pageok
pageok
pageok
Post Article on "Targeted Killings":

The Washington Post had a fantastic article [update: Howard Kurtz calls it "the best reporting I've ever seen on a very difficult subject"] a few days ago on Israel's policy of assassinating terrorist leaders. In contrast to the all-too-typical portrait of Israel as an "Old Testament society" exacting an "eye for an eye",* or worse, as some bloodthirsty barbaric state, this article shows Israeli leaders agonizing over (Palestinian) civilian casualties, struggling with related moral issues, learning disparate lessons from the Holocaust, insisting on obeying the rules laid down by their legal advisors, and otherwise behaving the way one would expect leaders of a moral, Western nation to behave. However, I still think the Israeli government made its biggest mistake in many years by being so sensitive about civilian casualties that it lost the opportunity to wipe out most of Hamas's leadership in one fell swoop in 2003, an episode recounted in detail in the article. Ultimately, more Israeli AND Palestinian civilians will die because of this decision, which strikes me as a case of certain Israeli leaders failing in their obligations as leaders so they could sleep better at night.

* something I've seen even friends of Israel like former Sec. of State George Schultz, among other American officials assert, in defending Israeli military actions ("you have to understand, Israel is an Old Testament society"). The eye for an eye metaphor gets used amazingly often when it comes to stories on Israel. In the late Lebanon War, various reporters and editorialists accused Israel of taking more than an eye for an eye. And one can find some truly absurd usages. Here's one story from the Boston Globe, back in 1991 by Curtis Wilkie, Jerusalem correspondent: "Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir is diplomatic about the issue. Rather than speaking in Old Testament terms of 'an eye for an eye,' Shamir likes to say that Israel will not be drawn into a Ping-Pong match with Iraq." Why would Shamir speak in "Old Testament" terms? He's not an ancient Hebrew! Not even a religious Jew! Sure, Israelis occasionally use biblical allusions, but it's hardly what one expects on a day to day basis from the Prime Minister, unless you are pretty ignorant of both Jewish religion and Israeli culture.

Let's get this straight once and for all: modern Judaism, even among the most Orthodox, is not an "Old Testament religion"--religious law is based almost entirely on Talmudic and other rabbinic interpretations, extrapolations, and just plain inventions, which often stray very far from the text of the Torah and are more recent than the "New Testament". An eye for an eye was itself interpreted many centuries ago to mean merely "the punishment shall fit the crime." Moreover, most Israelis are not religious in any event. The idea that Israel supposedly acts more aggressively because of the Torah and it's eye for an eye mentality, as opposed to the Christian nations which implicitly must be turning the other cheek when attacked (ha!), is a remnant of anti-Jewish prejudices (or at least notions of Christian moral superiority), and survives even in the mind of those like Schultz who I'm sure didn't intend to promote any such prejudice.

wb (mail):
This was indeed an excellent article. I found it interesting that the mathematician consultants "derived" an acceptable ratio of collateral damage to kills, and the value of that proportionality constant was 3.14 (Looks like pi to me). Unfortunately in the Lebanon war the value increased to pi squared. Who screwed up? The mathematicians or the generals?
8.30.2006 12:49am
Inkling (www):
Do we really have to get into this silliness that new is better--Old Testament then New Testament then Talmudic? Since virtually none of the major roots of Nazism or Marxism date from before the 1850s, should we rank their moral sensibilities higher? And modern Islamic terrorism is even newer, while newest of all are the moral justifications for flying airliners into skyscrapers.

No, good and evil have nothing to do with the calendar. Having just left the most willfully murderous century in human history, we ought to know that. And most of those genocides were either ignored, concealed, or justified by many who consider their views the most enlightened and their views most progressive and secular.

--Mike Perry, editor of Dachau Liberated
8.30.2006 12:50am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I too found the ration of 3.14 rather strange as a moral concept. It's 1938, you can kill Hitler, but will kill four enemy civilians, too, and that is an immoral act?

I find a more complex equation for useful:

X =B/(L+C) x H

Where X = number of civilians that can be killed
B = how bad the bad guy is
L = how likeable the civilians are
C = how cute the female civilians are, and
H is Hardy's constant, which has an arbitrary value that varies from moment to moment.
8.30.2006 1:32am
Omar Bradley (mail):
This truly was an informative article. One can only hope that the next time such an opportunity presents itself to eliminate the leadership of Hamas or Hezbollah or Islamic Jihad or whoever, they will avail themselves of it.

Can anyone here imagine the outcry if Bin Laden, Zawahiri and the other top AQ bigwigs were all in one place and Bush and Rumsfeld called off the strike because a few civilians would die?

The public would call for their heads.

I wouldn't care if there was a 3140 to 1 ratio if that's what it took to wipe out Hamas.

And as long as Israel continues to cry over Palestinian victims, they'll have the same problems they've been having.

I've never once cried over any German or Japanese woman or child who was killed by FDR and Truman, and I doubt many other Americans have either
8.30.2006 1:36am
Lev:

Can anyone here imagine the outcry if Bin Laden, Zawahiri and the other top AQ bigwigs were all in one place and Bush and Rumsfeld called off the strike because a few civilians would die? The public would call for their heads.


Let's see, our forces had Moolah Omar id'd and a lawyer in Floriduh at CENTCOM said we couldn't blow him up. No big uproar.

Bin Laden and some of his lieutenants were at an Emirate hunting party in Afghanistan and we didn't blow them up because of the Emiraties. No big uproar.
8.30.2006 1:47am
Jeek:
The take-away lesson I got from that article was "use the one ton bomb and get it done right the first time".
8.30.2006 1:53am
josh:
Hey, whaddayaknow? An article that portrays Israel in a positive light that Bernstein agrees with! Go figure!

