Thursday, January 15, 2009
The New York Times war cheerleader urges that Hamas be « educated » by « inflicting heavy pain on the Gaza population »
By Glenn Greenwald Jan. 14, 2009
« Israel’s counterstrategy was to use its Air Force to pummel Hezbollah and, while not directly targeting the Lebanese civilians with whom Hezbollah was intertwined, to inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large. It was not pretty, but it was logical. Israel basically said that when dealing with a nonstate actor, Hezbollah, nested among civilians, the only long-term source of deterrence was to exact enough pain on the civilians — the families and employers of the militants — to restrain Hezbollah in the future.
« Israel’s military was not focused on the morning after the war in Lebanon — when Hezbollah declared victory and the Israeli press declared defeat. It was focused on the morning after the morning after, when all the real business happens in the Middle East. That’s when Lebanese civilians, in anguish, said to Hezbollah: ‘What were you thinking? Look what destruction you have visited on your own community! For what? For whom?”
Friedman says that he is « unsure » whether the current Israeli attack on Gaza is similiarly designed to teach Palestinians the same lesson by inflicting « heavy pain » on civilians, but he hopes it is:
« In Gaza, I still can’t tell if Israel is trying to eradicate Hamas or trying to “educate” Hamas, by inflicting a heavy death toll on Hamas militants and heavy pain on the Gaza population. If it is out to destroy Hamas, casualties will be horrific and the aftermath could be Somalia-like chaos. If it is out to educate Hamas, Israel may have achieved its aims. »
The war strategy which Friedman is heralding — what he explicitly describes with euphemism-free candor as « exacting enough pain on civilians » in order to teach them a lesson — is about as definitive of a war crime as it gets. It also happens to be the classic, textbook definition of « terrorism. » Here is how the U.S. Department of State defined « terrorism » in its 2001 publication, Patterns of Global Terrorism:
« No one definition of terrorism has gained universal acceptance. For the purposes of this report, however, we have chosen the definition of terrorism contained in Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(d). That statute contains the following definitions:
« The term ‘terrorism’ means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant (1) targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience. . . .
« (1) For purposes of this definition, the term ‘noncombatant’ is interpreted to include, in addition to civilians, military personnel who at the time of the incident are unarmed and/or not on duty. »
Other than the fact that Friedman is advocating these actions for an actual state rather than a « subnational group, » can anyone identify any differences between (a) what Friedman approvingly claims was done to the Lebanese and what he advocates be done to Palestinians and (b) what the State Department formally defines as « terrorism »? I doubt anyone can. Isn’t Friedman’s « logic » exactly the rationale used by Al Qaeda: we’re going to inflict « civilian pain » on Americans so that they stop supporting their government’s domination of our land and so their government thinks twice about bombing more Muslim countries? It’s also exactly the same « logic » that fuels the rockets from Hezbollah and Hamas into Israel.
It should be emphasized that the mere fact that Tom Friedman claims that this is Israel’s motivation isn’t proof that it is. The sociopathic lust of a single war cheerleader can’t fairly be projected onto those who are actually prosecuting the war. But one can’t help noticing that this « teach-them-a-lesson » justification for civilian deaths in Gaza appears with some frequency among its advocates, at least among a certain strain of super-warrior, Israel-centric Americans — e.g.: Marty « do not f**k with the Jews » Peretz and Michael « to wipe out a man’s entire family, it’s hard to imagine that doesn’t give his colleagues at least a moment’s pause » Goldfarb — who love to cheer on Middle East wars from a safe and sheltered distance.
Some opponents of the Israeli war actually agree with Friedman about the likely goals of the attack on Gaza. Writing last week in The New York Times, Columbia Professor Rashid Khalidi noted: « This war on the people of Gaza isn’t really about rockets. Nor is it about ‘restoring Israel’s deterrence,’ as the Israeli press might have you believe. Far more revealing are the words of Moshe Yaalon, then the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, in 2002: ‘The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.”
This AP article of Jan. 13 described how « terrified residents ran for cover Tuesday in a densely populated neighborhood of Gaza City as Israeli troops backed by tanks thrust deeper into the city. » It reported that « an Israeli warplane fired a missile at the former Gaza city hall, used as a court building in recent years . . . . The 1910 structure was destroyed and many stores in the market around it were badly damaged. » And it quoted an Israeli military officer as follows: « Soldiers shoot at anything suspicious, use lots of firepower, and blast holes through walls to move around. »
…One might ordinarily find it surprising that our elite opinion-makers are so openly and explicitly advocating war crimes and terrorism (« inflict substantial property damage and collateral casualties on Lebanon at large » and « ‘educate’ Hamas by inflicting heavy pain on the Gaza population »).
