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July 16, 2008

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Remind me, Publius, what happened to the Israeli pilots when they returned from the air raid in 2006 that killed not one but 34 children? Were they condemned by the country that sent them out? Were you equally disgusted by Israel then, as you are by Lebanon now?

Samir Kuntar has spent 29 years in jail for the crimes he committed. How many years in jail have Israeli soldiers and pilots spent for killing Arab children?

BBC, July 2006:

Witnesses said the early-morning strike hit the three-storey building where families had been sheltering in the basement, crushing it sideways into an enormous crater.

One survivor said the "bombing was so intense that no-one could move".

Elderly, women and children were among those killed in the raid, which wrought destruction over a wide area.

Reporters spoke of survivors screaming in grief and anger, as some scrabbled through the debris with bare hands.

"We want this to stop," a villager shouted.

"May God have mercy on the children. They came here to escape the fighting."

Am I missing something?

Not that I can see. But then, I can’t understand why anyone is calling it a “prisoner swap” when the exchange is for 2 coffins.

Dude – an IP thread? Whoa…

I had written up a response but now find Jesurgislac's comment more pertinent and better justified. I find no moral difference between direct murder (as committed by Mr. Kuntar) and indirect murder (as committed by the IDF).

Wheee, if you don't condemn exactly the things Jesurgislac condemns and in exactly the right order, you're a nasty person.

Watch out pretty soon she may reveal that you secretly hate all women.

Ok - fine. Israel has done some bad things too. I certainly won't dispute that.

But that doesn't really answer my question in the slightest

Ok - fine. Israel has done some bad things too. I certainly won't dispute that.

But that doesn't really answer my question in the slightest

Am I missing something?

You're not, but Jesurgislac is.

Whee, exactly at the same time I wrote "Watch out pretty soon she may reveal that you secretly hate all women." I find this: "Of course every paycheck is a discriminatory act. Why do you have such trouble accepting this? On some level, Sebastian, do you think women deserve to be paid less than men?"

It is almost as if Jesurgislac has precisely two modes: "People don't hate Israel enough" and "People who disagree with me about anything obviously hate women".

But maybe someone could explain why I shouldn't be disgusted at Lebanon's "hero's welcome" for a man who once bashed in the skull of a 4-year old girl with the butt of his rifle.

You should be disgusted, because he wasn't one of our bastards. That would have made it OK.

Countries often honor and lavish praise on morally repugnant people. Surely you knew that by now, right?

Or, in short form, Publius: what you are "missing" is the kind of national feeling that leads Americans to regard the torture and murder of Iraqis and Afghans by American soldiers as nothing much of a crime.

For example, the Marine unit that slaughtered 24 civilians - including children - in Haditha: most of them were neither tried not condemned.

"I think in insurgent and counterinsurgent warfare that you're seeing in Iraq now, I don't think any professor at any war college would be able to say you're able to win or even fight a war like this without those kinds of things unfortunately happening. There's no excusing the needless killing of people who are not armed. On the other hand, I've talked to a lot of Marines and soldiers, and I've been to Iraq myself, and the pressure that these guys are under every day, you know, is very intense. And the Marines have a slogan – you know, be kind and courteous, and have a plan to kill everyone you meet. That's the central reality of a young Marine in Iraq." May 2007

What did happen to those Marines? How many of them will be spending 29 years in an Iraqi jail? If any of them did happen to spend even a couple of years in jail in Iraq, condemned by an Iraqi court for their murders of unarmed men, women, and children, do you think they'd be condemned and vilified when they came home to the US?

None of this is right. Yes, the world would be a better place if there wasn't this kind of feeling that the killing of children of the enemy nations don't matter as much as the soldiers of your own people. But the US military still uses cluster bombs, and defends their use as saving the lives of American soldiers, though they know that cluster bombs kill and maim civilians, especially children.

The Times, April 2003:

After a quarter of a century of dictatorship, 12 years of sanctions and one of the bloodiest battles of the three-week war, the people of liberated al-Nasiriyah face a new source of misery: unexploded American cluster bombs.

Al-Tadhiya slum is in the center of al-Nasiriyah, but for the past month it has literally been a minefield.

Yesterday morning, within half a mile of the funeral tent where people were paying their respects to the families of the dead boys, at least eight cluster bombs, along with two unexploded mortar rounds, were visible.

Three were half-buried in the mud, three lay in rubbish next to a house and two were on a nearby roof. Each one is capable of killing, blinding and severing legs and arms. And these are only the ones which have been spotted.

So that's what you're missing. Did you notice any particular condemnation of US forces returning from Iraq for the use of child-killing cluster bombs? No. Me neither.

Um, folks, let's not make this about Jesurgislac. Let's talk about the issue here. I agree entirely that Mr. Kuntar is a monster who deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. I further believe that the people in the Israeli government who ordered attacks that kill children are every bit as reprehensible and should suffer precisely the same consequences. I am being morally consistent. I ask von and Publius if they wish to be morally consistent as well.

More seriously publius, what is it that confuses you? If you feel disgust, then why do you need our approval to justify your own feelings? I'd argue that smashing children to death is more than enough justification for feelings of disgust. But individuals often attach symbolism to people that have little to do with those people's actions: getting this monster back symbolizes a victory over a militarily superior foe that tried to destroy their country. In those circumstances, I can imagine cheers if the Israelis gave them a nasty head cold.

Do you not recall the cries of anguish at the unjust imprisonment of Lt Calley during Vietnam? I'm not trying to draw an equivalence, but I'm trying to show that lots of people around the world support people who have done horrible things because they see those people as part of a larger struggle.

If true, this is a bad person. There is no excuse or justification for his actions, and the same applies to people who would make a hero of him. There will be some who defend the crowd psychology by citing crimes committed by soldiers in other conflicts, but that is only a rationalization. Soldiers expect to die during armed conflicts, but children never deserve death.

Turbulence: Countries often honor and lavish praise on morally repugnant people. Surely you knew that by now, right?

Well, evidently Publius didn't.

Sebastian, perhaps you'd care to respond to that comment on the thread on which I actually made it.

Again, none of that addresses my question.

This will probably turn into a longer blog post, but I think people have become hesitant to criticize the very real problems with, say, the Iranian regime and Hez b/c those criticisms aid and abet a militant foreign policy.

neocons say "why won't you condemn," and the response is "because you'll use it to justify doing something immoral and stupid."

but whatever -- if you're looking for a cheerleader for Israel's foreign policy, you won't find it here. I feel like I've made that pretty clear over the years.

but that doesn't justify treating a child murderer as a national hero. and yes, i do think there's a difference b/w an aerial raid and bashing a child's skull in with a rifle. the former is bad, but it's part of what nations (unfortunately) accept as war. bashing children's skulls is not

Again, none of that addresses my question.

This will probably turn into a longer blog post, but I think people have become hesitant to criticize the very real problems with, say, the Iranian regime and Hez b/c those criticisms aid and abet a militant foreign policy.

neocons say "why won't you condemn," and the response is "because you'll use it to justify doing something immoral and stupid."

but whatever -- if you're looking for a cheerleader for Israel's foreign policy, you won't find it here. I feel like I've made that pretty clear over the years.

but that doesn't justify treating a child murderer as a national hero. and yes, i do think there's a difference b/w an aerial raid and bashing a child's skull in with a rifle. the former is bad, but it's part of what nations (unfortunately) accept as war. bashing children's skulls is not

jeez - sorry for the double postings.

