Whom will they blame this time?

by Chris Bertram on September 30, 2004

Gene at Harry’s Place writes :

I know I’m expecting too much, but I really hope the “we can’t be choosy” Western supporters of the Iraqi “resistance” will find a way to blame the murder of dozens of Iraqi children—at a ceremony in Baghdad to mark the opening of a new sewage plant—on those who actually perpetrated it, without in some way implicating the US government.

I’m no supporter of the Iraqi “resistance”, but I still guess it would be expecting too much to hope that the contributors to Harry’s Place desist from making this kind of heavy-handed point every time something nasty happens in Iraq. In any case, the presupposition of Gene’s point—which he may or may not endorse when it is brought to the surface—is that if one gives the bombers the blame they deserve one must thereby absolve the US government. Not so, and for two reasons. First, if a government’s policies bring a situation into being in which crazy fanatics take the opportunity to slaughter innocents, a situation that would not otherwise have obtained, then that government is sure as hell implicated. Compare: if the British government gave an amnesty to all Britain’s sex offenders, it would in no way be exculpatory of the rapists to hold the government to account for the increase in rapes. Second, if you invade a country, destroy or disband the existing state apparatus, and assume responsibility for the peace and security of its citizens, then it is hardly unreasonable to hold you responsible when that peace and security fails to obtain. None of which, of course, settles the question of whether there should have been a war or not. But it does settle the question “Is it possible to blame to fanatics appropriately and still implicate the occupiers.” The answer to that question is “yes”.

{ 46 comments }

1

dsquared 09.30.04 at 10:03 pm

I would add that if Iraqi militants ever stand for election in my part of London, I will definitely vote against them. Heck, I might even make the journey south of the river to help campaign against them if they look like getting in there. But meanwhile, my political efforts are, to be honest, likely to revolve more around the vexed question of whether or not it’s fair to make a protest vote in my own constituency given that 1) it’s good old Dobbo, 2) he actually voted against the war and 3) he sorted out a parking ticket for me once.

2

Ayjay 09.30.04 at 10:10 pm

Regarding this comment: “if a government’s policies bring a situation into being in which crazy fanatics take the opportunity to slaughter innocents, a situation that would not otherwise have obtained, then that government is sure as hell implicated.” Absolutely — but let’s try applying that to the current situation. Presumably, Chris, you wouldn’t say that under the Saddam Hussein regime a situation “in which crazy fanatics take the opportunity to slaughter innocents” did not obtain. Under Saddam, said “crazy fanatics” were the government itself, rather than opponents of the government. (Though no doubt some of today’s Iraqi terrorists were yesterday’s government officials.) Your way of describing the situation assumes a peaceful status quo ante bellum that doesn’t fit the Iraqi case; your “would not otherwise have obtained” clause is the problem. The ethics of the case are a hell of a lot more complicated if the status quo ante bellum was a regime that “slaughtered innocents” as a matter of course. Yes, different innocents are being slaughtered, and sometimes by different agents; but the misery and suffering of the Iraqi people as a whole were not “brought into being” by Bush administration policies. The real question is whether the American forces in Iraq are doing enough to prevent or at least limit the murder of innocents. And the answer, if course, is no. But let’s frame the issue properly.

3

rea 09.30.04 at 10:11 pm

“Western supporters of the Iraqi “resistance””

Who the bloody hell are these people supposed to be? I don’t know of any apart from maybe the odd Western Islamic fundametalist. You can think that US policy in Iraq is and has been disasterous nonsense without thereby supporting people setting off bombs . . .

4

bob mcmanus 09.30.04 at 10:13 pm

Well said. I am on record as of early 2002 as asking that much greater resources be developed and deployed for the war in Iraq, including the revocation of tax cuts and steps toward a draft or new army divisons thru stepped up recruitment.. I have also, without I think adequate response, asked if the United States is(was) in violation of relevant Hague conventions concerning civilian security during occupation to a degree that in my opinion constitute war crimes. Cites and further argument upon request.

Those who disagree have stated that 100% security was not possible. I ask whether a good faith effort was in evidence, and whether all possible resources were deployed. I think not. I have been told that no further resources were available, a point I dispute. But if adequate resources were unavailable, then the action should not have been initiated.

