Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sticking To the Moral High Ground


Alan Dershowitz reminds me not that he's a world-class idiot, but that he knows exactly what he is doing in making his various disingenuous arguments on U.S. foreign policy. You know what, Alan? I like coming from a nation which has, although less frequently under the current President, often chosen to take the moral high ground, sometimes at its own detriment. You make it clear enough with your tortured advocacy for torture that there is no value of this nation you won't sacrifice in the name of your personal political causes.

Israel can and does make its case that its torture qua "moderate physical pressure" of Palestinians is necessary for its defense. If it believes that, and you believe that, fine. But in the torture debate you intentionally sidestep the political aspect - dare I say motive - for your argument. Instead of presenting an honest evaluation of the issues, your contrivances offer a fig leaf to those who don't much care about the externalities of torture. To the extent that the U.S. has engaged in torture (qua "abuse" and whatever we now call such acts of "interrogation" as waterboarding) in Iraq, authorized or not, there is clear evidence that the acts have severely diminished our status internationally and substantial evidence that they have set back our cause in the Middle East and Iraq. Is that what you wanted? Or is it that you didn't care, because your real goal is to undermine the ability of the U.S. and its citizens to condemn torture?

And now you play the other side of the coin. As a world-class hypocrite you are no doubt very capable in sniffing out even the slightest hypocrisy of others. But really:
When Israel targeted the two previous heads of Hamas, the British foreign secretary said: "targeted killings of this kind are unlawful and unjustified." The same views expressed at the United Nations and by several European heads of state. It was also expressed by various Human Rights organizations.

Now Great Britain is applauding the targeted killing of a terrorist who endangered its soldiers and citizens. What is the difference, except that Israel can do no right in the eyes of many in the international community. Surely there is no real difference between Zarqawi on the one hand and terrorist leaders from Hamas and Islamic Jihad on the other hand.
But wait a minute.... you really don't see a difference? As I've previously stated, I don't believe you are a world-class idiot, which... well, sorry to say it, means that you're not telling the truth. And in presenting your distortion, I think you undermine your case.

You see, a case can actually be made for assassinating the active leaders of terrorist groups - particularly a hierarchichal terrorist group. Such assassinations have, in the past, thrown terrorst groups into disarray. This makes the case for the assassination of a Hamas leader in some ways stronger than the case for the assassination of somebody like al-Zarqawi, as Hamas is much more hierarchical (at least in its political branches) than Al Qaeda. Although we can hope it does, it isn't immediately apparent that al-Zarqawi's death will reduce violence in Iraq.

But there are counterpoints. There is a possibility that the U.S. could have launched an armed raid on al-Zarqawi's hideout, perhaps capturing him alive and taking him into custody. But apparently, in what would be a perfectly reasonable assessment of the situation, military commanders determined that it was not worth the risk to the lives of U.S. troops. What did U.S. troops do when they found al-Zarqawi alive after the bombing? They administered emergency medical care. This, Alan, was a military operation, not what you would call a "targeted assassination" - while even Bush admits his words were crude, in his parlance we wanted al-Zarqawi "Dead or Alive".

I recall reading a Ha'aretz article a few years ago about a commando raid on a Palestinian man's home. He answered the door in boxer shorts. They confirmed his name (first and last) and then shot him dead. What you would deem a "targeted killing". Ha'aretz pointed out that the raid was apparently intended to kill somebody who had the same first and last names, but a different middle name. Nobody questioned the fact that the man could have been taken into custody. Nobody claimed he was a high level operative or "head of Hamas". While Israel did exercise due care to avoid killing people other than this particular man, and deserves credit for that, it nonetheless remains the case that they could have just as easily taken him into custody where issues as to his identity could have been resolved, and where he could have been put on trial in a court of law.

An Israeli newspaper found cause to question that particular killing, Alan. Perhaps you are just as critical of Ha'aretz as you are with those in Europe or the United States who take issue with the policies behind that killing, but this fact remains: You know about this type of incident, you know that there is an enormous difference between the attack on al-Zarqawi's hide-out and Israel's policies of "targeted killing", and you are being intentionally misleading.

You mention the killing of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin by Israel, in what was a relatively clean missile strike, but you make no mention of the strike ordered by Ariel Sharon on the Hamas military leader Salah Shehada. That killing was quite comparable in many ways to what happened to al-Zarqawi - a one ton bomb dropped on his suspected hideout, as compared to the two five-hundred pound bombs dropped on al-Zarqawi's. But Shehada was in a densely occupied civilian neighborhood, and the bombing killed fourteen other people, including nine children between the ages of two months and nine years. I know you remember that one, Alan, because it had to stick in your craw when the George W. Bush White House expressed through Ari Fleischer, "this heavy-handed action does not contribute to peace."

Now before you go nuts telling me that in criticizing you and your impassioned defense of Israel, I am somehow condoning terrorism or attacking Israel, let me cut you off. I am doing nothing of the sort. The fact that you drag Israel into these discussions does not make it the fault of others that they cannot respond to you without also addressing your points of comparison. Israel's making tough choices in a tough situation - I can disagree with those choices, and even believe that some of them are counter-productive, while recognizing that my preferred alternatives may well be no more productive in terms of either ending the conflict or advancing peace. But you? Your bloated posterior is ensconsed in a leather chair in your air conditioned office at Harvard, where you devote your time to presenting disingenuous arguments based upon intentional misrepresentations of fact. Personally, I think nations are better served by having sympathetic critics who urge them to stick to the moral high ground, than to have sycophantic dissemblers pushing them down the low road.

No offense.

1 comment:

  1. 1. “Alan Dershowitz reminds me not that he's a world-class idiot, but that he knows exactly what he is doing in making his various disingenuous arguments on U.S. foreign policy.” - I think another point that got missed in the discussion of “targeted killings” versus military operations is the fact that the US Government has a lawful presence in Iraq and Iraqi people, in the form of the current “lawful” democratically elected government, not only doesn’t want us to leave, they are working with us. This is pretty clearly not the case with Israel and the occupied territories.

    2. "There is a possibility that the U.S. could have launched an armed raid on al-Zarqawi's hideout, perhaps capturing him alive and taking him into custody. But apparently, in what would be a perfectly reasonable assessment of the situation, military commanders determined that it was not worth the risk to the lives of U.S. troops." - According to at least one new account, this was not attempted because of the presence of suicide belt wearing guards who had in the past demonstrated a willingness to detonate themselves to prevent his capture.

    3. This is probably the single “best” point you make distinguishing the U.S.’s military operations from “targeted killings”: “What did U.S. troops do when they found al-Zarqawi alive after the bombing? They administered emergency medical care . . . even Bush admits his words were crude, in his parlance we wanted al-Zarqawi "Dead or Alive".”

    4. For the record, this is quite possibly the worst AD editorial (and that is saying something) since the denunciation of collective guilt (with one exception) he printed in the NY Times in the early nineties.

    CWD

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