Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Human Rights Watch has been posting a response to revelations that one of their top staffers is an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia with a statement posted to a number of blogs, including this one. Click the link to read the statement. They are in heavy spin mode, as well they should be, because things are not getting any better. Here's a picture (I have obscured the child's face) and brief exchange [via Dave] from one of the forums Garlasco frequents [link via Carl]:

Marc Garlasco

Skip: Love the sweatshirt Mark. Not one I could wear here in germany though (well I could but it would be a lot of hassle)

Garlasco: Everyone thinks it is a biker shirt!

Skip: Yeh, were you come from but imagine walking around in Berlin with "das Eisene Kreuz" written across your cheat. Either you get beaten to pulp by a group of rampaging Turks or the police arrest you on suspicion of being a Nazi

As commenter Paula notes, if Garlasco's "monograph" (the 430 page book he authored) was such an accomplishment, why isn't it mentioned in his HRW bio...or much of anywhere else? I understand other online statements indicate he knew it could be a problem.

And, contrary to the HRW spin, the fact is he's not a serious of collector of non-German items as far as I've seen. German stuff is his thing. Nor do I accept the spin (HRW spin no less) of this great separation between "Nazi" and non-Nazi items and admiration. I've heard that 1000 times and never bought it. They were all part of the same machine, if the Wehrmacht had won it would have been Hitler's triumph, and the Generals who turned against Hitler didn't do it until it looked like an impending disaster for the Reich. If either Garlasco or his gramps were such pacifists and so turned off by this militarism thing...then why on earth is he honoring gramp's memory by glorifying his army service? People do compartmentalize, and today we can separate the moral issues from the boyish interest in things military to a certain extent, but you can't seriously expect everyone else to do the same or to understand it.

I will state again that I, personally, do not find this hobby so horrifying in and of itself. Not at all. I'm sure you can pursue this without admiring or meaning to glorify Nazism (one way is to accept that justification that HRW tries to propagate and that I say I've never completely accepted in the paragraph above), and I'm certain that many, many people on the discussion forums Garlasco frequents are perfectly fine people who simply share an interesting hobby and don't mean harm. I'm also sure it attracts a lot of the wrong type of person and that the moderators there must be ever vigilant to maintain the proper tone on their forums.

A lot of other people feel differently, however.

Thing is, if you're going to do this to the extent he does, you are sort of limiting your future options somewhat -- like a neck tat. There might be situations you would want to recuse yourself from, at least for appearances' sake. I mean, can you imagine the scene in Human Rights Watch's office?

Ken Roth: Marc, can you come in please? Marc...very important....we've just had an incident in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinians and we need you to fly out at once.

Garlasco: Oh...uh...where did you say again?

Roth: Gaza. Incident with the Israelis...

Garlasco: That's what I thought you said. See...uh...well, there's something I've been meaning to tell you...and...say, got anything going on in Congo by any chance?

Roth: No. Gaza. Listen, what's the problem?

Garlasco: Well, see I have a potential issue...

Roth: What, knocked-up a Hamas girl did you? Hahahahaha! Listen, whatever it is, the Israelis (who we're gonna give a good screwing to, btw...get it? "Knocked-up...screw..." I kid...) will protect you. Don't worry, you're a human rights worker, it's not like you're a...a NAZI or something!

Garlasco: NO! Oh no...[aside] well, not exactly...

Roth: Well, whatever it is, I'm sure it can wait. Now get out there kid. We have complete faith in you!

He can't have been sleeping comfortably at night.

HRW now has to spend time in spin mode rather than just asking Garlasco to resign in the same way that if you owe the bank $100k, the bank owns you, but if you owe the bank $100million, you own the bank. Garlasco and HRW are so intertwined they can't just dump him now without a major shakeout.

Dave responds to HRW here:

HRW are (deliberately?) missing the point. The question raised by his Nazi obsession is valid: is there a connection between his Israel bashing and his obsession with memorabilia associated with Jew-hating mass-murderers?

Imagine for a second if someone claiming to be objective had a penchant for collecting IDF memorabilia. If this person came out repeatedly with reports favorable to Israel, wouldn't people have reason to question their objectivity?

You also have to question how someone working for a human rights organization - and claiming to really care about people - can look at Nazi memorabilia and not feel repulsed.

These are valid questions, and HRW's informal response is nowhere near adequate.

Elder of Ziyon has a good response, here. Read it all, but here's a snip:

... 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...

Yaacov minces no words. A snip:

HRW Press office should be aware that form letters containing platitudes and bland denials do not work when real issues are on the table. The historical value of the flak 88 batteries medals is about as important as the historical value of recording the color of the manure of the Carthaginians' war elephants as they changed altitudes in crossing the Alps. The detailed immersion in the stylization and lurid imagery of the Nazi medals betrays a mania that is simply not explainable as a normal hobby- especially given the ideology and ethos they represent. These are not treasures nor are they of any historical value they are lustrous totems of an inhumane totalitarian regime that should be, rightly forgotten and dishonored rather than worshipped...

See? That's what I'm talking about.

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Human Rights Watch Responds to Garlasco Revelations.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Yeah, of course he published his response on HuffPo. Second rule of damage control: do it in front of a friendly audience so you can remind your allies who they're supposed to be rooting for: Now I've achieved some... Read More

What? You didn't know? It happened veeewy quietly... After 'Post' query, HRW says top military analyst quit A Human Rights Watch spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday night that its embattled senior military analyst Marc Garlasco resigned nea... Read More


That sounds about right. I've known about half a dozen of these guys, and 100% of them were creepy about it. They always seem to know the words to the 'Horst Wessel Lied.'

I suppose it would be possible to collect them the way some people collect cookie jars, but I've yet to meet an example of that version.