5

bob mcmanus 09.30.04 at 10:19 pm

Oh, incidentally, for those who continue to excuse the administration by saying they were deluded by Chalabi and the neocons.

If the administration can claim that they sincerely believed they would be greeted by flowers in the street and a minimal amount of civil disorder, that might be a defense in a Hague tribunal on a basis of intent.

Just saying.

6

Barry Freed 09.30.04 at 10:23 pm

7

Uncle Kvetch 09.30.04 at 10:25 pm

I can’t help thinking that Chris went too easy on Gene. By the reasoning of the excerpt, any person who says some variation on “The police aren’t doing enough to keep my neighborhood safe” are not only absolving the criminals of all responsibility, but actively “supporting” them.

Does this even deserve to be dignified with a response?

8

Harry 09.30.04 at 10:33 pm

I guess it would be expecting too much to hope that the contributors to Harry’s Place desist from making this kind of heavy-handed point every time something nasty happens in Iraq.

Yes it is too much to expect.

As long as we have to put up with psuedo-leftists in the Guardian every other day expressing support for this resistance then you won’t get me apologising for Harry’s Place pointing out exactly what it is they are backing.

It may indeed be a ‘heavy-handed’ approach but then if you don’t support the resistance it shouldn’t bother you too much.

9

Eve Garrard 09.30.04 at 11:08 pm

Chris, the principle that governnments are responsible if their policies bring about situations in which crazy fanatics attack innocent people has some intuitive plausibility, but of course if we’re going to accept it we must do so even-handedly. Do you agree that governments which relax abortion laws are responsible for pro-lifers who take potshots at staff in abortion clinics; that those in South Africa who overthrew apartheid are responsible for the soaring murder rate there; that any UK government which permits any immigration is responsible for BNP attacks on immigrants; that Franklin D. Roosevelt was responsible for all the American deaths during WWII, and Churchill for all the British ones; that Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt are responsible for the creation and maintenance of the Palestinian refugee problem? And if so, why don’t you say so more often, since it would be easy to get the impression that you actually think that responsibility for these things is really held by pro-life crazies, the architects and enforcers of apartheid, British fascists, Nazis, and Israeli national forces respectively?

10

EH 09.30.04 at 11:11 pm

Hey, he referred to it as “resistance.” Not “insurgency” or “terrorism.” Is he implying that their behavior is legitimate? Does he support them, does he want us to lose?

Why hate you America do?

11

Hogan 09.30.04 at 11:12 pm

Does this even deserve to be dignified with a response?

Probably not, but there is obviously a theory abroad that “responsibility” for any situation, no matter how complex, comes in a single indivisible quantum that, like property, can be held by only one party at a time. Therefore if you say the Bush administration holds any responsibility for conditions in Iraq, you must be saying that the Bush administration holds all responsibility for that situation.

It’s nonsense, but it’s amazingly widespread nonsense, and it goes well beyond this issue.

12

roger 09.30.04 at 11:46 pm

Well, I wonder what the Iraqis think. I imagine, from news reports, that they think: our rulers for fourteen months prepare a ceremony to which they especially invite kids, and don’t secure the area enough to protect those kids.

And then I would think: these people have to go. It can’t be worse.

A government that compounds illegitimacy with criminal neglect is a government that will fall.

13

dsquared 09.30.04 at 11:46 pm

Eve: surely it’s simply that a government which does not provide the basic function of a government (the provision of security) ought to be blamed for this failure?

