@Tom- when I said that it does get sticky just calling all Taliban "evil" and saying that shooting is too good for them, I wasn't alluding to some profound metaphysical point or anything. I just know that 1) most of the Angry Young Men in the Taliban never had a chance- they've been brainwashed since the age of two, and 2) a lot of the people shooting at coalition forces in Afghanistan aren't really Taliban. They're just unemployed young men who were offered an AK-47 and $300 to take potshots at a convoy or FOB. I once had a 14 year old patient who attacked a platoon-sized FOB with one of his cousins. Yes- two tweens attacking a FOB. The soldier who shot him saw him through his scope and didn't have the heart to kill a kid, so he shot him in the thigh. Then his cousin took off and left him. The desperately poor will do desperate things. I once heard a profound statement on the issue: "the solution is prosperity."
OTOH, I have seen drone footage of the Taliban herding civilians into a house that they had falsely leaked to us would soon hold a meeting of Taliban leaders- presumably so that we would bomb the house, killing the civilians and giving them a propaganda victory. Evil.
[I had to cut out something else I know of that is absolutely despicable, because I think my source is still classified, but Petraeus actually had to apologize for telling the truth about it because that just pi$$ed off the Afghans who didn't believe it because "no Muslin would do something like that!".]
Also, just to put it out there, a sizable majority of the "civilian casualties" you hear about from drone strikes are just dead combatants whose weapons were recovered by their buddies before anyone else got on the scene. Many of the rest are people who were supporting the Bad Guys targeted- which I acknowledge many of them probably didn't have a choice in, but then again many of them did. So they chose to risk themselves and their children. Unquestionably a tragedy- especially the children- but again I blame the Bad Guys. The U.S. passes on a staggering number of targets because of the risk of civilian casualties- again, I've visited the TOCs where this is run. The Taliban clearly don't- in fact they seem to seek out maximum civilian bodycounts. Who is evil?
TMK the U.S. has never hit a target that it knew or even strongly suspected would result in civilian deaths- with the exception of soldiers in the heat of battle returning fire, for instance. Heck, one of the reasons we didn't just bomb Bin Ladens compound in Abottabad (a minor one, admittedly) was worry about killing his wives and children.
@ Miguel- first, yeah, I'm not going to touch the Israel/Palestinian thing- which is clearly a complex issue- except to say that there is obviously a moral difference between killing civilians accidentally while targeting Bad People, and the purposeful killing of unarmed innocents like schoolchildren on a bus. (Just as one example.) Thus, in just about every incident that has happened in my lifetime at least, Israel tends to get the benefit of the doubt in my book and it is the Palestinians who have the burden of proof. I don't deny that the Israelis have pulled underhanded stuff- heck, even they don't deny it. But the Palestinians will never get any support (nor even a kind word) from me until random rocket attacks into urban areas, bus bombings, and other such brutalities stop. An attack on an Israeli military checkpoint is much more legitimate.
Second- haven't we butted heads before about Japan and Germany? I really don't want to get into it again, but OTOH I can't just let you try to pass that stuff off as fact. Brother, there was no significant resistance to the Nazis by Germans. There was exactly ONE protest against the persecution of the Jews, for instance. There were some very moving individual and small group acts to be sure- the White Rose comes to mind. But, just as surely, the general complicity of the German population in all manner of Nazi crap outweighs this massively- and of course the proposition that the populace had know idea about the Final Solution simply insults my intelligence- I spent a lot of time at the Dokumentation in Berchtesgaden. You can't hide that. It's hard to ignore ash falling from the sky a few hours after a train full of Jews and Sinti goes by. The WWII German populace just wanted to stick their heads in the sand. Heck, as a generality they didn't like the Jews, anyway, right?
