Monday, May 30, 2005

Godwin's Law
The Principle:
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

The Archetype:
[In] a staged attack against a German radio station in Gleiwitz (nowadays Gliwice) on the night of August 31, 1939 . . . a small group [of Germans] seized the station and a message was broadcast that urged the Poles (of Silesia) to strike against Germans. German convicts dressed in Polish uniforms and carrying Polish weapons were used to stage the attack. They were given lethal injections and firearm wounds and placed in attacking positions as a 'proof' to the invited press and police officials.

The next day in the Reichstag, Hitler announced that there were 21 border incidents in total, including three very serious ones, and used this as an excuse for the "defensive" attack launched earlier in the morning against Poland, thus starting the Second World War.

The Derivative:
RAF bombing raids tried to goad Saddam into war

THE RAF and US aircraft doubled the rate at which they were dropping bombs on Iraq in 2002 in an attempt to provoke Saddam Hussein into giving the allies an excuse for war, new evidence has shown.

The attacks were intensified from May, six months before the United Nations resolution that Tony Blair and Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, argued gave the coalition the legal basis for war. By the end of August the raids had become a full air offensive.

The details follow the leak to The Sunday Times of minutes of a key meeting in July 2002 at which Blair and his war cabinet discussed how to make “regime change” in Iraq legal.

Geoff Hoon, then defence secretary, told the meeting that “the US had already begun ‘spikes of activity’ to put pressure on the regime”.

. . .

Tommy Franks, the allied commander, has since admitted this operation was designed to “degrade” Iraqi air defences in the same way as the air attacks that began the 1991 Gulf war.

It was not until November 8 that the UN security council passed resolution 1441, which threatened Iraq with “serious consequences” for failing to co-operate with the weapons inspectors.

The briefing paper prepared for the July meeting — the same document that revealed the prime minister’s agreement during a summit with President George W Bush in April 2002 to back military action to bring about regime change — laid out the American war plans.

The Conclusion:
There is a tradition . . . that once such a comparison is made, . . . whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever argument was in progress. In addition, it is considered poor form to invoke the law explicitly.