Re: MD Understanding Quality And Power

From: Mark Steven Heyman (
Date: Fri Dec 10 2004 - 20:33:59 GMT

  • Next message: Sam Norton: "Re: MD Understanding Quality And Power"

    On 9 Dec 2004 at 22:32, Sam Norton wrote:
    > msh says:
    > This idea of "moral equivalence," though it's frequently tossed
    > about, seems to me to be rather ill-defined. Can you tell me what
    > you mean by it? And did you find that Solomon advocated this idea?

    An example would be something like: the US has acted immorally in
    Latin America for decades (you know the details); Saddam Hussein
    acted immorally throughout his tenure on power; therefore the
    American invasion of Iraq is wrong/hypocritical (because the US is as
    bad as Hussein - the moral equivalence).

    msh says:
    You're right, That is some bonehead argument. Please show me where
    I or Chomsky, or any intelligent progressive thinker, has taken such
    a position in regards to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, or
    anything else. If you can't, then promise me that if I ever do make
    such an argument you'll slap me upside the head.

    So I think what needs to be done is to establish the morality or
    immorality of a particular act (invasion of Iraq) largely
    independently of actions elsewhere.

    msh says:
    Of course. So let's get right into it, and see if we can agree on
    the invalidity of one moral argument made in support of the invasion:
    When the argument is made that we invaded Iraq because Hussein was a
    brutal dictator who tortured and murdered thousands of his own
    people, we can refute the argument by showing that his worst
    atrocities, the gassing of the Kurds at Halabja for example, were
    carried out with the full knowledge of the USG, at a time when USG
    support for the government of Saddam Hussein was at its height. A
    Defense Intelligence Agency investigation and report made immediately
    after the Halabja incident absolved Hussein, while USG military,
    technological, and financial support of Iraq continued unabated and
    with full knowledge of the facts.

    Would you agree that these historical facts invalidate the idea that
    the USG objects in principle to the atrocities of brutal dictators?
    And that whatever valid reasons we had for Invading Iraq, the fact
    that Hussein was a brutal dictator can't be one of them? If so, then
    we can put this argument to bed, and move on.

    The thing that generates more heat than light is, I think, precisely
    this assumption about consistency, because on the one hand you get a
    group of critics saying "US is an evil imperial aggressor" and on the
    other hand you get "the US is the bright shining light on a hill come
    to redeem all mankind", and if you have positions staked out in such
    absolute terms then there's no scope for a finer discrimination,
    which is where the real understanding lies. Plus which, I think there
    is truth in both points of view...

    msh says:
    I agree. Let's avoid both of these absolutist positions. I can't
    imagine anyone claiming that the US or GB or any other state is an
    absolutely evil imperial aggressor. However, it is absolutely true
    that the US and other nations have engaged in numerous acts of
    imperial aggression. This alone is reason enough to view any current
    or future acts of aggression with a suspicious eye.

    That's enough for now. I'll try to keep my responses shorter, to
    avoid causing problems for Horse.

    Respond whenever you have time. I'll be sending more anon.

    Mark Steven Heyman (msh)

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