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16 August 2006

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Pan

To paraphrase SECDEF: "You go to war with the military you have, not the military you want." I'm sure if Nasrallah had an air force and JDAMS, he's gladly pinpoint target Israeli military installations and troop concentrations. Why don't we just let him have more accurate missiles so next time he can only hit military targets? Dimona, anyone?

confusedponderer

HRW made the correct observation that in Lebanon both Israel and Hezbollah were merrily comitting war crimes. I saw a good point on that being made on NO QUARTER. A commenter wrote:

"I have heard so much about Iraq, and now Hezbollah, "COWARDLY hiding their equipment, etc. in civilian areas." I suggest you drive around your OWN cities and start looking at the MILITARY bases "COWARDLY hidden" right in your own neighborhoods. Detroit MI., Ann Arbor MI., Marquette MI. just to name three. BASES right next to apartment buildings. And that is just 3 "snap" ones. That also isn't counting military equipment producers, warehouses, etc. WE better get busy moving "stuff" out to the bare countryside before we accuse others."

Israel probably uses Haifa harbor as a military supply point, and I count on them to have barracks and depots in the direct city vicinity. They can be said to also be hiding behind human shields. I remember reading a report from a border village in Israel that was in direct vicinity of an Israeli artillery battery firing heavy barrages at some place over in Lebanon. Hezbollah hitting this village they may easily be firing at the battery.
I attribute that you're not hearing what exactly Hezbollah is firing at to the Israeli censor, rathern than to a particular deviousness on the Hezbollah's side targeting cities per se.

Hezbollah utilises civilian 'cover' in a very calculated, ruthless way. Another commenter on NO QUARTER put it like that:

"How about telling a family that they will either accept a new "garage" built on to their house in which a rocket launcher or munitions supply vehicle will be concealed, along with some rent for same, or they will be driven from their home and neighborhood and/or perhaps be killed? How does that fit in with a vision of the moral high ground seized by Hisbollah and 4th generation warfare? Is that rocket launcher a legitimate target while it remains in the "garage", or must one wait until it is rolled out into firing position before it is attacked? How about a neighborhood of houses with such "garages"? I've actually seen this southeast of Beirut. Tough questions.
It isn't all black or white. There is no question that some elements of Hizbollah are either political, quasi-governmental, or both, and that in these roles they conduct charitable and beneficial activities in their respective society."

Probably the only means for Hezbollah to hit the Israeli hinterland are those unprecise artillery rockets. Hezbollah has the choice to either to allow Israel safehaven in their hinterland while they bomb Lebanon from the air with impunity, or to conduct harassment fires against Israel. They chose the latter.

The accusation that they hit civilians doing that, basically boils down to accusing them not to afford themselves precision guided cruise missiles.

Hmmm.

linda

thought you might be interested in a google mapping of the hits on lebanon:

http://arabist.net/archives/2006/08/16/google-earth-map-of-attacks-on-lebanon/

Michael

Agreed. I think its human nature to cast one side (Israel or the Hezbullah) as "the good guy" and one as the evil adversary. From the sounds of things, there are no "purely innocent" parties involved in this conflict. Very sad indeed.

lamp

questions I have about this: 1) did the israeli arabs receive the same level of access to "air raid" shelters that the jewish israelis did? and 2) did the israeli arabs receive the same quality of medical care when injured that the jewish israelis did?

Mo

One thing has bothered me throughout this conflict. Considering HA's preparation, its use of advance equipment etc. is what was the intention of the rockets. I am no military or weapons expert but 4000 odd missiles and 50 odd civilian casulties seems a strange statistc even given the inaccuracy of the rockets involved. Surely if you fire one and it lands short of its target, regulating the next one and the one after that to be more accurate cannot be that hard.
Then it got stranger. When the attacks on Haifa started, i heard report after report that the missiles were hitting the port. If these rockets were so inaccurate, how was it they were all hitting the same place?
So the conundrum to me was HA was firing crude unguided missiles, in the main missing civilian areas but hitting the port of Haifa with a regular basis. However I have read two articles now, which state that Israeli Military facilities and bases were placed in civilian areas and, in many cases by Arab Israeli areas.

Is it possible HA have found a way of guiding these missiles (gps)? Does this explain the large percentge of Arabs hit by HA missiles?

I am not nearly knowledgeable in weaponry to answer these questions but I know many of you are.

The other article Ive read regarding this is at:
http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=10732

Will

Thanks for the good info Col.

Juan Cole makes the point that the Israelis cynically locate the military armanents targets near Arab Israeli civilian centers as human shields.

