War and moral blindness

Relates to:
Date: 2003-05-12

By Jedd Medefind

Although it may have seemed otherwise at times, there were many who stood opposed to the war in Iraq based on a sincere, heartfelt conviction that problems solved using violence often echo back in repeated cycles of anger and even more violence. This sentiment contains wisdom worth pondering, and I have little doubt that our President considered such thoughts even as he made the decision to employ war to end Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror.

Nevertheless, recent tirades against President Bush by some anti-war advocates raise serious questions about what motivates portions of the political left.

In April, former U.S. attorney general and liberal activist Ramsey Clark purchased a $45,000 advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle assailing President Bush as a “criminal” and urging his impeachment.

Some, myself included, might view such a message as less-than-American, particularly given the current world political situation. Even so, no activity is more inherently American than the right to speak your mind, however empty it may be. Abraham Lincoln, who received as much criticism from anti-war activists as any U.S. President, reminded us, “A man can disagree with those in government without being against his country or its government.”

(After all, one can only imagine what Mr. Clark would look like had he published criticisms of his president as an Iraqi citizen in a Baghdad paper. Most likely, his tongue would have been cut out, as Saddam is known to have done to those even suspected of questioning his regime.)

What is exceedingly telling, however, is the fact that this same Ramsey Clark has acted as representative and advocate for the likes of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, convicted in the World Trade Center bombing, and former Yugoslav President (and accused war criminal) Slobodan Milosevic. In February, Clark himself traveled to Iraq to meet with Saddam Hussein on behalf of U.S. anti-war groups.

Lest any have forgotten, each of these men is known worldwide for inflicting terrible suffering upon aging grandparents and teething babies, bubbling brides and middle-aged mothers.

No doubt, some would see in Mr. Clark’s defense of such men a profound insensitivity to the human suffering leftists purport to abhor. Others would view his actions as the very worst form of hypocrisy, driven by a hatred for America and its president.

Certainly, charges of both callousness and two-facedness seem appropriate. But I believe something else is at work, as well. Lurking beneath the surface, there appears to be a profound moral blindness that somehow morphs and distorts all lines between good and evil, ultimately embracing a radical relativism incapable of distinguishing between lawmen and criminals, heroes and villains.

Individuals who share Mr. Clark’s worldview gleefully point out the flaws and imperfections of America and its leaders from 1776 to the present. These shortcomings demonstrate to them a fundamental “moral equivalency” of all actions, values, and leaders. Indeed, during a formal debate on a college campus in my district last week, the director of Ramsey Clark’s International Action Center reminded the audience that “‘terrorist’ is a entirely subjective word” and that the “American Founding Fathers were considered terrorists by the British.” Ergo, there is little, if any, discernable moral difference between the actions of a George Washington and an Ossama bin Laden. Furthermore, given America’s many faults, we simply have no basis for any moral judgement at all. In the words of a professor of political science at this same debate, “Who are we to impose our views and morality on a sovereign state like Iraq?”

The Russian novelist Dostoyevsky observed over a century ago, “If God is dead, anything is permissible.” Many leftist writers, professors, and other social commentators have indeed celebrated since the 1960s the “death of God” and the end of moral absolutes; in these individuals’ view, there is no true good or evil, only opinions and preferences. Is it any wonder, then, that their grasp of a sense of right and wrong is tenuous at best?

A worldview that defends the likes of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and Slobodan Milosevic, and then labels President Bush a criminal for taking on Saddam Hussein is not merely anti-American; it is as morally blind as the men it embraces.

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