Sloppy moral relativism in the wake of death
It is easy to feel repulsed by the gruesome details of Colonel Gaddafi’s final moments as they continue to flood the airwaves in the wake of his burial. Yet it is also easy to identify sloppy moral relativism when it creeps into ethical public discourse.
It is easier still to ignore it when you see it in print. For a change, I thought I might not let a recent example of this slide. There were important operational and ethical differences between the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Colonel Gaddafi. The prospect of peacefully arresting and extracting a death-seeking jihadist barricaded in a fortified compound was always going to be slim.
This situation stands in contrast to the one faced by the militarised and murderous rebel mob who callously refused the surrender of a wounded and shaken 69-year-old armed only with a comically bling ‘golden pistol’ in a drain pipe in broad daylight.
Had it not been for a trite moral comparison between the two events, The Punch piece this week by Kuranda Seyit might have otherwise passed as little more than an earnest reflection on societal decorum and a mildly interesting homily on revisionist, normative Islam.
Begging the comparison between Americans celebrating the surgical termination of a scheming homicidal maniac bent on bettering September 11 next chance he got and the bloodthirsty rebel forces gleefully slaying Col. Gaddafi on film, Mr. Seyit has the nerve to ask: “Where has our collective humanity gone?”
Earlier this year Mr. Seyit was quoted as saying he was “disgusted” by Americans celebrating despite the fact that the crisp, professionally conducted military operation finally ended Osama bin Laden’s unceasing threats and assaults on innocent American, British, Australian, Iraqi, and Afghani civilian populations.
Bin Laden was then afforded a respectful Islamic burial (undeservingly as argued by some Muslims) and the Obama administration had the decency not to publish the footage of bin Laden’s inglorious final moments.
Yet appallingly Mr. Seyit went on to say that the ensuing celebrations were, “just like the so-called reports by American television of Muslims celebrating after September 11, this is just as bad.”
Yes, “so-called” reports by the distinguished British news service Reuters who captured this footage on 9/11. Reuters also offered this rebuke to those like Mr. Seyit who appears to buy into such tripe conspiracy theories.
However what is most disgusting about Mr. Seyit’s remarks is his “just like”/“just as bad” charge. Excuse me? Americans breathing a collective sigh of relief over the demise of the decidedly un-Geneva convention abiding bin Laden are really “just as bad” as those rejoicing over the premeditated slaughter of innocent civilians in New York on September 11?
Whatever one has to say about the war in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or whatever political sympathies prompt Mr. Seyit to take such a morally vapid position, it is demonstrably true that one side intentionally targets civilians whereas the other does not. Either this distinction matters or it doesn’t.
Where indeed has our collective humanity gone?
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