Obama, groping through the moral twilight of drone warfare

OK, so it's really a picture of the president touring Carlsbad Caverns with his family last month, but it seemed to go with my headline.

OK, so it’s really a picture of the president touring Carlsbad Caverns with his family last month, but it seemed to go with my headline.

Today, the Obama administration owned up to a number of bystanders killed a collateral damage in drone strikes:

The United States has inadvertently killed between 64 and 116 noncombatant civilians in drone and other lethal attacks against terrorism suspects in places not considered active war zones, the Obama administration said Friday.

The unintentional deaths came in a total of 473 CIA and military counterterrorism strikes up to the end of 2015 that the administration said have taken between 2,372 and 2,581 militants permanently off the battlefield in countries where the United States is not at war, which would include Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya.

The release was accompanied by an executive order, signed by President Obama, designed to give added weight to existing administration standards and procedures governing the use of lethal force and for limiting civilian casualties….

So. 473 drone strikes. At least 2,372 people regarded as enemies of the United States killed. And the tradeoff is as many as 116 folks who were minding their own business, snuffed out without warning by hellfire from the sky.

What do we think about that? Are the attacks justified? Is the tradeoff morally defensible? Can we rationalize killing an innocent person for every 20 terrorists?

The administration released this information in connection with the president’s promise to be more transparent about his “I’ve got a list” program of drone warfare.

By disclosing, he’s pulling us in, sharing the burden. Now that we know, it’s more on us. We, too, are walking about in a moral twilight. How do feel about that?

Excuse this digression….

Are you familiar with the naval battle that occurred outside Boston Harbor between HMS Shannon and USS Chesapeake on 1 June 1813? Up to that point in the War of 1812, there had been several one-on-one battles between British and American ships, and the infant U.S. Navy had won all of them — which had really shaken up the Royal Navy. They were used to fighting the French, and always winning.

Philip Broke, commander of HMS Shannon, had been blockading Boston Harbor for months. He was low on water and other provisions and couldn’t stay on station much longer. But he didn’t want to leave without having had a chance to reclaim the Royal Navy’s honor against the Americans. So he sent a note into the harbor to Capt. James Lawrence of the Chesapeake, challenging him to come out and fight.

Lawrence did so that very day (although coincidentally, on his own initiative, not because of the note). And after a furiously intense 15 minutes of fighting in which 252 men were killed or wounded, Shannon had won. Lawrence, who was mortally wounded in the battle, famously said “Don’t give up the ship!” as he was taken below — but moments later, his men were forced to do just that. He died of his wounds three days later, as his captured ship was being taken to Halifax.

Broke, too, was gravely wounded. He survived, and was made a baronet for his victory, but his injuries ended his active service for good.

This story is told in vivid detail in one of Patrick O’Brian’s novels, The Fortune of War. As you know, I’m always trying to get everyone I know to read these books about Captain Jack Aubrey and his particular friend, surgeon Stephen Maturin, and I recently persuaded my wife to read this one.

To her, Broke’s note challenging Lawrence made no sense.

And yes, it does seem a bit irrational, like two boys meeting on a playground and saying simultaneously, “I can beat you!” and going at it. Boys who’ve heard too many stories about jousting knights in shining armor.

But there was a time when behavior such as Broke’s was universally lauded, held up as an ideal. And I confess I’m atavistic enough to feel admiration for him, while at the same time seeing that whole war as an absurd waste. (I contain multitudes.)

And I have to wonder: Was there not honor in inviting the enemy out to a fair fight, one in which the challenger’s life was on the line as much as anyone’s? A fight in which many were killed, but all were legitimate combatants? Are we better, more rational, more enlightened, more admirable now that we fight wars like this instead?


The initial exchange of gunfire between Chesapeake and Shannon.

55 thoughts on “Obama, groping through the moral twilight of drone warfare

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Of course The Guardian — whose editors get up every morning thinking, “How can we make the Americans look as bad as possible?” — immediately challenged the president’s numbers, saying the number of bystanders killed is more like 800.

    Of course, the number isn’t the point. The point is whether any number of noncombatants killed is acceptable in waging war.

    By choosing our tactics, we choose how many civilians to risk. Drone warfare is far easier on bystanders than the bombing raids of World War II — technology allows us to be more precise.

    Boots on the ground are even less indiscriminate. But several people other than bin Laden were killed by the SEALs in the compound in Abbottabad that night, and only one of them was armed.

