Friday, May 25, 2007

Unqualified Offerings on Glenn Greenwald

Suicide Bombings vs. Air Raids:

Yes and No § Unqualified Offerings: Glenn Greenwald (note: now I’m doing it!) has what is generally an excellent item about the real enthusiasm for attacks on civilians, and the transformation of the Republican Party into “from Falwell/Robertson social conservativsm obsessed with abortion and gay rights into a macro version of the Little Green Footballs comment section, obsessed instead with, literally excited by, detaining and torturing people, maximizing government domestic surveillance, starting still new wars in the Middle East and being far more brutal with the current ones.” There’s one thing he doesn’t quite get around to saying and one thing where he misses the point.

First, he’s right to leave aside the specific tactic of “suicide bombing” to focus on the question of attacks against civilians. Suicide bombing is simply a way to kill people that guarantees the perpetrator himself won’t survive. The suicide bomber can target military personnel, government officials, supply convoys or just plain folks. So can any other combatant, legal or illegal, uniformed or not. Suicide attacks give us the heebie-jeebies for reasons separate from the morality of the target: suicide attacks freak us out because they’re very hard to defend against, they are sneaky by design, and they betoken a level of commitment on the part of the attacker that unsettles us back in the hindbrain. Since it scares us, we prefer to pretend that one person killing himself to blow up a pizza place is somehow more abominable than a thousand people safely firebombing every pizza place in a city from the air, as well as every house and garage and grocery store and restaurant and factory.

9% of Muslims refused to answer the “Are suicide attacks against civilians ever justified to defend Islam.” If I were a Muslim, I might join the 9% on the “Wow, you’ve really constructed that question to carefully apply to what a few people who look like me do, haven’t you?” grounds. The real ethical question is, “Are deliberate attacks against civilians ever acceptable?” Greenwald has the data on just where you can find enthusiasm for the idea that they are.

No comments: