News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Two Sides of the Same Coin?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Two Sides of the Same Coin?

I generally refrain from linking to articles that disparage the actions of troops in the field. My reluctance relates to how easy people find it to criticize others without thinking about how they'd act in similar circumstances. Obviously, this might imply that I condone unethical behavior. Not at all. Every unjust act should be pursued and prosecuted to the severest extent of the law.

As far as I am concerned, the people most culpable in this war are the leaders who ordered soldiers into a bogus war and then expect these soldiers to carry out actions that are ethically questionable. ...

Because war enables numerous atrocities and inhumane behavior, there must be rules and procedures that limit the behavior of combatants. As Simone Weil showed, war makes objects of victim and victimizer. In war, humans treat each other as less than human.

Much of this thinking can be seen where strategy determines what individuals should do. Strategy very rarely considers overall ethical results. Instead, they simply proposes ends--means are left to an individual to improvise. Where the ends become all-important, then the ethics of the means may get lost.

No doubt, something of this occurred when the upper pay-grades recently decided that they'd kidnap suspected insurgent leaders' wives and hold them in prison, as reported by news media so that the male insurgents would turn themselves in.

Now there is the legalistic aspect to this practice in that the Geneva Convention explicitly condemns such actions, as Juan Cole reports at his blog.

Then there are the unintended consequences of such tactics. One such consequence appears to be the kidnapping of US journalist Jill Carroll. Some see a direct connection between this kidnapping and those carried out by US special forces. Even on the surface, such a connection can be see in the kidnappers' demands for the release of Iraqi women from jail.

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