Freedom, Democracy and ‘The Conquering of Evil’
‘Why, of course, the people don’t want war…Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece…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… All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism…It works the same in any country.’
Hermann Göring, April 18th, 1946The Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, (1945-6) indicted twenty-four Germans, of whom twenty-one ultimately sat in the dock. Plucked from a shattered nation, interrogated constantly and largely held in solitary confinement, they represented those whom the victorious Allies deemed to be the most culpable remaining members of the National Socialist state. The prosecution of such a diverse range of men - from political figures to military personnel, to economic and industrial leaders - was an awkward task. International law was created and bent to suit purpose and the woolly charge of ‘Conspiracy’ was introduced to bind the cases together. Ultimately, after nearly a year of proceedings and a barrage of evidence from all four of the Allied nations, eleven men were sentenced to death , three received life sentences, two received twenty years, one fifteen and one ten. The other three defendants, Hjalmar Schacht, Hans Fritzsche and Franz von Papen were acquitted, although all were immediately rearrested and convicted by German denazification courts, receiving sentences of various lengths. At Nuremberg, there were no innocent men.
Or at least, those are the conclusions the world was supposed to believe.
The first of these stated aims of the Nuremberg lawmakers – to show that the waging of aggressive war had no place in the modern world, would need someone or something to arbitrate in such matters from that point on.
The United Nations, established in 1942, by Churchill and Roosevelt, officially became this arbiter. It is worth remembering that the organisation’s origins were in a collective term for the Allied nations – the ‘United Nations’ were initially the US, the UK, the USSR and France. Of the fifteen members of the UN Security Council these four, along with China, have remained the only permanent members.
A quick glance at the UN Charter shows some very Jacksonesque rhetoric, as its very first sentence, ‘We, the United Nations,’ it declares, ‘determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind…’
Just like so much of the posturing at the trial, it gives the impression that everything is being done from a high sense of altruism. Yet when one looks at the history of the last sixty-two years, since Göring et al’s ashes were thrown into a river, the UN’s influence on this matter is seen to be a dismal failure. It may be true that we have avoided lapsing into conflicts as catastrophic as World Wars One and Two and that Europe (or Central to Western Europe at least) has managed to live in relative peace but this would seem to be something of a smokescreen. We came perilously close to nuclear oblivion several times during the sixties and seventies, yet even setting this to one side, one nation in particular, with certain hangers-on has managed to repeatedly invade, bomb and commit a variety of civilian atrocities, sometimes involving chemical weapons, since the time the United Nations was formed. This leads us to open our eyes – and the perception of rather a grim reality.
With the defeat of Nazi Germany, the British Empire achieved its primary long-term aim, in maintaining the European balance of power. However it did so at enormous cost to itself. Britain has had to stand by, helpless, as its Empire has been dismantled. The UK has been thoroughly usurped as the world’s leading power by the United States, to whom it has become nothing more than an irrelevant ally.
Preperata’s Russo-German ‘Eurasian Embrace’ had been prevented from coming to fruition, but it was clear, that for the new western imperial power, more work would be needed to ensure stability at the top of the global hierarchy. Having thoroughly defeated Germany and criminalised its former regime, placing compliant satraps in charge of the nation, who were eager to please and only too happy to enforce the denazification purges expected of them, (Japan, shattered and demoralised by nuclear attack, was placed in a similar position of on-its-knees contrition) their attention turned to the Soviet Union and its influence. Suddenly, the great evil of Nazism began to fade into memory, only to be revived at such time when it would again become useful. Communism took over as the spectre at the window. ‘The Red Menace’ was everywhere. In reality, this was nothing more than history repeating itself.
The western Allies, now firmly led by the United States, with the UK in a state of disrepair almost equalling that of the defeated powers, saw their only challenger on the world stage as Soviet Russia, who had been allowed to annexe most of Eastern Europe post war (not quite the Eurasian Embrace, but not far off) and had the potential to spread its influence into Asia and beyond. American foreign policy during the immediate post war years was formed with the sole purpose of limiting the spread of Communism as far as possible. This, of course, had nothing to do with ideology. They cared not a jot for the validity or otherwise of Marx’ theories, just as they cared nothing for the pros and cons of National Socialism. It was a simple matter of seeing off dangerous competition – the potential for an empire to challenge theirs.
