Sunday, December 28, 2008

'Appeal against the thunderstorm'

"You might as well appeal against the thunderstorm as against these terrible hardships of war."
-- Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, Sept. 12, 1864

Marty Peretz describes the Israeli attack on Hamas in blunt terms:
So at 11:30 on Saturday morning, according to both the Jerusalem Post and Ha'aretz, as well as the New York Times, 50 fighter jets and attack helicopters demolished some 40 to 50 sites in just about three minutes, maybe five. Message: do not fuck with the Jews.
This, says Glenn Greenwald, is a "uniquely despicable view" and Peretz is a "psychopath" for expressing it, because the Israeli attack will result in "the slaughter of scores of innocent Palestinians" and "several hundred Palestinian dead -- including numerous children."

Greenwald correctly asserts: "Opinions about the Israeli-Palestinian dispute are so entrenched that any single outbreak of violence is automatically evaluated through a pre-existing lens, shaped by one's typically immovable beliefs about which side bears most of the blame for the conflict." And he is certainly not exempted from the effects of entrenched opinion and immovable belief, unequivocally placing himself in the Blame Israel First camp.

Are there no innocent Israelis, no "numerous children" imperiled by the haphazard Hamas rocket and mortar attacks of recent days? Did not Israel warn Hamas that a continuation of the attacks would not be tolerated? It seems to me that one must either justify the Hamas attacks or else admit Israel's right to act in self-defense. Greenwald and other critics might argue that Israel had a right to act, but has overreacted. However, in doing so they seek to make themselves arbiters of Israeli defense policy.

Sherman's sober words about the "terrible hardships of war" were written to the mayor of Atlanta, who had complained about the cruelty of the Union commander's order for the evacuation of the civilian population of the city. Sherman's merciless attitude was motivated by his belief that the South bore responsibility for starting the war, and thus had no legitimate grounds to complain about the consequences of war. Sherman furthermore believed that by devastating the interior of the Confederacy, destroying its infrastructure and resources, he would hasten the end of the war and thereby end its attendant misery:
We must have peace , not only at Atlanta, but in all America. To secure this, we must stop the war that now desolates our once happy and favored country. To stop war, we must defeat the rebel armies . . .
Understand that I am a native of Atlanta, taught from the cradle to hate Sherman as a wicked instrument of the War of Northern Aggression. Nevertheless, he had a point: Those who inaugurate war must be prepared to accept the consequences. Hamas decided to begin bombarding Israel, and continued that bombardment despite warnings. Surely Hamas has no right to complain of the predictable consequences.

Beyond that, it is rather odd of Greenwald to speak of "innocent" Palestinians. Did not the Palestinian people themselves elect Hamas by a landslide majority? And haven't the Palestinians overwhelmingly supported every atrocity of this Islamicist fanatic group?

I would remind Glenn Greenwald of the words of Barack Obama's spiritual mentor, who declared that the 9/11 attacks represented "chickens coming home to roost" for America. Is it not possible, by the same standard, to see the Israeli attacks on Gaza as "chickens coming home to roost" for the Palestinians? Or how about we apply the standard of progressive hero Ward Churchill and view the allegedly innocent Palestinians as "little Eichmanns"?

Instead of imprecating Israel for its "brutal" and "grotesquely inhumane" policies, perhaps Greenwald and the rest of the Blame Israel First crowd ought to be grateful for the relative restraint Israel has shown in its response to the Hamas attacks. If the IDF had a Sherman in command, he would no doubt vow to "make Gaza howl" with a March to the Sea.

(BTW, it's worth noting that Sherman's attitude toward the media was ahead of its time: "I hate newspapermen. . . . I regard them as spies, which, in truth, they are. If I killed them all there would be news from Hell before breakfast.")

UPDATE: Donald Douglas has a roundup of reaction to the IDF attacks.

