Drive to give ‘human’ rights to apes leaves Spanish divided

London Telegraph David Rennie June 6, 2006

Spain could soon become the first country in the world to give chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and other great apes some of the fundamental rights granted to human beings under a law being proposed by members of the ruling Socialist coalition.

The law would eliminate the concept of “ownership” for great apes, instead placing them under the “moral guardianship” of the state, much as is the case for children in care, the severely handicapped and those in comas, said the MP behind the project, Francisco Garrido.

Great apes held in Spanish zoos would be moved to state-built sanctuaries, unless there was a risk that moving them would harm their emotional welfare, he said.

The law would also make it a criminal offence to mistreat or kill a great ape, except in cases of self-defence or medical euthanasia.

. . . more

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25 thoughts on “Drive to give ‘human’ rights to apes leaves Spanish divided”

  1. Yet, even here at OrthodoxyToday, we have folks who think their is something salvageable in the left/secularist/Epicurean world view. The leftists of the modern state is so thoroughly confused about the basics such as “what is man” and “what is a right” that he grants apes human status and unborn children no status at all. No doubt some will think this is an aberration, an excess. Rather, it is a symptom of an underlying (and very serious) disease.

  2. Christopher –

    At the risk of a somewhat threadjack, it appears that the thread we were using will accept no more input. Therefore, just a few quick points here. If we want to continue this, then I suggest we just move it over to http://www.ststephenoca.com/blog.html which is the forum I run for the Central Florida Deanery. I don’t normally argue politics over there, but there is a first time for everything.

    In any event, you wrote: “Again, what you call a “duck” I am calling “prudential reasoning” & “reality”. In other words, you want to formulate a Just War doctrine that contains within it certain “banned” weapons, or “banned” practices (e.g. bombing cities).”

    I have never called for the banning of any weapon system. The purpose of war is to kill the enemy. There is no more or less moral way, in my opinion, to make someone dead. I don’t care if his head is ripped off by 88MM mortar rounds, or his throat is ripped open by a 5.56MM rifle round. Dead is dead. Mangled is mangled. Whether NBC or conventional, making the enemy soldiers dead is not a problem in my opinion.

    There are times when one weapon’s system should be chosen over others for moral purposes, such as when one is operating as an occupying power rather than in major combat, but an enemy’s soldiers are fair game for whatever you can bring to the fight.

    Now, your position on the nuclear bombing establishes as moral theory which is roughly as follows: “Enemy civilians can be directly targeted to break the will of an enemy to resist, under at least some circumstances.”

    Correct?

    If that is the case, then is Japan the only case extreme enough for mass slaughter of civilians to be justified? Let’s take some other occasions and see what you think. Your idea that ‘crimes’ are easy to spot may not be the case.

    1) Sherman’s March to the Sea through Georgia. You know all about this, as a Southernor, I am sure. You know that civilians were beaten, raped, and killed. You know that crops were destroyed and starvation ensued among civilians. The point of this exercise was, in fact, to target civilians.

    2) The U.S. campaign in the Phillippines. The U.S. used indiscriminate reprisals that cost the lives of 250,000 civilians. Whole villages were destroyed by U.S. troops seeking to quell the insurgency.

    3) Firebombing of Dresden in Germany. There were no military targets in Dresden, which is why prior to the firebombing raid it had never been hit from the air. The whole point of the attack which did not even take place until February 1945, when this was done:

    Dresden was a hospital city for wounded soldiers. Not one military unit, not one anti-aircraft battery was deployed in the city. Together with the 600.000 refugees from Breslau, Dresden was filled with nearly 1.2 million people. Churchill had asked for “suggestions how to blaze 600.000 refugees”. He wasn’t interested how to target military installations 60 miles outside of Dresden. More than 700.000 phosphorus bombs were dropped on 1.2 million people. One bomb for every 2 people. The temperature in the centre of the city reached 1600 o centigrade. More than 260.000 bodies and residues of bodies were counted. But those who perished in the centre of the city can’t be traced. Approximately 500.000 children, women, the elderly, wounded soldiers and the animals of the zoo were slaughtered in one night.

    Why was it done? No one knows, really. To impress the Soviets? To further break German will? By the time it was done, the Germans were fighting on their own territory and Hitler was only a few months from his grave.

    All three of the strategic cases above were justified on the following basis: 1) need to shorten the war, 2) the fact that more lives would be saved than lost by shortening the war, 3) American soldiers would be saved.

    In other words, the same justifications used in the bombing of Japan.

    Are the above cases moral? If so, then is the targeting of civilians always moral? If not, then how do these cases differ with regard to Japan? Under what circumstances are targeting civilians justified, and under what circumstances are they not?

    Finally, if the basic grounding of your moral thought is that the ends can justify the means, then torture or other crimes can certainly fall under into your moral concept. I’ve seen you argue in favor or loose ROE in Iraq. Would you deny an operational commander the right to torture a suspected terrorist, if he believed that doing so would save American lives?

    Or, would the good end (saving American lives) justify the means of torture? You don’t deal in moral absolutes, Christopher, so if you are saying that torture or mass reprisals against civilians to quell an insurgency are wrong, then you have to spell that out.

    On the other hand, to moral absolutists, wrong actions are wrong even when committed with the best of intentions. That is why Just War includes not justice in war and not only just cause for war.

  3. Glen – Have you seen the movie Munich yet, which touches on the theme of your last post. I would be interested in your comments.

