Yelling "Fire" When There's a Fire

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Daniel Henninger, deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal's opinion page, is complaining about the

Big Media's handling of Abu Ghraib, a real story that got blown into a monthlong bonfire that obviously was intended to burn down the legitimacy of the war in Iraq. I think many people thought the over-the-top Abu Ghraib coverage, amid a war, was the media shouting fire in a crowded theater.

Italics mine, to emphasize Henninger's enviable omniscience.

The fire-in-the-theater analogy is almostly precisely inapt:

This is from the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Schenck v. U.S. (1919), setting limits on the freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Junior, wrote: "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic."

Key word being "falsely." I'm sure Henninger doesn't mean to imply that reporting on crimes committed by U.S. troops is not protected by the First Amendment, right?

As for Abu Ghraib coverage being synonymous with attempts "to burn down the legitimacy of the war" (an extremely widespread view), tell it to Christopher Hitchens, Andrew Sullivan, John McCain … and Reason's own Charles Paul Freund, Cathy Young and Nick Gillespie. Speaking personally, I never backed the war (nor did I oppose it … still making up my mind), I'm no fan of Bush's foreign policy, and I think Abu Ghraib is a horrifying story that deserves more media scrutiny, not less … but I have no interest whatsoever in "burn[ing] down the legitimacy of the war," and in fact hope to hell we succeed like gangbusters over there. I would be surprised if this was a rare view in America's newsrooms.

Has Abu Ghraib coverage been disproportionate and colored by anti-Bush bias? Sure, that's plausible, even likely. But to accuse an entire profession of being essentially traitorious and agenda-driven is much less so. (Link via InstaPundit.)

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  1. “Has Abu Ghraib coverage been disproportionate and colored by anti-Bush bias? Sure, that’s plausible, even likely. But to accuse an entire profession of being essentially traitorious and agenda-driven is much less so.”

    The truth hurts. It’s hard to argue that we’re spreading American democracy when the people you’re talking to are looking at photographs of American torturers gloating over their victims.

    …and the issue was apt. The worst effects of imperialism are typically unintentional. I know this is thread-spillover, but isn’t “Shooting an Elephant” the classic text for this argument?

  2. Thanks, Matt, for saying what needs to be said. I’m a supporter of the war who’s utterly disgusted by the right’s pitiful attempt to ignore the Abu Ghraib scandal and dismiss opposition to torture as disloyal leftie “political correctness.”

  3. I’ll save Reason’s bandwidth and just post the link, but I think the media went easy on Abu Ghraib. A truly anti-Bush media could have (correctly, IMHO) explicitly blamed the evangelicals who support Bush for the human rights violations there. Mine is the big comment at the bottom:

    http://getreligion.typepad.com/getreligion/2004/11/atheists_for_bu.html

  4. Abu Ghraib coverage is only problematic in the context of general ignorance regarding the history of U.S. military misdeeds. Wars are very shitty things, and one of the reasons they are shitty is because many people, once the constraints of normal society are removed, as inevitably happens in war zones, start acting reprehensibly.

    This happens in every war. Read Ambrose’s (who is no sharp critic of the U.S. military) and one learns of soldiers who were known to treat captured enemy very harshly, including summary executions. Writer Paul Fussell, veteran of the WWII Pacific Theater, has written extensively (and well) of how many Marines viewed the Japanese as essentially sub-human, and treated them accordingly, particularly after it became widely known how the Japanese were treating captured Americans. This is what war means, and only the histrically ignorant could have been suprised by Abu Ghraib. I stand second to no one in my disrespect of the NYT, but I can’t wholly blame it that so many Americans don’t know military history very well, although perhaps a good newspaper should make some attempt, in the course of several dozen stories, to provide some historical context. Overall, however, the story is newsworthy, and must be reported.

  5. “Speaking personally, I never backed the war (nor did I oppose it … still making up my mind)”

    Gonna wait to see how it comes out first?

  6. “Gonna wait to see how it comes out first?”

    Bingo, fishfry. You can’t have a bandwagon effect until the wagon arrives.

  7. It’s hard to argue that we’re spreading American democracy when the people you’re talking to are looking at photographs of American torturers gloating over their victims.

    Is that why it’s hard to argue that Islam is a religion of peace, or that Middle Eastern culture is not an anachronism, when the people you’re talking to are reading news stories of Wahhabists blowing up buildings in the name of some desert god?

    Italics mine, to emphasize Henninger’s enviable omniscience.

