Oliver Kamm, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and the supreme emergency exception

by Chris Bertram on January 21, 2005

Having recently read W.G. Sebald’s The History of Natural Destruction , I found myself referring to Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars and his discussion of the “supreme emergency exception”. I was slightly relieved by what I found there. Walzer doesn’t justify the bombings of Dresden (1945) or the firebombing of Hamburg (1943) but rather holds that Britain, with no other effective means of waging war against the appalling evil of Nazi Germany, and facing the threat of national annihilation, was only justified in the area bombing of German cities—in violation of the prohibition on attacking noncombatants—until early 1942. Nevertheless, what Walzer calls “the supreme emergency” exception is there, and the grounds for it are reasonably clear: necessity. The bombers were the only weapon available to leaders the continued independent existence of whose people was mortally jeopardized.

Surfing over to a blog post by Oliver Kamm , concerning our old friend Sheikh Al-Qaradawi, I find Walzer invoked as an authority against Qaradawi’s apologia for suicide bombing.

Kamm on Qaradawi:

During his visit to the UK, Qaradawi gave Channel 4 News his views on the suicide murder of Israeli civilians:

When we say that such operations are permissible, it is because they are the only means. They are necessary because, simply, the Palestinians do not have any other means of confronting their enemies.

As a descriptive statement this is nonsense –- plenty of opportunities exist for the campaign for Palestinian statehood, not least direct negotiation with Israel -– but it is also morally repugnant. The reason is one I have cited before with reference to the views of the political philosopher Michael Walzer. Walzer maintains that the type of rationalisation that sees suicide terrorism as a last resort born of desperation exploits and debases our notion of innocence. He summarises the spurious reasoning this way:

Of course, it is wrong to kill the innocent, but these victims aren’t entirely innocent. They are the beneficiaries of oppression; they enjoy its tainted fruits. And so, while their murder isn’t justifiable, it is … understandable. What else could they expect? Well, the children among them, and even the adults, have every right to expect a long life like anyone else who isn’t actively engaged in war or enslavement or ethnic cleansing or brutal political repression. This is called noncombatant immunity, the crucial principle not only of war but of any decent politics. Those who give it up for a moment of schadenfreude are not simply making excuses for terrorism; they have joined the ranks of terror’s supporters.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi is a supporter of terrorism and the murder of innocents. He is thus, by definition and without extenuation, an evil man. That is the reason –- not his reprehensible positions on gay rights and sexual equality, and certainly not his religion –- that he ought never to have been accorded the reception that Livingstone gave him, and why there can be no justification for allying with him on grounds even of the most amoral Realpolitik.

Now there’s a fair bit of rhetoric in the passage from Walzer that Kamm quotes here. The interesting part, I think, is that the quotation from Qaradawi has the cleric invoking similar grounds to those underlying the supreme emergency exception. He says, to repeat, ” When we say that such operations are permissible, it is because they are the only means. They are necessary because, simply, the Palestinians do not have any other means of confronting their enemies.” Now Kamm doesn’t simply challenge Qaradawi’s factual claim here (although he is right to do so), but he also insists that, even if Qaradawi were right about the fact and suicide bombings were indeed the only means (and presumably that Palestinian national survival were in danger), Qaradawi would still not be justified. “He is thus, by definition and without extenuation, an evil man.” But the thought naturally occurs of whether this conclusion about Qaradawi could be consistently reached by someone like Walzer who agrees that the principle of noncombatant immunity can be subject to the supreme emergency exception. (I have no way of knowing whether or not Kamm agrees with Walzer on the exception, so my remarks on consistency may or may not apply to him.)

The difficulty Walzer’s position on this raises with respect to terrorism is the topic of C.A.R. Coady’s paper Terrorism, Morality, and Supreme Emergency in Ethics (114:4 , July 2004). Coady there employs what he calls a “tactical definition” of terrorism:

the organized use of violence to attack noncombatants or innocents (in a special sense) or their property for political purposes.

Coady remarks that terrorism is morally wrong

Terrorism violates a central principle of the jus in bello, the principle of discrimination, that declares the immunity of noncombatants (“innocents”) from direct attack.

I agree. And I also agree with Coady in his use of a definition which doesn’t limit the use of the word “terrorist” to a particular type of actor: states can use terrorism just as much as non-state actors such as “national-liberation” movements can. The question then arises, of course, of the availability of the “supreme emergency exception”. Is there something special about states which entitles them to make use of this get-out clause whereas non-state actors cannot? As Coady points out, there are striking differences in the way in which Walzer writes about the decision-making of states and the way he discusses non-state forces. He seems comparatively indulgent, for example, in considering the burdens that uncertainty places on state decision-makers, whilst non-state actors contemplating acts that violate noncombatant immunity are allowed no such wiggle room.

Where to go? It seems like we have two possibilities. Either we allow everyone the option of invoking supreme emergency (including Hamas and the Iraqi “resistance”) or we close off that escape route to state and non-state actors alike. Of course the mere invocation of the excuse wouldn’t justify, it would have to be supported by argument and evidence. If someone claims that suicide bombing is the only (effective) means the Palestinians have, then that claim is obviously open to challenge (but in evaluating that claim, should we hold them to higher standards than we employ in evaluating similar claims by states?).

My own view—like Coady’s—is that the best resolution of this issue is to reject the supreme emergency exception and to say that terrorism is always wrong , for states and non-state actors alike. I don’t know whether Walzer (or Kamm if he agrees with Walzer) would find that resolution of his dilemma congenial.

A final note. Coady remarks of his own definition of terrorism that it

might be thought too restrictive in one direction since the threat to use such violence, even where the violence does not result, would be regarded by some as itself an instance of terrorism.

I don’t know what I think about that. But if we were to extend the definition so as to include such threats, that would pose a problem for Kamm. For Kamm is on record (here , for example) as supporting the policy of nuclear deterrence in the Cold War and, of course, deterrence involves exactly such a threat to attack noncombatants for political purposes in violation of their immunity.

{ 76 comments }

1

MFB 01.21.05 at 11:21 am

Trouble is that guerrilla movements tend to morph into terrorist movements. This is not so much because terrorism is more effective than other kinds of guerrilla activities, but because most guerrilla movements are ill-disciplined and participants do not get tried for war crimes.

(Of course in many armies people don’t get tried for war crimes, or only get selectively tried, but that’s a sign of their dysfunctionality.)

This is a long way of saying that armchair discussions of guerrilla activities don’t make much sense.

Guerrilla wars are also about terrorism, in the sense that they are about winning the support of the public. The guerrillas do not have money to bribe people with, as the national armed forces/occupying powers have. They can, however, threaten harm to people. Therefore guerrillas single out collaborators with the national government/occupying power and attack them; sometimes kill them; in order to discourage them from taking the establishment’s shilling.

Again, armchair discussions of military morality are not really to the point. Especially since they generally have nothing to do with war as actually practiced. (Note that Sebald is particularly concerned about people who pretend to be talking about the war, but are actually talking up their careers or political ambitions or civic loyalties.)

2

conrad barwa 01.21.05 at 11:48 am

I was slightly relieved by what I found there. Walzer doesn’t justify the bombings of Dresden (1945) or the firebombing of Hamburg (1943) but rather holds that Britain, with no other effective means of waging war against the appalling evil of Nazi Germany, and facing the threat of national annihilation, was only justified in the area bombing of German cities — in violation of the prohibition on attacking noncombatants — until early 1942. Nevertheless, what Walzer calls “the supreme emergency” exception is there, and the grounds for it are reasonably clear: necessity. The bombers were the only weapon available to leaders the continued independent existence of whose people was mortally jeopardized.

I am unsure that that area bombing was the “only effective means of waging war” until 1942 – I would have thought that this period would have ended earlier sometime after the Battle of Britain and the failure of Operation Barbarossa. Additionally, it isn’t a moral point, but there is a strong case that area bombing of cities, or terror bombing wasn’t very successful in damaging civilian morale or significantly crippling war production and didn’t succeed by the purely tactical objectives that were set out for it.

The ‘Supreme Emergency’ exception reminds me of the old jibe about Liberals being in favour of all sorts of principles except when it really matters. Like most exceptions to such general rules it is open to abuse; this in itself is not surprising, what is troubling is the lack of acknowledgement that such abuses can be endemic, especially when states are considered as actors. There needs to be a recognition that states, in themselves, and even when accountable aren’t moral actors in the way individuals do.

It seems like we have two possibilities. Either we allow everyone the option of invoking supreme emergency (including Hamas and the Iraqi “resistance”) or we close off that escape route to state and non-state actors alike. Of course the mere invocation of the excuse wouldn’t justify, it would have to be supported by argument and evidence. If someone claims that suicide bombing is the only (effective) means the Palestinians have, then that claim is obviously open to challenge

Another possibility would be to classify terrorism as a form of warfare, though one, which effectively borders on illegality. Considering purely moral issues, the problem is that the principle of ‘non-combatant’ immunity is going to violated at some stage or another in any form of open warfare; the question remains as to how it is violated and to what degree. Obviously, for a number of reasons, states have more leeway and greater capacity in this regard than non-state actors, which is behind the asymmetric warfare argument that is sometimes used to rationalise terrorism. However, I think one thing that should not be lost sight of, is that there is almost always another effective option, but one that entails a different set of costs and implies a different sort of time scale for possible success. One may choose not to take these routes for all sorts of CBA-type reasons but that doesn’t invalidate the fact that some choice exists and so rarely is terrorism the sole means available. The main exception would be an open war of mutual annihilation, where the physical liquidation of the opposing side is a prime war aim in itself shorn of strategic necessity. The Eastern Front in WWII is usually taken to be an example of this kind of scenario. There is an implicit acceptance of this, which is one of the reasons why accusations of genocide or genocidal intent, genocidal mindset etc. are so often bandied about as part of the propaganda war in many conflicts.

