On Moral Equivalence

Those who believed that the physical and sexual abuse perpetrated at Abu Ghraib under the US occupation put Bush in the same camp as Saddam have questions to answer. They refuse to rise to the challenge because they know their position is untenable – both morally, and factually. Spoiled children of democracies will always run into the hands of local criminals if it leads to the derision of those who brought them up.

Some more uncomfortable details for them:

The US soldier who murdered 16 Afghan villagers last year has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Staff Sgt Robert Bales, 40, opened fire on men, children and women during the attack in Kandahar on 11 March 2012.

He pleaded guilty to the massacre in June to avoid the death penalty.

He apologised during his sentencing hearing at a Washington state military base on Thursday, calling the attack an “act of cowardice”.

Sgt Bales had been making a case for why he should one day be eligible for parole, which would have meant he could have been released in 20 years.

The reason Bradley (Chelsea) Manning’s revelations caused such discomfort for humanitarians was because of the American government’s silence on the crimes in which they are now to be indicted; it might not have happened here, thankfully, but unspoken awareness is simply a step away from tacit approval. (No law exists allowing an official in the US government to overthrow other elected presidents, yet Henry Kissinger is still a free man.) It seems like a betrayal, it saddens me to say, in the same league as Pope Benedict’s to his followers, his refusal to cooperate with secular judiciaries on allegations of pedophilia leading to its institutionalisation and the blackened reputation of every humane priest. Justice, it seems, can lose its eternal authority at the whim of politicians courting the approval of their audience.

But, please - perspective.

To demand political transparency is as much a right as an imperative; but compare, for simply a moment, whatever supposed crimes of which the democracy and the dictatorship are charged. Assad’s recent chemical attack outside Damascus is a momentary echo of Saddam’s message to Halabja in 1988. The news of Sgt Bales’ imprisonment, meanwhile, is like valley to desert.

Failures in Iraq say nothing of our urgency to act in Syria.



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