Ethics: July 2006 Archives

Mark Shea is accusing Michael Ledeen of National Review Online of encouraging "murder." As many commenters point out, this is a complete misreading of Ledeen's words. Essentially, Ledeen is agreeing with a Ralph Peters article, which argues that terrorist thugs in Afghanistan and Iraq should be killed in almost all circumstances.

On Catholic Light, I've consistently argued for this position, more or less. There is nothing wrong, legally or morally, with killing illegal combatants. There should be a just mechanism for determining whether they are illegal combatants, if there is a doubt in particular cases. But they should be killed to deter others, and because justice demands it.

Morally, there is nothing wrong with killing terrorists who wield lethal force with the intent to overthrow a legtimate state. The reservations expressed about the death penalty in the Catechism are not really applicable outside the West and other settled, civilized countries. In Iraq and Afghanistan, truly there are no alternatives to killing those who would destroy any possibility of a just society.

Legally, there is absolutely no reason to respect anything other than the basic human rights of terrorists. That includes treating these thugs like adults, i.e., rational human beings capable of choosing their vocation of murder and mayhem. The Geneva Conventions have never been construed to include people who blow up marketplaces, mosques, and commuter buses. Yet we see the spectacle of well-educated, seemingly reasonable people arguing that terrorists should be treated like forger apprehended by the FBI.

The people arguing this, almost exclusively, are members of the New Class -- they will not enter military service themselves, nor will their children, nor will hardly any of their relatives. Terrorists in the Middle East and Central Asia will not threaten their upscale lives. Their sentiments are the secular equivalent of "cheap grace" -- it costs them nothing to shed tears over the fates of detainees, but it gives them that frisson of moral superiority they crave.

Yet Mark Shea is not a member of the New Class. I've given up trying to analyze his motivations when he uncorks a bottle of fresh malice and pours it out on his blog. You all are welcome to speculate as you wish. I do think it's ironic that Shea is fond of hurling wild accusations of malefaction while misrepresenting what other people say.

What? Who?

On life and living in communion with the Catholic Church.

Richard Chonak

John Schultz

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This page is an archive of entries in the Ethics category from July 2006.

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