14

Lance Boyle 09.30.04 at 11:47 pm

I knew a kid in high school whose parents were religious fundamentalists of an earlier iteration, isolated, almost covert, shades-drawn, their house had an aura like a black hole. He was 15 and beginning to step away from what most of us would call an insane repression of his human instincts and freedoms. There wasn’t anything out there to guide him though, really, just the chaotic turbulence of other adolescents thrown together in school.
They were beating him for infractions. Somewhere it hit the point of no return, and their violence drove him further into the behavior that caused it. He lost. I lost just from watching.
They won, in every sense but the biological one, and even there…
The glee with which many observer/participants watch and comment on the sadistic attempts at the breaking of Arabic/Islamic culture that’s underway now marks them out, but you have to look and listen carefully. Ethnicity plays its part, and taboo.
Car bombs were recently employed by the most innocent of all people in the Middle East, and deceptive sacrifice isn’t alien, even in the Holy Land.
The kidnapping of the two Simonas was a total failure, too obviously an act of dis-information and deceit.
American public support for the empire-building, that Iraq is just one step of, must be maintained at all cost. So maybe a new Beslan, because that worked so well last time. Virtually no one connects Beslan with the natural gas under the Caspian Sea, and who’s financing that extraction?
Darfur, and its oil, is now headed for “independence” from the “Islamist” government of Sudan.
A terrorist is anyone who violently resists submission to the will of empire.

15

Russkie 09.30.04 at 11:56 pm

Gene specifically indicated that his remark was levelled at those who lionize the “insurgents” (ie. Pilger et. al.). By ignoring this, Chris changes Gene’s meaning.

16

dsquared 09.30.04 at 11:57 pm

by the way, I would quite like the name and address of the idiot who thought it was a good idea to invite a load of kids for a fun day out at the sewage works.

17

Harry 10.01.04 at 12:17 am

What a pathetic comment.

18

Realish 10.01.04 at 12:33 am

Harry, you supported an administration whose actions have directly led to the current chaos and death. So while I hold insurgents responsbible, I also hold the administration responsible, and I also hold YOU responsible. When you’re as wrong as you’ve been for as long as you’ve been, you don’t get to cast aspersions any more. So shut the fuck up.

19

dsquared 10.01.04 at 12:37 am

Harry, please don’t pick fights. Realish, thanks but I can look after myself. Everyone, let’s try to keep this civil.

20

Meteor Blades 10.01.04 at 12:54 am

I vote with Roger.

21

Barry Freed 10.01.04 at 1:02 am

Well said hogan. I’m clipping that comment for future reference.

22

John Quiggin 10.01.04 at 1:12 am

A big problem with all this is that the term “resistance” is being used very loosely.

At its narrowest, it refers only to Zarqawi and other terrorists engaged in kidnappings and bombings. At its broadest it refers to the majority of the Iraqi population who want an immediate end to the occupation. In between, there are groups who are engaged in armed resistance to the occupation but who condemn terror attacks on civilians. It’s silly to lump them all together either to support or condemn.

Insurgencies always involve this kind of confusion to some extent, but Iraq more than most.

23

DrBB 10.01.04 at 1:30 am

To Ajay:

Then, it was Saddam’s mess. No one asked us to make it our mess. But we did.

The only moral “out” from that equation would have been if we could say, “Yes, but we had to do it.”

But we didn’t have to do it.

That makes it our mess. Slaughtered children included.

You break it, you own it. A formulation simple enough, one would have thought, for even a Fox-besotted Republican to understand.

24

Robin Green 10.01.04 at 2:12 am

Zarqawi – who claimed responsibility for this atrocity – is, of course, linked to Al Quaeda.

Once again, we get Harry’s Place using an attack by the most vicious, sociopathic, horrendous, evil forces… to try and discredit the entire Iraqi armed resistance movement. Sorry, it won’t wash.

25

Gene 10.01.04 at 3:55 am

Gene specifically indicated that his remark was levelled at those who lionize the “insurgents” (ie. Pilger et. al.). By ignoring this, Chris changes Gene’s meaning.

Well, yes. The most egregious example is that of John Pilger, who said the anti-occupation movement “can’t afford to be choosy” about supporting the resistance. My anger is with those for whom the actual perpetrators are less to blame than the Americans. They remind me of those who blamed the US for provoking the 9/11 attacks. There’s always someone else you can blame for provoking even the most dastardly acts. Just once I would like to see the Pilgers, the Chomskys, the Tariq Alis, place full responsibility for terrorism on terrorists. Full stop.

26

Gene 10.01.04 at 3:56 am

Gene specifically indicated that his remark was levelled at those who lionize the “insurgents” (ie. Pilger et. al.). By ignoring this, Chris changes Gene’s meaning.