    There’s always a difficult moral calculus involved in the use of deadly force.

  2. Doug Ross

    The moral calculus is an equation any second grader could figure out. 1 innocent killed = immoral.

    You think we will ever make peace with the relatives of the innocent murder victims? Every one killed is a recruiting bonanza for the terrorists.

    1. Brad Warthen

      So you’re a strict pacifist? Because what you’re saying is there is no just war.

      Or are you saying that yeah, some wars are unavoidable, but never forget that even then, killing is wrong? There’s a certain bitter logic to that. It’s the thing that most combat veterans struggle to deal with.

      1. Doug Ross

        There’s a big difference if you KNOW civilians will be killed in a specific military action. That is murder. If there is any evidence of civilians in the area where a drone might be used, nothing should be done.

        Anyway, we are not at war. So there’s no point in discussing a just war. We are like a SWAT team that shoots through a hostage’s head to kill the bad guy.

        1. Tex

          So what does the enemy do.. set up camps in hospitals, schools, center of villages. They kidnap civilians and use them as human shields. How do you fight a war when you’re not allowed to attack if a single civilian may be harmed? Bad things will happen during times of war. What you’re wanting is what will create another Vietnam. Do you think the terrorists are concerned about killing civilians… because this is who they are selecting to attack. I don’t see many ISIS fighters targeting military targets.

          1. Doug Ross

            The enemy is on the other side of the world. Let’s deal with the ones who are actual threats here.

            1. Tex

              The problem is the tiny terrorist cells in this country are taking orders from leaders on the other side of the world. They aren’t independent terrorists, more than likely they get permission before going through with an attack. This is a much larger and more complex organization than the local gangs within a city. Dealing with North Korea can be monitored and ignored, dealing with ISIS is no where near close, even though their tactics are primitive in comparison.

    2. Tex

      So what’s your solution? What do we do with the bands of terrorists who blow up innocent people going about their daily lives? Just ignore them?

      There is a term called “culling”. Not only do you take out the the people or animals causing the problem, you take out those that will follow in their footsteps and produce more terrorists (women and children). The US military did it to Indians (Native Americans for the PC folks) and it had not been for the Indians seeing this and signing treaties they would have been completely wiped out as a people. It’s how you get rid of pests, vermin, and the like.

      1. Doug Ross

        My solution is to leave the region alone. Get out, go home. Monitor them with our vastly superior technology. Don’t play the whack-a-mole game that we’ve been playing for decades with no success.

        1. Tex

          What happens when they attack in this country? Do we continue to ignore them? To kill a snake you have to cut off the head. The head isn’t in the US.

        1. Tex

          Back in the mid-to-late 1800’s they were viewed as so.

          But I see where you were going with this, unfortunately for you I’m not that dense.

  3. Phillip

    Not just the Guardian challenging those numbers. It’s pretty much any independent human rights organization that has tried to verify the numbers, that believes they are significantly understated.

    1. Brad Warthen

      And what’s the point of disputing the numbers? Does 116 make it acceptable while 800 does not? Where’s the line?

      Arguing over that seems pointless. The moral question is the same; it just gets applied to a different number of people.

      1. bud

        Wow Brad. I find your statements breathtakingly callous. Of course the numbers matter. Duh. If the numbers are relatively small then maybe, just maybe you can argue that we’re doing our best to keep civilian casualties to an absolute minimum. If, on the other hand, the numbers are large in relation to the number of actual terrorists killed then obviously it’s absurd to claim we actually care about civilian lives. Math is important. Intuition, not so much.

        Let’s get a good, honest accounting of the number of women, old men and children who are horribly and cruelly massacred by the drones. Then we can do some more calculating to estimate how many terrorists we create when we kill someones child. If the number of terrorists killed by the attacks are greater than the number of new terrorists created when we kill an innocent child then perhaps the attack is worthwhile. (Setting aside the moral question for now) If, on the other hand, we determine that fewer terrorists are killed than created then it’s pretty obvious the strategy is failing.

        Of course this is probably overly simplistic but it’s a place to start. Until we do some actual analysis of the facts we will never be able to properly assess the effectiveness of the strategy. Clearly the administration has a vested interest in keeping the numbers small. Thankfully we don’t have to rely on them for the truth. That’s why the folks at the Guardian and other impartial watchdogs are so important.

