Front page

Are you afraid of the dark?

(Click to invert colors, weenie.) (Requires JavaScript.)

All email will be assumed to be for publication unless otherwise requested.

What's in the banner?

Sunday, August 04, 2002

The Other Edge of the Sword

Yesterday, the Houston Chronicle carried an opinion piece by William Raspberry entitled "Don't Reward the Terror; Start the Peace". It's not the first time since 9/11 that Raspberry has let his eyes fill with concern for our enemies. It's very sad...I used to respect him.

This article is your typical unicycle-of-violence, whose most convincing point is that, since everything else has been tried, the Palestinians might as well have their state. Military action hasn't led to peace, so let's try giving in. Whatever.

There's much, very much, wrong with this article but I don't want to go through it point by point. But there's one thing that made me very angry. He says that expecting Israel to move toward a Palestinian state if suicide bombings should cease, is "like expecting civil rights demonstrators to call off their marches in hopes that Bull Connor will escort them to the registrar's office..."

Was that you, Bill? Were you there with a sign that said, "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight", and some high explosives? Maybe you have some tips for the Palestinians. Maybe you could tell them what kind of poison you used to coat your shrapnel nails. The type the Palestinians are using doesn't seem to be working well. Perhaps you have some opinions on the type of explosives used, or how to pack the shrapnel, or the timing of the explosions.

Because that's exactly how your people---our people, all our people---triumphed in their struggle, right? By blowing up people at prayer, and in grocery stores and pizza parlors? And didn't you dance in the streets when the bombs went off, and make lovingly detailed re-creations of the blood-spattered pizzeria, and congratulate yourselves on what a fine job you'd done, and brag about how pleased God would be with you? And didn't this convince the decent white people of America that you were truly oppressed?

No? Then why in the name of all that's holy are you trying to equate the suicide bombers with civil rights marchers?? Are you just seven kinds of dumb? Or are you trying to garner cheap sympathy to make your dubious point?

(Obligatory fairness: Raspberry himself throws in the sentence, "There is, to be sure, a vast difference between a picket line and bombings." Perhaps this vast difference bothered him a little, until he thought to put in this disclaimer. There! That makes it all better!)

If I may go off on a tangent here (and it's my blog, so I may), this is the thing that the moral equivalizers never seem to notice: equivalence goes both ways. When Raspberry says, "Their struggle is just like ours!" he means us to say to ourselves, "Goodness! The blacks were oppressed, and the Palestinians say they're oppressed, so he's right! The Intifada is just like the Birmingham bus boycott!"

What he doesn't mean for us to say is, "So in other words the civil rights movement was just as evil and murderous as the Intifada, and everyone involved in it, even after all this time, needs to be rounded up and shot."

And when---and this is my main point---people say, "The death of any civilian in Afghanistan, even an accidental one, means that we're juuuust as baaaad as the terrorists!", they want us to say, "Goodness! You're right!
We must not harm a single innocent---and how can we know who is innocent?---or we will be evil too!"

What they don't want us to say is, "If intention and care and good will mean nothing, if the slightest touch of wrong renders our cause just as wrong as that of the terrorists, then we need have no restraint. If the smallest evil is as the greatest, we might as well do great evils, and save ourselves some trouble and risk. Let's glass the place."

Why not torture the prisoners at Guantanamo, since the whole world will believe we are, no matter what we say or do? Why not kill thousands upon thousands of Afghan civilians, since that's what the holy people who---unlike us---are opposed to all war and killing hope that we have done?

Of course, there will be those who would argue that actions are right or wrong regardless of the opinion of the world, and that we should do what is right because it is right, and refrain from wrong because it is wrong, and not because of desire for praise or fear of criticism. But that's the sort of thing said by people who are not just as bad as the terrorists.

UPDATE: I've changed the link to Raspberry's column to a better one, thanks to a mention of it on Best of the Web. It has a different title, Exiting a Dead End, at the WaPo. James Taranto somehow concludes that Raspberry has realized moral equivalence is a non-starter, but that sure isn't apparent in the column. Raspberry
may have realized that he should pay lip service to the idea that suicide bombers and civil rights marchers are not equivalent, but he hasn't internalized it yet.