[News] Bush Greenlights War Crimes

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jul 25 11:37:10 EDT 2006


http://www.counterpunch.org/cohn07252006.html

July 25, 2006


Bush Greenlights War Crimes


Willful Blindness

By MARJORIE COHN

On Friday morning, as I traveled north on Interstate 5, I passed two 
tractor-trailers heading south toward the 32nd Street Naval Station 
in downtown San Diego. Each vehicle carried about 10 unmarked bombs; 
each bomb was approximately 15 feet long. Two military helicopters 
hovered low above each tractor-trailer, providing overhead escort.

I wondered where these bombs were headed. They must have been in a 
big hurry because they usually ship their bombs more covertly.

Israel had just put out an S.O.S. to the United States government to 
rush over several more bombs. "The decision to quickly ship the 
weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the 
Bush administration," according to the New York Times. Although 
always well-equipped with sophisticated US-made weapons, Israel was 
evidently running out of munitions to drop on the Lebanese people.

Washington loses no opportunity to scold Iran and Syria for providing 
weapons to Hezbollah.

Yet during the Bush administration, from 2001 to 2005, Israel 
received $10.5 billion in Foreign Military Financing - the Pentagon's 
biggest military aid program - and $6.3 billion in US arms 
deliveries. Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign military assistance.

It is a violation of the US Arms Export Control Act to provide 
weapons to foreign countries that are not used for defensive purposes 
or to maintain internal security. During the last major Israeli 
incursion into Lebanon, in 1981, the Reagan administration cut off US 
military aid and arms deliveries for 10 weeks while it investigated 
whether Israel was using weapons for "defensive purposes."

Last week, both houses of Congress, mindful of the importance of 
retaining Jewish votes and campaign contributions, passed resolutions 
stating that Israel is acting in self-defense. The vote in the Senate 
was unanimous; the House vote was 410 to 8.

Walking in lockstep with Bush, neither resolution calls for a 
ceasefire. The Senate resolution praises Israel for its "restraint" 
and the House resolution "welcomes Israel's continued efforts to 
prevent civilian casualties."

US-provided Israeli bombs have killed nearly 400 Lebanese, the 
overwhelming majority innocent civilians. The bombing has displaced 
half a million people and caused an estimated $1 billion in damage.

After Israeli orders that people in southern Lebanon evacuate their 
homes, several vehicles filled with evacuating Lebanese civilians 
were bombed by the Israeli military.

An Israeli helicopter fired a missile at a white minibus carrying 19 
people fleeing Tairi. Three people were killed and several wounded.

A green Mercedes with a family fleeing Mansuri was struck by an 
Israeli missile. Three lay dead, others severely injured. 
Eight-year-old Mahmoud Srour's face was burned beyond recognition.

As Zein al-Abdin Zabit evacuated with his wife and four sons, his 
white Nissan was hit by an Israeli missile. "It's nothing more than 
revenge, revenge on civilians," Zabit said as he lay in bed with broken ribs.

Human Rights Watch confirmed yesterday that Israel is using 
artillery-delivered cluster munitions in populated areas of Lebanon. 
"Cluster munitions are unacceptably inaccurate and unreliable weapons 
when used around civilians," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of 
Human Rights Watch. "They should never be used in populated areas."

The use of cluster munitions in populated areas in Iraq caused more 
civilian casualties than any other factor in the US-led coalition's 
major military operations in March and April 2003, killing and 
wounding more than 1,000 Iraqi civilians, HRW reported.

HRW photographed US-produced/US-supplied cluster bombs among the 
arsenal of Israel Defense Forces artillery teams stationed on the 
Israeli-Lebanese border during a July 23 research visit.

Independent journalist Dahr Jamail reported that the Lebanese 
Ministry of Interior has confirmed the Israelis have used the 
incendiary white phosphorous gas. This is a chemical weapon, much 
like napalm, that can burn right down to the bone. The US military 
used white phosphorous in Fallujah, Iraq.

Article 35 of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions prohibits the use 
of weapons "of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary 
suffering." Cluster bombs and white phosphorous fall into this category.