HA did hit more military targets that we"ll ever know because of the military censors. Of course their achievements are more noteworthy due to the lack of "precision munitions" and less blameworthy as to "collateral" damage due to the same.

But both sides that target civilians are guilty of war crimes particulary the israelis that delibaretley targeted infrastructure. Especially the oil slick from the bombed power plant which is 1/4 the size of the Exxon Valdez.

The Muslims have a doctrine that "Allah will sort out his own." That is the innocent victims will go directly to Paradise.

Dan Halutz will be the new Pinochet, afraid to travel to Europe lest he be served with a War Crimes arrest warrant. Dumbya and Vice themselves should be in the same boat.

zanzibar

"Unfortunately, a lot of that is inherent in warfare." - PL

Deliberate targeting of civilian populations is very unfortunate as they are the defenseless party. My question is does it achieve tactical or strategic benefits for the belligerents? Why is it used so systematically in most conflicts?

Babak Makkinejad

Was Grant comitting war crimes in the siege of Vicksburg?

Frank Durkee

Col. Lang, I'm a non-combat veteran from the '50's. A question. Juan Cole this morning has a long quote from a former CIA Officer that echos the recent New yorker article by Hersh re: war build up toward Iran by the present administration. How do you 'read' the tea leafs?
Frank Durkee

Byron Raum

I recall hearing someone say that someone said that Nasrullah talked about the rockets hitting Israel. (We don't get to hear Nasrullah in the US directly because he is legally a terrorist.) Anyway, he hinted that we are only seeing the pictures of the rockets hitting civilian facilities and they are doing a lot of damage that we don't get to see due to wartime censorship. Assuming that he wasn't just blustering, which we can never know for sure, it would indicate that Katyushas are a lot more accurate than they are given credit for.

john in the Boro

Zanzibar you asked: “Deliberate targeting of civilian populations is very unfortunate as they are the defenseless party. My question is does it achieve tactical or strategic benefits for the belligerents? Why is it used so systematically in most conflicts?”

“BG Dunlap referred to the Prussian military philosopher, Carl von Clausewitz, who described a ‘remarkable trinity’ connecting the government to the people to the military. All three are needed to wage war successfully, according to Clausewitz.” (http://www.iwar.org.uk/news-archive/2003/03-18-4.htm)

Wars are often fought in the will. Nothing says gotcha like a pile of rubble where a city/village/kibbutz once stood. Of course Man has evolved since Clausewitz’s time (irony).

“The February [2003] issue of Air Force Magazine put it this way: ‘A
perception of poor conduct by a belligerent erodes the just cause of
the war and undermines its legitimacy because causing unnecessary
deaths or damage is seen as counter to international norms and
customs. In modern coalition warfare, attention to the law of war is a
strategic imperative.’" (Ibid.)

Proportionality in asymmetrical warfare is the handmaiden of good propaganda. The rhetoric should be fierce over the next few weeks.

David E. Solomon

I thought this article by Robert Fisk migh be relevant to the discussion.
==============
Fisk: As the 6am ceasefire takes effect... the real war beginsMonday, 14 August, 2006 @ 8:22 AM


By Robert Fisk, The Independent
The real war in Lebanon begins today. The world may believe - and Israel may believe - that the UN ceasefire due to come into effect at 6am today will mark the beginning of the end of the latest dirty war in Lebanon after up to 1,000 Lebanese civilians and more than 30 Israeli civilians have been killed.

But the reality is quite different and will suffer no such self-delusion: the Israeli army, reeling under the Hizbollah's onslaught of the past 24 hours, is now facing the harshest guerrilla war in its history. And it is a war they may well lose.

In all, at least 39 - possibly 43 - Israeli soldiers have been killed in the past day as Hizbollah guerrillas, still launching missiles into Israel itself, have fought back against Israel's massive land invasion into Lebanon.

Israeli military authorities talked of "cleaning" and "mopping up" operations by their soldiers south of the Litani river but, to the Lebanese, it seems as if it is the Hizbollah that have been doing the "mopping up". By last night, the Israelis had not even been able to reach the dead crew of a helicopter - shot down on Saturday night - which crashed into a Lebanese valley.

Officially, Israel has now accepted the UN ceasefire that calls for an end to all Israeli offensive military operations and Hizbollah attacks, and the Hizbollah have stated that they will abide by the ceasefire - providing no Israeli troops remain inside Lebanon. But 10,000 Israeli soldiers - the Israelis even suggest 30,000, although no one in Beirut takes that seriously - have now entered the country and every one of them is a Hizbollah target.

