Well this is terrifying.

GOP contenders hold expansive views of executive power:

Even as they advocate for limited government, many of the Republican presidential candidates hold expansive views about the scope of the executive powers they would wield if elected — including the ability to authorize the targeted killing of United States citizens they deem threats and to launch military attacks without Congressional permission.

[M]ost of them see the commander in chief as having the authority to lawfully take extraordinary actions if he decides doing so is necessary to protect national security. Only Mr. Paul, the libertarian-leaning congressman from Texas, argued for a more limited view of presidential power.

The views of the other four candidates who responded echoed in many respects expansive legal theories that were advanced by President George W. Bush. In certain significant ways, they dovetailed as well with the assertive posture taken by President Obama since taking office, like his expanded use of drones to kill terrorism suspects around the world — including a United States citizen.

Sure, yeah, kill whoever with no oversight or rule of law. I don’t see what could go wrong.

Author: has written 5280 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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189 Responses

  1. William
    William December 30, 2011 at 1:26 am |

    Who would have thought that the GOP could possibly produce a field of presidential contenders that would make Ron fucking Paul look the the lone sane person in the room?!

    2012: When the GOP goes far enough off the deep end that Ron Paul looks like a moderate.

  2. Li
    Li December 30, 2011 at 1:34 am |

    There’s a fairly good essay by Judith Butler about the reemergence of sovereignty in states otherwise characterised by governmentality. There’s a very strong creep within the structure and politics of the US executive, or even amongst security bureaucracies, to reestablish sovereign decisions that can suspend or bypass the processes of government. In short, I think there’s an increasing tendency in the US to use executive arms of government not to govern, but to decide who shall be governed and who shall simply be ruled.

  3. Jay
    Jay December 30, 2011 at 1:40 am |

    Terrifying, but not surprising.

  4. Archie
    Archie December 30, 2011 at 1:42 am |

    But Jill it isn’t just the republicans, scary as they are. Under Obama, same executive powers are being expanded, and the recently passed defense funding authorization has given some of this previously limited authority the force of law. These powers include the power to detain -indefinitely – US citizens without a hearing or a trial. So much for the 4th amendment and the ancient right of habeas corpus. Our changing world..

  5. EG
    EG December 30, 2011 at 1:44 am |

    But Jill it isn’t just the republicans, scary as they are. Under Obama, same executive powers are being expanded

    I agree. It is one of the things that I am most disappointed in Obama in; he never stepped back from any of Bush’s power-grab.

  6. LotusBen
    LotusBen December 30, 2011 at 1:45 am |

    WAR!!! AMERICA!!!! MONSTER TRUCKS!!! ASSASSINATION!!!!! MEGA TESTICLES!!! MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX!!! TED NUGENT!!! DICTATORSHIP OF THE CORPORATARIAT!!!! PENILE COMPENSATION!!!!!!

  7. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. December 30, 2011 at 2:03 am |

    Sure why not. SCOTUS has converted the principle of equity into a contract doctine and Congress has reassigned all fiscal obligations to the working poor. Why shouldn’t the President become an elected sovereign? Its a corporate dictatorship with a veneer of democracy! U! S! A! U! S! A!

  8. shfree
    shfree December 30, 2011 at 2:20 am |

    My boyfriend lives in the UK. I miss him terribly, and he misses me. But he is never ever allowed to move here. (I can’t leave because my daughter’s dad is here, and I’m not going to live where she’s not, nor separate those two) Things are just that crazy. Mind you, it does help that he thinks things are ridiculous, too, but still. NEVER. MOVING. HERE.

  9. z
    z December 30, 2011 at 4:26 am |

    Paul may have been the saving grace of the GOP …if he didn’t have those disturbing views about queers and women.

  10. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong December 30, 2011 at 6:31 am |

    Z: I get that to some degree he’s a nice change from the typical GOP crazyfest, but really, the combination of isolationist foreign relations and 1920’s-era monetary policy isn’t particularly attractive. He has some great soundbytes on civil libertarian principles- which is one area I think he beats the other contenders on both sides if the aisle hands down- but aside from that I really don’t get the attracation. I mean, we had been there, done that by FDR’s time.

    So yeah, it’s be great to have a President who fought back against the massive expansion of the police state, but I’m not willing to sacrifice the economy, our foreign policy, and every social safety net we have to do it.

    I don’t like Obama very much. I worked for his campaign in 2008, donated what little money I made, got incredibly excited, and have been routinely disappointed by his inability to stand up to the GOP. On Guantanamo, on health care, on finance reform, on taxes and on so may other things, he has tried to compromise and accommodate a party which has made it very clear they have no interest in compromise. He doesn’t get the bully mentality- giving in to a bully on one thing doesn’t make them more likely to leave you alone, it makes them more likely to bully you on other things- and so he’s coming across as weak and inept. But considering the alternatives, my vote isn’t going anywhere.

    I have to say, though, that the fact I was once about as enthusiastic an Obama supporter as was humanly possible, and am now basically resigned to choosing the lesser of two evils, bodes particularly poorly for his campaign against Romney.

  11. catfood
    catfood December 30, 2011 at 7:37 am |

    Another one here saying the executive overreach clearly isn’t a Republican thing. Mr. Constitutional Law Professor has not been one of the good guys on this.

  12. Angie unduplicated
    Angie unduplicated December 30, 2011 at 8:22 am |

    Paul is a self-stated opponent of the Civil Rights Act and fought hard against making Dr. King’s birthday a Federal holiday. I suspect that we are watching a series of moves toward a low-wage corporate pseudo-socialism mirroring the current Chinese regime, but with fewer worker protections. The last two admins have featured open power grabs hosted by executive and judicial branches. Info I saw on genealogy websites raises suspicions that McCain and Obama are two cousins from the same white family, one with a huge presence in defense contracting, a bunch of Wall Street securities lawyers, and a former TV network president/second in command of another multinational with significant govt contract presence.

  13. Shannon Drury
    Shannon Drury December 30, 2011 at 8:36 am |

    But Jon Huntsman likes Captain Beefheart!

  14. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable December 30, 2011 at 8:56 am |

    but with fewer worker protections.

    I love some good fear-mongering as much as the next person, but I really want to know how you think we’ll go from having laws that protect the work week and all of our safety restrictions to LESS protections than China.

  15. Poetree
    Poetree December 30, 2011 at 9:07 am |

    Ron Paul is racist. With all due respect to the opinions of the other commenters here; fuck any and every racist, misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, anti-poor GOP/liberal/moderate/democratic/green party/new party/any shade or hue party POS there is. The presidential race has always been about going for the lesser of two evils, Obama could have and should have done much better but he isn’t an anti-LGBTIQ, anti-woman, anti-POC, anti-working class POS either. I would sing Mariah Carey-esque notes in a field of begonias if we had a candidate who could be TRULY for the people.

  16. Jay
    Jay December 30, 2011 at 9:37 am |

    The GOP neo-cons as well as the Democrats are all slaves of the cooporate war machine. Ron Paul was not the only voice against this. Gary Johnson was the first one to announce his run for the GOP and he was ignored even more than Ron Paul, when he is even more consistent than Ron Paul. Guess we get to vote for Gary has he switched to the libertarian party now.

  17. Nicholas
    Nicholas December 30, 2011 at 10:17 am |

    I blame Aaron Sorkin for enabling this generation’s phalanx of magical, one-person-in-the-Presidency-can-change-everything liberals. But, as Jonathan Chait wrote, this strain of American liberalism is nothing new.

    Why did Obama not change as much as you want? Is it because he’s a spineless wuss who is out of his depth? Maybe. Or maybe it has to do with the fantastic successes the Republican party and the conservative movement have had since 1968. Maybe when you fill the Judicial Branch with judges who share your view of executive authority to drone attack Americans in foreign land and ignore habeas, you stack the deck in favor of maintaining those policies.

    In sum, institutions matter, and they change at an excruciatingly slow pace in America. The 2006 and 2008 elections were about many things, but part of what I believe what they were about was the opening bid of a generational change in control of the political discourse in the country.

    So yeah, maybe Barack Obama is the lesser choice of two evils, but he’s also fully fourteen (14!) years younger than Mitt Romney, which probably means he has a helluva lot more in common with me than Romney does. So, I dunno, do we live in the world exactly as I want? No, but I’m not Julius Caesar, dictator of America. Neither is President Obama. Congress matters. The courts matter. And it takes time and sustained effort to shift the priorities of those institutions.

    In a country where there are relatively free and fair elections (and the United States in 2011 is such a place, comparatively speaking, even with ongoing efforts to disproportionately curb the voting rights of minorities and the poor), your institutions respond to what the actual voters want.

    Our current system reflects exactly what we–collectively through those who actually go and vote–demand from our elected officials by those who vote. Nothing more, nothing less.

    The Executive will only stop exercising increasingly expansive amounts of power when either the Congress or the Judiciary takes it away from him/her by political force.

  18. EG
    EG December 30, 2011 at 10:27 am |

    Why did Obama not change as much as you want? Is it because he’s a spineless wuss who is out of his depth? Maybe. Or maybe it has to do with the fantastic successes the Republican party and the conservative movement have had since 1968.

    Or maybe it’s because he gets his funding from the same corporate interests that fund the Republicans, and so he dances with them that brung him. There were plenty of things that Obama had/has sole control over that he failed to address–he’s pursued more cases against government whistleblowers, for example, than any other president. And then there was the failure to condemn torture and pursue consequences for those who were in charge of it. The fantasy that the Democrats really, really, really are progressives, and if we only give them enough time, they’ll see things our way is also a pervasive strain of American liberalism.

    My vote will depend on how it looks like NY state is going to go. If it’s going to go to Obama or Republican anyway, I’ll vote far more left.

  19. Nicholas
    Nicholas December 30, 2011 at 10:44 am |

    @EG

    I agree with your observations. The problem is, a majority of voters do not care about those things you pointed out. I doubt a majority of Democratic Party voters cares about those issues either. This is not to say we are right to not care, just an observation, much like yours about corporate money.

    The state of the current system reflects the state of our current priorities.

  20. Rob in CT
    Rob in CT December 30, 2011 at 10:58 am |

    If only Obama wasn’t doing basically the same thing.

  21. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 30, 2011 at 11:59 am |

    EG — seconded. Nicholas — you are full of it. Governance in the United States now has *nothing* to do with the will of the people. Obama ran, and won, on a platform far to the left of the way he has governed. To say that somehow his practices *reflect* the will of a majority of Americans is pure horseshit. It is potentially the case that most Americans don’t care that he is raining death on Afghanistani and Pakistani children; of course, most Americans haven’t even heard about it so it’s an open question. But if you take Wall Street excesses, which Americans DO know about, the corporate friendly approach he’s taken has absolutely NO popular support. None. He does it anyway. We no longer live in a democracy.

    I cried with joy the night the election results came in, and Obama was our new president. A majority of American voters picked a black Democrat! That was the popular will. What we’ve gotten instead is a totally deracinated corporate imperialist. That is NOT what Americans wanted, stop excusing your own spineless cynicism by attributing it to your fellow citizens.

  22. William
    William December 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm |

    Or maybe it’s because he gets his funding from the same corporate interests that fund the Republicans, and so he dances with them that brung him.

    This. I’ll admit it, I voted for Obama. I knew better. I knew what it meant that he was a Chicago politician. I knew what it meant that he was in bed with Tony Rezko. I knew that there hadn’t been a politician from my neck of the woods worth trusting since Harold Washington died and that things had only gotten worse as King Dick tightened his stranglehold on the political process in this state. But I got pulled in by a slick sales pitch.

    Of course Obama is a piece of shit. Of course he cares only about what maintains his power. He’s a Chicago politician. But hey, lesson learned. I’ll never vote in a presidential election again because participating in the political process only grants an aire of legitimacy to a fundamentally illegitimate and disgusting endeavor. Obama depends on us casting a vote for him because being disappointed is better than being opposed. Fuck that.

  23. Josh
    Josh December 30, 2011 at 12:28 pm |

    This:

    Ron Paul is racist. With all due respect to the opinions of the other commenters here; fuck any and every racist, misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, anti-poor GOP/liberal/moderate/democratic/green party/new party/any shade or hue party POS there is.

    and this:

    Or maybe it’s because he gets his funding from the same corporate interests that fund the Republicans, and so he dances with them that brung him. There were plenty of things that Obama had/has sole control over that he failed to address–he’s pursued more cases against government whistleblowers, for example, than any other president. And then there was the failure to condemn torture and pursue consequences for those who were in charge of it. The fantasy that the Democrats really, really, really are progressives, and if we only give them enough time, they’ll see things our way is also a pervasive strain of American liberalism.

    I’m a bit sick of apologies for Paul (and his party) and Obama. Especially since both have been showing their true affiliations for years.

  24. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig December 30, 2011 at 12:39 pm |

    I actually wish Huntsman had a serious chance at winning. Unlike the rest of the GOP, he’s not anti-science, and demonstrates sentience on a daily basis. Luckily for Obama, both of those positions neatly torpedoed any chance Huntsman had.

  25. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. December 30, 2011 at 1:05 pm |

    Okay, I’m as disappointed in Obama as the next pinko commie, but acting like he isn’t any different from the competition is a bit of a stretch. I mean, he has made decisions that have had positive effect on the daily lives of women and has prevented the Rs from making choices that would have lead to some extremely poor outcomes for women. He’s not a revolutionary, but this is politics…sometimes we have to resort to triage.

  26. Vigée
    Vigée December 30, 2011 at 1:18 pm |

    Okay, I’m as disappointed in Obama as the next pinko commie, but acting like he isn’t any different from the competition is a bit of a stretch. I mean, he has made decisions that have had positive effect on the daily lives of women and has prevented the Rs from making choices that would have lead to some extremely poor outcomes for women. He’s not a revolutionary, but this is politics…sometimes we have to resort to triage.

    Exactly this. And I feel about people who abstain from the political system out of some kind of high minded ideology much the way I feel about libertarians. The only way for that to actually fly is if you have a certain amount of privilege yourself that’s really not going to be affected by weather or not women are treated as second-class citizens, for example. I mean, yes, he’s the lesser of two evils. But I’m mighty glad I still have some semblance of choice, which the GOP would gleefully rip away if given the chance. So it’s all good and fine for you to abstain, William, but just recognize that there are reasons that choice is so comfortable for you.

  27. Vigée
    Vigée December 30, 2011 at 1:21 pm |

    Oh, and in the interest of not getting flamed, I should add that I love William’s parents and want to marry William. Or was it that I love William and want to marry his parents? I can’t keep up ;-)

  28. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 30, 2011 at 1:28 pm |

    Kristen J — can you name some? Signing the executive veto on any public money, ever, being allowed to even touch money that might go to abortion, for example? Backing up the decision by Sebelius to not allow Plan B to be stocked in pharmacies? I mean, whut?

    whut?

  29. Shoshie
    Shoshie December 30, 2011 at 1:29 pm |

    What Kristen J. said. Also, I know quite a number of people who were helped tremendously by staying on their parent’s health insurance. And even more who will be helped by the “pre-existing condition” ban that will take effect in a couple years. So there is that.

  30. Shoshie
    Shoshie December 30, 2011 at 1:30 pm |

    Kathleen-

    There was the whole Planned Parenthood defunding thing. At least that’s the first thing that popped into my head. And was one of the few times that Obama actually stood his ground on something.

  31. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie December 30, 2011 at 1:33 pm |

    Obama absolutely is anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ, anti- anything progressive. Which I knew from the start. Not all of us smoked the Hopium.

    He brought change, all right. Increased executive powers, narrowed Fourth Amendment rights, pandered to big business.

    Tell me again how he’s so different.

  32. William
    William December 30, 2011 at 1:41 pm |

    I mean, yes, he’s the lesser of two evils. But I’m mighty glad I still have some semblance of choice, which the GOP would gleefully rip away if given the chance. So it’s all good and fine for you to abstain, William, but just recognize that there are reasons that choice is so comfortable for you.

    As an Illinois voter, my lack of participation amounts to exactly zero thanks to the electoral college system. Thats part of why I’m able to step out, because ultimately I know it doesn’t matter.

    That said, I’m not sure I can call Obama the lesser of two evils. The big problem I have with the Democrats and the Republicans is that a choice between them generally boils down to the question of which fundamental and non-negotiable human rights are you willing to give up in exchange for which token concessions that will likely be abandoned as soon as the race is over. I agree with the GOP on a handful of things, but those things are absolutely dwarfed by the things I find utterly repugnant. At the same time, I agree with the Democrats about a handful of things which are only somewhat dwarfed by things I find utterly repugnant but I don’t trust them to have the power, will, or honesty to ever follow through. I mean, if we want to talk about women look at what Obama did with Plan B. He isn’t even holding the line on choice, he’s using it as a bargaining chip.

    So no, I’m not terribly interested in being shamed into casting a strictly symbolic vote for a man I do not trust who holds positions I find to be contrary to basic human rights because he makes tepid noises supporting (but has, historically, failed to follow through) things I don’t think should even be up for debate. I mean, really, what the fuck has he done? A half-assed health care compromise that might not survive judicial scrutiny? A “gay rights” victory that amounts to little more than the dubious honor of being allowed to be a hired assassin for their country? A continuation of Bush’s power grabs? An expansion of targeted killing and drone warfare? More signing statements? A lack of transparency? Continued aggressive action against medical marijuana facilities in a clear disregard of the will of local voters? Smuggling guns into Mexico? Really, what the fuck has this man done to earn anything other than our spite? Saying he’s marginally less monstrous than the GOP has to stop being enough at some point. We need to have some basic minimum level of expectations.

    Fuck it, I’ll vote in the local elections. I’ll do the research to vote for or against the retention of judges. I’ll vote for Representatives and Senators and Water Commissioners, but I’m done pretending that the kind of person who can get the money to become president has a snowballs chance in hell of being anything other than a liar and a shill. Thats doubly true when we’re talking about an electoral system thats only vaguely democratic.

  33. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. December 30, 2011 at 1:45 pm |

    Let’s to name a few: Fair Pay, protecting Roe with his judicial appointments, ending DADT, no copays on birth control, PP defunding, repealed the Global Gag rule…

  34. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. December 30, 2011 at 1:48 pm |

    Oh! And CHIP which was one of the programs that has probably had the most tangible impact.

