Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
What Is Terrorism? Can it Ever be Ethical?

By harrystottle in Op-Ed
Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 07:42:08 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

Surprisingly the answer to the second question is "Yes" but we need to work up to that more slowly.

Let's begin with the Dialogue of the Daft:

The UN Debate on Terrorism which culminated in a banal Security Council resolution, on Wednesday 14 September 2005 - a date which will surely sink without a trace in the annals of intelligent statesmanship - proposed by our own glorious leader Mr Anthony Blair. The Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1624 to "prohibit by law incitement to commit a terrorist act or acts" and to "deny safe haven" to anyone even suspected of incitement.

Unfortunately, they failed to agree on what constituted the terrorism, the incitement of which the world is now committed to prevent!

Frankly, if a novelist wrote such a plot, the editor would reject it as childishly implausible.

(Warning: Long Article. Here, if you prefer, is a pdf version.)


The following day, I was listening to the news in the car on the way home and heard the tail end of an interview with what I think was an Israeli spokesman. He was asked how the world could co-ordinate its attack on Terrorism if it couldn't even agree what it was. He replied "It doesn't matter how we define it, so long as we're all committed to fighting it" or something of that ilk. This is an example of what I am starting to call the "Philosophy Gap" (which will become another essay in due course). It illustrates an approach to intellectual problems which does its best not to involve the intellect. In this particular case, there is a simple, obvious and uncomfortable truth. The world cannot agree its definition of Terrorism. Nevertheless, we're apparently all committed to combating incitement to it, whatever it is.

That this is philosophically absurd is probably obvious even to non philosophers. It is not remotely conceivable that the reasonably intelligent men (mostly) who were present at that UN debate remain unaware of this absurdity. But, like the emperor's clothes, this embarrassing fact is politely ignored - even when direct and pertinent questions are asked about it.

This isn't just golden material for satirists. It is very dangerous and will lead to further unnecessary deaths and repression. One of the consequences of this international incompetence is that it leaves "Terrorism" firmly in the mind of the beholder:

As Human Rights Watch noted:

"...the resolution's sponsors have made it easy for abusive governments to invoke the resolution to target peaceful political opponents, impose censorship and close mosques, churches and schools."

and

"Instead, the proposed resolution uses vague and overbroad language in calling on states to "prevent" incitement and to "counter" incitement that is "motivated by extremism and intolerance" or that is "subvert[ing] educational, cultural, and religious institutions."

Indeed, much of what I am saying on my own web site clearly falls within such a definition of "incitement" if not the actual terrorism. I am certainly opposed to most religious institutions and governments and I'm trying my damndest to subvert them all. True, I don't advocate violence. Indeed I generally oppose it. But I don't have an ethical problem, for example, with unlimited direct action up to and including the complete shut down of a nation's economy and the peaceful seizure of strategic infrastructure in order to remove the political obstacles of existing governments. As we will see - that probably fits the current American definition of terrorism if not my own country's.

Moving on...

According to the BBC, a "high level panel", presumably of UN Civil Servants, proposed this failed definition (of Terrorism):

"Any action, in addition to actions already specified by the existing conventions on aspects of terrorism, the Geneva Conventions and Security Council resolution 1566 (2004), that is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a government or an international organisation to do or to abstain from doing any act."

The Beeb helpfully reminds us that:

(The Geneva Conventions now outlaws attacks aimed only at civilians and Security Council Resolution 1566 passed last year condemned "all acts of terrorism irrespective of their motivation".)

Subsequently, the negotiators charged with polishing up the definition in preparation for the 60th anniversary UN celebrations chose to add wording which made it clear that such an action "cannot be justified on any grounds and constitutes an act of terrorism". which, frankly, doesn't seem to me to add anything of substance but, like them, I'm happy to have it included if it helps.

However, as the Beeb points out:

This definition would cover actions of both governments and terrorist organisations but still leaves room for interpretation. For example, governments could declare they were not intimidating a population but seeking wrong-doers. Terrorists could argue that civilians are soldiers out of uniform.

MIFT have a much better argument than that, as we shall see below. In any case, the definition, ambiguous and flexible as it was:

...went too far for some. They thought that some acts of violence could be justified. Islamic countries wanted a reference to the right of peoples to resist occupation. This would cover, for example, acts carried out by Palestinian resistance groups. This in turn was seen by some Western states as an attempt to justify terrorism. In the end, no definition was agreed though terrorism "in all its forms" is condemned.

(You do realise, don't you, that we paid good money for those people to be in New York?)

*******************

Terrorism, terrorism, terrorism...

There are few words in human discourse which carry such emotional baggage, few words which have such a widely disagreed definition and few words which have been so deliberately abused.

My main philosophical objection to the use of the word "terrorist" is that is most often used as a substitute for the more straightforward word "enemy". In addition, it is almost always used as a demonising word in a grossly manipulative and dishonest way in order to suppress dissent, to slur potential legitimate opponents and to deter attempts at really understanding the cause of whatever conflict has produced the "terrorism".

It is this basic compulsion to be dishonest which is the real reason the world cannot agree a definition of terrorism. For example, the Egyptian foreign Minister - Ahmed Aboul Gheit - interviewed by BBC Newsnight 14 Sept 2005, offered a relatively straightforward definition

"Terrorism is when you act against innocent civilians in any way... Killing civilians is a terrorist thing which has to be condemned"

Who can possibly disagree with that?

The Americans, for a start. They've killed between 30 and 100 thousand innocent civilians so far, in response to the attack on 9-11 which killed 3 thousand of their own citizens. They can't possibly accept a definition that broad. It makes them the world's biggest terrorists. Yes, I know that's exactly what many people do argue, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Right now we're debating definitions. It's hardly surprising that the world's last empire doesn't want to agree a definition which puts it in the dock - perhaps literally.

However, on the Radio 4 Today programme on 16 September 2005, Prime Minister Blair may have come to their rescue, when confronted with the definition problem he was unequivocal and added just one important word

Terrorism is the killing of innocent civilians deliberately. (exerpt on mp3 - 160k)

This allows the Americans to defend themselves against charges of terrorism on the grounds that they didn't deliberately kill thousands of civilians. I suspect that's largely true.

But what does a senior American have to say about, for example, the right of people to resist "Occupation"? The aforementioned Newsnight program also interviewed Ambassador Peter Galbraith, the US representative at the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. He conceded the legitimacy of such resistance but concluded:

"What is not legitimate is to go out and kill civilians intentionally, or to take on military targets knowing that you're going to be killing a large number of innocent civilians" (emphasis added)

That was what United States Ambassador, Peter Galbraith, said, out loud, on BBC Television. I've recorded it (sound only) and I've put the clip here (mp3) so you can hear it for yourself.

Anyone spot a problem with this position?

How did the 30-100 thousand innocent civilians killed by the US since 9-11 come to die then Peter?

I'm assuming (unlike the conspiracy theorists) that the vast majority of the killings were not intentional. They occurred as a direct result of attacks on known or suspected military targets which just happened to be in the middle of heavily populated civilian areas. Is it the American position that they didn't know that their attacks would result in those civilian deaths?

That implausible claim might have been acceptable for the first few attacks, while they were still learning the lesson, or just trying to kid themselves, or us, that their laser and satellite guided weapons - or their human target selectors - never made mistakes, but the error must have become clear to them even more quickly than it did to the rest of the watching world.

Thereafter, attacks against military targets in civilian areas were clearly committed with both the knowledge that civilian deaths were inevitable and with reckless disregard for that knowledge. There is no other interpretation possible which does not insult the intelligence. Consequently, Ambassador Galbraith has confirmed, at the very least, that the Americans have caused tens of thousands of illegitimate deaths.

But at least they can hold their head up high and argue that the deaths they caused were not the result of State sponsored Terrorism. Why not? Motive. They weren't "deliberate" killings. I still agree with this defence.

The key concept behind terrorism - as the "high panel" definition implies - is the intent to intimidate - to terrorise - the target population. Or, as Bill Moyer puts it in his excellent analysis of the rise of the Religious Right:

Terrorists plant time bombs in our heads, hoping to turn each and every imagination into a private hell governed by our fear of them.

I'm sure that their bitterest enemies would disagree with me but I do not believe that the US intent was intimidation. In fact such a view is not feasible. Intimidation would only work if the target population could somehow be expected to influence the behaviour of the real military targets, which clearly, in the case of both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein was not plausible.

But it's not much of a defence - against charges of terrorism - to have to argue that the tens of thousands of unnecessary and illegitimate deaths you have caused were the result "only" of wilful and reckless disregard for the safety of the civilian population. After the first few "mistakes" all subsequent indiscriminate slaughter has been as inexcusable and "evil" as the terrorism it was fighting.

And the survivors should seriously consider using Galbraiths testimony is the American Courts when they sue for billions in compensation.

Do not, meanwhile, expect to find an intelligent definition of Terrorism anywhere near the American administration or their legislators. Humpty Dumpty like, they seem to believe that "words mean what I say they mean". Their formal definition has been so widened that it now includes virtually any means of opposing the establishment.

Below is a reasonable summary of the American legal definition of terrorism under the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001. But just before we deal with that, let's consider that title for a few moments.

"USA PATRIOT" stands for:

Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.

Notice how I've helpfully bolded the initials which make up the acronym? That's just in case you needed help in understanding how they arrived at the acronym because you're as stupid as they must think you are. Just sit back, close your eyes and consider, for a few moments, what that title tells us about the background and mindset of the people who think the acronym, not to mention the law itself, are good ideas.

Now you begin to understand the scale of the problem we are up against! I challenge anyone to provide a better justification of Samuel Johnson's famous epithet -

"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" (1775)

One thing it tells us: those involved have

  • never read George Orwell's 1984, or worse,
  • failed to understand it. Or worse still

  • understood it and decided it was a good idea!

Those options are all scary on an increasing scale.

In any case, here is the promised summary of the USA PATRIOT definition of Terrorism:

Domestic terrorism is now defined in part as any activities that "involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws" and which "appear to be intended" to "intimidate or coerce a civilian population" or "to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion."

(If you feel the urge to examine the full text, you can find it here)

OK, now let's look at the summary in a bit more detail...

acts dangerous to human life

not obviously unreasonable, at least, not immediately...

that are a violation of the criminal laws

can't argue with that, providing, of course, that the laws have been democratically arrived at.

appear to be intended

What? Whoa there Neddy! Appear?

You mean they might not actually be committing an offence, but just look like they are? And that's enough to qualify as being a terrorist? Even if they didn't know they looked like terrorists? They cannot be serious!

But they are. Let's carry on regardless:

to intimidate or coerce a civilian population

hmmm. Go on...

to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.

OK. In short their definition of terrorism seems to be "life threatening behaviour committed with the aim of intimidation or coercion (of the people or their governments)."

Is an angry mob intimidating? Damn right it is!

But is it terrorism?

Is it bollocks!

Ditto coercion.

An angry mob evicted the corrupt Georgian regime in November 2003. Certainly storming a government building, even peacefully, is bound to pose some "danger to human life", particularly if the existing regime is trying to defend it, and we can guarantee that it was a "violation of criminal laws", so using their definition, the authors of the USA PATRIOT act would have you believe that the overthrow of the corrupt Georgian regime was terrorism, or at least, it would be if it happened in the US of A.

"Ah but..." they might protest "the Georgian government was corrupt. They deserved what they got."

And? Your point is?

Who is to judge whether in the relevant set of circumstances, a charge of corruption is legitimate or not? It certainly can not be those facing the charge!

Not, that is, unless they're also prepared to extend that privilege to all others charged with crime in general:

Now then sonny - was what you just did a Crime?

No sir.

Right then, off you go.

Now that would empty the prisons!

The point is that the same uncomplicated minds who believe that the USA PATRIOT Act is both a good name and a good idea are clearly not familar with either the practice or existence of subtle thought. They further seem unaware that we can see the way they are thinking. Like Ambassador Galbraith, they don't seem to realise what they're saying out loud. Or perhaps they simply don't care that we can read their paranoid minds because they're so convinced of their own righteousness.

yeeeech!

There is, of course, a strong case for mobilising the forces of society against the modern threat of religiously inspired terrorism. I've dealt with that, comprehensively, here. There is, however, no case for making the cure worse than the disease. Unsurprisingly, the USAPATRIOTs don't see it that way.

Their Not So Hidden Agenda
To some extent, I'm speculating (but with a considerable evidence base as you can see if you follow the previous couple of links) but it seems to me that for the Neocons and elements of the Religious Right, the very real threat represented by MIFT - and their legitimate need to contain the threat - has presented them with their golden opportunity to put the genie of "permissiveness" back in the bottle. The excuse to impose their Police State to protect themselves from terrorists also provides their best opportunity for decades to regain the control they lost in the 60s. When America, for a moment, forgot to be a god-fearing country.

All the signs are present; in addition to all the detail revealed by Bill Moyer's piece, we have the Manifesto For the Christian Church, the Wedge Strategy, Patrick Henry College, the "born again" President, the Neocon dominance of the civil power structure and so on. (it's all under the above links if you haven't already been there). This is their opportunity to re-impose that fear of god. This is their religious revival.

And if you think that's scary, remember that what they are up against (where the terrorism is coming from) is exactly the same thing - another religious revival - in a different religion. It is no accident that representatives of both sides have called this a holy war.

