RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Cole writes: "This crisis is Trump-made. Nothing in the law requires family separation, but he designated persons fleeing to the US seeking asylum as criminals, so they have to be arrested and adults and children can't be held in the same prisons."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (photo: Getty)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (photo: Getty)

Yes, Liz Cheney, AOC Is Right That US Is Running Concentration Camps for Refugees

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment

20 June 19


lexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been under fire for an Instagram message she sent out in which she characterized the holding facilities for refugees and other undocumented entrants into the US run by ICE and by private companies (for which it is a $2 billion a year industry) as “concentration camps.”

Human rights groups are speaking of a systematic violation of basic human rights of these immigrants. Note that it is perfectly legal for people to seek refugee status in the United States, and that the court system determines if they will be awarded that status. Trump is now trying to intimidate INS agents into not forwarding cases to the judges. It is illegal for people to simply migrate without documentation into the United States, but the US has been dealing successfully with that phenomenon for years, deporting some 400,000 people a year. In the past decade, more Mexicans have left the US than have come in, and Trump’s anxiety is one more appropriate to the 1980s and 1990s. A majority of Americans favor immigration and 70% say being welcoming of people of other cultures is key to their idea of America.

Some immigrant children are actually being sent to an old internment center that had been used to hold Japanese-Americans during WW II (those were also concentration camps).

This crisis is Trump-made. Nothing in the law requires family separation, but he designated persons fleeing to the US seeking asylum as criminals, so they have to be arrested and adults and children can’t be held in the same prisons. Likewise, the old practice was to let relatives just pick up related children, but now ICE puts the relatives (many of them citizens or lawful residents) under such a spotlight, looking for people to deport, that the relatives are now too afraid to come get the children.

Hence, concentration camps.

Among the most vocal critics of AOC’s diction is Liz Cheney. The Cheneys may still own shares in private prison companies; her father Dick was indicted in 2008 for blocking investigations into prisoner mistreatment in those concentration camps. For-profit prisons should be illegal, and government officials certainly shouldn’t be allowed to own them! Cheney’s line is that it is sacrilegious to apply the term “concentration camp” to these facilities because it diminishes the concentration camps into which Jews were put by the Nazis in preparation for the Holocaust. AOC and her critics fired back that the Nazi concentration camps were a prelude to death camps, an entirely different phenomenon.

So being a historian I looked into this “concentration camp” term.

The British authorities imprisoned Afrikaners in concentration camps during the Boer War. A clergyman from South Africa came to Harvard in 1902 to assert that out of every 1000 children held in British concentration camps, 350 were dying.

“WE WILL FIGHT”: Defiance Thrown Out by a Boer Clergymar Rev Herman von Broekhuizen Tells of His Country’s Woes. Talks Before Great Harvard Union Meeting. Asks America to Save the Women and Children. Dr Mueller Pictures Concentration Camp Horrors. Will Keep on Fighting.” Nail in Great Britain’s Coffin. BOER CONDITIONS BETTER. Opinion of Dr Mueller, Orange Free State Consul to The Hague– Concentration Camp Horrors.
Boston Daily Globe (1872-1922); Boston, Mass. [Boston, Mass]13 Mar 1902: 3.

During WW I, Austria set up concentration camps for prisoners of war and suspicious aliens:

(Special to The Christian Science Monitor). The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current file); Boston, Mass. [Boston, Mass]27 Oct 1915: 2.”

But then so did Britain. 400 German infantrymen were put in what was called a “concentration camp” at Lancashire during the war:

The Scotsman (1860-1920); Edinburgh, Scotland [Edinburgh, Scotland]30 Jan 1915: 11.”

I was surprised to find, though, that in the early 20th century the phrase was not necessarily pejorative.

In 1917 when Woodrow Wilson took the US into World War I, he first had to establish a standing national army (something that was most unwise on his part and against which the Found Fathers had warned). So here’s the headline from Proquest’s Historical Newspapers search:

“PLANS FOR NATIONAL ARMY: First Draft of 500,000 Men to be Divided into Sixteen Divisions. . . Arrangement of Concentration Camps will be near home regions of units …Special to The New York Times.New York Times (1857-1922); May 19, 1917.”

