Moral Arithmetic

by lizard

While America is absorbed with anointing our next chief executive, I offer a clip from a discussion about Syria. In this clip, two Syrian women talk about the Islamic extremists who are trying to topple their country’s regime.

The second woman who speaks is known as “Syrian girl” and she has become a very vocal advocate for the counter-narrative to the Syrian crisis—that extremists (supported by the CIA) including elements of Al-Qaeda, are themselves committing atrocities against civilians, and if Assad falls, it’s going to be those Islamic extremists who will more than likely fill the vacuum of power.

Last week, a young veteran knocked on my door. He was an Afghanistan vet against the war, and he was knocking doors for Jon Tester. When he asked me what issues I’m most concerned about, I said foreign policy. He seemed surprised, and said he was glad to hear that, because it’s not an issue that seems to be high on the list for many Americans.

I think Americans have trouble examining US foreign policy because the cognitive dissonance lurking beneath the surface is disorienting.

During my brief conversation with this young veteran, neither of us had any illusions about how dangerous US foreign policy had become. The same brand of terrorists we’ve spent trillions of dollars fighting in Afghanistan and blowing up in places like Yemen and Somalia are being materially supported in places like Syria. It’s insane.

And the insanity will continue, no matter who gets elected.

It’s not very popular among partisans to point out where our two political parties overlap, but when it comes to foreign policy, that overlap is significant, as shown in the foreign policy debate, where Mitt Romney essentially regurgitated Obama’s policy positions.

If you follow the link above, you will find a popular Montana partisan using this quote from Jen Sorensen at Daily Kos to marginalize critics like me:

I find that people who spew the platitude that “the candidates are the same” tend to be the ones who have the least to lose if the wrong candidate is elected. At risk of sounding melodramatic, these elections truly are a matter of life and death. If you end the Affordable Care Act and millions of Americans lose their health insurance, people will die as a result. A recent estimate puts the number at 26,000 deaths per year due to lack of insurance; that’s more than a few September 11ths. Then there’s the Global Gag Rule, which Romney would reinstate. It rarely gets mentioned, but this policy wreaks havoc on women in impoverished nations. Romney would also end contributions to the U.N. Population Fund, which combats the spread of HIV and prevents 22,000 deaths annually.

Click on Sorensen’s name and you can see a literally comic comparison of Romney and Obama, with a column of Obama “at his worst” alongside a column of Romney “at his best.” Here’s one example:

Obama at his worst: continuing the drone strikes.
Romney at his best: might refrain from nuking Iran.

At the end of Sorensen’s snide post, she says this:

Obama isn’t perfect, but as far as I’m concerned, voting is a moral arithmetic problem with a clear answer.

I wonder if Jen Sorensen’s moral arithmetic includes Robert Gibbs’ justification for one of those drone strikes killing a US teenager.

Here is the key exchange:

ADAMSON: …It’s an American citizen that is being targeted without due process, without trial. And, he’s underage. He’s a minor.

GIBBS: I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don’t think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.

I fail to see how anyone’s moral arithmetic could possibly include the targeted assassination of a 16 year old boy because his Dad (also a US citizen, and also assassinated via drone strike) was declared irresponsible in how he conducted his jihadist business, the same business the Obama administration is itself conducting in Syria.

As far as I know, the Obama administration has not refuted or condemned Gibbs’ statement regarding its killing of a US teenager.

As a father himself, I hope president Obama can see how the arithmetic of killing a kid because of the alleged crimes of his father is absolutely morally reprehensible, and for the safety of his own daughters, Obama should emphatically condemn Robert Gibbs indefensible justification.

Jen Sorensen is right about one thing: these elections truly are a matter of life and death. But the lesser evil arithmetic means that some deaths are more important than others, and for a 16 year old American citizen (and the constitution that is suppose to protect him), his death doesn’t count as much as Americans dying because our health care system is broken.


  1. steve kelly

    Both parties are in deep denial. Add to this the sick and twisted history of the School of the Americas; renamed and reopened in 2001 (surely only a coincidence) on the same site as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation after Congress officially closed it in 2000.
    An estimated 2,000 soldiers from Latin America and Caribbean nations are still trained each year in the fine art of torture, intimidation, assasination, etc. It’s latest accomplishment: The Chiquita-Dole-CIA coup in Honduras in 2009, which was pretty much ignored by both parties and President Obama — a reaction to a proposed 60% raise in the minimum wage. “Democracy” in action.

  2. Turner

    Just to be clear, Liz, do you think we should side with Assad because some of those rebelling against him are Al-Qaeda?

    • lizard19

      I don’t know how to answer that question because I don’t think you’re looking for clarity, I think you are trying to conflate my criticism of US policy in Syria with support for a dictator killing his own people (and he’s a super bad guy because he may be responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, unlike Obama’s measly three).

      let me ask you a question: what about the two Syrian women in the clip, do their opinions matter? because it should.

      and would you believe there are people in Syria who hate Assad, but still don’t want to see him toppled because of who may take power?

      but hey, it’s just some Al-Qaeda, right? is there a tolerable number of Al-Qaeda, and a legitimate role for them to play in Syria’s civil war? I’d like to see the national polling on that question.

      honestly, the fact we’re even having this conversation about how much al-Qaeda to support in Syria is pretty amazing.

      anyways, good luck tomorrow at the polls, Turner.




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