July 27, 2006

From People To Bodies To Statistics

Edit (22.44 28/07/2006): After reading this article by Adam I want to make it clear that this entry refers purely to the Lebanon crisis and is not to be extrapolated globally.

Unlike one person I spoke to earlier this week, I've not failed to notice that there's a bloody war occuring in the Middle East. Bloggers on here have been debating the politics from pretty much every available angle, from feverent support for either Israel or Hezbollah, to the more considered critiques of the actions of both. But there's something which has bothered me the whole way through this. Something which bothers me about a lot of modern warfare – the people who die.

This is more than just humanitarian concern. War has developed over the last century or two to become less about who defeats who on the battlefield, to include elements of who can inflict greater casualties and destruction on the enemy. No country which has fought a war since 1900 is innocent. From reciprocal bombings on Dresden and Coventry by the national war machines of WWII, to the asymmetrical warfare in Ireland, Argentina, Rwanda, and scores of other countries, civilians suffer more and more in war these days. It's even a part of one of this university's History Dept core modules to look at this (see Week 12 ).

So Hezbollah and Israel rain down rockets on the civilians on both sides. Neither care for accuracy or consideration of targets – Hezbollah have killed Israeli Arabs, and Israel seems unconcerned that its victims inevitably include those who dislike Hezbollah. Yet the news in this country (and others) tries to be even handed but cannot be as this is now a matter of numbers.

Leaving aside who started this and who has the right to hit who, there is more coverage given to the suffering of the Lebanese. Some on the Israeli side see this as unfair, more signs of bias against Israel. They seem to fail to understand that numbers matter. The First World War was not much different from other European wars from history except in two ways – the minor noteworthiness of England and France being on the same side, and the much much more important fact that the death toll was massively higher than any other death toll in European wars. Since then only one war has surpassed WWI in terms of its icon nature – WWII in which even more people died.

It works on all levels. The 1993 World Trade Centre attacks get less coverage (and started fewer wars) than the 2001 attacks because in 1993 only six people died compared to 2,749 in 2001. The more people who die, the more the world's concentration focuses on those people.

So when hundreds of Lebanese are dying and Israeli deaths are yet to reach triple figures it is only natural that people's attention will be focused where the worst casualties are. The news reports that try to be fair (which, whether you like it or not, is led by the BBC) are showing Lebanese suffering first in its broadcasts and Israelis second. The footage the other day was indictative, Lebanese people in hospitals, crying over lost loved ones, covered in blood, followed by Israelis running for air raid shelters and talking about their fears whilst sat in normal, undamaged clothes. Those Israelis are living in terror every day, lives disrupted and people confused. But it's just not humanly possible to feel more upset for them than the bloodied and dead in Lebanon.

This isn't me saying I am biased towards the Lebanese. And yes, I accept that there's always the fact that we only see what the media wants to show us. There are bloodied and dead Israelis. But it's not on the same scale so the cameras aren't privy to it to the same degree, there isn't as much footage. And it doesn't matter who we 'should' be supporting once cold rational facts are considered, humans will feel sympathy for the victims and the Lebanese look more like victims at the moment, especially as everyone seems to think that this is Syria and/or Iran's doing that Hezbollah have been attacking Israel. The Lebanese are the perfect suffering innocents in the media eye.

In the end it doesn't matter who these people are or which side they are on. Civilians don't deserve to be what they have become – potential statistics in a scramble for worldwide sympathy.

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  1. I would disagree that more civilians are getting killed, I can't really back any of this up, but my thinking is as follows:
    – I'd imagine we are living in one of the most peaceful times in human history, with the exception of the world wars the only reason we are aware of any of these conflicts is because of the ease of international communication
    – People generally don't target civilians for the fun of it, if you rape and pillage a village these days you are unlikely to last very long
    – War is more sophisticated. Civilians still get killed, but more and more countries have the capability to minimise these losses
    – My line of reasoning does take into account that the global population has massively increased

    There are still terrible conflicts and loss of civilian life must always be condemned but I remain optimistic that we are living in a more peaceful world than we've ever really known.

    27 Jul 2006, 00:32

  2. If only it were the case. The west, specifically western Europe is seeing peace on an unprecedented scale, but everywhere else has seen problems which in the past couldn't have taken place on the scale they are doing so. It's true civilians aren't targeted for the fun of it but they are targeted because either there's a belief that if you terrify the people at home then the soldiers will stop, or the war is being fought along ethnic/religious lines and the civilians are just as guilty as the soldiers. It's this twisted logic that al–Qaeda claimed as justification for 11th September.

