Sunday, April 4

Voting for Life. The One Unmitigated Violence.

[The brief introduction to this exchange is posted on April 19 as VOTING FOR LIFE: PREAMBLE. The following was written on April 16.]#14
Fanni: Our discussion now requires that we know what distinguishes abortion as an unmitigated violence from other forms of violence. Till this point, you have proceeded by assuming it to be so. It is relevant to this assumption that although you did grant at one point that the U.S. has killed thousands of innocent civilians in Iraq this year, you seem essentially compelled to argue in this case, as perhaps in all other cases not relating to abortion, for the mitigated nature of the violence. And thus, to satisfy this requirement in the present case, you pointed out that, "The Amnesty International report also noted that the U.S. paid '1.5 million dollars to Iraqi civilians to claims by victims or relatives of victims for personal injury, death, or damage to property.'" I note here, as elsewhere, that since you appear compelled to make all non-abortion related violence appear mitigated, you need to exclude that which does not help confirm your guiding principle. Thus, you quoted the above fact while leaving out the statements to which it was leading and in respect to which the payments by the U.S. are presented as, precisely, an unmitigating factor in the unjust manner in which the U.S. forces are conducting their war and occupation (because the payments do not satisfy the demands of justice, just as no punitive damages would ever be said to satisfy the demands of criminal justice). I will quote the entire section, so that you can see that the quote you gave is not, as you make it appear, a wholesale attempt to mitigate or excuse the violence of the U.S. military but, rather, a strong admonishment of the violent and unjust conditions in which the U.S. military has carried out its take-over and occupation of Iraq:

"In November 2003 the US military said it had paid out US $1.5 million to Iraqi civilians to settle claims by victims or relatives of victims for personal injury, death or damage to property. Some of the 10,402 claims reportedly filed concerned incidents in which US soldiers had shot dead or seriously wounded Iraqi civilians with no apparent cause.

Beyond such payments, however, there has been little recourse for the families of the dead and injured. No US soldier has been prosecuted for illegally killing an Iraqi civilian. Iraqi courts, because of an order issued by the US-led authority in Baghdad in June, are forbidden from hearing cases against US soldiers or any other foreign troops or foreign officials in Iraq. In effect, US soldiers are operating with total impunity."
In the context of the report, it would obvious, I think, to any open-minded reader that Amnesty International is calling, in the words of the report itself, "for all killings of civilians by Coalition Forces to be thoroughly, independently and impartially investigated and for perpetrators of unlawful killings to be brought to justice." Consequently, this report is a call for justice as yet denied and not an attempt to highlight alleviating circumstances that would render reckless warfare on civilians permissible, or relatively permissible when compared to any other form of injustice or violence.

Your assumption that "abortion is an unmitigated evil" in some exclusive or pre-eminent way apparently motivates you not to want to view any of the mitigating factors you identify in other situations or practices of violence with the violence of abortion. Thus, for instance, you did not raise the proportional question in this context of whether you would accept monetary compensation as a way to redress the violence of abortions and accept that, as in your implicit understanding the above case of U.S. military violence, the monetary compensation would render abortion a merely mitigated violence. Let's think this suggestion through: the money could be collected in a government-sponsored fund, which would also have a capacity to receive charitable contributions, which monies could then be used to address violent and life-threatening practices the world over. The 'Commission on the State of Unmitigated Evil in the World' could be its name. This impartial commission of researchers could study at length the question of where the most violence and evil is done to humanity, where the greatest compromises to human health and happiness occur, and where and how expenditures of money could most effectively prevent such violence, illness, and death. In reading through this hypothetical case of monetary compensation as a way to mitigate the violence of abortion, you will likely be moved to reply, "I don't do hypotheticals," but this would only mean that you have avoided the non-hypothetical question I am asking (by means of a hypothetical illustration) concerning your assessment of monetary compensation as a mitigating factor, generally. If such compensation mitigates U.S. military violence, why, in principle, can it not mitigate the violence of abortion? That is the non-hypothetical question I am asking. Moreover, you probably cringe at the mere thought of such a commission as I have sketched it out here because you seem to assume that abortion is the world's pre-eminent form of violence and that it cannot be matched in its evilness, by any quantitative or qualitative comparison, with any other form of violence already witnessed, fully underway, or yet to come – and I am obliged to assume that that is your assumption unless you say otherwise. You would, I presume, scoff at the idea of compensation for abortion victims, and I wonder why you haven't scoffed as well at the thought of an Iraqi family receiving one to two thousand dollars, as some have, for the reckless killing of a family member?[1] You are willing to live with certain forms violence that you do not "support" (other than by voting for those whose actions perpetuate those forms of violence) but you are not likely to be able to envisage living with abortion as an evil mitigated by a compensatory fund. And if that is so, why is that so? I wonder why, in one case, derision rises up within you at the thought of monetary compensation for abortions (as I assume it would), while in the other, you seem to call out, "Mitigated!" at the least sign that the U.S. forces are not punishing the Iraqi people collectively and without regard for human dignity, as it has been reported by and by the independent, Fallujah-based Western reporter Rahal Mahajan, that their British allies have claimed of them.