Meanwhile, if the US Administration really is saying that they would label the Georgian people's triumph - or the 2004 Ukrainian Orange Revolution - as terrorism if it took place in the Land of the Free, then one more thing is clear: They either simply want a definition of terrorism which amounts to "Opposition to US" or they really don't understand what terrorism is. If that's the case, they are going to be somewhat confused by what I'm about to say regarding the events of World War II. On the one hand I've labelled some attacks as the most successful acts of terrorism ever. And, on the other, I've categorically argued that, subject to motivation, some of those terrorist acts were ethical, and thus reasonably defensible.

How can you possibly have ethical terrorism?
It's all to do with your state of mind. If you've bought into the propaganda, then War, with all its official declarations and military pomp, is somehow more honourable than terrorism. Terrorism is the purest form of Evil. (other than sex, of course) To the fundamentalist religious mind on the target side of the fence it is literally Satanic behaviour, while to the equally fundamentalist religious minds on the attacker's side, the same act is considered an act of divinely inspired martyrdom for which the word "terrorism" is wholly inappropriate. It is, in short, the most wholeheartedly demonised word in the English language (and, presumably other human languages). None of which has any bearing on reality.

Terrorism is just another military strategy. And one of the oldest. Regardless of centuries of Bushido, Chivalry and sundry other "codes of honour" - all of which try to provide a moral basis for the conduct of the slaughter of other human beings, there is nothing in reality particularly ethical about trying to ensure that we maintain level playing fields while trying to kill an enemy. In fact it's a stupid concept. It implies that you want to be "fair" to someone you also wish to kill! Generally, if you're intent on killing someone, you simply want to maximise your advantage and minimise your risk as far as is humanly possible. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles are the best expression of that ambition that we've created so far. Maximum advantage, and, particularly if the enemy doesn't possess similar weapons, minimum risk.

So why didn't they just nuke Iraq? (An option still under active consideration for terrorism in general)

Because, of course, they would immediately have become international pariahs. In the longer run, they would almost certainly suffer the most terrible, if somewhat delayed, revenge. And most of the rest of the world would agree they deserved it.

Why?

Because we've evolved notions of fairness even when killing people. And, somehow, it's considered fairer, for example, to kill 200,000 Iraqi troops (the 1991 prequel) with carpet bombing; or a few thousand talibs trying feebly to defend their country against the world's largest conventional weapons, such as the daisycutter, the "poor mans A bomb", which is reputed to kill anything within 1000 yards of ground zero.

Fairer, that is, than vapourising them with a tactical nuclear device.

The Nuke is (or, at least, has been until recently) seen as a step too far. For visceral rather than logical reasons, it marks the boundary over which, should we step, Armageddon is the most probable outcome.

It's an entirely arbitrary line but a useful one nevertheless. It probably has held us back from the Nuclear Holocaust we thought inevitable at various times during the Cold War. So the Western World and the former Soviet Union should be congratulated for their nuclear restraint. The Soviets bankrupted themselves building the damn things, but at least they didn't use them.

Everyone has heard of the Japanese Kamikaze pilots who flew their "Zeros" into the American Pacific battle fleet in a desperate attempt to fend off impending defeat towards the end of the second World War. But until nearly 40 years later, when Hezbollah introduced suicide bombing as a peacetime option with disregard for civilian casualties, (later perfectect by the Tamil Tigers), this was another line we all thought that no-one would ever cross. There seems to have been a similar notion that the deliberate targeting of civilians was equally taboo. Not so, of course. Both random and deliberate targeted killing of civilians has probably been a mainstream military tactic since before we left the trees. We now know that even Chimpanzees practice small scale warfare and raids targeted against isolated individuals who are not posing any current threat - the nearest we can get in Chimpworld to a "non combatant" or civilian.

The Romans, of course, introduced "decimation" as their contribution to terrorism; but with a unique twist. Decimation was first employed to terrorise the Army itself (to ensure that none dared display cowardice) - not the target population; that was a later addition. Japanese military discipline was almost as brutal and effective in ensuring compliance and "loyalty" and ensured that they too were particularly good at terrorising their target populations. Then, of course, we remember Atilla The Hun or Vlad the Impaler. Leaving a trail of impaled Muslim corpses here, wiping out a few hundred non combatants there all had the desired effect of terrorising the population and minimising resistance. Not to mention the Vikings, the Goths, the Visigoths and so on. We won't even talk about the behaviour of either side during the conquest of America by the white settlers.

Murder, pillage, rape and terrorism have always been standard parts of the "game" of warfare. Only in recent decades has this begun to change and that is one of the more positive results of the growth of media power and penetration - which renders such behaviour increasingly visible in real time - but which we can discuss elsewhere. Are all those previous wars now to be relabelled terrorism? Fine, but don't even try to limit it to medieval and earlier warfare. Modern wars, as we'll discuss below, have been vastly more brutal and terrorising than any of their predecessors.

Suicidal self sacrifice, in contrast, is much rarer than slaughtering non combatants, but certainly not unheard of. There have always been exceptionally brave and committed fighters who have been prepared to launch an attack, or maintain a defence knowing that, whatever happens, their own death is certain. Military history is littered with examples. The final athletic event of the modern Olympic Games is dedicated to the memory of one of the more famous ones. It is also the case that Suicidal attacks on legitimate military or political targets have frequently also killed innocent civilians.

The combination, however, of suicide and the deliberate targeting and slaughter of civilians is - as far as I can tell - a wholly new development for which MIFT can claim the undisputed copyright. Which event can claim to be the first such attack is much disputed. For example, most of us in the West take for granted that Palestinian suicide bombers have been targeting Israeli civilians for a couple of decades. C.E. Carlson went there to see for himself . He reports it somewhat differently, not least because the Israeli military are so ubiquitous that almost any attack in Israel can, arguably, be construed as against a military target, even though it usually - like the average American or Israeli attacks - happens to kill more civilians than soldiers. So it may well be that 9-11 was the first suicide attack against an unambiguously civilian target in the shape of the World Trade Centre.

It is hardly surprising and not seriously disputed that the attack was the purest form of Terrorism. But I've always been mystified by why it was also labelled Cowardice.

Why on Earth were suicidal terrorists ever described as Cowards?
At 1.04 pm on Sept 11 2001 Bush made his first public response to the terrorist attack on America which included:

Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts.

Initially we might have been inclined to a charitable view. This was just the off the cuff remarks of a very stressed president who is not renowned for his mastery of the English language. But he - and, later, others - kept using the word. I suspect he's still using it today. He was certainly still using it in 2004. It was obviously a deliberate conscious choice.

Again, only the leading edge minds that think up things like USA PATRIOT would think it appropriate to call such attackers Cowards. It certainly implies a new and interesting definition of Coward.

Even Richard Clarke (then Bush's "National Co-ordinator For Security Infrastructure Protection and Counterterrorism" - but you can can call him the NCFSIPC for short) did a doubletake when he heard the President referring to this "cowardly" attack during his first TV broadcast. (see "Against All Enemies" pp 16-17)

"Lunatic" or "Psychotic" or even "Psychopathic" we might accept as being a reasonable description of someone who thinks it a good idea to fly loaded planes into tall buildings full of civilians, but, frankly, its difficult to imagine 19 lunatics organising something that well.

"Psychotic?" well yes, certainly in the same Social Psychotic sense I describe here. Fundamentalism (whether religious or secular) is, in my view, a social psychosis and there is little doubt that the perpetrators of 9-11 were religious fundamentalists; but psychotic in the "mad axeman" sense? Hmmm... doesn't work for me. The "social" side of the psychosis is, I speculate, a critical component of the condition. If they weren't members of a like minded group, they would almost certainly not be inclined to behave in such an extreme manner.

I don't know enough about individual psychosis to know whether it usually disables its sufferers. But certainly one of the problems with social psychosis is that it does not disable its. They remain frighteningly capable of following their tunnel vision plans, whether those plans are to "dismantle science's foundations block by block" or to use a loaded passenger plane as a weapon of mass destruction.. Certainly in the case of the hijackers, despite - or perhaps because of - any social psychosis they shared, the more you think about what those men did, the more you realise how rational and methodical their planning and execution must have been in order to succeed as well as they did. While we may automatically deplore their target, we have to "admire" their performance.

Certainly, if we want to have any prospect of defending ourselves against the huge range of attacks that became credible after 9-11, we need to acknowledge the skill, planning capability and total commitment that our enemy has displayed. That technically necessary analysis is inconsistent with any form of cowardice which does not stretch the English language beyond recognition.

It is also inconceivable that such men were unaware of the ethical basis of their actions. They were certainly not guilty of any kind of moral cowardice. They obviously reached conclusions with which most of the rest of us fundamentally disagree. But they had the moral courage to face the personal consequences of their choices.

Presumably we can skip the debate over whether deliberately flying a bomb into your enemy target constitutes some kind of physical cowardice.

The real point, of course, is that they (the USAPATRIOTs) desperately wanted Coward to be the right word because the coward is the universal pariah. Everybody despises the coward (except other - honest - cowards, who sympathise). Presumably their thinking must have been along the lines of: "if we could just persuade everyone that the suicidal hijackers were cowards, then everybody will hate them like we do."

This is what (the late) Susan Sontag, one of the few who dared to point out - at the time - that the emperor's threads were a bit bare, had to say in the The New Yorker 24 Sept 2001.

The disconnect between last Tuesday's monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public. Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a "cowardly" attack on "civilization" or "liberty" or "humanity" or "the free world" but an attack on the world's self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq? And if the word "cowardly" is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards.

The use of the term "coward" wasn't just inappropriate, it was really dumb!

It's as though they don't think We The People (WTP) can make the distinction between an act of evil and the skilled execution of that act. Think "Holocaust" and the supremely efficient management of that industrial scale killing machine. We can routinely acknowledge the anal precision of Nazi bureaucracy without conceding any ethical merit to the slaughter they were recording so meticulously.

Is it really necessary for me to emphasise?: Nobody was one jot less offended or horrified by 9-11 just because we didn't see the hijackers as cowards.

They were obviously very courageous men. But if they weren't already dead, many of us would gladly rip them limb from limb in response to their awful and awesome attacks.

Anyway, the USAPATRIOT brigade chooses to label these obviously courageous, though psychotically misguided, young suicide hijackers Cowards, and presumably hopes that if the docile media repeat it often enough, eventually WTP will believe it. Precisely the kind of logic Orwell is trying to portray in 1984, and, as Thom Hartmann graphically outlines, it is also the kind of propaganda technique used by Joseph Goebbels.

The problem for them (USAPATRIOTs) - if that analogy isn't just an American liberal's not so private nightmare - is that, nowadays, too many people can see the source documents and make up their own mind. Granted most of the sheep won't bother checking beyond their "Fair And Balanced" Fox News reports. But there are tens of millions of goats out there as well and they're all chewing over the evidence with varying degrees of intelligence. Few are dumb enough to be persuaded by the Project Leaders. ("Project for the New American Century" - PNAC) There were doubtless a couple of million goats in Germany in the mid 30s, but unlike today's goats, they couldn't get at the data. They couldn't expose the lie.

Or perhaps the USAPATRIOTs also thought that this early attempt to belittle the 9-11 attack would help to soften the barely suppressed celebrations on the "Arab Street."

Only in Palestine did we see actual celebrations. Hardly surprising once you begin to understand what is going on there. Palestine was the major item on the Hijackers' agenda. And the deep and bitter resentment provoked within the Muslim community largely by that issue resulted in a considerable measure of satisfaction that, at last, the Americans had got something of what they deserved. Up to a quarter of the population in some Islamic countries actually regarded the attack as legitimate - for reasons it has taken the years since for the minority of Americans, who are so inclined, to begin to understand.

But the natural horror and sympathy felt by 95% of the human race, including the majority of Muslims, must have been diluted, not just in the Arab Street but in the Islamic world generally by that description of the killers as cowards. That attempt to trivialise what they had done actually constituted the very first self imposed "shot in the foot" by the Americans. They lost their first few percent of global sympathy just through that nave and manipulative drafting decision.

Perhaps, given their apparent lack of socio-analytical abilities generally, they (the US administration) don't (or didn't) even understand that there is such a constituency as the "Arab Street". Or worse, they believed that its members were so unintelligent or so gullible that they'd be taken in by the description of suicidal hijackers as cowards. They cannot imagine that literally millions in that constituency will - feeling insulted or patronised - reply along the lines of: One day, Imshallah, I will get my chance to die with such cowardice.

And, as Susan Sontag discusses, if there is a cowardly way to kill people, surely cruise missiles must be a major contender. It doesn't take a fraction of the courage to order the death of a few hundred people under a guided missile that it takes to fly a plane into a tall building.

The use of the pariah word "Coward" is a juvenile, simplistic and nave attempt at portraying the attackers as inherently weak minded and evil. If this characterisation were remotely accurate, then the enemy would be a lot less serious threat than they obviously are.

The objective evidence suggests that the 9-11 terrorists were no more inherently evil than their enemy. And no less.

Their tactics and targets were, of course, appalling and inexcusable. But no more so than the subsequent retaliation in both the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which have killed far more innocent non-combatant civilians than died on 9-11. It is simply not good enough for the Americans to argue that their use of precision weapons is unprecedented and has resulted in major reductions in civilian casualties. "Only" killing 10-20,000 civilians (in Afghanistan; 30-100,000 in Iraq) in response to the terrorists slaughter of 3,000 is every bit as evil, if not considerably more so than the original crime. There is simple no rational ethical argument which can justify that equation. The Americans blew it. Big time.

Of course, we can and should welcome the fact that they could have killed even more but didn't. But that only sets an upper limit on their crime, it doesn't begin to excuse it.

The real problem is...

...this aint just their problem.

They've made it a huge problem for the world at large. They have dramatically increased the risk that we, the human race, will self destruct.

