Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Where is Charity?

(Also posted as a question for my debating partner over at Debate Space, my joint blog with the Liberal Avenger.)

Bear with me. Indulge a short reading from the Torah (Old Testament).

In the book of Genesis, the story is told of Isaac's two sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob, second born son, at the prompting of his mother, exploits his father's failing eyesight to trick his father into giving him the blessing of the first born. Isaac does so richly, even so far as asking God to bestow upon Jacob rule over his siblings, "Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, and let your mother's sons bow down to you." (Genesis 27:29)

Esau, discovering his brother's deceit, in despair goes to his father, and asks, "Have you only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, my father!" And Esau lifted up his voice and wept. (Genesis 27:38)

In Slate, Christopher Hitchens writes piercingly of a challenge he poses to those opposed to the war in Iraq:
How can so many people watch this as if they were spectators, handicapping and rating the successes and failures from some imagined position of neutrality? Do they suppose that a defeat in Iraq would be a defeat only for the Bush administration? The United States is awash in human rights groups, feminist organizations, ecological foundations, and committees for the rights of minorities. How come there is not a huge voluntary effort to help and to publicize the efforts to find the hundreds of thousands of "missing" Iraqis, to support Iraqi women's battle against fundamentalists, to assist in the recuperation of the marsh Arab wetlands, and to underwrite the struggle of the Kurds, the largest stateless people in the Middle East? Is Abu Ghraib really the only subject that interests our humanitarians?
These questions damn those who can criticize and complain only, and secretly (and not so secretly) hope deeply for catastrophe if only to feel some smug self-satisfaction that after all their political defeats, "they were right all along."

That cynical view of the world is callous beyond description. It ignores the complexity of history. It is the preference of the ostrich to keep its head in the sand as the only defense it has the heart to offer.

If Hitchens is wrong, if I am wrong, where is the compassion and humanity to help a people with some of the most bona fide credentials in all victim-hood?

Why is the left incapable of saying, "how we got here is wrong, we disagree with the policies that led us here, but there is grave human need, and we will respond?"

For they do this everywhere else in the world. They surely disagree with the brutality of African States that result in widespread famine; they are strenuously opposed to ethnic cleansing in Europe, Asia and Africa that causes millions of displaced persons and genocide. There is not a place in the world today where human rights, other non-profit and aid groups are working today, that do not share the exact same causations and state-decision-making so appalling to those on the left.

So where are they for the oppressed people of Iraq? Where are they in trying to build democratic institutions? Where is there outreach to support and sustain native peoples trying to build a renewed civilization from decades of destruction and ruin (caused first by Saddam, and then by their lights, our Coalition)?

Hitchens conclusion:
Isn't there a single drop of solidarity and compassion left over for the people of Iraq, after three decades of tyranny, war, and sanctions and now an assault from the vilest movement on the face of the planet? Unless someone gives me a persuasive reason to think otherwise, my provisional conclusion is that the human rights and charitable "communities" have taken a pass on Iraq for political reasons that are not very creditable. And so we watch with detached curiosity, from dry land, to see whether the Iraqis will sink or swim. For shame.
"Have you only one blessing, my father?"

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