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them & us

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 04, 2004

The Washington Post's Anne Applebaum has a fine article on the selectivity of our self-righteousness, and how it helps us to downplay reports of gas chambers in North Korea. Worth a read.

In recent years a plethora of respectable institutions -- the Vatican, the U.S. government, the international Jewish community, the Allied commanders -- have all been accused of "allowing" the Holocaust to occur, through ignorance or ill will or fear, or simply because there were other priorities, such as fighting the war. We shake our heads self-righteously, certain that if we'd been there, liberation would have come earlier -- all the while failing to see that the present is no different. ...

Later -- in 10 years, or in 60 -- it will surely turn out that quite a lot was known in 2004 about the camps of North Korea. It will turn out that information collected by various human rights groups, South Korean churches, oddball journalists and spies added up to a damning and largely accurate picture of an evil regime. It will also turn out that there were things that could have been done, approaches the South Korean government might have made, diplomatic channels the U.S. government might have opened, pressure the Chinese might have applied.

Historians in Asia, Europe and here will finger various institutions, just as we do now, and demand they justify their past actions. And no one will be able to understand how it was possible that we knew of the existence of the gas chambers but failed to act.

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