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Extremism and Suffering Children

By William John Cox
June 15, 2009

Editor’s Note: The further radicalizing of America’s right-wing extremists – reflected in recent outbursts of violence – recalls other times when dangerous ideologies sought extermination of political enemies and inflicted suffering on the innocent.

In this guest essay, lawyer/writer William John Cox explores some of those dark corridors and their real-life consequences for children:

What does a shootout at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., the confessions of a Khmer Rouge jailer and the murder of a Kansas medical doctor have in common? The answer is “children,” and how they suffer from being targeted and used by extremists to advance their own hateful agendas.

In 1981, acting as a public interest lawyer, I represented a Holocaust survivor who had been a 17-year-old boy when his entire family was murdered in Nazi concentration camps. We sued a group of radical right-wing organizations that denied the Holocaust and, as a publicity ploy, had offered a reward for proof it had occurred.

During the hearing in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, I asked, “If the Holocaust is a hoax, then where are all the children?”

The answer was that the death camps were primarily industrial operations that worked prisoners to death, and children were quickly murdered because they were too young to contribute either their labor or body fat to the enterprise.

The presiding judge wisely disposed of the primary issue by simply taking “judicial notice” of the “historical fact” that Jews were gassed to death at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944.
As I was reading in Mother Jones about the murder of a guard at the Holocaust Museum last week, I was not surprised to learn that James von Brunn, the shooter, had left a note saying “the Holocaust is a lie,” and that he was associated with the very same organizations we had defeated almost 30 years ago.

In the past, von Brunn expressed his admiration of Willis Carto, founder of the Liberty Lobby as an umbrella organization for other extremist groups, including the National Alliance organized by William Pierce, whose hatred had focused on African Americans.

Carto also established the Institute for Historical Review to promulgate anti-Semitic propaganda on college campuses, including the reward offer. And, he used the Noontide Press to publish a wide range of hate materials, including at least one book by von Brunn in which he claimed there was a Jewish conspiracy to “destroy the white gene pool.”

In our lawsuit, we established that these organizations were essentially moneymaking operations that profited by tailoring and peddling hate materials to the various prejudices and hatreds of their customers.

Ultimately, the defendants paid a $90,000 judgment and issued an apology “to Mr. Mel Mermelstein, a survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Buchenwald, and all other survivors of Auschwitz for the pain, anguish and suffering he and all other Auschwitz survivors have sustained relating to the $50,000 reward offer for proof that ‘Jews were gassed in gas chambers at Auschwitz.’"

Khmer Rouge Atrocities

Last week, after being painfully reminded about the murdered children of the Holocaust, both Jews and Gypsies, another horrible story about murdered children came across my desktop.

Reuters reported that the chief jailer of the Khmer Rouge confessed at his trial in Phnom Penh that Pol Pot had specifically ordered the murder of the children – among the estimated 1.7 million Cambodians who died as a result of Khmer Rouge rule in the 1970s – because “we were afraid those children would take revenge.”

The Cambodian children were not murdered in gas chambers. They were taken into the “Killing Fields” and clubbed to death.

Finally, as I later read about the murder of Dr. George Tiller by a “staunch opponent of abortion,” yet another, more complex, image of suffering children came to mind.

Dr. Tiller’s clinic had been bombed in 1985, and he was shot in both arms in 1993 by an anti-abortionist; however, his murder reveals another way how children suffer as a result of extremist hatred. 

He was one of the few doctors who had the courage to help women cope with impossible late-term pregnancies that threatened either their own lives, or which would deliver a child incapable of leading anything other than a life of misery, one whose quality of “living” would be so poor as to not even qualify as “life.”

Dr. Tiller did not “murder babies.” He was a healer who helped women abort late-term pregnancies under conditions where the fetus would die shortly after birth from conditions, such as an exposed brain or Down Syndrome with severe congenital heart defects, or where one twin had died in the womb and toxins were killing the other twin and the mother.

Many of his patients desperately wanted children, and Dr. Tiller saved their lives and preserved their health so they had the chance to bear healthy babies and build strong families.

While many extremists are the first to say they act on behalf of children, they are often the last to lift a finger to help poor mothers raise, educate or provide health care for disabled children.

