Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Abortion- by- bomb

In case you didn't get your fill of the atom bomb debate when the Hiroshima and Nagasaki anniversaries rolled around, I'm posting a comment exchange between my friend Zippy and the author of an article at Crisis called "Combatants, Non-Combatants, and Double Effect." I may not have captured all of the back and forth because I haven't been back in a couple of days. But this should give a glimpse of what a genuine massacre looks like.

Intentional murder of the innocent is about the worst thing one can be guilty of. But my impression of the author's main point is that Catholic unity is paramount, that in this case it is permissible to believe that the bombings were murderous, and likewise permissible to believe the opposite. It's okay if you do and okay if you don't. Amazing.

I also note that early in the exchange, it becomes clear that 'rhetoric' in the Deacon's opinion is a dirty word, so I doubt he knows what it really means. Perhaps he was looking for something like the more commonly maligned 'sophistry,' but that's not a dirty word either.

Herewith:

Zippy

I guess abortion is OK as long as it is done with bombs rather than suction aspiration.

Deacon Jim Russell

I've got an idea--would you like to read the article and then offer a comment? Thanks.



Zippy

I did.

Deacon Jim Russell

Oh, Okay.

In that case, let's call things by their proper names.

Direct abortion is deliberately and directly acting upon a child in the womb to kill it.

Therefore, bombs don't cause direct abortions because they don't deliberately and directly target unborn children.

And unborn child who dies as a result of an exploding bomb is killed but not via direct abortion..

But tell me again--what does any of this have to do with the article I wrote?

Zippy

If you aren't directly and deliberately killing people when you directly and deliberately drop bombs on them and incinerate their living bodies then it isn't even possible to discuss morality, let alone practice it.

Deacon Jim Russell

I'm just inviting you to deal with reality, not rhetoric.

It's mere rhetoric to invoke abortion when discussing bombing.

It's not morality to invoke it--it's rhetoric.

If you want to discuss abortion, fine--but that's not what this article was about.

If you want to discuss bombing, then let's discuss that.

Zippy

And I'm just inviting you to deal with the reality of deliberately and directly incinerating living unborn children, as opposed to making them disappear from consideration by labeling them "combatants".

Deacon Jim Russell

I wasn't labeling them "combatants." Never did.

If you have any evidence that the atomic bombs were dropped to deliberately and directly incinerate living unborn children, I'd like to see that evidence.

Zippy

Deliberately and directly exploding a bomb is always the deliberate and direct killing of everyone known to be in the fatal blast radius. The only "evidence" required here is that, among all the other people deliberately and directly killed, there were living unborn children.

Deacon Jim Russell

You're saying the US military leaders *knew* the precise number and location of *every* unborn child in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and deliberately and directly wanted to incinerate them?

I find that hard to believe. I thought there was a difference between deliberate/direct and "indiscriminate."

Zippy

That kind of precise knowledge isn't necessary. If I toss a canister of Zyklon B into a chamber full of innocent Jews, moral evaluation of my act doesn't require me to possess a precise headcount or manifest.

Deacon Jim Russell

That's not an apt comparison--how about this one instead:

Let's say that I'm defending myself from an attacker on a crowded street--I pull out my loaded weapon and fire at the assailant as the assailant raises his loaded gun and aims at me. In that split second, I know that there is a good possibility that if I fire, I might hit someone in the crowd as well as the assailant, but if I don't fire I will surely be shot and killed. One of my shots ricochets and strikes a bystander, killing him.

Am I guilty of murdering the bystander? Did I deliberately and directly kill that person?

Zippy

If you throw a bomb at the assailant and kill all the innocent people in his vicinity then yes, you are guilty of murder.

Deacon Jim Russell

Weird how my example morphed from a gun to a bomb.

Can you respond to the case I proposed? Guilty or not guilty?

Zippy

Were Fat Man and Little Boy not bombs? Aren't bombs a more appropriate comparison to bombs?

Deacon Jim Russell

We'll get there, I assure you. I'd just like to start first with the gun. Guilty or not?

Zippy

No, you answer the bomb question, since the actual subject is actual bombs.