Am I missing something?

Yes, you are. You're missing the requisite nationalism that would allow you to look at his attack on Israeli civilians as nothing more than righteous reprisals for deaths of Lebanese civilians during Israel's 1978 invasion.

Am I missing something?

it's a war. it's not rational. it's a fncking moral abyss.

"Um, folks, let's not make this about Jesurgislac. Let's talk about the issue here. I agree entirely that Mr. Kuntar is a monster who deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison."

Ok. He isn't spending the rest of his life in prison.

Discuss. Or Justify. Or whatever.

Von, what exactly do you think I'm missing? It's wrong to kill children.

My point was that the Lebanese have seen a lot of children die because Israelis killed them, and the killers of their children have been defended, not condemned, by Israel.

This is wrong. All of this is wrong.

But the idea that it's especially surprising pr disgusting that the Lebanese regard as a hero a man who spent 29 years in an Israeli jail, because he committed murder? It's really not, when you look at the history of the two countries.

Americans have cheered the acquittal of a US soldier who tortured an Iraqi general to death (a general who had been captured, incidentally, because the US kidnapped several of his sons and threatened to torture them if the general didn't turn himself in). And that for a crime committed not 29 years but two or three years earlier. What surprises you about national feeling of support for a "returning hero" overcomes humane disgust for that that "returning hero" did?

and yes, i do think there's a difference b/w an aerial raid and bashing a child's skull in with a rifle. the former is bad, but it's part of what nations (unfortunately) accept as war. bashing children's skulls is not

"Nations" accept it? Could you be more precise here? I don't accept it. You seem to be saying that you do not have moral objections to the killing of children by armed forces. Could you clarify?

Sebastian, I don't understand your request that I discuss the fact that Mr. Kuntar is not spending the rest of his life in prison. I agree that this is an injustice. I agree that treating him as a hero is wrong. I also believe that the people who ordered the military to kill children are just as morally reprehensible and deserve exactly the same treatment. Do you?

yes, i will clarify - when military raids happen, the express purpose isn't to kill children. that happens, and it's a reason not to use military strikes. but it's not the intended purpose.

when you bash a child's skull with the butt of your rifle, you're trying to murder a child.

clear enough?

Again, none of that addresses my question.

I've answered your question: the answer is no. You should feel disgusted. Now, can you answer my question: why do you need our approval? Do you ask just to prove your edginess by demonstrating how repugnant you find Lebanese terrorists? Or do you think there is a serious controversy as to whether smashing the skulls of children is morally OK?

This will probably turn into a longer blog post, but I think people have become hesitant to criticize the very real problems with, say, the Iranian regime and Hez b/c those criticisms aid and abet a militant foreign policy.

Which people? Please don't retreat into a stupid construction where you criticize an unspecified other for sins that you yourself stand far above. This is lazy writing at its laziest.

neocons say "why won't you condemn," and the response is "because you'll use it to justify doing something immoral and stupid."

No, the response is that one stupid prisoner is pathetically unimportant in the world and is a waste of time when there are real problems that need dealing with.

but that doesn't justify treating a child murderer as a national hero.

OK, can you please step back and shape your concern into an
actual argument. Governments around the world do lots of bad things that I disagree with. What's your point? Is your point that the Lebanese government is not perfect? I certainly agree. Is it that the Lebanese government is really bad? I'd probably agree. Is it that the Lebanese government is the worst ever? I wouldn't agree. Is that we should change our foreign policy to Lebanon? If so, how? Is it that Arabs are innately evil beasts who are incapable of the finer moral distinctions that westerners make when dropping cluster bombs? If so, please come out and say that.

and yes, i do think there's a difference b/w an aerial raid and bashing a child's skull in with a rifle. the former is bad, but it's part of what nations (unfortunately) accept as war. bashing children's skulls is not

The children end up just as dead. I don't see much difference in that regard.

Data point: Kuntar says that's not how it happened. He claims they meant to kidnap the adults, things went pear-shaped when Israeli police or soldiers turned up, and the little girl was killed by accident.

I have no idea if this is even remotely plausible, or if it's just obvious bullshitting on Kuntar's part. But I'll bet money that it's firmly believed by all those people getting ready to welcome him.


Doug M.

when you bash a child's skull with the butt of your rifle, you're trying to murder a child.

clear enough?

No, not really. When you bomb an apartment complex, you're trying to achieve a tactical objective. When you brutally murder a child, you're also trying to achieve a tactical objective: either you're trying to intimidate a population or you're trying to provoke a retaliation that will benefit you. Now, I think in either case these are completely wrong and I wholeheartedly condemn this behavior. But I'm not going to pretend that just because I find it morally reprehensible there is no clear military purpose. Killing people to intimidate others is effective; that's one reason we have hate-crime laws.

""Nations" accept it? Could you be more precise here? I don't accept it. You seem to be saying that you do not have moral objections to the killing of children by armed forces. Could you clarify?"

I can clarify.

The reason we have rules like "separate your military installations from civilian ones" and "identify yourself with uniforms" is so that when making war we can attempt to minimize civilian deaths. The history of recent (last 30 years) assaults against Israel have pretty much not followed those rules. Regularly, military installations are hidden in homes, under orphanages, strapped to women's stomachs, etc. Fighting back against Hezbollah in such instances means that sometimes installations get bombed which either have children it by Hezbollah's design (used as human shields) or by mistake because Hezbollah's design has caused Israeli target acquirers confuse civilian targets with non-civilian targets.

None of that confusion is alleged when you pick up a girl and cave her skull in with the butt of your rifle.

publius: but that doesn't justify treating a child murderer as a national hero. and yes, i do think there's a difference b/w an aerial raid and bashing a child's skull in with a rifle. the former is bad, but it's part of what nations (unfortunately) accept as war. bashing children's skulls is not

I somehow think that people who lost relatives, friends, and children because the Israelis killed them don't take that splendidly detached view of their pain and losses.

I accept you do: that you feel that if you had lost your children, your wife, your husband, your family, your mobility, because an Iraqi had dropped a bomb on your house, you would accept that with good grace because the US attacked Iraq and therefore - presuming Iraq had an airborne military capable of launching bombing raids on the US - it is entirely acceptable that mass numbers of American civilians should die for what the US government did to Iraq.

Given how many Americans feel that if a country is bombed by a national airforce the civilian deaths that result are nothing to get worked up over, it's really kind of surprising that any of you cared at all about the attack on the WTC on 9/11: in terms of bombing raid, proportional even to the population of New York, the deaths and destruction were nothing much. - Major, of course, if you happened to be there, or if you lost someone, or if you just care as a matter of principle about civilians getting killed - but if you regard people screaming and weeping as they try to dig out survivors from the rubble with their bare hands as just "part of what nations (unfortunately) accept as war": well, then the WTC was nothing much.

