By Robert A. Vella
One of the great lessons of World War II was learned in the hardest way imaginable. As fascism was rising in Europe, the democratic nations of the West sat on their hands in idle anxiety fearful of another devastating war. That war did come, though, and it was far more costly than it would have been otherwise. The triumphant image of Neville Chamberlain at Munich is poignantly juxtaposed with the subsequent futility of trying to appease the hunger for absolute power.
The only major nation that had made a substantial effort to stop the rise of fascism was ironically the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin when it supported Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War. I say “ironically” because Stalin was just as totalitarian as was Nationalist leader Francisco Franco, Benito Mussolini in Italy, and Adolf Hitler in Germany. However, Stalin – as a communist – was ideologically opposed to fascism. He correctly saw it as an existential threat. The allies in the West struggled to reach that conclusion. They hoped that peace would prevail. They hoped that civility would reemerge among peoples gripped by fear and anger. But, they were wrong.
Last night on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Lesley Stahl did a brilliant exposé on 99 year-old Ben Ferencz – the last surviving prosecutor of the WWII Nuremberg Trials who is still working against war crimes and atrocities today as the specter of fascism rises once again. I strongly urge everyone to watch the episode or at least read the transcript. There are two elucidations to pay particular attention to: 1) the fallacy of labeling perpetrators as “evil,” and 2) the courage it requires to remain strong in the face of great uncertainty.
All 22 defendants were found guilty, and four of them, including Ohlendorf, were hanged. Ferencz says his goal from the beginning was to affirm the rule of law and deter similar crimes from ever being committed again.
Lesley Stahl: Did you meet a lot of people who perpetrated war crimes who would otherwise in your opinion have been just a normal, upstanding citizen?
Benjamin Ferencz: Of course, is my answer. These men would never have been murderers had it not been for the war. These were people who could quote Goethe, who loved Wagner, who were polite–
Lesley Stahl: What turns a man into a savage beast like that?
Benjamin Ferencz: He’s not a savage. He’s an intelligent, patriotic human being.
Lesley Stahl: He’s a savage when he does the murder though.
Benjamin Ferencz: No. He’s a patriotic human being acting in the interest of his country, in his mind.
Lesley Stahl: You don’t think they turn into savages even for the act?
Benjamin Ferencz: Do you think the man who dropped the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima was a savage? Now I will tell you something very profound, which I have learned after many years. War makes murderers out of otherwise decent people. All wars, and all decent people.
Lesley Stahl: We’ve had Rwanda, we’ve had Bosnia. You’re not getting very far.
Benjamin Ferencz: Well, don’t say that. People get discouraged. They should remember, from me, it takes courage not to be discouraged.
Now, I ask you to consider those thoughts as you read the following stories. Fascism is with us once more, and it is growing. We will have to fight it again sooner or later. The longer we wait, the costlier it will be. Looking forward, communist China may play the same role somewhere in the world that the Soviet Union played in 1936 Spain. This time, however, the fascist adversary might be the United States of America. I wonder if the democratic leaders and peoples of the West will choose appeasement as they did in 1938 at Munich.
Within hours after an anti-Trump cartoon proved popular on social media, its creator, Michael de Adder, was released from his freelance contract with Canada’s Brunswick News company.
The immigration cartoon gained popularity after such celebrities as George Takei and Mark Hamill noted it on social media.
News of de Adder’s canceled contract comes shortly after the New York Times ended its contracts with two political cartoonists, including longtime contributor Patrick Chappatte, whose work appeared in the Times’ international edition. The Times’ announcement followed controversy and an apology from the publisher for an overseas cartoon mocking Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Keanu Reeves was among the 19 Hollywood actors and filmmakers who signed their names to a statement condemning an attack by fascists on the Italian cinema group Piccolo America.
According to Italian media reports, the attack occurred in the Rome neighborhood of Trastevere during a June 16 outdoor screening of Paul Schrader’s film “First Reformed.” Four members of the group were attacked for wearing the film collective’s shirts, which the attackers were reported as believing were “anti-fascist.” Five men have been detained in connection to the assault, with at least one of them being connected to the youth wing of Italy’s neo-fascist political party CasaPound.
WASHINGTON — The government’s own internal watchdog warned as far back as May that conditions at an El Paso, Texas, border station were so bad that border agents were arming themselves against possible riots, countering Friday’s assertion by a top Trump administration official that reports of poor conditions for migrants were “unsubstantiated.”
In an internal report prepared by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General and obtained by NBC News, inspectors noted during a May 7 tour of a border station in the El Paso sector that only four showers were available for 756 immigrants, over half of the immigrants were being held outside, and immigrants inside were being kept in cells maxed at over five times their capacity.
Border agents remained armed in holding areas because they were worried about the potential for unrest, the report said.
A federal judge has ordered US Customs and Border Protection to permit health experts into detention facilities holding migrant children to ensure they’re “safe and sanitary” and assess the children’s medical needs.
The order encompasses all facilities in the CBP’s El Paso and Rio Grande Valley sectors, which are the subject of a lawsuit.
Last week, lawyers asked US District Judge Dolly Gee to hold President Donald Trump’s administration in contempt and order immediate improvements at the facilities.