Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Some Things Really ARE Black and White

The News:

President Bush on Monday defended U.S. interrogation practices and called the treatment of terrorism suspects lawful. "We do not torture," Bush declared in response to reports of secret CIA prisons overseas.

[So he says, BUT...]
Bush supported an effort spearheaded by Vice President Dick Cheney to block or modify a proposed Senate-passed ban on torture.

"We're working with Congress to make sure that as we go forward, we make it possible, more possible, to do our job," Bush said. "There's an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again. And so, you bet we will aggressively pursue them. But we will do so under the law."

[Meaning "Don't change the laws to interpret what we're gonna do to them as torture"?]


The Rest of the Story:

This story has gone WAY under-reported. If Congress passes this law and Bush follows through on his pledge to veto a ban on torture, maybe then we'll see more on the topic.

But what I really want to know is: Where is the outrage? Where is the righteous indignation? What Bush and Cheney are doing is WRONG!!

And yet, in the rightmost hemisphere of the blogosphere, this story has not been mentioned at all or – even worse! – torture has been endorsed!

Please tell me that we can ALL agree with Republican Senator John McCain that torture is simply wrong, that we are better than that and, further, wise enough to know that torture will only undermine our work for justice, making things worse?

Brothers and sisters, can I get an Amen?! (And I'm especially calling out to my Right-thinking friends out there).


The Scrutinator said...

The problem is, once you get into the specifics of what was and wasn't done, you realize the whole torture meme is just a political ploy. Playing Christina Aguilera?

A vaguely-worded "ban on torture" is more political posturing than meaningful legislation.

Show us how the existing laws are flawed. Show us which Abu Ghraib guard got off that shouldn't have.

Under-reported? Abu Ghraib spends 32 straight days on the New York Times' front page. Maybe there's nothing more to report.

Dan Trabue said...

Team Bush standing opposed to a torture ban has been under-reported. That's what I was referring to.

You suspect Republican McCain of writing a vaguely-worded ban on torture? He's been through it, I trust him in this regards.

Dan Trabue said...

Sorry to expose my ignorance, but what does, "Playing Christina Aguilera?" mean?

Daniel Levesque said...

The question should not be over whether torture should be banned, since it should, it is how the bill banning it constructed. It MUST set forth very strict guidelines not open to interperetation for the mucking up of a well-intended law. Failure to do so makes such a law a human rights nightmare.

Son of Lilith said...

Not only will you get an Amen, but a Hallelujah as well.

And I have to agree with Daniel L. on this. Too much interpretation means that one could say "But it WASN'T torture" as easily as I could say "It WAS."

Many of your "redneck Republicans" love the idea of torture because they love the idea of Wild-West justice. Of course, there is an inherit hypocrisy in this: when "they" do it, "they" are brutal and animalistic. When "we" do it, well we're giving them bastards what they deserve by God!

Ban torture, but let's ban stupidity and narrow-minded thinking while we're at it.

The Scrutinator said...

"Obscured in the fog of political opportunism is the fact that President Bush has specifically ordered that all detainees be treated humanely"

Playing Christina Aguilera refers to the article I hyperlinked here and in my first comment. Read it for some perspective.

I asked you to show specifically how the existing laws are flawed. You haven't. You're posturing.

MBR: Claiming to read others' minds and motives is really a kind of bigotry. Next time drop the ad hominem attack. Your first point is very good, though: what constitutes torture? There's a subjective element.

Which takes me back to the specifics: the existing laws rightfully put the Abu Ghraib perpetrators behind bars. Where are they flawed?

Mary Ann said...

Hi Dan,
Well, you probably think I'm crazy, a Conservative asking a Liberal to comment on their blog, but I thought you'd be interested in my latest post. It's "debate questions" about Iraq and abortion and I'm hoping to get a lively discussion going.

Son of Lilith said...


I was not claiming to read anyone's minds. I was generalizing, yes, which has its own pitfalls. But I know plenty of "redneck Republicans" and they all fall completely in line with my statement.

The Scrutinator said...

I'm so out of time, but...

Here's McCain's amendment and his comments, on the public record: S11062 and S11063 (PDF format). It's an interesting read, though I haven't read it too carefully. (Get to subsequent pages by playing with "page=" in the URL.)

He makes some good points, but I see unnecessary rhetoric, too. For example: "What all this means is that America is the only country in the world that asserts a legal right to engage in cruel and inhuman treatment." That's a ridiculous statement in light of North Korea, Iran, Cuba, China, Zimbabwe, etc. (And the Abu Ghraib prosecutions.)

And while I'm quoting: "the [Bush] administration has said it will not engage in cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment as a matter of policy."

Dan Trabue said...


I'll admit not having looked in to this a lot. My understanding is that, right now, the CIA is not covered by existing laws. If that is the case, I would like them to be.

If this particular bill is flawed, I'd like it fixed and put in place, but I want it clear that the US does not engage in, desire nor endorse torture in any way.

