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The danger must be immediate, which is the first essential point. Though it must be confessed that when an assailant seizes any weapon with an apparent intention to kill me I have a right to anticipate and prevent the danger. For in the moral as well as the natural system of things there is no point without some breadth. But they are themselves much mistaken, and mislead others, who maintain that any degree of fear ought to be a ground for killing another, to prevent his supposed intention. It is a very just observation made by Cicero in his first book of De Oficiis, that many wrongs proceed from fear; as when the person, who intends to hurt another, apprehends some danger to himself unless he took the preventive step. Clearchus, in Xenophon, says, I have known some men, who partly through misrepresentation, and partly through suspicion, dreading one another, in order to prevent the supposed intentions of their adversaries, have committed the most enormous cruelties against those who neither designed, nor wished them any harm.
–Hugo Grotius, De jure belli ac pacis bk 2, ch 1, sec 5 (1625)(Grotius discusses the manipulation of fear to justify pre-emptive war-making)(S.H. transl.), in the Liberty Fund ed., vol. 2, pp. 398-99 (J. Barbeyrac transl.)
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp
Length in days of the sentence Russian blogger Alexei Navalny served for leading an opposition rally last year:
Israeli researchers developed software that evaluates the depression of bloggers.
A teenager in Singapore was convicted of obscenity for posts critical of Lee Kuan Yew, the country’s founding father, that included an image of Lee having sex with Margaret Thatcher.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”