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January 07, 2009


Mandy Leech

But John, was it a good movie? Worth going to see?


Mandy , my answer to your question is woven throughout this post. It's always a good thing to be reminded of the need to stand up for what is right. In that sense, I would highly recommend it to any and all. (And from a cinematic perspective, it's well done. :)

chris corwin

i'm interested in this idea of performing a murder in order to accomplish something Good.

when is it okay?

many people believe that George W. Bush is terribly evil.

is it okay for them to assasinate him?

is it good?

how many people would still be alive today, instead of dead?

how many people would have all thier limbs, instead of go missing legs?

how many families of our soldiers would have gotten to avoid being torn apart by years away and PTSD?

all that seems GOOD to me.

and yet, it does not seem like assisnating george bush is good, still.

at what life cost does performing a murder go from "evil" to "holy" ?

two hundred thousand deaths doesn't seem to be enough, but six million does?



Chris, I find your view disturbing, although I know you're not the only one in America to express hate for President Bush. I hear you saying that George Bush can be compared to Hitler, and that both are directly responsible for killing innocent people to advance their own agenda.

I have at least two relatives in the military, and both made the choice to join freely. I have yet to hear of one concentration camp resident who volunteered.

chris corwin

two things:

1) i wasn't saying george w. bush is equal to hitler. but he *can* be compared to him. so can i. so can you. so can anyone whom has ever had thoughts that fall short of the glory of god.

george bush was in charge of our government when we endeavoured to engage in an illegal war under false pretenses and hundreds of thousands of people have died, and hundreds of thousands more lives have been torn apart, as a direct result.

my question is: at what point do we go from simply saying, "yah, that was bad" to saying, "let us kill the one in charge" ?

why is it "good" to go kill hitler, but "bad" to go kill george bush?

is it the number of lives lost?

or is it that they were jewish and not muslim?

2) i have yet to hear about one prisoner of guantanamo who volunteered to be there.

and i have yet to hear about one victim of "interrogation" by our government (of the free!) who volunteered to undergo such torture -- except for christopher hitchens, of course:


many of our brave and honorable soldiers, including members of both of our own families, have served in this war.

and that's awful.

they ought not to have had to do it.

the lives of their families ought not have been been torn apart.

we are no safer, demonstratably.

we are no better off economically.

we are in no better political position in the world.

we have hurt, maimed, or killed thousands of young american soldiers lives, and ruined tens of thousands of happy homes, and killed houndreds of thousands of iraqis.

that is a VERY high cost for a war that was about "weapons of mass destruction" that this administration admits it knew never existed.

how doe these things relate?

at what point are a leaders activities "evil enough" to justify assasination?

somewhere between the horribleness that the US has brought down on the iraqi people and the horrors the jews were forced into by hitler lay the answer, it seems.

i myself am very uncomfortable with the idea of taking someone's life just because *i* think they deserve to die.

apparently, though, others are okay with doing just that.


I will simply say that my beliefs are different than your beliefs. One thing I do know is my relatives decided to serve or continue to serve after the invasion. Therefore, your statement:

"many of our brave and honorable soldiers...have served in this war.

and that's awful.

they ought not to have had to do it."

does not apply in their case. Again, they didn't have to, they chose to.

I know your original question was when is it ok to assassinate. My point is I don't think it's fair to put Bush in the same category as Hitler. Again, we simply have to agree to disagree.

chris corwin

> does not apply in their case. Again, they didn't have
> to, they chose to.

but *someone* has to.

when our government sends our military to war, several hundred thousand US citizens must go.

the fact that every one of them *chose* to be in the military, and that lots of them chose to be in the military even knowing they would go is not the point: some one has to go fight a war, when the the government decides to bring one.

and if our government had not brought this illegal war to iraq, not one single soldier of ours would be there fighting.

and if the administration had told the truth to the world about what they knew about the "weapons of mass destruction", our government would not have gone to war.

i don't think we need to agree to disagree.

if you disagree with me, so be it, but i don't have to agree to it.


in any case, you're correct: my main issue with all of this is:

why is it okay to go kill hitler?

at one point is it okay for a christian to decide someone else's life is okay to take away from them?

i think this ought not be glossed over, nor ought it be ignore, nor distracted away from by aruging non-points about whether people join the military on purpose or not.

why is it okay to take hitler's life?

Mark D.

As one knows in philosophical argument, for a conclusion to be true the premises also have to be equally true. If there is a falsehood in the premise then it follows that the conclusion is equally false. This is where I find my first conflict with what Chris has stated. This is what he states: "i'm interested in this idea of performing a murder in order to accomplish something Good."

