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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Civilian Casualites

Hugh, whom it turns out is also BegsToDiffer, has posted a question in the comment section of an already archived post that is worth special consideration and needs to be brought to the top of the blog. I quote BegsToDiffer:
Having just read of 54 Lebanese civilians being killed I now pose another question:

IF Israel are justified in bombing Lebanese targets in order to eliminate or incapacitate Hezbollah AND incur some number of Lebanese civilian deaths in doing so, THEN how many Lebanese civilian deaths should we "permit"?

For example would it be acceptable to anyone reading this blog topic, for ALL civilians to be killed in order to achieve the goal or say 50% or 1%? or perhaps some maximum number?

Unless you are prepared to state a limit then your support for Israels action implies you are prepared to accept 100% of all civilians be killed.

Should the UN in such cases say "well you are limited to 1000 civilian deaths 500 of which may be children but after that you MUST stop bombing"?

This should elicit some interesting discourse from the readers of this topic.
Required reading for this blog is a Reuters story on the incident, as well as some history involving the same town that goes directly to Hugh's question, as well as some diplomatic consequences of this bombing attack. It should be noted that 37 of these people were children and that Israel does not deny this happened.

Hugh is concerned about Lebanese deaths. He has expressed no concern for Israeli civilian deaths. There have been fewer in part because huge numbers are living in bomb shelters, according to CNN reports I have watched. Certainly Hezbollah has been doing its best to kill Israeli civilians. That is, after all, their modus operandi when they are not kidnapping Israeli soldiers.

We know that Hezbollah has underground facilities. One wonders why they don't make these available for displaced persons who have not left the area. Actually, to be honest, I don't wonder since I know that Hezbollah, in a cynical practice used by many terrorist groups over the years and even a few military leaders (Saddam), routinely puts its weaponry in very close proximity to civilians. There have been CNN reports of their hiding weapons in people's homes. A real question not raised by Hugh is who has less respect for Muslim life, Israel or Hezbollah? I can believe that Hezbollah lured these displaced people into the building knowing that they could make it into a juicy target for Israeli bombs simply by firing some missiles from the roof and then cutting and running for cover.

You get the idea I have no respect for Hezbollah? You are right. Nor do I have any respect for Syria and Iran, who are this group's benefactors, providing Hezbollah with money, weapons, training, and perhaps even a suggestion or two as to how they can repay their benefactors such as kidnapping some Israel soldiers to entice Israel into going ballistic in the way they commonly do. This scenario requires a level of conspiracy theorizing I normally don't like to engage in but I have been a little crazy, maybe more than a little crazy, since 9/11. I don't have a warm feeling inside for Muslim extremists. You know how I feel about fundamentalist Christians so you know this isn't an anti-Muslim sentiment. Its an anti-religious extremist sentiment. But right now, right wing Christians aren't blowing up anything though I fear they are rooting Israel on given their nutty end of the world or second comings of Jesus theories, whatever it is that has led them to be pro-Israel.

One thing I learned a long time ago is that for the most part, revolutionaries are brutal sons of bitches. Not always. The American fighters of our Revolutionary War did not set up a brutal, despotic regime the way all of the Communist revolutionaries did. And, of course, those who engage in military coups are pretty much the same. Though they sometimes talk a good game -- "Elections in 18 months" or the like -- they rarely play one.

I don't know whether Hugh is a pacifist or not. I am not. I rather like our having fought WW2. I am less thrilled by the other wars we have gotten ourselves into except for the attack on Afghanistan, which was righteous. It wasn't completed unfortunately because George allowed himself to get distracted by Cheney, Wolfowitz, and others into invading Iraq. In any event, I am not going to be down on Israel for fighting Hezbollah. They have richly earned the beating they are getting, just as the Taliban and Al Queda richly deserved theirs -- too bad the job wasn't completed, as I noted. Nor will Israel be permitted to complete the job in Lebanon even assuming that doing so is possible, which I doubt.

But the civilians who have been killed didn't deserve what they got. I'm not going to blame Israel alone since I believe them when they say Hezbollah was firing missiles into Israel from that area. The problem is that Hezbollah fires its missiles during the day in a effort to kill Israeli civilians to make the point of origin more difficult to identify in time for Israel to hit them before they move to a new spot. The blame clearly also goes to Hezbollah. So, when someone calls for a cease fire, I hope they mean that Hezbollah will stop raining missiles on Israel. They must also mean that the cease fire comes with the condition that Hezbollah is forcibly disarmed by some multinational force. Otherwise, the cease fire is pointless. Hezbollah will regroup and rebuild, as terrorist groups usually do, and the next reel of Ground Hog Day will be mounted on the projector in a few years, once Hezbollah figures out another way to try to kill Israelis, and we will have to see this "show" again.

In Southern Lebanon there was some sort of rescue of Western, including American, refugees by boat. I heard a story about e-mails and cell phone calls (not sure of the details) between people wanting to get out of the area and the American embassy. Its too bad that some effort was not made, organized, perhaps, by Hezbollah to send a convoy of refugees to Northern Lebanon. Of course, that would never happen.

