October 21, 2003

The Scourge of Richard Cohen, Vol. XCV

(Ed. -- The following is a bit of mean spiritedness that will be an on-going feature of this blog. Normally the author will endeavor to be reasonably fair, but this is an exception.)

Sometimes I wonder why Paul Krugman has several bright people who refuse to let him get away with nonsense and slander while I toil away in relative obscurity, with only an occasional assist from James DiBenedetto, fighting the partisan silliness of Richard Cohen. Oh well, no rest for the wicked as we Return to Wannsee

BERLIN -- Last night I played Schubert. I put his String Quintet in C Major on the disc player in my room and went to sleep thinking, of all people, of Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia's prime minister.

Well, it’s going to take some effort to top Paul Krugman’s use of Mahathir’s slander, but let’s see if Dick is up to it. (The antidote for Paul Krugman's attempt to excuse Mahathir's blatant anti-Semitism can be found here.)

Across the lake from where I am writing, hidden in trees streaked with the colors of autumn, is the Wannsee villa where the Nazis in 1942 held a conference on how to dispose of Europe's remaining Jews.

So, Mahathir is a Nazi? Oh, and after young Alex's experience, I have become quite leery about associating any particular music with Nazis.

The stunning HBO movie "Conspiracy," re-creating the Wannsee Conference, ended with Adolf Eichmann playing the same inexpressibly lovely Schubert piece on the phonograph.

Stunning? I thought it struck the right chord as being the artistic embodiment of Hannah Arendt’s observation regarding the banality of evil, though I doubt that HBO sets out to produce movies best thought of as banal. Just because a movie is well done and reminds us that Nazi’s are evil doesn’t make it stunning. Indiana Jones certainly didn’t like Nazi’s, but I wouldn’t call those movies historical. Jake and Elwood didn’t like Nazi’s either, but at least their movie was entertaining as well as having good music. I am very careful, and usually highly critical, of taking history lessons from any movie, but I would accept that “Conspiracy” had a reasonable amount of truth to its representation of the Nazi efforts to commit genocide. I do recommend seeing it, though I found it neither entertaining nor stunning.

Things have changed.

And yet strangely, they seem the same.

We have gone from the phonograph to the disc player but as Mahathir shows, for too many people the thinking remains the same.

Of course, Richard passed up a primo opportunity to make a Led Zeppelin reference here, what with Germans, gas bags, and “the humanity.” But, I digress.

Addressing a summit of Islamic leaders in Malaysia last week, Mahathir said some ugly things about Jews. "The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule the world by proxy," he said. "They get others to fight and die for them," he continued, and then went on to say that Jews "have now gained control of the most powerful countries and they, this tiny community, have become a world power."

So, what’s Europe’s excuse for not being a superpower?

Mahathir did not call for violence…

This time. (Hat tip to Robert Musil.)

… but essentially asked his fellow Muslims to outthink the Jews.

So they could build the weapons necessary to finish the job?

Mahathir is a bit of a nut, given to extravagant, sometimes repellent statements.

Hmm…., he’s not running for president as a Democrat, is he?

Yet in his 22 years in office, he's been seen as a progressive, moderate leader.

That would seem to be an oxymoron.

He is also so far removed from the Western tradition of Jew-hatred that it's possible he did not even know his remarks would be deemed insulting and bigoted.

Bloody wogs can’t be expected to appreciate the nuances of Western genocidal rhetoric, no matter how progressive or educated they are, eh Dick?

In the West, most anti-Semites refrain from publicly saying what they believe.

I sense an implication that Mr. Cohen thinks there are anti-Semites everywhere here in the West, even if they don’t walk around yelling “Sieg Heil!” all the time. Bloody Republicans.

When I wrote that not much has changed since the Wannsee Conference, I was referring not to Mahathir but to his audience. They gave the Malaysian a standing ovation.

As I recall, there were no standing ovations at Wannsee. But there was the very model of a modern genocidal general in the person of Adolf Eichmann there. And once again, if the jackboot fits...

Asked afterward what they thought of the speech, the luminaries in attendance -- including some of our most cherished allies -- thought they had heard nothing untoward.

Uh huh. I have no doubt that some of our “most cherished allies” heard nothing untoward based upon their own words and actions.

Mahathir's claque included Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, our guy in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, and even Russia's Vladimir Putin, representing his country's large Muslim minority.

The US did not install Pervez Musharaff (our guy) in Pakistan any more than we installed Prince Abdullah in Saudi Arabia or Vladimir Putin in Russia. Gee, does that make Pootie-Poot our man in Moscow? And isn't Hamid Karzai our guy in Afghanistan? After all, we certainly did install him there.

Either they chose to overlook the rank anti-Semitism in their midst or they took no umbrage.

Or both.

Islamic unity comes first.

Vladimir Putin places Islamic unity first?

Yes, indeed.