In making his comments regarding the assassination attempt on Hitler, and particularly based on what he believes to be an act of murder by Von Stauffenberg, Chris has first failed to establish that the act by Von Stauffenberg and the other conspirators was attempted murder. In the context of when the act took place many would not classify the act as murder. The only ones who would have would have been the Nazis and when you watch the news reels and read the history of the judicial system under the Nazis you saw how they twisted and maligned that system in order to suit their own ends. The word, murder, also means “the unlawful killing of another human being.” In the context of the time (WWII) when the act was committed, no Allied Court would have convicted Von Stauffenberg of murder. In fact, they would have hailed him as a hero by bringing the war to a conclusion sooner than it did.

The other aspect is that Von Stauffenberg and the other German officers saw Hitler as one of the main reasons for Germany’s demise on the battlefield by his constant meddling. German lives were being carelessly thrown away and no doubt they would have seen his removal as sound military planning—though, the only difference is that you are planning to bring about the demise of your own leader and not that of your enemy. So even in that context alone the taking of life in a military operation is not classified as murder. Hitler would not have been classified as a non-combatant, but rather, a combatant by the nature of his being the head of the German Armed Forces.

There is no doubt Von Stauffenberg would has been called a traitor by some but a hero by others. But that is not the point. What we have to look at is the motive. If Von Stauffenberg was killing Hitler to replace him with other leaders to continue to prosecute the war then, yes, I would call his action murder, for at the heart of murder is selfish ambition. But it was clear that this was not Von Stauffenberg’s motive. His motive was to quicken the end of the madness of the Second World War. Thus, the decision to kill Hitler would have been judged as a sound military option, and Hitler’s death would have be classified as that of a casualty of war as a combatant and not murder. The overriding fact that it was not for selfish ambition is the fact that he was willing to forfeit his own life.

Now the comparison Chris brings up between Hitler and President Bush should never be made. Although we see the caricatures in Middle Eastern papers or posters in demonstrations of equating Bush to Hitler, any true analysis of history will show how infantile, naïve and ludicrous such a comparison is. So to question that because of the present conflict in Iraq and the deaths that have resulted from it, we can entertain the assassination of Bush to bring about good (I presume the end of the conflict) bears nothing in comparison to what Von Stauffenberg was trying to do. One, if you did assassinate Bush, it would not bring about the end of the conflict. Yes, Bush took America to war, but he didn’t make that decision alone. It was a decision made by the government with some opposition. There are policies in place for that war’s prosecution and bringing about the end game of the war’s aims—even the assassination of Bush—would not change that.

Secondly, you Americans live in a democratic Republic, something which the German people didn’t live under in the 1940’s. If you don’t like what Bush is doing you can vote him out of office. If there is a popular consensus with mass demonstrations during his term, you can watch how politicians will do U turns to protect their seats in the House of Representatives. There are multitudes of ways open to you to voice your displeasure. Try any one of them in Nazi Germany, Iraq (under Saddam Hussein), Aminajad’s Iran , Assad’s Syria , Mugabe’s Zimbabwe and see how long you would live for. At least America under Bush still allows you, your freedom of speech. There is a proverb that states: “When the wicked get control, everybody hides, but when they die, good people do well.” I don’t see the people of America hiding, which tells me that you don’t have a tyrant in control.

Chris wrote: “somewhere between the horribleness that the US has brought down on the iraqi people and the horrors the jews were forced into by hitler lay the answer, it seems.” Again this is a false comparison. It was not US government policy for the liquidation of the Iraqi people where as ‘The Final Solution’ to the Jewish question was Nazi policy. Never was it a stated war aim by the US Government that it would systematically wipe out a race of people off the face of the earth. There will always be casualties in war that is a reality of war. The US has not intentionally brought about what is currently happening in Iraq. It is the warring factions of Sunni and Shia militants that have unleashed the majority of the killings that you witness on your T.V. or newspapers. And it is all for the lust of power, as another proverb says: “People will never stop dying and being destroyed, and they will never stop wanting more than they have.” The biggest mistake the US made in going into Iraq was thinking that they were a people ready for democracy and evidently they are not. There are reasons for that, but that is not what we are discussing at the moment.

Further, Chris wrote: "at what life cost does performing a murder go from 'evil' to 'holy'?" This statement is a non-starter, because murder is murder. You cannot have ‘evil’ murder and ‘holy’ murder. And if we are going to classify the act morally then murder is always evil. The amount of deaths that an individual is responsible for (say, a Hitler) has no power to change the moral context of murder if he himself is killed by someone unlawfully. As stated above, murder is defined as stated the unlawful killing of a person.