But if we were to extend the definition so as to include such threats, that would pose a problem for Kamm. For Kamm is on record (here , for example) as supporting the policy of nuclear deterrence in the Cold War and, of course, deterrence involves exactly such a threat to attack noncombatants for political purposes in violation of their immunity.

Poses a (moral) problem for many of us. Particularly, all NWS most of whom have some theory of deterrence built in to their strategic and political calculations and who can draw upon a large level of support from their societies for such a position. To return to an earlier point made, the problem is partly that modern forms of warfare at a functional level, whether between non-state groups and states or between states possessing some type of WMD or advanced industrial weapons; the kind of totalisation of warfare being adopted, tends to lead to a gradual erosion of the lines between combatants and non-combatants by its very nature. All of which poses a very serious problem for moral philosophers in developing an adequate moral theory of conduct in warfare.

3

abb1 01.21.05 at 11:53 am

It’s good to be an academic. Not too much money, but a lot of free time and travel, staying in good hotels, meeting smart people. Nice. You can also sit comfortably in your suburban home and write books about immoral people who commit suicide in a certain wrong way. If you write the correct things, you may be invated to the AEI and other places, get some money and then you might be able to buy a better suburban house, or even, if you’re very good at it, a little summer house on Côte d’Azur.

I wish Messrs. Kamm and Walzer were somehow transformed into Ahmad and Mahmed one day to spend a couple of decades living in a Gaza refugee camp or a few weeks in Fallujah. I wonder what kind of judgements they would produce there.

The question then arises, of course, of the availability of the “supreme emergency exception”.

Confronted by extreme circumstances human beings behave in very unpredictable ways. Morality does not apply by reason of temporary insanity, extreme emotional disturbance. That’s all there is to it.

Here’s one story: Ticking bomb.

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Chris Bertram 01.21.05 at 11:59 am

abb1: Oliver Kamm is not an academic, and Yusuf al-Qaradawi is not a victim of temporary insanity.

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John Kozak 01.21.05 at 12:02 pm

By Kamm’s reasoning Britain wasn’t entitled to undertake area bombing at the beginning of WWII – as I understand it, cutting a deal with Germany was definitely possible then.

From the material presented here, neither Kamm nor Walzer appear to be interested in much other than constructing rhetorical buttresses for pre-decided positions. But then, this is “ethicism” as she is lived – do ethicists ever change their conduct as a result of their deliberations?

A slightly less fraught pet example of mine: Roger Scruton, some years ago, wrote an essay on sexuality. This concluded (as I recall) that the highest and most proper form of sexuality was man-on-woman heterosexuality in the marital bed. Quelle surprise! I doubt anyone expected that Scruton would arise from his contemplations and head for the docks with a tube of KY in his back pocket, but the fact that we all knew that counts as a demonstration of the poverty of philosophy, doesn’t it?

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Chris Bertram 01.21.05 at 12:05 pm

Conrad, all good points to make.

On the effectiveness point, it is notable that Walzer is very indulgent to state decision-makers (see pp. 260-1 on J&UJW 1st edn) on this but places a very high burden of proof on non-state actors. This asymmetry in his approach is one of the principal targets of Coady’s article.

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abb1 01.21.05 at 12:14 pm

Yusuf al-Qaradawi is not a victim of temporary insanity

Well, I guess that explains why he hasn’t committed a siucide bombing so far. What’s your point?

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Donald Johnson 01.21.05 at 1:12 pm

I don’t aim this at the Crooked Timber people, but fulmination about the evils of suicide bombing (which I agree with) would be more convincing if the fulminators would admit that countries such as the US habitually target civilians and barely bother to disguise it with some obligatory doubletalk. Here’s an example from an article by Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt on page A14 of the October 12, 2004 NYT–
START NYT QUOTE
Senior administration, Pentagon and military officials said the air campaign was in part intended to present a stark choice to the people of Falluja, especially those who ma be supporting Iraqi insurgents or the foreign fighters network.
“If there are civilians dying in connections with these attacks and with the destruction, the locals at some point have to make a decision” one Pentagon officials said. “Do they want to harbor the insurgents and suffer the consequences that come with that or do they want to get rid of the insurgents and have the benefits of not having them there?” A senior administration official said the new air strategy over Falluja was also intended to drive a wedge between Iraqi insurgents and foreign terrorists. ” We’re doing kinetic strikes in Falluja and working on the Zarqawi elements and setting up divisions among the various antiregime elements that are in Falluja”, the official said. “Now we begn to see Fallujan leaders come out and say ‘No mas! What do we do about this? How do we work with you Prime Minister Allawi to try to stop this kind of warfare.’ That’s beginning to show some success.” These may be “people in Falluja who don’t necessarily like us or the Iraqi government,” the official said, but they “also are not particularly keen on blowing up women and children.” END NYT QUOTE

Change the names as necessary and you’ve got an all-purpose argument for killing civilians in order to pressure some group of bad guys, an argument that anyone can use since bad guys come in many flavors. You get admissions of this sort from US officials and their cheerleading pundit friends every now and then. Lefties notice it, while the mainstream continues to think deep thoughts about how we civilized types need to stamp out barbarism and condemn those who support it.

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Chris Bertram 01.21.05 at 1:45 pm

abb1: It is clear that suicide bombing as a component of a political strategy, whether in Israel/Palestine, Iraq or elsewhere, isn’t the product of temporary insanity. Even if (as they are not) all the suicide bombers were themselves insane, those who supply them and direct them are not.

Donald Johnson: The point of the post was to insist that state and non-state actors ought to be held to the same standards of conduct as one another.

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Scott Martens 01.21.05 at 2:13 pm

I’ve got some problems with this whole line of thought. Maybe it’s my Mennonite heritage shining through, I dunno. If Qaradawi is “by definition and without extenuation, an evil man” because he is unwilling to morally condemn all attacks on innocents, that places him in about the same moral category as every American president ever and probably the bulk if not all British PM’s. We need not go back to WWII, the “Shock and Awe” strategy in Iraq provides ample morally equivalent acts if you intend to categorise things exclusively on the basis of targetting violence against non-combatants. Every form of warfare in modern times is known in advance to guarantee the deaths of non-combatants. Claiming to have another goal is no justification when you know with certainty that non-combatants will die, especially when (as is usually the case) someone calculates the potential positive impact on the war effort of the terror this will cause among the non-combatants. The attackers, uniformed or not, nonetheless judge the ends to justify the deaths of non-combatants.

Terrorists judge their ends to justify the deaths of some civilians; so do the American Chiefs of Staff. There are moral distinctions between the two, but the tolerance of political violence against non-combatants is not one of them. By this definition Israel and the United States really do qualify as the world’s greatest terrorist nations.

Far more fertile ground for making moral distinctions is this: The perpetrators of political violence merit greater moral consideration to the degree that they will actually stop perpetrating it when clear goals have been met or when an organised leadership tells them to stop. Political violence deserves respect only when it is measured, controlled, proportionate, efficient and limited in scope. It merits none when it is uncontrolled, disproportionate, does not plausibly lead to the achievement of stated goals and is undertaken without an intention to eventually stop. The most moral acts of political violence are probably the least moral acts that can be qualifed as moral at all. The only moral grounds for distinction are between those who will really stop committing it and those who won’t.

By this standard, Palestinian terrorism is something of a mixed bag. There are stated goals, there is some leadership, and there are reasons to believe that there are conditions under which it might diminish. On the other hand, it’s hard to see a real world settlement that would completely end it, it’s clear that it is not all that effectively led, and it’s debatable whether or not it is helping to produce the desired outcome. Sort of the same for the IRA.

Soldiers in Iraq come out better. They’ll stop if ordered to. Their political leaders less so, since it’s not so clear that the political violence they’ve ordered actually plausibly leads to any desired outcome or has any definite end in mind.

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Kevin Donoghue 01.21.05 at 2:18 pm

“The point of the post was to insist that state and non-state actors ought to be held to the same standards of conduct as one another.”

If I had known that earlier I wouldn’t have bothered typing the comment I was about to post. I presume Walzer cuts a state more slack for the old familiar reason: subjects can appeal to a ruler for justice, but rulers have no higher authority to appeal to. That is why it is murder if I kill the neighbour who steals my crops, but not if my soldiers kill the invaders who steal my state’s mineral wealth.

Incidentally, I thought the point of the post was that, according to Kamm’s logic, Ken Livingstone should refuse to share a platform with Oliver Kamm, apologist for nuclear deterrence.

