Never Forget. Never Again.

I missed a grim anniversary: the bombing of Hiroshima, but 65 years ago today we dropped Fat Man on Nagasaki, and that shouldn’t be forgotten, either. 

Opinions differ as to the severity of the war crime and whether or not it was necessary for America to drop nuclear weapons on two cities filled with civilians.  I used to be in the “horrifying but necessary” camp before The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb moved me into the “horrifying and unnecessary” camp.  Then I found out about about the firebombings that came before it, and all of the other brutalities that get swept under various rugs, and learned just how brutal humans, even my own exalted countrymen, could be.  It doesn’t matter to me that other nations perpetrated horrors.  Tit-for-tat is never an excuse.  Preventing a worse horror is, but only just.

From what I’ve learned, my country could have avoided becoming the first (and, so far, thankfully, the only) country to drop atomic weapons on cities full of civilians.  We didn’t have to set that precedent.  There was this word, “unconditional,” we stuck in front of “surrender,” though, and somehow our leaders at the time didn’t think it worth enemy lives to negotiate something that would have ended the war just as effectively.  Maybe it’s because I’m young and wasn’t there, but I can’t see how allowing Japan to retain some dignity could be such a sticking point that we decided it was better to drop nukes instead.

And maybe something good came of it, because the horror of those images has certainly given others pause.  It has made quite a lot of people, powerful and common alike, pull back from the abyss, recoil in horror, swear these terrible weapons will not be used.  Not today.  Not for this.  (Of course, MAD helped.)

War, of course, is brutal, and brutal decisions are made in the fog of it.  That doesn’t mean we get to excuse what we have done.  Explain it, perhaps, certainly swear, “Never again.”  There will never be a perfect war, a perfectly just war, a perfect application of the minimum necessary force, but that reality doesn’t excuse and cannot be used to condone atrocity.  It should never allow us to blithely apply the maximum force we’re capable of.  It should not allow us to forgive and forget our own sins.

When I think of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I feel sadness, horror and outrage.  But I also remember an experience Joseph Campbell related in Transformations of Myth Through Time:

I was in Japan and was taken to Nagasaki, where the second atom bomb was dropped.  I was with a group of Japanese, and I must say I felt mortified, being an American, and responsible – remotely – for this horrific act.  The extent of the devastation was still evident.  They have an enormous image just pointing up, exactly to the place from which the bomb came.  My Japanese friends felt no malice, no sense of my being to blame.  We had been enemies, pairs of opposites, two aspects of the same thing – beautiful.

So forgiveness is possible, on both sides.  But never forget.

Never again.

Nagasaki Memorial

(This post is timed to appear at 11:01am, August 9th, Nagasaki time.)

Sick, Twisted Fucktards

Since the right likes to bash liberals as freedom-hating fascists, since they love to moan about how cruel and mean and what a blight on the national discourse we are, I’d like to know how they explain this:

Here is some rightwing loon named Ralph Peters:
Pretending to be impartial, the self-segregating personalities drawn to media careers overwhelmingly take a side, and that side is rarely ours. Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media.

Sounds crazy, right? Beyond the pale, right? Deliberately killing journalists? That’s something we would never do, that’s NoKo/Saddam-level totalitarianism, plain and simple.

Well, Mr. and Ms. America, I got some news for you. It’s already happened.

No one will be surprised to learn it’s the Bush regime that killed journalists. And no one will be surprised that Ralph Peters is the kind of whackaloon, murderous fuckhead that Faux News loves to parade around as an august figure of authority:

Update: from digby

This wasn’t the only wacko thing the sick piece of work Ralph Peters said today on Fox. Get this:


“We’re dealing with people who aren’t human anymore. They’re monsters. And monsters deserve to die.”

So, advocating wholesale murder of journalists and the dehumanization and murder of Gitmo detainees isn’t beyond the pale in the right’s opinion. Something we should keep in mind come election season. If America puts the right back in charge of the country, what little moral authority we have left is dead.

