The Wansee Conference held in March 1942 in the suburbs of Berlin at the height of Nazi Germany’s attempt at world conquest (the German Army occupied two-thirds of Europe from the Spanish border to the gates of Moscow, from the North Cape to the sands of the Sahara) is notorious for apparently given the seal of approval to the holocaust. But what the collection of bureaucrats and civil servants assembled at Wansee is also infamous for, together with the entire ensemble of Nazi party/state functionaries that conspired in the holocaust, was their collective ability to call the systematic elimination of six million European Jews, and the sheer terror, brutality, horror and systematic sadism that accompanied it, by another name: that of the final solution.
This ability, if that is the correct term to describe it, to call something evil and downright nasty by another name, is a legacy that the Nazis have handed down to us and has become particularly rife over the last few decades. Ok, this may not be as horrific or catastrophically bad as rounding up you and your family, herding them into an overcrowded cattle truck and then throwing you into a gas chamber and calling that “special treatment”, but when you’re suddenly told by your gaffer, that you’re being made redundant from the job you’ve worked at for 20 years and the reason for this is that you’re employers are “restructuring” and “downsizing” then the fine words are equally being used to attempt to render innocuous what will be a calamitous outcome for you, your family and the community you live in.
Words and phrases have become the medium to hide behind or try and make palatable what is unpleasant. In our politically correct society, the hallmark of our modern western democracies, nobody should be offended against, nobody should be hurt. Everyone should live in an anodyne, non-confrontational world. So very few people in positions of power, whether politicians, managers or whoever calls the proverbial spade a spade.
You’re not being sacked mate., you’re position is being restructured. The reality is you’re on the dole and you’re income, lifestyle, aspirations for the future etc are about to be drastically curtailed, but don’t lets call it that.
All this came to mind yesterday when Gordon Brown was up before a Commons Select Committee. He was asked a straight question: Did a senior Army man request 2,000 more troops for the Afghan campaign than was actually deployed. Of course, this comes against the background of 8 British soldiers killed in one 24 hour period last week. All the more poignant and savagely surreal given that former Cabinet Minister John Reid, when Defence Secretary several years ago, declared effectively that the mission to Afghanistan would be unlikely to embroil British troops in warfare, least of all incur casualities.
What was interesting was Brown’s response to this straight-forward question. He engaged in verbal gymnastics and when pressed to answer the question almost tetchily responded, “we were looking at a range of options”. This is meaningless guff; it performs the same functions as the final solution did at Wansee or restructuring does for putting people on the dole. it pathetically attempts to disguise, to cover up.
Any response to any situation involves looking at options. Ye gods the very act of going out on a Friday night involves ‘options’, i.e. what pub to go to. It’s what you eventually did that matters.
The fact is that both Britain and particularly the US made a massive blunder in Afghanistan. Having almost effortlessly and with minimal loss of life ousted the Taliban, they sat on their backsides and did nothing constructive with this wartorn devastated nation while being completely caught-up in the disastrous side-show that was to become Iraq and the pursuit of elusive WMD. The Taliban are back with a vengeance because of that neglect and the result is a nasty counter-insurgency guerrilla war.
But that neglect, including the failure to provide sufficient troops or helicopters, cannot be admitted to. Instead we’ve been looking at ‘options’. When the most senior politician in the land, a typical product of the modern political class, which I will speak about in my next blog, activity spouts such verbiage as a response to reasonable questions, you know that the Wansee bureaucrats have left us a long legacy which is still going strong.