OCTOBER 14, 2010 7:57PM

Barack Obama: Accidental Terrorist?

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According to Justin Elliot, the recent report of the CIVC indicates that somewhere between 800-1250 innocent civilians have been slain by U. S. drones in Pakistan. For those of you keeping score, the count is now up to roughly 35% of the death count on 9/11, and the grim meter is running, running apace.  At what point is this slaughter of innocents comparable to the 9/11 terror bombing? Do the numbers of unjustifiably killed have to be equal? I don't think any respectable system of morality would claim so. Does it matter that the Obama administration and its military wing are not "trying" to butcher all these folks? Well, to paraphrase a line from MASH, not to the folk themselves it doesn't. Of course, most systems of morality do make distinctions between the culpability of intentional vs. unitentional acts.

 But does such a moral distinction still hold, or hold as firmly, when the question is one of terrorism? For make no mistake, innocent people by the thousands are being terrorized by US drones in NW Pakistan (an allied country no less!). Is there a substantive moral difference between a deliberate terrorist and the accidental terrorist Obama has become? What if the grisly fatal by-product of your actions is entirely foreseeable, even if unwilled and unplanned? What if you are not an accidental terrorist, Mr. Obama, but an incidental terrorist, the blood on your hands directly and impartibly incident to your policy and practice? How much of a margin of deniability do you deserve under those circumstances? When the consequence of "oops I did it again" is not just mass death but entirely predictable mass civilian death, should we not speak of mass killing, of a mass killer, of a war crime? Or are we, like Jane Austen during the Napoleonic wars, just happy we don't know any of those dead people, and so regard the act of killing them, accidently but with knowledge aforethought, a lesser, even nugatory moral ill? Or worse, are we willing, as the right was with Pinochet or Marcus, to look the other way because "our guy" is the one doing it?

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