  4. Note 2. I understand the point about moral absolutes, and I understand the point about the necessity of consistency in moral reasoning, but I still wonder about the carnage that would have ensued — civilian and military alike — if a land invasion of Japan had occured.

  5. Fr. Hans writes: ” . . . but I still wonder about the carnage that would have ensued — civilian and military alike — if a land invasion of Japan had occured.”

    In my view, it is relatively easy to criticize someone else’s system of ethics, but difficult to articulate an alternative. The problem with both military and medical ethics is that people who function in those realms have to have definitive guidelines. The military does not have the luxury of saying “I’m not going to play that game,” or “I reject any moral principle that doesn’t let me incinerate a million Japanese 60 years ago.”

    If I’m a military commander — which I never was — I have to communicate to the troops what the expectations are. I can’t say “I’m going to exterminate hundreds of thousands of civilians in order to destroy their will to resist — but when you are faced with situations you have to preserve civilian life as much as possible.” It doesn’t work. It communicates a mixed message. If I order the death of 100,000 civilians, how do I tell the soldiers under my command that they have to treat civilians with compassion? Why is the death of a million civilians a good strategy when ordered at the top, but the death of 100 civilians when done by soldiers on the ground an atrocity?

  6. If dropping the bomb actually prevented greater civilian casualties than a land invasion would have inflicted, and there are compelling arguments that it did, then a case can be made that dropping the bomb was a tragic necessity. It is not true that the moral restraint against killing civilians is automatically nullifed as a result.

    I understand Glen’s argument. In fact, I have great sympathy with it. But Christopher’s point about fighting a militarized civilian population is a good one. If dropping the bomb to end a war that would have inflicted, what? – five? ten? times more casualties had it continued, then can we be sure it was the wrong thing to do? Harry Truman obviously did not think so.

    All war is despicable, but unlike the left I don’t translate my abhorrence for war into a policy of appeasing agressors. Wars have to be fought sometimes, unfortunately.

  7. Fr. Hans writes: “If dropping the bomb to end a war that would have inflicted, what? – five? ten? times more casualties had it continued, then can we be sure it was the wrong thing to do?”

    The problem with a consequentialist ethic is that you rarely know if an act was right or wrong. This is because one set of consequences is never actualized. What would the world be like today had a million Japanese civilians not died in firebombing but perhaps a different million or two had died through an invasion? It’s not just difficult to know — it’s impossible to know, because that world was not realized.

    But more importantly, there’s no reason why we should be fixated on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The intentional destruction of civilians, through firebombing or other means, as a handy way to end wars (so it is thought) has a long and noble (or ignoble) history. The selling point is always that the war (or the rebellion, or whatever) will be over quicker, and that exterminating a thousand or a million or whatever civilians is “more humane” in the long run.

    So rather than the A-bomb attacks in Japan being unique or extraordinary situations, they are simply members of a larger set of incidents in which civilians were exterminated with good intentions in order to shorten a war. The A-bomb was just an efficient way of doing that. You could send one bomber instead of 300. But the net effect was pretty much the same, except for the effects of radiation and the initial blast effects.

    One author sums it up this way:

    In assessing specific cases of indiscriminate bombing, we must remember the history of the justification of mass killing of civilians and a praxis that we have dated from World War I. We have shown that in the course of World War II, at different times and for particular strategic reasons, the British, the Germans, the Japanese and the Americans all engaged in strategic bombing with heavy tolls in civilian lives following a logic that it would demoralize the enemy and speed up surrender. We must be careful not to get bogged down in an argument such as whether or not the firebombing of Tokyo was strategically justifiable, and whether or not the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were strategically justifiable. The fundamental question is why this theory justifying mass killing has persisted for so long even after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. . . . At the same time ways should be explored to increase understanding of the fact that killing civilians is a crime against humanity regardless of the asserted military justification, a crime that should be punished on the basis of the Nuremberg and Geneva principles. Finally, it is important to remember that no war has ever been brought to an end simply by indiscriminate bombing and mass killing of civilians. Indeed, there is abundant evidence that such strategies typically strengthened resistance.

    http://japanfocus.org/article.asp?id=282

  8. The problem with a consequentialist ethic is that you rarely know if an act was right or wrong. This is because one set of consequences is never actualized. What would the world be like today had a million Japanese civilians not died in firebombing but perhaps a different million or two had died through an invasion? It’s not just difficult to know — it’s impossible to know, because that world was not realized.

    Well sure, but nothing in history that did not happen can be known. Still, you can learn from history so it’s good to ask the questions in case the same cirumstances are faced again. This doesn’t make you a “consequentialist” as such.

    So rather than the A-bomb attacks in Japan being unique or extraordinary situations, they are simply members of a larger set of incidents in which civilians were exterminated with good intentions in order to shorten a war. The A-bomb was just an efficient way of doing that. You could send one bomber instead of 300. But the net effect was pretty much the same, except for the effects of radiation and the initial blast effects.

    I don’t agree with the author’s historical method. He lumps all conflicts together thereby subsuming the moral questions of particular conflicts into a larger one about warfare in general and the bombing of civilians in particular.

    Other historians argue that Japan was indeed unique and that the bombings can be justified. They take into account Japanese aggression, which this author effectively relativizes by judging all actors in a conflict by one moral calculation, ie: the deaths of innocent civilians, and don’t ascribe to the implicit idea that a just war is a moral impossibility.

