Blogs > Liberty and Power > George II and Condoleezza's Moral Depravity

Jul 18, 2006 10:29 pm


George II and Condoleezza's Moral Depravity



Surely this is a new low for the Bush adminstration. Any decent person would demand an immediate end to the murder and mayhem now taking place in the Lebanon and Israel. But George II and his foreign minister, Condoleezza Rice, insist that the time is not right for a ceasefire. When will the time be right? Here's what Rice told a press briefing today:
We all want a cessation of violence. We all want the protection of civilians. We have to make certain that anything that we do is going to be of lasting value. . . . We have to deal with underlying conditions so that we can create sustainable conditions for political progress there.
In other words, a ceasefire will have to wait. And in still other words, men, women, and children will have to continue being blown to bits.

When Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, standing with Rice, disagreed, saying,"A ceasefire is imperative. . . . We have to bring it [the fighting] to an end as soon as possible," Rice wouldn't let that be the last word. She added,
We all agree that it should happen as soon as possible -- when conditions are conducive to do so.
Translation: The killing and maining of Lebanese and Israelis shouldn't stop until Israel is ready for it to stop.

That is moral depravity, if anything is.

Cross-posted at Free Association.



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Sheldon Richman - 7/24/2006

Well before 1920 Jewish settlers and organizations were buying land from Turkish and Arab feudal landlords, who expelled Arab peasants (i.e., Lockean owners) whose families had farmed there for generations. I would imagine that created some animosity not rooted in bigotry. (For details see Stephen Halbrook's historical paper here. "When we occupy the land . . .we must expropriate gently the private property on the estates assigned to us," wrote Zionism's founder Theodor Herzl. "We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own countries.")


Bill Woolsey - 7/21/2006

I wasn't refering to anyone. I was asking.

Thank you very much for the link. It looks like there aren't very many Lebanese prisoners left.



Sergio Alejandro Méndez - 7/21/2006

Looks like Mr Bolton didn´t read when Charles Jhonson wrote the following:

"As for States and their boundaries: I am an anarchist, so I don't give a damn about which side of the bloody line in the sand people are on. But even if I were not an anarchist, it would hardly change my position on this question. However many special obligations a State may have towards its subjects over and above the obligations it has towards the subjects of other States, it is no more entitled to go out and slaughter alien subjects than it is its own subjects. If you accept the legitimacy of the State then you might very well think that governments have more of a duty to rescue their own subjects than to rescue the subjects of other governments from a pre-existing danger; but that does precisely nothing to license going out and actively killing or maiming innocent subjects of other governments in the process of trying to rescue your own subjects from an unrelated menace."

So it looks that Mr Johnson can even accept the idea of states existing, and his position on this matter will be the same, isn´t it Mr Boldont?


Sheldon Richman - 7/20/2006

You must be referring to Samir Kuntar, a monster. (See this. It was obviously a horrendous crime, and no decent person would want him released from prison. My point is that Israel's treatment of Arabs (Palestinians and Lebanese in particular) has radicalized people who felt the brunt of that treatmment. There is a difference between an explanation and an excuse. Kuntar's crime cannot be excused because of injustices to others. Nevertheless, the PLO was a response to the bad treatment of Palestinians. Hezbollah was a response to the invasion and occupation of Lebanon. And most ironically of all, Hamas was encouraged by Israel as a religious rival to the secular PLO. It is one thing to defend against a Hezbollah border crossing. It is something else entirely to destroy Lebanese civilians and their infrastructure.


Craig J. Bolton - 7/20/2006

So, when would you like to start, historically? Maybe with the riots against peaceable Jewish settlers in Palestine incited and directed by that great lover of liberty [and subsequent fast friend of Hitler's], Hajj el Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, in the 1920s? Or maybe those Jewish aggressors really got going with the pevishness of Sarah, Abraham's wife?


Sheldon Richman - 7/20/2006

Do you think 18 years of brutal occupation created no scores to settle in the eyes of those who lived under it in southern Lebanon? Israel's invasion in the '80s came after nearly a year of ceasefire across the border, according to the U.S. State Department.


Sheldon Richman - 7/20/2006

I'm the one discarding history? That's a good one.


Craig J. Bolton - 7/20/2006

It seems to me that this whole discussion is based on a fundamental conceptual confusion. The confusion is simple: You can either start from the world where it is or you can postulate a new world.