To summarize: To draw a comparison between what happened in the Second World War regarding Hitler and Von Stauffenberg and what has happened under Bush in Iraq cannot really be made. There are not enough parallel themes running together to make such a comparison. I think also the initial statement “i'm interested in this idea of performing a murder in order to accomplish something Good.” doesn’t work. Murder never accomplishes anything good for murder itself is committed by those who are only looking to benefit from the act themselves. That is selfish, which again, is a deplorable human trait. If the question was put in the context of the use of force, even lethal force to bring about good that would make it a more debateable topic. But murder does not qualify, because as stated, murder is from selfish ambition. Thus, we would be forced to look at the varied reasons as to why lethal force was used and to see whether it was justifiable or not.

There was a poem I learnt during my 22 years service with the British Army and fought in over six conflicts including Iraq and it went like this: "English Ladies and Gentlemen sleep soundly in their beds because rough men stand ready to do extreme violence on their behalf." That poem sums up to me what is called the term “Réal Politik”. For us in the West, the freedom we have is because of the result of the second half of that stanza and no other. As one American said, "the price of liberty is constant vigilance”.

chris corwin

prologue: words are here to help us communicate, not to be an end in themselves.

you *knew* what i was asking, and yet you ignored it, and answered some other question that i hadn't asked.

don't think i didn't notice, you sneaky guy!

so, then, with that in mind:

you've based your entire response upon me using the word "murder", which you have already applied a specific meaning of "always wrong" to.

rather than niggle with you and your extremely tedious semantics, i'll simply restate my question:

i'm interested in this idea of taking a human life in order to accomplish something Good.

when is it okay?

my hope is that we can simply discuss this thing, rather than call each other naive or fiddling around with what words "really mean".

the idea is to communicate and reach mutual understanding, not to "be right"


WikkiAnswers has what I consider a good answer:

In Ecclesiastes 3 we are taught that there is a time for everything - even killing. In the Book of Esther we are told of one man's obsession to destroy the Jews. Haman was so obsessed with his hatred of Mordecai that he deceived the king into signing a death sentence for all Jews (Esther 3:13). Over the next few chapters we see the progression of Haman's downfall because of his hatred, but Esther 8:11-12 has a very interesting decree. When the king finally sees the folly of the law he signed for Haman, he signs another law giving the Jews the right to defend their lives by killing anyone who is trying to murder them.

The Bible teaches that human life is sacred. Terminating a human life is very serious. Consequently there are restrictions placed upon terminating a person's life.


whoops.. not all of the final paragraph cut and pasted properly. From

The Bible teaches that human life is sacred. Terminating a human life is very serious. Consequently there are restrictions placed upon terminating a person's life. The government can terminate a life for crimes it deems worthy of death. A person can terminate the life of one seeking to kill them. Such action, however, would seem to be permissible only if there are not alternatives available that would protect both the victim and perpetrator.


Chris, it's interesting that you've struggled with the various "tangents" that folks have traveled down on this particular comment thread, given the fact that your initial (and subsequent) posts have included a wide variety of related subjects that readily invite responses. For my part, I thought your original question concerning when it is appropriate to take the life of another (in your assassination of Bush v. Hitler comparison) is intriguing and worth thinking about. But your inclusion of editorial commentary on Iraq to make your case cannot be divorced from that original question.

For example, you believe Iraq to be an "illegal war" (an assertion that many would obviously challenge). This causes me to wonder, is it just Iraq that is the problem for liberals? Would there be less of a problem if our military troops were engaged in a war that liberals didn't think was "illegal"? I tend to believe (and please correct me here) that it is the idea of war itself that unnerves the liberal community. Assuming that is true (which, again, it may not be), is war ever appropriate? The liberal tendency would presumably say, "No". But then there is the problem with places like Darfur and Rwanda and other situations where innocent people are being raped, maimed, and killed at the hands of evil despots. Liberals are often fervent in their support of the people in Darfur, and are challenging our government to get involved (an action that I think should probably be entertained more seriously). But what if getting involved means that people get killed? And what if, in an attempt to liberate the people, certain innocent civilians get caught up in the violence and lose their lives? Is the effort to achieve the ultimate goal of liberation still worth it?

In this particular discussion, semantics are very important, because there is a difference between killing someone (depriving someone of their life) and murdering someone (the crime of unlawfully killing a person esp. with malicious aforethought). As Mark was implying, the meanings of the two words do matter, particularly because of their practical application.

If murder is always wrong, but the taking of life is not necessarily always wrong, then that would seem to shed light on your basic question. We've talked in the past about the taking of human life (for example, whether or not I would be justified in defending my wife and children against an armed intruder, even if it resulted in his death). In such circumstances, it seems the case for taking human life is warranted. However, when it expands beyond a personal human-to-human encounter to a larger scale (e.g. country v. country) situation, the variables become that much complicated. But the basic principles remain the same. So the big question, is whether or not the evil being perpetrated by someone (e.g. Hitler) warrants their own death? The answer to that basic question is not always clear cut, and as such, it will continue to provoke passionate disagreement.