  9. Fr. Hans writes: “Well sure, but nothing in history that did not happen can be known. Still, you can learn from history so it’s good to ask the questions in case the same cirumstances are faced again. This doesn’t make you a “consequentialist” as such.”

    Ok, you’re right. History can inform us, but with respect to moral decisions, I think that moral reasoning has an integrity over and above the consequences. For example, if I see a building on fire, and people trapped inside, and I rescue them at the risk of my own life, I see that as an ethically praiseworthy action — even if one of those people I rescued turns out to be a future Hitler. Of course, I could not have known that one person would be a future Hitler. But under a consequentialist ethic, my action would have been immoral.

    Here, I have to go back to the transcendent message of the gospel. “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.” Tell me if I’m wrong, but as I understand Christianity, one of the results of being a Christian is having a good heart. In particular, I am reminded of the words of St. Isaac of Syria:

    And what is a merciful heart? It is the heart burning for the sake of the entire creation, for men, for birds, for animals, for demons and for every created thing; and by the recollection and sight of them the eyes of a merciful man pour forth abundant tears. From the strong and vehement mercy which grips his heart and from his great compassion, his heart is humbled and he cannot bear to hear or see any injury or slight sorrow in creation. For this reason he continually offers up tearful prayer, even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth and for those who harm him, that they be protected and receive mercy. And in like manner he even prays for the family of reptiles because of the great compassion that burns in his heart without measure in the likeness of God.

    So we have our little disagreements over politics, and so on. But as I understand St. Isaac, he is talking about a better way, a higher level of understanding, that captures the essence of what being a Christian is all about.

  10. Fr. Hans writes: “All war is despicable, but unlike the left I don’t translate my abhorrence for war into a policy of appeasing agressors. Wars have to be fought sometimes, unfortunately.”

    Here is the ground of the moral equivalency frequently cited by Fr. Hans. All war is despicable, but not all participants in war are despicable. An incorrect moral judgement often made by those who oppose war. Even so, for Christians to participate in war with a firm moral foundation we have to understand that there are times when it is righteous to kill other human beings–not just regretably necessary, but the right thing to do. As the movie Patton had Gen. Patton saying, “You don’t win a war by dying for your country, you win a war by getting some other poor, dumb, SOB to die for his country.”

    The way that I have come to see that killing another human being can be the right thing to do is in answer to what Fr. Alexander Webster calls the Zero Sum Dilemma, i.e., no matter whether we act or don’t act, people are going to die. Despite what the pacificst and anti-war folks say, one does not stay morally or spiritually clean simply by not fighting. Either course we take demands our repentence. Either course demands that we divest ourselves, as much as possible, of ideological/political reasons for making the choice. Either course we take also demands that we make every effort to avoid having to fight even against clearly aggressive evil. Either course we take demands that we do all we can to limit the destructiveness of the war. Either course we take demands that we to all we can to restore the physical, mental, and spiritual health of all those effected by the war once the war is over. Either course we take demands that we not judge our bothers and sisters who decide differently than we do (this includes, IMO praying the entire petition for victory in the Divine Liturgy). That does not mean that we do not hold one another to a high standard of thought in making the decision.

    Our responsibility to our children also demands that we do all that we can to help them make a truly Christian choice. The military is not just another career. Anyone who enters the military is trained to kill and expected to kill if ordered to do so.

    The Church has historically supported either decision equally, not as a dicotomy within the Church, but due to Her understanding of the spiritual dilemma we face in a fallen world. Despite all the just war rhetoric, the choice always comes down to an individual moral choice, often under extreme circumstances. If the person having to make the choice is not as prepared spiritually as he is physically, the chance of him making a poor choice are much greater. IMO, it is critical in this time for the Church and all of us in Her to make those preparations.

    If the Church, and we indviduals within Her do not do our job, warfare will only become more and more terrible.

  11. Glenn,

    Again, I can not make absolutist statements here. You bring up three examples which probably can not be justified. Does that then mean that the nuke attacks on Japan can NOT be justified? You keep referring to Japanese as “civilians” by which you mean “innocent civilians”. I agree with those who see the Japanese as “radicalized”, “militarized”, and thus no longer “innocent”. I am not arguing for immoral war, I am arguing for a Just War doctrine that accounts for the moral bombing of Japan.

    Part of the underlying disagreement between us is that we see the role of civilian and soldier differently. The war on terror also has to confront this basic fact: What really is the distinction between “innocent civilian” and “soldier”? Related to this, to what extent is a culture, a people, responsible for the actions of their soldiers? In the current war on terror, to what extant are the states that harbor, fund, or simply tolerate terrorists responsible?

    Let’s put it out in the open. There is a high probability that within the next 50-60 years a terrorist organization will get their hands on a nuke. Millions will die in New York or some other high profile American City. Let’s assume that we know the group (they will proclaim themselves responsible of course) and the country they work with – we will know where the nuke came from. What should be our response – our Just response?

  12. Christopher wrote,

    “Part of the underlying disagreement between us is that we see the role of civilian and soldier differently. The war on terror also has to confront this basic fact: What really is the distinction between “innocent civilian” and “soldier”?

    Then your attitude can not be distinguished from that of an adherent to the philosophy of Total War. Classical Just War Theory sought to shield non-combatants from direct assault. However, modern war theory, born in the 19th Century, postulated that the way to victory led not through crushing the military but through destroying the civilian apparatus which supports the military in an advanced state.