Johnson apparently wants a world without large scale nation states where any conflicts that occur are truly personal. I join him in that ideal, but I don't confuse it with the situation in the world today or discourse with most people about today's world. My reasoning for making this distinction is the same as the reasoning I employ when discussing an abstract point in constitutional law. No, I don't believe in the U.S.A. nation state to start with. No, I don't believe that constitutions ever constain a government without a vigilant populace willing to enforce them, but that isn't where the argument is when you are talking to those with other assumptions. You have to get these people convinced on their own grounds before you can effectively pull the ground out from under them.

Richman, as far as I can tell, would like us to discard history and focus on what the nasty Israelis are doing today [rather than any possible rationale they might have for thinking they have good reasons for doing such things]. Sorry, Sheldon, but that doesn't make any sense. If your neighbor comes over to your house, shoots your wife and your dog and steals your car, on Tuesday, and your are, on Wednesday, now confronting him with a gun, it really does make some material difference that he has shot your wife and dog and stole your car. Really it does. Now if there were some outside authority who you could turn him over to with a reasonable expectation that ordered justice would be done then that might make a difference, but if not..... And I'm certain that we're all really sorry that the aggressed against may not play fair according to the highest standards of abstract morality, really too bad, isn't it? But maybe the fight shouldn't have started to begin with, you think?

Simon seems to be operating with the world pretty much as it in fact exists today. That is good for today, but may not be good forever. After all, even Jews can become barbarians if they act the part long enough. That is particularly the case if their neighbors are barbarians and insist on proving that point over and over again.


Bill Woolsey - 7/20/2006

Why does Israel hold Lebanese prisoners?


Sheldon Richman - 7/20/2006

Did I not provide the link? It's here.


E. Simon - 7/20/2006

No. The combination of that with the unquoted Ivan Eland reference was what led to my aforementioned inference.


E. Simon - 7/20/2006

There's not much point in responding to someone who will turn everything I say into an endless series of straw men. It's too laborious and I'm more interested in dialogue than a talk-past-each-other-fest. I feel justified in deducing that further explanations will be similarly manipulated, and won't do it. But as a near-absolute pacifist and anarchist, I would surmise that you might be used to the majority of people disagreeing with you. Why not turn the negative energy of such an experience into cultivating a more civilized and more open-minded approach? I'm sure it will pay off in the end.

A piece of advice: A reply that is as many times longer than the short statements that prompted it as yours is, could provide a good clue that you very well might have misunderstood.


michael Randolph stephenson - 7/20/2006

The reason for American inaction in the current crisis is three fold: the power of the Israeli lobby in America, Bush's continued kowtow to the evangelical branch of the right, and finally the perception of a clear double standard related to terrorism. The Israeli lobby, though it is not always as suucessful as some writers would ahve us believe, is nonetheless a powerful influence. Every US President has been against the building of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories yet it happened despite the heightened tensions that have resulted. Hezbollah and Hamas are terrorists and they must be disarmed but we must recognize what gives them their power; the Palestinian question. For the last 30 years or longer Evangelical Christians have blindly accepted the actions of Israel. The easy explanation for this support is the perception that that prophecy will be fulfilled by Israel. Finally it would present an extreme double standard for the US to have entered Afghanistan and Iraq to squelch terrorism and another 9-11. There has been little proof that Iraq was developing WMD much less supported 9-11 terror support. Yet, there is evidence of Katushya rocket attacks. How could the US condemn Israel?


Charles Johnson - 7/19/2006

E. Simon,

I don't know what you mean by my "contingent position." Contingent on what?

My position is that warfare as it is conducted in the modern world is almost never justifiable because the circumstances under which you can excusably kill innocent people in the course of protecting yourself from an unrelated menace are very limited, and the number that you can excusably kill is "almost none." For a more detailed discussion, see Roderick Long's essay Thinking Our Anger. I'd be glad to discuss the issue at more length if you want, but I'd like to suggest that it's far less urgent for me to spell out the details of my view than it is for you to spell out the details of yours, because *I'm not trying to defend a fucking war as proportional retaliation.*

I should note that I am no more ignorant of the doctrine of double effect than you are. I've nowhere suggested that civilians were deliberately targeted by the IDF (how would I know?). What I am suggesting is one of the traditional conditions on the doctrine of double effect: that to be excusable, the evils inflicted must not be disproportionate to the goods achieved. So just pointing to double effect does not absolve you of the intellectual responsibility of spelling out how many people can be (regrettably but expectedly) killed and maimed in the course of retaliating against unrelated menaces, and how much killing and maiming of the innocent would make the policy intolerable for reasons of proportionality.