As a result we saw the occupation of South Korea between 1945 and 1949, following a Communist uprising. During the same period US Marines were garrisoned in China as a protective force, as Communism threatened to take hold there too. From 1950 – 1953 American entanglement in Korea’s business evolved into the Korean War, in which, having seen China readily succumb to Mao’s cultural revolution, despite their presence, they responded to the attack of Communist North Korea against the South, eventually ensuring that half of Korea at least did not become a possible Soviet ally.
The infamous Vietnam War, which stretched from 1959-75 began, like Korea, as a reaction to attacks on US forces of occupation that had been there since 1955, who were trying to limit the spread of Communism filtering down from the North. Linked to the Vietnam conflict, we also saw the US engage in Laos between ‘62 and ‘75, supporting anti-communist forces there. Less well known, but undertaken for the same reason, was the invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965, in which US troops were sent in to act as a counter-revolutionary force against communist insurgents on the island.
Activity continued in Laos and Cambodia in 1968, with an American bombing campaign along the Ho Chi Minh trail. This tactic, heavily employed by the Allies in World War Two in the Pacific Theatre and against Germany, was to be used time and time again as the century progressed.
The propaganda picture became more complicated in 1967, with the Arab/Israeli Conflict, when the ghost of Fascism, Nazism and the Holocaust was revived having receded into the recesses of the international consciousness. In 1973 this ghost was used to assist in the facilitation of Operation Nickel Grass, in which the United States came to Israel’s aid in the ‘Yom Kippur’ war. According to Norman Finkelstein, this was a key period in the birth of what is described in certain quarters as, ‘the new anti-Semitism’. This new anti-Semitism essentially refers to any form of criticism of the Zionist state of Israel, an important ally for the United States, within the volatile, mainly hostile, but oil-rich, Middle-East.
Having stabilized the position with regard to their global superiority and with Soviet strength on the wane, direct economic concerns, never too far down the list of priorities of any great empire, began to take precedence. Oil, which in a very real way had replaced Gold as the trading currency of the world, was soaring in value. America’s attention thus turned to the ‘Libyan Socialism’ (not really Communism, but with some similarities) of Colonel Gadaffi, whose military coup had inconveniently disposed of oil-friendly King Idris. In 1981 there were several small incidents with Libya, as the United States took it upon themselves to enforce Libya’s contentious naval boundaries. This attempt at provocation failed, so in 1986, with one of the most transparent excuses in the history of international politics, President Ronald Reagan claimed that Gadaffi was responsible for a terrorist bomb attack at a German disco that killed two U.S. soldiers. Anyone who has followed world events in the last ten years will see familiarities in this story. Here, for the first time was a Muslim nation and accusations of them nurturing and encouraging terrorism, which they may have been doing, but their potential threat to world peace was propagandised out of all proportion. This led to Operation El Dorado Canyon on April 16th, 1986, when U.S. air and naval forces conducted bombing strikes on alleged ‘terrorist facilities’ and military installations in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. The action was roundly condemned by most of the world, with its only support coming from the UK, Australia and Israel. Unsurprisingly relations between these nations and Libya were frosty for many years but have recently healed to the point of Gadaffi agreeing to reopen Libyan oil to the west.
After Libya, international incidents of aggression continued unabated. In 1988 the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian airliner and in 1989 the United States invaded the state of Panama in ‘Operation Just Cause’ to depose General Noriega who had, previously been on the payroll of the CIA, working to advance US interests in Central America. These were to prove to be only the preliminaries for the final aggressive acts of the twentieth century which would spill over into the twenty-first.
1991 saw the first Iraq or Gulf war. This oil-rich region was crucial to a western world thirsting after dwindling reserves. After its climax, US troops were stationed in Iraq with the official reason of counteracting ‘oppression of Kurdish people’. Yet Saddam Hussein’s regime remained in place and oppression continued, while American bombing of the region went on intermittently.
