I began systematically to investigate the answers to those and other related questions, enlisting the help of a team of reporters, researchers and other contributors that ultimately included 25 people. Nearly three years later, the Center for Public Integrity published Iraq: The War Card, a 380,000-word report with an online searchable database.  It was released on the eve of the five-year…
It is astounding how just a cursory glance of the human condition at any given moment can simultaneously yield so much good and evil. Browsing through one day’s worth of news, I can find such a mixed bag of humanity’s best and worst tendencies. It puts my mood in such a flux.
I will read an article about an altruistic act, a peace accord, the lifting of millions from poverty, or some other event…
In this week’s installment, Russia celebrates the May 9th anniversary of its defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945; India and South Africa undergo momentous elections; Greek civil servants protest another paycut; Afghans recover from deadly mudslides; and more.
These are just a fraction of the stories that play out all around us every second of our lives.
People talk about the imminent “death” of Fox News itself, because of an ever-aging demographic. Again, Frank Rich makes this case, but I think his argument is dubious. Certainly the audience is graying to oblivion, but it’s a cold comfort to those of us who watch our parents or grandparents drown in an incessant downpour of outrage. We will only see the “End of Fox News” when my father and his contemporaries die. I do not want to watch my father and his entire generation spend their remaining years enraged at utter nonsense.
My cohort, Generation X, is stuck between two generations of suffering Americans. The millennial generation is losing job opportunities and income as the nation stagnates. They put off marriage and buying homes. While white, Fox News-addicted baby boomers have lost their sense of hope. They’ve been passed over by shifting attitudes about gay marriage, the role of government and a host of issues. They still think of themselves as the “silent majority,” when in reality they are a wounded and thrashing legacy of white hegemony. My parents’ generation is becoming fragile antiques, relics by choice, reassured by Fox News that they are still the only voice that matters.
Today, the Navy will announce a series of new initiatives aimed to combat sexual assault. As the Pentagon scrambles to address sexual assault issues across the Department, each service is weighing in with their own, service-specific programs. While there is a sense that DOD is working hard to stave off Congressional attempts to make fundamental changes to the way the military approaches such cases, the steps are seen as genuine attempts to mitigate the problem. Situation Report is told that this afternoon, the Navy will announce that it is hiring specialized investigators to help resolve sexual assault investigations more efficiently, will begin to publish regularly information about courts-martial that involve sexual assault and will expand to the fleet a number of local programs that are thought to be effective. And since Navy officials in particular have linked sexual assault with alcohol, it will also take steps to “deglamorize” and limit sales of alcohol at Navy Exchanges with a memo it’s releasing today that spells it all out.
Also today, Dempsey and Winnefeld face the music. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Marty Dempsey and his vice, Adm. Sandy Winnefeld, appear on Capitol Hill this morning at 9:30 to get re-confirmed for their second, two-year terms. No one expects the two to be ambushed by ugly questions, but they’ll face a number of critical issues. Guessing the budget, sexual assault and Syria might come up. Read Dempsey’s opener here. Read Winnefeld’s opener, here.
And in Syria, is Assad’s upper hand even stronger? The Assad regime in Syria is experiencing a comeback of sorts, as the U.S. and other countries show “a new reluctance” to get involved by providing rebel forces with the arms they need, according to the NYT. Even if Assad is not thought to be capable of controlling the entire country ever again, his ability to maintain a tight grip on power is becoming indisputable. The NYT’s Ben Hubbard, in Beiruit: "In recent weeks, rebel groups have been killing one another with increasing ferocity, losing ground on the battlefield and alienating the very citizens they say they want to liberate. At the same time, the United States and other Western powers that have called for Mr. Assad to step down have shown new reluctance to provide the rebels with badly needed weapons. Although few expect that Mr. Assad can reassert his authority over the whole of Syria, even some of his staunchest enemies acknowledge that his position is stronger than it has been in months. His resilience suggests that he has carved out what amounts to a rump state in central Syria that is firmly backed by Russia, Iran and Hezbollah and that Mr. Assad and his supporters will probably continue to chip away at the splintered rebel movement." More here.
Welcome to Thursday’s edition of Situation Report. Sign up for Situation Report here or just e-mail us. And as always, if you have a report, piece of news, or a tidbit you want teased, send it to us early for maximum tease. Please follow us @glubold. And remember, if you see something, say something — to Situation Report.