Deacon Jim Russell

Seriously? Good grief. Try this then:

Let's say that I'm defending myself from an attacker on a crowded street--I pull out a very small hand grenade from my pocket and throw it at the assailant as he begins to lob a small hand grenade at me. In that split second, I know that there is a good possibility that my grenade might harm someone in the crowd as well as the assailant, but if I don't throw it, I will surely be killed. When the grenade I threw explodes, it kills the assailant *and* one of the bystanders.

Am I guilty of murdering the bystander? Did I deliberately and directly kill that person?

Zippy

Why won't you unambiguously address the scenario where you unambiguously know with certainty that you will kill innocent bystanders with your bomb? Your reluctance to do so is instructive.

Deacon Jim Russell

*My* reluctance??? We started out in a Nazi gas chamber, remember? As though that's the moral equivalent of our subject....

If there is no reluctance on your part, then give a reply to the case I've proposed. We can go from there. We'll get to the case at hand, I assure you. I have no reluctance in that regard.

Zippy

So you really won't address the actual case of - with full knowledge - blowing up an actual group of innocent bystanders along with your bad guy? Because that was in fact the actual case.

You really should ask yourself why you are refusing to address an actually comparable case, rather than throwing intransitve cases at the wall. Some of your readers might find that question pertinent as well.

Good day to you and your readers.

Deacon Jim Russell

Pure fabrication--I address the actual case in my article and I'm *also* quite content to address it in the combox here.

You really should ask *yourself* why you refuse to respond to the case I've proposed, which is an important building block toward properly understanding the morality of the use of the A-bomb. I think I know why, but I wonder whether you do, too....

Halt94

You really should ask *yourself* why you refuse to respond to the case I've proposed

There is no need to address the case because it is not comparable; a case where innocents *might* be killed is not comparable to a case where innocents *will necessarily* be killed as a direct result of the action taken.

A major mistake you made in the article is with regards to this difference between discriminate and indiscriminate destruction:

Like so many previous deadly attacks on Japan, the nuclear bombings were, rather, intentionally planned and targeted attacks

Whether or not the attacks were intentionally planned and targeted has nothing to do with whether or not the destruction was indiscriminate; what makes for indiscriminate destruction is destruction which does not discriminate between combatants and non-combatants, and the atomic bombs fit that bill. Firing a gun or throwing a hand grenade with the attempt to avoid killing any innocents is discriminate destruction; dropping a bomb that destroys a populated city and kills everyone in its path is indiscriminate destruction.

Deacon Jim Russell

That is not correct. The bombs employed did not indiscriminately destroy a populated city and did not kill everyone in its path.

The question of the A-bombs is one of *proportion*. And it's a particular question of how one defines "innocent".

Once it is established that an act of self-defense against an unjust aggressor that risks killing innocents can possibly be justified--as in the case I proposed, in which someone *was* killed (not "might" be killed), it should become clear that *this* was the moral calculus employed by nations fighting total-war unjust aggressors throughout the Second World War.

This is indeed the proper application of the principle of double effect.

Once you admit what "Zippy" couldn't bring himself to admit--that, yes, it *can* be morally permissible to risk killing innocents if you are a defending nation drawn into a just war against a total-war aggressor, it should be clear that it could be possible that the attacks on Dresden, on Tokyo, on Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and elsewhere might *all* be morally permissible while all simultaneously being horrific and terrible.

Zippy

And it's a particular question of how one defines "innocent".

Well, yes. And if the infants and unborn children indiscriminately targeted in the attack aren't innocent in the pertinent sense (as they are defined to be in Evangelium Vitae by the way) then nobody is innocent in the pertinent sense.

Deacon Jim Russell

No one claims that the infants and unborn who died in any bombing at any time in any war are not innocent. At least I don't.

Zippy

No one claims that the infants and unborn who died in any bombing at any time in any war are not innocent. At least I don't

If you don't dispute the innocence of the infants indiscriminately, deliberately, and directly targeted by the atomic bombs then why is the "particular question of how one defines 'innocent'" even relevant, as you claimed it was?