They have no moral authority. None.

Memorial Day Roundup


A lot of bloggers had good Memorial Day posts up today. Just in case you missed them, here they are.

Think Progress has stats showing that America’s failing her vets.

Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars reminds us: For Every Death, A Hole in the World

DarkSyde at Daily Kos takes us Beyond Memorial Day, and reminds us that there are all too many veterans we’re forgetting.

And Digby celebrates the moral Heroes, who deserve just as much praise as the physical variety.

We may not always support the war these men and women are sent to fight. But we will always support them.

Holy War

So, I’m assuming most of you have seen that delicious GQ article that takes Rummy apart from tip to toe. If not, go read. It’s definitely an education.

One of Rummy’s favorite tricks was putting Bible verses on fancy war pictures to whet Monkey Boy George’s appetite for playing Holy War President. Here’s one of those cover sheets, which disgraced the President’s daily intelligence briefing:


Tristero puts this together with a few choice Bush quotes and comes to the logical conclusion:

Genuinely sickening. It makes you realize that this remark from September ’01 was no idle slip of the tongue:
On Sunday, Bush warned Americans that “this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take awhile.”

And also:

In the programmeElusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs, which starts on Monday, the former Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath says Mr Bush told him and Mahmoud Abbas, former prime minister and now Palestinian President: “I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did, and then God would tell me, ‘George go and end the tyranny in Iraq,’ and I did.”

We must never, ever forget: for eight long years, this country was run by delusional, paranoid idiots. Whenever they took a break from the hard work of lining the plush coffers of their already-wealthy pals, they thought they were on a mission from God.

He’s right. We must remember. And we must remind our fellow voters that this is the kind of shit that happens when you let a hyper-religious fucktard with an entitlement complex and delusions of world domination take the reins of the world’s biggest spender on military toys.

Let’s not make that mistake again.

Why Do Cons Hate Our Troops?

Remember the old days, when every time Democrats attempted to place limits on the firehose of money for Bush’s endless war, they got painted as troop-hating cowards? Well, sez I, turnabout’s fair play. If playing games with Iraq War supplementals is the height of irresponsible troop-hating, well, Cons are irresponsible troop-haters:

Rumblings up on Capitol Hill: Democratic leadership is worried they might not have the votes to pass the war supplemental. The House is due to vote on the emergency $96.7 billion dollar supplemental, which would fund the war in Afghanistan and Iraq through the next year, later this week. But opposition is possible from an unlikely place, House Republicans:

Republicans might attempt to provoke a partisan fight during floor debate over the future of the 241 detainees held at the military’s detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. However, Democratic leaders could thwart GOP efforts to thrust Guantanamo into the spotlight by opting for a closed rule.

The bill does not contain the $80 million needed to close Guantanamo Bay, but Republicans are disconcerted because they tried several times without success to insert language into the bill which would keep detainees from being transferred to US soil.

Maybe I should call Rep. Dave Reichert (R – Parts of King County Dumb Enough to Vote for a Con) and ask him why he hates the troops. That would be fun.

For those of you going “Supplemental? What fucking supplemental?”, David Waldman has an explanation for that:

Oh yeah, another thing. I’m sure many of you are wondering what ever happened to the whole, “we’re not gonna do supplementals for the war anymore” thing. The wheels turn slowly in Washington. This is a supplemental for fiscal year 2009 (FY09), the regular appropriations bills for which were passed last year in the 110th Congress and under George W. Bush. The FY10 Defense Appropriations (and others which might include other bits of war-related funding) haven’t been passed yet. So technically, we’re still kind of operating under Bush budgeting until October 1, 2009, when the new fiscal year begins.

I know, I know.

And finally, for those of you looking for some sport: Remember that $870 million in flu pandemic preparedness the Senate “moderates” were so intent on cutting out of the stimulus (right before we confronted… a flu pandemic)?