But what ails part of the Islamic, especially Arab, world, is both anti-Semitism, which is rampant and state-tolerated, and the sort of thinking that underlies it. The belief that Jews have some sort of mystical powers -- that they are smarter and, of course, more diabolical than others -- provides the Islamic world with a handy explanation of why more than 1 billion Muslims cannot seem to cope with little Israel.

Honestly, I missed the intellectual leap of faith from Arabs to Muslims here. While I can comprehend, though not fully understand, the historical Arab hatred of Israel, why Malaysian Islamists should hate Israel is, well, too bizarre for me to figure out.

But what corrupts and enfeebles large parts of the Islamic world is not Jews in either New York or Tel Aviv but its own self-serving and inept leadership -- in other words, some of the very people who stood and cheered the speech.

The really sad thing is that “better” leadership would probably only result in catastrophic atrocities attempted against Israel.

Sadly, throughout the Islamic world, anti-Zionism has been corrupted into anti-Semitism.

I assume that there’s no point in noting that Arabs are Semites as well, though perhaps this would go some ways towards explaining the self-hatred and self-loathing necessary to inspire homicide bombers.

Saudi clerics preach that Jews use the blood of non-Jewish children to make their Passover matzos. That classic forgery, the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," can be found throughout the Arab world.

So Mahathir can’t appreciate the subtleties of Oriental genocidal rhetoric either?

The tenets of traditional European anti-Semitism have been adopted in the Islamic world -- the globalization of crackpot conspiracy theories. Governments either look the other way or offer support.

And one of them (Syria) currently chairs the UN Security Council!

The use of such language, the support of such ideas, is too often a precursor to violence.

That’s one clever Dick to pick up on that one so quickly.

The scenario of Germany and the rest of Europe cannot apply. Islamic countries have next to no Jews.

Sheer bloody coincidence, eh Dick? Come to think of it, a lot of European countries have next to no Jews now either, compared to their populations in 1930. Never again, indeed.

But it does transform the opposition to Israel from a political-nationalistic dispute into a kind of vast pogrom in which compromise becomes increasingly impossible.

Generally, this is where Dick reminds us that it is all Sharon’s fault, though.

In the end, such language could justify the use of the so-called Islamic bomb, an atomic weapon such as the one Iran is now developing and Pakistan already has.

No Dick, it cannot justify it. Such language may be offered up as a rationale, but it cannot ever justify it.

The Europeans were quick to denounce Mahathir's remarks -- the Germans with their customary and admirable swiftness.

Germans are known for their efficiency. At least they seem to have their hearts in the right place this time.

But the European Union itself demurred.

But don’t draw any parallels! It’s not the same because …, um …, because …, uh …, well …, because Dick says so.

French President Jacques Chirac maintained it was not the EU's place to issue a condemnation (though he did later write a letter to Mahathir criticizing the remarks).

Yes, not the EU’s place – just in case anyone was still wondering why the Balkans exploded. No doubt Jacque used stern words in his criticism. Maybe he even wagged his finger as he wrote it.

He apparently reserves moral condemnations for the United States.

No, Jacque does reserve moral condemnation for the US. There’s nothing “apparent” about it.

The Wannsee house is now a museum, its walls covered with the usual, horrific pictures of the Holocaust. They seem of the past, but Mahathir's remarks, especially the way they were received, are very much of the present -- and maybe the future.

As I’ve written before, “Never Again” seems kind of hollow right now.

The house still stands, Schubert is still lovely -- and good men still do nothing.

No Dick, good men and women are doing a lot in Afghanistan and Iraq right now. Gee, just one Scourge ago, Dick was complaining about President Bush and the liberation of Iraq, so we seem to be damned if we do and damned if we don't. But then again, if Dick thinks Jacque Chirac is a good man, that does tend to explain a lot.

POSTSCRIPT: I added a couple more thoughts, and, alas, I couldn't find an appropriate place to add this: While we're on movies and Nazis, another couple of degrees of free association takes us to the most infamous Nazi of all, Adolf Hitler, who just happened to be Austrian. And you know who else is Austrian, don't you? That's right, Kalleefornya Governor-Elect Arnold Schwarzenegger. This particular tack (attack?) has been tried and fortunately it failed miserably. Of course, had it succeeded and Gray Davis remained Governor of Kalleefornya, perhaps some admiring student of Leni Reifenstahl might have made a movie about it called Triumph of the Swill. If Arianna Huffington had won it would have been called Triumph of the Shrill. Or if Mary Carey had won it would have been called Triumph of the Thrill. As we all know, Will Smith declined to run for elected office, so we will probably never see Triumph of the Will II. That's probably a good thing, although it would be fun to be the first to see the fresh prints, listening to some cool jazz with my freinds DJ and Jeff. But, I digress.

Posted by Charles Austin at October 21, 2003 09:25 PM

"Nazis! I hate these guys!"

Posted by: Dodd at 09:41 AM