The basic rule of thumb in politics is to try to avoid comparing atrocities to non-atrocities. We saw this most recently when the new president of Iran was pressed to denounce the Holocaust -- and not minimize it by comparing it to something else. Words and allusions matter -- and in some cases can mean the difference between rejection and engagement.
Which brings us to the matter of Senator Ted Cruz and his despicable, disingenuous allusion comparing his Senate floor speech to the crime against humanity known as the Bataan Death March. This is how the U.S. Army describes the atrocity, later declared a Japanese war crime:
Once the surrender went into effect, the Japanese rounded up the American and Filipino soldiers and gathered them into groups of 100 on the only paved road that ran down the Bataan peninsula. The Japanese assigned four guards to each group. They lined the men up four abreast, and they began marching them north toward Camp O'Donnell in Tarlac Province, sixty-five miles away.As the emaciated men proceeded north up the highway in the blistering heat, the Japanese guards summarily shot or bayoneted any man who fell, attempted to escape, or stopped to quench his thirst at a roadside spigot or puddle.
The men were given little water or food for the entire length of the Bataan Death March, which took about five days for each group to complete. The guards chased off, bayoneted or shot any Filipino civilian who tried to give water or bits of food to the passing lines of prisoners. At various points along the route of the March they singled out prisoners, sometimes in groups, tied them to trees or fences, and shot them to death as examples to the others. The Japanese guards killed between 7,000 and 10,000 men on the Death March -- they kept no records and no one knows the exact number. If a man fell, it was certain death unless another could pick him up and support him.
When they got to their prison camp, Camp O'Donnell, conditions were even worse. Camp O'Donnell was a former Philippine Army camp designed to accommodate about 10,000 men. The Japanese crammed 60,000 survivors of the Death March into the camp. There was little running water, sparse food, no medical care, and only slit trenches along the sides of the camp for sanitation. The heat was intolerable, flies rose out of the latrines and covered the prisoner's food, and malaria, dysentery, beriberi and a host of other diseases swept through the crowds of men. They began to die at the rate of four hundred per day. It got so bad that by July, 1942, the Japanese replaced the camp commander, moved the American prisoners to another camp, Cabanatuan, and decided to parole the Filipino prisoners.
For a sitting senator to compare less than 24 hours standing in the ornate confines of the Senate chamber to weeks of torture on a forced death march into concentration camps is despicable. For an aspiring 2016 Commander in Chief to insult his nation's veterans ought to have been unthinkable.
Rather than use the Bataan Death March as an allusion to his speech to defund Obamacare, Ted Cruz should meet with -- and apologize to -- Filipino veterans for his despicable, disingenuous Bataan Death March allusion. He should be seeking justice for Filipino veterans not cheap political tricks for himself.
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