Wolf's use of the "F-word" has prompted a lot of NABA-NABA, all of which might be true but is, as always with NABA-ism, an irrelevant response.
"NABA," again, stands for "Not As Bad As." As in, "Yes, the executive now has the power to declare anyone an enemy combatant, to detain them without charge, subject them to torture, and use the 'evidence' collected from that torture to sentence them in extrajudicial military tribunals, but the executive hasn't used this unchecked power against that many people, and not yet against any well-known white U.S. citizens, so let's not get carried away with the F-word because we're Not As Bad As the most heinous villains of history."
NABA-NABA is meant to be reassuring, but it's a feeble kind of reassurance. It's like trying to tell the people of New Orleans to cheer up since, after all, Katrina and the broken levies were Not As Bad As the Boxing Day tsunami. That may be technically true, but it's hardly the point.
So, yes, I agree with Wolf's critics who leap to defend President Bush by insisting he is Not As Bad As Hitler/Stalin/Mao/Saddam/Galactus. I agree so wholeheartedly that I think this should be the engraving on the archway to the George W. Bush Presidential Library: "Not As Bad As Saddam."
NABA-NABA erodes our standards and expectations — lowering the bar like we're in some kind of limbo contest. Consider this from Wolf:
Once you have got everyone scared, the next step is to create a prison system outside the rule of law (as Bush put it, he wanted the American detention centre at Guantánamo Bay to be situated in legal "outer space") — where torture takes place. …
With its jails in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, of course, Guantánamo in Cuba, where detainees are abused, and kept indefinitely without trial and without access to the due process of the law, America certainly has its gulag now.
The facts here are not in dispute. Everyone agrees that Guantanamo Bay has become a place where "detainees are abused, and kept indefinitely without trial and without access to the due process of the law." You can either respond to those facts, or you can reassure yourself with NABA-NABA, desperately latching onto Wolf's use of the word "gulag" and indulging in the comforting distraction that, as bad as it may be, Gitmo is NABA the Soviet gulags.
That's true. It's also not the point.
Guantanamo is incompatible with democracy. I don't care, and it doesn't matter, if we can list a dozen or a thousand examples of places that were worse. That's not how this works. We're not grading on a curve. Guantanamo Bay is intolerable.
Shut it down. Burn it down, gentlemen. Burn it down and salt the earth.