…UPDATE…for an American citizen to criticize Israel’s wars without criticizing every similar or worse act of aggression is not to « hold Israel to a higher or different standard. » The U.S. Government funds Israel’s actions, specifically provides the arms for their various bombing campaigns and invasions, and continuously uses its U.N. veto power to protect what Israel does. American citizens therefore bear a responsibility for Israel’s actions that is not the case for actions which the U.S. Government does not fund and otherwise enable.
This objection (« why are you complaining about Israel but not the rebels in Sri Lanka? ») rests on the same fallacy as the accusation that American citizens are being « anti-American » when they criticize the actions of their own government more than the actions of other governments (« Why are you complaining that Bush waterboards when North Korea starves its citizens to death and Iran stones gay people? »). Citizens bear a particular responsibility to object to unjust actions which their own Government engages in or enables. It shouldn’t be the case — but it is — that Americans fund, arm and enable Israel’s wars. Those are American weapons which, at least in part, are being used to destroy Gaza, and Americans therefore bear a special responsibility for condemning Israel’s unjust actions to a far greater extent than the actions of any other country except for the U.S.
Meanwhile, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting — in an item entitled « Terrorism on the New York Times Op-Ed Page » — examines Friedman’s history of making similar statements, and raises this question: is it even possible to imagine an Op-Ed or column being published by a major newspaper that enthusiastically trumpeted all of the great strategic benefits that would accrue to Muslims from the violent deaths of large numbers of Israeli civilians, the way Friedman today did with regard to the deaths of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians?
— Glenn Greenwald (emphasis supplied)
Friedman advocated the same sort of terror against Serbian Christian civilians, writing in the NY Times (April 6, 1999) that « people tend to change their minds and adjust their goals as they see the price they are paying mount. Twelve days of surgical bombing was never going to turn Serbia around. Let’s see what 12 weeks of less than surgical bombing does. Give war a chance » (emphasis supplied).
Thursday, January 15, 2009
…Shattering hopes that an expanded Democratic congressional majority and a new Democratic administration might lead to a more moderate foreign policy, the resolutions put forward an extreme reinterpretation of international humanitarian law, apparently designed to exonerate nations with superior firepower from any liability for inflicting large-scale civilian casualties.
The Senate resolution, primarily written and sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., passed the Senate by unanimous consent on a voice vote. Among the 33 co-sponsors were such otherwise liberal Democratic senators as Barbara Boxer, Calif,; Richard Durbin, Ill,; Carl Levin, Mich.; Sherrod Brown, Ohio; Barbara Mikulski, Md.; and 2004 presidential nominee John Kerry, Mass.
An even stronger House resolution, sponsored by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., passed the House by a lopsided 390-5 roll call vote (with 22 members voting « present »). Both resolutions placed the blame for the death and destruction exclusively on the Palestinian side and are being widely interpreted as a rebuke to the international human rights community and the United Nations, which have cited both Hamas and the Israeli government for war crimes.
The resolutions favorably quote Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice extensively, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, regarding responsibility for civilian deaths and for the causes of the conflict. No one else is cited in the resolutions, indicating who Pelosi, Reid and the resolutions’ other sponsors see as the authoritative sources of information on international humanitarian law in the region.
Although some analysts are already referring to the Gaza war as « a final and eloquent testimony to the complete failure of the neoconservative movement in United States foreign policy, » Pelosi, Reid and virtually the entire Democratic membership of Congress have decided to ally themselves with this failed ideology of the outgoing Bush administration rather than blaze a new trail of moderation and common sense in anticipation of new leadership in the White House. Indeed, Pelosi’s and Reid’s strategy in pushing through these resolutions may have been part of an attempt to box in Obama — to force him to continue Bush’s hard-right foreign policy. That is, a policy in which, in the name of the « war on terror, » fundamental principles of international law are deemed to be expendable.
To the Right of Bush
Some of the language in the resolution put forward by Pelosi, Reid and their colleagues even place the Democratic Party to the right of the Bush administration. For example, while the Jan. 8 U.N. Security Council resolution — which received the endorsement of Rice and other administration officials — condemns « all acts of violence and terror directed against civilians, » the congressional resolution only condemns the violence and terror of Hamas.
Indeed, just as the Security Council unanimously passed its resolution stressing « the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, » Congress immediately weighed in with language apparently designed to prevent one. The Senate and House resolutions called for a cease-fire only on the condition that it « prevents Hamas from retaining or rebuilding the capability to launch rockets and mortars against Israel. » Given that most of these rockets and mortars are of a rather crude design that can be made in local machine shops from scrap metal and other easily obtainable materials, and is therefore the kind of capability that can not really be completely eliminated, it appears that this clause would make a cease-fire impossible. Emboldened by this strong bipartisan support from the legislative branch of its most important ally, Israel rejected the U.N.’s terms for a cease-fire.
