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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Why can't Israel just behave like the US?

For the first time in this mess, I'm going to defend Israel--slightly. This is only because of the nonsense coming from "experts" in this AP article Military analysts question Israeli bombing. These experts suggest that Israel is in error only because it has exceeded the supposedly humane guidelines the US uses when it bombs the crap out of people.
James Dobbins, a former Bush administration envoy to Afghanistan who now heads military analysis for the Rand Corp., said choice of targets by Israel was the key and may be misdirected.

"The military rationale seems rather thin, since many of the targets have no conceivable relationship to Hezbollah," he said.
The article then uses Dobbins and another "expert" to compare Israel's actions with what they consider to be a "good" bombing campaign:
The Brookings Institution's Michael O'Hanlon said the Israeli campaign most closely resembles the U.S.-led NATO bombardment of Serbia in 1999, in which a victory was achieved without a land invasion.

But the 78-day NATO bombardment of Serbia had clear international legitimacy and was more gradual. Air crews targeted Serbian military and communications sites first, and when that didn't persuade the Serb military to pull out of Kosovo, planes hit civilian and government targets.

Targeting was far more discriminatory. Despite tens of thousands of sorties, NATO is thought to have killed 500 civilians in the 2- 1/2 month campaign. By contrast, Israel has killed more than 250 Lebanese in eight days.

And the Serbian actions that triggered NATO's airstrikes were far larger than anything launched from Lebanon, Dobbins said.

"The Serbian government was responsible for the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo that drove a million people from their homes," Dobbins said, "while the Lebanese government is not responsible for the rocket attacks upon Israel."
The article identifies Dobbins as "a former Bush administration envoy," but doesn't mention that he was also a Clinton administration special envoy for Kosovo. For him to deny that the bombing of Serbia had "clear international legitimacy," as many do, would be to confess to being party to a war crime. The bombing of Serbia was done without UN approval, and no case for self-defense can be made by NATO or (especially) the US.

At least Dobbins has a self-interested reason to be delusional about the "discriminatory" use of American force. I'm not sure what Kool-Aid Michele Flourney, another former Clintonista, is drinking:
Israel has also chosen to hit targets that the United States would probably reject, because of the danger of killing civilians, said Michele Flournoy, a former Pentagon strategist now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

U.S. war planners realize their campaigns lose international and domestic support when innocents are killed, Flournoy said.

"Our own population is very discriminating in the use of force. People here have bought into the idea of proportionality and the just war," Flournoy said.
TV stations? Power plants? Water treatment facilities? Chinese embassies? Restaurants? Wedding parties? Bomb shelters??? Exactly what, Ms. Flournoy, WON'T this country bomb? And what percentage of the people here do you really think buy into proportionality and just war, or even know what they are?

And AP quickly glosses over a long and brutal history of US bombing:
The United States has been one of the chief proponents of strategic bombardment, launching campaigns in Vietnam, Iraq and Serbia. In World War II it targeted factories, railroads, bridges, ports and, in some cases, residential neighborhoods.
"In some cases."
Just after midnight on March 10, 1945, three hundred B-29s approached Tokyo at altitudes of between five thousand and nine thousand feet. The raid was code-named Operation Meetinghouse. Tokyo was a city of about five million people. Navigators carried guidance sheets directing them to fly over the most heavily residential sections of the city. The planned target was an area nearly four miles square, housing about 400,000 people. The official AAF [Army Air Force] history describes it: "The zone bordered the most important industrial section of Tokyo and included a few individually designated strategic targets. Its main importance lay in its home industries and feeder plants; being closely spaced and predominately of wood-bamboo-plaster construction, these buildings easily kindled.

The first waves of bombers dropped clusters of napalm canisters, which started fires in the rough outline of an X, which then defined the target area for subsequent waves of bombers. The B-29s flew so low that crew members did not need oxygen, but at that altitude the stench of burning flesh was palpable, and they wore their oxygen masks to stifle it. By the time the B-29s were returning to base, the bottoms of their fuselages were singed brown. Not one plane was shot down.

Because of the work of LeMay's statisticians, the warplanes had been reconfigured into flying boxcars whose only load was incendiary bombs. They dropped 1,665 tons of pure fire on the city, the most efficient and deliberate act of arson in history. The consequent firestorm obliterated fifteen square miles, which included both residential and industrial areas. Fires raged for four days.

Official counts put the number of dead at between 80,000 and 100,000. A million people were rendered homeless.
Although LeMay would not duplicate his success elsewhere, in the weeks after Tokyo his bombers would raze nearly half of the area of sixty-six other cities, killing 900,000 civilians, which surpassed by more than 100,000 the total of Japanese combat deaths. LeMay's campaign would make more than twenty million Japanese homeless.
--James Carroll, House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power, pp. 94-96.

This was all after the Japanese had been chased from almost all of the land they had grabbed earlier in the war, and after their ability to wage aggressive war had been completely destroyed. Carroll points out that the US government knew from diplomatic feelers and decoded messages that the Japanese were ready to surrender--on one condition: that the emperor be allowed to remain and retain his privileges. But the US insisted on unconditional surrender until August of 1945, when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They then accepted the Japanese surrender, granting them the condition they desired. While the officially agreed-upon reason for using the A-bombs was to avoid a bloody invasion of the Japanese homeland, Carroll points out that American leaders knew that this was not necessary. The slaughter of a million Japanese civilians from the firebombs and atomic bombs, and the American lives lost in the bloody battle for Okinawa, apparently resulted from a combination of motives unrelated to the stated ones. Revenge for Pearl Harbor, sending the Soviets a message, justifying the two-billion-dollar price tag on the Manhattan Project, and shear momentum are some of the reasons Carroll lists.

But for AP to state that the US "targeted factories, railroads, bridges, ports and, in some cases, residential neighborhoods" is about as accurate as saying that Hitler imprisoned "communists, homosexuals, dissidents and, in some cases, Jews."

So while I condemn Israel's brutal assaults on Gaza and Lebanon, I don't pretend that the US isn't even worse--especially since Israel is using US-made and US-paid-for jets running on US fuel and dropping US bombs.