Frankly, I don't trust Bush's word that we "will not engage in cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment."

Or Clinton before him, to be fair.

Dan Trabue said...

Mary Ann,

Thank you so much for visiting and I would be delighted to stop by your blog at my first opportunity (actually, I think I was already by there once today).

And you're welcome back here any time.

Sylvia said...

Where's the righteous indigation? I think it's in the same place as the righteous indignation at the killing and poisoning of tens (hundreds?) of thousands of Afghani and Iraqi men, women, and children who had nothing to do with terrorism... It's on the left, of course. Makes you wonder who is really pro-life.

Daniel Levesque said...

I think you have President Bush and Saddam Hussein mixed up there. We have not done what you just claimed.

Dan Trabue said...


Inasmuch as we've had tens of thousands of "collateral damage" (ie, innocent people killed) we have done it unto them.

Is there some slight moral superiority in the difference between intentionally targeting civilians ("terrorists") and attacking when you know there will be civilian deaths but not really wanting it (us)? Maybe.

But not to those killed nor their families.

"When we kill the innocent, we become the enemy." -unknown

Dan Trabue said...


Thanks for stopping by. It's always good to hear from you.

Pro-life meaning, opposed to killing a child in the womb, unless that womb is in Iraq or Afghanistan and accidentally in the way?

Of course, as tempting as it might be, I try to refrain from demonizing those on the right and mis-stating their point of view. I believe that Iraq Invasion supporters sincerely don't want to see any innocent people killed.

But the difference between war supporters and those opposed to at least this war is that the war supporters are willing to have these inevitable deaths of innocents (at least in the tens of thousands, now) and we're not.

The further difference is that they see these inevitable killings as an acceptable price to incur in stopping what they perceive to be a greater evil and those opposed to the war think that these inevitable killings (at least in the TENS OF THOUSANDS, now) will only serve to make things worse. That is, we agree with Dr. King's wise words:

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it."

We both want to stop the "greater evil" (Saddam, terrorists, etc) but those opposed to most wars think that war canNOT solve the problem but instead only make it worse. I offer more wisdom, from Gandhi:

"I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent."

I wish we'd stop canonizing people like King and Gandhi and start listening to them instead.

The Scrutinator said...

Ironically, Dr. King and Ghandi would have been murdered in obscurity had they been born in Stalin's Soviet Union, Saddam's Iraq, the Taliban's Afghanistan, the Khmer Rouge's Cambodia, today's North Korea, etc.

Then we wouldn't have had their words to ponder. Don't you think that would be tragic? I do.

What does it take to build and protect societies where their voices are heard?

Dan Trabue said...

You mean you SUSPECT that King and Gandhi would have been killed under Stalin. We can't know for sure.

But, I'll certainly give you that it is a chance. Just as it is a chance that they would have been killed where they were (Oh, wait! they were!)

As was Jesus in his culture that accepted violence-as-solution. They all said that we should embrace non-violent means to effect change just the same.

So do we honor these men (and all the other peace-making men and women along with them) for their wise teachings or do we call them utopianistic fools?

I don't really think, though, that saying "They really were wise leaders, but we shouldn't do as they taught" makes a helluva lot of sense, that's all I'm saying.

The Scrutinator said...

Jesus also said, "...if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one." And, "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division."

As one person said, "I wish we'd stop canonizing people ... and start listening to them instead."

King and Ghandi were both murdered, but not in obscurity, like millions under the butchers I mentioned.

You know we're way off the original topic. You could start a separate post about why the American Revolution wasn't worth the lives it cost, King George wasn't that bad, we should have sat around waiting for our Ghandi, something like that.

Daniel Levesque said...

If by "collateral damage" you are referring to the people the terrorists have killed then you are wrong to attribute their deaths to us. It is the terrorists who have killed them, and it is us who are fighting these murdering monsters. Or have you forgotten that these pukes actually TARGET civilians?

Dan Trabue said...


The majority of the people killed in Iraq have been civilian bystanders in this invasion of ours. That's what I mean by collateral damage. I say it's a horrible idea to have tens of thousands of collaterally damaged civilians.

Do you think that most of those tens of thousands killed in Iraq were killed by "terrorists" as opposed to our collateral damage? I've never seen anything that suggests that.

The Scrutinator said...

CNN: "A recent U.S. military report estimates that nearly 26,000 Iraqis were killed or wounded by insurgent attacks from January 1, 2004, through September 16, 2005."

"Insurgents" pulled the trigger. Each indiscriminate attack against civilians I would call terrorism.

Your painting it as though they all died from our bombs falling on their heads is completely wrong.

DL: thanks for weighing in!

Daniel Levesque said...

Yes Dan, the vast majority of dead civillians were killed by the terrorists. Terrorists have killed over 8,000 times the number who have been accidentally killed as a result of allied combat activities.

Marty said...

