Skip to content

NYT: "The 'Good Germans' Among Us"

The NY Times' 2nd most emailed article is currently Frank Rich's new column "The 'Good Germans' Among Us." He comments on yet another set of newly unearthed "secret Department of Justice memos countenancing torture."

Rich agrees with Andrew Sullivan, who observed that America's "enhanced interrogation" is "the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the 'third degree.' It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation."

Rich concludes at the end of his op-ed, which also shows the newspaper reader with a halo:

Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those "good Germans" who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo.

Well, the Wikipedia entry on Godwin's law points out: "There is a tradition in many newsgroups and other Internet discussion forums that once such a [Nazi] comparison is made, the thread is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically "lost" whatever debate was in progress."

ENDNOTE: Why are Germans so critical of US policies in the war on terror, especially re the limits on civil liberties and these interrogation techniques? Why does the German media run so many editorials on US policies that are considered "Anti-American" by some observers?

Here's one reason: Because Germans have learned from history that they should be very critical of powerful governments rather than being "good Germans." The NYT reminds us of our historical reputation once again and provides a new motivation for Germans to criticize the Bush administration in order to proof that we have learned from our Nazi past and are now critical citizens rather than "good Germans."

Hopefully, one day Americans will use the phrase "a good German" as a reference to eating Vollkornbrot (wholewheat bread), recycling a lot, insulating your house, driving a small car or using your bicycle for grocery shopping.

Trackbacks

No Trackbacks

Comments

Display comments as Linear | Threaded

Pamela on :

He comments on yet another set of newly unearthed "secret Department of Justice memos countenancing torture." Oh, blah, blah, blah. The memo said head slapping and frigid temps for awhile do not constitute torture. And yeah, telling the American people we're just like Nazi enablers will get Rich invited over to Pinch's place for cocktails where they can talk about the NYT's falling circulation numbers and stock price with Paul Krugman - who will blame it on the Bush tax cuts. But not on the fact that people think Rich's moral posturing is just that or on the fact that Krugman's columns have been factually wrong so often, the opinions page editor had to change the corrections policy just for him.

David on :

You left out "simulated drownings" - ie waterboarding. Do you agree with the Geneva conventions and international law that waterboarding is torture? If not, why?

Pamela on :

No waterboarding is not torture. It may scare the crap out of you. So what? That's PsyOps.

Fuchur on :

So, what's your definition of torture? No blood, no foul? Is it torture to wire someone's balls to a battery? Is pain worse than fear? Why? Both pass and leave no marks. Or what about "degrading" stuff like stripping people naked and doing Abu Graib stuff. Is that worse than waterboarding? I fail to see any consistent moral framework here... Apart from that: If all the above things are harmless and just in good fun - what's to say against more widespread use? Let's assume a guy got caught after robbing a bank, and he just won't say who his accomplices are or where he hid the money. Why not give him the old waterboard treatment? It wouldn't hurt anybody, right?

Don S on :

"I fail to see any consistent moral framework here..." Often when this is said what is actually meant is that the speaker fails to see his own moral framework and therefore concludes that there is none. Could your own 'consistent moral framework' be something like 'nothing which would make a comfortable German (or American) sitting 1000 miles from the action feel queasy"? Let's say you are an intelligence operator and a 'high value' target like Khaled Sheik Mohammend has just fallen into your hands. You know that he may know the details of an operation about to go off which could kill hundreds if not thousands of people: he's planned such before and those plans have been executed. Do you 'rendition' him to someone who can make him talk right away - or do you wait and see? It's queasy any way; queasy about torture, and queasy on steroids if an op goes down in the near future which you could have deflected using the intel you could have extracted through 'rendition'. Show me a 'consistent moral framework' which works with any set of real-world facts like those I posed and I might take you seriously.

David on :

Waterboarding is considered torture under the Geneva Conventions and the UN COnvention against Torture (the US is signatory to both). Are you okay with American servicemen and women being subjected to waterboarding if they are captured and interrogated? Because that's what you're saying. Did you know that the US sentenced Japanese officers to 15 years hard labor for waterboarding Americans, because it was deemed torture? I agree with Senator John McCain, who knows more about torture than any of us: "There has been considerable press attention to a tactic called "waterboarding," where a prisoner is restrained and blindfolded while an interrogator pours water on his face and into his mouth—causing the prisoner to believe he is being drowned. He isn't, of course; there is no intention to injure him physically. But if you gave people who have suffered abuse as prisoners a choice between a beating and a mock execution, many, including me, would choose a beating. The effects of most beatings heal. The memory of an execution will haunt someone for a very long time and damage his or her psyche in ways that may never heal. In my view, to make someone believe that you are killing him by drowning is no different than holding a pistol to his head and firing a blank. I believe that it is torture, very exquisite torture."

Pamela on :

Oh, no, wait. I just caught this. Because Germans have learned from history that they should be very critical of powerful governments rather than being "good Germans." WHAT??!! Joerg, sweetie, I luv ya but I've got two words...European Union.

Pat Patterson on :

Because this type of criticism is useless and utterly safe. And ultimately no different from keeping silent when living in a slave state during World War II or keeping silent regrading your fellow Germans with shoot to kill orders during the Cold War. There is absolutely no risk of the US taking serious offense unlike say those who tortured and murdered Pfc. Kristian Menchaca and Pfc. Thomas Tucker. That so-called "Good German" or his mirror image in the US ouldn't want to actually offend those who are capable of using box cutters, blow torches and clubs to question prisoners and then dump the bobby-trapped bodies by the side of the road.

Anonymous on :

Here's one reason: Because Germans have learned from history that they should be very critical of powerful governments rather than being "good Germans." The NYT reminds us of our historical reputation once again and provides a new motivation for Germans to criticize the Bush administration in order to proof that we have learned from our Nazi past and are now critical citizens rather than "good Germans." The German reputation will be rehabilitated only when there exists tangible proof of the Germans executing a war or implementing forceful measures in an ethical manner. Germany has not entered into any situation post WW II where it can prove its moral superiority or even equality. How are the Kosovars doing? Did Germany accept the responsibility and sort out the Balkan fiasco that stemmed directly from Kohl's unilateral recognition of Slovenia or Croatia? Is Germany's Afghan mission a success? How is the prosecution of the BDN agents who helped kidnapp Al-Masri going? Haven't heard much about that of late. A "new motivation" to criticise is easy to induldge. Back in the day, Germans used to carp about this or that and then hastily retreat behind their powerlessness--the GG doesnt allow us to fight abroad blah blah blah. Post Shroeder, Germany can hide behind the law's dress. Point in fact, Germany's role in the world is much the same as its role prior to unification. Her small forays into great power politics have been a failure. All this new mythologizing about the emergence of the new German willing to struggle against an unfair State and fight for the acceptance and implementation of universal legal norms smells too much like RAF agitprop and hippie crap.

Add Comment

E-Mail addresses will not be displayed and will only be used for E-Mail notifications.

To prevent automated Bots from commentspamming, please enter the string you see in the image below in the appropriate input box. Your comment will only be submitted if the strings match. Please ensure that your browser supports and accepts cookies, or your comment cannot be verified correctly.
CAPTCHA

Form options