The Moral High Ground

On NPR this morning they were noting sarcastically that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had said members of his security forces “may lose their jobs” if they are found guilty of torturing election protesters. The implication was “that's all?”.

And I'm thinking — have we done as much here?

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14 Responses to The Moral High Ground

  1. Just me says:

    Yes. Though, we are not without fault. Last I checked, we haven’t tortured any republicans lately.

  2. Chuck says:

    Yea.. Let’s get the cops to go out and arrest those guys with the AR-15’s outside the Obama events.


  3. Who in Israel ever lost their job for torturing a Palestinian?

  4. Rhodo Zeb says:

    Ok. Point made.

    Now. What baby steps should be taken to at least begin to roll back this engulfing social environment of, well, fecal waste?

    Where to begin?

  5. Are you referring to Israel?
    Your mannerisms are annoying but since you’re a fan of the PRC even as it is you might want to go to Iran.
    As an adversary for the US (if you use that logic and I don’t) it’s closer to China than it is to North Korea. As more than one analyst has pointed out the Iranian leadership has been more rational over the past few years than Israel.
    Israel by comparison is a culture of kitsch, and Im referring talking private life not the state. Private life in Tehran as in Beijing is not nearly so corrupted by hypocrisy and self-deceit. Israel is facing total moral collapse.
    Pay closer attention.
    And again.

  6. Rhodo Zeb says:

    What? No I am not referring only to Israel, the post is not about Israel…

    I don’t even know what your comment is talking about.

  7. s.e. says:

    Then you’re talking about the United States?
    Since you say you’re enjoying life in the People’s Republic I can’t imagine you’re referring to Iran.

  8. Rhodo Zeb says:

    Let me explain my question more clearly, as you totally misunderstand my point.

    Since I moved to China a decade ago, I have watched with horror at our (meaning the US / West) systems of justice break down.

    My move to China had everything to do with economics and nothing to do with politics, if that helps. China’s moving forward, slowly, and that’s all I am going to say now; it seems as if you are very location-specific in your thinking. I live in China, and know and worry about China’s problems. But, perhaps fortunately for me, I have had my hands full worrying about the long-term damage Bush and the GOP was doing my my country, so I am able to temper most of my moral certainty about China’s problems.

    Now let’s go back to the West, which of course always loved criticizing other countries and using the moral rectitude of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ to back it up. But a hollowness always existed within this argument.

    Over the past decade it is clear to me that we have increasingly become a lawless culture. First we threw sovereignty out the window, years ago. Then international consensus. Bush tried to get rid of traditional diplomacy in favor of pure military threats, for god’s sake.

    That might be one reason why China is still prickly about all this stuff. They saw the same ‘values’ used again and again as a tool and as a weapon against them on the international stage. And of course if you look at the last couple of centuries, the Chinese have become pretty well-aware of the use of any nearly tools (including war for economic reasons) to gain international advantage.

    Anyway, the post that we are commenting on points out the mote in our eye, so to speak. If Iran is wrong then how are we right, Michael asks. And its a fair point.

    There have always been huge problems with the West’s sense of superiority. Israel with its occupation and illegal assassination programs, (funny how they never signed that one treaty, isn’t it); the US spreading torture in Latin and South America, Israeli exceptionalism on nukes, and really that’s just off the top of my head. I used to blame Israel quite a bit for this, but as a client state of the US that is simply unfair. Its both of us and something like 300 billion dollars in weapons transfers every year sort of implicates the US pretty closely.

    We are still trying to use our moral rectitude, but that mote is pretty obvious at present, and the values are, to be honest, quite empty.

    And then it came time to decide (and even though I want Bush/Cheney to serve time for making that decision at all, it was inevitable, given the slow, insidious growth of torture within the US military complex) whether to torture ourselves, not just teach it to our client states.

    Hopefully, we, again, the US and the West, are merely at a low tide as far as stability, respect for human rights, and real freedom, not the slogan. Knowing the US, we could come back very strong over the next 20 years.

    But we also could be on our way to losing most of the gains of the past century, and we might not recover at all.

    So, having hopefully explained.

    What can we do in the face of all this unraveling? Where the heck to begin?

  9. “China’s moving forward, slowly”
    I agree. And so is Iran. Israel is going backwards.
    But through all this, I just realized I misread the original post. I’t wasn’t about Iran it was about the US.
    My mistake absolutely. It was more fair about Iran than I’m used to expecting, but that’s no excuse.
    My apologies to you and Michael Froomkin.
    But to the larger question I’m not interested in the west I’m interested in democracy, law and civil discourse wherever they’re growing. The US is not leading in that struggle but we may yet learn to follow.
    Apologies again for going off.