    Most important, the Civil War saw the first use of a deliberate attack against the enemy’s population rather than the enemy’s army. For many people, this is what makes modern war different from past wars. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman of the Union Army believed that the best way to defeat the Confederacy was to destroy its economy and its “will to fight.” His troops first occupied and destroyed Atlanta–then, as now, a major trade center. They then marched in a line fifty miles wide from Atlanta to the Georgia coast, burning crops, killing those who resisted them, and destroying property as they went. This “March to the Sea” split the Confederacy and ruined its economy, just as Sherman had predicted. It was a total war tactic.

    I know that you keep saying that Japan was an extreme case, but my points are clustered around the fact that the same arguments concerning Japan have been used repeatedly since the dawn of modern warfare. According to modern warfighting theory, everyone is a combatant because the entire civilian infrastructure supports the military in mobilized state.

    Therefore, there are no limits on the employment of firepower. No matter what your job, your age, or your sex, your very existance furthers the war effort which makes you a target. There are no civilians.

    You sound, Chrstopher, exactly the same. Is that what you are driving at? There are no innocent bystanders in modern war? If you are the resident of a dictatorship, then you and your children are responsible for the dictator’s actions and your children are fair game?

    Soldiers/insurgents bear arms. If you do not bear arms, then you are a civilian. If you work in a munitions factory, then the factory is a legitimate target. You may be a civilian, but your job is essential to the war effort so you better not bring your kids to work. Targeting your house, on the other hand, I wouldn’t call justified.

    But again, Christopher, is that in your thought all things seem justified. Once the game is on, then everyone living in the country with which we are at-war is a legitimate target. That makes a mockery of Just War philosophy which does recognize a difference between those who bear arms and those who do not.

    If Japan had been the sole example of this, then I wouldn’t be as concerned. However, Japan is merely one example. Repeatedly, military necessity or the necessity to ‘degrade infrastructure’ or ‘break support’ for an insurgency/enemy military is used as justification to kill civilians in large numbers. This is not an isolated case involving the A-bomb, this is the way the world currently works.

    The Church stands up and says that such thinking is wrong. This isn’t about just what happened in 1945, this is about a principle that was actually established in the 19th Century which is still very much with us today and which is in marked contrast to the teaching of the church.

    Christopher wrote,

    Related to this, to what extent is a culture, a people, responsible for the actions of their soldiers? In the current war on terror, to what extant are the states that harbor, fund, or simply tolerate terrorists responsible? Let’s put it out in the open. There is a high probability that within the next 50-60 years a terrorist organization will get their hands on a nuke. Millions will die in New York or some other high profile American City. Let’s assume that we know the group (they will proclaim themselves responsible of course) and the country they work with – we will know where the nuke came from. What should be our response – our Just response?

    Suppose I’m an Iraqi and my wife and children are killed by the U.S. military. Would I be justified in killing U.S. civilians because its our military that did it? Would that Iraqi be justified in setting off a bomb on a bus in downtown NY? After all, the civilians killed were probably on their way to work, and their jobs support the U.S. economy, which supports the U.S. military, which in turn killed the man’s family after having invaded his country.

    Would his actions be justified? No, then why?

    Because killing innocent civilians to avenge the actions of others is morally wrong. The Iraqi man can no more justify his actions than we could justify killing innocent civilians. Even if the people he killed were the most ardent supporters of the Iraq War ever, even if they were the biggest supporters of George Bush who voted for him twice and raised money, even if the people he killed had sons in the military in Iraq, even if the people he killed worked in defense-related industries – the hypothetical Iraqi man would still be wrong to put a bomb on a bus because no matter the case, he was still targeting innocent civilians who were not armed, and did not have the means to defend themselves.

    If you are attacked or severely threatened, then you respond militarily. You invade the country. You occupy its land, destroy its government, and enforce your will upon the enemy. But to nuke a city in reprisal for what terrorists did in cooperation with what is almost guaranteed to be a dictatorship? That I’d can’t buy off on.

    Again, Christopher, you’re thinking leads towards absolute war through the concept of collective guilt. All (women, children, elderly) are responsible and may be punished for the actions of others, even when they had no control over them. The Church rejects both collective guilt and collective punishment.

    It seems to me, that in such thinking there are no bad actions, only bad people. If you are on the side of the angels, then no rules apply. Whatever you do is justified, and you are under no obligation to refrain from targeting civilians. What would get another person a war crimes trial, is not a problem if our side does it.

    But how do you ever limit this kind of collective treatment? If you can target civilians, then why can’t you torture suspected terrorists? If you can torture suspected terorrists, why can’t you torture their relatives to get information on where they are hiding? Why can’t you hold their wives and children hostage in order to make them surrender? Or, why can’t you break an opponent through mass executions as reprisals for attacks?

    Can you only target civilians at a distance, or can you shoot them at close range if the stated goal is to ‘break’ their will to resist?

    You have to be clear about where the lines are, because right now I don’t think that you recognize any real boundaries.

  13. Glenn,

    You have me mistaken for someone else. I would say your thinking can not account for a radicalized population (such as Japan). I also wonder if your thinking can account for modern Palestinians, or even terrorists. You demand the very boundaries that terrorists need to operate, it seems to me. Once again, you bring up red herrings (revenge by Iraqi’s for example). How about you answer a question – were the nuke attacks on Japan Justified? If not, then your version of Justice/Just war and mine can not be rectified. Guess we will have to let God sort it out 😉

    Also, you state “But to nuke a city in reprisal for what terrorists did in cooperation with what is almost guaranteed to be a dictatorship? That I’d can’t buy off on.”