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Matt 01.21.05 at 2:19 pm

Walzer gave a talk at Penn last year on the subject of just war, and I tried to ask him about this sort of thing- he wasn’t very open to questions, but did essentially dismiss the idea that his “supreme emergency” exception could possibly apply to guerrilla’s (who he also condemns) or terrorist actions. The principle behind this was far from clear, and I suspect there was none. It was very disapointing. In general I’ve not found the Just and Unjust wars book to be much us- it’s the sort of thing that gives causistry a bad name. (You can kill the munitions worker at work, or on his way to work, but not on his way home. WHat about on his lunch break, then, I aks?)

13

Barry Ross 01.21.05 at 2:24 pm

The very pretense that anything as barbaric as war- intentional violence to enforce one’s will against a party usually known to be weaker- can be civilized by rules is a problem underlying the whole discussion. A second problem lies in the assumption of exactly who is an innocent. When the Israeli public overwhelmingly endorse an “iron fist” policy toward Palestine by electing a man running on that platform, just who is responsible for the safety of those peoples’ children? In all of the discussion I have read about the issue of suicide bombers, I have seen no one do more than assume that the victims were innocent. Widely touted as a democracy, having elected Mr. Sharon with his policies, then the populace which has chosen this route is not responsible for having done so. To my mind the reality is that the whole enterprise of such war is insane, that no one thought that better use might have been made of the thirty years of occupation to resolve the conflict before the inevitable escalation of resistence with the second intifada. Mr. Kamm, of course, is a firm believer in force and warfare, has facile rationalizations for his own side (not only in this conflict) and denies his own responsibility in creating those he calls evil by his very partisanship. It’s sophistry. The fact remains that with all of the anathematizing in the world, the probability is there that in situations of great disparity, those caught up in the conflict will use any means at their disposal to continue. As Donald Johnson rightly notes above, it has been many years since state actors have much more than pay lip service to their own avoidance of civilian casualties.

14

jet 01.21.05 at 2:33 pm

Donald,
Are you inferrnig that the US was targetting civilians? For your premise to be true, B-52’s would have to have been involved in the bombing and Faluja should have bunred for days. As it was, the strikes were carefully targetted at specific buildings which were considered to have military value. Maybe you should spend your venom on the US after the insurgents start going out of their way to save civilian lives. The US obviously did, because it would have cost far fewer US lives if B-52’s would have been employed.

I’m also mystefied that, in hindsight, anyone questions the total war waged by the Allies in WWII. In light of the 10 million Chinese civilians , 11 million Russian civilians, 6 million Jews, 5 million gypsies, ethnic minorities, and political prisoners, unrecorded amounts of Koreans and people in Indo-China, civilians all killed by the unrestricted warfare of the Axis, how can anyone question the Allies responding in kind? Even if it only marginally helped end the war faster (a thought I find highly implausible), it was a medicine to force those cultures to taste their own warfare. The Axis caused around 30,000,000 civilian deaths in the countries they attacked. In return, Japan suffered less than 300,000 civilian deaths and Germany suffered about 4,000,000 civilian deaths (mostly from the Russians). Axis civilian casulties were 15% of what they caused and they were the aggressors. They got off easy.

15

Donald Johnson 01.21.05 at 3:02 pm

Sorry Chris if my tone made it sound like I was ranting at you. I did say it wasn’t aimed at the Crooked Timber people.

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Louis Proyect 01.21.05 at 3:03 pm

Walzer has no business reprimanding suicide bombers in light of the fact that he defended torture as a means to extracting information in “The Problem of Dirty Hands.” Just to show that I am not some kind of dirty commie fabricating things, here’s what Sanford Levinson had to say in Dissent magazine, justifying torture himself:

I would adopt some version of the view articulated by Michael Walzer in his essay “The Problem of Dirty Hands,” (War and Moral Responsibility, op. cit.) where he explicitly endorses the necessity of having political leaders who
are willing, in dire circumstances, to engage in horrendous actions,
including torture.

17

Chris Bertram 01.21.05 at 3:25 pm

It is instructive to see “jet” and Barry Ross, coming from very different political backgrounds, endorse a similar position, with Ross holding the Israeli population collectively responsible and therefore not “innocent” and jet defending frying civilians to “force those cultures to taste their own warfare”.

I’m glad that others continue to see the importance of making moral choices in circumstances of war.

Various people have raised the question of whether the US military (and others presumably) intentionally targets civilians and is therefore also guilty of terrorism.

Leaving aside rogue actions by individuals, I think I’d say this: first, that I think that something like double effect is right and that actions that merely foresee noncombatant deaths can be permissible. But that this has to be heavily qualified by considerations of proportionality. I also think that there are severe problems with what I understand to be current US military doctrine and that the preservation of the safety of soldiers and aircrew is often given excessive weight compared to the lives of noncombatants. (The latest manifestation of this seems to be the “policy of shooting Iraqi civilians who venture too close to troops”:http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/2005-3_archives/000096.html .) To the extent to which this is true, it is seriously immoral.

But, yes, I do think there’s a very significant moral difference between deliberately killing noncombatants to further some aim (bombing a school or a hospital to terrorize the population), and engaging in operations which don’t deliberately aim to kill such people but which nevertheless foreseeably bring about their deaths (bombing a missile factory next to a school or hospital).

Note that we need to be clear about whether we disagree about fact or principles here. Some people will think that the US military sets out to kill noncombatants for political purposes as a matter of policy. For people who believe that those are the facts then there’s no moral difference between the US and the suicide bombers. Some other set of people reject double effect (and variants). They believe that there’s no moral difference between killing and forseeable causing death. They are also going to evaluate terrorists and the US military similarly, but for different reasons.

For myself I think there’s a significant difference between the intentions of the US military and the suicide bombers, and I also believe in double effect.

18

abb1 01.21.05 at 3:25 pm

I don’t know – siucide bombings or some other manifestation of this Hanadi Jaradat’s mental/emotional state (see my link above) would’ve existed with or without any political strategy. It’s a natual phenomenon, a fact of life.

I can’t imagine someone committing suicide for ‘political strategy’, at least not at the scale it happens in Sri Lanka, Palestine and Iraq. I remember in one of the Dostoevsky’s novels he describes an anarchist who is trying to commit suicide for political reasons and fails (IIRC). It’s almost impossible, not to the tune of dozens and hundreds of people every year.

Now, that ideologs and politicians use this phenomenon – well, where’s surprise in that? But what about those who create it, who create the conditions?

19

Hektor Bim 01.21.05 at 3:25 pm

Jet, I’m not sure I follow your logic or believe your facts.

The Germans suffered something like 12 million casualties in WWII. Are you saying that 8 million of those were military deaths? I greatly doubt it.

I also greatly doubt that the Japanese suffered only 300,000 civilian deaths in WWII, considering the number of people who must have died in the firebombing and nuclear attacks alone.

I also think it is very problematic to judge things based only on comparison.

Finally, in response to the idea that the US and Israel are the greatest terrorist countries. How many Palestinians have died in the second intifada, 3000? Most extant dictatorships have killed far more than that.
China – 30 million and ongoing, Indonesia – 200,000 East Timorese, not to count the Acehnese and Papuans, etc.
Just in terms of killing, many other countries have killed far more people than Israel, so it is difficult to consider them the world’s worst terrorists. Hell, North Korea killed 2 million alone through famine that could have been easily prevented had it not in some way served the ruling party’s purposes.

20

Donald Johnson 01.21.05 at 3:26 pm

Jet, it is illogical to say that the US wasn’t targeting civilians because it didn’t kill as many as possible. If you use aerial bombing on urban targets then you’re going to be killing civilians–the Lancet paper (whatever you think of its broader conclusions) found one neighborhood in Falluja where about 50 civilians, 24 of them children, had been killed in several months of bombing. That was nearly a quarter of the neighborhood sample. The officials quoted in the NYT clearly know this and they said that this might be a good thing if it led people to turn against the insurgents. I happen to think the insurgents are also bad–probably most wars are unjust on both sides.

It’s true the US could kill a much larger number of civilians if it wished–there are political constraints against this. I usually avoid citing Chomsky (because it leads to thread drift), but I think he’s right when he says that public pressure over the past several decades has led to more and more restrictions on what the US government can get away with.

As for WWII, one could defend the bombing of civilians on the grounds that it was the way best suited to bring the war to an end with the least amount of total suffering. That’s how people justify Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One can disagree with this, but at least the argument is about how to minimize the death toll. Trying to justify it on the grounds that the Axis civilians get to taste what others suffered is indefensible, unless you think Japanese children were responsible for the Bataan death march and the Rape of Nanking. Presumably then Hutu children should be murdered to give their parents a taste of what was done to the Tutsis and if the number is lower, then they’re getting off easy. And since Palestinian terrorism has killed fewer Israelis than Israelis have killed Palestinians , well, everything is just fine.

Really, really bad argument, Jet, to be polite about it.

21

sd 01.21.05 at 3:28 pm

Scott Martens wrote:

“Terrorists judge their ends to justify the deaths of some civilians; so do the American Chiefs of Staff. There are moral distinctions between the two, but the tolerance of political violence against non-combatants is not one of them. By this definition Israel and the United States really do qualify as the world’s greatest terrorist nations.”

Alright, I’ll grant for the sake of argument your general premise that states that engage is acts of war with the expected (if undesired) consequence of killing civilians are on this front at least morally indistinguishable from terrorists.

