Father Durine conducting Mass with the troop this past Sunday in Iraq, background Iraq villagers fleeing destruction during their liberation.


It's a matter of debate

Edmonton - Tuesday, April 1, 2003 - by: Ron Thornton


Our esteemed host of this site, Timothy W. Shire, presented us with some interesting questions and answers to ponder in his March 26th article "It's A Matter Of Being Fair." As with any thoughtful presentation, it fosters more questions and debate as we attempt to answer what may, for us mere mortals, be unanswerable.




For example, violence is okay, according to Tim, only as a means of defense. I agree with him. He says it is your duty to defend yourself if you are physically attacked. I agree with him. He says those who instigates a fight are always in the wrong, for it is weakness, and I agree with him. However, I do not know if we agree exactly as to when we should act in our defense. If someone breaks into our home, are we under attack? If not, must we ignore the threat to allow the first attack to take place? If we do, then are those who survive the initial attack then allowed to act, or must they wait for the next, or the next, or the next?




Tim believes that one has not the right to instigate a fight even if you believe someone is about to attack you. Doesn't this seem a fine recipe for one's own destruction? If your neighbour says he will kill you and your family, no matter where you run, do you wait? Do you run away, to become a perpetual victim? While some believe attacking someone because they might attack you makes you wrong, failing to do so may leave you dead. There is a difference between thinking someone might harm you, and knowing full well that this is their design. There is not always a policeman available or lawfully able to defend you. In situations where it comes down strictly to you, do you make a preemptive strike or do you wait for your own doom?


On the question of lying, Tim writes that "though shalt not bear false witness" is clear enough to him on the issue. Is it? If you are ordered to give information that would lead into the deaths of your comrades, do you lie or tell the truth? All of a sudden, the issue doesn't seem so clear. Yet, we must remember the entire commandment says that one should not bear false witness "against thy neighbour." This tells me that I should not make a false accusation against him, or claim he did something when I know full well that he did not. As for if the United States is lying or not in relation to weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or terrorist training facilities or chemical production facilities, we will discover the answer soon enough.


Tim claims that torture is not acceptable. Most of us would agree with that. However, if the information a prisoner refuses to divulge would mean the deaths of thousands or millions if such details are not extracted, then what do you do? We are agreed that torture is unacceptable in our culture, but how do you combat foes who are under no such handicap?


Tim believes that capital punishment is not justifiable, citing that civilized people do not accept such a form of punishment. Tim believes we do not have the right to do so, citing "Thou shalt not kill." Interestingly enough, the Jewish faith calls for an eye for an eye. There are other religions that call for the deaths of infidels, with great reward awaiting them if they martyr themselves for the cause. How do you combat such a foe who believes your belief is a weakness to be exploited? However, I'm getting off topic. Is capital punishment justifiable? Are there certain people who deserve to die? If Hitler had been captured, should he have faced the death penalty? If someone purposely kills one of my loved ones, should they face the death penalty? In my heart of hearts, I know what my decision would be. Do you know what your's would be?


Tim believes that it is not right for the government of one country to decide who should govern another country. It is unfortunate that in 1938 this was the view the world had in regards to Germany, to name the most cited example of the consequences of such a conviction. It is so easy to talk about how unacceptable it is to promote regime change in a foreign nation while one is presenting their views from within the safe confines of a democracy. We may debate who has allowed who to come into power, we may debate what nations have had to gain for acting or not acting to overthrow a tyrant, and we may debate who does or does not share in the blame for the actions of such tyrants. However, there is no denying that some regimes are brutal, that do not follow civilized behavior, who terrorize and victimize entire societies. Is doing nothing now considered an acceptable option amongst civilized peoples?


Tim rejects bribery and blackmail, though explains how it is all about us. It is acceptable? Not to me, but for those who rise to power and influence, it would appear to be common place. There are those around us, usually those most tend to look to for leadership, who manipulate us with every devise available to them, including bribery and blackmail if necessary. While I fully agree with Tim's view, I am at a lost to see how we might ever successfully overcome the influences of those not as honourable as we hope ourselves to be.


