Here’s the Beltway sage Maureen Dowd, defending those who danced in the streets and shouted “USA!” at the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed by the U.S. military:
I don’t want closure. There is no closure after tragedy. I want memory, and justice, and revenge. When you’re dealing with a mass murderer who bragged about incinerating thousands of Americans and planned to kill countless more, that seems like the only civilized and morally sound response.
I don’t want closure either. It’s a meaningless concept in the real world, where cause and effect ripple through all of our actions. All I want is some intelligent discourse in the mainstream media, where almost all opinion pieces are written by hacks such as Dowd, who can always be counted on to poke fun at the Washington D.C. establishment without ever — not once — writing from a point of view outside the narrow range of opinions acceptable to that establishment.
Dowd is either too dishonest or too feeble-minded to address the implications of her gung-ho remarks about bin Laden. In World War II, Gen. Curtis “Bombs Away” LeMay gave the order to incinerate not thousands, but hundreds of thousands of civilians in the air war against Japan. And this was before nukes were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Wouldn’t the only “morally sound” response to LeMay’s savagery have been to kill him by whatever means necessary? Or was his savagery morally sound because Americans were the good guys?
Similarly, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, from 1969 to 1973, secretly and illegally ordered air raids in Cambodia that killed a half-million civilians and led to the takeover of the country by the Khmer Rouge, who subsequently massacred millions. (Sideshow, by William Shawcross, is the book to read.)
Nixon lived long enough to partially “rehabilitate” his reputation. Kissinger, arguably the most well-known living mass murderer, is regarded as a respected elder statesmen by much of the mainstream press. But wouldn’t it be morally sound to indict and prosecute Kissinger for his well-documented crimes?
And what about George W. Bush and Dick Cheney? Wouldn’t it be morally sound to bring charges against them for misleading America into a war in Iraq that resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths? There are prosecutors in Europe who think so. Both men know they might end up in jail if they were to set foot in some civilized country where jurists don’t turn a blind eye to the crimes of the rich and powerful.
The headline on Dowd’s column was “Killing evil doesn’t make us evil.” This is a silly pronouncement (how does one “kill” evil, a force stoked by killing?) that assumes a conveniently reductive definition of evil. History has shown that people often become so convinced of their own inherent goodness that they fail to recognize the point at which their conduct makes them no better than their enemies.
Midway through her column, Dowd writes, “I leave it to subtler minds to parse the distinction between what is just and what is justified.”
Too bad she didn’t take her own advice. And too bad NYT editors are too intellectually lazy — or, more likely, too cowardly — to publish op-ed pieces on such a serious subject by writers who don’t stoop to using the written word to wave the flag.