Of course, no statements against interest by Party of Whosamawhat, so I guess it technically should fall into the media-we-shouldn't-believe category. Of course, no concern over whether the claims made in the piece should receive one tenth of the scrutiny for propoganda that a photograph with an additional plume of smoke receives.

It's not that I don't believe Israel's claim that it goes to such measures as applying mathematical formulas to minimize civilian casualties. I do. I place Israel's effort at propoganda (and that's what it is. When a government entity invites the media inside to show how good it is, that's today's propoganda) at a far higher moral plane than the gross efforts of the Party of Hizzach.

It's just that I'm continuing to have difficulty following the tortured logic behind when to believe the media and when not to -- except when it makes Israel look good.
8.30.2006 2:14am
Gaius Obvious (mail):
Unfortunately in the Lebanon war the value increased to pi squared.

By whose count? Hizb'allah said 17- to 35-year-old men killed direct attacks on Katyusha rocket launchers were to be counted as civilian casualties simply because they were in civilian clothes when they were hit by Israeli bombs.
8.30.2006 2:18am
anon252 (mail):
Where has anyone ever said the media shouldn't generally be believed, as opposed to "here is misinformation/incorrect 'facts'/etc. in this particular article?"
8.30.2006 2:30am
anon252 (mail):
Or, "you should be aware that Hezbollah is threatening reporters in Lebanon, which makes their reporting in that particular context suspect."
8.30.2006 2:49am
anon252 (mail):
Or, "you should be aware that Hezbollah is threatening reporters in Lebanon, which makes their reporting in that particular context suspect."
8.30.2006 2:50am
josh:
anon252

you're absolutely right. No one has "ever said the media shouldn't generally be believed, as opposed to 'here is misinformation/incorrect 'facts'/etc. in this particular article?'"

I just marvel at the focus on "here is the misinformation" with one article portraying Israel in a negative light, and the utter failure to question articles that do the opposite, particularly when the criticism flows in only one direction. It's not that there aren't factual inaccuracies in some media reports. There are. Just as there are unscrupulous lawyers out there.

But the constant harping on anecdotal evidence of one type of problem is a common rhetorical device to cast doubt on an entire institution. I don't know too many people who truly believe Shakespeare's "Kill all the lawyers," yet many use anecdotal tales of abuse of the civil justice system to tar the entire profession and serve as argument-ending proof for the need for tort reform.

With DB (as with Little Green Goofballs, Powertools, etc), the meme of media bias is bleated enough in a unspoken attempt to drown out any facts with which those parties don't like. (OK, maybe unfair to lump Bernstein in with that list. They DO say "Don't believe the media," where he just uses subtext. Maybe they're at least to be admired for their frankness)

Don't like the fact (FACT) that tens of innocent civilians were killed and that fact is being reported to the world community? Frame the issue as being about one plume of smoke over Beirut, when the picture was doctored to show three. Make the argument about some idiot in a green helmet holding dead bodies up for the camera, as if the staging of the thing makes the body any less dead.

Now let's be very clear: I don't really give a rat's _ _ _ about the dead civilians in wartime. I really don't I supported Israel's incursion from the start.

But I'm not going to run away from those facts, or try to frame the issue any differently than it is.

Go on DailyKos any day and someone's whining like Bernstein about the conservative bias in the media. When no one's happy, I start to realize the media's doing everything just about right.
8.30.2006 3:04am
josh:
anon252

you're absolutely right. No one has "ever said the media shouldn't generally be believed, as opposed to 'here is misinformation/incorrect 'facts'/etc. in this particular article?'"

I just marvel at the focus on "here is the misinformation" with one article portraying Israel in a negative light, and the utter failure to question articles that do the opposite, particularly when the criticism flows in only one direction. It's not that there aren't factual inaccuracies in some media reports. There are. Just as there are unscrupulous lawyers out there.

But the constant harping on anecdotal evidence of one type of problem is a common rhetorical device to cast doubt on an entire institution. I don't know too many people who truly believe Shakespeare's "Kill all the lawyers," yet many use anecdotal tales of abuse of the civil justice system to tar the entire profession and serve as argument-ending proof for the need for tort reform.

With DB (as with Little Green Goofballs, Powertools, etc), the meme of media bias is bleated enough in a unspoken attempt to drown out any facts with which those parties don't like. (OK, maybe unfair to lump Bernstein in with that list. They DO say "Don't believe the media," where he just uses subtext. Maybe they're at least to be admired for their frankness)

Don't like the fact (FACT) that tens of innocent civilians were killed and that fact is being reported to the world community? Frame the issue as being about one plume of smoke over Beirut, when the picture was doctored to show three. Make the argument about some idiot in a green helmet holding dead bodies up for the camera, as if the staging of the thing makes the body any less dead.

Now let's be very clear: I don't really give a rat's _ _ _ about the dead civilians in wartime. I really don't I supported Israel's incursion from the start.

But I'm not going to run away from those facts, or try to frame the issue any differently than it is.

Go on DailyKos any day and someone's whining like Bernstein about the conservative bias in the media. When no one's happy, I start to realize the media's doing everything just about right.
8.30.2006 3:04am
josh:
anon252

you're absolutely right. No one has "ever said the media shouldn't generally be believed, as opposed to 'here is misinformation/incorrect 'facts'/etc. in this particular article?'"

I just marvel at the focus on "here is the misinformation" with one article portraying Israel in a negative light, and the utter failure to question articles that do the opposite, particularly when the criticism flows in only one direction. It's not that there aren't factual inaccuracies in some media reports. There are. Just as there are unscrupulous lawyers out there.

But the constant harping on anecdotal evidence of one type of problem is a common rhetorical device to cast doubt on an entire institution. I don't know too many people who truly believe Shakespeare's "Kill all the lawyers," yet many use anecdotal tales of abuse of the civil justice system to tar the entire profession and serve as argument-ending proof for the need for tort reform.

