25 January 2005

Never Again Means Never

This week marks the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. This has been largely swept under the carpet in the American media; there was a more-subtle-than-one-might-expect tribute on the BBC World News yesterday, but the print media in particular has ignored the matter.

The real issue is whether the amply justified slogan "Never Again" remains anything more than a slogan. While Hitler's minions certainly concentrated on the Jews, other ethnic groups were also unwillingĂ‚… participants. If "Never Again" has any moral force to it—and it should—it can't be limited to any particular group. That's why intervening in Bosnia and Serbia was justified; and why nonintervention in Rwanda was (and, at the moment, remains, although that's not an above-the-fold news item) unjustified. Genocide is not something for which anyone has the right to pick and choose which particular ethnic, religious, or whatever nonbehavioral group deserves more protection than another. The main difficulty with the entire issue is that the slogan over the gates at Auschwitz is unintentionally but ironically correct. Freedom isn't something that one can just "create" once: one must work at it forever.

On the other hand, one must wonder just how many senior administration officials in just about any Western government have actually read Hugo de Groot (better known by his Latinized name) (HTML, 1.1mb, public domain), or even a nontechnical introduction to the foundations of international law written by one of their own. Sure, it's easier to pontificate upon short passages taken out of context; Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Pat Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh, and virtually every other political demogogue (regardless of ideology; I'm just picking on those four because they're such easy targets) have made their respective livings reputations out of doing so. That, however, is not government; it is abrogation of moral and personal responsibility.