A bizarre competition has emerged. Politicians in what was once called the "free world" compete to invent ever more repressive measures against their own citizens in their desperate attempts to regain control of what goes on within their borders. On the terrorist side, they compete to outdo each other in the extent of merciless terror they can exploit. Russia's own 9-11 - Beslan September 3 2004 - represents the lowest point they have sunk to at the time of writing. It, too, is a more evil act even than 9-11 for reasons we will discuss below. The televised execution by hacking off a hostage's head with a knife is not far off the same level.

Most prominently in the firing line in 2005 are the main supporters of the United States - particularly if their support extended to the invasion of Iraq - and Russia which has its own home-grown problem in the Caucasus. But the week before the Beslan slaughter, the kidnapping of the two French journalists was in the news. They were taken by a (non Iraqi) fundamentalist outcrop of MIFT calling themselves "Islamic Army of Iraq". Their sole demand (on pain of death of the hostages) was the reversal of the French law on the wearing of Islamic headscarves in schools.

This marked a dramatic new development with such far reaching implications that they were forced by other fundamentalists to back down. Most of Islam realised that this was a step too far.

Islamic leaders around the world rose up to protest at this kidnapping in a way they had not done - to the same degree at least - for any previous victims. Why? Well, partly because the French called in the diplomatic favours they have been cultivating in the Arab world for the previous 40 years, but partly also because they knew that if they didn't protest and this demand was seen to be condoned, even if only by passive acceptance, they knew how this would be seen in the rest of the world.

Such demands by militant Islam clearly endorse the view that certain strains of Islam have their own World Domination agenda. If moderate Islam was not seen vigorously to oppose such ambitions and tactics, this would imply support amongs mainstream Islam and move us all a step closer to the major religious war which bin Laden seems to be playing and praying for and most Muslims don't want even to contemplate.

This global Islamic pressure resulted in the reasonably swift release of the French hostages, and, in the process, revealed an important feature which has (to my knowledge) gone unremarked elsewhere. It proved that there are channels of communication and levers which can be pulled to influence even the most extreme MIFT players. It also showed that they're not quite as insane as we may have either hoped or imagined.

Many have tried to comfort themselves and come to terms with this new reality, by imagining that Bin Laden and his colleagues are short of a few marbles. Not playing with a full deck. Educationally sub normal. Not very intelligent. As well, of course, as psychotic, like all fundamentalists.

But it's much much worse than that.

In truth, he is completely

Barking

Sane.

No. You're right, that is going too far. Sane and "wouldn't it be a good idea to fly loaded airplanes into the World Trade Centre?" can't really fit into the same mental universe. But one has to admit that within the confines of their distorted world view, they are behaving, if not rationally, then at least intelligently and consistently.

Whether anyone cares to admit it or not, they obviously have a legitimate and rational basis for a number of their complaints. They also have the record of the past 50 years to show that these complaints have not only not been largely ignored, but exacerbated. They also have the sympathy of a large minority of the global Muslim community. They have the active support and participation of tens of thousands of very angry Muslims, a significant minority of whom are sufficiently committed to allow themselves to be used as weapons in this war, even if it means their own certain death.

Furthermore, although individual tactical operations have been of questionable benefit to their own cause, their overall strategy is sound. They clearly cannot confront either a superpower like the United States, or an ex superpower like the Russians on the battlefield where they are hopelessly outgunned.

What they can do, however, is work towards making those societies tear themselves apart. In order to achieve that, they must provoke an internal crisis within each country. The polarisation we are seeing in the United States was evident well before 9-11. The Republican attacks on Clinton in the late 90s followed by the Bush election in 2000 revealed that. But the depth and scale of the political chasm has been massively expanded since then by three main factors.

The first is the growth of the Police State of America. The Bush administration's desperate attempt to achieve security through a mixture of intrusive and repressive laws giving levels of unsupervised authority to their enforcement apparatus more effective and sweeping than those the Stasi enjoyed in East Germany.

The second is the damage done to America's reputation and standing by the cavalier attitude of the administration towards the rest of the world. This peaks in the conduct of their invasion of Iraq but is also visible in their attitudes to many international issues such as their refusal to join the Kyoto protocol, their refusal to join the International Court of Human Rights, their double standard<u>s</u> with regard to many World Trade issues and so on.

Third, of course, is the rise of the Christian Taliban and the attack on Rationalism which we've already covered elsewhere.

Such issues are either a cause for embarrassment or a cause celebre for the minority of Americans who take any notice at all of what is going on, politically, in their own country. It doesn't matter which side of those issues you are on. The inescapable truth is that America is much more bitterly divided now than, probably, at any time since its Civil War. MIFT can claim a fair proportion of the credit/blame for that.

Furthermore, they have also demonstrated that their actions can more directly affect the (so called) democratic process in the West. The current Spanish government would not be in power were it not for 3-11 - the bombing of commuter trains in rush hour Madrid on March 11 2004. Granted, the bombs didn't frighten the Spaniards into voting against their incumbent incompetents. It was the pathetic way the then Government tried to mislead its people (by insisting that it must have been the work of Basque terrorists - who have never even attempted an attack on that scale, particularly against civilians) that ensured their ballot failure. Nevertheless, MIFT can claim full credit for provoking the crisis at the opportune time.

More recently, we've had the London Bombings and within weeks, the UK Parliament was signing up to further ill thought out repressive measures which restrict liberty and hand further victories to the terrorists.

These political successes are a major incentive for the terrorists to continue their military campaigns. They also offer a clue as to what kind of attacks we might begin to anticipate. It is not simply the terrorising of the population that matters. The aim is to do so in such a way that the host governments exacerbate the problem by creating ever increasing internal dissent.

For example, if they had wanted a different president following the 2004 elections, we would have seen a major escalation of activity in Iraq (of the kind we saw after the "agreement" on the Iraqi Constitution) in order to demonstrate the continuing failure of that policy. In fact, it was a reasonably calm period in Iraq (by their standards) because, of course, the last thing that MIFT wanted was a change in the American Establishment. They were more than happy with the direction the Americans were taking. Why upset that apple cart?

The last thing they want at the moment is a Democrat president. There is a serious risk that he would take steps (or at least try) which would significantly decrease the tension and conflict which they've worked so hard and, so far, so successfully to achieve. And they can't imagine a Democrat ratcheting up the Police State at anything like the pace of the PNAC zealots. They look forward to their own version of a "tipping point". The point at which the authoritarianism begins to produce home-grown terrorism from within the extensive reservoir of libertarians in the United States who already believe their government has gone many steps too far.

Either MIFT or PNAC subcontractors might still try to kill Bush, as I first discussed here. The purpose of such an assassination would be to provoke a massive pro-religious-republican back-lash which would ensure that the Project continues.

You may or may not agree with that conspiratorial analysis but I doubt if you would disagree that any further 9-11 scale attacks (or even 3-11) on the American mainland will cement the Police State mentality deeply into the American psyche - they might even push for and get Amendments to the constitution designed to undermine the protections of the previous amendments.

Should MIFT attacks continue to succeed in this manner, and both America and Russia begin to implode, and Europe, led by Britain begin to follow in their footsteps, then what hope for the human race?

And what, if anything, can WTP do about it?

Kick out the governments responsible is an obvious choice. Providing you can stomach what you'll get instead.

But even after that electoral bloodletting, the very real problems will still remain. We have to address them. We need much more than a change of personnel. More even than a change of political system. We need to start using our intelligence, in ALL senses of that word.

We can begin by understanding what Terrorism is. And we can start that process by stating clearly what:

Terrorism is NOT:

  • New
  • Taking a pair of nail cutters on a plane
  • Protesting at the bullying tactics of the State
  • Supporting the Palestinian cause against the Israelis
  • Buying cocaine
  • Preaching religious hatred
  • Restricted to private individuals or private armies

Terrorism IS:

  • The lethal targeting of non combatants to promote fear throughout the enemy population.
  • Motivated by the primary aim of all warfare, short of genocide - to coerce the enemy to bow to the demands of the attackers.
  • Generally unethical - but no more so than "traditional" warfare techniques where those result in the reckless deaths of non combatants

See? Not that difficult to define - providing we're not trying to leave escape clauses or score political points. It is, as I said earlier, just another military strategy.

The military logic of attacking the non combatant ("civilian") population is fourfold.

  • Unlike those with military training, civilians are much more likely to be intimidated by brute force.
  • It forces the enemy to divert military resources to civil protection tasks
  • There is less risk and fewer obstacles to the attacker from a non military target.
  • Demonstrating the enemy leadership's inability to protect their civil population places enormous pressure on that leadership which the attackers hope will cause the enemy to concede their demands by recognising capitulation as the only way to stop the slaughter.

So, with all that in mind...

Which single attack would you nominate as the worlds biggest ever terrorist atrocity?

Time's up.

Deduct two points if you nominated 9-11. It's not even in the ball park. In fact, deduct ten points. I gave you a clue earlier!

Dresden is the main contender. It is the biggest military slaughter of non-combatants in history resulting from a single attack. It is probably the greatest single war crime ever (if we regard the Holocaust and Stalin's purges, both of which took place over a period of years, as millions of individual crimes rather than single events; otherwise, of course, they would be the clear winners) It remains, arguably, the greatest unpunished crime ever committed. Of course, it helped that it was a crime committed by the victors, rather than the vanquished, so nobody ever had the guts to stand up, at the time, and charge Churchill - who was directly responsible - with being a war criminal and terrorist.

There was never the slightest shred of military justification for the attack on Dresden. It did nothing to shorten the war and thus, far from saving lives in the long run, it merely destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives for nothing more than a geopolitical whim. It was not necessary, at that stage in the War (February 1945) to further frighten the German people in order to force their government to surrender. They were gradually being beaten back into their bunkers and the end was only a matter of relatively short time.

There may even be a case to argue that it was more despicable and evil than any mere Terrorism. You can at at least argue that the Terrorist is trying to intimidate the target population in order to force his ambitions on them. The bombing of Dresden wasn't even aimed at the German victims it killed. The only motivation appears to have been Churchill's desire to show the Russians how much power the West could wield if it needed to, in the context of the sharing of the Europeans spoils of war after what was, by then, the inevitable victory of the allies. In other words we were killing innocent civilians in one country, in order to try to intimidate the government of another country who, at that stage, not only weren't our enemy, but were actually still one of our allies!

By some accounts, more people died in Dresden than in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. And they didn't even die for a cause related to the war they died in. How cold blooded can humanity get? Think about that - and meditate on how little you hear about it.

What was the Most Successful Terrorist Attack ever?

Easily the most successful (in the sense that they achieved their objective) single acts of terrorism to date were the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in August 1945, which forced Japan to surrender in a matter of days.

Still horrified by the suggestion that Hiroshima was a Terrorist attack? Then read the "Terrorism IS" paragraph again and point out where Hiroshima fails to fit. If you don't like my definition, then read the "high panel" definition at the top of this article - with or without the added "cannot be justified on any grounds and constitutes an act of terrorism" bit and point out where Hiroshima fails to fit. Or challenge Tony Blair's "Terrorism is killing innocent civilians - deliberately". Incidentally, I must take this opportunity to congratulate Anthony Howard who became the first person I've ever heard make this point on air (Any Questions Radio 4 16 Sept 2005 (exerpt on mp3 - 260k))

It gets worse. Hiroshima wasn't just a non combatant target. It had deliberately not been attacked up to that point, partly because it had no major military signifance, even as a port, but mainly in order that accurate assessments of the effect of the worlds first atom bomb attack could be measured without confusing those effects with damage wreaked by conventional weapons. That's how cold blooded humanity can be.

The precise aim of the attack, of course, was to coerce or influence the policy of the Japanese Government into unconditional surrender by attacking and intimidating the civilian population with a public demonstration that further resistance would result in unimaginable levels of civilian (and military) slaughter and destruction. It even fits the USAPATRIOTs' own definition of Terrorism!

This puts it nicely:

A good place to start thinking about the moral issues involved in the atomic bombing is with this description of the Japanese attack on Hong Kong from Allen and Polmar (p. 158):
To force the surrender of Fort Stanley in Hong Kong in December 1941, Japanese troops began torturing British and Chinese captives, cutting off ears and fingers, cutting out tongues, and gouging eyes before killing the victims by dismemberment. British and Chinese nurses were tied down on corpses and raped, then bayoneted to death. The captors allowed some witnesses to escape and report the atrocities. Fort Stanley surrendered.
We are naturally nauseated by this behavior. But why? Presumably there are some Japanese apologists who would be only too glad to point out that the number of civilians raped and butchered to induce surrender was less than the number of Japanese soldiers who might have died in an assault on the fort. Nevertheless, Allen and Polmar expect us to be repelled by the Japanese action and rightly so, because there is a moral distinction between civilians and combatants. But nowhere in their book on why "the atom bomb had to be dropped" (to quote their subtitle) do they ever apply this same moral standard to U.S. behaviour.

In short, if Hiroshima wasn't Terrorism, then nothing else is or ever could be. But it gets better than that.

Not only does Hiroshima fit any reasonable definition of Terrorism, but, even more awkwardly, it is, as I hope to demonstrate, almost certainly defensible - not least because of the effect it has had on our history. This should not be misconstrued as an argument that "the end justifies the means". Its only relevance is that it lends considerable credibility to the potential ethical motivation which may have driven it forward. If my arguments hold water, then Hiroshima is a glaringly prominent example of how even Terrorism can be ethical.

