Socialized medicine and passive-aggressive genocide

China Earthquake

Long ago in China, a boy coming home from school met up with his father, who was carrying on his back a basket holding the boy’s grandfather.

“Oh, father,” asked the boy, “where are you taking Honorable Grandfather?”

The father signaled that the boy should come closer, and then whispered in his ear, “I’m taking grandfather up to the waterfall. If I throw him over the edge suddenly, death will greet him so quickly, it will be painless.”

Aghast, the boy asked, “Why would you do that to Honorable Grandfather?”

“Because I must,” his father whispered back. “Honorable grandfather is too old to help in the field or around the house. Instead, he just sits in the corner, eating our food, drinking our tea, and requiring us to care for his needs. A quick, painless death will be better for everyone.”

The son nodded sagely upon hearing his father’s words. Then, as he turned to continue the walk home, the boy reminded his father of one thing. “Dear father, please make sure to bring the basket back, because I’ll need it for you one day.”

Although I was only around 12 when I first read that story, it resonated with me. Aside from admiring the boy’s cleverness, I was so grateful that I didn’t live in a country in which poor people had to make those kinds of choices. I didn’t realize back then that it would take a mere forty years for my country to creep ever closer to justifying the genocide of the old and the sick.  Even more ironically, I didn’t realize that this ugly choice would come about, not because individual poor people could no longer afford to care for their elders, but because our own government has decided that the nation as a whole should no longer care for its old people.

Old people certainly requiring a lot of care. With every passing year, our bodies become more fragile. While we love seeing videos showing very old people doing amazing physical feats, the reality for most people is that the journey to old age is marked by one bodily system after another breaking down. Our skin’s breakdown is the most immediately demoralizing (“I look so old”), but the real damage from aging happens under our skin, as our joints, muscles, and internal organs just stop working very well. Eventually, every cold has the potential for pneumonia; every fall has the potential to end in a broken hip; every chest pain could be a heart attack; and the joint pains that slowed us down in our 50s can render us immobile by our 70s.

Modern medicine, thankfully, can do a lot to ward off some of aging’s worst effects. Putting aside plastic surgery, which heals the spirit not the body, modern medicine offers everything from quick diagnosis and treatment of pneumonia; to hip repairs so effective that the old person can be home in a day or two, rather than confined to a wheelchair or hospital bed for weeks; to an amazing array of heart treatments, whether pills, pacemakers, bypasses, or transplants; and joint fixes that range from pills, to shots, to surgery, to replacement. All of these are the wonders and miracles of the modern age . . . and all of them are very expensive.

If you’re a free market person, you think that the way to address the expense is through the market place. If you had your way, you would allow insurance companies to compete nation-wide for customers, without thousands of micromanaging regulations but, instead, subject only to a few reasonable anti-fraud regulations.  You would also loosen the FDA’s shackles a bit, recognizing that the perfect is the enemy of the good, and that informed consent goes a long way when allowing experimental treatments on patients with fatal diseases. Doctors too would be relieved of some of the regulatory burdens that bind them, as well as the onerous burdens imposed upon them by insurance companies that are themselves straining under government’s strong hand.

However, if you believe that the marketplace is populated by idiots, and that paradise can be achieved only by putting every person’s health and well-being into expert’s hands, you would (1) make a push for single-payer (or “universal” or “socialist”) health care or (2), if you couldn’t go full socialist, you would push for a government-managed marketplace, one that seems to have private providers but, in fact, has the government dictating all aspects of medical insurance and health treatment. In the latter case, you would then tell the public is that this government-controlled market will force insurers and health care providers to lower costs. In either case, you wouldn’t tell the public that,  when the government dictates completely how the healthcare market must be run, the available money in the healthcare marketplace shrinks rapidly.

In a purely socialist system, the government has no incentive to lower costs, because there’s no competition. And in a government-managed system, as we’re seeing with Obamacare, the regulations are so onerous, and the stifling government control over what should be a dynamic marketplace so incompetent, that prices go up and the system runs out of money.  In either case, the provider is then left with only one solution: rationing.

My point about rationing is not hypothetical. In every country that has socialized medicine, there’s some form of rationing going on. What European countries have done to hide the rationing is to let people see doctors (because then people think they’re getting medical care), while issuing regulations telling doctors that there are certain treatments that, while do-able and available, cannot be given to people in the wrong demographic.

And what’s the wrong demographic? The very old and the very sick. Or in other words, the best treatments cannot be given to the people who need them most but instead, are reserved for those healthy young people who somehow stumble into the wrong disease. Even better, you can avoid treating the young people for the disease too if you argue that the disease’s rarity in their age cohort makes testing wasteful, no matter their risks or their symptoms.

When a government-run system runs into a work load too overwhelming to handle, it does something that would result in jail time for any private care provider: it ignores people to death. Just in the last year, we’ve learned about this passive genocide in both England and America. Both the National Health Service and the Veterans Administration simply stopped treating sick people because it was too much effort or because it cost too much to care for them without running over-budget (or, worse, without running the risk of wiping out bonus funds for the bureaucrats).

