Evil Acts and Evil Actors


What is the difference between evil acts and evil actors? An act is an action, an actor an agent. Does evil come from acts or from agency? Both, you might say. Evil acts are evil and evil humans do evil acts. Can evil humans do good acts? Can evil acts do good? How do we regard and treat evil acts and evil humans? This is the question. How you answer here tells your tale, tolls the bell of your morality.

Bush & his war team believe evil acts can do good-as in bombing and destroying enemies and cities and orchards. This is acknowledged necessary evil which is justified (made good) by a good end. That end is to destroy perpetrators of evil acts, to eliminate evil humans-the doers of past evil acts and the future source and danger of more evil acts. The idea is if we get the source, we’ll revenge and stop evil.

Recently we went after Saddam Hussein and Osama binLaden who served as incarnations of evil men. One was a brutal dictator the other a terrorist who sought to destroy our nation calling it ‘The Great Satan.’ They ran countries and networks that hated us and wished us evil. So we bombed them and killed their supporters and killed and burned and wounded thousands of innocent people. Their deaths and wounds were regarded as collateral damage or tragic mistakes or fog of war errors; they weren’t called evil acts because we did them meaning good. They were unfortunate sacrifices to our good action. Similarly our troops were the good agents of our necessarily evil acts in the service of our good ends. Their deaths and wounds and psychic trauma are called heroic, patriotic, noble. They are justified and ennobled by our good end-to eliminate evil.

The incarnations of evil in this case-Saddam and bin Laden-eluded our military prowess and continue to provoke and counsel evil. And if we do smoke them out of their holes-to use the President’s favorite hunting figure-it’s hard to imagine it will quell the evil feelings aroused by our ‘evil-destroying’ actions.

The sad truth is you can’t stop evil acts except by condemning them and refusing to do them yourself. The dreamers who think if Hitler had been killed all would be well are foolish. Hitler made his evils legal, he passed laws. World leaders like Churchill thought he was good until it was clear how bad he was. Many went along. If soldiers like the Israeli 30 refused to kill, fewer people would be dead. Nazi is now code for evil but it comes from acts. There are many genocides-American Indians for example. Those who execute racist policies do those evil acts even if they have been victims in a former time of those acts. It is acts that define evil, not humans. Humans can be evil or good by doing evil or good acts. Acts don’t have the human option. They are a better guide to good or evil.

Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush are both bent on destroying evil. They accuse each other of incarnating evil. They incarnate the weakness of a moral imagination that projects all bad onto an other and licenses murder. ‘The Satan’ in Hebrew means ‘The Accuser.’

DIANE CHRISTIAN is SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at University at Buffalo. She can be reached at: engdc@acsu.buffalo.edu

Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?
Barry Lando
Syria: Obama’s Bay of Pigs?
Karl Grossman
The Politics of Lyme Disease
Andre Vltchek
Southeast Asia “Forgets” About Western Terror
Jose Martinez
American Violence: Umpqua is “Routine”?
Vijay Prashad
Russian Gambit, Syrian Dilemma
Sam Smith
Why the Democrats are in Such a Mess
Uri Avnery
Nasser and Me
Andrew Levine
The Saints March In: The Donald and the Pope
Arun Gupta
The Refugee Crisis in America
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Elections and Verbal Vomit
Dan Glazebrook
Refugees Don’t Cause Fascism, Mr. Timmermann – You Do
Victor Grossman
Blood Moon Over Germany
Patrick Bond
Can World’s Worst Case of Inequality be Fixed by Pikettian Posturing?
Pete Dolack
Earning a Profit from Global Warming
B. R. Gowani
Was Gandhi Averse to Climax? A Psycho-Sexual Assessment of the Mahatma
Tom H. Hastings
Another Mass Murder
Anne Petermann
Activists Arrested at ArborGen GE Trees World Headquarters
Ben Debney
Zombies on a Runaway Train
Franklin Lamb
Confronting ‘Looting to Order’ and ‘Cultural Racketeering’ in Syria
Carl Finamore
Coming to San Francisco? Cra$h at My Pad
Ron Jacobs
Standing Naked: Bob Dylan and Jesus
Missy Comley Beattie
What Might Does To Right
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi Jayanti, Gandhi’s Dream
Raouf Halaby
A Week of Juxtapositions
Louis Proyect
Scenes from the Class Struggle in Iran
Christopher Washburn
Skeptik’s Lexicon
Charles R. Larson
Indonesia: Robbed, Raped, Abused
David Yearsley
Death Songs
Jon Hochschartner
Does Word Policing Actually Help the Left?