Friday, April 28, 2006

Eichmann in Jerusalem

When Nazi functionary Adolf Eichmann was captured and put on trial in Jerusalem for his crimes against humanity, Jewish philosopher and ethicist Hannah Arendt was dispatched by the New Yorker Magazine to cover the trial. She expected the architect of "The Final Solution" to be a slavering anti-Semite, a madman, crazed, filled with hate. She expected him to be the epitome of evil, a man unlike you or I, someone whose very nature was unlike that of normal men. What she found instead was an ordinary bureaucrat.

Far from being a slavering anti-Semite, Eichmann had no hate at all for Jews. He actually had Jewish friends before it became illegal. He never personally killed anybody with his own hands and in no way was personally a violent man, indeed, was appalled when he saw S.S. troops executing Jews and directed that more "humane" ways be found to exterminate the Jews (thus the gas chambers). His friends and relatives described him as a very boring person whose sole goal in life was to perform well enough in the duties assigned him to get the promotions and pay raises that he felt he deserved. Far from being a slavering psychopath, he was just an ordinary bureaucrat following the rules and following the law, trying to do a good job in the tasks that he had been assigned by his superiors in order to get noticed and promoted.

I am reminded of this because of the Reich-wing Republican's slavering devotion to law in preference to ethics. Reich-wingers never debate the ethical consequences of the behavior of their Dear Leader and His holy appointed administration. Rather, they debate points of law. For example, on the issue of illegal immigration, they focus on the law -- "it's illegal!" they cry. They never focus on ethical issues of right or wrong -- is it, for example, right to deport a 14 year old child who was brought to America as an infant? Reich-wingers, like Adolph Eichmann, never debate whether it's right or wrong. It's the law. That's good enough for them. Like Adolph Eichmann, for Reich-wing Republicans the law is the law, and the only ethical thing to do is to follow the law, even if it requires deporting a child to a land she has never known where she does not even know the answer, even if it requires exterminating the Jewish population of Europe. The law is the law, and as long as you follow the law, you are right.

The Republican Party is a party of Adolph Eichmanns, a party of people who believe that the law takes precedence over humanity, the law takes precedence over right and wrong, that the law is everything and that as long as you follow the law, you have nothing to be guilty about. See their defense of Dear Leader's program to spy on Americans without a warrant, for example. Their defense never touches upon whether it is right for our government to spy on Americans without the checks and balances of a warrant from a court. Rather, they defend it as being legal based upon legal analysis of the Patriot Act as provided by Attorney General Abu Gonzales. And the petty bureaucrats in the Federal bureaucracy who implement the program similarly have no moral qualms about their actions. They have received an order from their superiors to do something, and they implement it. Like Adolph Eichmann, whether an action is moral or not is irrelevant. All that matters is whether it will lead to recognition and a promotion.

The law is the law. That was Adolph Eichmann's defense at his trial. The law said he had to exterminate the Jews, so he followed the law and exterminated the Jews. Morality, for the Adolph Eichmanns of this world -- and I count the Reich-wing Republicans amongst them -- has nothing to do with whether something is wrong or right. The law is the law for them, and that's all that matters, especially if they can bend the law into gaining themselves the recognition and promotion that they feel they deserve.

- Badtux the Morality Penguin

1 comment:

  1. I trust you are following this?

    The federal government has moved to intervene in the case.

    There is an amazing lack of media attention & public outcry on the situation. I realize this is a contrary situation to your comment on 'legal vs ethical' (a thought which I am in complete agreement on), but it does appear to be alligned (no ethics).


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