From this morning, Hizbollah's operations will be directed solely against the invasion force. And the Israelis cannot afford to lose 40 men a day. Unable to shoot down the Israeli F-16 aircraft that have laid waste to much of Lebanon, the Hizbollah have, for years, prayed and longed and waited for the moment when they could attack the Israeli army on the ground.

Now they are set to put their long-planned campaign into operation. Thousands of their members remain alive and armed in the ruined hill villages of southern Lebanon for just this moment and, only hours after their leader, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, warned Israel on Saturday that his men were waiting for them on the banks of the Litani river, the Hizbollah sprang their trap, killing more than 20 Israeli soldiers in less than three hours.

Israel itself, according to reports from Washington and New York, had long planned its current campaign against Lebanon - provoked by Hizbollah's crossing of the Israeli frontier, its killing of three soldiers and seizure of two others on 12 July - but the Israelis appear to have taken no account of the guerrilla army's most obvious operational plan: that if they could endure days of air attacks, they would eventually force Israel's army to re-enter Lebanon on the ground and fight them on equal terms.

Hizbollah's laser-guided missiles - Iranian-made, just as most Israeli arms are US-made - appear to have caused havoc among Israeli troops on Saturday, and their downing of an Israeli helicopter was without precedent in their long war against Israel.

In theory, aid convoys will be able to move south today to the thousands of Lebanese Shia trapped in their villages but no one knows whether the Hizbollah will wait for several days - they, like the Israelis, are physically tired - to allow that help to reach the crushed towns.

Atrocities continue across Lebanon, the most recent being the attack on a convoy of cars carrying 600 Christian families from the southern town of Marjayoun. Led by soldiers of the Lebanese army, they trailed north on Saturday up the Bekaa valley only to be assaulted by Israeli aircraft. At least seven were killed, including the wife of the mayor, a Christian woman who was decapitated by a missile that hit her car.

In west Beirut yesterday, the Israeli air force destroyed eight apartment blocks in which six families were living. Twelve civilians were killed in southern Lebanon, including a mother, her children and their housemaid.

An Israeli was killed by Hizballoh's continued Katyusha fire across the border. The guerrilla army - "terrorists" to the Israelis and Americans but increasingly heroes across the Muslim world - have many dead to avenge, although their leadership seems less interested in exacting an eye for an eye and far more eager to strike at Israel's army.

At this fatal juncture in Middle East history - and no one should underestimate this moment's importance in the region - the Israeli army appears as impotent to protect its country as the Hizbollah clearly is to protect Lebanon.

But if the ceasefire collapses, as seems certain, neither the Israelis nor the Americans appear to have any plans to escape the consequences. The US saw this war as an opportunity to humble Hizbollah's Iranian and Syrian sponsors but already it seems as if the tables have been turned. The Israeli military appears to be efficient at destroying bridges, power stations, gas stations and apartment blocks - but signally inefficient in crushing the "terrorist" army they swore to liquidate.

"The Lebanese government is our address for every problem or violation of the [ceasefire] agreement," Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, said yesterday, as if realising the truce would not hold.

And that, of course, provides yet another excuse for Israel to attack the civilian infrastructure of Lebanon.

Far more worrying, however, are the vague terms of the UN Security Council's resolution on the multinational force supposed to occupy land between the Israeli border and the Litani river.

For if the Israelis and the Hizbollah are at war across the south over the coming weeks, what country will dare send its troops into the jungle that southern Lebanon will have become?

Tragically, and fatally for all involved, the real Lebanon war does indeed begin today.

Abu Sinan

I think it is important to note that Israeli law requires all able bodied men, with a few exceptions, to serve in the Israeli military.

Considering this, it is absurd that the Israelis can attack someone else for using or hiding amoungst civilians when they have purposely militarised every male member of their society.

A legitimate arguement could be made that all male Israelis, of military age, are legit targets because of this, whereas it is plainly clear that Hizb fighters are in the vast minority amoungst the Shi'a population.

I was also told by an Israeli Arab co-worker that the IDF was stationing equipment, tanks, artillery and the like very close to Israeli Arab areas so as to tempt Hizb to fire at them, in effect using Israeli Arabs as human shields.

This makes sense when you look at the disperity of air riad shelters between Arab Israelis and Jewish Israelis. There is no equality.

Josh

Reminds me of something my old ethics of war professor (reserve chaplain) drilled into us. To paraphrase, you cannot let loose the bombs and withhold intent. I forget who he was quoting. Essentially you can't claim you didn't mean to kill civilians when you knew it was inevitable.

The 4000 rockets to 50 civilian casualties ratio gives us three possibilities. 1) HA's rockets were actually hitting real targets. 2) Israeli civilian shelters are exceptional. 3) Every open field in northern Israel is a giant divot.

