Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Tragedy is Not a Crime: Afghanistan and Gaza

At least 30 and perhaps as many as 150 Afghan civilians have been killed in a U.S. bombing raid on two Western Afghan villages, including many women and children according to the International Read Cross.

This is a tragedy and no one--well, perhaps more accurately, no one outside the Muslim-majority world--would suggest it was done on purpose. This incident is worse than anything that happened during the December-January Gaza war.

The Gaza war was initiated by Hamas which publicly announced it was ending the ceasefire (which it had not been observing all that much any way) and began bombarding Israel at a high rate. Israel responded by sending its forces into Gaza. Hamas used schools and mosques as munition dumps and firing positions. Its headquarters was in a hospital, which it knew Israel would not attack. It used civilians as human shields.

Hamas cynically, and successfully, caused civilian casualties both by starting the war and in its strategy. Incidentally, this is precisely what I predicted beforehand, just to show that the organization's longer-term strategy dictated its indifference to Palestinian lives and accurate understanding of how to manipulate Western media and governments. I urge you to read this December 2008 article to see how this strategy works.

Much of the world condemned Israel. Atrocity stories were fabricated, usually without any evidence at all. Israel was said to be equivalent to Nazi Germany, massive demonstrations were held in Western cities, it was not rare to hear it said that as a result of its—alleged—actions in Gaza, Israel had no right to exist as a country any more. The UN investigated, appointing as the team’s head a radical anti-Israel academic who was already on record for many years as saying that Israel should be wiped off the map.

Needless to say, this is not going to happen to the United States. Yet such incidents should give one pause about the realities of war and what radical forces intent on creating ruthless dictatorships force on those who would oppose them.

According to the Associated Press dispatch:

“Taliban fighters—including Taliban from Pakistan and Iran—massed in Farah province in western Afghanistan, said Belqis Roshan, a member of Farah's provincial council. The provincial police chief, Abdul Ghafar, said 25 militants and three police officers died in that battle near the village of Ganjabad in Bala Baluk district, a Taliban-controlled area near the border with Iran.

“Villagers told Afghan officials that they put children, women, and elderly men in several housing compounds in the village of Gerani—about three miles to the east—to keep them safe. But villagers said fighter aircraft later targeted those compounds, killing a majority of those inside, according to Roshan and other officials.”….

“An Afghan government commission previously found that an August 2008 operation by U.S. forces killed 90 civilians in Azizabad, a finding backed by the UN. The U.S. government originally said no civilians died; a high-level investigation later concluded 33 civilians were killed.“

Now, if this were Israel, much of the would be trumpeting the claim that Israeli leaders lied though—mark this—no Israeli report regarding military operations in the Gaza Strip or West Bank has ever been shown to be false. In contrast, Palestinian claims have repeatedly been discredited.

No one is calling for President Barack Obama and U.S. officials to be brought up on war crimes’ charges.

No one is demanding an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan because of such incidents.

Most obviously of all, while events in Afghanistan could be said to threaten the United States—the September 11 attacks were planned there, after all—the Taliban is not launching rockets and mortars daily on U.S. cities or staging cross-border raids into American territory.

Nor does the Taliban, unlike Hamas’s aims against Israel, have as its main and direct goal the destruction of the United States and the mass murder of its citizens.

NATO forces are also in Afghanistan which means that every time Afghan civilians are killed, most European states are “complicit” in such actions.

Tragic accidents do happen in wartime but Israel’s military does a better job of avoiding them and of honestly investigating any such claims than any other armed force in history.

This doesn’t mean that the United States has no reason to be in Afghanistan—I’ll leave that issue to others—but it does show that Israel and its actions should be considered with a lot more sanity and a lot less bias.

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