In 1998 President Clinton ordered military strikes against alleged terrorist sites in Afghanistan and in 2003, after the jolt provided by 9/11 in which a small band of mostly Saudi Arabian8 extremists managed to live up to every line of US/Israeli ‘Islamo-fascist’ propaganda, the invasion of Afghanistan and then the second Iraq war were waged on the premise of harbouring terrorists and the possession of weapons of mass destruction. This happened despite mass protests in both the UK and the USA, disagreement within the international community and dissenting views within both national governments. Speaking in 2004, President Bush likened the ‘War on Terror’ to the fight against Nazism, saying, ‘Like the US involvement in World War II, the war on terror began with a surprise attack on the US. Like the murderous ideologies of the last century, the ideology of murderers reaches across borders.’
Yet, as is now well-known, weapons of mass destruction were never found and are now believed not to have existed. US and UK leaders blamed this mistake on poor intelligence, but the second conflict in Iraq was still ongoing as this article was being written, five years after its beginning. Estimates as to casualties vary. A report published in the British Medical Journal, ‘The Lancet’ in October 2006, said that up to that point, 654,965 Iraqis had met violent death as a result of coalition occupation. Over half of these, the study claimed, were women and children. A more recent survey, conducted by the British research group ORB stated that by September 2007, the figure was 1,220,580. Other studies suggest lower figures. As a result of the war, some two million Iraqis have become refugees. Some analysts question the numbers, but even if they are wrong by a factor of two, which few believe, they are still highly significant. Remember too that this is only since 2003. The region has undergone sustained attack, largely through air strikes, since 1991. Total deaths are very difficult to calculate. A report by an organization called Medact, led by Beth Daponte, a research professor at Carnegie Mellon University, estimated over 150,000 civilian Iraqi deaths either during or caused by the first Gulf War. A total figure for the intermediate period could not be found, although the investigative journalist, John Pilger, asserted that a 1999 report by Unicef calculated half a million Iraqi children who had, by that point, met their deaths through starvation or disease as a direct result of sanctions.
Even if the figures can be quibbled with, it is clear that the human cost of the last sixteen years of action in Iraq has been enormous. The only purposes of this tragedy that are apparent are the establishment of American bases near the last world sources of easy-to-pump, high quality, surface oil, an attempt to create another oil-friendly regime in the region and the related matter of increased security for the state of Israel as it continues on its path to being the dominant nation of the Middle East.
One wonders, if at any point in the future this may be referred to as an Iraqi Holocaust? What, we might ask, have the ordinary people of Iraq done to deserve this slaughter? To which side of the conflict can we truthfully apply Mr Bush’s terminology of the ‘ideology of murderers’?
In the face of sixty years of sustained aggression from the USA (the above events are only a small selection of their military endeavours since 1945) the United Nations has become a secondary factor in world affairs. Perhaps not even that. There is little they can do when a powerful nation chooses to pursue its own path.
It is impossible, after seeing what the main player behind Nuremberg has been doing since, to believe in the sincerity of their expressed aims at the trial. A nation which claimed it wanted to save the world from the scourge of war and which gave death sentences to eleven men it deemed to be guilty of starting one has had a foreign policy based on little other than aggression and the rule of force ever since.
Another stark contradiction of Nuremberg and the United Nations’ professed yearnings for peace can be found in a state it was instrumental in helping to create. Since its inception in 1948, the State of Israel has provided the ‘homeland for the Jewish people’ that Wise, Weizmann, Untermeyer and others had been campaigning for many years. Conversely, the time between then and now is referred to by the Palestinian people as the Naqba (tragedy). The development of this tragedy has implications when analysed in the wake of Nuremberg. Repeated British statements in both the White Papers on Palestine (1922 and 1939) established initial plans for accommodating Zionist demands.