  35. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 30, 2011 at 1:51 pm |

    So Obama gets credit for everything actually done by the LEGISLATIVE branch, but the things he’s done as executive to hurt women: no harm no foul?

    Nice rules, lucky him!

    And as to SC appointments: I’ll grant you Sonia Sotomayor. But I’m supposed to be excited about Elena Kagan? Yeah, no.

  36. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 30, 2011 at 1:53 pm |

    KJ: so in your view Obama’s been *good* on public healthcare. Okay then.

  37. Vigée
    Vigée December 30, 2011 at 2:16 pm |

    Sorry, I still don’t buy the idea that Obama is just as bad as the batshit republicans trying to get into office. I mean, look, healthcare reform was far, far from perfect. But no other president has been able to pass any healthcare reform in my living memory. He’s made some inroads in credit card reform, and is forcing insurance companies to cover birth control without copays or fees (of course in our perverse society that only matters to people with a uterus since family planning is not something everyone takes part in). And I’m not sure why repealing DADT amounts to a black stain on his record, but okay.

    As far as needing a basic level of standard other than ‘at least he’s not as bad as the GOP,’ well that’s true. But it wasn’t my fucking generation that reduced our system to a pile of stinking shit, so don’t lecture me about standards.

  38. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. December 30, 2011 at 2:26 pm |

    I didn’t say he was good. I said he was better than the alternatives. None of those things would have occurred under McCain or under Newt. Maybe some of them under Romney. Maybe.

  39. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 30, 2011 at 2:29 pm |

    Vigée — no other president has been able to refrain from bombing campaigns in other countries, either. So it’s all groovy when Obama ramps up a secret drone war that has killed 150+ children to date?

    I mean, don’t answer that, of course. But I really cannot wrap my head around that level of cynical equivalence. In some ways, Obama is *worse* than previous presidents. Certainly with regard to soulless, secretive, murderous foreign policy. And unlike Bush (for example), he gets minimal pushback.

    When Jill posted the other week about how she had a soft spot for Christopher Hitchens — a man who gleefully advocated the annihilation of tens of thousands of human beings — I — okay, I’m just opening and shutting my mouth here in gaping incoherence. But if we can’t draw the line at “rains death on children and/or cheers on same”, sure, our current administration looks okay!

  40. Vigée
    Vigée December 30, 2011 at 2:33 pm |

    So it’s all groovy when Obama ramps up a secret drone war that has killed 150+ children to date?

    I mean, don’t answer that, of course.

    Are you meaning to imply here that because I don’t think Obama is as bad as pretty much all of the Republican candidates that I must therefore condone bombing children? Is that why you don’t want me to answer that question? Because if that’s what you’re actually saying, then you’re not arguing in good faith, and you’re right. I won’t answer.

  41. Poetree
    Poetree December 30, 2011 at 2:47 pm |

    Im not saying Obama is the Greatest Of All Time but find me a republican candidate RIGHT NOW who has not said something racist, who has not actively been against the repeal of DADT, who has not been against gay marriage, who is not trying to overturn Roe v. Wade (and in some instances do away with abortion as a medical procedure that saves maternal life from the perils of pregnancy complications) and tell me again how people with the SAME OR WORSE foreign policy but ALSO are for laws that KILL pregnant women are on the same exact playing field? But, this goes further….the troops are home, several known terrorist leaders are dead, health care is reformed and he’s fighting tooth and nail to keep benefits going for people who are struggling financially.

  42. Nicholas
    Nicholas December 30, 2011 at 3:14 pm |

    @Kathleen

    I cried with joy the night the election results came in, and Obama was our new president. A majority of American voters picked a black Democrat! That was the popular will. What we’ve gotten instead is a totally deracinated corporate imperialist. That is NOT what Americans wanted, stop excusing your own spineless cynicism by attributing it to your fellow citizens.

    Well, to be fair, a majority of American voters also picked a white Democrat from Tennessee to be President in 2000. However, he did not win the Electoral College vote, therefore we got a white Republican from Maine via Texas as President. I say this to reiterate my point that institutions matter, as does understanding the mechanisms through which our democracy operates.

    However, in 2008, Americans got what they wanted because Barack Obama won the Electoral College (which also was the popular will, measured in national votes). And they still have what they wanted–it’s Barack Obama! Don’t like Barack Obama because he’s “a spineless wuss who is out of his depth” as I posited as one possible reason, or because he’s “a totally deracinated corporate imperialist” as you suggested? Well, guess what? We have an opportunity to replace him in 2012! That’s how the system works! Democracy! Whisky! Sexy!

    I understand your disappointment, but we do not vote for policy implementations at the national level, that is done, in certain jurisdictions in America and around the world, via petitioning a matter to referendum and then winning a majority vote on the issue. Instead, we vote for individual representatives. And, in the case of the 2008 election results, America did get and still has what it wanted–Barack Obama.

    I did not write what I wrote because I am “full of it” (though I may very well be, I suppose, if by “it” you meant a delicious, chicken crab dip wrap). I wrote what I wrote because objective, measurable, historical facts support my position!

    America’s voters wanted four years of Barack Obama in 2008 and, here, three years later, we have, Barack Obama.

  43. LeBab
    LeBab December 30, 2011 at 3:57 pm |

    Obama may be somewhere between marginally better and a lot better on women’s rights and gay rights etc. than the Republican candidates, but the whole lot are pretty much equally bad on people’s rights. People’s rights like, say, not killing or indefinitely detaining American citizens (not to mention people in foreign countries). Since, last time I checked, women, gay people and poor people all fall under the category of “people,” Obama being better in those categories is not enough. What good are slightly better health rights, etc., if the executive can just have anyone, anywhere, killed? Heck, if Obama continues to expand executive powers, that means that next time a Republican is in office, that Republican – who is presumably anti-women’s and gay rights – can *use those powers.* What happens if that future Republican executive decides that pro-choice activists are terrorists? The precedent is horrifically dangerous.

    The killing off of everyone’s civil rights is where I draw the line, and it’s more important to me than the more specified women’s and gay rights for the above reasons. I think trading off civil rights and constitutional checks on power now for a slightly better chance at liberal progress is short-sighted and near-sighted.

    Of course, there doesn’t seem to be any real alternatives. I don’t know the solution, but personally I hope that the all-around not-crazy Gary Johnson becomes a viable candidate.

  44. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 30, 2011 at 4:35 pm |

    NIcholas — thank you for the objective measurable facts, I like the way they smell of whisky and crab dip.

    I couldn’t have more perfectly expressed the truly bottomless cynicism of people who continue to defend Obama at this point. So really the only thing objectionable about Bush was that he wasn’t properly elected? So that when he rained death on children, it was bad illegitimate death, but when Obama does it, it’s authorized benign death? If only their mothers had the benefit of your explanatory wisdom, I feel certain it would be a tremendous comfort to them.

    Or you can tell the kids with their legs blown off, and the ones with disfiguring burns over much of their bodies, that hopefully Americans won’t elect another death monster next time, but for now, they can’t expect any American outrage about what’s happened to them. It was all done by the Chosen One, after all.

  45. LotusBen
    LotusBen December 30, 2011 at 5:20 pm |

    And they still have what they wanted–it’s Barack Obama!

    Uh, no. I’m sure a majority of Americans would prefer to pay no taxes at all, never be at risk of going to prison or being harassed by the police, and get free money from the government, not have to pay a substantial percentage of their income just to get healthcare, food, higher education, etc. And yet, the only people that enjoy these privileges are the super-rich. The majority of Americans would prefer they had these privilieges as well, but since they are being exploited by people like Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Harry Reid, John Boehner, John Roberts, etc., that’s not an option.

    I’m not going to support someone whose job is to orchestrate the large-scale control, exploitation, imprisonment, and murder of other people. Sorry. I don’t have some sort of personal “plan” to make a better world, but at least I can reserve my energy for things that bring myself and those I care about happiness, rather than wasting energy shilling for a thieving mass murderer.

    Whether Obama is better than the GOP candidates is about as interesting a question for me as how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    And to Vigee, for zer whole “all you people who are abstaining from the electoral process are only able to do that because of your privilege!!!” That’s complete bullshit. Look at the statistics of the people who actually vote, and those who don’t. The people who don’t aren’t “privileged,” they are disproportiantely people of color, poor people, immigrants, people with little formal education, the very young and the very old. In other words, people who have so little privilege they realize the entire fucking political system is stacked against them.

    “Oh, but if they voted that would change!” is just blaming the victim.

  46. Nicholas
    Nicholas December 30, 2011 at 5:38 pm |

    @Kathleen

    I don’t understand what’s cynical about my argument. We have a representative democracy where we elect people. What they do once elected is really, ultimately, up to them, barring them engaging in actions that we have societally agreed upon as unfit for office (“high crimes and misdemeanors”, if you will). Apparently, these things do not extend to the actions of Presidents that result in the horrors you have described.

    Is it a good system? I don’t know! But I know that it just is. Representative Democracy is not in and of itself inherently morally good or bad. It is merely a process whereby the person who gets the most votes gets to make decisions for a term of years.

    That’s all it is. Should presidents act in morally upstanding ways? Sure! But not everything immoral is a presidential “high crime [or] misdemeanor.” And objectively speaking, we Americans seem to be okay with letting our presidents order drone strikes against people in other countries. If this bothered us as much as, say, extramarital sexual activity, why we’d probably support impeachment of presidents who engaged in such behavior.

  47. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 30, 2011 at 5:49 pm |

    okay, Donald Rumsfeld.

    (is it a good system? I don’t know! Do I like to pose myself rhetorical questions that allow me to avoid critical issues? I sure do! Is it disingenuous as hell? It sure is!)

  48. Nicholas
    Nicholas December 30, 2011 at 6:14 pm |

    @Kathleen

    “Is it a good system?” was not rhetorical. It was an honest. Would we be better off under a system whereby every citizen was able to petition a law and then we could have a referendum? I honestly don’t know!

    I mean, maybe you’d get better outcomes if the ballot question was “Should the president have the authority to drop bombs on children? Vote yes or no.” But what if the ballot question is, “Should the president be able to order drone strikes on targets in foreign countries who have substantial connections to terrorist organizations and their allies who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks on Manhattan and the Pentagon?” That question doesn’t say anything about death to little kids, but it doesn’t expressly prohibit little kids dying as “collateral damage”, right? So maybe blowing up little kids is okay such a law? Maybe. I don’t know.

    But that’s not our system. We vote for a person. And they get to do what they do until their term expires. I’m not trying to duck any moral questions, just point out that there’s no morality requirement to hold office and exercise the powers thereof.

  49. Vigée
    Vigée December 30, 2011 at 6:22 pm |

    I was responding to the idea that the differences betwn the repubs and the dens aren’t large enough to warrent a vote. As a human with a uterus, i think they Are. I was not takling about every person who doesn’t vote.

  50. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 30, 2011 at 6:25 pm |

    you don’t know the answer to that question about whether blowing up little kids is okay?

    That’s the logic of the torture memos – if the president says it’s okay, it’s okay. If the president says it’s okay to blow up little kids, it’s okay. I always find it hard to believe that people like you exist, but then there you are!

  51. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 30, 2011 at 6:31 pm |

    and — Nicholas, again, if you could avoid projecting your own absence of any moral sensibility on to the entire American people, that would be great.

  52. Nicholas
    Nicholas December 30, 2011 at 6:41 pm |

    @Kathleen

    And with that, I would like to wish you a Happy New Year. Will it be Happy? I don’t know! Am I being disingenuous because I cannot foretell the subjective level of joy you may experience in the totality of 2012? Maybe!

    Honestly though, I wish you and all the Feministe Commentariat a joyous upcoming day as we mark the arbitrary turning of a calendar year as set by Pope Gregory XIII.

  53. EG
    EG December 30, 2011 at 6:53 pm |

    As an Illinois voter, my lack of participation amounts to exactly zero thanks to the electoral college system. Thats part of why I’m able to step out, because ultimately I know it doesn’t matter.

    Seconded, except that I’m a New York voter. New York hasn’t been a swing state in a while. My vote for president literally means nothing. So if I’m going to cast a futile vote for the symbolism of it, I might as well cast it for somebody who more accurately reflects my positions.

    I do not buy that the US has “free and fair” elections. What we have is a system that has been rigged for two and only two political parties, a system in which only the massively wealthy have even the slightest chance of holding national-level political office and even they have to grovel for corporate money, a winner-take-all system, a system in which votes are broken down state by state with this electoral college bullshit that systematically disempowers urban areas when voting for the highest executive office, repeated movements to disenfranchise certain groups of voters by instituting bullshit “requirements,” election districts that are constantly in jeopardy of being gerrymandered, almost always to disenfranchise nonwhite communities, an election day held during the workweek–and only for one day at that, and about as much substantive discussion of actual policies as can fit in a matchbox without taking the matches out first. And I’m not even touching on the fact that until 40, 45 years ago, a substantial portion of the population–black people in the South–were systematically denied suffrage. That’s not even a lifetime ago.

    These are not “free and fair” elections. These are “tightly controlled, filtered, and manipulated” elections. The fact that nobody is taking names for retribution purposes is certainly important, but financial and legislative coercion can tie the hands of voters almost as effectively.

    Obama does not represent the “will of the people.” First of all, as somebody notes, and I forgot who, so forgive me, Commenter, he ran on a far leftier platform than he has governed by. Second, his election represented the will of those who can get to the voting booth in time as filtered through all of the above exclusionary tactics.

    He had the opportunity to score some big populist points during the Ohio and Wisconsin labor fights and he completely reneged on the promises he made to organized labor, the only large donors to the Democratic Party that play in the same financial donation leagues as corporate interests. If even that amount of money can’t put the screws on to eke out even a use of the bully pulpit, and after talking such a good game during his campaign, Obama concedes before coming to the negotiating table as well as not doing a fair number of things that were completely under his control such as failing to condemn and repudiate the policies of torture implemented by Bush–I can dig up some more examples of these if anybody wants me to–then no, the problem is not that Obama represents the will of the people, and the people just aren’t asking for enough. Even if the problem is, as some maintain, that he’s been stymied by a recalcitrant congress (and I don’t buy that–the Dems held both houses for two years), the fact that he never even bothered to crack the whip over the Democratic Party and force the Republicans to actually filibuster, not just threaten to do it, suggests a real absence of will to me at least, and more likely, a system of government that is completely gridlocked for at least the foreseeable future, and possibly longer.

    Either way, I don’t see a real future in caring about whether or not Obama gets my vote as well as a bunch of other people’s. That’s why I don’t identify as a liberal; I fundamentally do not believe that significant progressive change is possible through only electoral and legislative processes, i.e. within the system.

  54. EG
    EG December 30, 2011 at 6:54 pm |

    as we mark the arbitrary turning of a calendar year as set by Pope Gregory XIII

    Hey, there’s nothing arbitrary about the Feast of the Circumcision! That’s the first time Jesus shed blood, you know! Show some respect!

  55. librarygoose
    librarygoose December 30, 2011 at 7:07 pm |

    New York hasn’t been a swing state in a while. My vote for president literally means nothing

    I’m from Delaware. Talk about not mattering.

  56. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong December 30, 2011 at 7:17 pm |

    It’s a really stupid move to jump from “Obama had been disappointing in a lot of ways” to “he is exactly as stupid, bigoted, and frothy as Rick Santorum” followed by “so I won’t vote for any of them.” The only people who can get away with that are people who already are privileged enough to not particularly care that the GOP had pledged to try to repeal Roe and reinstate DADT. Taking that tack means you’re not really an ally, at all.

  57. LotusBen
    LotusBen December 30, 2011 at 7:18 pm |

    “Is it a good system?” was not rhetorical.

    OK, then I’ll answer it for you. It is not a good system. It is a very, very bad system.

  58. LotusBen
    LotusBen December 30, 2011 at 7:22 pm |

    I do not buy that the US has “free and fair” elections. What we have is a system that has been rigged for two and only two political parties, a system in which only the massively wealthy have even the slightest chance of holding national-level political office and even they have to grovel for corporate money, a winner-take-all system, a system in which votes are broken down state by state with this electoral college bullshit that systematically disempowers urban areas when voting for the highest executive office, repeated movements to disenfranchise certain groups of voters by instituting bullshit “requirements,” election districts that are constantly in jeopardy of being gerrymandered, almost always to disenfranchise nonwhite communities, an election day held during the workweek–and only for one day at that, and about as much substantive discussion of actual policies as can fit in a matchbox without taking the matches out first. And I’m not even touching on the fact that until 40, 45 years ago, a substantial portion of the population–black people in the South–were systematically denied suffrage. That’s not even a lifetime ago.

    Yes. I agree 100% with all this. In fact, it’s probably what I would have said myself if I was more knowledgable about this topic and had the intelligence to synthesize sufficiently large amounts of information.

  59. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig December 30, 2011 at 8:42 pm |

    Kathleen, you remind me of all the women who got wet over Hilary, and then switched to Palin. Do you really think things would have been better if she’d gotten elected? If Mccain/Palin had won? Please get real.

    There’s no ideal option, ever. The best we can do is triage. And right now, that means Obama, even though he and Dorothy from Kansas screwed women over big. At least he thinks women are people, unlike most of the Republican field.

    William: Seriously? Yeah, my district tilts fairly liberal, but I still have to deal with all those asshats from Stillwater, and believe me, that’s a big motivation for me to get my ass to the polls. (Stillwater’s where Bachmann’s from. I can only explain it by assuming there’s something in the water that eats brains up there.)

  60. Vigée
    Vigée December 30, 2011 at 8:59 pm |

    You know what kathleen? F you, seriously. I didn’t say that i din’t know if blowing up little kids is okay. I saud you’re ævhold in bad faith, which you are. That you expect me to sit here and spell out to you that of course it is not okay to blow up kids just proves how incapable of a good faith argument you Are. So don’t fucking tell me that I’m pro blowing up children you arrogant asshole

  61. Vigée
    Vigée December 30, 2011 at 9:15 pm |

    Sorry about the typos. I’m leaving this conversation before kathleen starts flat out calling me a baby killer because i’d rather have Obama over Paul or whoever. But have fun with your unfounded accusations!

  62. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong December 31, 2011 at 12:30 am |

    A “gay rights” victory that amounts to little more than the dubious honor of being allowed to be a hired assassin for their country?

    Fuck you. If you can’t make a moral distinction between the policymakers who send our soldiers into unjust wars, and the people who put their lives on the line out of a sense of national service (something I take it you haven’t done), seriously, fuck you.

