There’s been a lot of talk about Alan Dershowitz’s latest rationalisation for Israel’s murder of civilians. Digby references Ward Churchill. Billmon finds a Dershowitz clone and then references Osama bin Laden, after he nails what is really behind Dershowitz’s latest excusal of Israel’s war crimes: ethnic tribalism/racism.
Dershowitz used to have a fine mind but now, if Israel does something, no matter how depraved, he feels obliged to justify it. Torture, murdering civilians — if Israel set up Adam Yoshida’s precious “human-sized microwaves” (basically the Zyklon-B dynamic updated as a fine Kenmore with stainless steel appliques, and also no doubt handy for cooking those extra-large bags of butcher-porn popcorn) and melted Palis wholesale, Dershowitz would find a way to make that legal and moral, too. And what’s good for Israel is, of course, good for the U.S. Or, put another way, what one country/in-group has done in monstrous abuse of the filthy wogs/out-group, might be fun for another country to try.
So Dershowitz’s argument should be ignored on the same grounds that Osama bin Laden’s should be ignored: Such people as these who argue for the application of collective guilt only do so when the group that recieves it is the one they hate, and the group that dispenses “justice” is the one they love.
But… there is something to collective guilt. A.L. Rowse forever condemned and shunned A.J.P. Taylor, a man who had always been friendly to him, because, among other things, Taylor had written a book that implicitly placed blame on the German people for the Nazi government. But certainly the German people were responsible for the Nazis — such is conventional wisdom now — although of course there are heirarchies of responsibility (a civvie involved in infrastructure or strictly political apparatus, like Eichman and Speer, say, are of course more responsible, more guilty, than a housewife or a janitor). But for every person of voting age, there was some guilt, and the principle holds true everywhere.
General Grant believed in a form of collective guilt.
I am — though I voted against the bastard — somewhat responsible for George W. Bush and all that he has done. But then America is a mature democracy (indeed we are so structurally stagnated that reform is nearly impossible, and corruption and fraud is systemic) that is absolutely in control of its sovereignty and territory, and so the calculus should hold an American much more responsible for the American government’s actions than, say, a Lebanese responsible for its fledgling democracy’s actions.
All of this does not mean that it’s ever right to murder civilians. It was wrong for the U.S. to napalm Indochinese infants; it was wrong for the Allies to bomb Dresden factory workers; it was wrong for Osama bin Laden to murder those people in the planes and in the towers; it’s wrong for the Israelis to bomb Lebanese apartments; it’s wrong for the Palis to blow-up pizzerias full of teenagers. Etc.
Still, those who comprise a democracy or a “popular front” movement are more responsible for the crimes done in their name than those who languish under a dictatorship. Which is why no matter how crazy Dershowitz, et al., are, they can’t hold a candle to Leonard Peikoff, who argues that collective guilt equally applies to those who live(d) under tyrranies such as Saddam Hussein’s and the Taliban’s because, under such conditions, it’s incumbent among such people to make a revolution. Since those people didn’t — and he doesn’t care about Apache-helicopters or acid-throwing-thugs as excuses — then they deserve the cruise missile death that comes to liberate them.