My son was in Baghdad from April 2003 until July 2004 with the 1st Armored Division. He tells me civilian casualites were massive. He is still active duty, 4 years now, and has been stop lossed until March 2007. He has given me permission to post his letters to me. If you are interested in unfiltered correspondence from the front lines, his letters can be found at:

Daniel Levesque said...

I have never disputed that there have been accidental civilian casualties die to allied action. I am simly pointing that that the lion's share, by far, has been due to the specific targeting of civilians by the insurgents/terrorists.

Sylvia said...

Never disputed civilian casualties due to allied action? Scroll up and you'll see:

"We have not done what you just claimed."

Sounds like a disputation to me.

As I understand it the death toll from the Iraq & Afghan wars (not the post-war insurgencies) is estimated to be around 100,000, most of which was women and children. These are people who might have been our allies in peacefully opposing terrorists and their ideologies.

And we should note that there wouldn't be an insurgency had the US not invaded Iraq. They may not have loved the West before, but the US invading their territory and killing their people has fanned anti-Western sentiments in the region into a white-hot rage that will likely last for generations unless we change course and start making peace instead of war. There are people who know how to do that; we have only to ask.

The Scrutinator said...

Marty: Thanks for pointing us to your son's letters. Your concern for him shows. May God keep him safe. Please let him know how grateful I am for his service to our nation.

I regret that I don't have time now to read his letters carefully. I hope you don't mind that the quick reading and searching I did of them was for information relevant to our current discussion (civilian casualties). Please forgive me for not yet giving them the reading they deserve.

I did search them for "massive," "civilian," "big," "casualty", "casualties", and every related word I could find in the thesaurus. I didn't find any first-hand reporting of massive civillian casualties.

In fact, he doesn't report a single civilian casualty, though he reports interactions with civilians even in battle.

It's clear that your son had a difficult time there. It's equally clear that he conducted himself honorably and with the utmost professionalism. You must be proud of him. I am.

I did find references to things he seems to have gleaned from the public record (vs. witnessing first-hand): e.g., "...more tons of bombs were dropped on Iraq than all of what was dropped in Europe during WWII." He seems to blame the UN sanctions, not the military action, for the devastation he sees.

This corroborates the CNN story.

Dan: you said "Do you think that most of those tens of thousands killed in Iraq were killed by "terrorists" as opposed to our collateral damage? I've never seen anything that suggests that."

Now you've seen two things. Is your mind changing?

(Sylvia: the 100,000 figure was debunked even by the anti-war

Dan Trabue said...

The 100,000 + has not been debunked, the iraqbodycount page is listing a very (excuse the phrase) conservative estimate, but this is not a debunking of the 100,000 +.

Regardless, I agree with Sylvia that none of these deaths would have happened, whoever they were caused by, if we had not invaded Iraq in the first place.

Think of it this way: Suppose a country invaded us and suppose, in the process of that invasion, 20,000 deaths occurred, some by people on our side fighting back, some from unknown sources and some from the invading sources.

As a US citizen, who will you blame? I'd suggest you'd be pretty pissed off at the invading entity and rightly so.

As Colin Powell has said, we break it, we fix it. When you're an occupying nation in an invaded land, YOU are responsible for civilian safety.

This is not to cast aspersion on our troops who are merely following orders. It is a condemnation of the leaders who committed this ill-advised invasion.

Marty said...


My son did not write to me specifically about civilian casualties, just his day to day life. He told me about the casualties in conversations after he returned. He also said that we bombed schools and apartment buildings. That wasn't included in his letters either, nor was it on the evening news. He attributes the UN sanctions to destroying the country economically prior to our invasion. They were on the verge of collapse before we arrived. At the time of that particular letter that you referenced he was not privy to CNN reports, only what he saw with his own eyes and what he knew of WWII history. He was cut off from the outside world for several months. He didn't see a lot of Iraqis that support what we did. By the time he arrived, at the end of April, they already considered us occupiers, not liberators. There is plenty of time to read his letters, they are not going anywhere. I still have more to post. I can't speak for my son, but from what he has said I would think he would agree with Sylvia and Dan. I'll forward this thread to him, perhaps he will respond.

Daniel Levesque said...

Just thought I should mention that it would be awfuly strange for the Kurds in Iraq to officially thank the US for freeing them from Saddam if we had killed 100,000 innocents. You talk about how most of the casualities are women and children; you DO realize that these are exactly who the terrorists have been targeting, right? I suggest you quit blaming the US for the acts of the terrorists we are trying to destroy.

Eleutheros said...

I know Dan's view on this from other threads, but I cannot in any wise get my mind around equating unintended collateral damage, going out of one's way to minimize the damage .... equating that with intentionally inflicting damage on civilians.

That's saying that if a bank rober grabs a human shield to keep the police from shooting at him, it is somehow the police's fault that he robbed the bank and endangered the bystander. After all, no police and the robber could just walk into the vault and help himself an no one would get hurt, no?