  63. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong December 31, 2011 at 12:37 am |

    Kathleen- your argument is basically like saying instead of asking whether it should be legal for Ford to make cars, we should ask if it’s ok for Ford to make “machines which injure and kill thousands of civilians and schoolchildren every year, while emitting lethal toxins into the air.” No, nobody supports killing children. But wars are sometimes, sadly, necessary, and innocent people die in wars.

    All wars are crimes. No war has ever been a good or joyous thing. But just like we accept a certain number of automobile accidents because the benefits of being able to drive outweigh them, so to do we sometimes have to accept the collateral damage of warfare. I’m not saying this in support of any one particular war- there are a lot of unjust wars we shouldn’t have started (I.e. Iraq), but your argument is dishonest, logically unsound, and made in bad faith.

  64. EG
    EG December 31, 2011 at 1:01 am |

    But just like we accept a certain number of automobile accidents because the benefits of being able to drive outweigh them, so to do we sometimes have to accept the collateral damage of warfare.

    Did you actually just write this after chastising William for not having sufficient sympathy for members of the armed futures, particularly since he’s never been one?

    Sure. It’s easy to consider state-sponsored mass murder of civilians as something “we sometimes have to accept,” and to call it by the military euphemism of “collateral damage” when it’s not your kid who was crushed under rubble when some tactical planner mistakes a school or a hospital for a munitions factory. It’s funny how when we did have a major attack on civilians in the US a decade ago, any suggestion that the deaths of the people in the WTC might have been “collateral damage” was understood to be a condescending, dismissive, horrible insult. So tell me, which ones of us have to understand that the violent deaths of our children and friends are things that “we sometimes have to accept.”

    your argument is basically like saying instead of asking whether it should be legal for Ford to make cars, we should ask if it’s ok for Ford to make “machines which injure and kill thousands of civilians and schoolchildren every year, while emitting lethal toxins into the air.”

    That’s actually a really good analogy, because cars are not necessary. Cars have been made necessary in this country through a long history of policy decisions and subsidies and the purposeful destruction of trolleys and defunding of trains and creation of suburbs and thwarting of plans for electric cars that were the result of heavy lobbying by the auto industry. Cars are fucking dangerous and they do emit toxins, and if their corporate executives hadn’t been able to sling money around to manipulate our policy decisions, we wouldn’t “have to accept” them, either.

  65. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong December 31, 2011 at 2:17 am |

    Sure. It’s easy to consider state-sponsored mass murder of civilians as something “we sometimes have to accept,” and to call it by the military euphemism of “collateral damage” when it’s not your kid who was crushed under rubble when some tactical planner mistakes a school or a hospital for a munitions factory. It’s funny how when we did have a major attack on civilians in the US a decade ago, any suggestion that the deaths of the people in the WTC might have been “collateral damage” was understood to be a condescending, dismissive, horrible insult.

    Ok, let me say this really slowly: context matters. The fact that civilians died in 9/11, and civilians died in an Allied bombing raid on German V1 rocket facilities in WWII, does not mean the two things are equally moral. Unless your worldview is so fucked up that you think intentionally murdering thousands of innocents is the same things as endlessly working to minimize civilian causalities in the prosecution of a necessary war (which I am willing to consider as a legitimate possibility at this point), then you’re being a dishonest tool. You keep coming back to this idea that “bad things happen to innocent people in war!” which is, believe it or not, pretty well understood. That’s not the point. The point is that sometimes, the need outweighs the cost.

    Another way in which you are being a dishonest tool: “state sponsored murder of civilians?” No. Even in Iraq, which was a stupid clusterfuck of a thing. the United State did not have a goal of murdering civilians. It killed a bunch of them unnecessarily, which is really fucking awful all on its own; you don’t need to lie in order to make your point.

    I was very clear that I was not writing this in support of any particular recent war we’ve fought, but rather to respond to the inane idea that any military action in which any civilians died, ever, is inherently wrong and anyone who support it want to MURDER TEH BABIES!

    Wars have, historically, been necessary. I’m glad the Allies fought WWII, because if they hadn’t, Nazi Germany would have spread, and prospered. Do you believe all decisions to go to war, ever, have been wrong? Because otherwise, believe it or not, we don’t disagree- and you’re not responding to my arguments, just calling me a baby-killer.

    That’s actually a really good analogy, because cars are not necessary.

    No, your arguments show that we don’t need as many cars as we have now, which is true. But guess what? Your trains and trolleys and public buses injure and main people; they emit carbon dioxide; so do your electric cars, because the process used to make their batteries is fucking awful for the environment. Until we have cold fusion, we’re stuck with ‘em. And so yeah, it’s a great analogy; things with lots of downsides, that we still sometimes need to use.

  66. Josh
    Josh December 31, 2011 at 2:52 am |

    Unless your worldview is so fucked up that you think intentionally murdering thousands of innocents is the same things as endlessly working to minimize civilian causalities in the prosecution of a necessary war (which I am willing to consider as a legitimate possibility at this point), then you’re being a dishonest tool. You keep coming back to this idea that “bad things happen to innocent people in war!” which is, believe it or not, pretty well understood. That’s not the point. The point is that sometimes, the need outweighs the cost.

    I hope you’re not down with Hiroshima, Nagasaki, or Dresden then. Or the use of cluster munitions, which do not “minimize civilian causalities”. Just sayin’

  67. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong December 31, 2011 at 3:17 am |

    I hope you’re not down with Hiroshima, Nagasaki, or Dresden then. Or the use of cluster munitions, which do not “minimize civilian causalities”. Just sayin’

    Look, if someone is saying X is sometimes true, and sometimes not true- “almost all wars involve civilian casualties, but some wars are necessary nevertheless-” and you think that a counterargument is that there is a specific instance in which X is not true- “Hiroshima was bad!”- then you need to brush up on your argumentation.

    Nothing I said was even mildly supportive of bombing Hiroshima, or cluster munitions, or kicking puppy dogs. So to ask me whether my statements mean I do, in fact, hate puppies and want to kick them is just a sneaky form of ad-hominem designed to distract from the weaknesses of your argument by trying to persuade listeners that “hey, that guys probably is mean to cute animals!”

  68. LotusBen
    LotusBen December 31, 2011 at 5:57 am |

    Yeah, the Allied governments were really concerned about the deaths of civilians in World War II. That’s why they prevented Jews from entering their countries, even as they knew the Holocaust was happening. It was totally a good, humaritarian war, and the Allies weren’t motivated at all by their desire to defend and maintain control over the colonial empires where they were exploiting people of color.

    The above paragraph was purely sarcastic.

    Look, support the existence of the military if you want to, so that it can fight the periodic wars that you believe are necessary. Personally, I resent that if I don’t pay taxes, I’m at risk of going to prison. And I resent even more that my taxes go to buy bombers and tanks and machine guns and to pay the salaries of killers who go around terrorizing and wiping out millions of people in the Third World.

    I make a distinction between the soldiers and the people who send them into war. The American soldier is the low-level mafia hitman, and Obama or Bush is Vito Corleone.

  69. Josh
    Josh December 31, 2011 at 5:57 am |

    So, you’re saying you like to kick puppies? That’s terrible.

    Seriously, though, as ad hominems go, I think you’ve got me beat (especially considering that I wasn’t even atttempting to make one) by stating that:

    you think that a counterargument is that there is a specific instance in which X is not true- “Hiroshima was bad!”

    .

    Was I making an argument, though? Or are you just jumping to conclusions?

  70. LotusBen
    LotusBen December 31, 2011 at 6:23 am |

    One point of clarification: I’m not saying I think soldiers are inherently horrible people. Just as I don’t think mafia hitman are inherently horrible people either. I merely strenously object to the career choice in both cases.

    Also, this analogy only applies to soldiers who join voluntarily, not those who are conscripted through some sort of draft.

  71. matlun
    matlun December 31, 2011 at 7:40 am |

    @LotusBen

    I’m not saying I think soldiers are inherently horrible people. Just as I don’t think mafia hitman are inherently horrible people either.

    The volunteers that joined the military to fight in World War 2 was on the same ethical level as Mafia hitmen? Nice.

  72. Jen in Ohio
    Jen in Ohio December 31, 2011 at 9:21 am |

    Because, imo, the nuance of queer issues is often under-examined as well as under-appreciated due to lack of detail provided in non-queer spaces, I just want to offer some additional information on the process of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

    President Obama campaigned on the issue, but he did not “end DADT”. Congress repealed DADT through an act of legislation during a lame-duck session in December, 2010. President Obama, having up until that time chosen not to pursue any of the other executive alternatives available to him for suspending the policy, signed the repeal and gave a very nice speech about it.

    There was a lot of talk, but nothing was really moving on the repeal of DADT until two things happened: 1) the Log Cabin Republicans (yeah, the gay Republicans) had filed a lawsuit for repeal in 2004 and this case finally went to trial in 2010; and 2) in March and April of 2010, a group of GLBTQ activists, mostly veterans in uniform, got pissed off and uppity and handcuffed themselves to the White House fence in protest of the continued existence as well as implementation of the policy. It was their position that President Obama was not taking sufficient action on GLBTQ equality issues in general, and on this one in particular.

    The protesters were arrested both times, as they expected to be. The Department of Justice nonetheless argued against the repeal of DADT in the Log Cabin court case. The DoJ ultimately lost this case and U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips declared DADT to be unconstitutional in September, 2010. Shortly after her ruling in that case, Judge Phillips issued an injunction effectively prohibiting the Department of Defense from continuing to implement DADT to investigate or discharge any more gay service-members. And then the DoJ had the goddamned gall to object to this injunction, and it filed an appeal along with a stay of this ruling to keep the policy in place. Judge Phillips did not give them what they wanted so the DoJ went to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and got their request granted, and DADT stayed in place.

    Despite President Obama having signed the law for repeal in December 2010, his DoJ was still fighting in court to keep DADT in effect in early 2011 using some argument I personally think is utter bullshit about ensuring that the repeal “didn’t impact combat readiness”. And so even after its legislative repeal, the policy remained in effect; gay service-members were still being discharged under DADT in early summer, 2011.

    By mid-summer 2011, finally the discharges appeared to have stopped and the legal wrangling appeared to be over but the law still wasn’t effectively repealed in actual real life, only on paper. As part of his conditions for voting for repeal in 2010, the late Senator Byrd had demanded the inclusion of a two-month Congressional review period before the law could actually be repealed, so everyone had to sit around for another sixty days. GLB people were finally allowed to enlist and serve openly in the US Armed Forces on September 20, 2011.

  73. EG
    EG December 31, 2011 at 10:01 am |

    Unless your worldview is so fucked up that you think intentionally murdering thousands of innocents is the same things as endlessly working to minimize civilian causalities in the prosecution of a necessary war (which I am willing to consider as a legitimate possibility at this point), then you’re being a dishonest tool. You keep coming back to this idea that “bad things happen to innocent people in war!” which is, believe it or not, pretty well understood. That’s not the point. The point is that sometimes, the need outweighs the cost.

    I…”keep coming back to this idea”? I’ve never addressed it before, so…no.

    You think the US government “endlessly works to minimize civilian casualties.” Like in, for example, Hiroshima? Nagasaki? Vietnam? Carpet bombing Baghdad during the first Gulf War? That’s a load of crap, for one thing.

    For another, you are avoiding what I said. Do you think it makes a difference to the people who love those dead civilians whether some government claims it was “endlessly working to minimize civilian casualties? Again, which among us is expected to suck it up because these are things we just have to accept?

    No, your arguments show that we don’t need as many cars as we have now, which is true. But guess what? Your trains and trolleys and public buses injure and main people; they emit carbon dioxide; so do your electric cars, because the process used to make their batteries is fucking awful for the environment.

    First of all, public buses instead of trolleys are a result of the auto industry lobby, so…they don’t belong on that list. Second, without that massive influence, cars would not be mass produced, because the scale on which they’d need to do so to make a profit would not be possible. So yes, if we took the damage automobiles did as seriously as we should, we would have massively limited car production. Just as if this country actually gave a shit about civilian deaths during wartime when those civilians aren’t, you know, us, our military forces would look very different.

    I’m glad the Allies fought WWII, because if they hadn’t, Nazi Germany would have spread, and prospered. Do you believe all decisions to go to war, ever, have been wrong? Because otherwise, believe it or not, we don’t disagree- and you’re not responding to my arguments, just calling me a baby-killer.

    Ah yes, WWII, the hawk’s favorite war. Never mind, of course, that US stayed out of it until Pearl Harbor, so it’s not as if it intervened because fighting Hitler was worthwhile (indeed, other people were attacked for “premature anti-fascism” while the US was cozying up to Mussolini & co.). You claim that Ben’s example of Hiroshima during this war doesn’t disprove your point–that civilian deaths are something “we have to accept”–but you come up with one, well-worn example of a time when the US intervened in a war on the side of not committing genocide, long after, of course, it knew that genocide was being committed, and that demonstrates, somehow, that the US “works tirelessly to minimize civilian casualties” and that civilian deaths are something “we [again, who's "we," here?] have to accept.” That example proves nothing.

    As for calling you a “babykiller,” well, if you kill kids, that’s…accurate. Saying “but we had a really good reason to kill those kids and you have to accept it” doesn’t change that.

    I don’t class soldiers as mafia hitmen, obviously, because doing so ignores both the economically coercive nature of the US capitalism combined with the opportunities that military service offers to make military service the best choice for many, many people in this country, as well as the immense power the narrative of military patriotism has in US culture. Soldiers joined up by the hundreds in the UK during WWI due to narratives like this, even those who had no economic need to. We’re fooling ourselves if we think US narratives of patriotism have any less power or are any less dishonest.

    On that note, one of things I dislike about US propaganda to that effect posits “serving your country” as synonymous with “military service.” Are public school teachers and doctors who work at public health clinics not “serving their country”?

    Back on topic, which is the presidential race, yes to everything Jen in Ohio said.

  74. EG
    EG December 31, 2011 at 10:10 am |

    Your trains and trolleys…injure and main people; they emit carbon dioxide

    Oh, right, forgot to address this. So first, not on the scale cars do–if, in your analogy, our government is “working tirelessly to minimize civilian casualties,” it wouldn’t have taken Ralph Nader’s constant and diligent campaigning to get minimum safety standards applied to cars. Again, I realize that many people only know Nader as the guy who complicated the 2000 presidential elections, but this is the man that GM hired private detectives to investigate and undermine and sex workers to try and get him into situations that they could then use to discredit him. And you know, what’s good for GM is good for America.

    Second, trains’ safety features are constantly being improved, and not in a way that discriminates economically. When/if a railroad installs positive train control, for example, everybody on the trains benefits, because those without a shitload of money do not have to buy a ticket for a train that runs without positive train control, unlike the difference between a new car with state-of-the-art safety measures and a used car that’s actually affordable. So there’s that.

  75. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 31, 2011 at 12:02 pm |

    politicalguineapig — excellent use of a sexualized insult on a feminist blog. The part about me being a McCain/Palin supporter — I did mention here that I voted for Obama and cried with joy upon Obama’s election. And that I’ve been disappointed that he has turned out to be a “totally deracinated corporate imperialist”. I didn’t actually realize those were talking points of the McCain/Palin platform. I must not have been paying attention during the election.

    Justamblingalong — ah, the Donald Rumsfeld philosophy of shit happens in war, whatevs. I really, really urge you to inform yourself about what exactly Obama’s secret drone campaign looks like and whether the perspective you have offered in response to it is morally appropriate.

  76. EG
    EG December 31, 2011 at 12:02 pm |

    You also failed to address the essential hypocrisy of attacking William for insulting the members of the armed forces while never having been a member and then turning around and saying that we need to accept [other people's] collateral damage. Are you yourself speaking as somebody who has lost a civilian loved one to bombings directed by a foreign state? If not, why does personal experience matter in one but not the other? If so, I apologize and you have my deepest sympathies.

  77. William
    William December 31, 2011 at 12:33 pm |

    Fuck you. If you can’t make a moral distinction between the policymakers who send our soldiers into unjust wars, and the people who put their lives on the line out of a sense of national service (something I take it you haven’t done), seriously, fuck you.

    Those policy makers come from both sides of the aisle. But thats not really the point here, is it?

    This country hasn’t been involved in a moral war since our grandparent’s generation. Anyone with basic literacy has worked out by now that joining up with the US military is taking money to kill poor people of color for the political gain of rich white people. Sometimes its rice farmers who have to die for Colt to sell Armalites and Dow to sell Napalm. Sometimes its Iraqis who have to die so contractors can get the fat reconstruction contracts and an artificial Texan can play tough guy. The words might change but the song remains the same.

    So no, I don’t have some kind of rosy view of soldiers who happen to get sent to unjust wars because they don’t “happen” to get sent. They sign up and take their money. We don’t have a draft. The press might be spineless but they do a good enough job. At the very best our professional soldiers are people in positions of extreme economic disenfranchisement who made a morally questionable decision to trade the lives of people they’ve never met for a generally fradulent offer of upward mobility. At the worst they’re gleeful hired thugs. No one in the armed forces today puts their lives on the line in the name of national service. We don’t have a draft, there are no legitimate threats to our national security, international terrorism is a goddamn joke that most soldiers will never be involved in, and the vaunted “sense of service” requires either willful blindness or a complete lack of education. That only leaves on motivation: they do it for cash. They’re mercenaries with a flag, loyal to a customer that stopped representing their country long before even their parents were born.

    And no, I haven’t served. Nor will I ever unless there is a direct invasion. I do not feel ashamed by this. Why? Because my grandfather was drafted at 31 years old with a wife and a child at home and shipped off to die on a beach in France because people sat on their thumbs while Hitler rose to power. Nineteen out of twenty men in his unit died in under an hour. He lived through it and came home with PTSD that ruined his life and his children’s childhoods. His son was gassed by the police at the ’68 convention for exercising basic first amendment rights. So yeah, my father dodged Vietnam. I’d sooner go to prison for putting a bullet in a CO than “serve.” This country was supposed to be about liberty, not servile loyalty. We lost that too, if we ever had it. So I’m just looking to get by and not end up a casualty of business as usual. Fuck you and good night.

  78. matlun
    matlun December 31, 2011 at 1:24 pm |

    William @77

    No one in the armed forces today puts their lives on the line in the name of national service. We don’t have a draft, there are no legitimate threats to our national security, international terrorism is a goddamn joke that most soldiers will never be involved in, …

    This is a better criticism against military service. When you take part in military action, you are ethically responsible. “I am just following orders” should not be a valid excuse.

