American “Values”

The wingnuts reaction to the New York Times story on Obama and Ayers that doesn’t find too many connections between the two can be summarized as thus: “The MSM ignored all of Obama’s connections to a terrorist who tried killing Americans!”

The ironies here are blinding.  William Ayers is a “terrorist” for protesting the Vietnam War, a needless war where our government forced young men to die for absolutely no good reason.  What’s more terrifying: Weather Underground bombings or the government’s draft lottery?  Whose bomb blasts caused more harm: Ayers or the Viet Cong’s that our government forced young men to be blown apart by?

I don’t condone what Ayers did — I don’t condone violence, period.  But what kind of sick, demented psychopaths are we dealing with who believe it’s right to ask for thousands of Americans to violently, gruesomely die for a useless cause, while vilifying a man for using much lesser amounts of force to protest this?

For those who think I’ve gone too far by accusing the other side of being, well, insane, I want you to answer my questions first.

10 Responses to “American “Values””

  1. tas says:

    And for those who accuse me of making “strawman” arguments, prove where my summary of wingnut reaction is wrong.

  2. gcotharn says:

    Ayers is not a terrorist for protesting. Protesting is not terror.

    Weather bombings vs draft lottery. You wish to argue moral equivalence between bombing innocent citizens vs fighting and dying to protect the South Vietnamese? If so, you and I disagree about the historical facts of what happened in South Vietnam. There is no use in our “arguing” this issue, as we cannot agree about common foundational facts upon which to build our discussion.

    I counsel caution about such moral equivalence arguments. I am confident abortion is murder. Should I bomb clinics? I am confident thousands of Americans die each year b/c of inadequate highway signage. Should I bomb statehouses and state highway depts? If McDonald’s is killing tens of thousands with cholesterol, should I bomb McDonalds? I’m confident the race grievance industry is killing black men and women. Should I bomb Al Sharpton, the Rainbow Coalition, and the Black Congressional Caucus?

    Thomas Aquinas considered the question of when it might be morally permissible to take life.

    First, according to his Principle of Forfeiture, a person can forfeit his right to life via taking or attempting to take an innocent life.

    Second, and equally important, is Thomas Aquinas’ Doctrine of Double Effect. This description is from Ronald Munson, in “Ethics for Military Leaders”, Simon & Shuster, 1998, p. 397:

    [A]n action should be performed only if the intention is to bring about the good effect and the bad effect will be an unintended or indirect consequence. […] Four conditions must be satisfied:
    1. The action itself must be morally indifferent or morally good.
    2. The bad effect must not be the means by which the good effect is achieved.
    3. The motive must be the achievement of the good effect only.
    4. The good effect must be at least equivalent in importance to the bad effect.

    You will of course decide for yourself the import of Aquinas’ thinking, and possibly if Bill Ayers’ bombings were justified under Aquinas’ doctrines. I respect Aquinas’ doctrines, and think Weathermen bombings failed Aquinas’ standards of justification.

  3. Kathy says:

    You wish to argue moral equivalence between bombing innocent citizens vs fighting and dying to protect the South Vietnamese?

    You’ve used loaded and propagandistic language in order to argue against moral equivalence. The truth is that, whatever the Americans who did the fighting and dying may have thought they were doing it for, objectively they were not protecting the South Vietnamese.

    The civilian population was devastated by the war. Roughly a million North and South Vietnamese civilians were killed during the war. And that’s just the U.S. part of the war. From WikiAnswers: “Some of the latest figures put the total number of Vietnamese killed at upwards of five million. That’s one million soldiers and three to four million civilians when measuring from the beginning of the French movements to retake their colonies after WW2. One in five Vietnamese were either killed or wounded during the wars.”

    Three and a half million acres of Vietnamese countryside were sprayed with defoliants like agent orange, and the effect of that spraying lasts for more than a century. Agent Orange also was the cause of many cases of cancer and other ailments in returning veterans, and that has been unfolding for years. More bombs were dropped on Vietnam than were dropped in WWI and WWII combined — three times as many, in fact.

    You can’t compare the harm caused by the bombings in protest against the Vietnam War that were carried out by the Weathermen Underground organization with the harm caused by the Vietnam War — not because one was “in a good cause” and the other one wasn’t (I believe, as tas said, that bombs never contribute anything positive to any cause), but because of the difference in scale.

  4. gcotharn says:

    We disagree about the historical record re S. Vietnam.

    Re Ayers and Dohrn’s attempts to kill Americans

    I’m comparing taking the law into your own hands via trying to kill people vs. working for change through democratic means.

    I’m also asserting Ayers’ and Dohrn’s were immoral attempts at taking life – as defined by Thomas Aquinas, whose rules are the best I know of on the subject.

    That America immorally took life in Vietnam does not morph Ayers’ and Dohrn’s actions into moral actions.

    Last, if Ayers and Dohrn were strictly protesting Vietnam, their taking of life was immoral. However, they were not strictly protesting Vietnam. Ayers and Dohrn were radicals who were attempting to violently overthrow a democratic U.S. Government. Their attempts to take life were immoral on several levels.

