[First published on March 29, 2005] I am told that some of my colleagues and readers wince when I use the term “evil.” How can I say that democide, terrorism, and mass murderers like Kim Jong Il, Saddam Hussein, and Omar Hassan al-Basher (Sudan) are evil? This is the worst moral accusation one can level at an activity or another human being. Who am I to do so?
To discuss evil in any depth requires either a theological discussion of evil, or a philosophical safari into ethics. I wish to leave theology aside, and as far as ethics is concerned, simply express my view of evil. First, I do not accept some prevailing ethics, such as that ethics is simply a personal emotive expression of something one hates (like ugh!), a situational expression about some gross immorality, or an objective fact that exists outside of us. In my view, ethical statements are prescriptive, state what ought to be deontologically (I’m a Kantian on this), and are universal. That is, they state what everyone would agree to for their moral governance, were they to have to live under them without advanced knowledge as to their socio-economic status, race, religion, sex, etc.
Evil for me is then something all would agree is not only morally reprehensible under these conditions, but also fundamentally reprehensible to what it means to be human and civilized. In this sense, any murder is evil. We lock up people for life or execute them for this reason. But we also have to recognize that there are different levels of reprehensibility, as to whether a person murders one fellow human being, 10, or 10,000 in one pen stroke, as have some political leaders like Stalin.
I would turn the question around and ask, “How can one not call such thugs evil, or the mass murderers of millions evil (Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot)?” Not to do so means that one is without the moral gauge that is crucial to civilization and humanity, or his real politics has corrupted him, as it has the leaders of South Korea.
Link of Note
” Toxic Indifference to North Korea” (3/26/05) By Abraham Cooper
Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and a member of the North Korean Freedom Coalition.
Since 2002, defectors among the flood of refugees from North Korea have detailed firsthand accounts of systematic starvation, torture and murder. Enemies of the state are used in experiments to develop new generations of chemical and biological weapons that threaten the world. A microcosm of these horrors is Camp 22, one of 12 concentration camps housing an estimated 200,000 political prisoners facing torture or execution for such “crimes” as being a Christian or a relative of someone suspected of deviation from “official ideology of the state.” Another eyewitness, Kwon Hyuk, formerly chief manager at Camp 22, repeated to me what he asserted to the BBC: “I witnessed a whole family being tested on suffocating gas and dying in the gas chamber. . . . The parents were vomiting and dying, but until the very last moment they tried to save kids by doing mouth-to-mouth
I re-read this article again, still not believing the incredible tale told.
What do North Korean apologists have to say about this?
Where are the voices of Johan Galtung, Bruce Cummings, Chalmers Johnson, Noam Chomsky. . . ? These people are so willing to accept any story of US evil, no matter what the evidence, and so unwilling to accept anything critical of the remaining communist regimes — despite the inescapably logic that argues that regime with lots of power tend to kill lots of people.
Oh, right. How dumb of me. All these stories of North Korean murder are nothing more than CIA propaganda and deceit. After all, no Beloved Leader would permit anything such as gassing political prisoners….unless there was good cause. Anyway, I’m sure America has gassed more political prisoners than North Korea ever dreamed of gassing.. . .
I wonder, when Korea is re-unified, how many people will emerge to give color to this dismal portrait of power run amok. And how many leftists will be trying to first deny, then disparage, then defend these actions, finally changing their tune to how all this democide was really the work of right-wing North Koreans.