Morally bankrupt war
President Rodrigo Duterte’s war rhetoric in his effort to deliver on the campaign promise of ridding the country of illegal narcotics only normalizes more deaths related to the problem.
In literal wars, ethicists have advocated for the observance of principles such as those outlined in the theory of a “just war.”
Following the world wars of the twentieth century, several nations ratified treaties and protocols such as the ones that compose the Geneva Conventions that set standards for humanitarian treatment of people amid war.
As any regular observer of global affairs may note, however, these principles and conventions are often honored in the breach rather than in the observance.
So insidious is the evil spirit behind war and ensuing atrocities that it permeates even the prelude to war and has at least twice deceived the government of the United States into military adventurism in the Middle East.
At the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Aarhus, Denmark, our professors, Hans-Henrik Holm and Michael Stohl, showed us in graduate school video featuring a crooked premise for US involvement in the first Persian Gulf War back in the 1990s.
The highlight of the video was the testimony of Nayirah al-Sabah at the American Congressional Human Rights Caucus. Then a teenager, Nayirah testified that Iraqi soldiers pulled babies from incubators in a Kuwaiti hospital and left them to die.
The story turned out to be false, as per investigation by the Middle East division of Human Rights Watch. But it was oft-repeated by American senators, the elder president George Bush and the American media, and helped drum up support for the use of military force against Iraq.
In the 2000s, under the younger president George Bush, the US once again fell for war propaganda, believing that Iraq under Saddam Hussein stockpiled weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) such as anthrax, nerve gas and nuclear weapons. The assertion went unquestioned in the public sphere.
Later, however, the US Central Intelligence Agency itself concluded that there were no WMDs in Iraq at the time Bush junior went to war to remove Hussein under the so-called “war on terror.”
Media organizations in the United States such as Washington Post and New York Times, among others, subsequently apologized for downplaying questions over the alleged Iraqi WMDs.
The regrets came late. Iraq was destroyed. Political infighting and pitched battles broke out in the country. Reports of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners of war by American soldiers surfaced. Daesh was born.
According to the just war doctrine of the Catholic Church, a nation may go to war if its aggressor has inflicted on it lasting, grave, and certain damage and if solutions other than war are demonstrably impractical or ineffective. In addition, the planned war must have serious chances of success and the use of arms should not produce worse evils than the one to be eliminated.
Having been initiated on false premises, eschewed diplomacy, and occasioned scandals like the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse, the Gulf wars led by the US dismally failed just war standards and the Geneva conventions.
Duterte’s “war on drugs” is a political construct. Strictly speaking, it does not fall under the just war doctrine that applies to wars between nations. Nevertheless, the doctrine can be transposed into a framework for critiquing Duterte’s war.
Is damage resulting from drug addiction and codependency with drug addicts necessarily lasting, grave and certain, and are solutions to the narcotics problem apart from going to war demonstrably impractical or effective?
No and no. The problem has been poorly valuated using a purely criminal paradigm and bloated statistics about the number of Filipinos addicted to illegal drugs. Meanwhile, the rehabilitation work of community and church organizations show that persons formerly addicted to drugs can turn their lives around with proper guidance and health-based interventions.
Does the drug war initiated by Duterte have bright prospects of success?
By the President’s own admission that the war may last until the end of his term and in light of the smuggling of more than P6 billion in illegal drugs into the archipelago though instrumentalities of the State have been consolidated to fight syndicates, the goal of the war no longer appears to be success but continual warfare.
Does Duterte’s drug war not lead to evils worse than the one to be eliminated?
It does. We are told that the dead were killed because they fought back. They are no longer around to contest the story. Many of those who died were scapegoats falsely identified as runners, pushers or lords. Others were innocent bystanders who got caught in the crossfire.
Still others were blameless children.
This slaughter of the innocents calls to mind William Blackstone’s formulation: “Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” Yes. Forgiveness is always better than murder precipitated by false witness.
Duterte’s “drug war” is not only shrewd propaganda designed to legitimize a police state. It is deceptive rhetoric fueling a morally illicit activity. Call the push-back a campaign or crackdown against drugs, call the problem a narcotics problem or drug addiction of epidemic proportions. But do not jump into the linguistic bandwagon from where the government is sounding out its call to a war as evil as the Gulf wars.
You will end up with blood on your hands.
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