Enough with the Hitler Analogies





Mr. Engel is a writer for the Guardian.

Round here, we are not very keen on the notion of banning words of any kind. The time has come to make an exception. The following words should be banned henceforth from political discourse: "Hitler" and "Nazi."

This would not apply to discussion of German history in the years up to 1945. That is not the problem. The problem is the incessant appearance of the words as a resort to winning arguments about modern politics. Their use (along with that of "fascist") has always been a ploy of the intellectually dishonest. At rock-bottom they are tools for inductive reasoning: "I like dogs." "Hitler liked dogs. You're a Nazi, then!" Since the Iraq dispute began, mild overuse has turned to plague, and both sides have been as bad as each other.

Let's be clear about this. Saddam Hussein is not Hitler, as hysterical Americans keep claiming. The charges of external violence are 12 years old. There is no coherent evidence that he had any plans (at least before the US began goading him) for more adventures, merely that he is obsessed with stockpiling weaponry, a charge that applies equally to the Pentagon. Far from seeking global or regional domination, he only dominates portions of Iraq.

George Bush is not Hitler. The former German justice minister's comparison was absurd; John Pilger's rants are increasingly ludicrous. Tony Blair is not Hitler either. Those who should note this are not so much anti-war campaigners as countryside marchers. "Hitler 1936. Blair 2002," said one banner. If there were a shred of sense in this analogy, hunting would have been banned five years ago, whereas in fact Blair has "crawfished" about like anything trying to avoid it.

Israel, a democratic state, is not "the mirror image of Nazism," as claimed by Michael Sinnott, professor of "paper science" (paper-thin arguments, more like), at Umist. Those who criticise Israel for its expansionism, oppression and sheer thick-headedness are not Nazis either, nor necessarily anti-semites. An American attack on Iraq would not be the equivalent of Pearl Harbor, as claimed by a Canadian MP, Bonnie Brown. After all, this is going to be the most heavily trailed sneak attack in history.

On the other hand, Colin Powell is not Neville Chamberlain, as claimed by the rightwing American pundit Frank Gaffney. Nor is Kofi Annan. Those who believe an attack on Iraq to be counter-productive in terms of American interests are not appeasers. Tony Blair should not compare, as he did in Blackpool, his mysterious liaison with George Bush with the second world war alliance. And most emphatically, Bush is not Churchill, as he impertinently imagines.

I had thought that the second world war addiction was a peculiarly British phenomenon, a drug we reached for because we have achieved damn all as a nation ever since. If anything, it seems worse in the US, a country where an education in world history consists of little more than learning the lines:

In fourteen hundred and ninety-two

Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Yet week after week I am overwhelmed with emails from Americans crowing about how they saved our pansy asses 60 years ago.

What one gathers from history is that politicians who try to cut-and-paste past events into their understanding of current situations are prone to lead their countries to disaster. The real appeasers were guided by their - often first-hand - experiences of the trenches and an over-anxiety to avoid the catastrophe of 1914. A generation later, Anthony Eden convinced himself, Bush-style, that Nasser was Hitler, and conducted the Suez campaign on that basis. The Vietnam war was largely caused by the Americans' conviction that Ho Chi Minh was Stalin or Mao, whereas it is far from clear that Ho was anything other than an opportunistic nationalist until US enmity left communism as his only resort.

Of course, politicians should understand history. Unfortunately, it is not something that either Bush or Blair bothered about much when they had more time. All they now have to guide them are fuzzy ideas about Hitler and Churchill they might have picked up from bubblegum cards.

If the president must drag Hitler into it, he might consider the thoughts of Christopher Layne, of the Cato Institute, as expressed in a recent edition of the Sunday's Los Angeles Times: "The rise of a would-be hegemon always has triggered the formation of counter-hegemonic alliances by other states . . . The big question is whether the same fate will befall a hegemonic America, or whether the United States somehow is exempt from the lessons of history." Any comments, Mr President?


This article was oriiginally published in the Guardian. It is reprinted with permission of the author.


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More Comments:


Ricardo Dirani - 5/10/2004

Very accurate, whenever these liberals and leftists align themselves with the subordination of the individual to the group, which is the hallmark of fascism, from fasces, group.
Nazi reads national socialism for a reason.


