YNATKC (cont’d.)

"You're not allowed to kill civilians."

That sentence, deliberately, lacks specificity. The "you" is universal — it refers to everyone. No one is allowed to kill civilians.

Feel free to provide particulars, to make the statement more specific:

"Bob is not allowed to kill civilians."

Let's be clear that this sentence does not include an unspoken "only" at the beginning. It should not be read as "[Only] Bob is not allowed to kill civilians," but rather as "Bob [like everyone else] is not allowed to kill civilians."

What's true universally is also true specifically for Bob. So let's not just pick on Bob.

* Al-Qaida is not allowed to kill civilians.

* The Badr Brigade is not allowed to kill civilians.

* The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is not allowed to kill civilians.

* The Red Brigade is not allowed to kill civilians.

* The Christian Service Brigade is not allowed to kill civilians.

* The American military is not allowed to kill civilians.

* Hamas is not allowed to kill civilians.

* Hezbollah is not allowed to kill civilians.

* The IDF is not allowed to kill civilians.

* The ATF is not allowed to kill civilians.

* The RAF is not allowed to kill civilians.

* The IRA is not allowed to kill civilians.

* The IRS is not allowed to kill civilians.

* Dick Cheney is not allowed to kill civilians.

* Blackwater is not allowed to kill civilians.

* KBR/Halliburton is not allowed to kill civilians.

* The Janjaweed are not allowed to kill civilians.

* Alan Dershowitz is not allowed to kill civilians.

* The Mahdi Army is not allowed to kill civilians.

* The United Nations is not allowed to kill civilians.

* Bill Clinton is not allowed to kill civilians.

* Bill Clinton's penis is not allowed to kill civilians.

* The Tribulation Force is not allowed to kill civilians.

You're not allowed to kill civilians.

More than a few of the groups listed above are, intolerably, killing civilians. This needs to stop.

Some of these groups are, of course, evil terrorist organizations. Evil terrorist organizations are unlikely to stop killing civilians because, by definition, this is what evil terrorist organizations do.

Other groups listed above are not evil terrorist organizations. Those groups ought to consider that continuing to kill civilians makes them more, not less, like the evil terrorist organizations they are rightly fighting against.

You're not allowed to kill civilians.

  • LL

    Just for the record, I don’t disagree with any of this. But it doesn’t seem to matter. People kill civilians anyway, and depending on who you ask, that doesn’t seem to bother people too much. It bothers the loved ones of the people who get killed, everyone else, not so much.
    Also, you left out The KISS Army and The Itty Bitty Titty Committee. Oh, and The Axis of Evil.

  • Jesurgislac

    Other groups listed above are not evil terrorist organizations. Those groups ought to consider that continuing to kill civilians makes them more, not less, like the evil terrorist organizations they are rightly fighting against.
    Exactly.

  • John

    Corporate America is allowed to kill civilians.
    For example, tobacco companies have been doing it for years.
    Today the civilians being killed by these companies are arguably committing suicide.
    But there are likely other companies killing civilians without their consent, using other methods and when it is discovered, they too will not be punished.

  • no one

    Los Vegas is allowed to kill civilians by starving the homeless to death.

  • cjmr’s husband

    Dick Cheney is not allowed to kill civilians, but he is allowed to shoot them in the face.

  • LL

    007 has a license to kill, but I don’t know if it specifies what. He also has an unofficial license to be supersexy.
    “Dick Cheney is not allowed to kill civilians, but he is allowed to shoot them in the face.” Hee hee, laughed out loud at that one.
    Actually, I read somewhere that Dick Cheney has to eat the still-beating hearts out of children in order to stay alive. Some sort of medical thing from his doctor. Look it up. It’s real, I tell you.

  • Steve

    Fred, can you be more direct? I just want clarification:
    Is the batboy of the Toledo Mudhens allowed to kill civilians?

  • Anonymous #4

    You have an interesting view.
    Your vehement repetition still leaves it fatally inconsistent with the traditional* doctrines of self-defense, state police powers, and national sovereignty. In addition, if it were true as a universal moral law, it would directly contradict God’s instructions to his people Israel in the Old Testament (most obviously in regard to Amalekites.)
    But it is a fine aspiration.
    * For the traditional international law view, see Hugo Grotius, On The Law of War and Peace Book 3, Chapter 4 (1625):
    But the persons of natural-born subjects, who owe permanent allegiance to a hostile power may, according to the law of nations, be attacked, or seized, wherever they are found. For whenever, as it was said before, war is declared against any power, it is at the same time declared against all the subjects of that power.