    So really you only support the nuke arsenal for it’s psychological impact – you would never use it (it seems to me).

    One last thing, you say “What would get another person a war crimes trial, is not a problem if our side does it.” What a pile of horse manure (you seem to be shoveling allot in this thread 😉

  14. For some reason the post I wrote last night is missing or never made it…

    Glen, you must be thinking of someone else. These red herrings (“Total war”, revenge of the Iraqi man, etc.) are really too much. I simply would like a Just War account of the moral bombings of Japan. Again, your view of warfare is a bit unrealistic (house to house, etc.) and does not account for the responsibility of states/cultures for things like terrorism. Apparently, any suggestion that they do have a role to play is anathema to you – and can only be thought of in terms of some Augustinian “collective guilt” or a secular “Total War”.

    Interestingly, you say you support the US nuke arsenal but I can’t think of a situation where you would actually use it. I suppose it’s there for it’s “psychological” impact perhaps?

    I think we just need to agree to disagree: I support the nuke bombings of Japan, you don’t. I support heavy weapons, you support knights in amour…JUST KIDDING! 😉

    By the way, the fact that you would respond to a terrorist nuke attack with million man armies/house to house fighting/etc. is consistent with your noble view of war – I wonder what others would do?

  15. Christopher –

    The purpose of the nuke arsenal is to prevent nuclear attacks on the United States. It is a strategic deterrent whose purpose is to prevent the blackmail of the United States by a nuke state. It is not a tactical weapon.

    Variations of nuke weapons can be used tactically, such as the Neutron bomb. In heavy combat, I have no problems with the deployment of battlefield nukes, anymore than I have a problem with the use of Willie Pete or any other weapons system.

    If you have to use strategic nukes, however, that means that your deterrence failed. If you’ve absorbed a nuke hit, then the question is how do you respond?

    The point behind an Iraqi (which you failed to grasp) responding to the death of his family by striking a civilian bus is that such an act of revenge against innocent civilians is unjustified. If the U.S. absorbs a nuke hit, then we should respond exactly the same as we responded to 9/11 in regards to Afghanistan. We did not destroy the country. We did not kill huge numbers of civilians. We did not blow up all the cities. We kicked over the Taliban which assisted those responsible and we hunted down the terrorists.

    That is the appropriate response to any nation which aids terrorism. Mass slaughter of civilians in an act of reprisal is not justified, which is what my anecdote of the hypothetical Iraqi was meant to illustrate. How exactly was my hypothetical act of revenge by an Iraqi a ‘red herring?’

    If you responded to an attack launched by a terrorist group that was supported by a government (Taliban/Al Queda) by nuking a city, then it is pure revenge. The government could reconstitute itself, other cells would be active. You would kill massive numbers of innocent women and children, and the fallout would affect countries which have no part of the quarrel. That means children born with birth defects and high rates of cancer in countries which could be our allies.

    If I read your post correctly, if a ‘culture’ is responsible for terrorism, then you appear to reserve the right to target civilians because they deserve it as there seems to be no distinction between them and the soldiers/terrorists that their nation fields.

    Is that correct? If so, then it is the same logic Sherman employed on his march to the sea, or employed by the U.S. in the Phillippines.

    Again, what is this house-to-house thing you have? I can’t figure that out. I have never called for ‘knights in armor’ or called for the banning of a single weapons system. You accuse me of red herrings and then seem to fail to read a single thing I write. I have never once opposed heavy weapons used in tactical operations, except when used by an occupying army.

    Now, as for war crimes committed by our side, I re-iterate the following questions which you won’t answer:

    But how do you ever limit this kind of collective treatment? If you can target civilians, then why can’t you torture suspected terrorists? If you can torture suspected terorrists, why can’t you torture their relatives to get information on where they are hiding? Why can’t you hold their wives and children hostage in order to make them surrender? Or, why can’t you break an opponent through mass executions as reprisals for attacks?

    Can you only target civilians at a distance, or can you shoot them at close range if the stated goal is to ‘break’ their will to resist?

    If you are going to stump for what reads like unconditional warfare, then at least have the clarity of thought to address such fundamental questions. If the U.S. engaged in any of the above actions in Iraq, as has been done in previous wars by U.S. forces, would you be in favor of war crimes trials for those who ordered them? Or, would we be justified?

    Your answer is, most likely, it depends. Which means sometimes that there are circumstances in which it would be permissable to do any of the above. These were the same actions that got NAZIs put in the doc at Nuremberg and which are clearly contrary to both international law and the teaching of the church.

    But I have a strong feeling that you would support, for example, putting the wife of a suspected terrorist in jail and leaning on her to get information on him. Or, killing Sunnis in reprisal as a method of discouraging the insurgency. Or taking prisoner the children of insurgents to get them to surrender, even if their refusal would require the execution of kids to prove that we are serious.

    I don’t think you will draw any bright lines and say, “I won’t go here.” That is my point about the war crimes trials, and my point to you about the situational nature of your ethics. You may think this is all about Japan, but how many times do I have to attempt to broaden the conversation before we manage it? This is about principles, and I don’t think you have any that are hard and fast.

    If that’s the case, then what I said stands. There are no unjustified actions, only bad people, as any action is justified if committed by the right people for the right reason.