Well, yes. The most egregious example is that of John Pilger, who said the anti-occupation movement “can’t afford to be choosy” about supporting the resistance. My anger is with those for whom the actual perpetrators are less to blame than the Americans. They remind me of those who blamed the US for provoking the 9/11 attacks. There’s always someone else you can blame for provoking even the most dastardly acts. Just once I would like to see the Pilgers, the Chomskys, the Tariq Alis, place full responsibility for terrorism on terrorists. Full stop.

27

dsquared 10.01.04 at 4:05 am

Why “Full stop”, Gene? There is not a finite quantity of blame to be shared out. In particular, if someone sets themself up as the government and does not fulfil the role of a government, the question of providing blame to them is not logically related to the question of providing blame to the criminals. I might ask, why don’t you save all your blame for the terrorists, and put a “full stop” on saying things about John Pilger?

As far as I can tell, you’re arguing on aesthetic grounds here; you’re actually saying that talking about the failings of the coalition is unseemly in the immediate aftermath of a horrible attack. I have a lot of sympathy with that view; I seem to remember that several CT posters didn’t want to say much about Beslan for a few days for the same reason, and my God did we get it in the neck for that. But other people don’t share this aesthetic view, not least for the reason that, since there appears to be almost always some horrible attack going on in Iraq, it would appear to preclude any criticism of the coalition ever.

28

Michael Moore 10.01.04 at 6:03 am

“The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not “insurgents” or “terrorists” or “The Enemy.” They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow — and they will win.”

Maybe I’ll repeat that line at the Oscars when my friends at the commanding heights of the global entertainment industry give me the best-picture award for my $100-plus-million-grossing movie “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which you will be able to purchase on DVD surprisingly soon!

29

a passerby 10.01.04 at 7:04 am

Golly! So many words, one following on the other. I just don’t know what to think.

30

abb1 10.01.04 at 8:23 am

Once again, we get Harry’s Place using an attack by the most vicious, sociopathic, horrendous, evil forces… to try and discredit the entire Iraqi armed resistance movement. Sorry, it won’t wash.

Hear, hear.

Moreover, what Bushits’ misguided policies achieved is giving these most vicious, sociopathic, horrendous, evil forces a righteous cause and, consequently, support of the masses. For example, Osama bin Laden’s popularity was at 60% in Pakistan in the last poll I saw; probably higher now. And that’s what this discussion has to be about.

31

Eve Garrard 10.01.04 at 9:20 am

Dsquared, you say, ‘surely it’s simply that a government which does not provide the basic function of a government (the provision of security) ought to be blamed for this failure?’ But that’s not just the principle which Chris was proposing, and my response above was to what he actually said. In any case, the principle which you propose here is open to very similar kinds of objection – it would mean that any government whose control of the country is effectively challenged by murderous fanatics is thereby responsible for the fanatical killings. I don’t think this is a plausible claim – considerations such as what problems the government faces, and who is funding the fanatics, are all going to make a difference to judgements about responsibility. There *is* a principle which is more intuitively acceptable than either Chris’s one or this one, and that’s the principle which says that where a government acts *wrongly* to produce a situation in which murderous fanatics kill innocents, the government shares responsibility for the killings. That would capture Chris’s amnesty-for-rapists case nicely. But that principle will only apply to Iraq if you *already* believe that the intervention there was wrong; it can’t provide a reason for forming that belief. And the principle generates problems of its own which I’m sure are already occurring to you.

32

mona 10.01.04 at 10:22 am

eve garrard – “Do you agree that governments which relax abortion laws are responsible for pro-lifers who take potshots at staff in abortion clinics; that those in South Africa who overthrew apartheid are responsible for the soaring murder rate there”

Huh? how on earth does that compare?

Chris made a comparison with the amnesty on sex offenders scenario, the concept is failing to provide security, failing to contain something, failing to exercise your control of a situation you are supposed to be managing. Failure, out of deliberate intent or incompetence or mismanagement or just having a set of priorities that led to that scenario.

Not “unintended and unrelated consequences of good actions”, as you very slyly turned it around.