So as the phrase was used in 1917, it was just a camp where you concentrated people for some purpose. We would now call those facilities military bases and since Woodrow Wilson we have taken it into our heads to put about 800 of them around the world for the use of our standing military that consumes the annual GDP of a whole country such as Switzerland or Saudi Arabia (and for which we have decided to pay by deficit financing rather than by taxing the people with the money whom the military is protecting).

On the other hand, the British concentration camps for Afrikaners were much more sinister and caused a black eye for the British Empire.

Already in 1919, we begin to see the term applied to places where Jews were rounded up, as in post-war Hungary. After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Hungary experienced two revolutions, both soon collapsing. Paramilitaries arose. In the White Terror, some 3,000 people were assassinated, mostly workers and peasants, about half of them leftist Jews.

Then we get this item from 1919, which is chilling in how it foreshadows the rise of Nazi genocidal policies.

(The Hungarian far right has a long and sanguinary history; it is now ensconced in power again and has sent to the United States the agent provocateur Sebastian Gorka, whose wife, a Breitbart denizen, just took over as press secretary of US customs.)

Se we may conclude that historically speaking a concentration camp has been a camp where people were concentrated for some purpose. It could mean a military base, or a POW holding facility, or a camp where civilians were immured during war or revolution or just because they were felt to be undesirables.

And the latter is pretty much Trump administration policy toward refugees in the Southwest today.

So yes, AOC is right to call it what it is. And the anxiety on the American Nazi Lite side of the political spectrum about it being called what it is is just a form of propaganda and denialism.

Email This Page your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+37 # DongiC 2019-06-20 17:44
One would think that the Cheney's would just shut up. Their record on chicanery from investing in private prison companies to the still unsettled resolution of the 9/11 tragedy in NYC to the passage of the Patriot Act and the Plan for the Next American Century (PNAC) is one clouded to the extreme.

AOC speaks for millions of Americans who feel that our beloved Republic has lost its way as it wanders through a moral desert. Treatment of Latin American migrants is becoming an ethical question of great import. It may well define what kind of country we are.
+9 # johndsmithv 2019-06-20 23:50
Maybe the Cheney family would send their children and grandchildren to these wonderful summer camps.
-13 # 2019-06-21 02:42
From above: "...So we may conclude that historically speaking a concentration camp has been a camp where people were concentrated for some purpose..." Ocasio-Cortez was not speaking about "some purpose", and she stated, "...I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that ‘never again’ means something...”

She best not minimize what happened in WWII -- but that those prisoners, those who were killed or otherwise died, those victims of medical and other barbaric experimentation , those prisoners who sorted clothes, shoes, teeth, and jewelry from their soon to be killed and dead fellow prisoners, those who dug graves and buried bodies of fellow prisoners, and survivors of other untold horrors, but that they should only have had the same circumstances as those on our borders... How thoughtless. She would never have my vote.
-3 # 2019-06-21 13:17
Her exact quote and video: "...I want to talk to the people that are concerned enough with humanity to say that we should not -- that ‘never again’ means something...” (video
-4 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-06-21 06:21
Juan -- "This crisis is Trump-made. Nothing in the law requires family separation,"

This is too over simplified. It is better to put the crisis into context. The right context is the US destruction of the societies in Latin American nations, especially Honduras which had a democratic government that was overthrown by Obama/Hillary because the government wanted to impose a minimum wage on US corporate owned factories.

The US funds brutal police forces all over latin America. It US backs the right wing in Latin America and they run death squads and terrorist bands against people who want political reform. This is what is driving so many people northward seeking refuge.

It is also the case that Soros is organizing in Latin America to mobilize people to migrate to the US. Soros uses immigration crises to destabilize governments.

Trump has inherited all of this mess. He did not start it. But it is true to say that he is handling it as badly as possible. He's making it worse.

Finally there is something in the law that requires the separation of parents and children. I'm surprised Cole does not know this. When parents are confined in a "prison,
by law children cannot accompany them. Children are given over to the Dept. of Health and Human Services and Child Protective Services to find foster homes or relatives where the kids can live. HHS is doing a terrible job of this -- as the rest of the Trump admin. is.
+9 # David Starr 2019-06-21 07:57
Liz Cheney's playing of the anti-Semitic card against AOC is farcical. It is really a reach that goes to show that Cheney doesn't know what she is talking about. Any excuse is used to protect the Trump regime's fascistic policy against immigrants.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.