Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bush Admin Loses Its Weak Claim to Moral Clarity

Everyone who has been paying even the remotest attention to the events of the last seven years can say without a shadow of a doubt that this Administration is one of the worst--if not the very worst--in human history. Whether it's allowing the destruction of an entire American city, turning heavy surpluses into record deficits, the hollowing out of the nation's middle class, violating and shredding the U.S. Constitution in a way that would make Richard Nixon shudder, or failing to catch the world's #1 mass murderer and terrorist-in-chief, the points on a possible list of Administration failures of judgment and morality is astounding.

Arguably worse than all of them, of course, was the criminal, irresponsible and immoral move to attack and occupy Iraq at the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and the desecration of America's image abroad.

Throughout all of this, however, the Bush Administration's one single line of rhetorical defense for its actions has been an appeal to a childish, simplistic view of moral clarity. Why more tax cuts for the rich? Because the people should keep their money, not government. Why torture and shred the Constitution? Gotta do what it takes to defend the American people. Why stay in Iraq? Gotta defeat the terrorists. It's the bumper-sticker party writ large: there's good, and there's evil--and America's on the side of good.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the Republican arguments for attacking Iran. We must attack Iran, we are told, because they are developing nuclear weapons and their President has made threatening statements toward Israel. And what do we constantly hear is one of the biggest proofs that Iranian President Ahmadinejad is an evil nut who must be attacked? That he is a holocaust denier. What sort of evil man would ever deny the fact of the Jewist Holocaust at the hands of the Nazis?

The America of the Bush Administration does not stand for such things. The America of the Bush Administration does not condone mass murdering terrorists and holocaust deniers. The America of the Bush Administration does not negotiate with evil regimes responsible for barbarous acts of cruelty (though we do little to stop the violence in Darfur or in Burma). The America of the Bush Administration knows black from white, white from black (especially in New Orleans, apparently). The Bush Administration, we are told, has the moral clarity necessary to condemn evil wherever it is (don't look into any mirrors, boys!).

Until, of course, it becomes inconvenient. This week the Democratic House Committee Foreign Affairs passed a resolution condemning as "genocide" the 1915 exportation and massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by Turkish authorities. In response, Turkey has recalled its ambassador and made condemnations of its own. In spite of Turkey's protestations, there can be no doubt that the actions of the Ottoman Empire were deliberate, cruel and directed squarely at the Armenian people; living as I do near a community of Armenians, it is difficult to express and the anger and anguish still strongly felt by this proud people about what they view as insufficient attention and admission of wrongdoing given to one of the worst genocides in human history. In fact, 22 other countries have already expressed the view that the Armenian Massacre was indeed a genocide The Bush Administration's stance?

The measure passed on Wednesday despite extraordinary last-minute efforts by Bush Administration officials, including the President himself, to have it shelved out of concern that it could hurt relations with a key NATO ally and affect U.S. troops in Iraq.

And why would the Bush Administration be so desperate to placate Turkey?

Seventy percent of American air cargo and a third of the fuel the U.S. uses in neighboring Iraq passes through the its air base in Incirlik in southern Turkey. Prior to the bill's passage, Turkish politicians had warned of possible retaliation by blocking the use of Incirlik...It comes as Washington tries to persuade Turkey not to launch a military operation into north Iraq to pursue separatist Kurdish guerrillas who are based there and who have been staging increasingly violent attacks in southeast Turkey. The U.S. is opposed to any such move, fearful that it could disrupt Kurdish-controlled north Iraq, the only relatively stable area in the country.

But the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is under huge public pressure after several deadly attacks by Kurdish guerrillas in the southeast that have killed 30 people in under two weeks. Members of Turkey's parliament are due to vote on allowing a cross-border military incursion next week, and the military machine is already preparing. "After the U.S. House vote, the Turkish public is going to think tit for tat," says Birand. "This is going to strengthen the nationalists, including the position of those people who want us to invade north Iraq."

Honestly, it is not for me to decide what is the right thing to do in this situation. From an emotional standpoint that takes justice and history into account, my heart goes out to the Armenian people and demands a recognition of the immense suffering to which they were subjected by a government and by a world that largely refuses to acknowledge it. From a rational standpoint, it is stupid realpolitik to be upsetting Turkey at the moment and potentially causing untold suffering today--especially over an issue that is over 90 years old and concerns a government that no longer functionally exists.

It is, in short, a gray moral area, fraught with the sort of complexity and difficulty so often overlooked and repudiated by the Bush Administration.

And yet, the Administration has explicitly chosen the realpolitik of attempting to salvage an impossible occupation of Iraq, over the moral clarity of condemning the very real genocide of 1.5 million people.

No matter what happens from here or what the right course of action is, one thing is absolutely certain: we should never have to hear again from outraged Republicans about Ahmadinejad's populist denials of the Holocaust, since they themselves refuse to acknowledge holocausts when it is politically convenient to them. We should never have to hear again from George Bush about the necessity to confront murderous regimes. Democrats should never again be tagged as moral sissies afraid to call an evil spade a spade, while Republicans stand up for human rights and against genocide regardless of the consequences.

Because the Bush Administration's last flimsy grasp on the issue of moral clarity has just disappeared.

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