Violence Begets Violence, Beers Begets Tutwiler

Mid-December saw a flurry of articles about how U.S. tactics in Iraq were beginning to resemble those of Israel in the occupied territories. Then, on December 22, the resemblance became downright eerie.

On that day, Voice of Palestine radio reported that the Israeli army had raided various towns, imposing curfews and destroying houses. In Balata refugee camp in Nablus, “thirteen citizens were wounded” and “Nazmi Aziz Duwaykat, 62, died of a severe heart attack after the occupation forces stormed his house and detained him and a large number of his family and neighbors in a single room of the house.”

In Iraq, AP reported that U.S. raids “targeted” various towns, “troops in tanks, Humvees and Bradley armored vehicles imposed curfews and roadblocks and went house to house, smashing through doors…In Samarra, a 70-year-old died when U.S. troops put a bag over his head and prepared to detain him. Neighbors said Medhi al-Jamal died of a heart attack.”

Also, in Rawah, “a 60-year-old-woman was killed when soldiers blasted open the reinforced steel door of her home.” No further details are given. Perhaps the Iraqi woman was hit by shrapnel and bled to death on the kitchen floor in front of her children, as was the fate of a Palestinian woman when Israeli troops blew open her door as they moved house to house through Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem in March 2002. An embedded TV crew caught it all on film, one young soldier turned to the camera and said “I don’t know what we’re doing here. ‘Purification,’ maybe. It must be dirty here.”

The Israeli tactics have led only to “more terrorism“; “the other side ratchets up their force, too.” And indeed, on December 26, for the first time in 81 days, Israel was hit by a suicide bombing. The bomber, Shehad Hanani, was from the Nablus area and one of his relatives had just been killed there.

As it happens, Kelly Bornshlegel, an “international” from here in Madison, was living in Nablus. Alerted by an e-mail she sent out on December 19th, I noticed the heart attack fatality on the 22nd and the deaths of two children the day before. For an account of the maiming of one of those children, the rooftop execution of Hanani’s relative and her own beating at the hands of Israeli soldiers, Bornshlegel’s report is titled “Return to hell,” but “Genesis of a suicide bombing” is just as fitting. (At the moment of writing, Nablus is under siege.)

Because the results of the “get tough” tactics are so predictable, it’s questionable whether “failed” is the right word to describe them. Israeli commentator Meron Benvenisti has noted that the Sharon administration “sees escalation of violence, in the guise of a ‘war on terror,’ as a way to achieve the ‘absolute victory’ of its ethnic objectives.” And in Madison’s Capital Times, John Nichols has applauded Senator Russ Feingold for having the gumption to point out that in invading Iraq, the Bush administration “exploited the fears that arose following the Sept. 2001 terrorist attacks.”

Israel’s raid of the Aida camp occurred in the opening days of “Operation Defensive Shield” which ultimately targeted the Palestinian infrastructure in towns like Ramallah and Jenin. As it wound down in May 2002, both houses of Congress, by overwhelming margins, passed “Expressing Solidarity” resolutions which “essentially endorsed Sharon’s incendiary policies,” as Nichols put it.

So, as we head into primary season, the U.S. is using tactics in Iraq which make sense only if the goal is to provoke more violence and 98 senators, including Wisconsin’s liberal “maverick” Russ Feingold, are on record as having “endorsed” the tactics. The die has been cast.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports, the U.S. is putting even more resources into what the Israelis call hasbara, literally translated as “explanation.” If only “the government’s public-relation drive to build a favorable impression abroad” were working! Instead, it’s a “shambles,” a “complete and utter disaster,” “there’s no coordination, no strategy.”

Replacing “advertising whiz” Charlotte Beers to lead the effort is “an old government hand, Margaret Tutwiler…The enthusiasm over her arrival is widespread. Colleagues expect her to ask Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, one of the administration’s most popular figures, to embark on a ‘listening tour’ in crucial Muslim nations.”

A few paragraphs later we hear from an American Enterprise Institute fellow “who served on a congressionally mandated advisory panel that toured the region this year.” He “was really shocked by the level of animosity over our policies towards Israel and the Palestinians, even in places like Turkey.”

For more recent input from this very crucial Muslim nation, here’s what Faruk Celik, deputy leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s parliamentary faction, had to say after the deadly bombings in Istanbul at the end of November, according to Anatolia news agency: “If you are citizens of the United States, Britain or Israel, then your right to live is sacred, but if you are citizens of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine or Bosnia-Hercegovina…Why these double standards? One is considered as lowly as an ant who can be stepped on, while if something happens to the other, all hell breaks loose. If you continue to crush the ants which you utterly disregard, then those ants unite and can bore a hole through the skin of a roaring lion. The terrorist incidents the world is going through are the results of these double standards.”

Elderly men terror-stricken, mothers killed when their doors are blown open. Celik is right, the disregard is utter. It’s understandable that Tutwiler and her colleagues are “enthusiastic,” they’re getting to feed at the public trough, but for the rest of us, it isn’t going to be a picnic.

Read more by Jim Rissman