A Tale of Two Wankers

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Bush Administration, conservatism

[Update: Anyone coming here from GIYUS -- please read two earlier posts here and here before you waste my time and yours commenting on this post. If you don't (I can tell) your comments will be deleted.]

[Update update: Too many trolls; comments on this post are closed.]

On the way to the computer to blog about one wanker I found another one.

This is from Victor Davis Hanson’s latest opus

“Civilians” in Lebanon have munitions in their basements and deliberately wish to draw fire; in Israel they are in bunkers to avoid it. Israel uses precision weapons to avoid hitting them; Hezbollah sends random missiles into Israel to ensure they are struck.

I had to read that paragraph several times. Just what is Hanson saying here? He seems to be claiming that Lebanese civilians commonly volunteer to be suicide victims of Israeli attacks. I see that Hanson puts the word civilians in quotation marks, connoting irony — those so-called civilians are not really (wink, nudge) civilians. Is he claiming that the claims of civilian deaths are exaggerated? Is he saying that it’s OK to kill Lebanese civilians because they are asking for it?

I’m not sure where he gets the “munitions in the basement” story. There have been a number of reports that Hezbollah fighters uses civilian shields, mixing in with civilians to discourage attacks. There have been a number of reports that Hezbollah stores munitions in mosques, homes, and other “civilian” buildings to hide them. In one case Hezbollah took over an apartment building against the wishes of the landlord. But Hanson seems to have patched these reports together and concluded that most Lebanese civilians are sitting on stockpiles of Katyusha rockets in their living rooms. And they have painted “Hey Israeli — Bomb This!” on their roofs. I did some googling, and it appears Hanson came up with this notion by himself. And as for Israel trying to avoid civilian targets — every news story coming out of Lebanon says otherwise.

Hanson appears to be wallowing in elective ignorance; he doesn’t want to believe Israel could be doing something bad, so he filters and rearranges facts accordingly.

BTW — Mitch Prothero writes in Salon — that the claim Hezbollah hides among civilians is a myth –

Throughout this now 16-day-old war, Israeli planes high above civilian areas make decisions on what to bomb. They send huge bombs capable of killing things for hundreds of meters around their targets, and then blame the inevitable civilian deaths — the Lebanese government says 600 civilians have been killed so far — on “terrorists” who callously use the civilian infrastructure for protection.

But this claim is almost always false. My own reporting and that of other journalists reveals that in fact Hezbollah fighters — as opposed to the much more numerous Hezbollah political members, and the vastly more numerous Hezbollah sympathizers — avoid civilians. Much smarter and better trained than the PLO and Hamas fighters, they know that if they mingle with civilians, they will sooner or later be betrayed by collaborators — as so many Palestinian militants have been.

For their part, the Israelis seem to think that if they keep pounding civilians, they’ll get some fighters, too. The almost nightly airstrikes on the southern suburbs of Beirut could be seen as making some sense, as the Israelis appear convinced there are command and control bunkers underneath the continually smoldering rubble. There were some civilian casualties the first few nights in places like Haret Hreik, but people quickly left the area to the Hezbollah fighters with their radios and motorbikes.

But other attacks seem gratuitous, fishing expeditions, or simply intended to punish anything and anyone even vaguely connected to Hezbollah. Lighthouses, grain elevators, milk factories, bridges in the north used by refugees, apartment buildings partially occupied by members of Hezbollah’s political wing — all have been reduced to rubble. …

… Although Israel targets apartments and offices because they are considered “Hezbollah” installations, the group has a clear policy of keeping its fighters away from civilians as much as possible. This is not for humanitarian reasons — they did, after all, take over an apartment building against the protests of the landlord, knowing full well it would be bombed — but for military ones.

“You can be a member of Hezbollah your entire life and never see a military wing fighter with a weapon,” a Lebanese military intelligence official, now retired, once told me. “They do not come out with their masks off and never operate around people if they can avoid it. They’re completely afraid of collaborators. They know this is what breaks the Palestinians — no discipline and too much showing off.”

Prothero writes that among Lebanese Shiites — about 40 percent of the population of Lebanon — many people are Hezbollah Party members and employees of Hezbollah, but most of these people are noncombatants.

Israel, however, has chosen to treat the political members of Hezbollah as if they were fighters. And by targeting the civilian wing of the group, which supplies much of the humanitarian aid and social protection for the poorest people in the south, they are targeting civilians.

