A Level Gaze

"What effect must it have on a nation if it learns no foreign languages? Probably much the same as that which a total withdrawal from society has upon an individual."
--G.C. Lichtenberg


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Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Continuum of Barbarity

Staying with Booman for a moment, I'd like to respond in very simple terms to Alan Dershowitz' argument that:

There is a vast difference — both moral and legal — between a 2-year-old who is killed by an enemy rocket and a 30-year-old civilian who has allowed his house to be used to store Katyusha rockets. Both are technically civilians, but the former is far more innocent than the latter. There is also a difference between a civilian who merely favors or even votes for a terrorist group and one who provides financial or other material support for terrorism.

As far as I remember, every Israeli citizen is obliged to give at least two years of service to the Israeli army. Where does that put them and their families on the "continuum of civilianity?" Does the esteemed Harvard Law professsor think that makes them fair(er) game? I doubt it.

Monday, July 24, 2006

From Gideon Levy in Ha'aretz (don't click just yet):

Collective punishment is illegitimate and it does not have a smidgeon of intelligence. Where will the inhabitants...run? With typical hardheartedness the military reporters say they were not "expelled" but that it was "recommended" they leave, for the benefit, of course, of those running for their lives. And what will this inhumane step lead to? Support for the Israeli government? Their enlistment as informants and collaborators for the Shin Bet? Can the miserable farmers...do anything about the Qassam rocket-launching cells?


Will the blackout...bring down the...government or cause the population to rally around it? And even if the...government falls...what will happen on the day after? These are questions for which nobody has any real answers. As usual here: Quiet, we're shooting. But this time we are not only shooting. We are bombing and shelling, darkening and destroying, imposing a siege...like the worst of terrorists and nobody breaks the silence to ask, what the hell for, and according to what right?

Levy was not talking about Lebanon. This piece appeared on July 3, nine days before the Hezbollah raid in which three Israeli soldiers were killed and two kidnapped, and which formed the pretext for the current Israeli action against Lebanon.

He was talking about Israeli actions against the residents of Gaza, which, coincidentally, have also been attributed to a kidnapping, that of Gilad Shalit by Palestinian militants on June 25. The response to the kidnapping included forcing 20,000 people from their homes, cutting off the electricity to another 750,000, taking a quarter of the Palestinian parliament into custody, and Israeli fighters buzzing the Syrian (!?) presidential palace.

Although heavy-handed, at least there was some kind of rationale behind these actions: for no reason, one of their own had been taken from them, and they were going to do whatever it took to get him back. Fair enough, no?


The legitimate basis for the IDF's operation was stripped away the moment it began. It's no accident that nobody mentions the day before the attack on the Kerem Shalom fort, when the IDF kidnapped two civilians, a doctor and his brother, from their home in Gaza. The difference between us and them? We kidnapped civilians and they captured a soldier, we are a state and they are a terror organization. How ridiculously pathetic Amos Gilad sounds when he says that the capture of Shalit was "illegitimate and illegal," unlike when the IDF grabs civilians from their homes. How can a senior official in the defense ministry claim that "the head of the snake" is in Damascus, when the IDF uses the exact same methods?

Shalit's freedom could have been secured by the tried and true expedient of a prisoner exchange. The Gazans would not have had to be made to suffer (more), Hezbollah would not have been given the pretext to go on their kidnapping raid, and Lebanon would not now lay in ruins, 500,000 of her citizens refugees.

Israel does what Israel wants. But this time it should be known its pathetic fig leaf of a justification isn't worth the shit remaining in Ariel Sharon's decaying, war criminal bowels.

Left-wing blogger, signing off.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006
In Defense of Silence

Josh Marshall linked tonight to a post by ennis at Sepia Mutiny that wondered why American bloggers had had so little to say about the terrorist bombings in Mumbai.

ennis wrote:
While trying to deal with the tragedy in Mumbai, I have been wondering what the coverage of the story tells us about ourselves.

I was not surprised by MSM coverage in America: poor in local papers, better in papers with a large desi population or those with an international audience. I was pleased to hear that CNN and CNBC had decent cable news coverage, perhaps because they’re well established in India.

What has baffled me, however, is the relative silence from the world of blogs. The blogosphere is supposed to be the cutting edge, far more advanced than the MSM, yet they’re spending less time on the story.

He goes on to detail what he believes to be the paucity of coverage the story has received in the larger blogs, and relates an email exchange he had with two of them:
I emailed the following question to three significant political bloggers:

No opinion on the Mumbai bombings?

I’m surprised. Many more have died than did in London a year ago, and the death toll is currently just a little under the death toll from Madrid. Yet the blogosphere is largely quiet. Why?

Here are the two responses I received:

The blogosphere tends to be relatively quiet on straight news like this, since it doesn’t provide much of a vehicle for opinion mongering. And in this case, it appears (so far) to be related to India-Pakistan tensions, rather than the broader Islamist movement. I suspect most Americans, at any rate, find that sort of uninteresting. [Kevin Drum]

I can’t speak for anyone else. But in my case often something of great consequence or human tragedy happens, but it’s not really clear that I have anything to add. Sometimes that gets read as lack of interest or concern. But it’s not. [Anonymous political blogger]

Although I hadn't been asked, I decided to give the answer a shot myself in comments:

I think the answer to your question is that American bloggers just don't know enough about the situation in India/Pakistan to have an informed opinion. Take, for example, "The Pakistani government supports Muslim separatists in Kashmir". I see statements to this effect scattered through the news coverage I read, but I don't have any way of verifying it. I don't know the reliability of the sources, the evidence upon which such a pronouncement is made, or enough about the history of the relationship to form any kind of solid idea of what is truly meant. It may be the case that Musharraf is arming, training, advising, and inciting the militants, but I have no real knowledge about it. I don't know how popular the separatists' cause and actions are in Pakistan. I don't know to what degree Musharraf's political support depends on his backing them. All I know is that the tensions between India and Pakistan have of late revolved largely around Kashmir. And, for all I know, it could be serving as a proxy for resentments dating back to 1947, the Raj, or before.

So, beyond "That's terrible", what am I to say about the Mumbai bomings? [sic]

I recently made an attempt to up my knowledge of affairs in South Asia by reading local, English-language newspapers and websites. For my trouble, I was thoroughly barraged with a plethora of people and acronyms of which I could make very little sense, that came from publications whose leanings I didn't know and from journalists whose reputations were a blank to me. I kept it up for a few weeks before giving up, no better informed than when I started.

Even with regard to Iraq, about which I've read literally thousands of stories from all manner of sources, there is very little I can say with any confidence, and almost all of that relates directly to US involvement there. I know we blew the hell out of Fallujia, that there are rival claims to Kirkuk, and that Sadr is the son of an eminent Shi'a imam. Oh, and that we had no business invading the country.

If you look at what is written in the American blogosphere about Iraq, you'll find that nearly all of it pertains to our having invaded, and the geopolitical implications that could arise therefrom. I daresay most of the latter is ill-founded (excepting, of course what Juan Cole has to say).

The upshot, from a long-lapsed blogger: Please don't construe the fact we haven't written much about the Mumbai bombings as disregard or disrespect. We just don't have anything intelligent to say about the subject, other than to repeat what we've read, heard, and seen from mainstream news outlets.