Moral Dissonance

Europeans insist that they’re morally superior to Americans. They say that they’re the peacemakers, we’re the warmongers. Our invasion of Iraq is used as the latest talking point they use to try and shore up their sagging self esteem.

Differences in foreign policy aside, the Euros also say that they inhabit the moral high ground on a personal level. If Americans really cared about their fellow man, they say, then we’d vote for local and state politicians that vow to abolish the death penalty. They’re not shy in condemning the practice as barbaric and brutal.

The BBC has published this news article, which details how American forensic experts are uncovering mass graves in Iraq with depressing regularity. Their latest find is a trench that contains the remains of hundreds of children and their mothers, some of whom were pregnant when they were tossed in the hole and the dirt shovelled on top.

The skeletons of unborn babies and toddlers clutching toys are being unearthed, the investigators said. (snip)

The body of one woman was found still clutching a baby. The infant had been shot in the back of the head and the woman in the face. “The youngest foetus we have was 18 to 20 foetal weeks,” said US investigating anthropologist P Willey. “Tiny bones, femurs – thighbones the size of a matchstick.”

The remains of hundreds of thousands of innocent victims are being uncovered, evidence that can be used against Saddam in court. But the work is going slow because the European investigators have refused to participate. They’re afraid that the evidence they supply will be used to eventually put Saddam to death.

So the Americans are wrong to have invaded Iraq, which was the only way to end the slaughter and keep more children from being killed. And now the Americans are wrong to investigate the crimes since the dictator who’s responsible might have to face justice for them.

I’m having trouble seeing the moral superiority of the European position here.

(Big hat tip to blog goddess Natalie Solent.)

14 thoughts on “Moral Dissonance”

  1. I do wonder whether these mass graves experts names are in the public record and whether they have any idea at how their refusal to become involved outrages so many over here.

  2. Since the experts are presumably still in country but not doing the jobs they were sent there for, the US should move them out of the Green Zone and they could find residences for themselves in Baghdad proper.

  3. “Europeans insist that they’re morally superior to Americans”

    Please give evidence for this wild generalisation.

  4. Most Europeans have only a generation or two of experience with this democracy and individual liberty thing. Many seem to be uncomfortable with the responsibility and are more than willing to opt out of individuality in favor of a super-bureaucracy. Not likely to find many strong thinkers in that bunch.

  5. On the Europe / USA death penalty issue:

    I can’t speak for the mainland, (and as others point out, Europe is rather
    more diverse than you imply), but the difference between the USA and the UK
    on the death penalty is that the USA is more democratic. There has always been
    a large majority supporting the death penalty here, but the political establishment
    will not countenance it.

    On the other hand, in some (many?) US states, the death penalty has been abolished
    _because the electorate has voted against it_. I’m not sure how many European
    countries can boast that as evidence of their moral superiority.

  6. P. Piper, you will find evidence of this “wild generalization” in every other editorial published on the Continent about foreign policy, free trade, the environment, corporate governance, crime, the death penalty, racism, poverty, health care or pensions when compared with the US practice. Or almost any op-ed about Israel.

    Of course, Europeans are nuanced so these things are more often implied than stated loudly and unambiguously. Cultivated ambiguity is, after all, cooler than cool…which makes John Kerry such a cool dude indeed.

    So pick one and google it. The content of many generally glowing reviews of Michael Moore’s work are a good start. Or if you can read French, you can search for the word “americanisation” in the online archives of the local papers. Note the context and usage. If you find one example where it doesn’t imply the unacceptable and immoral destruction of whatever it qualifies, let me know.

    I’ll frame it.

  7. Obviously, I am horrified at the killing fields of Iraq. HOWEVER, lets not jump in and claim moral superiority to the Europeans by implying we invaded Iraq to liberate the Iraqis (“So the Americans are wrong to have invaded Iraq, which was the only way to end the slaughter and keep more children from being killed.”).

    The liberation was always intended as a side effect. The reason we went in, we were told, was to defuse a dangerous threat to American security and to lay the groundwork for prevention of similar threats from Iraq in the future. This included the formation of a democracy and introduction of free markets in Iraq.

    We did NOT go in out of our love for Iraqi people, or because we were moved by their plight. Quite frankly, it is not America’s business to be world policeman. If so, then consistency demands deployments over pretty much all of Africa. If you are disturbed enough by these killing fields to justify an invasion, then I assure you that you will move even faster to invade the Sudan.

    Unfortunately the world is not a uniformly nice place. But America is not a benevolent demigod-policeman either. This country was founded on the principles of avoiding foreign wars and engaging in peaceful trade with all. Of course, if we are attacked, we should and we will retaliate.

    But I think what annoys a lot of non-Americans is precisely this projected view of America as conscience of the world, which it really isn’t… and thats ok! It is rational for every country to seek its own interest above all, and we need not justify Iraq with the killing fields, since we should be able to justify it through our legitimate security needs.

  8. So we went to Iraq to ave the Iraqis from Saddam.
    This is news!!
    so being hypocrital. We are paying real attention to these crimes by default. This is pure intoxication to believe we are there for humanitarian reason.

  9. “Obviously, I am horrified at the killing fields of Iraq. HOWEVER, lets not jump in and claim moral superiority to the Europeans by implying we invaded Iraq to liberate the Iraqis.”

    Last time I checked, the entire point of the post was that the Europeans are claiming that they’re morally superior to the US because they were willing to let Saddam stay in power while we invaded to end his reign. Every time we unearth the remains of an innocent victim we prove that to be a lie.

    So far as our own justification for the invasion is concerned, I think actions to save innocent lives are supremely moral. The fact that our government, which has to answer to the voters, was mostly concerned with American lives is immaterial. (peter should pay attention to that last paragraph.)


  10. What other country can be the moral compass of the world? No greater population on earth lives with the freedoms that we do, and also has the power we yeild.I don’t see spain doing a damn thing about preventing another attack. They must have forgotten, you get what you pay for…

  11. That S.O.B. Saddam needed killing. There were multiple reasons why this was so — his sheltering Abu Abbas and other terrorists, his use of poison gas, his genocide against the Kurds and the Mada’an Arabs of the southern marshes, the $25,000 awards to the families of suidice bombers, his imaginative use of industrial shredders, and lastly, his refusal to abide by the terms of the cease-fire. Remember, he was supposed to cooperate with inspections, not kick the inspectors out until we sent some armored divisions to the sandbox as proof of our sincerity.

    The fact that there were multiple sufficient reasons to overthrow him seems to be a vindication in the eyes of the Euros. We disagree. Must be a lack of nuance.

    By the way, that Iraqi who was the supposed mastermind of the 1993 WTC bombing went home after the attack. You don’t suppose Saddam knew anything about that, do you? And that Zarqawi guy was just an innocent tourist in Iraq before we blundered in, right?

    After the 9/11 attacks, we were no longer willing to let the regimes supporting terror to deny responsibility for atrocities planned and launched from their countries. Plausible deniability is no more. Screwing us over is not safe.

  12. America has been europe’s conscious and will for the past 80 years. I see europe as a senile striken parent that we have been charged to care for after they lost all their mental and physical skills.

    We should not take europe’s rhetoric seriously, they are old and senile.

    America has carried the world forward for the past 80 years. We have helped its people live with less fear, greater happiness and more prosperty. America is the greatest nation that the history has todate witnessed.

    Seriously, it is sad to be attacked by those you have pulled out of despair and loss.

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