Because taxpayers paying for socialized (or semi-socialized) medicine dislike it when care providers give up the pretense of care and just kill people, governments that control access to medicine are always looking for alternative ways to trim the numbers of sick people that the system neither can nor wants to treat. The trend for the last decade or so has been to abandon active genocide (directly killing patients through maltreatment or no treatment) and to push what I call “passive aggressive genocide” — a health care system tells the patients to kill themselves.

The whole “you don’t want to live” push started innocuously enough — and reasonably enough — with those Do Not Resuscitate (“DNR”) directives by which patients tell hospitals that, if they have a sudden death incident while in the hospital, the hospital make only minimal efforts to revive them. The rationale is that, contrary to hospital television shows, most people aren’t miraculously saved by CPR — or at least, most old and sick people aren’t.  Additionally, the process of saving someone from sudden cardiac arrest is quite brutal, involving as it does breaking ribs or ripping the chest open to get to the heart.  Even worse, if only extreme measures will save someone’s life, there’s a good likelihood that the person will have suffered full or partial brain death or will be so frail overall that the life-saving procedure will stave death off for only hours or days, or will result in the person living as a vegetable.

The foregoing are all really good reasons to avoid resuscitation. Especially if one is elderly, it seems infinitely preferable to die peacefully under anesthetic (if something goes wrong), as opposed to having your chest beaten or sliced open, only to die soon after or to linger in a coma.  It may have been malpractice that killed Joan Rivers in the first instance but, if her number was really up, it probably would have been easier had she died on the table than lingered, intubated, catheterized, and covered with wires for several days.  Or at least that’s what they tell us.

Thus, for quite a long time, the medical establishment has told us “Old people, for your own good, if you suddenly die in the hospital, stay dead. It will make you happier in the long run.”  And to be honest, I agree with this.  For various reasons, I’ve seen or heard of a lot of people in their 80s and 90s who ended up terribly brutalized by CPR and who died anyway.  That’s why I have a medical directive.  Even good ideas, though, can be the beginning of a slippery slope, especially in a post-moral society.

For example, what do you do if old people start getting expensive before going to the hospital? Well, one of the things you can do is to have Ezekial Emanuel, the architect of Obamacare explain why it’s utterly useless to go on living past age 75 (which, according to the actuarial tables, is close to the average age of death in America anyway):

Seventy-five.

That’s how long I want to live: 75 years.

[snip]

But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

By the time I reach 75, I will have lived a complete life. I will have loved and been loved. My children will be grown and in the midst of their own rich lives. I will have seen my grandchildren born and beginning their lives. I will have pursued my life’s projects and made whatever contributions, important or not, I am going to make. And hopefully, I will not have too many mental and physical limitations. Dying at 75 will not be a tragedy. Indeed, I plan to have my memorial service before I die. And I don’t want any crying or wailing, but a warm gathering filled with fun reminiscences, stories of my awkwardness, and celebrations of a good life. After I die, my survivors can have their own memorial service if they want—that is not my business.

After explaining why it’s so good to die relatively young in a time when lifestyle choices and available medicine mean many of us can live to be quite old, Emanuel hastens to assure readers that he’s not advocating any policy that actually denies medical services to the elderly. He just thinks that old people should all join in with him and aim for dying fairly young.

Emanuel does have a point that many extremely old people complain about how awful it is to be old. Their brains and bodies are breaking down, they’re often dependent on others, and all the tasks of ordinary life are very, very difficult. What Emanuel ignores, though, is that, even as these people complain about the burdens of age, the vast majority of them still prefer it over death. Given the choice, they heed the Biblical admonition to “choose life.”

This life force is why my father, on the last day of his life before dying from cancer, when asked by a doctor “What can I do for you,” gripped that doctor by the lapels and, in a fierce whisper, said “Make me better.” And this is why a friend of mine who had AIDS, and who had stockpiled all sorts of medicines so that he could commit suicide when it got too bad, didn’t commit suicide despite Kaposi’s sarcoma, pneumocystis pneumonia, giardia, pedunculated lesions all over his body, and every other indignity AIDS could visit on what was once a healthy, handsome body. Instead, he fought to the end.

Contrary to Emanuel’s blithe certainty that, when he’s not as smart and good-looking and active as he is now (ahem), then he’ll just walk away from life with no regrets. I doubt it.

But perhaps I’m wrong to doubt that the Emanuel’s of this world are incapable of weakening our will to live. In societies as different as the Bushido warrior culture in WWII Japan and the radical Islamists in today’s world, we see that culture can destroy a human being’s innate life force. Despite our (and every other living creature’s) will to live, we humans can be talked into ignoring that instinct. We can be taught to value death because it serves our society. In Japan, young men who were taught to deny their life force died in kamikaze attacks on Americans; and practically every day, in every place around the world, some young Muslim boy or girl straps a few bombs to himself and goes off to die for Allah.

It’s therefore entirely possible that, if Emanuel and his cohorts spend enough time praising premature death, people will start to buy into it. And you know what?  I don’t even have to phrase this in terms of a hypothesis.  If I just cast my eyes across the Atlantic, I can see the future Emanuel desires.  Europe has had socialized medicine since shortly after WWII and has been pushing euthanasia for decades now.

