Scanning the Yahoo! headlines this evening, I saw the following:
Austria's Haider says Bush is a war criminal
Big deal, right? Lots of people think Bush is a war criminal. I don't, but that's more because I don't think that's really a phrase one can ever operationalize with a straight face than that I think his (administration's) conduct in Iraq was in any way justified. As the point was made so vividly in "The Fog of War," you never see a victorious leader tried as a war criminal; while I think the Nuremburg trials were appropriate and perhaps necessary to help Europe close the door on World War II, part of that was to let the German people off the hook and advance the politically useful fiction that a few evil men, rather than the majority of a relatively "advanced" nation, were to blame for the atrocities of the Nazi state.
The story was highly rated on Yahoo! I've seen this enough to get a sense of the trend: whenever something critical of Bush appears on that service, a lot of users give it five stars to ensure its visibility. At this moment, the story has a three-and-a-half star rating, and it's been on the top three stories list for at least eight hours or so. Here's the passage I suspect those anti-Bush surfers responded to:
Haider, whose group is part of Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel's government coalition, said Bush's meeting with his European peers on Wednesday was pointless as he did not expect the U.S. president to pay attention to what Europe had to tell him.
"He is a war criminal. He brought about the war against
Iraq deliberately, with lies and falsehoods," Haider said in an interview with Austrian daily newspaper Die Presse.
"The Iraqi population is suffering terribly. Bush took the risk of an enormous number of victims," said Haider.
What's the problem? The problem is that Joerg Haider is a fascist with Nazi antecedents and sympathies, who's been described as "the Austrian David Duke."
To his supporters, Haider is a breath of fresh air, promising job security, social benefits, and a new breed of politician who follows through on his election promises. The charismatic populist promises to eliminate corruption, curtail abuses of the welfare state, and protect Austria's national interests from being overrun by illegal immigrants and unchecked global markets.
To his opponents, Haider is a dangerous right-wing extremist who exploits Austria's disenchantment with the perennial ruling parties to advance his xenophobic, racist and intolerant policies. Throughout his public career, Haider has consistently parried accusations of anti-Semitism. His record, however, reveals numerous statements utilizing Holocaust terminology and legitimizing Nazi policy and activities.
Haider has a long public record of defending the policies of Nazi Germany and of justifying individual actions during those years. Haider has utilized terminology reminiscent of the Nazis, announcing, for example in October 1990 a "final solution to the farm question." Upon his election to the leadership of the Freedom Party, Haider rejected comparisons with the German Nazi Party, saying "The Freedom Party is not the descendant of the National Socialist Party. If it were, we would have an absolute majority."
It's one thing to oppose, even to hate Bush. It's quite another to embrace someone who's far more hateful in doing so. By advancing a crypto-Nazi as a voice of anti-Bush sentiment, even in such a slight manner, those who oppose the president in this country risk playing into his hands yet again. Joerg Haider has no place in any serious debate, about any serious topic, and progressives should find him particularly abhorrent.