[OPE-L] Norman Geras and the killing fields in Iraq

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Wed Oct 18 2006 - 14:34:16 EDT

I don't know this Leninology guy personally, I think he is in the
international socialists. I am not. But I did meet Norman Geras once and I
corresponded with him.

At the time, Geras was making a speech about how Ernest Mandel's analysis of
fascism and the holocaust was really a bit glib, a bit superficial/abstract,
lacking in profundity (basically Mandel's stance was that fascism and the
holocaust were a product of industrial capitalism and imperialism, and that
they were not historically unique phenomena, other than in the specific
killing techniques used). Geras sought to really probe the meaning of
fascism and the holocaust more deeply and so on, he wrote a book about it.

But before you know it, Geras has become a cheerleader for a murderous
imperialist war in Iraq, a man with a mission, in which case you really
start to wonder about the ""profundity" of his analysis of human barbarism.
How can somebody who talks about the holocaust in such an erudite manner,
just turn his head when faced with the monstrous brutality of the Iraq war?
How can he just wave away the implications of this huge death toll, sort of
like "wir haben das nicht gewusst"? It is puzzling to say the least. Geras
felt Mandel was glib, but I think his Normblog is being glib. Mandel saw the
end of the world war in a German labour camp - it was not as if he hadn't
had personal experience of what he wrote about. He had his reasons for not
writing a lot about the holocaust, but that doesn't mean he hadn't thought
about it.

Statistical information, including mortality statistics, are an important
instrument to gauge the true proportion of human problems and policies in
order that we may get a better and more objective perspective on them, and
adjust our actions and resources accordingly. That is why the UN, for
instance, still places a lot of importance on statistics to describe the big
picture. I do too, and I've worked in that area before, and thought a lot
about it.

Back home in America, Mr Bush talks about promoting a "culture of life"
(which involves trying to ban stem cell research and so on) but meantime his
foreign policy is having extraordinarily murderous consequences abroad. It's
a screaming, extraordinary contrast.

Is there a moral difference e.g. between 1 million people killed and 2
million killed? I think there is, even military people - including the
Pentagon - are dutibound by discipline to minimise the loss of life and limb
in achieving a military objective. If therefore it is argued that the
mortality statistics do not matter or are not important, or that we can
afford to ignore them, I think we are in reality flouting a basic respect
for human life. In that case, justabout anything goes. But I don't think
just anything goes, and the medics who have the clean up the mess don't
think so either. Good on them.

It's not really that I want to occupy the moral highground in all this, or
that I want to propose a new moral calculus, or that I think everything
Geras writes is rubbish - but I feel concerned and frightened, not to say
enraged when educated people imbued with a strong sense of reason and
morality talk so cavalierly about evidence of a terrible human disaster in
which all lofty norms ("global values") have in reality gone by the board.


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