WaPo columnist Michael Gerson has been looking at what’s happening in Europe.  In today’s opinion piece, he uses the Belgian government’s willingness to grant a serial killer his requested euthanasia as a springboard to discuss Europe’s reverence for medical suicide.

Gerson begins by noting that Belgians opposed to the prisoner’s euthanasia request have pointed out that killing a prisoner who is serving a sentence for murder is remarkably like having a death penalty, which the Europeans find barbaric.  Pro-euthanasia people dismissed this charge. To them, euthanasia is the ultimate act of individual freedom and self-determination. You have the power to cease being and the government will just make sure your decision gets carried out as painlessly as possible.

Put another way:  Europeans will gladly kill you if you’re a good person who has harmed no one, but they draw the line at killing a bad person who has murdered others.  Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it?  Anyway, back to Gerson….

The whole “your body yourself” shtick that pro-euthanasia types in Belgium boast about sounds very nice, of course.  Gerson, though, points out the problem with this “free will” attitude, and the euthanasia system isn’t set up for total free will.  In fact, it’s set up so that the old and the sick are subtly, and not so subtly, told that they’re a drain on society. Gerson explains that the Belgian government has all sorts of legal hurdles before allowing someone to commit legalized suicide and that all these hurdles turn on proving that the soon-to-be-assisted-suicide is mentally or physically defective.  This negates the whole “anyone can cease to live if he wants” and starts to have an icky Nazi quality about it, except that this time the people march themselves to the gas chambers:

[T]he determination of certain societal classes that are helped in committing suicide is hard to separate from a judgment about the worth of those classes. The right to suicide adheres, in this case, not to all human beings but to sick and apparently flawed human beings. And such a “right” begins to look more and more like an expectation. A mentally or physically ill person can be killed, in the end, because they have an illness. A qualification can slide into a justification. This is a particularly powerful social message since people with cancer or severe depression sometimes feel worthless, or like a burden on their families, anyway. It is pitifully easy to make them — with an offer of help — into instruments of their own execution.

And suddenly, there you are . . . right back at the Chinese boy looking at his grandfather in the basket and warning his father that the father’s day will come too.

I’ll close with an anecdote I’ve told before because it deserves repeating. Many years ago, when Holland first enacted its euthanasia law, NPR ran an interview with a Dutchman who explained why euthanasia was a good idea in Holland, while it would be a terrible idea in America.  The secret to Holland’s euthanasia, he said, was socialized medicine.  The man explained that, in America, where medical costs could bankrupt families, those with terminal illnesses could be actively or passively coerced into turning to euthanasia in order to save their family’s finances.

Thus, both this Dutch man and the NPR host who interviewed him were both certain that Americans, when given the choice, would cheerfully throw Grandma from the train in order to save some money.  Europeans, the Dutchman explained, with their cradle-to-grave care, would never be pressured into killing themselves.  The beneficent state would pay all the medical bills, so money would not be an issue when it came to life and death decisions.  The only thing that would matter in Europe, said this Dutchman, was the terminally ill person’s wishes.

I, being a good liberal back in the day, enthusiastically endorsed what he had to say.  Clearly, euthanasia was a dreadful idea in America, where money was God, and people would be tempted to slip arsenic into their dying child’s broth in order to save the college fund for the next kid in line.

The intervening years since I heard that radio interview have revealed that the Dutchman was absolutely and completely wrong. In America, people have willingly bankrupted themselves to save beloved family members.  Mammon becomes meaningless when an extra treatment might give your child or a young mother a few more days, weeks, or years of life.  People have hearts and souls.  They connect to others, especially to those in their families.

The reality is that, when it comes to end of life decisions, the state does not love you.  It really does want you dead when you start costing too much.  If it can’t kill you with the blatant hard sell, it will try to get you to kill yourself by reminding you relentlessly that your best years are having and you should do yourself and society a favor by offing yourself.  Passive-aggressive genocide in a nutshell.  (And somewhere in Hell, a bunch of Nazis are thunking themselves on the heads, saying “Why didn’t we think of that?”)

As a Jew, why am I not more exercised about the use of poison gas in Syria?

As you’ve gathered, I do not support President Obama’s promised “show” strike against Syria to protest the Assad regime’s alleged use of toxic nerve gas against a community that presumably supported the al Qaeda rebels. To justify my position, I’ve pointed to the fact that there is no benefit to the U.S. in getting involved in Syria.  That still leaves the question, though, of why I, a Jew, wouldn’t want to see every country of good will make its utmost efforts to protest the use of poison gas against civilians.

It’s not that I think a Syrian civilian’s life is less valuable than a Jewish civilian’s life (or an American’s life, for that matter).  Based on the available news, I assume that those who died were just ordinary people, trying to live in a nation torn apart by an internecine tribal, Muslim battle.  If that assumption is correct, those who died are innocent victims, no less than those who lost their lives in Nazi gas camps and mass graves throughout the Pale.  So why don’t I want to help?

Well, there are several reasons.  My first response relates to my family history.  What’s happening in Syria is not genocide, a la Hitler, who wanted to remove an entire race from the earth.  There was no military objective underlying Hitler’s decision to round up 6 million people and killing them. Indeed, it was militarily stupid, because it diverted resources that were desperately needed for a two-front war.

