The Ethical War Blog

Expert discussion of the ethics of war, for all.

Remembrance and Poppy Enforcement

By Alfred Archer and Benjamin Matheson

Remembrance Sunday 2012 - image 30Remembrance Sunday 2012 – Image 30” by Hammersmith & Fulham Council. Used under: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.

In the United Kingdom, the red poppy is worn to remember those who have died fighting for the British Army. In 2018, over 50 million pounds was raised from sales of the red poppy. According to the Royal British Legion, the makers of the red poppies, wearing the poppy is not compulsory. Despite this, many people in the public eye have been criticized for not wearing one. So much so that in 2006, the news presenter Jon Snow wrote that: “There is rather unpleasant breed of poppy fascism out there – ‘he damned well must wear a poppy!’”. Snow is referring to the phenomenon of pressuring others to wear the red poppy – that is, pressuring others to engage in a commemorative practice.

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“Ukrainegate”: Leaker, Whistleblower, Spy?

By Candice Delmas

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“I love WikiLeaks!” declared Donald Trump in October 2016, applauding the organization’s release of a trove of emails hacked from Hillary Clinton’s campaign Chairman John Podesta’s account. However, since he occupies the Oval Office, President Trump no longer likes whistleblowers. In short order, he instructed the Justice Department to seek the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing secret military files leaked by Chelsea Manning. In March 2017, railing against the proliferation of leaks from his White House, including those alleging collusion between his team and Russia, Trump tweeted: “The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” But the leakers kept leaking, anonymously and profusely, revealing Trump’s conflicts of interest, disregard for democratic norms, and general unfitness for the office.

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Uncivil Disobedience in Hong Kong

By Avia Pasternak

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The protests that have stalled normal life in Hong Kong for the past eleven weeks started as a peaceful affair. Millions of Hong-Kongers marched in the streets, to protest against their government’s plan to allow extraditions from Hong Kong to Mainland China. Many Hong-Kongers view this change as a further encroachment upon the territory’s relative legal autonomy, and as a further curtailment of the civil liberties of pro-democracy activists. In response to the wave of protests, the Hong Kong Government temporarily suspended the extradition bill, but it also used a heavy hand against the marchers. The government’s refusal to withdraw the bill entirely, or to open an inquiry into police brutality, angered many protestors and sparked their turn to less civil, and more violent, tactics. In recent weeks protestors have blocked roads and train stations. They have occupied the Legislative Council chambers and defaced Chinese emblems. They have blocked air traffic in the busy Hong Kong Airport, clashing with frustrated passengers, and a police officer and a Mainland Chinese reporter were attacked. In the streets, they confronted riot police, throwing bricks and lighting fires.

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Propaganda Interventions

By Jeffrey Howard

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According to the recently released report by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller III, Russian nationals set up hundreds of social media accounts on Facebook and other sites during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. These were often created with fake identities and used to push divisive content, aimed at fomenting hatred and galvanizing support for Donald Trump. Here are just a few examples, documented by The New York Times:

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Commemorating Nelson Mandela as a Person and as a Symbol

By Anja Berninger

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Few statesmen in recent history have been revered to the same extent as Nelson Mandela. When he died in 2013, international heads of state flocked to Johannesburg to attend the memorial service and US flags were flown on half-mast. Four years before his death the UN had already declared July 18th to be “International Nelson Mandela Day”. Since then, bookshelves have been filled with glowing accounts of his life and numerous streets and schools across the globe have been named after him.

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Building Better States? State Authority, Moral Responsibility, and Reparations

By Jennifer Page

Los Angeles Downtown” by Aydin Palabiyikoglu. Used under: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/

In 1981, “Mary M.” was pulled over for drunk driving by on-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer Leigh Schroyer. Schroyer drove Mary M. home, forced his way into her house, and raped her. Mary M. suffered greatly during the attack and in its aftermath, and underwent psychological counseling for trauma.

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The Case for Regular Political Apology

By Allison Don and Per-Erik Milam

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Starting in the 1870s, more than 150,000 indigenous children in Canada were forcibly removed from their families and communities and placed in Indian Residential Schools with the goal of isolating them from their home cultures and assimilating them into the dominant culture. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has labelled the program a “cultural genocide.” Students were subjected to physical and sexual abuse, and at least 3,200 died while attending the schools. In 2008 and 2017 respectively, Prime Ministers Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau apologised to the former students of the Indian Residential Schools on behalf of the Canadian government. The apologies were coupled with other measures aimed at reconciliation, including the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA), which established a recovery fund of over $3 billion for former students.

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Rohingya Repatriation and the Problem of Consent

By Mollie Gerver

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Between 1991 and 1992, approximately 250,000 Rohingya refugees fled violence, persecution, and forced labour in Myanmar. They crossed into Bangladesh where they were protected from deportation, but eventually forced into enclosed camps without sufficient food and education. To escape these conditions most returned to Myanmar, their return arranged by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

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Bearing Witness: What Are Journalists Doing in Conflict Zones?

by Richard Stupart and Katherine Furman

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“Perhaps the only people with the right to look at images of suffering… are those who could do something to alleviate it – say, the surgeons at the military hospital where the photograph was taken – or those who would learn from it. The rest of us are voyeurs, whether or not we mean to be.” Sontag, 2003

What, morally speaking, are journalists doing in conflicts? They aren’t medics or aid workers, and they don’t have anything to distribute to those in desperate need. So, is their role simply to observe suffering? If so, observing isn’t itself morally good, or even morally neutral – think of the voyeur. And yet we have a nagging intuition that Sontag is wrong and the work of journalists covering human rights abuses and conflict is morally important. Can something about practices of observing suffering in fact justify them?

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Is There Anything Wrong with Collective Punishment?

by Holly Lawford-Smith

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In Eltham, London in 1993, five young white men murdered a young black man. The black man’s name was Stephen Lawrence. The white men’s names were Neil Acourt, James Acourt, Gary Dobson, David Norris, and Luke Knight. During the attack, the men shouted racist abuse at Lawrence and his friend Duwayne Brooks, and one assaulted Lawrence with a bat while another stabbed him in the neck with a ten-inch knife. This horrific hate crime resulted in an investigation that has dragged on for 25 years, with two of the men (Dobson and Norris) being found guilty of murder in 2012, after 18 years. As of April this year, the case was still open; Scotland Yard were waiting to see if new leads came forward in light of a BBC documentary.

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