    Other omniscient sentiments include “Bush lied,” “it’s an oil war,” “there are no WMD in Iraq,” “Dick Cheney (or Hillary Clinton) runs the country,” “OJ did it,” “Gary Condit did it,” and my favorite, “all men are created equal.”

  8. I’m more than tired of how the media is portrayed as a holy opinion maker that needs to be kept in check at every turn. Any half wit knows that reporters are people, and as such they are susceptible to bias through exclusion and so on. I say report it all, every ugly photo and detail, biased or not. If Americans can’t make a well informed decision from the plentifully sources available the media is the least of our worries. The press isn’t free advertising for your pet story.

  9. “Is that why it’s hard to argue that Islam is a religion of peace, or that Middle Eastern culture is not an anachronism, when the people you’re talking to are reading news stories of Wahhabists blowing up buildings in the name of some desert god?”

    I’ll say it again because it’s obviously easy to forget. Most terrorists are Islamic fundamentalists, but most Islamic fundamentalists aren’t terrorists. And I’ll add that most Muslims aren’t fundamentalists.

    “Other omniscient sentiments include ‘Bush lied,'”

    When Bush has said things that are blatently untrue, he was either lying or ignorantly repeating lies. The former is worse, but the latter is inexcusable. Since we know the people directly below him (Cheney, Rice, et al) have deliberately lied (“there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction” “The tubes are really only suited for nuclear weapons programs.” “75% of Al Quaeda leadership has been captured or killed”), it’s inarguable that even if he hasn’t technically lied himself, he approves of it as a communication strategy. Unless, of course, he’s completely ignorant. In which case, we can all feel better about this great man.

  10. “The media is the meringue” (Marshall McLemon)

  11. Why does this guy, the editor of the WSJ opinion page, need to refer to “Big Media,” apparently distancing himself from the “Mainstream Media”?

    Outside of the NYT and the WA Post, I could think of nothing more mainstream and perhaps more widely read than the WSJ. Or is the f’ing Dow Jones Company now a mainstay of the new American counterculture?

    Frankly, this “the mainstream media are a bunch of raving liberals” bit is getting incredibly old and more and more absurd.

    Bitter, politically-motivated, obscenely biased news would be preferable to the endless carping about media bias from both left and right.

  12. I’ll say it again because it’s obviously easy to forget. Most terrorists are Islamic fundamentalists, but most Islamic fundamentalists aren’t terrorists. And I’ll add that most Muslims aren’t fundamentalists.

    I’ll say it again because it’s obviously easy to forget. The bad apples at Abu Ghraib are US soldiers, but most military prison guards aren’t bad apples. And I’ll add that most US soldiers aren’t military prison guards.

    Works for me.

  13. “I’ll say it again because it’s obviously easy to forget. The bad apples at Abu Ghraib are US soldiers, but most military prison guards aren’t bad apples. And I’ll add that most US soldiers aren’t military prison guards.”

    I couldn’t agree more. But where has anyone here implied that all U.S. soldiers are bad apples?

  14. In which case, we can all feel better about this great man.

    By expecting your leaders to be great men you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Seeking political office is not the hallmark of greatness. When someone says they want to be your leader, you are best served not trusting them any farther than you can throw them. They’re not in it for your well-being.

    When Bush has said things that are blatently untrue…

    You have no basis to make this claim. You don’t know these points to be untrue, whether it is about the presence of WMD (which the EU and UN had no problem stating “objectively” that he had), yellowcake uranium, al Qaeda in Iraq, or the ratio of living to dead al Qaeda leaders. You have doubt and there is evidence still surfacing, as it will for some time. It’s ok to be leaning towards one side or the other, but pretending that all the chips are down and the cards are called — that these points were “blatantly untrue” — is ignorant.

    but most Islamic fundamentalists aren’t terrorists. And I’ll add that most Muslims aren’t fundamentalists.

    Um, yeah, that was the point. We’re advising our own uber-enlightened western folk not to judge an entire culture based on the actions of a few, while worrying how events like Abu Ghraib drive the Muslims to judge our entire culture based on the actions of even fewer. Why are we mollycoddling?

  15. When has anyone suggested that Abu Ghraib demonstrates the need to wage a military campaign against the US army, in order to kill its leadership and change its culture?

  16. “This happens in every war.”

    In which war did the Secretary of Defense decide that he would no longer respect the Conventions?

    …thank God he saw how wrong he was to do that and changed his mind.

    P.S. If you’d like a copy of the Schlesinger Report, just send me an e-mail.