In this regard, I know my views about “ordinary war” versus genocide are informed by my Mother’s experiences.  While she’ll go to the grave hating the Japanese guards who so brutally controlled the concentration camps in Indonesia where she spent almost four years of her life, she’s never been that hostile to the Japanese people.  “They were fighting a war,” she says.  “In this, they differed from the Germans, who were destroying a people.”

What’s happening in Syria is a civil war.  In the hierarchy of wars, civil wars are always the most bloody and least humane, in much the same way that, in the area of law, the most vicious cases are divorces.  Your opponent is close enough for you to hate wholeheartedly.

In Syria, we are witnessing a fight between two closely-related, rabid dogs.  These war dogs can be put down entirely or they can be ignored.  They cannot be trifled with in an inconsequential way, or they will turn the full fury of their wrath on the trifler, even as they escalate actions against each other.  If America goes in, she must go in to destroy one side or the other.  Doing less than that is futile and tremendously dangerous, especially because these are Arabs….

And that gets me to the main reason I’m opposed to intervening despite gas attack that Assad’s troops launched.  Perhaps to your surprise, I’m not going to argue that “Let the Muslims kill each other there, because it’s good riddance to bad rubbish.”  I certainly don’t mind Syria being so busy internally that she has no time to harass Israel.  However, that pragmatic response is most definitely not the same as delighting in the destruction of her innocent civilian population.

Instead, my sense of futility in getting involved in Syria is that what we’re seeing is simply how Muslim Arabs fight.  They don’t do polite warfare, with rules.  They do balls-to-the-wall warfare, with women and children as primary targets.  Their cultural preference when fighting war is rape, mutilation, torture, mass-murder, civilian massacres, and soaking-their-hands-in-their-victims’ blood.

When we oppose gas warfare, it’s because it is so wildly outside the rules by which Western warfare has so long abided:  we fire things at the enemy, whether guns, or cannon, or missiles.  Our culture accepts projectile warfare, but has been for at least a century extremely hostile to non-projectile warfare, whether it’s gas attacks, civilian slaughters, or concentration camps.

Within the context of the Muslim world, when it comes to warfare, anything goes.  If we stop one type of atrocity, they’ll come up with another one, because they have no parameters.

Also, to the extent all Muslim/Arab wars are both tribal and religious, they have no concept of civilians.  Whether you’re a newborn infant, a teenage girl, a mentally handicapped man, or a doddering old lady, if you belong to “the other” tribe or religion (and everyone does) then you are automatically an enemy and a target.  Today’s baby becomes tomorrow’s adolescent rock throwers.  That young teenage girl might give birth to another member of that tribe.  The mentally handicapped man is proof that the other religion or tribe is corrupt.  As for the doddering old lady, she almost certainly raised someone among your enemy.

I’m not saying anything surprising, here.  It’s why the Palestinians so enthusiastically target Jewish schools.

Incidentally, it’s worth noting that we did not go to war against Germany at the end of 1941 because it was harassing and killing German Jews.  We tend to leave countries alone, even when they slaughter their own people.  We went after them because they were trying to take over Europe.  To the extent the Roosevelt administration knew about the genocide, it kept it under wraps.  There was no way Roosevelt was going to take America to war over a bunch of Jews.  It was only after the war that everyone was shocked — shocked! — to learn about the scope of Nazi atrocities.

My daughter rather inadvertently pointed out how ridiculous this “mass slaughter of civilians” yardstick is.  For one of her classes, she is required to read three newspaper stories a day.  I suggested the report about Kim Jong-un’s order that his former lover and her entire band get machine-gunned to death.  I also told her that the regime forced the family’s of those executed to watch their loved ones die, and then shipped all the families, lock, stock, and baby off to the concentration camp system.  “They’ll be lucky if they die there quickly,” I added.  “The camps are that bad.”

When she heard this, my daughter, bless her heart, came back with a question that gets to the heart of Obama’s flirtation with bombing Syria:  “Then why aren’t we planning to attack North Korea, instead of Syria?”

Excellent question, my dear, especially considering North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.  We have shown for decades our willingness to stand aside when tyrannical regimes kill their own people — provided that those murders do not implicate American interests.  Even during the Cold War, our incursions into other countries were to protect non-communists from communists.  Since we couldn’t attack the Soviet Union directly, we engaged in containment by proxy.  In other words, our national interests were at stake, because the Cold War was a direct threat to American interests.

In Syria, however, both sides embrace Islam and hate America.  There are no parties there that need to be protected to further America’s security interests.  We should certainly decry the deaths of the civilians, but the average American on the street seems to understand better than the pettish, petulant Obama that this is one where we should stand aside.  This is their culture and they will defeat it only when they want to, not because of half-hearted, ineffectual, silly efforts on our part.

Obama is sort of beginning to grasp this fact, and he’s trying to save face by approaching Congress.  He assumes that the Senate will support his war cry, because Democrats are slavishly echoing him and there are a few Hawkish Republicans (like McCain) who support him.  He fully expects, however, that the House will vote him down, thereby saying him from the consequences of his own threats and posturing.  It’s quite obvious that he also expects that there will be a pitched battle on the House floor, exposing Republican callousness to a disgusted America.

