The Nazis and prisoner-torturing and civilian-killing imperialist Japanese on Bataan and elsewhere in WWII were models of correct behavior compared to the jihadists we're at war with around the world.
- Dan Simmons, best-selling author of such award-winning books as Hyperion and Carrion Comfort
Last year, around the election, I was involved in a debate about Guantanamo, terrorism, etc. on the message board at Dan Simmons's website. Simmons described Al Qaeda-style terrorists as "unprecedentedly vile."
Vile, I'll agree with. "Unprecedentedly" though? So I challenged him on the characterization, and this sentence...which has stuck with me almost over a year later...was part of his response.
It was like a kick in the nuts, not only because the rest of the response was rather harsh, but here's a guy who I admire as a writer, who's intelligence and imagination (I thought) were without parallel, and yet he's spitting out stupid shit like this.
Now, granted, there is some room for opinion here. One's vileness is largely a subjective matter. Me, personally, I don't think the Lockerbie bomber should have been released to Libya. (It's a bit of a travesty actually.) But I saw the footage of him arriving on the tarmac and the Libyans were overjoyed by it. It was like the Super Bowl winners coming back home to their fans, cheering, chanting, waving. He probably got a parade, too.
So while I, James the American, thinks this guy is vile, the Libyans clearly think he's awesome.
But beyond that, I think there is still some objective way to gauge one's vileness.
Now, kidnapping westerners, tying them up, making videos of you sawing off their head, yes, this is vile. But more vile than a death camp?
And that's what I don't get. How can an intelligent person look at the jihadists, then look back in history at the Nazis, and conclude ...with no apparent irony... that the jihadists are more vile?
Let's just compare a few things:
Al Qaeda sought "safe havens" in weak Muslim countries like Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan.
The Nazis invaded and occupied most of Europe: Poland, Yugoslavia, France, Denmark. They installed their own puppet dictators in many of these countries: the Ustashe of Croatia, Vichy France, Fascist Italy, etc.
Conclusion: One of these had more power, reach, and territory than the other. Al Qaeda wanted benefactors to protect them, the Nazis wanted vassal kings that they could control. You figure it out.
Al Qaeda was behind several spectacular and deadly terrorist attacks: Khobar Towers, the USS Cole, 9-11, the train bombings in London. They killed thousands, injured thousands more.
The Nazis developed the concept of Blitzkrieg, perfected the art of death camps, and bombed London nightly for weeks on end. They killed millions in an industrial-strength genocide and destroyed a whole continent in the process.
Conclusion: One of these caused more damage, more casualties, and more terror than the other. Hint: They feature prominently in the award-winning film Schindler's List.
Al Qaeda snatched a couple guys off the street and made snuff films for the internet while beheading them.
The Imperial Japanese spent December and January of 1937 raping tens of thousands of Chinese women, killing hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians, beheading many of them for sport. For fun! Not to send a message, but to actually compete with their buddies. "How many did you get today?" "13." "That's an unlucky number. Better go get one more just to be safe." "Yeah, you're right. My sword's a little bent. Can I borrow yours?"
Conclusion: One of these groups gets a special wing of hell reserved just for them. The other gets thrown into general population with the rest of the evil-doers.
I don't think I have to mention the Bataan Death March, Mount Suribachi, Normandy Beach, Stalingrad, Joseph Mengele, or any of the rest of it. The winner of the "Most Vile" contest was decided a long time ago.
Contrary to what Dan Simmons wrote a year ago, "the Nazis and prisoner-torturing and civilian-killing imperialist Japanese on Bataan and elsewhere in WWII were NOT models of correct behavior compared to"...anything.
Their level of evil has yet to be matched, or surpassed. Actually, compared to the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese, it looks like Al Qaeda's not even trying.