August 22, 2011

If Pictures Were Arguments...

It would appear that people with the capacity to make an actual argument choose instead to rely on pictures. I eagerly await the gallery of fetus love, offered as a detailed proof that women are inferior beings who have no business claiming a right to control their own bodies. Yeehaw!

But okay. Pictures are swell. Here are some more. I guess those Nazis were swell, too. (See what I did there? I mentioned Nazis precisely so you can feel righteous and superior in ignoring the rest of this post. I'm incredibly thoughtful.)

Watch for the festival of meaningless distinctions. "Oh, but we didn't invade Libya! We just bombed strategically so that the Libyans could reclaim their country for themselves!" The common feature -- the feature that matters above all others when evaluating what the Western powers did -- is that the West utilized military aggression in events that were none of their goddamned business. Of course, from the U.S. perspective, and it was the U.S. that drove this episode of aggression, anything that happens anywhere in the world is our business, that is, it is the business of the U.S. ruling class. They don't talk endlessly about American global hegemony to idle away a few centuries.

The Western powers bombed Libya a lot. They killed a whole lot of innocent people; we'll never have any idea how many. Did the Western powers have any right to act in this way, to murder innocent people? Assuredly they did not, absent an utterly unfounded conviction that you have the "right" and power to determine events according to your particular moral preferences -- and, most significantly, to eliminate those human beings who would frustrate your desires. In this context, it is more than slightly outrageous and offensive for Sartwell to engage in a blatant attempt at moral intimidation which announces itself even in the title of his post: "Stay human." From Sartwell's perspective, it is "human" to engage in unjustified campaigns of military aggression and murder. Such campaigns may tragically be all too typical of human behavior, but that is vastly different from claiming they are "human" in the sense Sartwell uses the term here.

Moral intimidation continues in the body of the post:
but right or left, black or white, straight or gay, capitalist or communist, you've strayed too far from your basic human responses and your basic opposition to oppression - if any - if you do not feel exhilarated as you watch the people of tripoli celebrate the end of their dictatorship.
To the degree "the people of Tripoli" may genuinely be somewhat freer from oppression, I'm thrilled for them -- if that is, in fact, what these events mean. But is that what they mean? Beyond the moments captured by these pictures, we have absolutely no idea.

Who are these people "celebrating" in Tripoli? What do they want? What will they do now? Is the future going to be better for them -- or worse? And what about all the other Libyans? What do they want? What are they going to do? And what about the Western powers? It is certain the Western powers will announce the indispensability of their "assistance" in fashioning Libya's future. That does not bode well for the Libyans, if one is genuinely opposed to oppression, if one hopes for a future of peace. See Iraq.

But in a different sense, all of this is beside the point with regard to Sartwell's post. For Sartwell, along with many others, cheered on the West's military aggression in Libya. (And I only write this post because I'm sure we will see more than a few entries similar to Sartwell's from others who also supported this latest campaign of "liberation.") Sartwell is attempting to justify his earlier support for this particular instance of the West's, and more particularly the U.S.'s, endless campaign of aggressive, murderous intervention around the world. In the same way that propagandists for other instances of the U.S.'s acts of brutalization, destruction and death sought to justify their support, Sartwell wants to be able to say: "I was proved fucking right."

No, you were not. And please note carefully: this will still be true even in the (impossible) event that Libya becomes a paradise on Earth. Speaking of Iraq, here is part of an essay I wrote almost five years ago. If you genuinely want to "stay human," consider this, all of which applies to Libya as well (and to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the rest -- up to 120 countries by year's end, we are told):
Each of us has a family, loved ones, friends and a life that is a web of caring, interdependence, and joy. When even one of us is killed or horribly injured for no justifiable reason, the damage affects countless people in addition to the primary victim. Sometimes, the survivors are irreparably damaged as well. Even the survivors' wounds can last a lifetime.

This is of the greatest significance. There is nothing more important or meaningful in the world. No moral principle legitimizes our invasion and occupation of Iraq, just as it will not justify an attack on Iran [or Libya]. Therefore, when the first person was killed in Iraq as the result of our actions, the immorality was complete. The crime had been committed, and no amends could ever suffice or would even be possible. That many additional tens or hundreds of thousands of people have subsequently been killed or injured does not add to the original immorality with regard to first principles. It increases its scope, which is an additional and terrible horror -- but the principle is not altered in the smallest degree.
I'm most awfully sorry. I don't have a picture to go along with that.

Never mind.