pageok
pageok
pageok
"Official Presbyterian Publisher Issues 9/11 Conspiracy Book":

So reports Christianity Today:

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were orchestrated by the U.S. government, according to a book to be released later this month by Westminster John Knox Press -- a division of the denominational publisher for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Christian Faith and the Truth Behind 9/11: A Call to Reflection and Action is the third book on the subject by David Ray Griffin, a professor emeritus of theology at Claremont School of Theology who is also a well-published and prominent process theologian.

For more on the publisher, see here.

Erasmussimo:
Well, this should set the pot bubbling. It certainly seems that, whenever we mix politics and religion, we get a lot of crazies, whether they're Christian or Muslim. This book might provide another excellent argument for the separation of church and state.
8.7.2006 9:24pm
John Jenkins (mail):
Given that there are a lot of crazies who aren't religious (in the sense you're using it), I don't think that gets us very far in a separation of church and state vein (thought there are many compelling arguments for it).

What's really stupid about this is that there's probably a market for it. Sure, someone had to write it, but that's just one crazy. When people start buying it, that's LOTS of crazies.
8.7.2006 9:39pm
LeftLeaningVolokhReader:
Did you miss the last two presidential elections?
8.7.2006 9:52pm
SteveMG (mail):
mix politics and religion, we get a lot of crazies,

Unlike those sane, calm and reasoned secular folks on the internet.

[hint: Google 9/11 conspiracy]
8.7.2006 10:02pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):

It certainly seems that, whenever we mix politics and religion, we get a lot of crazies, whether they're Christian or Muslim.


While I might agree with you, I am not certain that President --Faith-based Initiatives-George W. Bush does.

If you read through a summary of Mr. Griffin's remarks (see his 9/11: The Myth and the Reality), he is relying on a lot of internet mumbo jumbo--such as the "photos" that supposedly "prove" a plane didn't hit the Pentagon-- and ridiculous inferences, e.g., the Secret Service didn't evacuate the President to a safe location so it must have known of the attack plans, in advance and, e.g., the videotape where Osama Bin laden confesses must be fake because "the man in this video has darker skin, fuller cheeks, and a broader nose than the Osama bin Laden of all the other videos."

It is sad that a religions scholar would stoop to such nonsense, but it shows you that he is out of his depth as an "investigator."
8.7.2006 10:02pm
therut:
Maybe this guy is not a Christian Scholar. A name someone calls themselves does not one make. He is way out there in Liberal La La Land with his "Process Theology". That is the only reason he has a job as a Professor of Theology. I saw this dude on Satellite TV on some Univ of CA channel and he was a nut. His audience of left wing students loved him and clapped and cheered loudly. He claims all the so called terrorists are still alive and did not die that day. They have been seen alive since that time. He never does say where all the dead passengers have gone to. Maybe that is part of his Process Theology.
8.7.2006 10:17pm
Humble Law Student (mail):
Erasmussimo,

You said, "this should set the pot bubbling"

- Seems to be a favorite of yours. Unfortunately, its usually followed by some inane comment as yours above.

If you are right that it is an argument for the seperation of church and state, then Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot et al. are a crushing rebuttal.
8.7.2006 10:27pm
Doug Leins (mail):
I am a Pesbyterian and it is brutal to watch the denomination in its death throes...
8.7.2006 10:50pm
therut:
Things like this is why I have refused to ever join a denomination. Seems like those who join then become like a NY Yankee fan or such. They refuse to leave no matter how bad things get. I have no loyality to any denomination. I am simply Christian a perfectly American position since we are so danged independent. Same reason I am not a Democrat. To independent.
8.7.2006 10:58pm
JohnAnnArbor:
My nominal church is Presbyterian. They once had a visiting "ecumenical" minister from {some-small-town}, "Palestine." Well, I looked up {some-small-town}. and it's in Israel proper, not the West Bank or Gaza. Just more anti-Western, anti-Israel claptrap.
8.7.2006 11:05pm
JohnAnnArbor:
Check out one of their "benevolence programs" near the bottom of the page at the second link. One is described as:

Ethnic Internship Program-PPC provides an 8-10 week internship in its offices to a racial-ethnic student from a PC(USA) seminary interested in considering religious publishing as a ministry option.