Even some Japanese have accepted that without Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they might never have surrendered. The debate still rages and yes, I'm aware that some Japanese historians argue that it was actually the Soviet declaration of War against Japan that was the final straw, but there is also a strong argument that this declaration was itself provoked by the display of the Atom bomb. The debate will no doubt go on for centuries. But, for me, the most cogent and credible picture of events, is contained in Herbert Bix's summary, which includes the following

We may never know the actual thinking of Hirohito when he decided to surrender. General MacArthur would not allow him to be questioned. But (Hirohito's chief political adviser) Kido gave extensive depositions to the interrogators of the International Prosecution Section of GHQ, which wrote the scenario for the Tokyo Tribunal in accordance with Truman administration policy. In those depositions he said the emperor surrendered in order to bring the war to an end and save human lives. He and the other top leaders figured that the new U.S. weapon of mass destruction, the atomic bomb, had given them a face-saving excuse -- a way to accept defeat that would enable them to lead the nation through the immediate post-surrender situation.

There is no dissent from the view that, had they refused to surrender, the Japanese would eventually have been defeated and that it would have cost them many millions more lives. The Americans, in turn, knew that continuing the conventional war might have cost them upwards of a further million lives. Whether those deaths would definitely have resulted can never be known, but the predictions were certainly not unreasonable. Hence it is reasonable to argue that the quart

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Related Links
o pdf version
o noted
o this failed definition
o MIFT
o Terrorism is the killing of innocent civilians deliberately
o clip here
o Bill Moyer puts it
o summary
o here
o angry mob evicted the corrupt Georgian regime
o here [2]
o cure worse than the disease
o Police State
o active consideration
o daisycutte r
o Hezbollah introduced suicide bombing
o Tamil Tigers
o even Chimpanzees practice small scale warfare
o Decimation
o Atilla The Hun
o Vlad the Impaler
o reports it somewhat differently
o first public response
o still using it
o definition of Coward
o Against All Enemies
o describe here
o dismantle science's foundations block by block
o The New Yorker 24 Sept 2001
o Thom Hartmann
o kind of propaganda
o Project Leaders
o barely suppressed celebrations
o begin to understand
o sole demand
o called in the diplomatic favours
o London Bombings
o repressive measures
o here [3]
o Dresden
o exerpt on mp3
o This
o Herbert Bix's summary
o Also by harrystottle


Display: Sort:
What Is Terrorism? Can it Ever be Ethical? | 133 comments (106 topical, 27 editorial, 0 hidden)
rewrite this, it's too long (1.09 / 11) (#3)
by circletimessquare on Sat Oct 15, 2005 at 07:54:30 AM EST

no one is going to read it

brevity is the soul of wit, or something to that effect

oh, and by the way: terrorism is never ethical

i'll make a simple allegory: when you move from white to black, there are various shades of gray

somewhere, at some shade of gray, you are no longer white, you are more black

where is that point exactly?

i don't know, you don't know

however, because we don't know exactly where that point is, doesn't mean the color black doesn't exist

get it?

try this:

a man steal a loaf of bread to feed his family

is he a criminal? no

however, he takes a liking to stealing and later, when is family is well fed and housed, he steals simply for the gain of wealth

is he a criminal? yes

WHEN did he become criminal?

no one knows, but that doesn't mean he isn't a criminal!

it's a logical fallacy: because a million chattering assholes can't agree in a specific border area between right or wrong, good or bad, black or white, doesn't mean the border doesn't exist

don't sublimate the existence of evil into an argument about where the border lies between good and evil

no one knows

but still evil exists, and good exists

you are missing the overall view of the problem before you, you are getting lost in the miniscule details

because you can't define that border doesn't mean you can't condemn evil nonetheless

welcome to life, it's not a math problem, it's messy

so just because you can't pin down when and where terrorism goes from evil murder to valid means of resistance, doesn't mean you have negated the fact that terrorism is evil

get it?


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Ethics (none / 0) (#7)
by SDaskaleas on Sat Oct 15, 2005 at 08:31:53 AM EST

has been a philosophical subject that people have been discussing for thousands of years. Yet for you, it's all very well defined and, therefore, not a problem. +1FP by the way, very well written article.

[ Parent ]
how are your thoughts possible? (none / 1) (#23)
by circletimessquare on Sat Oct 15, 2005 at 06:50:24 PM EST

i repeatedly said no one knows where the borders are, and you take that to mean i think everything is well-defined?

LOL ;-P

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

I find your style annoying, sir (none / 1) (#32)
by SDaskaleas on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 06:12:38 AM EST

Well done!

[ Parent ]
i do my best (nt) (none / 0) (#33)
by circletimessquare on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 06:49:14 AM EST



The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
Actually.... (none / 1) (#19)
by Already Late on Sat Oct 15, 2005 at 01:46:36 PM EST

"a man steal a loaf of bread to feed his family

is he a criminal? no"

Yes he is a criminal.  It just happens that letting his family starve is a bigger crime.  If there were other ways to feed them (soup kitchen, shelters, etc...) he would be obligated to use these resources before stealing.

[ Parent ]

Ethics & Warfare don't mix well (none / 1) (#28)
by duffbeer703 on Sat Oct 15, 2005 at 11:59:14 PM EST

Terrorism is just another form of warfare... it is no more ethical or un-ethical than cavalry sweeps, airborne attack or aerial warfare.

American society has this notion that warfare can be neat & clean... the popular press equates the field of battle to a operating theater and a battle to a laproscopic procedure. Precise, neat and decisive.

Unfortunately, war is none of that. As long as wealthy countries wield powerful, organized armies to enforce their will, "terrorists" will lurk in the shadows to fight those armies on their terms.

My grand-uncle fought the British occupation in the  1920's Irish Republic as an "insurgent". The Moros fought the Spanish and US armies on Luzon. Colonial and Tory militia torched farms and villages on the fringes of the American revolution.

Terrorists conducting irregular warfare and terrorizing civilian populations is nothing new. Banning "terrorism" is a nice gesture, but no more effective than the League of Nations banning warfare in the 1920's.

[ Parent ]

snore... (none / 1) (#30)
by circletimessquare on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 01:01:19 AM EST

life is war

timothy mcveigh was at war when he bombed oklahoma city

when nations are done away with far into the future, and so nation can ever go to war with any other nation again, there will still be war

...culture war, wars of ideology

in other words, terrorism

you can't draw lessons about nation versus nation when commenting on what one man or a subculture with a bad idea will do

i don't condemn terrorism becuase it's not playing by the rules of warfare, i'm condemning terrorism because it's not playing by the rules of living

terrorists are cowards, they blow up abortion clinics and iraqis waiting in line to vote or join the police

that's not a battlefield moron, that's domestic life

sept 11: what war was that again?


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

ethics always "mixes" (none / 0) (#73)
by Paul Jakma on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 03:05:16 AM EST

My grand-uncle fought the British occupation in the  1920's Irish Republic as an "insurgent".

You mean late 1910's ;). The Irish Free State was negotiated for in 1921. Most of the insurgency took place after WWII (1918 to 1921. A truce was called in July 1921, treaty negotiations started later that year.).

In that case though, the British were also heavily engaged in terrorism and countering insurgency with retaliatory measures against civilians. Though the Irish insurgents were branded as terrorists by the British, it's very easy to make the case that the insurgents were justified in their actions (even when they killed British secret police and other operatives in cold blood) due to the actions of the British state in Ireland.

But yes, the ethics of terrorism are just a subset of the ethics of war in general. Ethics and warfare do mix though, they must. The ethical conclusion may be "War is not justified" or it may be "it is justified in such cases as X, Y and Z", but you can only arrive at such conclusions by examining the ethical basis for war.

Further you can seperate the "strategic" ethical questions around war (when is it justified to go to war?) from the "tactical" ethical questions, eg regardless of whether or not a particular war is justified or not you can still hold actors in that war accountable for tactics they use. An ethically unjustifiable war can still be fought according to commonly agreed rules of war, ie so that within this framework of war the tactics used are justifiable. And similarly, even justifiable wars (if such a thing can exist) can see unjustifiable war crimes occur. The strategic and tactical ethics of war can (and probably should) be seperated, imho (as, eg, the set of Geneva Conventions attempt to do, with respect to certain classes of persons in times of war).


[ Parent ]

No. (none / 0) (#82)
by hummassa on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 10:31:06 AM EST

War is NEVER justified.
Murder is NEVER justified.
Killing a person is only (partially) justified if done in (non-exceeding in force) defense of one's life.

[ Parent ]
Pacifism? (none / 0) (#87)
by thejeff on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 02:17:32 PM EST

So what is the appropriate reaction to an invasion by the armies of a brutal dictator?

It does take two to have a war, but only one for conquest.

[ Parent ]

google for "Mohandas Ghandi" $ (none / 1) (#118)
by hummassa on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 05:28:00 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Ghandi? (none / 1) (#120)
by thejeff on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 09:25:06 AM EST

I've heard the name before.

Admire him greatly, in fact. In some circumstances the approach can even work.

The British were hardly what I'd call a "brutal dictatorship." Certainly oppressive in India, but trying to maintain the pretense of civilisation.

How would Gandhi's approach worked if he'd just been shot or "disappeared" as soon as he started to cause trouble? Along with say a random 10% of his followers? You might have had a massive violent popular uprising, but not a pacifist handover.

Would pacifism have stopped Hitler or Stalin? Maybe a few generations later, the regimes would have dissolved, but how many more millions would have died before then.

In some cases, war can actually save lives.

[ Parent ]

You forget ... (none / 0) (#124)
by hummassa on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 12:01:46 PM EST

Saving lives != Good

[ Parent ]
Saving lives != Good (none / 0) (#125)
by thejeff on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 12:46:34 PM EST

From your previous post "Killing a person is only (partially) justified if done in (non-exceeding in force) defense of one's life."

Not to save anothers?

And thus collective action, resulting in the deaths of the attackers, is not justified even to save, in the end, the lives of those taking the collective
action. Thus even defensive wars are not justified.

I disagree completely.


[ Parent ]

To disagree is your right. (none / 0) (#126)
by hummassa on Thu Oct 20, 2005 at 06:32:49 AM EST

But nevertheless you misinterpreted me:
From your previous post "Killing a person is only (partially) justified if done in (non-exceeding in force) defense of one's life." Not to save anothers?
Notice that I didn't use "one self's life". Obviously my phrase includes "to save one (third person) life".
But that is not the real point. The point is: WAR does not save lives, nor is it non-exceeding in force, under no circunstances: it kills a lot of innocent people, it generates a drain of resources that kills more people, and it generates a losing side that will resort eventually to terrorism and kills more people.
Defensive wars? Like defending your own territory without invading your invader? THAT I think is included in my phrase above.

[ Parent ]
We're probably closer than we look (none / 0) (#127)
by thejeff on Thu Oct 20, 2005 at 12:31:03 PM EST

My only real quibble remaining would be that in some cases, invading your invader may allow you to end the war quickly and in the end cause less destruction than just defending your borders against repeated attacks.

[ Parent ]
Slicing and dicing (none / 0) (#92)
by duffbeer703 on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 10:50:54 PM EST

Once you start slicing and dicing things, everything goes to pot. Pacifists think killing is wrong. Patriots think that anything their country does is great. Soldiers want to remain among the living.

To top it all off, politics alters what is ethical and what isn't. The democrats weren't so worried about the ethics of war when we were bombing various places in the 90's and doing nothing about Rwanda. Republicans aren't worried too much about the legalities of warfare right now.

War is war. Do what you have to do to end it decisively or don't participate.

[ Parent ]

too long? (none / 1) (#76)
by ccdotnet on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 04:44:30 AM EST

(too long) no one is going to read it

Obviously enough people did read it for a discussion to result.

Maybe the one's who can bother reading it, are the ones worth discussing it with.

[ Parent ]

Is he a criminal for stealing to feed hims family? (none / 0) (#134)
by sirmeili on Tue Nov 01, 2005 at 03:53:32 PM EST

Of course he is. Regardless of his intentions, he still stole something! (is that too black and white for you?)

[ Parent ]
Anthony Blair is not my glorious leader. ($!#^%* (none / 0) (#4)
by Fyren on Sat Oct 15, 2005 at 07:59:55 AM EST



You lucky (none / 0) (#59)
by harrystottle on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 05:45:18 PM EST

lucky bastard!

Mostly harmless
[ Parent ]
Terrorism is ... (3.00 / 4) (#15)
by toulouse on Sat Oct 15, 2005 at 10:34:28 AM EST

+-------------------------+
| I hate it when they     |
| don't work properly ... | +-----------------------------+
+--------+  +-------------+ | Hmmmm. You don't seem to    |
          \/                | bleed as much as they do ...|
          ||                +-------+  +------------------+
          \/                         \/ 
       --------                      --------
      /########\                    /########\
     /( 0)  ( O)\                  /(O )  (O )\
     \    oo    /                  \    oo    /
      \|||~~|||/                    \|||==|||/
     --||||||||----/               --||||||||--
    /   |||||||   |-              /  ||||||||  \
   /     ||||  ----\             /     ||||     \
   | ||        |                 | ||        || |
   | ||        |                 | ||        || |
   | ||--------|   '             | ||--------|| |
   /|||        |                 /|||        |||\
      |   ||---|   '                |   ||   |
      |   | /|\                     |   ||   |
      |   |                         |   ||   |
      |   |                         |   ||   |
      ----- .**. .**.               ----  ----
             ...   ...
  ♥   
 K|m


--
'My god...it's full of blogs.' - ktakki
--


+1FP, it just goes on and on and on and on and on (1.50 / 2) (#18)
by Patrick Chalmers on Sat Oct 15, 2005 at 12:13:04 PM EST

What makes it even better is that you can get the gist of the whole thing in the first 10 paragraphs.
Holy crap, working comment search!
+1 FP, although (2.00 / 3) (#22)
by some nerd on Sat Oct 15, 2005 at 05:29:20 PM EST

It really needs length edits, not least because it's truncated, for example the "coward" stuff belabours your point. Also you sort of present your opinion on Dresden / Hiroshima / Nagasaki as fact when the morality of them is still debated to this day (it so happens I pretty much agree with you, but still.)