This supplemental has $2 billion for it. Ha ha!

Gives you ideas, doesn’t it? Every time the Cons cut funding for important stuff, include nearly three times that amount in an emergency war supplemental. Then distract them by trying to include money for closing Guantanamo. Brilliant. Especially since, if they try to cut this one, we now have a ready-made retort, inspired by their own bullshit: “Why do you want our troops to die of pandemic flu?”

I shall enjoy this entirely too much.

The Wisdom of Readers

Last December, inspired by George at Decrepit Old Fool, I wrote about cluster bombs and worldviews. Tonight, I received an incredibly insightful comment from Longo05. I’m reprinting it here in full, because it deserves an audience:

Hey, I literally stumbled onto this blog via stumbledupon and thought I would articulate with you on this issue.

Background: I am a current college student and former Marine Sergeant. I helped facilitate communication for combat operations in an infantry regiment. I am generally liberal and a fierce individualist. I don’t believe in nationalism, but do believe in military service. I say this mostly because I feel that the speaker is as integral to what is spoken, and whom it is spoken to.

I couldn’t agree more with you about accountability, and the individual accountability that a person is responsible when he or she fires a weapon. I think that the same goes for any munitions fired, generally. How can you not qualify a statement like that?

When it comes to cluster bombs, they are indeed force multipliers, but were also designed for a certain type of warfare. It is important to clarify that cluster bombs were not designed for urban operations; they were designed to engage large-scale, regular forces on a field of battle. These weapons are used in what we typically call a ‘force-centric’ battle, meaning that the battle is fought in an attempt to reduce the number of enemy combatants. This is also known as conventional warfare, if there are such things as conventions on a battlefield. I am afraid this is an oxymoronic term.

The current operations in Afghanistan are considered non-conventional in nature, or asymmetric, or ‘population-centric.’ These are terms generally used to describe counter-insurgency, or COIN operations. It is the goal, ideally, to subordinate ‘hard power’ (military operations) to ‘soft power’ operations, such as: political means, stability operations, reconstruction, or any other operations that help to secure the local population and make the populations feel secure and safe. (A significant portion of these concepts and terms are explained in the U.S. Army Counter-Insurgency Manual, or can be found in a historical and contextual book called “Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife” by John Nagal )

The best way to achieve these operational goals is to place enough security on the ground to achieve an overt and trustworthy relationship among the local populace. This is why most people agree that the ‘surge’ in troops, which Gen. Petraeus instituted, in Iraq was instrumental in quelling, at least the last portion, of the insurgency.

These operations call for exactly the opposite of what the person you cited described. In fact, the best way to attempt to achieve victory in Afghanistan is too indeed place more troops in potential danger and then to place them in more danger by subordinating military operations to stability operations. In fact, tying our, if I may, hands is exactly what needs to be done.

As a matter of fact, many NYTimes article actually attributed a significant number of Afghani civilian deaths to targets of opportunity, i.e. unplanned missions on suspected combatants, and most notably to a lack of proper ground troops to monitor and ensure enemy status. This is something that military commanders are realizing more and more every day.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/23/world/asia/23military.html?pagewanted=print

There are countless articles that show that Defense Secretary Gates wants to reduce the military operations and budget in order to generate more Dept. of State responsibility and personnel, to better facilitate the ‘soft power’ function.

I think that whoever may have said that information that you cited was misinformed and had no right to speak on the matter. I also think that the term collateral damage is a term popularized by under sensitive and over stimulated Hollywood commandos ravaged by an antiquated machismo, bravado culture. I have never heard the term collateral damage in any military operation. I have heard civilian casualties and accidental, but I will note that they are usually attached to unfortunate, and senseless.

I think you might be surprised in how much caution is taken, how much regard for human life is honored, as it rightfully should. A friend, and subordinate, of mine was in Iraq during Operation Phantom Fury during OIF III, when they surrounded Fallujah and after a forced evacuation, considered anything left in the city a combatant. During house-to-house sweeps, they discovered a family that had not evacuated, and under those military parameters were within their jurisdiction to fire upon them.

