by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
June 29, 2009
EVIL EATING EVIL
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- It's been a good week for evil. It started with a phrase in a New York Times story this past Sunday that has stuck in my head.
It seems that Kaing Guek Eav, known as "Duch," the "chief torturer of the Khmer Rouge" during the time of the Cambodian killing fields, is on trial for war crimes in Phnom Penh.
According to The Times, his defense is that even though he didn't personally do what he is accused of (smashing babies against trees, for example), the men under him did, and so he is responsible. "I would like to express my regret and heartfelt sorrow," he said, in what The Times calls an attempt to soften the hearts of the jury.
Duch talks about torturing people so to make them name their "accomplices." He says he didn't even believe half the names he accumulated that way. But "the work expanded, people were arrested illegally, right or wrong," Duch said. "I considered it evil eating evil eating evil."
Yes, that's the phrase. Evil eating evil eating evil.
Thanks to television and the Internet, we have the opportunity to watch evil eating evil eating evil in action almost every day. Criminals decapitating Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Saddam Hussein being hung. Americans torturing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib. And this week, we watched a lovely young Iranian woman named Neda die in the streets of Tehran.
Speaking of Iran, bullet fees are a good example of evil eating evil eating evil.
On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Iranian government is charging the families of the young people it has killed for the bullets used to kill them: "Upon learning of his son's death, the elder Mr. Alipour was told the family had to pay an equivalent of $3,000 as a 'bullet fee' - a fee for the bullet used by security forces - before taking the body back, relatives said."
Yes, it's not enough to corrupt an election and then kill the people who protest. You can also charge them for it. Clearly Duch is right: evil begats evil.
The world seems flooded with it. Maybe it was ever thus. The streets of Jerusalem were lined with men dying on crosses in the time of Jesus. In fact, the "my god is better than your god" wars have taken the lives of millions. The Spanish Inquisition alone set the tone for mass murder for generations to come.
Is evil more evil now because it can be "tweeted?" How much evil can you fit into 140 characters? The kids in Iran are sick of having bearded old men telling them what to do. But they aren't going to win easily, because the bearded old men control a large army of thugs who are loyal and will kill whoever they need to - it's standard dictator procedure. Stalin would be proud.
Perhaps there is more evil because more people are crowded together on the planet? Perhaps it just seems that way because of technology? Perhaps there's just an inexhaustible supply of the stuff.
Rwanda and Darfur come to mind. And this, reported by Reuters this week: "Rioting inmates raped around 20 female prisoners during a failed prison break in Democratic Republic of Congo's violence-ravaged east, the country's U.N. peacekeeping mission said."
And let's not forget Richard Nixon. More of his tapes have been released, and it seems that our 37th president had this to say about abortion: "There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white. Or a rape."
Hunter S Thompson once said of Nixon that if he had been any more evil he would "have glowed in the dark".
How does one deal with evil? Over the centuries, wise minds have wrestled with the question. "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" is the best the world has come up with, and it's not bad advice.
But I found a clue that rings closer to home. It's in a documentary I saw this week on the Turner Classic Movies channel. It was made by George Stevens, Jr. about his father, Hollywood director George Stevens, who made "Woman of the Year," "Shane" and "Giant," among other films.
It seems that during World War II, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower assigned Stevens to document the European war. So he was attached to the unit that liberated Dachau and filmed the piles of bodies and the walking skeletons.
In the film, Stevens talks about walking through the gates of Dachau. "When a poor man, hungry and unseeing because his eyesight is failing, grabs me and starts begging, I feel the Nazi, because I abhor him, I want him to keep his hands off me," he says. "And the reason I want him to keep his hands off me is because I see myself capable of arrogance and brutality to keep him off me. That's a fierce thing, to discover within yourself that which you despise the most in others."
Joyce Marcel (joycemarcel.com) is a journalist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.