Are there different levels of guilt?

On  8 November 1987, a bomb went off in Enniskillen, killing ten civilians and one policeman attending a Remembrance Sunday event. The IRA said it was their bomb but the intended target had been British soldiers parading to the memorial.

On 23 October 1993,  a bomb went off in a fish shop in Belfast’s Shankill Road, killing ten people, including eight civilians, one UDA member and one of the two IRA men placing the bomb. The IRA said it was their bomb but the intended target had been a UDA meeting in an upstairs room.

If the IRA claims on both events were true, then the IRA was guilty of the deaths of all the people killed but not guilty of setting out to kill these people deliberately.

On 30 January 1972,  twenty-six unarmed civilians were shot in Derry, fourteen of them fatally, by the British Army. The British Army said that all of the people killed had been carrying weapons, but some decades later it was conceded that none of them was armed.

Between 1975 and 1982, a loyalist gang called the Shankill Butchers killed at least twenty-three people. Most of its victims were random Catholics; some were Protestants mistaken for Catholics. None of the Shankill Butchers denied their guilt.

There clearly is a deeper level of guilt when the killing of people is a deliberate act. That’s not to say there isn’t a level of guilt when the intention is to kill some other people instead, but the  guilt of the deliberate act goes deeper.

On this day, 6 August, seventy-five years ago, US air force pilots dropped a bomb named ‘Little Boy’ on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. By the end of 1945, between 90,000 and 166,000 civilians died as a result of the bomb. The United States never attempted to deny that the bombing was deliberate.

On 9 Augst 1945, the US air force dropped a second nuclear bomb named ‘Fat Man’ on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. Between 60,000 and 80,000 civilians died as a result of the bomb. The United States never attempted to deny that the bombing was deliberate.

Between 1980 and 1998, the UK spent around £18 billion on its Trident nuclear weapons.

Between 1940 and 1996, the US spend around $5 trillion on its nuclear weapons.

By their nature, nuclear weapons are intended to kill civilian populations.

British prime ministers, from Thatcher to Blair, have urged the people of Ireland to resolve their political problems by exclusively peaceful means.

Bill Clinton has urged the people of Ireland to resolve their political problems by exclusively peaceful means.

In short, do as I say, don’t do as I do. Perhaps the guilt of hypocrisy is the deepest, most foul guilt of all.

Comments are closed.