A system of justice based on “due process” is often too slow for those with unlimited ambitions. And it does not cut deep enough. Take Lord Ahmed, a Labor-appointed member of the British House of Lords. Ahmed was recently suspended from the Labor party for offering a ten million pound bounty on the George Bush and Barack Obama. Ahmed denied having offered the bounty, saying only that he believed both men were guilty of war crimes.
The British peer reportedly said: “‘If the US can announce a reward of $10 million for the (capture) of Hafiz Saeed, I can announce a bounty of £10 million (for the capture of) President Obama and his predecessor, George Bush.”
Lord Ahmed reportedly said he would arrange the bounty at any cost, even if he had to sell his own personal assets including his house.
He was said to have made the comments at a reception arranged in his honor by the business community of Haripur on Friday. A former Pakistani foreign minister and a provincial education minister were said to have been present at the reception.
Under a system of due process, if Ahmed had a beef, he should have filed war crimes charges against Bush and Obama in some venue. Then the two Presidents might have had the chance to ask whether Pakistan, in whose territory Osama Bin Laden was found sheltered, did not after all cause some of the belligerence that followed. But perhaps Ahmed was impatient for answers and thought that offering a bounty would be more dramatic.
Like Lord Ahmed, Louis Farrakhan is angry at someone. But although similarly impatient, Farrakhan unlike the British peer is content to speak in riddles. He inveighs against leaders who have “betrayed their people”.
You can’t love the big house, the big car more than you love the advancement of your people because the Enemy prints money every day, that has no value …
people tomorrow, maybe in a few days, are going to kill their leaders, who’ve been selling them out … because we have corrupt people, or people who started off good and got corrupted.
Allah only knows who Farrakhan was referring to. Probably to Mitt Romney, whose dissolute acquiescence to serving carrot souffle instead of carrots-in-jello at the Ronald Reagan Lecture dinner is an act for which he must never be pardoned by Mormons anywhere. It’s just that Farrakhan is too decent to mention Romney by name.
Or maybe it refers to someone who has made the mistake of counting Farrakhan as part of his base of support. Well, lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.
The phrase “by any means necessary” was, not as some may think, original to Malcolm X. It derives from a play by Jean Paul Sartre called Dirty Hands. It is “political drama” set in the fictional Eastern European country between 1943 and 1945 which is about to be overrun by the Soviet Armies. The situation is this: should an idealistic Communist kill a leader whose willingness to enter into coalition with the class enemy may save millions of lives and create a vibrant economy but betray the Soul of the Party?
That dilemma is with us today. Which leftist has not heard the injunction, “don’t give to charity. You’ll only delay the Revolution!”
So the idealistic Communist eventually kills the leader only to discover that the rest of the party adopted the dead leader’s policies. Having found himself on the wrong side of events, he must wrestle with the problem of who then had betrayed the Soul of the Party? When the assassins from the Party come to kill him, the idealistic Communist accepts his fate.
The play deals with the question of how large a price can be paid to ensure Heaven on Earth — the Worker’s Paradise. But the problem need not refer to just socialism. It refers to every cause that considers itself supremely important: Islamism, the Nation of Islam or a Socialist America. Not only does it deal with “how far can you go?” it deals with the question of “who decides”?
To the first: by any means necessary. To second, “why me of course.”
The phrase in play goes thus: “I was not the one to invent lies: they were created in a society divided by class and each of us inherited lies when we were born. It is not by refusing to lie that we will abolish lies: it is by eradicating class by any means necessary.”
Malcolm X’s usage is “we declare our right on this earth to be a man, to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, in this day, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.” Including, one supposes, through the means of killing other human beings.
Stanford University has a site dedicated to the Problem of the Dirty Hands. It notes that Trollope was there before either Sartre or X.
“You would do evil to produce good?” asked Mr. Booker.
“I do not call it doing evil….You tell me this man may perhaps ruin hundreds, but then again he may create a new world in which millions will be rich and happy.”
“You are an excellent casuist, Lady Carbury.”
“I am an enthusiastic lover of beneficent audacity,” said Lady Carbury.
Beneficent audacity. Trollope was droll. The Stanford site says that the problem of the dirty hands may be an inherent contradiction within morality itself, part of the Problem of Evil. It asks suppose “morality itself is not entirely coherent or self-consistent? Then in certain extreme circumstances, one powerful strand in morality comes into conflict with another.”
You get stuck in a Catch 22.
The nice thing about Sartre’s play is that God gets to vote, like the judges do in American idol. The human actors make their calculations within history about what “higher morality” to pursue. And events flip the card face up. You kill a Party Leader because he is betraying the Soul of the Party and it turns out that the Party itself has no soul. Well surprise, surprise.
And so it goes. So Ahmed decides his greater loyalty is to Pakistan or whatever. And Farrakhan may see himself serving a cause that transcends the laws of the United States. And they do what they do. But God — or history if you prefer — writes the ending to the story and eventually Ahmed and Farrakhan get to see who the joke was on.
American Communists of the 1940s and 50s, like the Rosenbergs, thought they were serving the “cause of peace” by giving Stalin the Atomic Bomb. Now we know they were being played for chumps by the most evil man of the 20th century, a man worse even, than Adolf Hitler. In a context where the morality of ends is ultimately not vouchsafed to man, what does “by any means necessary” signify?
Perhaps the Founding Fathers knew what we’ve forgotten; that one can never be so sure of things as to be willing to submit to slavery to obtain it. The best thing about the American form of limited government is that it assumes that government is always in the service of limited ends and that man is doomed to always be governed by men no better than ourselves.
Thus, it leaves almost everything to the individual who want to pursue happiness. It leaves very little scope for Great Men and Collossi to bestride the universe. We both sow and reap our individual acts. As to collective schemes — been there, done that. Babel.
Limited government implies that any paradise on earth must be built within a single human breast by individual man and his God. Perhaps with a little help from his friends. But it will never arrive as a check in the mail from either the Federal Government or from the Nation of Islam. But the upside to the prohibition on building Towers of Babel is a freedom from Leviathan, who once we rightly feared.
Can you pull in the leviathan with a fishhook or tie down his tongue with a rope?
Can you put a cord through his nose or pierce his jaw with a hook?
Will he keep begging you for mercy? Will he speak to you with gentle words?
Will he make an agreement with you for you to take him as your slave for life?
Can you make a pet of him like a bird or put him on a leash for your girls?
Are those who refuse ideology just limited thinkers? Or are they perhaps they are the boldest thinkers of all? For to tame Leviathan! That would be beneficent audacity indeed.