And, of course, Israel is not limiting its military aggression to those parts of Lebanon where Hezbollah is concentrated, meaning it is punishing Hezbollah supporters and non-supporters alike. Not to mention children, who make up a third of the civilians killed so far. Victor Davis Hanson probably believes the children were wearing targets on their backs. Or their diapers.

But … shifting gears here … Hanson is not the wanker I was going to write about originally. If you want to meet someone with no clue whatsoever — I give you Nick Gillespie, who reviews John Dean’s new book Conservatives Without Conscience in this weekend’s New York Times.

With Ahab-like monomania, Dean discovers that every objectionable conservative Republican action — from “taking America to war in Iraq on false pretenses” to Dick Cheney’s obscene outburst at Senator Patrick Leahy to harsh right-wing criticism of the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court — reflects triumphant authoritarianism. For those of us with little or nothing good to say about the Bush administration, the Republican Party or conservatives in general, Dean’s book is ideological comfort food, providing not only tasty anecdotes about abuse of power but a rationale for dismissing political opponents out of hand. …

Here’s the punch line:

What Dean sees as dark new developments read far more like politics — and politicians — as usual.

Anyone who thinks we’re living with “politics as usual” these days is either brain dead or suffering from five-alarm elective ignorance. Maybe both.

I haven’t read Dean’s book, but Gillespie’s review suggests that Dean is basing his ideas on authoritarianism on the writings of just one guy, when in fact (according to what Dean has said on television) it is based on 50 years of research by a number of social psychologists. But Gillespie wrote this review in self-defense mode, and what’s a little intellectual dishonesty when one’s precious little worldview is threatened?

Politics as usual? Puh-LEEEZE …

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22 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Swami  •  Jul 29, 2006 @10:51 pm

    Do the Lebanese even have basements? The only structures I see in the middle east are built with an on-grade slab method of construction. Basements are more common in areas where the availability of wood is plentiful. But if Hanson says they do.. than who am I to argue?

    All Italians have basements..that’s where they keep their “vino”. They like to share it with their gombas.

  2. Swami  •  Jul 29, 2006 @11:38 pm

    triumphant authoritarianism….I use the word “arrogance” to describe the same concept. Gillespie has got to be brain dead not to be able to understand what Dean is talking about. I read only a short except of Dean’s book provided by a link from Unclaimed Territory and I had no trouble understanding that Dean is saying the safeguard of balance in our government have been knocked out of whack by the extreme right who champions authoritarianism.

  3. noah  •  Jul 30, 2006 @1:22 am

    The gist is that Arabs hate Israel; it is a thorn in their collective throat and they use all the means to try and get rid of it. Israel in-between the North African states and the Middle East ones hurts the percieved continuity of Islam. As Bin Laden’s 2nd in command put it, El Kaida would want a return to the glory of Islam whan it held large parts of the world, from Spain to India and more.

    Israel is a democratic country trying very hard to live in the area. Even though some Israelis dream of a “Greater Israel” from the Nile to the Euphrates, the absolute majority would like a country made up of the pre-1967 area plus the Gaza strip and the West Bank, but without the Arabs. As it is not possible to convince the Arabs to leave, the only viable possibility is to keep Israel within the 1967 borders with some adjustements. This, the Arabs reject consistently.

    The present conflict is a result of (a) Lebanon allowing a semi-military force (Hizballah) to operate and expand in its own sovereign territory, (b) the desire of Iran, the backers of Hizballah, to diver the world attention from the UN Security Council deliberations about its WMD aspirations, and (c) a similar diversionary desire fromt he part of Syria.

    Unfortunately, Lebanon is paying the price of its complacency. Were the Lebanese army deployed next to the Israeli border, the Hizballah would not have been allowed to attack the soldiers across the border, kill six and kidnap two into Lebanon.

    The only possible outcome of th epresent conflict would be (a) dismantling the armed part of Hizballah, possibly by incorporating its “fighters” into the Lebanese army and deploying them away from the Israeli border, (b) installing a neutral fighting force into the Lebanese side of the Israeli border to prevent re-infiltration by the Hizballah, and (c) adoption of restraint by the Arab countries.

    Fellows, give it up. You will NOT succeed in destroyng Israel and will only bring ruin on the heads of our populations.

  4. janb  •  Jul 30, 2006 @1:29 am

    We hurt the pain of the Lebanese civilians
    But they should distance themselves
    from the Hezbollah
    that uses them to hide themselves and their weapons amongst the
    innocents if they keep hiding terrorist in and under their villages
    and houses
    As said here “if u sleep with a rocket launcher don’t be surprised
    to be woken by the Israeli air force”

  5. Ian  •  Jul 30, 2006 @1:42 am

    Anybody who believes that the situation of Hizbullah in Lebanon was due to Lebanese COMPLACENCY … has a seriously warped view of history. Either that or a hell of a lot of ignorance. Or both, of course.