    Certainly the US is an extremely militaristic country which has been involved in a huge number of wars of aggression, and if you choose to be a part of that then the ethical responsibility of that choice is yours to bear.

  79. matlun
    matlun December 31, 2011 at 1:36 pm |

    And in an attempt to comment on the original topic:

    It is depressing to note that all these policies of indefinite detention, targeted assassinations, and expansive war are actually bipartisan. Whether you vote for Obama or any Republican candidate except Ron Paul you will get the same type of policies in these areas. When it comes to questions of “national security”, Obama is on the same side as the Republican hawks.

    If I was a US voter I honestly would not know what to do, because I do not think I could not vote for Obama considering his politics. Is there enough difference between him and the Republicans to make him the “lesser of two evils” by any significant margin? He sometimes give good talks, but we have seen him in office and actions speak louder than words.

  80. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig December 31, 2011 at 4:24 pm |

    Kathleen: I only asked if you’d’ve been happy if Mccain had won. No? Good. Obviously Obama has a *lot* of flaws, but given how narrow the election was last time, I’d rather not trust my future to a bunch of dunderheads who have no measurable brain activity.And again, Obama believes women are humans- the rest of the field doesn’t.

  81. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong December 31, 2011 at 4:35 pm |

    Yeah, the Allied governments were really concerned about the deaths of civilians in World War II. That’s why they prevented Jews from entering their countries, even as they knew the Holocaust was happening. It was totally a good, humaritarian war, and the Allies weren’t motivated at all by their desire to defend and maintain control over the colonial empires where they were exploiting people of color.

    Again, with the “instances of X not being true = proof X is never true fallacy.” Nobody is arguing that US policy isn’t sometimes extremely fucked up. Seriously, we agree on that. But that isn’t evidence that all wars are bad wars. And in the wars we’re fighting today, we really, really do work to minimize civilian deaths. You can choose not to believe that

    Personally, I resent that if I don’t pay taxes, I’m at risk of going to prison.

    Well, I personally, like having a police force, safe roads, clean water and public schools. The fact those things are distributed in unequal ways does not mean we’d be better off living in the utter anarchy you seem to support. Libertarians are stupid in exactly the same way communists are- they both have very simple, elegant, persuasive ideas about how to structure a society, that happen to break down utterly in real life (yay, now everyone can yell at me!)

    I make a distinction between the soldiers and the people who send them into war. The American soldier is the low-level mafia hitman, and Obama or Bush is Vito Corleone.

    So you’re just trolling, then.

    For another, you are avoiding what I said. Do you think it makes a difference to the people who love those dead civilians whether some government claims it was “endlessly working to minimize civilian casualties? Again, which among us is expected to suck it up because these are things we just have to accept?

    No, of course it doesn’t. But you’re avoiding what I said; some people die as a result of pollution from power plants, from air travel, from all kinds of things. Sometimes, really awful things are a result of necessary policies, and I’ve said this three times now, and it’s really fucking obvious, so what’s the problem?

    First of all, public buses instead of trolleys are a result of the auto industry lobby, so…they don’t belong on that list. Second, without that massive influence, cars would not be mass produced, because the scale on which they’d need to do so to make a profit would not be possible. So yes, if we took the damage automobiles did as seriously as we should, we would have massively limited car production.

    Jesus. You really have a knack for the derail, right? Niggling about the specifics of car damage totally misses the point of the original analogy, because some people would still die tragically in trolley deaths, and that wouldn’t mean trolleys were a bad thing.

    You claim that Ben’s example of Hiroshima during this war doesn’t disprove your point–that civilian deaths are something “we have to accept”–but you come up with one, well-worn example of a time when the US intervened in a war on the side of not committing genocide, long after, of course, it knew that genocide was being committed, and that demonstrates, somehow, that the US “works tirelessly to minimize civilian casualties” and that civilian deaths are something “we [again, who's "we," here?] have to accept.” That example proves nothing.

    I think the problem lies in reading comprehension, ’cause that’s not what I said. What I said was that some wars should be fought even though they cause civilian deaths. Whether the US got into the war early enough, or why, is totally irrelevant to whether I’m glad the war was fought. This isn’t US cheerleading, it’s a response to the idiotic idea that any military action is, by definition TEH EVULZ.

    On that note, one of things I dislike about US propaganda to that effect posits “serving your country” as synonymous with “military service.” Are public school teachers and doctors who work at public health clinics not “serving their country”?

    Well, no, they’re both serving their country. I don’t think you’d get much disagreement there, either.

    Those policy makers come from both sides of the aisle. But thats not really the point here, is it?

    No, it’s not, particularly since I never said anything to contradict this.

    Justamblingalong — ah, the Donald Rumsfeld philosophy of shit happens in war, whatevs. I really, really urge you to inform yourself about what exactly Obama’s secret drone campaign looks like and whether the perspective you have offered in response to it is morally appropriate.

    I love the fucking condescension of people who use ‘educate yourself’ as a response to disagreement on ethical/policy grounds. Kathleen, I would bet all the change in my pockets against all the change in your pockets that I have a deeper, more nuanced, and more carefully studied picture of the US military campaign in Central Asia and the Middle East than you. But since neither of us can prove our respective positions, than maybe we could just discuss the actual issues?

    And no, that’s not my philosophy. Is the best you can do really ignoring the substance of my position, ascribing heartlessly sociopathic views to me with no particular evidence, and then calling it a day?

    To reiterate; war is a Bad Thing. Everyone with any sense of morality agrees that it would be a Good Thing if no war was ever fought again. But sometimes, wars are necessary nevertheless; I could give examples of wars I’m glad were fought if that would be helpful, though it would be missing the broader point. Fundamentally, policy has to be made on a utilitarian level. Nearly everything we do has negative and positive consequences, and if the positive outweighs the negative, no enacting the policy is a bad thing- because when those cost/benefit analyses are added up on a broad level, they turn into the quality of life for everyone, overall (the EPA and FDA even put a dollar value on human life- about $4.3 million, if you’re curious). Civilians dying in war is a tragedy, it’s awful, it is not “shit happens, whatever,” Kathleen- we should never start a war we don’t have to for this reason, and we should always do our best to minimize those casualties as best we can. But it’s just one particular awful cost, and some wars have even larger benefits. Not all wars are inherently evil.

  82. EG
    EG December 31, 2011 at 4:47 pm |

    What I said was that some wars should be fought even though they cause civilian deaths….it’s a response to the idiotic idea that any military action is, by definition TEH EVULZ.

    And if you could just point to the place where somebody made that argument?

    In noting what you were arguing, I quoted your words. I just went back and reread the thread, and in no place did I see anyone asserting that any military action is by definition evil.

    You are arguing against a position that nobody here has espoused, and then attacking my reading comprehension.

    And no, I don’t believe for a moment that the US government at this point in time does everything it can to “minimize civilian casualties.” Sure, this time it’ll be different, honey, you’ll see. I’ve changed, really I have.

  83. EG
    EG December 31, 2011 at 4:51 pm |

    Jesus. You really have a knack for the derail, right? Niggling about the specifics of car damage totally misses the point of the original analogy, because some people would still die tragically in trolley deaths, and that wouldn’t mean trolleys were a bad thing.

    You’re the one who made the analogy. When it doesn’t hold up, don’t blame me. Actually, it shows up the analogy: if the US as a country prioritized human lives above lobbyist influence, then we would have far fewer deaths, because trolleys and trains are limited in their movements. Similarly, if the US stuck to non-imperialist wars, we would cause far fewer civilian deaths.

    I note you still haven’t addressed the personal experience hypocrisy.

    some people die as a result of pollution from power plants, from air travel, from all kinds of things. Sometimes, really awful things are a result of necessary policies, and I’ve said this three times now, and it’s really fucking obvious, so what’s the problem?

    The problem is that US military action is rarely a necessary policy, so comparing it to mass transit is hardly relevant.

  84. Donna L
    Donna L December 31, 2011 at 5:28 pm |

    I hope you’re not down with … Dresden then.

    I’m not necessarily proud of my vengeful impulses, but yes, in fact, I am down with it. And might be even if it weren’t the case that the actual number of civilian deaths (approximately 25,000) hadn’t been deliberately and grossly inflated by Goebbels almost immediately afterwards, by a factor of at least 10, for propaganda purposes — probably his greatest propaganda success, in fact, given how many still believe it and still reflexively put Dresden in the same universe as Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As for the 25,000 who died (many of them collaborators in mass murder given the extent of Nazi support in Dresden), my capacity for sorrow is not infinite, and I reserve it for others without apology, like the 33,000 Jews who were murdered in a single day at Babi Yar.

    But that’s just me.

  85. LotusBen
    LotusBen December 31, 2011 at 6:08 pm |

    But that isn’t evidence that all wars are bad wars

    As EG pointed out, no one in this thread has said this. I know I haven’t said this. So I’ll say it now: all wars ARE bad wars. I’d prefer to live in a world with no wars. Just like I’d prefer to live in a world with no starvation, or no disease, or no pain of any kind, really. But that’s obviously not the world we live in, nor is such a world ever likely to come about.

    Wars are elaborate social phenomena participated in by many different individual actors. Do I have a problem with each of these actor’s choices? No, not necessarily. Do I have a problem with people who are conscripted into an army choosing to fight out of fear of punishment? Not really. I see those people as victims. Do I have a problem with a Byelorussian peasant deciding to join the fight against the Nazis’ army as he saw them obiliterating his people; ravaging everything in their path; burning alive men, women, and children? No, I don’t. I might even consider such a choice heroic. Do I object to the career path of the current mercenaries of global capitalism who compose the U.S. armed forces? Yes, I do strenously–yet some have been my friends, and I myself briefly considered joining the Navy in a noncombat role during a long stretch of unemployment three years ago. I have some sympathy for the economic pressures that can coax people into making the choice to enlist, even if I’m not really OK with the choice. Now, finally: do I object to the profiteers, politicians, and generals who start wars to boost their power and line their pockets, 99% of the global population be damned? Yes. I do. I consider them the most vile people on Earth.

  86. LotusBen
    LotusBen December 31, 2011 at 6:12 pm |

    As for the 25,000 who died (many of them collaborators in mass murder given the extent of Nazi support in Dresden)

    So you’re down with murdering infants and small children if their parents are Nazis? Or if their parents happen to live in the same neighborhood as Nazis?

  87. Josh
    Josh December 31, 2011 at 6:14 pm |

    believe it and still reflexively put Dresden in the same universe as Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Would that be the universe we all live in? It’s one thing to say that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were orders of magnitude larger, but that does negate that it was guided by the same strategic disregard for civilian casualties.

    I don’t think Goebbels using people’s deaths as propaganda really excuses those deaths. And what about those that aren’t collaborators? Were they, as Germans, all collaborators?

    Unlike you, my still finite capacity for sorrow extends to people you’d consider to be categorically enemies of our people (I’m assuming since you say you have “vengeful impulses”, that you’re also Jewish), since I’ll extend it past relatives to other people dying. I even have some sorrow for soldiers dying who are fighting for causes that most do not think are justified. Do I have vengeful impulses? Sure, but I also temper those with regard for human life to avoid becoming like those I might wish vengeance upon.

    For example I also have some sympathy for Non-Native Americans who live in this country. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think they’ve benefited from an ongoing genocide and theft of these lands, though. That doesn’t mean I would excuse reciprocal genocide against them.

  88. Josh
    Josh December 31, 2011 at 6:15 pm |

    *does not negate (of course)

  89. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 31, 2011 at 6:35 pm |

    Justamblingalong — uh huh. What languages other than English do you speak that give you this unique insight into Central Asia and the Middle East such that you understand as others do not how murdering children there is the right thing to do?

  90. Kathleen
    Kathleen December 31, 2011 at 6:39 pm |

    Donna L — that is a disgusting sentiment, and to invoke the Holocaust to justify it is beneath contempt.

  91. DonnaL
    DonnaL December 31, 2011 at 6:50 pm |

    Would that be the universe we all live in? It’s one thing to say that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were orders of magnitude larger, but that does negate that it was guided by the same strategic disregard for civilian casualties.

    No, that would be the universe of deliberately murdering hundreds of thousands of people without even a pretense of their simply being collateral damage to military necessity (kind of like the Holocaust itself), and the universe of examples of mass murder that are so staggering in magnitude that the numbers are not even comprehensible — a category Dresden is usually placed in only *because* of Goebbels, and *because* of a desire on the part of many Germans since the war to draw some kind of moral equivalency between the Axis and the Allies. Which is why I tend to get upset when I see Dresden cited together with with Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    Yes, in most instances, I do temper my vengeful impulses with regard for innocent human life — very much so, since I agree with everything else you and others have said in that respect in this thread — but in this case it’s hard for me to overcome my emotions, not because of the Germans having been the enemies of our people in a general sense, but because of their having specifically been the enemies of my family and having murdered most of it, including 11 of my mother’s closest relatives. I’m not proud of it, and can’t really justify it rationally; it’s my heart speaking, not my head. No, Ben, I’m not really “down with” murdering any babies and children or innocent men and women, wherever they are. Not in the least. It’s never “OK.” I simply don’t have it in me to feel bad about that instance of it.

  92. DonnaL
    DonnaL December 31, 2011 at 6:52 pm |

    I agree with you, Kathleen. See above.

  93. Josh
    Josh December 31, 2011 at 6:59 pm |

    I’d like to point out that much of the argument for America’s “Just wars” extends from this concept of American Exceptionalism – that this country is somehow different because of our historical foundations.

    If anyone want to talk about propaganda justifying genocide and war – there’s your example. The colonies (not just the thirteen that former the basis of this country, but all others on this continent) or the Americas have be founded on that continuing genocide, justified by a colonialist philosophy that those that were here first are less worthy, that those that have been brought here against their will are less worthy, and that the colonizers are entitled to whatever they take. Throughout history it has often been justified by the language of the day.

    However, that doesn’t make it less of a resource grab, it just makes it one that’s propagandized repeatedly throughout history. We could argue this repeatedly, but these wars and “police actions” boil down to just that. This implicates the soldiers in the wars as participating in unjust things, which may well be a violation of their moral consciousness a means at taking their good-faith support and exploiting it.

    How this applies to WWII: I’m glad that the Axis powers were stopped. I really am. I don’t agree with many of the tactics employed to do so, though. And here’s the thing – if America didn’t somewhat support fascism prior to the war, many more lives would undoubtedly been saved, which disturbs me. It also disturbs me that American reasons for entering the war were to protect colonial interests (defend fellow colonialist allies, maintain a hold on colonies, maintain a hold on resources).

    Fast-forward to the modern day. Now we fight wars for oil and justify them by pointing to the humans rights abuses of the countries that are invaded. This justification is in bad faith. As a colonialist power (and one that realizes the encroaching problem of oil shortages), America has found it necessary to “intervene”.

    How does this relate to Obama? Well, he’s continued this. He hasn’t made a good faith effort to redress the war-crimes committed within country, nor outside it. It’s because he doesn’t care. He is a colonialist, he is a willing participant and leader in this system of exploitation. The campaign he was elected on was simply the implementation of a brand, not the expression of any genuine ideological conviction.

    In that way, he’s not significantly different from the Republicans, simply more opaque. If he makes a decision or supports a bill that progressives are in favor of, it’s hardly because his main motivation is to serve that cause, but to protect his brand image while he continues this ongoing historical trend.

    The Republicans also maintain their brand, but luckily for them, they’ve crafted their brand to be close to the actual policies they support. When they’re subjugating us, they’re doing so “honestly” (while still employing lies, of course). This doesn’t make them better or more acceptable, though.

    I submit that this “full-spectrum dominance” of the political battlefield is meant to “shock-and-awe” us into not participating in makes change occur or engaging out critical thinking skills.

  94. DonnaL
    DonnaL December 31, 2011 at 7:06 pm |

    I agree with you, Kathleen. See above.

    Except that I’m not sure the “beneath contempt” part is entirely justified. Please remember that the Holocaust is not remotely the abstraction to me that I suspect it is to most of you; as the child of a Holocaust survivor, it has probably been the central fact of my existence since early childhood. Once in a very blue moon, I allow my emotions about it to come out in displaced anger at the entire German population of the time. (Not of the present; I am, in fact, in the process of applying for the German citizenship I am entitled to.) So I apologize to everyone for having done so here.

  95. Josh
    Josh December 31, 2011 at 7:19 pm |

    without even a pretense of their simply being collateral damage to military necessity (kind of like the Holocaust itself)

    I doubt you forget that Nazi propaganda painted the people who were killed in the Holocaust not as collateral damage, but as enemies of the German people. Which is all the more reason to be cautious of accepting the necessity of killing people for the safety of one’s people.

    category Dresden is usually placed in only *because* of Goebbels, and *because* of a desire on the part of many Germans since the war to draw some kind of moral equivalency between the Axis and the Allies. Which is why I tend to get upset when I see Dresden cited together with with Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    I think that category applies to the needless death of civilians regards of magnitude or who uses it to justify what later on. It’s a pretty broad and deep category.

    but because of their having specifically been the enemies of my family and having murdered most of it, including 11 of my mother’s closest relatives.

    And that’s something I feel terrible about, but it underscores all the more the need for sympathy all people, for the need to prevent hatred and promote love. What happened to your mother’s relatives should never happen to anyone. Allowing our emotions to get the better of us is what allows propagandists to manipulate them into hate that is turned against innocents, though. I hate Nazis, not just as a Jew or Czech, but as someone who believes the ideology of fascism, and others of hatred and control, are devoid of any value and are inherently dangerous to the continuance of all life on this planet – which is why that hate must be tempered and controlled, and not allowed to control me or make me lose sympathy, even for the enemy.

    That said, my connection to genocide is not as close in history as yours is to you. The Jewish side of my family was out of Europe when the pogroms were occurring. The Czech side lived through WWII in Czechoslovakia, but I don’t know what it endured there, other than something that made my grandmother lose her faith. Maybe this makes my opinion on the subject less valid than yours, but I feel that even though it may be hard to love the enemy, though they may not deserve it, we must, else we run the danger of furthering their hatred and giving into our own.

  96. DonnaL
    DonnaL December 31, 2011 at 7:21 pm |

    I doubt you forget that Nazi propaganda painted the people who were killed in the Holocaust not as collateral damage, but as enemies of the German people

    I think that’s what I was saying.