Failing to provide security also means leaving the borders open for terrorists to come in from neighbouring countries, failing to capture terrorist leaders when there was the chance to do so, failing to avoid giving terrorists more pretexts to strike, failing to control entire areas you’re supposed to control, etc. If you’re going to do an invasion you’re supposed to do it properly, I don’t see how even supporters of the war can avoid seeing that unless the entire point of interest for them is terrorism as a retro-active justification for war in the first place.

You want everyone to agree with you that the intervention in Iraq was indisputably good and that the rise of terrorism after it is only an accidental unfortunate side-effect with no relation to how the military intervention has been managed initially, ok, let’s stretch that far – but it still doesn’t mean that because terrorists are obviously directly responsible for what they do, the government and military who is supposed to deal with that situation *now* is blameless or unaccountable or uncriticisable. Get out of that either/or trap or at least, don’t put everybody else in it.

33

mona 10.01.04 at 10:45 am

“it would mean that any government whose control of the country is effectively challenged by murderous fanatics is thereby responsible for the fanatical killings.”

No, eve, this is not “any government”, this is an interim government that has taken the place of a dictatorship that was overthrown militarily with the purpose of making that country safer in the context of a war against terrorism.

What do you find objectionable or confusing about the concept that that government is supposed to do its job, and that the force who overthrew a dictatorship needs to do its *best* to guarantee stability and security, if that was their intent? Criticising failures to do so can only be read as “finding excuses for terrorism” in the most preposterous binary thinking. It’s not even the occurring of terrorist bombings in itself that speaks of failures, it’s the conditions in which terrorist groups have managed to arise and gain control. To say that more should have been done to prevent that is to a large extent even independent of opinions on whether the war was justified or not.

“But that principle will only apply to Iraq if you already believe that the intervention there was wrong”

Not necessarily, again, unless your entire concern is to the opposite – to argue that the intervention was right “therefore” there’s no responsibility for chaos other than the terrorists’.

” it can’t provide a reason for forming that belief.”

Not exclusively so, when judgement on the intervention was formed before, but it can provide a reason for forming the belief that the intervention hasn’t been _managed_ properly.

On the other hand, the presence of terrorism cannot provide a reason for forming the belief that the intervention was _right_, and therefore those who managed and are managing it are automagically absolved of all resulting problems and need not be accountable or criticised, because they’re only victims of something they have no control over.

What kind of idea of authority is that?

34

rea 10.01.04 at 1:49 pm

“‘Western supporters of the Iraqi “resistance”’ Who the bloody hell are these people supposed to be?”–rea

“As long as we have to put up with psuedo-leftists in the Guardian every other day expressing support for this resistance . . .”–Harry

You note he responds with more of the usual general hand-waving in the direction of the left, not any concrete example of anyone who actually supports such terror tactcs.

35

Peter 10.01.04 at 2:52 pm

John Pilger, Tariq Ali, the Socialist Worker, at least two commenters above …

36

Eve Garrard 10.01.04 at 3:13 pm

Mona, you say ‘ the concept is failing to provide security, failing to contain something, failing to exercise your control of a situation you are supposed to be managing. Failure, out of deliberate intent or incompetence or mismanagement or just having a set of priorities that led to that scenario….Not “unintended and unrelated consequences of good actions”, as you very slyly turned it around.’

So it looks as if you think that governments who fail to control the situation deliberately, or through incompetence, or failure to prioritise anti-fanatical measures, are responsible for what the fanatics do, but not where the fanatical activities are the unintended and unrelated consequences of good actions. That’s still going to leave governments who relax abortion laws as being responsible for the doings of pro-life murderers, since those murders are certainly not unrelated to the relaxation in the law; and similarly with governments who admit immigrants – they’ll be responsible for attacks on immigrants by local fascists, since these attacks are also not unrelated to the immigration policy. This just leaves you with ‘unintended consequences of good actions’ as the conditions in which governments aren’t responsible for fanatical attacks. As I originally argued, this amounts to saying that the Iraq government and its allies aren’t responsible *unless* we’ve already decided that the intervention in Iraq was wrong. You are, however, mistaken in thinking that I’m here arguing that that intervention was right (although I certainly think it was). I’m rather investigating the implications of Chris’s original claim, and Daniel’s development of it, and arguing that the principles they’re drawn to have implications which they may not want to endorse, and that this casts doubt on the plausibility of those claims.