In a sea of “command think tanks,” this one floats to the top - and it’s got a new director. Dempsey’s Commander’s Action Group, or CAG, has a new head, Situation Report is told. He is Army Col. Dave Horan, who hails from the National Security staff and this week started as director of Dempsey’s CAG. The CAG, of course, is that resident group of big brained officers on call who advise a commander on anything he or she needs them to. Dempsey’s group, on the Pentagon’s D-Ring, tackles anything from sexual assault issues to officer ethics to budgets to Syria. Horan has worked for Dempsey in a similar capacity when Dempsey was at U.S. Central Command, the Army’s Training Command and the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army, where Dempsey served only briefly. Horan was an Army War College fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and was a director for defense policy and strategy on the National Security Council staff before rejoining Dempsey’s team this week. He succeeds Air Force Col. Troy Thomas, who will remain on staff as Dempsey’s special assistant for now. Few would dispute that Dempsey is entitled to having a dream team dedicated to looking at the issues he confronts. But CAGs have proliferated across the military in recent years, with multiple CAGs and even some lower-level commanders having them. As budget-tightening hits - and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s 20 percent cut announced this week takes effect over the next several years - the CAG phenomenon may change. Read FP’s coverage of Dempsey’s CAG, with an interview of Thomas, from last fall, here.
Doug Lamborn, the defense civilians’ best new friend. Rep. Doug Lamborn, the Colorado Republican, is seeking exemptions for furloughed workers - all of them - after scoring a victory in which the DOD has at least said it would grant exemptions to furloughed workers who are directly affected by the wildfires in Colorado. After Lamborn made the request, DOD said it would work to protect families and individuals affected by the big Black Forest fire. But Lamborn is turning it up: he wants DOD to grant permanent exemptions to all furloughed workers, and we think may be the only member of Congress pushing for same.Lamborn, in a statement - "These sequestration furloughs are unnecessary and I believe an attempt by the Obama Administration to inflict maximum pain in order to gain some perceived political advantage. My amendment would prohibit the Department of Defense from doing any more sequestration furloughs after October 1 of this year. The nation’s budget problems would be better addressed by making modest reforms to our massive entitlement programs, not by cutting the pay of hard working, middle class Americans who are strengthening our nation’s defense."
When it comes to furloughs, the DOD IG exempted itself. The Office of Management and Budget allowed some agencies to exempt themselves from the much-maligned furlough program in which civilians are forced on an unpaid vacation. So as most other defense civilians deal with their second week of furloughs, the Defense Department’s Inspector General’s office, which is independent, has exempted itself. A spokeswoman from the IG’s office this morning confirmed that the IG office was in fact exempted, saying “our budget permitted it, allowing us to continue our mission fully” and citing OMB’s directive that independent agencies - and all Inspectors General across the government due to their unique mission - were allowed to exempt themselves. But at the Pentagon, where defense leaders have had to defend the “one-team, one-fight” approach in which all the services had to furlough their civilians regardless of their budgetary situation (and Hagel himself this week defended the move, to troops) there was confusion. The DOD IG’s office’s exemption is “one of the great head-scratchers of the furlough period,” one Pentagon official told Situation Report. “They have an important responsibility to investigate cost overruns, but apparently aren’t willing to chip in themselves on cost savings. A real disappointment when civilian employees like some Department first responders are subject to furlough.”
From the Don’t Forget Your Pentagon Badge Department - We’re revisiting this issue because we can. There’s a new sign up outside the Pentagon’s Metro entrance that warns visitors and badge holders who don’t have their badges that the wait to get into the building could be as much as an hour between now and Sept. 21 - the period of the furloughs. Today’s high? 96 degrees.
