Monday, July 17, 2006

Juan Cole points out that Nasrallah is a war criminal

Aside from the fact that what Juan Cole says in this item from his "Informed Comment" blog is obviously correct, it helps to explain why some of us who occasionally disagree strongly with Cole nevertheless continue to regard him as a fundamentally honest and admirable figure who generally deserves to be taken intellectually and morally seriously (even if his good judgment does sometimes desert him on certain subjects).
I watched in horror as this maniacal speech unfolded in which Nasrallah actually threatened the Israelis with releasing chemical gas from local factories on civilians in Haifa. Despite fighting them for all those years, he clearly does not understand the Israelis' psyche or the trauma of the Holocaust. A threat like that. The Israelis don't like being caught in a quagmire any more than the next person, which is why Nasrallah could get them to leave southern Lebanon [in 2000 --JW]. But his victory appears to have given him megalomania, and he has now gone too far.

Hizbullah's attacks on Israeli civilians are war crimes. The killing of the civilians in Haifa at the train station was a war crime. And threatening to release chemicals from factories on civilian populations is probably a war crime in itself, much less the doing of it.
Unfortunately, it has to be said that most of what Cole has been writing about the Israeli/Lebanese crisis for the past month has been unbalanced, misleading, and sometimes a bit unhinged. But whereas many other people have totally lost their moral bearings on this matter, he has not. People who agree with Cole on other points should therefore take the points he makes in this discussion (below) especially seriously.

Yours for reality-based (and morally serious) discourse,
Jeff Weintraub
====================
[Juan Cole, "Informed Comment" - July 17, 2006]

[Ar.] Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah (Hezbollah), gave a televised speech on Sunday explaining his own strategy. He said in an eerily calm and calculating voice that he had aimed his rockets only at military targets, not at Israeli settlements "in Occupied northern Palestine" (i.e. Israel). In contrast, he said, the Israeli military had from the beginning targeted civilians. (In fact, Nasrallah's katyushas are impossible to aim with any precision and in loosing them on Israel, he inevitably killed and wounded civilians; likewise in Haifa. His opening statement is a self-serving lie.)

[JW: Also, the cross-border attack by Hezbollah in which two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped was preceded by the rocketing of civilian residential areas in northern Israel.]

He complained at length about Israeli airstrikes against civilian targets. He linked hitting the Israeli warship to Israel's airstrikes on Baalbak [where they hit a Husayniyah or Shiite mourning center].

He added,
"We arose to strike at the city of Haifa, and we know the importance and grave significance of this city. Had we targeted with our missiles the chemical and petrochemical factories, an enormous catastrophe would have ensued for the inhabitants of that area. But we deliberately avoided those factories, which were in the sites of our missiles, since we were eager not to push things toward the unknown and were eager that this weapon be a weapon not of revenge but of defense . . . a weapon that would return the crazies in the Olmert government to a modicum of reason and save them from a grandiosity complex, or, I might say, the stupidity whereby they distinguish themselves . . . But because we set those targets aside this time does not mean that we we always adopt this position. At any point where we consider that we are involved in defending our nation and our people and our families, we will resort to all means we can in pursuit of that defense . . . " (-my translation)
He also denied that there were any Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon or that he had had Iranian help. He said people were always putting down the Arabs and saying they could not accomplish anything, but, he said, look at the Israeli warship in flames. That was an Arab accomplishment.

Uh, wouldn't an Arab accomplishment be more like, oh, inventing something or building up something nice? Destroying things and killing people is not an accomplishment.

I watched in horror as this maniacal speech unfolded in which Nasrallah actually threatened the Israelis with releasing chemical gas from local factories on civilians in Haifa. Despite fighting them for all those years, he clearly does not understand the Israelis' psyche or the trauma of the Holocaust. A threat like that. The Israelis don't like being caught in a quagmire any more than the next person, which is why Nasrallah could get them to leave southern Lebanon. But his victory appears to have given him megalomania, and he has now gone too far.

Hizbullah's attacks on Israeli civilians are war crimes. The killing of the civilians in Haifa at the train station was a war crime. And threatening to release chemicals from factories on civilian populations is probably a war crime in itself, much less the doing of it.

Obviously, I do not accept that Hizbullah's actions justify the wholesale indiscriminate destruction and slaughter in which the Israelis have been engaged against the Lebanese in general. But they do have every right to defend themselves against Nasrallah and his mad bombers.

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