Apart from that, it's good stuff.

--
Home Sweet Home

Winners write and filter history (none / 1) (#42)
by HDwebdev on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 12:27:17 PM EST

Also you sort of present your opinion on Dresden / Hiroshima / Nagasaki as fact when the morality of them is still debated to this day (it so happens I pretty much agree with you, but still.)

I was going to post a long reply, but upon reviewing the article I realized it would be completely redundant:

FTA: "Dresden is the main contender. It is the biggest military slaughter of non-combatants in history resulting from a single attack. It is probably the greatest single war crime ever (if we regard the Holocaust and Stalin's purges, both of which took place over a period of years, as millions of individual crimes rather than single events; otherwise, of course, they would be the clear winners) It remains, arguably, the greatest unpunished crime ever committed. Of course, it helped that it was a crime committed by the victors, rather than the vanquished, so nobody ever had the guts to stand up, at the time, and charge Churchill - who was directly responsible - with being a war criminal and terrorist."

It's debatable in most part because the winners are still strong entities. We were much more efficient at slaughtering civilians during that time period than Hitler and Stalin.

[ Parent ]
Did you sleep through history class (none / 1) (#45)
by Grognard on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 12:39:16 PM EST

or math?

[ Parent ]
math and history classes (none / 0) (#48)
by HDwebdev on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 01:21:02 PM EST

You're right. I must have been blinded by propaganda to believe that we demonstrated we were willing and able to slaughter civilians at a much faster pace than our enemies.

Thanks for helping me see the light.

[ Parent ]
I see (none / 1) (#50)
by Grognard on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 01:30:46 PM EST

so you were solely looking at speed as the determinant for "efficiency".  I'd assume that zyklon B was, however, cheaper than bombers loaded with tons of explosives, so the contest might be a wash - since you're engaging in the same logical contortions as the author.

Dresden, horrible though it may have been, was an act of war.  You may argue the military necessity of it, but there is room for debate there - room that is lacking when referring to the holocaust, German reprisals against Lidice, etc.  To equate the two is repulsive.  To place Dresden above the holocaust is pathetic.

[ Parent ]

How on earth? (none / 0) (#55)
by SeeDubya on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 04:38:40 PM EST

Do you conclude that the author is putting Dresden above the Holocaust? He makes a very clear distinction between the single act of Dresden and the multiple acts which constituted the holocaust. He concedes that adding them altogether constitutes the greater crime. The point he's making is that Dresden is a bigger single crime than any other. I think he's right about that.

[ Parent ]
The author's own words (none / 1) (#57)
by Grognard on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 05:00:04 PM EST

(if we regard the Holocaust and Stalin's purges, both of which took place over a period of years, as millions of individual crimes rather than single events; otherwise, of course, they would be the clear winners)

Both were the result of a single policy.  Breaking them out individually merely serves the author's ends of making Dresden seem worse.

[ Parent ]

You really don't understand, do you. (none / 1) (#63)
by harrystottle on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 06:16:19 PM EST

DRESDEN WAS NOT WORSE THAN THE HOLOCAUST.

OK? Is that clear enough?

However, as a single criminal event, it is unsurpassed.

Your point about the Holocaust being a policy is fatuous.

Dresden was also part of a policy wasn't it. That policy - as Michaelmalaks'link (which I hadn't come across before and it clinches the case) - makes it very clear that Terrorism was exactly what was intended by that policy. Defending Dresden, frankly, is about as credible as denying the holocaust.

As I think, I've now made clear, I have no problem agreeing that the holocaust policy was even more evil than the allies terrorist policy. That is, in fact, the nub of my argument. Other war crimes can exceed the evil of terrorism and, in certain circumstances, terrorism can exceed the ethics of some acts of war. There is, in other words, nothing "special" about terrorism. And it is nonsense to try to distinguish such behaviour from other unethical acts of war, particularly when the effort to do so is so transparently for the purposes of making crimes committed by "terrorists" somehow more illegal than crimes we commit ourselves.

People, glass houses and stones come to mind.



Mostly harmless
[ Parent ]
Nor do you (none / 1) (#68)
by Grognard on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 08:02:47 PM EST

However, as a single criminal event, it is unsurpassed.

Please provide some justification for naming it a criminal event - beyond just your opinion.

Your point about the Holocaust being a policy is fatuous.

Dresden was also part of a policy wasn't it.

Yes, however genocide is not a legally defensible policy.  Also, my point regarding the holocaust being a policy is that there weren't 6 million individual crimes, there were 6 million deaths stemming from one ongoing crime - however inconvenient that may be to your point of view.

That policy - as Michaelmalaks'link (which I hadn't come across before and it clinches the case) - makes it very clear that Terrorism was exactly what was intended by that policy.

That Churchill used the word terror hardly makes the Allied bombing policy terrorism.  First of all, breaking the enemy's will to resist is part of war - hard to imagine destroying morale without causing some sort of consternation on the part of the enemy.  Second of all, states cannot engage in terrorism - they can commit acts of war, they can violate the laws of war, but terrorism is the province of NGOs.

And it is nonsense to try to distinguish such behaviour from other unethical acts of war, particularly when the effort to do so is so transparently for the purposes of making crimes committed by "terrorists" somehow more illegal than crimes we commit ourselves.

Until you can secure agreement that our actions constituted a crime, you're getting way ahead of yourself.

[ Parent ]

agreements (none / 1) (#94)
by HDwebdev on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 12:33:57 AM EST

Until you can secure agreement that our actions constituted a crime, you're getting way ahead of yourself.

We can't even secure agreement with lots of asshats that the holocaust was a crime.

I for one can't follow your logic and then believe that the holocaust wasn't a crime just because people can't agree that it was.

[ Parent ]
Nice try, but (none / 1) (#97)
by Grognard on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:27:02 AM EST

the percentage of people willing to excuse holocaust is pretty tiny.

I'm talking consensus, not unanimity.

[ Parent ]

Revising history - irony (none / 0) (#108)
by HDwebdev on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:10:16 PM EST

I'm talking consensus, not unanimity.

Choose your wording more carefully and then you won't have to keep posting "well, I really meant to say Y when I said X" replies.

[ Parent ]
Irony indeed (none / 1) (#109)
by Grognard on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:33:13 PM EST

Choose your position more carefully and you won't have to resort to playing word games.

[ Parent ]
it's not a game, it's communication (none / 0) (#130)
by HDwebdev on Tue Oct 25, 2005 at 01:36:27 AM EST

Say what you mean and mean what you say.

It's that easy and reduces the number of times you have to say 'what I really meant was....'.

[ Parent ]
Um, consider history (none / 0) (#80)
by BerntB on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 06:00:36 AM EST

We were much more efficient at slaughtering civilians during that time period than Hitler and Stalin.
Since you're speaking in generalities but really mean bombing war, I'll adress the bombing war.

You are full of it.

At the start of the war, the English air force did bomb civilians -- with propaganda leaflets!

Hitler started bombing civilian targets (instead of airfields) when an English bomber by mistake bombed a civilian target. Had he called Britain on this instead, he'd probably had gotten an excuse -- and won the war by destroying the British' air defence.

If you start a total war targeting civilians, the other side will throw the law book out the window, too. It is human psychology.

It is not nice and certainly not legal, but much better than e.g. letting mass murdering dictatorships win wars by atrocities.

That the allies kept up bombing civilians so long after they had obviously won is probably something that the leaders regretted the rest of their lives, at least in private.

[ Parent ]

Article truncated. Here is how it ends. (2.80 / 5) (#29)
by oddity on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 12:09:38 AM EST

.... Whether those deaths would definitely have resulted can never be known, but the predictions were certainly not unreasonable. Hence it is reasonable to argue that the quart of milk I left out on the counter two weeks ago had gone bad. I never should have drunk it before posting on K5. Who knows what diarrhea I might emit into the story queue while under its influence.

Most People Are Voting Without Have Read It (none / 1) (#35)
by SeeDubya on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 07:37:21 AM EST

which is your own fault for making it too long for the average K5 reader. I downloaded the pdf yesterday and only finished reading it this morning. Its obviously intended as a chapter in your book rather than a K5 posting. In that context it works. It is highly readable, even entertaining in parts and I learnt a lot. But what was the point of posting it here?

and I'm posting comments (none / 0) (#37)
by SeeDubya on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 10:31:14 AM EST

without "have" read my own title. Duh!

[ Parent ]
Wrong (1.25 / 4) (#38)
by kurtmweber on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 10:36:08 AM EST

If it's ethical, it's not terrorism.

Kurt Weber
Any field of study can be considered 'complex' when it starts using Hebrew letters for symbols.--me
You've just missed the whole point (none / 0) (#40)
by SeeDubya on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 11:51:52 AM EST

and demonstrated that you too swallow the standard propaganda. Pathetic.

[ Parent ]
Pathetic (none / 0) (#44)
by Grognard on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 12:37:56 PM EST

Is characterizing any disagreement as being the result of swallowing the standard propaganda.  It must be such a burden being the guardian of "truth".

[ Parent ]
I have no idea whether it is "the truth" (none / 0) (#46)
by SeeDubya on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 01:01:40 PM EST

what I object to is the crass simplistic dismissal of serious arguments by someone who clearly hasn't read them. I'm guessing you're another one.

[ Parent ]
Serious? (none / 0) (#47)
by Grognard on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 01:14:02 PM EST

When the author has to perform the mental gymnastics of minimizing the holocaust and Stalin's crimes in order to make Dresden (which, for the record, was an act of war, not terrorism) the worlds biggest ever terrorist atrocity, you can't really call it serious.

[ Parent ]
Reasonable but I disagree (none / 0) (#51)
by SeeDubya on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 02:24:29 PM EST

the argument is that Dresden is the biggest single act of killing which many sources support. Obviously it was an act of war, but the author's point is that "so is terrorism" and just giving something another name doesn't make it any more or less ethical. Personally I don't give a damn if you define Dresden as terrorism or not, it was very clearly a war crime and - as that Churchill quote (see Michaelmalak below) reveals - they knew it at the time. What we're supposed to address, surely, is the ethics of war - and not allow ourselved to be blinded by propaganda labels.

[ Parent ]
The author's point is sorely lacking (none / 0) (#52)
by Grognard on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 02:54:36 PM EST

Obviously it was an act of war, but the author's point is that "so is terrorism" and just giving something another name doesn't make it any more or less ethical.

Equating terrorism with an act of war is like equating executions with murder - naive and legally baseless.  

A nation engaging in total war opens itself up to the potential for retaliation.  Terrorist organizations are subject to no such constraint (and for their own ends may even welcome retaliation against ostensibly innocent parties).  Granting such organizations equal stature through some perverted sense of "fair play" betrays a very shallow appreciation of the realities of the world.

Personally I don't give a damn if you define Dresden as terrorism or not, it was very clearly a war crime

Really?  Did I miss where Dresden had been declared an open city and de-militarized (Rotterdam)  Was it under the control of the allies at time of its destruction (Lidice)?  Did the allies take extraordinary measures to ensure the extermination of the civilian population (Oradour-sur-Glane)?

[ Parent ]

You obviously prefer the Status Quo (none / 0) (#53)
by SeeDubya on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 04:29:51 PM EST

Equating terrorism with an act of war is like equating executions with murder - naive and legally baseless.

Only if you accept the current definitions, which you obviously do.

A nation engaging in total war opens itself up to the potential for retaliation. Terrorist organizations are subject to no such constraint (emphasis added)

That's the core of your problem. You insist on defining terrorism on the basis of who commits it rather than what is being done. If the enemy does it, it's terrorism. If we do it, its an act of war. I don't happen to agree with the author that Hiroshima was ethical although I can see the logic of his argument. But it was obviously an act of terrorism of the most extreme conceivable kind. Your position is obviously based on international law. The point is that the law is an ass. One point I was surprised the author didn't make was to imagine the consequences had Hitler used the atom bomb instead of the Allies (and still lost the war, or else this conversation wouldn't be taking place). Do you seriously believe that his use of the weapon would not have been treated as a war crime??

Granting such organizations equal stature through some perverted sense of "fair play" betrays a very shallow appreciation of the realities of the world.

No. You still don't get it do you. The political and cultural realities of the world are indeed as you describe them. The point of this analysis is that the politics and culture of the world are out of synch with the ethical realities. You are merely appealing to the status quo in its own defence. Try to think outside the conditioned box you inhabit.

Really? Did I miss where Dresden had been declared an open city and de-militarized (Rotterdam) Was it under the control of the allies at time of its destruction (Lidice)? Did the allies take extraordinary measures to ensure the extermination of the civilian population (Oradour-sur-Glane)?

Jesus Christ. If you don't think a deliberately induced fire storm constitutes "extraordinary measures" you must come from a different planet.

 



[ Parent ]
I prefer law to "ethics" (none / 0) (#56)
by Grognard on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 04:52:34 PM EST

International relations cannot be conducted according to the ethical rules of individuals - for a good example of why, check out the administration of one Jimmy Carter (lousy head of state, decent human being).