As far as W wanting certain agencies exempt from torture regulations, I suspect the etiology of that is more like expecting that if detainee isn't given a fork with the right number of tines on it according to his religious tradition, that's TORTURE! (Or some such silliness).

On a personal level, let me suppose for a God-forbid moment, someone took one of my children and I had my hands on someone who knew where they were but would not tell me. I don't need to go into detail about the gristly and ghastly things I'd do to them until they talked. Or died. Or both.

You're right, Dan, some things ARE black and white.

Marcguyver said...

Some interesting conversation going on out there, here's my two cents:
Okay, hypothetical: I catch the guy who has kidnapped your wife and kids (I have served in the Corps and now work in Law Enforcement) and they are ten minutes from drowning in a 500 gallon tank that is slowly filling with water.
If this wretch tells me RIGHT NOW where they are I or others can save them.

First, I talk and question, this don't work.
Then I start increasing my physical presence and demeanor, it don't work.
I try lying, "Look you dirty SOB if you don't start talking I'm going to shoot your face off!" again, it don't work.

Should I maybe start smacking him with my baton, or give a little squirt of my O.C.? Maybe a swift kick to the nuts?
Maybe this guy is a psycopath and he's got a high tolerance for pain. Should I start manipulating his joints to start causing him some serious discomfort and pain?

Now I'm in the 1stBattalion 7th Marines fighting it out street to street and I'm on patrol and find a small band of 'Terrorists' and my interpreter tells me that they are talking in the back room about the Bomb that they have staged at a local theatre that is going to go off in about an hour and kill as many as 400-500 people.

Again, I pose the same type of questions as earlier and ask if I should apply some of these techniques to these 'Terrorists'?

Marcguyver said...

By the way,
If we are to blame for the 100,000+ supposed civilian casualties, who is responsible for the many many millions being killed yearly while Sadam was still in power?

Oh yeah, I forgot.......the U.S. of course!

That last part is said in jest, but it sure seems that there are plenty of others out there suggesting that we would in fact somehow still be responsible even then.

ccsykes said...

Black and white as they say. The whole torture topic is so over blown it's halirous. Yes, I am Marty's son and I was in Iraq for 15 months in SW Baghdad. If smacking around a known "insurgent" is torture then I would hate to say that 90% of American soldiers are guilty of it. I am alive and well today thanks to what some consider "torture". We captured an Iraqie who got handled a little "rough" and the information he gave saved our patrol. EOD ( explosive ordinance disposal ) found several 155mm daisy chained arty shells burried in the ground on one our patrol routes. Had those been detonated that would have easily destroyed both vehicles in our patrol. Killing or injuring as many as 8 US soldiers.Torture is a word thrown around way to much. You are never going to get information from a fanatic by giving him a cigarete and nice conversation. I am not a Bush supporter or do I support the war in Iraq. However what everyone fails to realize is that there is a war going on. War is ugly, war is unkind and if smacking around someone who was pointing a gun at you 10 mins prior is torture. Then I'm all for it if it saves American lives because it saved mine.

Marty said...

Oops, well, I guess my son didn't agree with Sylvia and Dan - on the torture issue that is. I can understand why. While I'm grateful his life was spared, two wrongs (war and torture) don't make a right. However, I was kinda hoping for his take on civilian casualties.

Daniel Levesque said...

E, M, & CC,
Eloquently argued. Your points are well made, and I agree with you.

Sylvia said...

So, it's OK for the US to kill innocent civilians but it's not OK for terrorists to kill innocent civilians? Talk about moral relativism!!

I'm not sure how killing people is supposed to end terrorism. Nothing incites violence like violence. Look at how the US has responded to 9/11. Can we expect the Muslim world to respond any differently? Are they supposed to say, "OK, you win, we give up." No. They are human too. If they are attacked, they will retaliate. That is the law of violence, the law that Jesus specifically and explicitly contraverted. "Love your enemies" is the remedy that Jesus suggested to prevent us from letting murderers from turn us into murderers. We (Christians) have that teaching, not the Muslims, so the onus is on us to be the first to turn the other cheek. If we really believe in Jesus, shouldn't we believe that what he taught will actually work?

Eleutheros said...

Sylvia writes:

"I'm not sure how killing people is supposed to end terrorism."

Killing people ends terrorism so long as the people you are killing are terrorists.

The notion that one sided non-violence is Jesus' way is not held by all Christians, not even a majority and probably not even a significant percent.

Dan posted a blurb once about an Anabaptist being chased by a soldier bent on delivering him to be executed. The Anabaptist crossed a frozen river but the soldier fell through and was about to drown. The Anabaptist came back and rescued the soldier, was taken by the soldier to the authorities and summarily executed.

Noble, no? No.

The good and comfort the Anabaptist could have been to innocent folk for hte rest of his life was cancelled. Also what evil did the soldier do after that, how many more innocents did he kill, how many more children did he orphan? Therefore rescuing the soldier was an act of evil.