A racial-ethnic student? I'd love to see their precise definition of THAT!
8.7.2006 11:11pm
Erasmussimo:
Hold on here. We have people criticizing the Presbyterian Church for its leftist philosophy. Now, I myself would prefer to keep church and state as far apart as possible, but I wonder if the same people who criticize the Presbyterian Church for its leftist leanings would also criticize some other denominations for their right-wing inclinations? There are plenty of right-wing churches that play a very active role in politics. If it's OK for them to do so, what's the beef with leftist churches?
8.7.2006 11:30pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Griffin says:


"But this explanation contained many problems, the most obvious of which is that steel does not begin to melt until about 2800 degrees F, while open fires based on hydrocarbons such as kerosene—which is what jet fuel is—cannot under the most ideal circumstances rise above 1700 degrees."



If Griffin had taken the trouble to read even one report like the one by Scheuerman (Battalion Chief FDNY) on the collapse of the WTC he would be embarrassed to make such uninformed statements. He says:


"Instead of the columns failing first, I believe the weakest link was the long-span, open web, steel bar joists. The position of these joists, over the fire and the small-diameter steel elements of these joists would allow them to heat up to the failure temperature, (approximately 1100 degrees F.), much more rapidly than the massive columns which would act as a heat sink and conduct some heat away."



Griffin doesn't seem to understand the difference between the melting temperature and the failure temerature.
8.7.2006 11:38pm
BGates (mail) (www):
Erasmussino, we're not criticizing the PC because no church should have political positions, we're doing it because the positions it takes run the spectrum from wrong to evil.

"whenever we mix politics and religion, we get a lot of crazies" - that Martin Luther King was a real nutcase, wasn't he? Or was that statement of yours something you enjoyed typing that immediately fell apart on a moment's inspection?
8.8.2006 12:14am
Jim Rhoads (mail):
Which is why, AZ, books like this have no business coming from a denominational press. Ya think?

This is not even remotely connected to a theological issue, it is wholly a scientific issue.

Who is doing the editing of crap like this? No one with any more knowledge than you or I have. And probably not as much.

The blind leading the blind.
8.8.2006 12:23am
Jeek:
Griffin doesn't seem to understand the difference between the melting temperature and the failure temerature.

Surely you don't doubt his credentials as a scientist or an engineer?
8.8.2006 12:39am
SteveMG (mail):
If it's OK for them to do so, what's the beef with leftist churches?

Who here has stated that the leftwing churches shouldn't be allowed to express their political views?

Seems to me that everyone here knows that the Establishment Clause prevents government from passing religious-based laws and not that it prevents religions from asking the government to pass them.

As the old saying goes, God answers all prayers; sometimes the answer is No. Churches can ask government to pass religious laws; the state must decline to do so.
8.8.2006 12:41am
Lev:

Which is why, AZ, books like this have no business coming from a denominational press.


Why not? It seems to me that is exactly where they should come from, because they are a matter of faith and belief, and not based on any science, facts, observations in the real, as opposed to magical, world.
8.8.2006 12:48am
Harry Eagar (mail):
Well, I'd think this was crazy if it came from Zondervaan, too.
8.8.2006 12:49am
Erasmussimo:
BGates, I didn't say that all religious intrusions into politics are crazy, I wrote that we get a lot of crazies when that happens. No, Martin Luther King was not a crazy. But consider the many crazy religious people now gleefully monitoring the news from the Middle East in anticipation of the Rapture. Or the religious leader who suggested assassinating Mr. Chavez. Of course, Christians have no monopolies on crazies -- the Iranians have a goodly collection of crazies, too. This is no accident. When you abandon rationalism for faith, you're pretty much guaranteed to get irrational results. Most people mix some faith with some rationalism to get something passable. But some people won't compromise their faith and end up with crazy results.
8.8.2006 1:10am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
And when you abandon faith for "pure" rationalism, you get Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Chairman Mao.

Most of the world has had some religion for most of human history, so of course there are religious crazies you can point to. But the recent list of atheistic "rational" world leaders and movements shows almost 100% crazies and mass murderers.
8.8.2006 1:22am
therut:
No Christians are "gleefully" monitoring the fighting in the Middle East. Those who believe in a Rapture know full well that it is when PEACE is declared that bad things begin to happen(As it is a false peace ie. a lie a deception). Those you make fun of have nothing to worry about as long as wars are continuning over there. This is something the left always gets messed up about. Some may be fascinated with what goes on in the middle east but I would not say gleeful. Now all Christians are gleeful at the idea of Christs return as the Bible teaches. Maybe that is what you get confused about. But I would bet most are also frightened also.
8.8.2006 1:26am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Erasmussimo:

Isn't physics starting to look a little like religion when you get to subjects like string theory? They can't do experiments, and they can't use observational data. Like religion they deal with non-falsifiable assumptions. Faith per se is not irrational, and to some degree everyone takes much of what they believe on faith because you don't have the time or the resources to verify. Even mathematics at its must basic level involves faith. The Godel incompleteness theory dooms us to take certain things on faith; we can't prove what we believe except for very simple systems. Chatin has taken this further to show just how little we can really know about the foundations. Google "omega man."
8.8.2006 1:42am
A. Zarkov (mail):
That's "Chaitin" sorry.
8.8.2006 1:48am
Jeek:
when you abandon faith for "pure" rationalism, you get Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Chairman Mao.

