Tuesday 18 July 2006


The word terrorist will likely go down as the most abused of the new millennium. Since September 11 2001, it’s been used to justify actions of all kinds by all kinds of governments. The latest crisis in the Middle East is no different.

Terrorists are evil we are told because of their contempt for civilian life. They actively target civilians. Seems reasonable.

So then how do we treat a military campaign that accepts large civilian casualties and tiny military casualties? Surely this also constitutes terrorism?

The count when I last checked after 6 days of fighting: 170 killed in Lebanon (mainly civilians) and 24 in Israel. As I write, reports of another 50 Lebanese civilian deaths filter through.

What is Israel’s proportionality calculus? What number of civilian deaths would constitute an excessive response or an overreaction to the kidnapping of soldiers and the shelling of Israeli cities?

The moral imperatives would be sufficient for many to justify wholesale condemnation of Israel. However moral arguments are also inextricably connected to arguments of legitimacy, strategy and ultimately effectiveness. It seems extraordinary that Israel’s leaders could really believe they are buying Israel’s security with such wholesale disregard for civilian life.

Israel’s right to defend itself is given. The havoc that the destructive force of Israel’s military is wreaking goes way beyond any reasonable definition of self-defense. Does such a strategy offer any prospect of peace?

Israel once again has refused to accept (along with the US) Tony Blair and Kofi Annan’s proposed international peacekeeping force. Why?

Israel looks, sounds and behaves increasingly like those it rightly condemns.


I have long been astounded by the Pentagon’s decision not to keep civilian casualty records in Iraq. What better measure of the success of a military campaign in an insurgency environment where hearts and minds are central, than its success in keeping civilian casualties in check? The contempt this decision shows for the Iraqi people flies in the face of all the grand rhetoric about bringing freedom and civilization to a long-suffering people. Once again, Bush, Cheney, Rummy et. al. have lowered the bar for the treatment of civilians in combat. It seems the Israelis as well as the US soldiers involved in the now frequently emerging Iraq atrocity tales, have taken note.

No comments:

Post a Comment