Activist Complains, Quits

Newsforge reports that Clay Claiborne is quiting as President of the Los Angeles Linux Users Group. Why? Because he’s unhappy about Iraq, of course:

Claiborne: I’m glad they’re starting a LUG in Baghdad and I’m glad Hussein is gone. I just don’t think it had to cost maybe 20K Iraqi lives and how many Americans’ so far.

Obligatory, isn’t it? Let’s contrast that with this report that says “The [Human Rights Centre in Kadhimiya] have found that if the invasion had not happened, Saddam would have killed 70,000 people in the past year. Not sanctions: Saddam’s tyranny alone.“. IraqBodyCount says there’s a maximum of a little under 11,000 civilians dead, and released a press release last week describing the past twelve months as “a year of slaughter“.

One of the Iraqi LUGgers, Hasanen Nawfal seems to be the author of QV, an image viewing program. The screenshot gallery includes a pretty picture of a barbie made out of an old computer case too.

Back to Clay.

I think the question of military use of Linux needs a vigorous debate in the Linux community. It is just now happening. I don’t think that Linux should be used for killing and I don’t really trust the Pentagon to abide by the GPL.

This debate’s already happened. It happened years ago; and the conclusion is at the core of the Debian Free Software Guidelines, and hence the Open Source Definition:

  5. No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups

     The license must not discriminate against any person or group of

  6. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor

     The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in
     a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the
     program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic

See for example this post by Marcus Brinkmann from 1999:

On Mon, Aug 02, 1999 at 01:23:22AM -0400, Mike Goldman wrote:
> To take a somewhat more concrete example: suppose I write a program which can be
> used to design explosive devices.  Such devices have many appropriate uses, in
> mining, construction, and so forth.  Perhaps it is unnecessary that I explicitly
> restrict use by terrorists, since terrorism is illegal.  (However, if I did so
> anyhow, would that make my license DFSG-non-free?)


>  On the other hand, perhaps I
> do not wish for my software to be used by certain governments for "military"
> purposes - which are by definition "legal", yet just as clearly destructive.
> Must an author permit such military use for a license to be DFSG-free?


But hey, we’ve got to find some way to kick Bush or Howard or whoever, don’t we? And as technologists, what better way than technology?

The question of politics and technology always comes up because that is where the rubber meets the road. Some people think technology is pure and not related to the end use, and those people will be our doom.

You know, having the power of life and death over folks like Clay could become addictive.

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