Ordinary people, people like me, commit and justify our lesser evils in the much same fashion. You could see the same mechanisms at work in the minds of the dwindling band of ordinary people who are Saddam loyalists. While most Iraqis celebrated, a few followed Saddam down the path of bending reason to sanction evil. The New York Times called it "eerily familiar" to "anybody who has studied totalitarian states like Stalin's Russia," i.e. "the seeming ability of people to dismiss reality by creating a virtual world that conforms to the dictates of the state."
"Sunnis or Shiites, we all love Saddam Hussein," proclaimed one 33-year-old store owner. Saddam was "cruel," he acknowledged, but only in defense of "security." Mass graves? A fiction created by the American-backed "looters and thugs."
If there is a silver lining in the acts of evil that human beings are capable of, it may be that by and large not even the blackest villain defends his evil openly. In the light of day, the dark soul strives to pretend to others (and to himself) that what he does is not really evil, that black is white, or maybe only light gray.
That, too, is our common humanity.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.