        1. Tex

          What bud and Doug are saying is we can only fight a losing war. I’d be curious if ether have any kind of military training? Because if we follow the rules and the enemy doesn’t we will be neutered and will lose the war. The enemy doesn’t haven a problem of walking into a crowded market or train station and blow up innocent civilians. We blow up an enemy camp and kill one innocent civilian bud and Doug call this a target that should have been avoided.

          Were carpet bombings during Vietnam and large bombing raids during WWII wrong? Are those air crews villians in bud’s and Doug’s minds? Were the Doolittle Raiders cowards, were Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings wrong?

            1. Tex

              When someone hits you, do you get up, dust yourself off and walk away ignoring them and hoping they won’t hit you again? No, they kill one of yours, you kill 100 of theirs. Trading blow for equal blow doesn’t work.

            2. Tex

              Talk to people who come back from these areas and ask if we shouldn’t be there. Most if not all will tell you that we should be there and we should not be hamstringing our soldiers and let them do their job without having to get 4 levels of approval before pulling the trigger on people shooting at them. Vietnam could have been won if it hadn’t been for the politics. The people in the field and air know what needs to be taken out, not the politiicans in Washington who more than likely never left the country (or in our great SC Marine self titled hero John Courson who never left the state) during the time of war. Courson likely fired a rifle after his time in boot camp.

          1. Doug Ross

            I have no military background. I’m not good at taking orders or killing innocent people. I lack the macho gene that many military people have and feel obligated to use. There hasn’t been a war in my lifetime worth sending our troops to die for.

            1. Tex

              I’m going to pull what bud pulled on me, ” I’m not good at taking orders or killing innocent people.”

              So that’s what you feel joining the military means? That everyone in the military joins to kill innocent people? If so, then that’s a very unfair opinion of our service men and women. Less than 5% of them will ever fire a weapon outside of qualifying.

              Doug, I agree with 98% of what you have to say on this blog until it comes to the military. Then I expect to see you as one of those old hippy protesters that stand out front of the State House on Wednesday afternoons protesting the military.

              1. Doug Ross

                Whatever we are doing militarily to fight terrorism hasn’t worked. Ever. It has only made the situation worse. It’s a fight we cannot win because the people we are fighting are brainwashed zealots. The more we fight them there, the more innocent people we kill, the more emboldened they become. The message we should be sending is that if they want to kill each other, go ahead. Defend our borders to the utmost but let them keep doing what they’ve been doing for centuries.

              1. Doug Ross

                Sorry, Bryan. I don’t ask anyone else to fight this unwinnable war for me. I don’t expect it, I don’t want it. I hope all those soldiers engaged in this useless activity are brought home.

        2. Tex

          I wonder if ISIS leaders stay awake wondering if they made a wrong decision in approving the attacks on their targets? I wonder if they care that their victims were 100% civilians and 0% military. The pacifists here are upset because 5% civilians and 95% enemy fighters were killed during a bombing attack. That target should have been scrubbed according to some here. I’ll take those numbers all day long, if we run out of bombs we can make more.

          1. Doug Ross

            That’s what hopefully makes us different. And that is why we can never defeat them. They are born into hatred and it has existed for centuries before the u.s. existed.

            Why isn’t ISIL attacking Switzerland, Canada, Finland, etc.?

            1. Tex

              Why didn’t Mike Tyson fight the New Mexico Golden Glove Heavyweight runner up? There’s nothing to gain by fighting a nobody.

              They seem to think France is worth attacking. Which reminds me of the old military joke, “For Sale: French military rifle, never fired and only dropped once.”

  4. bud

    And people wonder why there are so many terrorists in the world. Seems like we really don’t hold the moral high ground when we kill hundreds of innocent civilians and blandly refer to them as “collateral” damage.

    1. Tex

      So what bud is saying is terrorists are the result of US (and US only) military decisions. If the US military were disbanded terrorist cells would just go away. So the Miss America correct answer for world peace is to rid the world of the evil US military.

      I learned something today. But I’m still confused as to why these terrorists don’t attack the source and decide to blow up a crowded market and train station instead. You’d think they’d want to kill those who killed their people and not just random people going about their normal day. bud may have missed his calling as a military strategist.

  5. Tex

    This whole situation could be easily avoided if the sides would just fight Revolutionary War style. Put on brightly colored uniforms, march in close formation straight rows, line up 20 feet from each other in open fields and open fire. Very few civilian casualties. I wonder what the volunteer rates would be for a war with 80+ percent casualty rates among fighters would be, we may have to bring back the draft.