  • Steve

    I’m cross-posting a clarification on both “You’re not allowed to kill civilians” threads:
    I’m been using the terms “soldiers” and “civilians” to mean “combatants” and “non-combatants”. The latter terms would be more accurate. So basically, an assumption driving my posts has been if someone joins the fighting, whether they are wearing a uniform or not, they are not longer a non-combatant (civilian), but a combatant (soldier). Therefore when someone says “what it a civilian shoots at someone” I respond “then they are not a civilian”.

  • Duane

    Fred, what about FDR? Is he allowed to kill civilians? I’m just asking cuz, ya know, it will get asked. Also, how about Eleanor Roosevelt’s penis?

  • Kevin

    What the — ?
    This continuous YNATKC business is bordering on autism.

  • Duane

    This continuous YNATKC business is bordering on autism.
    Is it starting to sink in?

  • Fall

    This continuous YNATKC business is bordering on autism.
    With a response like that, it’s probably not been repeated enough yet.
    And I sniggered at the Cheney comment too…

  • SwissCelt

    “Is the batboy of the Toledo Mudhens allowed to kill civilians?”
    No, but fellow Toledoan Maxwell Klinger is. He just chooses not to.

  • wintermute

    I think the problem lies in that many people see “You are not allowed to kill civilians” as having an unspoken collorary of “I am allowed to kill civilians”.

  • Beth

    Not allowed by whom?

  • bulbul

    For the traditional international law view, see Hugo Grotius, On The Law of War and Peace Book 3, Chapter 4 (1625):
    Seriously, Hugo Grotius is the founding father of international law, not the last word on it. Geneva Conventions anyone?

  • Scott

    Also, how about Eleanor Roosevelt’s penis?
    So that’s where your’s went. You may want it back at some point. Anyway, I’m off to the gun show this afternoon…….

  • cjmr

    …because it’s so obvious that guns are not penis substitutes…

  • Kirala

    Bill Clinton’s penis is not allowed to kill civilians.
    What a wonderful time for my grandmother to come in and ask me what I’m laughing about…
    I’d like it if everybody would get ahold of that whole “thou shalt not kill” thing. If everybody in the world would get that violence=not good, the whole question of the necessity of violent self-defense would not come up. But I spend a little too much time jumping to the very end of Revelation. You know, the part LaHaye and Jenkins don’t really get to.

  • Riggsveda

    As has been pointed out many times, one era’s terrorists becomes another’s patriots and founding fathers.
    I couldn’t agree more with this post. War is barbaric enough. Murdering people who aren’t fighting is beyond barbaric. The problem is that everyone has an exception they feel HAS to be made for themselves, and if it’s not based on bullshit end-justifies-the-means realpolitik, it’s because what they’ve been through is so much worse than everybody else, or their claim to something (usually real estate) precedes someone else’s back in some dim prehistory. The hardest thing in the world is to turn the other cheek and actively seek common ground with an enemy, which is probably why Christianity never caught on.

  • Kevin

    “With a response like that, it’s probably not been repeated enough yet.”
    Yeah, let’s expound upon it with a multi-media vengeance: movies, coloring books, comics, video games, marketing extravaganzas, annual festivities; let’s make an entire cult out of it, where we all sit and hum said bold and repeated phrase until we redefine the definition of ad nauseam.

  • Axiomatic

    Is it just me, or are the Good, Not-Evil Terrorist Organizations actually killing more civillians than the evil terrorists?
    I mean, this would suggest that killing civillians isn’t as bad as you would have us believe. In fact it downright RULES.

  • Duane

    So that’s where your’s went. You may want it back at some point. Anyway, I’m off to the gun show this afternoon…….
    Was there an implied threat there?

  • Joe Propinka

    Shorter Kevin: I can’t be argue against the moral logic, so I’ll complain about the insistence with which it’s being expressed.

  • MrLefty

    Well, while you have the death penalty, the US court system is allowed to kill civilians. It has to try them first, of course, but it is allowed to kill them.

  • Friend of the Predigtamt

    Alas, no one listens. :(
    YNATKC, but…
    The Kids in the Hall are allowed to smash heads with thumbs and index fingers.
    The Frantics are allowed to give people a boot to the head *THWOMP!*

  • Axiomatic

    Mr Lefty – sure it has to try them first, but does it have to release the names to the general public?