    And war isn't more sophisticated, weapons are merely more useful for those who want to keep their armies away from danger. Two armies with uniforms and muskets may be less sophisticated than a Scud missile but fewer civilians died when it was just the muskets in use. Sure, today's missiles might be better than German V1s, but they still harm more civilians than a catapult.

    You have a point that losses might increase as populations increase but it's not really comparable as the countries with big population growths aren't usually those involved in these terrible wars. It's why the Irish Civil War (1921–2) and the rule of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia are considered such tragedies – the number of dead was relatively low in comparison to other civil wars or communist regimes but as proportions of the national populations they were more devastating than anything which either country had suffered before.

    Having said that if western Europe, which spent a good 3000 years fighting amongst itself, can find peace I guess everywhere can… though I doubt it'll happen in the next 3000 years unfortunately.

    27 Jul 2006, 02:07

  3. Holly, I would disagree with you about the first world war being 'just another european war'. As with most wars, I guess it was an era of transition between the old era of smaller armies with muskets and more recent conflicts with massive amounts of firepower at the armies beck and call. It was the era in which people realised that the armies on the battlefield were just too flippin' big to be defeated in one or two battles of movement and so it was necessary to attack the ability of nations to maintain their forces in the field. That made industrial centres a legitimate target which was regrettable, of course, 'cos that's where the civilians lived. Suddenly, war was coming home. Prior to that, war generally took place out in the countryside and if towns crossed the front line then they might get damaged but otherwise the issue would be decided without the need for massive blood letting on the part of non–combatants. Wind forward to World War 2 and you have high altitude bombers which gave people time to seek shelter. Wind forward again and now one war plane can carry bombs much larger than those typically carried in World War 2 (500 pounds vs 100 pounds, typically) but now they fly low seeking the element of surprise so there is no warning to get civilians out of the way. And the huge blast of a bomb means that there is a heck of a lot of what people laughingly call 'collateral' damage.

    Perhaps it was the rising standard of living in the early 20th century coupled with the slaughter of the first world war and the abrogation of the 'contract' between working class and establishment that led to western civilisations placing a much greater value on their own lives (viz 'Bloodbath in Malaysia – no Britons hurt' type headlines). Anyway, we are now a lot more squeamish about life than we used to be as a society and so tend to focus on individual safety, despite the improvements made to try reduce risk, whether in the Health and Safety obsessed civilian environment or in the military where flak jackets are worn by all, and it is preferable to drop a bomb rather than send in ground troops who might get shot at (the job carries a pension and, anyway, you win wars by getting the other guy to die for his country, not you for yours). Now the West has wars where casualties are so mind bogglingly low that one is newsworthy – and restarts the cycle of trying to avoid even that one by using a plane and a bomb, instead).

    There is another problem, too, in that nowadays the firepower available to militaries means that a potential foe can either upsize and try to compete in the high tech arena, expensive if they cannot afford to protect their high tech toys, or they can go the other way and go cheap. Buy lots of cheap rifles and other bits and bobs. (It seems to me that whenever you see pictures of 'freedom fighters', they always have two things: an AK–47 and an RPG launcher. Someone got a good deal on that lot.) Killing all of the 'bad guys' carrying a rifle and an RPG using 500 pound bombs takes a lot of planes and a lot of bombs. And if the 'bad guys' have taken refuge among civilians, then it's easier to issue an apology for killing the other side's civilians than to send ground troops in to the area to find them. With all the bad footage that will be aired as a result. But at least, your own side doesn't take humongous numbers of casualties with all the ensuing embarrassing questions in the media and Parliament afterwards.


    27 Jul 2006, 10:42

  4. /cont

    To be honest, I've been wondering just who the Israelis are dropping their bombs on. Four or five hundred Lebanese casualties in 3 weeks isn't a huge number given how many bombs they are dropping and shells they are firing. It suggests to me that an awful lot of the outgoing explosive isn't actually hitting anything. So one might actually ask: who are they shooting at? The downside of just dropping bombs instead of putting troops on the ground is that, for a pilot, the ground goes past awfully fast at 450 mph and 500 feet whereas the troops can have a look with their own eyes and see if there is a target that needs dealing with. But then we're back to the pension…

    Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that four or five hundred Lebanese is not enough. It's about four or five hundred too many. But, as I've said in my own blog on the subject link Israel wants to do something and is attacking Lebanon as being the host country. The problem is that they cannot really 'get hold' of Hezbollah to fight them. And another problem in these media obsessed days is that there have apparently been more than four or five hundred Iraqi civilians killed in the last 16 days… but that is old news.