  17. “By expecting your leaders to be great men you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Seeking political office is not the hallmark of greatness. When someone says they want to be your leader, you are best served not trusting them any farther than you can throw them. They’re not in it for your well-being.”

    I can’t argue with that.

    “You have no basis to make this claim. You don’t know these points to be untrue, whether it is about the presence of WMD (which the EU and UN had no problem stating “objectively” that he had), yellowcake uranium, al Qaeda in Iraq, or the ratio of living to dead al Qaeda leaders. You have doubt and there is evidence still surfacing, as it will for some time. It’s ok to be leaning towards one side or the other, but pretending that all the chips are down and the cards are called — that these points were “blatantly untrue” — is ignorant.”

    You’re demonstrably incorrect. I’ve said this many times before, but I’ll say it again. If half the experts working for you say that “A” is true and the other half say that there’s not enough evidence to say that “A” is true and you go on to tell everyone that “there is no doubt that ‘A’ is true,” you have lied, because there most certainly IS doubt. That’s exactly what Cheney did.

    We now know that Condaleeza Rice was told by nuclear experts that the aluminum tubes in question were probably not for nuclear purposes. Afterwards, she went on to tell the American people that they were “really only suited for nuclear weapons programs.” That was a lie.

    When Bush said that the IAEA had reports that stated that Iraq was “six months away from developing a [nuclear] weapon,” the IAEA immediately reminded the world that no such reports existed.

    When Bush said Hussein didn’t let the inspectors in, that qualified as “blatently false.”

    When Bush and his administration say that “75% of Al Quaeda leadership has been caught or killed,” while at the same time acknowledging that they don’t know how many Al Quaeda leaders there are (Rice stammered it was “in the tens to hundreds”), then thinking people can deduce that they have pulled the “75%” out of their collective ass.

    You can believe in the war and the theories behind it, but to deny that senior members of the Bush administration have lied to gain support for that war is worse than being ignorant.

  18. In which war did the Secretary of Defense decide that he would no longer respect the Conventions?

    conventions, treaties, are we really still so naive that we really believe these things are held to a high standard? yeah, the US no longer makes bio or chemical weapons, yeah right. neither does russia right?

  19. “Is that why it’s hard to argue that Islam is a religion of peace, or that Middle Eastern culture is not an anachronism, when the people you’re talking to are reading news stories of Wahhabists blowing up buildings in the name of some desert god?”

    When I wrote:

    “It’s hard to argue that we’re spreading American democracy when the people you’re talking to are looking at photographs of American torturers gloating over their victims.”

    It was in response to a statement suggesting that the pictures of Americans torturing Iraqis were shown to suppress support for the war. Are you countering my observation? Are you suggesting that it’s easy to argue that we’re bringing American style democracy to the people of Iraq when the people you’re addressing are looking at pictures of American torturers gloating over their victims?

    How does the fact that suicide bombers make Islam look like it’s not a religion of peace change that? How do photographs of whatever you’re referring to that suggest that Middle Eastern culture is an anachronism change this? Maybe I’m missing your point completely. Are you suggesting that just as images of American torture were used to suppress support for the war, so images of suicide bombings and the mistreatment of women are used to increase support for the war?

  20. I have a hard time thinking that we haven’t been lied to when the assertions have not been born out. At this late stage if proof does appear it will be very difficult for me to start believing that we haven’t been lied to. They made a guess, they gambled it would be accurate, and it has turned out otherwise. Bad luck. If they had told the truth, that they weren’t certain or couldn’t prove it, they probably wouldn’t have been able to sell the war. That gets back to the issue of, what was the point of all this? Why can’t they just admit that they wanted to get Saddam, and really didn’t care what the eventual costs would be?

  21. That was the most evasive post I’ve ever read. Grow a pair!

  22. “Bad luck. If they had told the truth, that they weren’t certain or couldn’t prove it, they probably wouldn’t have been able to sell the war.”

    Personally, I think a war that can’t be waged based on the truth shouldn’t be waged at all. And those who would lie in order to wage war have no business waging it.