  97. DonnaL
    DonnaL December 31, 2011 at 7:24 pm |

    even though it may be hard to love the enemy, though they may not deserve it, we must,

    I’m afraid we have to part ways at that point, much as I agree with you in general. I’d rather not have to refer specifically to a certain extremely long thread, but “love thine enemy” is way too Christian for me.

  98. Josh
    Josh December 31, 2011 at 7:27 pm |

    Which is to say… I value your opinion while holding fast to my own and further hoping you can escape the mental and emotional torment of the Holocaust or at least maintain a peace with the German people and mend the anger your feel towards them, at least as it weighs upon you.

    I also hope, that if you get that German citizenship, you can use that anger to inform/remind the Germans that those of them who embrace fascism are not okay and those of them that remain indifferent to it must not accept it.

  99. Josh
    Josh December 31, 2011 at 7:31 pm |

    I’m afraid we have to part ways at that point, much as I agree with you in general. I’d rather not have to refer specifically to a certain extremely long thread, but “love thine enemy” is way too Christian for me.

    I’m more taking that from Elie Wiesal. Hate and Love are not always inimical to each other. I don’t view loving the enemy as the need to “turn the other cheek”, but a need to stay their hand and to inform them. Tough and informed love, perhaps.

  100. LotusBen
    LotusBen December 31, 2011 at 7:44 pm |

    Donna. You know I greatly respect you. Or at least I hope you do. And I’m also firmly in the camp that all emotions are irrational, and neither right nor wrong–that’s just how humans work in my view. And all feelings are acceptable (though none of them provide a justification for abusive actions). So I do completely acknowledge your emotions on this and can see why you feel this way given the horrific tramua your family experienced. And I can see you may be a little uncomfortable feeling something that’s not totally congruent with your other beliefs; boy, do I know what that’s like! I appreciate your honesty about a conflicted situation.

    I was merely interrogating the idea that you were “down” with something like Dresden, since that seemed to connote more of a positive endorsement of it, rather than just an inability to feel sorrow about it. So I appreciate you clarifying because I was feeling a little confused and disappointed in you, to be honest. But now, I just perceive it more as a typical instance of heart/head conflict, which I have on a hourly basis. And so I feel compassion and connection toward you.

    This probably also reminded me of the times I have said something offensive on here and you called me on it. I’ve always been grateful that you’ve called me on those things and the way you’ve gracefully done it. So when I perceived the situation was reversed (not saying it actually was reversed), I figured the way to respond that would respect us both was to “call you out” I guess.

    Lol. Sorry to Donna or anyone if this post is too touchy-feely. I guess I get sentimental on New Year’s.

  101. DonnaL
    DonnaL December 31, 2011 at 7:50 pm |

    Thanks, Ben. I do appreciate your questioning me rather than assuming I really believed exactly what I said in my initial outburst.

  102. Josh
    Josh December 31, 2011 at 8:15 pm |

    Donna, I’d to apologize for being dismissive of you – in retrospect, I realize that I was. I did the yes but thing, and failed to acknowledge that you might not actually believe exactly what you said.

  103. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong December 31, 2011 at 9:55 pm |

    Justamblingalong — uh huh. What languages other than English do you speak that give you this unique insight into Central Asia and the Middle East such that you understand as others do not how murdering children there is the right thing to do?

    Those would be beginning Hindi, conversational Russian, and fluent Arabic, you condescending bum. And seriously, this is just trolling. Please, can’t you do better than “why do you want to murder teh babiez?” I mean, look, a lot of people here seem to disagree with me, but surely we can all agree the moral question here is a lot more complex than “should we murder teh babiez, or not?”

  104. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong December 31, 2011 at 10:00 pm |

    The problem is that US military action is rarely a necessary policy

    Yeah, I don’t disagree with this.

    I note you still haven’t addressed the personal experience hypocrisy.

    There’s no hypocrisy. I don’t need to have lost a family member to a bomb to say that in a rational analysis, the need for military action sometimes outweighs the costs.

    On the other hand, the young people signing up for our Armed Forces are doing so for many reasons, among them a sense of duty and service. Whether you believe they’re being manipulated or not, they tend to believe rather strongly that they’re defending American lives and freedoms. So yeah, to call them all evil murdering cowardly thugs is at the very least questionable (and I’d use a much stronger word than that).

  105. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong January 1, 2012 at 3:28 am |

    In noting what you were arguing, I quoted your words. I just went back and reread the thread, and in no place did I see anyone asserting that any military action is by definition evil.

    Kathleen is, though perhaps not intentionally. Zie claims that the question “should the US conduct drone warfare” is the same as “should the us drop bombs on babies,” and since the answer to the latter is always no, so is the answer to the former. While I could easily agree that drone warfare has been a bad thing, that particular piece of logic is one of the stupider things I’ve heard outside of a Bush press conference, among other reasons because it can be used to attack any war, or really any piece of public policy, ever. That’s how all this started, and that’s my only point.

    If I’d realized zie was a troll, I’d wouldn’t have bothered. Seriously, all zie has is “why do you like killing babies?” over and over…

  106. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie January 1, 2012 at 11:28 am |

    The only people who can get away with that are people who already are privileged enough to not particularly care that the GOP had pledged to try to repeal Roe and reinstate DADT. Taking that tack means you’re not really an ally, at all.

    That Obama lied about what a great friend to women he would be (Freedom of Choice Act, anyone?) does not make him better than those who admitted up front how much they hate and want to control women. Most recently, Mr. Different-from-that-awful-GOP smugly let us know how much he values us and our bodily sovreignty by admonishing us about all those 11-year-olds needing Plan B, and how they shouldn’t be able to get it.

    So, yeah, I stand by what I believed in 2008: Obama is not much different. What with deciding how half the popoulation should behave, and what rights we should have, and finally caving to the constant pressure from activists to repeal DADT, and winnowing down civil rights, and all.

  107. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong January 1, 2012 at 3:17 pm |

    That’s just a myopic way of looking at it, is all. The fact that Obama hasn’t been nearly as effective on women’s rights as any of us would like/expected is not evidence that the GOP wouldn’t be any worse. If nothing else, please remember who nominates supreme court justices, and consider whether Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor are more or less likely to overturn- or at least severely limit- abortion rights than whoever the party of Scalia, Thomas, and Roberts would pick.

    Its not about picking your perfect candidate. It’s not even about finding someone you approve of. It’s about what the GOP would do if they held office. Have you already forgotten the Bush years?

  108. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig January 1, 2012 at 3:29 pm |

    Tinfoil Hattie : Would you rather not have any rights at all? ‘Cause, believe me, repealing Roe vs. Wade is only the start. There are Republicans who believe women shouldn’t have the right to vote. I may be a horrible person for this, but I believe having some rights is better than not having any at all. And again, Democrats tend to be more willing to believe women are human then Republicans, who think women are fish tanks.

  109. matlun
    matlun January 1, 2012 at 3:48 pm |

    Justamblingalong:

    Its not about picking your perfect candidate. It’s not even about finding someone you approve of. It’s about what the GOP would do if they held office. Have you already forgotten the Bush years?

    Is Obama better than Bush was? It is at least not obvious to me. When it comes to national security policy he has been clearly worse.

    There is also the long term strategic problem of voting for any Democratic candidate as the lesser of two evils. If all progressives do that, then no Democrat will ever have any incentive to push progressive politics.

    (On the other hand, I agree that the current crop of Republican candidates are depressingly awful…)

  110. EG
    EG January 1, 2012 at 4:24 pm |

    Donna L — that is a disgusting sentiment, and to invoke the Holocaust to justify it is beneath contempt.

    Nonsense. How is this statement any different from what is being discussed in the other thread, about telling abuse victims they “shouldn’t” feel angry at their abusers, that they should forgive them? Most of the German populace either stood by and watched or actively participated as their neighbors, colleagues, coworkers, old schoolfriends were deprived of their property and livelihood, and shipped off to be killed–including their children–and those who were killed included Donna’s family. The ongoing effects on what remains of a family of that kind of trauma are multi-generational.

    Why shouldn’t she have sentiments of hatred and a desire for revenge and a complete lack of sympathy of that populace when it is bombed? Why shouldn’t she object to what could be easily read as using it as a continuing false equivalence.

    Calling those sentiments “disgusting” is some pretty self-righteous name-calling right there.

  111. EG
    EG January 1, 2012 at 4:27 pm |

    I feel that even though it may be hard to love the enemy, though they may not deserve it, we must, else we run the danger of furthering their hatred and giving into our own.

    I fundamentally disagree, and find this to be a very Christian view of how to handle conflict. Hatred and anger can be power, and I see no reason to abjure it. I do not love my enemy; they are my enemy. I love the people closest to me. I may see the humanity and complexity in my enemy; that does not prevent me from hating him, however.

  112. EG
    EG January 1, 2012 at 4:33 pm |

    So yeah, to call them all evil murdering cowardly thugs is at the very least questionable (and I’d use a much stronger word than that).

    William didn’t do that. He said “hired killers.” That is the comment you initially objected to. “Murdering,” sure I can see how you get that from “hired killers.” “Evil” and “cowardly,” however? No. Someone can be a brave hired killer. Someone can be a morally good hired killer.

    It’s about what the GOP would do if they held office. Have you already forgotten the Bush years?

    I read this a lot from people encouraging everybody to vote for Obama. Leaving aside whether or not one considers Obama to be meaningfully different from Bush, it completely sidesteps the issue that very, very few people’s votes make any difference at all. Even in Florida 2000, we’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of votes. That is small compared to the state population, but it hardly makes the case that it’s worth going down to the polls, and it certainly doesn’t address the fact that almost no states are swing states, so you might as well not bother or vote for someone you really support.

  113. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig January 1, 2012 at 5:14 pm |

    Donna: You’re a braver woman than I am. I could never even step on German soil without worrying that I’d turn into a killer. Some places just become so toxic as hatred seeps into their soil- like the southern United States, Austria, Poland, Serbia or Cambodia.
    Germany has managed to find a few positive outlets though.

  114. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong January 1, 2012 at 5:53 pm |

    Leaving aside whether or not one considers Obama to be meaningfully different from Bush

    Anyone who doesn’t is being silly, unless they think Sotomayor and Kagan are functionally the same as Alito and Roberts. These arguments are just hyperbole based in disappointment- Obama isn’t as good as I want him to be, therefore he is as bad as possible.

    it completely sidesteps the issue that very, very few people’s votes make any difference at all.

    Tell me, what are these citizens’ names? Why haven’t they been the targets of massive, personalized ad campaigns?

    …oh right, because nobody knows who they are, yet. Anyways, that logic works on an individual scale but breaks down when applied to groups, like, for example, feminists. It’s a type of veridical paradox, reminiscent in some ways of a prisoner’s dilemma; if a decent-sized chunk of people make a perfectly mathematically rational decision not to vote, since their vote won’t ‘matter,’ it can have a huge effect on an election and end up mattering quite a bit.

  115. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong January 1, 2012 at 5:56 pm |

    Why shouldn’t she object to what could be easily read as using it as a continuing false equivalence.

    While I actually don’t disagree (shocking, I know!) the same argument could just as easily be applied to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, considering the absolute atrocities perpetrated by Imperial Japan. My point is this: if you’re Chinese or Korean, it’s not necessarily a false equivalence.

  116. EG
    EG January 1, 2012 at 10:13 pm |

    Anyways, that logic works on an individual scale but breaks down when applied to groups, like, for example, feminists. It’s a type of veridical paradox, reminiscent in some ways of a prisoner’s dilemma; if a decent-sized chunk of people make a perfectly mathematically rational decision not to vote, since their vote won’t ‘matter,’ it can have a huge effect on an election and end up mattering quite a bit.

    In states where the electoral votes are up for grabs, sure. In most states? Not so much. So if you want to say “Feminists in Florida and Indiana (for instance) should vote for Obama nonetheless,” I have no argument. The idea that feminists in general should, though, makes no sense. I may not know the names of the few voters whose votes will actually matter, but I can be quite certain that I won’t be one of them, and I can trust my, heh, let’s say “comrades,” just for the fun, in other states to make the best assessment of the value of their own votes and whether they’d rather give them to Obama or register their existence to his left.

    My point is this: if you’re Chinese or Korean, it’s not necessarily a false equivalence.

    Ah. I wasn’t clear. Apologies. I did not mean a false equivalence to Hiroshima (though I do think it could be, given the ongoing effects of radiation poisoning over the next generation). I meant the false equivalence to Nazi atrocities that Donna was referring to.

    I don’t agree that personal experience is needed to condemn soldiers but not to justify civilian deaths, but that is, I think, a fundamental disagreement.

  117. Raja
    Raja January 1, 2012 at 10:42 pm |

    Anti Japanese sentiment still runs pretty high in China and Korea due to Japan’s wartime history and Korea’s goes back even further to when the Japanese colonized them. It is still a touchy issue today even though previous prime ministers have apologized; there is always a politician denying that the imperial army never engaged in sexual slavery or nanjing never happened etc. And we are just talking about china and korea here; Japan managed to conquer most of south east asia as well;four million indonesians alone were conscripted into forced labor during the time they were occupied by the Japanese. Japan still claims certain islands which Korea and China have traditionally considered theirs and when ever Japan says stuff like this it only inflames this sentiment. Japan’s actions to her Asian neighbors were at least as bad as Nazi Germany if not worse in some regards. I have met a couple of Japanese people who were actually quite apologetic about Japan’s actions; one of them put it “I apologize for the deaths that were caused under our occupation but not the logic that led to it” not to mention japanese textbooks aren’t the most detailed on the subject. The mayor of Tokyo is actually a right wing politician who has made numerous comments in favor of Japan’s wartime past as well as racist comments about black people. Also consider that most of the germans responsible for the Holocaust were hunted down by Israel or the US. In Japan; there are a lot of war criminals who were never tried and some are in rather high positions of power to this day.

  118. EG
    EG January 1, 2012 at 10:53 pm |

    Um, OK, but if you actually read what I wrote, you’ll find that that was not the “false equivalence” to which I was referring. So…not what I meant.

    Also consider that most of the germans responsible for the Holocaust were hunted down by Israel or the US.

    Depends on what you mean by “responsible.” It’s not as though anti-semitism was some kind of secret in the Nazi regime. It was a main tenet of their propaganda, and the Nazis turned on their own citizens, their own people. And the gentile Germans were fine with that. Hitler was cheered. So…”most” of the Germans who were responsible were hunted down? No. Only the most egregious, because to hunt down everybody who let it happen would have just resulted in another massacre.

  119. LotusBen
    LotusBen January 1, 2012 at 11:52 pm |

    In my opinion, the extent to which de-Nazification happened in Germany wasn’t as great as a lot of people think it was. Were some war criminals hunted down and killed or otherwise severely punished? Yes, of course. But a lot of people with pretty questionable pasts also continued to have influence, just as in Japan.

    Probably the most famous example of this is Kurt Georg Kiesinger. He was a Nazi for 12 years and eventually rose to be a relatively important official in the Third Reich. He was actually helped coordinate Nazi radio propaganda–it wasn’t like he was just in charge of a sauerkraut factory or something. He was briefly imprisoned after the war but then quickly returned to politics. He eventually became the Chancellor (i.e. President) of Germany from 1966 to 1969. Which is pretty fucked up. Or not. I dunno–maybe he had “changed” a la Hugo Schwyzer.

    Anyway this wasn’t just some fluke. A lot of pretty high-up Nazis eventually returned to positions of prominence in Germany. Thankfully most Nazi officials are dead now (from old age), but the house cleaning in Germany was not quite as thorough as many people seem to think.

  120. DonnaL
    DonnaL January 1, 2012 at 11:54 pm |

    most of the germans responsible for the Holocaust were hunted down by Israel or the US.

    As EG says, it depends what you mean by “responsible.” Even if you’re just talking about actual direct participants in mass murder, though, I think the trials in Germany resulted in the execution of about 70 people (obviously, many more were sent to prison); I don’t know how many the Russians executed. There were *plenty* of senior officials directly involved who escaped justice (Mengele, Bormann, Alois Brunner [Eichmann's assistant], etc.), and there were many thousands of murderers — SS members, Gestapo agents, concentration camp commandants, guards, doctors and other personnel, members of the Einsatzgruppen, scientists and industrialists who benefited from slave labor, non-German collaborators in the occupied countries — who never saw a single day inside a prison; many found positions in both the West and East German police and governments. Not to mention the Austrian situation. Or the situation in a place like Lithuania, which I don’t think has ever even prosecuted anyone.

    Even now, 66 years after the war ended, with any surviving war criminals almost certainly at least 90 years old, there are still more than 800 ongoing investigations worldwide with respect to Nazi war criminals still at large.

    I do understand that the situation is different with Japan in terms of general acknowledgement and education concerning what happened, and so on — although, if I’m not mistaken, close to 1,000 Japanese were executed by various countries for war crimes, in addition to the 7 executed by the International Tribunal (the equivalent of the Nuremburg Trials). But I’m not sure that it’s productive to try to weigh Japanese crimes against those of the Germans on a comparative scale, any more than those “who was worse, Hitler or Stalin” arguments ever lead anywhere.

  121. Raja
    Raja January 2, 2012 at 12:31 am |

    By numbers; Hitler managed to kill more people than Stalin did. That record was beatened by Mao Zedong.

  122. EG
    EG January 2, 2012 at 12:51 am |

    What the fuck, Raja? First you post a lengthy explanation of why Imperial Japan is as bad as Nazi Germany, in response to an argument that absolutely nobody made, and now you’re totting up death stats as though you have some objective answer to which twentieth-century megalomaniacal dictator was the worst? What does any of this have to do with anything?

  123. Josh
    Josh January 2, 2012 at 1:08 am |

    Well, pretty much every human population has some scummy murdering on its hands. If we can’t eventually let people (as opposed to persons) off the hook, then we should just cease to exist as a species. I don’t buy the false equivalency argument. I also don’t buy the “forgiveness is a Christian doctrine” – it exists outside of Christianity, in many other cultures, including in Judaism. Way to erase non-Christian values of forgiveness.

    In my opinion, the extent to which de-Nazification happened in Germany wasn’t as great as a lot of people think it was. Were some war criminals hunted down and killed or otherwise severely punished? Yes, of course. But a lot of people with pretty questionable pasts also continued to have influence, just as in Japan.