    27 Jul 2006, 10:42

  5. Richard I do agree with most of what you're saying, especially the bit about society being squeamish (that's a good word to describe what I was trying to get across), although I'm not sure if my point about WWI was clear enough. WWII was a huge war waged across continents, as was the Cold War and the so–called War On Terror, whereas WWI was a European conflict in which one other, non–Empire, country (America) intervened significantly. It was Britain–France–Italy–Russia against Germany–Austria–Hungary. The transition element was a technological coincidence, this was a traditional war as shown by the trenches, the pointless advances and the use of things like cavalry (!). It did prompt massive tactic changes but in itself was not fundamentally different to Waterloo or Agincourt (check my Anglocentric reference points).

    Anyway, it's not really about asking what Israel should be doing, it's saying that Israel should not be surprised at the media response it's getting. 400–500 dead isn't a huge number it's true but Israel is supposedly trying to target Hezbollah and though I don't believe that Israel wants to kill lots of Lebanese civilians, but it doesn't seem to mind if some die as it persues Hezbollah, a thought reinforced by the damage we see on TV which looks worryingly like a scorched earth policy to punish (if not kill) the Lebanese. That's the other thing. Israeli cities are much less destroyed than Lebanese ones.

    27 Jul 2006, 11:51

  6. If you kill one person, it is a tragedy. If you kill ten million, it is a statistic.

    I think with conflicts like these it's worth putting into perspective. Yes it's a tragedy of the loss of life and it shouldn't be inflicted on anyone, but compare the numbers of people killed. I would estimate the number of people left dead on all sides in this conflict since the year 2,000 is somewhere under 5,000, including the recent and ongoing violence. Drug–related deaths in the UK alone kill more people than this conflict (figures are somewhere in the region of 1,400 a year).

    27 Jul 2006, 12:34

  7. Christopher Rossdale

    Incidentally Holly have you have a look at the tabloids on this? I read the Sun today, just to get an idea of the angle it was taking. I found the 'missing' sympathy for the Israelis, it was more one sided than anything I've seen defending Hizbullah.

    27 Jul 2006, 12:39

  8. One strange thing I find about the coverage of military action in the modern day media is the assertion or belief that somehow war is clean and surgical and can be kept limited and out of the way of civilians… as though it is now a game of paintball and, as such, can be refereed, scored, even 'observed' and then halted as soon as civilians get hurt. I sometimes wonder if the 'death ray' idea of precision guided weaponary has given some the impression that war is now a clean experience where no one gets hurt.

    This is perhaps reinforced by the tendency of western nations to use 'weapons systems' to fight other 'weapons systems' (and we thought that 'Terminator' was science–fiction) thereby taking the human aspect out of the situation. Perhaps this is just how war is now 'spun' in order to avoid the embarrassing questions from the squeamish media. If we see a modern cruise missile hitting a concrete bunker then maybe we can kid ourselves that there wasn't actually anyone in the middle of the fireball.

    Speaking to people who play paintball reinforces this idea: being 'shot' is part of the experience. When I suggested to someone that being shot was possibly a bad idea, they gave me a really odd look. Perhaps the Star Wars stormtrooper who cannot hit the side of a barn is most people's idea of real combat. Certainly, governments don't like coffins to be seen on tv and the media rarely seem interested in showing wounded people who have to readjust to life without a limb or two and apparently now without the support of society.

    I find it heartening that it is soldiers who are the greatest pacifists in our society. Wellington said: "There is nothing more terrible than a battle won, save a battle lost", and Robert E. Lee: "It is as well that war is so terrible else we should grow too fond of it". Yet many modern politicians follow Clausewitz: "War is merely a continuation of politics" as though war is merely another tool of statesmanship.

    I wonder if we are losing our fear of war, as individuals, as a society. And it is civilians who pay the price.

    27 Jul 2006, 12:49

  9. Isn't that unfair on Clausewitz?

    Didn't he believe that theory must be descriptive rather than prescriptive – a description of what actually goes on rather than what someone or other would like to happen.

    See link

    27 Jul 2006, 13:34

  10. Indeed, my Clausewitz quote was deliberately out of context, in order to emphasise how I believe politicians see it.

    27 Jul 2006, 13:51

  11. Has anyone else been watching that series called 'the WAR of the world' where this Proffessor bloke argues that there has been one continuous war since the Russian–Japanese war of 1904? It was quite a compelling argument.

