Over the weekend, hip-hot artist Jasiri X posted this image on his twitter feed. It’s taken from the front page of the New York Daily News’ website. Note the screaming headline and the sympathetic caption: “Accused killer Dylann Roof had one chance at a stable family life — and his abusive dad ruined it for…
You’d think a guy who spent a few years as George W. Bush’s mouthpiece would know better than to talk about chemical weapons and which Middle Eastern dictatorships may or may not have possession of them. Mr. Fleischer, of course, was George W. Bush’s press secretary from January 20, 2001, through July 15, 2003, and during a good portion of his tenure in that position, Mr. Fleisher was responsible for repeating the president’s erroneous assertions about Saddam Hussein’s alleged chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.
Let’s just say Pres. Bush got it wrong, and it was Mr. Fleischer’s job to, as Pres. Bush would later inartfully put it, “catapult the propaganda.”
So his track record vis-à-vis recent history is not the best. But that didn’t stop Mr. Fleisher from tweeting this last week:
France says Syria used chemical weapons. Britain agrees. Israel too. Pres O is not so sure. Who’s the unilateralist now?
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) May 1, 2013
Turns out, his track record vis-à-vis more distant history isn’t so good either.
After lecturing Pres. Obama on Syria earlier in the week, Mr. Fleisher appeared on CNN Thursday night to defend the U.S. prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba–you remember Gitmo; that was his boss’s idea–after Pres. Obama rightly said it should be shut down (again). In the course of that discussion, Mr. Fleischer dropped some knowledge about the Nazis in World War II (via Think Progress):
FLEISCHER: They [the Germans] followed the law of war. They wore uniforms and they fought us on battlefields. These people are fundamentally, totally by design different. And they need to be treated in a different extrajudicial system.
Yes, well. They followed the laws of warfare, except for that bit about invading Poland. And France. And, you know, starting World War II in general.
But, yes, they wore uniforms on the battlefield. So . . . point: Nazis.
In any event, I wonder if Ari Fleischer has ever heard of Clancy Sigal. Mr. Sigal is a writer from Chicago, a friend of the late Nelson Algren, who now lives in Los Angeles where he writes screenplays with his wife. He’s also a World War II combat veteran. And he’s Jewish.
In October 2006, as the country was agonizing over how to deal with the mess the Bush Administration had created at Gitmo, Mr. Sigal related an amazing story about observing the Nazi war crimes trials at Nuremberg as a part of the U.S. army of occupation in postwar Germany. His original intent, as he said on NPR, was not to sit passively in the gallery, but to assassinate Herman Goering:
I was the only Jew in my unit. I told no one when I put my .45 automatic in my holster and sneaked away to the International War Crimes trial at Nuremberg.
I wanted to look Herman Goering in the eye and shoot him dead.
Next to Adolf Hitler, Goering was the most powerful man in the Nazi Third Reich. He created the first concentration camps and he was the driving force behind the decrees which stripped Jews of their civil rights.
Who could blame a Jewish soldier for wanting such revenge? But he wasn’t able to carry out his plan. To his dismay, MPs at the courthouse made Sgt. Sigal check his sidearm at the door. So, instead, he observed the proceedings, and was transformed:
[I]nside the courtroom I felt something like relief. Suddenly, it was unthinkable to add one more act of violence to the solemn, businesslike presentation of evidence. Evidence which included the shrunken heads of tortured prisoners and lampshades made of human skin. It moved me beyond tears to a sort of numbness.
The U.S. War Department was determined that Goering and the other Nazis leaders would receive a fair trial. At Nuremberg, there would be no secret evidence or closed proceedings. The Allies believed that would betray their ideal of restoring democracy in Germany.
Just let that sink in for a moment. After a war that claimed the lives of more than 60 million people, most of them innocent civilians, including 6 million Jews and millions of other victims of the Holocaust, our leaders maintained their faith in the rule of law. More than that, they felt they had to respect the rule of law: It was the only way forward.
Mr. Sigal concluded his reflection this way:
In a ruined Germany, where so many corpses still lay buried in the rubble, and life seemed so very fragile, we found it in ourselves to give the worst of men due process.
If you could distill everything the United States is supposed to stand for into a single sentence, I believe that would be it. Among all the negative lessons of our history, that is the shining example of who we can be: That at our best, we can withstand fear and terror and overcome hate and vengeance to cleave to our highest ideals.
Yet, Ari Fleischer believes terrorists who may or may not have had some involvement in the attacks of September 11, or may or may not have some affiliation, however tenuous, with an organization like al Qaeda, deserve less due process than the men who carried out the Holocaust and launched a war that killed 60 million or more. Why? Because in the process of that unprecedented slaughter, the Nazis observed some legal niceties on the battlefield.
Really. That’s it.
Ari Fleischer needs to stop talking about chemical weapons, about the Middle East, about terrorists, and about the Nazis. Ari Fleischer needs to stop talking altogether, and listen to a man like Clancy Sigal, who, quite justifiably, wanted nothing more than to look down the barrel of his sidearm at Herman Goering as Goering breathed his last breath, but who instead learned what it means to be an American.
Maybe then Ari Fleischer will have something meaningful to say. Something like: “I’m sorry.”
Photo credit: Haaretz.