Rightfully so, they identified the family and took the initiative to facilitate the families evacuation. They even ensured that they were attended by a medical staff and properly fed and hydrated (as they were under blockade-type siege for days). This situation cost them time and resources that were taken away from the conflict, but they did the right thing. They didn’t j
ust level houses to save their own Asses.

I don’t think that service members go out and dehumanize their enemies. It has been my experience that we don’t dehumanize the enemy because we don’t want to take lightly our responsibility. It’s easy to picture service members as systematic robots, if you watch enough bullshit television. I hope that people don’t, just as I have always explained to my Marines that the people we face are brothers, fathers, and sons as well. I explain that we need to treat the enemy as humanly as possible when they surrender, just as I was explained to and honored. I think it commonly known that service members, on both sides, are just trying to do right by our respective countries. We’re just trying to get home too, and will willingly get enemy combatants home as best we can, especially if they don’t want to fight.

I would also disagree that war is sometimes necessary. I think that it is intelligently agreeable that war is the worse possible event and the biggest tragedy of politics. War is not a sport, it is not a pastime, it is not romantic, and it is not necessary. No one person’s life is more valuable than another’s. No one country’s troops are more valuable than another’s. We’re all equal, and equally fucked and wrong when war is declared (or not in this instance).

I think that if we are going to blame people, we should start with our democratic constituency, politicians, and the media, every American that started the war, or sat by idly as it began. Militaries are coercive tools of diplomacy; so much as guns are tools of shooters. We believe that a shooter is responsible for the rounds they fire, and I believe that politicians are responsible for militaries they deploy. There is nothing natural about killing, and nothing normal about dehumanizing killing, not even for glittering generalities, like Democracy and Freedom.

I have heard that ‘it is better to fight them over there, than over here’ and that ‘with us or against us’ rhetoric too and I think that all those generalities are as idiotic as the people they work on. Generalities on subject matter as multifaceted and complex as these issues are cannon fodder for the simple-minded and should be dismissed with equally generalized sayings, with starkly opposing views such as: “Fighting for peace, is as productive as screwing for virginity.”

It’s going to take some time, and more than one reading, before I’ve absorbed all the lessons Longo05 managed to pack in here. And I hope he starts a blog of his own. I’ve got a lot to learn from him. I think we’d all benefit.

Muchas gracias, mi amigo. And the same to all of my wonderfully wise readers. You guys make this all worthwhile.

(An extra tip o’ the shot glass to whoever it was put me up on Stumbleupon. Thankee kindly! Welcomes to all those who dropped by for the cluster bombs and stuck around for the rest.)

Where Are They Now? The Mercenaries Formerly Known As Blackwater Edition

Blackwater’s stock hasn’t been rising. The company’s come under fire for firing on Iraqi civilians, and both Iraq and the State Department planted a judicious boot up their arses. What’s a band of murderous mercenaries to do but change their name? Because, like Cons, Blackwater – um, excuse me, Xe - thinks it’s all about branding rather than the product.

They maybe shoulda researched the name first:

Over at my home blog of Mercury Rising, one of my co-bloggers, MEC, noticed something a wee bit interesting about Blackwater’s name change (and, they apparently hoped, reputation change) to “Xe” — namely, that there’s already an “XE” out there and they care about their copyright:

“XE”, “XE.COM”, “UNIVERSAL CURRENCY CONVERTER”, the XE logo, the spinning currency logo, and other identifying marks of XE are and shall remain the trade-marks and trade names and exclusive property of XE CORPORATION, and any unauthorized use of these marks is unlawful.

Deary, deary me. Looks like the corporate lawyers shall be rolling up their sleeves and deploying the cease-and-desist letters. And in a battle between an army of lawyers and an army of mercs, I know who my money’s on.