So, Hugh. There has been too much death in Lebanon, civilian and otherwise. It is definitely time for the bombing to stop but only if the international community, not Lebanon, guarantees the disarming of Hezbollah or Israel can figure out another way of fighting Hezbollah that does not lead to civilian deaths. One thing is for sure. They need to have a better idea who they are likely to be killing with their bombs. So, my answer to your question is conditional -- sure it is time for the bombing to stop. And for the missiles to quit flying into Israel. I presume that's not okay with you either.

[P. S. My spellchecker (the excellent gmail spellchecker) showed that Hugh spells as badly as I do so I fixed his errors along with mine since I didn't realize this was happening until I was well into checking. I hope wrong words didn't result.]

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11 Comments:

Blogger FARfetched said...

I think one's stance on this conflict, in the end, boils down to whether you think Israel should have a right to exist or not.

Hizbollah are a bunch of chicken-shiites — if they had the courage of their convictions, they would evacuate civilians and face Israel "man-to-man" as it were. They would get squished pretty quickly though, so they pretty much have to have their human shields.

Israel isn't going to play patty-cake while taking 100 missiles a day — I suppose they miscalculated, expecting the civvies to pack up and leave. Unfortunately, in for a shekel, in for a talent. But I can't help but wonder if they could have done anything to minimize civilian casualties.

5:00 PM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

On CNN, I saw video of the Katusha rockets' effects on a car. Hundreds of holes in it from ball bearings. These are clearly designed as weapons against civilian bodies.

There are vastly more civilians killed in Iraq by other civilians every day on average than in Lebanon.

Israel has stopped the bombing to allow civilians to leave. It will be interesting to see what Hezbollah does. They will, I predeict, keep sending rockets into Israel in hopes of getting the Israels to start bombing again. Once the civilians leave, Hezbollah will lose its PR advantage.

8:08 PM

 
Blogger BegsToDiffer said...

I am grateful for seeing my question raised as it has been. The issue of Hezbollah rocket attacks is relevant but it is worth remembering that no rockets were fired by Hezbollah until after Israel launched it's assault.

So far as I understand things Hezbollah are to an extent justified in doing this (although they too should 'try to minimize' civilian casualties) because according to Article 51 of the UN Charter Lebanon (which surely includes it's shi-ite population) has a right to respond to an armed assault.

Doing as CNN, Fox and the BBC do, namely to repeatedly express outrage at these Hezbolla rocket attacks as if they were ocurring in a vacuum is completely misleading.

LG states "There have been CNN reports of their 'hiding weapons in people's homes'." and I respond by asking what other sources of scholarly journalism do you monitor? and is this not an example of the loathsome "quoting" that I was recently reprimanded for?

Having said all this, my question as posed is simple and is one that Tony Blair and others should be asked in public as indeed are readers of this blog.

I note that none of the replies posted so far even bother to address it.

FYI my sources include:

CNN, BBC, ZNET, www.johnpilger.com, New Statesman magazine and a few others. Pilger is one of the most distinguished war journalists of the past few decades and has first hand experience of these regions beyond even the most seasoned CNN and BBC reporters.

I wont quote him here but will mention that website, you decide whether you want to expand your sources or not.

8:20 AM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

I routinely read the Columbus Dispatch, The Guardian (UK), and The New York Times. Sometimes also the Washington Post. The only TV news available here I trust is CNN. When they show me pictures of an auto with hundreds of holes in it due to a Katusha I decide to believe that Hezbollah actually did send a rocket into Israel loaded with ball bearings and the their intent was to kill humans not destroy tanks or airfields etc. That has been their MO from the beginning. Do you not agree?

The "who started what" and "who did what in reaction to that" game is fruitless. Everyone in the world concedes that the Hezbollah raid into Israel to kill and capture Israeli soldiers was unprovoked by any proximate Israel action (other than simply existing). Maybe they thought that Israel would turn the other cheek and would beg Hezbollah to allow them to trade 1,000 prisoners for their two soldiers and simply forgive the killings that also occurred. If so, then they are as stupid as they are brutal in their methods (going back at least to the bombing of the Marine baracks in Beirut, which Marine unit was part of a peace-keeping force, not an invading force).

Isreal has a right to respond to an attack like Hezbollah pulled off in any way it wants. Obviously, Israel saw this attack as a harbinger of future attacks whether they would be commando raids like the one Hezbollah pulled off or satchel bombing of hotels or bars in an effort to kill civilians or using explosives on bodies in suicide attacks on busses in order to kill civilians.

Remember that Israel agreed to leave Lebanon even though they knew that Hezbollah would reoccupy those parts they vacated. Remember that Lebanon agreed to disarm Hezbollah and all other militias. Do these things count for nothing to you? To Israel they seem to have added up to a need to root Hezbollah out of S. Lebanon and do the disarming Lebanon failed to do. I am not going to fault them. They know better than I what they have to do to be safe.

In response, first answer the question whether Israel has a right to exist. Then answer the question whether it is okay for Hezbollah to attack Israel. Then answer the question whether it is okay for Lebanon to decide not to disarm Hezbollah. I suspect your answers will be "No," "Yes," and "Yes" given the tone and content of your writing. Am I wrong?