Reading Rosa: she swims upstream, making a case for American propaganda. FP’s Rosa Brooks wonders if Uncle Sam does a better job of journalism than the media. Wait, wuh? Brooks: "My fellow Americans, you’re a pretty weird bunch of people. I say this with love. But really, what’s up with your attitude toward government?On both the left and the right, Americans oscillate between a peculiar, irrational deference toward the government and an equally peculiar, irrational suspicion of it. On the left, a touching faith in the federal government’s ability to solve domestic social problems (poverty, ill health, etc.) by spending money is generally coupled with an absolute conviction that when it comes to foreign policy and national security, everything emanating from the federal government is a tissue of lies, probably for the purpose of covering up a sinister imperialist conspiracy and/or destroying domestic civil liberties. Meanwhile, on the right, a touching faith in the absolute rightness and virtue of the military and the absolute need to pour additional tax dollars into national security is usually coupled with an equally deep conviction that when it comes to federal spending on domestic programs, the government is a) lying, b) incompetent, and c) determined to subvert our freedoms." Read the rest, here.
A “drone” crash in Florida.A QF-4 drone crashed at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., causing no injuries but backups on a closed, remote road. No word yet on the cause. But Fox quoted James Lewis, who contributes to FP, as a military technology expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “[He] said the QF-4 was likely used for target practice by Tyndall’s F-22 Raptor pilots. ‘It is an older fighter plane they have modified for use as a target,” Lewis said. ‘The QF-4 is not a drone in the way we normally think of drones. It is not used for anything other than to be shot down. It is an old aircraft that would otherwise be sold for scrap.’ Read more here.
This time, Yemen’s No. 2 al-Qaida leader may just be dead. FP’s Dana Stuster: “Said al-Shihri, the second-in-command of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has reportedly been killed. But unlike previous (and premature) reports of his death — and there have been many — this time the news came straight from the source, in an announcement by AQAP. Maybe this time Shihri will actually stay dead.” More here.
Read “The drone that killed my grandson” in the NYT, by Nasser al-Awlaki: "I visited the site later, once I was able to bear the pain of seeing where he sat in his final moments. Local residents told me his body was blown to pieces. They showed me the grave where they buried his remains. I stood over it, asking why my grandchild was dead.Nearly two years later, I still have no answers. The United States government has refused to explain why Abdulrahman was killed. It was not until May of this year that the Obama administration, in a supposed effort to be more transparent, publicly acknowledged what the world already knew - that it was responsible for his death." More here.
On Iran, act now and avoid the rush, say Pickering, Luers and Walsh. The departure of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the arrival of Hassan Rouhani in Iran, coupled with the distinct fear that a Shiite-Sunni conflict spills over from Syria, threatening Iran’s interests, may make this an excellent time for the U.S. to engage with Iran, argues Thomas Pickering, William Luers and Jim Walsh in a new piece published in the New York Review of Books. But this opportunity may not last. Pickering, et al: "Iran and the United States have many important differences, but an agreement on Iran’s nuclear capability should be a critical priority. This could open the door to conversations with Iran regarding Iraq and Afghanistan. A functioning US-Iranian relationship could also help advance diplomatic efforts on Syria. Despite the new opportunities and incentives, the US and Iran have deep-seated and justifiable suspicions about each other. Their shared history has been one of missed opportunities and misperceptions. To overcome this distrust will require strong leadership at a time when the stakes are growing larger. Iran’s nuclear program continues to advance, and events in Syria could well move further out of control. Without a change in direction, the US could find itself in another war in the Middle East that would further weaken its economy and its political influence."
They suggest: Obama send a message of congratulations to Rouhani; the WH should indicate that it would be open to a meeting between Obama and Rouhani, maybe in September; and a new effort could begin to reach the trial agreement. Also,they recommend, that the administration establish regular, “even routine,” bilateral discussions with Iran - without preconditions. Read the rest, here.
And Iraqi ambassador says: help me help you. The Cable’s John Hudson: "For months, the Obama administration has tried and failed to persuade Iraq to block flights over its territory from Iran to Syria — a corridor the U.S. believes is sustaining Syria’s military advantage over the rebels. Though U.S. officials insist Iranian flyovers present a critical lifeline for the Assad regime, Iraqi officials say they can’t stop Iran’s military airlift: Iraqi air defenses are too weak. Now, Iraq’s newly-minted ambassador to the U.S. has a plan to bridge the diplomatic impasse: Help me help you.”Read that post, here.
