Re: Afghanistan's "collateral damage" dead are at fault for theirown deaths. Was Re: Aid for Afghanistan's

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Tue Jan 01 2002 - 01:20:50 MST

"Robert J. Bradbury" wrote:
> On Mon, 31 Dec 2001, commenting on my comments wrote:
> > What I hear you saying is that the civilians (children, women, and men)
> > killed "collateral damage" have no one to blame but themselves and should
> > just die in silence
> To the degree that one is "aware" of a hazard one is "personally responsible"
> for tolerating its existence.

That did not answer the above question. Not by a long shot.
Being aware of a hazard and being able to do anything much to
avert it are quite different things. Whether one has done as
much as possible, relative to the size of the hazard and one's
hierarchy of values, there is still no reason to simply die in
silence without complaint that I understand.

> *I* am aware of the hazard that comets and asteroids represent to humanity
> (even though they can scarcely be labeled "moral actors"). To the degree
> I do not demonstrate & lobby my government or send money to private
> organizations (every day) to investigate and develop solutions for this
> problem -- I am "personally responsible" for any deaths, including my
> own, that may result from my inaction.

Hardly. Life is short and we have to pick our battles. The
danger of a large asteroid or comet slamming into the earth in
your lifetime are pretty tiny compared to many other more
immediate dangers. That it happens anyway despite the huge odds
against it cannot be held as something that you and the rest of
us are guilty for. Now I would feel some guilt in such a
case. But it is more guilt for not doing more to advance AI and
technology generally to the point where we did not have to be
sitting ducks.

> I am not suggesting that anyone should "die in silence". I am suggesting
> that placing the blame for their deaths on the U.S. *alone* is failing to
> look at the larger picture.

Fair enough.
> The people who were substantially afraid of the danger that U.S. bombing
> represented *migrated* to Pakistan (or other countries)! The people who
> felt they could not survive the possible famine facing Afghanistan moved
> to refuge camps. The people who chose not to rise up and eliminate the

Where they could still face famine actually. Some were too sick
or old to move. Many did not go because they could not pay the
stiff (for the area) price demanded to pass into Pakistan.
Those who did not go cannot be faulted necessarily. We speak of
our "smart bombs" and do not even allow much independent
verification of civilian deaths from our campaings in
Afghanistan. Since we are dropping the bombs, and in some cases
dropping them on poor or non-existent military targets, we are
liable for these deaths. They may or may not be avoidable. We
may or may not be right to do some or all of the bombing we
did. But it seems to imply it is the fault of the citizen if
they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is
also folly to equate not standing up to a murderously repressive
regime with failing to bug your congress critters at every
possible opportunity.

> Soviets from Afghanistan 15 years ago set into play a complex political
> chess game that created the Al Qa'eda, the Taliban, empowered bin Laden
> and eventually caused the actions we see today. If you let people use
> you as a pawn -- then you are responsible for being used as a pawn.

Pardon me but we set up many of those pawns ourselves. Those
who create and manipulate the pawns are more responsible for the
expanded scope of their knowledge and ability to act than the
pawns themselves.

> As I mentioned before -- I think the current situation in Argentina
> demonstrates quite clearly what things should look like when people
> are being "responsible" for a situation they find unacceptable.
> (That doesn't mean I think they know how to fix it -- it just
> means they are actively contributing to whatever solution is developed.)

I wonder. Argentina plans to repudiate its debt after various
plans to restructure it were shot down. Eleven days into his
term its leader steps down. They have had four leaders in a
matter of weeks. It seems to me a lot of pressure is being
applied from many different directions and I doubt that much of
it came constructively from the people. The country is in
> > _AND_ that as a citizen of the U.S. their deaths are
> > also my fault since I ostensibly have the power to prevent them since I
> > supposedly control the actions of my government's current (and past) foreign
> > state modification projects.
> To the degree that you are not marching in Washington for peace -- yes --
> you are responsible for them. (Remember I'm a child of the '60s -- I *know*
> the power of a generation to change government policies). To the degree
> that "we" (collectively) as U.S. citizens (our our parents) thought of
> Russia as the "Great Satan" and accepted the policies of our government
> to combat that "evil", we share the responsibility for the current situation in
> Afghanistan (and any deaths that may occur in resolving it).

Fair enough.

> > I'm not buying your argument and the 40 civilians killed on Saturday and the
> > 103 killed on Sunday aren't either.
> Those who are "ignorant" of the environment around them, e.g. children,
> I would label "innocent" victims. Anyone who has knowledge of the situation
> (ranging from the Russian invasion of Afghanistan to CIA covert activities)
> is responsible to the extent they simply "accepted" the situation.

Sure. Then we are in part responsible.
> > For some reason I was under the impression that Extropianism was a form of
> > transhumanism that had a very positive philosophy on the dignity of
> > individuals as apposed to a state Social Darwinism agenda.
> It is a very positive philosophy, clearly trying to maximize human potential.
> The killing of "innocent" civilians can hardly be viewed as extropic. I'm
> on record for stating that what we should be doing is cryonically preserving
> all "terrorists" until the technology becomes available to determine whether
> "rational" discussion can correct entrenched memes that are based on what should
> most probably be viewed as a history of being brain washed.

Or not. It might also be argued that the time lag would allow
cooler heads to see the relative merits and demerits of both
sides historically. And once awakened some time in the future I
seriously doubt that any combatant, terrorist or not, would have
quite so much to fight about as many of the situations are no
more (hopefully). I favor the idea, technology permitting, of
popping hopelessly hostile specimens into a very well designed
VR where they can work through their "stuff" in as many VR
lifetimes it takes before being brought back to the "real"
world. A hi-tech "Wheel of Karma" if you will.
> To the extent that that cannot be accomplished at this time, I am willing to
> tolerate certain civilians being caught in the line of fire in an effort
> that I hope will result in a marginal increase in my personal security.

In this particular case I am not tolerant of that because I
don't believe a lot of these actions are making me one bit safer
- if anything I think the world is becoming less safe as a
result of the full envelope of actions that this is just one
part of.

> It is pragmatic self-interest that motivates me. I've written a paper
> on the how bad bioterrorism might get -- it *is* very frightening --
> and its only a fraction of the risks we face (from "natural" Ebola to
> nuclear war to nanotech).

Ebola, of course, makes a really poor bio-warfare weapon. But
if we upset enough countries deeply enough we will be more
likely to face wars declared and undeclared that use any and all
weapons they can find. It is not pragmatic to risk that if it
can be avoided. Just the opposite. We also need a non-war
footing desperately in the developed world for a few years to
finish giving birth to some relevant technologies without having
them first twisted to warfare. We also require the intellectual
freedom that is fast being squeezed with decreasing opposition
because "we are at war". Without these things we are all in
most profound danger - more danger than from real terrorism
- samantha

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