Who's 'Moral Equivalence'?

Brad Mayer bradley.mayer at ebay.sun.com
Thu Oct 18 14:14:17 PDT 2001

We currently need to refute the overheated accusations of our rightist opponents - whether they be extreme, like William Safire, "moderate" liberals such as Thomas Friedman, or even Red-Brown "leftists" such as Christopher Hitchens or Leo Casey - that to critique US foreign policy in connection with the events of 9/11 is to wrongly indulge in the logic of "moral equivalence". It is easily refuted as a theoretical matter; as a practical matter, it must be refuted NOW, so we can continue to press home our point, both metaphorically and literally.

The progressive and "anti-imperialist" (to indulge in an 'old fashioned' expression) critique is _not_ fundamentally a "moral argument". It is, rather, an eminently - irony of ironies! - _pragmatic_ argument (and I would suggest, eminently explicable, therefore, to the pragmatic American mind, which, beneath the flagwaving, at the depths of its unconscious soul, understands this as the real meaning of Sept. 11th, _that_ I am confident of) about the causes and consequences of the pursuit of American Empire. That in the process, it lists the many victims of this pursuit is certainly to make a moral statement. But moral statement is not to be confounded - and many of our rightist opponents seek to _deliberately_ confound it - with the logic of "moral equivalence", with its suggestion of a moral _balance of opposites_. But there is no credible evidence that those who critique US foreign policy have "opposed" the victims of Sept. 11th with those victims of that policy.

But who speaks of a "moral balance of opposites", if it is not those of us who consistently critique US foreign policy? It is the inescapable conclusion that it is our rightist opponents who do so. And here the refutation finally rests: Why does the right wing suddenly need to inject this notion of "moral equivalence" into the ideological battle? Simply, because our opponents has a long, rich and easily documented history of "justifying" their own crimes - the crimes of the US foreign policy _they support_ - in the name of this very same "moral equivalence", whose common media reference goes under the name of "retaliation". The very same crimes its critics have catalogued. And, alas, will continue to have to catalogue in the future, with no small thanks to Hitchens and Casey.

The absurd circularity of our opponents' logic should be evident; there is a very rational method behind the apparent madness, though. It is the attempt to suppress any critical discussion of US foreign policy - lest it infect the now receptive mind of the Americans - through the exercise of raw ideological power, which lies, not in the 'ideas' themselves, but in the means of their dissemination. Nevertheless, we can defeat them, but we must ensure that we do so. Now.

By coming to the defense of those such as Sunera Thobani, whose Oct 1st speech before the Conference on, "Women's Resistance: From Victimization to Criminalization", titled 'It's bloodthirsty vengeance', has been attacked in the media - in true Orwellian style -as 'hate speech', thereby setting her up for legal banishment. It, and Thobani's further response, are up on Znet. I'd encourage you to show Thobani your support.

-Brad Mayer

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list