Wednesday, January 21, 2009

War is health, and other Orwellian metaphorical observations

If it wasn't enough that Israel is organizing an army of bloggers to counter its critics in the new media, here's the best evidence yet that the IDF has pretty much gotten world coverage wired exactly the way it wants it.

Here's a smattering of the professional courtesies given Israel by American network military experts:

“I think you were too restrained and could have gone deeper into Gaza,” retired Lt-Gen Thomas McInerney, a military analyst for Fox News noted, saying the Israeli public’s universal approval for the onslaught could have muted global opinion, and that it would have made it “more difficult for Europeans, the Left or the Arab media to counter that.” McInerney also chided Israel’s leadership, saying they are “too sensitive about world opinion.”

In 22 days, the Israeli military killed over 1,300 people, the vast majority of them civilians. Human rights groups have noted that they deliberately fired white phosphorus into densely populated residential neighborhoods, torching buildings and killing civilians. According to retired Lt-Col. Rick Francona, an analyst for NBC, people in the United States saw these killings merely “as a healthy demonstration of Israel’s capabilities.”

So let's do the numbers in a way that might attract the attention of the new IDF blogosphere offensive: had Al Qaeda killed only 1,300 people instead of 3,000 on September 11, General McInerney would have considered the attack "restrained," and Colonel Francona would have characterized it "as a healthy demonstration of Al Qaeda's capabilities"?

No--for all the knee-jerk reactionaries who will think I am somehow equating Israel in Gaza with Al Qaeda and the World Trade Center/Pentagon--that's not what I'm doing. What I am saying is that political violence, whether conducted by States or sub-national groups, should be assessed on its results and not the supposed intentions of the perpetrators.

The civilian dead in Gaza are inherently no less victims, and--person for person--our own dead on September 11 are no more intrinsically valuable as human beings than those Palestinians.

One of the most morally troubling aspects of American exceptionalism has always been its use as a loophole around the Christian and secular humanist shared belief that all human beings are intrinsically valuable. Instead, reflecting those old tribalisms that President Obama wishes to stamp out, we are quite comfortable rationalizing or even ignoring piles of dead around the world.

This is not an argument for interventionism; it is an argument for conscience.

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