  23. I am a democrat in Alabama.If you want to keep losing elections keep taking shots at the military.Either forfeit nationally or tell the people from the NYT to spend some time in Red America.PEOPLE LIKED ARABS with SOCKS on their head HERE. THEY ALL HAVE GUNS and if they caught anyone taking a shot at their friends in combat,they would have done alot worse than put socks on these scum bags.If you dont like that message ,I am sorry ,i am trying to be truthful.It seems obvious to Red Staters that the liberal media are more concerned with terrorists than our brave boys in the field.40 front page NYT stories killed us.The military should be given credit that even before the story broke investigations were on the way.And if we are ever to win an election again ,nobody better say ,I dont support the war or commander and chief but I SUPPORT THE TROOPS !!!! That is a loss EVERY TIME. ALSO GAY MARRIAGE has got to go.Republicans will bring it up before every national election and since it wont happen anyway ,lets vote 100-0 and take the weapon away.
    NATIONAL ELECTIONS are about fighting the fights you can win and not being stupid. Also we need an extended primary season as it would have produced a candidate that didnt have 300 Marines and POWS with a grudge,how could we possibly have run a candidate that said GENGHIS KHAN!!!

  24. I am a democrat in Alabama.If you want to keep losing elections keep taking shots at the military.Either forfeit nationally or tell the people from the NYT to spend some time in Red America.PEOPLE LIKED ARABS with SOCKS on their head HERE. THEY ALL HAVE GUNS and if they caught anyone taking a shot at their friends in combat,they would have done alot worse than put socks on these scum bags.If you dont like that message ,I am sorry ,i am trying to be truthful.It seems obvious to Red Staters that the liberal media are more concerned with terrorists than our brave boys in the field.40 front page NYT stories killed us.The military should be given credit that even before the story broke investigations were on the way.And if we are ever to win an election again ,nobody better say ,I dont support the war or commander and chief but I SUPPORT THE TROOPS !!!! That is a loss EVERY TIME. ALSO GAY MARRIAGE has got to go.Republicans will bring it up before every national election and since it wont happen anyway ,lets vote 100-0 and take the weapon away.
    NATIONAL ELECTIONS are about fighting the fights you can win and not being stupid. Also we need an extended primary season as it would have produced a candidate that didnt have 300 Marines and POWS with a grudge,how could we possibly have run a candidate that said GENGHIS KHAN!!!

  25. Anyone remember that Congress saw pictures that were “worse than what was released to the prss?”

    We still haven’t seen them.

  26. Skydome,

    Is there anything the Bush Administration could have done so bad that you would have withdrawn your support for the war. If the answer is yes, what is that thing?

  27. good question
    I do know that Evangelical Christians identify with their Jewish friends in Israel.It was hard to listen to anti-war activists who claimed we should do nothing as Sadaam Hussien spent 25,000$ for every suicide bomber who blew up Jewish babies.Also people get tired of hearing Sadaam was no threat when the entire country looked like a weapons dump with mass graves.Sort of put democrats against the side of the sanctity of life.Why do 100,000 casualties of a possible war bother democrats so much ,and a country full of mass graves and the potential for more does not?

  28. skybox,

    The answer to mass graves is not, “Let’s make more mass graves.” In case you haven’t noticed, Iraqis are dying violently at much greater rates now than they were in 2001.

  29. “I do know that Evangelical Christians identify with their Jewish friends in Israel.”

    This is because they believe (according to Revelations) that Israel must exist before the second coming can occur and all of their Jewish “friends” can burn in Hell for eternity for rejecting Christ.

    “It was hard to listen to anti-war activists who claimed we should do nothing as Sadaam Hussien spent 25,000$ for every suicide bomber who blew up Jewish babies.”

    We are paying the Israeli army a lot more than that as they kill many, many more children than Hamaas does. This isn’t meant to excuse Hamaas or Hussein, but it does put the problem in perspective.

  30. Anti Israel is the new code for Anti-Semitic
    Israel is a matchbox on a football field.The Palestinian problems could be easily solved by rich Arab states.It is obvious their presence is their to constantly distract you from the agenda of these radicals.Also only an idiot would think 1 billion Jews would be terrorizing 5 millio Arabs if the situation was reversed.
    Also if Christians or Jews were blowing up babies with bombs,there would be a line of ethical Christians or Rabbis protesting vigorously in America.Where are the Muslims renouncing in mass their mass murdering fanatics.
    Why are the practioners of the religion of peace silence.If we are ever to win a southern state ,we better identify with an aggressive wipe out of Islamo-Fascism and not the Michael Moore wing of our party.I am still waiting for mainstream democrats to apologize to the nation for embracing Michael Moore.We are in WW3 and as soon as we stop being pussies and protesters,we can win elections again.THE 60’s are over.
    IF WE LET POLITICS END AT THE SHORE and run on DOMESTIC ISSUES ONLY ,and said GEORGE BUSH has been courageous on taking the fight against RADICAL ISLAM and we support him and our troops completely,we could have run SOLELY on DOMESTIC ISSUES and GEORGE BUSH would have HAD NOTHING TO TALK ABOUT and we would have WON IN A LANDSLIDE.