Benghazi saga: Is George Bristol retired yet or not? In the ongoing Benghazi hearing brouhaha, Marine Col. George Bristol, who held a key post in the region as commander of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara, was in a position to know something about what went down and what options the U.S. had at its disposal as the attacks on Sept. 11 unfolded. Many American officials have testified, but not Bristol, described by Marine Corps Times as a “salty Marine” whose task force was responsible for that area. The Pentagon has said Bristol cannot be forced to testify because he retired after stepping down from that command in March. But MCT’s Dan Lamothe wrote that actually, Bristol is on active duty until the end of July, when his formal retirement occurs from the Corps. Read the rest here.
And, how did Virginia attorney general and GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli’s service as a Marine really end?The Virginian-Pilot takes a look at what Cuccinelli’s office says about his service - and what the Corps says, in the Pilot’s story, “Cuccinelli, Marines disagree on why his duty ended,” here.And read the e-mail from Marine Maj. Shawn Haney to Cucchinelli’s office re: his service, here.
Scientists have made the first embryonic stem cell lines from human skin cells.
As new details about the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings came to light, confusion on Twitter led some users to mistake Chechnya for the Czech Republic.
It’s unfortunate that a lot people only realize that these countries exist following an invasion of them and/or an attack by one of their nationals (or someone otherwise connected to them).
Mississippi mayoral candidate was found dead Wednesday and the case is being investigated as a homicide, authorities said.
Coahoma County Coroner Scotty Meredith said the body of 34-year-old Marco McMillian was found on the Mississippi River levee Wednesday at about 10 a.m.
The 34-year-old McMillian was running for mayor of Clarksdale, a Blues hub where actor and Mississippi native Morgan Freeman co-owns a music club with Howard Stovall, a Memphis entertainment executive, and Bill Luckett, who also is running for mayor.
Meredith said the body was found between Sherard and Rena Lara and was sent to Jackson for an autopsy. He declined to provide further details or speculate on the cause of death.
The sheriff’s office said Wednesday in a news release on its Facebook page that a person of interest was in custody, but had not been formally charged.
The department also said authorities had been looking for McMillian since a man crashed the candidate’s car into another vehicle on Tuesday. McMillian was not in the car. The sheriff’s office said deputies responded to the two-car crash on U.S. Highway 49 South near the Coahoma and Tallahatchie county lines on Tuesday about 8 a.m.
Will Rooker, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, declined to release other details. He said the investigation is ongoing.
McMillian was a Democrat. Campaign spokesman Jarod Keith said McMillian’s campaign was noteworthy because he may have been the first openly gay man to be a viable candidate for public office in Mississippi.
“It’s because we’ve had separate classes of military personnel,” said Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “The more we can treat people equally, the more likely they are to treat each other equally.”
Why is the Pentagon Blocking LGBT and Progressive Websites? (Mother Jones).
The Department of Defense issued a statement on Facebook on Friday that said it “does not block LGBT websites” deliberately. Rather, the pages “were denied access based on web filters blocking the Blog/Personal Pages” category. (Military officials have long blocked workers’ access to websites they consider non-secure, personal timewasters, or otherwise unfit for consumption in office hours.) Aravosis tells Mother Jones he found this initial statement “disturbing,” because websites like Ann Coulter’s blog and Red State, a conservative news blog, both appear to fall in this category, but were not blocked. “They didn’t seem to recognize the possibility of a problem, and appeared to have no intent to investigate,” he says.
But Aravosis was sent what he calls “a much better statement" from Pentagon Press Secretary George Little on Saturday, saying that "[t]he Department of Defense strongly supports the rights of gay and lesbian men and women in uniform" and "in certain instances, access may [be] limited to content not directly related to carrying out mission or professional duties." Little added that "some sites may have been unnecessarily blocked" and promised that the matter would be looked into.
» The year saw opposition to the Assad regime in Syria escalate into full civil war. In the worst atrocity of the conflict so far, around 400 people were massacred in the opposition town of Daraya. The fighting reached Damascus, the capital, and the rebels gained control over large parts of the country. Turkey, which is sheltering thousands of refugees, occasionally exchanged artillery fire with Syria. The death toll this year is at least 30,000.
» Egypt, the font of the Arab spring, was plagued by further sporadic violence, including at a football match in February at which 74 people died in riots. Muhammad Morsi won a presidential election to become the first elected Islamist head of state in the Arab world. He proposed a new constitution that critics say is excessively Islamist and endangers minorities.
