Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Impunity and Jack D. Ripper

Bolton's Beit Hanoun Veto-Bad for Israel, Bad for the World.

If an Israeli soldier runs over a protestor like Rachel Corrie with a bulldozer, or shoots a British journalist like James Miller, he is unlikely to suffer any consequences. So we should not be too surprised that the culture of impunity covers the killing of mere Arabs.

It seems that any trigger-happy Israeli private is guaranteed a chain of exculpation all the way through the ranks, through the politicians in Jerusalem, and through Washington to the UN, where John Bolton once again vetoed a much watered down resolution condemning the killings at Beit Hanoun.

It is a much better deal than the fetishes that the Lords Resistance Army believe protects the bearer from harm

Unlikely as it seems, it may even be possible that the slaughter of a sleeping family in Beit Hanoun was simply an accident, a mis-targeting of the artillery. But when you add up the chains of misfirings, the massacre on the beach, the shelling of the UN compound at Khyam, the targeting of Qana-twice, it really takes rapid onset amnesia to make it feasible. The chain of incidents is getting so long that it is stretching the logistics of the IDF's excuse supply to breaking point.

Israeli inquiries regularly and promptly exonerate the IDF from any blame with a series of "dog ate homework" excuses that would be laughable if the subjects were not so tragic.
This time, it was a misfiring targeting system.

On the Gaza beach massacre earlier this year, they announced that yes, well five of their shells fell in the area, but none of them killed the Ghalia family. Their excuses should have been laughed out of court, not least when the HRW reporter discovered fragments of IDF 155mm shells at the site. The Guardian dissected that one as thoroughly as the shell vivisected the family.

At Khyam this year, repeated shelling all day, on clearly marked permanent site, in the face of repeated calls from the UN at local and international level, was just a mistake. As Kofi Annan said "This coordinated artillery and aerial attack on a long established and clearly marked UN post at Khiyam occurred despite personal assurances given to me by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that UN positions would be spared Israeli fire. Furthermore, General Alain Pellegrino, the UN Force Commander in south Lebanon, had been in repeated contact with Israeli officers throughout the day on Tuesday, stressing the need to protect that particular UN position from attack."

At Qana, in 2006, IDF sources claimed that the building had been used by Hezbollah, and even that Hezbollah had blown it up themselves. Human Rights Watch reported, "None of the dozens of international journalists, rescue workers and international observers who visited Qana on July 30 and 31 reported seeing any evidence of Hezbollah military presence in or around the home. Rescue workers recovered no bodies of apparent Hezbollah fighters from inside or near the building."

In 1996, at Qana, the UN had videos of a drone artillery spotter and helicopters hovering above the target at the time of the massacre, which was, remember, yet another clearly marked and mapped UN compound, to which civilians had fled for protection.

That was "due to incorrect targeting based on erroneous data." The IDF claimed that the shells hit the base not because Israeli gunners used outdated maps of the area- the base had not moved for a long time- and that the gunners miscalculated the firing range of the shells.

Incident after incident implies that the IDF either has lousy discipline or lousy training–or both. The evidence suggests that IDF personnel are behaving like brownshirts and are being allowed to get away with what effectively are anti-Arab pogroms. Faced with the levels of incompetence or indiscipline that these incidents reveal, a real professional military would have been cashiering officers and disciplining men. There is no sign of that in the IDF, unless someone refuses to do occupation duties.

Kofi Annan accepted Olmert's assurances that he did not know about the Khyam firings (not, as misreported in some media, that he exonerated the IDF). But it really raises the question of how much control the politicians have over the Israeli military. Several disastrous invasions of Lebanon suggest that if anything the control is the other way.

One only has to look at recent events where IAF planes have gone on bombing runs against French troops in Lebanon and German ships off the coast. It took a French threat to shoot them down before someone restrained the military from their dangerous provocations.

This has serious consequences for Israelis, as well as their neighbors. In Dr Strangelove General Jack D. Ripper described what seems to be the current Israeli political doctrine. "War is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought."

A state with two hundred nuclear warheads hanging about and a seemingly limitless supply of Jack D. Ripper style officers with free use of artillery practicing for the big day, is even more frightening than a state where a few well-aimed shells or rockets can and do regularly sabotage any bold politician's peace plan.

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