Thursday, July 20, 2006

Israel's campaign against Lebanon may constitute war crimes, by Israel, and may violate US law

There is a conflict happening between Israel and Lebanon right now. It's an extension of 50 years, or more, of previous conflict and is in the context of the larger Middle East conflict which has been with us for decades. (Also see this previous blog entry)

I want to outline several articles that have come up in my news scans. These articles provide a non-mainstream view of the conflict, one that Fox News is unlikely to air.

Attacks Qualify as War Crimes, Officials Say: This was published in the NY Times, and republished on CommonDreams.org. The contention is that because Israel is making attacks that are killing civilians, that perhaps they are targeting cibilians, and to do so is illegal conduct under International law concerning the conduct of war. For example one source in the article is quoted saying:

“International humanitarian law is clear on the supreme obligations to protect civilians during hostilities" ... “Indiscriminate shelling of cities constitutes a foreseeable and unacceptable targeting of civilians," ... “Similarly, the bombardment of sites with alleged innocent civilians is unjustifiable.”

Additionally: The Swiss-based International Red Cross, the recognized guardian of the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war, said Wednesday that Israel had violated the principle of proportionality provided for in the Conventions and their protocols.

Thousands Flock to Hills, Parks and Schools, But No Place Safe from Bombs: Provides some "color" in terms of what life is like in Lebanon under Israel's attacks.

Civilian Toll Raises Questions: Discusses how intertwined is Hezbollahs infrastructure with the civilian society around them. It is claimed it would be very difficult for Israel to effectively attack and destroy Hezbollah without inflicting collateral damage.

"The reality is, we're fighting an organization that stores the missiles it launches against us in people's homes," ... "They do it on purpose."

"This is Going to Be A Big War": A discussion by a longtime Iraq War analyst who claims this war with Lebanon is going to escalate even further. Similarly the other day I saw an article based on a speech by Newt Gingrich where he said we are now in World War III.

A Handful of Neocons Are Instigating a Wider War: Points a finger at the Neo-Conservatives for instigating an escalation of the war. This follows along with their plan from the mid-90's to use the U.S. position as being the "world's sole superpower" to throw our weight around and reshape the world into a kind of Pax Americana where the U.S. calls all the shots, and the world will enter a golden age of peace and harmony led by the U.S. Or some kind of bullcrap like that. I think it's sheer megalomania.

In US, Not All Casualties Are Equal ..and.. Remarks by Ambassador John R. Bolton, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, on the situation in the Middle East, at the Security Council Stakeout, July 17, 2006: There is a curious logic going on which we've seen before. In Israel's attacks on Lebanon, the number of deaths is highly skewed where there are approximately 300 deaths in Lebanon to approximately 30 deaths in Israel. The same kind of ratio holds with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, where tens of thousands of Iraqi's have died compared to nearly 3000 U.S. soldiers.

John Bolton, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., has a curious statement to this effect:

Reporter: Over the weekend, a Canadian family was killed on vacation in southern Lebanon by the Israeli air campaign. I’m wondering how concerned you are about the civilian deaths? Ambassador Bolton: Well, it is a matter of great concern to us, to the President in particular, that these civilian deaths are occurring and it’s a tragedy. There’s simply no other way to describe it. But I think it would be a mistake to ascribe a moral equivalence to civilians who die as the direct result of malicious terrorist acts, the very purpose of which terrorist acts are to kill civilians, and the tragic and unfortunate consequence of civilian deaths as a result of military action taken in self-defense. Our moral and legal systems make all the difference in the world between acts based on what their intention is and it’s simply not the same thing to say that it’s the same act to deliberately target innocent civilians, to desire their death, to fire rockets and use explosive devices and examples like kidnapping versus the sad and highly unfortunate consequences of self-defense. But there’s no doubt that all of these civilian deaths are tragic and that’s why if Hezbollah would release the two soldiers it’s kidnapped, then I think we’d have a quick way to get back to a peaceful situation.

To the people who died, do you think they care whether it was a tragic and unfortunate consequence, or whether it was a terrorist act? They died either way. And, as noted above, there is the question of whether Israel is purposely targeting civilians.

The U.S. and Israeli authorities probably feel they have to deny any purposeful targeting of civilians. Since it is a violation of International war conventions to do so, if they want to avoid being brought to trial for war crimes violations they have to spin their actions their way, and hope nobody catches on.

Here's the breakdown: More than 250 Lebanese, most of them civilians, including women and children ... To date, 25 Israelis have been killed, half of them uniformed soldiers in combat with Hezbollah fighters.

Now, if we look at what Bolton said, he claims it is Hezbollah who is deliberately targeting civilians. But if that's what Hezbollah is doing, then why are the casualties from their actions heavily skewed to the military? Why are the casualties due to Israeli actions heavily skewed to civilians? Just who is targeting civilians?

On the other hand Hezbollah has been hiding their weapons in peoples homes, and all their infrastructure is located among the civilian population. What's Israel to do?

The final question I want to raise is the issue that Israel's attacks in Lebanon violates U.S. law.

Their attacks are being carried out using weapons provided by the U.S. Under U.S., weapons sold to another country can only be used for defensive purposes. Israel is claiming this is self defense, but at the same time their form of self defense is to invade and occupy Lebanon. Are they waging an act of aggression, or are they committing self defense?