  16. Glenn,

    Since this is getting tiresome this will be my last post on the subject. As I have already said, I support Just war, not immoral war. However, I believe you draw the line between “civilian”, “innocent”, etc. too brightly (or rather, too narrowly). This leads to a logic that would demand the death of thousands (million maybe) Americans in Japan. Your logic also does not account for different “kinds” of war (e.g. Terrorism) where there are no standing armies to fight/nuke. Since reality does not fit into your paradigm, you allege “situational ethics”, “Total war”, “revenge” etc. against anyone who does acknowledge these realities.

    When you are able to cram the moral nuke bombings of Japan into your paradigm then you will understand my position…

  17. Christopher,

    We can leave the subject after I point out this little, ironic exchange on another thread about the Palestinians attacking a bus full of civilians.

    Jim Holman wrote, “Do you think the attack had something to do with the fact that the bus was travelling to an Israeli settlement built on Palestinian land — a settlement that keeps increasing in size as it spreads other little outposts? Question: when an occupying country decides to take over parts of the occupied country through establishing settlements, aren’t those settlements and their inhabitants in effect acting as agents of the occupation, and thus not strictly “non-combatants” in the typical use of the term?”

    Isn’t that essentially your argument, only not applied to Israel? I know you don’t read Jim’s posts, but isn’t the logic similar to your own? The non-combatants are part of a concerted effort to populate and annex Palestinian land which, prior to 1967, contained almost no Jews. The civilians are part of a radicalized population that fanatically supports the IDF and the wall.

    Hmmm…. what is the responsibility of a culture that supports aggression? What are the lines between military and civilians in a war with no boundaries?

    But of course, Missiourian then stepped in with the following, “Short answer no. They are minors, they are noncombatants. If Canada launched rocket fire from British Columbia into the State of Washington, the U.S. Army would charge into British Columbia to stop the rocket fire. It would hold that land as long as necessary to prevent further attackes. It would not fire at Canadian school children in buses.”

    Intentionally blowing up children is wrong, according to Missiourian. Well, at least it is when the Palestinians do it. No matter their rationale for it, their actions brand them as barbarians.

    On the other hand, if Israel engages in the exact same behavior (or the U.S. or the UK for that matter), then I am positive that you and Missiourian will bend over backwards to find a rationale for it.

    Pointing this out means being accused of ‘moral equivalence’ because killing kids is not the same thing as killing kids, you see. Actions aren’t good or bad in themselves, its the larger context that matters, not the dead kids.

    So the normal logic goes, intentionally killing kids in school buses is wrong, but it is not absolutely wrong, because there are always rationales under which one can excuse it. Suppose a suspected terrorist were on that bus, and the Israelis needed to defend themselves, right? Or, suppose the bus were carrying contraband weapons? How dare those Palestinians use kids as shields! Or, suppose the Israelis just needed to teach those barbarians a lesson they would understand.

    Or, suppose the Israelis were merely retaliating for a terrorist attack in order to discourage more from coming. Hey – killing kids saves lives by making future attacks less likely.

    Missiourian, of course, understands that targeting a bus full of kids is wrong. In fact, it is so wrong that she expects just stating that fact to be a show-stopper.

    And it is. Because I agree with her. Targeting a bus full of kids is wrong, and I have a hard time seeing any circumstance whatsoever that I could possbily accept it, no matter who did it.

    But, then again, if you target a civilian neighborhood from the air at 10,000 feet and kill four or five times as many children – then that isn’t wrong. Not if there is a good reason, and there will always be a good reason if you are looking for one.

    For most Americans, there aren’t bad actions, there are only bad actors. If the right person does something wrong, then he/she must have had a good reason. It must have been necessary.

    If a bad person/actor (Serbians, Palestinians), then those actions are proof positive of barbarism.

    The poor Palestinians (not the terrorists, but the regular folk who just want to eat) keep telling the world how many civilians the Israelis kill in their airstrikes. The poor fools think that Americans care about dead women and children. How silly of them to not realize that killing innocent civilians is only a bad thing when they do it. When the Israelis do it, it is always the moral thing to do.

    Christopher – intentionally targeting civilians is wrong. Your Church teaches that. The Roman Church teaches that. If you don’t accept it, fine. We’re done with this. It’s your conscience, your faith, not mine. You can think I don’t live in reality, that’s fine. You’ll face Christ, and you can explain it to Him.

  18. Note 17. No one wants civilians bombed Glen, but how do you answer the Japan question? Would a land invasion have been preferable? It almost certainly would have been more deadly, especially for civilians given how the society was militarized.

  19. Father –

    As I said before, some things I don’t believe a Christian will do, regardless of the consequences. The fact is, none of us have any idea what would have happened if the U.S. had chosen another course of action. It could have been worse, it could have been better. God alone has perfect judgement. The rest of us make due with faulty reasoning, and almost always that faulty reasoning tells us what we want to hear.

    Answer to Japan? I could tell you what I wouldn’t do because I don’t think we could reasonably do what we did in a moral fashion. I apply a simple standard – would I do it in a firefight?

    I could easily live with myself if civilians got caught in a firefight by accident. But to call in fire directly on a civilian position for the intention of killing them? I wouldn’t do that, so why would I ask a pilot to do that?

    The problem, Father, is that you are quite wrong about no one wanting civilians to get bombed. The precedent we have in the U.S., both left and right included, is that bombing is the way to solve everything. This is from WND today (which you probably already read):

    When will we as a nation stop the rhetoric and allow our men to fight? Have we become so wussified by the left that we are going to allow our troops to be held in prison on murder charges while the vermin they were fighting are allowed to continue their slaughter? When will we get the collective backbone to get this over with by doing what we all know needs to be done?