With DB (as with Little Green Goofballs, Powertools, etc), the meme of media bias is bleated enough in a unspoken attempt to drown out any facts with which those parties don't like. (OK, maybe unfair to lump Bernstein in with that list. They DO say "Don't believe the media," where he just uses subtext. Maybe they're at least to be admired for their frankness)

Don't like the fact (FACT) that tens of innocent civilians were killed and that fact is being reported to the world community? Frame the issue as being about one plume of smoke over Beirut, when the picture was doctored to show three. Make the argument about some idiot in a green helmet holding dead bodies up for the camera, as if the staging of the thing makes the body any less dead.

Now let's be very clear: I don't really give a rat's _ _ _ about the dead civilians in wartime. I really don't I supported Israel's incursion from the start.

But I'm not going to run away from those facts, or try to frame the issue any differently than it is.

Go on DailyKos any day and someone's whining like Bernstein about the conservative bias in the media. When no one's happy, I start to realize the media's doing everything just about right.
8.30.2006 3:04am
josh:
My sincere apology for the multiple posts. Sticky fingers
8.30.2006 3:05am
CNS (www):
Just a thought--I mean, I haven't been up on my biblical reading like I should be (OK I haven't opened it much at all in the last few years). BUT I really don't recall anything in particular referencing "an eye for an eye".

However, if dim memory serves me correctly, those ancient history classes from back when seem to serve up recollections of Hammurabi, clay tablets, the invention of writing (cuneiform), and about 262 laws--like, "an eye for an eye" and such-like. Now i could, I suppose, Google this, but I'm lazy and for now will rely on memory--Lord knows I paid enough for that education. I'm just sayin', if anyone wants to go yapping about eyes and wahtnot, that all came about quite some time before before any Testaments.

Okay, maybe I'm being a little anal, but like I said, expensive education and I'm still paying for it...
8.30.2006 3:24am
Jason Fliegel (mail):
CNS -- Check Exodus 21:23-27, Leviticus 24:18-20, and Deuteronomy 19:21. You are correct that the principle also appears in Hammurabi's Code (which means it predates the Old Testament).
8.30.2006 4:21am
Marc :
well, yes, a very good article, but the Post commits a common mistake of mistranslating the biblical command "Thou shalt not murder" as "Thou shalt not kill." The former is the accurate translation and is quite different from the more commonly seen version. It also puts a different spin on the ethical dliemma. In this context there is still a dilemma to be sure, but there is also a bit more of an ethical onus of a sort of felony murder on the terrorist for the deaths of civilians they live and operate amongst. I realize that is a dangerous argument (to say nothing of inelegantly phrased on my part) but it strikes me that it must color the discussion.
8.30.2006 5:04am
cac (mail):
Of course it's not only Israel that gets it in the neck. Anyone remember the SAS knocking off 3 IRA terrorists in Gibraltar a few years back? No collateral damage whatsoever and there was still uproar which ended in the families of the dead terrs being paid 20k each.

Having spoken to British soliders in N Ireland, I know that they knew pretty well everyone of the around 200 active service members of the IRA and one of their jobs was to keep an eye out on the street for them so if they disappeared it was clear that an operation was on. Had the Israelis been running the show I have no doubt that everyone of those 200 would have been dead. Would world (including US) opinion have tolerated that? I doubt it.
8.30.2006 6:07am
Pete Freans (mail):
Isn't the concept of a Jewish homeland rooted in the Old Testament? While I agree on the specific point that Israeli leaders are not scanning Talmudic law and the Torah for an appropriate military response to Hezbollah, the entire notion that a Jewish state exist is a theme two thousand years in the making in which the Old Testatment in part is a source of inspiration. Now I believe that a Jewish state should exist apart from this well-established history and I am certainly not keen on entertaining Zionist conspiracies. In addition, the term "Old Testament" society or religion is not an accurate portrayal of multiple levels of Jewish law, philosophy, and thought.
8.30.2006 8:29am
noahpraetorius (mail):
I direct your attention to a new book "Moral Minds" which I recently skimmed thru at Barnes and Noble!

The most interesting part to me was studies indicating the presense of an intrinsic moral code that is indifferent to race, adult age, gender, class, nationality, religiosity, ethnicity, etc. and demonstrates the process of its development in children is similar to the acquisition of language.

I suspect as this research matures and gains wider acceptance that characterizations of a society as "old testament" will be seen as just another cultural stereotype.
8.30.2006 9:24am
noahpraetorius (mail):
And I should add that the most striking thing about the alleged intrinsic human moral code is that it is most definitely not purely utilitarian. Hence the Israelis agonize over collateral damage, which is entirely consistent with the idea that they are humans not monsters.

Read the book.
8.30.2006 9:38am
Seamus (mail):
I wouldn't care if there was a 3140 to 1 ratio if that's what it took to wipe out Hamas.

So if a group of Hamas's 10 top leaders were holding you and 31,399 others hostage, you'd say go ahead and drop a daisy cutter on the whole lot of you, if that was the only way to get the Hamas guys?
8.30.2006 10:44am
mxh:
Just as a point of informtion. the biblical injunction of an "eye for an eye", etc., has always been interpreted by the rabbis as requiring monetary compensation for damages and has never been interpreted literally. this is true for many statements in the Torah. readers of the so-called "old testemant" should always keep in mind that observant jews have always understood that the "written Torah" what the non-Jewish world calls the "old testemant" is meaningless with out the Mishnah, or "oral torah".
8.30.2006 10:59am
DavidBernstein (mail):
"Always" is a great exaggeration, given that the Mishna and thus the oral law postdates the Torah by at least six-eight hundred years. Of course, it's probably inaccurate to refer to pre-Mishnaic believers as "Jews," as opposed to Hebrews, Israelites, or Judeans.
8.30.2006 11:05am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Seamus. You are pretending to not get it. The scenario you describe is not a matter of punishing the bad guys absent any other context.

