Saturday, May 16, 2009

O’Reilly uses Nazi propaganda to defend torture, attack Obama

Original Link:

Keith Olbermann dismantles Bill O’Reilly’s use of false claims from a Nazi war criminal to accuse President Obama of lying about Winston Churchill’s position on torture:


OLBERMANN: “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” Not just a quote from Orwell’s “1984,” but that which he chose as the slogan of its all-controlling party. In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, therein lies the sudden panic on the right to rationalize the torture by the Bush administration by claiming it was merely another instance in the history of the just, the righteous, the exceptional push to the wall, and fighting back with utter distaste, in the most controlled responses, with the only weapons left.

To establish precedent, they will try to blame it on Bill Clinton. They will try to equate it with other acts of wars past. They will defame great men to justify pathetic ones, and do so with the most infantile of rationalizations; they did it first.

And their mouth pieces will call the current president a liar when he observes that throughout history in circumstances far more dire, the just, the righteous, the exceptional push to the wall still did not torture.


OBAMA: Churchill said we don’t torture when the entire British — all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat. And the reason was that Churchill understood, you start taking shortcuts, and, over time, that corrodes what’s best in a people. It corrodes the character of a country.


OLBERMANN: Well, the right cannot let those facts go by unchallenged by lies. Winston Churchill is one of its appropriated heroes. If Donald Rumsfeld called his administration critics the equivalent of Nazi appeasers, Churchill is the good guy in that equation, the man who fought not just the real Nazis, but first had to fight the real Nazi appeasers.

At all cost, they cannot let Churchill be anti-torture. It ruins the whole Bush/Cheney right-wing lie that even great men turn to torture when necessary. So they turn to an eminently not so great man, a man whose knowledge of history seems have to been drawn in equal parts from comic books and the German apologists after the Second World War.


BILL O’REILLY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Churchill actually wanted to use poison gas on the Germans, in violation of the Geneva Convention, but was stopped by the British war cabinet. The Royal Air Force killed hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of civilians by targeting non-military sites. And the British operated a number of interrogation centers during and after World War II, including one called the London Cage, where German prisoners were beaten, deprived of sleep, and threatened with death.

Another center was opened in Bad Nenndorf, on German soil, after Churchill left power. It was almost like a concentration camp.

President Obama’s British example was wrong.


OLBERMANN: Nope. Sorry. If that were a high school history paper, it would have earned its author a nice round F. It makes Michele Bachmann’s Hoot Smalley spooner-ism from last week look good.

Point by point, first, that was not Obama’s British example. The president cited Winston Churchill, specifically.

Second, quote, “Churchill actually wanted to use poison gas on the Germans, in violation of the Geneva Convention, but was stopped by the British war cabinet.”

The most obvious answer to that is, maybe, but he didn’t. However, if you want to analyze what he may or may not have wanted to do, there are copious notes. Churchill’s secret memo to his military chiefs, July, 1944, the British prime minister asks them to analyze seriously using gas against German military industrial centers.

But poisoned gas? From Churchill’s memo, item six, “if the bombardment of London became a serious nuisance and great rockets, with far-reaching and devastating effect fell on many centers of our government and labor, I should be prepared to do anything that would hit the enemy in a murderous place. I may certainly have to ask you to support me in using poison gas. We could drench the cities of the Ruhr and many other cities in Germany, in such a way that most of the population would be requiring constant medical attention.”

Wait, constant medical attention? Not just thousands of dead civilians, Saddam Hussein style? From Churchill’s item number five, “poison gas attacks, from which nearly everyone recovers.”

So now we know Churchill’s mind. He did contemplate retaliating with poisonous, non-lethal gas, if the Germans resumed full scale bombardment of London, became only if the bombardment became a serious nuisance. And apparently the appalling London air raids of 1940 and 1941 did not meet Churchill’s criteria for resorting to those non-lethal gas attacks; 1940 and 1941 was the period President Obama was talking about.

