Wednesday, July 26, 2006

All civilians are equal but, apparently, some are more equal than others.


We have the enlightening observation from Robert McClelland (emphasis added):

By now you’re probably aware of the efforts of Alan Dershowitz and other right whinging blowhards to provide justification for the Israeli government murdering civilians in Lebanon. The crux of their argument is that since Lebanon is a democracy they’re ultimately responsible for its actions or lack of action against Hezbollah and therefore legitimate targets. This argument has been heartily endorsed by right whingers like Dumbnation’s Damian Penny and KKKate McMillan; who also seems to think Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, makes a good source of information.

Hmmmmmmm ... simple civilians being ultimately responsible for the actions of their country's military forces? An interesting proposal, given that, when the idea was floated not that long ago regarding whether or not it was morally justifiable for a suicide bomber to kill Tony Blair, the wingnutosphere went positively batshit crazy with outrage.

So, if I understand this correctly, mere civilian citizens who have no control over terrorist forces in their midst are to be considered fair game, while the civilian leaders who actually control their country's military are totally out of bounds. Fascinating. I'm sure I could appreciate this more, as soon as I have my brain replaced by a cauliflower.

12 comments:

Grog said...

Yeah, but Rice's critics are the same people whose idea of "nuance" is distinguishing between an RPG and a cruise missile.

(Not that I like Rice, but this appears to be more of a case of conservatives eating their own dominatrix)

CC said...

Um ... you probably meant to post this on a different post. Try again.

Luna said...

“You may then dispute that all the above does not justify aggression against civilians, for crimes they did not commit and offenses in which they did not partake… This argument contradicts your continuous repetition that America is the land of freedom, and its leaders in this world. Therefore, the American people are the ones who choose their government by way of their own free will; a choice which stems from their agreement to its policies.”

-Osama bin Laden, “Letter to America”

Olaf said...

Do you find it weird that you used Robert McClennan's interpretation of the conservative viewpoint (as opposed to that of an respectable conservative) as a launching pad for this rant?

That's like me taking Ann Colter's interpretation of progressives and using it as a representation of the latter's actual position, only to criticize it. What a gutless move.

CC said...

oliphantb wrotes:

"Do you find it weird that you used Robert McClennan's interpretation of the conservative viewpoint (as opposed to that of an respectable conservative) as a launching pad for this rant?"

I didn't use Robert's "interpretation" of the conservative viewpoint, I used his observations of it, for which he supplied actual links.

There's a difference. Try to keep up. I don't get paid enough to instruct people in remedial thinking.

Olaf said...

Haha,

What the fuck? "I didn't use Robert's "interpretation" of the conservative viewpoint, I used his observations of it, for which he supplied actual links."

Look at the quote again, for fuck sakes. "The crux of their argument is that since Lebanon is a democracy they’re ultimately responsible for its actions or lack of action against Hezbollah and therefore legitimate targets."

When you inaccurately summarize the opinion of someone (tellingly, after calling them 'blowhards'), without in any way attempting to portray the complexity of the argument, it goes from a observation to an interpretation of what the 'crux' of the argument is.

McClelland did not quote Dershowitz ONCE in his gutless post. If he did quote Dershowitz, and if it was put in proper context, it would constitute an observation ("did anyone observe what Dershowitz said? Here's a quote that I noticed...")

An observation is "To be or become aware of, especially through careful and directed attention". Attempting to simplify the position of a Harvard Law professor into one sentence - a sentence which he did not actually say or imply - in no way constitutes careful and directed attention.

On the other hand, an interpretation is "to explain the meaning of" or "to present or conceptualize the meaning", which is exactly what McClelland tried to do (and failed miserably). It was his interpretation of what Dershowitz was saying, it was not an observation of what Dershowitz actually said. Thanks for the remedial thinking lesson though, you arrogant dick.

M@ said...

Wow, who's got his big boy dictionary out? With definitions like these, who needs thinking!

So, Oliphantb, help me understand -- do you agree, then, with the position that the Lebanese people are not at fault for the actions of Hezbollah? And a fair reading of Dershowitz would product the same position?