So publius, is it now your policy to completely trust one government's story in international disputes? Are the Israelis right because they're Israelis and Israelis are always right?

"Data point: Kuntar says that's not how it happened. He claims they meant to kidnap the adults, things went pear-shaped when Israeli police or soldiers turned up, and the little girl was killed by accident."

She got her head crushed by the butt of a rifle by accident? He might have a leg to stand on if he said she got SHOT by accident, but head smashed by the butt of a rifle by accident? I think not.

"So publius, is it now your policy to completely trust one government's story in international disputes? Are the Israelis right because they're Israelis and Israelis are always right?"

Where did that generalization come from?

Publius: when military raids happen, the express purpose isn't to kill children. that happens, and it's a reason not to use military strikes. but it's not the intended purpose.

When cluster bombs are dropped on urban areas or arable, the inevitable result is that children - and adult civilians - will be killed and maimed. That the US military claims they don't intend to kill civilians when they drop cluster bombs is real shifty footwork: they know what will happen when they do it, and they do it. So yes: the US military does intentionally kill children and other civilians. That killing children isn't the goal is true: but as noted by Doug, killing even one child wasn't Kuntar's goal, either. The children are just as dead, though.

None of that confusion is alleged when you pick up a girl and cave her skull in with the butt of your rifle.

How much of that confusion is present when you deliberately destroy civilian water purification, water treatment, and power plants with aerial bombardment? That kind of behavior seems intended to kill lots of civilians dependent on that infrastructure and it seems to serve no military purpose that I can see.

That being said, I agree with you that there are many cases where it is genuinely difficult for IDF soldiers to properly distinguish civilian from non-civilian. But that's hardly the whole story.

You should be disgusted. "Hero's welcomes" are inherently disgusting things, no matter who stages them.

Where did that generalization come from?

It was a reference to Doug M's comment suggesting alternative views. Even if you think the evidence is indisputable, the existence of an alternative story seems sufficient to justify some people in believing this guy was innocent. Most people have no skills in analyzing evidence and many people in the middle east are convinced that governments lie extensively. That doesn't mean they're right, but it does help explain why people might not all be acting as if this guy was guilty of the smashing children's skulls open.

if you read the nyt, the examiner report said she died of a blunt blow to the head.

as for the rest, this is just getting emotional so i'll just emphasize that my post wasn't intended on excusing israel's behavior at all (again, i've made my displeasure known on that before). nor was i trying to imply any larger foreign policy points.

My more humble point is that it shows the disgusting lengths that nationalism and hatred will take you. These same forces cause Israel to turn a blind eye to starving Gaza. These same forces cause us to turn a blind eye to razing Fallujah. These same forces cause Russians to turn a blind eye to Chechnya. And so on.

but everyone (myself included) would be more persuasive if we turned down the emotion here and tried to persuade

OK, I can agree that there's an ethical distinction between deliberately killing a child and killing a child as collateral damage. In the former case, there is the certainty that the child will die; in the latter case, there is only the probability that children will die. However, we have long accepted the notion that one is morally responsible for actions that put innocents at risk. A drunken driver has no intention of killing people, but could have foreseen the risk at which he is placing people, and is therefore morally responsible for the deaths he inflicts. We acknowledge that his crime is less than that of a person who deliberately murders somebody. But we still agree that the drunken driver has committed an ethical transgression.

The same reasoning applies to those who order attacks that kill innocents. They are still morally culpable. At this point, apologists will attempt to sweep this culpability under the rug with the assertion that "it's war", as if a state of war absolves people of moral responsibility for their actions. I do not accept this. I maintain that you are ALWAYS responsible for your actions. War leads to the death of innocents. This fact does not render such killings morally excusable; it renders war morally inexcusable. The people who start a war are morally responsible for deaths of all the innocents who die in that war. They could justify those deaths by demonstrating that an even greater number of innocents would have died without the war. However, I can think of very few wars in history for which such a justification could have been demonstrated, and I certainly do not think that any of Israel's recent wars can be so justified. Do you?

My more humble point is that it shows the disgusting lengths that nationalism and hatred will take you.

...yeah. :-(

but everyone (myself included) would be more persuasive if we turned down the emotion here and tried to persuade

I can agree with that.

Oh geesh, I can't believe I'm getting into this...

"I somehow think that people who lost relatives, friends, and children because the Israelis killed them don't take that splendidly detached view of their pain and losses."

That's why justice systems don't let the victims determine punishment. The justice system SHOULD be detached. IMO there's is a legalistic, if not moral, difference between the killing of a child as collateral, and the intentional killing. (As far as the "it was an accident" story, I am willing to give it prima facie believability because of what happens when you get your adrenaline going - if the little girl ran at, by, or from him, I could see the rifle butt being swung by instinct and reaction to movement.)

However, the first part is the part that you are missing Publius, the doers of terrible deeds get lauded because they do the deeds to "them". Simple as that, "They hurt us, so we'll hurt them." And to get Hobbesian here for a moment, until both sides surrender up the power of retaliation to a stronger third party, there is nothing that can be done about this state of nature.

"It was a reference to Doug M's comment suggesting alternative views." So why attribute it to publius?

"Even if you think the evidence is indisputable, the existence of an alternative story seems sufficient to justify some people in believing this guy was innocent."

He said it was an accident. He doesn't allege she was shot. He doesn't allege some other method of death. I suppose the underpants gnomes MIGHT have killed her, but it doesn't *justify* believing this guy was innocent. Maybe he was really stupid and thought that slamming a rifle butt into her head wouldn't kill her. And he calls that an accident.

"That doesn't mean they're right, but it does help explain why people might not all be acting as if this guy was guilty of the smashing children's skulls open."

While we are exploring alternative explanations, perhaps he is a hero BECAUSE they believe he was guilty of smashing a young girl's skull open. Is that implausible?

the former is bad, but it's part of what nations (unfortunately) accept as war.

I think this is so overly simplistic as to obscure reality. Nations have a rough set of principles regarding when and military force may be used, but there is tremendous discretion assumed. Also, there when one nation screws up, there isn't really any recourse short of invasion. So if Israel decided to blow up some apartment buildings because the Prime Minister was feeling angry that day, no one could do anything about it (do you think one apartment building of dead civilians is worth going to war over?).

So yes, there are rules, but we really shouldn't be thinking of them as if they constituted a legal system like our own. The rules give one side a pretext for hanging the other side's officers when they win: note that no American was punished for burning millions of Japanese civilians to death.

While the rules may be important and useful, I would refrain from employing them in the manner you do. They're really not designed for that.

Decided: IMO there's is a legalistic, if not moral, difference between the killing of a child as collateral, and the intentional killing.

Oh, legal, yes. Who do you prosecute for the decision to drop cluster bombs on an Iraqi city street, in the certain knowledge that children and adult civilians will be killed, when the people who made the decision to kill those children aren't the same people who dropped the cluster bombs - and of course didn't actually pick out as individuals the children to be killed.

Morally, no. If you decide you're going to kill children, and each use of cluster bombs in cities is such a decision, it doesn't seem to me to make any moral difference that the child-killers and their military agents are probably safely back at HQ, or even in the US, and never actually see the corpses and maimed bodies of the children they decided to have killed.

