What if a Drone Attacked in the USA
"This just in: Iran has utilized its newly developed drone capability to execute three members of the Mujahedeen e-Khalq (MEK), aka the People's Mujahideen of Iran, a terrorist organization responsible for killing and injuring many hundreds of Iranians, including Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan and four other civilian university professors and scientists. The strike took place early Tuesday morning in a suburb outside Cleveland, Ohio. The Iranian intelligence agency reports that the three targeted individuals killed in the attack were senior MEK operational leaders. Sources on the ground report that in addition to three adult males, 10 American civilians, four women and six children were also killed. While Iranian officials have not acknowledged the civilian deaths, they do recognize that despite due care, precision weaponry and the best of intentions, the reality of war is such that sometimes collateral damage is unavoidable.
"US officials have, for many years, recognized MEK as a terrorist organization responsible for numerous acts of terrorism including the murder of Americans in Iran and the attack on the American Embassy in Benghazi. Yet for reasons still unclear, MEK has recently been delisted from the terror list (curiously soon after the assassination of Professor Roshan) thanks to the efforts of "dignitaries" like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, US Homeland Security Advisory Council member Lee Hamilton and Israeli apologist Alan Dershowitz. Further, given our strained relations with Iran, the US has refused to discontinue its support for MEK nor will it grant the Iranian Government's request that MEK terrorists be arrested and extradited to Iran to stand trial for their terrorist activities.
Terrorism and Response: A Moral Inquiry into the Killing of Noncombatants
Inherent in modern war-making practice is the conviction that there is a significant moral difference between killing innocent civilians in an attack such as that on the World Trade Center or on a bus filled with college students and killing noncombatants during a military response to such an attack. This conviction is clearly demonstrated in a myriad of Israeli reprisals against Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas and in the United States war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Vietnam. It is reflected in the language used to describe the noncombatant deaths, the value laden term "terrorism"1 in the case of the former, and the morally neutral term "collateral damage" in the latter.
The basis for this distinction, it is alleged, hinges upon a recognition of the moral importance of intent as set forth in the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE).Terrorists are acting immorally and are morally culpable and liable for their actions because they intend the noncombatant deaths in their attacks. They are committing murder. Those who respond to terrorism (responders), however, claim only to be targeting the terrorists, or the regimes that support terrorism, and any noncombatant deaths that occur, though foreseen, are, it is alleged, the unfortunate, unintended, by-product of a "moral act" of combating terrorism. Such killing, under a DDE interpretation, is not murder but collateral damage.2 Consequently, DDE theorists conclude, responders are acting morally and are non liable and non culpable for the noncombatants they kill.
In this essay I will utilize a rights-based perspective and argue that to kill noncombatants in a terrorist attack or during what I will term a "collaterally violent" response to such an attack is morally equivalent, that both are morally wrong, and neither are acts of war, but murder. In doing so, I will distinguish collateral violence from accidental killing and from the killing of noncombatants that may occur despite the implementation of reasonable precautions. Finally, I will identify what I contend to be a valid application of the DDE to acts of war. Read more.
Now That the Parades Have Ended (Veterans Day 2013)
Now that the parades have ended and veterans have enjoyed the “heartfelt gratitude” of an appreciative nation (and a free meal, from a “select menu” at Applebees), I would ask veterans, as they resume their lives of anonymity and neglect, to put aside, for a moment, all the bunk we have been fed over the years from those who were not there. You know who I am talking about. The politicians, war profiteers, and “troop supporters” who cavalierly make and profit from war, cheer and wave flags as they send us off to fight, bleed, and die in some remote place for a cause we don’t understand. Self-proclaimed “patriots” who, while remaining safe at home, try to convince us that the threat to our way of life – to America and to freedom – is real and grave and that our sacrifices are necessary, noble, and glorious.
It’s not easy, I know, to ignore the mythology they create, and to separate fantasy from reality. Time and pain has seen to that. Maybe it is comforting to accept their lies and distortion of history. Perhaps it may even seem therapeutic, a means of readjusting, of coping with the memories and living with the experiences of war. After all, it’s easier and preferable to think oneself a hero than a dupe. Easier to believe our efforts and sacrifices were necessary and noble, rather than a mistake, a waste of lives and resources. Read more.
The Wisdom of Donald Rumsfeld: Determining Whether top Wage War in Syria
So much has been written about whether to go to war with Syria, I confess I have little of substance to add to the debate. Instead I will share the process through which I made my decision utilizing the following epistemological insights coming from the most unlikely of sources (at least for me), former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld as expressed during a news conference discussion of the Iraq war .
