It was exactly one month ago to the day – February 20th – that Right Wing hate historian David Irving was sentenced to three years in jail for his words – published and spoken – denying the holocaust.
It’s a serious sentence, but then David Irving was one heck of a serious denier; in a nutshell, through his books and in particular a couple of speeches he made in 1989, Irving has long claimed that the murder of some six million Jews in World War II was a hoax; that the crematoriums either did not exist or their use by the Nazis was wildly exaggerated, and that Hitler has been misunderstood and unfairly smeared by historians.
For most people Irving has long been thought of as a nutcase of the first water – a rabid Right Wing revisionist – whose opinions and qualifications to hold them were held in somewhat less than scholarly esteem.
He might have earned no more than a footnote in history as one of those flat earth-type creepy kooks who come along once or twice in a lifetime if it weren’t for the fact that his views became a rallying point, offering succor, comfort and quotable quotes to a legion of his like-minded anti-Semitic, holocaust-denying followers.
There are those (respected historians, literary figures, journalists, legal types and not a few regular folks) who are concerned that in a day and in an age in which comics can get you killed, we ought to be standing up far taller and straighter for freedom of speech, no matter how incendiary or hate-filled.
I find myself in agreement; a sentence like this – or worse – ought to be saved for far more dangerous instigators, those whose words were responsible for, say, the deaths or maiming or ruination of many, many thousands of people.
People like, say, President Bush, or Vice President Dick Cheney, or even Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, all of whom were busy beavers this last weekend, celebrating the third anniversary of the war by impressing various and sundry with their positive, even cheery views on their successful Iraq strategy, despite escalating violence and the emerging threat of civil war.
Compared to this terrible triumvirate, David Irving (as repulsive as he unquestionably is) is a piker.
The President tossed in his two cents – with a two minute address to the press yesterday on arriving home from yet another relaxing retreat to Camp David – letting us know that despite the estimated 200 Iraqis killed in sectarian violence (translation: civil war) over the last few weeks, he himself was “encouraged by the process”.
The Vice President appeared on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” yesterday, responding to questions that challenged his statement three years ago; a statement that suggested the American army would be greeted like liberators (complete with laurel wreaths and pelted flowers) and his more recent contention that the insurgency “was in its last throes”.
Cheney brushed off those concerns with trademark condescension.
“I think it has less to do with the statements we’ve made,” he replied, “which I think were basically accurate and reflect reality, than with the fact that there’s a constant sort of perception, if you will, that’s created because what’s newsworthy is the car bomb in Baghdad.”
In other words, the media did it.
Don Rumsfeld trumpeted his view from the op-ed page of The Washington Post. He likened the war in Iraq to two of the last three great conflagrations (inexplicably neglecting to mention Vietnam…) World War II and the Cold War, saying that to leave Iraq now would be “… the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis. It would be as great a disgrace as if we had asked the liberated nations of Eastern Europe to return to Soviet Domination.”
Which is it? A mission inches from success, working arm in arm with a delighted and enlightened Iraqi nation, or a nightmare scenario comparable to Nazi Germany?
The White House administration is in denial.
And while such a crime bought David Irving a three year reservation in an Austrian hoosegow, it seems a similar sentence is being passed for the atrocities in Iraq – the only difference being that those who must pay are the citizens of the United States (and indeed the world) who must endure nearly three more years of this administration and those who run it.
Oh – and most particularly those already dead or dying in service of the lies, and those still fated to do so.