In conclusion, I keep returning to the difficulty I have in understanding the nature of these distinctions you make (as in my previous comments about your radically different understandings of political responsibility concerning the respective cases of Kerry on abortion and Bush on civilian deaths and worldwide pollution, which comments you left unheeded).[2]

This is the pattern you keep returning to, and that I have identified without finding that it has been thought out or supported in any way. You locate what you presume is the one, unmitigated violence, and militate against all those who might, however indirectly, seem to be complicit in it. At the same time, you identify all those who might be its opponents and, in supporting them fully, exhibit what amounts to permissiveness, rationalizing, or indifference on every other issue. In my view, you even expend energy trying to defend the indefensible and criminal acts of a brazenly-led U.S. Army pumped full of misinformation and macho rage, so as not to appear to lose the slightest step in your impassioned devotion to the anti-abortion cause (simply because that misguided Army is being commanded by a President who speaks as if he has the will to further that cause).

What I find unacceptable is the obligation you exhibit to tell others that the violence done to them is merely mitigated violence, whereas the form of violence you focus on is unmitigated. I find equally unacceptable your inability or unwillingness to account for the exceptional or pre-eminent and perhaps heterogeneous nature of this so-called unmitigated violence, and, instead, to repeat it as in an act of faith, as you did in this way:

Robert: "Of all the issues facing us as a nation, I prioritize, and find abortion to be the most significant, and vote accordingly."

Fanni: This is where your dogmatism rings loudest. I have asked you in previous messages and in various ways what makes abortion the most significant life-and-death issue, how it compares to other like issues, and you respond here by saying, in essence, "because it is the most significant." When I inquire as to how you arrive at your prioritization, you reply, "I prioritize." The question for me (that I have posed to you) has never been: what do you put first? The question has been: why do you put abortion first among all forms of suffering and death and injustice in the world?

If abortion were simply or primarily an issue of life, then, after studying the matter for so many years, you would, I assume, be willing and able to explain to me by what means you have determined it to be the most significant. The way you appear to account for this priority is by insisting on the horrific nature of the violence, by disseminating photographs of dismembered and mutilated fetuses, by calling abortion an "unmitigated evil," and by demonizing all those who are more or less complicit in its practice. Still, the insufferable nature of abortion alone does not argue for its exceptional or pre-eminent nature, and it does little for your argument simply to insist on this exceptional status by means of testimony or examples.

[1] Incidentally: 1.5 million dollars seems to me a cynically cheap price to pay for the appearance of legitimacy and justice, when at least 10 thousand civilians had been killed by November of last year at the time the payments were reported by the U.S. military; one need only compare that price to the average price dolled out to each family of the 9-11 attacks, which was nothing other than 1.5 million dollars. 10,000 to 1: is that a fair ratio by which to establish the value of an American life, and the suffering that the loss of that life causes, when compared to the life of an Iraqi, and the suffering Iraqi families undergo who lose their loved ones to reckless, overblown, unjustified military violence? Not even the disparity between the wealth of these individuals and their families could come close to justifying this stark contrast, since the poorest families whose relatives died in the 9-11 attacks received 300,000 dollars each. So, if you think of these questions, and if you take in reports on what is happening in Fallujah these days from a source other than Fox News (as I hope you do), would you still argue, if only by implication, that the U.S. forces have treated civilians with only mitigated violence?

[2]I refer to the following paragraph: "You stated that, "although even one child's death is a tragedy, Bush's 'complicity' in these deaths is indirect and remote." I wonder, do you mean to imply thereby that a pro-abortion candidate such as Kerry is, by contrast, directly and immediately complicit in the deaths of the unborn? If so, on what basis have you made this distinction? Whereas Kerry is (implicitly, but unmistakably) deemed by you to be complicit directly and immediately, Bush is deemed "complicit" (in hedging scare quotes) only indirectly and remotely. As for me, nothing jumps out as being so dissimilar in these two cases. We are talking about politicians who have the power to effect legislation that, in turn, leads to such events as preventable abortions and deaths by preventable diseases. How, then, were you able to distribute your judgments so differently in the two cases? And how were you able to do it without having studied the question of preventable diseases worldwide and the neglect of the issue by both George Bush and the Congress of the United States?