“There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.” — Donald Rumsfeld, February 12, 2002
Clearly, I am not alone in my confidence in Rumsfeld’s “wisdom” as he is still a favorite and respected “expert” often called upon by a myriad of Main Stream Media outlets for his perspective on foreign policy, war, and the resolution of conflict.
The purpose of this epistemological exercise is to determine, whether I would support or oppose another war in the Middle East. The process is intended to distinguish what I know and don’t know about the Syrian civil war from what others would have me believe. I would, as well, recommend this method of reasoning to others so as to ensure that we make the best possible decision and avoid another fiasco like Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Read more.
Does PTSD Eligibility Demean the Purple Heart
In May, 2008, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates was asked at a news conference whether he would support awarding the Purple Heart Medal to combat Veterans afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Cognizant of the frequency and severity of PTSD among returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, Gates said the idea was “clearly something that needs to be looked at.” Gates’ proposal was followed by an outcry not from VA Administrators or clinicians but from military personnel and veterans, many of whom were aware of the tragically high rate of PTSD and suicide among their returning brothers and sisters. Many were aware as well of the seriousness of the injury and the stigma of mental illness as a “barrier to care” and, paradoxically, had labored long and hard for PTSD to be recognized and taken seriously as a consequent of serving in combat.
Typical of the reaction by veterans and military members was illustrated in an article in the Army Times. A Marine noted that awarding the Purple Heart Medal to combat PTSD injured veterans “would lessen the meaning of the award.” Another soldier quoted in the article, expressed that he would be ashamed to wear the medal were it awarded to PTSD vets. An Army Intelligence officer observed that it would be “an insult to those who have suffered real injury on the battlefield” (italics mine). A combat veteran friend of mine who, by the way suffers from PTSD himself, even wrote a letter to the editor of a local paper arguing that the Purple Heart Medal needed to be “protected” from those who would “demean it” by awarding it to combat veterans suffering from PTSD. Read more.
We Have Become Death
“Evil visited this community today,” is how Governor Molloy described the awful events that occurred at a Newtown Connecticut Elementary school. Whenever a “terrorist” attacks and innocents are slaughtered, we begin referencing religious concepts and asking the inevitable questions. Why do they hate us? Why would someone commit such an atrocity? Why was a flawed, obviously insane individual allowed access to weapons? The 24 hour cable “news” networks voyeuristically “report” firsthand accounts and talking head “experts” speculate regarding motive and intent. But yet we ignore the obvious, and refuse to look at who we are, better, what we’ve become, as a nation, a people, that makes such awful events not an aberration, but an all too common occurrence of slaughter and mayhem.
We live in a culture where violent video games replaced Mr. Rogers as entertainment for our children; where the youngest and most impressionable among us “cyber kill” virtual human beings for amusement, to occupy their time, and to prepare them to become weapons in perpetual war that goes unquestioned; where violence has replaced diplomacy; where torture is condoned; where truth telling ("whistle blowing") is a crime warranting imprisonment and solitary confinement; where murder is celebrated as a positive achievement of leadership and as evidence for a candidate’s qualification for four more years as president; where drones summarily execute human beings without trial, accusation, and with little outrage many of whom are innocents dehumanized as “collateral damage”; where the adoration of the weapons and technology of killing and destruction ("Memorial Day Air Shows”) serve to honor the wasted in war and to ritualize the changing of seasons. Read more.
The Agora at Liberty Square (Zuccotti Park)
Wednesday, October 5, National Student Walkout day, I was to teach two classes at a college not too many blocks from Liberty Square, the site of the Wall Street occupation. I wondered if any of my students would take part in the action, boycott the classes or walk out. I had been to Liberty Square a number of times before and was impressed with the commitment, enthusiasm and organizational skills of the occupiers. Mostly, however, I was ecstatic that we old, hippie radicals, while certainly represented, were in the minority, with the young people clearly in charge and very willing to let you know should you try to exert control or co-opt the movement.
I had asked my classes the week prior if anyone knew what was going on with Occupy Wall Street and if anyone had been downtown to Liberty Square. Most seemed to have some vague familiarity with the occupation, either from hearing about it from other students, seeing it on TV or reading about it in the newspapers. Only one student had actually visited the Square, and he only once. So, when I heard about the planned student walkout, even though I doubted whether many if any of my students would answer the call and actually walk out or boycott the classes, I decided that I would beat them to the punch and hold my classes down at Liberty Square. Read more.