These are examples not of pure rationalism, but of irrational faith, albeit of a secular kind. The parallels between socialism and millenarian religious faith should be obvious to all.
8.8.2006 3:17am
BGates (mail) (www):
Erasmussino: no, you didn't say all religious intrusions into politics are crazy, you said we get a lot of crazies whenever we mix politics and religion. What does 'whenever' mean? Likewise, do you have any evidence that there are 'lots' of people who are gleeful at the news from the Middle East?

"Most people mix some faith with some rationalism to get something passable." I'm sure Albert Schwetzer and Isaac Newton would be moved by your condescension. They at least recognized which of their beliefs were articles of faith. Can you say the same?
8.8.2006 3:38am
Humble Law Student (mail):
Jeek,

Your argument is eerily similar to those who argue that Communism isn't bad because what was practiced in the Soviet Union, China, etc... wasn't real Communism. That may very well be true, but it misses the point. Its a false defining away of the primary manifestations of that ideology/worldview in the real world.

The crusades, the inquisitition, and the like were all real world consequences of an aberrant form of Christianity. Stalinist Communism, Mao, and the like were all aberrant (though not very) forms of rationalism.
8.8.2006 10:18am
jgalak:
A. Zarkov


The Godel incompleteness theory dooms us to take certain things on faith; we can't prove what we believe except for very simple systems.


That's not really an accurate way to interpret Godel. Godel's Incompleteness Theory simply states that in any algebraic system of a certain class, there will be statements that are demonstrably true, but cannot be proven under the rules of that particular algebra. While this is very important in many areas of math and information science, it doesn't really mean much for physics.

Quite simply, there are many things in physics that we can prove as true through observation, without needing to derive them algebraically from other known formulae. Consider Newton's law, F=ma. While it may be possible to derive it, algebraically, from other equations, it is also easy to establich it empirically, by applying various forces to objects of various mass and observing their behavoir.

In science, unlike in pure math, we have the additional ability to directly observe the universe, and base our theories on it. So Godel doesn't really apply.

Chaitin's omega constant, is just a derivation of Turing's halting problem, which is, itself, a derivation of Godel. Again, though, it applies to algebraic (or, more correctly, algorithmic) systems, where there is no way to look outside the system. It deals with being able to compute whether a given program will halt or not, and even though there is no way to compute the answer, it is possible to observe it, withing certain limits.

Both Godel and Chaitin spoke of closed mathematical systems, not scientific observations.
8.8.2006 11:35am
Erasmussimo:
Well, I certainly triggered a tempest in a teapot with my comments about rationalism. We probably shouldn't go down this path -- it is impossible to argue rationally about faith because faith contradicts reason. I would think that people would have learned this lesson with the failed efforts to reconcile Aristotle with faith. The Christian version of this effort started of promisingly with Aquinas, but degenerated into the sterility of Scholasticism. It took a few centuries to go through this process, and I don't think we have that much time to repeat it -- we're better off just recognizing that faith cannot be reconciled with reason and ultimately all you can do is compromise one against the other. Everybody sets their own compromise. And it is tautological that compromising reason results in less reason. I don't condemn any person who chooses to be less than 100% rational; we are homo sapiens, a weak and stupid species. But I will remind readers that, those who choose to be less than 100% rational are, well, less than rational. Let's not be hypocritical about our choices. If you honor your faith, don't claim that you are fully rational.
8.8.2006 11:56am
NickM (mail) (www):
So if I, an agnostic, say that it would be good for the United States, as well as for a number of other countries, including Venezuela's neighbors (one of whom he is actively trying to overthrow by funding and supplying a rebel group), for Hugo Chavez to be assassinated, is that crazy? Or would it only be crazy if I'm religious?

Nick
8.8.2006 12:15pm
John Jenkins (mail):
Erasmussimo: faith, at least in the sense it's being used here is *a*rational, not irrational. It is beyond reason because it is something reason does not answer. (BTW, I think you're confusing empiricism with rationalism, or are at least misusing the term rationalist).

First causes are necessarily arational because you can't get there from here. Rationalism is necessarily based on first principles that cannot themselves be rationally deduced.