» The post-revolution National Transitional Council in Libya handed power over to an elected congress, though factional fighting continued. On September 11th the American ambassador was killed in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi by armed militants.
» An air strike by Israel that killed the head of Hamas’s military wing helped spark a week-long war in which 140-plus Palestinians in Gaza and six Israelis died, before Egypt brokered a ceasefire. Two weeks later Khaled Meshal, an exiled leader of Hamas, paid his first visit to Gaza since his movement took over in 2007.
» Myanmar continued along its reform path, holding elections that returned Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament. She was allowed to travel abroad for the first time in 24 years; Barack Obama became the first American president to visit Burma. The Burmese spring was marred, however, by deadly ethnic rioting between local Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.
Always in the bleak midwinter
» South Korea affronted North Korea in the summer by suggesting the Hermit Kingdom would gradually reform and become more open under Kim Jong Un. Pyongyang retorted that this was “ridiculous” and “a foolish and silly dream”.
» A lingering constitutional row in Pakistan came to a head when the Supreme Court sacked Yousaf Raza Gilani as prime minister for not following its order to reopen a corruption case against the president, Asif Ali Zardari.
» The ECB’s move was designed with Spain and Italy in mind. Spain had already requested help to shore up its struggling banks. Mariano Rajoy’s government also contended with a surging independence movement in Catalonia; an election in the autonomous region proved inconclusive.
» The run-up to June’s election in Greece produced a few jitters when left-wing parties threatened to tear up the country’s bail-out agreement if elected. Markets breathed a sigh of relief when the centre-right New Democracy formed a coalition government.
» After three weak and divided years in office, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan lost an election. The winners were the Liberal Democratic Party, which ruled for most of the half century up to 2009. Shinzo Abe returned to his old job as prime minister; his previous one-year term is widely considered a disaster.
» America was much unchanged after November’s general election, despite a record $2 billion spent on the presidential race that saw Barack Obama re-elected. The Republicans kept control of the House of Representatives and the Democrats the Senate; for the first time white men will no longer form the majority of the Democrats in the House (they still account for around 85% of the Republicans).
I’ll be home for Christmas
» Mitt Romney picked off his challengers in a bruising round of primaries to become the Republican challenger in the election. His campaign was full of mishaps but the political lexicon was enriched by “Etch-a-Sketch candidate”, “binders full of women”, “the 47%” and “retroactive retirement”. The highlight of the party convention was Clint Eastwood holding an imaginary conversation with a stool.
» There was significant political change in France when voters dumped Nicolas Sarkozy in favour of the Socialists’ François Hollande. It was the first time the left had won a presidential election since 1988. Mr Hollande soon had to face up to tough choices on spending cuts that he avoided in the campaign. His approval rating sank to 35% after seven months in office, a record low.
» In other big presidential elections, Vladimir Putin vaulted back into office in Russia for a (non-successive) third term; Enrique Peña Nieto was victorious in Mexico; and Ma Ying-jeou was re-elected in Taiwan. Serbiansturfed out Boris Tadic in favour of Tomislav Nikolic. To no one’s surprise Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov won again in Turkmenistan. All the other candidates were from his autocratic party; he got 97% of the vote.
» Hugo Chávez was returned to office in Venezuela’s presidential ballot, but less than two months later he revealed that his cancer had returned and he anointed his vice-president as his successor.
O Star of wonder
» Earlier China’s elite was rocked by the biggest political scandal in decades when Bo Xilai was removed from the Politburo because of events stemming from the death of a British businessman. Mr Bo’s wife was found guilty of murder at a speedy trial. The world was also enthralled by Chen Guangcheng’s escape from house arrest. The blind civil-rights lawyer’s arrival at the American embassy in Beijing caused a diplomatic spat, but he was eventually allowed to leave for the United States.» Xi Jinping emerged as China’s new leader from its inscrutable process of selecting the general secretary of the Communist Party. Mr Xi’s mysterious two-week absence from public view two months before his selection was never explained.
» A territorial dispute over the ownership of some rocky islands in the East China Sea produced a wave of anti-Japanese sentiment in China, and raised fears that sabre-rattling in the region could provoke a war. Business between the countries suffered.
» The once-hot BRIC economies cooled rapidly in 2012. India was criticised, notably by Barack Obama, for its perceived hostility to foreign investment. It proposed a budget laden with taxes aimed at overseas companies, but Parliament did pass a law that will allow foreign supermarkets to open shop.
