Saturday, January 4, 2020

"Thou Shalt Not..."

There are those who call themselves "Pro-life" because they are against abortion.  There are those (even those who call themselves “Pro-Life”) who support capital punishment.  There are those who support Roe v. Wade.  There are those who are against capital punishment, but for abortion or a woman’s right to choose.  There are those who are Pacifists—unwilling (on religious and/or moral grounds) to take any human life.  There are those who say “Thou shalt not…” in one situation, but not in another.  This is part of the moral complexity we face—not only in these areas of concern, but in many others.  

World War I was sparked by the “targeted killing” (assassination) of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.  The result was a global conflict that caused the death of eight million solders and civilians. Just a few days ago, the United States “took down” a target, the commander of Iran’s security and intelligence services, Qasem Soleimani, because he was plotting “imminent and sinister attacks” on Americans.  This “targeting” is nothing new.  The US targeted Fidel Castro back in the 1960’s (but he lived to be 90 years old).  During World War II the US targeted the killing of Isoroku Yamamoto, the primary planner of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The Phoenix Program during the Viet Nam era targeted the political leadership of the Viet Cong. From 1976 to 2001, the American norm was against targeted killing, but after 9/11, it became rather common place during the Bush and Obama Administrations, and included the killing of Osama bin Laden and Anwar Al-Awlaki (an American citizen) and his teenage son in 2011.  These “killings” were based on The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), a joint resolution of both houses of Congress one week after 9/11.  The AUMF permits the President to use “all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he/she determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”

Vladimir Putin approved a law allowing assassinations abroad in 2006.  Israel has used assassination and targeted-killing more than any country in the West.  The murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi (allegedly by Saudi Arabia); the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the attempted hit on Sergei Skripal and his daughter (allegedly by Russia) in the UK, suggest that State-sponsored assassinations and targeted-killing has become the norm rather than the exception.  Legal minds, both national and international, struggle with the legality of this new norm (meaning “something now considered typical, standard, and usual”).  Because it has become the norm—and a practice by many nation-states, including US—we tend to dismiss the morality of such acts.  The use of drones, poison, and other technological methods to kill tend to make it all so easy.  But I am uneasy with it and have been with every Administration since 9/11.  What have we become?  Is there no moral issue (yes, and a religious one, too) involved in this behavior?

"Where have all the flowers gone...when will we ever learn..."

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