I told you Sam Harris wasn’t more than a high midwit. It should have been readily apparent to everyone after my dissection of his reliable sloppiness in The Irrational Atheist. But if it wasn’t then, it certainly is now, as Noam Chomsky demonstrates the difference between a wannabe and an actual intellectual:
April 27, 2015
From: Noam Chomsky
To: Sam Harris
I am sorry you are unwilling to retract your false claim that I “ignore the moral significance of intentions.” Of course I did, as you know. Also, I gave the appropriate answer, which applies accurately to you in the al-Shifa case, the very case in question.
If you had read further before launching your accusations, the usual procedure in work intended to be serious, you would have discovered that I also reviewed the substantial evidence about the very sincere intentions of Japanese fascists while they were devastating China, Hitler in the Sudetenland and Poland, etc. There is at least as much reason to suppose that they were sincere as Clinton was when he bombed al-Shifa. Much more so in fact. Therefore, if you believe what you are saying, you should be justifying their actions as well. I also reviewed other cases, pointing out that professing benign intentions is the norm for those who carry out atrocities and crimes, perhaps sincerely – and surely more plausibly than in this case. And that only the most abject apologists justify the actions on the grounds that perpetrators are adopting the normal stance of criminals.
I am also sorry that you evade the fact that your charge of “moral equivalence” was flatly false, as you know.
And in particular, I am sorry to see your total refusal to respond to the question raised at the outset of the piece you quoted. The scenario you describe here is, I’m afraid, so ludicrous as to be embarrassing. It hasn’t even the remotest relation to Clinton’s decision to bomb al-Shifa – not because they had suddenly discovered anything remotely like what you fantasize here, or for that matter any credible evidence at all, and by sheer coincidence, immediately after the Embassy bombings for which it was retaliation, as widely acknowledged. That is truly scandalous.
And of course they knew that there would be major casualties. They are not imbeciles, but rather adopt a stance that is arguably even more immoral than purposeful killing, which at least recognizes the human status of the victims, not just killing ants while walking down the street, who cares?
In fact, as you would know if you deigned to read before launching accusations, they were informed at once by Kenneth Roth of HRW about the impending humanitarian catastrophe, already underway. And of course they had far more information available than HRW did.
Your own moral stance is revealed even further by your complete lack of concern about the apparently huge casualties and the refusal even to investigate them.
As for Clinton and associates being “genuine humanitarians,” perhaps that explains why they were imposing sanctions on Iraq so murderous that both of the highly respected international diplomats who administered the “Oil for food” program resigned in protest because they regarded them as “genocidal,” condemning Clinton for blocking testimony at the UN Security Council. Or why he poured arms into Turkey as it was carrying out a horrendous attack on its Kurdish population, one of the worst crimes of the ‘90s. Or why he shifted Turkey from leading recipient of arms worldwide (Israel-Egypt excepted) to Colombia, as soon as the Turkish atrocities achieved their goal and while Colombia was leading the hemisphere by far in atrocious human rights violations. Or why he authorized the Texaco Oil Company to provide oil to the murderous Haitian junta in violation of sanctions. And on, and on, as you could learn if you bothered to read before launching accusations and professing to talk about “ethics” and “morality.”
I’ve seen apologetics for atrocities before, but rarely at this level – not to speak of the refusal to withdraw false charges, a minor fault in comparison.
Since you profess to be concerned about “God-intoxicated sociopaths,” perhaps you can refer me to your condemnation of the perpetrator of by far the worst crime of this millennium because God had instructed him that he must smite the enemy.
No point wasting time on your unwillingness to respond to my request that you “reciprocate by referring me to what I have written citing your published views. If there is anything I’ve written that is remotely as erroneous as this – putting aside moral judgments – I’ll be happy to correct it.”
Plainly there is no point pretending to have a rational discussion. But I do think you would do your readers a favor if you presented your tale about why Clinton bombed al-Shifa and his grand humanitarianism. That is surely the least you can do, given your refusal to withdraw what you know to be completely false charges and a display of moral and ethical righteousness.
Harris is a completely inept debater. This is a bit more drawn-out than the norm, but it completely fits the way his debates almost invariably proceed
- Harris states something.
- Opponent presents obvious problem with Harris’s statement.
- Harris claims that is not the correct way to read his statement.
- Opponent presents historical quote from Harris proving that it is the correct way to read his statement.
- Harris claims that the quote is not being interpreted properly.
Either Sam Harris is the worst and most unclear writer in the history of the written word or he is an inept and intellectually dishonest interlocutor. I leave it to the reader to decide which of these two possibilities is, in fact, the case. But it should come as no surprise than an Irrational Atheist should be unable to have a rational discussion.