37

roger 10.01.04 at 3:41 pm

There are some odd ideas of responsibility running through the above comments.

Surely, if a group of soldiers used children as shields during a battle, we would hold them responsible for endangering the lives of kids.

Surely, in a city that has been wracked with car bombings, soldiers who specifically invite children to an open meeting have a responsibility not to put them in hazard. This is called due diligence.

On a larger plane, responsibility implies a certain agency and power that is notably lacking in the supposed “sovereign’ government represented by Allawi. Allawi’s government is surely not responsible for, example, the “surgical strikes’ of the American air force in Sadr City. Surgical, here, should conjure up Jack the Ripper rather than Dr. Kildare — they are really the hi tech equivalent of car bombings. So, on the one hand we have an army incapable of protecting civilians, and on the other hand we have that army targetting them.

It is this sort of thing that leads to the collapse of state power. This isn’t just a dissident, anti-war view. It is the view of, among others, the president of Iraq, waccording to yesterday’s LA Times:

“Drawing a parallel between U.S. tactics in Iraq and Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, President Ghazi Ajil Yawer said the U.S. strikes were viewed by the Iraqi people as “collective punishment” against towns and neighborhoods.

“Footage of injured and dead women and children being pulled from bombed buildings “brings to mind Gaza,” Yawer said in an interview on CNN.”

38

mona 10.01.04 at 4:41 pm

“So it looks as if you think…”

No. It looks like what I wrote, which is not what you’re trying to make me say, which I don’t even understand as I don’t quite follow the twisted logic by which murders of doctors who practice abortion could ever be blamed on a law sanctioning abortion, or murdering immigrants can be blamed on… the existence of immigrants in the first place!

Seriously, what kind of reasoning is that?

You might as well blame murder on the existence of the murdered. If they didn’t exist, they wouldn’t be murdered.

Are you seriously saying that the premise for criticism of the US policy in Iraq is that totally insane?

Also no one said the “governments who fail etc. , *are responsible for what the fanatics do*” – you’ve read repeated reassertions of the obvious, that the responsibility is the terrorists’s, which no one disagrees with, but, in a normal, rational context in which not everything has to be either/or and 100% or 0%, the right to criticising a government’s or military power’s handling of a situation in which terrorists thrive is a simple right to criticise a policy, it’s pathetic to see it as excusing terrorists. In every country people have the right to criticise the army, the police, authorities, intelligence, etc. no matter who they are dealing with. Surely no one would suggest criticising a government’s _failure_ to deal _effectively_ with criminals is… motivated by sympathy or support for said criminals. Jesus. You don’t hear drug traffickers complaining that governments are _failing_ to stop drug trafficking, do you? Why would complaining about policies that fail to prevent or minimise terrorism be about justifying terrorism rather than being genuinely concerned about it?

As I originally argued, this amounts to saying that the Iraq government and its allies aren’t responsible unless we’ve already decided that the intervention in Iraq was wrong.

No. As I originally argued, the criticism of the current policies is largely independent of one’s opinions on the justification for war in the first place.

Shall we go around in circles on that, or can you maybe take it in?

How can the US and the interim government be not responsible for handling the situation in a country they’re running? not even one little bit?

You are, however, mistaken in thinking that I’m here arguing that that intervention was right (although I certainly think it was).

Er, so where would that be mistaken?

But no, I wasn’t even thinking you were arguing that, it was to illustrate that your insisting that in order to criticise the current policy one has to have been against the war from the start is plain wrong. You don’t need to be against the war to criticise how the situation is being handled now, and there’s been tons of instances of that also from officials and military people who sure weren’t anti-war.

You can’t keep reducing every opinion in the world to such absurd binaries.

I’m rather investigating the implications of Chris’s original claim, and Daniel’s development of it, and arguing that the principles they’re drawn to have implications which they may not want to endorse, and that this casts doubt on the plausibility of those claims.

ie. you’re _projecting_ implications that weren’t there in Chris’s claim, reducing everything to A or Z, making impossible comparisons, twisting and reducing the meaning of responsibility to something absurd, and attacking ridiculous straw men. That’s what you’re doing.