Abu Sinan

Will writes "The Muslims have a doctrine that "Allah will sort out his own." That is the innocent victims will go directly to Paradise."

Really? As a Muslim I'd like to see proof for such a claim. I have never seen it. It is taught that if one innocent person is killed it is as if the whole world was killed.

Whereas it is true that we believe that people who die as martyrs go to heaven, this is never been used as an excuse to murder innocents. This is right wing/neo-con/Islamophobe propaganda.

One might not that such an idea of matyrdom existed in Christian thought until recently.

The blog has been great at its in-depth discussion of events. Lets not digress into religious stereotyping. No one has tried to use Jewish religious law here to explain the events, lets not do the same with Islam.

julie

I heard that at least one of the Israeli Arab villages bombed lacked bomb shelters. If that is the general pattern then Israel would be subject to charges that it uses Arabs as hostages.

Which doesn't justify the fact that firing inaccurate rockets at population centers is a war crime. Of course if they were accurate and capable of real targets they would be a real threat and the presumption of the industrial powers that they have a right to bomb from relative safety is something that has crossed moral boundaries. The right spent the invasion questioning the details of certain reports as though this disproved the general pattern which was destruction of infrastructure and bombs dropped after rocket teams fled.

At the same time they are increasingly arguiong that our weakness if failure to kill civilias in sufficient qualities and claim the Powell doctrine is not sufficient force to control a situation but something like Dresden.

And the world listens.

linda

by Hersh re: war build up toward Iran by the present administration. How do you 'read' the tea leafs?
Frank Durkee

frank, you might want to take a look at this latimes article in today's paper. curiously, it's buried intheir national report and not front page on the web. but it's clear that alot of natl security types are uneasy with idiot son's intentions:

Group Says Iran Is 'Not a Crisis'
Former generals and officials seek to prevent an attack on suspected nuclear sites and to overhaul policies toward Tehran and Baghdad.
By Peter Spiegel
Times Staff Writer
August 16, 2006
WASHINGTON — Seeking to counter the White House's depiction of its Middle East policies as crucial to the prevention of terrorist attacks at home, 21 former generals, diplomats and national security officials will release an open letter tomorrow arguing that the administration's "hard line" has actually undermined U.S. security.

The letter comes as President Bush has made a series of appearances and statements, including a visit Tuesday to the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Va., seeking to promote the administration's record on security issues in advance of November's midterm congressional elections.:

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-generals16aug16,1,162546,print.story?coll=la-headlines-nation

McGee

Posted by John:

"Reminds me of something my old ethics of war professor (reserve chaplain) drilled into us. To paraphrase, you cannot let loose the bombs and withhold intent. I forget who he was quoting. Essentially you can't claim you didn't mean to kill civilians when you knew it was inevitable."

Josh - apropos of your comment - spent a few years post-military as an arson investigator, and put many not-your-typical-bad-guys away who were not trying to kill anyone, but just "collecting on insurance". But kill people they did, and widows and orphans were often the result. Very hard to have any sympathy for folk like this, even when their wives and children showed up in the courtroom and inevitably wept at sentencing. We had a saying for this phenomenom - playing with gasoline and matches - you NEVER know who's going to get hurt once the match is struck. Same here but writ insanely large. This crew has been playing with gasoline and matches since they came into office, and we still don't know how far the inferno they're still stoking might spread or how big the ultimate conflagration will be. I for one have been very scared for a long time now and still fear the worst is yet to come.

On a lighter note your comment about 4,000 rockets, 50 civilian casualties and the "every open field in northern Israel is a giant divot" possibility cracked me up and had me spewing coffee! Golf analogy, perhaps? Arabic for Fore! anyone?. Agree with your suspicion that the HA rockets might have been more accurate than the Isaelis have as yet admitted - if Hezbollah has proved one thing here, it's that they're definitley not hackers....

Montag

Actually, Israel's conscription policies are quite racist. Both Jewish men and women are conscripted, Druze and Circassian men are conscripted, Bedouin men can volunteer for the military (this is declining). I don't think Palestinian citizens of Israel even serve.

On the Hizbollah rockets, these were actually a great success. If you set aside the civilian casualties, which are admittedly morally dodgey, they really put the fear of God into the Israelis! The North suffered economic dislocation, hundreds of thousands of refugees, with the less advantaged forced to stay in cramped air raid shelters for a month. The forests will take 50 years to recover. But most importantly, the rockets were a prestige weapon. Remember the IDF did everything it could to stop them, but they actually increased over time. Their firing demonstrated the futility of military action to stop the rockets. And they didn't devastate Israel's permanent infrastructure, so the people can return and become hostages to the rockets again.

