The Decline of Amnesty International:


"[In a report accusing Israel of war crimes, Amnesty International] accused Israel of applying an overly broad interpretation of what constituted a military objective when it attacked power plants, bridges, main roads, seaports and Beirut's international airport, all of which are 'presumed to be civilian.'"

I'm no military expert, but every book, movie, documentary, etc., I've ever seen on war assumes that at least bridges [how many WWII movies have a scene focused on taking a bridge?], roads and seaports are important military targets, and in modern times I'd have to put airports on that list, too. The idea that a country at war can't attack the enemy's resupply routes (at least until it has direct evidence that there is a particular military shipment arriving) has nothing to do with human rights or war crimes, and a lot to do with a pacifist attitude that seeks to make war, regardless of the justification for it or the restraint in prosecuting it [at least if it's a Western country doing it], an international "crime."* Not to mention that the Beirut airport was only temporarily shut down with minor damage, and is already reopen. [If Amnesty International wants to make the case that the Party of God would not and could not use any of the relevant targets for resupply, and Israel knew it, that's a different story, but I'd love to see such evidence, which, to say the least, would be counter-intuitive.]

I also have to question the "high number of civilian casualties" that Amnesty is reportedly relying on. Any innocent civilian death are tragic, but 1,000 or so (alleged, we don't really know) civilians in a month of urban warfare against an enemy that based itself in the middle of cities and villages hardly seems excessive by any objective standard. The idea that Israel deliberately targeted civilians should be self-refuting to anyone with common sense, given the low level of casualties relative to the destructive power of the Israeli air force.

I once generally admired Amnesty when it focused on protecting political dissidents on the like, but, like many other NGOs, it seems now to have simply become part of the international far Left, and should be seen in that light.

UPDATE: Does it change things from a human rights or "international law" perspective that Israel was in effect "at war" with the Party of God, not Lebanon? As a moral matter, I don't see why it should, especially because (a) the Party of God is operating from Lebanese sovereign territory, and is part of the Lebanese government and (b) Israel only has an armistice agreement with Lebanon, and the two countries are technically (that is, legally) still at war. If someone nevertheless wants to explain in the comments why it should matter, I'm all ears.

FURTHER UPDATE: This article by Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch is also revealing. Roth claims that international humanitarian law required Israel to "treat[] Lebanese civilians as human beings whose lives are as valuable as Israelis'." Can you imagine any government doing this? In other words, a terrorist group in Gaza or Lebanon is attacking Israeli civilian targets. According to Roth's logic, Israel can only retaliate if it's retaliation will cost no more civilian lives in Gaza or Lebanon than would be caused by the terrorists if Israel didn't try to stop them. This is a formula that would paralyze not only Israel, but the U.S., Russian, India, and any other country that feels the need to pursue a military response to terrorism. Surely, the Allied forces inadvertantly killed more Afghan civilians than the number of Westerners likely at immediate risk from Al Qaeda and the Taliban! The type of "international law" and "human rights" activism that Roth and co. represent is scrupulously amoral in failing to consider that the aggressor should be held responsible for the deaths on both sides, as you can't expect any nation to allow its civilians to be attacked and not retaliate militarily. And it's also ridiculously utopian, in the sense that it expects citizens of a democratic polity to value the lives of civilians on the other side, including civilians who openly support terrorist enemies, as highly as their own, their family's and their countrymen's.

*Relevant excerpt from the Amnesty report: "However, even if it could be argued that some of these objects could qualify as military objectives (because they serve a dual purpose), Israel is obligated to ensure that attacking these objects would not violate the principle of proportionality. For example, a road that can be used for military transport is still primarily civilian in nature. The military advantage anticipated from destroying the road must be measured against the likely effect on civilians, especially the most vulnerable, such as those requiring urgent medical attention."

In other words, no country can ever attack road, port, bridge, etc., facilities used by an irregular, guerrilla army, because by the very nature of such an army, these facilities will primarily be used by civilians. Or, put another way, a country at war must sacrifice the lives of its own soldiers and perhaps civilians by avoiding attacking military targets that are also used by civilians, unless you can come up with some sort of cockamamie calculation that somehow proves that the military benefit is greater than the harm to the other side's civilians. I'm sure there are people out there who believe this, but again, this is a highly ideological position that reflects a strongly pacifist sentiment, and should not be confused with the sort of objective human rights standard (e.g., don't lock up someone for writing a newspaper article critical of the government) that all "liberals" of good will could agree on.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Human Rights Watch's Credibility--Not So Good:
  2. The Decline of Amnesty International:
Human Rights Watch's Credibility--Not So Good:

HRW: "At the sites visited by Human Rights Watch—Qana, Srifa, Tyre, and the southern suburbs of Beirut—on-site investigations did not identify any signs of military activity in the area attacked, such as trenches, destroyed rocket launchers, other military equipment, or dead or wounded fighters."

It apparently raised no eyebrows among HRW staff that of the fifteen "civilian" victims in Srifa it identifies in its report, all were men, and thirteen of them were of normal fighting age (17-35).

N.Y. Times, August 16th, 2006, at 9: "Mr. Kamaleldin, the Sreifa [same as Srifa] official, estimated that up to two-thirds of the town's homes and buildings were demolished, leaving more than 43 people buried in the rubble. A majority of them were fighters belonging to Hezbollah and the allied Amal Party, residents said."

Of course, Human Rights Watch claimed that its sources are credible, and even claimed that "[a]ll cases for which Human Rights Watch could not find eyewitnesses, survivors, or other credible sources of information have been excluded from this report." Right. I'm sure the "eyewitnesses" and "survivors" who stayed in Srifa during the war had no ties to the Party of God (Hezbollah), and no incentive to lie on its behalf.

HRW's report with the false information is still on its website. Any bets as to whether Kenneth Roth will issue a correction, and an apology?

Thanks to reader Larry Rothenberg for the tip.

UPDATE: Dershowitz at the Huffington Post has much more on HRW, concluding that it is repeating "demonstrably false conclusions."

*Here's the evidence that HRW had for Israel "indiscriminately" attacking civilians in Srifa: According to a villager who was in the village at the time of the attack:

There was no Hezbollah in the neighborhood. This neighborhood is known to be partial to the Communist Party, not Hezbollah. There are no Hezbollah people living there. Hezbollah does not have a need to be in this neighborhood, because we are 40 kilometers away from Israel, and the neighborhood looks out over the sea, it is not a strategic place.

Two additional villagers told Human Rights Watch in separate interviews that Hezbollah had not been present in the neighborhood around the time of the attack. "Except for one person, who didn't even belong to Hezbollah, no one in that neighborhood knew how to handle weapons," said Hussain Nazal. He added, "If they hit some houses that belong to Hezbollah we would understand, but this is not the [Hezbollah] neighborhood."

Apparently, HRW thinks it's okay to accuse a country of war crimes based solely on hearsay evidence of male "villagers", acquired while the war was ongoing, who are hanging out in a POG stronghold during an Israeli bombardment, after being warned to leave. Even if these villagers were not POG affiliates (but maybe they are) or even sympathizers, how do you think Hezbollah would have reacted if they had been quoted in an HRW report during the war as stating that Israel was only carefully targeting POG strongholds? I certainly wouldn't issue life insurance to them under such circumstances.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Human Rights Watch's Credibility--Not So Good:
  2. The Decline of Amnesty International: