People have a tendency to excuse atrocities when they’re committed either a.) in the service of a cause they support, or b.) against someone they greatly dislike. On the flip side, people tend to be much more harsh in judgment of the very same act when it’s committed by someone in the service of a “bad” cause, or against someone in the service of a “good” one.
A comparative study: the tales of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and South Vietnamese police chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan. One is famous for being a Marxist revolutionary, the other is famous for having summarily executed a Vietcong team leader in front of Eddie Adams’ camera.
Now, Che Guevara has killed a whole lot more people than Nguyen Ngoc Loan. Che not only presided over revolutionary kangaroo courts that ended with lots of people being put up against the wall and summarily shot, but he also personally executed suspected defectors. In addition, he spent a great deal of time traveling to other countries and instigating bloody revolutions.
Ngyen Ngoc Loan shot a Vietcong in the head. The Vietcong in question, Nguyen Văn Lém, was the leader of an “assassination and revenge platoon”, which had been targeting South Vietnamese police officers and their families. The execution was not a violation of the Geneva Conventions, because Nguyen Văn Lém was neither wearing a uniform, nor fighting enemy soldiers.
When General Loan moved to the U.S. after the Vietnam War, he was the target of a campaign to have him deported for his actions. Later in life, he opened a pizza restaurant in Virginia, but was forced into retirement when people discovered his identity and started targeting his business, spray-painting “We know who you are” on the walls.
In contrast, Che’s mug graces t-shirts on ever college campus in the country, he’s considered a righteous hero of the working class, Nelson Mandela calls him “an inspiration for every lover of freedom”, and Jean-Paul Sartre says he’s “not only an intellectual but also the most complete human being of our age.” If Che were still alive, and had he emigrated to the U.S. just like General Loan, he’d probably be a tenured professor at an American university now, and a heavyweight political voice.
Remember, kids: shooting people, kicking off violent revolutions, and putting your enemies in front of firing squads are only good and righteous actions when you fight for the oppressed working class, and against the capitalist pig dogs and their local cronies…