If anyone wants to float some potential names for Blackwater now they’ve lost their first choice, I’ll be happy to pass them along.

Gaza: Israel Withdraws

Even in the afterglow of Inauguration Day, we’re keeping up on the news from Gaza, my darlings. It wouldn’t do to get distracted by shiny things. Considering how the ongoing crisis between Israel and the Palestinians destabilizes the Middle East, it’s worth keeping a close eye on.

The news is mixed. On the good side, Israel has withdrawn its forces:

The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday said it had withdrawn all of its soldiers from Gaza, three and a half weeks after launching Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in the coastal territory.

“As of this morning, the last of the Israel Defence Forces soldiers have left the Gaza Strip and the forces have deployed outside of Gaza and are prepared for any occurrences,” an army spokesman said.

On the bad side, there’s been mortar fire and some shootings:

Israel reported mortar shelling from Gaza on Tuesday. The Palestinians have said Israeli troops shot to death two farmers since the truce took hold.

[snip]

The Israel Air Force on Tuesday attacked areas in the Gaza Strip from which Palestinians fired mortar shells. The Israel Defense Forces said that about eight mortar shells were shot from near a central Gaza refugee camp, apparently by Hamas. Two of the shells landed in the Strip and the rest fell in open territory in the western Negev near the border.

At this stage, the IDF is holding its fire after its attack at around 6 P.M. Tuesday.

The Palestinians also fired light weapons into Israel on Tuesday, from both north and south of the Kissufim crossing. An explosive charge was also apparently set off.

Not good.

The reporting’s too sketchy to determine what exactly is happening – after the lies Israel told during the invasion, I’m disinclined to believe their claims that it’s all Hamas’s fault. But I’m also not going to be shocked in the least if some pissed-off Palestinians have ignored the cease-fire in the interest of extracting a pound or two of flesh.

After all, there’s plenty to be pissed about:

As outside observers enter Gaza, we’re learning more about what has happened during the Israeli attack. What they are seeing is devastating – and is leading to accusations of Israeli war crimes.

[snip]

Amnesty International reported Monday on the findings of a four-person fact-finding team who have just been allowed to Gaza. The team included a weapons expert who said:

“Yesterday, we saw streets and alleyways littered with evidence of the use of white phosphorus, including still burning wedges and the remnants of the shells and canisters fired by the Israeli army…White phosphorus is a weapon intended to provide a smokescreen for troop movements on the battlefield. It is highly incendiary, air burst and its spread effect is such that it that should never be used on civilian areas”.

And their conclusion is that the Israeli use in Gaza “is a war crime:”

“Such extensive use of this weapon in Gaza’s densely populated residential neighbourhoods is inherently indiscriminate. Its repeated use in this manner, despite evidence of its indiscriminate effects and its toll on civilians, is a war crime,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

They’ve left behind plenty of outrage, and there’s that small matter of having destroyed the very security forces that might have enforced a cease-fire.

It’s not over. Not by any means.

Gaza: What Israel Gained

For now, the fighting has stopped. Bombs aren’t falling, rockets aren’t firing. It may seem to a naive observer that Israel met its objectives.

But look deeper, and you see that all they’ve done is make a horrible situation worse.

The threat of imminent violence is still there:

The 22-day war ended without surrender. Neither Israel nor Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls Gaza, made any concessions, except to stop fighting temporarily.

“The essence of this is you have two completely separate cease-fires, with no underpinnings in them of agreement or understanding, and no resolution of the original causes of the conflict,” said Alistair Crooke, a former British intelligence officer and former European Union adviser on Palestinian issues. “On one level, it’s back to square one, and all of the elements of the situation are back to where they were before the war.”

Although Hamas sustained the heavier losses, by a lopsided margin, Israeli officials acknowledged that the movement could quickly rebuild its political and military wings and that it still posed a potent long-term threat to Israel.