Adam said...

oliphantb has a point. At least in the article McClelland linked to, Dershowitz did not make the argument McClelland attributes to him: that it's OK to kill Lebanese civilians because they're responsible for Hezbollah.

My interpretation is that D believes the only problem with killing civilians is that we feel bad about it. And that part of the reason we feel bad about it is because we hate Israel. Does that sound more accurate, oliphantb?

McClelland's Penny link merely says "me, too", and noone expects consistency or tolerance from small dead animals.

If I could add an additional 'observation': D also seems convinced that "democracies" and "the international community" are separate entities. But hey, he's the prof and I'm not...

Olaf said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Olaf said...

M@: "Wow, who's got his big boy dictionary out? With definitions like these, who needs thinking!"

This is a tough crowd, and by tough, I mean retarded. How do you justify criticizing someone for using a "big boy" dictionary to clarify an issue of semantics? I was told that I was given a remedial thinking lesson in the difference between the words 'interpretation' and 'observation'. This lesson turned out, on closer inspection, with the use of, God forbid, a dictionary, to be completely false.

I've read over the Dershowitz article in question a few times, and in no way does it suggest that he blames Lebanese citizens for the actions of Hezbollah. To the contrary, he blames Hezbollah for the deaths of Lebanese civilians, arguing, and don't get freaked out here by the use of a quote, that "by hiding behind their own civilians the Islamic radicals issue a challege to democracies: Either violate your own morality by coming after us and inevitably killing some INNOCENT civilians, or maintain your morality and leave us with a free hand to target your innocent civilians" (my caps). This is far from claiming that Lebanese civilians are in any way culpable, in my opinion. Are we all reading the same article here??? http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1153291973626&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Adam: You're right, oliphantb does have a point. However, I don't see where Dersh says that the only problem with killing civilians is that we feel bad about it. The above quote seems to indicate that he thinks it is morally wrong to kill civilians, but perhaps thinks it a necessary evil when faced with what he calls a lose-lose option. This point is obviously debatable and subject to proportion and intent, but I think that is what he is saying. I don't see anywhere where he talks about feelings of guilt as being the only problem with killing civilians. But hey, that's my interpretation of what he was trying to say. Could you provide a quote where Dersh talks about us hating the jews, and therefore feeling guilty when civilians are killed?

I am not saying I support everything in Dershowitz's column: the point I'm trying to make is that it is patently ridiculous to use a thoroughly biased interpretation of a column as in anyway representative of the column itself. It's an extremely simple idea, and I think most would consider it obvious, although the readership here has had quite a bit of difficulty comprehending the idea let alone the common words I used to express it. As I said before, it would be comparable to me taking Ann Colter's interpretation (or, what she would surely consider an observation) of progressives and using it as a representation of the latter's actual position, only to then criticize what would obviously be a distortion.

Am I wrong here?

Adam said...

Sure, oliphantb, I'm not afraid of using quotes. The one you gave us is followed quickly by this:

"The international community, the anti-Israel segment of the media and the so called "human rights" organizations could stop falling for this terrorist gambit"

This is where I get the idea that part of the reason we feel bad about civilians getting killed is because we hate Israel.

As to his claim that we shouldn't feel bad, well, that's kind of the point of his entire column, and difficult to summarize in a single quote. Try:

"Those who condemn Israel for killing civilians - who are used as human shields and swords for the terrorists - actually cause more civilian deaths and make it harder for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank."

In a separate column, Dershowitz informs us that:

"the recognition that "civilianality" is often a matter of degree, rather than a bright line, should still inform the assessment of casualty figures... Every civilian death is a tragedy, but some are more tragic than others."

If I were to provide my own impression, I'd say that over the course of his carreer he's become unhealthily accustomed to rationalizing death and suffering.

Olaf said...

Adam,

Fair response, I agree that he is, in a way, trying to rationalize civilian casualties, or at very least to pass the blame onto Hezbollah. I don't think the quote you provided (The international community, the anti-Israel segment of the media and the so called "human rights" organizations could stop falling for this terrorist gambit) has anything to do with hating Israel, however. I still don't know where you came up with that. Anyways, good little thread, I think this dead horse is beaten however. Good luck.