“Pro-life” extremists are quite willing to condemn these children, and their families, to a lifetime of suffering to promote their own intolerant religious beliefs. As was Scott Roeder, the murderer of Dr. Tiller, who subscribed to hate literature advocating that the killing of an abortionist should be legally justifiable homicide.

Undoubtedly, Roeder was also exposed to the ranting of conservative propagandists, such as Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, who compared the doctor to a Nazi “operating a death mill” and who called him “Tiller the Baby Killer.”

The effect of these twisted hate messages on Roeder is revealed in a post he made in 2007 on the Operation Rescue Web site,

“It seems as though what is happening in Kansas could be compared to the ‘lawlessness’ which is spoken of in the Bible. Tiller is the concentration camp ‘Mengele’ of our day and needs to be stopped before he and those who protect him bring judgement upon our nation.”

According to the Kansas City Star, Roeder was also involved in the “Freemen” movement, which had been among the organizations cultivated by Willis Carto, my former opponent in the Holocaust Case.

The Freemen declared they were not subject to any government and were exempt from all laws, including the payment of income taxes.

In 1996, Roeder was found to be in possession of bomb-making materials and was sentenced to probation on condition he avoided anti-government groups that advocated violence.

Dr. Tiller was serving as an usher in the Reformation Lutheran Church handing out church bulletins when Roeder invaded the sanctuary and shot him down. The church is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest of all Lutheran denominations in the U.S.

Evangelical Lutherans are “supportive of life” and encourage women to explore alternatives to abortion when possible; however, the church believes it can be “morally responsible” to end a pregnancy in cases where the pregnancy “presents a clear threat to the physical life of the woman,” and in “circumstances of extreme fetal abnormality, which will result in severe suffering and very early death of an infant.”

The church also opposes “laws that deny access to safe and affordable services for morally justifiable abortions.”

The Catholic and Orthodox Churches and many fundamentalist evangelical congregations oppose virtually all abortions, including pregnancies that threaten the lives of mothers and those resulting from rape or incest. 

However, most mainstream Christian denominations, including the United Church of Christ, American Baptist Churches, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Methodist Church, and the Episcopal Church, support a woman’s right of choice.

In addition to the thousands of women helped by Dr. Tiller over the years, four children and 10 grandchildren will mourn his death.

Holocaust Museum Assault

The son of Holocaust Museum guard Stephen Johns is undoubtedly devastated by the loss of his father to violent hatred, and even the son of Johns’s murderer has suffered from his father’s extremism.

The Washington Post quotes James von Brunn’s son, Eric as saying that his father “should not be remembered as a brave man or a hero, but a coward unable to come to grips with the fact that he threw his and his family’s lives away for an ideology that fostered sadness and anguish.”

We have much to fear from these radicals. Even the Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning regarding a “resurgence in radicalization and recruitment by right-wing extremists.”

An April 7, 2009, report concluded that: “Antigovernment conspiracy theories and ‘end times’ prophecies could motivate extremist individuals and groups to stockpile food, ammunition, and weapons. These teachings also have been linked with the radicalization of domestic extremist individuals and groups in the past, such as violent Christian Identity organizations and extremist members of the militia movement.”

Extremists who murder children and who are willing to condemn children and their families to a lifetime of suffering to promote a philosophy of hatred or a religion of intolerance, threaten the freedom and safety of everyone, especially those who oppose them.

Efforts of extremists to compel others to adopt their warped views and unhealthy beliefs have resulted in the enslavement of their victims in prisons and concentration camps. Or, through their efforts to impose their religious beliefs through legislation, they have mentally and emotionally shackled others by forcing them to accept unfair laws they can’t believe in.

The innocent children have no voice in these matters but the sound of their cries, yet they suffer the very most of all.

William John Cox is a retired supervising prosecutor for the State Bar of California. As a police officer he wrote the Policy Manual of the Los Angeles Police Department and the Role of the Police in America for a national advisory commission. Acting as a public interest, pro bono lawyer, he investigated and successfully sued a group of radical right-wing organizations in 1981 that denied the Holocaust; and he arranged in 1991 for publication of the suppressed Dead Sea Scrolls. His 2004 book, You’re Not Stupid! Get the Truth: A Brief on the Bush Presidency is reviewed at, and he is currently working on a fact-based fictional political philosophy. His writings are collected at, and he can be contacted at

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