I've accused you of dodging the issue because if you do not have an answer to that question, then you can have **absolutely no moral basis for endorsing the war**. If you don't even have a ballpark estimate of what a tolerable civilian body count is, then you have no idea whether or not the killing and maiming of innocents has gone beyond the limits of proportional self-defense. And if you don't know that then you don't know whether or not the war is legitimate self-defense or a massacre. If you treat the question as some higher mystery beyond your ken, then you have thereby admitted that you have no idea whatever whether justice demands that the IDF continue or that it relent.

If, however, you profess not to be able to answer the question, but then turn around and continue supporting the war, particularly with polysyllabic hand-waving at pacifying abstractions such as "collateral damage" and "appropriately disincentivizing," then what I have to conclude is that you are quite satisfied with the level of killing, burning, bombing, and maiming being inflicted on innocents, but that you'd rather not say so because it would sound too brutal coming from your lips. If that's not so, then you could refute my claims by actually coming out and giving us some idea of what you consider acceptable rather than setting the question aside unanswered and trying to describe what happens to men, women, and children when bombs are rained down on their neighborhoods, when their homes or farms are destroyed, when their flesh is burnt by fire or torn up by sharpnel or crushed by rubble, and when their lives are snuffed out or forever marked by permanent wounds, with words like "cost" and "disincentivize" and "collateral damage." If you want to defend war, then there it is: defend it. And if you don't like Orwell being quoted at you, then stop writing about real violence being inflicted daily against real people as if it were nothing more than some debit on an accountants' ledger somewhere in the Ministry of War.

As for States and their boundaries: I am an anarchist, so I don't give a damn about which side of the bloody line in the sand people are on. But even if I were not an anarchist, it would hardly change my position on this question. However many special obligations a State may have towards its subjects over and above the obligations it has towards the subjects of other States, it is no more entitled to go out and slaughter alien subjects than it is its own subjects. If you accept the legitimacy of the State then you might very well think that governments have more of a duty to rescue their own subjects than to rescue the subjects of other governments from a pre-existing danger; but that does precisely nothing to license going out and actively killing or maiming innocent subjects of other governments in the process of trying to rescue your own subjects from an unrelated menace.


Charles Johnson - 7/19/2006

Max,

Not everybody in those "building complexes" has any particular choice about who stays there. For example, how exactly are the scores of children who have been killed in the bombing and shelling of residential targets to blame for who is or is not quartered in their homes, or riding with them in their cars? What did families vacationing on a beach do to deserve getting shelled by the IDF? What attempts are the IDF making to limit the killing and maiming of unrelated third parties from bombing of houses in residential neighborhoods and rocketing of cars on civilian streets? The answer appears to be "more or less nothing," given the massive scale of destruction to civilian infrastructure and the escalating body count in both Lebanon and Gaza. Not surprising, because aerial bombardment is not exactly a precise form of warfare and it is nearly impossible to carry it out in civilian areas without killing or maiming a lot of innocent people.

You mention, "Since, [terrorists] are not a formal group of war, which is distinguishable by uniform or location. They are difficult to attack." But I find it hard to work up much sympathy for the IDF in spite of the difficulties the poor dears must be laboring under. If it is difficult to identify the guilty or difficult to attack them without snuffing out or ruining the lives of lots of innocent people, then you had bloody well be much more cautious about doing the attacking.

The current war on Lebanon, let us remember, started over the death or capture of some 10 Israeli soldiers in combat. Even if one stipulates to the claim that the Hizbollah attack on the soldiers was an act of aggression (something I'm willing to stipulate to, but others might not be), that does not give the IDF a blank check to use any level of retaliatory violence they please in order to try to stop future attacks. Not even the subsequent murder of about 10 Israeli civilians following the beginning of the onslaught does that. So far about 280 Lebanese people, most of them civilians, have now been killed in the bombardment and Israel shows no signs of letting up. It seems to me that on absolutely any plausible understanding of the principle of proportionality this is morally criminal, whether or not the cause for which the IDF is going to war is a just cause. Just causes neither justify nor excuse wholesale slaughter of unrelated third parties, whether they are killed as the result of direct targeting (terrorism) or whether they are killed as an expected and accepted side-effect of attacking some unrelated target (so-called "collateral damage").

Incidentally, pointing to Dresden (or the terror bombing of World War II more broadly) won't get you very far. I consider the firebombing of Dresden to have been an indefensible massacre and a war crime of the first order.