» South Africans were shocked by scenes reminiscent of the apartheid era when police opened fire on striking miners at a platinum mine, killing 34 of them. The wave of unrest that followed the incident crippled the mining industry for several weeks.
» Britain’s coalition government skidded in the polls, especially after it presented a budget that cut the top rate of income tax while increasing the tax burden on pensioners, which was soon dubbed a ”granny tax”. Those provisions stayed, but George Osborne, the chancellor, reversed some of his budget’s other politically unpalatable measures, such as a “pasty tax”. He kept his job in David Cameron’s first cabinet reshuffle.
Joyful and triumphant
» Coalition casualties in Afghanistan were the lowest since 2008, though there was a rise of “green-on-blue” attacks by Taliban sympathisers in the Afghan forces against ISAF troops. In March an American soldier was charged with 16 counts of murder, including of nine children, after allegedly going on a shooting rampage in two villages.»
Britain had its wettest summer in 100 years (which is saying something). Amid the gloom celebrations for the queen’sDiamond Jubilee produced some sparkle for austerity-weary Brits, though it rained on the day and Prince Philip got a bladder infection. The queen was given a cameo (in a James Bond spoof) at the spectacular opening ceremony of theLondon Olympics, which were hailed as a great success. America’s Michael Phelps added more medals to his haul and became the most decorated Olympian ever.
» The International Criminal Court handed down its first-ever verdict and sentenced Thomas Lubanga, a Congolese warlord, to 14 years in prison. At a special court in The Hague Charles Taylor, a former president of Liberia, was sentenced to 50 years, the first African head of state to be convicted for war crimes.
» The top three internet search trends worldwide in 2012 on Google were “Whitney Houston”, “Gangnam style” and “Hurricane Sandy”. Other contenders included “Pussy Riot”, “Trayvon Martin shooting”, “The Hunger Games”, “Skyfall” and “Kate Middleton pictures released”.
As Israel continues to pound Gaza, the Palestinian death toll of the latest round of violence has crossed the 100 mark. Thus far, the American media has given Israeli officials and spokespersons a free pass to shape the narrative of this conflict with falsehoods. Here are the top 5 lies the media doesn’t challenge about the crisis in Gaza:
1. Israel Was Forced to Respond to Rockets to Defend Its Citizens
CNN, like many other American outlets, chose to begin the story of the latest round of violence in Gaza on November 10th, when 4 Israeli soldiers were wounded by Palestinian fire, and the IDF “retaliated” by killing several Palestinians. But just two days before, a 13 year old Palestinian boy was killed in an Israeli military incursion into Gaza (among other fatalities in preceding days). Is there any reason why those couldn’t be the starting point of the “cycle of violence”? The bias was even more blatant in 2008/09, when Israel’s massive assault on Gaza (which killed 1400+ Palestinians) was cast as self-defense, even though it was acknowledged in passing that Israel was the party that broke the ceasefire agreement in place at the time. Are the Palestinians not entitled to self-defense? And if indiscriminate Palestinian rocket fire is not an acceptable response to Israeli violence (which it absolutely isn’t), how can indiscriminate Israeli bombings of Gaza ever be acceptable? And why is the broader context, the fact that Gaza remains under Israeli blockade and military control, overlooked?
2. Israel Tries to Avoid Civilian Casualties
It must be aggravating for Israel’s propagandists when high-ranking political officials slip and get off the sanitized/approved message for public consumption. Yesterday, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai said the “goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.” Not to be outdone, Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, said “we need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza.” If you’re thinking this is just rhetoric, consider the fact that, according to Amnesty International, Israel “flattened… busy neighborhoods” into “moonscapes” during its last major assault on Gaza in 2008/09. And it wasn’t just human rights organizations that were exposing Israeli war crimes in Gaza, but Israeli soldiers whose conscience could not bear to remain silent about the atrocities they had committed were also coming forward.
