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2004-04-01

Dying in Politics, amended 

Some dangerous gaps in yesterday's post need to be filled. I only caricatured the way in which past atrocities are dealt with in politics. Of course, the holocaust is not irrelevant after it has occurred, it has a huge moral and political weight. The same is true for occurrences of genocide like in Rwanda or Cambodia. Yet none of these horrible atrocities were devised by a democratic regime that was taken serious by general opinion in its claims to serve the common good. When we condemn these acts, we do this with the awareness that their perpetrators were criminal evil-doers with whom we would not want to engage in dialog. My note of yesterday should only apply to such policies of a political body that I or a sufficiently large part of society consider as potentially well-meaning efforts. An important example would be the air campaign of NATO against Serbia in 1999. Its proponents repeatedly demanded to be judged by the standards of their ethical principles and objectives. We then need to ask ourselves whether the campaign was justifiable based on the cost in terms of human life lost that it would cause. On questions like this I find the forgetfulness about the dead that I wanted to address yesterday.

For the same reason, I believe that Blair's hope that history will forgive the human costs of the invasion of Iraq is mistaken. It seems to operate on an understanding of historical perception as something that is limited to our lifetimes. But for future generations, the people living today will be just as dead as the ones they have killed in various wars or other questionable policies. From the perspective of our successors at least, a fair judgement should and can be expected.


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