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Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Moral Myopia of Robert Goodwyn

robert goodwyn wrote:
RG) Looking back over last week's exchange of e-mails, I find that one question is still unanswered:  When are you going to pay for the Iraq war? (RG
Your first email asked "When are you going to pay us back for the Iraq war?"

Assuming that by "pay us back" you meant American taxpayers who did not advocate the invasion, in my very first response I gave you my answer. I calculated how much any individual invasion advocate would owe any such invasion opponent, and said I would pay back FIFTY TIMES any opponent who can say to me: "The U.S. military should never be used to depose a genocidal totalitarian WMD-using ballistic-missile-firing neighbor-annexing terrorist-funding sadistic maniac who defiantly persists in what the Security Council declares to be 'material breach' of his agreement to be inspected for cessation of his earlier WMD programme."

You declined my offer, saying never say never.  What is actually "unanswered" here is how you expect invasion advocates to distinguish between the maniacs that should be deposed and those that shouldn't.  You've given no hint of your criteria for making that distinction, even when I specifically challenged you to cite yourself or anyone else giving a prior warning of the unpredicted Sunni-Shia civil war that followed the invasion.
RG) You have taken the position that the Iraq war, with all its destruction, suffering, and loss of innocent lives, is worth less than one penny to you. (RG
False.  Stop making stuff up about what I believe.  The position I have taken is that I'll fully compensate each and every invasion-opposing taxpayer who will go on record as being so uncaring about tyranny that they oppose ever toppling the sort of tyrant that Saddam was. At least you have the decency to admit that genocidal tyranny should sometimes be opposed.  But do you have the decency to tell us where or when?
RG) Do you really care nothing about the children who had to suffer under bombs? (RG
Do you really think that any American bomb was ever dropped for the purpose of murdering even a single child?  You can't show me a picture of a single such child, but I've already shown you a video of some of the bodies of the thousands of Kurdish children that Saddam deliberately and systematically murdered with his chemical weapons.

I already explained to you that Saddam and his sons had killed 1.5 million people over their careers, a death rate at least three or four times the death rate while they were hunted down.  Do you really care nothing about those 1.5 million deaths, and about the myriad more deaths their regime would have caused over its next 40 years?

Morality consists in more than just one's knee-jerk reactions to the suffering that reaches one's living room TV screen.  You have to balance that against the suffering you don't see, and against past and future suffering that might (not have) happen(ed) given different choices. A couple weeks ago a leftist advocate of universal health care asked me: do you really care nothing about the thousands of Americans who die every year for lack of health insurance?  I tried to explain that more lives would be saved under a free market in healthcare than under socialized medicine.  Of course, I can't point a camera at the future deaths that socialized medicine will cause, and so the myopic leftist was not persuaded.

Those who can see distant and future and avoided suffering will always have their morality questioned by those who can only see the suffering in front of their nose.
RG) I want to believe that no matter how troubled you are that you can find within yourself a sliver of decency. (RG
Decency begins with respect for the truth.  Why can't you find the decency not to misrepresent what I have said?
RG) I ask you if you can reconsider your one-cent moral obligation for the war that you helped to start. (RG
I did nothing to start the Sunni-Shia civil war.  In fact, while I welcomed and defended the invasion to depose Saddam, I did nothing to help initiate that invasion: no contacting of elected representatives, no letters to the editor, no answering of opinion surveys, etc.  Why can't you find the decency not to lie about whether I "helped to start" the invasion of Iraq?