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Holocaust Comparisons

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By Ben Cohen

A reader writes in about my outrage over torture:

How do I personally know the Holocaust

happened? Because my father, an Army-Air Corps P-51 pilot toured Dachau

two weeks after it was liberated. He said he would never forget the


What happened at Abu Graib was wrong

andmorally rehensible; but it bears no resemblence to what occured in the

Holocaust; to make such a comparison in my opinion trivializes the horror of the


There is an issue of perspective that I think you

are missing in your moral outrage. Stealing, as a general principle, is

wrong, a point on which we would all agree. Yet, there is a difference

between a child stealing a candybar from a store, and someone robbing a

bank. Both are wrong, but they are not morally equivalent. Most of

what happened at Abu Graib was psychological intimidation based on shaming the

individual; water boarding is not the same as breaking bones on the rack.

Wrong is just not wrong; to consture the issues this way is to fall into the

rigidness of conservative thinking. Rather, there are different levels of


Letting the light of day shine, as Obama has, is

what was needed; I do not see how prosecuting, given the level of wrongness,

would serve much useful purpose, and indeed, would produce much fodder for

Republicans to rally around.

For what it is worth, I know something about being

victimized; my wife was murdered more than four years ago; that did not change

my opposition to the death penalty.