  • Tom Scudder

    On a related note: a behind-the-scenes look at negotiations towards an International Convention Against Blowing Off the Faces of Little Girls

  • none

    This kind of conversation with little pithy acronyms is of very little use unless we talk more about what constitutes a civilian. Hint: it’s much more complicated than you (apparently) think.

  • DaveL

    Geneva Conventions anyone?
    Article 51 et seq. describe the rules on treatment of civilians. It prohibits attacks directed entirely at civilians and “indiscriminate” attacks. It gives a couple of examples of indiscriminate attacks, such as treating an entire city as a military target when there are smaller targets, using weapons which cannot be controlled, and using disproportionate force against a military target when the “military advantage” of the attack does not outweigh the civilian casualties. It also prohibits using civilians as shields, including a prohibition against locating military installations in civilian areas.
    The Geneva Convention is not the pacifist document some think it is.

  • bulbul

    The Geneva Convention is not the pacifist document some think it is.
    That may be subject to debate. But it serves to prove that there are more recent authorities on international law than Hugo Grotius.

  • Bugmaster

    Well, if it’s as simple as that, then the Evil Terrorist Organizations ™ will continue to indiscriminantly kill civilians everywhere. We can’t stop them, because there’s always the chance we could accidentally kill a civilian, and we are Not Allowed to do that.
    I realize I sound like a right-wing fanatic to some people when I say that, but that still doesn’t mean that total and complete pacifism is a viable philosophy.

  • Duane

    Well, if it’s as simple as that, then the Evil Terrorist Organizations ™ will continue to indiscriminantly kill civilians everywhere. We can’t stop them, because there’s always the chance we could accidentally kill a civilian, and we are Not Allowed to do that.
    I realize I sound like a right-wing fanatic to some people when I say that, but that still doesn’t mean that total and complete pacifism is a viable philosophy.
    Do police regularly kill innocent civilians when they are fighting crime? Not so much..
    Terrorist organizations should be combatted with police work, not rockets.

  • Beth

    Terrorist organizations should be combatted with police work, not rockets.
    When possible, yes. But what if the terrorists are located in a country where your police aren’t allowed and the local police are unable or unwilling to do anything about it? What if the terrorists have rockets themselves that are capable of striking your cities? What if the “terrorists” are actually aligned with a party that’s part of the government (Hezbollah), or is the government (Hamas)? Are the “terrorists” still terrorists at that point, or are they a quasi-official arm of the military?
    Oh, and while we’re at it, why are “terrorists” allowed to kill civilians? Is that one of the fringe benefits of not calling yourself a government, or did Fred forget to add, “unless they’re killing more of yours?”

  • Jesurgislac

    Bugmaster: Well, if it’s as simple as that, then the Evil Terrorist Organizations ™ will continue to indiscriminantly kill civilians everywhere. We can’t stop them, because there’s always the chance we could accidentally kill a civilian, and we are Not Allowed to do that.
    But if it’s okay to kill civilians in pursuit of your chosen goal, then what’s the problem with Evil Terrorist Organizations doing it?
    As Beth points out at length, which applies equally to the IDF as to Hamas or Hezbollah: what if the [people killing civilians] are located in a country where your police aren’t allowed and the local police are unable or unwilling to do anything about it? What if the [people killing civilians] have rockets themselves that are capable of striking your cities? What if the [people killing civilians] are actually aligned with a party that’s part of the government (Hezbollah), or is the government (Hamas) or is the official military force of the government (IDF)?
    As Fred says: You’re Not Allowed To Kill Civilians.

  • Duane

    Terrorist organizations should be combatted with police work, not rockets.
    When possible, yes. But what if the terrorists are located in a country where your police aren’t allowed and the local police are unable or unwilling to do anything about it? What if the terrorists have rockets themselves that are capable of striking your cities? What if the “terrorists” are actually aligned with a party that’s part of the government (Hezbollah), or is the government (Hamas)? Are the “terrorists” still terrorists at that point, or are they a quasi-official arm of the military?
    Interpol fights terrorism. Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Israel and Syria are all member states of Interpol. Interpol needs to be funded better in order to be more successful against terrorism but we’d rather spend one hundred million dollars a day blowing up shit. Blowing up shit, as it turns out, is very profitable for American companies.