39

abb1 10.01.04 at 5:41 pm

…not any concrete example of anyone who actually supports such terror tactcs…
.
…John Pilger, Tariq Ali, the Socialist Worker, at least two commenters above…

Peter,
if we follow your logic here, we’ll have to conclude that Bill Kristol, Washington Times and a couple of commenters above (including you) must support tactics used in Abu Ghraib.

I don’t accuse you or Mr. Kristol of supporting these atrocities and I doubt that John Pilger and Tariq Ali would. You shouldn’t be accusing John Pilger and Tariq Ali of supporting atrocities either.

40

Eve Garrard 10.01.04 at 7:26 pm

Mona, you’re correct in thinking that you don’t understand the logic of the argument. It goes like this: Chris claimed that governnments are responsible if their policies bring about situations in which crazy fanatics attack innocent people. I pointed out that *if* that claim is true, then it will *follow* that governments which relax abortion laws will be responsible for the pro-life fanatics who murder abortion clinic staff. That’s because such governments would be in precisely the situation described by Chris as generating responsibility for fanatics killing innocents. If you don’t like that implication, which I don’t myself and presume Chris doesn’t either, then you have reason not to endorse the original claim. That’s why my argument is a *criticism* of that claim – it shows that the claim has an unacceptable implication. If you don’t like *that* conclusion, then you have to show why the unwanted implication about abortion law reform doesn’t follow from Chris’s original claim. Either the unwelcome implication isn’t implied, or the original claim is unsatisfactory. That’s how the reasoning goes. You won’t show what (if anything)is wrong with it by shouting loudly about twisted logic or absurd binaries.

41

mona 10.01.04 at 8:14 pm

” I pointed out that if that claim is true, then it will follow that governments which relax abortion laws will be responsible for the pro-life fanatics who murder abortion clinic staff.”

Well, eve, I’m pointing out that is complete and utter nonsense. What I don’t understand is how you can make that kind of comparison in the first place.

Taking military and political control of another country after toppling its regime is a decision that is very different from legislating on abortion or immigration – the latter especially is something every country allows, you know? The relation of a rise in fanatics murdering doctors or immigrants to those ordinary legislations is also completely different from the relation of a rise in terrorism to the _management of security and politics and military_ etc. which is a very very close relation. Legislators have no responsibility whatsoever on fanatics taking their opposition to those laws to extremes of murder. But a military and political force controlling a country has responsibility to ensure the best is being done to prevent and reduce terrorism rather than increase it, because it’s one of their main _direct_ responsibilities, especially in the context of rebuilding a country after a war.

Does it even have to be spelt out? I mean, how can you not see it yourself?

That’s so not “precisely” the same situation. Observing the failure to stop terrorists from neighbouring countries does not absolve terrorists from the crimes they commit. It’s simply observing – no matter what one thinks of the war in the first place – that it’s a disastrous policy.

That kind of criticism happens all the time, when people hold authorities _accountable_ . The existence of criminals doesn’t make the police blameless for any possible screwup or failure, the existence of terrorism doesn’t make those responsible for policies against it unaccountable. Unless you’re Putin.

If you don’t like that implication, which I don’t myself and presume Chris doesn’t either, then you have reason not to endorse the original claim.

That is a false dichotomy you set up, to which Chris has already replied. You can’t keep repeating it ad nauseam, it doesn’t make it any less irrational.

That’s why my argument is a criticism of that claim – it shows that the claim has an unacceptable implication

Nope, it shows _you_ are attaching to it arbitrary implications by making arbitrary comparisons.

Either the unwelcome implication isn’t implied, or the original claim is unsatisfactory. That’s how the reasoning goes.

There you go, either/or, that’s something you set up yourself, how is that not reductive binary thinking, how is it not absurd?

This is not “shouting”, eve, it’s called discussing, and it involves some basic honesty and logic, if you’re not used to it, its not my problem.

My problem instead is that I should have heeded Matt Yglesias’s advice.

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abb1 10.01.04 at 9:06 pm

Freed Italian Hostage Says Iraq Rebels ‘Justified’

ROME (Reuters) – An Italian aid worker held hostage last month in Iraq said guerrillas there were right to fight U.S.-led forces and their Iraqi “puppet government.”