  31. “Anti Israel is the new code for Anti-Semitic”

    Which, it would seem, is a code for Anti-Intellectual.

    http://www.nkusa.org/index.cfm
    http://urj.org/

    Are the Jews in the above organizations anti-semitic?

    “The Palestinian problems could be easily solved by rich Arab states.”

    How?

    “Also only an idiot would think 1 billion Jews would be terrorizing 5 millio Arabs if the situation was reversed.”

    To suggest that EVERY Arab is terrorizing EVERY Jew is hyperbolic nonsense.

    If you think there are no Muslim organizations that renounce the actions of terrorists, you are (as with your “anti-Israel = anti-semitic” statement) admitting to a willful ignorance.

    http://www.islamfortoday.com/terrorism.htm

    And to suggest that protesters are “pussies” is rather pathetic. There are many people against this war who are not pacifists and a good many of them are ex-military. Why don’t you tell them they’re pussies to their faces?

    Thomas Jefferson said, “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” Was Jefferson a pussy?

  32. “We are paying the Israeli army a lot more than that as they kill many, many more children than Hamaas does. This isn’t meant to excuse Hamaas or Hussein, but it does put the problem in perspective.”

    It puts the problem in exactly the wrong perspective, unless you equate accidentally killing civilians in the course of military actions with deliberately targeting them for death. This should be obvious, but when then Israeli military retaliates against Palestinian terrorists they have to do so in heavily urbanized areas in which the militants hide amongst the civilian population. Naturally this often leads to innocents being killed. In contrast, Palestinian terrorists deliberately target Israeli civilians for death — they are easy targets and produce more spectacular news coverage. There is no moral equivalence between the actions of the Israeli military and those of Palestinian terrorists.

  33. all MUSLIMS are NOT terrorists
    ALL TERRORISTS are MUSLIMS

    THE PRACTIONERS of the RELIGION of PEACE
    are involved in 14 WORLD CONFLICTS
    from THAILAND to TUNISIA
    and most of them have nothing to do with
    the USA or ISRAEL.So for the blame America first
    crowd in our party we better stand together as a nation
    to wipe ISLAMO FASCISM off the face of the EARTH.

    WE NEED MORE PATTON and less PATTON LEATHER.
    BESIDES now that the media is totally discredited with nonsense like MEMO GATE we can not count on such a biased media 4 years from now.
    With KERRYS pussified stance on fighting terror ,we would have lost 70-30 if the media showed Americans jumping out of windows,or the beheadings or even the Practioners of the religion of peace kill those poor Russian Babies in Beslan.
    After all the 7 year old girl asked for a glass of water after 2 days in 95 degree heat and was tired of drinking her own urine.They bayoneted her took a shit on her cut her throat and threw her body out the window to the courtyard below.
    I am tired of ceding all the domestic issues to the REPUBLICANS because we cant unify in turning these ISLAMO FASCISTS to powder.

  34. David,

    I never argued that there was a “moral” equivalence. Israel has employed methods of dealing with terrorists that inevitably kill more civilians than the terrorists do. Then they and their supporters shrug their shoulders and say, “Hey, what can you do? We’re at war!” Then the family members of killed civilians go insane with grief and target Israeli civilians. Then Israel attacks terrorists, killing more civilians in the process, and the pattern continues.

    Morally, this is better than targeting innocents, but the result is the same or worse. And whether or not a child is blown to pieces or burned alive due to evil or arrogant negligence, dead is dead.

    Israel responds to terrorism in ways that produce more civilian deaths than are caused by terrorism and then guarantee increased terrorism. They have a responsibility to reconsider their methods.

  35. Israel has its hands tied.
    If they really got our help
    we would station 1000 troops on anyone of their borders and announce any crossing of US troops would be an act of war against the US.
    There would either be peace or we could use the full weight of our military to crush
    HAMAS and HeZBOLLAH.
    Also Syria should be given 72 hrs to expel HAMAS and HEZBOLLAH or DAmascus will immediately be destroyed.Killing terrorists is great ,but until we make it worth the while of these scummy women and gay hating princes and kings the problem will continue.

  36. David, your description of the Israelis’ military activities is dishonest. They don’t “accidently” kill civilians as they try to target terrorists. They take actions knowing full well that civilians are going to be killed. They fire HE missiles into crowded streets and occupied buildings, hoping there will be 1 or 2 terrorists among the dozen dead civilians.

