Is this Nothing More than Good versus Evil?

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As the clouds of dust literally and figuratively settle in New York City after the horrific attack there, the pundits (like me) are attempting to put their thoughts in perspective. It seems that the aftermath commentary follows two paths. The first asks, "Why did this happen," while the second follows with, "What should we do?"

I have no answers to the second question. Yes, this was a monstrous deed and those who helped perpetrate it should be punished. That is simple justice, and it demands satisfaction. However, to judge by the reactions of some people overseas and even here, they believe that justice, however, crude, already has been met in this latest wave of attacks against the USA. I cannot accept such a belief, but I also know that if the U.S. Government retaliates — as it surely will — that the end results will not produce justice, either.

Thus, I find myself in a quandary regarding how this government should respond. Not to pursue justice is wrong, and to seek revenge is also wrong, and I am afraid that what we will have is not justice, but revenge.

However, I can deal with the first question. Others have come before me, and many of them have concluded that these militant Muslims attacked us because we are virtuous and they are evil. One example comes from columnist Stephen Chapman, who writes:

Evil is still here. It begets evil. When you look at the delighted faces of Palestinians cheering in the streets, we have to realize that there are cultures on this planet of such depravity that understanding them is never fully possible. And empathy for them at such a moment is obscene. But we can observe and remember. There is always a tension between civilization and barbarism, and the barbarians are now here. The task in front of us to somehow stay civilized while not shrinking from the face of extinguishing — by sheer force if necessary — the forces that would eclipse us.

To Chapman the answer is simple: Palestinians and the supporters are evil people who emanate from an evil culture. There is no curing them, and to save ourselves, we must wipe them off the face of the earth. Columnist Cal Thomas says basically the same thing, although he is a much less eloquent writer than Chapman.

I have read others as well. We are wealthy and free, say some, and others are envious of what we have, both materially and spiritually. We are a free people, and folks like those evil Palestinians hate freedom and want to wipe it out wherever it may be.

That might make sense if Palestinians were also to be targeting everyone else who was relatively free. For example, Switzerland is every bit as capitalist and free as the USA, yet I hear of no one attacking the Swiss. Moreover, I doubt that Muslims avoid attacking Sweden because it has a well-developed welfare state and a relatively open society.

In fact, I doubt that Muslims attack Americans because they hate us. That is correct. Most Middle Easterners I have met actually like Americans because they are usually open and friendly. What they hate is our government and how it meddles so forcefully in their lives.

We have been led to believe that Muslims hate our client state of Israel because Muslims simply are bigoted Jew-hating anti-Semites. Those who criticize Israel are always portrayed as racists and bigots.

Yet, I believe that one can be critical of Israel, a militant socialist state, and not hate Jews. For that matter, there are a number of deeply religious Jews who have never supported a secular Jewish State. They certainly are not anti-Semites.

The hard truth is that whatever freedoms we have at home — dwindling as they are — the government that supposedly represents us cares little for real freedom abroad. For example, a few years ago Washington politicians and the press proclaimed shock over the prospect of Chinese interests funneling money to Democratic Party candidates. (Of course, they were not so shocked as to really do anything substantive about it. What we mostly received was chest-beating rhetoric.) The idea of a foreign nation attempting to influence our elections was political anathema.

Yet, the U.S. Government regularly interferes with elections overseas, and not just in Third World nations. The Clinton Administration involved itself directly in the election of Tony Blair’s Labour Party to a majority in Great Britain. American involvement with elections in Central America is legendary, and even now the U.S. Embassy in Belarus is funneling money and resources to a coalition of communists to elect them to power in that nation. Furthermore, that the U.S. Government directly influences elections in Israel is indisputable.

This double standard not only is intolerable, it is also immoral. Because this government constantly interferes on the side of intervention, socialism, and anti-enterprise politicians, one result is that people of poor nations remain poor. For example, while some may give kudos to the U.S. Government for giving low-interest loans to Third World governments ostensibly for "development" purposes, in reality the money simply props up despotic, corrupt regimes whose actions actually retard meaningful private development in those countries.

Furthermore, there are few more anti-enterprise institutions on this earth than the U.S. Government. The columnists write of the envy others have of our wealth and freedom, yet on any typical day in Congress, one will hear speeches that stir up envy and hatred of Americans for one another. Our tax code is based on envy and class warfare, and those who dare speak out against it or try to change it are viciously assaulted in print and in the airwaves by those who believe that freedom and free enterprise are evil.

If elected officials in this nation denounce wealth and freedom, how can people say that others would not do the same? Every good thing our civilization has produced from stable, two-parent families to a vast cornucopia of goods and services to religious freedom to good, classic literature is attacked in the halls of academe, Congress, the White House, state capitals, and by journalists and artists. Not only that, but the same class of people who denounce what remains good and right about this nation are the same people making policies on how this government deals with the peoples of other nations. That can hardly be reassuring, as they are the ones who will decide what action will be taken in the wake of the recent bombings.

Yes, I believe it was evil for the Palestinians to be celebrating in the streets just as I think it was wrong for Americans to have cheered and honored American soldiers, sailors, and airmen for having laid much Iraq to waste. We made war on people who were not at war with us, just as we did in Serbia. Please remember that what the U.S. Government did in the Persian Gulf a decade ago (and is still doing) was the ultimate reason that those hijackers commandeered passenger jets into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon Tuesday.

The hijackers believed they were pursuing justice, not revenge. I wholeheartedly disagree, but if we are to begin to understand why this horrible event occurred, we need to look inward at ourselves and at those who purport to rule us, and who we permit to hold power over us and so many others around the world.

William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

© 2001 LewRockwell.com

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