Deacon Jim Russell

1) the infants weren't targeted.
2) the question of "innocent" pertains to the members of the population who were not only designated by the unjust aggressor as combatants but also thought of *themselves* as such.

Zippy

... the infants weren't targeted.

Of course they were, because a bomb by its nature targets everyone known to be in the blast radius. This is why you refused to answer your own question when it was posed back to you: if someone in a crowd of bystanders is trying to shoot you, and you defend yourself by bombing the whole crowd and killing everyone, have you committed murder?

You won't answer that question forthrightly because to do so unravels your entire moral schema.

Deacon Jim Russell

No, they weren't.

And your claim that I "won't answer" is false.

I *disagree* completely that someone who defends himself with an overly destructive bomb (your twisting of my original proposed case) is *automatically* guilty of committing murder. Many other factors must be considered.

So, what about you--will you answer forthrightly? Are you ready to state your view about my original case with the *gun*? Guilty of murder or not?

Zippy

No, [infants] weren't [targeted].

Apparently you don't know how bombs work. They directly, deliberately, and indiscriminately kill everyone that you know is within the blast radius when you detonate them.

I *disagree* completely that someone who defends himself with an overly destructive bomb (your twisting of my original proposed case) is *automatically* guilty of committing murder.

That wasn't the scenario. If someone in a crowd of innocent people is shooting at you, and you deliberately, directly, and indiscriminately kill the entire crowd of people including your attacker with a bomb, have you committed murder?

Deacon Jim Russell

If someone in a crowd is shooting at me, that crowd can't accurately be described as a crowd of "innocent people." There is an unjust aggressor lurking in the crowd.

Circumstances beyond these facts will need to be assessed to determine whether or when an act of self-defense should be counted as murder.

Are you *ever* going to give me a straight answer about my simple case in which *one* innocent person dies as a result of defending against an unjust aggressor? Is that morally permissible self-defense, or not?

Zippy

If someone in a crowd is shooting at me, that crowd can't accurately be described as a crowd of "innocent people."

Are the infants in the crowd innocent people?

Deacon Jim Russell

I'm officially weary of your refusal to have a good-faith conversation. I gave it a try, but no more. Adios.

Zippy

It is a perfectly legitimate and on-topic question. When Bob knowingly kills a whole crowd of people - including some infants - with a bomb in response to someone in the crowd shooting at him, are the infants in that crowd innocent?

Deacon Jim Russell

My question--which preceded yours--is also perfectly legitimate and definitely on-topic. Yet you refuse, consistently, to answer it.

Again, please answer my question and perhaps we can make some progress in more clearly understanding each other.

Zippy

My question--which preceded yours--is also perfectly legitimate and definitely on-topic.

No it isn't.

Your question has two problems. First, it is ambiguous, because you don't make clear distinctions between accidental death and killing on purpose. Second, as an analogy it moves further away from killing groups of people with bombs.

It is not murder (though it may be negligent) to accidentally kill an innocent person, whether in the process of defending yourself from an attacker or while mowing your lawn.

It is always and without exception morally wrong to kill an innocent person on purpose, as when you knowingly blow a mixed group of people including children and infants to bits with a bomb.

Deacon Jim Russell

We've been too deep in the weeds, and getting deeper. Let's step back a moment from cases and consider a principle instead, in hopes that it will get us farther along.

Is it ever morally permissible to deliberately act in a way that you know will lead to the death of an innocent person?

Zippy

Is it ever morally permissible to deliberately act in a way that you know will lead to the death of an innocent person?

Sure. When a commander orders his men into the breach he knows that the enemy is almost certainly going to kill some of them. But it is not his own act that kills them, even though his action leads to their deaths. His act might be justifiable under the principle of double effect, which applies in this case because his own behavior is not evil in itself.

It is however impossible to deliberately and directly blow a whole group of people to bits with a bomb without intending to kill them all, including the innocent ones known to be present. In this kind of case double effect does not apply, because the person who detonates the bomb knowingly kills all of the people, including the innocent ones he knows are there, in his own act. And of course everyone who formally supports this choice of behavior, e.g. the military commanders at the time and Internet pundits in 2017, formally cooperates with it.

