Dead Enough: The Reality of the "Lesser Evil"
To all those now hailing the re-election of Barack Obama as a triumph of decent, humane, liberal values over the oozing-postule perfidy of the Republicans, a simple question:
Is this child dead enough for you?
This little boy was named Naeemullah. He was in his house -- maybe playing, maybe sleeping, maybe having a meal -- when an American drone missile was fired into the residential area where he lived and blew up the house next door.
As we all know, these drone missiles are, like the president who wields them, super-smart, a triumph of technology and technocratic expertise. We know, for the president and his aides have repeatedly told us, that these weapons -- launched only after careful consultation of the just-war strictures of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas -- strike nothing but their intended targets and kill no one but "bad guys." Indeed, the president's top aides have testified under oath that not a single innocent person has been among the thousands of Pakistani civilians -- that is, civilians of a sovereign nation that is not at war with the United States -- who have been killed by the drone missile campaign of the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
Yet somehow, by some miracle, the missile that roared into the residential area where Naeemullah lived did not confine itself neatly to the house it struck. Somehow, inexplicably, the hunk of metal and wire and computer processors failed -- in this one instance -- to look into the souls of all the people in the village and ascertain, by magic, which ones were "bad guys" and then kill only them. Somehow -- perhaps the missile had been infected with Romney cooties? -- this supercharged hunk of high explosives simply, well, exploded with tremendous destructive power when it struck the residential area, blowing the neighborhood to smithereens.
As Wired reports, shrapnel and debris went flying through the walls of Naeemullah's house and ripped through his small body. When the attack was over -- when the buzzing drone sent with Augustinian wisdom by the Peace Laureate was no longer lurking over the village, shadowing the lives of every defenseless inhabitant with the terrorist threat of imminent death, Naeemullah was taken to the hospital in a nearby town.
This is where the picture of above was taken by Noor Behram, a resident of North Waziristan who has been chronicling the effects of the Peace Laureate's drone war. When the picture was taken, Naeemullah was dying. He died an hour later.
Is he dead enough for you?
Dead enough not to disturb your victory dance in any way? Dead enough not to trouble the inauguration parties yet to come? Dead enough not to diminish, even a little bit, your exultant glee at the fact that this great man, a figure of integrity, decency, honor and compassion, will be able to continue his noble leadership of the best nation in the history of the world?
Do you have children? Do they sit your house playing happily? Do they sleep sweetly scrunched up in their warm beds at night? Do they chatter and prattle like funny little birds as you eat with them at the family table? Do you love them? Do you treasure them? Do you consider them fully-fledged human beings, beloved souls of infinite worth?
How would you feel if you saw them ripped to shreds by flying shrapnel, in your own house? How would you feel as you rushed them to the hospital, praying every step of the way that another missile won't hurl down on you from the sky? Your child was innocent, you had done nothing, were simply living your life in your own house -- and someone thousands of miles away, in a country you had never seen, had no dealings with, had never harmed in any way, pushed a button and sent chunks of burning metal into your child's body. How would you feel as you watched him die, watched all your hopes and dreams for him, all the hours and days and years you would have to love him, fade away into oblivion, lost forever?
What would you think about the one who did this to your child? Would you say: "What a noble man of integrity and decency! I'm sure he is acting for the best."
Would you say: "Well, this is a bit unfortunate, but it's perfectly understandable. The Chinese government (or Iran or al Qaeda or North Korea or Russia, etc. etc.) believed there was someone next door to me who might possibly at some point in time pose some kind of threat in some unspecified way to their people or their political agenda -- or maybe it was just that my next-door neighbor behaved in a certain arbitrarily chosen way that indicated to people watching him on a computer screen thousands of miles away that he might possibly be the sort of person who might conceivably at some point in time pose some kind of unspecified threat to the Chinese (Iranians/Russians, etc.), even though they had no earthly idea who my neighbour is or what he does or believes or intends. I think the person in charge of such a program is a good, wise, decent man that any person would be proud to support. Why, I think I'll ask him to come speak at my little boy's funeral!"
Is that what you would say if shrapnel from a missile blew into your comfortable house and killed your own beloved little boy? You would not only accept, understand, forgive, shrug it off, move on -- you would actively support the person who did it, you would cheer his personal triumphs and sneer at all those who questioned his moral worthiness and good intentions? Is that really what you would do?