  • burritoboy

    “Do police regularly kill innocent civilians when they are fighting crime? Not so much..”
    Huh? Have you ever seen a newspaper? Amadou Diallo? Dorismond? Victoria Snelgrove? Bombing of MOVE? Waco? Genoa 2001? de Menezes? Paris massacre of 1961?
    Police forces do regularly kill innocent civilians (of course, that depends on your definition of “regularly) – many large city police forces have 3 or more (sometimes much more) such incidents per year.

  • Jen R

    Oh, and while we’re at it, why are “terrorists” allowed to kill civilians?
    Looking up, I see that the first item on the list was “* Al-Qaida is not allowed to kill civilians.” There were a number of other terrorist organizations listed as well.
    Did you really think Fred was arguing that terrorists *are* allowed to kill civilians? Did you really think anybody else in the thread was?

  • Beth

    No, Jen. I thought it would be obvious that I was exaggerating to make a point, or rather to expand on a point that Fred made in his post:
    Let’s be clear that this sentence does not include an unspoken “only” at the beginning. It should not be read as “[Only] Bob is not allowed to kill civilians,” but rather as “Bob [like everyone else] is not allowed to kill civilians.”
    What’s true for Bob is equally true for his neighbors. Labeling the other side “terrorists” doesn’t give Bob a special right to kill their civilians, but it doesn’t give him a special obligation to sit still while his civilians are being killed either.

  • Jesurgislac

    Beth: What’s true for Bob is equally true for his neighbors. Labeling the other side “terrorists” doesn’t give Bob a special right to kill their civilians, but it doesn’t give him a special obligation to sit still while his civilians are being killed either.
    And the neat part about your analogy is that it works whether Bob is Israeli, Lebanese, or Palestinian.

  • Recall

    Is it ok to kill non-civilians? They have guns, but they’re still people. Turning children into corpses is bad, but making them orphans isn’t that much better.

  • Bugmaster

    But if it’s okay to kill civilians in pursuit of your chosen goal, then what’s the problem with Evil Terrorist Organizations doing it?
    The problem here isn’t that the Evil Terrorist Organizations ™ are somehow allowed to Kill Civilians, whereas we are not. The problem is that the ETOs will keep on killing civilians whether they’re allowed to or not. Hence, if you are voluntarily laying down your arms as a gesture of mercy and brotherhood, they will eventually kill you (and the closer you are to them geographically, the sooner “eventually” will come for you). I am not saying, “the end justifies the means”, or “nuke them all, let your deity of choice sort them out”; what I am saying is that extreme pacifism is not only unjustifiable, but also morally flawed. It is immoral to sacrifice your own civilians in an demonstrably futile attempt to reach peace.
    This is why there will never be peace in the Middle East (barring some sort of an apocalyptic thermonuclear strike). All sides — Jews, Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, whatever — see each other as ETOs ™, and they act in what they believe is self-defence. IMO, Israel deserves marginally more credit than its neighbours, because at least they’re not deliberately targeting innocent people.
    Oh, and IMO, when the ETO(tm) is the government (Hamas, possibly Hezbollah, etc.), then you’re no longer dealing with terrorism. You’re dealing with a hostile country that has declared war on you. That’s the only difference (though it’s a big one).

  • Duane

    Huh? Have you ever seen a newspaper? Amadou Diallo? Dorismond? Victoria Snelgrove? Bombing of MOVE? Waco? Genoa 2001? de Menezes? Paris massacre of 1961?
    Police forces do regularly kill innocent civilians (of course, that depends on your definition of “regularly) – many large city police forces have 3 or more (sometimes much more) such incidents per year.
    Well, I did acknowledge that it happens. You might try re-reading what I wrote.
    Nevertheless, the examples you cited, going back almost 50 years, equal approximately the number of civilians killed in the last month of warfare.

  • Beth

    And the neat part about your analogy is that it works whether Bob is Israeli, Lebanese, or Palestinian.
    Well it would have to, wouldn’t it? What I’m asserting is equality. Bob has no special rights or special obligations; he has the same as everybody else.
    I have some differences with Fred on “YNATKC.” As much as I like the simplicity and clarity of the rule, I think there are times when it no longer holds, e.g. when an action that will inevitably cause civilian death is the only way to prevent greater civilian casulties. (I should probably note here that I don’t believe anyone in the ME conflict has come anywhere close to meeting that standard). Where I think Fred does make an important point is in emphasizing the universality of the proscription. It doesn’t matter what their leaders have done or what their neighbors have done. It doesn’t even matter whether the civilians are “theirs” or “ours”. They’re all equally civilians, and killing any of them is equally wrong.