You're also trying to cover your ass with your last comment. People aren't arguing that you're saying all religious people are crazy (though you actually are, in the way your using irrational as a perjorative while denying it, and oh by the way setting yourself up as perfectly rational: WTF?)

People are arguing that your argument is a non sequitur. It simply doesn't follow that religion in government produces crazies (recall that almost every other country on Earth has an official religion, and possibly even religious oaths!) because some people are.

The argument that X has characteristics Y and Z, therefore A who has characteristic Y also has Z does not follow unless you argue that anything that has characteristic Y must also have Z, which argument you claim not to be making (I think). Thus you are inconsistent, at the same time accusing everyone else of being irrational. So, I repeat:WTF?
8.8.2006 12:34pm
bob montgomery:
PCUSA = Ugh.

Thankfully, there are better Presby denominations out there, though none are perfect, obviously.
8.8.2006 12:34pm
Humble Law Student (mail):
John,

Thanks, you spared me from having to make the same points.
8.8.2006 12:47pm
Erasmussimo:
Nick, the idea of assassinating a leader of state is so grossly unethical as to be crazy. Anybody who offers it is crazy. The fact is, one such crazy person was a prominent Christian leader. As I have explained elsewhere, the existence of one crazy person does nothing to suggest that all others of his same religious denomination are crazy. But when many religious groups produce many different crazies, that does suggest that religion mixed with politics produces crazy results. Surely the history of the admixture of religion and politics teaches this lesson. Consider the Thirty Years War, the many massacres of heretics throughout European history or the craziness of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

John, I agree that faith is intrinsically arational rather than irrational. So long as faith remains in the realm of the spiritual, there's no problem. The problem arises when we try to bring faith into the real world. The real world operates according to logical rules; substituting religious thinking for logical thinking sometimes does no harm and sometimes leads to catastrophes such as the Thirty Years' War. Jesus nailed it when he said, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."

Please see my more detailed response in another topic.
8.8.2006 12:53pm
JohnAnnArbor:
the idea of assassinating a leader of state is so grossly unethical as to be crazy.

Even Kim Jong-Il?

Hitler? Hitler in 1937?
8.8.2006 1:11pm
Ken Arromdee:
I'm amazed at all the posts which uncritically accept the idea that Pat Robertson really wanted to assassinate Chavez. If I begin to clain that the mind-control satellites are attacking my brain, and you reply "well, maybe we should let them mind control you. It would certainly shut you up", would there then be headlines reading "Noted Volokh Commentator Wants to Mind Control Ken"?

The context of the remark were Chavez's own bizarre claims that the US was trying to assassinate him, and I highly doubt that Robertson would have "called for the assassination of" Chavez had he not made those claims.
8.8.2006 1:52pm
Captain Holly (mail) (www):
I don't see what this case has to do with Christianity and politics, anyway.

The Presbyterian Church isn't Christian, and hasn't been for nearly 30 years. [/snark]
8.8.2006 2:06pm
Jeek:
HLS, first of all, it's not "my argument", many others have made it. But that aside, if I understand you correctly, I think you have it exactly backwards.

If one views Stalinism, Maoism, and all the other real-world efforts to implement socialist doctrines as "rationalism gone bad" (and I am astonished that you regard them as "not very aberrant" -- to me they seem extremely aberrant indeed, even if you regard their basic principles as rational), then one could conclude that "real Communism" or "real socialism" might actually be possible if implemented properly by some truly rational and well-meaning leader.

If one views Communism / socialism as a form of secular religion, then one can only conclude that it can never be "properly implemented" in the real world, and the crimes of Stalin, Mao, etc. were all but inevitable. These crimes should not be viewed as an "unexpected" result of irrationals effort to achieve rational ends, but as the entirely expected result of any effort to achieve an irrational end. One can no more expect a positive result from efforts to achieve "true Communism" than from efforts to achieve a community based on "true Christianity." The efforts of various socialists to define themselves as "rational", "scientific", and "materialistic" are misleading and should not be taken at face value, because the entire intellectual edifice is fundamentally irrational.

Thus, in my view, it is far more useful to try to understand the actual practice of Stalinism, Maoism, and so as a secular religion rather than "rationalism gone bad".

the idea of assassinating a leader of state is so grossly unethical as to be crazy. Anybody who offers it is crazy.

Balderdash. It is quite rational in the context of deterring or overthrowing, if necessary, a state ruled by a dictator or a small oligarchy.
8.8.2006 2:10pm
NickM (mail) (www):
I think we have a new meaning of crazy: something Erasmussimo thinks is unethical.

