Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Were the Americans Worse than the Nazis?

Andrew Sullivan seems to be saying that when it comes to torture, the Americans have been worse than the Nazis. This is so blatantly crap (I don't even apologize for the term) that I can't believe he's saying it. Perhaps he isn't, and I'm reading him wrong. But I don't think I am.
Notice how the Nazis ensured that doctors were present at all times so that they could monitor the captives' response to torture and make sure they didn't die or suffer visible permanent injuries that could embarrass the regime in public (see the Bradbury and Bybee memos for the Bush equivalent). Notice the careful measurement of how many times someone can be beaten (another Cheney innovation). And notice that we are not talking about waterboarding - something even the Nazis excluded from their "enhanced interrogation" methods.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am no fan of Andrew Sullivan, but I don't think he is saying "Americans have been worse than Nazis."

I think it is normal human nature to want to defend and excuse your own team. Andrew is pointing out how the West responded to Nazis who tortured. He is suggesting we treat our torturers as we treated the Nazi torturers.

Nycerbarb

PS. I finished reading "Right to Exist." Great book. Thanks.

Derick Schilling said...

Sullivan seems to be correct in saying that water torture is not mentioned in the orders regarding interrogation issued by Gestapo chief Heinrich Mueller in 1942, but seems not to appreciate how misleading the 1942 document is regarding the savagery of actual Nazi practice. He also does not mention that water torture, in the form of forced immersion in baths, was widely practiced by the Germans and their collaborators in France.

Andrew Sullivan is hardly the worst person in the world, but I generally find his self-righteousness and self-regard hard to take.

Anonymous said...

these facile Nazi comparisons seem to be getting OK in the US, kind of like Germans like to refer to the Vandals -
in an article in the April Atlantic about breast feeding and the social pressures that go with it Nazi comparisons just as absurd as Andrew Sullivan's were made -
also I doubt that the Nazis had the doctors to prevent the torture from leaving marks because Theodor Eschenburg reports in his memoir that a friend coming back from a "stay" with the state before the war had lost teeth and was forbidden to talk about what had happened -
according to Eschenburg they found that extremely frightening and that sounds to me a lot more plausible as a standard procedure, because had the doctors made sure nothing could be seen they would have lost the advantage of punishing one disciplining a dozen (Mao?)
But maybe I am all wrong because Sullivan makes me always feel that I am not smart enough to understand what he is trying to say therefore I stopped trying to read him a long time ago.
and as to the Nazis excluding waterboarding: according to what Christopher Hitchens reported in Vanity Fair it is a rather complicated method compared to just smashing in some teeth and so maybe the real reason that waterboarding is missing, they were just too lazy for it or it really isn't that much fun for the torturer
rgds,
Silke

Anonymous said...

He obvioulsly says exactly this.This is so crap that one should invent a new word for this.How can anyone really take him seriously, and even argue??Leftish c... I do not want to use the word again.The world doesn't improve a wee bit if people don't want to see what they read or realize, but think "politically correct".Where are real values, here?
These people would even find something "worth talking about"(life- of- Brianish) in Ahmadidshad's yesterdays "speech", I bet. Good:some people see what they see and have the guts to say it, in this world full of self- righteous wisenheimers!

howtoplayalone said...

"Sullivan makes me always feel that I am not smart enough to understand what he is trying to say."

If you can't understand him, that's his fault as a writer, not yours.

"Something even the Nazis" means, at least in that case, Americans are worse. If it's not what he meant he should have said it differently.

Take the links, leave the analysis.

Anonymous said...

Silke, it's sweet of you to say that Sullivan makes you feel like you're not smart enough to understand what he is trying to say -- but I'm very sure that you're smart enough to know whose fault that is! And look at the excellent company you have -- Yaacov also seems to be unsure what Sully is trying to say...
Well, in any case, anybody who knows anything about Nazi torture will need some anti-vomiting medications after reading Sully's "notice how the Nazis ensured that doctors were present..." -- maybe he should once take the trouble and read up a bit about the role of doctors in the camps.

I sure agree with Yaacov -- no reason to apologize for calling that "crap".

Anonymous said...

John Gray comments on analogies in the Guardian thus
"Yet misguided analogies of this kind recur in liberal democracies in much the same way that the outright falsification of history does in totalitarian regimes."

OK, but doesn't he forget to mention that in a democracy it takes little effort to check up on the misguiding historian? Or does he consider that to be an un-vital difference? because of course we from the "uneducated" masses believe everything our betters say - when will they learn how utterly wrong they are on that, just because they have the power to silence "us" via ridicule does not mean we do not recognize their game without being safe from falling stupidly for the next piper of Hameln.
rgds, Silke

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/apr/18/uses-abuses-history-margaret-macmillan