    Though the deaths of the civilians are not the primary purpose of Israeli “targetted killings,” when you choose to kill everyone in a room to make sure you get the one bad guy too, those other deaths are just as deliberate as those of civilians targetted by terrorists.

  37. Your call for the unmitigated support of the Bush Administration is frightening. I reserve unconditional support two people only, Jesus Christ and Mom. (I don’t have any kids.) Even when I supported Bush (I voted for him the first time around.), I could think of things Bush could do that would make me withdraw my support. Most of those things fell far short of him having to be worse than Saddam Hussein.

    That is what you were trying to say, isn’t it? …That in order for you to withdraw your support of President Bush, he would have to be worse than Saddam Hussein?

  38. I believe Kerry and the Democrats and the MSM helped to get the boys killed,when they were forced to fight gravestone to gravestone ,because they were afraid to nick a holy shrine.
    JOE SMITH from DAYTON OHIO is the HOLY SHRINE.
    Now although the mighty US military will destroy
    these scum ,we should have used the heavy weaponry sooner.Yes it is correct ,I believe criticism of our troops when they are in harms way is WRONG.whether I am for a war or against it ,I know that the administation has the finest military minds and dont us morons 2nd guessing every move.SO DO ALL THE PEOPLE IN THE RED STATES.
    that is why there is an executive branch so when congress authorizes war ,they are free TO FIGHT IT,and as long as we are Vietnam protesting MICHAEL MORONS ,we will get smaller and smaller.
    I a speaking the truth ,I am talking political reality.DOVE TIME IS OVER.
    AMERICANS WANT ISLAMO FASCISM DESTROYED.
    THEY HAVE SPENT BILLIONS OF DOLLARS on HEAVY WEAPONRY .
    they DONT mind
    THEY WANT TO SEE THEM USED

    1 QUESTION
    DO YOU SEE ANYMORE JAPANESE SUICIDE BOMBERS?
    1 ANSWER
    NO
    I REST MY CASE
    1st DEMOCRAT WITH ANY BALLS wins the SOUTH
    BOB KERREY is such a man
    Zell MILLER is such a man
    the party is deep
    lets just run away from War phonies like KERRY
    lets run away from HOLLYWOOD and MICHAEL MOORE
    GET AWAY from GAY MARRIAGE
    WHICH WILL NEVER EVER HAPPEN ANYWAY
    get into the fight and defeat ISLAMO FASCISM
    people dont care about nonsense issues like Health care and minimum wage
    because if we dont win the war on these HITLERS in HEADSCARVES our civilization is worth nothing anyway.
    DEMOCRATS WAKE UP !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  39. Joe,

    I have a hard time believing that the IDF launches missiles into buildings “hoping” to kill the enemy. I can easily believe that they launch missiles at the enemy knowing civilians will probably or even certainly be killed.

    Under the law of war it is legal to attack the enemy knowing that civilians will be killed as long as you take steps to minimize the damage. Thus use of a guided missile is preferable to the use of a bomb or rocket. Whether that is enough minimization of damage is arguable.

    I am willing to entertain argument or evidence that the IDF conducts “reconnaissance by fire” in the way you describe but I do not find it very plausible. It’s ineffective and counter-productive, hence the use of Hellfire missiles.

    Of course the alternative is to use infantry capture or kill the enemy. Infantry is both more discriminate and more effective in getting at specific people while not shooting the innocent. Of course, when the enemy does not wear a uniform, that complicates things. Last time IDF tried using infantry, the results were reports of a massacre. One can only surmise that the IDF and government decided to accept the use of missiles as the “least bad” option.

    While I think launching missiles at cars and bulldozing houses is at best distasteful, I have no sympathy for a cause whose tactics involve deliberately blowing up little kids and grandmothers over and over and over again. If the majority of their attacks were directed at the IDF, they might make a little more headway with American public opinion.

    And Joe, as wrong as you are about the Jews and Arabs, that does not make you an anti-semite or jew baiter. It just makes you wrong.

  40. Is ‘skybox’ crazy or is he a provacateur or is he a straw man?

    I don’t know but I’ll be damned if I’ll use my real name and e-mail where he might read it.

  41. You still haven’t answered the question. What would President Bush have to do in order to make you withdraw your support, not for the troops or for the War in Iraq, just your support for President Bush?

    P.S. I don’t know why you’re calling out to the Democrats. There’s only one Democrat commenter that I’m aware of that frequents this site.