‘Unauthorized statements have been made to the effect that the purpose in view is to create a wholly Jewish Palestine. Phrases have been used such as that Palestine is to become ‘as Jewish as England is English.’ His Majesty’s Government regard any such expectation as impracticable and have no such aim in view. Nor have they at any time contemplated, as appears to be feared by the Arab delegation, the disappearance or the subordination of the Arabic population, language, or culture in Palestine. They would draw attention to the fact that the terms of the Declaration referred to do not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded `in Palestine.’ In this connection it has been observed with satisfaction that at a meeting of the Zionist Congress, the supreme governing body of the Zionist Organization, held at Carlsbad in September, 1921, a resolution was passed expressing as the official statement of Zionist aims ‘the determination of the Jewish people to live with the Arab people on terms of unity and mutual respect, and together with them to make the common home into a flourishing community, the upbuilding of which may assure to each of its peoples an undisturbed national development.’Initially then, the idea of the British Mandate was for the Jewish population already in the region, together with Jewish immigrants from Europe, to become part of a Palestinian state in which both Arabs and Jews would coexist. This vision met with agreement from both sides. By 1948 however, following the events of the war and repeated agitation from Zionist leaders like Weizmann, who apparently found the idea of living alongside Arabs distasteful, and the withdrawal of the British who were suffering from attacks on their troops from both sides, this had become a two state solution. The representatives of the Palestinian people did not agree to this partition of their territory and this resulted in the Israeli war of independence, in which the new state of Israel occupied even more of the region than had been originally proposed. During the occupation of this territory, the Palestinian communities of the area simply disappeared, either killed or forcibly ejected from their homes and turned into refugees. Norman Finkelstein described this process as one of ethnic cleansing and stated that it was not a matter that could be under dispute ‘the scholarly debate now focused on the much narrower, if still highly pertinent question of whether this cleansing was the intentional consequence of Zionist policy or the unintentional by-product of war.’ Bearing in mind that what is being described is an occupying power murdering and mistreating civilians, it would seem that Finkelstein is outlining something similar to the ‘intentionalism v functionalism’ debate which for many years dominated academic discourse about the Holocaust. Add to this the numerous allegations of torture and mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli hands and Israel’s brutal put-downs of Palestinian uprisings, where youths throwing stones are met with machine guns and tanks, and it can be seen that the victims of Nazi evil, just like its conquerors, are more than prepared to create their own atrocities, to act aggressively and to commit violations of human rights when it suits them.
Nuremberg’s other conclusions fare little better. Issues related to the practice of modern, representative democracy are too numerous to be dealt with in this article. For now it will suffice to say that there is much about it that is very undemocratic. The media, wealthy elites and special interest groups all wield subversive influence. The ideal of rule by the people, for the people is as distant as ever. It is not necessarily a system that the west should be exporting to the rest of the world, especially when such export seems to be largely conducted via guns and bombs. If there is a genuine moral obligation to force other nations to adopt representative democracy through violence, then it is not one that is readily apparent.
Racism too, is a sticky topic for the victorious powers. Although the American Jewish community have thrived, post war, to the point where despite only comprising two percent of the population, nearly fifty percent of the nation’s billionaires are Jewish , other minorities do not fare so well. Twenty Four percent of blacks live below the poverty line in the States, for example, as opposed to eight percent of whites. Three percent of the black male population of the United States is in prison, as compared to less than half a percent for whites. Tokenistic, yet powerful evidence of America’s racial divide was also provided by the pictures of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005. The scenes, broadcast worldwide, showed a form of economic apartheid, whereby the black underclass found themselves bereft and stranded, while the rest of the population escaped. As, apparently, race is only skin deep and theories of racial difference are evil and automatically lead to exterminating millions in death camps, we cannot ascribe any of this to racial difference. These kinds of discrepancies can only be the result of an utterly racist American society. It should be remembered too that immediately after Nuremberg and until the 1960s, racial segregation was still official policy in the southern states.
This means that when looking at the aftermath of Nuremberg, we are faced with a situation in which the three great evils of Nazi Germany, for which it was put on trial before the world, were all conducted, for years afterwards, to varying degrees by the main prosecuting power and its closest allies. There is a word for this sort of thing. And it is ‘hypocrisy’.
It is clear that the real result of Nuremberg was a world order built on moral hypocrisy. The victors glossed over their war crimes and socio-political shortcomings and continue to do so, while overplaying those of the enemy. They did this, a la Göring, to sway public opinion in favour of their imperial agenda. And it has worked. A few examples from recent history will suffice to show how readily people have accepted this ethos as their own.
