Thursday, April 1

Voting for Life. Final remarks.

[The brief introduction to this exchange is linked on the menu at left as VOTING FOR LIFE: PREAMBLE. The following was written on April 16.]#18
Fanni: To conclude my response, I return to some minor points concerning the drift of our discussion. You wrote:
"I did not say cluster bombs were not used in Iraq, I said they were not used in cities. I stand corrected by the USA Today article. You stand corrected on the number of civilian casualties: You said, 'Calling to death by U.S. firepower and cluster bombs of tens of thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq.'"
I accept that you stand corrected and thank you for your honesty in admitting so. I accounted for your having stated precisely that the cluster bombs were not used in cities (that was the entire point of the p.s. to one of my messages). Allow me to copy the most salient remarks (adding emphasis):
To be precise, you made a distinction between the city and country use of cluster bombs...I don't want you to think that I misunderstood the nature of your flatly false impression. Even more pertinent to your false impression that cluster bombs were not used in cities, then, is the first sentence from the article to which I sent you a link already:
"BAGHDAD. The little canisters dropped onto the city, white ribbons trailing behind. They clattered into streets, landed in lemon trees, rattled around on roofs, settled onto lawns."
And one could add, from further on in the article, the following: "U.S. forces fired hundreds of cluster weapons into urban areas."
You then quoted several numbers from the USA Today report on cluster bomb use by the U.S. military:
"The USA Today article said: 'U.S. forces fired hundreds of cluster weapons from late March to early April, killed dozens and possibly hundreds of Iraqi civilians.'
'One anti-war group calculates that cluster weapons killed as many as 372 Iraqi citizens.'"
Yes, the article does say those things. And that is why it would be naive to believe that the U.S. forces have not harmed and killed civilians unnecessarily. It would also be a dereliction of citizenship not to reflect on the nature of this unnecessary, lawless killing, and ask what its implications are in the "war on terror" in particular, and the consequences of this terror-fomenting and terrorizing use of force not only for those directly involved in the violence, but for future generations of citizens the world over. You also quoted this line from the same report:

"Iraq Body Count...attributes 200 to 372 Iraqi civilian deaths to cluster bombs..."
That was indeed reported; however, it would be irresponsible to quote this last statement without also considering the long-term harm of cluster bombs. This long-term harm is one of the main reasons why this type of weapon as used by the U.S. Army has long been in dispute, as was pointed out in the report you read recently and as discussed widely in debates that you apparently were wholly unaware of before we began our discussion. At the very least, you should have quoted the following statement as well, from the same report:

"The attacks also left behind thousands of unexploded bomblets, known as duds, that continued to kill and injure Iraqi civilians weeks after the fighting stopped."
I do commend you once again on accepting to entertain, at least in an abstract way, a critical attitude towards the Bush administration. I say this because you wrote the following: "I do not approve of killing civilians or of war, nor do I approve of all that the Bush administration does."

I consider the massive killing of Iraqis – the number of which killings, however disputed it is certain to remain, is certain to grow, and has been fattened by a reported 900 deaths in Fallujah this week alone – the majority of which killings involve civilians whose only "fault" was to be living under the command of a tyrant who was falsely accused of being an imminent threat to another tyrant, to constitute massive killing in the same way that "tens of thousands of deaths" is massive, and I see no principle of difference between any numbers I have cited within the range presented by various sources of 17,000 to 55,000 total dead. And let us not forget that the assumption that the soldiers killed were killed justly rests on the highly disputed claim that the U.S. aggression was just, and justified. In any case, this past year, we have witnessed, in the name of democracy and U.S. security, a massive, often indiscriminate violence unleashed on the Iraqi people. Voting for those who have shamelessly overseen the massive killing of civilians and who wage aggressive wars built on a false rationale and phony evidence will, despite your selective criticisms, mark your approval of the Bush administration and thus mark approval or indifference towards the killing of civilians in Iraq this past year in particular (as well as toward a lot of other violence carried out or permitted by the Bush administration in many areas, especially, in my view, with respect to the natural environment). There is no vote that can say, "I support your anti-abortion language and politics, but some or even most of the rest of your actions and policies I reject." That is one reason why, as a voter, viewing the issue of abortion as if it existed in a vacuum of ethical certitudes is both impossible and irresponsible.

After you cited statistics from the USA Today report of the U.S. Army's use of cluster bombs in civilian areas in Iraq, you added a strangely unqualified and not properly introduced or referenced statistical claim:

"In the two months of March-April 2003, 218,833 innocent human beings were killed by abortion in the U.S."
Is this an attempt to gesture towards an argument? If you would like to make an argument that calls for the importance of calculating and comparing numbers of abortions with numbers of deaths caused by other factors, I invite you to do so. I suspect, too, for reasons I explain in my message above, that such an open-minded inquiry would lead you to some surprising conclusions.

I questioned how you feel abortion as a life-and-death issue compares to other life-and-death issues. I have also given pragmatic reasons why voting for Bush is not voting for life, and why candidates who do not cede to corporate indifference in the face of human suffering – there is little profit in the prevention of preventable diseases – can have a much greater impact on life-and-death issues than can Bush. In any case, I invite you to make this argument and note that it stands in contrast to everything you have said to justify abortion as an unmitigated violence; or, in short, to your argument that, for reasons of principle, abortion is a primary form of violence or perhaps the primary form of violence – a form of violence that cuts at the root of the right to life and cannot therefore be properly compared, on quantifiable terms, to other forms of life-threatening or life-ending violence done to living beings, which beings have at least enjoyed the basic right to life. I have given reasons that I think expose the dubious nature of this second line of thinking, and you have left these reasons without comment. Specifically, the claim that the fetus is the "origin of life" obviously neglects the fact that, without a stable, nurturing natural and human environment, no fetus would ever be created. Granting it the status of "absolute origin" thus serves to dismiss a whole range of increasingly menacing challenges to human life and to diminish cruelly the importance of the unborn who are not yet fetuses, as if life deserved respect only at the moment that a fetus is created, and no sooner, and not from a more general perspective. To conclude, although I do not think I will persuade you to change your thinking in any substantial way, I am marking here both principled and pragmatic doubts concerning the basis of your support for George Bush and his pernicious administration of national and international affairs.