As for sympathy, well, it's not about sympathy. While there are some people in Lebanon who celebrated Hizbollah's attacks and some people in Gaza who celebrated Hamas's attacks, there are also many who were disgusted by them, but people are being killed quite independently of what they thought. And no matter how unsympathetic I may be towards people who "celebrate" such attacks, merely celebrating an evil is not a hanging crime.


Sheldon Richman - 7/19/2006

given your penchant to let others do the arguing for you

My penchant? What's that based on? And am I to be held responsible for the fact that Charles jumped into the fray before I saw your original comment? Mea culpa, I guess. Shame on you, Charles.


Sheldon Richman - 7/19/2006

It may have something to do with the failure of most of Israel's defenders to ever acknowledge Israel's transgressions, its early occupation of other's land, its provocations with its neighbors, and its long-standing, systematic policy of collective punishment, for example. These were programs, not emergency measures. Any Israeli harm to innocents is explained as unintentional against a backdrop of virtue (the "purity of arms," the only "moral army"), and any suggestion to the contrary is treated as anti-Semitism. Arabs are presumed to be the only ones who would knowingly harm innocents. The dubious claim regarding Israel's relative moral merit is somethng to be left for another time. It does not withstand scrutiny.


Steven Horwitz - 7/19/2006

Why is it that those who make any sort of argument suggesting that the Israeli position might be morally stronger than that of its enemies is immediately accused of claiming Israel has "clean hands" or as somehow endorsing everything it has ever done?

One can argue that both sides have done many bad things, but that one side's position, either in general or in a specific situation, has a morally stronger claim, can't one?

Painting your opponent's position with the "clean hands" straw man is a convenient way to make the opponent look silly given Israel's track record of violence and bad policies (from a libertarian perspective). Unfortunately, it's not the position held by most of the people I know (libertarians especially) who see Israel's position as the morally stronger to one degree or another.


E. Simon - 7/19/2006

Parsing again. The emphasis was on celebrating, i.e. glorifying death. The cultural distinctions between those who are excited by killing vs. those who are more sobered by the business is only unimportant if you think intentions don't matter.


E. Simon - 7/19/2006

The only thing further I wish to say in response to Charles Johnson is to ask what number he would allow for innocent civilian casualties. I explained (more maturely and civilly, at that) why I find the question, unanswerable in itself (at least the way it was phrased), to be a form of evasion. Let him answer his own question before forcing us to merely assume his contingent position makes any sense.

In case it escaped some, the issue here is one of responsibility. Governments have levels of responsibility to protect the rights of sovereign individuals who contract their services (through citizenship, etc.) that exceed those of individuals who don't.

Now sit back and watch him spin any theory of government and conflict into a conveniently Orwellian pacifier.


E. Simon - 7/19/2006

Who is saying anything about "clean hands?" Hmmm... not me. Cleaner hands, perhaps. But I'm not surprised that you would choose to misrepresent what I've said with such a floppy straw man, given your penchant to let others do the arguing for you - particularly one who will lecture others on ethical issues without even recognize the element of intent in ferreting out condemnation while simultaneously and extensively quoting Orwell. That's original. And mature. And it also parses each of my points (the ones it doesn't ignore) into the incoherent blather he falsely needs to represent it as.


Sheldon Richman - 7/19/2006

Innocent soldiers? You are dropping the context of the entire Israeli-Arab conflict. Israel has not respected neighboring borders (including Gaza). It occupies other people's land. Why aren't soldiers fair game, as they are so recognized in international law?


Max Schwing - 7/19/2006

Well, the question is under what circumstances is someone entitled to kill. The Israeli claim that they act out of self-defense, because they has been attacked by terrorist's rockets. This is understandable.

The problem to distinguish comes here and I think the guilt lies with the terrorists. Since, they are not a formal group of war, which is distinguishable by uniform or location. They are difficult to attack. However, I don't think that a building complex which houses terrorists is innocent. Those people knew that there were terrorists in the building (it is the same with the bommbing of Nazi-Germany, where also Nazis and innocent were in buildings in Dresden f.e.).
So, Israel acts partly out of self-defence and caluclates on some collateral damage. However, the longer the conflict will be on, the more it will divert from this course and the more it will also lash out on innocents (read Beirut).

And, can you really be sympathic to people how celebrate the killing and capturing of innocent soldiers?
I cannot.


Sheldon Richman - 7/19/2006

The tenor of E. Simon's comment is that Israel has clean hands in this conflict and in the broader clash. This echoes most of the media coverage. But it is untrue. See among other things, Ivan Eland's "Israeli-Arab War: Terrorism on Both Sides."


