Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Is one of these things not like the other one?

As you are no doubt aware, federal prosecutors have spent the past few days trying to convince a jury in Boston to order the snuffing of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. (The defense will try to convince at least one juror not to go along with it starting on Monday.)

I followed the proceedings pretty closely, because I lived in Boston more than half my adult life and worked just a few blocks away from the scene. Had I not moved away just that year, I might have been there. So it is kind of personal. And I do have to say, if there's every a case where prosecutors can get a death sentence from a jury, this is it. The testimony of the injured, and loved ones of the dead, was horrific and heartbreaking. The utter depravity of setting off bombs, packed with shrapnel and designed to maximally maim and kill, in a festive crowd of completely innocent strangers is as far out as it gets. Tsarnaev appears to have no remorse, did not look at the witnesses, and showed no emotional reaction at all to the agony and terror paraded before him.

On the same day, the administration announced that a drone strike on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border (they don't say which country it was actually in) back in January killed two hostages, and American and an Italian, who they did not know were present. Okay, it's a tragic accident, they only meant to kill some other people of who's identities they weren't sure. (Turns out they also killed a couple of other U.S. citizens who were al Qaeda members, but they didn't know they were there either.)

Now, you might argue that there is no moral comparison. The Tsarnaev brothers intended to maim and kill innocent people, whereas when the U.S. does it it's collateral damage, not intended at all. Sure, the U.S. in Afghanistan has had a bad habit of bombing wedding parties and kids gathering firewood and blowing up houses full of civilians, but it's an accident.

Here's the thing: if you know that among the consequences of your actions will be a substantial number of "mistakes" that kill and maim innocent people, then you do in fact intend it. Any consequence of your actions that you can predict will happen, you intend. And you are responsible.

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