The Japanese tried this in the winter of 1944-45 with bomb-dropping hydrogen balloons (made of paper)sent to the West Coast. Only about 10% of them arrived, and militarily they were a bad joke. But they were excellent prestige weapons that gave the U.S. military hissy fits. They were never able to find the assembly and launch sites, and there were no air defenses left on the coast by that time. So the War Censorship Board just issued guidelines to the media that there needed to be a total news blackout concerning the balloons. This gave the Japanese hissy fits because they couldn't be sure what was happening. Were the balloons all falling into the Pacific? Eventually a bombing raid damaged their hydrogen factory and the Japanese running the project had become so demoralized that they just threw in the towel with 1,000 balloon envelopes unsent. The first primitive ICBMs had been foiled by a cheap, effective countermeasure that destroyed their prestige value. One of the balloons hangs in the Smithsonian Flight Museum because they were really quite an accomplishment for the time.

The Japanese had a rocket similar to the Katyushas that was so wildly inaccurate that they called it "bakayaro"--fool.

confusedponderer

Babak,
you imply a very interesting question. IMO one of the best raised sofar. I see no no clear and easy answer to your question.

The answer by the book, quite literally, can be found here:
http://www.crimesofwar.org/thebook/siege.html

To quote from that page: "Protocol I also prohibits the destruction of “objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population.” A besieging army is thus forbidden, for example, from destroying a city’s drinking water supply."

The question would be to what extent civilian infrastructure was targetet by Israel.

As for Hezbollah, they targetet in the best case military targets in the vicinity of civilian aereas, and strayed. Not that that makes them the 'good guys'. In the worst case they didn't care where their rockets went, as long as they only hit Israel. If they targetet civilians exclusively that would be a war crime as well. I doubt this, they are more calculating than that.

The thinking behind war crimes and what they constitute is very legalistic. Simplified, you have the objective criteria of a given crime, and then check for subjective intent, and then culpability. It depends on who they wanted to kill, as ridiculous as that sounds in face of a pile of rubble and a mass grave.

Sometimes you have to wait until generals write their memoirs - and then, then they usually lie, or write what they made themselves believe had happened then.

Marcello

"One thing has bothered me throughout this conflict. Considering HA's preparation, its use of advance equipment etc. is what was the intention of the rockets. I am no military or weapons expert but 4000 odd missiles and 50 odd civilian casulties seems a strange statistc even given the inaccuracy of the rockets involved. Surely if you fire one and it lands short of its target, regulating the next one and the one after that to be more accurate cannot be that hard.
Then it got stranger. When the attacks on Haifa started, i heard report after report that the missiles were hitting the port. If these rockets were so inaccurate, how was it they were all hitting the same place?
So the conundrum to me was HA was firing crude unguided missiles, in the main missing civilian areas but hitting the port of Haifa with a regular basis. However I have read two articles now, which state that Israeli Military facilities and bases were placed in civilian areas and, in many cases by Arab Israeli areas."

With tube artillery, if you had spotters and all the bell and whistles that come with artillery in a modern army you could do that.With rockets fired from constantly changing positions to dodge counterbattery you cannot really adjust.A quick look at google earth would suggest that Haifa port is four kilometers wide, making it a city size target.

still working it out

Anyone know how accurate a Katyusha normally is? What sort of sized target can they hit? And since they are so inaccurate what are they normally used for in conventional military operations ? I had the impression they were almost random, but the comments above have got me wondering.

Wombat

The Japanese weapon referred to was called the Ohka by the Japanese. It was an air-launched manned flying bomb. The US called it "Baka." Given the state of Japan's military aviation at the time, it would cetainly have taken a dedicated "baka" to fly it.

I suspect that the bulk of Hizbullah's rockets were quickly set-up, pointed south, and fired. Virtually random.

blowback

David Solomon - I saw the same article a few days ago, but it is now largely irrelevant. It was premised on there being 30,000 Israeli soldiers dug in along the Litani River. We now know, also from Robert Fisk, that that was a miasma. The Israelis had never got much beyond the border and had reduced the number of men Israeli soldiers in Lebanon to less than a few thousand because they knew what would happen if they stayed.

I am starting to get nervous about the Germans that might be part of UNIFIL+. The German Foreign Minister cancelled a meeting with Bashar Assad because Baby Assad was complimentary about Hezbollah. I suspect the German FM might be a budding Neo-con. What if he tries to order the German military attached to UNIFIL+ to disarm Hezbollah. I hope the German military are not stupid and will tell him where to shove it.

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