Sheldon Richman - 7/19/2006

E. Simon, my focus was the Bush administration's position. Instead of urging both sides to stop for the sake of the innocents in both countries, it is saying the hostilities should go on until Israel has completed its mission. That's an endorsement of foreseeable, if "unintended," slaughter and life-threatening infrastructure damage. Nevertheless, I associate myself with Charles Johnson's remarks.


Charles Johnson - 7/19/2006

E. Simon: And yet, the use of Israel's military will prevent Hizbullah from intentionally causing the loss of similarly incalculably valuable Israeli lives.

I'm aware that this is one of the professed aims of the attacks. However, you've merely dodged the question rather than answering it. Just how many of those "incalculably valuable" lives of innocent third parties in Lebanon is the IDF entitled to snuff out or ruin in the process of trying to to protect the "incalculably valuable" lives of innocent Israelis? What are acceptable ratios here in your view, and what would amount to disproportionate violence? Fewer civilians killed than were saved by the attack? One-for-one? Two or three Lebanese civilians killed for every Israeli civilian saved? Ten? Twenty? Thirty? Or is any body count at all acceptable?

I should note that I'm asking you this, not because I'm naive about what modern warfare involves, but rather because I'm all too familiar with what it involves, and I happen to think that the nature of modern warfare makes concerns about proportionality of violence very important. Given the fact that some 235 people, most of them civilians, and including scores of children, have been killed in Lebanon so far in retaliation for the death or capture of ten soldiers, along with the murder of about ten civilians in various attacks over the course of the conflict, it seems particularly urgent in this conflict.

E. Simon: But Israel is not responsible for Lebanon's failures in necessitating that most unfortunate decision.

No, but neither are unrelated third parties who happen to live in Lebanon responsible for Hizbollah's crimes. Whatever causes the Israeli government may have for going to war, it is certainly not entitled to use any means necessary to achieve its war aims, and if there is no way to carry those objectives out without inflicting wildly disproportionate suffering on innocent third parties in the process, then its objectives had jolly well better be left unachieved.

E. Simon: There are costs, no doubt. But the costs of not thusly, and appropriately disincentivizing against murder are much riskier, given the total analysis.

Please. Do you think I give a fuck about "appropriately disincentivizing against murder"? The issue here is how many innocent people you can maim or kill in the process of protecting yourself or others against being maimed or killed by some unrelated menace. This is life and death that we are talking about, and passing it off as "costs" of diddling with incentive structures is frankly obscene.

George Orwell: In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so." Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

"While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement."

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.

(from Politics and the English Language)


E. Simon - 7/19/2006

These kinds of discussions are impossible unless one first clarifies:

1. Whether or not one is capable of distinguishing between intentional targetting and collateral damage,

2. Whether or not one understands that conventional warfare involves damaging infrastructure,

3. Whether or not one thinks autonomous militias should be able to target civilians of sovereign states, while being able to claim defense from counterattack until they are neutralized by the other sovereign state from which they illegally operate.

That being said, I think your question is a good one, because ideally, I would like to see NO unrelated third parties hurt. Therefore, there is no good way to answer it since it would suggest legitimizing the ascription of a military debit or financial value to the loss of a life whose inherent worth is - otherwise - incalculable. And yet, the use of Israel's military will prevent Hizbullah from intentionally causing the loss of similarly incalculably valuable Israeli lives. But Israel is not responsible for Lebanon's failures in necessitating that most unfortunate decision.

There are costs, no doubt. But the costs of not thusly, and appropriately disincentivizing against murder are much riskier, given the total analysis.

Of course, I could change my position were you proclaimed libs ever able to convince me of how not reacting to those who are provoked by weakness will lead to their anticipated, yet never demonstrated, evolution toward respecting individuals as sovereigns. Of course, I still have to assume, under this analysis, that the use of government to protect the rights of sovereign individuals is something you find necessary if unfortunate.


Charles Johnson - 7/19/2006

E. Simon:

And just how many unrelated third parties do you think the IDF can legitimately kill or maim in the process of retaliating against "Nasrallah and his supporters"?


E. Simon - 7/19/2006

"Translation: The killing and maining of Lebanese and Israelis shouldn't stop until Israel is ready for it to stop.

That is moral depravity, if anything is."

So would your omission of the implication, that the cessation of hostilities not be constrained according to whether or not Nasrallah and his supporters are allowed to kill and maim Israelis, be an example of intellectual depravity?

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