I. Costa-Gavras begins his 2002 film "Amen" with as scene in which mentally-retarded children are crammed into a closed truck, the doors shut. The truck starts its engine. The exhaust pipe is plugged into the inside of the truck.
Here is the historical background:
Action T4 (German: Aktion T4) was a program in Nazi Germany officially between 1939 and 1941, during which the regime of Adolf Hitler systematically killed between 75,000 to 250,000 people with intellectual or physical disabilities. Performed unofficially after 1941, the killing became less systematic. The codename T4 was an abbreviation of “Tiergartenstraße 4”, the address of a villa in the Berlin borough of Tiergarten which was the headquarters of the General Foundation for Welfare and Institutional Care (Gemeinnützige Stiftung für Heil- und Anstaltspflege). This body operated under the direction of Philipp Bouhler, the head of Hitler’s private chancellery, and Dr Karl Brandt, Hitler’s personal physician. This villa no longer exists, but a plaque set in the pavement on Tiergartenstraße marks its location.
The T4 program developed from the Nazi Party’s policy of “racial hygiene,” the belief that the German people needed to be “cleansed” of “racially unsound” elements, which included people with disabilities. The program set important precedents for the later Holocaust of the Jews of Europe: the historian Ian Kershaw has called it “a vital step in the descent into modern barbarism.”
II. Why am I reminded of this historical abomination?
Here is why:
Last week’s horrific bombings at two pet bazaars in Baghdad reacquainted us with the most disturbing type of suicide bomber: the unwitting martyr.
...Friday’s terrorist attacks were effective reminders of the utter depravity of jihadists. According to U.S. and Iraqi officials, pictures of the two female bombers showed they had Down syndrome. Their remote detonated bombs went off in locations thronged with families and children. “It appears the suicide bombers were not willing martyrs, they were used by al-Qaeda for these horrific attacks,” Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, the top U.S. commander in Baghdad, told the AP.
This is not an isolated case. There were precedents:
...the Taliban regularly recruits young men who are “deranged, retarded, mentally unstable or on drugs.” A 2007 NPR report also found that a substantial amount of suicide bombers in Afghanistan suffer from mental illnesses.
Israeli soldiers recently disarmed a retarded young man wearing an explosive best. He had been sent to an Israeli checkpoint by Palestinian terrorists. Meanwhile, IRIN has reported that dozens of mentally handicapped children are being used to fight in Iraq. In January 2005, Iraq’s interior minister said that terrorists used a disabled child (police reported that the child appeared to have Down syndrome) as one of the suicide bombers behind attacks on election day. Last year, two children with mental problems were put in the back seat of a car that was subsequently blown up in a suicide attack in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah neighborhood.
Compare and contrast.
"Civilization is not self-supporting. It is artificial. If you are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done." (Ortega y Gasset)
Monday, February 04, 2008