L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 216, March 24, 2003
Shucks and Aw!
Why It's Wrong
by Bob Tipton
Exclusive to TLE
The long-awaited announcement this evening that the President is going to prematurely end the lives of several thousand unique human beings has put me into a deep funk. Thankfully, I gave up on watching the news ages ago, so I won't be subjected again to a seemingly endless stream of camera-in-the-nose-of-the-bomb video clips. If it's technologically sophisticated, it must be morally sophisticated, right? Wrong. That little girl doesn't care that her arm was blown off by a multi-million dollar piece of ordinance that combines the best talents of electrical, aeronautical, and chemical engineers. She doesn't care that the pilot of the plane that delivered the ordinance is flying at altitudes that approach space flight. To her, there's no difference between being on the receiving end of this particular culmination of man's intellectual achievement and having her arm hacked off by a machete. In either case, her world is shattered. Don't tell me about how every effort is going to be made to prevent this from happening. All of these reassurances are invariably followed by assertions that "collateral damage" is inevitable. It's not inevitable. If you don't drop the bomb on people you can't see, it doesn't happen. It can never be moral to kill people en masse, knowing full well that some of the people you kill have done you no harm. Self defense isn't a valid justification. Just because I'm drowning doesn't make it ok for me to grab the life vest from a young child to save myself.
There's a reason why a personal weapon feels right in your hand. You don't fight Kurds, Communists, or any other group with a personal weapon. You fight that guy over there, the one with the green shirt, who looks like he wants to be somewhere else. You fight him because he's done something that has you convinced that you or someone you care about is going to suffer at his hands. You have to make a decision each time you pull the trigger about whether or not what you're doing is justified, and you have to accept the responsibility for each and every mistake that you make. Would we accept it if the police started shooting everyone in a bank when there's a robbery, simply because they knew one of the victims was a criminal?
There's a reason why is seems wrong to kill a thousand people with the push of a button. You can't tell if the people you're killing constitute a genuine threat to you, or if they're families huddled together in terror. When you willingly kill other human beings simply because an authority figure has told you it's something that has to be done, you deny the idea that each human life is unique. You can't think of yourself as an individual any longer, because to do so would require the realization that the people you've killed were individuals as well, with fathers, mothers, sons and daughters of their own. You reduce human beings to animals in your mind in order to avoid the guilt of what you've done. At some level, you recognize the impossibility that your own loved ones are human, but that the loved ones you killed were somehow sub-human. Facing the fact that the people you've killed indiscriminately were human, you're forced to reduce the humanity of your own loved ones to shield yourself from the guilt.
The glorification of the technology in our weapons systems is repugnant, particularly when there's little, if any, acknowledgement of the human suffering it causes. Imagine if war coverage were slanted the other way. Imagine that the slow motion clips we are shown repeatedly are of bodies being torn apart, rather than precision-guided bombs hitting inanimate objects? How proud would we be then, and how likely would we be to acknowledge the inherent immorality of such indiscriminate killing?