Thursday, July 17, 2008

Unfathomable Evil

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 had one indelible effect on me. I became viscerally aware that there were people in the world capable of the greatest evil. This effect was no doubt largely due to my relatively safe life history as a middle-class Baby Boomer in a relatively free country with a greater than average amount of affluence.

I had only recently become politically uncomfortable, having been shocked by the installation of the obviously inept George Bush as president and the string of actions since his inauguration that confirmed my assessment. As history later showed, the president had employed that great enabler of evil, delusion, in response to warnings about the terrorist threat, and three thousand Americans paid the ultimate price.

Variants of Bush’s behavior played out to similar effect in at least two national tragedies afterward: the war in Iraq and the flooding of New Orleans. At least two global disasters in-the-making were also made worse by the president’s unwillingness or inability to accept reality: over-population and over-pollution (most notably manifested by the climate crisis). By pursuing military adventurism, instilling incompetence in government, fighting birth control, refusing to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and a host of other actions such as institutionalizing torture and chipping away at the right to privacy, Bush and his enablers (Republican and Democrat) in Congress are arguably responsible for harm far in excess of what the terrorists achieved in 2001.

The best response to unfathomable acts of evil is to hold their perpetrators responsible; to determine and share with the world the how and why, and use deterrents (punishment) against them or others performing similar acts. The form of this response in the administration's case is spelled out by the Constitution, impeachment, but unfortunately the enablers are in a position to disable this response. This final insult to the rule of law is the ultimate act of evil, because it creates an atmosphere where much more harm can be done.

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