Obama’s hope that Republicans display each other to their worst advantage in their own form of internecine warfare is misplaced.  Considering that only 9% of the American people believe intervention in Syria is a good thing, if the Republicans display even minimal good sense in opposing a strike, they will get the full support of the American people.

An armed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny — by guestblogger Lulu

In a recent interview on gun control in the wake of the slaughter of a classroom of innocent children and faculty at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Ben Shapiro said that one of the purposes of an armed citizenry is to prevent government tyranny. Piers Morgan harrumphed condescendingly in response, as if the very thought that Americans might need protection at this time from a potentially tyrannical government was wacky in an extremist, even paranoid way.

In the face of a relatively peaceful society with a government not waging literal war on its citizens, Morgan’s emotions seem understandable. Why do you need weapons against tyranny when the government isn’t attacking you? That’s absurd! Paranoid! But by the time an unexpected situation is desperate, even catastrophic, if citizens are unarmed, it is too late and virtually impossible to acquire weapons.

In the face of real tyranny, an unarmed civilian population is completely defenseless. History has shown us over and over again that events that trigger the collapse of a society, including all legal boundaries and ordinary decency, happen in the blink of an eye. Jews living completely normal lives in Europe in the 1930s could never have imagined that, just a few years later, their own governments (because several occupied countries were complicit with the Nazis) would herd them en masse into buildings filled with poisoned air in order to slaughter each and every one of them. The collapse was total and dizzyingly brisk. In areas of Eastern Europe it was overnight.

So here’s a question for Mr. Morgan: Once your own government, or a successful invading with which your government conspires, isolates you in ghettos, deprives you of food and possessions, and denies you any civil rights, including the right to possess a weapon, what do you do? At that moment, do you walk into a gun shop to buy protection for yourself? For citizens to have a chance at defending themselves against this overnight societal collapse, they need the gun before, not after, their government turns on them. Israel learned this lesson well, which is why the citizenry is armed.

As was everyone with a functioning soul and conscience, I too was horrified by the Sandy Hook massacre. It was another reminder (as if we needed one) that evil and insanity exist – and that, when mixed together, these two are a horrifying combination. Much needs to be done to help the mentally ill and to keep them away from weapons, and to help identify when their behavior is escalating dangerously so that we can react and get help sooner.

The question in terms of responses, though, is whether disarming our civilian population would make us more, or less, vulnerable and whether doing so would make our children more, or less, at risk. Reasonable people can logically accept the necessity of strict background checks for gun owners and laws about gun storage so that children, mentally ill people, and thieves cannot access them. But will eliminating guns entirely protect children? I took a look at the biggest mass slaughters of the past 100 years. This is what I learned.

Armenian children

Between 1915 and 1923 about 1,000,000 Armenians were slaughtered by the Turkish military by order of the Ottoman government.

Primary methods of slaughter: mass burnings, drowning, starvation, exposure, death marches.

Child victims? In the hundreds of thousands.

Ukranian children

In 1933, Josef Stalin, leader of the USSR, engineered a famine in Ukraine enforced by the armed military. Between 7,000,000 and 11,000,000 peasants starved to death. At its height, 25,000 people died of starvation per day.

Primary method of slaughter: starvation.

Child victims? In the millions.

Jewish Children

Between 1939- 1945 the German government organized the systematic slaughter of all humans they deemed undesirable. Their primary target was Jews, but victims included gypsies, homosexuals, disabled people, and the mentally ill. Those who enforced this slaughter were armed police and soldiers. After concluding that bullets were too expensive, the Nazis and their allies applied less expensive slaughtering techniques.

Primary methods of slaughter: mass gassings, mass burnings, beating, exposure, starvation, worked to death, buried alive, medical experimentation, torture.

Child victims? Between 2-3,000,000 children were murdered.

Chinese children

Mao Tze Tung, leader of Communist China, and the greatest mass murderer of all time, slaughtered between 49-70,000,000 people during the so-called “Great Leap Forward.” Forty-five million people died in 4 years alone in work camps and gulags.

Primary methods of slaughter: worked to death, starvation, exposure, torture, beatings.

Child victims? In the millions.

Cambodian victims

Between 1975-1979, 2,000,000 Cambodian civilians were systematically slaughtered by their government, the Khmer Rouge.

Primary method of slaughter: starvation, exposure, and, because bullets were too expensive per Khmer Rouge officials (“Bullets are not to be wasted”), death was delivered by hammer, axe, spade, sharpened bamboo sticks, and burial alive.

Child victims: In the hundreds of thousands.

North Korean child

Between 1984 and 1988, between 240,000 and 3,500,000 citizens of North Korea were starved to death by their government engineering and incompetence. Armed police and the military enforced this policy.

Primary method of slaughter: starvation, work camps, and gulags.

Child victims? In the tens of thousands.

In 1994, a government sponsored massacre of Tutsis in Rwanda led to the death of 800,000 people in one year. Guns were expensive, so the Hutus used other methods.

Primary method of slaughter: machetes, clubs, knives, bombs.

Child victims? In the tens of thousands.