Also on Jan. 8, Israeli forces killed two U.N. humanitarian aid workers as they were attempting to provide relief supplies, and the International Red Cross released a strongly worded statement noting that the Israeli military had « failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded. » The Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders noted that « Palestinian humanitarian aid and health workers have been killed, and hospitals and ambulances have been bombed. » Congress, however, went on record in the resolutions praising Israel for having « facilitated humanitarian aid to Gaza. »
Both resolutions « hold Hamas responsible for breaking the cease-fire, » despite the fact that there had been scores of minor violations during the months of the cease-fire by both sides and that Israel had launched a major incursion into the Gaza Strip on Nov. 4, 2008, assassinating several Hamas leaders, an action the Israeli press speculated was designed to provoke Hamas into not renewing the cease-fire when it expired the following month. Israel then tightened its siege on Nov. 5, banning even humanitarian aid from coming through. Hamas appeared willing to renew the cease-fire in return for Israel renouncing further such incursions and lifting the siege, but Israel refused.
While these Israeli provocations do not justify Hamas’ failure to renew the cease-fire and certainly not Hamas’ decision to once again begin firing rockets into civilian-populated areas of Israel — which is a war crime — the language of the resolutions gives a very misleading understanding of the events leading up to the war. Ironically, despite blaming Hamas exclusively for not renewing the cease-fire, the resolutions also claim that returning to the terms of that cease-fire agreement « is unacceptable. » Yet these were by no means the most egregious misrepresentations in these Democratic-led congressional initiatives.
Redefining International Humanitarian Law
In perhaps the most dangerous clause of the resolution, the House called « on all nations … to condemn Hamas for deliberately embedding its fighters, leaders and weapons in private homes, schools, mosques, hospitals and otherwise using Palestinian civilians as human shields. »
According to international humanitarian law, however, « human shields » require the deliberate use of civilians as a deterrent to avoid attack on one’s troops or military objects. Despite repeated calls to the offices of the resolutions’ principal Democratic sponsors, not one of them could provide a single example of this actually occurring during the current wave of fighting. Similar accusations in a 2006 resolution supported by Pelosi, Reid and other Democratic leaders during the five weeks of devastating Israeli attacks on Lebanon that summer were later systematically rebuked in a detailed and meticulously researched 249-page report by Human Rights Watch.
by Jason Ditz | January 14, 2009
The International Criminal Court (ICC) declared today that it has no jurisdiction over the actions of Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, meaning that the growing number of calls by humanitarian organizations to investigate Israeli activities in the Gaza Strip cannot lead to any action by the Hague-based court.
Israel has been accused of a myriad of activities which the court would classify as war crimes, but as Israel signed but never ratified the ICC’s Rome Statute and the Gaza Strip is not considered a “nation” by the court, the actions of Israeli citizens, or indeed anyone else not a national of a signatory nation, would ostensibly not fall under their jurisdiction.
Yet last year, the ICC did claim jurisdiction over Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and filed genocide charges against him even though Sudan, like Israel, was a signatory of the Rome Statute that never ratified it. Bashir argued, more or less successfully so far, against the court having jurisdiction over him, but the fact that he was charged and the court won’t even consider investigating Israel’s actions is bound to lead to accusations of a double standard.
Though Israel has in the past expressed “deep sympathy” for the goals of the court, it objected to the contents of some of the laws, in particular defining “the transfer of parts of the civilian population of an occupying power into occupied territory” as a war crime.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
And here’s another one: a « tape » recording (not a CD, because Bin Laden’s ghost has not caught up with modern technology), of the voice of none other than Osama himself hit the air waves of the dumbed down and infantilized American media today, wherein we were told that Santa Claus/Tooth fairy Bin Laden is alive and well, and issuing press releases from his cave somewhere in the armpit of western Asia.
If you accept this malarkey at face value you need read no further. For the rest of you: what do you think this latest covert-op by the western intelligence agency that operates « Al Qaeda » signifies? My hunch is that it signifies desperation, when even CNN is broadcasting reports on counterfeit-Israel’s white phosphorus burning of civilians in Gaza, accompanied by graphic footage of child victims of this « nasty » incendiary, which CNN was airing yesterday.
As the justification for the Israeli holocaust in Gaza skates on ice that daily grows as thin as Paris Hilton’s waistline, the white male Republican base in the US needs to be reassured that the Fox Noose fairy tale is true, the rabbis and Zionists of counterfeit-Israel really are « fighting for the West. » Consequently, the spectre of Osama is summoned to the seance and made to mouth a Gaza script which implies that Hamas is an arm of the same Muslim crazies who, we are told, « masterminded » the Sept. 11 attacks.