Also:

but that doesn't justify treating a child murderer as a national hero. and yes, i do think there's a difference b/w an aerial raid [that blow apart children] and bashing a child's skull in with a rifle.

Correct. There is a difference. The former is something a "civilized", "modern" first-world country slaughters civilians to attempt to effect its strategic goals. The latter is something any nation can do to affect its strategic goals, but we of course assume that it's really only something that the uncivilized brutes would do.

the former is bad, but it's part of what nations (unfortunately) accept as war. bashing children's skulls is not

A child's skull can be bashed in just as thoroughly from 5000' as from 5'. If you bomb civilian populations, you are going to kill civilians and it's you who'll cause their deaths, no matter how much you protest that it was only an unintended but foreseen consequence. Double effect in theory is hardly an indisputable justification. In practice, it tends to be a repugnant fig leaf hypocritically applied to justify slaughtering civilians on thin pretenses, and with anything resembling due diligence rarely coming anywhere near the justifier's reasoning.

Consider the context. Kuntar is someone who risked his life, and gave up much of it to imprisonment, to attempt to extract some small measure of vengeance upon Lebanon's vastly more powerful neighbor as "redress" for the many, many Lebanese civilians brutally slain as (ostensibly) unintended consequences of the 1978 invasion of Lebanon. If they had the military capability to carry out such reprisals "acceptably" and "in a civilized manner", one expects they would have, and we'd not be having this conversation, even if Einat Haran's skull had been caved in by a piece of shrapnel from a Lebanese bomb instead of a rifle butt. But they couldn't, because they didn't have the capacity to carry out "clean", acceptable slaughter of civilians, so here we sit, simply appalled-appalled by what happened*.

*Yes, I'm generously assuming that the reason we're aghast at the death of three civilians at Kuntar's hands, while shrugging helplessly at the nameless multitudes whose deaths during Israel's invasion the prior year that so "deeply affected" him, is in fact for the professed reason that they were carried out in a "civilized" manner (as opposed to having been carried out by a "civilized" nation").

Good gosh...can we stop saying that what X did is okay, or justified, or understandable in light of the much worse things that Y did? Those who are quick to take this tack forget how easily it can be reversed. If Samir Kuntar's murder of father and child is explained as a (justified) response to Israeli raids in 1978, then indeed Israel's incursions into the West Bank in the summer of 2002 can easily be explained as a (justified)response to the six consecutive bombings of Israeli civilians in Israel proper in the spring of 2002. My point is that this approach gets us nowhere. Players in the region are all too ready to claim that they are reacting, not acting. This has not made them into moral agents.

I accept that Israel and Hezbollah have negotiated an an exchange. I'm glad they're talking to each other. But I have a hard time stomaching Kuntnar's hero's welcome. Such a welcome says: this is behaviour to emulate. I agree with publius. Kuntnar's lionization is disturbing. Period.

Am I missing something?

One thing you seem to be missing is the context. You're right that bashing in a child's skull is a disgusting murder. But in the context of the asymetric warfare that's been occuring in the middle east for decades it's seen as another strike against the enemy. Both sides see the other's weapons and tactics as terrorism and inhumane.

It doesn't do any good to say "nations see air strikes as ok" to a people who don't have an air force. What's the moral difference between dropping a 1000 lb bomb in a resendital area because some Hezbollah fighters are there and exploding a bomb in a crowd of 20 at a bus stop in Tel Aviv because 3 soldiers are there? What's the moral difference between crushing a child's head with a rifle butt and crushing a child's head with chunks of concrete from an exploding apartment building?

There is no moral difference, one is just less personal than the other.

There are many such incidents that one side or another in the Middle East can point to to "prove" the inhumanity of the other side. Focusing on those incidents only favors those who want to continue the conflict.

"It was a reference to Doug M's comment suggesting alternative views." So why attribute it to publius?

Publius' post takes one side at face value and gives no indication that another side exists. If you're trying to understand why a bunch of people are acting in a manner inconsistent with that one side, I think the existence of the other side is one piece of data that should be considered. It is not dispositive, but failing to consider it seems...bad.

He said it was an accident. He doesn't allege she was shot. He doesn't allege some other method of death. I suppose the underpants gnomes MIGHT have killed her, but it doesn't *justify* believing this guy was innocent. Maybe he was really stupid and thought that slamming a rifle butt into her head wouldn't kill her. And he calls that an accident.

Um, Seb, could you for one moment try to imagine the world from the perspective of someone who assumes that the Israeli government is evil? In general, evil governments do things like lie about the cause of death or fabricate evidence. The only reason we know that this girl was killed by a blow to the head is because a bunch of Israeli government employees said so...while they were trying to prosecute a terrorist who was arguing that she was killed by gunfire. Most people who are convinced that the Israeli government lies, or even that the Israeli government is really interested in prosecuting terrorists, would find that plausible. A decent number of people in this country think that the US government was involved in the 9/11 attacks -- I really wouldn't find it strange for lots of Lebanese people to think poorly of the Israeli government's veracity, especially when they're trying to prosecute a terrorist.

Look, people who have had their country attacked by Israel may be expected to look with skepticism on Israeli government claims. They may be right or wrong to do so, but let's not pretend that this is crazy irrational behavior.

While we are exploring alternative explanations, perhaps he is a hero BECAUSE they believe he was guilty of smashing a young girl's skull open. Is that implausible?

Sure it is plausible. I'd certainly consider the possibility. Do you have any evidence?

Is this what you actually believe to be the case or is it just a possibility that you are considering?

For myself, I'm inclined to think that this guy actually killed her and is totally guilty.

Publius,

You should understand by now that no criticism of anything Hezbollah, Hamas, etc., do can ever be expressed without being acccompanied by a condemnation of Israel, and preferably the US as well, that is much stronger and at least three times as long.

And on the subject of who is more credible, notice that despite claims that 54 people were killied in the air raid, the BBC, not exactly a pro-Israel group, has this at the end of the story:

[Note: The number of people killed in the Israeli bombing of Qana was later revised. The Washington based human rights group Human Rights Watch investigated the incident and issued a report on 3 August saying that 28 people were known to have died, while 13 people were missing.]

Not as bad as the Jenin "massacre," but still a lie.

tobie, I'm not attempting to justify Mr. Kuntar's lionization, and I don't think that anybody here is attempting so, although a few comments have attempted to explain the lionization, and I'll admit that explanation can sometimes brush perilously close to justification. My point is to add to your comment. You write:

Kuntnar's lionization is disturbing. Period.

To which I add:

"The absence of moral condemnation of Israel's killing of innocents is also disturbing."

"If you bomb civilian populations, you are going to kill civilians and it's you who'll cause their deaths, no matter how much you protest that it was only an unintended but foreseen consequence."

Which would be a nice clean point if Hezbollah didn't mix the civilian and military purposes so completely and do so with the purpose of making it difficult to fight against them without killing civilians

"Consider the context. Kuntar is someone who risked his life, and gave up much of it to imprisonment, to attempt to extract some small measure of vengeance upon Lebanon's vastly more powerful neighbor as "redress" for the many, many Lebanese civilians brutally slain as (ostensibly) unintended consequences of the 1978 invasion of Lebanon."

