Thursday, June 24, 2004

Sleep with dogs and get fleas

Consolidating thoughts from sevral other blogs including The Whiskey Bar and others. Sorry I can't give an exact attribution.

I made the mistake the other day of mentioning the Geneva Conventions in front a co-worker the other day and how I was so disgusted with our cavalier refusal to treat the Iraqi and other "war" prisoners with strict adherence to these rules. I was immediately accosted with a litany of Osama bin Laden,9/11, Saddam atrocities and that these justified whatever it took to defeat terrorism and make us safe. I was accused of promoting "moral relativism." I pointed out that linking our behavior to that of Saddam was in fact the "moral relativism". My co-worker's comment was, to paraphrase "We're the good guys and have Jesus on our side and the terrorists aren't Christian and are the bad guys. The ends justify the means."

My concern is that this reaction seems to be typical of the "non-left" and reflects something about their thought processes that is disturbing, to say the least.

In the same sentence or thought they both condemn and promote "moral relativism". The concept that "good" just means being better than the other "bad" guy. I think what is really happening here is a resistance to the concept of "moral equivalence" which is kind of echoed in the "you're either with us or against us." There has been a long argument since the Cold War on whether any given country was with the U.S. (West) or with the Russians. If you were with us then, regardless of your actual morals or actions, you were on the side of good and therefore some of your behavior could be overlooked. This attitude led the U.S. to crawl into bed with some pretty unsavory characters over the years; Saddam Hussein, Osama, Marcos, Pinochet, Seko just to name a few. These alliances with evil had the moral equivalence of making us no better than the worst among them. Just because some advantage is gained over your supreme enemy does not excuse the behavior of your allies.

I believe every person and country has an obligation to respect and protect basic human rights for on all people regardless of whether they are "with us or against us". This includes the obligation to follow the spirit and the letter of the Geneva Conventions. Any failure to do this is wrong and should be condemned. athis is not to say that all such failures are equivalent and therefore equally bad. The current apologists that attempt to excuse our bad behavior just because others are much worse just don't grasp the fundamental concept that moral responsibility is not relative. You cannot justify evil such as torture, murder and lawlessness in the defense of the good.

The torture scandal has brought America to a crossroads. The current administration is trying it's damndest to rationalize evil as a justification for opposing a greater evil whether it is real or imagined. The constant threat of a new strike, the color codes and all this is designed to compromise the American image. There are trying to change the definition of "good guys" and this is very dangerous.

I really think the job we have is to remind Americans of what the country has stood for since the beginning. Being good is more than just being a little better than the bad people. This involves rejecting the notion that seems to be evolving that the Geneva Conventions are "quaint" but outdated and that they do not apply in the "war on terror". We need to remind Americans that we signed the conventions because they embody the fundamental democratic principles that were and should be soul of America.

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