  6. Karen Pearson

    These terrorists are fighting a Holy War, and those are horrible. Check what the Crusaders did to Christian Constantinople. Their motivation comes down to “us against everybody.” Because they believe that God is on their side, and wants them to win, they have no problem killing anyone whose belief system doesn’t match their’s. A parallel would be the Biblical marching orders God gave to the Israelites just before they enter the promised land. Because it’s God’s orders, and because the truly innocent (from their point of view) will go straight to heaven, they have no moral problem with killing innocents. The problem is, that we are infidels, therefore we need to be dispatched to hell whether we bother them or not. Leaving them alone doesn’t stop them from killing more and more innocent people. Arguably, they will kill any innocent victims we leave for them. The tactical and political (world politics) problems that we must deal with to effectively fight them are legion. What we are doing now pretty much amounts to containment while we hope they get their own countries mad enough to deal with them. If we don’t fight, they murder us and others with impunity. If we go in with the force necessary to take them out, we would effectively be declaring war on the countries that they are inhabiting, unless we can talk those countries into letting our forces in which is more than a little unlikely.

  7. Harry Harris

    It’s a moral dilemma worth struggling over. Unquestioning certainty on either side is problematic and can lead to behavior and cultural attitudes for which we will pay longer than a few decades as in the “Indian problem,” other genocides, and some other documented war crimes. The establishment of Israel as a modern nation is an example of ongoing conflict born from “good” intentions without considering the impact on the full neighborhood.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Harry, thanks for getting back to the original question, to some extent (I’d still like to see some discussion over the relative morality of drones as opposed to other means of fighting our enemies.)

      As for what you bring up… I’m no student of the founding of modern Israel, but from what little I know, “the impact on the full neighborhood” was very much considered.

      The question was, is, and always will be, “What else are we going to do?”

      What are you going to do with the Jewish settlers who were there at the time of the founding? What are you going to do with the millions who have returned from the Diaspora since then, and worked hard to make a home?

      That’s what it all comes down to. Israel is not going away; nor should it. If you believe it SHOULD, then you need to explain where all those people go next.

      “The full neighborhood” needs to make peace with Israel. And that starts with accepting the existence of Israel.

  8. Brad Warthen Post author

    As I just said to Harry, I’d still like to see some discussion over the relative morality of drones as opposed to other means of fighting our enemies.

    Is it right? Is it honorable? If not, what alternatives are preferable.

    We always seem to veer off into the universe that Bud and Doug inhabit, in which the United States is this little, insular country with no concerns, interests or responsibilities in the rest of the world — ignore the world and it will go away.

    Could I hear from some of you who understand, as I do, that we must deal with these global complexities, and have a discussion about the best ways of doing so? That’s where I tried to take us with the post…

    1. Bryan Caskey

      I don’t think there is a moral difference between using a drone (unmanned aircraft) vs. using a manned aircraft, say an F-16, to launch a missile at a target. In both instances, you’re launching a strike from a stand-off distance.

      I think the main difference is that there is zero risk of loss of life in a drone, whereas even an innocent mechanical failure on an F-16 (not to mention getting shot at by ground fire) could kill the F-16 pilot. It’s also probably cheaper to conduct strikes with drones.

      I don’t think it’s “dishonorable” to use drones if the idea of honor somehow requires placing a life into jeopardy. It’s not a sport. It’s not a duel between gentlemen in the 1800’s The military isn’t looking for a “fair fight” where our enemies have an equal chance to kill us. Everything we can leverage to make it an “unfair” fight should be done. I don’t know the source, but the saying “If you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck” is true.

      It seems like the most that we have the political will to do at this point is to engage in limited drone strikes and have special forces engage in tangential ways. To me, that’s a dumb way to fight an enemy. One of the overlooked parts of the Powell Doctrine is the idea that once you decide to use military force, you go in with overwhelming force to force a decisive victory in a short amount of time to minimize US casualties and force the enemy to capitulate.

      I don’t think anyone could argue we’re doing that with regard to ISIS*, or whatever you want to call them. An argument could be made that simply dragging out the violence by doing just a little is less moral than forcing a decisive capitulation.

      *Robert E. Lee used to refer to the Union forces as “Those People”. As in, “Those people are up there [on Seminary Ridge] and I intend to attack them.” Maybe I’ll start calling ISIS “Those People”.