Throughout all of this, your assessment begs the question, "What should we do about evil and the people who propagate it upon innocent people?" For those who recoil at the idea of taking the life of another human being, the difficulties multiply when attempting to mete out punishment that fits the crimes of people like Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, Saddam Hussein, Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, et al.

Mark D.

I agree words are here to help us communicate, but they are also to be an end in themselves. For if the words you use to communicate to me have no meaning (in that I can attach any meaning to them I want), then the whole conversation is meaningless. There was no tedious semantics on my part. You used the word, “murder”. So, the semantics you talk about concerned only the definition given by the Oxford dictionary as to what murder means. I could only reply to you in the context of how you posed the question. I failed telepathy 101.

Equally, should anyone be taken to a court of law and charged with such a crime, words and their meaning will play a huge part both by the defence and prosecution. And believe me, if you or I were in the dock, we would want to ensure the right words to explain the truth were used to defend us, especially if we were on the receiving end of a lie.

Similarly, when we are dealing with such an important issue as that of taking human life, we have to be clear in our terms of how we are either going to support that idea or reject it. With regards to calling you naïve, that was not intended at you. It was in regards to the parodying of George Bush as Hitler by those in the Middle East and their poor grasp of history. If you felt it was directed at you, that was not my intention and you have my apology.

Again, I believe I did answer the original question, that if Von Stauffenberg was successful, he would have brought about a quicker conclusion to the Second World War which would have resulted in thousand of lives being saved (which I believe would have brought about a greater good for all.) But perhaps my answer wasn't to the philosophical depth to which you were exploring the question.

That said, I just have to respond to your last comment “the idea is to communicate and reach mutual understanding, not to "be right"”. The fact is with regards to this topic that someone has to be right and someone has to be wrong. It is either right to take life or it is not right to take life. And if it is, then when is it right to do so?

Melinda has already given some account of when it seems to be right in the context that individuals have been given consent by a governing authority to take life to defend their own lives. Melinda used a Biblical story but I will use examples from my own personal experiences.

As I mentioned in my last post, I served with the British Army for many years. During that time I served in a number of conflicts and used lethal force against those in circumstances who were a threat to the British public, primarily the IRA. On a number of occasions, the unit I belonged to ambushed and killed a number of IRA combatants. These men were on their way either to murder policemen in their homes or plant VIEDs (Vehicle Improvised Explosive Device), which would have maimed and killed scores of innocent civilians in shopping malls.

During the Bosnian conflict I was part of a NATO force to get supplies into a Muslim area that was totally surrounded by the Serbs, which was shelling the local population constantly (with scores of woman and children being killed everyday). By calling in airstrikes, we destroyed a number of Serb artillery and tank positions which eventually led to the lifting of the siege and the bringing in of food and medical supplies to the people.

I could go on with other personal examples of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq but the two examples I have stated brought around good results for people being terrorized. So, yes, the taking of life can bring about good. That is, of course, if we are in agreement that the acts that the IRA and the Serbs were perpetrating were crimes against humanity (which not only British law but also international law said they were). The context of taking life though has to be by a recognised authority that has been given the right to use lethal force to protect the weak and the terrorized in society within the framework of either national or international law.

The other part of your question was “when is it o.k.” The taking of life is O.K. when there are agreed upon terms generally enshrined in our laws of how society should function for the benefit for all. When there are those who want to take those liberties from us by force, our laws are clear that those who desire to do so can expect to forfeit their own lives through the institutions (Police, Armed Forces) who exist to protect those laws which give us our freedom.

Conservative girl.

What Chris says is of his own blind views. Thinking Bush is going to kill you when the time comes when these terrorists know that America's Liberals and Democrats do nothing when Republicans and Conservatives try to keep us safe. Listen to some Michael Savage and read some History. Don't trust the damn media its all basically Liberal and demonstartes lies and exxagerates stuff. People in Iraq, soldiers, who are there know how it is and I have been confronted by some to say the media exxagerates things worse than it is and some of the stuff is not even true sometimes of what they say. Democracy has changed, things are different now and that is why I'm Conservative. I beleive in what is good and what is not and try to do the right thing and understand the right things. What history tells me and and my heart tell me is now I am Conservative and that we should do something. I acknowledge and admire an inspiration that keeps me going and that is Flight 93. Its too bad such people do not know much history and beleive just what they want and what they see and don't care. If it weren't for Bush and we had that idiot Clinton still I can say we would be in a horrible position then this.

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