I seem to recall at some point in the past mentioning that if all you say about your German relatives are true that they were a rare and laudable exception. (But we had pacifists in the U.S., too, and they weren't a "resistance.") One often sees numbers listed upwards of a hundred thousand of Germans executed or sent to the camps for "resistance", but almost all of these were incidents of political resistance. There was certainly no organized popular resistance as there was in Poland or France or Holland, etc. And the only significant resistance that did take place was from within the Abwehr or the Heer, because Hitler refused to accept the situation and make peace before Germany was reduced to rubble. The myth of a general German populace resistant to the Nazis is pretty well debunked. And of the acts of resistance that did occur the vast majority started only after it became clear that Germany was going to lose (i.e at the latest early 1943), si it's hard to consider that some sort of moral stand.
All of that said, I do understand that it is difficult to resist an established police state. Also, I can understand a tendency toward loyalty to your country, and how that can blind one. I can certainly make allowances for that. Heck, I LIKE Germans- I've lived five years in Germany, and I'm of German descent. WWII was a different time, and WWII Germany was a harsh place. Modern Germans have done wonders in making right what they can, and IMO they are free to move on. I certainly have no truck with their government, or the way they educate their schoolchildren about the war. To their credit they have a profound collective guilt that to this day some of them find crippling, even though they weren't born for decades afterwards.
Third- re: Japaese apologies- IIRC all of the official Japanese apologies used weasel-words. They all were equivalents of "we regret what occurred during the war" or "past relations are regrettable" and crap like that. It doesn't help that they were almost always immediately followed by a denial of Japanese war crimes. Apology is important in Japan, but really that's not what Japan's critics want. What is wanted is an admission that they were wrong in starting the war, and all of the needless brutalities they inflicted. Nothing close to that happened until the freaking 1980s, and even those still used weasel-words. But most importantly, while there have been a few admissions to this extent, that is certainly not what is taught in Japanese schools. The Japanese still see themselves as VICTIMS in World War Two! (Though I understand that this may finally be changing among today's youth, possibly due to the influence of the interwebs,and I think there may finally be some realism creeping into their textbooks.) I'm not looking for a dogeza or anything, but they could stop with the weasel-words. OTOH when you think about the horrible things the Japanese did during the war it's easy to understand where the Chinese/Koreans/etc. who DO want a dogeza are coming from. Vivisection of Chinese, Filipinos, and captured Allied Airmen? Unit 731? A competition published in a Japanese Army newspaper to see who could be the first to kill 100 people during the Nanking Massacre? That all seems to go beyond "we regret the recent unpleasantness." (And, hint- mentioning the U.S. interment camps for Japanese-Americans or our genocide against the Native Americans does NOT make criticisms of Japanese atrocities invalid...)
I'm tempted to think that this is just a cultural chasm that I can't cross. An American who is admitting wrongdoing will stand up and say "I was wrong", not "I deeply regret the unpleasantness in our recent relations." And perhaps to Japanese sensibilities if you say enough variants of the latter it adds up to something significant. But other Asian nations accuse the Japanese of using weasel-words, too, so I'm not inclined to think I'm just being a parochial westerner or something.
OTOH the national pacifism of post-war Japan is an example for the world. I admire the way they have avoided essentially ANY conflict- and without just knuckling under. Of course, I guess it helps when a superpower is backing up your pacifism with a carrier battlegroup or two. :) But they have also clearly been advocates for peace in many international fora.
EDIT-- Wait, I see that the America-Bashing "America-centric" commentary was already covered, so,
@Brad- wow, intelligent design, huh? I'm really tempted not to touch that one, either, but just- wow. That entire movement displays a shocking ignorance of science. If you're a Believer, good on you, but every argument the leaders of the ID movement have yet produced is inane claptrap that they try to masquerade as science. What's even worse is that at meetings of other ID believers they keep spouting "evidence" that they have PUBLICLY ACKNOWLEDGED is wrong just to pump up the crowd, presumably because what the ID leaders really believe in is the ignorance of their constituency. (Not to imply that being a Believer makes one ignorant- just that clearly these "leaders" assume that many in the crowd are, in fact, ignorant of the issue and just want a chance to cheer or something.)
The supernatural is exactly that- beyond the natural i.e. science.