Ricardo Dirani - 5/10/2004

The snide quality of the author lies in the lack of foundation for the bitterness he delivers through the article. The bitterness of the commentator was fully justified in that, and can't therefore, be qualified snide and therefore, hypocritical.


Eric Hinojosa - 3/25/2003

i disagree that we should not let go of Hitler analogies, because he is a man that should be seen as just an inhuman person but should be respected in a sense for how he went about his business and rose to the top.

`Nazi solute


dan - 2/25/2003

True, but people are using Fascist against liberals and leftists, so how accurate can their arguments be?


dan - 2/25/2003

OK, ban Hitler and Nazi.

Then ban socialist, communist, and a whole host of other terms whose meaning of which the users are always ignorant!

Good grammar stinks.


Chuck Heisler - 11/25/2002

Thanks to Engle for this opinion. Those of us that had to suffer the analogy for years with the full knowledge that the monstrosities that were Hitler and the Nazi Regime exceed in cruelty almost any historical villians have long since given up on the willingness of the ignorant to make the comparison. Now, I simply say that the "first one that uses either 'Hitler' or 'Nazi' in an argument, automatically loses their claim.
I have long since had a gut full of disputants that use these references to describe current despots and (amazingly) democrats--nothing is more historically incorrect and inappropriate.
Let us hope that this world never has an evil twin to Hitler and his cronies.


Dan Modes - 11/21/2002

Excellent article. We should appreciate (or depreciate)
people for what they are. However, though Hitler analogies
are dangerous at best, it must be said that some people openly
admire Adolf and do try to pattern themselves on him. As I
understand (correct me if it's wrong), one of the bestselling
books under the PA in the West Bank has been a translation of
Mein Kampf, complete with an introduction stressing the relevance
of Hitler's political philosophy for our time.


Michael Wade - 11/5/2002

Mr. bush's comment would likely something involving the pretense that he knew what "hegemon" meant; his ignorance is far-reaching and an excellent example of the limitations of even an Ivy League background. Equally at sea with regard to such analogies is Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld--poor man, it increasingly seems that the high water mark of his public service was his role in the Nixon "Saturday Night Massacre." A similar action might be most welcome today.


Steve Vinson - 10/31/2002

I *DO* think it's entirely fair to point out that Hitler was a vegetarian, and that the Nazis were opposed to smoking. And that Hitler was the first politician to use television. All of these causes and practices should be forever tainted ...


Gus Moner - 10/28/2002

Far more pathetic than Mr. Engel’s piece is Mr Heuisler’s character assassination. Can’t he just use facts and reason?

Mr. Minh’s communism aside and I believe he does have that one mostly right, the opportunistic nationalist who turned communist was the other way around. The opportunistic communist turned nationalist. Yet, aside from that it’s clear the rest of the article is rather well thought out.

Speaking of passing over, the US was also supplying its puppets in the south of Vietnam with aid, violating agreements. Did he pass that over on purpose? The US has done that far more often that in Vietnam.

The remaining comments by Mr. Engel are accurate, in spite of your efforts to discredit them with mere insults such as “Engel's snide Israeli comments”. Mr. Engel wrote “Those who criticise Israel for its expansionism, oppression and sheer thick-headedness are not Nazis either, nor necessarily anti-Semites.” That seems to me a rather accurate picture of Israeli behaviour. Not snide.

Your comment begs the question; why must we obligatorily stop and comment Iraqi UN cease-fire violations without Israel’s UN resolution violations? That seems nascent and burlesque.


Gus Moner - 10/28/2002

Far more pathetic than Mr. Engel’s piece is Mr Heuisler’s character assassination. Can’t he just use facts and reason?

Mr. Minh’s communism aside and I believe he does have that one mostly right, the opportunistic nationalist who turned communist was the other way around. The opportunistic communist turned nationalist. Yet, it’s clear the rest of the article is rather well thought out.

Speaking of passing over, the US was also supplying its puppets in the south of Vietnam with aid, violating agreements. The US has done that far more often that in Vietnam. What is wrong with an aid agreement from Mao’s China? I cannot see the point. Nasser had them from the Eastern block and he was a Muslim nationalist. The US and other nations have done those often.

