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Rep. Higgins is Dangerously Naive About the Military's Role in a Holocaust

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Clay Higgins, the newest congressman from Louisiana, fancies himself a champion of all things uniformed. Before being elected, he was a sheriff, bragadociously recording YouTube videos taunting criminals, and since then has made the Border Patrol, Homeland Security, and the military some of his biggest issues in budget fights. Higgins’ latest fight shows how dangerously naive he is about the nature of those institutions.

In a video recorded – I hope you’re sitting down – in a gas chamber in the Auschwitz concentration camp, Higgins played amateur documentarian, highlighting the need for a strong military and homeland security apparatus to protect us from that kind of terrorist attrocity. Needless to say, the outrage and condemnation were swift and universal. The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial & Museum and others are places for quiet reflection, not political internet bluster. Higgins has since apologized and taken down the video, a rare show of remorse for the alpha bro.

However, a weapons-grade lack of common sense and decency aren’t the only thing this incident has exposed in Higgins. He is also historically ignorant about the role governments and militaries play in atrocities like the Holocaust.

“The world’s a smaller place now than it was in World War II. The United States is more accessible to terror like this, horror like this. It’s hard to walk away from gas chambers and ovens without a very sober feeling of commitment, unwavering commitment to make damn sure that the United States of America is protected from the evils of the world,” Higgins declares over a somber violin solo. Um. What?

In modern times, nearly all mass human rights violations, genocides, and atrocities have been ordered by local governments and implemented by local military. The Holocaust was ordered by the duly elected Nazi government and enforced by the local military and police forces. The Armenian genocide was ordered by the ruling Ottoman government and carried out by Ottoman troops. After Pol Pot’s rebellion and socialist reformation in Cambodia, his military exterminated millions of its own people.

Not even America’s invincible military might makes us immune from these atrocities, by definition. President Andrew Jackson’s forced relocation of American Indian peoples from the South to Oklahoma resulted in thousands of deaths under the supervision of the US military and state militias. President Franklin Roosevelt’s removal of more than 100,000 Japanese citizens and immigrants from their homes in Western states to internment camps and prisons scattered across the country was carried out by the US military and civilian wartime authorities.

In 1985, Philadelphia police literally bombed an apartment complex where they were trying to execute arrest warrants for members of what they dubbed a terrorist organization, resulting in 11 deaths. In 1992, the FBI, ATF, and two states’ national guard troops raided the Branch Davidian compound outside Waco, Texas, resulting in a fire and 76 deaths.

The military may do a hell of a job protecting us from foreign invasion and attack, and law enforcement certainly risks their own lives daily to protect us from harm by each other. But when a government orders an attack on its own people, it’s the military and law enforcement agents who carry out that attack, not save us from it. Yes, even in America.

The Founders, who Congressman Higgins purports to revere, knew this all too well. They were unequivocally against having a standing army in the United States for this very reason, instead relying on state militias to call up forces when conflict deemed them necessary.

Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist #8:

But in a country, where the perpetual menacings of danger oblige the government to be always prepared to repel it, her armies must be numerous enough for instant defence. The continual necessity for his services enhances the importance of the soldier, and proportionably degrades the condition of the citizen. The military state becomes elevated above the civil.

Elbridge Gerry, at the Constitutional Convention:

A standing army is like a standing member. It’s an excellent assurance of domestic tranquility, but a dangerous temptation to foreign adventure.

George Mason, at the Constitutional Convention:
No man has a greater regard for the military gentlemen than I have. I admire their intrepidity, perseverance, and valor. But when once a standing army is established in any country, the people lose their liberty. When, against a regular and disciplined army, yeomanry are the only defence [sic], — yeomanry, unskilful and unarmed, — what chance is there for preserving freedom?
St George Tucker, in Blackstone’s Commentaries:
Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.

In a nation with a law enforcement apparatus as vast and in many cases as well armed as some standing armies, that danger is self evident. Rep. Higgins is right to revere the awesome power of the American military and law enforcement, but he would be wise to fear them for the same reason, as the Founders did.

After recounting the horrors the Nazi military inflicted on their own people in the gas chambers where he recorded his selfie video, Higgins declares without irony, “This is why Homeland Security must be squared away, why our military must be invincible.” The historical record should make that sentence chill him to the core, not swell with pride.


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