His own defense of his actions is here.
- Now I’ve achieved some blogosphere fame, not for the hours I’ve spent sifting through the detritus of war, visiting hospitals, interviewing victims and witnesses and soldiers, but for my hobby (unusual and disturbing to some, I realize) of collecting Second World War memorabilia associated with my German grandfather and my American great-uncle. I’m a military geek, with an abiding interest not only in the medals I collect but in the weapons that I study and the shrapnel I analyze. I think this makes me a better investigator and analyst. And to suggest it shows Nazi tendencies is defamatory nonsense, spread maliciously by people with an interest in trying to undermine Human Rights Watch’s reporting.
I work to expose war crimes and the Nazis were the worst war criminals of all time. But I’m now in the bizarre and painful situation of having to deny accusations that I’m a Nazi.
complete garbage highly misleading for Garlasco to suggest that his obsessively pursuit of the “hobby” of collecting– and lovingly displaying with almost pornographic attention to detail– various swastika-adorned military memorabilia from the Nazi era in any way makes him a better investigator of current military events.
He claims that, “I’ve never hidden my hobby.” But when I spoke with Iain Levine, who’s the head of all HRW’s programs and thus Garlasco’s supervisor’s supervisor, he said he had no inkling that Garlasco had such a hobby “until Tuesday morning.”
- I deeply regret causing pain and offense with a handful of juvenile and tasteless postings I made on two websites that study Second World War artifacts (including American, British, German, Japanese and Russian items).
The websites in question are titled German Combat Awards and Wehrmacht-awards. From a quick scan through them they don’t, actually, seem to cover many non-German items at all.
Also, one of those allegedly “juvenile” postings was presumably this one, made in 2005: “The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!” Garlasco was 34 or 35 years old at the time. He’d been working for HRW for two years by then. It was only four years ago.
Hard to make a claim of “youthful indiscretion”, based on such facts.
… I would like to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with Garlasco, in person. I asked Levine if I could have access to him. Hasn’t happened yet.
I’d like to make a few last points here:
1. I do not claim to know what Garlasco’s attitude is toward the Nazi-era military memorabilia that he so obsessively collects. He clearly seems to have a collector’s zeal, or obsession, and to spend a lot of time pursuing this hobby. 7,734 posts on Wehrmacht Awards since March 2004, and compiling a 450-page guide to one small sub-branch of Nazi-era badges are not the signs of a casual collector. The comment shown above, made on Wehrmacht Awards in 2005, indicates some open-ness, at the very least, to the idea that one could entertain and express fondness for specifically SS memorabilia.
Also, using ‘Flak88′ seems like a signal of possible pro-Hitler proclivities to others in that part of the collecting world, who would be quite aware that ’88’ is their insiders’ code for Heil Hitler.
To my mind, this does not prove that Garlasco’s a “Nazi sympathizer”, or an anti-Semite. But his participation on these sites– including interactions there with people who clearly do seem to be Nazi sympathizers– is extremely disturbing in itself.
2. I have had my affiliation as an Advisory Committee member with HRW for some 17 years. In that time I’ve interacted with scores of HRW staff members and advisers (though never, personally, with Garlasco.) I have never had any reason at all to suspect that any of the ones I interacted with were motivated at all in their work by anti-Semitism, or that they harbored any anti-Semitism. Indeed, it is common knowledge that a high proportion of people in the upper levels of the organization are now, and have always been, Jewish.
To suggest that Garlasco is just “the tip of the iceberg” of a whole coterie of anti-Semites working at HRW is a malicious and completely unfounded accusation.
It is probably no surprise to readers here to learn that I am a little disturbed by the degree to which the HRW powers-that-be have thus far circled their wagons round Garlasco and attempted to defend him. I have been having some communications with people in HRW, which are necessarily private, to suggest better ways forward.
3. As always, the big issue here is not Marc Garlasco and his distasteful “hobby”. It is not even Human Rights Watch, tragic though the current episode is for all of us. The big issue is the need to keep everyone’s attention focused on the effort to improve the human rights situation of the extremely vulnerable and still hard-pressed population of Gaza, while also improving the rights situation of all the peoples of the Middle East.
As I wrote in my IPS piece yesterday, the revelations about Garlasco’s “hobby” come at a pivotal point in the campaign to get some real accountability for the gross rights abuses perpetrated during last winter’s Israeli assault on Gaza.
This coming week, Judge Richard Goldstone is due to present his commission’s official report on those abuses to the UN Human Rights Council.
I do not know to what extent his report builds on investigative work done by Marc Garlasco for HRW. But certainly, HRW and Garlasco are very far from the only organizations that have done extensive work documenting the nature and extent of the violations of IHL committed during the Gaza war. So regardless of the latest revelations about Garlasco’s bizarre and troubling out-of-hours activities, Goldstone will still have plenty of good documentation to build on.
If Garlasco, through his actions, had not put his employer into the position of feeling so vulnerable at this point, we might have expected HRW to be a strong voice within the US body politic, advocating for strong support of whatever Goldstone’s recommendations might be. Now, I am sure they (we) will do what we can. But I can’t disguise the fact that I am extremely upset that Garlasco’s actions led to this.
What was he thinking? Did he think no-one would ever make the connection between “Flak88” and Marc Garlasco?
He must have known the connection would likely be made, at some point. He knew there were many staunch defenders of Israel out gunning for HRW; and if he had sat back and thought for one moment about the tracks he was leaving all over those Nazi-memorabilia websites, he must have known that he’d be “outed” one day… And surely, despite his protestations about the “innocence” of his hobby, any half-way intelligent American could have predicted the deep disgust and questioning with which such revelations would be greeted by many or most other Americans.
To his buddies on those websites, meanwhile, he made little or no attempt to hide his actual name, or even his afiliation with HRW. It was only his supervisors at HRW who were nearly all, despite his somewhat general protestation that “I’ve never hidden my hobby”, kept in the dark…