Fairness: The Argument Not Made

In an article posted, an apparent first-time author at Gigo accused the United States of unfairness in its war with Iraq.

Now I will be the first to agree that the United States is not a perfect country, nor is anything in life always fair. However, some of the bases of these accusations of unfairness are more than technically inaccurate — they are absurd.

Having read the original article by M. Warren, and all of the responses made, there is one paragraph in particular that caught my attention: “We can dismiss the first, as the US is anything but honourable and fair. Were they honourable and fair, they wouldn’t have left the Iraqis to be slaughtered after the previous Gulf War and they’d be fighting using the weaponry as the Iraqi military (as that would be an “honourable and fair” way of doing battle – technological superiority is anything but fair).”

Mr. Warren makes a good point about the Iraqis after the Gulf War. We made the mistake of allowing Saddam to retain helicopter overflights in the no-fly zones, and he used them to devastate uprisings in the Basra, Mosul, and Kirkuk regions. It is the second part of this paragraph that leaves little to be desired.

Under the thesis proposed by M. Warren, we made an ethical and moral mistake when we failed to apply to Russia for old T-55 and T-62 battle tanks before going to war with Iraq. In place of precision guided munitions, it was our moral obligation to have launched Scud missiles and Chinese Seersucker missiles into downtown Baghdad, causing countless more civilian casualties than were inflicted in either Gulf war. In the name of fairness, instead of our M1A1 battle tanks and M2/M3 armored vehicles, we should have had taxicab drivers and pregnant women blowing themselves up at Iraqi checkpoints. In lieu of our ‘Thunder Run’ drive into downtown Baghdad, we should have loaded vans with women and children, and sent them flying at full speed into units of the Special Republican Guard.

Finally, in place of our helicopters and anti-tank missiles, it was our ethical duty to have loaded pickup trucks, school buses, and sport utility vehicles with explosives and suicide drivers, and sent them charging into the sides of Iraqi T-55 and T-62 tanks.

Mr. Warren’s thesis becomes even worse as applied to Al Qa’ida:

Instead of attacking Al Qa’ida with precision missiles, special forces, the 10th Mountain Division, and the United States Marines, we should have hijacked a civilian airliners with box-cutters, and sent them screaming into downtown Kabul.

We did not do these things for two specific reasons:

  1. Such tactics are effective at causing terror, but not winning war. By bombing Baghdad with Scuds, for instance, we might have caused a lot of damage, but this would not have brought about a quick and desirable end to the war. The resulting damage to lives and material would have been much higher under the terms of your proposed thesis, and I very much doubt anyone seriously considers that this would been ‘fair’.
  2. We are not our enemies. We do not, for example send pregnant women and children to blow themselves in the name of Allah. We, as Americans value life, and we treasure and defend those that bring new life into this world. When waging a war against an evil and oppressive dictatorship, we go to lengths to avoid civilian casualties that no one else in the world is even capable of, and we accomplish this by use of our superior technology. Superior technology, incidentally, that Mr. Warren denounces…

It occurs to me that in his article, Mr. Warren confuses two separate and distinct issues:

  1. The issue of the fairness and/or justness of the war itself;
  2. The issue of whether or not we wage that war in a just and fair manner.

Without addressing at this time the issue of the over justness of the cause of Operation Iraqi Freedom, most people would agree:

  • war is waged ‘fairly’ when the Geneva Conventions are upheld in the practice of war; and
  • a war of ‘fair conduct’ is waged when everything possible is done do avoid the instance of collateral damage to the lives and property of non-combatants.

In Operation Iraq Freedom, the United States and its partners did these things. We captured thousands of Iraqi prisoners, and to each of them, we provided food, water, sanitation, and medical attention. With respect to collateral damage, it happened, as it always happens in war. However, the historical record will reflect that our armed forces went to lengths never before seen in warfare to avoid minimize such instances.

The important thing to observe here, is that the definition of a fair conduct in war, is precisely the opposite of what Mr. Warren proposes. His argument would be the substance of high comedy, were it not tragically pathetic.

Note to Gray 6, on the topic of Iraqi Debt:

It seems to me, sir, that for anyone to hold the new Iraqi government accountable for the debts of a brutal dictator, is legally similar to attempting to hold the government of the United States of America accountable for the debts of the Confederate States after the Civil War. It didn’t fly then, and I would hope that it doesn’t fly now.