Archive for ‘War’ Category

Commander-In-Chief

datePosted on 21:50, March 1st, 2009 by Lew

How about this for a photo:

85132251LM001_OBAMA

He’s telling them the Iraq war is over in 18 months – later than the campaign promises, and with more of them in-theatre than expected, but sooner and fewer than the alternatives.

Do they believe him? Do they approve? Does it register?

(Hat-tip: BAGnewsNotes.)

L

The Israeli offensive in Gaza has rekindled debate about the role of collective responsibility in the initiation and prosecution of war. Israel is specifically accused of collectively punishing all Gazans in retaliation for Hamas missile attacks on the Israeli population, with some claiming that aspects of Israeli military operations amount to war crimes. Such may or may not be true, but the issue is more complex than that.

Hamas argues that it is justified in firing missiles into Israeli population centers because all Jews are complicit in the Zionist enterprise and all Israelis eventually complete some form of military service. From that perspective better to kill a Jew in the crib than on the battlefield. Sunni extremists in Iraq target Shiia worshippers at their holy sites because they hold them accountable for the apostasy of their clerical leaders. Osama bin Laden has openly stated that the US public made itself a target for attack by repeatedly electing pro-Israeli and anti-Muslim administrations. Kurds and Armenians hold all Turks responsible for the sins of the Ottomans, Kemalists and their successors. Chechnyan militants hold all Russians culpable for the depredations of the Russian military in the post-Soviet republic. Germans are still held by some to be collectively guilty for the sins of the Nazis. The Japanese are accused on not feeling guilty enough for the depredations of Hirohito and company. The list of collective finger-pointing, responsibility, guilt, targeting and punishment is long.

The issue is complicated by the fact that, by the criteria of collective responsibility, open and honest elections increase the culpability of the electorate in the sins of their political representatives. That was Osama’s point about the US. Whatever one may think about the US electorate’s complicity in Bush 43’s follies, by that logic the Palestinians are collectively culpable for having voted in favour of a Hamas-majority parliament in 2006. Put another way, citizens of non-elected authoritarian regimes cannot be held accountable for the behaviour of those regimes unless there is some other mechanism to attribute direct support for the authoritarian project. An example would be Argentines during the Falklands/Malvinas war, which was initiated by a brutal military dictatorship feared by its own people. Conversely, the citizens of all democratic regimes are complicit in the behavior of their governments because it was their majority vote that brought those governments into power. The minority of those who voted against these democratically-elected incumbents may take issue with that (and indeed have), but the logic is inscrutable on the point: mass elections make the masses collectively responsible for the conduct of their elected leaders. Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday morning I read Maia’s excellent post about the “women and children” rhetoric being used about Gaza in which she reminds us it’s not just the innocent who deserve protection. Later I walked past a pro-Israel rally outside Parliament in which someone held a banner saying “Hamas uses women and children for terror!”

The point about the phrase “women and children” is that they’re implicitly helpless. Women and children are people things happen to, bombs fall on them, soldiers shoot them, men rape them – they are powerless in the face of others.

In reality there are many women in the world who choose to engage in political or military struggle. There are women fighting for both Palestine and Israel, then there’s RwandaEritrea and Iraq. There are women politically involved in determining their own destiny in every corner of the world. 

I take no pleasure, no pride, no secret feminist joy in reading those articles or watching those videos. But my horror is not because they are women, it is because they are human. When I see stories of women killed in bombings, women raped in ethnic cleansing and women forced to be soldiers my horror is because they are human – nobody of any gender or age should have those lives. 

Women, like men, can be victims of violence, and women, like men, can be be agents of their own destiny: they can fight for armies and they can struggle for peace. We are not the epitome of helpless, powerless vulnerability.

“You don’t throw a cup at your brother!”

datePosted on 06:00, January 14th, 2009 by Anita

Last week I was standing in a cafe queue in front of some mums talking about their children, one said “I told him ‘I don’t care who started it, you don’t throw a cup at your brother!'”

With that rather heavy-handed allegory I start another post about Gaza: I don’t care who started it; it’s not ok to bomb civilians, fire missiles into towns, or invade and start killing innocents.