    27 Jul 2006, 18:07

  12. Thing is Holly, I am not sure that all these people are civilians as is claimed. Israel puts out a warning every time it carries out a raid on an area and instructs civilians to move immediately. It then proceeds to bomb targetted buildings. Now people still in these buildings wearing civilian clothes may not be civilians you know. Hezbollah pay rent to occupy houses along that region. That's the thing about this war. Its not an army against an army, it's an army against an army that wears civilian clothes. Who you then classify as a civilian is dependent on which view you take. Now don't get me wrong, obviously the innocent women & children getting killed are civilians and that is an unfortunate product of this campaign, but frankly, I'm rather surprised that a bombing campaign over the capital city hasn't produced many many more civilian deaths. I think the Israelis are only hitting targets that their intelligence services are telling them are priority and not dropping bombs all over the place. An example being Nasrallah's own house.

    I have seen reports that the Israelis are using chemical and vaccuum bombs. If this is proven I think it will certainly shift my opinion on the civilian bombing issue. At the moment though as far as I know, all Israel's air raids have been through targetted American laser guided paveway bombs. These things are extremely accurate and I think the civilian casualties have come about through proximity to the bomb site. But yes, either way, civilian casualties are terrible and they do not deserve what is happening to them. But like most situations it only takes a few idiots to spoil it for everyone else.

    27 Jul 2006, 20:21

  13. Christopher Rossdale

    Yeah, I hear the Red Cross ambulances which were precision bombed were also transporting terrorists. The UN officials in the watchtower were spies. The rest didn't stay because they were afraid of leaving everything they've ever owned in their lives to soldiers and looters, and because they were too poor to own a car, it's because they were evil terrorists. Sure.

    27 Jul 2006, 23:35

  14. You question the accuracy of Israeli hardware Mr Rossdale? The Israeli airforce managed to carry out a fantastic precision strike on an Iraqi nuclear facility 25 years ago with unguided bombs; so I'd imagine with their Paveway II and Paveway III Laser Guided Bombs their bombing is pretty much where they say it's going to be.

    28 Jul 2006, 00:38

  15. As an aside, by the way, I've no doubt that there are high civilian casualties in the conflict. You would expect to see them when Hezbollah are holding civilians at gunpoint and using them as human shields.

    28 Jul 2006, 00:53

  16. Getting back on topic(!) I think that there is a tendency these days for dictators to almost hold their civilian populations hostage and to consider that they can do anything they like to them, viz Baathist Iraq, North Korea, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, the list is getting longer. And in the ethnically mixed countries, one ethnic group often ends up being raised above another for reasons of political support. As a result there is little opportunity for civilians in these countries to avoid blood letting. Either they end up living on top of a focal point of a conflict or they become the target themselves.

    I think the War of the World bloke had some good ideas but I don't think he was 100% accurate. Where he started from I think his ideas were quite wide of the mark but, as he approached the present day, his argument was more valid. Amazing, really, considering how responsible the idea of nationalism is for so many conflicts yet it is permeating through societies to lower and lower levels even now, constantly creating conflict along the way.

    Christopher, you're right in saying that the laser guided bombs (and the GPS ones) are pretty accurate… it just depends if you are sending them to the right place…

    28 Jul 2006, 09:39

  17. Christopher Rossdale

    You question the accuracy of Israeli hardware Mr Rossdale?

    No. Where?

    You would expect to see them when Hezbollah are holding civilians at gunpoint and using them as human shields.

    I hope you're going to support that. Meanwhile here's one link to a story alleging that the IDF tied a Palestinian boy to the back of a jeep and used him as a human shield, and another to the IDF appealing a supreme court ruling against using Palestinians as human shields. They would like it to be legal.

    Feels good to be pro–Israeli doesn't it?

    28 Jul 2006, 13:00

  18. Christopher Rossdale

    IDF – Israeli Defence Force

    28 Jul 2006, 13:01

  19. Christopher Rossdale

    Sorry to triple post, but Sigournay – are you actually praising the accuracy of the bombs? Does that mean you're admitting they targetted the UN post? And the ambulances? Seriously, i'd be really interested to hear your justifications for this and the links I just posted.

