There’s no other way around it: When you accuse someone of perpetrating “ethnic cleansing” in any way, shape or form, you are accusing them of genocide.
Genocide. Let that word work its way around your mind for an moment. Genocide is the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group. Think about that. And then watch the most grotesque public statement made by any elected official in the United States in the last 100 years.
No, I’m not kidding or reaching for the hyperbole. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) in the video below accuses the Bush administration of perpetrating “ethnic cleansing by hurricane” in Louisana after Katrina, in order to make Louisiana more Republican. The video and audio quality aren’t good, but the words are there. Listen a couple of times if you have to.
I will not here, in this post, go through all the details of why this is a smear and a lie on the part of Barney Frank. It should be obvious that he’s wrong and he’s gone so far over the line of acceptable political discourse that there is no turning back for him. I’ll just refer you to this article that Chris Regan and I wrote shortly after Katrina devastated the Gulf coast. The upshot of Chris’ research at the time was that the local officials in NOLA had a plan, but it was a shoddy plan that would produce a ghost town. And it did. So if there’s genocide to be found (and there isn’t, regarding Katrina or its aftermath), it’s to be found on NOLA’s own local elected government. But as I said and stress, there was and is no genocide connected to Katrina in any way, shape or form.
Barney Frank should be held to account for his statement. He should be hounded about it by Fox News and every other journalist with access to him.
To accuse the sitting President of the United States of enacting ethnic cleansing on American soil is to accuse the President of the United States of committing a grave atrocity worthy of impeachment and worse. It is to equate the President of the United States with Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and yes, Saddam Hussein.
The atrocity actually committed here is Barney Frank’s shameless assault on the truth. Rep. Barney Frank ought to resign his seat in Congress forthwith. The disgusting statement captured above should mark the end of his political career.
Update: Frank’s DC office number is (202)225-5931. I’ve put in a call and am currently on hold.
And by the way, we captured Frank’s comments from YouTube and have our own copy of them. So even if Matthew Stoller or someone else removes them from YouTube, the comments will live on.
Update: I’m no longer on hold. I’ve spoken with one of Rep. Frank’s press representatives, who has promised to call me back.
More: Here’s how I see things. If Rep. Frank actually believes what he said, then he believes that there’s a mass murderer occupying the Oval Office. Therefore, Frank should introduce articles of impeachment immediately. If he believes what he said, another day in office for Bush is another day that we’re ruled by a mass murderer. Congress is empowered to stop the chief executive if there’s evidence that he has committed high crimes and misdemeanors. It’s hard to imagine a higher crime than perpetrating ethnic cleansing against American citizens on American soil. Being found guilty of such a crime just resulted in the hanging of Saddam Hussein.
Of course, Frank may not actually believe what he said. He may be playing to the Democrat base, or he may be delusional, or he may have just gotten carried away with the sound of his own voice. If any of that is the case, he should go on the record with a full retraction and apology, both to the President and to the American people for accusing their elected President of perpetrating ethnic cleansing. The honorable thing to do after that is resign.
No, I’m not holding my breath that any of that will happen. But Frank’s office has promised to call me back. True, they didn’t say when they might do so.
Update (AP): I’m pressed with other stuff, but if anyone wants to try to transcribe the entire clip, please do so. The audio’s not good but he clearly says, “The policy, I think, is ethnic cleansing by inaction,” and then goes on to say that “they” let the hurricane do the ethnic cleansing so that their hands would be clean.
More (Bryan): Per Ace, ethnic cleansing can and usually does include genocide as defined above, but not always. It can also mean the forced removal of a population from one place to another for political and ethnic purposes. That’s a weaker definition than the one I’m using and it’s not the first thing that comes to mind when someone brings up ethnic cleansing post Kosovo and Rwanda, but it’s valid. So perhaps Frank didn’t mean out and out genodice, just a treatment of blacks in New Orleans reminiscent of what Saddam did to the Marsh Arabs.
Are you standing by that definition of ethnic cleansing, Congressman? Care to revise and extend your remarks?
Update (Bryan): I just got off the phone with Steve Adamske in Rep. Frank’s office. They deny that accusing the President of conducting genocide constituted any part of Frank’s comments. Fair enough. They stand by the use of the phrase “ethnic cleansing” as being the Bush policy in Louisiana, which means that Rep. Barney Frank stands by his accusation that the President of the United States has prevented NOLA residents from returning to their pre-Katrina homes for political reasons: to make Louisiana more Republican. It’s an accusation that Rep. Frank has made before, actually. His representative used Frank’s “ethnic cleansing” comments of last year (at the link) as a defense of these new comments. Wrong is still wrong, no matter when you say it.
Whether Frank meant by “ethnic cleansing” genocide or merely the forced removal or prevention of return for racist and political reasons, it is still over the line and deeply irresponsible, both as a charge and as political rhetoric. On the very day that the new Democratic majority took power, we have Rep. Barney Frank accusing the Bush administration of engaging in reprehensible and nakedly racist policies. Well Congressman, your party is in power now. You can do something about the “ethnic cleansing” of Louisiana if that’s what you think has actually taken place. Proffering a shred of evidence to support your position would be a good start.
Update: We have a transcript. Here’s an exerpt:
“And, what I believe is, at this point you’re not talking about [inaudible], but what you’re talking about is, I think, a [inaudible], what you’re talking about is when you simply, in a calculated way, refuse to do anything for well over a year … [inaudible] … and [stuttering] I, I, the policy I think here is ethnic cleansing by inaction.
“It’s not ethnic cleansing in the sense that they’re killing people or [driving] people out, but what we need to recognize here is that, they’re in this happy position for them, where the federal government does nothing, as they become richer and richer, because well not only black people needed housing assistance, but they were [predominantly poor, who did it], to simply not do anything to alleviate this housing crisis which … was being exacerbated by Katrina … [inaudible] they, they, they let the hurricane do the ethnic cleansing, because then they’re, all they’re doing is not resisting it, that’s why I call ethnic cleansing by inaction, and I know that there are people who were very happy that, as a result, … [inaudible] … [so that] Louisiana would become a more widely Republican [city] … [inaudible] … because if you lose 100,000 black voters … then you have to take a state that was prodominately Republican and made it [inaudible].”
Who are these people who are happy with the results of the “ethnic cleansing by inaction” of Louisiana, Congressman? Names, please. And by couching it the way he has, it’s clear that he sees in Katrina’s aftermath a reprehensible policy that goes all the way to the top.
The phrase “ethnic cleansing” is very much a loaded one. Its use in this context is beyond the pale of irresponsibility. That the Congressman stands by its use says more about him than it says about Katrina or President Bush. That his party will likely do nothing about his comments says still more, about them.
Update: See-Dubya looks up the definition of “ethnic cleansing” as per the ICC, and finds that Frank has no case against the Bush administration.
That won’t stop Rep. Frank of misusing the phrase, nor will it force him back down from it. Only his conscience could do that.