    Ayers and Dohrn still are radicals who are attempting to overthrow the U.S. Government. However, at present, they choose to forego attempts to kill people. They are working through democratic means. I commend them, at least, for that.

    Bombs ended the Holocaust. I don’t understand how you can say “bombs never contribute anything positive to any cause”. When Hezbollah next launches rockets into Israel, I hope you stand up for Israel’s right to defend her children from being blown to smithereens.

    I don’t understand how tas can say “I don’t condone violence, period”, then immediately condemn persons who condemn Ayers’ and Dohrn’s attempts to kill Americans.

    Further, if tas’ sister or wife or daughter were being attacked, I hope he would condone violence in their defense.

  5. tas says:

    I’m holed up in the library, studying for a midterm, and I had to click on this comment thread… Sigh. Couple of quick replies:

    I don’t understand how tas can say “I don’t condone violence, period”, then immediately condemn persons who condemn Ayers’ and Dohrn’s attempts to kill Americans.

    Because it’s political. Because the same people who wish to burn Obama at the stake for having an association with Ayers (and that’s really all it is — you can’t even call this a steady friendship) also show no remorse — none — for Vietnam. The Vietnam War caused far, far, far more damage. So when people complain about Obama and Ayers, nobody complains about the Republicans and, say, Henry Kissenger; a man Palin was just acquainted with. Why is that? The latter’s crimes against humanity are far greater than the former’s.

    Further, if tas’ sister or wife or daughter were being attacked, I hope he would condone violence in their defense.

    And if I’m being attacked, I’ll cave in the perpetrator’s head — I wouldn’t like to, and I hope that I wouldn’t have to, but if the situation calls for such a method of self defense, I will.

    The United States, however, never faced a threat from Vietnam. The war was not an act of self defense.

  6. Kathy says:

    Just to add to what tas wrote, above, on points he did not directly address:

    That America immorally took life in Vietnam does not morph Ayers’ and Dohrn’s actions into moral actions.

    You’re right. And by the same token, Ayers and Dohrn’s choice to use violence in response to violence does not morph the Vietnam War into a moral event. In my view, Ayers’ and Dohrns’ and their associates use of bombs to protest the bombing of Vietnam was contemptible — especially the nail bomb that ended up killing two of Ayers’ friends and associates when it exploded prematurely, because nail bombs are specifically anti-personnel weapons. And I felt the same way back when these events were happening — back when you, gcotharn, were just a persistent irritation in your mother’s eyes.

    My point (and I think tas’s but I won’t speak for him), is that it is absolute madness, not to mention immorality, to analogize *those* individual acts of inexcusable violence to *the Vietnam War,* which, in the U.S. phase, lasted for over 10 years and killed *millions* of people. How you can condemn the one as terrorism and praise the second as liberation and democracy is beyond me.

    Ayers and Dohrn still are radicals who are attempting to overthrow the U.S. Government.

    That is untrue, and although you should provide support for such a statement, I know why you didn’t — because you can’t.

    Bombs ended the Holocaust.

    The effectiveness of British and American aerial bombing of European cities has been much debated. It’s generally agreed now that the bombing of industrial targets such as oil facilities did significantly shorten the war, although most of it occurred so late in the war that Germany’s defeat was already inevitable.

    By the time Germany surrendered, however, six million European Jews out of a total 1933 European Jewish population of 9.5 million had been murdered by the Nazis. Hitler did not succeed in completely exterminating all the Jews in Europe, but he came very close. And he did unquestionably succeed in wiping out European Jewry in a cultural and historical sense. The Jewish Virtual Library puts the present-day population of Europe at roughly 1.5 million, including both EU and non-EU countries.

    My point is that the Holocaust almost succeeded, despite bombing. The Allied bombing did not end the Holocaust. It ended the war in Europe. But the Holocaust had been all but completed. If the Allies had seen fit to bomb the rail lines to the death camps, they could actually have ended the Holocaust and saved many lives. But saving Jewish lives was not a priority for the Allies, and in fact, to a large extent wasn’t even considered desirable, because what would the Allies have done with the Jews they saved? Where would they have put them? Virtually no country in the world wanted them — very much including the United States.

    Don’t get me started on this subject, gcotharn. I own it, in a way you never ever will or could.

  7. Kathy says:

    I’ll just add that one of the reasons the Holocaust came so close to complete success was that it was the top priority for Hitler — even more important than winning the larger war. When it was clear that Germany’s defeat was a sure thing, Hitler and his henchmen took steps to speed up the killing. Up until the very last moment before the Allies took over the camps, the process of murdering Jews continued.

    If the United States and Britain had been as intent on saving the Jews of Europe as Hitler was on destroying them, just imagine how many more could have been saved.

  8. gcotharn says:

    tas,

    Your point: Wingnuts who do not criticize Vietnam are hypocrites is premised on the Vietnam campaign having been immoral. I disagree with that premise.