In that way the dogmatic pacifist is very much like the terrorist, at least in the results they achieve. In both cases the terrorism is rewarded and perpetuated.

Dan Trabue said...

But ellie, you're forgetting that the majority of those killed in this particular action (and a good portion in most of wars of the last 100 years) have not been terrorists but innocent bystanders.

That helps end terrorism how?

Dan Trabue said...

marcguyver said,
"who is responsible for the many many millions being killed yearly while Sadam was still in power?" and jested that the US was to blame.

But he's not far from wrong. Saddam wasn't killing "many millions" yearly. He WAS killing great numbers back when he had US-support.

My logical idea: Let's not support (and sell WMD to) that kind of leader in the first place, then maybe we won't have to spend billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives to stop him later.

And this post has gotten a bit afield of my original essay, in which I asked what I thought was the straightforward question: Can we not agree that torture is wrong and that we don't do it?

I'm guessing from what you've said that some of you all believe it's okay for us to do it, but not them?

For y'all suggesting that what "we've" done is silly little college prank-like stuff, I'll remind you:

Two years ago, at Abu Ghraib prison, outside Baghdad, an Iraqi prisoner in Swanner’s custody, Manadel al-Jamadi, died during an interrogation. His head had been covered with a plastic bag, and he was shackled in a crucifixion-like pose that inhibited his ability to breathe; according to forensic pathologists who have examined the case, he asphyxiated.

Them darn kids and their silly pranks.

When we embrace the tools of the enemy, we become the tool of the enemy.

Dan Trabue said...

I apologize for my manners! Welcome to Marty, her son and Marcguyver. Thanks for visiting and you're more than welcome to come back as often as you wish.

Marty, I and my church are praying for your family and your son's safety.

Eleutheros said...

"But ellie, you're forgetting that the majority of those killed in this particular action (and a good portion in most of wars of the last 100 years) have not been terrorists but innocent bystanders."

I'm not forgetting it, I'm saying it is not necessarily in evidence.

You recognize, I'd wager, the tendancy for us to isolate human deaths and focus on those while being completely calloused over other deaths all around us. For example, the FDA banned the sale of ephedra. It had been used by 30 million people and out of those some twenty or so had died as a result, mostly by gross abuse. Yet that many people die an hour in auto accidents and we are bored with the statistic.

The statistics about Iraq are very like that. Tens of thousands were dying in Iraq each year from some military or para-military action anyway and we were removed and calloused from it. Since the invasion we garner every single death in Iraq that could possibly be remotely associated with the war, auto accidents, disease, murders, suicides, etc. Add these to the direct actions of the terrorists themselves and then add in the legitimate collateral deaths, and you have your "most were innocent bystanders". But if you only count the actual number of civilian deaths resulting directly from our military action, the number is quite small.

How many of those people (in the iflated number) would have died if even if we'd not been there. A lot, and a lot more Kurds and others who did NOT die would have by now.

So how many of the total deaths in Iraq are directly the result of our actions? No way of knowing.

One thing is certain, though. There are a lot of terrorist who will never terrorize anyone again.

Marty said...


Thanks for the prayers.

Marty said...

Eleutheros said to Sylvia,

"The notion that one sided non-violence is Jesus' way is not held by all Christians, not even a majority and probably not even a significant percent."

That is true, perhaps that is why Jesus said "For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it."

Eleutheros said...

Marty says:
"That is true, perhaps that is why Jesus said "For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it."

Paucity of numbers might mean that the devotee is on the true straight and narrow. Or it might mean they are a lunatic fringe nut case. That criterion alone won't determine it.

Dan Trabue said...

Yeah, you'd have to also look to following the teachings of Jesus...

On a related note, I've a friend who travels Kentucky's country roads frequently and, to pass the time, he listens to a lot of Preacher Radio. He notes that they spend a lot of time preaching about the Old Testament, and a good bit of time preaching Paul or Revelations.

But my friend tells me that hardly any time at all is spent in preaching Jesus' actual words.

Perhaps lessons such as Love your enemies, sell all you have and give it to the poor, calling for the Jubilee, calling the religious hypocrites out and overturning the moneychangers tables in the temple hit too close to their conservative homes to use actual Jesus stories?

ccsykes said...