Deacon Jim Russell

Your first paragraph is a good answer, and correct.

Your second paragraph, however, is incorrect.

But let's build on the first paragraph.

Our now-famous ever-shifting scenario comes to mind, but let's shift it a bit more.

First, consider a case in which a pregnant woman points a gun at you to shoot you in the head. You, too, have a loaded gun. You have enough time to pull your gun and shoot her in self-defense. She dies. So does the baby. Are you guilty of the murder of the baby?

Second, consider a *bomb* case. Say you are among a crowd of innocent people a few yards from a crowd of other people that includes some innocent people and some people who are pulling pins on hand grenades, ready to throw them at your crowd of people.

You have just enough time to pull out a loaded gun and shoot the would-be grenade throwers, still holding now-live grenades that explode and kill most of the innocent crowd that surrounded the aggressors.

Are you guilty of murder then?

I'd say no, in both cases.

Zippy

Why talk about cases like pregnant women brandishing weapons, hypothetical cases that have nothing in common with the actual case of civilian children on the ground (and fully known to be so) deliberately, directly, and indiscriminately slaughtered by a bomb dropped on them on purpose? Isn't the point to reach moral clarity on the actual case rather than obscurity through disanalogous casuistry?

Zippy

I love how deliberately, directly, and indiscriminately killing innocent people with bombs is spun as "putting them at risk".

Timothy McVeigh didn't actually murder anyone: he just put them all at risk.

Halt94

did not kill everyone in its path.

A bomb of that magnitude most certainly does kill everyone within a certain radius of the detonation. And it does so indiscriminately; innocents are immolated along with the combatants by the very nature of dropping that particular bomb on that particular location.

that risks killing innocents can possibly be justified

Dropping an atomic bomb on a populated city no more "risks killing innocents" than flying a plane into a building with civilians in it "risks killing the innocent."

Scott W.

Right. Trying to carefully aim at someone trying to kill you and missing is discriminating. Bombs that immolate both the guilty and innocent is indescrimanate.

Zippy

If circumstances can justify abortion-by-bomb then circumstances can clearly justify abortion by other means. Once we are (explicitly or, as here, implicitly) committed to proportionalism/consequentialism then any kind of behavior is permissible, as long as dire enough circumstances obtain.

The idea that infants bombed in the attack are combatants pretty much moots the whole combatant/noncombatant distinction too, so the just war doctrine goes out the window.

The idea that the Holy See has to condemn a specific act in order for that act to be manifestly immoral is risible. Where is the encyclical condemning the Son of Sam killings? After all, firing a gun isn't immoral!

The list of fallacies and bad arguments is frankly too long to even get into them all.

Deacon Jim Russell

There is no such thing as "abortion-by-bomb." That's just unfortunate rhetoric designed to tilt the discussion in the direction you seem to favor.

What largely "moots" the whole "combatant/noncombatant distinction" is the total-war *aggressor's* decision to behave as though every last man, woman, and child in the population is a combatant. That seismic shift is the result of the *aggressor's* immoral choice. And it forces the hand of just-war defenders to have to weigh that fact in their moral decision-making.

And I did not state that the Holy See *had* to condemn every specific act. Rather, I correctly indicate that the magisterium has *not* condemned the specific acts in question, which yields the logical conclusion that faithful Catholics really, really *can* consider the cases in question and perhaps concluded differently as to whether they were morally permissible.

Zippy

So the direct and deliberate killing of unborn children is morally acceptable when done by bomb, but not when it is done by suction aspiration. The specific technology used to directly and deliberately kill unborn children is what makes the difference. And unborn children are combatants because handwaving: the Devil made us treat unborn children as combatants.

The Holy See has never defined suction aspiration as abortion though, so perhaps Catholics are free to disagree over the moral status of the use of that particular technology.

Deacon Jim Russell

You have to make up your mind--was the killing "indiscriminate" or "direct and deliberate"? You can't have it both ways.

And stop moving the goalposts. I wasn't asserting that the magisterium had to condemn the specific "technology" of the bombing--I assert that, without a direct condemnation of the specific moral acts, and given that there *is* the possibility that they were morally permissible, faithful Catholics are free to disagree on that issue.