But I find your examples “interesting” to say the least. The United States – sure. Biggest military in the world, most powerful country, currently fighting wars in two countries with significant loss of civilian life. Blah blah blah. But Israel? Not Russia, fightining brutally to keep renegade provinces from splitting off. Not China, occupying and subjugating Tibet. Not India or Pakistan, currently engaged in an on-again off-again war. Not Columbia fighting narco-terrorists. Not any of a host of African countries that routinely engage in near genocidal activities against their own ethinic minorities and their neighbor states.

No, Israel is surely the second member of the pair of “world’s greatest terrorist nations.” Why might that be? Oh yeah, I forgot – they’re Jews.

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Jen 01.21.05 at 3:31 pm

I know you were being deliberately absurd to make a point, abb1, but remember, no-one condemns suicide bombers for “commit[ting] suicide in a certain wrong way”. The condemnation is directed at their habit of also committing homicide on the way out.

Also, “[m]orality does not apply by reason of temporary insanity, extreme emotional disturbance” sounds a bit extreme. If I come home, find my husband in bed with my best friend, and shoot them both in a jealous rage, would you really not think that I had done anything wrong?

If the reply is “no, that IS wrong, because the response was disproportionate to the provocation”, then morality has crept in through the back door, and since I don’t believe scientists have yet developed a way to precisely measure historical suffering as felt by abstractions like “nations”, in the case of the Israelis vs. the Palestinians it’s really just about whose side you’re on, isn’t it?

I do agree with you that arguing about morality is of negligible importance compared to actually removing the stimuli that inspire people to become suicide bombers.

23

Jimmy Doyle 01.21.05 at 3:43 pm

It’s good to be an abb1. Not too much intellectual subtlety, but a lot of free time to post comments on weblogs demonstrating their impeccable credentials as a friend of the oppressed. Nice. He/she can sit comfortably at their computer and write posts about immoral people who sit in cafes in Tel Aviv in a certain wrong way.

I wish abb1 were somehow transformed into Benny and Miriam one day to spend a couple of years living in central Jerusalem watching friends and relatives, including their own children, blown to bits by people “committing suicide in a certain wrong way.” Or a few weeks trying to keep essential services going in Baghdad while the “resistance” tries to torture and murder their colleagues. I wonder what kind of judgements they would produce there.

24

novakant 01.21.05 at 3:46 pm

Godd@mmit jet, even Churchill had second thoughts about the indiscriminate aerial bombing of german cities, referring to them as “acts of terror and wanton destruction.” (memo to Harris, 28th March 1945)

25

Scott Martens 01.21.05 at 4:00 pm

I think my point was lost: By making the standard for terrorism the deaths of non-combatants, you can make out Israel and the US to be awfully high on the list of terrorist states. My point is that that is a crappy way to define things. There is a difference, but the death of civilians is not it.

26

Donald Johnson 01.21.05 at 4:06 pm

I wouldn’t put Israel at the very top of the list of bad actors in the world on a quantitative scale, but on a per capita basis they’re pretty bad, running what amounts to an apartheid state for decades with torture and killing of innocent civilians and yet they’re a Western democracy. And they’ve been partners with the US in some of its more nefarious foreign policy adventures, such as supporting Central American fascists in the 70’s and 80’s, and we seem to be joined at the hip in the war on those acts of terror that we don’t sponsor, so it’s kind of natural to group the US and Israel together on this subject. The original post was about Qaradawi’s defense of suicide bombing against Israelis. Why do we talk so much about Palestinian terrorism when so many other acts of violence by state and non-state actors kill many more people? But rather than jump to the conclusion that it is anti-Palestinian racism at work, I’d say it’s because, for better or worse, people are more interested in Israel. The US gives billions of dollars a year, for instance, which is rather amazing. It’s a small-scale example of a something universal–atrocities committed on both sides and one-sided condemnations of one or the other.

27

conrad barwa 01.21.05 at 4:07 pm

Chris,

On the effectiveness point, it is notable that Walzer is very indulgent to state decision-makers (see pp. 260-1 on J&UJW 1st edn) on this but places a very high burden of proof on non-state actors. This asymmetry in his approach is one of the principal targets of Coady’s article.

Yeah, I should have made it clear that what I found troubling is the degree of latitude Walzer is willing to give state actors here; particularly given history this is not a reassuring path to go down. His theory seems to depend rather heavily on a certain benevolence of the state in not violating the spirit of the “Supreme Emergency” exception. I think this is a recurring bias in his work, and goes in favour of states that are configured in a pattern similar to most Western liberal democracies – but it has been a long time since I read J+UJW. It might be worth noting, though, that from what I can remember Walzer, following Hegel locating the origins of terror as a political tactic within the state itself dating from the French Revolution. A rare example of state terrorism, that isn’t echoed in his later analysis of conflict unfortunately.

Since al-Qaradawi is mentioned in the post, it might have been relevant and worthwile comparing his version of a “Just War” theory alongside Walzer’s. I assume he drew on this in part to condemn the WTC attacks and it must reflect current Islamic thinking on the topic from a moderate-clerical perspective.

28

jet 01.21.05 at 4:22 pm

Donald,
I did qualify my statement by saying that it was acceptable under the minimal requirements that it at least “marginally” helped end the war faster, and then expressed my doubts that the effects were only marginal. No one would be okay with collective punishment that served only to punish. At least no one I would talk to.

My point was that if the Germans didn’t want their military targets bombed from 30,000 feet where 99% of the bombs land on civilians, they shouldn’t have broken the rules and spent large amounts of R&D figuring out how to kill civilians faster. If Japan didn’t want their military pruduction capacity eroded through cilivan attacks, they shouldn’t have ran public contests on which officer could behead Chinese civilians the fastest.

To put it in the most grotesque terms, if killing German children hastened the end of the war and thus saved Polish, Russian, Jewish, etc etc children, why is that wrong? If you are a fireman and can only save one floor of people in a building, is it immoral that you chose the floor with the most people. What if you skip the floor that has the most people because it ran an illegal fireworks shop that started the fire? Morality is so tricky, but in the face of Nazi death camps, fuck Dresden.

29

Adrian 01.21.05 at 4:31 pm

“Nevertheless, what Walzer calls “the supreme emergency” exception is there, and the grounds for it are reasonably clear: necessity. The bombers were the only weapon available to leaders the continued independent existence of whose people was mortally jeopardized.”

i.e., this exception only applies when there are “leaders” who have a responsibility for the “continued independent existence” of a “people”.

Only the duly empowered leaders of a properly constituted state could rightly claim to be charged with that responsibility.

I can see why Walzer would not feel the need to elaborate on his opinion that only States can employ the exception: that limitation is embedded in the definition.

30

Kevin Donoghue 01.21.05 at 4:47 pm

Chris Bertram: “I’m glad that others continue to see the importance of making moral choices in circumstances of war [in contrast to Jet and Barry Ross].”

Do we conclude from this that Jet and Barry Ross are unworthy to share a platform with Ken Livingstone? This was the aspect of Oliver Kamm’s post that struck me as most bizarre – the leap from the demonstration that Qaradawi does not apply Walzer’s principles to the conclusion that Qaradawi is an evil man. Now Chris seems to be making a similar jump. He doesn’t brand anyone as evil, but there is a clear implication of moral blindness.

There are many approaches to the ethics of conflict. Walzer and Kamm, Coady and Chris Bertram evidently espouse variants of Just War doctrine. Qaradawi has another variant. But it is a big world out there and it includes devotees of international law, utilitarians, realists and people who just believe that their own nation is good and the enemy is evil. They all “see the importance of making moral choices in circumstances of war.” They just apply different rules.

31

Hektor Bim 01.21.05 at 5:16 pm

Israel isn’t that high up the scale really.

Indonesia killed a lot more East Timorese: 200,000 (and that was a quarter of the population). Who knows how many Papuans have died?

How many Tibetans have the Chinese killed, and how many do they continue to kill?

How about Burma? People are dying there all the time, killed by the central government.

This isn’t even discussing Sudan, which seems to be a state-sponsored genocide.

Frankly, on the scale of deaths of civilians, Israel/Palestine is small potatoes.

A quarter of Chechnya’s population is dead, thanks to the russians, and it is still ongoing.

Labeling the US and Israel the world’s biggest terrorists is a stretch measured just by body counts. I think China would win the prize, since there has been a continuous government since Mao, and he presided over something like 30 million stat-sponsored deaths, not to mention the dead Koreans, Tibetans, and Uighers he is responsible for.

32

james 01.21.05 at 5:40 pm

There is a moral distinction between intent of the actor and result of the action. For many groups or nation states the declared intent is to specifically target civilians. This would seem to be vastly different morally from either intending to kill both military and civilians (I.E. fire bombing of Dresden) or unintentionally killing civilians. This is not to say that the killing of civilians should ever be considered a good thing.

What about the moral distinction between intentionally putting civilians in harms way and responding to an event where civilians are in harms way. If a gunman, standing in the middle of a crowd, opens fire on a soldier, to what extent is each party responsible for the resulting civilian deaths? Even if the civilians are not the intended target it seems that the terrorist is never held accountable for putting the civilians in harms way.

33

John Kozak 01.21.05 at 5:41 pm

chris, it seems silly to compare the morality of the “US military” and the “suicide bombers” without regard to the constraints under which they operate.

