Monday, September 27, 2004

Steve Hays doing his own blogging research on the War

Steve Hays does some detailed work to respond to a article by a Christian religious leader with regard to the Church's stance on the Iraq war.

"Thus far, your article consists in a string of assertions instead of arguments. However, you go on to cite some statistics, the purpose of which is, I gather, to bolster your case. You say that at least 10,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed, along with more that 900 American soldiers, and that ‘thousands more have been wounded and maimed on both sides of the conflict.’'

Both sides'? The last sentence is fascinating for what it reveals about your ethical center of gravity. Are you insinuating some sort of moral equivalence between American soldiers and suicide bombers?On the one hand, we have American soldiers are risking their lives to defend the civilian populace; on the other hand, we have a terrorist network that is targeting the civilian populace. The death of American soldiers is tragic, but that is really beside the point.

In any war, soldiers are killed. Even just-war criteria war take that much for granted. In addition, Catholic moral theology operates with the double-effect principle. Collateral damage may be an inevitable and licit side-effect of a just war. If you don’t agree with this, don’t invoke just-war theory in the first place.

You then say that ‘justifications proposed by the president and other leaders have proven false: no weapons of mass destruction, no involvement by Iraq in the 9-11 attacks or in sponsoring al-Qaida.’But there are numerous errors in this summary:

i) When or where did the president or any of his war cabinet ever propose an Iraq/9-11 link as a justification for the war? Can you produce a single hyperlink (emphasis mine) to any speech or interview or press conference in which the war was predicated on such a connection?You seem to be parroting a popular urban legend about the causus belli. Maybe you need to go back and check your sources.

ii) I’d add that if you read the Congressional war resolution, the causus belli is broader than WMD or al-Qaida. So, on the one hand, you’ve oversimplified the official causus belli while, on the other hand, you’ve intruded a gratuitous justification (an Iraq/9-11) link which was no part of the official causus belli.

I have to wonder if this is the quality of scholarship you bring to your NT writings. It is your habit not to consult primary source data before you go to press?

iii) We need to draw an elementary distinction between being right and being in the right or having the right. We must often make important decisions based on insufficient evidence. Life confronts us with forced options, as Williams James has said. But the moral warrant for a particular action does not depend on our being right.

I see a man breaking into a house. I call the cops. It turns out that the man was not a house-burglar, but the homeowner, who had locked himself out of his own home. Was I right to call the cops? No. Was I in the right to call the cops? Yes.A suspect brandishes a toy gun and points it at a policeman. From a distance, the toy gun looks like the real deal. The policeman shoots him dead. Was the policeman right? No. Was the policeman in the right? Yes.The most that we can expect of a president is not that he be right, but that he be reasonable, acting on the best evidence at hand, and opting for the most likely rather than least likely interpretation of the evidence.The salient question is not whether Bush was right, but whether he had the right to act on what he thought he knew.

What was the state of prewar intel? Just off the top-of-my head, I'm able to come up with the following:

a) In his biography (American Soldier), Tommy Franks says he was told by both King Abdullah and Hosni Mubarak that Saddam had WMD. So that was the state of Arab intel.

b) Bob Woodward, in his new book (Plan of Attack), quotes George Tenant as assuring Bush that Saddam had WMD. So that was the state of CIA intel.

c) Lord Bulter’s report reaffirms the finding of MI-6 that Saddam was trying to acquire yellowcake from Africa. So that was the state of British intel.

d) Putin warned Bush of planned Iraqi attacks on the mainland. So that was the state of KGB intel.

e) Former UNSCOM inspectors like David Kay and Richard Butler, in various prewar interviews, assured the public that Iraq had WMD. So that was the state of UN intel. BTW, I even heard Hans Blix, on Hardball, express his surprise that we didn’t find WMD in Iraq. He also admitted that inspectors could never have done their job as long as Saddam was calling the shots.

f) Iraqi defectors, such as a nuclear scientist, gave many prewar interviews affirming a WDM program.

So that was the state of Iraqi intel.Even assuming that all this turns out to have been false, would it not have been recklessly irresponsible of Bush to disregard all this information? Is it your position that a commander-in-chief, after escalating attacks on American interests abroad under his predecessor, and culminating in the attack under his own watch on 9/11, should disregard the information he was being fed by his own DCI, by MI-6, by the KGB, by Arab leaders, as well as former UNSCOM inspectors and Iraqi defectors? It is better to be right than wrong, but as I say, we often have no choice in life but to act on the basis of inadequate information, for both action and inaction carry potential and unforeseeable consequences.

Relative risk assessments are made all the time in various walks of life, by drug companies, insurance companies, by gov't when issuing a mandatory evacuation orders in case of a tornado, hurricane, volcanic eruption, wildfire, &c., or when it quarantines a carrier or infected population group to prevent an epidemic or pandemic; when the military decides to vaccinate its servicemen, when it devises a battle plan, &c. "

And Steve doesn't even work for CBS. Read the whole spankin thing. It's in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2.

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