The chance of enduring peace is further away than ever, especially since right-wing hawks are poised to poison Israeli politics still further:

And prospects for the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and Syria that have been central to Kadima’s platform look shakier than ever.

Many believe the Israeli operation has further weakened the legitimacy of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the negotiating partner on the Palestinian side.

“I don’t think we have a peace agenda now – Syria doesn’t want to talk any more, the Palestinians are in a very delicate situation,” says David Nachmias, Professor of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center, an academic institute north of Tel Aviv.

[snip]

And Prof Doron points out that an electorate that was already right-leaning has moved further right, as evident in gains for the Yisrael Beiteinu party of far-right Avigdor Lieberman.

They’ve earned a reputation for senseless brutality:

“We walked at the head of a group of women and we waved white flags. We managed to pass three houses on the street and then I saw an Israeli soldier 40 meters away aiming his weapon at us,” said Yasmin A-Najar. “I thought he wanted us to come closer. Ruwahiya and I continued to walk and suddenly the soldier shot at us.”

Yasmin was wounded in her right leg and Ruwahiya fell on the street with her head bleeding. The rest of the women panicked and scattered, hiding while the shooting continued.

Yasmin said she tried to return and help Ruwahiya but the soldiers fired at her. They also shot at the ambulance driver who arrived and he was forced to turn back, she said. When Ruwahiya was finally evacuated at 8 P.M., she was already dead.

And Hamas is not broken:

The top Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, said Israel had “failed to achieve its goals”.

In a speech broadcast on Hamas TV, he said: “God has granted us a great victory, not for one faction, or party, or area, but for our entire people.”

Hamas said it would hold fire for a week to give Israel time to withdraw its forces from the Gaza Strip.

A spokesman for Hamas’ military wing, Abu Ubaida, said its rocket capabilities had not been affected by the conflict.

“We hereby stress that our rockets are being developed and are piling up, and that the enemy will receive more rockets and God willing, our rockets will hit more targets,” he said in a news conference broadcast live on Hamas’ al-Aqsa TV.

I fail to see how this insanity served Israel’s long-term interests. All they’ve done is created sympathy for the Palestinians and broken fertile ground for extremism and terrorism.

Gaza: Returning to Devastation

Hamas has turned the tables on Israel by declaring its own cease-fire and reiterating its demands:

Hamas announced an immediate cease-fire by its militants and allied groups in Gaza on Sunday, giving Israel a week to pull out its troops from the coastal territory.

Israel, which mounted an offensive against Hamas three weeks ago to halt years of rocket attacks, agreed to silence its guns and ground its aircraft early Sunday.

“We the Palestinian resistance factions declare a cease-fire from our side in Gaza and we confirm our stance that the enemy’s troops must withdraw from Gaza within a week,” said Damascus-based Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk.

Ayman Taha, a Hamas official in Cairo for talks with Egypt on a truce deal, demanded that Israel open all of Gaza’sw border crossings to allow in food and other goods to meet the “basic needs for our people.”

This is a brilliant move on their part. It shows they’re willing to play the diplomacy game, and takes back the initiative. Hamas is bruised, battered and bloody, but refuses to back down. I think this is a signal to the rest of the world that, despite attempts to declare them nothing more than a terrorist group, they’re a duly-elected government that intends to govern. And they’re going to have to be treated as such.

I’m not sure about the borders, but it looks like Israeli troops may soon be leaving Palestinian soil:

Olmert told European leaders visiting Jerusalem on Sunday evening that in the wake of the cease-fire, Israel planned to withdraw all of its troops as soon as possible. He said that such a move would come when the situation between Israel and Gaza was “stable.”

That stability may be a wee bit hard to achieve:

Meanwhile, although Hamas’s leadership said they’d stop firing missiles, the missiles have kept firing. Why? Well, at a guess “Hamas’s leadership” is a lot less powerful than it used to be since the Israelis assassinated most of it. And the security forces who used to make sure that missiles didn’t get fired if Hamas’s Leadership didn’t want them to be fired, well they were the first and main target of Israel’s strikes. It’s almost as if Israel wanted to make sure that Hamas’s leadership couldn’t control their military wing.