UPDATE II: A fatwa against Israel:
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a religious decree to Muslims around the world on Sunday, ordering them to defend Palestinians against Israel's attacks on Gaza, state television said.
"All Palestinian combatants and all the Islamic world's pious people are obliged to defend the defenseless women, children and people in Gaza in any way possible. Whoever is killed in this legitimate defense is considered a martyr," state television quoted Khamenei as saying in a statement outlining the fatwa.
Khamenei also criticized some Arab governments for their "encouraging silence" towards the Israel's raids on Gaza. "The Zionist regime must by held accountable by Islamic governments. The heads of this regime must be held personally accountable for these crimes and the ongoing siege," the religious leader said.
The familiar denunciations of the "Zionist regime," the rote call for "martyrs" -- old times there are not forgotten, eh? Minor quibble: Do Palestinians qualify for "martyrdom" when they're gunned down by Egyptian border guards?

UPDATE III: Ed Morrissey:
Hamas insists on a war of annihilation and won't accept any other solution. Let them have it.
Guess the "uniquely despicable" views of Marty Peretz aren't quite so unique after all. We await Greenwald's denunciation of Ed Morrissey.

UPDATE IV: A very thoughtful analysis of the motivations of Hamas at HuffPo, which is not where one usually goes in search of thoughtful analysis.

UPDATE V: Welcome, Instapundit readers.

UPDATE VI: Oh, classic. Greenwald accuses Reynolds and myself of "swaggering around," because we recognize that . . . well, war is a terrible thing, and Hamas bears the onus of provoking it. Note well the double standard: Greenwald believes that the Iraq war is a terrible thing, and does not hesitate to condemn Bush for the invasion, but Hamas can shell Israeli civilians without deserving criticism.

Furthermore, hypothetically suppose that Israel's attacks on Gaza result in negative consequences for Israel. Suppose, for example, that Hamas succeeds in a major suicide-bomb attack. Greenwald would "swagger around" and say Israel has sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind. So whatever happens, Greenwald's response is the same: Blame Israel First. It's formulaic.

Here is the thing: The leaders of Israel must surely be aware that this attack on Hamas will incite a violent response, and have taken that fact into consideration in the cost-benefit analysis of their military offensive in Gaza. But is there any better alternative? Hamas was already doing everything in its power to kill Israelis.

You cannot negotiate with a shark. To the extent that Hamas represents any coherent political philosophy, that philosophy can be summed up in two words: Kill Jews. So long as there remains a single Jew alive in the Middle East, Hamas will call for that Jew's violent death, and once they've slaughtered or driven out all the Jews in the Middle East, Hamas will then go abroad in search of Jews to kill elsewhere.

It is only because Hamas believes they can find useful-idiot sympathizers in the West, to intervene and compel Israel to engage in suicidal negotiations, that their murderous fanaticism has any hope of success. And how does Hamas define success? Kill Jews.

If American Jews like Greenwald are willing to serve as apologists for Hamas, they've got much worse problems than the "swaggering" of a few conservative critics. Problem Number One: How do you sleep?


  1. "Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens,) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove, that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defence against it.

    Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests."

    Thomas Jefferson said...

    "Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none..."

    John Quincy Adams said...

    "Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be.

    But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

    She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.

    She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

    She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.

    She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

    The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force....

    She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit...."

    Rae said...

    Yours Sincerely,


  2. It's worse than you think

    Hamas is not allowing its wounded to escape to Egyptian relief Red Crescent units across the border:

  3. "[The U.S.] is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.

    She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.

    What do we think of a man who compliments another on his spirit, but will not even hold his coat when a bully picks a fight with him? If another nation rises to freedom and power on its own, with words shall we counter its scorn?

    Washington, Jefferson, and Adams could speak bravely, sheltered behind the wooden walls and iron men of the Royal Navy. But not very far away is an alternate history, in which Britain said to Europe, "Do what you like, provided that you do it in America, and not here". What quotations on foreign affairs come from that universe?

