Philosoraptor: Reactions to Saddam’s Capture

A long, but extremely interesting piece of soul-searching from Winston Smith of Philosoraptor: Politically incorrect degrees of happiness. He’s talking about the right wingers’ demand that lefties rejoice in the capture of Saddam (a rejoicing that, in the righties’ case, smells of hypocrisy, given the way their Presidents Reagan and Bush the First armed and financed Saddam in the 1980s, when many of the worst crimes “against his own people” now being recalled actually took place).

But Smith doesn’t really focus on that issue. Instead, he looks inside himself, asking why he feels empty and hollow about an event he looked forward to for so long. From his conclusion:

Actions are morally good or bad on the basis of intentions–on the basis of the goals for which they are undertaken–and we undertook this war not in order to bring justice to Iraq, but in order to eliminate a threat our leaders invented almost out of whole cloth. We had a morally good goal and a goal that motivated us, but sadly these were two different goals. The not-especially-noble goal of self-defense actually moved us to act, something that the morally laudable goal of deposing the tyrant never would have done by itself. The morally laudable goal was invoked only after the fact, after it became painfully obvious that our action taken in self-defense was based on irresponsibly shoddy evaluation of the evidence. Shamed, and left without a plausible reason for doing what we had done, we were all too willing to be manipulated again, especially when this time we were being manipulated into accepting an account of things that made us, not pusillanimous lackwits sheepishly obeying orders to fire indiscriminately, but brave and noble defenders of the downtrodden.

The thing I like most about this, as with all the stuff on his site, is the way Winston Smith doesn’t talk down to his reader. He’s talking to himself, and that means that even if others can take refuge in ignorance or partisanship in order to make merry over Saddam’s capture, he doesn’t get to. He’s too honest with himself for that.

That sort of honesty is supremely important. I may disagree with some of the things he posts on his site, but I give him credit for being honest. He’s holding himself to a higher standard. He can still be mistaken, can still be wrong, but at least he won’t be wilfully wrong.

It’s a lot like what I was writing about Howard Dean the other day. Philosophers and doctors have to be honest in order to succeed in their chosen professions. Unlike, say, presidents and CEOs.

15 Responses to “Philosoraptor: Reactions to Saddam’s Capture”

  1. Tom Says:

    Before reading Mr. Smith’s piece, excerpted here, I was unaware that self defense was a “not-especially-noble goal” – particulary in the case of a nation’s self defense, which can entail the lives and safety of millions of people. Doesn ‘t everybody want to live, or is that desire particular to “pusillanimous lackwits sheepishly obeying orders to fire indiscriminately?”

    Isn’t the jury still out as to whether or not our analysis of this situation was completely irresponsible? No, the military has not found any WMD, and isn’t expected to – but they weren’t expected to capture Saddam, either. Forgive me if I don’t rush to paint myself into a corner as quickly as some others, on both sides of this issue, have already done. While I’m not prepared to believe in the existence of of Iraqi WMDs on George Bush’s word, I’m equally unwilling to dismiss their possible existance simply because his oppostion gives me their word that these weapons aren’t there.

    I still believe, although it only lengthens my tenure here as the least popular kid in school, that there would be a lot less soul-searching over the capture of Saddam were this not the election cycle, and were George Bush not president. Sorry, but I see little, anywhere I look, to dispell that feeling.

  2. Normal Person Says:

    What a complete waste of hard disk space this website is!

    I stumbled across this comedy scrapbook entirely by accident, and was shocked to find sad people moaning about how bad everything is.

    Pleeaaassee don’t tell me anymore of the rubbish listed below:

    1. “I don’t agree with war” – Nobody agrees with war you tw@ts!, the people that do are locked in prison and are termed ‘terrorists’.

    2. “Vast majority” – you and a couple of you tree hugging mates cannot be cast as the “vast majority”, again you are a minority of tw@ts!

    Bush and Blair Rock, Saddam sucks. Anti war demonstrators are members of the enemy. They represent regression and have no commitment towards peace as there efforts are re-active and not pro-active, representing NULL is the function of the anti-war movement.

  3. Adam Says:

    Tom: You’re right! If George Bush weren’t President, we might be talking about the capture of Osama bin Laden, and not some tinhorn dictator. Saddam was no threat to this country or its millions of citizens, except as a symbol of the Evil Arab World Out to Get Us (potent as that is).

    Normal Person: Have the courage of your convictions, man. If you want to say twat, go ahead and say it. I’m also puzzled why you would take time to respond to “this comedy scrapbook.” Maybe you should find a site more pleasing to your “Bush and Blair Rock!” sensibilities, like Free Republic. Go in peace, my brother.

  4. tom Says:

    Adam – Howard Dean may well get his crack at Osama, and we will then see what he can do – provided Bin Laden is not caught before the election.

    As for your assertion that Saddam was “no threat to this country or its millions of citizens..” I would submit that statement requires a lot more faith in Saddam Hussein’s good nature than I would be willing to extend. True, there is, thus far, no hard evidence to support Saddam’s status as an immediate threat, but there is ample suggestion that Saddam was cozy with the kind of people who clearly are an immediate threat, and may well have had designs on building himself into an immediate threat in the future. Even if Saddam did not possess the type of WMD that could wreak instant havok on the US or its allies, he had, as a matter of fact, been trying awfully hard for some years. Forgive me if I’m not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt simply because he had not been very successful at his efforts to do great harm. If a man is trying to throw rocks at me, I will not decide he is harmless, simply because he has not yet gotten hold of a rock big enough to hit me and kill me. The desire to harm is clearly present and, especially if he is sleeping with the girl whose father runs the rock quarry, I would imagine the opportunity might not be as far behind that desire as I might hope.