    28 Jul 2006, 13:02

  20. White House spokesman Tony Snow has accused Hezbollah of using residents as human shields, widely reported over the internet. A brief synopsis can be viewed here. The Israelis have also accused Hezbollah of using the Lebanese as human shields here (this is the article I was reading last night before I made that post). With regards to accuracy, I am merely pointing out that the bombs are accurate and go where the Israelis want them to go. If the UN put an aid post in the middle of a warzone which it's well known is under heavy airstrikes by powerful military hardware, it's hardly surprising that sooner or later they're going to get in the way of some serious firepower.

    28 Jul 2006, 15:10

  21. Christopher Rossdale

    So their amazing accuracy extends to being able to hit 'a warzone'? The UN operatives had been phoning the Israelis for a number of hours as their base was shelled. It was a precision bomb dropped from a plane that finally destroyed it. That's not the work of an accident.

    Those allegations against He(i?)zbollah are fairly vague, and very political (are there any independent sources to support?), but I take the point. Fact is the solution isn't to just blow up the civilian and the terrorist, which is what's being done. Historical precedent shows that this tends to increase support for the terror rather than the 'liberators' doing the actual killing.

    28 Jul 2006, 17:12

  22. Israel is conducting a full investigation into the matter.
    Obviously though, you know best.

    28 Jul 2006, 18:24

  23. Chris, perhaps you can advise the Israelis on how to proceed with their campaign? Bear in mind that precision bombs such as Paveways are far, far more expensive than dumb bombs and close–range weaponry. So if the Israelis could use something cheaper than the large amount of high–tech stuff they are using now with similar effect, they would be. The fact that they are resorting to highly expensive airstrikes in order to root out their enemies suggests to me that they have two aims in mind – firstly, to maximise the accuracy of their campaign, and secondly because close in combat is costing them dearly in soldiers. It would be great if you could just send special forces into urban areas and take out terrorists accurately in surgical strikes, but the fact is that these just cost the lives of too many soldiers in uirban combat situations. Different military forces have learnt that time and time again – our own in Northern Ireland for example. Softening ground targets with ordinance beforehand, unless you can suggest a better tactic, is the best way for the Israelis to proceed. It's not as if the Lebanese haven't been given enough notice to evacuate by now – as those articles point out, remaining civilians are there against their will, and this is making life difficult for Israel. To their credit, they haven't just completely levelled Lebanon, contrary to media reports.

    28 Jul 2006, 19:51

  24. "White House spokesman Tony Snow has accused Hezbollah of using residents as human shields"

    Your point being?

    "If the UN put an aid post in the middle of a warzone which it's well known is under heavy airstrikes by powerful military hardware, it's hardly surprising that sooner or later they're going to get in the way of some serious firepower."

    I'd say part of the UN's role is to have a presence in some war zones, and even so, what you've said kind of ignores the issues. The UN attack appears deliberate. You chose to say nothing on that. As for the bigger picture, your "they might expect to be shot" does not ask questions about the morality of the ones firing. I'm sure if I came up with "if you live in Israel, expect to get blown up, so…your own fault really" about Israeli citizens, you'd be more concerned about why they would be expecting to be blown up. Again, in this case it's ok, isn't it, because it's a nation–state supported by the Americans.

    God, Kunal, you're actually retarded. You believe everything you're told or what.

    Up Hizbullah! Unfortunately without the long range capability to take out Kunal.

    28 Jul 2006, 20:10

  25. Ok, this article wasn't about the politics of the crisis but the comments have veered that way so I just want to make one comment. Chris S, you quite fairly mentioned Northern Ireland, pointing out that sending in troops to find the IRA/UDF* would have been unsucessful and a disaster. However the British rather sensibly didn't bomb the crap out of Dublin (the loyalist terroritsts did though) which I think would the best comparison here. With NI the British became less and less brutal in their responses (from the massacre of Bloody Sunday and internment, to the calm investigative restraint of Omagh) and *listened,* eventually, to the concerns of the Republicans. What they found was the more than anything the Republicans wanted to be treated as first class citizens like the Unionists (which Palestinians aren't) and that eventually they were willing to accept as say in their lives in NI rather than being joined with Ireland.

    The British didn't respond in the way Israel did and thus allowed moderates (SDLP) to grow and counterbalance Sinn Fein. SF only overtook the SDLP in popularity after the 1996 resumption of the IRA ceasefire. I think had Israel left Hamas alone there would have been attacks (again I reference Omagh as a sign of what splinter groups can do) but there probably would have been some softening in the Hamas position. Had Palestine not been put back under oppression then I'm not 100% sure Hezbollah would have stuck their noses in, though they claimed to have planned their kidnappings months ago so it might still have happened.