Assassinating a foreign head of state is unquestionably an act of war, but the 20th century is replete with heads of state whose assassination might have prevented far greater wars or crimes against humanity. In addition to JohnAnnArbor's post, let me suggest Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Jean-Bedel Bokassa, Saddam Hussein (see this Mother Jones article for 1990s discussions by prominent U.S persons on assassinating him), Robert Mugabe, Slobodan Milosevic, Nicolae Ceaucescu, Kil Il-Sung, Enver Hoxha, "Papa Doc" Duvalier, Qaddafi, Khomeini (putting aside any question as to whether he counted as a head of state), Charles Taylor, and Francisco Macias Nguema.

Does anyone want to defend the claim that it would have been crazy to assassinate any of these men?

Also suppose that it was the U.S. which was responsible for the assassination of Juvenal Habyarimana in 1994, which may have helped end the Rwandan genocide. If so, was that crazy?

Nick
8.8.2006 2:43pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
jgalak, thanks. I'm no mathematician, but when I tried to study Godel's theorem, that was my understanding (to the extent I did understand it), but I never saw it expressed so clearly.

Humble Law Student: how was the Inquisition an 'aberrant' form of Christianity? If the Holy Office isn't orthodox, what could be?

We get into this confusion all the time with Islam, when Muslims claim they belong to a 'religion of peace,' therefore [name terrorist here] cannot really be a Muslim. How to tell from outside? Here jgalak's empirical test comes into play. The Inquisition may not have been the only from of orthodox Christianity, but it was a form and a very important one. Same with various forms of Islam.

As for Pat Robertson, he's always been as crazy as a loon. I knew someone who worked for him in his early days, when his reputation as a fruitcake was only local to Chesapeake, Va. Her job was to review the Popeye cartoons before they were broadcast on CBN, to exclude all episodes which featured the Sea-Hag. Since the Sea-Hag was a supernatural creature that was not an angel, she must have been a devil. And Pat don't give free air time to no devils.

I saw his remark about Chavez. There is no doubt he was sincere and deliberate. Even thoughtful, within his own narrow parameters.
8.8.2006 3:22pm
Erasmussimo:
Several people have leapt forward to defend assassination as a matter of policy. I can agree that assassination sometimes achieves desirable results; but it also achieves undesirable results. Is anybody here prepared to laud the assassinations of JFK, RFK, MLK, or the attempted assassinations of Mr. Reagan or Mr. Ford?

The notion here is that you can't take any action in isolation; it creates precedents that other people use to justify their own crimes. If you assassinate any political leader, you open the door for assassinating any other political leader. If you argue that it's OK to assassinate Kim Jong-Il, then somebody else will take that as justification for assassinating Mr. Bush. This is not the way to solve the world's problems. And this is why the official policy of the US government is to reject assassination as a matter of principle.

Ken, here's Mr. Robertson's exact quote:
"If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it,"

You can find more on the story here
8.8.2006 3:28pm
Jeek:
I can agree that assassination sometimes achieves desirable results; but it also achieves undesirable results. Is anybody here prepared to laud the assassinations of JFK, RFK, MLK, or the attempted assassinations of Mr. Reagan or Mr. Ford?

Ummmm... there is a difference between assassination as an act of state policy and assassination as the actions of a lone nut. So unless you want to argue that some state was responsible for the assassinations of JFK / RFK / MLK and the attempts on Ford and Reagan, this question is entirely irrelevant.

In a larger sense, you could say the same of ANY policy on ANY issue - sometimes a policy can achieve a positive result, sometimes it can achieve a negative result. So what really is your point here? If we rule out government policies because "sometimes they achieve undesirable results" then the government will quite literally be unable to do ANYTHING, because there is NO policy that does not sometimes achieve undesirable results.

The notion here is that you can't take any action in isolation; it creates precedents that other people use to justify their own crimes.

This also falls into the "so what?" category. Countries that "care" about such precedents are not the types of countries that will attempt to assassinate our leaders. Countries that are likely to come after our leaders would not give a damn whether or not there are any "precedents" for these actions.

This is not the way to solve the world's problems.

Who's trying to solve the world's problems? If we contemplated this, it would be in reference to a specific problem with a specific country. If we have a problem with Saddam Hussein or Kim Jong Il, then killing him is a far superior alternative to bombing his country and making his people suffer.

And this is why the official policy of the US government is to reject assassination as a matter of principle.