  • Ray

    Did you miss Fred’s post a couple of days ago?

  • Jesurgislac

    What I’m asserting is equality. Bob has no special rights or special obligations; he has the same as everybody else.
    If you assert equality – that the Israelis are wrong to kill Palestinian civilians, the Palestinians are wrong to kill Israeli civilians, the Lebanese are wrong to kill Israeli civilians – then it’s odd that you’re not coming down harder on the IDF than anyone else: they have certainly been killing far, far more civilians than either Hamas or Hizbollah. Further, the IDF are the official arm of a democratically-elected government: in theory at least, the Israeli people have the authority to stop the IDF from killing civilians – and they don’t.

  • Beth

    Ray,
    No I didn’t, but “YNATKC” omits those complexities. I can’t say it without my mind ringing out with “except…”, “unless…”, etc. Fred apparently can. You’re right though, that our positions aren’t as different as it may have sounded in my previous post.
    Jesurgislac,
    In the previous incarnation of “YNATKC”, I did condemn Israel’s bombing of Lebanon. In this one, the subject hasn’t really come up. I haven’t condemned the Janjaweed militias in this thread either. Do you want to criticize me for that, too? Or is your criticism directed at what I actually wrote? Would you have preferred it if I’d said, “It’s wrong to kill Lebanese civilians; Israeli civilians, not so much”?
    in theory at least, the Israeli people have the authority to stop the IDF from killing civilians – and they don’t.
    I won’t go into all the problems I see with that argument. It would take too long. Besides, if I try to consider all of the aspects of the I/P conflict — especially when that includes subtle and difficult questions like the relative responsibility of citizens for a government they may or may not support vs. for an NGO they may or may not support — I’m left feeling like Alice:
    `I like the Walrus best,’ said Alice: `because you see he was a LITTLE sorry for the poor oysters.’
    `He ate more than the Carpenter, though,’ said Tweedledee. `You see he held his handkerchief in front, so that the Carpenter couldn’t count how many he took: contrariwise.’
    `That was mean!’ Alice said indignantly. `Then I like the Carpenter best — if he didn’t eat so many as the Walrus.’
    `But he ate as many as he could get,’ said Tweedledum.
    This was a puzzler. After a pause, Alice began, `Well! They were BOTH very unpleasant characters — ‘
    The whole situation is extremely worrying. I’m concerned about what it will mean for Lebanon’s future, a lasting solution for I/P, the stability of the entire region and maybe the entire world. On top of that are the horrifying pictures and stories that appear almost daily. That’s another reason I’m not willing to engage in the sort of “whose civilians is it more acceptable to kill and who’s more to blame for killing them” discussion you seem to want. The more immediate the horror of bodies broken by bombs (regardless of whose bodies or whose bombs), the easier it is to embrace Fred’s position and say simply, “You’re not allowed to kill civilians,” with no ifs, ands, or buts. Maybe six months from now, if you’re still interested, I’ll be ready to go over all the subtle complexities with a fine-tooth comb and discuss exactly how much moral responsibility to assign to each individual in the region. Right now, it’s just all too close.

  • none

    they have certainly been killing far, far more civilians than either Hamas or Hizbollah. Further, the IDF are the official arm of a democratically-elected government: in theory at least, the Israeli people have the authority to stop the IDF from killing civilians – and they don’t.
    I’m surprised no one commented on this. Surely you’re aware that both Hamas and Hezbollah officials hold elected office as well. Hamas is the leading party in the PLC, and Hezbollah holds over twenty seats in the Lebanese parliament.

  • Jesurgislac

    Beth: That’s another reason I’m not willing to engage in the sort of “whose civilians is it more acceptable to kill and who’s more to blame for killing them” discussion you seem to want.
    I think it better to discuss than to ignore why you think it more acceptable to kill Lebanese or Palestinian civilians, and less acceptable to kill Israeli civilians. You seem to want to ignore the IDF killing Lebanese and Palestinian civilians: I prefer to include their killing in the discussion than to implicitly deem it acceptable. But it’s worth pointing out that if we are counting numbers, the IDF has killed far more civilians than either Hamas or Hezbollah.


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