In his State of the Union Address before Congress on January 29th 2002, President George W Bush famously described North Korea, Iran and Iraq as an ‘Axis of Evil.’ ‘States like these, and their terrorist allies,’ he said ‘constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger.’ Just over a year later, in March 2003, the war in Iraq began.
On the 24th of September, 2007, one of Bush’s Axes of Evil, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, of Iran, arrived at Columbia University in New York to speak to the students and faculty. His visit provoked a full day of intense protest from massed crowds who believed that giving a platform to the man who denied the Holocaust and said ‘Israel should be wiped off the map’ was to provide him with credibility. It should be pointed out here that these views, falsely attributed to Ahmadinejad by the media, result more from alarmist editing and misquotation than a genuine attempt to engage with his statements. Ahmadinejad’s repeated line on the Holocaust is that it should not be regarded as immune to examination and re-interpretation, which is an eminently reasonable standpoint. He has never actually denied it. The Arab news network, Al Jazeera, quoted the Iranian President as saying:
‘they (the governments of the west) have fabricated a legend under the name of the Massacre of the Jews, and they hold it higher than God himself, religion itself and the prophets themselves…If somebody in their country questions God, nobody says anything, but if somebody denies the myth of the massacre of Jews, the Zionist loudspeakers and the governments in the pay of Zionism will start to scream.’The idea of the Holocaust being a ‘myth’ or a ‘legend’ is one that he has often expressed, but this does not necessarily mean he believes the whole narrative is pure invention. After all, most ‘myths’ or ‘legends’ contain a core of fact.
In a 2006 interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel, he further defined his position:
‘If the Holocaust took place in Europe, one also has to find the answer to it in Europe. On the other hand, if the Holocaust didn’t take place, why then did this regime of occupation (Israel)... come about? Why do the European countries commit themselves to defending this regime? Permit me to make one more point. We are of the opinion that if a historical occurrence conforms to the truth, this truth will be revealed all the more clearly if there is more research into it and more discussion about it….We don’t want to confirm or deny the Holocaust. We oppose every type of crime against any people. But we want to know whether this crime actually took place or not. If it did, then those who bear the responsibility for it have to be punished, and not the Palestinians. Why isn’t research into a deed that occurred 60 years ago permitted? After all, other historical occurrences, some of which lie several thousand years in the past, are open to research…’It is clear that Ahmadinejad is not making statements of Holocaust denial, but rather is expressing doubts and asking questions of the obelisk which has been constructed around it, in particular its effect on the people of Palestine. This leads on to his line on Israel, which has been similarly misrepresented. According to Juan Cole, the Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History at the University of Michigan, Ahmadinejad really said, in Farsi, that ‘the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time,’ still an anti-Israel statement, which should surprise no-one, but hardly as exciting as ‘wiping Israel off the map’ with its obvious whiff of (nuclear?) obliteration. It clearly has occurred to few commentators that if Iran launched a nuclear attack on Israel, they would also be killing the Palestinian people there, whom they are seeking to defend. There is therefore no logical basis for this belief, at all. Yet this faulty translation has been repeated ad nauseam around the world and used by American neo-Conservatives to justify the escalation of hostile rhetoric towards Iran. When it is borne in mind that Iran has huge oil reserves, confirmed at 135 billion barrels and one of the world’s largest supplies of natural gas, this antagonistic process takes on an eerily familiar air.
Based on this misrepresentation of his public statements, the crowd at Columbia shouted slogans and waved placards. One student handed out flyers of the Saudi Arabian terrorist leader, Osama Bin Laden, with the caption ‘Too bad Bin Laden is not available.’ In response to these protests, the Columbia University President, Lee C. Bollinger decided to play to the gallery by taking to the lectern just before Ahmadinejad and saying, ‘Mr President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator,’ adding, to cheers from the audience, ‘You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated.’