That's the core of your problem. You insist on defining terrorism on the basis of who commits it rather than what is being done.

Correct.  And it's no problem.

If the enemy does it, it's terrorism. If we do it, its an act of war.

Incorrect.  Had the Saddam Hussein been behind 9/11, that would have been an act of war, not an act of terrorism.  I'll even go so far as to say it wouldn't be a war crime given its impact on our economy (not to say that it wouldn't merit pretty drastic retaliation).  

The difference, as you so correct noted is the actor.  Nations, even those run by dictators, are constrained by the threat of retaliation.  Therefore, there's a balance there that keeps everyone in line (for the most part).  Al Quaeda is free from such restraints (as their Taliban hosts found to their ultimate detriment).

Your position is obviously based on international law. The point is that the law is an ass.

Individuals live by ethics, groups live by law.  Your dislike for that fact does not make it any less so.

One point I was surprised the author didn't make was to imagine the consequences had Hitler used the atom bomb instead of the Allies (and still lost the war, or else this conversation wouldn't be taking place). Do you seriously believe that his use of the weapon would not have been treated as a war crime??

Sorry, but it would not have fit the description of a war crime (unless he pulled another Rotterdam).

No. You still don't get it do you. The political and cultural realities of the world are indeed as you describe them. The point of this analysis is that the politics and culture of the world are out of synch with the ethical realities.

Pray tell, who determines the ethical realities?

[ Parent ]

Even if the Law is Unethical? I rest my case (none / 1) (#58)
by SeeDubya on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 05:35:44 PM EST

Well, his case then.

International relations cannot be conducted according to the ethical rules of individuals

Who is suggesting that it should be? He is talking about the ethical rules of society, as agreed democratically. This is one of his strongest points, although, obviously, most people haven't read that far. He writes:

In a democracy, amongst other things, We The People, will always make the final decision on whether to go to war. Such far-reaching decisions can not sensibly – or ethically – be based on simple majorities. Democracy does not mean "Majority Rule" as most naive commentators would lead you to believe. Democracy simply means "People Power" which in turn means AT LEAST "Majority Rule".

This is a vital distinction. The seriousness of war, the deaths it is about to unleash, together with the need for unity and willing co-operation throughout the population demand much more than mere majority support. It requires Near Consensus.

You write:

Incorrect. Had the Saddam Hussein been behind 9/11, that would have been an act of war, not an act of terrorism. I'll even go so far as to say it wouldn't be a war crime given its impact on our economy (not to say that it wouldn't merit pretty drastic retaliation).

This, you see, is the focal point of our split. What the author is arguing - and I fully support - is that it doesn't matter who did it, or what you call it. It was still fucking evil. If that is something the Law has a problem with, then we all have a problem with the Law.

Individuals live by ethics, groups live by law.

That would be fine and dandy, if We The People made the Law.

>>Do you seriously believe that his use of the weapon would not have been treated as a war crime??

Sorry, but it would not have fit the description of a war crime (unless he pulled another Rotterdam).

Now who's being naive?!

Pray tell, who determines the ethical realities?

We The People.



[ Parent ]
I wish I could give it +6 (none / 0) (#60)
by harrystottle on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 05:50:01 PM EST

Obviously I agree!

Mostly harmless
[ Parent ]
And your basis for declaring it unethical is? (none / 0) (#62)
by Grognard on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 05:53:25 PM EST

You say, "We the People" determine what is ethical.  Show me how "the People" have declared international law to be unethical.  I certainly don't remember a vote on the subject.

This is a vital distinction. The seriousness of war, the deaths it is about to unleash, together with the need for unity and willing co-operation throughout the population demand much more than mere majority support. It requires Near Consensus.

ah, yes...that should insure paralysis.

What the author is arguing - and I fully support - is that it doesn't matter who did it, or what you call it. It was still fucking evil. If that is something the Law has a problem with, then we all have a problem with the Law.

The majority seem to disagree.

That would be fine and dandy, if We The People made the Law.

Yes, the fact that those sharing your point of view is prima facie evidence of the frustration of the will of the people.

Now who's being naive?!

Take a look at the Nuremberg indictments.  You'll notice that even Rotterdam isn't listed among the examples of wanton destruction not justified by military necessity.

[ Parent ]

That it has never been Democratically Tested (none / 1) (#64)
by harrystottle on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 06:32:02 PM EST

You say, "We the People" determine what is ethical. Show me how "the People" have declared international law to be unethical. I certainly don't remember a vote on the subject.

Pre Fucking Cisely.

>This is a vital distinction. The seriousness of war, the deaths it is about to unleash, together with the need for unity and willing co-operation throughout >the population demand much more than mere majority support. It requires Near Consensus.

ah, yes...that should insure paralysis.

Yes it should. Unless we all agree that its a good idea to go to war we shouldn't be doing it. That's what I call a Statement of the Bleedin Obvious. You will, of course, only get that kind of consensus when we (or a close ally) are under attack. Which is the only "good" (in the sense of defensible) time to go to war.

And are you arguing that such paralysis preventing us going into Iraq would have been a bad thing? I think, globally at least, you're outnumbered.

problem with, then we all have a problem with the Law.

The majority seem to disagree.

Uh? What majority?

That would be fine and dandy, if We The People made the Law.

Yes, the fact that those sharing your point of view is prima facie evidence of the frustration of the will of the people.

I'm sorry, I don't understand this line.

Take a look at the Nuremberg indictments. You'll notice that even Rotterdam isn't listed among the examples of wanton destruction not justified by military necessity.

And as I understand it (and I can't find the source) the reason that attacks like Rotterdam were not included was because they realised that the defence would bring in attacks like Dresden to support their case.



Mostly harmless
[ Parent ]
Well that saved me the trouble! (none / 0) (#65)
by SeeDubya on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 06:36:30 PM EST

of answering. I was wondering when you were going to make an appearance.

[ Parent ]
Been away (none / 0) (#66)
by harrystottle on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 06:47:36 PM EST

for the weekend. Just popped in to see how I was doing in the voting. Not much verbal support (so thanks for yours) which is surprising, given that I'm holding a small majority after 181 votes. It'll either sink or swim by the morning. Oh well, enough of this. I have a wife to collect from Heathrow in the morning. I'm off to bed. Goodnight world.

Mostly harmless
[ Parent ]
Let me clarify (none / 0) (#69)
by Grognard on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 08:19:34 PM EST

You say, "We the People" determine what is ethical. Show me how "the People" have declared international law to be unethical. I certainly don't remember a vote on the subject.

Pre Fucking Cisely.

Perhaps I should have been clearer - I reject your premise that "We the People" are disenfranchised.  

When I said I don't remember a vote on the subject, I meant that I haven't seen it seriously proposed to overturn centuries of precedent in international relations.  

Yes, the fact that those sharing your point of view is prima facie evidence of the frustration of the will of the people.

I'm sorry, I don't understand this line.

Yes, what I was trying to type was this:  "Yes, the fact that those sharing your point of view are not in power is prima facie evidence of the frustration of the will of the people."  I imagine the sarcasm would have been much better had I typed it correctly the first time.

ah, yes...that should insure paralysis.

Yes it should. Unless we all agree that its a good idea to go to war we shouldn't be doing it.

The problem lies in having sufficient information to make the decision.  That's part of the reason we have a republic instead of a true democracy.

And are you arguing that such paralysis preventing us going into Iraq would have been a bad thing? I think, globally at least, you're outnumbered.

Thirty some odd years ago, the US presence in Vietnam was considered a "bad thing".  It didn't take long to see what the worse thing was, now did it?

And as I understand it (and I can't find the source) the reason that attacks like Rotterdam were not included was because they realised that the defence would bring in attacks like Dresden to support their case.

A child could have defended against that - Rotterdam had been declared an open city and was free of military activity.

[ Parent ]

Another Topic Another Day (none / 0) (#96)
by harrystottle on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 05:24:23 AM EST

Perhaps I should have been clearer - I reject your premise that "We the People" are disenfranchised.

Somehow that fails to surprise me. I'm not going to get into that here. I contend that there are no democratic nations on this planet and that, consequently, few if any of the laws we live under have any democratic legitimacy. When it comes to international law, the problem is even worse as not even a pretence of democracy is attempted. This will have to be another topic another day.

When I said I don't remember a vote on the subject, I meant that I haven't seen it seriously proposed to overturn centuries of precedent in international relations.

Given that the precedents and agreements were not established democratically, have never been tested democratically and have no democratic mechanisms for challenging them, they are not democratically relevant. From my point of view, any law that cannot demonstrate its democratic legitimacy has no ethical merit. The only reason for obeying such laws is the practical consideration that the same undemocratic institutions who introduced these laws have also acquired the military means to enforce them. Most of us live in police states. Some are more overtly authoritarian than others.

>>Yes it should. Unless we all agree that its a good idea to go to war we shouldn't be doing it.

The problem lies in having sufficient information to make the decision. That's part of the reason we have a republic instead of a true democracy.

Yes, many people make many excuses for not having democracy. And, actually, I don't object to honest arguments against democracy - I can make several myself. What I object to most strongly is people pretending that what we've got IS democracy. But, like I said, this is a topic for another day.

 



Mostly harmless
[ Parent ]
Police states (none / 0) (#98)
by Grognard on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:31:07 AM EST

Most of us live in police states. Some are more overtly authoritarian than others.

You know, junior, those who do currently or have in the past actually lived in a repressive regime would most likely find your comment to be laughable at best.  I'd think more than a few would find it downright offensive.

Now if you'll pardon me, I have a black helicopter to catch.

[ Parent ]

Really? (none / 0) (#71)
by pyro9 on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 08:48:49 PM EST

Unethical isn't a characteristic, it's a conclusion based on characteristics. I can agree with you in the sense that no offensive act of war ( especially under the pretense of defense) is ethical.

It seems fair enough to say that a number of actions which meet the definition of terrorism have historically been held to be as ethical as any war act can be.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
Context-dropping (none / 0) (#110)
by kurtmweber on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 06:58:29 PM EST

The ethical status of an act must be considered in the context in which it takes place.  The statement "killing is bad" is, yes, meaningless.  A PARTICULAR killing is bad or good--and that's what I'm talking about, a particular instance of an act rather than simply a verb.

Kurt Weber
Any field of study can be considered 'complex' when it starts using Hebrew letters for symbols.--me
[ Parent ]
-1 (none / 1) (#49)
by stuaart on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 01:29:51 PM EST

If you want people to read your junk, learn how to write more succinctly (summarise your article). Seriously.

Linkwhore: [Hidden stories.] Baldrtainment: Corporate concubines and Baldrson: An Introspective


Perhaps you were hoping for sound bites? (none / 0) (#70)
by pyro9 on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 08:42:30 PM EST

Yeah, that's the ticket, chop it down into an easily digested summary and...

Hey! Wait! That's what's wrong with the corporate media! We're destroying everything America stands for without any real public debate BECAUSE the issues are too large to meaningfully discuss in a soundbite but soundbites are the most a position is allowed on the corporate media.


The future isn't what it used to be
[ Parent ]
lengthy, but worth reading (none / 0) (#75)
by ccdotnet on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 04:42:09 AM EST

If you want people to read your junk, learn how to write more succinctly (summarise your article).

It wasn't junk. If you're not willing to sacrifice just a little extra time to understanding a complex issue, well.... there's the TV over there.

[ Parent ]

Clearly you do not have experience in writing (none / 0) (#91)
by stuaart on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 07:49:02 PM EST

If you did you would realise that only idealists think they are writing for themselves and everyone else will have to lump it (and then hopefully love it). Get over it.

This fact is more obvious to the reader, especially when this point of view is upfronted in the article (in this case proposing the wishy-washy answer to ``can terrorism ever be ethnical'' is sometimes ``yes''). You should write an abstract not a dangling carrot that can never hope to be (and is not) fulfilled by the article.

[Worship at the altar of circletimessquare. While you're there, read Parent ]

Clearly you do not have experience in thinking (none / 0) (#99)
by ccdotnet on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 07:33:57 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Well, that told me. Good comeback. 3 (none / 0) (#100)
by stuaart on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 09:57:19 AM EST


Linkwhore: [Hidden stories.] Baldrtainment: Corporate concubines and Baldrson: An Introspective


[ Parent ]
your reply's subject line was absurd (none / 0) (#119)
by ccdotnet on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 06:00:02 AM EST

so I replied in kind. Sorry for being subtle.

[ Parent ]
This is why I keep coming back to K5 (none / 1) (#67)
by smallstepforman on Sun Oct 16, 2005 at 07:33:05 PM EST

Well thought out, well written, well researched and a very entertaining to read. It has expanded my horizons. +1. I am a more enlightened person after reading this. You are my hero for today :)

it obviously makes no difference (none / 1) (#72)
by jcarnelian on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 12:04:01 AM EST

As your own examples show, these kinds of declarations make no difference. The US will retain or release whoever it likes, and bomb whoever it likes and can get away with, and ditto for any other government. Whether a particular act is ethical, or whether you could live with yourself after having committed it, is something that you ultimately will have to decide for yourself.

The futility of trying to make sense of the term (2.00 / 2) (#74)
by shinshin on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 04:36:09 AM EST

Your attempt to make some sense of the bizarre non-euclidian dance we Americans make around meaning the word "terrorism" is laudable, but the unfortunate fact of your British heritage probably means that you are unaware of a simple fact that has been true since at least March of 2003: Americans are divided firmly into two intellectual groups:
  1. those that realize that the word has been rendered utterly meaningless and that people who use the term are actively attempting to deceive group #2
  2. those that don't particularly care about semantics and are willing to use it as a rallying cry behind whatever cause their favorite politician/media personality/country music singer is trying to promote

It's not that we aren't aware of the utterly ridiculous misuse of the term, the blatant moral relativism of people who apply it, and the silly "no, you're the terrorist!" debates it engenders. It's just that we (in group #2) have absolutely no voice in the media and consistently lose elections. We're consistently shouted down by the small-minded militaristic mobs, scorned and driven out.