    What about all the Nazis imported to America? If any one country should be indicted as genocide-loving nation, it’s the USA.

    How is this statement any different from what is being discussed in the other thread, about telling abuse victims they “shouldn’t” feel angry at their abusers, that they should forgive them? Most of the German populace either stood by and watched or actively participated as their neighbors, colleagues, coworkers, old schoolfriends were deprived of their property and livelihood, and shipped off to be killed–including their children–and those who were killed included Donna’s family. The ongoing effects on what remains of a family of that kind of trauma are multi-generational.

    And in the other thread it also talks about the difference between enablers and abusers.

    Hatred and anger can be power, and I see no reason to abjure it. I do not love my enemy; they are my enemy. I love the people closest to me. I may see the humanity and complexity in my enemy; that does not prevent me from hating him, however.

    And as I said before, love and hate are not inimical. Hatred and anger can also be weakness as easily as they can be power. If you rely on them, you enter into a cycle of abusive and self-sabotage.

  124. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong January 2, 2012 at 1:18 am |

    Um, OK, but if you actually read what I wrote, you’ll find that that was not the “false equivalence” to which I was referring. So…not what I meant.

    EG- I apologize, I thought you were referring to a different equivalence (which people were, in fact drawing). Simple misunderstanding.

    By numbers; Hitler managed to kill more people than Stalin did. That record was beatened by Mao Zedong.

    …the point being that Hitler was, really, really bad? We can probably take that as a given and move on.

    More to the point, I think the question of individual/collective responsibility for atrocities like those committed by both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan is a really, really difficult one. I know that people have had long and academically rigorous debates on how much people in those two nations knew about what was really going on, which is an argument I’m not equipped to contribute much to; my areas of expertise are elsewhere. Even putting that aside, though, I just don’t know where to start. You can’t punish whole nations for complicity; there’s no way to avoid punishing the innocent with the guilty, because at the very least the next generation will bear the burden of your sanction. How can you possibly find justice in such a case? I think institutions like the Nuremburg trials were, to some extent, an attempt at solving an impossible question- which isn’t to say that they didn’t have value.

    Then, there’s a question which profoundly troubles me: the fact so few people resisted suggests that, if

    any

    of us were dropped into the shoes of a German living in 1939, we would likely have done what everyone else did. There was an article I really liked in the Atlantic a while back by Ta-Nahesi Coates, on a totally different subject, where he made this point:

    It’s all fine and good to declare that you would have freed your slaves. But it’s much more interesting to assume that you wouldn’t and then ask “Why?” This is not an impossible task. But often we find that we have something invested in not asking “Why?” The fact that we — and I mean all of us, black and white — are, in our bones, no better than slave masters is chilling. The upshot of all my black nationalist study was terrifying — give us the guns and boats and we would do the same thing.

    It’s a nearly incomprehensible thing, the degree to which acculturation is capable of leading perfectly ordinary people into doing things that are, by any moral yardstick, abominably evil. The lazy thing to do is shout this truth down as simply an excuse for historical atrocities, but that’s just an instinctive defensive mechanism, protecting against the ‘chilling realization’ that Coates describes so effectively.

  125. EG
    EG January 2, 2012 at 1:29 am |

    Hatred and anger can also be weakness as easily as they can be power. If you rely on them, you enter into a cycle of abusive and self-sabotage.

    First of all, relying on them is not the same thing as employing them when you feel they are appropriate and necessary.

    Second of all…evidence for the assertion that relying on love and hate causes you to enter into a cycle of abus[e] and self-sabotage?

    What about all the Nazis imported to America? If any one country should be indicted as genocide-loving nation, it’s the USA.

    Indeed. And if those of Native American descent decided that they had no interest in not hating those of us who have reaped the benefits of the genocide in what had previously been their home, I for one would not blame them in the slightest or tell them that hating us will lock them in a cycle of abuse and self-sabotage.

    And in the other thread it also talks about the difference between enablers and abusers.

    Uh-huh. A large percentage of the gentile German population was the latter, and is there a reason why a victim of abuse shouldn’t hate those who enabled her abuser?

    I also don’t buy the “forgiveness is a Christian doctrine” – it exists outside of Christianity, in many other cultures, including in Judaism. Way to erase non-Christian values of forgiveness.

    Given the dominant cultures of Western Europe and the US, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the stress on the value of forgiveness in our culture and the type of forgiveness that is promoted is most likely the kind found in Christianity.

    But sure, I’ll go for it. Regardless of origin of the values placed on forgiveness, I do not consider forgiveness to be an inherent virtue. I do not consider forgiveness to be a necessity. I do not consider forgiveness to necessarily be good for the one doing the forgiving. I see no evidence for any of those assertions, and they do not accord with my own values.

  126. EG
    EG January 2, 2012 at 1:39 am |

    I agree, justamblinalong. But in my opinion, one of the ways we can prevent that kind of mindless acceptance of atrocity is by holding people who engage in it responsible for the harm their acceptance has caused. Another way, which I know I brought up at some point in some thread here, would be, instead of doing a whole lot of collective hand-wringing about this kind of thing and Milgram’s experiments, to actually study the make-up of the one-third of test subjects who did resist, to study the make-up of the people in the resistance during WW2, that sort of thing, so that we can encourage the development of those traits. I actually consider this not to be an issue of making excuses, or of human nature, but of what benefits it brings to those in power for us to believe that this is an unalterable part of human nature.

  127. Josh
    Josh January 2, 2012 at 1:50 am |

    Second of all…evidence for the assertion that relying on love and hate causes you to enter into a cycle of abus[e] and self-sabotage?

    Love and hate? The evidence is when people who are abused turn

    And if those of Native American descent decided that they had no interest in not hating those of us who have reaped the benefits of the genocide in what had previously been their home, I for one would not blame them in the slightest or tell them that hating us will lock them in a cycle of abuse and self-sabotage.

    Not “previously” – still is, always will be, until we’re all dead and completely forgotten. I take it you would blame us for asserting that that hating you locks us into that cycle? What if I just asked you to GTFO of America? Would you do it?

    is there a reason why a victim of abuse shouldn’t hate those who enabled her abuser?

    Emotion isn’t reasonable, obviously. However, as such, it’s not a justification for excusing murder.

    Given the dominant cultures of Western Europe and the US, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the stress on the value of forgiveness in our culture and the type of forgiveness that is promoted is most likely the kind found in Christianity.

    That’s fine if you specifically want to talk about something other than what I’m arguing, but it’s not relevant to what I’m saying, as I have never been a Christian, was never raised as a Christian, and have not internalized their values.

    Just because a value is not inherent does not mean it’s without value – that’s an appeal to nature. Just as forgiveness is not a necessity or necessarily good it’s not necessarily bad or without value – this is a contextual thing and a matter of how it’s applied. However, I do think that forgiveness can often be helpful, not just to the aggrieved or the person responsible for the crime, but to our advancement of a species.

  128. Shoshie
    Shoshie January 2, 2012 at 2:05 am |

    Meh, this has come up in another thread too, but to clarify, forgiveness is very different in Judaism than in these discussions (here and in the accountability threads). Forgiveness isn’t something you give to a nation that tried to exterminate you, it’s a personal acceptance of a sincere apology. For instance, if I talked about you behind your back, according to Jewish tradition I am responsible for approaching you, telling you that I have harmed you and how, and asking for your personal forgiveness. You don’t even have to accept my apology, though being quick to forgive is definitely lauded in traditional Jewish documents. All the same, I think those documents are generally speaking about forgiveness of theft or slander or other such sins. Not, y’know, attempted genocide. Clearly very different from forgiving the Germans for the Shoah or even, hell, forgiving the Amalekites for attacking elderly and children.

  129. Josh
    Josh January 2, 2012 at 2:10 am |

    forgiveness is very different in Judaism than in these discussions

    Very true, which is why I was only pointing out that it exists, not employing it. Also, a lack of forgiveness still doesn’t justify other people’s actions that were not on behalf of you.

  130. Shoshie
    Shoshie January 2, 2012 at 2:10 am |

    That’s fine if you specifically want to talk about something other than what I’m arguing, but it’s not relevant to what I’m saying, as I have never been a Christian, was never raised as a Christian, and have not internalized their values.

    I think it’s also important to realize that if you live in the USA, you probably ARE internalizing Christian values, even if you adhere to a different religion or no religion at all. The same reason you internalize racism and patriarchy. It’s the dominant narrative and, therefore, almost impossible to escape. I’ve certainly caught it in my own thinking, and I was raised as a religious Jew.

  131. Shoshie
    Shoshie January 2, 2012 at 2:18 am |

    Very true, which is why I was only pointing out that it exists, not employing it.

    That’s fine, but the particular flavor of forgiveness that people seem to be talking about here certainly doesn’t feel very Jewish to me. Just because we’re using the same word doesn’t mean we’re talking about the same thing.

    Also, a lack of forgiveness still doesn’t justify other people’s actions that were not on behalf of you.

    Sorry, I’m not sure I understand this sentence. But it’s a bit late.

  132. DonnaL
    DonnaL January 2, 2012 at 2:23 am |

    [If any] of us were dropped into the shoes of a German living in 1939, we would likely have done what everyone else did.

    Except that it wasn’t everyone. Which is why I’ve always been fascinated by reading about those who did resist — many in number but few as a percentage — who did help Jews to hide or escape (at great personal risk to themselves): the so-called “Rightous Gentiles” or Righteous Among the Nations, 23,000 of whom have been honored to date. And have wondered about what it was that allowed them to do so, and why certain occupied countries like Denmark and Bulgaria (and certain areas of those countries, like the entire population of the Huguenot town of Le-Chambon-sur-Lignon, who saved 3-5,000 Jews without a single one of them ever becoming an informer or denouncing the others) seem to have had so many more than others, proportionate to their population. It was hardest of all in Germany, of course, but even there, there were some — as well as some in the SS who refused to partake in the mass murders by the Einsatzgruppen (and, oddly enough, were not punished. I think the Nazis recognized that not everyone was “strong enough” to do the necessary work.)

    As EG suggests, perhaps it’s those kinds of people who should be studied more, instead of making the easy assumption that we’re all potential murderers or collaborators.

    PS to Josh: Of course forgiveness “exists” as a concept in Judaism and other non-Christian religions. But to suggest that it has remotely the central role that it does in Christianity is ludicrous. In terms of the Holocaust, I think the general belief is that only the victims who died have the right to forgive. Nobody else.

  133. Josh
    Josh January 2, 2012 at 2:25 am |

    I think it’s also important to realize that if you live in the USA, you probably ARE internalizing Christian values, even if you adhere to a different religion or no religion at all. The same reason you internalize racism and patriarchy. It’s the dominant narrative and, therefore, almost impossible to escape. I’ve certainly caught it in my own thinking, and I was raised as a religious Jew.

    Which is why I specifically point out that I’m not. However, I am beginning to see that a lot of what I’m saying is being viewed through the lens of internalized Christianity.

    Sorry, I’m not sure I understand this sentence. But it’s a bit late.

    Honestly, at this point it doesn’t matter – it’s on reference to how this derail from derailed from the original derail. I’m a bit burnt out on this whole debate.

  134. DonnaL
    DonnaL January 2, 2012 at 2:27 am |

    ^
    I forgot to mention that Le-Chambon-sur-Lignon is, of course, in France — not in Denmark or Bulgaria, as the way I wrote it seems to imply. It is, indeed, late.

  135. EG
    EG January 2, 2012 at 2:28 am |

    Not “previously” – still is, always will be, until we’re all dead and completely forgotten. I take it you would blame us for asserting that that hating you locks us into that cycle? What if I just asked you to GTFO of America? Would you do it?

    Would I do it? No, because then I would be a stateless person with no ability to make a living, and I’m not a big fan of self-sacrifice, especially when it will not achieve anything worthwhile; if I were truly committed to living my moral values in every aspect of my life, I would withhold my taxes, for instance, but doing so would make my life far too difficult. I’m not entirely sure what you mean when you say “I take it you would blame us for asserting that hating you locks us into that cycle?” But as best as I understand what you are saying, then no. Why would I blame you for disagreeing with me? It’s no skin of my back. But it’s also not very convincing to me at all. I know you disagree; you’ve said so.

    Just because a value is not inherent does not mean it’s without value – that’s an appeal to nature. Just as forgiveness is not a necessity or necessarily good it’s not necessarily bad or without value – this is a contextual thing and a matter of how it’s applied. However, I do think that forgiveness can often be helpful, not just to the aggrieved or the person responsible for the crime, but to our advancement of a species.

    Right, and if I were arguing that forgiveness was never valuable or worthwhile, that would be relevant. But I’m not. You are arguing that forgiveness is an inherently good idea. But you haven’t provided any evidence; you’ve merely noted that it’s valorized by a number of traditions. Well, so is patriarchy, and I’m not impressed by that, either. So, again, I’m going to need some evidence before I buy this, as I see no reason to believe that forgiveness is helpful to our advancement as a species (though I see that you have moved to “often,” rather than “must,” which is what you said before).

    That’s fine if you specifically want to talk about something other than what I’m arguing, but it’s not relevant to what I’m saying, as I have never been a Christian, was never raised as a Christian, and have not internalized their values.

    And that’s fine, but when you begin speaking to Jews about the mass murder committed by Christians, those are the paradigms in play, and if you want to invoke a different one, you’re going to have to be more specific rather than assuming that it’s obvious, because proclaiming the Christian paradigm to be superior to the one Jews follow is going to be the go-to assumption on the part of the Jews you’re talking to, given the history.

    Love and hate? The evidence is when people who are abused turn

    I’m going to assume that if you had finished the sentence, it would have been some reference to victims of abuse becoming abusers.

    First of all, while this is a common idea in popular culture, it has been called into serious question, particularly as it applies to victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse. Second, I know firsthand that it is completely possible for victims of child abuse (non-sexual, as far as I know) to become wonderful and loving parents to their own child, even while not forgiving those who abused them, and that plenty of abusers were not themselves abused. So I’m not terribly impressed with this assertion as “evidence.”

  136. EG
    EG January 2, 2012 at 2:30 am |

    EG- I apologize, I thought you were referring to a different equivalence (which people were, in fact drawing). Simple misunderstanding.

    Sorry, justamblinalong. That rather impatient reply was directed at Raja, who wrote the long comment about how Imperial Japan was so as bad as Nazi Germany, so it was not a false equivalence after I had replied to you with the clarification over the perfectly reasonable misunderstanding. Eh, maybe he/she was posting while I was typing, and so didn’t see it, and didn’t deserve my impatience either. But it definitely was not directed at you.

  137. Josh
    Josh January 2, 2012 at 2:39 am |

    But to suggest that it has remotely the central role that it does in Christianity is ludicrous. In terms of the Holocaust, I think the general belief is that only the victims who died have the right to forgive. Nobody else.

    That still doesn’t mean it’s what I’m talking about when I talk about forgiveness (as I’ve explicitly stated several times already).

    As for the dead victims, then are they the only ones who have a right to make blame? If they’re the only ones that have a right to have an opinion, does it even matter for any of us, since they’re dead and we’re living (and what about those who lived through the Holocaust)?

  138. LotusBen
    LotusBen January 2, 2012 at 2:43 am |

    What about all the Nazis imported to America? If any one country should be indicted as genocide-loving nation, it’s the USA.

    OK. Well I wasn’t trying to indict one country as a genocide-loving nation. I think something like genocide probably ultimately arises from unequal power relations more than from the specific culture of a particular country. So, I’d fear genocide is at risk of arising anywhere there’s serious inequality. I was just trying to highlight that a lot of Nazis continued to hold positions of power, I suppose because it’s an important example of how the powerful so often can abuse whoever they want and do horrible things with impunity.

    I agree with you that pretty much every human population has contained individuals who have really scummy murdering on their hands. I see human beings across cultures as more similar to each other than different–we’re all capable of great good or great evil. Where I may part ways with some people (not necessarily you), is I have zero belief in some idea of collective responsibility, for anything really. Just because a human being happened to live within the borders of Germany during World War 2 doesn’t necessarily imply anything about that person. Each person is individually responsible for what they individually do, not for what other people choose to do who happen to live in the same geographic region.

  139. Josh
    Josh January 2, 2012 at 3:02 am |

    “I take it you would blame us for asserting that hating you locks us into that cycle?”

    Right, this should be “I take it you would blame us for not hating you?” Nothing more.

    especially when it will not achieve anything worthwhile

    So returning land to the original inhabitants is not a worthwhile achievement? Still, that’s actually not my point – for non-Native Americans to continue to live here requires a huge amount of forgiveness (but not blind forgiveness or Christian forgiveness), otherwise it would be impossible to have non-Native allies in the struggle against the continued occupation of the Americas and the continued genocide of Native culture.

    And that’s fine, but when you begin speaking to Jews about the mass murder committed by Christians, those are the paradigms in play, and if you want to invoke a different one, you’re going to have to be more specific rather than assuming that it’s obvious, because proclaiming the Christian paradigm to be superior to the one Jews follow is going to be the go-to assumption on the part of the Jews you’re talking to, given the history.

    As a someone of Jewish descent, this is not something I would think would be the case. I see what you’re saying, though. However, I did invoke a different one and it was ignored in favor of continuing to assume I was talking about Christian forgiveness.

  140. EG
    EG January 2, 2012 at 3:03 am |

    That still doesn’t mean it’s what I’m talking about when I talk about forgiveness (as I’ve explicitly stated several times already).

    As for the dead victims, then are they the only ones who have a right to make blame? If they’re the only ones that have a right to have an opinion, does it even matter for any of us, since they’re dead and we’re living (and what about those who lived through the Holocaust)?

    Perhaps, then, you should articulate exactly what you mean by “forgiveness,” because it doesn’t seem to dovetail with what is commonly understood by the term on this thread. You wrote:

    I don’t view loving the enemy as the need to “turn the other cheek”, but a need to stay their hand and to inform them. Tough and informed love, perhaps.

    That’s on the issue of loving thine enemy, which is a bit different from forgiveness of course (I’m fully capable of loving people without forgiving them, and vice versa), but of course it doesn’t address anger and hatred engendered by completed acts. That is to say, I can’t stay the hand of somebody after they’ve already done something loathesome. And the idea that they need to be informed of something suggests that there’s no real disagreement, just a lack of information. And I see this notion a lot among liberals–the idea that if we just educate our opponents more patiently, if we just explain more clearly, they will come around to our point of view. And I just don’t agree. The problem isn’t, for instance, that right-winger leaders don’t understand how those without health insurance suffer; the problem is that they don’t care, and that is because they have fundamentally different values than mine. That’s not a problem that can be solved by education or information. That’s a base-line disagreement.

