Chris Hedges well illustrates the leftist obsession with moral equivalentism in his piece, "We are All Islamic State."
I will quote some portions, then comment. The piece begins:
Revenge is the psychological engine of war. Victims are the blood currency. Their corpses are used to sanctify acts of indiscriminate murder. Those defined as the enemy and targeted for slaughter are rendered inhuman. They are not worthy of empathy or justice. Pity and grief are felt exclusively for our own. We vow to eradicate a dehumanized mass that embodies absolute evil. The maimed and dead in Brussels or Paris and the maimed and dead in Raqqa or Sirte perpetuate the same dark lusts. We all are Islamic State.
Hedges opens with a curious mixture of insight and illusion.
Granted, war opens the flood gates to revenge, and much of what takes place in a war is revenge. There was plenty of revenge in the fire bombing of Dresden by the Allies in WWII. The Brits wanted revenge for the Blitz. Perhaps you know where the V-1 and V-2 nomenclature comes from: they were Vergeltungswaffen, weapons of revenge. But there is nothing in the nature of warfare to require that in every case war be revenge. Revenge is not the same as retributive justice and there are or at least can be just wars. If the state can justly punish a wrongdoer for his wrongdoing, then one state can justly punish another for its wrongdoing, even if this happens only rarely and partially. There are rogue states. German philosopher Karl Jaspers referred to the Nazi regime as a Verbrecherstaat, a criminal state. Surely he was right. A bunch of thugs seized power and unleashed hell on earth. Or will Hedges and his comrades say that Churchhill's England and Hitler's Germany were morally equivalent?
Hedges' moral equivalentism is false and offensive. On September 1, 1939, Hitler's Wehrmacht invaded Poland. Does Hedges really think that the defensive operations undertaken by the Poles were motivated by revenge? Or that the Poles engaged in indiscriminate murder? And how exactly is killing in self-defense murder? Can Hedges think in moral categories? Does he think that self-defense is never morally justified?
Speaking of Islamic terrorists, Hedges claims that "Their tactics are cruder, but morally they are the same as us."This is beneath refutation. So beheading and crucifixion are merely "cruder" than waterboarding, but otherwise morally equivalent? It is already quite a stretch to speak as leftists do of waterboarding as torture. Would C. Hitchens and other journalists have delivered themselves up for torture? Would they have submitted to to the insertion of red hot pokers into their anal cavities?
The Christian religion embraces the concept of “holy war” as fanatically as Islam does. Our Crusades are matched by the concept of jihad. Once religion is used to sanctify murder there are no rules. It is a battle between light and dark, good and evil, Satan and God. Rational discourse is banished. And “the sleep of reason,” as Goya said, “brings forth monsters.”
Hedges is certainly warming to this theme, isn't he? The present tense of 'embraces' renders the first sentence manifestly false. Hedges needs to give some examples of holy wars prosecuted by Christian denominations in recent centuries. He won't be able to do this, which is why he brings up the Crusades. Hedges is making at least three mistakes.
First, he refuses to admit that it is obviously unfair to compare present atrocities by Muslim fanatics to long past atrocities -- if atrocities they were -- by Christians. Islam was and remains a violent religion. Christianity has long reformed itself.
Second, Hedges cannot or will not understand that the same sorts of war-like activities that are morally wrong when deployed offensively can be morally acceptable when deployed defensively.
Third, Hedges is unaware or will not admit that the Crusades were defensive wars and ipso facto morally justified. Thomas F. Madden:
For starters, the Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression—an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands.
Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Christianity—and for that matter any other non-Muslim religion—has no abode. Christians and Jews can be tolerated within a Muslim state under Muslim rule. But, in traditional Islam, Christian and Jewish states must be destroyed and their lands conquered. When Mohammed was waging war against Mecca in the seventh century, Christianity was the dominant religion of power and wealth. As the faith of the Roman Empire, it spanned the entire Mediterranean, including the Middle East, where it was born. The Christian world, therefore, was a prime target for the earliest caliphs, and it would remain so for Muslim leaders for the next thousand years.
With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed’s death. They were extremely successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt—once the most heavily Christian areas in the world—quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.
That is what gave birth to the Crusades. They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.
Back to Hedges' tirade:
How can we rise up in indignation over Islamic State’s destruction of cultural monuments such as Palmyra when we have left so many in ruins? As Frederick Taylor points out in his book “Dresden,” during the World War II bombing of Germany we destroyed countless “churches, palaces, historic buildings, libraries, museums,” including “Goethe’s house in Frankfurt” and “the bones of Charlemagne from Aechen cathedral” along with “the irreplaceable contents of the four-hundred-year-old State Library in Munich.” Does anyone remember that in a single week of bombing during the Vietnam War we obliterated most of that country’s historic My Son temple complex? Have we forgotten that our invasion of Iraq led to the burning of the National Library, the looting of the National Museum and the construction of a military base on the site of the ancient city of Babylon? Thousands of archeological sites have been destroyed because of the wars we spawned in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Libya.
Amazingly, Hedges thinks he can simply ignore the crucial difference between the unintended destruction of cultural artrifacts that comes about as collateral damage and the willfull, intended destruction by Nazi and Islamist savages of cultural goods. Could this idiot actually think that Churchill's England and Hitler's Germany were morally equivalent? To defeat the Third Reich drastic measures were required, and time was running out: the Nazis would soon have have had nuclear weapons had they not been brought to their knees.
It goes without saying that my opposition to the moral equivalentism of the lunatic Left is no endorsement of moral Manicheanism. No man is without sin, and no state either.
In my Chris Hedges on Pornography I praise the guy.