    I spent two months in a village outside Beijing in 2007. And I have a friend who lived in Beijing and around China from 80 to 95. It’s a very impressive place.

  10. Rhodo Zeb says:

    Hey Seth:

    Ok, I get it now. I really felt confused for a bit there, but no worries.

    I believe that social environments play a strong role in behavior. That is true in a microcosm and also true on the international stage.

    Once upon a time our moral scolding was likely fairly effective. Most of our sins were not widely known or understood for what they were.

    Then, improved communications made information about these sins more easily transmittable. Then, we threw our ‘moral compass’ out the window.

    Now our scolding doesn’t do much good.

    The US and Israel are presumably both not doing well, but hopefully that serves to change the conditions under which they operate. No change without stress.

    The occupation must end, and the US will simply have to push Israel to do it. It will take decades I assume but must be started soon.

    I am interested in law and (defined) freedom, but have become less focused on democracy. I don’t think it is the only system that can work, and think that China wants and needs to find its own way.

    Why do you say Iran is going forward? Are you assuming the problems they are having now will lead to political upheaval?

  11. I’m more interested in democracy than you I think, but it has to find its own way.
    I posted a link to to a poll in my second comment I’ll do it again here since I guess html works on the page.
    81% of Iranians see Ahmadinejad as legitimate. Most want renewed diplomatic relations with the US but don’t trust Obama. They like America but not its government.

    There will be no upheaval in Iran and US government support in $$$ for a color “revolution” just made things worse. There are real divisions in Iranian society, but those include the divisions between neoliberal privatizers and those who worry about the poor. It’s Ahmadinejad who’s expanded welfare and the reformers want to cut it.

    “In respect of the economy, it was quite evident in January when I was last in Teheran, as the only non-Iranian speaker at a high-level conference, that the “reformist” Western financial approach to privatize everything and fuel the economy with debt, has taken a big hit. Here, the reformists are in exactly the same position as Obama: they don’t have a Plan B.”

    I don’t defend Khamenei or Hu Jintao but I respect them in the sense that I take them seriously. Israel is heading for self-destruction, aided and abetted by liberals who defend the Idea of a racist state but not its current methods. That’s not enough. Zionism is self-evidently racism.
    I can’t even link to Arabs on this site without that raising a red flag. So I can only mention Amira Hass, or Neve Gordon, Tony Karon or Jerry Haber. All Jews, three of them Israeli and one South African. Tony Judt has been very good as well recently.

    I will not defend the morality of the two state solution because I will not defend the morality of a Jewish state without Arabs any more than I will the morality of a Germany without ethnic Turks or a France sans ethnic Algerians. And we should be clear as Tzipi Livni and others have admitted, that the point is for the Arabs to leave for their “new” home. I may acquiesce to this but that’s not support. The “browning” of America by dark-skinned immigrants can not morally be a concern. But it is the central concern of Zionists. Ethnic nationalism is always problematic, but Zionism is founded on a specifically 19th century Germanic nationalism compounded by colonialism defended now in the 21st century. 3/4 of a million people who had nothing to do with the recent crimes of Europe were thrown off their land and they and their descendants are refugees in camps and in a diaspora in the region and beyond.

    The logic is simple: Until Zionist liberals come to terms with the fact that as far as the middle east is concerned they are not liberals resolution is impossible. A two state solution based on Bantustans is all that Israel will offer. And Abbas is viewed by many, not without reason, as Petain.
    Anyway I’m done. I doubt we agree on much but it is what it is.
    Check out the links though. Smart people, all mensches.

  12. Rhodo Zeb says:

    Ok, well you are certainly right that we will agree on little.

    I focus on implementation of rule of law, and find Iran to be without any valid legal system.

  13. s.e. says:

    “I focus on implementation of rule of law, and find Iran to be without any valid legal system.”
    And we’re back to where we started. You’re not paying attention, to Iran, the PRC, or Israel for that matter.
    And you didn’t pay attention to what I wrote: You’re just written what I’d assumed you were incapable of writing. Living happily in China, It’s laughable.

    Both Iran and China are problematic as far as implementation of the rule of law so self-interest must play a big part in your rankings. I can’t think of any other logic.

  14. I think its obvious that we haven’t done much better here. More and harsher steps should be taken in situations such as these.

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