That’s a recipe for catastrophe, and Israel won’t have anyone to blame but themselves. Hamas showed itself capable of controlling other militant groups’ activities during the six-month cease-fire. With their security forces destroyed, angry Palestinians with access to rockets won’t have much standing in their way. Just the excuse Israel will need for yet another invasion.

Of course, invading under indictments may prove a little tricky:

Israel is preparing for a wave of lawsuits by pro-Palestinian organizations overseas against Israelis involved in the Gaza fighting, claiming they were responsible for war crimes due to the harsh results stemming from the IDF’s actions against Palestinian civilians and their property.

Senior Israeli ministers have expressed serious fears during the past few days about the possibility that Israel will be pressed to agree to an international investigation of the losses among non-combatants during Operation Cast Lead; or alternately, that Israelis will be faced with personal suits, such as happened to Israeli officers who were accused of war crimes in Britain for their actions during the second intifada.

It wouldn’t sadden me a bit to see Olmert and a few other of Israel’s hawks stuffed in the Hague with our own war criminals. Should we all splurge to buy them a vacation in Amsterdam?

Israel’s doing its best, now that the true extent of the destruction will be revealed, to craft its alibi:

With this in mind, Israel is reportedly “readying a new offensive — the battle for public opinion.” AFP reports Israel has begun compiling information to try to prove that many of the 4,000 residential buildings, 51 government buildings, and 20 mosques it hit during the offensive were legitimate targets used by Hamas militants. At least six Israeli ministers will be “fanning out to different countries to press home Israel’s view of the conduct of the war.” Welfare Minister Isaac Herzog said Israel is aiming to prevent an ‘over-dramatization‘ of the facts.”

I’m not quite sure how you can over-dramatize facts that are dramatic enough in and of themselves.

First, an illustration:


That was the death toll before the war even ended. That’s a hell of a lot of dead women and children to have to explain.

Then there’s the evidence of new weapons used:

Some Palestinian casualties in the Gaza Strip were wounded by a new type of weapon that even doctors with previous experience in war zones do not recognize, according to Dr. Erik Fosse, a Norwegian cardiologist who worked at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital for 11 days, during Operation Cast Lead.

However, he added in a telephone conversation from Oslo, most casualties were people hit by shrapnel from conventional explosives.

Fosse, a department head at a university hospital in Oslo, worked in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation and several times in Lebanon, also in 2006. That was when he first heard about the new kind of weapon, but did not see any such wounds with his own eyes.

The unknown weapon appears to mainly affect the body’s lower part, he said. It severs the legs, leaving burns around the stump, small punctures in the skin and internal bleeding.

[snip]

Fosse and a Norwegian colleague, Mads Gilbert, arrived in Gaza on December 31 and remained until January 10. They were financed by the Norwegian government.

On his return, Fosse submitted a report to his government in which he accused the IDF of deliberately targeting civilians. Fosse said he believes Israel deliberately chose to attack while We
sterners working for international organizations were back home for the Christmas vacation.

“The Palestinian witnesses, as medical workers, are very accurate in their reports, but if we hadn’t been there to confirm their testimony, it would all have been presented as Hamas propaganda,” he said.

Remember that, when Israel starts presenting its case and dismisses horror after horror as “Hamas propaganda.”

Palestinians are left to assess the rubble and try to put their shattered lives back together. This is what they’re coming back to:

All day, thousands of Gazans have been rushing back to their neighbourhoods to see what is left after Israel’s campaign of bombing and shelling.

Gaping holes and fire-blackened cars litter the streets in the areas hit hardest by the fighting.

I have spoken to some people who say they have not even been able to find their way round their bomb-damaged neighbourhoods, never mind find the remains of their homes.