The reality, which you understand and hope to obfuscate, is that the issue which calls for the bombing in the first place is the unknown but undoubtedly very large number of Israelis these buttheads will be killing in the next few years.

You can try to avoid context, but it hardly ever works. "You're saying....[hyperventilate and gasp with fake horror]....." works as a technique when you're actually talking to a person in front of others you're trying to fool. The timing and sequence of comments or message boards makes that a transparent attempt to mislead. Doesn't work, in other words.
8.30.2006 11:11am
DDG:
David:
1. You're correct as a matter of historical fact re: "always". But you're going to really, really annoy the Orthodox with that. It challenges a fundamental precept of their belief -- that the Oral Law was passed unchanged from Sinai to today and is required for proper interpretation of the Torah. Until relatively modern times that was not a normative principle of Judaism/Hebrew religion, and likley developed as part of the Rabbi's supplantation of the Aaronic priesthood (Cf: Karaites, Sadducees, Samaritans).

And it's an odd and incorrect belief that Christian nations would be required to 'turn the other cheek' when attacked -- Catholic Just War theory (the basis of modern Just War theory) has been well developed for centuries, and includes the right of self defense of nations. Pre-emptive self-defense is a sticky subject though.

Perhaps the difference is between the concept of punitive justice (eye-for-an-eye) and self-defense, based on the mens rea of the act?
8.30.2006 11:32am
Seamus (mail):
Mr. Aubrey:

Pardon me, but what the fuck are you trying to say? I honestly don't get it. It doesn't make any sense. Maybe you should use words of one syllable, because I must be stupid.

"Omar Bradley" expressed the thought that it would be outrageous "if Bin Laden, Zawahiri and the other top AQ bigwigs were all in one place and Bush and Rumsfeld called off the strike because a few civilians would die." He then went farther and said that he wouldn't mind if, not just "a few civilians," but as many as 3140 times more civilians than Hamas fighters died, if that's what it took to wipe them out. I then speculated that his calculus would be different if he were one of those 3140.

I have a hard time seeing how the context of "the unknown but undoubtedly very large number of Israelis these buttheads will be killing in the next few years" invalidates that speculation. Unless, that is, you or Omar Bradley want to say: "I'm perfectly OK with being killed along with 31,399 other innocent people, as long as those deaths can ensure that Hamas is decapitated and therefore taken out of action for good."

It's pretty easy to be blase about collateral damage to innocent non-combatants if we just regard them as nameless wogs on the other side of the world, as the eggs that have to get broken to make an omelette, rather than as real people like us, who never asked to be put into the situation they find themselves in.
8.30.2006 11:34am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Seamus. You really don't get it that you aren't fooling anybody.

If the number of Israelis those buttheads would be killing in the next few years was zero, there would be no reason for the bombing. You will recall that Clinton occasionally gets grief for not having scragged OBL when he could, on account of the Americans OBL would be killing in the future.

Since the bombing, in the scenario, was going to happen and the number of dead civilians was an issue without context, the scenario was bogus.

The question was about whether killing that number of civilians to get these buttheads is justified. Without taking into account future actions, the answer is no. But, in the real world, there is always the concern for future actions. Thus, the comparison of dead civilians in the hypothetical bombing and dead civilians at the hands of the buttheads in the next decade.

The rest of the post had to do with dishonest disputation. Sorry I didn't make the change of subject clearer. Just in case it got lost, the technique starting with "You're saying....." only works in live, face to face talk. It falls flat when the timing is different, as on message boards. I warned you. If you wish to continue such nonsense, go ahead. The loser is you.
8.30.2006 12:39pm
Aaron:
Omar Bradley bloviates:

I don't care if we've got to kill 3140 innocent civilians. If we nail 1 terrorist, then it's worth it.

Seamus points out inherent inhumanity of that statement:

Easy to say from your comfy chair in front of some laptop. What if, say, 10 terrorist leaders are in your hotel; does your same determination hold, or are you suddenly inclined for a more selectively targeted method of taking out the terrorists?

Richard Aubrey bleats:

But you have to take into account the evil that the badmen will do in the future.

Seamus types v e r y s l o w l y so Richard will get it:

I was. I was also exposing the chickenhawk meme that Bradley was espousing; a consideration for the civilians as people like us, and not just meaningless numbers in some wargame.

In balancing what are acceptable civilian casualties, it helps to consider that the people we are writing off are people, just like us, so before you blithely spout off about "acceptable" losses, maybe you should consider how you would feel if you or your loved ones was collateral damage.

Seamus got that. Do you get it now, Aubrey?
8.30.2006 4:32pm
larry rothenberg:
the discussion of "eye-for-an-eye" in the article and the comments here are beside the point. the full verse in the Torah refers to life for life, eye for eye, hand for hand, and foot for foot. The mishna's discussion of eye for eye etc. meaning money applies only to physical damages short of death, not killing and capital punishment itself. another verse in the Torah specifically states that ransom shall not be accepted for the life of a murderer.
8.30.2006 5:23pm
Shelby (mail):
I've never come across the "eye for an eye" meme regarding modern Israel - or if I have, I don't recall it. The meme is also contrary to my (non-Jewish, never-visited-Israel) understanding of the country and how it operates. I don't think Israel always strikes the right balance in terms of going after terrorists and/or enemies, but it does generally seem to TRY to get it right, and to make these efforts in ways I endorse.