What the magisterium *does* condemn is the horror of waging total war. It even condemns, obviously, indiscriminate killing of the innocent via wholesale destruction of cities and population centers. It does not condemn the effort of defending countries to use permissible means to bring an end to a total war. And it does not condemn the application of double effect in those efforts.

Zippy

The idea that indiscriminate killing means the killing cannot be direct and deliberate is a false dichotomy. It is certainly possible to directly, deliberately, and indiscriminately kill a group of people with a bomb. That's why people who use bombs to deliberately, directly, and indiscriminately commit murder, like Timothy McVeigh, are charged with murder.

Deacon Jim Russell

Yes, that is true. But in the moral framework of double effect, there is a crucial and necessary distinction--the evil effect is *tolerated* but *not* intended.

This aspect resides *entirely* in the intellect and will of the moral agents involved, and is not something measurable purely by the evil effect itself.

This is one of the points that I think has confused you. You conflate the "deliberate and direct" *decision* to use the bomb with a "deliberate and direct" *intention* to inflict harm and death on the innocent. You make no provision for the fact that, under the framework of double effect, such an evil effect is *tolerated* but NOT intended or willed.

Just because a bombing results in the death of innocents does *not* mean that the moral agent making the decision to bomb *approved* of and *desired* the death of innocents.

Zippy

You are simply begging the question. The principle of double effect doesn't apply when the behavior itself is intrinsically immoral; and you are simply assuming that it is not immoral to directly, deliberately, and indiscriminately kill a group of people with a bomb, many of whom (e.g. the unborn children who are known to be present) are known to be noncombatants/innocent.

Even small children can understand the difference between directly, deliberately, and indiscriminately bombing a targeted group of people (some of whom you know are innocent) versus an accident, where the targeting goes wrong and innocent people are killed accidentally. It takes an adult to try to rationalize away the distinction.

Deacon Jim Russell

I'm not begging the question. Rather, you are presuming too much. You seem to think that the Catholic Church teaches that it is intrinsically immoral to use bombs that place the innocent at risk. But that's not what the Church teaches.

And this is why you refuse to acknowledge that it can be morally permissible to defend one's self even when you risk harming an innocent person. You do not want to admit that this can even be the case when powerful bombs are employed to defend one's country against a total-war aggressor.

Zippy

You seem to think that the Catholic Church teaches that it is intrinsically immoral to use bombs that place the innocent at risk.

Wrong. Driving a car places the innocent at risk. You seem to think that directly and deliberately targeting and killing people with a bomb is the moral equivalent of placing them at risk.

The Church does condemn directly, deliberately, and indiscriminately targeting and killing innocent people with bombs. Many people have pointed this out to you, but you persist in trying to spin it away just because the Church hasn't designated and condemned the specific act - something the Church almost never does. (Not to mention that the argument from silence is itself condemned.)

Again children have no trouble understanding the distinction between accidental unintended death in a risky undertaking versus deliberate killing. It is adults attempting to rationalize the choice of immoral behaviors who spin it as befuddling.

Deacon Jim Russell

Your assessment is false. I'm clearly *affirming* the Church's teaching regarding killing the innocent.

I'm also asserting that it is *possible* to conclude that the wartime decisions that harmed innocents in World War II are not all examples of deliberately targeting and killing the innocent.

You are massively missing the point because you refuse to acknowledge that it is possible that the acts in questions do not, in fact, count as immoral. You are so committed to your view that you seem incapable of considering that another pathway might exist.

Zippy

I'm clearly *affirming* the Church's teaching regarding killing the innocent.

Yes, and then denying it at the same time. Six impossible things before breakfast.

you refuse to acknowledge that it is possible that the acts in questions do not, in fact, count as immoral

Correct. I believe that this is not possible, because the specific case is unambiguous.

Since we are going all meta now, it seems obvious to me that the purpose of the article is quite precisely to assert ambiguity: to reassure readers that they need not repent of their formal support of a gravely evil action.

Deacon Jim Russell

Nonsense. I'm *acknowledging* the truth that more than one view is permissible.