8:44 AM

 
Blogger Mr K said...

My problem with all this LG is that Isreal doesn't seemed to have been very effective in curbing Hezbollah, but has been rather effective at essentially destroying the lebanon, killing hundreds while driving thousands more out of their homes. The devastation giving is horrifying, and will not help turn people's support against Hezbollah. The response seems disproportionate- you have to remember that the organisation was created by Isreal's first excursion into lebanon in the 80s, so even if they are succesful at destroying them this way, which I doubt, they are only likely to create a new organisation.

I agree that the Lebanese government may well have failed to disarm hezbollah, and that they are problem that needs to be solved, but I really don't believe that Isreal are doing this the right way.

It's the same problem with the way Isreal deals with Palestine- piecemeal killing of leaders will only slow down the movement, when you cause long term damage to a population without no consideration of their rights, the only way to stop them fighting is by killing them all. And I certainly do not think that is just.

10:30 AM

 
Blogger Kelly said...

That Katusha rocket sounds like it's in violation of the Geneva Convention, if I'm not mistaken.

And BegstoDiffer, the way that LG was quoting was different from what you were doing before. LG quotes others for factual reasons to back up his positions. The way you were quoting earlier was for conclusory reasons. The difference can be illustrated thusly:

Factual: 37 children were killed
Conclusory: the attack was unprovoked or aimed at killing children and civilians

Whether you agree with LG or not (as I so often don't) you must appreciate that he has a firm grasp on how to make an effective argument, and rarely sins in this regard.

12:02 PM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

Mr. K., I have long believed that Israel is sometimes its own worst enemy. Certainly, this time it was. Contrary to BegsToDiffer's boy, Pilger, Israel was not only not massed to invade Lebanon, it's post-kidnapping invasion has erred in being much too little, too late. I think they greatly underestimated Hezbollah's ability to fight a conventional ground war -- actually, to defend against an attack on the ground from entrenched positions. They wouldn't be very good in attack mode. So, had Israel waited until it had overwhelming force ammassed at the border before the start of bombing and used the bombing more in support of ground troops, they might have moved further inland by the time the outraged reaction to their bombing raids occurred. Be that as it may, Israel has shot itself in the foot.

However, Mr. K., you don't seem to approave of their targetted assinations approach either. So you don't allow them the regular instruments of war and you don't allow them to fight the way the enemy fights -- down and dirty. What would have them do? Walk calmly into the sea as if it were a giant gas chamber?

I believe that to understand Israel one must understand what it is like to live surrounded by enemies who want nothing more than your death and, as a result, it has developed the policy that if you attack Israel, you will reap a whirlwind. How high the speed of the winds goes depends on the transgression. Given Hezbollah's bloody past, I can't say I fault Israel for going balls to the wall on this.

In fact, the bloody history of Hezbollah goes back quite a long time. You are wrong about Hezbollah being formed because of the Israeli occupation of Lebanon. That occupation occurred from 1978-2000 whereas Hezbollah was already doing Iran's dirty work in 1983 when it bombed the US Marine barracks in Beirut -- a barracks composed of a peace-keeping force, not an attacking force. Check

4:46 PM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

Whoops, my math skills vanished. The occupation did predate the killing of the Marines. My mistake. A senior moment I suppose.

9:20 PM

 
Blogger Mr K said...

Eep, my earlier long post was lost. Never mind, suffice to say that it is not so much that I don't think they have the right to assasinate people who threaten their country, I wonder whether it is a very productive thing. It clearly has not proved very effective so far, simply because as you continue to oppress a country, the whole nation remains a recruiting ground. Whether the attacks would stop if Isreal completely withdrew is another question, but I think there must be a better way to deal with the problems than Isreal's current solutions, which do not appear to be very effective.

6:47 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Which are Civilians versus Hezbollah? by the pictures I have seen many of the "civilian wounded" look to be Hezbollah age fighters that decided to be "civilians" for the cameras. If Hezbollah places their rocket launchers inside a Mosque and launches to kill civilians into Israel why should Israel not protect itself. I continue to argue if Mexico launched Rockets into San Diego would we respond with diplomacy or destroy the attacker?

1:29 PM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

anoymous, in the future I will delete your comments. I have a policy that anoymous posters must use monikiers so that I can keep track of what people are saying across posts and within them.

The civilian vs Hezbollah problem has been with us since Vietnam when we first faced the problem and is a continuing problem in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rebels routinely use so-called civilian deaths for PR purposes and will often encourage actual civilian casualties by placing military assets among civilians. Saddam did this all the time though he wasn't, of course, a rebel. This is a tactic used by the weak against the strong since the weak have little chance of an outright military victory. They try to "win" by surviving and use the positive PR they get by the stronger military seeming to kill civilians.

In the case of Mexico where we, in general, have good relations, I think we would respond with diplomacy and once that had been tried, we would kill the bad guys. Israel couldn't trust either Lebanon or the U.N. so diplomacy was pointless. However, I think Israel could be negotiating with people in the West Bank and Gaza. They have enemies there but they also have people who will talk to them.

1:56 PM

 

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