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My ideas are constantly changing as I learn. Sometimes they even change midway through writing a post.

Thursday, December 29

Crunching Numbers and the meaning of peace

Human rights groups estimate that more than 300,000 people were killed and buried in mass graves during Saddam's 23-year rule.

I'm ashamed to say that this is news to me. I'm still playing catch up on the history of Iraq and the Kurds. I knew Saddam was responsible for many deaths during his reign, but I wasn't aware that the deaths numbered in the hundreds of thousands - or even millions.

300,000

That's more than half the population of the city where I live. I've been asking myself...

Would I die to save 300,000 people?
Would I kill?
How many would I be willing to kill? A few? A hundred? Thousands?

Would you?

I liked the way this article expresses what I've been thinking lately about the idea of pacifism and "peace" and being anti-war. I don't think it makes sense to be anti-war. It may seem like a choice for "peace" and for the protection of lives, but it isn't. It's an active choice to stand idly by while innocent people are killed. Worse, it's opposing people who aren't ok with standing by. Sometimes one has to choose the least worst from unpleasant choices. Risk killing some to prevent the deaths of many more and hopefully open the way to freedom or stand by and leave people to be killed and oppressed.

The US Civil War was much the same. It doesn't matter "why" the war was fought in some ways. The results were a lot of deaths and increased freedom for a huge group of people. Would it have been better to not have a Civil War and continue allowing slavery? To save thousands of lives? To grant African American people immediate equal rights with whites?

I'm saying this with the belief that most anti-war people are very decent and nice and really don't want to see hundreds of thousands of people killed. I just don't understand what their values are. Is not killing more important than freedom? Than living?

1 comment:

Kit said...

According to this article we are a third of the way there to equalling the 300,000 deaths Saddam buried in mass graves and it's only taken us a single year. We've destabilized an entire country and reduced the rights of women, forcing them to wear burkas where they haven't had to do so before. Further, we did all this not to remove Saddam but on the lying pretence that we would find weapons of mass destruction. If you feel the war is justified now, or that anti-war believers are short-sighted, then how long will it be justified for? Is avenging the death of 300,000 worth the death of 100,000? 200,000? How does getting revenge for those deaths Saddam caused help the world, especially given that we helped him with financial and military assistance before we put him in power? Is it justified for us to do this when we don't have support from the UN or the rest of the world? Ah, but right, whoever is alive in however many years it takes us to get out and give the Iraqi's whatever is left of their country will surely, of course, be much better off when we're done. Frankly, I think that hanging your justification of the war on numbers is a bad idea. Remember that a lot of people who are currently anti-war are simply anti-this war, for a number of reasons -- it's not an either or position, necessarily.

I also think your civil war example is erroneous as it assumes there were only two options -- continuing slavery or a civil war. While I feel differently about that war than the current one (it was, after all, a US-US or US-former US conflict, rather than the US going to attack another country) I don't think we have any way of knowing how history would have gone without a war.