Is the perception David Bernstein refers to really so prevalent?
8.30.2006 5:48pm
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx:
An eye for an eye is a call for proportionate punishment, not bloodthirsty retribution. It is meant to say if you suffer bodily injury, you can not punish the perp. with death. "An eye for an eye" so to speak.
8.30.2006 6:13pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
josh:

Please be respectful of David and his choices of topics. He's plainly advocating right as God has given him the light to see what is right. He must be doing something right or you and I wouldn't be reading this blog. You may disagree with him (as I do on many points) but there is no evidence that he is intentionally distorting his postings to give Israel any more credit than he thinks is its due. Whether his judgment is correct is something I'm interested in reading your thougts about. Attacks on his good faith are annoying distractions.

I *was* struck though by the last paragraph of David's posting. There may be *some* people who think that nations with a predominantly Christian culture are inherently more peaceful and humane than Israel, with its predominantly Jewish culture because of theological issues. But, I'm pretty confident that this is not a large fraction of American opinion, and I can see no indications that this idea has ever had any practical impact since the founding of Israel. David's post seems to indicate that he sees a huge mass of latent anti-semetic rednecks out there, threatening in the long term to unleash an American or world-wide pogrom - the leading edge of which is the latent anti-semetic ideas of inherent Christian moral superiority. I suggest that view is alarmist and unnecessarily confrontational.

Worse, David, I don't think you have the right to dictate to me (much less to George Schultz) how we ought to think about Israeli society, on pain of being anti-semetic if our observations do not tally with yours, or do not result in unadulterated praise. All societies and ethnic groups have moral codes and even among those who are not religious, their sense of morality is heavily influenced by the dominant religion of their society, so the idea that Schultz was wrong *because* most Israeli Jews are non-religious is falacious.

Whether or not Israel reacts more aggressively than another country would is surely a question of fact, and reaching the conclusion that it does could, at least in theory, have been reached on the basis of observation rather than prejudice. I wonder, David, if you don't believe on some level that Jewish moral tradition is superior to Christian. I know many American Jews who *do* believe this, reasoning that Russians, Poles, Nazis, pre-modern Germans and Reconquista Spanish Catholics (all Christians) oppressed Jews, while there is no history of Jews opperssing Christians. Similarly, Christian nations have a long history of warfare. Of course, this ignores the fact that Jews have not had a government until recently, and so have not had the opportunity to be oppressive or warlike.

Please, David, the great majority of us Christians (both religious, and merely cultural) aren't such a**holes. I've found sometimes that when everybody says I'm wrong, it's not because they hate me, it's because I *am* wrong. When Israel is widely criticized, it might be wise for you and its defenders to keep this truth in mind, at least as an alternative possibility.
8.30.2006 7:57pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
It's not a question of being ***holes, it's a question of even folks who have a professional obligation to have some understanding of Israeli society--journalists reporting from there, high-level American diplomats, resorted to hoary myths to explain Israeli society, rather than educating themselves.
8.30.2006 9:37pm
Justin (mail):
Professor Bernstein, I think the problem people have with your integrity is that if you had a journalist who "ha[d] some understanding of [Palestinian] - journalists reporting from there, high-level [non-] American [or Israeli] diplomats]" (though admittedly the last part of that sentence is nonsensical), people (including myself) would predict that your response would be horrid outrage about the positive portrayal of evil murderers and fanatics.

That's not to say that Hamas is right and Israel is wrong - with the exception of Lebanon it's my belief that quite the opposite is true, to the degree there is any "truth" on such a subject - but it does mean that people find your position reflexive and hypocritical rather than principled and logical.

And there's nothing on earth you can point to as a rebuttal there, because you've never taken a principled position on Israel that couldn't be shared by one who wants Israel to reign over a submissive and slaughtered Arab population. Everything else looks like "take a position first, find a reason afterwards," since at least I do not believe that you are working from that position - though even I sometimes have to wonder.

Thankfully, there's no doubt in my mind that Israelis would be absolutely horrified from the positions that you seem willing to take, in their name.

But because you c
8.30.2006 9:58pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I get it, Aron. You and Seamus are writing off the future deaths these buttheads live to create.

The historical record offers any number of mind games. Hitler ca 1940 surrounded by 3150 civilians. Yes or no. Obviously, the answer would be informed by the rest of WW II. We, at this point, would say yes, writing off the 3150 civilians to save hundreds of thosands more. Planners in 1940, not looking at the future from the further future, have to guess where things might go. I have no doubt they'd say yes, and be right.

I won't say I speak for Omar. I do think, though, that there was some future consideration in his views. There are in mine, too.

As a bit of complexity, some unknown number of the civilians are going to die in the conflict that allowing the buttheads to live will cause. Some live. Some live...not much longer. Many--an unknown number--die because the buttheads are doing their thing.

Just for example, the Israelis picked up a Hez bad guy in a commando raid because dropping a bomb on his residence would have killed a number of civilians in the same apartment building. I think they had a lt. col. severely wounded in the attempt. I don't expect they expect any gratitude. On the other hand, when Hezbo does the indiscriminate massacre thing we'll see any number of excuses, and a bunch of folks getting weak in the knees and dry in the mouth at such a display of revolutionary virility. Ooooooh!

By the way, "disproportionate" is defined as fighting at a tempo the enemies of the US or Israel can't withstand.
8.30.2006 11:20pm
josh:
PDXLawyer

I don't bregrudge Bernstein's right to write about whatever he wants. I don't think he's intentionally distorting his views. I think he really believes news reports that paint Israel in a positive light and sincerely does not believe those that don't.

I believe that he (and others such as LGF and Powergoofs) wish to hammer the mistakes (or alleged mistakes) of individual journalists -- using only the choicest anecdotal evidence -- to attack the credibility of the media as a whole.

First, that form of logic is especially weak, particularly so for someone of Bernstein's obvious intellectual prowess. Suppose I pulled together a list of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Committee's discipline proceedings against Illinois lawyers. I could easily engage in the same rhetoric to prove that lawyers are not to be trusted ("prove" in LGF/Powerline terms, "intimate" (my word) in Berstein's).