Bilal Masri, assistant director of the Beirut Government University 
Hospital, told Jamail, "The Israelis are using new kinds of bombs, 
and these bombs can penetrate bomb shelters," Masri added. "They are 
bombing the refugees in the bomb shelters!"

Masri also said that 55 percent of the casualties are children under 
15 years of age.

It is a violation of the laws of war to target civilians. "A 
fundamental rule of international humanitarian law is the obligation 
to distinguish between civilians and civilian property on one hand 
and military targets on the other," Nada Doumani, Middle East 
spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross told 
Aljazeera.net. "Under no circumstances, can civilians and public and 
private property be deliberately attacked. All parties in the 
conflict have to abide by these rules."

Doumani quoted ICRC Director of Operations Pierre Krahenbuhl, who 
said: "The high number of civilian casualties and the extent of 
damage to essential public infrastructure raise serious questions 
regarding respect for the principle of proportionality in the conduct 
of hostilities."

Nearly every report from the corporate media seeks to find symmetry 
in this war. When an outlet covers the massive devastation in Lebanon 
and increasing numbers of Lebanese civilians killed by Israeli bombs, 
it is careful to juxtapose reports of Hezbollah rockets fired into Israel.

Jan Egeland, the United Nations emergency relief chief, however, 
called the "disproportionate response" by Israel to Hezbollah's 
actions "a violation of international humanitarian law." Egeland, who 
characterized the devastated areas of Lebanon as "horrific," said 
Israel is denying access to relief operations.

At least 384 people have been killed in Lebanon, including 20 
soldiers and 11 Hezbollah fighters. Israel's death toll is at least 
40, with 17 people killed by Hezbollah rockets and 23 soldiers killed 
in the fighting.

On Monday, a high-ranking Israeli Air Force officer told reporters 
that Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz had 
ordered the military to destroy 10 buildings in Beirut in retaliation 
for every Katyusha rocket strike on Haifa by Hezbollah.

Last week, several Jewish organizations and Christian Zionists 
lobbied the White House to support Israel.

Bush complied, giving Israel at least another week to continue 
slaughtering the Lebanese people.

While Bush stood by and watched the humanitarian catastrophe Israel 
is wreaking in Lebanon, Condoleezza Rice traveled there and met with 
Fuad Siniora, the Lebanese prime minister.

Rice's visit was an "important show of support for the Lebanese 
public and the Siniora government," a US official said Monday. The 
official told reporters traveling with Rice, "The fact we are going 
to go right into Beirut after all that has happened is a pretty 
dramatic signal to Lebanon and their government."

It would be much more dramatic for Bush-Rice to call a halt to the 
carnage. When Helen Thomas asked White House spokesman Tony Snow why 
the President opposed a ceasefire, he rudely thanked her for her 
"Hezbollah view."

Bush could stop Israel in its tracks with a snap of his fingers. But 
why would he? Israel is doing Bush's bidding - redrawing the map of 
the Middle East to facilitate US domination.  Bush began that task 
with Iraq; Israel is following suit with Palestine and Lebanon.

Indeed, Bush is hoping Israel's next stop will be Iran or Syria. A 
July 21 list of talking points from the White House Office of the 
Press Secretary referred to a Los Angeles Times op-ed by Max Boot 
titled, "It's Time to Let The Israelis Take Off the Gloves."

The White House release contained this quote from Boot's piece: "Our 
best response is exactly what Bush has done so far - reject premature 
calls for a cease-fire and let Israel finish the job."

That quote was preceded by this language: "Iran may be too far away 
for much Israeli retaliation beyond a single strike on its nuclear 
weapons complex. (Now wouldn't be a bad time.) But Syria is weak and 
next door. To secure its borders, Israel needs to hit the Assad 
regime. Hard. If it does, it will be doing Washington's dirty work."

We turn a blind eye at our peril.

Marjorie Cohn, professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, is 
president-elect of the National Lawyers Guild, and the US 
representative to the executive committee of the American Association 
of Jurists.


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