Archive for November, 2007
By Edward Flattau
EDITORS NOTE: This May 25th column is being repeated in light of the controversy over Nazi analogies being evoked in recent political discourse. There is a valid comparison to be drawn between some of the techniques used by the Bush Administration and the Third Reich. That doesn’t make President Bush the second coming of Adolph Hitler. But the White House’s screening and stacking audiences to kowtow to the president, suppressing the release of unfavorable data, restricting public participation in governmental decision-making, invoking nationalism to distract the electorate from unpopular moves, and squelching any internal bureaucratic dissent are right out of Josef Goebbels’ playbook. There is nothing unpatriotic about pointing out the similarities. On the contrary.
ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: Upon Receipt 6/27/05
Outrage erupted over recent Senate partisan attacks in which each political party suggested the other was using tactics employed by Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich. Those senators who used such language insisted they were not labeling each other’s party Nazis, but were just trying to dramatize what they considered less than optimum behavior. Nonetheless, there are some similarities between the techniques used by the Bush Administration and the Nazi Third Reich, illustrations of which can be found in the environmental arena, among others.
It should be emphasized once again that no one is accusing President Bush of being the second coming of Hitler. Yet few would dispute a principal goal of both leaders being a concentration of political power in the executive branch. The idea behind such a consolidation is to neutralize political opposition indefinitely—both in and out of government. The difference is that Hitler’s ultimate aim was world conquest. Bush and other leaders of the conservative wing of his party simply want their philosophy to dominate our country’s political life for the foreseeable future.
That having been said, let’s examine some similarities in methodology.
- Use of an external military threat to justify concentration of power in the head of state despite a supposedly democratic infrastructure in which authority is meant to be shared equally with a legislative body and the judiciary. Hitler invoked war with neighboring countries as an excuse for seizing absolute power. In the frenetic aftermath of 9/11, President Bush has cited the need for tighter national security as reason to create a shroud of secrecy around his administration’s activities, many of which are totally unrelated to the war on terror. Under this guise of national security, the Bush White House has removed more than 6,000 public documents from the web sites of a dozen government agencies. Many of these documents would expose highly questionable operations of corporate polluters, who also happen to be big-time donors to President Bush and the GOP. Not content to stop there in stifling opposition, the president has issued executive orders that broaden the authority of federal agencies to withhold information from a distracted public. Previously unclassified documents have been designated classified to prevent public scrutiny and possible interference with presidential policy, environmental and otherwise. Not knowing in advance where governmental leaders are heading gives those leaders leverage to act unilaterally and pull off a fait accompli.
- No toleration of dissenting views within the executive branch. In Hitler’s case, disagreeing with the Fuhrer could easily lead to execution or a one-way ticket to a concentration camp. Failure to stay on message in the Bush Administration has merely resulted in losing one’s job, possibly accompanied by some mudslinging to discredit the cashiered individual’s reputation if the dismissal attracted enough media attention.
- Screen and cherry pick audiences at presidential rallies. That was a favorite technique of the Nazi party in Hitler’s ascent to power. The Bush entourage filters out any possible dissenters at presidential public appearances, not just in relation to social security reform but to environmental concerns or any other issues on the agenda.
- Stacking the courts and legislative branch with “yes men” who in effect will give the chief executive total control of government policy. As an absolute dictator, this was an easy thing for Hitler to do. Bush has to work through a democratic infrastructure and therefore be more patient. But he is doing everything he can to transform our democracy into a de facto one party system under oligarchic rule.
- Giving the military and other “national security” government agencies preferred legal status. Hitler’s personal military guard—the SS—were above the law. President Bush is more temperate. He has urged that domestic military bases be exempted from any environmental regulations that might hamper training (though such drastic obstruction of military exercises has never been demonstrated). He has also issued a directive that federal agencies such as the Coast Guard and Border Patrol be given “categorical exemptions” from federal environmental regulations when national security is at stake.
It’s a vaguely worded decree that invites circumvention of the law out of expediency rather than necessity.
@Copyright 2005, Edward Flattau