    I thought this sentence:

    But what kind of sick, demented psychopaths are we dealing with who believe it’s right to ask for thousands of Americans to violently, gruesomely die for a useless cause, while vilifying a man for using much lesser amounts of force to protest this?

    tried to justify Ayers’ and Dohrn’s attempts to kill Americans. I was arguing against defending Ayers’ and Dohrn’s unjustifiable actions.

    I knew you would, in a dire situation, violently defend your sister/wife/daughter. You do condone violence. Your point is not about the righteousness of violence, but rather about the righteousness of when or when not to apply it.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Kathy,

    What are you talking about? I was the apple of my mother’s eye! – which you could’ve guessed, I’ll bet, if you had thought about it. 🙂

    We’re never going to agree about the morality/immorality of American action in Vietnam. I’ve been careful to avoid proffering any evidence of American morality in that instance. tas was, imo, using Vietnam as a method of defending Ayers’ and Dohrn’s actions. I was disagreeing with that.

    attempting to overthrow the U.S. Government
    Maybe we should define our terms.

    Ayers and Dohrn are now working inside the democratic process, and I commend them for that. What they are trying to “overthrow” is the vision of liberty and pursuit of happiness which was shared by Hamilton, Adams, Jefferson, et al. Maybe I could’ve written about that more clearly.

    Ayers’ and Dohrn’s vision is to install into government smart people who will dictate economic policy and social policy in ways which are superior to the storm and urge of free markets and wildly free people. Their vision amounts to micromanagement which is so radical as to constitute an overthrow of American culture and society as we know it.

    Now that I’ve more clearly defined what I meant, I hope we can generally agree about Ayers’ and Dohrn’s intentions. If not, I can, tonight, Google some links of Ayers’ and Dohrn’s own words, circa Nov. 2007. They openly claim their current work is a straight line extension of their work from 1968. They are merely using other methods. Ayers’, especially, considers his education mission to be one of radicalizing American students.

    I’m now remembering you and I have lightly touched on this before, and you are sticking with “Stanley Kurtz didn’t find anything; Ayers is just some guy who lives in Obama’s neighborhood.” I counter that Ayers openly admits he is trying to radicalize students. Ayers’ and Obama’s record of collaboration shows a “co-conspiracy by an adult Obama in programs expressly designed [by Ayers] to overturn our existing American value system by indoctrinating students from toddler-age up with revolutionary rhetoric and doctrine.” (quoted portion if from Beldar)

    Obama lied when he inferred Ayers was merely “a guy who lives in my neighborhood.” Why did Obama lie? Why? I think I’ve shown a big part of the answer above. Obama certainly has not given an answer. His lie was his last word on the topic.

    Bombs ended the Holocaust
    I say: bombs contributed to ending the Holocaust, and therefore “Bombs ended the Holocaust” is an accurate statement. My main point was:

    I don’t understand how you can say “bombs never contribute anything positive to any cause”.

    You yourself now admit bombs contributed something positive to a cause:

    It’s generally agreed now that the bombing of industrial targets such as oil facilities did significantly shorten the war

    and that bombs, had they been deployed, could’ve contributed something positive to a cause

    If the Allies had seen fit to bomb the rail lines to the death camps, they could actually have ended the Holocaust and saved many lives.

    My point is made.

    I congratulate you on your knowledge of WWII and the Holocaust. It’s just one more thing to like about you.

  9. Kathy says:

    Now that I’ve more clearly defined what I meant, I hope we can generally agree about Ayers’ and Dohrn’s intentions.

    Defined as changing (not “dictating”) economic and social policy in ways that correct the worst excesses of so-called “free markets” and that actually give people the tools to be free, in a meaningful definition of that word. Your definition of “wildly free,” given that it rests on a belief in unfettered, unregulated “free markets,” is not the same as my definition of freedom. Yours is the kind of freedom suggested in Carly Simon’s song line, “I was in the desert, free to live or die,” or in Kris Kristofferson’s “Bobby McGee”: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

    You yourself now admit bombs contributed something positive to a cause:

    It’s generally agreed now that the bombing of industrial targets such as oil facilities did significantly shorten the war

    Bombing industrial targets is a whole lot different from bombing civilians.

    and that bombs, had they been deployed, could’ve contributed something positive to a cause

    Right, because had they been deployed in the context I was referencing above, they would have been destroying railroad tracks and freight cars, which are not made of flesh and blood, but which rather served as inanimate means to convey Jews, who *were* flesh and blood, to their deaths. I don’t have a problem with bombing rail lines and cattle cars so human beings can no longer be transported to gas chambers and ovens.

  10. gcotharn says:

    The heart of our disagreement may be that I consider Ayers’ and Dohrn’s economic and governmental ideas radical and you do not. I believe anyone who is known to have the tiniest bit of sympathy for their ideas is unelectable as POTUS.* I believe this is why Barack is lying about and covering up his relationship with them.

    *Sadly, a blow to your future political opportunities! You can always run for governor, or you can move to Vermont and run for the U.S. Senate.

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