34

Donald Johnson 01.21.05 at 6:18 pm

Well, you have a point, hector bim, though I’d say that there’s a double standard used when counting the deaths that occur under communism vs. the deaths elsewhere–deaths from commie economic policies are included and deaths from non-commie policies aren’t. But that’s true about East Timor, for instance, though a funny choice, since the US supported and armed Indonesia when it was doing this. I think the US is off the hook with respect to Burma, but maybe that’s my ignorance talking.

Israel rates fairly high on my oppression scale because they’ve kept a large population of Palestinians living under something similar to apartheid. I think the number of Palestinians who’ve been tortured is also very high, though I don’t have numbers.
And Israel exists as a Jewish state because the majority of the Palestinians were forced out. But if someone wants to argue that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is a run-of-the-mill sordid struggle between two peoples with fairly ordinary amounts of disgusting and immoral violence on both sides and that really, we should pay more attention to larger conflicts instead, I’d listen. I wouldn’t quite agree. But I’ve never seen anyone make that argument about both sides–usually just one.

35

Jack 01.21.05 at 6:33 pm

Hektor,
I think you have mistaken the hype for the point.
Conventional wisdom:
Israel vs Hamas : Hamas terrorists
US vs Iraqi insurgents : Iraqis terrorists
However using numbers of non combatants killed would reverse both judgements. Therefore non-combatants killed = terrorism is not a good argument.

This seems to be a rare case of economists having a more edifying vision than philosophers.

There are various ‘theorems’ in economics that say that two rational actors can always negotiate a better solution than war. Practice clearly reveals the truth to be a little more complicated but rules on not killing non-combatants seem like a good candidate for a partial success for that kind of reasoning. Applying the same to the Israel Palestine make that a rule that the Palestinians could not have accepted. It would effectively be to accept rules that say that the Palestinians can’t fight at all. I think critics of suicide bombing per se should be able to offer better alternatives.

Much criticism of suicide bombing is disingenuous. If it were not the response to suicide bombings of military targets ought to be noticeably different but they don’t seem to be.

36

jet 01.21.05 at 6:34 pm

Besides being able to say you don’t have as much blood of innocents on my hands, what does making “moral” decisions in a war gain you? If the US would have refrained from any targets over Germany and Japan that had a decent chance of causing civilian casulties, what would that have gained the US? It surely would have extended the war, but in order for this morality thing to hold water, there must be something gained. Integrity and the knowledge that while you sent thousands of your soldiers to slaughter, you helped preserve the citizens of the country that started the war? The right to demand that the next war not involve your own citizens? A good retirement villiage on cloud 9 after you die? In a war where you are convinced you are in the right, why should you place a premium on enemy civilians and not on your own soldier-citizens?

And this is just about WWII so that it doesn’t get caught up in unknowns.

37

Donald Johnson 01.21.05 at 6:37 pm

Jet, I’m opposed to targeting civilians, but if burning down cities was certain to be the least bloody way to end a war, I’m not sure what I’d say. That, of course, is part of what people argue about with respect to Dresden, Hamburg, Tokyo, Hiroshima, etc…

That aside, there’s still an element of “they have it coming” with respect to civilians in your post. Let God judge that sort of thing–mere humans should only kill other humans if there’s no other way to prevent a greater evil. And children–it doesn’t matter what their parents have done. You don’t target children to teach their bad parents a lesson. The same reasoning which shows that Hamas has no excuse for its actions also applies here.

38

Jack 01.21.05 at 6:55 pm

Jet,

You are asking too general a question and building a straw man. Nobody is suggesting that refraining from targets that will likley yield collateral damage.

The Dresden raid carried an opportunity cost and might have been known not to be likely to be effective against morale or military capability. So it harmed progress toward the objective and spilled the blood of ‘innocents’.

A raid which blew up, say, a German nuclear facility might have caused the same civilian damage but would have been less blameworthy. The point is not necessarily that the trade off is wrong but that there must be a limit to the exchange rate and that this trade off was not always being made. In any case if you accept that killing enemy civilians is not so bad you can’t be too upset about it when it is done by suicide bombers.

Surely the US benefits in not having the blood of innocents on its hands in any case. Spiritually and later practically.

Being convinced that you are in the right does not mean that you are in the right. Being in the right involves more than having intentions better than the enemies actions. Being in the right is contingent on what you do — if I steal your parking spot, is it OK for you to shoot me because I jumped the queue?

What is wrong with a good retirement village on cloud 9 after you die? Now I’m assuming you are not a Christian (or professor of any of several other major faiths)

Personally if I knew that in 1941 a suicide bombing in a Berlin shopping arcade would have stopped the war I would have been up for it myself.

39

abb1 01.21.05 at 7:20 pm

Jen,
no-one condemns suicide bombers for “commit[ting] suicide in a certain wrong way”

the point is that they do commit suicide as a part of the act. If you need a proof of desperation, extreme emotional disturbance – that’s the ultimate proof, isn’t it?

I am not a lawyer, but I understand that in the US law (or some versions of it) a ‘homicide which would otherwise be murder [if it] is committed under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance for which there is reasonable explanation or excuse’ is punished as manslaughter. A suicide bombing is an obvious, clear case of it (which is why wingnuts insist that it should be called ‘homicide bombing’) – shouldn’t this be taken into consideration somehow? Compare this with a pilot firing a rocket into a city block where an alleged ‘bad guy’ may be hiding, or even an operator firing a rocket from an unmaned aircraft.

…in the case of the Israelis vs. the Palestinians it’s really just about whose side you’re on, isn’t it?

To me it’s about being on the side of the victim and against the perpetrator. How do you choose sides?

40

jet 01.21.05 at 7:44 pm

Jack,

I think it is very hard to say that the Dresden raid didn’t set back the German war effort in any way. If anything, it sucked up resources to care for the displaced and wounded. Resources that could have been put into treating wounded German soldiers, speeding them back to killing Americans.

I just don’t see how we’ve come to the point where we are willing to send our 18 year olds into the slaughter to spare the civilians of the enemy. And maybe it would make sense if the enemy appreciated and responded in kind. If our respect for civilian life resulted in their respect for civilian life, then I’m all for it. But since they don’t it gains us nothing but a strengthened enemy and more dead soldiers. It has no advantages to me besides saying I’d rather my kids die than theirs. And that is no advantage.

Donald,
Let me reiterate that Dresden wasn’t because “they had it coming” it was to end the war as fast as possible. And just because the Germans had lost the ability to respond in kind doesn’t mean the British forfeited the right of that tactic. You are putting the value of those Dresden citizens higher than those 18 year old US soldiers, millions of Jews, Poles, and Russians in death camps, etc. To not bomb the German citizens is a choice which would prolong the war killing citizens of countries that weren’t “bad”.

41

abb1 01.21.05 at 8:26 pm

First you have to win – by any means you deem necessary.

Then you write the history books and school curriculums with your side portrayed as a knight in shining armor fighting wicked dragons.

That’s the ethics of war in a nutshell.

42

novakant 01.21.05 at 9:03 pm

If anything, it sucked up resources to care for the displaced and wounded. Resources that could have been put into treating wounded German soldiers, speeding them back to killing Americans.

Now this is just plain ridiculous. Using this metric there is no question of jus in bello at all, because any attack of any scale on civilians will cause a drain of resources and will weaken the enemy and possibly shorten the war. Heck, if the life of Amercian soldiers is so infinitely more valuable than that of civilians among the enemy’s population, one should strive to kill as many as possible in the shortest amount of time.

43

Hektor Bim 01.21.05 at 9:07 pm

Donald Johnson,

I don’t see really what the US has to do with the list of atrocities, exactly. You seem to assume I am making a particular point with regard to US policies. That wasn’t my intent. My intent was to show that, using body counts as an admittedly crude statistic, Israel/Palestine counts as relatively small potatoes as far as deaths from terrorism are concerned.

I see no real reason to focus on Israel/Palestine and ignore places like Chechnya, Burma, Tibet, or Aceh, but that pretty much seems like the default operation in general. This suggests to me that there is a vested interest there that is absent from the other conflicts. I’ve heard a lot of ideas about what that could be, but none of them have been very convincing to me.

abb1,

You slip is showing again. The suicide bomber is clearly a perpetrator, and the people he kills are clearly victims, or the terms have no meaning at all. So do you sympathize both for and against the suicide bomber, since he can be both perpetrator and victim? I have seen no evidence from you of sympathy for the victims of suicide bombers, so I await your answer with interest.

Finally,

It is ludicrous to state that the Palestinians have no recourse but suicide bombings to struggle against the Israeli occupation.

(1) They could commit completely to non-violence and regularly challenge the occupation authorities, though it kills them. Some Palestinians already do this, but they are marginal overall in the political process.

(2) They could resort completely to mortars and rockets in attacking positions in the territories and Israel. Presumably these could be made accurate enough to usually hit their intended target. Hamas already does this, but they insist also on using suicide bombers.

(3) They could do frontal attacks on military installations, despite the high cost in men and materiel. Palestinian forces do do this now.

The resort to suicide bombing is a deliberate choice that was not forced on the Palestinians by anyone, just as it was not forced on Hezbollah. The evidence suggests that it is completely controlled by the political factions and can be turned on or off by political command. Thus, we are perfectly capable of judging suicide bombing as a moral and immoral action as much as we are any other military tactic.

