I’m not quite feeling the furious reaction to White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s comment about Hitler and poison gas. To be sure, much of the over-the-top criticism is politically motivated. But this is one of those instances where people have to dig pretty deep in that manure pile to find the pony.
Spicer made the following observation which is absolutely true.
“We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II,” Spicer told reporters, as he criticized the Russian government for its support of Assad. “Someone who is despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons. You have to, if you’re Russia, ask yourself, is this a country that you, and a regime that you want to align yourself with?”
Correct Fact #1: We did not use chemical weapons in World War II.
Correct Fact #2: Hitler did not use chemical weapons during World War II.
That should have been the end of the story. But the ignoramuses in the press and Twitter immediately sprang into action.
In fact, Hitler’s Nazi Germany did use chemical weapons, most notably through the Holocaust, the genocidal program intended to murder Europe’s entire Jewish population. Many of the Jews who died in the Holocaust were killed in gas chambers using Zyklon B and other poisons.
Sarin gas, the weapon believed to have been used by Assad’s regime, was first created and weaponized by Nazi scientists in 1938.
Earth to Politco: Zyklon B was not a chemical weapon. It was a fumigator/ pesticide and was never weaponized. It was sold in the form of pellets or crystals that, when exposed to the air, turned into a gas. It was a horrific product used for evil purposes. But to say it was a “chemical weapon,” which was the point that Spicer was making, is ludicrous.
The Nazis also created special trucks where they would stuff dozens of Jews into the back of the closed vehicle and route carbon monoxide into the closed space. Carbon monoxide is a gas. Should we call it a weapon too?
And the Nazis may have, indeed, created sarin gas and weaponized it. But Spicer didn’t say the Nazis didn’t make chemical weapons. He said they never used them. Why did Politico even allow that idiotic point to be published?
Spicer tried to clarify:
“In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust,” Spicer said in the statement. “I was trying to draw a distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers. Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable.”
Everyone understood what he was originally talking about except those trying to score political points.
The press secretary’s statement was quickly derided and fact-checked, including by MSNBC, which followed the press briefing with a chyron summarizing what Spicer had said and adding parenthetically that “Hitler gassed millions.” Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, wrote on Twitter that she hopes Spicer “takes time to visit @HolocaustMuseum. It’s a few blocks away.”
Sen. Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, tweeted that Spicer needed a “refresher history course on Hitler stat.” “#Icantbelievehereallysaidthat,” Cardin added.
The Nazis and the allies created millions of tons of chemical weapons and never used them. Both sides knew that if one side employed them on the battlefield, the other side would almost certainly use them on cities where millions of defenseless civilians would have died in the most horrific manner possible.
It was not humane considerations that prevented Hitler from using poison gas as a battlefield weapon. Spicer was not making that point and to suggest otherwise is dishonest.
Sarin gas was designed and created to be used for one thing and one thing only: to kill people. If you can’t tell the difference between sarin and Zyklon B, might I suggest a remedial course in reading comprehension?