Saturday, July 21, 2007

Moral Equivalence, Prisoners, and Al Qaeda

Moral equivalence has been all the rage for the last few decades, among the better communities in this country.

"Moral equivalence" has been defined as "defining distinct and conflicting moral behaviors in similar terms." The principle of moral equivalence is behind statements like " 'all sins are equal in God's eyes,' which effectively equates ethnic cleansing with stealing a pencil."

Back in the 60s when my on-and-off affair with academia started, I learned that to be considered sensitive and intelligent the more 'sophisticated' cliques, one should believe, or at least say, that the U.S. detention of Japanese Americans (a really dumb policy) was at least as bad as Stalin's purges. Assuming that it was okay at the time to believe that the purges ever took place.

There's a pretty good discussion of moral equivalence as it relates to Amerika in Brandon Crocker's "Moral Equivalence Rides Again in a 2005 American Spectator.

I'm pretty sure that we'll soon be hearing rewrites of Senator Ted Kennedy's wisdom in reference to Abu Ghraib: "Shamefully, we now learn that Saddam's torture chambers reopened under new management: U.S. management." Amazing. I wouldn't have realized that a sustained policy of mass-murder and routine rape, mutilation, and beating of prisoners is equivalent to a few perverts taking obscene pictures.

The occasion for this display of "open-mindedness" will, I think, be yesterday's executive order relating to the treatment of prisoners.

Actions speak louder than words, but words carry weight, too. The executive order is a clear, detailed, massive collection of officialese, and Executive Order: Interpretation of the Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 as Applied to a Program of Detention and Interrogation Operated by the Central Intelligence Agency. I believe these two quotes will give you the gist of it.

"On February 7, 2002, I determined for the United States that members of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces are unlawful enemy combatants who are not entitled to the protections that the Third Geneva Convention provides to prisoners of war. I hereby reaffirm that determination."

And, "the conditions of confinement and interrogation practices of the program do not include:

"(A) torture, as defined in section 2340 of title 18, United States Code;

"(B) any of the acts prohibited by section 2441(d) of title 18, United States Code, including murder, torture, cruel or inhuman treatment, mutilation or maiming, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, rape, sexual assault or abuse, taking of hostages, or performing of biological experiments;

"(C) other acts of violence serious enough to be considered comparable to murder, torture, mutilation, and cruel or inhuman treatment, as defined in section 2441(d) of title 18, United States Code...." And so on.

Someone boiled it down to "don't be cruel."

Now, for what we'll probably be told is the moral equivalent of the U.S. position in the War on Terror (or W** ** T*****, if you're following the British PM's instructions)(see my Opinions, Freedom, and Sharia Law, and Wake Up America's British Prime Minister drops the Phrase "War on Terror".

Here's an official statement by Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, an al Qaeda spokesman, in October of 2001, as translated on BBC: "US interests are spread throughout the world. So, every Muslim should carry out his real role to champion his Islamic nation and religion. Carrying out terrorism against the oppressors is one of the tenets of our religion and Shari'ah."

I suppose I'm too poor, uneducated, and easily led to understand that "carrying out terrorism" and rebuilding sewage plants in Iraq are really the same thing.

A parting thought: Don't be So Open Minded that Your Brains Fall Out.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.