Now, I'm not a big fan of the case of Washington v. Davis, which requires specific intent to show discrimination. I think disproportionate discrimination is enough to show bad intent. And by constantly criticizing all things that paint Israel in a negative light, I think Bernstein, while perhaps well intentioned, is displaying bad intent.

Accordingly, like all curious lawyers, I have attempted to find a coherent line of reasoning in his posts on this subject. I can't find one. I can't find a logical analysis for how one is to determine which news reports about Israel are OK in Bernstein's view of the world and which one's aren't. The only coherent theme I can see linking his posts is that the reports are accepted if they support Israel generally.

To reiterate, I think it's perfectly acceptable to discuss inaccuracies in the media. But when it's consistently one sided, I'll raise questions as to the underlying agenda.
8.31.2006 2:34pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Josh. Your comment about LGF and others overstating the impact of the fraudulent journalists is not quite on the mark.

Among other things, a fraudulent journalist puts together a lie and the major outlets run it uncritically and it's used in public debate. Hard to see anything similar in a crooked lawyer in terms of public impact.

And we're protected to some extent against crooked lawyers, since they are disciplined by the bar--sometimes--and are subject to prosecution if they actually break laws, and if elected, can be de-elected.

Journalists have no downside to being caught fibbing, with a few examples to the contrary. Rather got to retire, along with some cohorts, the guy who put together the exploding truck retired, and Eason Jordan retired for a non-journalistic sin, having admitted to journalistic sins for which he was not punished.

But nobody who is putting together the Reuters or AP fakes is going to suffer. The Reuthers stringer fauxtographer will get work as soon as he changes his name on the submission form. They like his work. They only need to hide it. Nobody at Reuters or anyplace else is going to be troubled by running lies.

Nobody is going to be troubled for ignoring the impact on northern Israel of the war.

Whether DB is correct in his emphasis is one thing. That the MSM is deliberately screwing the pooch on this war is beyond dispute. The question is whether we're supposed to be too nice to notice.
8.31.2006 3:13pm
josh:
For example, DB has decried the use of propoganda by The Party of Schnizzah and that the MSM has fallen for it.But, of course, there's nothing wrong with what is described in Walter Pincus' Washington Post story today, right? (I can't figure out how to provide the link)
8.31.2006 3:13pm
Seamus (mail):
Messrs Aubrey and Bradley:

I am not pretending "not to get it." I understand perfectly: you are willing to accept appalling casualties among innocent noncombatants to get at bad guys. In fact, you are willing to accept a ratio of 3140 bystanders for every one bad guy.

I think that's appalling. You apparently don't.

But given that you think it's OK, I don't see how you can condemn Hafez al-Assad for the Hama massacre in 1982. The Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is just one wing, was a terrorist organization whose members should richly qualify as a bunch of "buttheads" by your standards. When Assad pounded Hama with artillery and bombs, he only killed some 10,000 to 25,000 people, many of whom probably were Muslim Brotherhood fighters. (I notice that "Before the attack the Government called for the city's surrender and warned that anyone remaining in the city will be considered as a rebel," much as Israel's justice minister said during the last war that anyone remaining in southern Lebanon would be regarded as a terrorist.)

But applying the 3140:1 ratio, even if as few as 3 to 8 Muslim Brotherhood "buttheads" had been killed, their elimination would justify the deaths of the 10,000 to 25,000. You should therefore conclude that Assad, far from meriting his reputation as a vicious butcher for what he did as Hama, should be applauded for having wiped out a dangerous nest of "butthead" terrorists.
8.31.2006 8:18pm
josh:
Richard Aubrey

Your grasp of the facts is so off base, it's probably not worth the effort to refute, but here goes:

Search the name "Adnan Hajj", Reuters, Photo, and whatever else to see what happened to the one who photoshopped the pictures.

In mentioning Rather, you fail to include Mary Mapes in your google search, who, indeed, was fired.

Feel free to ignore Jason Blair or Steven Glass in those searches too.

Your other ad hominems about journalists caught in the act are too silly to address. You have entirely failed to present any facts (or cogent argument) that distinguished between bad lawyers being used as anecdotal evidence of badness of the entire legal profession and the same logic being used here or Little Blue Balls against the entire profession of journalism.

I can only assume that, like DB, you don't want to hear bad facts about whomever you choose to support as well.

As far as "no one being troubled" about Israel's problems, or anything else that may have been tangentially affected by the isolated misdeeds of a few bad reporters, you obviously are, as is DB. It's amazing to me how one could read such biased news reports, or view such abhorent photographs and still come to the conclusions you do. Maybe it's because the alleged bias is just that -- alleged, and in reality, the media is perfectly capable of informing the publci about what's going on.

I mean, I'm troubled by the impact on Israel of the war; you are; I presume DB is too. We didn't make that up did we? We weren't there, right? Those opinions must have been informed from somewhere.
8.31.2006 10:19pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Seamus. You are pretending not to get it. Let me make it clear enough so that nobody will believe you next time you pretend not to get it.
I said that if we were not considering future actions, there would be no justification for killing the 3140 civilians to get bad guys.
So your presentation is a lie. Flat lie. "to get at bad guys". Flat lie. But not the first.

Would you be interested in dealing with the issue of future actions?
I'm willing to accept appalling casualties to prevent even more appalling casualties in the future.
But, as I say, lying about what I said is now foreclosed.

Josh. Adnan Hajj, like Green Helmet Guy, is going to have a new life.
Rather and company include Mapes.
Blair and Glass are, what, two if I count it right.

The influence of crooked lawyers is limited unless they get elected. How many widows can some crook fleece in a professional lifetime? On the other hand, what kind of public policy changes can a crooked journo cause? What if Rather hadn't been found out until after Kerry won the election? He'd be laughing at us, and the CBS evening news' theme music would be NEENERNEENER, whatchagonna do, chumps? That would amount to a bigger deal than an overzealous prosecution.

