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June 21, 2004

Comments

Ben Keen

I'm not convinced that cranky letters to the editor provide a terribly good counterpoise. Perhaps alpha trimming is in order when considering these sorts of moral decisions -- about what is appropriate, and what is not, and under what circumstances -- and the opinion landscape concerning them.

Matthew

She isn't saying they aren't murderers, she is saying that the press automatically call them murderers though they don't call US pilots who bomb civilians thus and they should. That is, she is quoting, not scare-quoting. It's not a good argument, but it's not quite as bad as one you think it is.

Twn

Yes. Of course, she also has to believe that U.S. Pilots intentionally bombed civilians for the sake of bombing civilians. And, she must believe that the people recently bombed in Fallujah were actually civilians. Maybe they were, maybe not.

Sometimes I wonder whether newspapers should even feature "letters to the editor" -- so often they're completely worthless, except for showing how silly some people can be. But maybe it's the editors of "letters to the editor" that are at fault. . . .

Chris Lightfoot

Errm. The bombing of civilians doesn't have to be intentional for it to be murder; the killings could have been reckless.

(One purpose of "letters to the editor" is to expose views anathematic to the editorial stance of the newspaper, in order to keep the custom of people who buy the paper while not agreeing with its editors or proprietors. It doesn't sound like this letter fell into that category, though.)

Sebastian

Matthew: of course they automatically call them murderers. They are. Accidentally killing civilians (that the Iraqis were civilians is assumed by the author) is not murder and isn't in the same moral or legal category as deliberate planned murder of civilians.
You seem to be defending someone who implies that murderers aren't murderers by implying that people who aren't murderers are. Or perhaps you're just saying that she's saying that.

jim

Sebastian writes:
"Accidentally killing civilians... is not murder"

Well Sebastian; to my mind, to kill under the cloak of war is not a whit better than to commit ordinary murder.

So whilst it may not "technically" be murder, i suspect that's not much consolation to the families of those killed. And i don't see how it absolves the perpetrator of the moral responsibility of having ended a human life.

Tim Newman

So whilst it may not "technically" be murder, i suspect that's not much consolation to the families of those killed.

This is one of the fallacies that is wheeled out time and again during dicsussions of this kind. Two actions are not automatically the same by virtue of the outcome of the actions being the same. We are talking here about the intentions of those that committed two separate actions - and you are in effect saying that the actions are the same because both caused families to grieve. It is this line of thinking which I believe Oliver is attacking in his original post.

Matthew

No Sebastian I'm saying that she thinks they are murderers but also thinks that the US pilots are murderers. I also said I don't agree with it, but it's not an unarguable point, particularly whilst the facts are murky.

Mike Wood

Chris,

Surely there would have needed to have been an intention to have at least seriously hurt someone, in order for the bombings to be classed as murders. Otherwise they are reckless killings.
Whilst this will not bring any comfort to the families of those killed, it makes a big difference in terms of moral culpability.

Chris Lightfoot

Hmm. I think it depends on jurisdiction; in English law, reckless killing can be involuntary manslaughter but not, I think, murder. The situation in the US differs, I think. In any case the pilot who drops a bomb from his aircraft presumably intends to or at least should be aware of the risk of hurting someone; the question is whether they were obeying a lawful order (or acting in reasonable self-defence) and whether they took the proper precautions to ensure that their bomb hit only a legitimate targets.

maor

'So whilst it may not "technically" be murder, i suspect that's not much consolation to the families of those killed. And i don't see how it absolves the perpetrator of the moral responsibility of having ended a human life.'

If that's your argument, I will suggest this one:

'So whilst it may not "technically" be blood-thirsty Nazism, i suspect that's not much consolation to the families of those killed. And i don't see how it absolves the perpetrator of the moral responsibility of having ended a human life.'

MIchaelP

You would agree then, Maor that the indiscrimante slaughter of civilians by deranged suicidal killers and the butchering of non-combatants by blood crazed savages would also be murder. Does that mean we can dispense with the euphemism "militant" in these cases?

maor

Oh, absolutely.
I might even agree to "blood-thirsty Nazi" for some of these guys.

You can tell I'm not a journalist.

maor

I meant to criticize the logic of implying that US forces are similar to murderers.

Frank

'Single quotes' when the words >>so-called<< are being implied, "double quotes" when quoting somebody directly. That is the style in most UK publications.

This difference is significant: when you're quoting someone with double quotes you are emphasising that THEY used that term - and it doesn't imply that you disagree with them. When you're using single quotes you are emphasising that this is a label not agreed upon by everyone - and probably not by yourself.

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