44

abb1 01.21.05 at 9:46 pm

Hektor, I was trying to explain the suicide bomber phenomenon as I see it a couple of times in this thread already. That was the best I can do.

Try the Haaretz profile of Hanadi Jaradat I posted above, maybe that’ll help.

45

abb1 01.21.05 at 10:10 pm

They could commit completely to non-violence and regularly challenge the occupation authorities, though it kills them. Some Palestinians already do this, but they are marginal overall in the political process.

The British and Soviets could’ve surrendered to Germany and the Americans to Japan and then peacefully and regularly challenged the occupation authorities.

Come to think of it, I encourage you to prove your point by surrenderring to me, giving me all your property and becoming my slave. You can protest, but no violence, please. I won’t kill you, maybe just kick your butt a few times for my amusement when I feel like it.

46

Donald Johnson 01.22.05 at 2:02 am

My theory about why the Israel/Palestine conflict gets so much attention in the US is that it’s because of Christians. Liberal Christians feel guilty about 2000 years of Christian antisemitism, so they think they have to say nice things about Israel. They make up for antisemitism by being anti-Arab. Conservative Christians tie it up with end-times beliefs and of course they are also enthusiastic Muslim-bashers. Both groups see Israelis as being Westerners like themselves while the Arabs are the evil Other. That’s the pro-Israel side. Then sometimes people (like me) find out that the silly romanticized slogans aren’t true– “Israel took a barren desert and made it bloom”: , “Israel has always wanted peace and it’s all the Arab’s fault”, “land without a people for the people without a land”, “the Arabs left because they were ordered to by their own people”. Some of those slogans are contradict each other, but I think many Americans start out believing them–I did. Then the disillusionment sets in and sometimes people overreact and go to the other extreme, where it’s entirely Israel’s fault.
So anyway, in the US there’s a whole mythology built around Israel, our plucky little democratic ally in the Mideast, and disillusioned lefties tend to see it as a classic example of the hypocrisy of American foreign policy–Israel has also played an ugly little role helping the US in places like Central America, oddly enough. In other countries where anti-Israel sentiment is more common, it’s presumably seen as the last vestige of European colonialism. So the I/P conflict has become this huge symbol for everyone. It might be better for both sides if it hadn’t–I don’t know.

Anyway, that’s my late night theory.

47

Ole 01.22.05 at 3:04 am

it’s entirely Israel’s fault

But, of course. Saves us the trouble of reading all the padding in your comments.

48

radek 01.22.05 at 3:20 am

abb1 : Kirilov in The Possessed

49

Barry Ross 01.22.05 at 4:18 am

“But, yes, I do think there’s a very significant moral difference between deliberately killing noncombatants to further some aim (bombing a school or a hospital to terrorize the population), and engaging in operations which don’t deliberately aim to kill such people but which nevertheless foreseeably bring about their deaths (bombing a missile factory next to a school or hospital).”

I don’t see the distinction you are making. I see you saying that the bomber in a pizza parlor hopes to kill x number of people (whom he apparently believes represent his oppressors) while some state, targeting person y, realizes that in blowing up his apartment to kill him they will probably kill x persons. To me both actions are equally immoral – the fact that I have a belief about my actions, that I believe they lead to some moral good, does not make it so, as I think someone else noted above. What, then is the difference? In reality both actions kill x (presumably innocent) people. That is the reality. To impute a moral good to beliefs which result in such deaths is nothing short of fantastic. I am reminded of the well known quote from Madelaine Albright to the effect that the deaths of uncounted Iraqi children due to the sanctions was “worth it.” I can only wonder what view can one have of oneself to create such realities.

50

abb1 01.22.05 at 11:18 am

Ah, that’s right: “Demons”

51

Hektor Bim 01.22.05 at 12:17 pm

I see, abb1, so Martin Luther King and Gandhi are complete failures, hunh?

Not every historical example has to be from World War II, you know.

I don’t see how the suicide bomber is relevant. Her actions suggest that if she had a nuclear bomb she would have used it, since the people she killed weren’t even all Jewish or relatives of people in the army.

You still can’t explain yourself adequately, so I think we are done here.

52

abb1 01.22.05 at 1:15 pm

so Martin Luther King and Gandhi are complete failures, hunh?

They sure would’ve been failures had their opponents been willing to use overwhelming violence. One little missile – and where’s your Gandhi? No one would’ve ever heard about any Gandhi.

I don’t see how the suicide bomber is relevant.

She is relevant because this example clearly explains why they do it and who (or what) is responsible for it. And it’s not Sheikh Al-Qaradawi.

53

Luc 01.22.05 at 2:38 pm

As an aside, if you consider terror/suicide bombings/killings of civilians a violation of just war without exception, which is in my view undoubtedly the right choice, then this doesn’t lead automatically to the view of Kamm, and many others, on Qaradawi.

For if you consider “jus in bellum”, then there is also “jus post bellum”, which considers occupation. That is “Ruling a country in disregard of the interests and understandings of the people who live there is morally wrong”. This is a rule that is clearly violated by Israel. And the arguments get circular here. The occupation in violation of the interests of the Palestinians is justified by the terror, and the terror is justified by the occupation.

My choice would be not to allow exceptions at all, in essence the position that human right organizations, most UN organizations, and part of the left takes.

But morality is linked to politics as this (out of context) quote from Michael Walzer shows:

But if you look at the years
after the war, it turns out that the people who favored bombing residential areas
in, say, 1943 were, later on, advisors and office-holders in Tory governments, and
the people who opposed it were, all of them, on the left, working for Labor
governments or for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

54

abb1 01.22.05 at 4:40 pm

And the arguments get circular here

The situation is not circular, it’s only being demagogued as circular. There is clear cause and effect.

My choice would be not to allow exceptions at all.

This won’t work. This leads to pacifism and capitulation, the strong dominating the weak forever.

Think of remote-controlled bulldozers, unmanned planes firing missiles at you. And at the place where those bulldozers have come from no one is wearing uniform, everyone is an innocent civilian. Should you blame the bulldozer, piece of metal for what’s being done to you?

Mr. Walzer opines:

The fourth excuse plays on the notion of innocence. Of course, it is wrong to kill the innocent, but these victims aren’t entirely innocent. They are the beneficiaries of oppression; they enjoy its tainted fruits. And so, while their murder isn’t justifiable, it is … understandable. What else could they expect? Well, the children among them, and even the adults, have every right to expect a long life like anyone else who isn’t actively engaged in war or enslavement or ethnic cleansing or brutal political repression. This is called noncombatant immunity, the crucial principle not only of war but of any decent politics. Those who give it up for a moment of schadenfreude are not simply making excuses for terrorism; they have joined the ranks of terror’s supporters.

Forget the children for a minute, what about the adults? It seems that he can’t deny that the adults aren’t really innocent and has to grasp at this “noncombatant immunity” concept.

Well, perhaps intoduction of the remote-controlled bulldozers and and long-range missiles makes the “noncombatant immunity” obsolete?

55

Donald Johnson 01.22.05 at 6:15 pm

To Ole–

Israel’s portion of the blame–ethnic cleansing, apartheid policies, torture, indiscriminate use of force sometimes. Inexcusable

Palestinian portion of blame–resorting to terror, sometimes aimed directly at children. Inexcusable.

I doubt you responded in good faith, but I might be wrong.

56

Tracy 01.22.05 at 6:36 pm

To ignore all of the above comments and to focus on the question of whether state-actors should be held to a different standard of proof than non-state-actors – I think there is a case, though I can’t figure out which way it goes.

The decision-making process in states that are not totalitarian dictatorships is different from that of individuals. If it is less prone to being swayed by the emotions, if people who are suffering from dementia or other incapacitating mental illnesses are removed from decisions, if it effectively makes use of dispersed information, etc, we could maybe offer more freedom to the state actor than to the individual.

Certainly most of us seem to prefer as a matter of policy crimes being investigated by the police and people only being punished if found guilty after a formal consideration of evidence than any vigilante being able to pick up a shotgun and kill the person they *think* shot their husband. (Yes, we may enjoy Batman, but unlike viligantes in the real world Batman has authors who make sure he doesn’t beat up the wrong guys.) In this case – more powers to state actors than private.

However one can also argue that the government can make worse decisions than individuals – for example the NZ electoral system threw up Winston Peters as a king-maker. So you can also argue that the state should be more restricted than individuals.

57

abb1 01.22.05 at 7:05 pm

The decision-making process in states that are not totalitarian dictatorships is different from that of individuals. If it is less prone to being swayed by the emotions…

I would argue the opposite – it’s more prone to being swayed by emotions than an individual or totalitarian dictatorship.

58

Luc 01.22.05 at 7:36 pm

The situation is not circular, it’s only being demagogued as circular. There is clear cause and effect.

Which, not entirely unexpected, is also my opinion. so I agree with you on that.

My opinion was in relation to what was just in war. And there this circular reasoning does exists, in my opinion. If you make an exception for this, then someone else would say you’ll need an exeption for that, and before you know it you are arguing about if the occupation justifies terror, or whether terror justifies occupation. If you agree to both you’ll get ugly wars, if you’ll agree to only one, I doubt you can call it just to the other party. And if you simply allow none, at least you can aspire to being just.

This leads to pacifism and capitulation, the strong dominating the weak forever.