Many simply turned round and returned to the UN-run schools they fled to amid the fighting.

But for some Gazans even attempting to return home is virtually unimaginable.

Amira al-Girim, 15, lies in a hospital bed with her leg in traction.

She was found alone, bleeding in a house, about four days after she saw her father killed by an Israeli tank shell in front of her.

Her brother and sister died – she thinks in an air strike – as they ran to get help.

Her remaining family thought she too had died, and had already buried the scraps of flesh they thought were her remains in a box.

Let those images sear themselves into your mind. Don’t forget. This is what happens when a country responds with disproportionate force to a threat. America did it on a far greater scale than Israel, and for less reason. The war in Iraq and the war in Gaza are inextricably entwined.

We must not forget:

As we wait to see what happens next, it’s important to remember what we’ve just seen. So often we are encouraged to sink into a comfortable amnesia designed to wipe away the news of civilian deaths and the war crimes – whether our own in Iraq and Afghanistan – or now those of our allies and best arms customers in Israel. So let’s recap and remember – and insist on international action.

Last March, Israeli officials met with Condi Rice and then approved a plan for a war on Gaza. By their own admission, Israel signed onto the June 19 cease-fire in order to buy time for preparing for that war – and while Hamas honored the cease-fire, Israel used the world’s focus on the Obama election on November 4 to launch an incursion into Gaza, killing 6 Palestinians – knowing this would provoke a Hamas reaction since it was an act of war. That reaction was then used as an excuse for further Israeli incursions and as the justification of a siege of Gaza, blocking all shipments of food, medicine and fuel to the residents who live in a virtual prison, unable to leave, unable to live with no electricity, starvation level food supplies and a compromised water supply since the fuel needed for the water sanitation plants was not let in. The people of Gaza were reduced to eating bread made from animal feed – and when that ran out, grass. Even with this continuous collective punishment of the people of Gaza, their elected government announced – multiple times – that they would agree to a new cease-fire on the condition that the blockade of supplies be lifted.

Instead, Israel – with its massive PR campaign – claimed that Hamas refused a new cease-fire – and then launched a vicious attack on Gaza.

Over 1300 Gazans have been killed, over 5,000 wounded – one third of those children – and the casualties included medics trying to rescue wounded families, journalists, and more than 50 Gazans who had fled to UN schools for refuge from the fighting. The UN warehouse and all the humanitarian aid in it were destroyed when Israel bombed it– apparently using white phosphorus, setting the building on fire.

There can be no real peace for the people of Gaza until they are allowed self-determination – in the meantime, at least we can insist that Israel open the borders and allow in the humanitarian aid they so desperately need. Let’s not forget them while the world shifts its attention t the celebrations in Washington this week.

We have this chance to take a new direction. With Obama in office, we’ll be leaving Iraq to determine its own way forward. We’ve failed to learn a harsh lesson from the wars of the past several years: we cannot solve terrorism with bombs. We cannot bring peace by raining down destruction. America tried and failed. Israel tried, and I guarantee you that they will also fail.

Peace, if it comes, will be brought about by tough compromises. We cannot call every government we do not like a “terrorist organization.” We cannot continue starving populations in order to bend them to our will. We have to start building up rather than tearing down. And we have to grant these people the same rights we hold precious: the right to self-determination, to live without threat of annihilation, to be able to work hard and raise families, to eat and drink and live another day.

We need a Marshall Plan for the Middle East. More will be accomplished by helping them build strong economies and functioning societies than would ever be accomplished at the point of a gun. We need to give aid, help them find a path to peace, but not impose our will on them. We need to give them the tools and the room to discover their own solutions to their internal problems. We need to find ways to work together, and we need to be patient, because the wounds we’ve inflicting will be a long time healing. Our whole attitude to the region will have to change, or the bombs will fall again.

It’s time to give Palestinians and Iraqis the most precious gift of all: a future.