Another nice clean point except for the fact that when you are talking about "Lebanon's vastly more powerful neighbor" you actually mean is taking the rifle butt to a girl's head. Under other circumstances Jesurgislac would be thrilled to make insinuations about what justifying that by surrounding circumstances might mean about what you think about women.

I don't agree that there is no distinction between accidental killing of civilians and taking a girl and smashing a rifle butt into her head. And I don't agree that the only useful moral distinction is about how high you fly.

Trying to bomb Hezbollah members and also hitting civilians is a bad thing. Grabbing a girl and crushing her skull in with your rifle when she cannot possibly be mistaken or confused with an Israeli soldier and she is not accidentaly killed attacking an Israeli military target is a worse thing.

If she had been killed because she was in a tank that got bombed or something like that, it would be a completely different level of moral responsibility from my view and I wouldn't have the same kind of outrage at treating him as a hero.

"Sure it is plausible. I'd certainly consider the possibility. Do you have any evidence?"

Did you read the previous paragraphs you wrote? Aren't you worried that the only reason you believe that people think he is innocent is because you saw it on TV? Government conspiracies to confuse you? Etc?

Let's unpack a few of the issues that are getting conflated here.

1. Can we understand why SK is getting a hero's welcome? Of course. We can understand (even if we disagree) that he is perceived as a returning POW who gave the big middle finger to the biggest bully around.

2. How should we react to that perception? As we've seen already from the comments, it depends almost entirely on your frame.

At the narrowest level, the Lebanese perception that SK is a hero appears to our Western eyes as appalling. Assuming for purposes of this argument that he did what he's accused of, SK committed a truly heinous act. There appears to us to be no situation ever in which crushing the skull of an infant with a rifle butt would be acceptable.

Pulling the lense back a little, and looking at the act in the context of how the IDF wages war, things get a little more murky. The IDF regularly uses air power to strike at Hamas, and as a result kills civilians. It's pretty easy for us sitting in our air-conditioned offices to cast blame on the Hamas leadership which hides among civilians. However, try explaining the niceities of intentional acts against civilains versus foreseeable consequences of acts against soldiers/terrorists to a mother whose child was killed by an Israeli bomb. I'm sure she'll be mollified.

Pull the frame back a little farther, looking how the West has acted towards Arab countries over the last 50 years or so, and the picture gets even more muddled. The Americans talk about supporting democracy, but instead send billions to Eygpt and Saudi Arabia, and undercuts Hamas when it wins in Gaza. Bush I encouraged an uprising against Saddam then stood by while the insurgents got slaughtered. Clinton perpetuated the no-fly zone and bombed Iraq. The crimes of Bush II are too many to list here but include torture and the ruination of Iraq.

So, when you see Lebanese cheering the return, ask yourself what they're cheering about. Maybe they're just moral monsters who like the fact that one of their own is home after smashing the skull of an infidel. And maybe they're glad that one of their own is home after surviving decades in the prison of what they perceive to be the true moral monsters in the region.

You should understand by now that no criticism of anything Hezbollah, Hamas, etc., do can ever be expressed without being acccompanied by a condemnation of Israel, and preferably the US as well, that is much stronger and at least three times as long.

Bernard, I understand that this reaction might be frustrating to you. If you want to understand why people react the way that they do, may I suggest the following points:

1. My tax dollars directly pay for Israeli jets and bombs that bomb Palestinian and Lebanese civilians. My money, that I work hard for. My money does not directly pay for Lebanese or Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israel.

2. Despite (1), I don't actually have any control of how all the weaponry that I pay for gets used. This is quite frustrating to me.

3. Because of (1), I am more concerned about Israeli attacks than other attacks. That's how responsibility works. Moreover, the continued money spigot makes Israel less willing to negotiate a peaceful settlement. Why should they? They've got all the resources, all the military power, and an acceptable death rate. Keeping everyone scared all the time is good for their economy and good for their politicians.

4. American government and media institutions are tilted towards Israel. If you don't believe me, look at where the money flows. As a result, stories about how awful Arabs are tend to get amplified while stories about how awful Israelis are tend to get attenuated. Most people will never know that after 9/11, there was a mass candelit vigil in Tehran where vast numbers of people poured out into the street to weep and mourn for us. But publius found a jarring emotionally riveting story about how evil the Arabs are and that's got to go on the front page.

Here's another example. A few months ago, there was a report that Iraqi militants used two mentally retarded women as unwitting suicide bombers. Lots of things in the report sounded suspicious, but whatever. Seb wrote a breathless post allowing us all to indulge in our revulsion of those filthy Arabs and their inhumanity. I asked some annoying questions and suggested that maybe time would show this report to have been false. Well it was false. But the rage of that terrible story blinds people and makes critical thinking harder. So we got the rage-making front page story but when the report was later shown to be false, was there another front page story reviewing it? No, of course not. Rage only goes in one direction. There must be no rage directed at those who would willfully lie about mentally retarded people in our to manipulate our emotions for their own political gain. That would be uncivilized or something.

Sebastian, you argue that when combatants mix with civilians, the collateral damage caused by attacks on the combatants is less reprehensible. I disagree. The same argument can be applied to justify terrorism:

"When Israeli military forces hide inside armored vehicles, we are justified in carrying out attacks elsewhere."

I reject this line of thinking, and I reject your line of thinking. Hiding behind civilians is a military tactic that is militarily justifiable (NOT ethically justifiable) when there's strong asymmetry in forces. If you want to use a military justification for attacking civilians in whom combatants are embedded, then you have to accept the military justification for embedding the combatants in the first place. In BOTH cases, the military action is not morally justifiable. Whining that "they're cheating because they hide behind civilians" is no different than whining that "they're cheating because they're using air power that we don't have."

Did you read the previous paragraphs you wrote?

Um, yes, yes I did.

Aren't you worried that the only reason you believe that people think he is innocent is because you saw it on TV? Government conspiracies to confuse you? Etc?

Um Seb, what are you arguing here? I'm genuinely confused. If you have a point, please just make it plainly rather than engaging in a game of shadow puppets.

Good gosh...can we stop saying that what X did is okay, or justified, or understandable in light of the much worse things that Y did?

[...]

Kuntnar's lionization is disturbing. Period.

I see no one suggesting that what he did was "justified" - but "understandable"? Of course it was understandable, hideously awful things can be perfectly understandable, and frequently are... but whether his act was understandable is wholly irrelevant. Publius is highlighting an outrage that happened almost 30 years ago, and rhetorically asking why he shouldn't be disgusted by its perpetrator being lauded by (some unstated quantity of) people in his nation for having long suffered suffered for it. Pointing out that Publius is disgusted by it because he's not inclined to rationalize it for nationalist reasons is obvious. However, it also is reasonable to point out his general lack of expressions of disgust at 30-year-old atrocities... so what makes this so disgusting, and worthy of note, when his rhetorical question's answer is obvious to the the point of not needing to be asked?