An outsider can be forgiven for not being aware of this fact, since none in the media dare discuss it. Many would consider any questioning of the rhetoric around the term "terrorism" as tantamount to sedition (many come right out and say it, especially in response to any who dare criticize the catastrophic and unpopular Iraq war, even to this day). This is why on the eve of war with Iraq, polling the question "Do you think Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?" got a 53% "yes" response (44% of Republicans still answer "yes" to this day). Reason and truth play no part in the formulation: they are subservient to nationalism and defense against a perceived direct threat.

The dear late Sontag's description of the media "campaign to infantilize the public" has turned out to be startlingly prescient. Your efforts at trying to make some sense of our rhetoric will be as fruitful as trying to decipher Jabberwocky.

____
We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons --Dick Cheney, Meet the Press, March 16, 2003

Are your two groups... (none / 0) (#104)
by harrystottle on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 12:35:46 PM EST

related to the (3) groups I describe in my intro to my portal on the Police State of America? (One group being the apathetic majority)

Mostly harmless
[ Parent ]
excellent article (none / 1) (#77)
by ccdotnet on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 04:46:24 AM EST

Won't go over well in some circles, but thanks for representing (the minority) and at least giving the majority something to think about.

This article is cheap propaganda (2.50 / 2) (#78)
by BerntB on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 05:14:48 AM EST

As far as I know of war laws, it is perfectly OK for one side to knowingly e.g. bomb lots of civilians to hell. If the other side use the civilians as shields. E.g. put artillery next to a hospital.

The reason for that being legal, is that it will remove the motivation for using your own civilians as hostages. If you do, it is on your own head.

This is IMHO, more or less, reasonable.

But even without that -- in this world of cities -- civilians in a war zone will die. Basically, that question boils down to "Can war Ever be Ethical?".

Personally, I think it depends on the situation. How many civilians did Saddam murder/torture a year? Will the US do a better job than they did (Chalabi etc)?

Considering the research and thought that was put into this article, the author is probably aware of all that.

He just prefer to write propaganda to sell a viewpoint, probably from hate. I hate that kind of people. They are the main reason I classify myself a s a misantrophe.

For a US-critical article, see this (none / 1) (#79)
by BerntB on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 05:29:17 AM EST

This goes over civilian casualities, from someone that knows.

Not US-positive, it discusses the complexities of target selection, etc, from a British/European perspective.

I personally find the US' military behaviour, under the present adminstration, quite bad -- but comparing it with people that explicitly target civilians is cheap propaganda.

[ Parent ]

Bombing of Dresden (none / 1) (#83)
by tmix on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 11:59:25 AM EST

I just would like to correct the number of deaths you claim for Dresden. You are putting yourself in a corner with Neo-Nazis if you claim that hundred of thousands of people died in Dresden.

Here is a quote from the wikipedia:

Earlier reputable estimates varied from 25,000 to more than 60,000, but historians now view around 25,000-35,000 as the likely range.
...
There have been higher estimates for the number of dead, ranging as high as 300,000. They are from disputed and unreliable sources, such as the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda headed by Joseph Goebbels, Soviet historians, and David Irving, the once popular, but now discredited self-taught historian who retracted his higher estimates.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Dresden_in_World_War_II

Otherwise a nice article, yet a bit long.

You're Right (none / 0) (#132)
by harrystottle on Thu Oct 27, 2005 at 04:54:46 PM EST

I must concede the Dresden casualty figures are considerably lower than I have suggested. Having done the research I should have done before drafting that passage, it is clear that a case can be made for promoting Dresden into the Hiroshima category. Still clearly Terrorism but not quite as unjustifiable as I implied. I think my current view is best summed up by Frederick Taylor who, in an interview with Spiegel Online, says:

It is perfectly possible to argue that the Allied attack on Dresden was rational but at the same time an atrocity

Which is also very close to the central point of my article - that Terrorism can be rational or, indeed, ethical, in certain circumstances. It is not a uniquely evil form of warfare. Indeed Taylor argues:

There is something inherently fascistoid in air warfare -- you don't see the person you are bombing and killing or injuring and you have this sort of psychopathic gaze from above. The air war is the only part of the war where the Allies, leaving aside the Russians, seriously ran the Axis powers a good race in terms of ruthlessness

Which is not unrelated to Susan Sontag's point and my own view that such bombing, producing, as it does, inevitable large numbers of civilian casualties, is at least as evil as the Terrorism the perpetrators are trying to condemn.

Nevertheless, I'll have to redraft that part of the article so thanks for pointing out that error.



Mostly harmless
[ Parent ]
Of course it is ethical... (none / 1) (#84)
by cdguru on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 12:17:33 PM EST

Dying for a cause is always ethical, at least in good romance novels. Dying for a lost cause is therefore even more ethical.

If you wish to consider the US since its inception to be a band of terrorists - revolutionary war, Civil War, WW I, WW II and so forth - please do. Understand, however that your view may not be shared by everyone involved. Understand also that citing the US as a band of terrorists may elicit a response at some point.

Further, it needs to be understood that if we have been "terrorists" since the beginning you have a choice. Either get used to the idea, or remove the source of all this terrorism. If you have the will and the determination, that is. You see, us terrorists - and I include all US citizens that view George Washington as a heroic figure as terrorists by your definitions - are unlikely to be deterred from our ways without outside force.

So, if you really believe what you wrote, you will have to come over here and fight. What? Start a war over terrorism? Exactly. If your beliefs aren't strong enough, maybe you should reconsider your definitions.

You missed the point. (none / 0) (#113)
by mindstrm on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 11:30:37 PM EST

What he's saying is that 'terrorism' is difficult, if not impossible, to define, and trying to define it is dangerous, if not impossible.

He postulates a very good definition of terrorism, and then goes on to show how many things the US have done would qualify.

The problme with "terrorism" is, to say something really cliche, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

[ Parent ]

Holy Shit (none / 1) (#85)
by n8f8 on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 12:36:09 PM EST

I can't believe someone spent that much time writing. Must not have a job. Also, anyone know the source for "How did the 30-100 thousand innocent civilians killed by the US since 9-11"?

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)
Stats source (3.00 / 2) (#86)
by shinshin on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 01:33:05 PM EST

Also, anyone know the source for "How did the 30-100 thousand innocent civilians killed by the US since 9-11"?

I expect that the 30,000 is from iraqbodycount.net, which uses only media reports of civilian casualties (and is fairly rigorous), and the 100,000 comes from a report in the Lancet (read about it here) that came out a year ago and used statistical methods to estimate the number of people killed as a result of the war. The latter report, when it gets any coverage, is usually vehemently attacked by supporters of the war.

Why such sparse sources and wide-ranging numbers? Because no one gives much of a damn, sadly. For a war whose sole remaining justification is that it is essentially a humanitarian intervention, I find this incredibly ironic.

A decent rundown of the various sources can be found on Wikipedia.

____
We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons --Dick Cheney, Meet the Press, March 16, 2003
[ Parent ]

iraqbodycount (none / 0) (#93)
by t1ber on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 11:21:03 PM EST

Iraq Body Count is no better then any other.  They also count deaths as a result of "the breakdown of order" or basically any death be it from car bombings, insurgency firefights, etc.  This is so broad that it might even constitute Iraqis getting hit by a car crossing the street.  Certainly running a redlight constitutes a breakdown of order.  Combine that with a media unwilling to label anyone as a terrorist or Islamic Extremist and anyone can see that there is some serious room for error.  In the Media's World, everyone over there has a gun and shoots at everyone.  This is almost a weirdly racist perspective:  Clearly the backwards, violent, prone to car bombing mudhut dwelling Arabs are incapable of organized resistance, so every death of an Arab is a civilian death.  Yes, they are used to blowing up women and children and shooting the place up, but that's how they live.  America is a bunch of murderers, dammit!  I find it almost sad that the media is willing to call America a bunch of cold-blooded-killers and babyrapers and then say that it's 'normal' or somehow a function of being Middle-Eastern to commit the same acts of violence.  A cow is a cow, be it white or black, and it is a tragedy when people die.  Having the media willing to admit that with one side of their mouths and smile-and-nod with the other is almost sickening.  No-one should have to live under those conditions.

It's more important to realize that this is an op-ed piece, or he pulled it out of his ass.  It has no bearing in reality, it offers up no dissenting views or counterpoints, and it's not decent enough to cite it's sources or figures beyond links to more vague pandering.

And she said...
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
Hadji girl I can't understand what you're saying.

[ Parent ]

Whaaaa? (3.00 / 2) (#95)
by shinshin on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 02:29:36 AM EST

They also count deaths as a result of "the breakdown of order" or basically any death be it from car bombings, insurgency firefights, etc [...]

Yes. They are counting civilian causalities. What exactly is your problem with this?

I find it almost sad that the media is willing to call America a bunch of cold-blooded-killers

I don't know what country you live in, but it certainly isn't America. The American media never mentions Iraqi civilian causalities. At all. Ever.

it's not decent enough to cite it's sources or figures beyond links to more vague pandering

Gosh, I'm real sorry I responded to another poster's questions about the numbers from the post. The numbers of 30,000-100,000 are almost certainly iraqbodycount.net (on the low side) and the Lancet report (on the high side), since so few actual studies have been done, and the numbers correspond to those two of the most plausible of sources. I regret that this seems to upset you so much. Perhaps you would prefer that civilian causalities not be discussed at all?

____
We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons --Dick Cheney, Meet the Press, March 16, 2003
[ Parent ]

more casualties (none / 0) (#103)
by t1ber on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 12:16:38 PM EST

Oh, I'm merely pointed out that the sources are guesses, at best.

Yes. They are counting civilian causalities. What exactly is your problem with this?

It's meaningless. That's like counting the number of people who have died since the internet was invented. You could make a case for people being driven to suicide from the internet (or the recent quality of political posts on K5) but the sources are vague not all people who die and are internet users died because of the internet. There may be some type of union between deaths since America invaded Iraq but IBC.net makes that union far too broad.

And she said...
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
Hadji girl I can't understand what you're saying.

[ Parent ]

Hardly meaningless (none / 0) (#105)
by shinshin on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 02:28:12 PM EST

Oh, I'm merely pointed out that the sources are guesses, at best.

The Lancet study might be characterized as a "guess" by people who don't know much about statistics or who have political issues with the study. It's as good a word as any to describe their methodology, I suppose. Iraqbodycount.net, however, is by no means a "guess". The have a relatively rigorous methodology that requires that they get at least two separate sources for each death. You can call it politically motivated, or subversive, or un-American, or whatever -- but it certainly isn't a "guess".

That's like counting the number of people who have died since the internet was invented [...] There may be some type of union between deaths since America invaded Iraq but IBC.net makes that union far too broad.

If they were counting every death from suicide in Iraq, then your point might not be valid. However, that isn't what they are doing. You clearly haven't read their methodology. You clearly haven't even looked at the causes of the deaths from their list. As a matter of fact, you clearly don't know what you are talking about at all: you seem to just be making a knee-jerk set of assumptions, either out of laziness or out of intent to deceive and muddy the waters.

Look, if you want to be an apologist for this unpopular war, go right ahead. However, you should really make an effort to do so with facts and honest opinions, not with lazy half-arguments and deception.

____
We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons --Dick Cheney, Meet the Press, March 16, 2003
[ Parent ]

Actually I'm Quoting (none / 0) (#106)
by t1ber on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 02:50:00 PM EST

Actually I'm quoting their own page.
In the current occupation phase this database includes all deaths which the Occupying Authority has a binding responsibility to prevent under the Geneva Conventions and Hague Regulations. This includes civilian deaths resulting from the breakdown in law and order, and deaths due to inadequate health care or sanitation.
Who's uninformed? Sounds to me like you've gotten your panties wet over corpses. In my book, the above represents a guess. (Original context here). It would appear to me that instead of acknowledging other national presence in Iraq (such as the UK), or private service companies rendering sewage and whatnot (such as Halliburton), they made the criteria for "Blame the US" very broad by adding deaths not due to trigger pulling to the count. Certainly there is some relationship between the invasion and the decline of services, but in no way is the US alone in trying to restore those services.

And she said...
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
Hadji girl I can't understand what you're saying.

[ Parent ]

Who's uninformed? (none / 0) (#107)
by shinshin on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 03:25:50 PM EST

In the current occupation phase this database includes all deaths which the Occupying Authority has a binding responsibility to prevent under the Geneva Conventions and Hague Regulations.

That's a pretty sophomoric and amateur attempt at dodging your initial accusation, which was that the study was claiming that any death in the area (such as suicide) was being counted. It wasn't: only deaths attributable to the invasion are being counted.

In my book, the above represents a guess.

Then you are a moron. Their criteria is simply not a "guess". It's the closest estimation that currently exists. There are probably some deaths that ought not be attributed to the invasion. There are certainly many more deaths that are uncounted, and will remain so forever. You seem to have some motivation to discredit them, so that we're left with ... what? "We don't do body counts"? "A bunch of people maybe died, but don't think too hard about it"? Again, why do you so thoroughly object to the attempt to count the number of people that we've killed in our invasion?

they made the criteria for "Blame the US"

They have done no such thing. They attribute deaths to coalition forces, not the US. You are inventing some sort of anti-American subtext that simply doesn't exist.

