I don’t often agree with him on issues regarding Iraq, but this column by James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal strikes me as a sensible commentary on the responses to the reports of the execution-by-torture of two U.S. servicemen, viz. that such acts are part of a “cycle,” in which one vicious act simply begets another:
This rhetoric about “cycles” appears to reflect a theory of moral equivalence, but in fact it is something else. After all, if the two sides were morally equivalent, one could apply this reasoning in reverse–excusing, for example, the alleged massacre at Haditha on the ground that it was “provoked” by a bombing that killed a U.S. serviceman–and hey, violence begets violence.
But America’s critics never make this argument, and its defenders seldom do. That is because it is understood that America knows better. If it is true that U.S. Marines murdered civilians in cold blood at Haditha, the other side’s brutality does not excuse it. Only the enemy’s evil acts are thought to be explained away by ours.
For it to hold water, it would have to imply that criminal acts by American soldiers could be explained away by invoking acts such as the torture of U.S. servicemen, the beheadings of innocent school teachers, and on and on and on, rather than forbidden and guarded against and, when that fails, punished.