save the girl’s life and convict the criminal?

2.The FBI picks up terrorists in Washington, DC, who they know from undoubted technical and human sources, have hidden a suitcase nuclear weapon in the city. They deny everything, but sensitive radiological tests confirm they handled such a weapon. Torture them to find the bomb and save the city and hundreds of thousands of lives?

3. Leading terrorists are caught by American marines in Baghdad. Evidence on their computers and in their safe-house indicates that plans for massive car bombing of mosques and markets are underway. Torture them to stop the bombing and save the lives of innocent civilians that would assuredly die in the explosions?

If you answered no to all the above, then you are like the absolute pacifist who says no to even defending his democratic country against outright attack by a foreign tyrant, and thus contributes, no matter how small, to defeat, and were that to happen, to all the lives lost in the resulting occupation (leave aside the person’s willingness to stand aside and let others sacrifice themselves for his freedom). But if you answered yes to torture in one or more of the above, then you are a situational moralist on this issue, as I am.

Now, as for American torture of terrorists it captures. These are evil men to begin with who think nothing of cutting off the heads of prisoners, and exploding bombs in the midst of women and children. They are all mass murderers. Moreover, they violate all the clauses of the Geneva Conventions. They fight in civilian clothes, hide weapons in Mosques and schools, fight from the midst of civilians, and use ambulances to transport weapons and ammunition. They have thrown out centuries of diplomatic efforts and international treaties and conventions designed to limit war and protect civilians. They deserve no protection by the Geneva Conventions, which in any case does not cover them as POWs.

And, if one or more of them is captured by the American forces, and they have reason to suspect that the terrorists has information that may save American and or civilian lives, torture is legitimate. To do otherwise, is to say that the lives of innocent people and soldiers must be forfeit to avoid causing these terrorist pain. Even if the toll might be 50 or 100 men, women, and children murdered in a car bomb.

That’s a crazy morality. But it is the morality of AI and many such groups, and the morality that few are willing to speak out against.

Link of Note

United States of American (Covering events from January – December 2004) In Amnesty International’s Report 2005

It says:

Hundreds of detainees continued to be held without charge or trial at the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Thousands of people were detained during US military and security operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and routinely denied access to their families and lawyers.

Military investigations were initiated or conducted into allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees by US personnel in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and into reports of deaths in custody and ill-treatment by US forces elsewhere in Iraq, and in Afghanistan and Guantánamo. Evidence came to light that the US administration had sanctioned interrogation techniques that violated the UN Convention against Torture. Pre-trial military commission hearings opened in Guantánamo but were suspended pending a US court ruling.

I’ve gone through this and other AI reports on American abuse of terrorist prisoners. What soon becomes clear it that (1) considerable credence is given to prisoner allegations, even though they are enemy terrorists of the United States, and it is known that they are told by their leaders that if captured they should claim abuse; (2) claims by the American military about their investigations and treatment of the prisoners is met with skepticism.

Universal Archive

Treason Is Treason

February 19, 2009

[First published January 19, 2005] One of the most outrageous revelations of sensitive American secrets in the war on terror has been published. It is Seymour M. Hersh’s “The Coming Wars,” appearing in The New Yorker (1/17/2005 link here).

I’m for maximum disclosure of military and intelligence operations, as long as it does not provide important secrets to the enemy. In other words, openness stops where aiding the enemy begins.

In Hersh’s article, we have a case of providing not only secrets to the enemy, the Iranian ruling thugs in this case, but such information as to ongoing commando operations that will help the thugs locate and prevent these secret operations against their nuclear weapons development inside Iran. Even lives are at stake.

A few quotes from Hersh:

“The Administration has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran at least since last summer.”

“ . . . an American commando task force has been set up in South Asia and is now working closely with a group of Pakistani scientists and technicians who had dealt with Iranian counterparts.”

“The American task force, aided by the information from Pakistan, has been penetrating eastern Iran from Afghanistan in a hunt for underground installations. The task-force members, or their locally recruited agents, secreted remote detection devices—known as sniffers—capable of sampling the atmosphere for radioactive emissions and other evidence of nuclear-enrichment programs.”

“Rumsfeld planned and lobbied for more than two years before getting Presidential authority, in a series of findings and executive orders, to use military commandos for covert operations. One of his first steps was bureaucratic: to shift control of a undercover unit, known then as the Gray Fox (it has recently been given a new code name), from the Army to the Special Operations Command (SOCOM), in Tampa. Gray Fox was formally assigned to SOCOM in July, 2002, at the instigation of Rumsfeld’s office, which meant that the undercover unit would have a single commander for administration and operational deployment.”

“U.S. military operatives would be permitted to pose abroad as corrupt foreign businessmen seeking to buy contraband items that could be used in nuclear-weapons systems. In some cases, according to the Pentagon advisers, local citizens could be recruited and asked to join up with guerrillas or terrorists.”

“ . . . a terrorist cell in Algeria was “rolled up” with American help. The adviser was referring, apparently, to the capture of Ammari Saifi, known as Abderrezak le Para, the head of a North African terrorist network affiliated with Al Qaeda.”

These are treasonous revelations. But, they won’t be dealt with in these terms by the Department of Justice. And, virtually nobody in power will have the political guts to call this treason treason.

Apparently, what is needed is a few more 9/11s for the major media to realize fully that we are at WAR. Reflect on what would have happened in 1943 if a journalist wrote and a magazine published secret information as to the purpose and place of ongoing commando raids into France prior to Normandy.

Link of Note

”Espionage by any other name” (1/19/05) By Tony Blankley

Blankley writes, “I was shocked when I read Mr. Hersh’s article.”

He suggests that Hersh’s revelations might fall under the Espionage Act. But he refrains from even using the word “treason.” I’m not so restrained. By The Constitution of the United States, Art. III, treason against the United States consists only in levying war against us, or in adhering to our enemies, giving them aid or comfort. Hersh gave our enemies aid and comfort. With Hersh around, the Iranian thugs can save on their espionage costs.