I don't think we're against it on moral grounds so much as practical grounds. We're against it because we're not very good at it.
8.8.2006 7:50pm
Erasmussimo:
Jeek, I can't figure out what your broad point here is. You seem to be arguing details without any clear overall message. Are you attempting to justify assassination as a matter of state policy? If so, you are arguing against the Executive Order 12333, which is now almost 25 years old.

I continue to maintain that assassination, no matter who does it, is a crazy idea. Do you argue otherwise?
8.8.2006 8:12pm
bbeeman (mail):
That the PCUSA is supporting the publishing of this kind of wild-eyed drivel is not surprising, if you have been an observer of the decline of reason and critical thinking that have marked the unfortunate unraveling of the PCUSA.

The central bureaucracy of the PCUSA has been moving steadily left for a number of years, and away from what I believe to be the bulk of the membership. Their membership has dropped significantly over the last 30 years.

I suspect that we will see considerable employment for lawyers in the coming years as congregations attempt to leave and affiliate with other Presbyterian bodies. The PCUSA current leadership has been trying to maintain its hold on all church properties to prevent this.

I'm a lifelong Presbyterian, and don't think I've moved my position much. But the PCUSA has moved away from me as much as today's Democrat party has moved away from its historical roots.
8.8.2006 11:08pm
Jeek:
I can't figure out what your broad point here is. You seem to be arguing details without any clear overall message.

Well gee, I would have thought "[assassination] is quite rational in the context of deterring or overthrowing, if necessary, a state ruled by a dictator or a small oligarchy" was an abundantly clear overall message.

Are you attempting to justify assassination as a matter of state policy?

There are indeed cases where assassination is not "crazy", and your arguments to the contrary are weak, confused, and/or irrelevant.

If so, you are arguing against the Executive Order 12333, which is now almost 25 years old.

Case in point, another weak and irrelevant argument! What does the age of this EO have to do with anything? No EO is intended to be set in stone for all time, and any EO can be revoked at any time if necessary and desirable.

Moreover, the intent of the EO was not to limit lawful self defense options against legitimate threats to the national security of the United States or individual U.S. citizens. There is ample historical precedent (evenpost-1976 precedent!) for the use of military force to capture or kill individuals whose peacetime actions constitute a direct threat to U.S. citizens or national security. So what does this EO even mean, from a practical standpoint?

I continue to maintain that assassination, no matter who does it, is a crazy idea. Do you argue otherwise?

I absolutely believe that there are circumstances where the killing of a specific individual would be justified and necessary to the defense of the United States. If this constitutes assassination, so be it.
8.8.2006 11:16pm
John Jenkins (mail):
Erasmussimo, the argument from authority is not persuasive in logic. Slavery existed legally in the United States from the founding until 1865. Thus, to argue against it is to argue against the weight of practice and, by your logic, should be a good state policy.

Let's take assassination. Your argument is that assassination is wrong in all times and places. From your earlier arguments, I think you're arguing from a rule utilitarian perspective (adopt this rule because it has the best outcome among all possible rules).

Here, there are three general rules.

(1) Assassination is never permissible;
(2) Assassination is always permissible;
(3) Assassination is sometimes permissible.

It would be difficult to argue for (2) from anything other than a straight postmodern power-based perspective, and I won't attempt to do so here because I don't think I could be an effective advocate.

But JUST going from your rule and the reasons for it, your argument supports (2) much more than it does (1).

For example, Suppose you have a leader of a country who ruthlessly violates the rights of his citizens, stripping them of their property and, on a whim, their lives as he sees fit. He rules by strength alone. In this hypothetical, let's say that his death would improve the lives of most people in his country (except his supporters) because on his death an exiled democratic leader will be able to take power and get the country moving in a better direction. If this situation obtains, your rule would increase suffering and be more harmful than the alternative rule. I don't think your rule will produce the best average outcome (because bad government is more common than good), so I think it has to fail.

A better argument for (1) is the argument that assassination is simply wrong in and of itself, not because of its effects. This, however, puts one in a difficult position if one is anything other than a complete pacifist. In general, people recognize that it is sometimes permissible to take another human life (e.g. in self defense), so assassination must have something that makes it qualitatively different than other kinds of killings.

Think of the example where there are two countries at war and one of them continues the war simply because its leader, "elected for life" wants to punish his personal enemies. The opposition is tired of the war and wants to end it. Which is more moral: the opposing country continuing the war and inflicting and incurring hundreds, maybe thousands of casualties, or the death of the leader?

You're trying to have it both ways. You want to make an abstract point, and when others find cases that damage your position, you try to say they're being insufficiently concrete. That's not a winning argument.
8.8.2006 11:24pm
Erasmussimo:
Jeek and John, let's make certain that we are setting the table properly. The primary statement that we are discussing is my statement the idea of assassinating a leader of state is so grossly unethical as to be crazy.

