Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Tonight I watched the superb film, Sophie Scholl, about the arrest and execution of members of the White Rose Group, part of the German resistance to Hitler. It is an intelligent, understated and beautifully written film.

As I viewed it, I could not help but think of the hundreds of similar dramas being played out in prison cells and torture chambers across the globe - right now - as I type this. I also watched the news tonight with irritation and frustration as a foreign policy 'expert' talked of the danger of a no-fly zone in Libya. He said that immediately Gadaffi knew about it he would place human shields by the anti-aircraft guns or move them near to schools or hospitals, preventing an attack on air defences without which a no-fly zone could not succeed. He failed to explain how an anti-aircraft gun in Tripoli could stop planes from protecting the rebels from air attack in Benghazi.

I have seen and read so many excuses for inaction in recent days whilst Gadaffi uses the time to cement his power and organise his security forces to defend the regime. Yet, as Christopher Hitchens puts it,
Doing nothing is not the absence of a policy; it is, in fact, the adoption of one. "Neutrality" favors the side with the biggest arsenal. "Nonintervention" is a form of interference. If you will the end—and President Barack Obama has finally said that Qaddafi should indeed go—then to that extent you will the means.
And in this vacuum of inaction who knows how many brave protesters, Libyan Sophie Scholls, are facing their own premature deaths or incarceration in unspeakable places for the crime of demanding freedom whilst the democracies dither.


Roger said...

I'd guess that any female survivor of an Iranian or Egyptian political prisoner might draw a rather different comparison with the Scholls experience.

What is interesting from the film and from the published documents relating to the case is the bizarre double standard that at least in 1942-3 was still applied to middle-class Aryan Germans.

The Scholls and the rest do not appear to have been systematically tortured and some of the accused from the fringes of the circle were even found not guilty or given relatively short sentences.

The main movers were of course still doomed from the moment they started to print and distribute their leaflets (although Sophie herself was offered clemency if she blamed everything on her brother - another sexist double standard) but in a strange and perverted way the police and courts still maintained the outward appearances of a Rechtstatt.

And it was very insistence on some form of due process that has made Hans and Sophie Scholl immortal - their persecution and deaths left a very full and complete paper trial (with the one obvious exception that whoever betrayed the organisation so that they could all be rounded up so quickly has AFAIK never been established) and enough of their family and friends were left alive in 1945 to make sure that Germany would never forget them.

In comparison a foreign, Jewish or socialist resistant would have simply disappeared into the Gestapo's dungeons and if they survived torture be spat out into the concentration camp system (as did eventually start happening to even the most privileged members of the Herrenvolk from 1944 onwards).

As for what might be happening to an Iranian or Libyan Sophie Scholl at this very moment - that is something I literally cannot bring myself to think about.

Roger said...

Damn - 'political prison' not prisoner, 'paper trail' - not trial.

Roger said...

Re the no-fly zone the real problem is that unless you have very close bases or better your own troops on the ground you have little or no chance of catching a plane or even helicopter once it has left Tripoli and is en route to Benghazi.

And at modern fighter jet speeds and fuel consumption rates you just can't maintain a 24-hour air patrol over a city without far more planes than the Americans have available ( we of course have nothing to contribute with even the warship that took off our nationals being destined for the scrap yard).

So you really need to be able to destroy the Libyan planes and their AA defences on the ground before they deliver their bombs (in this sense a no-fly zone is really a no-plane zone) - and this is where the human shields might be deployed - although Gaddafi's Air Force moving whole airfields into the grounds of schools and hospitals without any of the foreign experts who do all the real work is indeed rather implausible.

The logistics of our achieving all this might also be a lot more achievable if Italy was not still ruled by Gaddafi's BFF - or ironically if Egypt and Tunisia were still the stable and reliable clients of the West they were a couple of months ago.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why NATO can't take out Moe-Mar's planes.

The US shouldn't go alone, though. We want us and y'all to put together a team of nasty fuckin' combat aviators.