Bernstein Slurs Another Member of Human Rights Watch (Updated)
I have been ignoring the latest salvos in David Bernstein’s lonely war against Human Rights Watch, because they have not purported to be anything other than character assassination. But his latest effort to discredit Marc Garlasco, HRW’s Senior Military Analyst, is so beyond the pale of acceptable discourse that something needs to be said. Here are the relevant paragraphs of the post:
Is Human Rights Watch’s Marc Garlasco A Nazi-Obsessed Collector?
Well, yes. But if you’re going to hire pro-Palestinian activists to run your Middle East division, why not throw in an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia (he even wrote a book, see below) to be your military investigator for good measure?
Snark aside, I understand there are people who collect Nazi memorabilia for innocuous reasons, and in Garalasco’s case, his grandfather served seven years in the Nazi military. Perhaps there’s not much more to it than that. But it’s still, to say the least, a rather odd hobby for someone hired to be a human rights organization’s point man on Israel issues.
This is vintage Bernstein: acknowledge that there are “innocuous reasons” for collecting Nazi memorabilia, but imply, without any evidence whatsoever — cue the scary classical music — that there might be more here than meets the eye… In which case, of course, we can’t take seriously anything Galasco says about military operations in the Middle East, despite his background:
Marc spent seven years in the Pentagon as a senior intelligence analyst covering Iraq. His last position there was chief of high-value targeting during the Iraq war in 2003. Marc was on the Operation Desert Fox (Iraq) Battle Damage Assessment team in 1998, led a Pentagon Battle Damage Assessment team to Kosovo in 1999, and recommended thousands of aimpoints on hundreds of targets during operations in Iraq and Serbia.
As part of my life-long fascination with World War II — fascination born of the fact that the Nazis killed significant numbers of my extended family — I have always collected images and originals of Nazi propaganda posters. I guess that means not only that I don’t believe Israel has a right to exist, but that I’m a Nazi sympathizer, as well.
UPDATE: Bernstein has posted HRW’s response to the ridiculous attacks on Gerlasco. Please read it — and read Anderson’s comment to this post, as well, in which he points out the absurdity of implying that there is something suspicious about Gerlasco wearing a sweatshirt with the Iron Cross, given that it has been the official symbol of the Bundeswehr since 1956. (And note that the modifed version of the Iron Cross used by the German Armed Forces is the version on Gerlasco’s sweatshirt.)
ADDENDUM:Bernstein adds that he thinks “it’s a rather strange obsession for a human rights investigator who spends much of his time investigating Israel for HRW. Strange because human rights activists aren’t typically obsessed with collecting momentoes of Nazi war achievements.” It’s actually not strange at all for someone who is dedicated to defending human rights to be interested in — and collect memorabilia associated with — individuals who are responsible for massive human-rights violations. After all, numerous high-profile African-American entertainers and scholars collect racist memorabilia: Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Julian Bond and others. I guess, by Bernstein’s lights, we should be wondering — if not actually suggesting — whether, in fact, they are actually white supremacists.
UPDATE 2: Bernstein is back again, accusing me of “shilling” for HRW and being unethical for having forgot to mention — which I have over and over again on this blog — that I consulted with HRW on the Saddam trial. It only seems fair to mention, then, that Bernstein’s criticisms of HRW have long been, and no doubt will continue to be, based on deliberate misrepresentations of HRW’s work, as I have documented time and again. At least he got my institution and profession right this time!