    What would that be? It’s simple. Shock and Awe II.

    You give al-Qaida the word that the bombing will begin in 48 hours over every city that they have a presence in. You give the civilians the ability to get out or turn over the terrorists that live among them. If they don’t get out or expose the terrorist, they die with them. If they don’t want to die, they can kill the terrorists themselves. That’s the ultimate in Iraq standing up while we stand down. They can do it or we can do it for them, but it should get done. That, Murtha, is support of the troops!

    Or we can follow the path of Murtha, Pelosi and Dean. You know the overwhelming “support” they show our troops – the support that is getting them killed. Talk about Rumsfeld sending them into combat without body armor or uparmored Humvees. How about what the Dems are doing? Sending them into battle with their hands tied behind their backs. It’s hard for troops to defend themselves, no less Iraq, when they can’t shoot or kill. Of course, this is the same support John Kerry gave our troops in Vietnam by calling them “baby killers” and “murderers.”

    The problem, as the author sees it, is that we haven’t killed enough Muslims for them to take us seriously. We have to completely level cities in order to make them back down.

    So much for invading Iraq to liberate the people and give them hope. Now we’re talking total destruction of civilian areas to teach them all a good lesson. When Saddam or Assad does that, the conservatives are the first to scream ‘war crime.’ Not to mention when a terrorist does it.

    Are these views extreme? They are on the right-edge of acceptability, but in conservative circles they are still within bounds, and every conservative poster on this site knows it. After ever terrorist atrocity, the first response of a huge number of conservatives is to what to bomb something back to the Stone Age. After a mob killed U.S. contractors in Fallujah, the call was to destroy the whole city with the civilians still at home.

    Now, of course, the calls are there to get really serious about blowing up civilians, since they are not only supporting the terrorists they are providing cover for them. Therefore, they should be treated the same.

    Christopher has argued no less, only not a forthrightly, that in today’s world we can’t draw a distinction too finely between the civilian and the military in establishing targets.
    Forget whether or not the Muslim world would lay there supinely (Pakistan has nukes) and watch us pummel whole cities. Is it moral to render thousands of women and children homeless or dead to avenge the brutal killing of two soldiers?

    The men who killed our soldiers should be executed. That is justice, but we go beyond that in our rhetoric on a regular basis. After all, we did it in the Civil War, the Phillippine War, WWII, etc. – why not today?

    Well, why indeed? If completely destroying a few Muslim cities would reduce or end terrorism, would that be the moral thing to do or would it be wrong? What are the lives of Muslim children worth, anway?

  20. Note 19. Glen, I think you overstate things. You are always going to have people call for more bombing. So what? I don’t think those examples say anything to your case, either pro or con. The fact is that in Iraq we have carried ourselves with notable restraint, not perfect by any means, but restraint nonetheless.

    Further, I think the conservatives calling for more action just don’t understand the necessity of the restraints. They project the American tactic of overwhelming force forward into situations they know too little about. Ignorance might be more of a factor here than a desire for victory at all costs. These people certainly need to be resisted, but I see no hoardes trying to crash down the gates of the Pentagon.

    On your answer to the Japan question however, yes, no one knows what the other outcome might have been, but only because one was chosen over the other. You are arguing for a principle here, and a worthy one I might add, but the virtual certainty is that many more Japanese civilians would have been caught up in the firefights (and some contributing to them) resulting in many more killed if a land invasion was attempted. Numbers of dead don’t de-facto justify the bombing of course, at least not in a strictly moral sense (but it is not irrelevant either), but I don’t see much difference between dropping the bomb on civilians or killing those innocently drawn into a firefight.

    Back to WND. The problem with some conservatives like the author of the WND piece is that they draw on liberals to justify their thinking. Kerry’s Viet Nam opportunism was disgraceful of course (and it seems Kerry is intent on repeating it — it worked the first time, maybe it will again he seems to be thinking), but to use it to justify “Shock and Awe II” is just sloppy. It’s the conservative equivalent of an empty-headed liberal moralism — kind of harmless on one hand, but dangerous when crafted into policy. But again, I don’t see these ideas crafting policy.

  21. Fr Hans, I don’t think Glen is overstating it. The continued call for “shock and awe” even against civilian targets indicates a breakdown in the moral influence of Christianity. Unless we Christians who realize the necessity for the use of deadly force are willing to, at the same time, demand limits on that force, we do not do our job. There has to be a voice in the arena that is not motivated solely by politics. It is easy to disregard any restraint warning from Democrats even when appropriate because of their political opposition to Bush and their general appeasement attitude.

    I realize that any moral limit will always be exceeded during war. All the more reason to make those limits clear and definite. The just war approach cannot be allowed to degenerate into a moral rationalization for Christians to go to war. Total war is not acceptable anytime, anywhere for any reason.

    It also means that we have to take into consideration the acutal policies and rules of engagement and not consider violations to be the norm.

    Glen, you say your approach is “What would I do in a firefight”. How many soldiers don’t really have any idea except to follow orders. How is the individual soldier, possibly in the midst of a firefight with the life of his fellow soldiers at risk supposed to react to a order to destroy the town? I suspect my reaction would be one of relief.