Especially when he feels some special explanation need be presented to avoid his being disgusted by the Lebanese people refusing to appear "properly" appalled by (to put it in the most grimly neutral terms possible) an unintended consequence of an act of war against a powerful state who has repeatedly and brutally invaded their country, and instead lauding someone who sacrificed a great deal in an attempt to fight back against said state. You can, I hope, forgive us for raising an eyebrow at his choice to make such a statement, and in such a manner.

Erasmussimo,

I'm glad we agree on general principles. I would only revise your addendum to my posting.

"Kuntnar's lionization is disturbing. Period.

To which I add:

'The absence of moral condemnation of Israel's killing of innocents is also disturbing.'"

I'd be more comfortable saying in true parallel fashion,

"The lionization of Israel soldiers or military brass who deliberately kill innocents is also disturbing. Period."

.. how the IDF wages war, things get a little more murky.The IDF regularly uses air power to strike at Hamas, and as a result kills civilians. It's pretty easy for us sitting in our air-conditioned offices to cast blame on the Hamas leadership which hides among civilians.

Francis,

Are you seriously suggesting that the way Hamas and Hezbollah (and Fatah) wage war does not kill civulians? These groups explicitly target civilians, on buses, in restaurants, in kibbutzim near the Lebanese border, etc. That's why they are called terrorists.

As to blaming them for hiding among civilians, well yes. I do blame them. It gives Israel the choice of not responding to attacks or endangering and killing civilians. It's a clever tactic, certainly, but anyone who is upset about the death of Lebanese civilians might ask themselves who all the responsible parties are.

However, try explaining the niceities of intentional acts against civilains versus foreseeable consequences of acts against soldiers/terrorists to a mother whose child was killed by an Israeli bomb. I'm sure she'll be mollified.

She won't be mollified, any more than a bereaved Israeli mother will be by a tale of Israeli injustices. But Kuntar has more admirers than that, so the excuse is inadequate.

Bernard: You should understand by now that no criticism of anything Hezbollah, Hamas, etc., do can ever be expressed without being acccompanied by a condemnation of Israel, and preferably the US as well, that is much stronger and at least three times as long.

Actually, Bernard, most of the time in the US media the slightest condemnation of Israel, or any indication that Israeli killings of "enemy civilians" are as heinous (and much more numerous) as the killing of Israeli civilians, is quite impossible.

You might notice, for example, that the very story Publius links to makes no reference to attacks on Lebanon by Israel, or any reference at all to Lebanese deaths. Yet you appear entirely unaware of this, as if you were under the impression that the situation were exactly reversed.

Bernard: Are you seriously suggesting that the way Hamas and Hezbollah (and Fatah) wage war does not kill civulians? These groups explicitly target civilians, on buses, in restaurants, in kibbutzim near the Lebanese border, etc. That's why they are called terrorists.

As to blaming them for hiding among civilians, well yes. I do blame them. It gives Israel the choice of not responding to attacks or endangering and killing civilians. It's a clever tactic, certainly, but anyone who is upset about the death of Lebanese civilians might ask themselves who all the responsible parties are.

So, when Israel wages war and kills civilians, it's the fault of their enemy. When their enemy wages war and kills civilians, it's because they're terrorists.

Thank you for summing up the double standard applied to Israel and its neighbors in two convenient paragraphs.

Are you seriously suggesting that the way Hamas and Hezbollah (and Fatah) wage war does not kill civulians? These groups explicitly target civilians, on buses, in restaurants, in kibbutzim near the Lebanese border, etc. That's why they are called terrorists.

I thought they're called terrorists because that's what big armies call little armies... ;-)

I would never suggest that these groups don't kill civilians. However, I will note that many more Palestinian civilians die than Israeli civilians do. And while Israelis live in a modern western country, Palestinians have been economically strangled to the point where malnutrition is rampant.

As to blaming them for hiding among civilians, well yes. I do blame them.

OK. So, what would you do in their place, given that they believe that to stop their fight will lead inevitably to their society's destruction? I mean, obviously, they should not believe that, but I suspect they do. And why should Israel negotiate in good faith with them now or ever? Isn't it irrational since the Israeli death toll is relatively low and the conflict brings Israel many benefits?

She won't be mollified, any more than a bereaved Israeli mother will be by a tale of Israeli injustices. But Kuntar has more admirers than that, so the excuse is inadequate.

So, just to clarify Bernard, why exactly do you think people admire Kuntar? And how strongly do you think they do?

You might notice, for example, that the very story Publius links to makes no reference to attacks on Lebanon by Israel, or any reference at all to Lebanese deaths.

Oh really? From the story:

In 1978, Mr. Kuntar went to the Israeli-Lebanese border after Israel invaded southern Lebanon in March of that year. His stepmother and brother said Mr. Kuntar returned deeply affected by the deaths he had witnessed.

Pretty selective reading on your part isn't it?

I think Tobie has it right.

Seb:
Which would be a nice clean point if Hezbollah didn't mix the civilian and military purposes so completely and do so with the purpose of making it difficult to fight against them without killing civilians

Setting aside the incomprehensibility of the phrase "mix[ing] the civilian and military purposes", Hezbollah came into existence after Israel's 1982 invasion. 1982. How, do pray tell, is anything whatever about Hezbollah pertinent to discussion of events that happened in 1978 and 1979?

I don't agree that there is no distinction between accidental killing of civilians and taking a girl and smashing a rifle butt into her head. And I don't agree that the only useful moral distinction is about how high you fly.

I don't agree that planning to kill civilians "unintentionally" is morally distinct from planning to kill civilians. But then, as stated above, I hold double effect to be a cowardly, irresponsible doctrine.

Also, I'm curious why strategic intent is so relevant when discussing a bombing run, but utterly irrelevant when discussing a kidnapping. Either we look to operational intent in both cases, or neither. Else how high you fly must really mean something to you after all.

"So, when Israel wages war and kills civilians, it's the fault of their enemy. When their enemy wages war and kills civilians, it's because they're terrorists."

No. When Israel wages war against enemies who hide their military among civilians, and kills civilians while going after that military, it is at least partially the fault of both Israel and its enemies.

When Israel's enemies intentionally target civilians it is wholly the fault of Israel's enemies.

The choices are not symetrical.

"Also, I'm curious why strategic intent is so relevant when discussing a bombing run, but utterly irrelevant when discussing a kidnapping. Either we look to operational intent in both cases, or neither."

What do you mean? At various levels of abstraction for 'operational intent' almost anything can be true. In the course of the kidnapping, the little girl did not accidentally get her head caved in by the butt of a rifle.

If she had accidentally been run over by the getaway car or something you would have a point. As it is, I'm not seeing it.

I would never suggest that these groups don't kill civilians.

Yet you criticize Israel for killing civilians but issue not a peep about Hezbollah, etc.

And while Israelis live in a modern western country, Palestinians have been economically strangled to the point where malnutrition is rampant.

Yes they have. And Israel is partly to blame, but only partly. The Palestinians have squandered massive amounts of aid, on terrorism, on high living for their leaders (Suha Arafat's not going hungry), on who knows what. The Palestinian leadership has been abysmal in many ways. They bear a very large part of the blame for the state of Palestinian society.

what would you do in their place, given that they believe that to stop their fight will lead inevitably to their society's destruction?

