That’s what President Obama said the other day:
“…if there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.”
Back in December, I wrote that the Obama administration wanted to use the massacre as an excuse to bring gun control back to the table. Despite the fact that even government research has demonstrated that the Assault Weapon ban had no effect on violent crime rates or death rates, I knew the administration would race to put a new, stronger gun control law before Congress. As I said then:
“Why do we need [a new conversation on gun control] now? Because when the emotional reaction subsides, then facts and reason prevail, and he already lost that argument.”
And here we are just a few weeks later and Sen Dianne Feinstein (who, by the way, has or had a Concealed Carry Permit) has introduced a bill (pdf) to ban most assault rifles, regulate the transfer of existing rifles, and ban magazines with over 10 rounds capacity regardless of the gun model.
Smells a bit hypocritical to me that a senator from California, a state where it is nearly impossible for the average citizen to get a carry permit, not only carries a gun, but wants to make it impossible for her constituents to do the same.
But I want to focus more on the justification for this ban: President Obama’s idea that, if we can save even one life, then we have an obligation to try.
He doesn’t always feel that way. While a Senator in Illinois, he voted against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act several times, citing his belief that it was merely an attempt to infringe on the Roe v Wade decision. His duplicity was revealed on the final vote, when, as chairman of the Health and Human Services committee, he passed an amendment to the bill specifying that it had no impact on a woman’s right to an abortion, then when it came time to vote on the amended bill, voted against it yet again. This site has an excellent summary of the sequence of events, including links to his votes and statements about the bills.
I don’t know how you feel about abortion, and it shouldn’t really matter because what we are talking about are babies that are born alive. The abortion failed and we are left with a living child, no longer a fetus. Don’t these babies count as ‘just one life?’
Let’s talk about another life. Let’s talk about a 16 year old boy, born in Denver. His parents left the US in 2002, and being only 7 years old, he went with them. 9 years later, he was dead, killed in a US drone strike that struck a barbeque in Yemen. His father died in a drone strike two weeks earlier. The boy’s name was Abdulrahman al Awlaki, and his father was Anwar al-Awlaki. Abdulrahmon had not seen his father in years, after Anwar went into hiding. As a member of Al Qaida’s propaganda and recruitment wing, Anwar Awlaki, also a US citizen born in New Mexico, was a priority target for the US drone campaign.
But his son was not. Abdulrahman was not a member of al Qaida. He was just a kid eating dinner when the drone struck. When asked about the ethics of killing a US citizen, a minor, and a non-terrorist, White House advisor Robert Gibbs said, “I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children. I don’t think becoming an al Qaeda jihadist terrorist is the best way to go about doing your business.” In other words, Abdulrahman was killed because of who his father was.
Since then, there have been leaks that the actual target of the drone was Ibrahim al Banna, which suggests that the teen was just collateral damage. This is strange because the Obama administration has been very vocal about the low levels of civilian deaths during the drone campaign. As CNN reported:
President Barack Obama told CNN last month that a target must meet “very tight and very strict standards,” and John Brennan, the president’s top counter-terrorism adviser, said in April that in “exceedingly rare” cases, civilians have been “accidentally injured, or worse, killed in these strikes.”
Was Abdulrahman just one of the unlucky few, or, as others claim, is the actual rate of collateral damage much higher? According to the New York Times, Pakistani government officials claim over 700 civilian deaths for just 14 terrorist leaders. This number is surely inflated but the CNN article referenced above includes the following study results:
“TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562 – 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 – 881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228 – 1,362 individuals,” according to the Stanford/NYU study.
176 innocent children killed as a result of US drone strikes. Does this really fit with “If it saves one life…?”
Is saving one innocent child’s life worth sacrificing 100 to a terrorist bomb? Can we really subject human life to some sort of sociological calculus where we rate the worthiness of one life to another? And that, folks, is the problem with the argument. It is essentially meaningless and designed to provoke an emotional response, rather than a rational one. It is designed to manipulate you into reaching a false conclusion, “Either I agree with the President, or I am for allowing children to die.”
As a father of 8 and a grandfather to 8 (with one on the way) I can state categorically that I am in favor of protecting my children. (Side Note: Here in Tennessee, we’re in the middle of an ice storm. The local schools announced that they would be closed today, and there was a chorus of protests from parents, complaining about having to find daycare or make other arrangements for their children. I thought about posting: “All East Tennessee School Superintendents should apologize immediately to parents for valuing the safety of their children ahead of the parent’s need to go to work.” Sometimes, we need a little adjustment to our priorities.) I just don’t believe that laws that reduce my ability to protect my children will somehow make them any safer when those laws do not in any way reduce violence or crime.