The common thread to these mass killings was that tyrannical governments using armed agents (military and police) carried them out against ordinary citizens who were either entirely unarmed, or under-armed. Were guns involved in the slaughter? Certainly. As these pictures show, guns were used against unarmed people to herd them, terrify them, and control them. Guns were used like cattle prods to move large numbers of people and to frighten them into cooperation. Repeatedly, governments bent on large scale mass slaughter found shooting to be too slow and costly. The Nazis abandoned their Baba Yar-type ravines for industrialized death factories. Resistance only occurred when civilians were able to gather together weapons to fight back. Without weapons, civilians were entirely defenseless against armed tormentors.

Planning to deal with tyranny after tyranny occurs is too late. An armed citizenry is the best system of checks and balances against a government getting too big, demonizing particular groups of citizens too much, and lacking any meaningful opposition within the country. Tyrants always look for easy victims and seek to disarm them. A population that can and will protect itself in advance of a tyrant’s encroachments effectively prevents any tyranny from occurring.

[Bookworm here:  I am willing to bet that, in everyone of the countries Lulu describes above, if you had asked people months or a few years in advance whether they would be subject to tyranny and genocide, they all would have answered, "No way!  It can't happen here.]

Jews should never be without weapons — nor should anyone else

Some lessons seem almost impossible to learn in the abstract.  Even if we know the hard truth, until it has an impact upon our own lives, we go merrily along, assuming that the worst will never happen and that, if it does, we’ll muddle through somehow.

I’ve known a couple of people who awoke to find their homes on fire.  Both had exactly the same response:  “This can’t be happening to me.”  They were wrong.  It was happening to them and both ended up losing everything to the fire.  The fire also exerted profound behavioral control over them.  Neither would ever again sleep in the buff.  Both had fire extinguishers in every room.  And both vowed never again to get too attached to possessions, since they were, ultimately, so ephemeral.

Experience is a good teacher.

Jews, collectively, have experienced thousands of years of persecution, culminating in the Holocaust.  Israel, collectively, learned from the Holocaust that Jews must always be capable of self-defense.

Rounding Up Jews

Sadly, though, Jews as individuals, rather than as a collective, especially American Jews, have learned few lessons from the past.  Like the German Jews before them, they think “It can’t happen here.”  And like the true Leftists they are, they think the only safe repository for weapons is the state — forgetting entirely that it was the German state that used those same weapons for genocide on a hitherto unknown scale.

LA Riots

All of which leads me to Robert Avrech’s autobiographical essay about life in Los Angeles during the 1992 riots.  As Robert mentions in his essay, he had been in Israel during the Yom Kippur War, so he knew that it could happen (including know that children are always a terrorist’s first soft target).  But until the 1992 riots, he had never fully appreciated that it could happen here.

Moreover, when it happened, it didn’t just have to be them against the Jewswhich seems to be the only historic lesson Jews will ever contemplate. It could be them against whoever and whatever you are.  In 1992, it was them against whites and Koreans and, as is always the case when riots take hold, the rioters also manage to destroy the weakest and most vulnerable in their own communities.

The riots also brought another lesson home to Robert:  when all Hell breaks loose, the statistical likelihood is that the police will not be there to protect you.  What few people remember until it’s too late is that the police are a peace-time entity.  They are not equipped to deal with vast uprisings.  That’s an army’s responsibility.  But in America, the military isn’t going to be there instantly either.  It takes time for the President to mobilize the National Guard, assuming he even decides that a particular riot merits that response.  So, with police disabled and the military absent, you are on your own.

Katrina looters will be shot

I figured this one out, not after the L.A. riots, but after Hurricane Katrina.  Despite the savagery of the media’s knee-jerk attack against George Bush, the fact is that it was completely obvious from Day 1 that no government entity could aid all people at all the times.  The only ones who were assured of a modicum of safety against looters were those sitting on their porches with a rifle or semi-automatic in their lap.

Robert’s essay is delightful (he’s a professional screenwriter, so he really knows how to tell a tale), but it’s also a reminder:  It can happen here, whatever it happens to be.  It could be a pogrom, a Holocaust, a race riot, Zombies, etc.  You could be under attack because you’re white, black, Jewish, Asian, Hispanic, short, tall, rich, or poor.  It could happen spontaneously or because of a natural disaster.  The one thing we know with absolutely certainty is that, if it does happen, if you’re unarmed, you’re helpless.  Dumb luck might see you out of the line of fire or within the ambit of police protection but, without that luck . . . .

The littlest bodies in the Rwanda genocide

And yet we’re still surprised when Time Magazine gets it wrong

A lot of people have had a good laugh over the fact that Time Magazine, romanticizing the OWS crowd and the Muslim Brotherhood, named “The Protester” as its person of the year.  A friend of mine, however, has noted something that a lot of people passed over, which is one of Times‘ runner-ups, Admiral McRaven, the man who led the Special Ops team that took bin Laden down (thanks to Obama’s superior leadership, of course).  Says my friend:

Evidence that the editors at TIME magazine have all of their heads implanted firmly in their collective ASSES: their PERSON OF THE YEAR is “The Protester”…and yet somehow Admiral McRaven came in as a “runner up”. Are they out of their damned minds? Do they have any idea what this man has accomplished?? How much he has done for this country?