  4. I had never read Sherman's letter. This part, to me, seems perfectly parallel to the situation between Israel and the Hamas fanatics:

    "You have heretofore read public sentiment in your newspapers, that live by falsehood and excitement; and the quicker you seek for truth in other quarters, the better...

    "Now that war comes home to you, you feel very different. You deprecate its horrors, but did not feel them when you sent car-loads of soldiers and ammunition, and moulded shells and shot, to carry war into Kentucky and Tennessee, to desolate the homes of hundreds and thousands of good people who only asked to live in peace at their old homes, and under the Government of their inheritance. But these comparisons are idle. I want peace, and believe it can only be reached through union and war, and I will ever conduct war with a view to perfect and early success.

    "But, my dear sirs, when peace does come, you may call on me for any thing. Then will I share with you the last cracker, and watch with you to shield your homes and families against danger from every quarter."

  5. The Palestinians say "Doctor, it hurts when I do this."
    The Dr.'s response...
    "Don't do that!"
    But the Palestinians are addicted and continue their painful behavior. Is there a 12 step program for their kind of self-destruction?

  6. @ Akatsukami, who wrote:

    "Washington, Jefferson, and Adams could speak bravely, sheltered behind the wooden walls and iron men of the Royal Navy."

    In no wise were they sheltered by the Royal Navy at any point after the Revolution, they were in fact engaged in a variously lukewarm or hot undeclared war with the British up until the 1820's.

    In fact for much of that time they were also engaged in an undeclared war with the other major power, France. Their public statements praising the walking among alligators while stilt born need to be evaluated in that context, and not, as I believe Rae does, be misapplied to the current context.

    Hamas is reaping what it sowed, and with a good yield.

  7. Death and destruction rain on the prison that is called "Gaza." They have been deprived of food, medicine, and most shelter for months of the inhumane Israeli blockade. They are not permitted to leave to get food or medicine. They are subject to daily military assaults. Their sons and husbands are kidnapped into Israeli prisons. Now their schools, churches, and homes are obliterated. What would you have them do? What would you do? Merry Christmas and may the blood of thousands of Palestinians flow into your holiday cheer.

  8. What would you have them do?

    I'd have them stop shooting rockets into Israel.

    The parade of horribles suffered by the Palestinians are an Israeli response to continued acts of aggression by the Palestinian leadership -- Hamas -- against Israel. There could be peace tomorrow in the Middle East if the Arab states and Iran would lay down their arms and give up their insane goals of dissolving Israel.

    The Palestinians are reaping what they have sown. If they truly desire peace, then they should cease waging their terror war against Israel.

  9. I think you're missing Greenwald's point completely. He maintains that every time there is an Israeli/Palestinian flare-up, the knee-jerk reaction is to blame the Palestinians; this time is no exception. I've heard a lot about Hamas firing rockets into Israel but it's been remarkably quiet about WHY they do so. Seems like there are lots of pundits who forget, conveniently perhaps, about the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Could this be a reason Hamas has done what they've done? Something to think about....

  10. Updates, you really believe that absolutist claptrap that the one who started the war invites absolute destruction...or even worse, that the initial victim is given absolute righteous indignation and absolute justification in absolutely destroying the initiator, irrespective of the scale of the initiation?

    Sherman was wrong, even for that time, and that was nearly a century and a half ago.

    Grow up.

  11. Thanks for the quotes, Rae.

    Mr. McCain - Sherman was a war criminal who targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure in the first modern incarnation of "total war". I would be extremely unhappy to be placed in his company, were I an Israeli general.

    There are no "who started its" in affairs between Israel and the Palestinians ... the events all run together. Yes, there was/is/willcontinuetobe shelling from Gaza ... and suicide bombings. But there is also the small matter of the 41 year old occupations of west bank and gaza, the checkpoints, the embargoes, etc. etc. There are no innocents here and no right and wrong.

