The U.S. Senate's senior Constitutional scholar has correctly equated Bush with Hitler, and the usual attack dogs are howling. But they are wrong, and Americans must now face the harsh realities of an increasingly fascist and totalitarian GOP.
Octogenarian Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia made the equation in the context of Bush's attack on Senate procedures which might slow or halt his on-going attempt to pack the courts with extreme right-wing fanatics. Byrd said Bush's moves to destroy time-honored Senate rules parallel Hitler's ramming fascist legislation through his gutted Reichstag. "Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality," said Byrd. "He recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal."
Anti-Defamation League Director Abraham Foxman has played the holocaust card for the Republicans, saying "It is hideous, outrageous and offensive for Senator Byrd to suggest that the Republican Party's tactics could in any way resemble those of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party.
GOP Chair Ken Mehlman has labeled Byrd's remarked "reprehensible and beyond the pale," remarks joined by Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Santorum is best known for equating sexuality between consenting gays with bestiality between humans and dogs.
But Byrd is one of the few in either house of Congress to truly understand the Constitution and to advocate for the Bill of Rights. He points out that like Hitler, Bush is pursuing a strategy designed to win absolute rule by one party and one leader. Hitler's central slogan "Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuhrer" -- one people, one government, one dictator -- accurately describes the current GOP strategy of Karl Rove, Bush's Joseph Goebbels.
Now the Republicans have renominated extreme right-wing judges to high courts from which they were barred prior to the 2004 election. With enhanced majorities in Congress, the GOP is moving to gut rules put in place to protect the rights of minorities within the government. For the GOP, as for Hitler, such safeguards are annoying barriers to absolute power.
These judges are consistent in their eagerness to protect the power and privilege of private corporations at the public expense, while simultaneous promoting the invasion of individual rights by the government. Masquerading as "free market/small government" advocates, GOP conservatives -- like Hitler's Nazis -- promote an all-powerful central government run by and for the corporations that sponsor them while crushing individual rights and liberties.
While Bush advocates for "democracy" overseas, the GOP is crushing it at home. These judicial nominees mean to further solidify Republican control of the court system, which they have added to their grip on the Executive, both houses of Congress and the media. The GOP is also gutting safeguards within the FBI and CIA, turning them into a personal police force that could parallel Hitler's Gestapo.
Because the regime wraps itself in the rhetoric of our democratic roots, it's emotionally difficult for Americans to equate Bush with Hitler. He is not, after all, running death camps like the ones Hitler used to exterminate millions of Jews, Gypsies, gays, unionists, Jehovah Witnesses, the elderly and infirm, birth defected and handicapped. But the distinction may be lost on the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have died in the wholesale slaughter there, and whose land has been carpeted with radioactive depleted uranium which will kill for centuries.
Bush is now operating a classic concentration camp in Guantanamo. This infamous holding center operates entirely outside the rule of law, with prisoners held without charge, without evidence, without access to attorneys, family or the outside world.
At Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere -- including the US "civilian" prison system -- the door has been opened onto the Nazi world of officially sanctioned torture and systematic human degradation. The new Attorney General of the United States has explicitly endorsed their use. Despite some phony genuflections to the contrary, Bush has renounced the Geneva Accords and has clearly stamped this most notorious Nazi trademark on a party also in love with the death penalty.
Bush now holds some 2.2 million prisoners in the US gulag, the world's biggest prison population since the Nazis both by absolute number and by percentage of population. At least 800,000 Americans are held for victimless "drug" crimes, including marijuana. Thousands die each year from torture, rape, suicide and treatable disease. The system is designed to remove from the political process and, in many cases, exterminate people of color, alternative life style and political dissidence.
Is this worthy of the Nazi label?
Fascism has long been clearly and simply defined as corporate control of the state, with strong totalitarian, militaristic, anti-feminist and anti-gay characteristics.
Both Mussolini's Fascist's and Hitler's Nazis used acts of terror and alleged terror to grab absolute power. Ranting at Bolshevism as the GOP now does against Islam, the Nazis used the burning of the Reichstag much as the GOP has capitalized on the terror attacks of September 11.
George W. Bush does not spellbind huge Goebbels-massed rallies as Hitler did. But he does not tolerate groups that might ask embarrassing questions, and has packed the nation's bloviator corps with servile panderers. Rove uses the mass media to manipulate and deceive in ways suited to the trappings of American culture as surely as Goebbels shaped Hitler's speeches to the German volksgeist.
Bush has courted both people of color and Jews. But his far right fundamentalist backers see all non-believers as children of Satan who must ultimately perish in a "cleansing" Armageddon that will allow only the chosen few into Heaven. Amidst the psychotic twists of the Book of Revelations, these are people who love Israel but hate Jews and all the other "un-saved." At its core, there is little to distinguish today's far-right Christian fundamentalism from Hitler's Aryan master racism.
The Bush/Rove view of science parallels that of Stalin. The Soviets slaughtered researchers whose data failed to confirm their theories. Today's GOP demands scientists fit their findings to the Bush/Rove gospel. The Bush EPA, Fish & Wildlife Service and other agencies routinely assault those who challenge corporate destruction of the earth. Despite the long-standing consensus on global warming, Bush's faith-based corporate-sponsored climatology insists CO2 emissions are no problem, the scientific equivalent of claiming the Nazi Holocaust never happened.
Like Hitler, Bush believes he talks to and for God. He has said at least twice in public that he does not oppose dictatorship as long as he can be the dictator. His family has long, well-documented financial and political ties to the Nazi regime, as well as to Osama bin Laden and a long list of oil-rich Islamic fundamentalists.
Senator Byrd's invocation of the Nazis to describe the Bush regime may be considered impolitic. But it's folly to avoid the important parallels.
By all accounts American democracy is hanging by a thin thread which Bush/Rove is laboring mightily to cut.
Sen. Robert Byrd is a conservative, uniquely learned man. When he equates Bush with Hitler, he speaks with great sadness and scholarship -- and must be heeded.
As those "W" bumper stickers morph into swastikas in the killing fields of Guantanamo and Iraq, we must, at Sen. Byrd's urging, revive recent history's most vital vow: "Never Again."
Many of Harvey Wasserman's relatives perished in the Nazi holocaust. His HISTORY OF THE US is at www.harveywasserman.com.
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