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Callous or Calculating

A trio of topics (I will get back to writing about feminism soon):

  • I am still really digging the free soundtracks to Portal 2 that Valve has been releasing. I'm slightly bothered by how Leitmotif-heavy the tracks seem to be (maybe more complexity would be good?) but it's generally good stuff.
  • Reading about Proximate Cause recently, and I realised that many years ago, I did my own stumbling efforts towards some of these distinctions, as part of a short essay I wrote called "blaming cause". Having written it as a moral idea rather than an explicitly jurisprudential one means I lacked the practical tests needed to actually make my ideal useful for anything, it was primarily a theoretical distinction that would structure later thought. If I can find a non-dead-tree version of my writings, I'll toss it online again so you can join me in finding my younger self quaint. The more I read about law, the more I admire the centuries of wisdom embedded into the common law system.
  • I'm drawing a rather unusual conclusion on reviewing this document by Winston Churchill, where he requests plans to apply poison gas in WW2 and also to pacify (surprise!) Kurds in British Iraq. On the former topic, while I have little objection to almost any weapon being used on a battlefield (excepting those that remain a nuisance after the war ends, like mines), I am unhappy about his proposed use of chemical weapons on German cities (although if the Germans were already doing it, keeping parity may be a strategic necessity). More concerning to me is his actual use of poison gas to pacify Kurds and Arabs in an effort to maintain the British colonial foothold in Iraq. This, to me, is significantly worse than Saddam Hussein's use of the very same methods to put down rebellion of Kurds, because of the context of colonialism. The Brits had no valid reason to be in Iraq, and were using it to maintain their hold on a conquered people. Hussein, for his many faults, dealt brutally with the Kurds in order to hold Iraq together. We can (and probably should) consider that level of brutality (on the part of Saddam) to be horrible, but there may have been few other effective options left to him, and holding together a nation is a reasonable goal and difficult task given regional tensions. Churchill's preservation of an empire merits no such sympathy, and his callous dismissal of the well-being of the Arabs and Kurds that suffered his (actual) use of poison gas by calling them "uncivilised tribes" makes it worse. This leads me to the (perhaps unusual) conclusion that in some ways, Winston Churchill was a worse national figure than Saddam Hussein.