  141. Josh
    Josh January 2, 2012 at 3:07 am |

    Well I wasn’t trying to indict one country as a genocide-loving nation. I think something like genocide probably ultimately arises from unequal power relations more than from the specific culture of a particular country.

    I’m comfortable with making that assertion as this country was founded on a doctrine and yes, a culture, of genocide. I think that further, there are many historical examples of genocide being ignored or encouraged in favor of profit.

    I have zero belief in some idea of collective responsibility, for anything really. Just because a human being happened to live within the borders of Germany during World War 2 doesn’t necessarily imply anything about that person. Each person is individually responsible for what they individually do, not for what other people choose to do who happen to live in the same geographic region.

    Right, exactly!

  142. EG
    EG January 2, 2012 at 3:19 am |

    Right, this should be “I take it you would blame us for not hating you?”

    No. Why would I? You don’t have to agree with me about whom to hate. That’s your call. But your decision not to hate me or anybody else does not make a different decision made by somebody else wrong, or locking them into a cycle of abuse and whatever the other thing was, or contrary to the advancement of the species, or whatever else. You are the one claiming that people who make different decisions about whether to blame or forgive are doing something fundamentally wrong, not I.

    So returning land to the original inhabitants is not a worthwhile achievement?

    My leaving America would not accomplish that, which is why my leaving would not be a worthwhile achievement. My leaving America would free up a small apartment in NYC for somebody else who has the scratch to move into and free up an academic position for somebody else who has a PhD to take. Probably not the latter, actually. Given the economy, it would more likely make more work for adjuncts.

    for non-Native Americans to continue to live here requires a huge amount of forgiveness (but not blind forgiveness or Christian forgiveness), otherwise it would be impossible to have non-Native allies in the struggle against the continued occupation of the Americas and the continued genocide of Native culture.

    Well, no. Non-Native Americans can continue to live here because the US has the guns, money, and lawyers. If what you mean is that forgiveness is required on the part of Native Americans if they want to accept non-Native allies, then indeed, that is the case. However, to bring this back to Donna’s comment, which is what you were originally objecting to, it was pretty clear by that point that gentile Germans had no intentions whatsoever of being meaningful allies to their Jewish compatriots, so no forgiveness on her part is required.

    However, I did invoke a different one and it was ignored in favor of continuing to assume I was talking about Christian forgiveness.

    The problem is, you didn’t articulate that different notion. You said hey, forgiveness is a value in a lot of cultures, including Judaism. And Shoshie pointed out that the Jewish value of forgiveness does not accord with what you were saying. I’ve just reread your posts in this thread, and nowhere do you actually explain what your notion of forgiveness is. Whenever anybody argues against it, you say “no, that’s not what I mean.” OK. What do you mean, precisely, bearing in mind the distinction between forgiveness and love that I note above?

    I mean, I don’t think I owe my enemies either forgiveness or love, but I do think that if you’re going to say you’re working with a different idea of forgiveness, that it would be nice if I knew exactly what your idea of forgiveness is.

  143. Josh
    Josh January 2, 2012 at 3:22 am |

    Perhaps, then, you should articulate exactly what you mean by “forgiveness,” because it doesn’t seem to dovetail with what is commonly understood by the term on this thread.

    I don’t mean something exact, my views on the matter are still evolving. However, it does relate to the concept of transformative justice.

    That’s on the issue of loving thine enemy, which is a bit different from forgiveness of course

    No, not “of course”. If you love someone it doesn’t mean you accede to what they’ve done as being acceptable, nor do you forget it. In the context that forgiveness is a part of that, you stop focusing on punishing them and focus letting go of the resentment you feel towards them.

    That is to say, I can’t stay the hand of somebody after they’ve already done something loathesome

    You can attempt to change future outcomes. Punishing a person doesn’t work towards that, though.

    just educate our opponents more patiently

    Patience, clarity, and effectiveness are three different things, especially when it comes to education.

    That’s not a problem that can be solved by education or information. That’s a base-line disagreement.

    That’s a problem that needs to be solved by them finding a need to change. Education can have a role in that. However, you imply they’re hopeless and unchangeable. What should be done, then?

  144. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong January 2, 2012 at 3:26 am |

    This actually is why I get creeped out by people like the Japanese citizens mentioned above who ‘apologize’ for things their ancestors have done; they don’t have the right to make that apology. The only people who can forgive a crime are the victims of that crime, and the only people who can apologize for it are the perpetrators. To try and do either of those things, when you’re not in one of those two roles, feels presumptuous. I don’t get to forgive the Nazis, because their victims are elsewhere; I don’t get to apologize for my ancestors who stole Native American lands and killed their inhabitants, because they missed their chance to make their own apologies. And I don’t believe that I am morally culpable for what other people do, anyways- regardless of whether I share their DNA. And if you need any more arguments on that topic, all I can ask is what you’d want of the vast numbers of people who are descended from both, for example, slaves and slave-traders.

    By the way, the ‘you’ above is rhetorical- this isn’t aimed at any one particular person.

  145. Josh
    Josh January 2, 2012 at 3:28 am |

    You are the one claiming that people who make different decisions about whether to blame or forgive are doing something fundamentally wrong, not I.

    I’m claiming that their decision doesn’t justify other people’s decisions – blaming Germans doesn’t justify Americans killing their civilians, specifically.

    My leaving America would not accomplish that, which is why my leaving would not be a worthwhile achievement.

    You as in the plural – that is, all non-Native Americans.

    Well, no. Non-Native Americans can continue to live here because the US has the guns, money, and lawyers.

    Would “tolerate living here” make more sense to you?

  146. EG
    EG January 2, 2012 at 3:29 am |

    I have zero belief in some idea of collective responsibility, for anything really. Just because a human being happened to live within the borders of Germany during World War 2 doesn’t necessarily imply anything about that person. Each person is individually responsible for what they individually do, not for what other people choose to do who happen to live in the same geographic region.

    Except, Ben and Josh, you are both failing to address the fact that it was perfectly clear what was going on in Germany–after years of anti-semitic propaganda, what do you think the gentile Germans thought was happening when their Jewish neighbors and friends and coworkers and old schoolfriends and army buddies were stripped of their property, rounded up, and put on trains? That they were being taken to Disneyland? The level of willful ignorance, self-deception, and basic inhumanity required simply not to help the people they had known personally and interacted with as equals is, in my opinion, morally culpable. And that’s setting aside the number of German civilians who actively participated.

    The issue is not that, unfortunately, Germans happened to have their country taken over by an anti-semitic lunatic who imposed his murderous will on a helpless people. The issue is that he was incredibly popular and that regular people turned on their friends and neighbors.

  147. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong January 2, 2012 at 3:35 am |

    You are the one claiming that people who make different decisions about whether to blame or forgive are doing something fundamentally wrong, not I.

    Can we distinguish between ‘morally wrong on an individual level,’ and ‘the ideal response in terms of societal change?’ Because I think (and correct me if I’m wrong) that EB is arguing that we can’t tell people their emotional responses to crimes against them are wrong, and Josh is arguing that hatred and revenge can become a vastly destructive cycle which we should try to head off. I might be totally missing both points, but I don’t think those two ideas are incompatible.

    By way of example, I don’t think the resentment of Palestinian settlers who were evicted from their homes to make room for Israeli settlers, or the fear and anger of an Israeli family who’s children are killed by a suicide bombers, are wrong. But on some macro level, those feelings contribute to an endless cycle of violence which has to be broken by someone.

    I know there are probably lots of people who find the above example either horribly Zionist or horribly anti-Semitic, but hopefully the point is clear even if you disagree with the specific example…

  148. EG
    EG January 2, 2012 at 3:43 am |

    I don’t mean something exact, my views on the matter are still evolving. However, it does relate to the concept of transformative justice.

    If you can’t articulate what you mean by “forgiveness,” this conversation is pretty much over. You keep saying “not that” whenever anybody alludes to the commonly understood meaning. But if you don’t have an alternative meaning…what, we’re just supposed to think “Ah yes, this nebulous thing that is apparently very different from what the word is generally understood to mean but we can’t be sure because we don’t have an actual definition is clearly very important to the advancement of the species”? No. That makes no sense. In the absence of any proffered alternative, then, I will go back to understanding “forgiveness” as it is usually employed in this culture.

    No, not “of course”. If you love someone it doesn’t mean you accede to what they’ve done as being acceptable, nor do you forget it. In the context that forgiveness is a part of that, you stop focusing on punishing them and focus letting go of the resentment you feel towards them.

    Actually, yes, “of course.” Loving somebody is different from forgiving them; I can forgive someone and not love them, and I can love someone and not forgive them. Why do you think that continuing to accept and validate the resentment I feel is the same thing as “focusing on punishing” people? I’m capable of feeling resentment and anger while simultaneously understanding that I can’t punish the people responsible. The two things are not inherently the same, and I have yet to read any explanation of why “letting go of the resentment [I] feel” is important or desirable.

    That’s a problem that needs to be solved by them finding a need to change. Education can have a role in that. However, you imply they’re hopeless and unchangeable. What should be done, then?

    I do indeed; in fact, I’ll state it straight out. They’re hopeless and unchangeable. Jesse Helms, Trent Lott, Strom Thurmond, for example: hopeless and unchangeable. Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin: hopeless and unchangeable. And a whole lot of others as well. What should be done? In most cases, what happens is that we have to fight it out.

    I’m claiming that their decision doesn’t justify other people’s decisions – blaming Germans doesn’t justify Americans killing their civilians, specifically.

    Again, that depends on what level of culpability you think the populace has when it comes to the murder of their friends and neighbors. The genocide of the Jews in Germany was not planned and executed only by soldiers and political leaders.

    You as in the plural – that is, all non-Native Americans.

    Ah, that was unclear. In that case, it would be a perfectly legitimate thing for Native Americans to desire, and even to enforce if they regained the power. It would suck for me, but that wouldn’t mean that it was an illegitimate or immoral demand.

    Would “tolerate living here” make more sense to you?

    Not sure what you mean. That non-Native Americans can only tolerate living here thanks to forgiveness, or that Native Americans can only tolerate non-Native Americans living here thanks to forgiveness? Either way, I think we all tolerate what we have to.

  149. Josh
    Josh January 2, 2012 at 3:46 am |

    this conversation is pretty much over … That makes no sense.

    Clearly.

  150. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong January 2, 2012 at 4:12 am |

    Ah, that was unclear. In that case, it would be a perfectly legitimate thing for Native Americans to desire, and even to enforce if they regained the power. It would suck for me, but that wouldn’t mean that it was an illegitimate or immoral demand.

    No, I don’t believe that. Consider that the ancestors of many POC did not immigrate by choice- they were brought here in chains. You think it is just to dispossess people of what little they’ve gained because the people who enslaved them, also stole the land which they forced POC to work on? How about people who moved here last year- do they get kicked off? Can one massive injustice really be remedied with another?

    And where does that logic stop? I mean, different Native American tribes routinely switched territory (often violently), so where do we draw the cutoff- 750 years ago? 1,000? 2,000? What land actually originally belonged to any of the people which currently occupy it? And how do you define people- what percentage of Native American blood do you have to have to escape the great purge? If I can find the people living in the house in Tennessee where my great-great-great grandparents were forced out the 1800’s, do I have the moral right to kick them out and take it back?

    The Israelis took land which belonged to the Palestinians which belong to the Ottomans which belonged to the Byzantines/Romans/Greeks/ Babylonians/Persians and before that… the Israelites again, who took it in? According to Jewish holy scriptures, a war of genocide against the Canaanites. So. Do the Israelis, Turks, Greeks, Palestinians, or Iranians have a moral right to the land? Do I, since I descended from more than one of those groups? Does my friend, who is a Russian Jew?

  151. LotusBen
    LotusBen January 2, 2012 at 4:12 am |

    Again, that depends on what level of culpability you think the populace has when it comes to the murder of their friends and neighbors. The genocide of the Jews in Germany was not planned and executed only by soldiers and political leaders.

    So are you implying you support that the Allies indiscrimately bombed German cities because many of the people who lived in those cities, maybe a majority, voted for Hitler, say, or paid taxes that funded the Holocast? What about the infants or small children that were burned alive? Or mentally disabled Germans who didn’t even know the difference between a Jew and a Gentile? Or homeless winos that pretty much only interacted with other homeless winos? Did they help bring about the Holocaust in some way?

  152. LotusBen
    LotusBen January 2, 2012 at 4:31 am |

    Ah, that was unclear. In that case, it would be a perfectly legitimate thing for Native Americans to desire, and even to enforce if they regained the power. It would suck for me, but that wouldn’t mean that it was an illegitimate or immoral demand.

    Seconded what Justamblingalong said in relation to this. Seriously, EG, WTF? It wouldn’t be “illegitimate” to cause a forced migration of 300 million people to–where exactly? You honestly cannot actually mean this. I cannot believe that someone who says they admire anarchists would also think it was “legitimate” for a totalitarian police state to kick out 99% of the population of its own country.

  153. LotusBen
    LotusBen January 2, 2012 at 5:22 am |

    Except, Ben and Josh, you are both failing to address the fact that it was perfectly clear what was going on in Germany–after years of anti-semitic propaganda, what do you think the gentile Germans thought was happening when their Jewish neighbors and friends and coworkers and old schoolfriends and army buddies were stripped of their property, rounded up, and put on trains? That they were being taken to Disneyland? The level of willful ignorance, self-deception, and basic inhumanity required simply not to help the people they had known personally and interacted with as equals is, in my opinion, morally culpable

    So in this view. . .if a person knows something is happening then they are causing that thing to happen? I know that poachers in Africa are killing elephants, so I’m causing poachers in Africa to kill elephants? I know that Scott Walker is stripping public employee unions of their rights, so I’m causing Scott Walker to strip public employee unions of their rights? I know that the police in my city of residence–Austin, Texas–often shoot unarmed people of color, so I’m causing them to shoot unarmed people of color?

    People are responsible for their actions. There are a lot of fucked up things in the world. Most of them are not caused by me, even the ones I know about. The Germans who are responsible for the Holocaust are the Germans who actually carried out the Holocaust. These people’s actions were completely despicable. They made their choices. They are responsible for their choices.

    Do I admire the Germans who actively resisted the Nazis? Yes, I think their compassion and courage are very impressive, and I’m not sure if I’d have enough of either to be like them. But that doesn’t mean the Germans who didn’t resist are somehow cosmically responsible for the crimes of the Nazi state and its collaborators.

  154. EG
    EG January 2, 2012 at 11:54 am |

    So are you implying you support that the Allies indiscrimately bombed German cities because many of the people who lived in those cities, maybe a majority, voted for Hitler, say, or paid taxes that funded the Holocast?

    Again, Ben, you are downplaying the complicity of German gentiles. This is not just a question of paying taxes or voting (for one thing, Hitler didn’t take power through elections). Countries and communities in which the gentile populace understood their Jewish compatriots to be part of their nation behaved very differently; Donna notes some examples above. Those were places where communities, not individuals, resisted Nazi anti-semitism. Germany was not one of those places. So if we’re going to have this argument, it’s going to be based on the acknowledgment that there was far more to German complicity in the Holocaust than voting or paying taxes.

    What about the infants or small children that were burned alive? Or mentally disabled Germans who didn’t even know the difference between a Jew and a Gentile? Or homeless winos that pretty much only interacted with other homeless winos?

    I would remind you that the last two groups were in far more systemic danger from the Nazis than they were from the Allies. As for babies and children, yes, you’re right, they had no share in any responsibility, and their deaths are terrible.

    Remember, we’re talking not about actions here, but about forgiveness. So I don’t consider the blamelessness of German children to be sufficient cause for forgiving German adults. I don’t know enough about WW2 history and tactics to know if defeating the Nazis required the bombing of Dresden, but that has nothing to do with forgiveness or loving thine enemy.

    Seriously, EG, WTF? It wouldn’t be “illegitimate” to cause a forced migration of 300 million people to–where exactly? You honestly cannot actually mean this. I cannot believe that someone who says they admire anarchists would also think it was “legitimate” for a totalitarian police state to kick out 99% of the population of its own country.

    First of all, if Native Americans seized power, no, I don’t think it would be immoral (“illegitimate” was probably a poor choice of words, connoting as it does legal rights) to expel the people who have profited and continue to profit from their genocide and oppression from land they have no moral right to. It would not be kind. It would be cruel. But like forgiveness, kindness is not something anybody who has participated in the abuse and oppression of others has a right to expect or demand. Given that, as you say, the only way this could happen would be a totalitarian police state, then I take your point that I could not find its actions legitimate, however.

    See what happens when you get into hypotheticals, though? It’s a moot point because it is never going to happen, so my support for it or lack thereof is irrelevant. Usually I remember that, but sometimes I allow myself to be drawn into the hypothetical debates.

    Further, it is perfectly possible to decide to be kind to one’s enemies or oppressors without forgiving them, and forgiveness and its supposed value to the ones doing the forgiving and the species as a whole. Kindness can come from a desire to heap coals of fire on one’s enemies’ heads; it can come from a conscious decisions not to be a barbaric genocidal maniac. Neither of those imply forgiveness on the part of the person or people being kind.

    So in this view. . .if a person knows something is happening then they are causing that thing to happen? I know that poachers in Africa are killing elephants, so I’m causing poachers in Africa to kill elephants? I know that Scott Walker is stripping public employee unions of their rights, so I’m causing Scott Walker to strip public employee unions of their rights? I know that the police in my city of residence–Austin, Texas–often shoot unarmed people of color, so I’m causing them to shoot unarmed people of color?

    No. That is not the implication at all. The implication is that when you know about, accept, and support rising levels of antisemitism directed at people who are part of your community, and stand by and watch, when those people are stripped of all civil rights and property, and then watch them be taken away to what could not possibly be a good fate, you are indeed culpable. What is happening to African elephants is not something that is happening in front of you with your consent; ditto on Scott Walker. What I am saying is that if you listen to your neighbor draw on escalatingly racist rhetoric in his speech, and witness him continually harassing the neighbor on the other side of you, and not only do you not try to get him to stop, not only do you not offer the neighbor on the other side of you help, but you cheer him on, kick the neighbor on the other side of you yourself as you walk by–not, you know, as hard as your neighbor kicks him, and not in a way that’ll cause permanent damage, and listen appreciatively to the racist neighbor’s rhetoric, then, when the racist neighbor finally shoots your neighbor of color, you do indeed share in the responsibility, because you allowed and supported your neighbor in his escalating campaign of racist violence.