“The Protestor”? Really? Get off the meta kick you blubbering MORONS (anyone remember when “you” were TIME’s person of the year- with the reflective cover? Or “the American Soldier”). This has really descended into stupidity (they might still be stinging from naming “Hitler” man of the year back in ’38).

Admiral McRaven represents everything that we can be proud of in our military heroes (especially our Navy- had to get that plug in there :-))

“The Protestor” is a meaningless, amorphous, nonsensical piece of meta garbage developed by a room full of people that are more interested in being clever than in actually saying anything of substance.

Well, yes, the protester is indeed “a meaningless, amorphous, nonsensical piece of meta garbage.”  And the choice to give these pooping protesters the crown, while making Admiral McRaven follow behind perfectly illustrates the peculiar inversion of values that governs in the liberal media.

Times’ choice here illustrates what I call a “Eurotrash mindset.”  Eurotrash people are dazzled by fame, and are too dumb to have values.  My grandmother, although she came from a rather stodgy upper class European background, was Eurotrash.  Why?  Because when she sat out WWII in Istanbul, she hung with Nuri Pasha, a member of Turkey’s rich and famous class.  If the name doesn’t mean anything to you, don’t be surprised.  You might not even know Nuri’s more famous brother, Enver.  The historical reality, though, is that Nuri was Enver’s foot soldier, and between the two them, they slaughtered about 1.5 million Armenians.  Enver got the fame and the infamy.  Nuri became a wealthy industrialist.  And my grandmother called him friend.

My grandmother was not an evil woman who rejoiced in Armenian genocide.  What was perhaps worse was that she just didn’t care.  Nuri was rich, well-connected and charming, and that was good enough for her. And for Time Magazine, substance and decency is always going to take second place to razzle dazzle and cheap anti-Western sentiment.

Pharaoh, the Ten Plagues, and Iran

An antisemitic Jew I know, rather than seeing the Passover ceremony as the celebration of freedom (the world’s first and for a long time only successful slave revolt), and of justice and morality (the Ten Commandments), derides the whole ceremony as the unconscionable and immoral celebration of the genocide of the Egyptian people.  What troubles him so much is the fact that, after each plague, when Pharaoh seems about to soften and let the Jews go, God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, leading to the necessity of yet another plague, culminating in the death of the first born.

I know that some people have tried to explain away this part of the story by saying that it is simply dramatic license, meant to increase the tension and danger of the Jew’s escape from Egypt.  After all, if it had been easy, it wouldn’t have been much of a story.  You know, Moses asks, “Hey, Pharaoh, can we go?” and Pharaoh answers “Sure.”  That’s not a narrative with much punch or heroism, and God’s involvement is minimal or, at least, unexciting.  It’s much more exciting to have an escalating series of plagues, with the audience on tenterhooks as to whether those pesky Jewish slaves will actually be able to make a break for it.

This reasoning is silly.  There’s a much more profound purpose behind the ten plagues, and that is to remind us of the tyrant’s capacity for tolerating others’ suffering, as long as his power remains in place.

What Pharaoh discovered with the first nine plagues is that life can go on, at least for the ruler, despite an increase in the burdens placed upon his people.  A blood filled Nile River may, at first, have seemed appalling, but the red receded and life went on.  Pharaoh still held together his government.  The same held true for each subsequent plague, whether lice or boils or wild animals or frogs, or whatever:  As long as Pharaoh could maintain his power base, he was okay with the incremental decimation visited upon those he ruled.

Sheltered in his lavish palace, Pharaoh might worry about a populace starving and frightened, but that was irrelevant as long as that same populace continued to fear and worship him.  The people’s suffering, ultimately, was irrelevant to his goals.  It was only when the price became too high — when Pharaoh’s power base was destroyed because his citizens were destroyed — that Pharaoh was convinced, even temporarily, to alter his evil ways.

Human nature hasn’t changed much in 3,000 years.  Think, for example, of both the Nazis and the Japanese at the end of WWII.  For the Nazis, it was apparent by December 1944 (the Battle of the Bulge) that the war was over.  Hitler, however, was a megalomaniac in the pharaonic mold, and his high command, either from fear or insanity, would not gainsay him.  Rather than surrendering, the Nazi high command was willing to see its country overrun and its citizens killed.  Only when the death toll became too high, and it was apparent that nothing could be salvaged from the ashes, did the war on the continent finally end.

The same held true for the Japanese.  Truman did not decide to drop the bomb just for the hell of it.  Even the fact that it would impress the Soviets was an insufficient reason for doing so.  What swayed Truman was the fact that his advisers told him (credibly as it turned out) that the Japanese Bushido culture would not allow Japan to surrender even when surrender had become the only reasonable option.  Instead, the military warned Truman that, although the Americans would inevitably win the war, if Truman didn’t take drastic action, victory would take another year, and cost up to 100,000 American lives and at least that many Japanese lives (including Japanese civilians).

Truman therefore had two choices:  another year of war, with the lost of 100,000 Americans and many more than 100,000 Japanese; or an immediate stop to the war, with no more American casualties and at least 100,000 Japanese casualties.  Put that way, the choice was a no-brainer.  The outcome would be the same for the Japanese, but Truman would save the lives of more than 100,000 Americans, British, Australians and Dutch.  (One of those Dutch, incidentally, was my Mom, who was on the verge of starving to death in a Japanese concentration camp.)  The Japanese high command was Pharaoh.  No amount of smaller plagues could stop the command from its chosen path.  Only a large plague would swiftly lead to the inevitable conclusion.

