The revelation that Misha Defonseca’s Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years, a well received "autobiography" which has been translated into 18 languages, is a fake raises the issue of the larger Holocaust story and the evidence on which it is based. It’s much too big a topic to be covered here, were I competent to do so, but I do think I can offer some insight into the question of accountability should other aspects of the Holocaust story prove to be a myth, or, as some would have it, a hoax. To this end, let’s take a look at another story of human tragedy, the gassing of the Kurds in the Iraqi town of Halabja.
In March 1988 a gas attack on Halabja killed what has been estimated at anywhere from several hundred to several thousand people (note the similarity to the holocaust’s contested six million). Facts about the tragedy were murky, shrouded in the fog of war and the remoteness of the crime scene. Whatever happened, the State Department was quick to blame the Iranians (remember, this is 1988 when we were aiding the Iraqis in their war with Iran). The CIA did its own investigation and concluded from the condition of the corpses – blue coloring in the extremities – that the gas involved was the blood-attacking type used by the Iranians, not the nerve-attacking type used by the Iraqis. The United Nations investigated but arrived at no definitive conclusion.
As our relations with Saddam Hussein deteriorated after the end of the Iraq-Iran War, blame shifted to the Iraqis. Human Rights Watch – ever helpful in sanctifying American foreign policy – came out with a report attributing the gassing of Halabja, as well as a number of other Kurdish towns, to Saddam Hussein. New Yorker contributor and former Israeli Defense Forces soldier, Jeff Goldberg, chimed in with a screed chronicling heinous attacks on the Kurds, including Halabja, postulating Hussein was implementing his own version of the Final Solution. The CIA for its part reversed its earlier conclusion and began attributing the gassing to the Iraqis. This became the official line, repeated ad nauseum by President Bush in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.
Today, every schoolchild, every housewife, every pundit – left or right – knows and believes the mantra "Hussein gassed his own people." But what if the story is a little more complicated than that? What we do know is that at the time of the gassing the Iraqis and Iranians were battling over Halabja. I suspect what happened is that both sides were using poison gas, the wind shifted, and the gas from one or the other combatant – or both – wafted over the doomed town. (If the wind shifted while the French and the Germans were lobbing poison gas at each other during World War I, wiping out a French village, would we have charged Clemenceau with having "gassed his own people"?)
If I’m right, how to explain the near universal belief that the Kurds of Halabja were gassed intentionally by Saddam Hussein as part of a plan of genocide? Did lying, conniving Kurds make up the story, complete with bogus eyewitness accounts? Did Kurdish domination of American politics and the media enable the story to become the official canon? The answer is obvious: "Of course not." The Kurds may have been instrumental in embellishing and promoting the story, and certainly some Kurds benefited from its dissemination, but they are not necessary to the story. Even the goyim are clever enough to come up with a story like that (that Ms. Defonseca is not Jewish is instructive). The relevant point is that the story gained currency because it suited American foreign policy needs (see the bouncing-ball history of congressional Armenian "genocide" resolutions).
Could the same be said of the more outlandish tales coming out of the holocaust? If certain imaginative individuals – be they Jew or Gentile – were responsible for some exercises in creative storytelling, after the war we should have pinned a medal on them for helping out in the war effort, then asked for their assistance in distinguishing fact from fiction. Instead, we put a bunch of Nazis on trial at Nuremburg, gathered – or concocted – evidence against them, and hung them, leaving it to posterity to sort out fact from fiction in an acrimonious debate.
The story of Halabja, like the story of the holocaust, is tragic enough without any embellishment. To use it for flights of fantasy, as Ms. Defonseca did the holocaust, is to turn tragedy into farce. The hoax perpetrated by Ms. Defonseca would have been exposed much sooner were the holocaust revisionists, aka "deniers", allowed a voice, or even if non-revisionists felt free to critique holocaust narratives without fear of bringing opprobrium down upon them. We should demand that all the facts, both about Halabja and the holocaust, be made available to be studied free of preconception or intimidation so that we might arrive at the truth; for, as the CIA has so satirically emblazoned on its headquarters wall, "The Truth shall make you free".
Or should we charge those who question the official line on Halabja, including the culprit du jour (Iran, once again?), with "Halabja Denial"? Should we label them anti-Kurdites and bar them and their hateful speech from the public forum? Should we accuse them of shoddy scholarship and deny them tenure? Should we imprison them for their heresy, as the Europeans do holocaust "deniers", and leave hoaxsters like Ms. Defonseca to go on corrupting the past to the detriment of the present.
The writer lives in Virginia and works in a field which has nothing to do with the holocaust or Halabja, though some would argue the field – mortgage finance – is full of hoaxsters.
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|Title:||Of Hoaxsters, Holocaust, & Halabja|
|First posted on CODOH:||March 30, 2008, 7 p.m.|