Ahmadinejad responded with considerable dignity, saying, ‘In Iran, tradition requires when you invite a person to be a speaker, we actually respect our students enough to allow them to make their own judgment, and don’t think it’s necessary before the speech is even given, to come in with a series of complaints to provide vaccination to the students and faculty…Nonetheless, I shall not begin by being affected by this unfriendly treatment.’
This episode has not been reported here as an attempt to offer support to Ahmadinejad or the Iranian regime but to demonstrate how the Nuremberg-created culture of political correctness and our childish reactions to what we regard as political evil are stifling the breadth of discourse in western society. Another recent example of this took place at Oxford University on November 27th 2007, when the historian, David Irving and the leader of the British National Party, Nick Griffin, were scheduled to appear in debate at the Union Building. The level of protest at their appearance was such that the debate could not proceed as planned and the two speakers had to be diverted into separate rooms to conduct isolated ‘mini debates’.
In an article in which Irving was nonsensically described as ‘a historian who denied the Holocaust ever happened’ , the BBC confirmed that hundreds of protestors blocked the entrance to the Union building and at one point fifty gained entry and prevented whatever debate was taking place from continuing. Comments from some of the protestors indicated the reasons for their anger. They chanted ‘Go home Nazi scum!’ and ‘BNP – off our streets!’ ‘This has nothing to do with free speech,’ said one, bizarrely, ‘it’s about giving credibility to fascists, making them appear to be part of the mainstream.’ For such illogic to work, we would need to infer that those responsible for organizing the chamber debates at the Oxford Union have some kind of pro-fascist agenda.
When reading about these occurrences, one has to force oneself to remember that this is not starving mobs, rallying against oppressors in some desperate third world dictatorship we are talking about, but crowds, mostly comprised of young academics, at two of the foremost seats of learning in the world. Yet these individuals, rather than investigating the people they are attacking, rather than engaging them in discussion and countering their arguments with their own views, would prefer to simply see them silenced. The irony, lost on most of them, is that they feel able to do this in one breath and decry ‘fascism’ in the next. What is silencing of political opponents and stifling of controversial views if not fascistic?
What is even more worrying is that these people, comprising what could be described as our future intellectual elite, are happy to shout and scream and denounce from a position of ignorance. They have simply bought into the image of the evil enemy painted for them by the media.
Such knee-jerk condemnation is also evidenced by the attitude of colleagues and students to Arthur Butz, one of the world’s most notorious ‘Holocaust deniers,’ and author of The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry (1974). Butz also happens to be a tenured Professor of Electrical Engineering at Northwestern University in Illinois. As a result of his published work, which obviously has nothing to do with his teaching position, he has been subjected to a sustained campaign to have him sacked. According to a letter printed in the Chicago Tribune, on February 17th 2006, Sixty-one of Butz’s colleagues in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science published a petition in which they called for Butz to ‘leave our Department and our University and stop trading on our reputation for academic excellence.’ None of them however, were prepared to offer any details regarding Butz’ book and where, precisely they felt he was in error or guilty of falsification. Students at the University followed suit by starting the ‘Never Again’ campaign, which, on the 30th November 2007, had 10,032 signatures. The campaign described Butz as ‘offensive and historically inaccurate’ and stated, ‘The goal of students, faculty, alumni, and others offended by Arthur Butz’s denial of the Holocaust should not be to prove him wrong. Debating Mr Butz in any type of forum would dignify his claims. Lending credibility and dignity to Arthur Butz by engaging him in debate would be equally offensive as his views are to begin with.’
Obviously, in the minds of his attackers, something about Butz’ work makes him worthy of this sort of vilification. But by the kind of specious reasoning outlined above, whereby Butz is claimed to be ‘historically inaccurate’, yet no specifics are ever mentioned, the campaigners avoid ever having to address any particular claim in the book, in any way. One wonders how many of them have even read it.
The bottom line, as it applies to all three situations described above, regardless of where anybody may stand on the memory/denial continuum, is that University is simply not meant to work on that level. It is supposed to be about investigation, honest analysis, intellectual freedom and open debate. That’s how we learn.
But political correctness has put an end to that.