Yes, I have seen civilian casulties. I was even directly involed in an accident that saw civilian causulties. Is it right ? Of course it's not. The military takes every precaution to limit them tho. Sometimes even putting our soldiers in harms way to make sure it doesn't happen. But what every fails to realize is that there is a war going on there. We've been in many a small town asking residents if they knew about any "insurgnets" or "terroists". Almost always they responded with a "no". Weeks later we would do a suprise raid and find weapons cache's and bomb making materials in several houses.
Iraq is not like the States where you can live in a neighborhood and not know all your neighbors. They are mostly comprised of tribal communities where everyone is related. Each tribe generaly has a shiek who is there spiritual leader. Those people know who the bad guys are in there towns. It's not fear that keeps them from coming forward. It's because most of them support there activities.
It's a viscious circle thats not going to simply end. They shoot at us .... we shoot back. When the bullets are whizing over your head. The RPG's going off like fireworks the comanders on the ground sometimes have to make split second descisions. It's not like sitting in your arm chair with the remote .. you can't simply turn it off if you dont like what you see. Those young Luitenants and sargents are not worried about politics, religion or the latest scandal in the white house. They simply want to get there boys back alive. Thats all you have is each other out there. Theres no time for "grey" in those situations.
Your on patrol and get ambushed. The bad guys are shooting at you from a house. they have the upper hand. They are concealed and have cover. Your pinned down behind your humvee with no where to go. Comms blow in an urban enviroment with buildings and power lines everywhere. So you can't get radio contact to get help. What do you do ?? You can't get good shots because they have the advantage. You start to worry there might be others that are coming around to flank you and catch you in a crossfire. You have a AT4 anti tank missile at your disposal. I'm sorry but at that point your not thinking about who else is in that house. All your thinking is getting yourself and your buddy out alive. That sargent has only moments to make a descion that could save his squad. "take out the house" ...... a few moments later Whhooosssssss goes the AT4 and guess what. No more shooting is coming out of the hosue now. The only thing coming out now is smoke and dust. Did innocent people get killed ? Maybe ? who knows but you got your budy out alive and thats all that matters.
Thats the kind of fight that happens daily in Iraq. We risk our lives in the name of "freedom". Like I said war is ugly and because of technology people are seeing it for the first time "live as it happens" with reporters giving coverage like a sports caster would a football game. Well it's not like that for us boys on the ground playing the game.
What everyone should be worried about is the state of our own country. The religous zealots have inflitrated our government and are creating there own fascist thinking. Hell, they just decided who we can and can not marry. I'm sorry to say people but not everyone is religious or believes in god. Sinclair Lewis said almost 70 years ago "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." How funny how true this is.

Dan Trabue said...

Thank you for your comments cc. What you're saying underlines, at least for some of us, the problem with modern warfare. As the new pope has said:

"There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a 'just war.'"

That is to say, we do our military a disservice by placing them in a situation where it's a lose/lose proposition ("Do I get shot, or do we shoot back knowing that there's a chance innocents will be killed?").

While I'm a pacifist and do not believe in violence-as-solution, I acknowledge that not everyone is a pacifist and that our nation WILL at times choose to use violence in self-defense.

However, before we send our sons and daughters to a war and put anyone in that lose/lose situation, we need to be damned sure it's truly in our defense. Bush failed to do so in this case, it seems to me, an increasing majority in this country and a huge majority of the world.

The Scrutinator said...

ccsykes: Thanks for your comments!

Daniel Levesque said...

The thing that is constantly being glossed over is that every civillian death from US action is unintended, while the tremendous death and destruction terrorists have rained down on civillians if 100% intentional. This is the core difference between us and the terrorists when it comes to civillian casualties. The Iraqi people see it that way too from what I hear.

Eleutheros said...

Not only overlooked, Daniel, but made into some sort of condemnation toward us. The pacisists would have us believe that the insurgents are just like us, motivated by the same things as us. Yet they purposely target innocent civilians in order to make other innocent civilians fear it may happen to them next. On the other hand the allies try to kill the insurgents and take great pains to avoid any civilian casualties if they possibly can.

A philosophy that equates the two as being the same thing has no moral high ground on which to stand.

If we followed that vacuous stand in all our dealings, what would we do with adults that commit crimes? If we put them in jail, who does that really punish? Let's suppose you have a parent of three small children who is passing bad checks. It's felony in this state and statisically it is the crime with the highest rate of recidivism (murder has the lowest, by the bye). So when the offending parent is sent to jail, who does that really punish, the parent or the children?

Let me suggest that it's the children.

But WHO is it who's punishing the children, the state or the parent?

If the dogmantic pacifist is consistent, the only answer is 'the state'. We NEVER allow anything to happen to the detriment of the child so it is better to let them trapse about committing felonies at will rather than remove the parents from them.

The rest of us say that it is the parent who is punishing them by his/her actions which only compounds their offense, not excuse it.

The same thing applies to the Iraq war. At any and all times, the insurgents have the power to end the civilian killing (of their OWN people) instantly. That they choose not to, that they choose to extend and exaserbate the loss of civilian life, is all the more justification for the war.

Dan Trabue said...

E. said:
"The pacifists would have us believe that the insurgents are just like us, motivated by the same things as us...
A philosophy that equates the two as being the same thing has no moral high ground on which to stand."

I'd suggest that a philosophy that suggests that they are somehow different than us in our common humanity has no basis in reality on which to stand.

Yes, the terrorists are taking horrible actions. Yes, we are trying to avoid killing innocent bystanders.

