Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Collateral Damage (I'm going to get an earful on this one)

I have often wondered about our ability to so readily accept collateral damage in a conventional war, yet we are so unwilling to accept it in the war against crime.
In war news from Afghanistan, we hear of wedding parties decimated by unmanned drones, and women and children recklessly killed by Blackwater in a street fight. This is news for a couple of days, and then we forget and accept it as the cost of war. These people are true innocents. But, for a person who is on death row for a murder he or she most likely did commit, we agonize for 20 years and spend millions of dollars before we are willing to carry out the sentence.
I don't know if there are reliable statistics about wrongful convictions, but my guess is that a very small percentage are innocent of the crime they were convicted for, and an even smaller percentage are true innocents.
At what point do we say society can't afford this process anymore, and we have to accept it as collateral damage?


Bourgeois_Rage said...

I don't think society really cares all that much. Like you said, the outrage only lasts for a few days and then it falls into the back of the collective mind. But if you were directly affected -- let say your spouse, children, or parents were accidentally killed by the government or wrongly convicted of a crime -- I'm guessing that you wouldn't just lose interest in a few days.

Maybe that's why it is easy kill foreigners, but a bit more difficult to kill Americans? For most people, I think they don't care so much. They just write the criminals off as baby killers, mother rapers or a general drag on society.

As I'm writing this response, this article is open in my browser. As a democracy, we select our government and when our government so carelessly tosses aside human life it reflects poorly on us.

Also I don't have statistics, but everyday a new story is revealed about wrong door raids ending in violence, prosecutors using misleading tactics to get convictions, and corruption in law enforcement. How many videos have we seen of police overstepping their bounds now that youtube allows everyone to upload videos from their camera phone? The united states has the highest incarceration rate in the world, not to say that they jail more people, but sentences are longer than most other countries. Are we really okay with throwing lives away so casually? Frankly the justice system needs some major reform. Jim Webb is looking to actually do something positive, but the only thing voters want to hear about criminal justice is more bars and more guards.

Sorry, I don't think we should throw away the appeals process just because people don't care about victims of US action in foreign countries. It's already an uphill battle for many people in the justice system, we don't need to make it even harder.

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