A Democratic congressman compared Bush administration post-Sept. 11 policies to Nazi maneuvers after the burning of the German parliament. “It’s almost like the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that,” Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said July 8, addressing a group of Minnesota atheists. “After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it, and it put the leader of that country in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted.” Adolf Hitler, then the German chancellor who was unable to obtain a Nazi majority through democratic means, used the Feb. 23 1933 burning of the Reichstag as a pretext to impose police powers. It is still unclear who was responsible for the fire. Defending his comments to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Ellison said: “In the aftermath of a tragedy, space is opened up for governments to take action that they could not have achieved before that.” He cited the Iraq war and parts of the Patriot Act, which granted the government greater arrest and surveillance powers after the Sept. 11 2001 terrorist attacks.Ellison, the first Muslim ever to serve in Congress, earned the endorsement of top Jewish figures in Minnesota after he repudiated a brief mid-1990s association with the Nation of Islam, a militant black anti-Semitic group.
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