Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Crime and Punishment

by Sally Zahav

In Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov, the protagonist, murders an old pawn-broker, and steals some of her valuables, convinced that his life is inherently more valuable than hers, and that he would be able to do good deeds with the money that he stole from her, justifying the killing of the "insignificant", but rich old lady.

From Wikipedia:

"Raskolnikov argues that with the pawnbroker's money he can perform good deeds to counterbalance the crime, while ridding the world of a worthless vermin. He also commits this murder to test his own hypothesis that some people are naturally capable of such things, and even have the right to do them. Several times throughout the novel, Raskolnikov justifies his actions by connecting himself mentally with Napolean Bonaparte, believing that murder is permissible in pursuit of a higher purpose."

Recently, four American lives were violently snuffed out in Benghazi, Libya. It is now known who is responsible for the slaughter, but there is still an attempt to hide or distort the details of the event. But by now, as a result of the steady stream of facts that are revealed day by day, we know that in all of the various factors involved, there is a common thread of incompetence and disorganization at best. And indirectly, behind it all, in one way or another, inescapably looms the image of the president of the United States, Barack Obama.

Of course, no one in the White House, State Department or various security forces is guilty of murder, but neither are the hands of the president and his close advisers clean of the innocent American blood that has been spilled. 

"Our hands did not shed this blood"

Deuteronomy 21 (1-9) reads, “If, in the land that the L-rd your G-d is assigning you to possess, someone slain is found lying in the open, the identity of the slayer not being known, your elders and magistrates shall go out and measure the distances from the corpse to the nearby towns. The elders of the town nearest to the corpse shall then take a heifer which has never been worked, which has never pulled in a yoke; and the elders of that town shall bring the heifer down to an overflowing wadi, which is not tilled or sown. There, in the wadi, they shall break the heifer’s neck. … And they shall make this declaration: ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done. Absolve, O L-rd, Your people Israel, whom You redeemed, and do not let guilt for the blood of the innocent remain among Your people Israel.’ And, they, will be absolved of blood-guilt. Thus, you will remove from your midst guilt for the blood of the innocent, for you will be doing what is right in the sight of the L-rd.”

We are told that the elders are not necessarily suspected of having killed the victim. But it is enough that the elders were aware that someone was in need of provision or protection and did not offer it, to bring guilt upon them.  It is their responsibility to be aware of threatening situations, both to the group and, as much as is reasonable, to individuals.

So if responsible parties know that someone is in need or in danger and refrain from providing him with what he needs in order to protect or sustain him, those parties are, according to this passage in Deuteronomy, responsible to a certain extent for the evil that may ensue.

We are told that there was live video feed of the ongoing attack in Benghazi streaming straight into the situation room of the White House in real-time. "Nor did our eyes see it done". Where was President Obama when this live feed was streaming into the White House situation room? Was he observing what transpired or was he busy with "more important" matters? Either way, according to what we know now, he cannot escape indirect responsibility for the slaughter, or at least for the lack of a serious attempt to avert it.

And this is the question that finally arises like a noxious gas from this mire of obfuscation: Why? Why did Obama not issue orders to aid those under attack? We know that there were operational resources available that could have helped. Why was the level of security not increased prior to the September 11 attack, since the embassy had been attacked twice before the fatal attack. Why, so long after the event, were there so many different versions of what really happened?

One hypothesis is that after having issued the order to kill bin Laden, (over the objections of the presidential adviser-in-chief Valerie Jarrett), Obama used that event to try to convince the American people that al-Qaeda, and therefore terrorism in general, had taken a very serious setback. In fact, on October 9 of this year, only four weeks after the September 11 attack, he simplistically stated that  "Al-Qaeda is on its heels". 

Also, Obama and his administration had also been keen to represent the so-called "Arab Spring" as a positive phenomenon that would eventually yield regimes in the Middle East based on democratic, Western values, despite evidence to the contrary, for instance, the rise of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. As a consequence, we are forced to conclude that  either our commander-in-chief is woefully uninformed or he simply intended to lead the American people to believe something that he knew was not true. Take your pick.

Since, as conventional [anti-]wisdom has it, Obama's strength is in foreign policy, if it became evident that al-Qaeda had not been subdued, or that the "Arab Spring" had spawned some very ugly and dangerous weeds, why, it might harm his chances for reelection. And Obama's reelection is precisely the holy grail which, apparently, justifies almost any sin or sacrifice. Obfuscation, outright lying, procrastination, stonewalling, refraining to send aid to save human life, sacrificing the political careers of others - all of these sacrifices and ethical transgressions were justified to advance the sacred goal of Obama's reelection, because, as the Obama disciples would have it, only he is capable of bringing light, truth, hope and prosperity to humanity.  But for many of us, the glittering magic Obama charm that was supposed to be capable of  working miracles has turned out to be nothing but ashes.

In the "Old" Testament, it is written:

"צדק צדק תרדוף". Literally, it means "justice, justice you will pursue". Interpreters of the Torah relate to the repetition of the word "justice" and explain it by saying that the deeper meaning of this phrase is, "pursue justice, but use just means to do so". In other words, the end does not justify the means. Even when a goal is very worthwhile, we are enjoined to pursue it only by ethical means.

Value of Human Life in Judaism

Judaism has stringent laws governing the observance of the Sabbath. We refrain from actively using any electrical device, riding in a vehicle or even on an animal, cooking, writing, and so forth. But if there is a doubt that human life is endangered, we are not only permitted to break the laws of the Sabbath, we are commanded to do so, even if there is only a remote chance that the act will indeed save a life. (Contrast this with the case that occurred in Saudi Arabia in March 2002 - reported by the BBC,  when school girls were prevented from leaving a burning building because they were "not properly dressed". According to the BBC report, "fifteen girls died in the blaze and more than 50 others were injured".)

The value of human life sits squarely at the basis of what we call the "Judeo-Christian" system of values. What value system does Barack Obama subscribe to, that allows what appears to be the callous and preventable sacrifice of human life for political gain?

As we know, Raskolnikov is ultimately led to atonement and redemption by his tormented  conscience. One wonders how president Obama is sleeping these days. And if his sleep is indeed disturbed, is it because he mourns the possible impending loss of the presidency, or because he is pained by our disillusionment in him, reflected in the daily polls? Does he regret the loss of trust that the American people had in him? The disappointment we feel when, expecting the transparency that he promised us, we are presented with murky opacity instead? Is it because he knows that we have finally seen through his false narrative and his policy of appeasement?  Or is it the knowledge that as a result of his incompetence and lack of leadership, four courageous human beings have been lost in the inferno that was Benghazi on September 11, 2012 without even an to attempt by the "elders" to rescue them.

Sally Zahav

Source:Middle East and Terrorism

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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