The remaining comments are accurate, in spite of your efforts to discredit them with mere insults such as “Engel's snide Israeli comments”. Mr. Engel wrote “Those who criticise Israel for its expansionism, oppression and sheer thick-headedness are not Nazis either, nor necessarily anti-Semites.” That seems to me a rather accurate picture of Israeli behaviour.

Your comment begs the question; why must we obligatorily stop and comment Iraqi UN cease-fire violations without Israel’s UN resolution violations? That seems nascent and burlesque.


Jym Dyer - 10/27/2002

=v= I don't see people winning political arguments by invoking the word "fascist," so I don't quite see how it serves as a "ploy of the intellectually dishonest." There is fascism and proto-fascism afoot in the world today, and I would argue that the real intellectual dishonesty lies in the preemptive dismissal of anyone who points this out.


Thomas Gunn - 10/24/2002


Kevin,

I don't think you can say "pansy-ass" on HNN.


thomas


Benjamin Raty - 10/24/2002

I agree - it was balanced, informative, and entertaining. Granted, I don't necessarily agree with everything written as I have not yet been able to double-check all of the author's claims, but the attempt at toning down the angry rhetoric was certainly refreshing.

Benjamin Raty


Benjamin Raty - 10/24/2002

As you know, the hypocrisy I was referring to was the labeling of the author's comments snide when your own comments seemed to give the same impression. It was enlightening to read the historical arguments you proposed, but the bitter edge to your article detracted from that.

Benjamin Raty


Kevin Carley - 10/24/2002

Informative, well-written, expertly expressed, and whitty. It is not often I find a report that represents my thoughts and feelings outside of my own essays.

Well done! (for a pansy-ass),

Kevin


Bill Heuisler - 10/24/2002

Mr. Raty,
Thank you for your kind comments. My innate snobbery surfaces when it encounters pretension, but there is nothing hypocritical about calling bad history and a patronizing Brit ignorant.
Best wishes, Bill Heuisler


Benjamin Raty - 10/24/2002

Sir,

Few of the criticisms you offer rise above the level of snide and snobbery you accuse Mr. Engel of. You do well when you offer factual evidence to refute his arguments, but your ad hominem attacks appear hypocritical and only weaken your position.

Benjamin Raty


Spencer Nixon - 10/24/2002

there was never an analogy made by the member of the german cabinet. she was merely stating fact...it's evident by the reaction that few have a solid comprehending of history...otherwise, they would've been able to discern facts from myth.


Thomas Gunn - 10/23/2002


"Round here, we are not very keen on the notion of banning words of any kind."

We we are! I'd provide an example but it's been banned. ;-o)


thomas


Chris Messner - 10/23/2002

Don't forget he was an OSS operative for us in WWII.

Chris


Robert Harbison - 10/22/2002

"Opportunistic Nationalist? Only to a purblind journalist. "

Well you left a few things out about Ho Chi Minh's life history, like say his degress's from United States universities.


Bill Heuisler - 10/21/2002

Mr. Engel's world-weary ennui is snobbish and patronizing; add makeshift history and he becomes merely pathetic.
He writes, "...whereas it is far from clear that Ho was anything other than an opportunistic Nationalist until US enmity left Communism as his only resort."
A Leftist blames America in feckless search for relevance.
Nguyen Van Thann (Ho Chi Minh)was a founder-member of the French
Communist Party (1918-1919) and spent the following 25 years visiting - and often living - in Moscow. In 1941, with the aid and patronage of Stalin, he placed himself at the head of Vietminh Independence Movement.
On July 7th, 1955, Ho Chi Minh concluded a $338 million aid agreement with Mao's Communist China.
On June 2nd, 1962 The International Control Commission on Indo-China (composed of Canada, India and Poland) reported that North Vietnam was supplying the Vietcong rebels in the South in violation of the Geneva agreement on Indo-China.
Opportunistic Nationalist? Only to a purblind journalist.
Engel's snide Israeli comments and his passing over Saddam's defiance of cease-fire agreements expose nescience and animus.
To mangle Tennyson: Such blind, naked ignorance delivering brawling judgements unashamed is absurd farce."
Respectfully, why does HNN reprint such burlesque?
Bill Heuisler

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