Thursday, August 24, 2006

Judging Saddam

While awaiting a verdict in the first trial, a second trial of Saddam Hussein is underway in Baghdad, this time for genocide
The second trial of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein opened Monday in Baghdad on charges of genocide for a violent campaign against minority Kurds nearly two decades ago.

A defiant Saddam refused to state his name or enter a plea to the charges. The chief judge entered a plea of not guilty for him.

Saddam and his six co-defendants are charged in connection with Operation Anfal, an Iraqi military campaign that prosecutors said killed more than 180,000 Kurds in 1987 and 1988. The slaughter began after Kurds were accused of aiding Iran during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

Among Saddam's co-defendants is Ali Hassan al-Majid, who became known as "Chemical Ali" for allegedly ordering poison gas attacks against the Kurds.

Though the news coverage of this trial has been very limited, I listened to some of the testimony of Kurdish survivors of the chemical attacks describing the carnage; and watched Saddam's angry, defiant, and completely unrepentant face as he dismissed their testimony.

I wondered, not for the first time, how anyone could possibly support or admire this truly evil man, so obviously sociopathic, narcissistic and malignant?

Then I remembered this article by Fred Siegel from last year:
Back in the fall of 2003, when Dr. Dean was still riding high in the Presidential primary, I’d listened in on a conversation among undergraduate Deaniacs outside my office at Cooper Union in the East Village. "This just doesn’t feel like America any more," one of them said to a friend, who replied, "Fuck Bush," and pointed to a button on his jacket bearing the same slogan.

It’s an old professor’s habit, but I had to engage them. "What does that mean?" I asked the fellow with the button. "Bush is bullshit," he replied, "the most evil man in the world." When I said that wasn’t an argument and pressed him, he acknowledged that "Saddam isn’t a good guy," but "who are we"—he pointed both to me and his like-minded friend—to "judge Saddam Hussein?"

"Why not?" I asked. He replied with an answer right out of the postmodern playbook. Americans can’t judge another culture, he insisted, because there is no common morality. But if that’s the case, I asked, why then was George Bush "undoubtedly the most evil man in the world?" He seemed puzzled by the idea that his version of an emotional truth might seem incoherent to others.

Like the fascist writers of the 1930’s from whom their postmodern teachers had drawn their ideas, these Deaniacs were both engaged in politics and deeply cynical about democracy, which they saw as a game manipulated by nefarious forces led by Fox News. As they see it, there is little to argue; the only question is "which side are you on?" Doubtful that informed debate could settle much, they hoped to impose their will on a backward country that wickedly refused to see the appeal of a "Fuck Bush" platform.

I was taken aback by my conversation with the Deaniacs; their sheer coarseness stunned me. Even at the height of the "Ronald Reagan is going to blow up the world" mania of the 1980’s, I had never seen a "Fuck Reagan" button. But the coarseness was consistent with the dominant mood in academia outside of the sciences.

Recently, the professoriat has been embarrassed by a series of dustups exposing the irrationalist underside of academic life. After Hamilton College invited a former Brinks holdup terrorist to take a faculty position, it compounded its problems by asking "Indian" poseur Ward Churchill of the University of Colorado to speak, only to back off when he was found to have delivered a rant about how the people killed in the World Trade Center were "little Eichmanns." Columbia’s alumni, if not its administration, has been discomfited by the ravings of Joseph Massad, a professor so extreme in his support of Palestinian terrorism as to have labeled Yasir Arafat a collaborator with Israel. Harvard president Larry Summers has been forced to don the sackcloth and ashes after he commented reasonably that the differences between men and women might—and his stress, the transcript shows, was on might—be one part of the reason why there are fewer females in the sciences.

When professors at our institutes of higher learning, disguised as "academics", spend their time asking foolish questions like, "Who are we to judge Saddam Hussein?"; and engaging in kneejerk anti-American political activism--rather than in the pursuit of knowledge; it is hardly surprising that policymakers look elsewhere for a source of useful ideas. The academic role has been taken over by think tanks, which...well, think., as opposed to just emoting and spewing slogans. For the most part, the universities have become irrelevant except for the elites they cater to.

This transformation of our "intellectual" centers of knowledge into vast emotional swamps of multicultural victimhood, offended by any idea that they don't like is a disaster in the making if unchecked. Because they influence the minds of the young, and their legacy is a generation of adults who have abandoned critical thinking, reason, truth, and reality.

Like the radical professors discussed in the article, a large segment of our society is no longer bothered by pesky ideas, which might actually have to be defended by reason and logic. No, they rely almost totally these days on the primacy of their feelings, which they proudly point out need no defense, since they are honest feelings. We see it daily in the pronouncements of the left, and their political arm that used to be the Democratic party.

From their perspective as the purveyors of the virtue of eternal victimhood, academics can readily identify with poor Saddam, who is, after all, just another helpless victim of U.S. imperialism and unbridled aggression. Who are we to judge him, they ask blandly? Their underlying assumption, of course, is that we are the true evil; that Bush is worse than Saddam--or Hitler, or Bin Laden; that America is responsible for terror; not the terrorists, who are the ultimate victims in all this.

But we need not be perfect to see, understand, and judge evil. Indeed, as a moral society, we must make the critical distinction between striving for the good and making mistakes versus deliberately encouraging and enabling evil. This moral relativism abandons our anchor in the real world, and leaves us adrift in a profound and pervasive nihilism.

Running through the moral relativism of a question like "Who are we to judge Saddam"--like a river of denial and projection-- is a lack of insight and self-awareness so incredible and so blindingly transparent that it is almost awe-inspiring in its magnitude. The kind of mindless emoting that passes for deep thought in academia and the enforcement of intellectual "purity"--even as they celebrate "diversity"--on the part of large numbers of the "intellectual elite" is a Totalitarian's Dream! Their slogans and banners are the stuff of dictator's fantasies. For these professors and their minions, the mindset of Orwell's 1984 is a deliberate lifestyle choice.

Saddam must love these guys! If he were to go free and be absolved of his crimes against humanity, I can visualize many of our ivy league institutions aggressively competing to offer him some important academic position.

These are our brave new intellectuals. Is it any wonder tyrants like Saddam and Fidel--and now Hugo--are their heroes? Viva la revolucion!

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