But as Brother Sykes pointed out, it is a situation where there WILL be civilians killed. It is inevitable.

I'm suggesting (for the last time, as we've covered this before and I don't have the time to go over it further at this point) that this is an unproductive and immoral way to try to deal with the criminal problem of terrorism.

It will lead to more hatred of the US, not less. It will lead to more terrorism, not less. If it's not ending terrorism and it is killing innocent bystanders (however unintentionally), then why are we there?

Now, feel free to chat amongst yourselves but I'm stepping out of this conversation for the most part.


Marty said...

I agree with you Dan. And I am quite confident my son would too. Just read his letters. He and his fellow soldiers were questioning why they were there and considered the war pointless. He did what he had to do while he was there to survive and keep his brothers alive. That is the reality of war. The truth is this war was avoidable and he knows it. The only honor in giving your life for this fiasco is the honor you died helping to keep your fellow soldier alive.

Sylvia said...

I think Daniel and Eleutheros aren't aware that to the terrorists, many of the civilians they are killing are not considered to be "innocent." If they are Westerners or Jews then they are "enemies of Islam," etc., and if they are their own people then they are sympathizers, traitors, and apostates (e.g. police recruits). Those who are truly innocent would be the equivalent of our "collateral damage"---they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time (and are going straight to heaven as co-martyrs, according to the terrorists).

And I wouldn't call our "collateral damage" unintended; we know perfectly well innocent civilians will likely be killed in certain attacks and they are killed anyway, whether for strategic or pure survival reasons. Their deaths are not an accident, those people are conscously killed. Yes, steps are taken to minimize it where possible, but it cannot be eliminated in this kind of warfare. A "necessary evil" is still an evil.

I think we are back to moral relativism again. Daniel and Eleutheros' argument is that killing certain people in a certain way is OK, and the killing other people in a different way is not OK. I think what pacifists say is that killing (and other kinds of violence such as torture) is not OK under ANY circumstances, so lets look for other effective ways to live in peace and prosperity with each other.

"But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you..." [Lk 6:27]

Again I ask, if we belive in Jesus, why don't we believe that following his teachings will actually work?

Dan Trabue said...

A fine question, Sylvia.


Eleutheros said...

Yes it's a good question, Sylvia, and the answer I would forward is that following (that particular interpretaion of) Jesus' teachings doesn't work.

If I were a believer and so were obliged to accept Jesus' words as always true, I'd be forced into the conclusion that dogmatic pacifism was NOT the correct interpretation since it seems at every turn to make a liar out of Jesus.

I don't mean 'dogmatic' to be pejorative, only descriptive. So far pacifism raised to a religious experience shares a characteristic with fundamentalist Christianity and fundamentalist Islam. Have you ever talked to a Muslim true believer? Did you know that the Koran is perfect and flawless in every detail and following and so why aren't the rest of you following it? If you don't think it's perfect, you just don't understand it. There are only two flavors: You recognize and accept that it is the true Word, or else you just don't understand it.

So far the arguments fowarded for dogmatic pacifism (ie pacifism is ALWAYS the way) are just like that. No actual putting the facts and the ideas in the crucible and burning away the dross to see what's left. No. Only beginning from the view that pacifism has a divine origin and the rest of reality must needs fall into order behind it.

Those us us unelightened by this view (or unencumbered by it) must needs rely on facts and experience. We do not have Jesus sitting on our right shoulder assuring us that He'll take care of our children if we lie down in front of the tank in protest.

Sylvia said...

I can't take credit for that question, I first heard it from (Melkite) Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy.

Eleutheros: You are quite right--those who are not Christians are under no obligation to follow Christ's teachings, including "love your enemies." I think you are correct to call it an encumbrance--being a Christian means carrying a cross.

And Christian pacifism is indeed a matter of faith just like Islamic and Christian fundamentalism. How can we say who is right and who is wrong? Our faith says it's not for us to judge (talk about a narrow gate!). What I like about Jesus' advice is that he didn't tell us to reason with people, but to do good. Actions speak louder than words; they bypass the rational mind and go straight to people's hearts, which seem to be a lot easier to change than their minds. Of course it is also easy to change people's hearts against us--with violence.

Daniel Levesque said...

You forgot to lump "turn rhe other cheek" into "love your enemies".

First, the US has turned the other cheek many times already in regards to terrorists. Since we only have 2 cheeks I'm pretty sure there is only a need to turn the other cheek once.

Second, God is a God of justice as much as He is a God of Love. It is part of His holy nature, and why Hell must exist. Regardless of love and forgiveness these terrorists are murdering people, attempting to raise up armies of (un)holy warriors to conquor the world, killing people for any excuse they can make or without any discrimination at all. To them if you are not one of them you are the enemy. Even their fellow Muslims and countrymen are the enemy if they are not fully engaged in armed action against the US. That makes Muslim pacifists the enemy to the Terrorists point of view as much our US soldiers.