  22. Note 19: I’m sympathetic to the concern that our troops’ “hands are tied” and that they are not being equipped to win this conflict. It can be frustrating at times to be held to the highest standards while those you’re fighting will use the dirtiest means of warfare imagineable. However, there are not only moral considerations in regards to what our troops are permitted to do but practical ones as well, and I was reminded of this in an excellent article by Vladimir Bukovsky in the Washington Post.
    Although the article refers more to the use of CID (cruel, inhuman or degrading) treatment of captives such as those at Guantanamo (and sanctioned by the administration), it can extend towards more large scale military operations as well, I think:

    “Apart from sheer frustration and other adrenaline-related emotions, investigators and detectives in hot pursuit have enormous temptation to use force to break the will of their prey because they believe that, metaphorically speaking, they have a “ticking bomb” case on their hands. But, much as a good hunter trains his hounds to bring the game to him rather than eating it, a good ruler has to restrain his henchmen from devouring the prey lest he be left empty-handed. Investigation is a subtle process, requiring patience and fine analytical ability, as well as a skill in cultivating one’s sources. When torture is condoned, these rare talented people leave the service, having been outstripped by less gifted colleagues with their quick-fix methods, and the service itself degenerates into a playground for sadists. Thus, in its heyday, Joseph Stalin’s notorious NKVD (the Soviet secret police) became nothing more than an army of butchers terrorizing the whole country but incapable of solving the simplest of crimes. And once the NKVD went into high gear, not even Stalin could stop it at will. He finally succeeded only by turning the fury of the NKVD against itself; he ordered his chief NKVD henchman, Nikolai Yezhov (Beria’s predecessor), to be arrested together with his closest aides.

    So, why would democratically elected leaders of the United States ever want to legalize what a succession of Russian monarchs strove to abolish? Why run the risk of unleashing a fury that even Stalin had problems controlling? Why would anyone try to “improve intelligence-gathering capability” by destroying what was left of it? Frustration? Ineptitude? Ignorance? Or, has their friendship with a certain former KGB lieutenant colonel, V. Putin, rubbed off on the American leaders? I have no answer to these questions, but I do know that if Vice President Cheney is right and that some “cruel, inhumane or degrading” (CID) treatment of captives is a necessary tool for winning the war on terrorism, then the war is lost already.”

    Essentially, to utilize the enemy’s tricks will, in the end, degrade our own morale and faith in the cause.

  23. A relavant and amusing article from NRO today. a snippet:

    “We must not forget that Ruth Bader Ginsburg still sits on the United States Supreme Court. The Spanish law, if it passes, will perhaps be tested in the courts, and Justice Ginsburg has shown the way in which decisions of the more enlightened courts of Europe may find their way into the ongoing improvement of the tired, old United States Constitution. Come to think of it, there is no need to wait on the Spanish courts. The minute the Spanish parliament adopts Garrido’s proposal, it is fair game not only for the Spanish courts but also for ours. Borders are but nuisances — relics of the sinful past of mankind, along with judgmentalism. And surely the words that open Article I — “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress” — are broad enough to be understood in a progressive interpretation as really meaning “Congress or some court or other, whatever.””

    http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MmE0MjMxMDc0OGIzYjc2Y2I4OWEzOTRkZjMzYzViOTk=

  24. Circling back to the original post about apes, here is a situation in which the organization sponsoring this initiative takes a decent idea and then pushes it to the extreme to make it senseless. Apes are intelligent creatures by the standards of animals. They are not people, and should not have the same rights as people, but that is not to say that they don’t have any rights at all. They are still God’s creation, and as they are quite intelligent (by animal standards), certain protections should be afforded to them.

    They should not be allowed as pets. Their complex brains and complex social structures make them unsuitable as household animals. They are not dogs or cats, and should not be allowed to be owned. Outside of specialized environments which have been carefully crafted for the care and well-being of apes, I don’t think anyone should be allowed to keep one. The best place for apes is in their natural environment. I’m even squeamish about keeping them in zoos, but since zoos have gone to great lengths to make their animals comfortable and in natural environments, then I am willing to go along.

    As for testing on apes, I don’t like testing on any animals. The intentional infliction of pain on a living creature isn’t my idea of a good time. This is quite apart from killing for food, as I am a hunter and I do eat meat. What I am talking about is animal experimentation where the procedures often cause severe pain and suffering in a non-game animal who is left alive. That makes me sick and I can’t see inflicting suffering on an animal, especially one with a complex brain.

    Legal protection for apes, in my opinion, is a great idea just as is legal protection for any other defenseless animal. That is – within sensible limits. Extending ‘human rights’ to non-humans is, in fact, silly. The right to life, however, is not really a human right as the gift of life was granted by God. Humans have been given the right to take animal life for food (following the flood) but have also been given a charge to care for God’s creation and that includes animals.

    Problem comes when silliness like this causes Christians to react badly and give the impression that we don’t care about animals.

  25. These are good points Glen. In fact, I think this is one area where Christian thinkers could contribute something very worthwhile. PETA is bonkers but the abuse they record on animals is not. (PETA has an agenda of which animal abuse is serves as a convenient sympathy vehicle.) I’ve seen those barns where chicken growing is industrialized. The conditions in which they are raised, the crowding, all the factors that are used to raise them to be as big as possible in the shortest amount of time is abusive. There is no other word for it.

    Several months ago I went to the PETA site that had an undercover video of a slaughtering house. Assuming the video is accurate (and it seemed to be), the way cows are slaughtered in some places is barbaric. I am not a vegetarian. I have no moral qualms about killing animals for food. But the application of mechanical efficiencies to killing animals without regard for the pain and suffering of the animal should give us all pause (here PETA is correct). Benevolence has to extend to animals as well as humans.

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