I confess that I did not lather it with sufficient CYA clauses, such as noting that this does not apply if you are at war with the state in question. I felt such clauses unnecessary because we are discussing the particular case of Pat Robertson suggesting that Hugo Chavez be assassinated, and we are not at war with Venezuala.

Now, there are a great many arguments against assassination as a state policy, the most important of which are pragmatic (if we practice it against others, they'll practice it against us). I believe that this provides the primary reason for EO 12333.

However, you have chosen to argue the point from ethics rather than pragmatism, and I believe that I can prevail in that arena as well. The first ethical argument is simple: killing is wrong. You know, the Sixth Commandment? Yes, we make exceptions for it in three cases: war, self-defense, and judicial condemnation. Assassination fails to fit into any of these exceptions.

Moreover, the idea of a political leader ordering the execution of an individual is profoundly at odds with our notions of the rule of law. "No person shall be... deprived of life... without due process of law." You may dismiss this as a mere legal argument, but this is central to the very idea of the rule of law. You don't kill people at the whim of a politician. It's not just illegal -- it's wrong.
8.9.2006 1:13am
Jeek:
I confess that I did not lather it with sufficient CYA clauses, such as noting that this does not apply if you are at war with the state in question.

You repeatedly stated that assassination would be "crazy", period, no qualifications whatsoever, even in response to posts that presented different scenarios than Chavez. Thus we could only conclude that you are opposed to assassination under all circumstances.

I felt such clauses unnecessary because we are discussing the particular case of Pat Robertson suggesting that Hugo Chavez be assassinated, and we are not at war with Venezuala.

It was quite clear from the responses that the discussion was not specific to Venezuela, but concerned assassination as a general principle. Now you're trying to wriggle out and say you were only talking about Venezuela. That's a really lame and evasive "argument", and I'm not impressed.

Now, there are a great many arguments against assassination as a state policy, the most important of which are pragmatic (if we practice it against others, they'll practice it against us).

This argument fails. Any state likely to come after our leaders isn't going to care whether or not we're coming after theirs.

However, you have chosen to argue the point from ethics rather than pragmatism, and I believe that I can prevail in that arena as well. The first ethical argument is simple: killing is wrong. You know, the Sixth Commandment? Yes, we make exceptions for it in three cases: war, self-defense, and judicial condemnation. Assassination fails to fit into any of these exceptions.

I really do wonder how you define "assassination" - do you take it to mean the deliberate killing of a specific individual, or what?

In any event, you lose. Assassination as I define it could easily fit into the first two cases, war or self-defense.

Moreover, the idea of a political leader ordering the execution of an individual is profoundly at odds with our notions of the rule of law. "No person shall be... deprived of life... without due process of law." You may dismiss this as a mere legal argument, but this is central to the very idea of the rule of law. You don't kill people at the whim of a politician. It's not just illegal -- it's wrong.

I just love your technique of argument by simplistic platitude. "Killing is wrong, assassination is crazy"... yeah, I guess that ends it and everyone else should shut up now.

Neither law nor common sense prohibits the use of military or clandestine force against specific individuals whose actions pose a threat to the security of the United States. When the President orders the killing of terrorist leaders, that is legal, just, and necessary. Certainly I do not feel that this violates any sane notion of the rule of law.
8.9.2006 4:04am
stranger from a strange land far away (mail):
Erasmussimo, remember the first thing to do when stuck in hole? It's this -- STOP DIGGING DEEPER!
8.9.2006 7:08am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
"Assassination" is now popularly taken to mean killing somebody whose name we know.
The Phoenix program in Viet Nam was designed to kill known cadres before they could make trouble (more trouble). Success in this venture saved the lives of many people whose names we didn't know.
But, since we knew the name of the unlamented deceased and not the names of the therefore-not-killed, it was "assassination" and worse than getting a bunch of conscripts and unfortunate civilians killed.
Now, it could be that this is not exactly what "assassination" means and meant, but only how it was played by the antiwar folks who saw that it was both working and denying them the piles of dead innocents they needed for their work.

I have no doubt they'll do the same today.

So I suggest we make it clear--as most have--that the term "assassination" be restricted for this discussion to the head of government.
8.9.2006 12:04pm
Erasmussimo:
Jeek, you're not reading what I am writing. You discuss at length the notion of assassination during time of war, yet I addressed that when I wrote: this does not apply if you are at war with the state in question.