Josh. Let's see some numbers on two things: Staged or faked photos of the damage in Israel vs in Lebanon. Numbers of reports and pictures of same in Israel vs. in Lebanon.

Josh. Yr. second to last graf. Biased news reports and horrid pictures of what? And what opinion of mine are you talking about?
9.1.2006 12:41am
Anonymous333 (mail) (www):
An "eye for an eye" is a far more just and humane ratio than Israel achieved in its latest massacre of Lebanese. It's also a far better ratio than many armchair Zionists are proposing here. I vote for making Israel obey the Torah for starters. Once we can get them to conform to even the most basic moral laws we can worry about the Mishnah and the Talmud and so on.
9.1.2006 4:13am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
333.

Abiding by one's religion is an interesting concept in warfare. If all sides did it, the Muslims would surely have the advantage.

One of the possible reasons put forth in the fake ambulance attack story for there being no damage consistent with a missile hit--most damage being consistent with sitting in a junk yard--is that Israel has developed a missile with a small warhead for use in urban areas to reduce collateral damage. This happens to be true. It's an admission against interest, the interest in the story being to make Israel out to be monsters. So, you can take it to the bank. I'd like to see the evidence the terrorists do the same kind of thing.

Newsweek ran a bogus story about Koran desecration and people died. (Can a lawyer claim to accomplish the same thing?) It is nice to be able to falsify a hypothesis to a scientific certainty, but that's only possible in the hard sciences. However, somebody put together a list of stories Isikoff had done and Newsweek had sat on. These stories had two things in common. One is that they were better sourced than the Koran-flusing story, and the other is that they made dems/libs look bad and/or Bush/repubs look good. The list, by the way, didn't include the Paula Jones story. All of these stories would have had an impact on public policy, having the power to influence to some degree public perception. Not a scientific certainty, but a strong indication.

The issue of whether a few bad apples make lawyers look worse than they ought and that's either equivalent or not equivalent to the issue regarding journalists is a distraction. It seeks to say that, because a few lawyers are not bad apples--oops, I mean are bad apples--not all lawyers are bad apples irrespective of the public perception laid at the feet of the bozos and so, as night follows day, only a few reporters are stupid, incompetent or corrupt.

Does not follow. No applicability at all. Bogus analogy.

Among other things, the faked/staged/carefully selected/ignored stories from the fighting in Lebanon make it impossible for anybody following the major outlets to be sure they have a clue.

There have been some amazing go-'rounds on Pressthink about such issues. The interesting thing is that the professional journalists dismiss the importance of, among other things, getting the facts right. And the insitutions who get caught--NYT and Blair, WaPo and Glass, CBS and Rather--don't seem to be making any effort to change their procedures and culture to avoid such things in the future. It's sort of like they don't care for getting caught, not for getting stuff wrong.

The NYT, for example, cut and twisted two letters from soldiers to make them say the opposite of what the writer said. One was the last letter from a dead soldier to his family. The NYT's excuse for cutting the parts where he said he was not sorry, was glad to be part of a just and good effort--and in the process emphasizing the negative--was that they'd run pro-war letters.
The other case was twisting a letter from an officer who'd been called up to make it say the opposite of what he'd meant and clearly said. The ombudsman (Calame) had a reply which either reflected some deeply weird journalism, or was incoherent. Apparently, the NYT has some nutty editors whose job includes putting stupid stuff into submissions like the officer's letter and a process for taking it out before publishing. The latter process failed. They're going to polish up the latter process, not dump the nutty editors. Even though I loathe the NYT, I hope Calame's reply was a matter of incoherence.

But, not to list the many and varied crimes of the media....

What I was saying was that we cannot trust them to get it right most places, and in the current situation their activities are indicative of more than their standard issue ignorance.
9.1.2006 8:56am
Yankev (mail):
Anonymous333

Massacre of Lebanese? Spare me. If Israel wanted to massacre Lebanese, there would be not one left alive. Instead, Israel undertook a carefully limited campaign to cut off supply lines for the terrorists launching missiles at Israeli cities. Few nations would respond to attacks in as limited a way as Israel did. What is remarkable is how few Lebanese civilians were killed compared to similar campaigns by other nations defending themselves in similar circumstances. Every Lebanese civilian who died during this campaign died because Hezbollah insisted on launching attacks from civilian areas, hiding among the civilain population, and stockpliling missiles and arms in civilian neighborhoods and buildings. Every Israeli civilian -- Jew or Arab - who died during this campaign died because Hizbollah deliberately targetted civilian areas with Iranian and Syrian missiles designed to kill as many civilians as possible.
9.1.2006 2:09pm
josh:
Richard Aubrey

As soon as you provide numbers to support your unfounded conclusion that somehow journalists caught in the act get off easier than attorneys of same ilk, I'll do an analysis of the "Staged or faked photos of the damage in Israel vs in Lebanon. Numbers of reports and pictures of same in Israel vs. in Lebanon." (a little redundant don't you think?)

First, I never claimed that there were ANY staged photos in Israel. As much as you want to make it about this, I've never alleged any moral equivalence. To see my support for Israel's action, search google for a letter to the editor I had in the Chicago Sun-Times on July 18.

Second, and my main point, is your own bias is shining through with your baseless statements about bad reporters versus lawyers (or any other professions smeared through the use of anecdotal evidence) Please provide me with some factual support for your claim that reporters get off easy. Where's the evidence that "Adnan Hajj, like Green Helmet Guy, is going to have a new life."

Hajj, plus Rather, who had to leave his job in disgrace even though the substance of his report was never disproven, plus Mapes, plus Glass, plus Blair equals five.


