Saturday, September 17, 2005

Lord of War

A Wimp on Genocide - New York Times:
President Bush doesn't often find common cause with Cuba, Zimbabwe, Iran, Syria and Venezuela. But this month the Bush administration joined with those countries and others to eviscerate a forthright U.N. statement that nations have an obligation to respond to genocide.

It was our own Axis of Medieval, and it reflected the feckless response of President Bush to genocide in Darfur. It's not that he favors children being tossed onto bonfires or teenage girls being gang-raped and mutilated, but he can't bother himself to try very hard to stop these horrors, either.
Ms. TfK and I went to see Nick Cage in "Lord of War." I was expecting a lighter take, based on the advertising and the review I linked. It had some funny moments, and it's sold as a comedy, but we both came away trying to figure out some of the moral issues the movie raised. Indeed, some of the jokes failed because they came too soon after particularly chilling moments.

The major issue that Cage – a composite character drawn from five major gun-runners – confronts is the morality of selling guns, ammo, and heavier equipment to the worst dictators and murderers in the world. He dodges the accusations of complicity by arguing that

  • he's good at it
  • someone else would do it if he didn't
  • selling guns is just like selling anything else
All fair points, but it's still the case that, if people like him weren't circumventing arms embargoes, it would be more expensive for the butchers of the developing world to carry out their dirty work. The blood isn't on Cage's hands except whatever sticks to the diamonds he's paid with.

Similarly, when Bush joins the worst of the world in watering down a renewed commitment to averting genocide, he isn't personally culpable for the horrors in Sudan, but he's in a position to prevent tragedies, and there's no way to be neutral.

As Bush said once upon a time:

I don't believe there's many shades of gray in this war. You're either with us or against us; you're either evil or you're good.
Which is it?

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