This post is an extension of the previous post about Hitler. I sat here and thought about how many other examples of genocide there are in recent history. Just today, I read about how Turkey is upset over a French law. That law makes it a crime to doubt that Turkey committed genocide against the Armenians. One nation’s genocide is another’s political necessity. I do not for a moment justify what Turkey did, but they are not alone. How can we look at what the United States did to the native American population, and not consider it genocide? Were we fully justified in what we did to the Vietnamese people? Were the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki necessary? Or the bombing of Dresden? These are sticky questions. While many would consider these actions as acts of war, can we apply a different morality when fighting a war? Doesn’t the degradation of Afghans and Iraqis remind you a little of the Nazi attitude towards Jews and Slavs?
It seems to me that Nazi Germany has been set aside as especially evil. That special status serves as a smoke screen obscuring the horrific behavior of other, supposedly more civilized nations. Why is it that we hear so much about the Holocaust, and so little about the slaughter of the Armenians, or Stalin’s mass killing of his own people? We don’t hear as much about Pol Pot, Idi Amin, the systematic slaughter of the black Sudanese. While we do hear about it, it isn’t given the moral urgency of the Nazi Holocaust. The truth of the matter is that holocaust’s occur far too often, and evil by no means ended with the death of Adolf Hitler. Rather than isolating Hitler and the Nazi regime as somehow unique, we need to see how it typifies the arrogant disregard for all human values, when it serves the ‘national interest’. Perhaps Hitler pervades our consciousness even today, because he is us. He is the dark mirror revealing our shadow selves.
The lesson of Nazi Germany is how easily a nation can blind itself into believing the most outrageous nonsense. It is important to remember that the Nazis saw themselves as victims, rather than aggressors. They believed Germany was being enslaved by an international Jewish conspiracy, and that they had to strike out in order to defeat that conspiracy, and even just to survive. This seems crazy to us, but is it any less crazy than the rationales used by the Soviet Union to justify genocide, or the motivations of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban? Or even the motivations which led us to invade Iraq? It is uncertain how much of the Nazi propaganda Hitler actually believed, but by the end of his life, he believed most of it. Not that I am comparing Hitler to Newt Gingrich, Gingrich is not a mass-murderer, at least not yet. But, like Hitler, I don’t think Newt Gingrich believes his own propaganda, but if he becomes more powerful he may begin to believe. That would not be a good thing for America. Nazi Germany was not more evil than many other nations in history who slaughtered with impunity.