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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

HRW responds, and so do I

Human Rights Watch is providing an offense (in every sense of the word) to defend their researcher Marc Garlasco. Earlier this evening I, and other bloggers who commented on the story of Garlasco's obsession with Nazi artifacts, received a canned response from HRW:
Several blogs and others critical of Human Rights Watch have suggested that Marc Garlasco, Human Rights Watch’s longtime senior military advisor, is a Nazi sympathizer because he collects German (as well as American) military memorabilia. This accusation is demonstrably false and fits into a campaign to deflect attention from Human Rights Watch’s rigorous and detailed reporting on violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by the Israeli government. Garlasco has co-authored several of our reports on violations of the laws of war, including in Afghanistan, Georgia, and Iraq, as well as by Israel, Hamas, and Hezbollah.

Garlasco has never held or expressed Nazi or anti-Semitic views.

Garlasco’s grandfather was conscripted into the German armed forces during the Second World War, like virtually all young German men at the time, and served as a radar operator on an anti-aircraft battery. He never joined the Nazi Party, and later became a dedicated pacifist. Meanwhile, Garlasco’s great-uncle was an American B-17 crewman, who survived many attacks by German anti-aircraft gunners.

Garlasco own family’s experience on both sides of the Second World War has led him to collect military items related to both sides, including American 8th Air Force memorabilia and German Air Force medals and other objects (not from the Nazi Party or the SS, as falsely alleged). Many military historians, and others with an academic interest in the Second World War, including former and active-duty US service members, collect memorabilia from that era.

Garlasco is the author of a monograph on the history of German Air Force and Army anti-aircraft medals and a contributor to websites that promote serious historical research into the Second World War (and which forbid hate speech). In the foreword he writes of telling his daughters that “the war was horrible and cruel, that Germany lost and for that we should be thankful.”

To imply that Garlasco’s collection is evidence of Nazi sympathies is not only absurd but an attempt to deflect attention from his deeply felt efforts to uphold the laws of war and minimize civilian suffering in wartime. These falsehoods are an affront to Garlasco and thousands of other serious military historians.
It is hard to tell how much of this is HRW being obtuse and how much is them pretending to be obtuse.

Most of their argument is strawman and irrelevant.

I never accused Garlasco of being a Nazi or even a Nazi sympathizer, and as far as I can tell most bloggers who took up this story didn't either. HRW's tarring us with that brush is, frankly, offensive, and it serves to detract from the real issue that they studiously ignore:

HRW's poster boy for human rights research nurses a serious obsession with, and fascination for, the worst human rights abusers in history.

Saying that this is him doing "research" is an insult to everyone's intelligence. He is a collector of Nazi-era German objects like daggers, Iron Crosses, swastikas. He has written hundreds, maybe thousands, of posts on forums dedicated to the topic. He has written a 400 page book on the topic. Writing a monograph on German medals does not make one a "historian" in any real sense; it makes him a rabid collector. I am fairly sure that his purchase of many of these items would be illegal in many European countries. To deflect those disturbing facts by saying that he also owns a few American air force memorabilia is to dodge the real issue.

It is extraordinarily bad taste and truly offensive that the same person who habitually castigates the Jewish state to a worldwide audience has a creepy obsession with the symbols of those who tried to destroy all Jews.

No amount of doubletalk and misdirection can take that away.