Eichmann and KSM

| Mon Nov. 16, 2009 7:31 PM EST

There is still a lot to talk about regarding the upcoming 9/11 trials and Spencer Ackerman's comparison of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's appearance in a US federal court to Adolf Eichmann's 1962 trial in Jerusalem. Like Spencer, I want to be careful not to equate Al Qaeda and the Nazis or to compare anything to the horror of the Holocaust. But Hannah Arendt's reflections on the nature of political evil are useful in a lot of contexts, and this is one of them.

Spencer says in his excellent post that KSM's rantings at his trial will seem farcical. But he misreads Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem when he says this:

I suspect we’ll have an Eichmann-in-Jerusalem moment—and sorry for the unfortunate Nazi/al-Qaeda analogy; al-Qaeda are not the Nazis; but I couldn’t really think of any other parallel—except instead of the banality of evil, we’ll see the lunacy and vanity and self-absorption of it.


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