Thursday, May 12, 2011


I posted this quote once before, but it seems appropriate to the discussion going on about whether the killing of Bin Laden is not simply justifiable but if it—and other "targeted assassinations"—are morally and ethically and even philosophically and psychologically sound:

"I and the public know
 What all school children learn,
 Those to whom evil is done
 Do evil in return."

—W. H. Auden

(And I would say a large segment, perhaps a majority, of "the public" may no longer "know" this, nor all "chiildren learn" this anymore.)


Robert G. Zuckerman said...

as in, ye reap what ye sew, what goes around comes around, you get what you give, do unto others, eye for an eye, etc. etc. Also, two wrongs don't make a right, but at the same time one wrong does not make a right either. When bad things like 9/11 or other genocides of past or present occur, it is an opportunity to hopefully learn, grow and improve. Calling someone else wrong is not enough to make them change, more likely for them to become defensive and then offensive.

AlamedaTom said...


Not sure I am tracking with Auden (and you?) here. The quote implies that anyone who retaliates against monstrous evil is thereby doing evil. I do not agree. In fact, I REALLY don't agree.

~ Willy

Lally said...

Tom, I'm just contributing Auden's perspective to the conversation, at least on the left, about whether "targeted assassinations"—even if justifiable—contribute to the "evil" in the world. Justice should be done, if possible, is my position. And my first reaction was joy that this monster, Bin Laden, was gone and satisfaction that he was dealt with so deliberately. But my friend Hubert Selby Jr. had a short story the point of which was that if we hated the men in San Salvador that killed those nuns back in the '80s (I think) we would then be like them, motivated by hate, etc. I argued with him about that since the evil that was that atrocity really had an impact on me at the time. But I saw his point, as I do Auden's. And have to admit that normally I'm not a firm believer in "an eye for an eye" or even an eye for thousands of eyes, as in Bin Laden's case. I would prefer that they captured him, brought him back and tried him, as they did that cleric behind the earlier World Trade Center bombing. So I guess I'm saying I have mixed feelings about Bin Laden's killing unless they could not have brought him back alive.