Sounds to me like you've gotten your panties wet over corpses.

Fuck you, you miserable scumbag. Try going to a conflict zone and saying that. You are a loathsome and worthless worm, and I'm done with you.

____
We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons --Dick Cheney, Meet the Press, March 16, 2003
[ Parent ]

LOOK MY NAME IS SHINSHIN AND I HAVE A VAGINA (none / 0) (#111)
by t1ber on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 07:01:26 PM EST

That's a pretty sophomoric and amateur attempt at dodging your initial accusation, which was that the study was claiming that any death in the area (such as suicide) was being counted. It wasn't: only deaths attributable to the invasion are being counted.

No, that's called a 'comparison'. If you can't draw parallels, you can't understand the point.

Then you are a moron. Their criteria is simply not a "guess". It's the closest estimation that currently exists.

I can say, "Shinshin is a woman" or "the furthest star is 1.6 billion lightyears away". Those are the closest estimates that exist. See? They're still guesses.

Again, why do you so thoroughly object to the attempt to count the number of people that we've killed in our invasion?

Hmmm... Oh, I've got an idea how to object:

There are probably some deaths that ought not be attributed to the invasion. There are certainly many more deaths that are uncounted, and will remain so forever.

See? Wholly inaccurate rot. Someone clearly brilliant said so.

They have done no such thing. They attribute deaths to coalition forces, not the US. You are inventing some sort of anti-American subtext that simply doesn't exist.

Mostly because their own FAQ uses the word "Occupying Authority" once and "US" about 7 times. I hear the proper term for the US and it's Allies is "Coalition Forces", but it's allies are only mentioned twice or so. As with anything American, it's all about America.

Fuck you, you miserable scumbag. Try going to a conflict zone and saying that. You are a loathsome and worthless worm, and I'm done with you.

Are you? Are you going to let this go?

And she said...
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
Hadji girl I can't understand what you're saying.

[ Parent ]

Go away (none / 0) (#112)
by shinshin on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 07:07:22 PM EST

How about you go back to modding your PSX to play Thrill Kill or watching snuff movies or whatever it is you do for fun, freak. Let the grown ups talk in peace.

____
We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons --Dick Cheney, Meet the Press, March 16, 2003
[ Parent ]
Thrill Kill (none / 0) (#121)
by t1ber on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 11:48:41 AM EST

In addition to being completely beside the point, rules. The grown ups are talking in peace, we're talking over here.

And she said...
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
Hadji girl I can't understand what you're saying.

[ Parent ]

Nice of you to have both missed (none / 0) (#116)
by Love Child of Baldrson and HollyHopDrive on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 02:52:38 AM EST

the way Lancet actually did the study. They counted deaths in a few high-profile areas, with information that is at of at least debatable uncertainty, and then extrapolated those results over the whole country. If the Lancet study had been a political opinion poll, it would have been considered very shoddy by pollsters, who have learned by now that the only way to accurately sample so much information is to make it representative of the whole area being studied. The Lancet study fails to do this, and miserably.

trane: Eventually the human race will realize that scientific progress is (almost always) slowed down by lies, and promote truth, justice and the American way over lying, discrimination, and the lesser American way.
[ Parent ]
good point (none / 0) (#122)
by t1ber on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 11:54:22 AM EST

Good point and well worth mentioning. I wasn't even going to deal with it. I was working the angle that showing that the lower bound is unreasonably high makes the upper bound irrelevant. If we could agree that the range is between X and Y, but then we somehow come up with a point Z which is not in the set between [X OR Y], it makes X and Y meaningless. Since I trolled ShinShin to death, this clearly wins the Iraq war for Bush.

And she said...
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
Hadji girl I can't understand what you're saying.

[ Parent ]

I didn't miss it (none / 0) (#123)
by shinshin on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 11:56:05 AM EST

It's just irrelevant, since I wasn't trying to defend the Lancet study. If I did want to defend it, I'd say that the biggest problem is that while the methodology was valid and the results (8,000 to 194,000 excess deaths with 95% confidence interval) are not actually disputed by any serious statisticians, the report was too easily taken out of context and its results misrepresented (by both pro- and anti- war sides).

Critics of the study almost always also distort the science behind it as much as proponents of it do. The fact remains that it was, and remains, the only serious scientific study of the number of people who have been killed in the invasion or Iraq. That fact alone makes it a target for certain people, and when they blindly attack it, their motivation is quite clear.

____
We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons --Dick Cheney, Meet the Press, March 16, 2003
[ Parent ]

Hi Pot! My name's Kettle! (none / 1) (#88)
by nanobug on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 02:58:51 PM EST

Don't get me wrong when I say this.  I liked your article, in the same way that I enjoy watching Fox News AND Jon Stewart.  

The problem with this article that it was written to support your viewpoint while masquerading as an objective view of world events. The flow of the article and the language are all set up to make the reader feel like they are getting a logical, obective viewpoint when in fact they are really reading a biased opinion.  

To reach this conclusion, one has to only look at uour use of acronyms like 'WTP' to force the reader to use your created slang to follow along, the branding of 'sheep' and 'goats' to make the reader feel like a 'goat' chewing on information as opposed to one of the 'sheep' who's not really paying attention.  Couple this with your question and answer format which poses the loaded question only to conveniently offer up your answer which you hope the reader will accept as correct.

I'd like you to explain what exactly makes this so different from using loaded words like 'freedom' as justification, using acronyms like 'WMD', or branding certain people as 'defenders of freedom' instead of 'terrorists'?  

All of these things are tactics that have been used by propagandists since its inception to try and sway people to hold a certain viewpoint.  Your examination of the 'facts' has one glaring omission, and that is that you're really not that much different from those you criticize, you just have a different agenda.

IF I had posted this... (3.00 / 2) (#90)
by harrystottle on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 03:26:37 PM EST

...in the guise of an objective study, you might have had a point. If you look carefully, however, you'll see that its in the Op-Ed category.

Given that my second sentence refers to the Dialogue of the Daft I'd have thought I was being fairly open about this being an opinion piece. Now, if your criticism is that I'm prepared to argue for my strongly held opinions, then, frankly sir, I'm guilty as charged and proud of it.



Mostly harmless
[ Parent ]
Excellent article (2.00 / 2) (#89)
by generaltao on Mon Oct 17, 2005 at 03:22:46 PM EST

Too bad the anti-intellectualist masses that could really benefit from reading it lack the necessary attention span and reading comprehension.

I can't say I'm in 100% agreement, but close enough.

Brief comment on cowardice in this context (none / 1) (#101)
by SnowDogAPB on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 10:23:18 AM EST

As much as I enjoyed reading your article (even if I have problems with some of it), I wanted to comment on the cowardice issue.

The discussion regarding the cowardice of the attackers in the wake of 9/11 was fascinating, but I think you're missing a key point when you attempt to summarize it.

I don't blame you for missing this, if you've never been involved with religious fundamentalists and their scary leaps of faith.  Realize that people who kill themselves with the full belief that immediately upon death they will wake up in some kind of paradise are not doing something brave.  They are, perhaps, doing something which requires extraordinary faith, but they are making a calculated decision based on that faith: they can end all their suffering and disgust with the world and enter paradise.  

I say this based on years of experience with fundamentalists "Christians" who "bravely" suffer through some awful sickness, every day saying "If someone would just kill me, I'd be in heaven today, but I have to suffer until it's God's will I die."  If you can twist that into "It is God's will you die, and in this way," these people would leap at the chance.

That's not bravery, it's cowardice.  It's choosing the easy way out -- ending your life in hope of something better afterwards -- instead of sticking it out and trying to make do with what you have.

These suicides are acts of cowardice.  There's nothing brave about giving up your flawed earthly existence for a perfect heavenly one, if that's what you believe is coming.


Possibly! (none / 0) (#102)
by harrystottle on Tue Oct 18, 2005 at 12:12:52 PM EST

I don't blame you for missing this, if you've never been involved with religious fundamentalists and their scary leaps of faith. Realize that people who kill themselves with the full belief that immediately upon death they will wake up in some kind of paradise are not doing something brave. They are, perhaps, doing something which requires extraordinary faith, but they are making a calculated decision based on that faith: they can end all their suffering and disgust with the world and enter paradise.

I take your point. I have actually considered the issue of acting under such blind faith in my "Theory Of Behaviour" but I admit I wasn't considering the "cowardice" angle so much as whether or not the actions of a suicide attacker could ever be considered altruistic. I concluded that if they were acting with the certainty of an afterlife, then they weren't sacrificing anything and could thus not be regarded as altruists. In contrast, the Tamil Tigers are largely atheists and know damn well that they face personal extinction. Their suicidal attacks can, therefore, qualify as altruist.

I say this based on years of experience with fundamentalists "Christians" who "bravely" suffer through some awful sickness, every day saying "If someone would just kill me, I'd be in heaven today, but I have to suffer until it's God's will I die." If you can twist that into "It is God's will you die, and in this way," these people would leap at the chance.

That's not bravery, it's cowardice. It's choosing the easy way out -- ending your life in hope of something betterafterwards -- instead of sticking it out and trying to make do with what you have.

I use a similar logic in deciding that the attackers actions cannot be altruistic. I think I'd need more persuading before I can agree that the balance tips over into cowardice. Isn't one problem with this argument is that it defines Jesus himself as a coward for simply following his god's will?



Mostly harmless
[ Parent ]
How glaringly ignorant (none / 0) (#114)
by Love Child of Baldrson and HollyHopDrive on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 02:44:35 AM EST

What if that will was formed in his mind along with a gift of perception and knowledge to understand and realize it -- in short, transcendence? If you're talking about Jesus and God's will, then why insist on applying normal, naturalistic principles to what he said and did?

If you were to have an experience that completely convinced you that God had revealed himself to you, and that you knew what to do, you would do it, BY DEFINITION.

I know you can't resist taking a shot at Jesus, but please try and think.

trane: Eventually the human race will realize that scientific progress is (almost always) slowed down by lies, and promote truth, justice and the American way over lying, discrimination, and the lesser American way.
[ Parent ]

What a peculiar kneejerk (none / 0) (#117)
by harrystottle on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 04:37:26 AM EST

You obviously read my comment as flippant. Probably my fault for not expanding it.

I am a militant atheist and won't even attempt to disguise the fact. I am also extremely hostile to all religions and particularly the modern and medieval christian church. But I don't have any problem with the Nazarene. Obviously I believe he was deluded because he thought he was a direct descendant of a deity I don't believe exists. Nevertheless I believe he was one of the closest to truly altruistic humans we've seen, his motives were sound and he offered some fairly reasonable ethical advice and examples. I also believe that in not resisting his crucifixion, deluded or not, he sincerely believed that he was following the will of his god. I am making the point that this is not obviously "taking the easy way out" as implied by Snowdog.



Mostly harmless
[ Parent ]
Nice essay (none / 0) (#115)
by Love Child of Baldrson and HollyHopDrive on Wed Oct 19, 2005 at 02:45:48 AM EST

I bet you got an A.

trane: Eventually the human race will realize that scientific progress is (almost always) slowed down by lies, and promote truth, justice and the American way over lying, discrimination, and the lesser American way.
Nice article... (none / 0) (#128)
by bighappyface on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 12:04:25 AM EST

...but long.

(I didn't read it)

Okay, scratch that I went back and read it... (none / 0) (#129)
by bighappyface on Sat Oct 22, 2005 at 12:08:04 AM EST

....decent, but remember this.

Holy war?

We are reminded to respect Islam in the U.S. because the terrorists were violent extremists.

Could Bush, as well, be on the violent extremist end of the Protestant religion?

Looks like we agree with each other... (none / 0) (#131)
by harrystottle on Wed Oct 26, 2005 at 07:20:17 PM EST

I'd say that's fairly close to the conclusion I reached and which you can read by following the "cure worse than disease" link

Mostly harmless
[ Parent ]
Good question, bad answer. The definition is... (none / 0) (#133)
by drumbaby on Tue Nov 01, 2005 at 11:20:57 AM EST

This article posses a great question, but I don't see why so many words are wasted afterwards...

Terrorism should be definable outside the context of the internal "are we polarized yet" US debate. One of the comments already mentioned the key point missing from the UN and this article. It also explains the "cowards" bit:

Terrorism is
- engaging in a limited war, and as such requires an "us" and a "them"
- while hiding within the other population which is protected by the harsher limits placed on the other side's war.

Whether the targets are civilian or military makes little difference.
Whether the intent is to induce terror in order to effect a government or just to blow off steam makes no difference.
Whether the perpetrator suicides or not is a technical issue, it is the organization and public that support him that make the difference. After all, this is about war, not about a lone lunatic.
Yes, guerilla warfar can fall under this definition of terrorism, why shouldn't it?

Resisting occupation can either fall into it or not. The first Palestinian Intifadah was accepted in the world and even in Israel as a revolt, as the Palestinian public largly presented itself as a legitimate target for the wrath of the Israeli military following their attacks on it. It is no accident that the attacks were limited in means and locations, as this invited limited retaliations.
The second Palestinian Intifadah is a terrorist campaign as it celebrates Palestinians blowing up Israeli shopping malls, while on the other hand Israel does not set out to kill Palestinian civilians in retaliation, nor would this be considered legitimate on either side or in the world.

What Is Terrorism? Can it Ever be Ethical? | 133 comments (106 topical, 27 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:

kuro5hin.org

[XML]
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!