Marty Peretz has a short post at The Spine on how dangerous the Goldstone Commission’s Report is for the ability of democracies to defend themselves against enemies who attack from the midst of civilian populations. It elicited a hostile comment from a reader who signs as george walton, which, I think, offers a fine insight into the workings of a peculiar kind of mindset that I’d like to label according to the meme “their side right or wrong.”
george starts by quoting Peretz:
MP:The fact is that the Taliban do not fight by the rules of modern warfare which try to limit the exposure of non-combatants.
Here’s what the Taliban should do. They should strike a deal with the coalition forces. If the coalition forces will agree to scale back on military hardware that is at least a thousand times more sophisticated and lethal than the terrorist’s arsenal, the Taliban will agree to back off from the civilians.
At first read, it’s hard to know if this is an Onion imitation, or serious sarcasm. The reader will forgive me for interpreting it as the latter (evidence below). Essentially, if I understand the sarcasm here, the Taliban has the right to hide among civilians because it’s the only way to fight against an oppressive external invader (who happens to be the allied forces).
Now I don’t know if george has any criteria for what constitutes legitimate resistance that is then allowed to sacrifice its own civilians for the cause, and what the chances that resistance movements that adapt such tactics might turn into “occupiers” of their own “liberated” populations, were they to succeed. Certainly the Taliban before the alliied invasion, with their policies towards women — acid in the face for not wearing the veil in public, a practice they continue even as “insurgents” — could hardly be called a liberating force. But that “sin,” however oppressive seems to be washed away as a result of the Taliban’s war against the US: their side right or wrong.
This is the same bullshit argument that Marty sprinted out to rationalize all the civilians [including hundreds of children] the IDF mowed down in Gaza. We’re civilized so any collateral damage we inflict is soley as a result of an enemy that marches its civilians out into the minefields and paints targets all over them. Besides, the IDF investigated itself and dropped all the charges. Think the defense department investigating itself [and dropping all the charges] with regard to Abu Ghraib. Just a few low life rotten apples is all.
This passage, I submit, confirms the reading I suggested above. Israel, in george’s mind, is guilty of the most revolting behavior — “mowing down civilians [including hundreds of civilians]” — and Hamas’ strategy of human shields means nothing.
george has no confidence in the ability of democratic governments to self-investigate — the Israelis are a bad as the Americans on Abu Ghraib. Apparently george has little exposure to the history of self-regulation, how rare (virtually non-existent) it is throughout the history of mankind, and now, and how, within the context not of some utopian ideal, but practice, the Israelis and the Americans constitute the two most highly self-regulating countries in the history of mankind.
Unhappy with anything short of vigorous prosecution that condemns not the perps — the few rotten apples — but the institutions themselves when it comes to the West, he implicitly treats the notion that the other side should adhere to even rudimentary decency as absurd. Abu Ghraib, howevermuch it offends our sensibiliities, is Club Med to anyone who’s been in the custody of Muslim forces, whether “official” (like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, or Hafez al Assad’s Syria, or the Mullahs’ Iran) or “insurgent.” But apparentlly, that’s not the issue for george: their side right or wrong.
MartyWorld meets BushWorld.
Now, neither the coalition forces in Afghanistan nor the IDF in Gaza can be reduced down to its worst elements, of course. Especially not all the way down to the fierce gung ho chickenhawk division in BushWorld. Besides, as Osama bin Laden once intimated, the Islamic terrorists are in love with death, not life. So no one is trying to play down either their brutality or their despicable jihad mentality. They TARGET the civilians of their enemy, for christ sakes.
This is one of the most interesting aspects of george’s comment. All of a sudden, he drops the sarcasm, makes a major concession which all of his earlier comments had systematically ignored, and admits that some of these folks on the other side are pretty bad, and maybe not everyone on our side is necessarily bad. Here he’s hit the “even-handed” chord: “I can criticize both sides. Who do you think I am, some kind of nut who thinks the enemy can do no wrong, for christ sakes [sic].”
But the comments are only here as a fig leaf. They play no part in the analysis. The fact that Hamas systematically — proudly — used their civilians as shields, willing or unwilling, does not excuse the Israelis whose efforts to minimize civilian casualties registers on george’s consciousness as “mowing down” civilians. So despite making the apparent concession of recognizing the problem, george will not allow that concession to influence his harsh analysis of the sins of the Israelis and BushAmerica.
Lest one think that this is just the loopy rantings of some cantabridgean caviar radical, it’s precisely the formal procedure of the Goldstone Commission. Asked why he didn’t hear the testimony of Colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan and an adviser to the UK cabinet, who has expert knowledge of warfare in conditions similar to that in Gaza, in whose view, “the IDF did more to safeguard civilians than any other army”, Goldstone responded:
I would also mention that there was no reliance on Col. Kemp mainly because in our Report we did not deal with the issues he raised regarding the problems of conducting military operations in civilian areas and second-guessing decisions made by soldiers and their commanding officers “in the fog of war”. We avoided having to do so in the incidents we decided to investigate.
And yet, it is precisely the claim that Israel was reckless to the point of crimes against humanity, that animates the Goldstone report.
george continues, building up his credentials as a complex and even-handed analysts.
But it’s never as simple as the denizens of MartyWorld seek to portray it. And why would it be when so many of the details used to fill in the cracks of their rants are assembled by a factory of Glenn Beck automatons somewhere in Dick Cheney’s sweatshop at Fox News.
Now there’s subtle analysis for you… Peretz’ argument in favor of sanity, self-preservation, and reality-testing, reduced to a smear invoking the accepted “demons” of the left — Beck and Cheney. Nice rhetoric.
Reminds one of so many examples of ad hominem, like the Israeli professor dismissing revelations that HRW operative Marc Garlasco, with a track record of bias against Israel, is a Nazi memorabilia fetishist as merely
arm[ing] the right-wing fanatics [who] work day and night to demonize any individual or organization that raises questions about the military practices of Israel when they end up even with unintended civilian casualties.
What we have here, I submit, is what George Orwell in 1941 called “the escape into stupidity” of both the British ruling class and their carping critics, the left-wing intelligentsia:
It is clear that the special position of the English intellectuals during the past ten years, as purely NEGATIVE creatures, mere anti-Blimps, was a by-product of ruling-class stupidity. Society could not use them, and they had not got it in them to see that devotion to one’s country implies ‘for better, for worse’. Both Blimps and highbrows took for granted, as though it were a law of nature, the divorce between patriotism and intelligence. If you were a patriot you read BLACKWOOD’S MAGAZINE and publicly thanked God that you were ‘not brainy’. If you were an intellectual you sniggered at the Union Jack and regarded physical courage as barbarous…
In the terminology of cognitive warfare, these folks are carriers of the meme their side right or wrong or, my side is never right and as a result, they become carriers of the other side’s messages no matter how much that side’s values make a mockery of the very values they invoke to criticize “us.” They do this not necessarily out of malice (although at times it’s hard not to suspect it), but certainly out of folly.
In Orwell’s day they were called, using Lenin’s phrase, “useful idiots.” Today they’re useful infidels. And they only make sense when you attend to their emotion-based memes — human life is sacred, civilians are innocent, the powerful oppress, resistance is noble, the underdog right or wrong — and not the weird inversions that characterize their self-destructive thinking.
It is important not to misunderstand their motives, or one cannot predict their actions. What is to be expected of them is not treachery, or physical cowardice, but stupidity, unconscious sabotage, an infallible instinct for doing the wrong thing. They are not wicked, or not altogether wicked; they are merely unteachable.
Hey george, want to prove Orwell wrong? Any chance you can wake up from your pleasant nighmare?