The very uncomfortable area

I’ve been reading some of the testimony of Hermann Goering from the Nuremberg Trials; more specifically, from interviews conducted in his cell by a psychologist. Not exactly the best of reading topics at any time, and particularly not now.

I’m struck by the justifications from men in power – the denials, the half-truths, the buck-passing.  It was all further justified by their worldview – that this would have happened in any country and it was the same anywhere, and that they’d suffered at the hands of other countries and of the “Jewish race”.  They were being prosecuted only because they lost, not for any reasons of moral transgression.  It was petty and small, unbacked by any kind of greater vision.  Goering reiterates his hate of communism, because he believes the idea that men are created equal to be a ridiculous notion, unproven on its face; he bristles at the idea of the United States, who took wide swaths of territory from Mexico, condemning Germany for doing the same thing in Europe.  Hess, Goering, Doenitz, and the others mostly blamed those who were dead, playing down their own part when it would have gotten them in trouble, inflating it otherwise.

The whole thing would be played out again in the admittedly far less severe circumstances of Watergate.  It was played out again by men whose conservative worldview placed them beyond any “abstract” notions of an absolute good.  Some, like Chuck Colson and John Dean, found a moral compass again; others, like Nixon himself, never quite did.

There’s no doubt in my mind that justice, in the overall, objective sense, would demand that a similar trial for the current architects of the nation’s misery.  Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, Gonzalez, Wolfowitz, Perle, Kristol, Rumsfeld, Feith, and so many others should be placed in the dock and charges filed against them: waging wars of aggression, the use and promulgation of torture as a tactic against the enemy, warrantless spying against U.S. citizens, and numerous violations of the Constitution.  And there’s equally no doubt that the same excuses, so common to the conservative frame of mind, would be trotted out: the denials, the buck-passing to deceased former comrades.  Godwin be damned – it’s time to draw the parallels that already exist.  The conservative “values” of self-aggrandisement and the need for an “other” as an enemy combined with a lust for power, the need to be beyond the rule of law that applies to everyone else, and the existing concentration of power and money, create these proto-fascist structures.  Sometimes they are fully realized, as with Goering, sometimes they simply lurk and simmer in the background, as with Watergate…and sometimes, they end up in the very, very uncomfortable territory that exists between those two options.


5 Responses

  1. You obviously are ignorant to the role that Karl Doenitz played during WWII. The US Navy strongly DEFENDED Doenitz at the Nuremberg trials. Check my web site for written confirmation about his defense from US Navy admirals. Doenitz is the most misunderstood man of WWII and of history.

  2. I’m with Shawn here, from what I know about Doenitz he seemed quite different from your average garden-variety Nazi leader, and Hitler, in one of his few sane moments, probably did the right thing in choosing him as Reichspraesident following his death, I can’t really think of any other major player in the government of the Third Reich that would have been more palatable. (Goebbles, as leader and Reichchancellor, of course, would have been just as bad for Germany as Hitler, but fortunately we didn’t have to worry about that.)

  3. That the U.S. Navy defended Doenitz in no way changes my opinion (as it’s likely they did so in part due to his desire to surrender to the Americans and not the Soviets). He was an unrepentant Nazi and thoroughly anti-Semitic; he, like the others, denied knowledge and abrogated personal responsibility of the worst of the Nazi regime. Though I described Goering initially, the point stands quite nicely apart from him, and would do so with George W. Bush or any of his cronies equally.

  4. I can’t really see how he could take responsibility for some of the worst Nazi atrocities, how is the head of the German Navy resopnsible for Auschwitz, for example? That’s like blaming the US Secretary of the Navy for the current housing crisis, or the Secretary of Agriculture for the war in Iraq …

  5. If you read the testimony, they not only didn’t take responsibility – they denied they knew anything at all about it, even in the face of documents proving otherwise. It was the only way they could justify not stopping it from happening to the court…Doenitz himself may not have been in a position to stop it, but it’s harder to defend the claim that he’d never heard of it.

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