What would you do in Israel's place, under the same assumption?

And why should Israel negotiate in good faith with them now or ever? Isn't it irrational since the Israeli death toll is relatively low and the conflict brings Israel many benefits?

I do not think it is irrational for Israel to negotiate. I wish they would. I think it was irrational to negotiate with Arafat, because he could not deliver on any commitment. Perhaps the current leadership can.

Nor do I see the many benefits Israel gets from the conflict. That strikes me as an absurd proposition.

why exactly do you think people admire Kuntar? And how strongly do you think they do?

Because he killed Israelis. How strongly I don't know. Apparently fairly strongly.

As to blaming them for hiding among civilians, well yes. I do blame them. It gives Israel the choice of not responding to attacks or endangering and killing civilians. It's a clever tactic, certainly, but anyone who is upset about the death of Lebanese civilians might ask themselves who all the responsible parties are.

You do realize this is a false dilemma you're presenting, don't you? Israel has choices beyond responding to attacks with the relatively indiscriminate means of artillery and/or air strikes, and doing nothing. It tends to be reluctant to exercise these choices, because it is more reluctant to risk increased Israeli military casualties than it is to risk increased Lebanese or Palestinian civilian casualties.

So, when Israel wages war and kills civilians, it's the fault of their enemy. When their enemy wages war and kills civilians, it's because they're terrorists.

It is you who are applying the double standard, Jesurgislac. You essentially are unwilling to concede to Israel the right to defend itself.

As long as Hezbollah takes care to hide among civilians it's perfectly OK for them to launch rocket attacks against Israel, which are certainly aimed at Israeli civilians, but not OK for Israel to attack Hezbollah.

You might notice, for example, that the very story Publius links to makes no reference to attacks on Lebanon by Israel, or any reference at all to Lebanese deaths.

Oh really? From the story:

In 1978, Mr. Kuntar went to the Israeli-Lebanese border after Israel invaded southern Lebanon in March of that year. His stepmother and brother said Mr. Kuntar returned deeply affected by the deaths he had witnessed.

This is an excellent point. Jes was quite wrong. The story notes clearly in two sentences that Israel invaded Lebanon, and that concurrently some deaths occurred. Which, um, is some very careful use of language. If you follow my drift.

nv,

So Hezbollah is blameless?

And what is Israel to do? Send ground forces into towns and cities? You mean that won't lead to civilian deaths?

No. When Israel wages war against enemies who hide their military among civilians, and kills civilians while going after that military, it is at least partially the fault of both Israel and its enemies.

Sebastian, I am sympathetic to this argument, although I'm not sure I'm convinced -- there remains a solid case against it. But, for purposes of argument, let's stipulate your point, and split the difference, declaring that each side bears half of the responsibility for the deaths. However, let me point out another difference that should be factored into the analysis: Israel has killed a LOT more children than its opponents have. Mr. Kuntar has 100% of the culpability for killing one child -- but Israel has 50% of the responsibility for killing MANY children. Of course, Israel's opponents also bear half the responsibility, so if we want to get calculating about this, then we end up with something like this:

Israel bears moral culpability for killing, let's say, 10,000 innocents over the course of the years.
It's enemies bear equal moral culpability for killing 10,000 innocents plus the ?1,000? or so they've killed over the course of the years.

So yes, Israel's opponents have bloodier hands than Israel has. But they're both very bloody hands, and I don't see much point in making so fine a distinction.

I don't follow your drift, actually.

Yet you criticize Israel for killing civilians but issue not a peep about Hezbollah, etc.

WTF? I criticized Kutner right in this thread, repeatedly. I do think terrorism is wrong and immoral. I don't find most terrorist organizations to be much worse than most governments, because from where I sit, lots of governments engage in terrorism. But certainly killing civilians in order to coerce them into changing policy is wrong, full stop.

What would you do in Israel's place, under the same assumption?

I'd continue the conflict indefinitely, as they are. But I hope I wouldn't pretend that I was doing so because my enemies could not be reasoned with. I hope I could admit that I was doing so because I was strong and they were weak and there is no reason for the strong to settle for anything less than complete conquest.

I'm actually OK with states doing all manner of terrible things if they can give up the moral sanctimony.

I do not think it is irrational for Israel to negotiate. I wish they would. I think it was irrational to negotiate with Arafat, because he could not deliver on any commitment. Perhaps the current leadership can.

The current leadership will have no credibility if they get no aid. If Israel was interested in a negotiating partner, insisting that all aid be cut off seems...poor.

Nor do I see the many benefits Israel gets from the conflict. That strikes me as an absurd proposition.

Israel is a highly militarized society. A large chunk of its economy is based on military production and specifically on deals with the US that allow Israel to sell weapons technology around the world. Without the continual threat, those deals might very well dry up as they would be much harder to justify. Also, it is easier for governments to remain in power if they can claim to be protecting the populace; focusing on external enemies helps keep Israeli society cohesive and unified.

Because he killed Israelis. How strongly I don't know. Apparently fairly strongly.

I don't understand where the "apparently" bit comes from. Can you explain?

I think I've presented alternative explanations why people in Lebanon might view this guy differently than we do. I don't have the data available to distinguish which of those explanations might be true. Do you? Why do you assume the worst of Arabs?

Correction: Israel bears HALF the moral culpability... and its opponents bear HALF the moral culpability...

Bernard: I do not think it is irrational for Israel to negotiate. I wish they would.

But as noted above, they won't. Being in a constant state of low-level conflict advantages them and disadvantages their enemies.

For example, whenever a cease-fire appeared to be continuing too long during the intifada, it became predictable that the Israeli government would order the assassination of a terrorist - with "collateral" civilian deaths. The Palestinians could then be blamed when there were retaliatory attacks on Israelis.

It is one of the great unmentionables that the number of Palestinian children killed by the IDF, month by month and year by year, during the second intifada, has roughly equalled the total number of Israeli civilians killed. You'd never know it, though, from the way Israeli civilian deaths are reported contrasted with how Palestinian deaths are reported.

It is expensive for Israel to kill Palestinians like this, but it's not particularly expensive in terms of Israeli civilian lives. They gain nothing and lose much by agreeing to negotiate in good faith, because a good faith negotiation would entail handing back large amounts of land that Israeli settlers have been criminally occupying for forty years.

I agree entirely that Mr. Kuntar is a monster who deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. I further believe that the people in the Israeli government who ordered attacks that kill children are every bit as reprehensible and should suffer precisely the same consequences. I am being morally consistent. I ask von and Publius if they wish to be morally consistent as well.

What do you want consistency on?

Consistency based on levels of intent: purposefulness, recklessness, negligence, accident?

Consistency based on means?

Consistency based on ends?

I won't engage in facile games of moral equalivancy. I'm not going to simplify the moral analysis by equating Mr. Kuntar's actions with acts that aren't the same. But I will equally condemn any Israeli soldier who does what Mr. Kuntar did:

On April 22, 1979, Samir Kuntar led a group of four PLF members who entered Israel from Lebanon by boat. The group members included Abdel Majeed Asslan (born in 1955), Mhanna Salim Al-Muayed (born in 1960) and Ahmed AlAbras (born in 1949). They all belonged to the PLF under the leadership of Abu Abbas. The group departed from the seashore of Tyre in Southern Lebanon using a 55 horse-powered motorized rubber boat with an 88 km/h speed. The goal of the operation was to attack Nahariya, 10 kilometers away from the Lebanese border. They called their operation the Nasser Operation.

