Monday, July 16, 2007

Godwin's Law and Ellison's Dishonesty

Rep. Keith Ellison, the first moslem Congressman in the US House of Representatives suggested yesterday that the Bush administration may have been complicit in 9/11. He also compared Bush to Hitler. But that seems old hat by now. We all know Godwin's law is as true as the rising sun.

I want to try out an argument on you, fair readers. Can we believe that Rep. Ellison actually believes it possible that the American government was involved in 9/11? Put more precisely, would someone who actually and honestly believed that a democratic government was so capricious and brutal that it would kill 3000 of its own citizens actually feel comfortable stating that in public? Consider this thought experiment. If you were to go to the Congo, how loudly and comfortably would you declare that the government is guilty of human rights abuses? How about in Khartoum? How about, to use Mr. Ellison's example, in Nazi Germany. Clearly, Mr. Ellison is either dishonest or he is crazy and suicidal. Surely it's not the latter.


dru said...

Hi Peter,

I don't really understand your point. Are you really saying that because people don't get killed or physically attacked when they denounce the US for atrocities and human rights abuses, that the US doesn't commit atrocities and human rights abuses?

As an aside, the US government has a long history of murdering its own citizens when they're seen to present a threat to the established order (Fred Hampton; sing it: four dead in Ohio; I can make a longer list if you like). Often, there is little or no sanction for those who commit the murders.

dru said...

Sorry for the double posting, but isn't it a little disingenuous to say that Ellison compared Bush to Hitler? He compared 9/11 to the Reichstag fire. Unless you imply, as you do, that this is *necessarily* a comparison of Bush with Hitler (even though Ellison mentions neither by name), the comparison is not without merit. Both events took place in a democracy, both were used to consolidate power, justify war, and browbeat political opposition into supporting anti-democratic measures. The end results were much different, but I don't see that as reason to discount the comparison out of hand.

Peter Loewen said...


You're probably right on the Hitler point. On the larger point, I think the question bears answering. Do you believe that Ellison would feel comfortable - that anyone would feel comfortable - claiming that a government killed 3000 citizens intentionally and with malice while in that government's country? And would do so fearing no consequence? It strikes me as unlikely.

That question, in my mind, does not turn on whether the national guard killed people in Ohio, or whether the US has engaged in murderous action abroad. It turns on the plausibility that so many citizens would feel so comfortable attributing an atrocity like 9/11 to the American government while living under the watch of the American government. I would, quite sincerely, love for you to give me an example of another place where people so brazenly, openly, and without fear of retribution, accuse their governments of massive domestic human rights abuses.

dru said...

Hi Peter,

I find this all to be a little strange, as you seem to be suggesting that the US has the same political system as Sudan or the DRC. Isn't it a little different o'er south of the border?

You said: "Clearly, Mr. Ellison is either dishonest or he is crazy and suicidal."

I take that to mean what it says: that you're saying that it's an either/or proposition.

I'd say there are scenarios under which it's possible that he could be right and not fear for his life. The obvious one being one where the blame has already been laid on someone else. The best course of action for the perpetrator then would be to discredit anyone who suggested otherwise, rather than do them harm.

Let's say Cheney ordered 9/11, straight up. Hypothetically. If the CIA started assassinating everyone who said that Cheney did it, then it would strongly suggest that he did in fact order the attacks.

It would seem to me, then, that someone who wanted to suggest exactly that could say so with a degree of impunity. If that assertion started to have serious political implications, then it might be different.

Anonymous said...


OK, let's assume Cheney did order 9/11, straight up. Hypothetically. Under that assumption, can't we also assume that the CIA would be crafty enough to make assassinations look like, well, something other than assassinations?

This thread is getting silly.

dru said...

Silly or otherwise, if you can't assume that--for argument's sake--and think through the consequences, then the argument of the original post is unfalsifiable.

That aside, I still think the best way to determine what happened on 9/11 is to look at the available facts and draw conclusions from them. Nothing else will do as a substitute.