And non-lethal gas is not the same as water boarding or torturing prisoners. And ultimately, regardless of those facts, Churchill did not do it.

The Fox commentator also leaves out the fact that simultaneously in this country the military pleaded to initiate gas warfare against Japan. And as late at 1945, the future Nobel Peace Prize winner, General George Marshall, urged that we use it. And we as a nation, like Churchill, still chose the right path.

Allegation three, “the royal Air Force killed hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of civilians by targeting non-military sites.”

This sounds very damning. However, A, it also has nothing to do with what Obama said about Churchill. B, it’s inclusion in a they did it first defense of Bush seems to conflict with the fact that in Churchill’s case, the Germans actually did do it first, bombing London residential neighborhoods years before the allies retaliated.

C, virtually every nation in every war in the last 100 years has targeted non-military sites. We just did it in Afghanistan. And D, in Churchill’s case, he actually tried to stop it. After the horrific bombing of Dresden in German, in February, 1945, Churchill, who never stopped producing historical source documents, wrote another memo so extraordinary that he was prevailed upon to withdraw it and replace it with something more tepid.

He wrote, “it seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretext, should be reviewed. I feel the need for more precise concentration upon military objectives, such as oil and communications behind the immediate battle zone, rather than on mere acts of terror and wanton destruction, however impressive.”

Here, again, vital context ignored. The British bombing of German non-military targets is used to discredit Obama’s citing Churchill as somebody who would not torture.

But even off on this tangent, Churchill looks nobler and nobler. He questioned the bombing.

Point number four, “the British operated a number of interrogation centers during and after World War II, including one in Bad Nenndorf, on German soil, after Churchill left power.”

So Obama saying Churchill wouldn’t torture Germany and Germans is disproved because England opened an interrogation center at Bad Nenndorf after Churchill left power? This is as nonsensical as if your TV show won a Polk Award after you left it, and then you claimed it was your own. Oh, that’s right. It did and you did.

By the way, British torture of German prisoners at Bad Nenndorf post- Churchill, it led to the court martial in July 1948 of a British captain on five counts of neglect. The British investigated whether or not they had tortured. They investigated at Bad Nenndorf and at another detention center in England.

“One called the London Cage, where German prisoners were beaten, deprived of sleep and threatened with death.” There are boxes of documents from the London Cage Detention Center. They were scoured right after the war and an investigative journalism six decades later. Only one credited accusation of torture there has ever been raised. A Nazi Captain named Fritz Nockline (ph) said he was deprived of sleep, left dressed only pajamas, and kicked. Two separate inquiries found nothing in Nockline’s claims, except the record of the staff at this London Cage place, bringing in the local London police to help calm down a prisoner who’d become hysterical, Fritz Nockline. The cops found Nockline screaming but unhurt and in good health. Nockline’s testimony did not hold up to scrutiny in 1946, and it does not now.

Yet Fox News takes it, the only claim of torture under Churchill’s premiership, and presents that allegation as fact. The allegation of a convicted Nazi war criminal, the allegation of a man executed for having murdered 92 British prisoners of war.

This is the second time Fox News Channel and its commenter have taken propaganda from the putrid and long-dead Nazi regime, blaming the allies for Nazi war crimes, and claimed it was true and that American or British versions, supported by neutral witnesses and investigations, that those were the lies.

Talk about the modern day equivalent of Nazi appeasers. Mr. Murdoch, you have a retroactive Nazi appeaser on your network every night. “President Obama’s British example was wrong.” Fortunately, it was not. Unfortunately, nor was George Orwell’s. Who controls the past indeed controls the future. Who controls the present surely controls the past.

Fortunately, those who would usurp that control from the auspices of the facts, and give it to that of the falsehoods, the commentators at Fox News, are, at best, mediocre at perverting history. Obama, more correctly history, was right. Churchill did not torturer. Alas, if only we could say the same of Bush.

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