If, for some odd reason, you cannot decide whether it is official Israeli spokespersons or soldiers of conscience and human rights investigators who are telling the truth, consider this question: If Hamas has only managed to kill 3 people despite being bent on killing civilians with thousands of indiscriminate rockets, how has Israel managed to kill several dozen Palestinian civilians when it is using sophisticated precision weapons to avoid civilian casualties? In just one Israeli attack yesterday, Israel killed more Palestinian civilians in a matter of minutes than the total number of all Israelis killed by rocket fire from Gaza over the last 3 years. The truth is exposed by the utter disregard for civilian life we see in practice, reaffirmed by testimonies and investigative evidence.
3. This Is About Security
If Israel’s main objective were indeed to end the rocket fire from Gaza, all it had to do was accept the truce offered by the Palestinian factions before the Jabari assassination. And if the blockade of Gaza was just about keeping weapons from coming in, why are Palestinian exports from Gaza not allowed out? Why were food items ever restricted? The truth is, this isn’t about security; it’s about punishing the population of Gaza for domestic Israeli political consumption. When Gilad Sharon recommended the decimation of Gaza, he justified it by saying “the residents of Gaza are not innocent, they elected Hamas.” Sharon may find this posturing to be rewarding in some circles, but it’s actually the very same logic used by terrorists to attack civilians in democracies. Are Israeli civilians considered legitimate targets of violence because they elected right wing Israeli leaders who commit atrocities against the Palestinians? Of course not, and only a broken moral compass can keep this principle from consistently applying to Palestinian civilians as well.
4. Hamas Is the Problem
Between their religious right-wing domestic agenda, and their refusal to renounce violence against civilians, I’m most certainly no fan of Hamas. But whenever you hear Israel try to scapegoat Hamas for the crisis in Gaza, there are two things to consider. First, Hamas hasn’t only showed preparedness to have a truce with Israel if Israel ended its attacks on Gaza, but has also suggested (though with mixed signals) that it is open to a two-state solution. Second, and more importantly, Hamas didn’t come to power until 2006/07. Between 1993 and 2006 (13 years), Israel had the more moderate, peaceful, and pliant Palestinian authority (which recognizes Israel and renounces violence) to deal with as a partner for peace. What did Israel do? Did it make peace? Or did it continue to occupy Palestinian land, violate Palestinian rights, and usurp Palestinian resources? What strengthened Hamas and other extremists in Palestine is precisely the moderates’ failure to secure any Palestinian rights through cooperation and negotiations. The truth is entirely inverted here: it is Israel’s escalating violations of Palestinian rights which strengthen the extremists.
5. There is a Military Solution to this Conflict
This is not the first time, and probably not the last, that Israel has engaged in a military campaign to pummel its opponents into submission. But are we any closer to ending this conflict today after decades of violence? The answer is a resounding no. After the 2006 war in Lebanon, Hezbollah emerged stronger. After the 2009 war on Gaza, Hamas remained in power and maintained possession of thousands of rockets. Israel’s military superiority, while indeed impressive (thanks to $30 billion in U.S. military aid this decade), is not stronger than the Palestinian will to live in dignity. The way to end the firing of rockets in the short term is to agree to a truce and end the blockade of Gaza. The way to resolve the entire conflict in the long term is to end Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and allow the Palestinians to exercise their right to self-determination. We’re probably close to a ceasefire agreement to end this round of violence. The real challenge is ending the Israeli occupation for long-term peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians.
Follow Omar Baddar on Twitter: www.twitter.com/omarbaddar
More than four times as many Americans, 59%, sympathize with the Israelis compared with those who sympathize with the Palestinians, 13%, in the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, according to a new CNN/ORC International poll released today.
In the survey, 57% also said that Israeli military action in the Gaza strip was justified, compared to 24% who said it was unjustified. Three out of four U.S. Republicans thought the Israeli action was justified, compared to 41% of Democrats and 59% of Independents. The poll has a sampling error of plus or minus 3%.
Whenever I’m reading news articles, particularly those pertaining to other parts of the world, it is easy to forget that they are real. Politics, history, and current events often feel unreal, almost fictional. We’re so psychologically and physically removed from them that we don’t often connect with them on an emotional level, even when we try.
I must sometimes reminds myself that these stories are as real my own life - the vast sociopolitical changes, the deaths, the wars, and the drama that unfolds simultaneously around the world. What is mere statistics or datum to me, is something very real to those fellow humans that live through them. The human mind simply wasn’t evolved to fully take in the details of a world full of information.