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January 8, 2020 / Congau

Our Assassins

The unacceptable becomes acceptable when our people do it. Outrage and disgust are feelings reserved for our enemies, those barbaric others who are expected to behave shockingly. Do you remember when the Russians presumably sent their agents to Britain to kill a former spy? The outrage was near universal: Imagine a state attempting to murder someone in another country! In our civilization we would never dream of doing such a thing!

Do you know what just happened in Iraq? The head of a major Western state assassinated one of the leaders of another state. There’s no reason to put it any less bluntly since it all happened in the open and everyone involved is confirming the facts. But of course, that’s not quite how it is presented. The focus is on whether it was a prudent thing to do and Trump’s erratic behavior is certainly recognized, but this is something more than just another false step.

People believe there’s a difference between modern Western civilization and the practices of Eastern despots and our own savage past, and any contradictory evidence is likely to be interpreted to fit this belief. We just don’t want to see it. We are ready to be shocked out of principle when foreign states commit crimes on our soil, but the most open attack by our side is readily explained away.

An attack in war, cruel as it is, seems to have the redeeming quality of anonymity. One is not aiming at killing any specific person and the lives lost can be counted as collateral damage. Killing a specific government official, on the other hand, is political assassination, and we didn’t think our boys were engaged in that, did we?

The moral superiority of the West is a myth that gets crushed again and again. Why do we still believe in it?

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