    2. Doug Ross

      “Could I hear from some of you who understand, as I do, that we must deal with these global complexities, and have a discussion about the best ways of doing so?”

      In order to do that you would have to a) explain why that is a primary responsibility of the United States (and if you use WWII as your defense, we’re done) and b) defend the use of limited resources for those purposes over using those same resources to help better the lives of Americans. You want it all and don’t care if or how it can be paid for. You will never get single payer healthcare as long as you want the U.S. to be the world’s policeman.

      I am fully supportive of ENGAGING with the rest of the world. I don’t support trying to change the behaviors of cultures that will not change and hate us more for trying to meddle in their affairs.

  9. Bob Amundson

    “is it honorable?” Honorable warfare stopped in the 19th century. Fight to won, minimizing your loses and maximizing the enemy’s loses.

  10. Bob Amundson

    I spent two days hiking the Gettysburg Battlefield last week, explaining to my wife the battle. Walking the area where so many died is an emotional experience. A wonderful goal is to end all war; IMHO, it’s just not currently realistic.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      What blew my mind was standing behind that rock wall up on the ridge and looking down at the ground that Pickett’s Charge advanced over. I just couldn’t believe men did that.

      I was impressed by Little Round Top, too. But the vastness of that flat ground without cover is what inspired awe…

      1. Bob Amundson

        Unbelievable to me the courage of the soldiers; some even reached the “Highwater Mark of the Confederacy” (The Angle). Would our world be different if the South had broken through and taken Cemetery Ridge?

    2. Bryan Caskey

      Very cool that you went to Gettysburg around the same time they fought the battle. Did you plan it that way?

      I have to confess I still haven’t been.

      1. Bob Amundson

        My niece was married in Hershey, but we purposely scheduled extra time to revisit Gettysburg. It was not cool! It was humid, and we got wet twice because of afternoon thunderstorms. .We experienced a few of the challenges (humidity, walking, ticks) the soldiers faced. However, each day ended with ice cream and a soft hotel bed.

        1. Bryan Caskey

          I imagine it was quite hot. I was using “cool” idiomatically. I believe that Shelby Foote visited all the Civil War battlefields around the calendar date they were fought while doing research for his book, The Civil War. I read Cain at Gettysburg last year, and enjoyed it immensely.

          Gettysburg is on my bucket list along with Chancellorsville, Fredricksburg, Vicksburg, and Chickamauga. There are others, but those are my Top 5. I’ve been to Appomatox and confirmed that there was a Caskey on the rolls of Confederate soldiers who surrendered there.

          My family has an old story that my Caskey ancestor who surrendered there with Lee’s army held Traveler when Lee dismounted and went inside to sign the surrender. It was just an old story, and nothing confirms or refutes it, but we did confirm that a Caskey was at least present, so the story is plausible.

          1. Bob Amundson

            I was just teasing, my friend. The Civil War Battlefields you’ve mentioned are all on our “bucket list” too. My claim to fame is my name is almost the same as the Norwegian who discovered the South Pole, Raold Amundsen. My grandmother was a Bouvier and used to tell me we were related to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy – not true.

  11. Harry Harris

    I don’t see any way to sanitize killing, but we humans often try to do so. Kill only the rascals who deserve to die. Kill only those who threaten to kill us or defenseless innocents. Kill only those who … it’s a stretchable fabric that is conveniently pulled toward covering our favorite cause, religion, prejudice, or even personal desire. My position is that if we spent half the effort we spend trying to justify killing on finding means to solve conflict without killing, we would be much better off. If we spent one fourth of the resources we spend on means to destroy or kill on solving conflicts through cooperative means, we would make great progress. The hard part is getting those other horrible folks to do so.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Sorry, but I don’t see that as an option with ISIS.

      They’re kind of like the alien in “Independence Day.” The president expresses his wish to reason together, and asks, “What is it you want us to do?” The answer: “Die.”

      Yeah, I know — we always demonize the enemy to make him easier to kill. (Which is what the filmmakers were doing –making sure the audience would cheer without reservation as the heroes went to war with E.T.)

