Complicity, or, the Willing (and Unwilling) Executioners in Uganda-- and Grand Rapids

But what's one more genocide? More than a thousand people are dying every week in Northern Uganda, in the concentration camps they've been herded to by their beneficent government-- "three times the death rate in Darfur."

It goes without saying that the proposed laws affecting gays in Uganda are monstrous, bugfuck crazy. Friendly heterosexuals and simple humanity are outlawed as well-- the law "also criminalizes failure to report relevant offenses." "Citizens, including health workers and civil society organizations" are compelled " report anyone they suspect of being homosexual." Right-wing American churchmen profess to be embarrassed by their Ugandan protegees, and that bunch swallows camels and strains at gnats without a blush.

This new murder in the heart of Uganda is just a reminder that Amin never acted alone. The thing is, we have a fantasy that the Bad Man went away and all the bad went with him. We tell our children a bedtime story that Hitler killed the children, Amin chopped up the women, some guy Stalin turned the poets into little mounds in the snow. But not us, not us! One of these days, some scholar will add up how many innocent people G.W. Bush killed to stop Saddam Hussein from killing innocent people. The historian Lucy Dawidowicz had a neat phrase, "Cain in corporate embodiment", a phrase Erik Prince might want to invoke when Blackwater (I mean, "Xe") has its day in court.

Without their admiring executioners, your average genocidal maniac is just some nut yelling on a street corner, a frustrated lurker in parking lots. Should we, as a critic asked of Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners, "separate the Germans from the Nazis"? Does cutting out a cancer guarantee that it hasn't spread?

"The more frightening question is why and how so many chose to follow Hitler. I do not necessarily mean the German people, per se, but the thousands of bureaucrats, managers, and soldiers who physically carried out The Final Solution, knowing exactly what this entailed and what it signified. Hitler seized the opportunity offered by the political and social situation to institutionalize his personal evil...without followers, millions of Jews (and Cambodians and Indians and so forth) could not have died. The evil that is so hard to face goes well beyond Hitler to a place that no one could truly wish to discover."
(Diane L. Schirf)

I've known a few Holocaust survivors, tattoos on their arms. The only Nazi I ever met, an engineer with the Luftwaffe, told me they heard about the genocide "but they were the kind of crazy stories you hear in the military, nobody took it seriously". How much do I pretend not to know about what we enabled in Cambodia and Chile, how many old folks and babies and dogs and cats were torn to shreds and reported as "collateral damage" in my lifetime, how much of that was done for my "security", a favor I neither asked nor wanted?


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