Probably the most striking evidence of the hypocritical culture that Nuremberg created is contained within the treatment of those still pursued for their guilt on its charges. The chain of trials triggered by the IMT has continued into the very recent past, with possibilities of more in the near future. Operation Last Chance, a joint project of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Targum Shlishi Foundation, was launched in July 2002 as ‘a campaign to bring remaining Nazi war criminals to justice by offering financial rewards for information leading to their arrest and conviction.’ They give an example of the kind of individual they are targeting, by writing, on their home page, in November 2007, ‘If he is still alive, former SS medical officer Aribert Heim is 93 years old, but his age will not protect the alleged Nazi war criminal from justice...’
It goes on to relate that a bounty of nearly half a million dollars has been placed on Heim, a Mauthausen doctor who was first indicted in 1962 and fled Germany for South America. There are, obviously, question marks over the legitimacy of trying a 93 year old for alleged crimes committed more than sixty years ago. However, under international law, there is no statute of limitations allowed by any state on Crimes against Humanity. Strictly speaking then, although perhaps many might doubt the value of rounding up nonagenarians, it would seem it does have a legal basis and therefore cannot be questioned. The state of Israel has been something of a prime mover on the matter, as one might expect, as shown by the farcical goings on surrounding John Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian/American auto-worker from Cleveland, who was accused of being the sadistic Treblinka guard ‘Ivan the Terrible’.
When evidence came their way regarding Demjanjuk’s wartime activities, the Israeli government argued forcibly for deportation and Demjanjuk was extradited and tried in Israel, in 1993, where he was positively identified by five former Treblinka inmates, who swore they had seen him in the vicinity of the camp’s gas chamber. He was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. After spending five years on Israel’s death row, he was eventually exonerated when it emerged that the American Justice department had ‘fraudulently withheld evidence…to curry favour with Jewish organizations.’ The judges concluded that the Office for Special Investigation (a section of the Justice department especially set up to investigate Nazi war criminals) and the prosecutors had ‘acted with reckless disregard for the truth.’ A Treblinka Nazi identity card, supposedly his, was, quite simply, a forgery. Demjanjuk had never even been to Treblinka. What this says about the quality of eyewitness testimony speaks for itself.
His ordeal looks set to repeat itself however, as continued pressure has seen him indicted again, in 2007, this time not for being ‘Ivan the Terrible’ but for being a regular guard at several other Nazi camps. (He was actually captured while fighting for the Red Army and conscripted by the Nazis as a camp guard. Perhaps he is doubly evil therefore, having managed to be both a Commie and a Nazi.) At the time this book was being written, Demjanjuk, now 87 and having already served five years in Israel on false charges, was appealing extradition for another trial in the Ukraine.
To gain a full picture of the legal climate created by Nuremberg, however, we probably ought to compare Demjanjuk’s case to one that is similar, to see if any conclusions can be drawn.
Salomon Morel was a Polish Jew who emigrated to Israel. During the expulsions that occurred post-war, when twelve million Germans were forced from their homes, via camps, to the newly diminished German state, Morel was the commandant of the Zgoda concentration camp in Świętochłowice, Poland. While in charge there it is alleged that Morel maintained an utterly brutal regime, in which food and medical supplies were provided to him, but purposely withheld from the inmates and conditions were contrived to be as unsanitary as possible. It is also alleged that he personally tortured and murdered prisoners. Estimates vary, but usually range from between one and a half to two thousand people killed by Morel during his time in charge. Several thousand more suffered horribly under his regime. The inmates were predominately civilians, including women and children. Like Heim, Morel fled when it became clear that Polish authorities intended to prosecute him, (to Israel in 1992) but at this point, his and the other stories mentioned above diverge.
Astonishingly, Israel refused to extradite Morel, despite repeated requests from Poland, the last of which was made in 2005. In a bizarre piece of justification, their first refusals were based on a claim that the statute of limitations on War Crimes had run out. Poland then tried again, having redefined Morel’s charge as Crimes against Humanity. With complete disregard for international law and the precedent set on many occasions by themselves, Israel refused again, suggesting even that Morel’s prosecution was part of an anti-Semitic conspiracy. The Polish Institute for National Remembrance then issued a terse statement in which they reminded the Israeli government of the pressure they and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre had applied to foreign governments to extradite aged Nazis and promised to revisit the matter. The whole affair recently drew to a close with Morel dying quietly in his bed in Israel, safely cocooned from legal harassment. This can be contrasted with recent developments in the Demjanjuk case, in which the decrepit Ukrainian lost his appeal against extradition to Germany in April 2009, amidst a barrage of negative publicity, meaning that he will shortly be flown to Europe to stand trial once again.
