Posted by: King Bee | June 4, 2007

O’Donnell’s Enemy Ideas

by BRENDAN KEANE

Rosie O’Donnell has quit “The View” early, thus ending the daily duel between America’s most recognizable lesbian and Elizabeth Hasselbeck, a Bush apologist.

Democracy-lovers understand the importance of kitchen-table forums, and “The View” had become under O’Donnell a model of political discussion for an audience usually more interested in hearing talk about popular entertainment. She’ provoked daytime controversies for her viewers – which include many thoughtful women – that were then edited down and rebroadcast at night accompanied by critical review on the part of mainly male pundits.

What got lost in the translation was the deeply moral argument that O’Donnell was making about war and the human rights of non-Americans. Occasionally celebrities will speak of dead innocents, but criticism of the Iraq war is usually about strategy, and the fiascos in its execution. We get stuck on the missing WMDs, but talk no further about our own greed, deceit, and murderousness in roughly 100 years of policy and policing in the Middle East. O’Donnell stands out for rejecting the war because of civilian casualties and soldier casualties alike – and doing so not on the cable talkfest, but rather on an “entertainment” program.


O’Donnell’s pacifism is ridiculed when it questions the morality of the American military and of the decision-makers that send young people to kill and die in America’s name.

The fury came from comments made on the May 17 show, during which O’Donnell reminded Hasselback that “we’re invading a sovereign nation, occupying a country against the U.N.” She also said that she believes “6,000 dead Americans from 9/11 and from this war is a lot less than 655,000 dead Iraqis.”

Hasselbeck ignored the lives of the civilian dead O’Donnell focused on, and probed her about why she was mentioning them. “Who are the terrorists?” Hasselbeck asked.

O’Donnell’s moral starting point – that human life from any nation is equally valuable – and her other objections regarding needless deaths among American soldiers and the horrible treatment back home of those who are wounded were soon lost in a semantics dispute about the word terrorist, via Hasselbeck’s reductive question. Hasselbeck hinted that O’Donnell was revealing a sympathy for enemy ideology as part of a slur on American soldiers, when she was in fact reflecting empathy for Iraqi people subjected to our illegal war – launched in the name of liberating them.

Hasselbeck was relying on distinctions long ingrained among Americans – opposites that become ridiculous as the horror unfolds. Terrorism is suicide-bombing in cities. Soldiering is risking one’s own life to drop bombs from the sky on cities. Terrorism is gunning civilians on purpose.

Soldiering is gunning civilians because the soldier is some scared kid that panicked. Terrorists started it. Soldiers finish what politicians started. Terrorists are trying to build a caliphate. Soldiers may go on offensive to defend the homeland even as they advance an empire of freedom.

Terrorists have evil ideas that would make the world a bad place. Soldiers defend true ideas that make the world better.

By denying any equivalence between the bloody gruesomeness of the two enterprises, we can ignore the consequences of soldiers’ actions and harp on terrorist atrocities. Soldiers represent the righteous sword of progressive American idealism. Terrorists are disruptive wasters, bent on backwardness. So goes the romanticization of our current war.

What if the romance is swept aside? Rosie tried to make it okay for average Americans to look behind the hijab of words like terrorist and freedom with their own common-sense tools of analysis. She was offering another perspective on our national identity – not from the prevailing media perspective of us and our boys – but from one that takes human account of those we have harmed.

And if we are able to make that accounting, perhaps we will also be willing to look at a 100-year policy based on oil, not democracy – in fact one that, as in the case of the Shah of Iran and the House of Saud was only too willing to sell out progressive reformers.

Rosie O’Donnell may speak as normal people speak – sometimes sweepingly, sometimes brilliantly, sometimes on shaky legs. She may embarrass the liberal cognoscenti. That does not destroy her moral perspective. She is a mother thinking of Iraq’s mothers, and that is a perfectly valid intellectual principle. O’Donnell said, “I believe every human life is equal.” Does anyone in this country but an American idealist believe such a thing?

All people are created equal, and it might take a loud lesbian to apply that truth to all nations, including those with indigenous rights to lands with oil.

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Responses

  1. So true, so true. But I, like the majority, didn’t hear Rosies words but instead saw an argument between celebrities. But Rosie is right, and I bet if people would stop and listen they would see that.


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