    The best the US could do here is to leave the field to the combatants ... stop the funding of both sides, stop providing military assistance, and stop interferring diplomatically (in the UN and locally). Let the bastards settle their own affairs.



  12. And why are check points, searches, walls, etc? Because of terrorist attacks. If there were no such attacks then there would be no need for security measures. Stop the terrorist attacks. Recognize Israel's right to exist. Stop teaching fanaticism and intolerance.

  13. "Beyond that, it is rather odd of Greenwald to speak of "innocent" Palestinians. Did not the Palestinian people themselves elect Hamas by a landslide majority? And haven't the Palestinians overwhelmingly supported every atrocity of this Islamicist fanatic group?"

    That means, of course, that simply by virtue of being an American I should be held responsible for the innumerable crimes of the Bush adminstration. That I didn't/don't support them and didn't vote for Bush is irrelevant; I'm American and therefore can't be considered innocent of the Bush-ordered crimes committed by America for the last eight years. Guilt by association on a national/global scale - why pay any attention to the niggling precepts of logic?

  14. Uh, Ward Churchill referred to the workers in the WTC as "little Eichmanns" because they perpetuate economic war against the other (non-American, non-Western, etc.) and therefore could be seen as legitimate military targets. He was detailing an argument that explicitly categorized the WTC attacks as warfare rather than collective punishment. Not to buy into this line of argument, but to see you bring it up here demonstrates that you have no fucking idea what you're talking about, and you're just grasping at whatever you can reach.

  15. "Not to buy into this line of argument, but to see you bring it up here demonstrates that you have no fucking idea what you're talking about"

    Look, it's a liberal, because his comment has the word "fuck" in it.

    Some statements are so offensively asinine that it doesn't matter if there's a moderately coherent argument behind them. Stockhausen wasn't wrong that 9/11 was planned for its immense visual impact in the TV age, but he was an insensitive clod for saying that people killing themselves in a terrorist act made it the greatest work of art of the age.

  16. And how much violence was done and how many people were killed just so a piece of land could be carved out so there could be a state of israel?

    To say nothing of the violence and death since installing Jews in the middle of an Islamic region.

    But it's the "poor poor Israeli victims" in every story, every time, isn't it.

  17. "That means, of course, that simply by virtue of being an American I should be held responsible for the innumerable crimes of the Bush adminstration."

    Welcome to the Worldwide War on Terror, genius. Of course, we Americans have been targets and held responsible for the "innumerable crimes" of the Nixon/Ford/Carter/Reagan/Clinton/Bush administrations. Or, I should say, we're targets because we're Americans, no matter who we voted for. I for one, unlike you liberal fools, do not like to be a victim. Hence I applaud both the US and Israeli offense against those who choose terrorism as a tool of war.

  18. As for the very first commenter on the thread, it's a funny thing that one of the things that alienated Jefferson from the Washington administration was the Proclamation of Neutrality, which essentially nullified our alliance with France. Hmmmm.

  19. Beyond that, it is rather odd of Greenwald to speak of "innocent" Palestinians. Did not the Palestinian people themselves elect Hamas by a landslide majority?

    Democracy in action! Select your government, get bombed for your trouble! I imagine the British felt a similar way about us around about 1812.

    Also, the fact that you worked Ward Churchill into this post undermines what credibility you possess.

  20. Hamas' evil, savage, unprovoked attacks on the good and sovereign nation of Israel have killed five.

    Meanwhile, Israel's measured, rational, not-even-remotely-disproportionate response has killed (at last report) over 350.

    If you think that "seventy of theirs for one of ours" is an acceptable response, then I suppose you also support the public beheadings of disobedient six year olds.

  21. "Ward Churchill referred to the workers in the WTC..."

    Er, um, I hate to break it to you, anonytard, but 9/11 was a deliberate targeting of civilians whereas Israel is targeting Hamas and trying to avoid killing civilians. (But of course you would prefer that Israel not defend itself.)