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Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Political humor of the day (and some serious followup)

"There's a Holocaust denial conference going on in Iran right now. It's based on that book by Hitler, 'If I Did It'"

- Jay Leno
There are myths associated with the Holocaust, for example, the widely held perception that it was only Jews who were killed. This respectable site, for example, notes correctly:
The Holocaust is generally regarded as the systematic slaughter of not only 6 million Jews, (two-thirds of the total European Jewish population), the primary victims, but also 5 million others, approximately 11 million individuals wiped off the Earth by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. Groups such as handicaps, Gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholics, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, political dissidents and others were persecuted by the Nazis because of their religious/political beliefs, physical defects, or failure to fall into the "Aryan" ideal.
The only error in that paragraph is the phrase "generally regarded," as you can see from another perfectly respectable, mainstream site, whose headline reads "The Nazi Holocaust, 1938-1945: 6,000,000 deaths," and which mentions only the death of Jews. Which, in my experience, is the far more "generally regarded" definition, and even more so in popular perception than in print.

Nor is the number "6 million" an absolutely known number any more than the number of deaths in Iraq or Darfur or many other places; it's actually the high end of various estimates. But that brings us back to the conference in Iran. Rejecting the idea that 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis, mostly in gas chambers, is akin to the American establishment (both Administration and media) rejecting the idea that 655,000 Iraqis (or "more than 480,000" as I prefer) have been killed because of the invasion of Iraq. Is there some kind of moral (or legal) difference if only 5 million Jews were killed, or even (to pick an absurd number) only 1 million, any more than if there have been only 200,000 Iraqis killed, or even 50,000? Some of the people at the Iran conference want to claim there were no gas chambers, and that the Jews died of typhoid. Let's accept this absurd idea for a moment (not completely absurd of course; many Jews did die of disease). So what? What were they doing in concentration camps in the first place? Were they all on the worst vacation ever? Again, very much akin to the question of who has killed the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Was it American forces? Shia death squads? Sunni insurgents? al Qaeda "suiciders"? What's the difference? Every one of them would be alive were it not for the American invasion.

For another analogy, one of the people at the conference wants to argue that the railroad tracks into Auschwitz couldn't possibly have carried as many people there as is claimed, in much the same way that people want to make the equally absurd (IMHO) claim that the Twin Towers couldn't possibly have been brought down by two airliners crashing into them. In both cases, I say, if your calculation says the result isn't possible, then you'd darn well better rethink your calculation! Because postulating even more improbable explanations for the end result does not get you anywhere. Indeed, while I'm sure some of my readers are going to find this analogy insulting, much of the "discussion" over the Holocaust reminds me very much of the "discussion" over 9/11 (that's the American 9/11, not the Chilean 9/11) - people starting with an "answer" which fits an agenda or a preconceived notion and working backwards to try to explain (or explain away) the facts.

Which is not to say that facts aren't routinely manipulated by the "powers that be" to fit their agenda, whether it's the alleged existence of WMD in Iraq or WMD programs in Iran, the number of deaths in Iraq or Darfur, the number of people buried in mass graves in Iraq, the number of Kurds killed during the Anfal campaign, the number of acres of palm groves and orchards razed in Dujail, the number of people at a demonstration in the United States, or countless other examples. Numbers can be off by one or even two orders of magnitude! "Facts" in the real world aren't as simple as facts in the laboratory! "Facts" are routinely manipulated for political purposes. But that doesn't allow us to simply dismiss every such fact as "unknowable" or wrong. And the fact that some facts, like the murder of six million Jews by Hitler, are used for political purposes (i.e., advancing the Zionist agenda in founding the state of Israel) doesn't automatically mean that the facts themselves were manipulated. It would be naive to think that the facts couldn't have been manipulated. It's just that, in this case, the data overwhelmingly demonstrates that they weren't. Just like the data for the number of people killed in Iraq. The data that the corporate media refuse to accept.

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