The double standard here is clear to any but the most blinkered of observers and is illustrative of Nuremberg’s influence on the post war world. The gilded, pseudo-moralistic rhetoric employed by the prosecution, referring time and time again to the defendants’ wickedness and depravity in order to justify the actions of their own states, has spawned a culture in which America and its close allies call the shots and are the ethical arbiters.
Good guys and bad guys. White hats and black. And those who have cast themselves as the heroes (or victims) believe they can do no wrong, provided they do so under the guise of ‘fighting evil’
- G. Gilbert, p.278
- Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, Martin Bormann and Robert Ley did not appear because of ill health, disappearance (or death) and suicide, respectively.
- Bormann was also sentenced to death in absentia.
- United Nations Charter
- The Political Economist, Guido Giacomo Preperata described a possible union between Russia and Germany, either by alliance or conquest as the ‘Eurasian Embrace’. From the 19th century it had been a priority of Anglo-America to prevent this from happening as such as an alliance would have carte blanche to rule the world. Preperata, Guido Giacomo Conjuring Hitler, How Britain and America Made the Third Reich (Pluto Press 2005) p.8-15
- This is the title of a movie made in 1949.
- Finkelstein, Norman, Beyond Chutzpah, On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, (Verso, 2005), p.24
- It is worth remembering that oil rich Saudi Arabia is an American ally.
- Halinan, Colin, The Casualties of Iraq, Foreign Policy in Focus, October 17th 2007
- Medact, Collateral Damage
- Pilger, John, Iraq, paying the Price
- Selected details of US military action since 1945 taken from Blum, William, Killing Hope, Military and CIA interventions since World War Two (Zed books, 2003) and Allman, TD, Rogue State, America at war with the World, (Nation books, 2004)
- British White Paper of June 1922 on Palestine
- Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, p.3
- Benjamin Ginsberg, The Fatal Embrace (University of Chicago Press 1993) p.1
- US Census Bureau News, August 26th 2004
- US Department of Justice Prison Statistics, December 31st 2006
- The importance of the word ‘Axis’ here should not be downplayed. Remember that the ‘Axis’ powers of World War Two were Japan, Italy and of course, Nazi Germany.
- Ahmadinejad: Holocaust a Myth, Al Jazeera, English section, Dec. 15th 2005,
- Spiegel Interview with President Ahmadinejad, Der Spiegel, May 30th 2006
- Cole, Juan (May 03, 2006). Hitchens the Hacker; And, Hitchens the Orientalist And, ‘We don’t Want Your Stinking War!.
- Ancient Soul of Iran, the Glories of Persia inspire the modern nation, Marguerite del Giudice (National Geographic, August 2008), p.64
- Ahmadinejad at Columbia Parries and Puzzles, Helene Cooper, New York Times, 25th September 2007
- The statement is either ignorantly or deliberately misleading. Irving denied the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz, nothing else. He even accepts the existence of other gas chambers at Treblinka, Sobibor and Majdanek. He is therefore, in no way, a ‘denier’. Such repeated inaccuracy of reporting is symptomatic of the sheer tonnage of misinformation that surrounds this subject.
- ‘Angry Scenes Greet Oxford Debate’ BBC News, 27th November 2007
- Baasiouni, Cherif ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ in ‘Crimes of War’ edited by Roy Gutman, David Rieff and Antony Dworkin, (W.W Norton, 1999)
- Judges Assail US handling of Demjanjuk, Stephen Labaton, New York Times, 18th November 1993
- War Crime Suspect Stays in Israel, BBC News, 7th July 2005
- Demjanjuk Loses Appeal to Prevent Deportation to Germany Haaretz 28th April 2009
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