In comments that were bound to annoy Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government, Simona Torretta also called on Rome to withdraw the troops it sent to Iraq to support its U.S. ally.

“I said it before the kidnapping and I repeat it today,” she told Corriere della Sera newspaper in an interview published Friday.

“You have to distinguish between terrorism and resistance. The guerrilla war is justified, but I am against the kidnapping of civilians.”
[…]
Torretta, who lived in Iraq before, during and after the U.S.-led invasion, said she wanted to return despite her ordeal — but would not do so as long as U.S. troops were there: “I’ve got to wait until the end of the U.S. occupation,” she said.

She said she did know whether Italy bought her freedom from the kidnappers: “If a ransom was paid then I am very sorry. But I know nothing about it … I believe that (the kidnappers) were a very political, religious group and that in the end they were convinced that we were not enemies.”

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George 10.01.04 at 11:22 pm

Late to the party, as usual, but:

From the POV of strict causality, the US is “responsible” for a zillion things, good and bad, happening every day, that can be said to have been triggered by something we did or did not do. At this very moment, the US is “causing” the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Africans in Darfur because it is in our power to mount an armed intervention, and we aren’t doing so. But given that the Sudanese government (which is actually reasonably well armed) says it would treat any humanitarian intervention as war, that action would itself likely kill thousands of people, both Africans and Americans. In fact it would a lot like….the invasion of Iraq.

Of course there’s a qualitative difference between sins of commission and sins of omission, but in the real world you do have to evaluate not just the consequences of your actions, but the alternatives to acting, and the consequences of those.

This is not exonerate everything the US has done in Iraq. I do have my own opinions, but that is a separate matter from this argument.

The reason people can be sensitive about who gets the “blame” in a situation like this is that many observers will not be as morally discerning as the philosopher-would-be-kings at CT (and I’m sure all their commentors) are. Once you cede that the US is not merely part of the causal chain that led to this event, but “responsible” for it, the actual perpetrators begin to slide off the hook — not least because, being conveniently absent, they can’t actually be brought to justice. At that point it just becomes a question of who’s got the deepest moral pockets.

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ruralsaturday 10.02.04 at 8:25 am

You tell ’em George. You go tell those women and children they’re pulling out of the rubble in Fallujah every day,too.
And those young American soldiers coming back from Iraq, the ones that are killing themselves because they can’t live with what they’ve seen and done, you tell ’em buddy, you tell ’em good.
Deep pockets oh yeah. That’s what it is, litigation with bombs and rockets.
Just be sure to keep on message there George, don’t whatever you do start talking about what’s really happening in the Middle East, and in America.
Can’t have that. Bad for the economy.

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abb1 10.02.04 at 8:28 am

Mourning Iraqis Blame U.S. Troops

Residents said that before the start of the celebration, U.S. soldiers called upon the children through loudspeakers to join the crowd, promising them sweets. There were an unusually large number around because the long school holidays were nearing an end.

“I blame the Americans for this tragedy. They wanted to make human shields out of our children. They should have kept the children away from danger,” said Abdel-Hadi al-Badri, a cleric a the al-Mubashroun al-Ashra mosque, breaking down in tears during Friday prayers.

Al-Badri’s son lost his right leg in the explosion after he ignored his father’s warnings to stay away from the U.S. troops.

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Uncle Kvetch 10.02.04 at 3:00 pm

Once you cede that the US is not merely part of the causal chain that led to this event, but “responsible” for it, the actual perpetrators begin to slide off the hook

What is your basis for saying this, George? This topic has been getting batted around on in this thread for awhile now, and I have yet to see a convincing argument for this zero-sum conception of responsibility.

I really don’t find it that hard to wrap my head around the notion that while the perpetrators of the bombings are fully responsible for their inexcusable actions, a certain degree of responsibility (or if you prefer, I’ll use the hot-button term: blame) must be laid at the feet of the superpower that has voluntarily taken on responsibility for the security of the Iraqi people. Seems to me that the alternative is to let the Bush administration “slide off the hook” entirely–you say that’s not where you’re going with this argument, but I don’t see any other outcome.

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