If pacifism means no more wars i’m all for it. But for the other choices, it would lead to that if only one party is held to those standards, and the other not.

If the Israeli occupation were to serve the interests and understandings of the people living in that territory, I doubt there would be much of a problem in Palestine. But as noted, they do not.

So I don’t know whether it is useful to make a defense for killing civilians. It hardly serves a purpose (the defense, that is), it is in conflict with what people perceive as just, and it opens you up all kinds of ugly rhetoric.

Sometimes ideals are not in accordance with what happens on the ground. That doesn’t prevent for example human rights organizations to aspire to those ideals. And thus condemn Israel for the occupation, and condemn the suicide bombers for killing civilians.

But to appease you, if you apply this reasoning to Oliver Kamm, he is a sincere hypocrite, to denounce Qaradawi as evil for arguing against one rule, while going to Israel on invitation of its government, which is responsible for breaking the other rule.

59

Jack 01.22.05 at 8:22 pm

Gandhi is a fine example but was in a very rare position. Nelson Mandela is a better example. It is hard to think of a more moral, in theory or practice, politician yet many of his tactics were plainly terrorism. That I demonstrates the poverty of attempts to define specific actions, such as suicide bombings, as immoral without recourse to their context.

Rules of engagement are a useful way of avoiding damaging tactics that are unlikely to benefit either side if everyone indulges. When the two sides in a conflict are unequal the balance changes and diferent actions might come into play. In this view some tactic in war should be immoral if has costs and doesn’t change the outcome. So suicide bombing is immoral if it is done only out of spite but not necessarily if it actually advances the cause. On the other hand a regime such as apartheid that uses force to avoid addressing a just grievance should bear some responsibility for a violent outcome.

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Luc 01.23.05 at 4:33 am

This is hardly an argument against what you say, but Mr. Mandela has spoken against terrorism on more than one occasion.

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abb1 01.23.05 at 9:46 am

Luc, if we’re talking about ideals, then let’s go even further and declare all killings imoral, I’m all for that. But this kind of declaration will have little relevance, I’m afraid; it has to be applicable to real-life situations.

Ideals are easy. But you have to be able to use your definition to cast judgement on Truman, Kissinger, Mandela, Qaradawi, Rumsfeld, Jaradat, etc., to discern the degree of culpability for everyone of them. This is the the point of this exercise, as I understand.

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Luc 01.23.05 at 4:19 pm

Abb1,

The judgments aren’t as much about people but about events.

If i’d have to translate that into something abstract:

You have a set of events, a moral theory, and the resulting judgements.

A good moral theory should deliver acceptable judgements for all possible sets of events.

Now back to reality.

Human rights are relevant. Translating them into rules is relevant, because then you can use them to judge. There is a European Court for Human Rights that does nothing but that.

But these rules and judgements are human made, thus they ain’t perfect. And the part that is currently in dispute, the targetting of civilians during war, is heavily contested.

See the followup of Brad Delong.

And there you see Chris argue about suicide bombing in a way that you and I probably disagree with. But then I do agree with his conclusion (targetting civilians is wrong), and you probably don’t.

To make it simpler, the last suicide attack was against a checkpoint. That is infrastructure and infrastructure used to repress Palestinians, so according to this “rule” it could be justified, even if all the dead were civilians.

But targetting a restaurant cannot.

My conclusion is that interpreted as such, this “rule” doesn’t deprive the Palestininans of their means of fighting the occupation.

And, as part of a theory, see the abstract stuff above, it delivers consistent results, independent of which war or party you apply it to.

(Forget about the ECHR above. They ain’t a good example)

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abb1 01.23.05 at 5:48 pm

Luc, I agree that targeting civilians is wrong, as well as, frankly, targeting those who had a bad fortune to get conscripted.

You said before: And if you simply allow none, at least you can aspire to being just.

I guess this is what I have a problem with. You want to avoid having to make judgment on the motive (and I agree – sometimes it is a subjective judgment) and come up with a clear rule. I understand, that would be great.

But it doesn’t work for me. Those who commit aggression are wrong even when they target soldiers, and those who are victims of aggression – well, I feel they should have a degree of immunity, maybe under that “supreme emergency exception” or something like that. Something like using deadly violence in self-defense. I realize that this makes the rule less simple, but hey, the motive is important; the state of mind, motives are being examined in criminal courts every day. People get acquitted of murder or tried on lesser charges if they are deemed to have acted in self-defense or out of desperation.

PS. I’m surprised that Brad Delong agrees with me that some ‘innocent civilians’ are less innocent that others (in his example German civilians in 1945, including children, are even less innocent than Russian conscripts). According to Mr. Walzer, Brad Delong has now “joined the ranks of terror’s supporters”…

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Brad DeLong 01.23.05 at 7:45 pm

I’m not sure I agree with *anyone* on these issues, even myself. I’m uncomfortable with the position that I think I hold–which is that the supreme emergency exemption applies to the WWII bombing effort if for no other reason than that diverting German soldiers and weapons from the eastern front to home defense was worth doing. And I think everybody else ought to be uncomfortable with the position they think they hold on these issues.

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abb1 01.23.05 at 9:14 pm

Sorry, ‘agree‘ was obviously the wrong word; what I meant to say is that you, apparently, are not buying into Walzer’s ‘noncombatant immunity’ concept, not unconditionally at least.

Non-combatants are culpable. When their side loses, they pay reparations. In extreme cases they may be unjustifiably targeted – or even justifiably targeted, it’s not impossible. They should understand it and try to influence their governments accordingly.

And of course it’s uncomfortable to rationalize killings.

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Luc 01.24.05 at 6:33 am

I doubt I can make a rational response, given the sound judgement of Brad Delong

I’m not sure I agree with anyone on these issues, even myself.

But there’s two things,

First there’s human rights. The pacifist in me says they should be respected even during war.
Since this obviously doesn’t happen there a backup position.

I think of ‘just war’ theory as a last desperate attempt to maintain the romantic view of war as uniformed soldiers that go to war for a honourable cause, fight honourable, and maintain honour in victory, defeat or death.

Central to maintaining this myth, is that you separate those three phases. If a soldier wants to know whether it is morally justifiable to drop a bomb on target x, and he gets the answer, that depends on whether our war is just, there would be little use for him asking. But a question of “are we targetting a military target or a civilian”, is a question that can be asked and answered.

Thus you are right that in the end the morality of some action is determined by elements from all the three phases. But while in war, that is not something that is useful to a soldier.

You may thing this is just meaningless drivel, but the military is the biggest fan of this honourable myth. Thus a set of generally accepted rules about how to fight a war would be meaningful and generally (not uniformly) adhered to.

And even for the Palestinians it has some relevance. If those rules are widely accepted, the external support for their cause, and the internal support for their actions, would depend on the adherence to those rules. And the suicide bombings that targeted civilians did some damage to that support.

But as was noted before the rationale for state and non-state actors are different.

[you] are not buying into Walzer’s ‘noncombatant immunity’ concept, not unconditionally at least.

According to Chris, Walzer did have those exceptions. That’s what started this. Now I don’t know much about Walzer or Just War theory, I just jumped in to say that exceptions or not, that it wouldn’t alter much for the mentioned Qaradawi case.

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Bob 01.24.05 at 9:15 pm

The relevant point here is Chris’s argument that “states can use terrorism just as much as non-state actors such as ‘national-liberation’ movements can”. However, rather than Bomber Harris’s slaughter of innocent German civilians, in the case of Palestinian terrorism a more appropriate comparison is to the state terrorism directed by the Sharon government against innocent Palestinian civilians.

I note that Livingstone draws precisely such a parallel in justifying his decision to welcome Dr al-Qaradawi to City Hall. He writes:

“On suicide bombing, Dr Qaradawi stated the view that, in the specific conditions of Palestine illegally occupied by Israel, where some of the Palestinians, faced with a modern, fully equipped army, have resorted to turning their bodies into bombs, he believes this is justified in these unique circumstances.

“My own view is that neither suicide bombing nor the attacks on civilians by Israeli tanks, missiles and planes will provide a solution to this conflict. The only way forward is for Israel to comply with the United Nations resolutions requiring it to withdraw from the territories it is illegally occupying so that a Palestinian state can be established and for the two states to co-exist peacefully within secure borders.

“However, if you wish to say that I should not share a platform with anyone who seeks to justify suicide bombing by Palestinians, but that I should be indifferent to Israel blowing the bodies of women and children apart with modern missiles, bombs, tank shells and bullets while illegally occupying their land and destroying their homes – I can tell you that I regard such double standards to be pure moral hypocrisy.

“If you wish to say that I should not share a platform with Dr Qaradawi for this reason, to be consistent you would also have to say that I should equally not share a platform with supporters of Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian land.

“My view is as outlined above. I will promote dialogue and peace in the Middle East by continuing to speak both with supporters of the Palestinians and with supporters of the state of Israel. Nothing will be served by refusing such a dialogue.”

Leaving aside the objection that Livingstone places an equals sign between the violence of the oppressor and the violence of the oppressed, this seems a not unreasonable argument.

As Mayor of London, Livingstone engages in dialogue and joint activities with leaders of a range of faith communites, including for example members of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, with whom he has worked in combating anti-semitism. Presumably the BoD includes at least some individuals who justify the killing of Palestinian civilians, and by a government headed by the war criminal responsible for Sabra and Shatila, on the grounds that Israel has “no other means” of defending its existence.