But what about the innocent lives lost as a result of Pharaoh’s, the Nazi’s, and the Japanese high command’s intransigence?  As the Japanese tale shows only too well, the innocents were always going to die, with the only question being whether they would die quickly or slowly.  The same holds true for the Germans, whom the Nazis had long ago designated as cannon fodder to support their intensely evil regime.  That’s the problem with an evil regime.  If you’re unlucky enough to live under that regime, whether or not you support it, you’re going to be cannon fodder.  Pharaoh will let you die of plagues, and the Nazi and Japanese leadership will let you be bombed and burned — as long as they can retain their power.

Iran is no different.  Although the people bleed and cry under the brutish regime, no plague, including rioting in the streets, has come along that is bad enough to break the back of that tyranny.  The people continue to die by inches, and the regime threatens everyone within bombing distance.

Liberals believe that it is immoral to impose serious consequences against the Iranian regime because there are innocents who will suffer from those consequences.  What these liberals fail to understand is that, when power doesn’t reside in the people, but resides, instead, in a single group that is insulated from all but the most terrible strikes, imposing small plagues against the country (freezing a few bank accounts, public reprimands, vague threats) is utterly useless.  These small plagues, no matter how much they affect the ordinary citizen, do not affect the decision-making process in which a tyrant engages.  The only thing that will move the tyrant is to destroy his power base.  Everything else is theater.

With that, I’d like to wish all of you a Happy Passover.  Whether Jewish or not, I hope that the Pesach celebration serves as an occasion for all of us to remember that, though the price may sometimes be high, both for slave and master, our ultimate goal as just and moral human beings must be freedom. So please join with me in saying, as all Jews do at this time of year, “Next Year in Jerusalem.”

Man’s inhumanity to man *UPDATED*

I’ve long had a conflicted emotional relationship to Poland.  I know that Poland bore the brunt of the first official Nazi invasion in WWII, back in August 1939.  I also know that the Poles suffered horribly under the Soviets.  In the modern era, it was the Poles whose bravery exposed the weaknesses in and started the destruction of the Soviet system, and the Poles have been a staunch American ally in the post-Cold War world.

All that I know, and yet I’ve never been able to forgive them for the fact that Jewish genocide in Poland worked so well because so many Poles were gleeful and enthusiastic participants in the process.  There was a reason why the most successful death camp of all (Auschwitz) was in Poland.  The Germans knew that the local population would be more amenable to its presence than would be true in other nations.  Other nations showed themselves willing to give their Jews away (the French, the Dutch, etc.), but they still might balk at mass slaughter on home ground.  The Poles wouldn’t. (One could say that the other nations were hypocritical, and the Poles were not, but that’s a post for another day.)

Of course, that held true for so many Slavic and Baltic nations — and it turns out that Yad Vashem has been paying attention to all those little, regional killing fields and death camps.  There’s a heart wrenching article in today’s New York Times about a project to document the local killings.  This is an extremely important project because it helps to explain what we still see today:  neighbor turning on neighbor, whether in Serbia or Rwanda, or somewhere else in the world.

UPDATEEric‘s fact-filled comment deserves to be up in the post:

I just had to come to the defense of Poles regarding the Holocaust.  Poles were essentially given a bad rap by the Communist.  I know this is not a prevailing wisdom, especially among my fellow Jews.  But the World War 2 history is a hobby of mine, and I am especially interested in the Jewish resistance.  So, I researched the subject.  The better known ZOB (Jewish Combat Organization) indeed did not get much support from the Polish Home Army.  The ZOB came into being only in mid-1942, and the Poles considered them a bunch of leftist demagogues.  But there was another organization, ZZW (Jewish Military Union).  That one was an integral part of the Polish Home Army, starting from late fall of 1939.  They received weapons and ammo from the Poles.  They were also as big in numbers and much better trained than ZOB.  Unfortunately most of their leaders were killed in action during the Ghetto Uprising.  And the Polish officer to whom the ZZW leader reported was jailed by the Communists after the war.  Just as a side note, his name deserves to be mentioned: Henrik Iwanski.  He lost both sons and a brother in action during the Ghetto Uprising and was heavily wounded himself.  Another interesting tidbit is that the Polish Auxiliaries were not used by the Germans against the Jews during the Ghetto Uprising.  The Germans brought in the Lithuanians.

I would recommend the book “Two Flags” by Marian Apfelbaum, the nephew of the ZZW leader.  Sorry, for the plug, but here is my review of the book:
http://conservativlib.wordpress.com/2007/10/07/two-flags-the-untold-story-of-the-warsaw-ghetto-uprising-and-its-relevance-today/

I suspect that the reason why the majority of the death camps were in Poland was the simple fact that that was where the majority of the European Jews lived.  The French were by far worse than the Poles, and the French Government has finally admitted it recently:
http://littlegreenfootballs.com/article/32818_France_Finally_Admits_Role_in_Holocaust