    -me

  6. Ronald Easton  •  Jul 30, 2006 @1:53 am

    Unfortunately, declaring the claim that “Hizballah hides among civilians” to be a myth does not make the claim any less true. Here is a Hizballah person explaining their tactics to a forum as sympathetic to the Hizballah as you get in the English-speaking world, the Guardian: “Inside a well-furnished apartment in a village on the outskirts of Tyre, with shelves of books piled from floor to ceiling, a black turbaned cleric and three men sit sipping bitter coffee. By the door is a pile of Kalashnikovs and ammunition boxes; handguns are tucked into the men’s trousers. The four are Hizbullah fighters, waiting for the Israelis … Sayed Ali and his men spend most of their time in the building where his apartment is, moving only at night.” http://www.guardian.co.uk

  7. Robert Naiman  •  Jul 30, 2006 @2:01 am

    Every criticism of the Israeli government’s actions in Lebanon should acknowledge the role of the Bush Administration, which has given the green light, blocked efforts for a cease-fire, and provided the weapons. And the British government, which has supported the U.S. and is allowing U.S. shipments of weapons to Israel to pass through Scotland.

    Robert Naiman
    Just Foreign Policy
    http://www.justforeignpolicy.org

  8. Juval  •  Jul 30, 2006 @4:42 am

    I couldn’t help but nothis that your entire post was only built on the so called “fact” that Hanson is lying. Please explain to me how come the IDF warned the citizens of Qana to LEAVE their homes immediately, because it will be bombed, yet 65 of them decided they’re staying in their so called “shelter”?
    http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/07/30/mideast.main/index.html

    Yes, this is what you do when somebody tells you he’s going to bomb your house- stay in it and hide under some piece of concrete and metal. Ooh, very VERY celver!
    Hanson is not lying, and he did not make that one up himself, these are absolute facts. If I’m going to tell you “I’m going to punch you in the face now”, you will run away, not protect your face with some piece of paper.

    I’m sorry, poster, but your statement is wrong, and so are you.

  9. maha  •  Jul 30, 2006 @6:35 am

    The gist is that Arabs hate Israel; it is a thorn in their collective throat and they use all the means to try and get rid of it.

    Yes, of course, but Egypt and Jordan did manage to chill out considerably from their earlier positions. In time Israel would have been accepted, I believe, but Israel is screwing that pooch as fast as it can.

    The present conflict is a result of (a) Lebanon allowing a semi-military force (Hizballah) to operate and expand in its own sovereign territory, (b) the desire of Iran, the backers of Hizballah, to diver the world attention from the UN Security Council deliberations about its WMD aspirations, and (c) a similar diversionary desire fromt he part of Syria.

    Unfortunately, Lebanon is paying the price of its complacency.

    A whole lot of analysts (here’s just one) have explained that Lebanon was not able to disarm Hezbollah, even though a majority wanted to. And the Lebanese army is no match for Hezbollah. Lebanon was helpless to do anything about Hezbollah..

    Nobody here is saying that Israel didn’t have a right to defend itself from Hezbollah. But when Israel took it on itself to collectively punish all Lebanese for Hezbollah, it went way too far. And Israel will pay a dear price for this.

    Please see my earlier posts here and here.

  10. maha  •  Jul 30, 2006 @6:43 am

    Yes, this is what you do when somebody tells you he’s going to bomb your house- stay in it and hide under some piece of concrete and metal. Ooh, very VERY celver!

    Experience tells us that there are always some people who refuse to budge from their homes even in the face of death, for a host of reasons. This commonly happens with natural disasters, for example — Katrina and Mount St. Helen’s come to mind.

    And the fact is that Israel went out of its way to destroy infrastructure that would make it possible for people to leave. It is also bombing areas in which a majority of civilians are not Hezbollah supporters.

    However, you are not facing up to what Hanson actually said. He said that Levanese civilians want to be bombed. They are asking to be bombed. This is not based on fact. Hanson pulled this out of his highly prejudiced ass. This is insane. And, I suspect, so are you.

  11. maha  •  Jul 30, 2006 @6:45 am

    Ronald Easton: Your quote is very interesting but doesn’t contradict what Mitch Prothero writes in Salon. The four fighters were not living with a noncombatant family, I take it.

