Cyber Coolie

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Moral Equivalence – A Straw Man

Posted by chakrabarti on July 3, 2007

Slain journalist Daniel Pearl’s mother writes on what she likes and does not like about the film “A Mighty Heart”. Her major beef is with “moral equivalence”.

Danny’s tragedy demands an end to this logic. There can be no comparison between those who take pride in the killing of an unarmed journalist and those who vow to end such acts–no ifs, ands, or buts. Moral relativism died with Daniel Pearl, in Karachi, on January 31, 2002.

By all accounts, Daniel Pearl was a dedicated journalist and a compassionate human being. All sane people would have to agree that he met a ghastly end at the hands of pathological killers. But “moral relativism” is a red herring used by governments and powerful entities to justify all types of atrocities and injustices. Morality and justice are dependent on holding ourselves to the same standards as we hold all others.

There can be no moral equivalence between those who seek–however clumsily–to build a more liberal, tolerant world and those who advocate the annihilation of other faiths, cultures, or states.

Now, let us take the war in Iraq. The liberation project being carried out – no matter what the Thomas Friedmans of this world tell you – is not what you would call clumsy. Such actions are criminal. Unprovoked invasion of countries is an international crime, one that was acknowledged in the Nuremberg and Tokyo tribunals post-WW II.

Some might be outraged by the supposed “moral equivalence” argument invoked in comparing Nazis and Fascists with the current Bush administration. But this is merely holding the two actions (unprovoked invasion of East Asia and Europe in the first instance, and the unprovoked Iraqi invasion in the second one) to the same standard of international law. “Moral equivalence” is thus a straw man, a set-up used to shut up those who question their own governments’ policy, the implication being our government always acts in our best interests and one cannot even think of judging its actions to a universal set of laws and principles.

Sorry, Mrs. Pearl. We all agree that your son met a terrible fate at the hands of fanatics. But I cannot accept us judging our governments to a different standard than those who the government claims to be fighting.

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