Notice also that among all of the tolerance and forgiveness that Jesus spoke of he never said we should simply let evil men take our lives and do nothing about it. He spoke of assault and robery, so anything less than this would certainly apply, but not murder.

Finally, have you forgotten that it wa the terrorists who declared war on us first? It was in the 90's. We waited, we turned the other cheek, and we worked through diplomacy with foreign governements to solve the problem until 9/11. That was the spark that lit the fires of war for us, and we have answered their declaration of war with one of our own. We are now busy hunting and killing terrorists wherever they are, and they are in Iraq, and were there before we went in there to get them.

So in short, "love your enemies" does mean sit idly by and let them kill you. Every nation who has ever tried that bit of silliness was wiped out, and we in America have far too much strength and spirit to allow that o happen to us.

Dan Trabue said...

Although I'm trying to stay out of this one for now, let me issue one proclamation:

Be it understood now and forevermore that NO ONE is talking about "doing nothing," about "letting the terrorists do what they will," about passively letting injustice happen. At least no one on the progressive side of things.

It is, in fact, my contention that those on the war-as-solution side are the ones who say that we should just do nothing because, by investing so heavily in the extremely costly war-as-solution, they cannot possibly have enough energy or resources to begin to work towards stopping injustice around the world.

That is, we're doing all we can to "save" Iraq right now. We have no more money or energy to solve problems in China, N. Korea, Sudan, Congo, Rwanda, Colombia, etc, etc, etc. Even if it worked, there are not enough resources to use war-as-solution and so we are condemning some to face oppression.

Peacemaking, on the other hand, is a more affordable and practical answer, if difficult to implement.

So, be it known that now and forevermore, you can not say, "Pacifists would just have us do nothing," without looking like a moron because pacifists are saying nothing of the sort.

So let it be written, so let it be done.

Eleutheros said...


That's where you pacifist are lousy teachers or else we activists are lousy students. I've kept a quasi-open mind about the question, looking for examples where what I see modern day pacifist doing actually has an effect.

For example as soon as the Taliban took over Afghanistan in '96, the cyber-world was flooded with stories of how repressed women were and we should all write to the Afghan embassy and protest. That'll teach 'em!! Until the invasion in '01, after five years of protests and letter writing, how was on woman's lot in Afghanistan improved? None at all.

In the wake of the invasion women vote and hold office.

Which was more effective? In fact, which was effective at all.

You (pacifists) are right. After this extensive military campaign in Afghanistan and Iraq, we will have essentially shot the wad, we won't be able to wage another war of this extent for a decade or more. But what would you (pacifists) propose we do in relation to the Sudan, Korea, China, etc. Send them vibes? Enchant the raindrops?

If a representative government takes hold in Iraq and Afghanistan, we may not have to launch another such campaign. If the precedent is set that a repressive government CAN be removed and the country turned over to its people, that makes the stakes higher for every repressive government on earth.

Make no mistake, though, the war in Iraq is because of economics. Every war ever fought in history is because of economics, every one. We tack on an excuse afterwards, and there are some side benefits for the victor, but the actual impetus for war is always economical.

Until you remove the economical incentive, war will always be the favored option.

To us 'activists' we see war as having an effect. We see protests and chanting as having no effect whatever. So it all comes down to this, 'are you serious about effecting a change [well, are ya', punk! In all the confusion I don't know if I chanted five times or six ....]' We can effect that change in the middle east by removing ourselves from their economic reality or else go effect the changes by force. If you (passivists, er ... pacifists) have some other 'progressive' idea that would effect change, and idea not centered on 'Jesus would make it so', but a real idea the effect of which we can see .... you haven't communicated it well. Or else we're just lousy students.

By the bye, you do know that 'Taliban' means 'students'.

Dan Trabue said...

E, I've gone over this before. There is a list of things that we can do to more effectively stop terrorism that include supporting ICC, supporting a strong and clear set of international laws, supporting increased aid to needy nations, etc.

It's not a perfect solution but neither is war. It's my suggestion that just peacemaking has a greater chance of working than war. I'm not suggesting getting rid of a defensive military, just that an offensive military as it's being used is only going to make things worse, ie, increase terrorism.

Why? Because when there is a bully taking everyone's lunch money away and no one can stand up directly to the bully face to face, they'll start taking whatever stands they can. It's what the colonists did against Britain and it's what terrorists are doing now.

THE TERRORISTS ARE WRONG TO DO SO (I want that to be clear) but it IS human nature to act in the way they are acting. You want to stop the small attacks? You won't do it by running around squishing the little kids, you do it by getting rid of the bully.

As to your commment:
"[I keep] looking for examples where what I see modern day pacifist doing actually has an effect."

And I'll say it again, there is no nation using Just Peacemaking actions to try to stop violence/oppression. So that is why you can't find examples of it working. It's not been tried and found lacking, it's been found difficult and gone untried (to paraphrase Chesterton).