You can add to that Judith Miller (NYT), Peter Arnett (CNN), Micahel Kinney from the Sedalia Democrat (http://blogcritics.org/archives/2003/06/09/184900.php), Jeff Guckert/Gannon, Rick Bragg (NYT), Steve Olofson (Houston Chronicle), Shinika Sykes (Salt Lake Tribune), David D'Arcy (NPR), Patricia Smith (Boston Globe), Mike Barnicle, Boston Globe).

How many is that. Just a 2-minute google search.

Now of course, those entering this discussion with a bias would point to that list as evidence of the large number of bad reporters again. But again, that's just anecdotal, and I could provide the list of this year's disciplined lawyers in Illinois (or disciplined doctors, accountants, etc) to smear entire professions if I were so intellectually dishonest.
9.1.2006 5:14pm
magoo (mail):
Interesting article from Haaretz can be found at
9.2.2006 10:18am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Hajj in disgrace??? You must be joking. Unless you think getting CAUGHT screwing the pooch is disgraceful, which might be a point.

Hajj was doing what he was doing because Reuters ate it up with a spoon. They'll figure out a way to get him back on the payroll. No, I can't provide evidence for the future.

Lawyers who screw up sometimes do so in ways which are illegal, which means they go to jail. I hope. Journos just get different jobs, go on the lecture circuit, write books. Judith Miller got in trouble not for practicing journalism but for contempt of court.

You are probably a trial lawyer, rending your lapels about an irrelevancy, about whether the legal profession's bad apples make lawyers look bad vs. reporters yadadadadad. That's misdirection 101--"when you're screwed on the facts."

You can go on about your feelings about Israel. The question is whether the fact that most of Israel's northern third has been evacuated, people who don't have relatives in the south, or money for hotels, are living in shelters and other difficulties have been reported to the extent that the average news consumer has a clue about the effects of the war on Israelis and the nation as a whole.
The media haven't bothered to report, much less fake reports and stage pix and photoshop pix about what's going on in Israel because they don't care. If they cared, there'd be an Israeli version of Hajj, of Green Helmet Guy, lines of photographers ready to take pictures of ambulances hauled out of the junkyard. But there aren't. Hell. Even honest journalists are pretty rare. I mean pretty rare in Israel, as opposed to pretty rare generally.

The question, if you want to continue whining about lawyers, is not who looks worse because of bozos in the profession. That's a perception about the profession. The question is how many bad actors does it take to have an effect on, among other things, public policy. I submit that there are more than enough crooked, stupid, incompetent and corrupt journalists--going right up the editorial chain, to completely misinform the rest of us about the war in Lebanon and Israel
9.2.2006 11:42am
josh:
Richard Aubrey

I'm not even sure you realize how silly your statements are, or whether you're just ranting like Ann Coulter to get a rise.

How do you know so much about what the media has reported in Israel if they aren't reporting it? Me, I have family there (in Northern Israel) pretty much backing up what I've read in the NYT.

Bascially, your silly argument appears to be that b/c the MEDIA (even though it appears to be your anecdotal few) was taken for a ride in Lebanon, they should likewise be taken for a ride in Israel -- two wrongs make a right. That's a good argument.

Your inability to engage in any coherent debate about bad lawyers (accountants, doctors, etc) doesn't make the issue irrelevant. It just proves my point. Namely, that your so fired up to discredit the black helicopter media sending radiowave signals to your brain that you're too addled for rational thought.

You still entirely failed to address the incomplete, but lengthy list of fired (FIRED! where are you coming up with this fantasy that these guys are out on the lecture circuit? PLEASE SEND SOME PROOF instead of just making baseless rants).

Obviously, you are not a trial lawyer b/c facts don't concern you.
9.2.2006 7:52pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Josh. I will admit that you had me going on the utterly irrelevant subject of crooked lawyers.
It is a misdirection, waste of time, obfuscation, and has no connection to the subject at hand.
So I'm going to drop it, shouldn't have been suckered in the first place.
The MSM didn't get taken for a ride in Lebanon. They were complicit. See, for example, Tim Blair's blog. He's got the ever-changing story of the Red Cross ambulance as the reporter and his paper are modifying it as bloggers find more and more lies in the story.
The consensus is that the weapon used was the PACO (Pint-Sized Ambulance Crushing Ordnance) missile which always enters through the circular vent in the top, cauterizes wounds, leaves no trace of explosion, and no pieces. Also no fire. And it can hit ambulances which are moving. Or stopped. Or, in this case, one which was both moving and stopped. Depending on which iteration of the story you find. The PACO missile is the MSM's best guess after they remembered that a Hellfire--which was their original assertion--doesn't leave the thing ready to drive away. This is not getting hosed. This is lying from the get-go.
Just for starters.
If you like doing numbers, get us the numbers of the pix of the devastation in Israel.
Reuters laid the recent crash of a Russian-built airliner in Iran to the US. For some reason. Make sense to you? These guys are dirty.
You think Hajj's other 919 pictures were all clean?
Who at Reuters has been fired for letting Hajj do his thing? Reuters is upset they're caught.

I didn't say they should get taken for a ride in Israel. I said that if they cared, they'd do the same thing they do in Lebanon, because that's all they know. But they don't care and they aren't bothering. They aren't even doing it honestly. Based on the MSM, which area is having a rougher time, northern Israel or Beirut? Which is the reality?

The folks at Pressthink spent a hell of a lot of time going over the subject of biased and even crooked press. I'm not going to repeat it here, except to say that the two letters the NYT messed up were not errors of ommission. They were deliberate. That's different from being so dumb--required among the better sort--as to think the Purple Heart is the Purple Star. When you find them doing it deliberately, by commission, the burden is on them to regain the trust they think the reader owes them.

And they've been caught lying in the ME.

They're dead to me, as the old saying goes.

Reading them is a waste of time at best and likely to misinform me at worst
9.2.2006 11:34pm