  5. a_stupid_box Says:

    It seems to me that someone who tosses about insults as freely as Mr. Person has would have the sensibility to post his real name or email address so as not to dicredit his own position. Of course, courage may not be his strong suit, as he obviously hasn’t enough to think for himself. He also seems to approach such a delicate subject as the killing of thousands without the care, concern, or even tact it requires.

    Verdict: media-slave or more likely active or ex armed forces member.

    Remember to eat your Wheaties, kids, so as not to become as st00pid as I.

  6. Tom Wynn Says:

    Stupid box: “…more likely active or ex armed forces member…”

    I agree with your over all assessment of Mr. Person, but I can’t help but detect an unseemly whiff of classism in your retort to him. Enlighten us: are all members of the armed forces mindless, or just cowardly?

  7. Adam Says:

    Tom: A lot of people may possibly wish us harm. I think the key is judging those threats, and the Bush administration has done a spectacularly poor job of that. I think “ample suggestion” and “may well have had designs” are not strong enough reasons to kill thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of Americans, and spend $200 billion or whatever the total will come to.

    The fact is that this war had almost nothing to do with whether Saddam was a credible threat to the U.S. It was waged as a general smackdown to the Arab world, flexing our muscles where it was “doable.” That just wasn’t sellable from a PR standpoint. (Remember the “You don’t introduce new products in August” comment from Chief of Staff Andrew Card?)

    What we’ve got is a guy in a hole and a country in shambles. Not a really good rollout, all things considered.

  8. a_stupid_box Says:

    “I agree with your over all assessment of Mr. Person, but I can’t help but detect an unseemly whiff of classism in your retort to him. Enlighten us: are all members of the armed forces mindless, or just cowardly?” — Tom

    1) Classism is a terrible thing, regarldess of how it’s used or which class it’s directed at (yes, even “damn the rich”). I greatly respect people who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect my personal wellbeing, and find it appauling that their lives are wasted by people like Bush.

    2) I never made a generalization that “all members of the armed forces are mindless” nor “all members of the armed forces are cowardly”. My assessment that N.P. may be in the armed forces was due to the fact that he so vehemently supported Bush and his actions — “Ours is not to question why; ours is but to do and die”.

    3) I don’t appreciate you trying to “trap” me into that. I respect you, Tom, though admittedly a bit less at this point. You’ve presented yourself as yet another person who makes improper conclusions and tries to justify them with a misinterpretation of stated information.

    What you understood and what I wrote were two very different things. Next time you want to go putting your foot in your mouth I suggest you email me — I provide the address for a reason. You’ll find that my personal replies are much easier to stomach than the leathery components of footwear.

  9. ymatt Says:

    The armed forces comment did seem a bit of an unnecessary and random generalization. There are plenty of civillian Bush supporters to go around and it’s probably best to attack their position instead of their occupation.

  10. a_stupid_box Says:

    ymatt — not random generalization, logical conclusion. See above.

  11. Tom Says:

    Stupid Box:

    1) If you respect any group of people, it is best to avoid the appearance of making them the butt of a negative generalization. You called “Normal Person” out for cowardice and lunkheadedness, then compared him in a flippant manner to members of the armed forces (whom you lumped in with “media slaves.”) Could it be you have a higher view than you indicated of Mr. Normal, small-minded cowards and media slaves, and sought to enoble these too often maligned types by lumping them in with the military you admire? Or were you were making some stab at the military by lumping them in with what I assumed to be the objects of your ire, judging from the first part of your post?

    2) Not that I think this is a much better point, but if this is what you meant, you should have just come out and said it.

    3) The respect is mutual , so I will respectfully submit that you’ve made the double mistake of a) strongly suggesting something you probably didn’t mean in your first post, then b) overreacting in your second post because you’ve been called on it. Thanks for the e-mail address, and there may be situations where I feel it is most proper to use it in conjunction with this forum. However, if you are willing to embarrass yourself in public, I see no good reason not to call you on it in public.

  12. a_stupid_box Says:

    Once more, inappropriate conclusions from misinterpreted data. Thanks for proving my point (again). As for your thinking that I embarrass myself in public, you’re talking to a guy who calls himself a_stupid_box. I’ll leave you to figure out what that infers (please put more thought into it than your standard post).

    I look forward to yet another reply of yours giving me a bit of amusement while skimming the local news. Don’t let me down.

  13. Tom Says:

    I’ll do my best not to disappoint.

  14. Patrick Says:

    May be so bold as to give the sweet and sour taste the capture of Saddam has?

    Sweet: That a bad man, yes he was bad in relation to other tyrants I would call him tyrant light. Remember that he was our former ally so he can’t be that bad, right? Was he as bad as people say, well that will come out in the trial I think if he makes it there alive. I believe allot of the bad evil man we made him out to be was from our powerful war machine…our propaganda machine. I know, I know, but but but e gassed his own people….read the war college report on that one people the CIA backs up. Lastly a threat to us? Common he couldn’t defeat Iran his NEIGHBOR with out support in 9 years…ahh yes the Iraqi navy is on our shores and the tanks on our borders…puhhlleeeaazzee.

    Sour: That the Coward in Chief will get some kind of browny points for capturing him, when we shouldn’t have been there in the first place. He may be able to to **gasp** get re-elected and make a bigger government more repressive government more wars being a lame duck Coward in Chief.

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