Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What's wrong with a little terrorism now and then?

Billmon directs us to obvious parallels.

"Until civilians -- frankly, I'm not sure how many of them are actually just innocent little civilians running around versus active Hezbo types, particularly the men -- but until those civilians start paying a price for propping up these kinds of regimes, it's not going to end, folks. What do you mean, civilians start paying a price? I just ask you to consult history for the answer to that.”
Rush LimbaughOn the Qana MassacreJuly 31, 2006
"We declared jihad against the US government, because the US government is unjust, criminal and tyrannical. It has committed acts that are extremely unjust, hideous and criminal . . . As for what you asked regarding the American people, they are not exonerated from responsibility, because they chose this government and voted for it despite their knowledge of its crimes in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and in other places."

Osama bin LadenOn His Fatwa Against AmericaMarch 1997
So is it impolite to point it out and call "foul" when a popular American commentator suggests casual war crimes?

Prof. Dershowitz? What do you think?
THE NEWS IS filled these days with reports of civilian casualties, comparative civilian body counts and criticism of Israel, along with Hezbollah, for causing the deaths, injuries and "collective punishment" of civilians. But just who is a "civilian" in the age of terrorism, when militants don't wear uniforms, don't belong to regular armies and easily blend into civilian populations?
Interesting question. Mr. Limbaugh was just talking about that. But what were you going to say?

We need a new vocabulary to reflect the realities of modern warfare. A new phrase should be introduced into the reporting and analysis of current events in the Middle East: "the continuum of civilianality." Though cumbersome, this concept aptly captures the reality and nuance of warfare today and provides a more fair way to describe those who are killed, wounded and punished.
Hmm. How does this work in application?
The Israeli army has given well-publicized notice to civilians to leave those areas of southern Lebanon that have been turned into war zones. Those who voluntarily remain behind have become complicit. Some — those who cannot leave on their own — should be counted among the innocent victims.

If the media were to adopt this "continuum," it would be informative to learn how many of the "civilian casualties" fall closer to the line of complicity and how many fall closer to the line of innocence.

Every civilian death is a tragedy, but some are more tragic than others.
Well. That's an interesting view now, isn't it?

Here's a quote from Tristero, quoting John Podhoretz:

Apparently, when John Podhoretz read Heart of Darkness he came to the conclusion that Kurtz had the right attitude:
What if the tactical mistake we made in Iraq was that we didn't kill enough Sunnis in the early going to intimidate them and make them so afraid of us they would go along with anything? Wasn't the survival of Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35 the reason there was an insurgency and the basic cause of the sectarian violence now?
In other words, as Kurtz memorably wrote, "Exterminate all the brutes."
Not trusting an appeal to human dignity as sufficing to rebut these "arguments", Kevin Drum suggests a historical lesson: the Soviets' romp through Afghanistan. Remember how successful that was? After quoting one of the many historical texts documenting the Soviets' extensive practice collective punishment, "rubblization" and "migratory genocide", he outlines four obvious lessons worth quoting in full:
1. At the time, the United States was horrified by the Soviet brutality and genocide in Afghanistan. Remember?

2. It didn't work. The Soviets were defeated and left Afghanistan in 1989.

3. The Soviet campaign led fairly directly to the creation of al-Qaeda and the international jihadist movement. It's fashionable these days to suggest that the United States itself is to blame for the founding of al-Qaeda because we're the ones who armed the mujahidin, but that's far too facile. We may have helped things along, but it was the unimaginably brutal Soviet campaign that radicalized Afghanistan and rallied the jihadist community in the first place.

The fight against Islamic jihadism is essentially a vast, global counterinsurgency, something that the United States is lousy at. But we'd better get good at it fast, and the first step is to discard the fatuous notion that more violence is the obvious answer when the current amount of violence isn't doing the job. History suggests very strongly that the truth is exactly the opposite.
I'll give the last word to Gideon Levy in Haaretz, also via Billmon:
Since we've grown accustomed to thinking collective punishment a legitimate weapon, it is no wonder no debate has sparked here over the cruel punishment of Lebanon for Hezbollah's actions. If it was okay in Nablus, why not Beirut? The only criticism being heard about this war is over tactics. Everyone is a general now and they are mostly pushing the IDF to deepen its activities. Commentators, ex-generals and politicians compete at raising the stakes with extreme proposals.

Haim Ramon "doesn't understand" why there is still electricity in Baalbek; Eli Yishai proposes turning south Lebanon into a "sandbox"; Yoav Limor, a Channel 1 military correspondent, proposes an exhibition of Hezbollah corpses and the next day to conduct a parade of prisoners in their underwear, "to strengthen the home front's morale."

It's not difficult to guess what we would think about an Arab TV station whose commentators would say something like that, but another few casualties or failures by the IDF, and Limor's proposal will be implemented. Is there any better sign of how we have lost our senses and our humanity?

Chauvinism and an appetite for vengeance are raising their heads. If two weeks ago only lunatics such as Safed Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu spoke about "wiping out every village where a Katyusha is fired," now a senior officer in the IDF speaks that way in Yedioth Aharonoth's main headlines. Lebanese villages may not have been wiped out yet, but we have long since wiped out our own red lines.

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