...and now HRW has a lot of explaining to do.

Some things can be explained away. But you're in serious trouble if you're fighting against a simple (and verifiable) soundbite: "You sent a NAZI SYMPATHIZER to investigate Israel?!?"

I'm trying hard to avoid schadenfreude here. It's not working very well.

This is total nonsense. It's malicious and defamatory and borderline libelous, to be honest. The mere fact that someone collects a certain kind of military artifact does not make them loyal to what those artifacts represent. Saying Garlasco is a Nazi b/c he owns Nazi medals is like saying someone interested in cave paintings is a neanderthal. It simply makes no sense! Instead of dragging this man's name through the mud, perhaps it would be better to consider his record, his position at a leading Human Rights NGO (which, despite claims to the contrary, is not anti-Israel since they criticize Israeli and Palestinian tactics alike when either cross the line of legality), and the fact that he COLLECTS stuff. That's as far as it goes. People study and write about and read about and are interested in every evil figure and vile empire that ever existed, Nero, Ghengis Khan, Sadam Hussein, Stalin, Hitler. This interest does not equal acceptance or agreement or support in any way and to argue otherwise is totally illogical!

Sue, you are so right! HRW is completely unbiased! Totally balanced! HAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

By the way, you've completely mischaracterized our host's commentary. No one ever called Herr Garlasco a Nazi.

Sue's post came from HRW url and has been posted all around, including at Elder of Ziyon. Its spin.
Maybe the guy isn't a nazi type but they sure aren't helping with this over at HRW by spamming this Bull crap all around the net.
They seem silly.
The guy needs to resign, or never say a thing about Israel again.
HRW has zero credibility between this and the Saudi money stuff, and Stork, its a joke.

Indeed, "Sue" is posting from an IP that traces back to HRW itself and has been posting the same message under various names all over the place. It's amateur hour at HRW on a number of levels.

"Indeed, 'Sue' is posting from an IP that traces back to HRW itself and has been posting the same message under various names all over the place. It's amateur hour at HRW on a number of levels."

That's rich! (Does it qualify as sockpuppetry, something surely HRW with its high standards would never countenance.)

Now, at the risk of denying Marc Garlasco any of the attention he deserves, might I point out something I have not seen mentioned about another HRW stalwart, Sarah Whitman? Am I the only one to think it noteworthy that Ms. Whitman's Facebook page identifies as a special friend of hers Adam Shapiro, the same Adam Shapiro who was a founder of International Solidarity Movement, buddy of Yassir Arafat, etc.? I don't see anyone among her friends that I recognize as an ardent supporter of Israel, matching the very much anti-Israel Shapiro.

"Sue" also made an appearance as "Sara" on my Z Word blog.

OK, I'm going to go out on a limb here. Some commenters on this blog and on other blogs covering this sordid episode have claimed - often with understandable glee - that the Garlasco revelations have irreparably damaged the credibility of HRW's reporting on the Middle East.

I don't think that's true - and I say that with a heavy heart.

Look, last week, the Spanish newspaper El Mundo published an interview with David Irving in which he was billed as an "expert." This week, a leading HRW analyst fixated with Israel gets outed for his Nazi memorabilia fetish. Seems to me that beyond the Jewish press and the pro-Israel blogs (and the pro-Palestinian commentator Helena Cobban, who is outraged by Garlasco -, no-one gives a damn.

We may be comforted in the belief that, no matter how bad things get, no matter how many analogies are drawn between Israel and Nazi Germany, the discourse of those who seek to rehabilitate the Nazis is beyond the pale. We may be comforted in the belief that people like Garlasco, who do not allow the ugly nature of Nazi ideology to interfere with their appreciation of Nazi iconography, will be dismissed as weirdos and cranks. But if we are honest with ourselves, we might - I stress, might - conclude that such beliefs are built on ever-shakier foundations.

And that, IMHO, is what is really scary.

Ben Cohen,

As long as It gets out it will find its way for others to contemplate.

Just because the MSM ignored Van Jones didn't mean that it was lost forever.

By the way Melanie Philips writes in her post:

But Goldstone himself was actually a member of the HRW board, only resigning from it after his inquiry began. During the 2006 Lebanon War, when HRW was making a series of highly tendentious claims about Israel’s alleged human rights abuses Goldstone sprang to HRW’s defence. How then can he be an objective assessor of its evidence to his own Commission?

The Goldstone show-trial

Quite a lengthy read.

The Guardian is no friend of Isreal.

They publish an article about the Garlasco affair that is as kind to him and HRW as you could possibly imagine. There's almost as much space given to the HRW response as there is to Garlasco.

However, the Guardian article has two flaws. One, it doesn't have those critical of Garlasco calling him a Nazi or having pro-Nazi sympathies. Two, it doesn't connect the 'outing' of Garlasco to the Israeli government.

Don't worry. Carol Bogert of HRW is given space in the letters to the editor the next day to fill in what's missing. Somebody must have realized that they'd left out a few things HRW wanted and got them in this way.

Perhaps this is so obvious it doesn't need to be said, or perhaps it's been mentioned and I just haven't seen it, but the 88 in flak88 is by far the most damning piece of evidence, isn't it? We all know what that stands for.

The only reason to have Wehrmacht memorabilia is if you took it off a Nazi you killed.

"Syme: It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. You wouldn't have seen the [Newspeak] Dictionary 10th edition, would you Smith? It's that thick. [illustrates thickness with fingers] The 11th Edition will be that [narrows fingers] thick. Winston Smith: So, The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect? Syme: The secret is to move from translation, to direct thought, to automatic response. No need for self-discipline. Language coming from here [the larynx], not from here [the brain]" -1984 (film)


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