Every time someone criticises Israel’s actions they get slammed for being anti-Semitic, pro-Palestinian and/or for standing up for terrorists. When someone criticises Hamas’ actions they get attacked for being blindly pro-Israel, a lapdog of the US and/or for standing up for terrorists.

I don’t know whose fault the current situation is, I don’t know the ins and outs of all the wars, the politics, the negotiations, the ceasefires and truces and the breaches, the overt ties, the covert ties and the financial ties.

But I know that I don’t care who started it and that it’s not ok to use the lives of innocents as leverage in a political power game.

P.S. Maia has and interesting post about why innocence should not be required for us to care.

Why Gaza not Sri Lanka?

datePosted on 07:00, January 11th, 2009 by Anita

The fighting in Sri Lanka’s civil war has intensified again. This is the war that has killed 70,000 and displaced hundreds of thousands. The war with the ceasefire that failed in 2007-2008. The war in a Commonwealth country. The war with its roots in the British legacy. The war with the internationally brokered ceasefires and peacekeepers and observers.  The war with the complex confusing history and only shades of grey.

The war that we don’t see on the news.

New Zealand has more than 7,000 people who identified as Sri Lankan in the 2006 census, while only 1,599 identified as “Israeli/Jewish/Hebrew” and 2,607 who identified as Arab (and not a subset – we don’t ask for Palestinian).

We exported NZ$168 million of goods to Sri Lanka in the 2004-5 year. To Israel the value was NZ$16.85 million in 2007.

Sri Lanka is closer, more people in New Zealand identify their cultural heritage as Sri Lankan, and we have more trade ties with it. Yet Gaza dominates the news and the bombing and shooting and civilian deaths in Sri Lanka go unremarked.

I happened to be in Sri Lanka when the the war stepped up in 2007. I was check pointed and searched and patted down more times than I can count, I had conversations with Sinhalese and Tamil, with parents, grandparents, children, soldiers and police. I saw guns and fighter planes and armoured vehicles and sandbags – and vegetable gardens and elephants and children playing in the sea.

I write about Sri Lanka because I know about its war, but there are others we are ignoring too. What is it about their victims that make them not worth our time?

The Rationale of Hamas Rocket Attacks

datePosted on 14:25, January 10th, 2009 by Pablo

There is much argument about who started the latest Gaza conflict. Many believe that the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel were the precipitating event, and that Israel has the right to respond. Perhaps that is true. Many question why, during a supposed truce, Hamas would have continued to stage rocket attacks on Israeli territory. The reason, in my view, was both tactical and strategic.

Hamas demands the illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land be withdrawn before any durable peace can be achieved. It believes that it has the right to armed resistance against illegal occupation of its land. Israel demands that the rocket attacks stop before talks on a land-for-peace swap can begin. Hamas militants believe that to cease their attacks will be a tacit surrender to Israeli demands. They also believe that stopping the attacks are a sign of acquiescence on the terms of  any deal. Thus the rocket attacks are designed to frame any discussions in a way that is favourable to Palestinian interests. They are, in a word, part of a “moderate-militant” negotiating strategy by which the attacks are designed to give Hamas’s political wing more room to maneuver when negotiating the terms of any land-for peace agreement. Anyone familiar with negotiations understands the principle: you drive a hard bargain and settle for something less. In this instance the bargain being driven has an armed edge.

There is more to the picture. The reason that rocket attacks are used is that since 2006 no successful suicide bombing attacks have been carried out in Israel (although many have been thwarted). Given the heavily fortified nature of the border, rocket attacks are the only way to make the militant point. Moreover, the point is not only being made to the Israeli authorities. It is also, and perhaps more importantly, being made to the Hamas moderates who make up the bulk of its political wing, and who are the potential negotiators on the Gazian side (since Fattah represents the Palestinian community in the occupied West Bank). Thus the rocket attacks served episodic notice of militant conviction on two fronts, internal and external, with the internal message to the political wing being “sell us out at your peril.”

Regardless of whether this explanation of the rationale behind the rocket attacks is correct or not, one thing is now clear: the rocketeers seriously underestimated Israel’s determination to eradicate Hamas’s militant wing while allowing its political moderates to live to negotiate anther day ( I elaborate on this and some other aspects of  the conflict over at www.scoop.co.nz in an essay titled “Who Benefits from the Gaza conflict?”). That process is now taking place.

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