Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Who's the Moral Relativist Now?

The National Review had a symposium on the death of Pinochet. They asked a number of "experts" to assess his legacy. Before we start, let us recall what Pinochet actually did. As noted by the Financial Times (hardly a partisan voice):
"Some 3,000 people had been killed or “disappeared” (a verb that became synonymous with Chile), tens of thousands were subjected to routine torture and still more were forced into exile."
Christopher Hitchens reminds us of "Operation Condor" a alliance of various intelligence agencies across Latin America with the aim of hunting down and killing political opponents all over the world. In one noteworthy case, Pinochet ordered the car bombing assassination of a Chilean dissident (Orlando Letelier) in rush-hour downtown Washington DC in 1976. And in his dotage, he showed no signs of repentance, refusing to provide any information about the "disappeared".

But none of this really matters to the National Review, that bastion of morality! Anthony Daniels (didn't he play C3PO?) admits to "brutality and hardship" but argues that he still brought prosperity, and anyway, "he hardly figured among the 20th century’s most prolific political killers." Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations! Along similar lines, Roger Fontaine argues that, yes, human rights suffered, and even concedes that he was corrupt, but hey, he did good things for the economy. And Mario Loyola thinks that at least he was better than Castro. Ion Mihai Pacepa even asks God to bless him for saving Chile from communism!

Amazing. All kinds of consequentialist "ends justifies the means" reasoning. No wonder the National Review has few (if any) problems with torture. But the idea that they are on the vanguard of supporting "moral values" is a joke. This is about as "moral relativist" as it gets. As the National Review's Jonah Goldberg puts it himself:
"Right now, the Pinochet-hating left is talking about the manifest evil of the man in purely idealistic and universal terms. In other words, because it is always wrong to censor, to oppress, to torture etc. Pinochet must be condemned in absolute and unequivocal terms."
Well, yes, that's exactly what it means, Jonah. Welcome to the world of consistency.

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