Tim believes that the term "business is business" is not acceptable when applied to such actions as mentioned above. However, it is human, not spiritual, beings we must deal with and that means that we should expect sanctions and other forms of retaliation from those who we disappoint or cross. It might not be right, but it is a reality to which we expose ourselves should we be so terribly naive as to ignore the potential consequences, be it in regards to business or international affairs. Should drugs be used by those who serve in the military? Not among civilized peoples, I would think, and so I agree with Tim. Unfortunately, the very act of war, the brutality, the killing and maiming, seems to withdraw itself somewhat from a list of "civilized activities." Not being a warrior, not having served on the ground, not having ever been shot at, bombed, faced an artillery barrage, incoming missiles, or had to operate a complex machine under such conditions, it is easy to reply from the cosy confines that surround my keyboard. In such an environment, a good night's sleep is easier to come by and my current alertness is sufficient to do this task. Is it good enough to survive battle conditions? I don't know.


Having a bunch of high minded principles is a good thing, and to compromise them may indeed, as Tim states, reflect "slippery slope thinking." I truly believe there are things one can not accept compromise for it not just moves us a step away from what we hope to achieve, but may move us a step closer to ensuring it might never be realized. Then again, by not compromising in any fashion might actually accomplish the same thing if in doing so it makes one totally irrelevant and without any hope of influence in the future. Tim believes that what the Americans are doing in Iraq is wrong and believes we should ignore the fact that most of what we have in this nation, including our very existence, can be attributed to our standing with the Americans. I am troubled how this situation came about. I am troubled that the United Nations we turn to for a leading role is a haven for dictators, tyrants, self-interests, and just about every unprincipled view known to man. I am troubled that such a body can not be relied upon, as an institution, to do the job that it was established to fulfill. If one is seeking honour or integrity, it is best to look within your own church or your own community, for you won't find it dwelling in sufficient measure within the UN.


Tim believes that Saddam Hussein is, on his own, no more and no less a bad guy than any other man on the planet. While we may cite those who sold him arms, those who benefitted from his rule, those who have used him to fight wars, or even the failures of his Mommy or Daddy; I can't quite figure out how this murderous tyrant with his murderous spawn can be considered as anything less than a bad guy. Was Hitler a bad guy? Was Stalin a bad guy?


Of course, I agree with Tim that when considering the very nature of armed conflict, having rules of war seems rather strange. If the Iraqis want to put military resources within their hospitals and schools, transgressing the conventions of war, then I guess such structures could again be considered as legitimate military targets. Not a good prospect for the wounded. Combatants who fake giving up only to turn deadly force upon those who were going to accept their surrender creates victims out of women and children who fail to stop at a checkpoint due to their own ignorance, rather than any malice on their part. Maybe such rules of war have some value, after all. Interestingly enough, Tim never mentioned in his article how he views the Iraqi military's method of "shotgun" recruitment from among its civilian population and whether he considers them an atrocity of war.


As for the world's only "superpower," Tim seems to prefer for it to submit all actions it might consider on the world stage to the good judgement of the United Nations. Has anyone checked out the roster of world leaders who make up the UN's roster of member countries? Iraq chairs the committee on disarmament. Enough said. I think it would be safe to say that Tim and I might disagree on the relevance of the United Nations and whether it might be folly or not to place our future in the hands of such a body. Is the United States selfish? Damn right it is. Does "might" make "right"? No, but neither does the refusal to use might to do what is right automatically make one honourable.


Tim says he is against this war due to fairness. I am not against this war because of the very same reason. To be fair, I see this as a conflict against an oppressive regime that is a menace to those within its borders and threatens the security of those outside them. It is a regime that not only flouts international law but its success in doing so has encouraged other such regimes and organizations to follow its example. In the end, I believe to wait for more foot dragging and inaction on behalf of the UN in resolving this issue would have proved to be a more dangerous and costly course than the present action. At least, this is the conclusion I have reached based on the facts as I understand them.


The facts. The truth. Tim is correct in reminding us to not always believe what we are told. Sometimes governments and their officials lie to us, be they American, Iraqi, or Canadian. Sometimes writers don't do their homework, or analyze things differently than we would. We all need to seek out the facts and reach our conclusions based on our own research and our own values. I greatly value having this opportunity to put them to the test as we debate those conclusions. There are many peoples who do not enjoy such freedom.




Ron Thornton




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