    A lot of people ask why should Israel turn the other cheek. My answer is that it doesn't have to completely, it could try the methods of Britain. And Spain. And France.

    And the British never killed international innocents to my knowledge.

    *When they weren't collaborating of course.

    28 Jul 2006, 21:55

  26. No Vincent, live a few more years, go places and maybe you'll grow slightly wiser. Or not. Can't really say at this stage but it's not looking too good for you at the moment.

    28 Jul 2006, 21:57

  27. Holly, the comments always veer that way. It's the usual suspects again.
    Once the big V man joins a discussion you can kiss goodbye to any good natured debate.

    28 Jul 2006, 22:27

  28. I'm realistic, this was never going to be good natured. Also, Adam has made some good points in relation to the worldwide occurance of loss of life (i.e. that more people die in other countries each day than Lebanon so my argument that most casualties = most coverage isn't entirely the case) though this article was meant to be specifically limited to just the Lebanon situation. I've edited the article accordingly.

    28 Jul 2006, 22:44

  29. Your point being?

    Well my point being that I was asked to source my references to my earlier comment on Hezbollah using civilians as human shield, which in itself I think you'll agree isn't the most socially acceptable tactic when fighting wars, and undoubtedly goes a long way to explaining the civilian death toll.

    I agree that the UN's role extends to having a presence in some war zones. However their first objective, if they choose to have a presence, should be to stabilise the warzone. I don't see any large troop deployments going Lebanon's way at the moment, bar the forces that most nations have sent to evacuate their nationals there. I chose to say nothing on the apparent nature of the attack because I have nothing to say on it – if indeed the attack was deliberate then I can't see why the Israelis would choose to do so; the UN aren't siding with Hezbollah and to deliberately attack a UN outpost would only harm their international opinion further, not bolster it. Therefore either the UN weren't where they were supposed to be, or the Israelis targetted the wrong area in the first place. The analogy you draw with Israel is a false one because Israel is not a warzone, and suicide attacks are used as a tactic to maximise civilian casualties and not given prior notice. With the conflict occuring in Lebanon, civilians have known about this in advance and have had quite a while to evacuate. The Israelis are targetting militants, not civilians.

    Interesting stuff on the N.I. analogy and use of restraint Holly. I'm not sure that the two sides in this conflict are much in the mood for listening to each other for a long time yet, quite possibly never, but we can but hope.

    29 Jul 2006, 08:31

  30. Christopher Rossdale

    It's the usual suspects again.

    The first real political statement was your assumption that many of the civilians dying are in fact terrorists because they didn't leave. I only wanted to put that straight, but Sigournay misquoted me, and then said a load of things about human shields. We can close this one off if you want though :)

    Chris, perhaps you can advise the Israelis on how to proceed with their campaign?

    Pretty much along the lines of what Holly said. Don't bomb Dublin.

    So if the Israelis could use something cheaper than the large amount of high–tech stuff they are using now with similar effect, they would be.

    Just never happens though. The one of the main reasons there's expensive military built up in countries like the UK, USA and Israel is to pour tax money into big industry and stimulate the economy. What would be the point in not using the most expensive stuff, especially when there's such strong support for the action in Israel; the population will gladly pay for more.

    This is going nowhere though, I agree. One thing i'd like to know is what you think of the refugee and ambulance bombings? They strike me as the type of indiscriminate civilian killings you class as terrorism. Where does the legitimacy come from?

    29 Jul 2006, 11:30

  31. What refugee and ambulance bombings? I scoured this thread quickly for links or quotes (admittedly very quickly, so I may have missed something) but didn't find anything. There is no legitimacy in attacking non–military targets, I've never said anything to the contrary. That is one of the key reasons why I tend to side with the Israelis – their efforts are directed against a militant foe and not intent on causing widespread civilian damage. It's sadly a reflection on the fact that weaponry isn't high–tech enough that there remains collateral damage to civilian targets, despite attempts to minimise it.

    29 Jul 2006, 11:39

  32. Christopher Rossdale

    link << A little emotive for my tastes, the BBC was better but I couldn't find the link

    The indiscriminate killings and beatings by the IDF in Palestine over the last how ever many years directly contradict what you said about civilian targets. To name only a few pieces, it was proven (by HRW i believe) that the IDF was stationing people in Palestinian protests to throw rocks at the Israelis so that they could respond with firepower. The British Medicala Journal reported that "Two–thirds of the 621 children…killed [by the Israelis] at chgeckpoints…on the way to schoo, in their homes, ided from small arms fire, directed in over half the cases to the head, neck and chest – the sniper's wound." When the Hamas government was elected earlier this year the IDF increased it's random shelling of West Bank targets, purely because the villages they shelled 'were said to be Hamas villages'. It's worth noting on that one that when they stepped up the attacks Hamas was still observing its unilateral ceasefire – the step–up by the Israelis is most likely one of the main reasons why some elements of Hamas stepped back to violence. Those are just three of many examples. To say that the Israelis do anything but kill Palestinian civilians without any regard for life is totally false.

