Monday, March 19, 2007

Of liars, idiots, Bush and Goering

A man who does not know the truth is just an idiot but a man who knows the truth and calls it a lie is a crook!

--Bertolt Brecht
The sane and insane alike act upon what they believe to be true. Mankind's greatest atrocities, crimes, and inhumanities invariably follow from irrational beliefs, namely lies. ignorance, bigotry, and superstition.

The GOP, meanwhile, is a party of ideology. It would be one thing if life-long members of the GOP were merely deluded. But what is most pernicious about the party is this: most members know better.

Educated "goppers" know, for example, that wealth does not trickle down but they will work for Reaganesque tax cuts anyway. Most Republicans knew that Bush was lying when he said that attacking and invading Iraq was a part of the war on terror, that Saddam had WMD, that US troops would be killing bona fide terrorists in Iraq. But they supported Bush anyway knowing that he was lying.

What can be said of an entire class of people who act upon beliefs that can easily be shown to be misinformed, misunderstood, or just plain wrong? Others simply refuse to confront facts or evidence contrary to their beliefs and prejudices. Some will believe whatever "...makes them feel better about themselves." Many will continue to act upon falsehoods and hold to them even when the results are catastrophic as they have proven to be in Iraq. Paid liars like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh spread lies for money --a Faustian bargain! Those making them are in hell already.

Many people in the "right wing" believe assorted black-hearted lies that a black person, a homosexual, or an Iraqi is either a lower form of life, an "abomination to God!", or an "infidel". Thus discrimination and murder are justified. Likewise, many Islamic extremists are taught the same thing about Americans.

I make a distinction between a purposeful Hitler and those who merely make mistakes. Hitler must surely have known that the racial myth with which he justified the murder of some six or seven million Jews in Europe was a black hearted lie. Yet, when he acted upon the lie, millions of "good Germans" followed him into hell. Similarly, Ronald Reagan must have known that "supply side economics" was a bogus rationalization that would throw millions of people out of work. The "clever dicks" who invented "trickle down" theory most certainly knew better but supported whopping tax cuts for rich folk anyway.

It is not only disingenuous Republicans who swoon about how "Reagan made us feel good about ourselves", it is media shills who must certainly know better. Some people ought to lose sleep at night. Some people ought to have bad dreams and night terrors--a phenomenon that recent studies have shown is commonplace among Republicans.

In medieval times, the European Continent was an unlikely birth place for an enlightenment that was not to come for another 1,000 years. A trial, for example, was based less upon evidence or witnesses than upon the outcome of an ordeal in which it was believed God would assert his powers. Disputes, for example, were resolved by combat, and it was believed that God would favor whomever was in the right. Suspected witches were often subject to trial by water in which those found innocent were no better off than those judged guilty. Those who survived drowning were guilty because the "pure" water had rejected them. Only by sinking and drowning could one be "proven" innocent. Certain death is a high price to pay for acquittal.

The insane logic behind this may be forgiven a primitive culture, but what of modern Republican demagogues who smear innocents with the incredibly insane and medieval assertion that no evidence is, in fact, evidence of guilt? Perhaps Republican malice and ill-will might have been satisfied if Gary Condit and Bill Clinton had been subjected to trial by fire, water, or joust and only by death is innocence proved! By contrast, the case against George W. Bush is overwhelming and consists of real probable cause and real evidence that Bush has with "...malice, aforethought" ordered war crimes resulting in death. I suggest that whomever finds this trivial read US Codes, Section 2441 having to with War Crimes and the penalty for those war crimes that result in death. It is a capital offense.

The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials were significant for several reasons. It affirmed a standard of personal responsibility. The trials discredited the defense: but we were only following orders. (See: The Avalon Project at Yale Law School, The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials)

Nuremberg was a study of the very face of evil. Gustave Gilbert, the American psychologist had the thankless job of counseling the rogues' gallery of Nazi criminals, thugs and perverts. Gilbert had been granted free access to all those who would stand trial at Nuremberg. He said that as a result of his interviews, he was able to arrive at what he thought was the very source of evil: a complete and utter lack of empathy. I can only add that it is empathy that prevents us acting upon our worst motives and impulses, and upon the lies we cite to make us feel better about ourselves when we have done so.

Gilbert's interviews with Hermann Goering also reveal the essence of the cynical, political lie. The well-known quote from Hermann Goring is often said to be apochryphal. But it is not. It comes from an interview that Gilbert held with Hermann Goering in his cell on the evening of April 18, 1946 and it may be found in his book --Nuremberg Diary:
Sweating in his cell in the evening, Goering was defensive and deflated and not very happy over the turn the trial was taking. He said that he had no control over the actions or the defense of the others, and that he had never been anti-Semitic himself, had not believed these atrocities, and that several Jews had offered to testify in his behalf. If [Hans] Frank [Governor-General of occupied Poland] had known about atrocities in 1943, he should have come to him and he would have tried to do something about it. He might not have had enough power to change things in 1943, but if somebody had come to him in 1941 or 1942 he could have forced a showdown. (I still did not have the desire at this point to tell him what [SS General Otto] Ohlendorf had said to this: that Goering had been written off as an effective "moderating" influence, because of his drug addiction and corruption.) I pointed out that with his "temperamental utterances," such as preferring the killing of 200 Jews to the destruction of property, he had hardly set himself up as champion of minority rights. Goering protested that too much weight was being put on these temperamental utterances. Furthermore, he made it clear that he was not defending or glorifying Hitler.
Gilbert noted Goering's thoughts about how easily common people are manipulated, how easily they are duped into supporting and fighting various political wars:
We got around to the subject of war again and I said that, contrary to his attitude, I did not think that the common people are very thankful for leaders who bring them war and destruction.

"Why, of course, the people don't want war," Goering shrugged. "Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship."

"There is one difference," I pointed out. "In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."

"Oh, that is all well and good, but, 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 danger. It works the same way in any country."

--Gustave Gilbert, Nuremberg Diary

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