Saturday, May 14, 2011

Disagreeing with Moore

Michael Moore is one of the most valuable voices in America, in my view. Some, especially on the right, like to call him controversial. I think it's an interesting dichotomy: America is said to welcome disagreement and dissent, but when someone from within criticizes the country, people lash out and label that person unpatriotic and other words not suitable to print here.

American society is a violent one when compared to other advanced nations. Moore's Bowling for Columbine showed that and backed it up with evidence, the way Moore backs up all his documentaries with evidence. And yet, Americans seem to have a difficult time confronting the wrongs in our society; they don't seem to like hearing the absolute truth, probably because they are uncomfortable with the truth. So when someone like Michael Moore or Samantha Power criticizes the American Way, they are labeled controversial, unpatriotic, and so on.

I agree with Michael Moore on almost everything. Is the American health care system not a serious problem? Has predatory capitalism not driven many Americans, and the country itself, into a serious hole? Did the government not lie the country into an unnecessary war in Iraq? Is America not a violent country compared to Canada and other advanced nations when you take into account all the numbers on gun ownership per capita and gun murders per capita?

With all that said, Michael published an article this past week about OBL, and his belief that OBL should have been captured and put on trial. It's not his point of view that I disagree with, although I do think putting OBL on trial would have been a circus we can all do without; it's his comparisons to the Nazis and the Japanese that bother me - they were put on trial, given their time in court, and put to death or in prison for their crimes. Using that logic, OBL should have been treated the same way.

Putting the Germans and the Japanese on trial, in my view, is entirely different than putting OBL on trial. First, the governments of Germany and Japan were legitimate governments. They were bad governments, but there are bad governments today; the US, one way or another, still manages to deal with bad governments, even Iran, done through the Swiss. OBL was a terrorist. The US does not negotiate with terrorists. But the US does negotiate with governments it doesn't like (I realize that can be argued. The Bush Admin chose to ignore governments it didn't like, using the 'silent treatment' as a form of punishment. That got the US nowhere).

So if the US treats terrorists different diplomatically, doesn't it stand to reason that the US should treat terrorists differently when faced with the dilemmna of kill or capture? It is here that I disagree with Moore - he's equating bad guys with bad guys, but terrorists are not considered just bad guys by the US, they are considered barbarians, not worthy of diplomacy, negotiation, or consideration. While the US should work within the frameworks of international law when dealing with terrorists (in other words, torture is wrong and useless no matter who the bad guy is), it also must function with some degree of ruthlessness as if it were at war. The attack on the US was an act of war (if it were a government doing the attacking on 9/11/01, you have Japan attacking Pearl Harbor as the precedent), so the response, killing OBL, was carried out viciously, as a means to save future lives (think: bombs dropped on Japan) from further attacks.

This latter point is another reason why drawing a parallel relationship between WWII and OBL doesn't work: dropping the bombs on Japan was done to save American lives, those troops who would have had to invade Tokyo to force a surrender, and to end the war once and for all. It accomplished both ends. Because OBL and his ilk are not a regime, killing him hasn't ended anything. While it may help to save lives in the near term, no doubt his buddies are continuing to find aways to attack the US without his presence, and sometime in the future, either here in the US or overseas, they will succeed at killing Americans. This 'war' is not over, because it's not a war between governments, there will be no surrender, no V-J/V-E Day. As such, the killing/capturing of OBL should not be viewed through the WWII lens. I respect Moore a great deal; we need his voice in a country that leaves people behind in favor of profits, but I do not agree with the comparison he has drawn on this topic.

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