Friday, October 11, 2019

Ellen and W

Well, I'm on Ellen DeGeneres' side. 

Of course by several criteria George W. Bush is a war criminal. So is Barack Obama: I can't think of any criterion that rules George in that rules Barack out. Waging undeclared war? Check. Authorizing strikes intended to kill civilians? Check. Maintaining prisoners in inhumane conditions, because it's politically inexpedient to release them? Check. Authorizing torture? Check. The difference is that Barack is our war criminal, the scale is smaller, and the justifications are slicker. The victims, though, are just as scarred, injured, and dead.

Tu quoque is a much used and abused argument these days. I'm not saying I find the two men morally equivalent: I don't. George is more to be blamed because he caused a great deal more suffering. Barack is more to be blamed because he knew better what he was doing. For those who get a thrill out of reckoning up exact quantities of blame, and being sure to assign people to the correct seat in the correct circle of hell, no doubt there's hours of excitement here. I'll pass.

I'm not offering anyone forgiveness, and I don't hear DeGeneres offering anyone forgiveness either. What she's offering is kindness. The recognition of humanity, even in our erstwhile or present enemies. There are some notable authorities who recommend that. I stand with them. 

People can be wrong. They are wrong. I am wrong. I recognize at least one time when, had I been president, I would have made a disastrous foreign policy mistake that would have cost thousands, probably tens of thousands, of lives. It would have been a sin of omission -- failure to act in the face of the Serbian ethnic cleansing -- but that wouldn't have made it any less disastrous, or made the suffering of the Albanians any less. You all could have rightly despised me forever.

If you can't think of a disastrous policy mistake you would have made, as president of the United States, then -- to put it as gently as I know how -- you're an ignorant idiot. So shut up and let Ellen and W watch their football game. And hope you're never in a position to display to the world the depth of your ignorance and the shortfalls of your compassion.


marly said...

Common sense. I, too, imagine that it is an impossible job, and that I would have made terrible mistakes.

Of course, that's a blessing of imagination--being able to imagine ourselves in Cambodia or Germany etc. during the hardest of times--to know that we are no better or more valuable than anyone else and would have been tempted and perhaps fallen to temptation.

Dale said...

I think from time to time about something CS Lewis wondered about: whether it was a good thing for people to understand how much evil they're capable of.