    29 Jul 2006, 12:03

  33. Christopher Rossdale

    Gah, sorry, can't help myself, my fingers just go into autorant! ;)

    29 Jul 2006, 12:08

  34. I re–iterate what I said in comment #32 – there is no legitimacy in attacking non military targets. My support for the Israeli campaign only stretches as far as the defensive actions and pre–emptive strikes on nearby terrorist cells that pose a threat to Israeli citizens; quite frankly I have no idea what the Israelis are up to attacking children and ambulances, so can't offer further comment other than to say I don't support that action.

    29 Jul 2006, 12:30

  35. Simon Brent

    I don't really know if this is the place to voice this statement, but I will anyway. There have been many recent posts on the subject of this conflict, and many, many comment. There is much consternation over civilian deaths as oppose to deaths of Hezbollah millitants or Israeli soldiers.

    What no one seems to have mentioned is that Israel has a policy of conscription. I have friends and family in the Israeli army right now, including one cousin who was in Lebanon in the past few days. These are ordinary people like you and me, except that because they are Israeli citizens they have to serve in the army. My cousin who was/is in Lebanon is 20.

    So when you ring your hands over the civilian casualities, remember this. I'm not saying that the death of civilians is anything other than tragic, just that, unlike in this country, Israeli soldiers didn't volunteer. The difference for people our age in Israel between being a soldier and being a civilian is whether or not they're on leave.

    I hope you understand the point I'm trying to get across…

    29 Jul 2006, 20:42

  36. Christopher Rossdale

    Indeed, it's a tough one – one guy yesterday was prosecuted for refusing to serve. Whilst he only has to serve 28 days, the feeling of having to go to your friends and comrades and tell them you're not fighting cannot be easy. Must be emotionally easier than taking part in an illegal and murderous operation though?

    01 Aug 2006, 18:22

  37. Simon Brent

    I love your rhetoric. It's like you don't consider what Hezbollah are doing is illegal and murderous as well. Granted they may have not killed as many people as the Israeli army so far, but I'm mostly putting that down to incompetence rather than a lack of effort.

    But I promised myself I wouldn't get into that debate…

    02 Aug 2006, 19:21

  38. Hamid Sirhan


    Heya Holly. I don't think it is necessary lack of coverage (or sympathetic coverage) that is such a problem for Israel. I've been watching CNN almost constantly for the past week and aside from a break with Castro going into hospital, it's been mostly about Lebanon and up–to–the–minute reports.

    Now with CNN coverage (which is less right–wing than many and American news agency), a person is generally a militant, if he's described by the IDF as a militant. If the IDF says it's killed 15 militants, then it's generally accepted that that was such. Now take for example, the recent Israeli raid on a northern Lebanese hospital: "Israel launched a daring raid today[...] did not face much resistance but killed several militants, suffering no deaths." Of course, Lebanese reports that innocent civilians outside of the hospital including a man in his car (etc.) were shot dead, whilst unarmed, were not really reported.

    However it's this continual sympathetic reporting that is actually harming Israeli Image. People aren't stupid and as one–sided as you can dress the facts, people can still see through it. So when you have constant lines such as this:

    57 Israelis killed so far, 19 of whom are civilians.
    5xx Lebanese killed.

    People can do the math and figure out that a majority of dead Israelis are actually soldiers. Hizbullah is not pulling a Hamas. So when Ehud Olmert struts around bemoaning the fate of Israeli civilians, deliberately targetted by Hizbullah whilst on the same day the Israelis have killed 67 innocents in Qana, it merely serves to undermine the Israeli image.

    In fact the usual Israeli rhetoric (repeat ad inifinitum of course!)only serves to harm Israel:

    1) Hizbullah are terrorists who only target civilians. We try to minimize civilian casualties which is why Hizbullah have killed less than 60, the majority of whom are soldiers and if Simon Brent is right, the rest can be considered soldiers too, except for any children and Israeli Arabs (who are barred from serving on the basis of their race).

