Our species draws a sharp distinction between intended and unintended harm, even when the outcomes are identical. That’s why the law distinguishes manslaughter from murder. In both, the victim of a criminal deed dies as a direct consequence of that deed, while in some cases – Mick and Mairead Philpott spring to mind – manslaughter is punished as severely as murder.
But even the Philpotts, jailed for life after incinerating their children by way of reckless venality, were not charged with murder. Had Britain retained the death penalty they would have avoided the gallows precisely because killing those children had never been their intent. 1
Hold that thought.
In my post of two days ago, Cook on Monbiot on Ukraine (again), I wrote:
Just as the Guardian confers liberal respectability on a rotten status quo, so do writers like George Monbiot (excellent on linking ecocide to big money, dire on Syria) and Owen Jones (author of such worthy tomes as The Establishment, useless when his employer was trashing Corbyn) give left cover to the Guardian. In none of this, however, do I accuse such writers of conscious bad faith … though at times they sail close to the wind. 2 In the main … I see them as confused precisely because their humanist ‘universalism’ makes them useful idiots, easily duped by the agendas of an empire to whose existence they remain for all practical purposes oblivious.
This elicited the following exchanges below the line:
Margaret O’Brien: I disagree. I believe they are guilty of conscious bad faith. I just don’t think they can be that dense. Surely the fact that their paychecks from the Guardian would disappear is a factor in their siding with empire, and going along with the character assassinations of Assange and Corbyn. The quotation about it being difficult for a man to understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding comes to mind.
Me: Well this isn’t a red line for me Margaret, so I’ll happily agree to differ (slightly). In my spell at a spiritual cult I learned many valuable things. One being that at some level of consciousness we all know what we’re doing.
- The line between intended and unintended killing is not always clear cut, and men have hanged not because they intended to kill but because they were found to have “common cause” with others who did. See in this regard the case of Derek Bentley.
- As I discovered while researching my ‘universalism’ post on Syria, Owen Jones trashed Mother Agnes, head of an organisation mediating between warring factions and working for the safe evacuation of civilians. This Lebanese Christian nun had argued consistently for dialogue and reconciliation so why was Jones – whose knowledge of the war in Syria could, like Monbiot’s, be written on the back of a stamp – so contemptuous? Because Mother Agnes questioned the hole-riddled narrative on Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons at Ghouta. As for George Monbiot, besides the public attacks, and failure to put up or shut up when challenged – as alluded to by Jonathan, Margaret and Susan – two mutually independent sources, Media Lens and David Ray Griffin, told me that in private they found themselves at the sharp end of his vitriolic ad hominems for taking positions, on Syria and on 9/11, counter to his own.
- The American writer Upton Sinclair famously observed that “it is hard to get a man to see a truth his salary depends on him not seeing”.
- Commentary on Admiral Black’s speech is given in two pieces appearing yesterday. One is by Caitlin Johnstone in the Greanville Post, one by Gerrard Kaonga on International Clearing House.
- I dare say if I looked hard enough I’d find condemnations by George of the immense trail of environmental destruction left by the US military in its wars on the global south, from Vietnam to Syria. (Greta Thunberg stays clear of such ‘political’ terrain; an avoidance I’m happy to pin on her image managers.) I’m confident, however, that any condemnation by George – by George! – would be general not specific; against all wars in principle, but silent on whatever particular war the empire happens currently to be waging.