Well, that is what you are doing when you shrug off the murder of little Naeemullah. You are saying he is not worth as much as your child. You are saying he is not a fully-fledged human being, a beloved soul of infinite worth. You are saying that you support his death, you are happy about it, and you want to see many more like it. You are saying it doesn't matter if this child -- or a hundred like him, or a thousand like him, or, as in the Iraqi sanctions of the old liberal lion, Bill Clinton, five hundred thousand children like Naeemullah -- are killed in your name, by leaders you cheer and support. You are saying that the only thing that matters is that someone from your side is in charge of killing these children. This is the reality of "lesser evilism."
Before the election, we heard a lot of talk about this notion of the "lesser evil." From prominent dissidents and opponents of empire like Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky and Robert Parry to innumerable progressive blogs to personal conversations, one heard this basic argument: "Yes, the drone wars, the gutting of civil liberties, the White House death squads and all the rest are bad; but Romney would be worse. Therefore, with great reluctance, holding our noses and shaking our heads sadly, we must choose the lesser evil of Obama and vote accordingly."
I understand that argument, I really do. I don't agree with it, as I made plain here many times before the election. I think the argument is wrong, I think our system is so far gone that even a "lesser evil" is too evil to support in any way, that such support only perpetuates the system's unconscionable evils. But I'm not a purist, not a puritan, not a commissar or dogmatist. I understand that people of good will can come to a different conclusion, and feel that they must reluctantly choose one imperial-militarist-corporate faction over the other, in the belief that this will mean some slight mitigation of the potential evil that the other side commit if it took power. I used to think that way myself, years ago. Again, I now disagree with this, and I think that the good people who believe this have not, for whatever reason or reasons, looked with sufficient clarity at the reality of our situation, of what is actually being done, in their name, by the political faction they support.
But of course, I am not the sole arbiter of reality, nor a judge of others; people see what they see, and they act (or refrain from acting) accordingly. I understand that. But here is what I don't understand: the sense of triumph and exultation and glee on the part of so many progressives and liberals and 'dissidents' at the victory of this "lesser evil." Where did the reluctance, the nose-holding, the sad head-shaking go? Should they not be mourning the fact that evil has triumphed in America, even if, by their lights, it is a "lesser" evil?
If you really believed that Obama was a lesser evil -- 2 percent less evil, as I believe Digby once described the Democrats in 2008 -- if you really did find the drone wars and the White House death squads and Wall Street bailouts and absolution for torturers and all the rest to be shameful and criminal, how can you be happy that all of this will continue? Happy -- and continuing to scorn anyone who opposed the perpetuation of this system?
The triumph of a lesser evil is still a victory for evil. If your neighborhood is tyrannized by warring mafia factions, you might prefer that the faction which occasionally doles out a few free hams wins out over their more skinflint rivals; but would you be joyful about the fact that your neighborhood is still being tyrannized by murderous criminals? Would you not be sad, cast down, discouraged and disheartened to see the violence and murder and corruption go on? Would you not mourn the fact that your children will have to grow up in the midst of all this?
So where is the mourning for the fact that we, as a nation, have come to this: a choice between murderers, a choice between plunderers? Even if you believe that you had to participate and make the horrific choice that was being offered to us -- "Do you want the Democrat to kill these children, or do you want the Republican to kill these children?" -- shouldn't this post-election period be a time of sorrow, not vaulting triumph and giddy glee and snarky put-downs of the "losers"?
If you really are a "lesser evilist" -- if this was a genuine moral choice you reluctantly made, and not a rationalization for indulging in unexamined, primitive partisanship -- then you will know that we are ALL the losers of this election. Even if you believe it could have been worse, it is still very bad. You yourself proclaimed that Obama was evil -- just a bit "lesser" so than his opponent. (2 percent maybe.) And so the evil that you yourself saw and named and denounced will go on. Again I ask: where is the joy and glory and triumph in this? Even if you believe it was unavoidable, why celebrate it? And ask yourself, bethink yourself: what are you celebrating? This dead child, and a hundred like him? A thousand like him? Five hundred thousand like him? How far will you go? What won't you celebrate?
And so step by step, holding the hand of the "lesser evil," we descend deeper and deeper into the pit.