Friday, February 06, 2004

War of the Bumble Bees

Morality has very little to do with choosing sides. It can tell us that a given act is dreadful, but it canít tell us whether to say, ëThis is dreadful, therefore Öí or ëThis is dreadful, but Öí We still often believe that we oppose our enemies because of their crimes, and support our allies despite their crimes. I wouldnít be surprised if Margaret Thatcher was quite sincere in condemning ZAPU as a terrorist organization because it shot down a civilian airliner, and in supporting one of the mujahedin factions, despite the fact that it had deliberately blown up a civilian airliner. Sometimes our moral justifications can blunt our moral sense. Think of the incendiary bombings of Germany and Japan. Suppose they were a military necessity. If so, better to accept that what ëour sideí is doing is wrong and do it anyway than to persuade ourselves it is right because it is in a just cause.

~ Ken MacLeod via Theresa Nielsen Hayden at Making Light

I had a conversation last night with a fellow student librarian who explained his pro-Iraq war stance with a similar and equally compelling argument. It boiled down to the notion that while war is awful, (a given) it is not as awful as the slow death by extended sanctions which would have killed far more over a longer period of time (an arguable point but one with some truth in it). He supported the expeditious act of invasion in the hope that it would remove a problem from the world and free a people who could then proceed with self-determination, and do so in a way that was the least bloody. He added a caveat: he would not have supported the war had he known we would have bungled it so horribly in the occupation phase and that the WMDs were a complete and utter fabrication.

This is, as far as I've heard, the most compelling argument for the War in Iraq. I still can't get behind it but I at least see now where he and a few of the other pro-war folk are coming from: bloody war is acceptable if it yields peace and prevents prolonged violence.
This argument at least tries to make sense of a horror, where as all we get out of our leaders is rhetorical blather about "Death to the Evil Doers" and "Down with Terrorism!" Phrases which may make for compelling sound bites but have all the intellectual weight and rational content of bees buzzing in your ear.

I'm not saying I would have bought this argument had George W. Bush given it to us last March. Had he even attempted some version of this, I may have given him a bit more room to maneuver over the issue of cherry picked Intelligence. But he didn't. He didnít even try. And that is the truly sad part of this whole affair. The President of the United States didn't even attempt to rationalize his bloodlust. He just mumbled some buzzwords, smirked for the camera and sent people off to die and then later, tried to backpedal into a week argument about Democratic Self Determination.

Bush, Cheney et al are forever extolling the virtues of our actions, pretending that dropping tons of explosives on civilians is not a morally reprehensible act in itself but instead the complete opposite. BushCo. would have us believe daisy cutters and Moabs are manna from heaven, instead of death from above. This is why I oppose the actions of the Bush Administration, because they are disingenuous. Iíve long since come to accept that politicians will do dastardly deeds in the name of Big Ideas. All I ask is that they own up to it, not pretend that they are saints. All this sanctimonious fiddle faddle does is undermine the brutal truths of their actions and poke holes in their argument. Sorry George. You can't blow off children's arms with cruise missiles and then call it a Humanitarian Mission. Your Red State constituents may buy that, but they're as functionally illiterate as you are.

Perhaps it's easier for me, squarely set in the world of Intelligentsia and Academia to pine over the moral weight of our President's decisions. Maybe if I could just suck it up like a good consumer, think with my gut and get behind the neocolonialism of our current regime, barely concealed racism and all, then I would be spared the agony and the sleepless nights wondering what will become of this country, that country and my life because a few wealthy, white Christian men fear even a moment's introspection. But there inlies the problem. I canít simply shut off my critical thinking skills and go along with the heard mentality. Iíve fought that impulse my whole life, so much so that now it is second nature. And for this, Iím labeled a traitor by the mouth breathers who donít mind a little racism and War for the sake of War (you know, to jump start that all precious economy. ìHoly Mammon, we give this blood sacrifice so that our shares in Halliburton will go up a tenth of a percent. Amen.î)

Or perhaps I'm simply cynical beyond my years.


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