Leslie Cockburn Compares Trump to Stalin, ICE Facilities to Death Camps in the Soviet Union
With the national debate over ICE heating up as midterm elections approach, Democratic House candidate Leslie Cockburn amplified her opposition to the immigration enforcement agency in a Monday morning tweet comparing President Trump to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, and ICE detention facilities to Gulags, the death camps for political prisoners run by the dictator of the USSR.
According to historians, as many as 18 million Soviet citizens were imprisoned in Gulag camps at the hands of the communist regime. Death toll estimates vary, with some scholars claiming 2-6 million deaths, while others cite uncovered Soviet records documenting 1.5 – 1.7 million lives lost to summary execution, mistreatment, and extermination through forced labor.
The crimes of Josef Stalin and the Soviet regime are without contemporary parallel.
By contrast, while policies held over from the Obama Administration have attracted controversy, nothing documented at these facilities remotely approaches the inhumanity of Stalin’s regime. As Newsweek reported, the 25,000 unaccompanied minors held in federal facilities in 2013 fell to under 12,000 earlier this year, with increased public pressure prompting a re-evaluation of longstanding practices and policies.
“These kids are being taken care of in a clean and appropriate environment,” Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) told WJLA, after touring one facility in Northern Virginia. “What I can’t say is whether all of the other facilities around the nation meet this same level of quality.”
Warner also praised the facility in an interview with Inside NOVA, complimenting its “good work.”
On the campaign trail, Cockburn has emerged as a leading opponent of ICE and immigration enforcement.
On multiple occasions, she has dodged questions on whether she supports far-left calls to abolish the agency in its entirety. However, she used her campaign’s official Facebook page to highlight a photo of herself standing with a protestor calling for the agency’s abolishment.
Earlier, Cockburn accused federal employees of torturing refugee children at ICE facilities, in a June 29 tweet. Cockburn has not said whether she toured any to observe the alleged “torture” firsthand, as did fellow Democrat Mark Warner, who found nothing remotely approaching that description.
Her comparison of what Warner called a “clean and appropriate environment” to Stalinist death camps is not the first time Cockburn has faced criticism for perverting historical facts to fit a political agenda.
In 1991, Leslie Cockburn published an infamous, anti-Israel book entitled Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the US-Israeli Covert Relationship, which was widely condemned by scholars and experts for its widespread historical misrepresentations.
In a New York Times review, Dr. David Schoenbaum, an Oxford-educated historian and expert on US-Israeli relations, wrote:
“Instead, their book, supposedly a history of the secret ties between Israel and the United States, is largely dedicated to Israel-bashing for its own sake. Its first message is that, win or lose, smart or dumb, right or wrong, suave or boorish, Israelis are a menace. The second is that the Israeli-American connection is somewhere behind just about everything that ails us.”
Bestselling author and former CBS News foreign correspondent Dan Raviv was even more critical of Cockburn’s false and erroneous historical perspective.
Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Raviv, also an expert on US-Israeli relations, said Cockburn cherry-picked facts, selectively quoted sources, cited conspiracy theorists, made “Israel’s deadliest foes” such as Saddam Hussein “out to be reasonable fellows,” and twisted words to “fit the Cockburn view of history.” He concluded that the “book’s boldest assertions, however, are supported by little more than unfriendly speculation.”
“In the Cockburn universe, Washington’s interests are basically evil and Israel ministers to every ugly whim. There is little sensitivity to Israel’s unique problems or to the unadorned, though difficult, challenge of creating a haven for Jews in the wake of centuries of oppression. Even today’s dramatic exodus of refugees, moving to Israel because they fear glasnost may aggravate anti-Semitism, is cynically characterized by the Cockburns as the fulfillment of an old Israeli ambition ‘to secure the vast pool of Soviet Jews as citizens.’”
Raviv was clear in his criticism that Cockburn had twisted historical facts to fit her political agenda.
Prominent Democrat Alan Dershowitz also said Cockburn and her co-author were “no friends of Israel.”
The comparison between ICE and Soviet death camps comes on the heels of a failed attempt by Cockburn to smear her Republican opponent, Denver Riggleman, as a devotee of “Bigfoot erotica.” Reports from the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and Vice Media all found the bizarre attack to be completely and totally false.
While ICE facilities and policies are reasonable points of discussion, the comparisons of President Donald Trump to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, and ICE facilities to death camps, far exceed the bounds of what most consider legitimate political debate.
As far as history is concerned, the crimes against humanity committed in the Soviet Gulag system are without contemporary parallel. Only the regimes in Nazi Germany and Communist China have inflicted human suffering on a similarly massive scale.
Critics of these comparisons say that equivocating contemporary disagreements to the worst crimes of history is an unwarranted smear tactic which cheapens the memory of the millions of victims and coarsens debate for partisan political purposes.
Cockburn will face Republican opponent Denver Riggleman in Virginia’s fifth district midterm election on November 6, to replace retiring Congressman Tom Garrett (R-Buckingham).