April 16, 2006

Moral Choices

Seymour Hersh's latest article has created quite a stir about the Bush administration's refusal to take using nuclear weapons (albeit "tactical") off the table and the increasingly obvious understanding that Bush has yet one more war he wants to wage. Many, many objections have been voiced that the act of bombing Iran would be a colossal mistake because of the damage it would do to the security of the United States and the detrimental effect it would have on the war on terror. However, very little discussion has been about what it would do to us as a people to be the cause of such death and destruction in that ancient land. This is a point of great anguish for Seymour Hersh as he indicated at the close of Terry Gross' interview on Fresh Air:

Terry Gross: Any concluding thoughts...?
Seymour Hersh: Yes. One thought that I have: which is that in all the conversations I've had about this in the last three months, more that that - hundreds, and all of the talking - the only thing that nobody's ever suggested was that there was any official reckoning or accounting of how many civilian casualties would be the result if we did an all out bombing or even a partial bombing of Iran - a country of 80 million people, almost all whom are instinctively pro-American and anti-cleric. That seems to be just a dreadful, dreadful fact.

Out here in the blogosphere, there are some that do speak to this moral and ethical failure of imagination. Indeed, Arthur Silber speaks to this problem most eloquently. (via C&L)

Any military attack by the United States on Iran within the foreseeable future -- even an attack using only conventional weapons -- would be profoundly immoral, and eternally unforgivable. Remember the critical facts: all experts agree that Iran is approximately five to ten years away from having a nuclear weapon. Moreover, Iran is fully entitled to take the actions it does at present, including the enrichment of uranium it announced yesterday. It is entitled to take those actions under the terms of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to which it is a signatory. While we condemn Iran and maintain that its actions are "intolerable" and "unacceptable" -- even though they are entirely permissible under the relevant agreements, and are only "intolerable" because we say so without any moral, legal or strategic justification for that stance -- we carve out exceptions for a country like India, which is not a signatory to the nonproliferation treaty. The position of the United States is an entirely unprincipled one, and one which devolves into incoherence.

...What we desperately need is a hero -- either an individual or a group, or some combination of both. It is entirely possible that it would require only one individual of national prominence to state the issues clearly to the American public. He or she could give a series of speeches and press conferences, preferably starting tomorrow. I still hope and would like to think that, if the issues were made unmistakably plain, enough Americans would respond. Our hero would have to explain the immorality of an attack on a nonexistent threat, and why it is unthinkable that we would use nuclear weapons, even "tactical" ones, in a non-defensive way. The issues are not that complicated. What dooms us is the current conspiracy of silence: a culture where no one dares to identify with stark clarity what is at stake, and what will result from our actions. And it must be made absolutely clear that if we were to launch yet another series of attacks on a country that does not threaten us, and if we were to use even one nuclear weapon of any kind, the mantle of "exceptionalism" would still be ours -- but it would be the kind of exceptionalism accorded to the worst monsters of history.

So often the only language that seems to be acceptable in our public discourse concerns the harm that launching a preventative war would do to our nation's security. We need more discussion about what this does to our souls and what it means for us to always think only of "what's in it for me?" We desperately need to consider what it really means to be "evil." And we need to speak frankly: it is evil to cause the death of so many innocent people because we are too frightened, too arrogant, too impatient, and too selfish to recognize that these problems cannot be solved by dropping bombs. They can only be solved by applying the long and patient method of working with others to find solutions that respect the dignity of all involved. War is not the answer.

Posted by Mary at April 16, 2006 12:21 AM | War on Terrorism | Technorati links |

Thank you for this post. I stumbled into it because you are in my bloglines roll.

I heard it years ago but the words still stay in my heart even today. "An honest man realizes the implications of his own convictions."

By extension then, might I say that a dishonest man fails to recognize or fails to acknowledge the implications of his own convictions?

Many religious supporters of the President and his party can only perceive the logical extension of their faith in and support of Republican leadership in terms based on morality.

We may never succeed in convincing religious demagogues that inflammatory speeches and pretenses at victimization lead to the sort of logic that buys into accepting a President's "moral" excuse and reasoning for nuking Iran.

The same logic that mentally excuses or pardons a terrorist who kills innocents in the name of a religious cause is the same logic that encourages apathy and looking the other way because the subset "they" does not belong to the subset "we."

What get's trotted out as some kind of spiritual and holy concept is simply a literalist's idea of a God of rules who is as simple and judgemental as the weakest literalist fundamentalist mind.

Posted by: Arthur Ruger, Willapa View at April 16, 2006 12:43 PM

Spot on, Mary. The only thing that will be proven if the US bombs Iran in a first strike is that we're the country that absolutely can't be trusted with WMD.

Posted by: natasha at April 16, 2006 09:46 PM

Nathan Jarred Aydan Lewis Aden Jorden

Posted by: Ramiro at April 25, 2006 05:46 AM