    2) Every day Hizbullah launches 100 rockets against Northern Israel Most of which don't do much damage, being Second World War era technology and being highly inaccurate over a large range. 100 Rockets = about two launcher loads worth of rockets by the way. The equivalent of a few Israeli bombs. The news agencies aren't quite reporting the specific number of shells launched/dropped by Israel though

    3) Hizbullah launched an unprovoked attack on our sovereign nation Leaving aside the irony of Israel whining about sovereignty (1956, 1981 Osirak, 1982-2000, and several violations of Syrian airspace), Israel is still holding Lebanese prisoners. Meanwhile it has been destroying, systematically, the infrastructure of the West Bank for years, whilst killing and injuring tens of thousands of Palestinians. If there was a Jewish community facing such oppresion in a village in Jordan, does anyone imagine Israel would not step in?

    4) We always apologise for civilians deaths! Hizbullah seeks to kill civilians! In fact, Hizbullah hides behind civilians, fires their rockets and then run away! No use apologising for civilian deaths if you're doing it on purpose. Take Qana as the example. As soon as it happened it was being reported on. The CNN reporter on the scene in Qana, a wonderful bald British guy whose name escapes me, was told what the official Israeli army position was on the Qana bombing and replied "There weren't any rockets being fired out of Qana at the time." Oops. Later, as proof of Hizbullah nefariously shielding behind civilians and firing rockets and therefore justifying Qana, the IDF produces stock footage, from somewhere else at another time. Oops.

    5) We tell them to leave in advance!!!! Yes. And we also bomb them in their cars when they leave and try to travel anywhere. And we've also left them without fuel and humanitarian support.

    03 Aug 2006, 04:12

  39. Hamid Sirhan

    So yes, I've digressed a little. In order to shift back slightly towards my point: Modern news is about human interest stories. It's hard to find Israelis sheltering from Second World War technology in luxury resorts paid for by Jewish billionaires or sheltering in bunkers whose greatest complaint is the lack of air conditioning, when Lebanese are being killed en masse.


    So when you ring your hands over the civilian casualities, remember this. I'm not saying that the death of civilians is anything other than tragic, just that, unlike in this country, Israeli soldiers didn't volunteer. The difference for people our age in Israel between being a soldier and being a civilian is whether or not they're on leave.

    So Simon, I guess what you're trying to say is that an Israeli soldier is essentially a civilian in fatigues. Which could also be used to say that an Israeli civilian (except those who advocate the fighting the most from their seats in the yeshivas) is essentially a soldier in civilian clothing.

    And to be frank, I find it hard to pity many of them when they're fighting against Hizbullah which, professional as it might be, is fighting with Second World War weaponry. Meanwhile the poor civilian–soldiers, in their Tanks, APCs, Flak Jackets with their Air Support, Artillery, Naval blockades and all sorts of modern weaponry are simply being massacred.

    but I'm mostly putting that down to incompetence rather than a lack of effort.

    I'm not quite sure that you can put embarassing the World's fourth most powerful military down to incompetence.


    Its not an army against an army, it's an army against an army that wears civilian clothes.

    Actually nearly all the reports I've seen on Hizbullah have shown them wearing military fatigues. Even Israeli/American "experts" describe them as professional and seem to throw in the "terrorist" epithet because it's fashionable to call any enemy of Israel/America a terrorist.

    I'm rather surprised that a bombing campaign over the capital city hasn't produced many many more civilian deaths. I think the Israelis are only hitting targets that their intelligence services are telling them are priority

    Israel is using the exact method it used in the West Bank. It's deliberately and systematically destroying civilian infrastructure whilst launching sporadic bombings of cities. The major targets are the communications, bridges, power–lines etc of Lebanon. It realises that, now more than ever, it cannot afford to come out of this with 25,000 people killed in Beirut.

    Israel is conducting a full investigation into the matter.

    Yes, as it often does. And then it fails to convict. Or it convicts and gives a three–day suspension or some such. Or it finds the accused fully responsible and then later allows him to be elected Prime Minister.

    I think the civilian casualties have come about through proximity to the bomb site

    I could be wrong Kunal, but I presumed that bombs generally killed people through proximity to the bomb site :P.

    03 Aug 2006, 04:22

  40. If Brtain had invaded Ireland when the IRA ran amok…

    09 Aug 2006, 17:37

  41. The Republic of Ireland gave serious thought, apparently, to intervening militarily in Ulster in 1970 or thereabouts…

    10 Aug 2006, 10:01

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