You alter the terms of discussion when you write When the President orders the killing of terrorist leaders, that is legal, just, and necessary. If you read my posts, I have always discussed the assassination of leaders of state, not terrorists.

You ask me how I define assassination. The broad definition is 'killing somebody for political reasons'. However, in this discussion I have been discussing state-sponsored killing of leaders of state.

You write Assassination as I define it could easily fit into the first two cases, war or self-defense.

I have already eliminated the case of war. You misuse the term 'self-defense' to include pre-emptive killing. Ethical approval of killing in self-defense only applies in cases of immediate danger in which no alternative to killing applies. In other words, if I'm walking down the street and I see a nasty-looking fellow who glares at me, I am not justified in killing him because I fear that he might kill me. Self-defense applies only if he has me cornered and is about to kill or severely injure me. Clearly, these conditions do not obtain with a head of state. Therefore, your self-defense argument does not apply and you are again faced with the basic ethical problem that killing is wrong.

I note that you have acquiesced to my claim that assassinating leaders of state is illegal. That's one step forward.
8.9.2006 12:20pm
NickM (mail) (www):
It's nice to know that defense of others has been entirely eliminated as an ethical or moral ground to kill someone.

I reject your warped and objectively pro-tyrant view.

Nick
8.9.2006 1:19pm
Jeek:
You discuss at length the notion of assassination during time of war,

Not at all, that is a faulty inference on your part. All my comments apply equally to assassination in time of peace.

However, in this discussion I have been discussing state-sponsored killing of leaders of state.

I responded to your assertion that "the idea of a political leader ordering the execution of an individual is profoundly at odds with our notions of the rule of law" and that "you don't kill people at the whim of a politician. It's not just illegal -- it's wrong." That paragraph did not refer to leaders of state, just to "individuals" and "people", and terrorist leaders fit that description.

Do you now argue that when a political leader orders the execution of a terrorist leader, this is NOT offensive to the concept of the rule of law, and NOT illegal and wrong? Leaders of state are sacrosanct and it is illegal and wrong to go after them, but anyone else is fair game? Please clarify.

You misuse the term 'self-defense' to include pre-emptive killing. Ethical approval of killing in self-defense only applies in cases of immediate danger in which no alternative to killing applies. In other words, if I'm walking down the street and I see a nasty-looking fellow who glares at me, I am not justified in killing him because I fear that he might kill me. Self-defense applies only if he has me cornered and is about to kill or severely injure me. Clearly, these conditions do not obtain with a head of state. Therefore, your self-defense argument does not apply and you are again faced with the basic ethical problem that killing is wrong.

Ummm... wrong. Self-defense has a different meaning when applied in international relations, and there are clearly plausible situations where killing a head of state would constitute self-defense. If Kim Jong Il was about to launch a missile at the United States, and killing him would prevent that, then that would be ethically and legally justifiable as self-defense.

I note that you have acquiesced to my claim that assassinating leaders of state is illegal.

I certainly do not. How do you arrive at this faulty conclusion?
8.9.2006 3:05pm
Erasmussimo:
Jeek, I'm going to walk away from this discussion, because it has degenerated to a debate. You seem more interested in scoring debating points than exploring ideas. You haggle endlessly over fine points and pounce upon the slightest phrasing that is not bullet-proof. Do you even remember what we were discussing at the outset? You have meandered over huge tracts of material, never pursuing any coherent theme other than confrontation.

I ask you to decide why you are here. Is it merely to engage in tests of debating cleverness with others? If so, that's fine with me, but I have no interest in engaging you in such childish pursuits.

I used to be quite the debater, and I know all the tricks. I dismissed that way of thinking many years ago because it is ultimately selfish and without meaning. I myself prefer to explore the thinking of those with whom I disagree -- but I do not seek to conquer anybody or prove anything. I do not bother with boards populated by people with whom I agree because you cannot learn anything from people you agree with. I like to poke and prod at ideas, seeing how people handle the twists and turns of a good discussion.

But good discussion requires good faith on the part of all participants, and I don't think you appreciate that yet. I'm sure that, once you get some of that testosterone out of your system, you won't have a need to prove yourself anymore and you'll be able to discuss issues with gentlemen in a mutually enlightening manner. Good luck.
8.9.2006 4:54pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Erasmussimo, it is you who is debating in bad faith. You are engaging in name-calling in place of substantive argument, and you both change your position and make assertions that you later retract with a complaint that others are parsing your statements too closely.

While you are more educated and speak in a calmer manner than the typical troll, you are nevertheless trolling.

Nick
8.10.2006 1:25am