Dagger in hand

A man of prodigious fortune, coming to add his opinion to some light discussion that was going on casually at his table, began precisely thus: "It can only be a liar or an ignoramus who will say otherwise than," and so on. Pursue that philosophical point, dagger in hand.

--Michel de Montaigne, Of the art of discussion.

Stab back: cmnewman99-at-yahoo.com


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Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Breaking eggs

Sully reposted for general opprobrium this eloquent post from Democratic Underground:
The only way to get rid of this slime bag WASP-Mafia, oil barron ridden cartel of a government, this assault on Americans and anything one could laughingly call "a democracy", relies heavily on what a shit hole Iraq turns into. They need to die so that we can be free. Soldiers usually did that directly--i.e., fight those invading and harming a country. This time they need to die in defense of a lie from a lying adminstration to show these ignorant, dumb Americans that Bush is incompetent. They need to die so that Americans get rid of this deadly scum.
Right after reading this, I read Sully's own essay on Bush's seemingly buoyant reelection prospects. In it appears the following passage:

Consider the obvious current weak spot: Iraq. Last week began with a truly terrible day for the reconstruction of the country: carnage and destruction on a new scale. If terrorists are able to keep Iraq constantly off-balance, and security this tenuous, then the prospects for a successful transition to democracy are slim. That's the downside. The upside is that, at the same time, the new violence marks a new era in the Middle East. For the first time, the Islamist forces of terror are targeting Arabs. They are targeting innocent civilians in Iraq; and they are doing so with no concern for any religious propriety or military decency. They have bombed mosques and the Red Cross - a pretty damning combination. And they launched their mayhem on the first day of Ramadan. So much for their religious piety.

This makes a difference. At some point, Iraqis will perhaps see something that was obscured before. These terrorists are the enemies of Arab self-government, of Arab democracy, of Arab freedom, and of Islam itself. While they only targeted Western targets and murdered Westerners, this truth was obscured. Now it isn't. Iraqis are beginning to see this more clearly; and the newly free press in that country will help illuminate it even more. The Iraq liberation has therefore changed the dynamic in the Middle East in dramatic ways.
Hmmmm. Am I the only one to note an interesting parallel here? Don't get me wrong. I'm not asserting that the two are morally equivalent. The DU poster obviously resents U.S. soldiers and views the prospect of their deaths with satisfaction even beyond the instrumental value she sees them as having. Sullivan has no such animus toward the Iraqis and does not celebrate their suffering. But he does describe the fact that they are now being targeted by Islamist terrorism as having an "upside." He too is looking at the deaths of innocent people as a salutary development, a catalyst for bringing about a desired change in the political state of affairs.

Had the DU poster written her piece without the bile, and merely taken the position that while our soldiers' deaths are tragic, they nevertheless have an "upside" in helping people realize the failings of the Bush administration, I think it would be hard to distinguish her from Sullivan. One could of course still distinguish between the two and judge them morally on the basis of their respective worldviews and the differing end goals in service of which they are willing to countenance loss of life. But they are the same in that each of them sees the violent suffering of others as having instrumental value. Which, undeniably, it can.

So the question becomes: what, if anything, is wrong with seeing that value and responding to it?

Sorry folks, you won't get an answer to that one from me this morning.

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