      But these guys go out of the way to demonize themselves FOR us. Our nation would go to practically any lengths to avoid all-out conflict (and we’re doing just that). It doesn’t impress these guys…

      1. Harry Harris

        A group that has demonstrated its propensity to killing such as ISIS can likely be stopped from its murderous spread only by force, including a lot of killing. The application of deadly force in cases like that doesn’t preclude an orientation toward finding other means of stopping the evil. That’s what I meant by the “those other folks” comment. I don’t see a way of stopping or even confronting ISIS without some relentless killing. It does, however, matter who is on the ground in front of the attack because of the recruitment value of an “invading” force. I’d much rather the use of unmanned drones or stand-off aircraft against ISIS because of the propaganda value of downing an American pilot of capturing American soldiers. I also value protecting our fighters by using any means not likely to kill numerous non-combatants.

  12. Bart

    Why bother discussing the morality of war of any kind? War in itself is immoral because ultimately, innocent civilians are victims, victims who simply wanted to live their lives without fear of death from a stray bullet, a misguided mortar shell, collateral damage from a bomb or drone strike, and all of the other ways we can find to kill each other. How can we effectively describe a war as both righteous and moral when a war is usually filled with atrocities commited by all sides involved and innocent lives are lost? Maybe one side has higher moral ground than the other therefore any innocent lives lost do not count as an act of immorality.

    I personally do not believe Obama is pleased over the loss of innocent lives but as president, he has to accept that when he gives the order to take out a terrorist leader, collateral damage is to be expected.

    If anyone believes killing others in the name of religion or conquest of territory, they are wrong. Of course the ones who killed 3,000 civilians on 9/11 truly believed they were right and their slaughter of thousands was a moral and righteous act. In return, we believed our war in Afghanistan and Iraq was justified. Sometimes justification and morality are in conflict with each other.

    Yet, we are placed on the horns of a dilemma when events like 9/11 take place. Do we sit by and do nothing and give the world the impression we are not willing to defend an attack on our soil? Should we have taken another approach and worked toward worldwide disarmament fully understanding there will be countries who will not agree to such a drastic action? Would it prevent ambitious leaders in other countries from taking advantage of the countries who agreed and disarmed?

    Like it or not, during any war, world or regional, atrocities will be commited and innocent lives will be lost through no fault of their own. It is a difficult thing to reconcile and there are many who can and many who cannot. But the harsh reality of this world is that evil does exist and as long as it does, we will continue to ask the same questions and continue to try to make some sense of it all. In conclusion, we lose when we stop asking the questions and give in to the horror and lose hope that we can live in peace. I would rather have hope than lose it. Life without hope, even in the upcoming election, is not worth getting out of the bed in the morning.

    Just my meandering thoughts on the subject.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      See, now I don’t feel even SLIGHTLY “placed on the horns of a dilemma when events like 9/11 take place.”

      I know the thing to do is kill everyone who was involved in the plot, and I don’t feel especially bad about doing the same for anyone who aids or abets them, such as the Taliban.

      I worry a lot about killing. As you know, I don’t believe in capital punishment — if society has a killer in custody so he can’t kill again, the moral thing is to keep him locked up. And if I could put every terrorist in the world into Guantanamo instead of killing them, I would.

      But I also believe that anyone who would conceive or carry out the 9/11 attacks is someone the planet is better off without. I don’t like saying that about anybody. I believe every human being possesses the divine spark. But there are some who just don’t offer you a moral alternative to eliminating them…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Does that mean I could kill them without compunction, without remorse? Probably not. My reason would tell me it was justified, but I’m not at all sure I could live with it. Relatively few people can…

        1. Doug Ross

          And what is weird is that if someone asked me to push the button to fire up the electric chair to kill Dylan Roof (or any similar killer), I wouldn’t pause for a second. He did the crime, he can get his just punishment. The worst thing a human being can do is take an innocent life on purpose — that includes collateral damage when someone rationalizes X innocent lives versus Y evil ones. It’s murder. If you believe in a higher power, you should expect that it is considered the ultimate sin to do that. If you believe in a higher power, you should expect protection from evil without committing murder.

          1. Tex

            Just so we get back on to the subject of war, would return fire on someone firing at you? How about if the enemy was firing on someone other than you and you had a clear shot? As in Vietnam, would you shoot a kid walking toward soldiers and carrying a “shoeshine box” that was actually a bombs? Notice how each question gets more difficult.

      2. Tex

        I don’t have a problem with that… put them in Guantamano, then forget that they’re there. It’d be a shame if there was a fire.

        If one of your children had been in one of the towers, would your opinion about those who carried out the attack differ? Your child dies, but the attacker gets to live and live in a climate controlled cell eating three hot meals a day?

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