Would Oliver Kamm conclude that any representative of the Jewish community who held such views should be described as “a supporter of terrorism and the murder of innocents” and therefore “by definition and without extenuation, an evil man”?

Would he further argue that such a person “ought never to have been accorded the reception that Livingstone gave him, and … there can be no justification for allying with him on grounds even of the most amoral Realpolitik”?

On balance, probably not.

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Oliver Kamm 01.25.05 at 3:38 pm

My thanks to Chris Bertram for a thought-provoking post (on which I am far closer to his approach than I am to Brad DeLong’s), which I appreciate and hope to respond to shortly. In the meantime, I have one one minor point not about the post but about the comment immediately before this one. In referring to “a government headed by the war criminal responsible for Sabra and Shatila”, Bob appears to be alluding to the Kahan Commission, whose report is frequently invoked but rarely cited accurately. The Commission in fact concluded the near-opposite of what Bob claims: “that the atrocities in the refugee camps were perpetrated by members of the Phalangists, and that absolutely no direct responsibility devolves upon Israel or upon those who acted in its behalf”. It then went on to discuss the “indirect responsibility” of Israeli officials to fail to prevent those massacres. It concluded that “responsibility is to be imputed to the Minister of Defense for having disregarded the danger of acts of vengeance and bloodshed by the Phalangists against the population of the refugee camps”. That is a serious finding in itself, which rightly led to Sharon’s departure from government; it is not at all the same thing as Bob’s allegation, which is a good deal more extreme than those made by Time magazine and found to be false and defamatory (though made without malice) in a famous US court case.

My observations here have nothing to do with the substantive issues of the Arab-Israeli conflict, on which I have often written, or of the 1982 Lebanon War, which I opposed at the time and on which I have never changed my view.

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Luc 01.25.05 at 5:12 pm

Oliver Kamm is quite aware thet the Kahan Commission was not a court of law, was Israeli, and was limited in both its scope and means. Therefore its outcome is not a judgement that could and should be accepted by all as definitive. And as Bob didn’t made that reference to the commission, but simply stated that Sharon is a war criminal because of the Sabra and Shatila massacres, it might be inferred that he has made a stronger judgement as the commission.

And as he didn’t allude to a secret annex I don’t see the relevance of the Sharon vs. Time Magazine libel suit.

How to interpret the Sabra and Shatila massacre and the Kahan commission is a “substantive issue” in the I/P conflict.

Oliver Kamm is here the same dishonest self as everywhere. Try reading your Amazon comments on some Chomsky books. And then apply that strictness to yourself once, Oliver.

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Luc 01.25.05 at 5:14 pm

Oliver Kamm is quite aware that the Kahan Commission was not a court of law, was Israeli, and was limited in both its scope and means. Therefore its outcome is not a judgement that could and should be accepted by all as definitive. And as Bob didn’t made that reference to the commission, but simply stated that Sharon is a war criminal because of the Sabra and Shatila massacres, it might be inferred that he has made a stronger judgement as the commission.

And as he didn’t allude to a secret annex I don’t see the relevance of the Sharon vs. Time Magazine libel suit.

How to interpret the Sabra and Shatila massacre and the Kahan commission is a “substantive issue” in the I/P conflict.

Oliver Kamm is here the same dishonest self as everywhere. Try reading your Amazon comments on some Chomsky books. And then apply that strictness to yourself once, Oliver.

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Oliver Kamm 01.25.05 at 11:33 pm

But Bob didn’t say Sharon was “A war criminal BECAUSE OF” the massacres. He said Sharon was “THE war criminal RESPONSIBLE FOR” the massacres. If you can’t see the difference between those statements, and that it matters, then you haven’t thought through your comment; if you can, then you’re in no position to level charges of personal dishonesty against me or anyone else.

Bob’s claim is factually untrue, unless he can present evidence that Sharon directly authorised the murders (as opposed to being culpably negligent in failing to anticipate and prevent them). As that claim has already been found to be false and defamatory in a court of law, I’m not expecting him to do so. I consequently assumed that his use of the word “responsible” was a deliberate allusion to the Kahan Commission’s use of the term, which is often cited (as in Mayor Livingstone’s dossier) without an awareness of what Kahan meant by it. The alternative hypothesis is that Bob had nothing in mind at all, which I agree is a plausible explanation too.

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Luc 01.26.05 at 2:08 am

I don’t know why you chose to misrepresent the Time Magazine vs. Sharon case.

It did not judge on whether Sharon was responsible or not. For if that were to be the case it would have to do the work of the Kahan commission again. It did not.

It judged that Time Magazine used unsubstantiated facts, like the meeting with the Gemayel family and the secret annex to the Kahan report, to state that Sharon was responsible. That was ruled to be wrong and defamatory.

It then ruled that this was not libel, and thus Sharon lost the case.

And it would be strange if we were to depend on the lawyers of Time Magazine, on the final verdict on Sharon’s responsibility in the Sabra and Shatila massacre. Those lawyers were bound to respresent their client, not the rest of the world. And their client won the case.

I might add that, whatever Bob actually was saying, he has a good case. The Phalangists were a militia with a known history of killing civilians. Sharon chose to ally the IDF with them for practical reasons.

I don’t know which excuse you can make for allying yourself with known terrorists, and then coordinating a refugee camp raid with them. The Kahan commission thought of that as an indirect responsibility. Other people have judged that as a direct responsibility.

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Oliver Kamm 01.26.05 at 8:30 am

Time magazine did not “win the case”: it was found to have published an article that was false and defamatory, and that certain of its employees had acted negligently. As I mentioned, Sharon’s counsel was not however able to demonstrate that Time had acted maliciously, and thus the article was not judged libellous (US libel law being a lot more stringent in that regard than libel law in this country). If you regard this outcome as a victory for the world’s premier news magazine, whose raison d’etre is ccurate analysis and reporting, then words have no meaning.

“… whatever Bob actually was saying, he has a good case.” I must say I find this remark very funny. It has nothing to do with the subject that Chris Bertram raised, however.

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Luc 01.26.05 at 4:14 pm

Then words have no meaning for you.

The proper word being acquittal, instead of winning, but since words are already meaningless, what’s the difference.

Sharon sued for libel, no libel was found by the jury, Time Magazine was acquitted.

There’s little to quote from the internet from those days but here’s one:

A recent libel trial which resulted in the acquittal of a publisher under the actual malice standard illustrates this point. The trial judge in Sharon v. Time, Inc. [fn132] was lauded for the care and innovation with which he charged the jury on the actual malice issue. [fn133] This charge apparently allowed the jury to appreciate fully the constitutional implications of the actual malice standard and led to an acquittal.

And a newspaper article from 1984:

Ariel Sharon yesterday lost his 2-year legal battle to prove that Time magazine libeled him when a federal jury found “no malice” in a false and defamatory paragraph the magazine published about the former Israeli defense minister.

“… whatever Bob actually was saying, he has a good case.” I must say I find this remark very funny. It has nothing to do with the subject that Chris Bertram raised, however.

It had to do with the wordgames you played regarding the meaning of being responsible for.
As you know the duties of a minister of defense are such that it is not neccesary that there is a direct order to kill civilians, for establishing responsibility for that fact.

And that Time Magazine could not substantiate their claim that there is evidence against Sharon in the so called secret annex B, does not lead to a conclusion, in no way whatsoever, that all allegations of direct reponsibility of Sharon already have been proven wrong.

The only thing that has been established as false and defamatory is a single paragraph in Time Magazine.

That leaves your use of the Time Magazine trial as a rhetorical device against opinions like those of Bob, as dishonest.

But then, words are meaningless to you, anyway.

Bob’s claim is factually untrue, unless he can present evidence that Sharon directly authorised the murders (as opposed to being culpably negligent in failing to anticipate and prevent them). As that claim has already been found to be false and defamatory in a court of law, I’m not expecting him to do so.

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Oliver Kamm 01.26.05 at 7:11 pm

OK, last time, for we are trespassing on the goodwill of our host on an issue extraneous to what he wrote about.

Bob was not presenting an ‘opinion’: he was making a claim about what happened in recent history, viz. that Sharon was “the war criminal responsible for” the massacres at Sabra and Shatilla. He presented no evidence for that claim. Neither have you. I hazarded a guess about what Bob was thinking of, and it does not support his claim. I should regard it as equally plausible that he wasn’t thinking of anything, but merely repeating an assertion he’d heard somewhere. In either event, you cannot make assertions of that gravity and be indifferent to the requirements of evidence.

You have, moreover, twice made false assertions that you have attempted to obfuscate by asserting that a requirement for precision in the use of language is ‘wordgames’. In the circumstances, I shouldn’t have thought it’s your wisest course to fight on the terrain of honesty.

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Bob 01.26.05 at 8:24 pm

The view that Sharon is a war criminal is held by people with more direct experience of Sabra and Shatila than either Oliver Kamm or myself:

http://www.palestinemonitor.org/israelipoli/why_sharon_is_a_war_criminal.htm

In any case, Oliver’s argument about Sharon is a bit of a diversion from my original point.

Which is, if Livingstone is to be condemned for meeting with a supporter of Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israelis, should he not be equally condemned for meeting with anyone who supports Israeli state terrorism against the Palestinians?

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