Backtalk, July 20, 2006

Attention-Deficit Americans Are Being Misled to War

Conflating the U.S. action in Iraq with Israel’s invasion of Gaza and Lebanon is at best an oversimplification, and at worst an outright distortion of fact. It is common knowledge that Iran funds and supports Hezbollah. This week, during the G-8 summit, it was widely known that the member nations were set to discuss potential sanctions against the Iranian regime. I am surprised that someone with Dr. Roberts’ experience in international affairs fails to make the connection between Hezbollah’s cross-border raid that resulted in five dead Israeli soldiers and two kidnapped and what was set to happen at the G-8. Clearly, Iran’s strategy was to shift the conversation to Israel by provoking them with this outrageous act, and have the subsequent violence become the main topic for the summit. Blame Israel and the United States for falling for the bait, but don’t accuse them of engaging in a premeditated act against Gaza and Lebanon.

On March 9, 1916, Pancho Villa led 1,500 Mexican raiders in an attack against Columbus, New Mexico. The raiders burned the town and killed 17 residents. How did the U.S. respond? As any sovereign nation would. President of the United States Woodrow Wilson responded by sending 6,000 troops under General John J. Pershing to Mexico to pursue Villa. In the opinion of many the world over, Israel has actually exercised restraint by not sending in ground forces to hunt down Hezbollah as the U.S. did in 1916. Dr. Roberts’ failure to recognize the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is irresponsible.

I am no friend of the Bush administration and have been against the war in Iraq since it was first talked about in 2002.’s continued support of these rabid anti-Israeli views erodes the credibility and gravitas that you have earned with your coverage of the Iraq War.

~ Jeremy Gold

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

A person doesn’t have to know very much to understand that it is impossible to launch an all-out air and naval bombardment of a country without weeks, if not months, of preparation and planning. It cannot be done overnight in response to the capture of two soldiers.

A person does not have to possess much morality to know that Hezbollah is not the state of Lebanon and that dropping bombs on residential housing is a war crime under the Nuremberg standard.

A person does not have to know much about the Middle East to be aware that Hezbollah only exists because of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

A person does not have to read very much of the Israeli press to know that Israel desires southern Lebanon.

It is utterly absurd to suggest that holding Israel to the same standards as other civilized countries means a person has “rabid anti-Israeli views.”

The despicable practice of branding legitimate criticism of Israel “anti-Semitic” no longer works. The strongest critics of Israel’s brutal and inhumane policies can be found in Israel in the Israeli press.

General war in the Middle East will not only cause widespread death and destruction there, but the consequences in the U.S. may well be a rapid transformation into a totalitarian country. It is not just that the price of oil will hit astronomical heights, but that the supply of oil will be nearly totally cut off. The Feds, in the face of the ensuing domestic economic collapse, may institute wage, price, and other economic controls, seize industries, and suppress dissent, all in the name of “protecting” us. This could happen overnight.

I haven’t felt such impending doom since the Cuban missile crisis. Even though the administration is run by crazy neocon ideologues, it is hard to believe that there are no sane people there who do not see the threat to the country of general war and who will not try to stop it. Or is it that I am crazy to believe that such people exist?

~ Mark Nameroff, Olympia, Wash.

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

They exist, but they are not in the government.

The Army Wants Action

Dear Dr. HaCohen,

In your article on you stated the following.

“Guerilla attacks on soldiers are never ‘terror,’ but kidnapping soldiers – or civilians – and holding them as bargaining chips is banned by international law.”

Could you please cite chapter and verse of the Geneva conventions, or subsequent protocols (or other such international treaties), or at least provide a legal summary to support this statement.

In my view, the attack seemed entirely justified, under the circumstances, as it was a military attack by a Lebanese militia against a force (the IDF) currently occupying Lebanese territory (the Shebaa Farms) as well as regularly violating the undisputed airspace of Lebanon. Furthermore, since that force (the IDF) currently holds prisoners taken from Lebanon, the Lebanese should have every right to attempt to capture Israeli forces in response.

If you can cite relevant international law on point, which negates this formulation, I would be interested in reading it.

~ Greg Potemkin, Marietta, Ga.

Ran HaCohen replies:

Instead of direct reference to Geneva Conventions or international treaties, allow me to make a shortcut and quote Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch on the issue of hostages:

AI: “The holding of hostages, either civilians or armed forces’ members, violates the fundamental rights to life, physical, and mental integrity and liberty, and is expressly prohibited by international law, which prohibits threatening to harm or to continue holding a detained person in order to compel a third party to do or abstain from doing something as a condition for their release.”

HRW: “A hostage is a person held in the power of an adversary in order to obtain specific actions, such as the release of prisoners, from the other party to the conflict. International law prohibits the taking of hostages, which is a war crime under the laws of war.”

You mention several facts:

* The regular Israeli violations of Lebanon’s airspace;
* The Israeli occupation of the Shebaa Farms, the sovereignty over which is disputed – Israel claims it’s Syrian (the kidnapping, by the way, did not take place anywhere near the Shebaa Farms);
* Lebanese persons held in Israeli prisons (I couldn’t find their exact number – one, Samir Kuntar, convicted of murder of civilians, and perhaps one or two others; all the others – hundreds – were released a couple of years ago).

All this is true, but it cannot justify Hezbollah’s breach of international law, neither by kidnapping nor by firing at a civilian population. The principle is that atrocities, war crimes, or terrorism committed by one side do not give the other side any right to do the same: international law should be respected under all circumstances.

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