  42. Umm … is that Joe?

  43. Fabius,

    I’m sure we all agree with you that the Palestinians should target only military personnel. But can we also agree that IDF methods have killed more Palestinian civilians than Palestinian terrorists have killed Israeli civilians? (I hope so, since it’s a fact.) But have the IDF’s methods worked to make Israelis safer? Are there better ways to achieve that goal?

    Coward,

    I think it’s a little of all three. But since he refuses to respond to direct questions, I think he’s probably more of a coward than you.

  44. I would criticize our President,if he started acting like a pussy and withdrew from the mission without using all the weaponry
    INCLUDIDNG NUKES !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    THE THOUGHT OF HAVING THESE OIL FIELDS CONTROLLED BY IRANIAN HITLERS,IS TOO BRUTAL
    TO COMPREHEND>
    THE COUPLING OF WEALTH and WEAPONS IS UNIMAGINABLE>
    I WOULD SOONER SEE ALL OF IRAQ AND IRAN as a 57,000 degree PARKING LOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  45. Ah, yes. A troll. Sorry I didn’t ignore you sooner.

  46. Les,

    I don’t know about civilian casualties. I would guess that because the IDF has so much more firepower that it would be true but I would also guess that Palestinian casualty figures, both in total and as to fighters versus civilians, are as reliable as Soviet economic statistics.

    Even Sharon knows bulldozers, tanks and missiles are not working. I am a big fan of the wall and am heartened by the actions of Isreali courts as to its route, and to how the government have obeyed the courts (in a metter of national security no less, Mr. Bush please note).

    I think that if Sharon or a successor PM can complete the wall and get the settlers behind the wall without provoking a civil war or the election of a “Greater Israel” type of PM, things might be OK. The Palestinians can expect to get “spanked” (innocent and guilty alike) every time someone tries to go over, under or through the wall and I can’t see any Israeli governement giving up Jerusalem or allowing a “right of return” so if that’s what the Palestinians really want, they’ll have to take it by force.

    Long term after that, who knows. They really, really don’t like each other. The draconian and morally wrong solution would have been for the Israelis to drive the Palestinians out after the 1967 war. The Jews weren’t capable of that atrocity and have been stuck with their half-assed occupation and desultory “tit for tat” war ever since.

    The Palestinians have missed every chance to shame the Jews into a compromise or to act in any other way than to make their enemy suspect, very strongly suspect, that the goal of Palestinian liberation is also the goal of driving the Jews into the sea.

  47. I’m a big believer in big opinions, skybox, and that opinion you’ve got there, it’s huge.

    You shouldn’t just drop it here, you should spread it around some. Go tell it on the mountain, you know? If I was you, I’d share that opinion, same conclusion and same logic, with the people over at National Review Online. You also might consider enlightening the folks over at Tech Central Station too, the libertarians tend to break a little more to the right over there. And if you’re lookin’ for a place run by someone who’ll really appreciate your brand of logic, don’t miss LoneWacko Blog; that’ll be right up your alley.

    Good luck and God bless.

  48. Thank you, Fabius, it’s rare I’m able to have a conversation of this sort with someone who is both passionately committed to the other side of the question, and who recognizes that criticizing IDF tactics is not an indication of antisemitism.

    The distinction you draw between “a bomb or a rocket” and a guided missile is irrelevant, in moral and legal terms, when the missile is being guided at a target full of civilians.

    Your reference to Jenin really takes the cake, though. The Israelis have to use tactics that lead to the real widespread killing of noncombatants, because it wants to avoid being falsely accused of killing noncombatants.

    The use of a missile in a crowded urban area, fired into a building or street crowded with civilians, is the very definition of failure to adequately protect civilians. When Iraqi insurgents kill civilians along with soldiers, they are rightly denounced as terrorists. The distasteful tactics of Hamas neither excuse equivalent behavior by their enemies, nor make the Palestinian casue illegitimate.

  49. Fabius,

    So, what to do? Here’s a link to an essay by one of those Cato Institute nuts 😉 that seems all too reasonable. What do you think?

    http://www.amconmag.com/11_3_03/feature.html

  50. Les,

    I agree that their is a clear cycle of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian situation, and I’m not saying that the Israelis always choose the best response. And yes, to the person that is killed (and often to their family & friends)it makes no difference whether or not they were killed accidentally or deliberately, they are still dead. But in assessing the situation from an outside perspective, you still have to take into account the overall situation and the intent of the combatants.

