“I don’t use those words to just throw bombs,” says Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in this bizarre rant. That appears to be exactly what the frosh House Democrat is doing in this Instagram Q&A. Ocasio-Cortez uses Holocaust language to describe detention centers for border crossers and calling Donald Trump a “fascist” for making them an “institutionalized practice.”
Just to show that the comparison is deliberate, Ocasio-Cortez also declares that “‘Never Again’ means something”:
Ocasio-Cortez falsely claims Trump is operating concentration camps, compares the situation to the Holocaust: “The U.S. is running concentration camps on our southern border and that is exactly what they are. … ‘Never Again’ means something … we need to do something about it” pic.twitter.com/F2MmZ8y2dT
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) June 18, 2019
‘I don’t use those words to just throw bombs,’ she continued. ‘I use that word because that is what an administration that creates concentration camps is.
‘A presidency that creates concentration camps is fascist and it’s very difficult to say that.’
‘The fact that concentration camps are now an institutionalized practice in the home of the free is extraordinarily disturbing and we need to do something about it.’
“This is about if America will remain America,” Ocasio-Cortez declares. Gee, I don’t know. Did America remain America when Barack Obama housed migrants at Fort Sill, the use of which AOC notes connects Trump to Japanese internment policies? How about when Bill Clinton launched the detention facilities as a way to deal with the waves of illegal immigrants coming across the border?
In a later tweet, Ocasio-Cortez attempts to defend herself by noting that the use of “concentration camp” isn’t limited to the context of the Holocaust. Unfortunately, her supporting link grudgingly concedes the Obama-Clinton point too (via Twitchy):
This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying.
This is not hyperbole. It is the conclusion of expert analysis ⬇️https://t.co/2dWHxb7UuL
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 18, 2019
History is banging down the door this week with the news the Trump administration will use Fort Sill, an Oklahoma military base that was used to detain Japanese-Americans during World War II, to house 1,400 unaccompanied migrant children captured at the border. Japanese internment certainly constituted a concentration-camp system, and the echoes of the past are growing louder. Of course, the Obama administration temporarily housed migrants at military bases, including Fort Sill, for four months in 2014, built many of the newer facilities to house migrants, and pioneered some of the tactics the Trump administration is now using to try to manage the situation at the border.
The government of the United States would never call the sprawling network of facilities now in use across many states “concentration camps,” of course. They’re referred to as “federal migrant shelters” or “temporary shelters for unaccompanied minors” or “detainment facilities” or the like. (The initial processing facilities are run by Border Patrol, and the system is primarily administered to by the Department of Homeland Security. Many adults are transferred to ICE, which now detains more than 52,000 people across 200 facilities on any given day—a record high. Unaccompanied minors are transferred to Department of Health and Human Services custody.) But by Pitzer’s measure, the system at the southern border first set up by the Bill Clinton administration, built on by Barack Obama’s government, and brought into extreme and perilous new territory by Donald Trump and his allies does qualify.
The Trump administration doesn’t call then concentration camps for the same reasons the Obama, Bush, and Clinton administrations didn’t — they’re not concentration camps. With thousands of people flooding across the border, the US and Mexico both have to set up facilities to house them while their status gets adjudicated. Their presence in those facilities are necessarily temporary and ends when their cases are finally decided, at which point they’re either admitted or sent out of the country.
The term “concentration camps” is more accurately used for facilities meant for ethnic-cleansing purposes rather than control of immigrants and refugees. This is not a situation in which citizens and residents of a country are being relocated en masse into detention facilities, as happened to the Japanese by FDR in World War II, where the term applies even with its historical baggage. It’s certainly not the situation created by actual fascists in the 1930s and 1940s to isolate, enslave, and then exterminate ethnic minorities within their own citizen populations, intended as a permanent policy. That ethnic cleansing from an existing population is precisely what the term “concentration” connotes, in fact. Regardless of whether a handful of historians use the term to engage in histrionics, the two situations aren’t equal, analogous, or even exist in any connectable context.
Is this an anti-Semitic remark? Possibly some will feel that way, in terms of watering down the term “concentration camps” and minimizing the industrial slaughter of the Jews into an immigration issue. (Jeff Dunetz has a nuanced take on that issue.) What should be more disturbing is the incredible ignorance and idiocy being spouted by an elected representative, who acts as though the world was created when she first began paying attention to it in January 2017. Maybe her constituents should say “never again” to the idea of sending her back to Congress in 2020 — and, as Jazz wrote earlier today, maybe they’ve already made that decision.