  12. maharal  •  Jul 30, 2006 @8:35 am
  13. erinyes  •  Jul 30, 2006 @10:48 am

    Comment #8 is interesting, however totally disconnected from reality.
    First of all, as Maha pointed out, a many people simply would not leave their homes for a number of reasons: a faith in God to protect them, lack of money or resources to get out, health problems,no where to run to, or just plain disbelief…all the same reasons people in the paths of hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, or a host of other natural or man made calamities choose not to evacuate.
    As far as warning people you will punch them in the face prior to doing so I would recommend NOT doing that for 2 reasons: the first being that person on the receiving end may be prone to vigorous self defense, the second would be retribution. If someone warned me of a punch in the face, THEN actually followed through (even though I mostly advocate non-violence) that person would be in for a surprise or two…seconds, weeks , or even months after the fact.
    But here’s the reality….
    Israel is guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, not punching someone in the face!
    A punch in the face is quite different than whole scale flattening of a country, creation of widespread humanitarian suffering, and murder of innocent civilians.Anyone thinking otherwise has a serious disconnect with reality.Being bombed for 15 days has a profound psychological effect, if that doesn’t make you want to get even, nothing would. Israel has created so many new enemies and infuriated current ones beyound imagine. ( think 9/11 X 15)
    I have been witness to several conversations regarding the subject, the persons holding opinions like that of commentor #8 share a lack of empathy for others( a form of Phychosis), particularly if the “others” are muslim, or simply “not Americans”.They also lack knowledge of geography, conventions, geo-politics, watch WAY too much FOX News, and quite frankly place more value on the lives of their dogs than on those of humans in the ME.
    Up until the bombing of Beruit began, the U.S. had no problems with Lebanon, and the “Cedar Revoultion” was a cause to celebrate.
    A common arguement is “those people” have been fighting forever…
    Nothing like calling the kettle black…..

  14. Leiif  •  Jul 30, 2006 @11:06 am

    In case you don’t all know about this. The Isreali’s have created a tool that they are using to alert all their supporters to articles, polls,
    surveys and other sites of interest that they feel need to have the
    opinion adjusted more to their favor . Go to http://giyus.org/ and
    download their tool “megaphone” so you will be alerted to the same sites in order to counter their countering efforts . 2 days ago they had a page on the link where it says “make a “difference”” that showed a snapshot of a yahoo survey before and after they sent out their alert . It showed a totally skewed survey, of course . They pulled that page . The following link shows what they are working on this morning http://giyus.org/alerts/ . Sometimes you must use the oppositions tools . They are clever and organized, that I will give them .

  15. erinyes  •  Jul 30, 2006 @11:06 am

    Right or not, they just stepped in a huge pile of shit….

  16. Real Patriot  •  Jul 30, 2006 @11:45 am

    Israel has every right to destroy the barbarians oppressing it at every border! Death to Lebanese scum!

  17. erinyes  •  Jul 30, 2006 @12:02 pm

    Hmmm…
    Is that “Real Patriot” or “Real Parrot”?
    shaddle up, Cowboy..go get them “barbarians”!
    You obviously had way too much coffee this morning…

  18. maha  •  Jul 30, 2006 @12:18 pm

    Leiif — Yeah, I figured out that’s where the trolls are coming from. I don’t have time to run all over the blogosphere arguing with people, and I suspect it’s futile, anyway. I’m keeping an eye on what they leave here, though.

    Re comment #16 — I started to delete this garbage, but I decided to leave it up as an object lesson. “Lebanese scum”? Does he have any idea who the “Lebanese are”? Does he imagine all Lebanese are Hezbollah militants? And just think — this brainless creep is probably leaving this crap all over the blogosphere today.

  19. KentuckyCole  •  Jul 30, 2006 @12:30 pm

    My Lebanese mother-in-law was supposed to leave for Beruit next week. She was going to visit her sisters, one of whom has already arrived from Australia for the visit, and is now stuck there. Of course now this 72-year-old woman is afraid that she’ll never see them again. As for Hezbollah- I know of at least one very large Lebanese family that supports them not at all.

  20. erinyes  •  Jul 30, 2006 @1:08 pm

    Let it be known far and wide that the Israeli gov’t is spying on us as per comments 14 and 18.
    Sweet! Friends my asss….

  21. biggerbox  •  Jul 30, 2006 @1:32 pm

    Gillespie is spouting nonsense. That John Dean, who had a ringside seat in the administration that was the previous nadir of political hijacking of our government, is upset enough to write the book, should be prima facie evidence that it is NOT politics as usual.

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