  155. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong January 2, 2012 at 12:31 pm |

    First of all, if Native Americans seized power, no, I don’t think it would be immoral (“illegitimate” was probably a poor choice of words, connoting as it does legal rights) to expel the people who have profited and continue to profit from their genocide and oppression from land they have no moral right to.

    Not to belabor the point, but I think the idea Native Americans have more of a moral right to the land I’m on than I do is pretty flimsy, and I articulated why about two posts up. I’m curious (geniuninely, not snarkily) how you’d respond to the questions I raised.

    Too adding more problem; the Shawnee owned this land for about a century before white settlers did, and before that the Winnipeg.l and before that someone else. So, how do you pick a group wit the moral right to be here? The oldest, or the longest-present?

  156. EG
    EG January 2, 2012 at 12:31 pm |

    On the topic of forgiveness, Ben, wasn’t it you who posted that you were glad Hitchens was dead? Why should it be reasonable not to forgive Hitchens the political positions of his that were reprehensible, but incumbent upon other people to forgive gentile Germans their complicity with the Holocaust (meaning the ones who were adults at the time, not the ones who hadn’t been born yet or had died first)?

  157. EG
    EG January 2, 2012 at 12:39 pm |

    Sorry, Justamblinalong, I didn’t see your post before. Let me go back and read it now. OK. Well, when I am queen of the world and everybody has to do what I say, I would personally draw the moral cut-off at acts that are no longer responsible for immense suffering today. Nobody in England or France is hurting because of the dispute over Aquitane in the Middle Ages, so that one seems kind of moot to me. Similarly, the Shawnee are not now suffering because of the actions of the Winnipeg, as far as I know, and if that is correct, then it doesn’t seem like a pressing issue.

    Can one massive injustice really be remedied with another?

    Well, that’s the thing about justice, as one of my favorite murder mystery writers recently wrote. There’s no such thing. Massive injustices can’t be remedied at all. And that raises the question of whether there would be any point to expelling non-Native Americans. I do think that’s a different question, though. Something can be, in my opinion, a perfectly moral thing to do/stance to take, and still not be a good idea.

  158. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong January 2, 2012 at 2:02 pm |

    A) Sorry for the abominable spelling in the previous post, that’s the last time I post while on a midnight food hunt

    B) I think the problem with that is “who, in fact, has the moral right to kick everyone else off?” Does the land end up in the Winnipeg’s hands, or the Shawnee’s? I guess partially I’m pushing back against the idea that Native Americans were in any way monolithic, allied, or peaceful with each other. Many different, distinguishable groups were stripped of their lands, not one large culture. And that, in my opinion at least, makes a difference here.

    C) By that logic, wouldn’t the people kicked out by the Native Americans have a right to come back and take the land again, since they would suffer the effects of dispossession? This might be another baseline disagreement, but it seems to me like you’re freezing one particular group in as the ‘legitimate’ owners, when there were both previous and subsequent claims (enforced with violence).

    Something can be, in my opinion, a perfectly moral thing to do/stance to take, and still not be a good idea.

    We agree there. In this case, though, I draw a distinction between what’s morally right and what’s understandably human.

  159. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable January 2, 2012 at 2:35 pm |

    In terms of the Holocaust, I think the general belief is that only the victims who died have the right to forgive. Nobody else.

    Not to derail what I think may already be a derail, but I think this is interesting. I think what we’ve seen play out is that generally speaking, victims have the right to forgive what was done to them, rather than a blanket forgiveness to Nazis, for instance. I’m thinking specifically of the Eva Kor backlash for “Forgiving Dr. Mengele.” (I tend to agree with this sentiment).

  160. LotusBen
    LotusBen January 2, 2012 at 3:40 pm |

    Well EG. I am certainly feeling pretty riled up. I don’t even know what to say. . .I’m trying to think what of value might come from this conversation, and how it might play out.

    I guess I was becoming frustrated with the abstract patina on the debate between you and Josh, going round and round in circles about the importance of “forgiveness,” and I wasn’t sure what was motivating either of you behind it all.

    Look, I don’t find any moral value in forgiveness. I don’t find any moral value in anything. If someone wants to forgive somebody for something, fine; if they don’t, fine. That’s their business as far as I’m concerned.

    I just want to be clear that I don’t support any form of planned, institutional violence, ever. Not by the Nazis, not by the Allies, not by the current U.S. government, not by some hypothetical Native American police state. Nothing the police or the military do is being done in my name, regardless of the fact that they are coercing me into paying taxes to fund them. Fuck them. I don’t support them.

    So maybe that’s why I was becoming fixated on the issue of German complicity in the Holocaust. I don’t like the idea that someone has to be actively resisting something bad, because when I see something bad, generally I avoid it, not resist it, because I am cowardly and self-interested. So yeah, I was probably really trying to justify myself.

    But I think anyone who expresses anti-Semitic views is an asshole. And anyone who seriously believes anti-Semitic beliefs is an idiot. All those fuckhead Germans anyone who were supporting or otherwise OK with Hitler were a bunch of assholes and idiots. I just don’t know about this idea of collective responsibility; I have trouble wrapping my mind around it; I don’t know what it would look like or mean in real life. I guess it’s a sociological thing. But it almost smells to me like, in effect, it obscures individuals, the concrete actions they choose to take, and the concrete impacts those actions have. And I’m not a society; I can’t pick what society does; but I am an individual, and even if I can’t influence the direction of society as a whole, I can influence other individuals. I have enough guilt in my life for things I actually have done with my own hands, my own mouth, and my own brain without worrying about if I’m somehow abstractly responsible for the crimes of others.

    Phew. What the fuck ever. And if you, like Donna, are pissed at the German gentile populace of the Third Reich, and maybe that’s what’s motivating your comments on this thread? That’s fine. You should be fucking pissed at them. And I disagree with Josh; don’t try to forgive them. As you pointed out, I couldn’t even forgive Chrisopher fucking Hitchens.

  161. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong January 2, 2012 at 4:10 pm |

    Nothing the police or the military do is being done in my name, regardless of the fact that they are coercing me into paying taxes to fund them. Fuck them. I don’t support them.

    I wrote something nasty about libertanarchists and then deleted it, because I don’t want to just start another cycle of name calling, but yeesh… That’s just an incredibly short-sighted view, that because police officers have abused their power, we’d be better of with no rule of law.

  162. matlun
    matlun January 2, 2012 at 4:31 pm |

    EG:

    First of all, if Native Americans seized power, no, I don’t think it would be immoral (“illegitimate” was probably a poor choice of words, connoting as it does legal rights) to expel the people who have profited and continue to profit from their genocide and oppression from land they have no moral right to.

    Seriously? You are speaking up in favor of the moral good of massive ethnic cleansing?

    That is just messed up beyond words.

  163. LotusBen
    LotusBen January 2, 2012 at 4:42 pm |

    I wrote something nasty about libertanarchists and then deleted it, because I don’t want to just start another cycle of name calling, but yeesh… That’s just an incredibly short-sighted view, that because police officers have abused their power, we’d be better of with no rule of law.

    I appreciate your restraint–that’s something I need to practice as well. Especially online I have a tendency to blurt things out.

    In any event, that isn’t really a debate I feel like having. There have been enough derails on this thread, and I don’t have the energy for yet another one. Also, “pro-anarchy vs. anti-anarchy” in my experience tends to end up going in frustrates circles and boil down to basic differences in worldviews. Sort of like “pro-life vs. pro-choice” or something.

  164. EG
    EG January 2, 2012 at 5:21 pm |

    I guess partially I’m pushing back against the idea that Native Americans were in any way monolithic, allied, or peaceful with each other. Many different, distinguishable groups were stripped of their lands, not one large culture. And that, in my opinion at least, makes a difference here.

    Ah, understood. What I mean is that as I know almost nothing of the dispute between the Shawnee and the Winnipeg, it is not one the Queen of the World is going to issue a ruling on. Not that Native Americans are all one homogenous blob.

    By that logic, wouldn’t the people kicked out by the Native Americans have a right to come back and take the land again, since they would suffer the effects of dispossession?

    By my logic? No, because they/we didn’t have a right to be there to begin with. In real life? I bet that’s exactly what would happen, which is one of the reasons why I think it wouldn’t be a good idea.

    It also occurs to me to make clear that something can be moral without being the only moral action. So what I mean when I say that expelling non-Native Americans would be a moral decision, what I should make clear is that I think it would be a decision that could be supported with a moral argument based on principles that I agree with. That doesn’t mean that I think it is the only possible moral action to take, or the best possible moral action to take, or even the most moral action to take (as I said above, I think a compelling reason to opt for kindness over cruelty to one’s enemies whenever possible is to demonstrate that one is not a sadistic barbarian maniac, unlike them, being implicit there). Just that it is a decision that I can understand the moral grounds for.

  165. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery January 2, 2012 at 6:31 pm |

    It also occurs to me to make clear that something can be moral without being the only moral action. So what I mean when I say that expelling non-Native Americans would be a moral decision…

    Can you be specific about who would be expelled? If someone is 1/16th Native American, can they stay? I’m excited to hear your South African-style rules around racial purity-based rights. Also, if the newly empowered Native authorities met with passive resistance, how much force would be moral to use to force people out?

  166. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong January 2, 2012 at 6:42 pm |

    By my logic? No, because they/we didn’t have a right to be there to begin with.

    But neither, in many cases, was the group we took the land from; they took it from someone else before that! Do we just fundamentally disagree, or am I doing a really bad job explaining my argument?

  167. AnonymousDog
    AnonymousDog January 2, 2012 at 8:09 pm |

    Is there not a one to one relationship between executive power and governmental power generally? In practice, any governmental power can only be carried into effect by executive agencies. If the executive has too much power in society, is that not a direct consequence of government in general having too much power?

    Or are you advocating that executive power be dispersed among a number of different officers, which is not the same thing as limiting “executive power”.

  168. Raja
    Raja January 2, 2012 at 8:24 pm |

    Glad someone finally pointed out that Native Americans aren’t some big monolithic group. While it’s true some tribes were definitaly more violent than others you don’t exactly have the scale of genocide that the Europeans committed done by another native american tribe to another but that doesn’t mean it coudn’t have happened though we are going into speculation at this point.

  169. LC
    LC January 2, 2012 at 8:33 pm |

    Didn’t the Comanche, for instance, pretty much run an empire for about 100 years, playing the US off the Spanish, and dominating the other indigenous nations around them?

    (I could well be misremembering that, it’s not like they do a good job teaching the real history of the era here in North America.)

  170. Raja
    Raja January 2, 2012 at 10:21 pm |

    I know the Comanche launched raids into Mexico for quite sometime. One does not need to have advanced technology in order to dominate large numbers of people. Look at the Mongols; they were basically a loose collection of tribes roaming northeastern China and upon being united by Genghis Khan proceeded to conquer everything and pretty much killed anyone who didn’t surrender. The death toll was something like 30 million. So yeah the Comanche while not as brutal as the Mongols were could have easily gone that way or any other native american tribe for that matter.

  171. EG
    EG January 2, 2012 at 10:51 pm |

    Can you be specific about who would be expelled? If someone is 1/16th Native American, can they stay? I’m excited to hear your South African-style rules around racial purity-based rights. Also, if the newly empowered Native authorities met with passive resistance, how much force would be moral to use to force people out?

    I believe those questions should be directed at Josh. If you’ll recall, he’s the one who presented this solution as the only alternative Native Americans had if they did not forgive all non-Native Americans, and thus presented the two groups as mutually exclusive and reasonably homogenous; while I agree that I should have pointed out these logical flaws rather than being sucked into the ridiculous debate–another reason hypothetical arguments are silly is that they’re never realistic–I am unable, now that my attention has been drawn to them, to defend them. But by all means, ask him. He asked if I would be willing to leave the US, and then when I pointed out that this would solve nobody’s problems, explained that “you” meant “all non-Native Americans.” As part of the group being deported, I’m assuming that the purity tests would be given by whatever organized pan-Native-American council had seized power.

  172. LotusBen
    LotusBen January 2, 2012 at 10:57 pm |

    EG. . .I re-read my last post directed toward you, #160, and I thought it sounded a little rambling, incoherent, and self-involved. I had a difficult New Year’s weekend for some personal reasons, and it seems to be interfering with my ability to think clearly. I re-read your post @ #154 also, and I noticed I didn’t respond to much of your actual content. I’m trying to get my head straight and will hopefully feel better in a couple days. Anyway, I apologize for muddling things.

    I appreciate everyone’s thoughtful comments on this thread: Justamblingalong, Josh, Donna, EG, Shoshie, Raja, and everyone else.

  173. EG
    EG January 2, 2012 at 11:26 pm |

    Don’t sweat it, Ben. If we can’t go a few rounds every so often, what else will keep us honest?

  174. EG
    EG January 2, 2012 at 11:41 pm |

    And I’m sorry to hear that your New Year’s was a difficult one.

  175. DonnaL
    DonnaL January 2, 2012 at 11:48 pm |

    The death toll was something like 30 million

    Wow. That might just nose ahead of Stalin, Mao, and Hitler for first place. Quite a horse race.

  176. DonnaL
    DonnaL January 2, 2012 at 11:53 pm |

    And I’m sorry too, Ben. May the New Year bring you happiness in whatever way you wish.

  177. LotusBen
    LotusBen January 3, 2012 at 12:14 am |

    Thanks guys. . .I appreciate the support. :-)

  178. EG
    EG January 3, 2012 at 12:31 am |

    Wow. That might just nose ahead of Stalin, Mao, and Hitler for first place. Quite a horse race.

    I’m not sure. Wikipedia says that the Mongol campaigns may have resulted in 40 million deaths…but they are counting a series of Imperial campaigns led not only by him, but also by his sons and grandsons who inherited the Empire after his death. That kind of seems like cheating to me. Surely we should compare individual leaders to other individual leaders, and create another category for depredations committed by three generations of Imperial power?

  179. DonnaL
    DonnaL January 3, 2012 at 12:56 am |

    I don’t know, EG; I’ll have to consult the International Olympic Committee on that one.

    (Sorry everyone; it’s late — both in the evening and in this thread.)

  180. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong January 3, 2012 at 1:28 am |

    Alright, well, I think that about wraps it up for me… thanks to everyone for staying respectful (and to the mods for allowing this interesting, but totally irrelevant to the topic, discussion to take place). ‘night!

  181. Raja
    Raja January 3, 2012 at 1:45 am |

    EG: The British Empire did exactly the same thing ; does it really matter who was ruling at the time if the policy toward the people it subjucated was pretty much the same?

  182. EG
    EG January 3, 2012 at 10:19 am |

    Yes, Raja, thanks, I’m aware of the effects of imperialism. If you actually read what I wrote, you’ll see that it’s a joke based on Donna’s joke about the body counts, which was based on your utterly bizarre comment about who wins the Deadliest Tyrant of Them All contest.

  183. Raja
    Raja January 3, 2012 at 10:17 pm |

    ah didn’t catch it, haha very funny.

  184. Lamech
    Lamech January 5, 2012 at 1:24 am |

    You see things like small government conservative, the governments role is to enforce laws, we need to protect the integrity of elections are all an “only as convenient” deal for Republicans.

  185. Raja
    Raja January 5, 2012 at 5:22 am |

    Ron Paul is the only conservative I would vote for because he actually wants a small goverment which includes bringing our troops home and shutting down all our military bases overseas. Granted I don’t agree with everything but given the passage of the NDA my primary concern right now is my liberty.

  186. strelnikov
    strelnikov January 7, 2012 at 10:48 pm |

    I can’t believe how many people in this thread brought up Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
    Just wondering–can I sue a gay-basher for discrimination even if I happen to be straight?
    Thanks

  187. EG
    EG January 9, 2012 at 3:52 pm |

    Granted I don’t agree with everything but given the passage of the NDA my primary concern right now is my liberty.

    Me too. That’s why I categorically refuse to vote for racist douches who would force me to bear children against my will.

    Just wondering–can I sue a gay-basher for discrimination even if I happen to be straight?

    You wouldn’t sue a gay-basher for discrimination. You would file charges and have him/her arrested for assault with a hate-crime rider, and if the basher attacked you because he/she thought you were gay, then sure, you could.

  188. Poetree
    Poetree January 10, 2012 at 9:39 am |

    So, I’ve noticed a LOT of democrats who said they voted for Obama in 2008 have said they will either refrain from voting altogether or vote for a republican next year. It is officially time to think about moving to Canada, as a black woman I can’t do it. I refuse to do it. Openly racist republicans who are ALSO open misogynists??? Forced sterilizations, taking away social programs that many people rely on, possibly undoing the health care reform, giving themselves even more executive powers, no…I just can’t. Most of the republicans are nothing more than klansmen out of uniform.

  189. LotusBen
    LotusBen January 10, 2012 at 10:17 am |

    Yeah, it sorta amazes me the the level of support that Ron Paul seems to have among certain progressive-ish people. I’ve never fully understood that. I live in the same state as Paul, Texas, so it’s especially bad here. I do admire him in a certain limited way for seeming to be more honest and less corrupt than most politicans (not saying much), and it was a relief to hear some of his anti-imperialist arguments on the national stage in 2008. But the large majority of the man’s policy positions are totally fucked up.

    One gem is his opposition to the “birthright citizenship” of the 14th amendment. I was honestly floored when I first learned this. Paul is so anti-immigrant that he wants to take away the right of people born in the United States to be born U.S. citizens. Not only is this diabolical and way outside the Republican mainstream, but it seems pretty hypocritical coming from the “strict constitutionalist” like Paul to want to go against something that’s been part of the U.S. Constitution for 140+ years.

    And as you noted EG, he’s a pro-natalist forced birther. Another ironic contradiction of his is that Mr. State’s Rights wants a FEDERAL “Sanctity of Life Act” that would define legal personhood as beginning at conception for the entire United States. And it’s not just like he said, “yeah, um, I support that.” He actually personally introduced it into Congress three different times.

    Some libertarian.

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