Saturday, October 13, 2012

Like Bolsheviks, Nazis, Viet Cong, and Khmer Rouge

The Taliban know that every girl who learns to think and every father who teaches his daughter to think, subverts  the backwardness and evil of fundamentalist Islam. Thinking is a threat to their fervently chosen ignorance. The Taliban are more than willing to kill in defense of their radical refusal to grow into liberal society.

Sirajuddin Ahmad, the spokesman for the Taliban in the Swat Valley, said that Ms. Yousafzai became a target because she had been “brainwashed” into making anti-Taliban statements by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai.

“We warned him several times to stop his daughter from using dirty language against us, but he didn’t listen and forced us to take this extreme step,” he said.

Both father and daughter remain on the Taliban’s list of intended victims, he said.
This reminds me Kurtz's apologia in "Apocalypse Now":
I remember when I was with Special Forces... seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate some children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember... I... I... I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out; I didn't know what I wanted to do!
Kurtz's eventual response was a descent into the heart of darkness, into monstrous depravity, into insane homicide.

What should our response be? Could we retain our moral character, retain our judgement, which Kurtz called our defeat, and nonetheless issue a secular fatwa that anyone who harms Malala Yousafzai or her father Ziauddin will be subject to a U.S. lethal finding?

Moderation needs space and time and tolerance to grow. Extremists of all stripes know this and murder moderates. Would it benefit moderates to exact a deadly cost from the extremists, or would it simply drive others into their arms?

America is already using drones for targeted assassination as a tool of war, if not statecraft, despite a long-standing inclination not to - in reaction to out-of-control spy agencies during the Cold War. Israel has used assassination. Killing the guilty, the enemy, the vicious murderer of your children has visceral appeal, and there's often no civil authority in these cases. Has that been for the good or the bad? It's hard to tell.

It's hard to imagine our government could responsibly manage vengeance orders, when it can't manage a just civilian death penalty. It can't even manage political asylum very well.

But I know that I wish Sirajuddin Ahmad dead. The shooters who have gravely wounded Malala, I wish dead. Their commanders, dead.

Traditional war-making has proven a very poor tool to accomplish those just deaths without a mortgage of further deaths uncounted. This reasoning is how liberals like me get to law as the best tool to accomplish punishment of the guilty. It lacks the immediacy of gunning down your enemies, but it lasts better.

Public domain photo from the Library of Congress, found here.

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