    Joe,

    There is nothing dishonest about my characterization of Israeli miltary activities. It is your opinion, not a fact, that the Israelis don’t care if they inflict civilian casualties. They do what they think they have to do in order to protect their citizens and their military. In order to minimize their own risk they choose to use such tactics as firing firing hellfire missiles from helicopters at terrorist targets in urban areas. I happen to think that this is justified given their overall situation. You may disagree and find it immoral and an unwarranted risk to innocent civilians. Fine. But that is still very different from Palestinian terrorists deliberately targeting civilians for death. Although I support Israel, I personally have no problem with the Palestinians carrying out attacks on Israeli soldiers and security forces. To me those types of attacks constitute legitimate acts of war against military targets. But there is a clear difference between attacking a military target and killing civilians in order to destroy the target, and in specifically targeting the civilians themselves, purely to inflict terror.

  51. David,

    “But in assessing the situation from an outside perspective, you still have to take into account the overall situation and the intent of the combatants.”

    I don’t disagree with you. It is relevent that suicide bombers deliberately target civilians, but it’s also relevent (and perhaps, strategically, more so) that the IDF kill more civilians than the the suicide bombers do.

    What do you think of the article I posted above? I’m still learning a lot about the subject and appreciate all opinions from all sides.

  52. Except for the loony fundamentalists. I don’t appreciate their opinions.

  53. “It is your opinion, not a fact, that the Israelis don’t care if they inflict civilian casualties.”

    I haven’t ventured an opinion about “the Israelis'” feelings. My comments have been strictly limited to the tactical decisions they make, the implications of those decisions, and their awareness of those implications. I’m sure quite a few IDF people feel like shit when little Palestinian kids gets blown up. But that’s not what’s being discussed here.

    “They do what they think they have to do in order to protect their citizens and their military.” Yes, they do. And if they were following the rules and customs of war (that is, if they were acting in a manner that would justify viewing them as being more moral and responsible than their enemies), they would also be doing what they have to do to minimize the collateral damage of their operations.

    BTW, please note that none of the above suggests that it is acceptable for the Palestinians to target civilians themselves. The deliberate use of force against civilians, whether it is the destruction of their homes, murdering them, destroying their means of supporting themselves, or attempting to sow weadspread fear among the general public, is immoral and unacceptable.

  54. Les,

    I just read that Cato article you posted. Sorry, I missed that before. It’s a good article that points out the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian question. Unfortunately, there is no easy solution, and from how i see it, there is currently no solution at all. It is a big mess and there are hardened, intractable positions on both sides. Having said that, from a U.S. policy perspective, I don’t believe that the Palestinians have done anything or acted in any way in a manner that is deserving of our support. Until they demonstrate, by concrete actions not words, that they are actually willing to renounce terror as a weapon, accept the existance of Israel, and live in peace with Jews, I do not think we should be attempting to help them create a Palestinian state. I am aware that the Palestinians have many legitimate grievances with Israel and its policies and I don’t support everything the state of Israel does. But I currently see no reason at all to support the Palestinians. Placating other hostile or semi-hostile Arab states by helping the Palestinians is not a good reason in my book.

    Joe,

    I understand your argument but I disagree with your assessment of the tactical realities of the situation. In order to take out terrorist leaders who hide amongst the civilian population, it is sometimes necessary to kill civilians in order to do it. The blame for the civilian deaths in this case falls on the terrorist leader, not on the military that kills him. Hamas leaders and other militant types do not conveniently present themselves on a military battlefield where they can be attacked without fear of killing civilians. If you reject this principle of warfare, you allow terrorist types to be immune from attack simply by sheltering themselves close to civilians.

    Please note, however, that I am talking about a general principle here and not defending every Israeli tactic. If it is reasonably possible for the Israeli military to use a sniper to kill a target, and they use an Apache helicopter instead, killing a bunch of civilians in the process, then I agree with you that this is totally uncalled for and counterproductive as well. In addition, you mention the Israeli policy of destruction of homes. I agree with you that this tactic is both unjustified and punitive, deliberately punishing the innocent as well as the guilty. In my opinion it is not only immoral, but also stupid, as it simply creates more hatred and more enemies.

  55. Sure, that’s plausible, even likely. But to accuse an entire profession of being essentially traitorious and agenda-driven is much less so. (Link via InstaPundit.)

    That last part made this post hilarious.

    Incidentally I wish we could refer to this as the “torture scandal” instead of the “Abu Ghraib” scandal. It was more than Abu Ghraib, you know.

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