Cathy Lynn Grossman at USA Today asks, in relation to the backlash against Mary Ann Glendon, whether war casualties are equivalent to aborted babies.
I didn’t read both her columns on the subject, nor the many comments, but here’s my response to this very important question:
But who is morally culpable?
In the case of an abortion, the abortionist and staff, and the woman, are directly culpable for the act of abortion. If abortion is legal, then the politicians who made it legal are engaging in proximate material cooperation by creating a social situation that permits abortion. They engage in even further proximate material cooperation by voting in favor of taxpayer funding of abortion.
It is ridiculous for a politician legalizing and funding abortion to turn and around claim that he or she does not want abortions to occur.
If a parent gives a kid a pack of condoms and a blank check written out to an escort service and says, “We’re leaving you alone in the house for the night, and we won’t be back till sometime next week. We’d rather you not hire a hooker while we’re gone, but we won’t punish you if you do,” isn’t the parent facilitating the sin?
So how can legislators claim they’re *not* facilitating abortions by legalizing and funding them?
The case is slightly different for war.
If a war is unjust, and it is definitely unjust, then all the casualties of that war are morally equivalent to aborted babies. The politicians who voted in favor of that war may be just as culpable of the victims of war as the ones who voted for legalized abortion were guilty of the dead babies *if* they knew it was unjust. If they sincerely believed the war was just, if they applied the criteria to the best of their ability and read the evidence, then they have the freedom of conscience to make that call. If they chose to ignore data to justify their position, that’s a different story.
Now, let’s say the war *is* justified. Let’s say it’s an otherwise just war, voted on justly by the legislature, but there are *civilian* casualties (At first, when I read this title, I was extrapolating the word “civilian,” and realized it isn’t actually there).
The intentional death of civilians in wartime is always mortally sinful.
That is to say, you don’t bomb civilian targets. We’ve heard in every war since World War II, at lesat, about how “the nature of this war is different.” In World War II, it was the broad scope of the war and the potentially endless conflict if somethign drastinc wasn’t done (even though both Germany and Japan lost more becaues they were running out of resources).
In the “War on Terror,” the excuse is that terrorists are a “differnet kind of enemy.” In both cases, people try to justify the killing of innocent civilians, but this is impossible.
Now, obviously, if a civilian happens to be inside a legitimate military target, there’s no way of knowing that–indeed, it’s more than likely there is a civilian or two involved in any target. Or if a civilian is hit in the crossfire, that’s another story.
That’s why we used have rules of war: armies met on designated battlefields and fought outside of towns in order to prevent the deaths of innocent civilians.
But here’s the thing: if a president votes for an unjust war, and makes the decision deceptively, that doesn’t necessarily mean that his ambassador to a different country is somehow complicit in the war. Now, we can get into all sorts of extrapolations here, but I won’t.
Just the point that those who bear culpability are those who a) voted for the war, b) encouraged the president and legislators to vote for the war, and c) to a lesser extent, those who, by sins of omission, didn’t stop the president and legislators from voting.
If the war is just, and innocent civilians are being bombed, then the question is “who knew what and when.” If the president knows and accepts it, he’s guilty.
Certainly the soldiers who actually klil the civilians are guilty, as are the officers who give the orders (if they’re direct).
But is a person who advises the president in a completely different capacity guilty of a war he pursued without consulting her ? Especially if the war itself is just but the issue is other civilian casualties?