You should, too. Not acknowledging it creates unnecessary division.

Zippy

I'm *acknowledging* the truth that more than one view is permissible.

Only in the same sense that (for example) more than one view of Holocaust denial or alien landings is "permissible". Sure, people believe all kinds of crazy stuff without being formal heretics; and I for one am certainly not accusing anyone of formal heresy.

But "not formal heresy" as a stipulated conclusion doesn't support the assertive ambiguity you are apparently trying to achieve here. It doesn't even support a conclusion of sanity, since the ravings of a madman are not necessarily formal heresy.

You should, too. Not acknowledging it creates unnecessary division.

Still begging the question I see. I should do this only if your whole schema is assumed to be correct (which it isn't, as far as I can tell), and putative division (which seems to be a term you are using for "disagreement", since I'm not advocating any excommunications) is only unnecessary likewise.

Suppose someone believed that widespread formal assent to a manifestly wicked consequentialist war crime of over half a century ago - about which none of us can do anything today in any case - is a clear and present grave danger to souls, right in the here and now?

Is that view also "permissible" in your schema?

And what about the question of what is, you know, not merely "permissible" but actually true? Does that matter at all, or are all opinions equally good as long as formal heresy is avoided?

Deacon Jim Russell

The fact that something other than your account of World War II just *might* be true is pretty much the whole point.

The fact is that some who take your view insist on casting fellow Catholics as wicked people just because their understanding of history leads them to think differently. And your belief that your position is the infallible one is only *one* possible interpretation of the historical facts, based on the Church's moral teaching.

Zippy

The fact that something other than your account of World War II ...

I haven't presented an account of World War II at all.

I am discussing the morality of two specific concrete actions: the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (Though this also applies to e.g. the deliberate, indiscriminate, direct firebombing of civilians in Dresden, Tokyo, etc).

Zippy

Just to clarify: the view that the bombings were gravely immoral and that formal cooperation with them in the here and now is damaging to souls is an impermissible view, in your schema?

Deacon Jim Russell

1) Catholics are free to take the view that the use of the A-bombs was *either* morally acceptable *or* not morally acceptable.
2) For a Catholic to accuse a fellow Catholic of being wicked or the cause of "damaging souls" for taking a view that the use of the A-bombs was morally permissible is both ludicrous and contrary to authentic Catholic unity.

Zippy

“Catholics are free to take the view that the use of the A-bombs was *either* morally acceptable *or* not morally acceptable.”

Yes, and they are also free, in the same sense, to take the view that the Holocaust never happened.

“For a Catholic to accuse a fellow Catholic of being wicked or the cause of ‘damaging souls’ for taking a view that the use of the A-bombs was morally permissible is both ludicrous and contrary to authentic Catholic unity.”

I'll ask the question again: maybe you can interpret it correctly if I phrase it differently.

Suppose a Catholic sincerely believes that the atomic bombings were a terrible, wicked war crime. Suppose this same Catholic believes that people who today formally support those bombings are doing damage to their own souls by engaging in that formal support.

Is this a permissible view, or an impermissible view? If it is impermissible, then what makes it more worse than deliberately, directly, and indiscriminately bombing civilians?

As a follow-up, what makes that view impermissible when believing that the atomic bombings - which deliberately, directly, and indiscriminately killed civilians - is morally licit, is permissible?

Deacon Jim Russell

I've clearly express the claims I wish to make regarding the nature of your views and the views of those who attack fellow Catholics over this issue.

Zippy

So it is impermissible for anyone to believe that the bombings were a grave moral wrong, and that formal assent to them damages souls?

Deacon Jim Russell

1) Catholics are free to take the view that the use of the A-bombs was *either* morally acceptable *or* not morally acceptable.
2) For a Catholic to accuse a fellow Catholic of being wicked or the cause of "damaging souls" for taking a view that the use of the A-bombs was morally permissible is both ludicrous and contrary to authentic Catholic unity.

Zippy

As far as I know, Catholics are "free to disagree" as to whether Timothy McVeigh was guilty of murder. That and five bucks will buy you a Starbucks latte.

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