Around midnight they arrived at the coastal town of Nahariya. The four murdered a policeman who came across them. The group then entered a building on Jabotinsky Street where they formed two groups. One group broke into the apartment of the Haran family before police reinforcements had arrived. They took 31 year-old Danny Haran hostage along with his four year-old daughter, Einat. The mother, Smadar Haran, was able to hide in a crawl space above the bedroom with her two year-old daughter Yael, and a neighbor.

Kuntar's group took Danny and Einat down to the beach, where a shootout with Israeli policemen and soldiers erupted. Israel claims that Kuntar shot Danny at close range in the back, in front of his daughter, and drowned him in the sea to ensure he was dead. Next, he smashed the head of 4 year-old Einat on beach rocks and crushed her skull with the butt of his rifle.[1] Kuntar denied killing the 4-year-old and said she was killed in the shootout. [2]

Back in the crawl space, Yael was accidentally suffocated to death by her mother's attempts to quiet her whimpering, which would have revealed their hideout.[3] A policeman and two of Kuntar's comrades were killed in the shootout on the beach; Kuntar and the fourth member of the group, Ahmed AlAbras, were captured. Alabras was freed by Israel in the Jibril Agreement of May 1985.

Is it plausible that 4 year-old was "killed in the shootout," as Kuntar claims, rather than smashed in the head by Kuntar? The medical evidence is to the contrary: "an unnamed doctor testified that Mr. Haran’s daughter had died from 'a blow from a blunt instrument, like a club or rifle butt.'”


To expand on the last bit of Jes' comment: right now different factions in Israel are united against their common enemy. Making peace with that enemy would entail pissing off some of those factions which would destabilize Israeli society. Do you want to be the one who tells the ultra orthodox that they're going to have to give up some settlements? One of these factions have already killed one Israeli Prime Minister so I think concerns about future violence might not be wholly misplaced.

The medical evidence is to the contrary: "an unnamed doctor testified that Mr. Haran’s daughter had died from 'a blow from a blunt instrument, like a club or rifle butt.'”

von, is it your practice to assume that government experts always tell the truth in court, even in the context of politically important prosecutions? I mean, in this country there are cases where pathologists lie wholesale in order to imprison people in cases far less politically charged than the one we're discussing.

Now, my hunch is that he probably did kill this girl in the manner specified. But my opinion isn't the issue: the issue is what and why people in Lebanon think. And it seems that your argument only makes sense if we expect millions of Lebanese people to uncritically accept Israeli government officers in a politically charged matter.

In my experience, Lebanese people are nowhere near that naive.

Turbulence, how does your (or Jes's) comments on this thread have anything whatsoever to do with Publius's pretty narrow question: "maybe someone could explain why I shouldn't be disgusted at Lebanon's 'hero's welcome' for a man who once bashed in the skull of a 4-year old girl with the butt of his rifle?"

I see Jes explaining (repeatedly) why it is purportedly just for Hizbollah and its predecessors to fight Israel. Whether I agree with Jes claims or not, how could it possibly justify what this man did, much less entitle him to a hero's return?

The current leadership will have no credibility if they get no aid. If Israel was interested in a negotiating partner, insisting that all aid be cut off seems...poor.

I do not suggest a cutoff of aid. I merely believe that past aid has been wasted, stolen, or worse.

Israel is a highly militarized society. A large chunk of its economy is based on military production and specifically on deals with the US that allow Israel to sell weapons technology around the world. Without the continual threat, those deals might very well dry up as they would be much harder to justify. Also, it is easier for governments to remain in power if they can claim to be protecting the populace; focusing on external enemies helps keep Israeli society cohesive and unified.

Israel's ability to sell military technology does not depend on its being at war. Why would peace make the deals "hard to justify?"

As for governments relying on external threats to remain in power, I think some familiarity with the Israeli political scene would disabuse you of that idea.

My use of "apparently" comes from the linked story:

much of Lebanon, its Shiite majority in particular, regards Mr. Kuntar as a courageous fighter who has sacrificed much of his life in the nation’s struggle against Israel.

von, is it your practice to assume that government experts always tell the truth in court, even in the context of politically important prosecutions?

Although you later concede that the doctor probably wasn't lying, and Kuntar probably did bash in the head of a four-year old girl, what changes if the doctor was lying? Kuntar doesn't deny that he shot the toddler's father in front of her, or that he took the father and her hostage.

But my opinion isn't the issue: the issue is what and why people in Lebanon think.

And Publius' question is why he shouldn't be disgusted at what (a minority) of Lebanese people think regarding Kuntar.

I believe we have reached an impasse. The two opposing schools of thought are roughly as follows:

"When killings occur, the intention of the killer determines the moral reprehensibility of the killing. A killer with pure motives who imposes risks upon people and subsequently kills innocents bears no moral culpability for those actions. A killer who kills innocents with evil intent bears full moral culpability for his actions."

"When killings occur, the reasonable foreseeability of those killings determines the moral reprehensibility of the killing. A killer's motives are irrelevant; what matters is the degree to which the killer took proper care not to minimize but to completely avoid the deaths of innocents."

I don't see any willingness on the part of either side to compromise here. I certainly won't compromise on my adherence to the latter position.

If she had accidentally been run over by the getaway car or something you would have a point. As it is, I'm not seeing it.

You are saying that if military leaders plan an operation to kill militants, even knowing in advance that they will kill civilians alongside them, we cannot hold them morally responsible for willfully killing civilians when they do so. Their intent in planning the operation to kill militants is deemed more relevant than their acknowledgment that they will kill civilians. There is no moment during the operation when, due to conditions on the ground, the pilot will decide to do something that will kill one of the tiny specks below them. The decision to kill civilians was made back at HQ when the planner decided to use indiscriminate means to carry out the attack. Basically, you're absolving military planners of guilt for planned killings of civilians because they choose to carry out military operations where there's no possibility of an unplanned circumstance arising whereby civilians die. Civilians will die if the operation goes as planned, but the pilot, being 5000' above their victim rather than 5', will not be capable of deciding to kill a civilian aside from their initial decision to carry out their mission.

IOW, it's reprehensible to carry out operations where unforeseen civilian casualties are inflicted, but it's unremarkable and acceptable carry out operations that plan to "unintentionally" inflict civilian casualties but won't inflict any unforeseen ones. Ergo, how high you fly matters.

Am I missing something?

As someone favoring the two-state solution, who thinks the world would be better served if Likud and AIPAC were relegated to the same corner as the Larouchies, and who is equally disgusted, I have to say: No, you're not missing anything.

Bernard Yomtov, I would strongly caution against assuming that a majority of the Lebanese share this view. I suspect that more Lebanese are disgusted with Kuntar than believe him to be a hero; it's just that the folks disgusted with Kuntar aren't the ones firing rockets into Israel. (Note that absence of the non-Hizbollah parts of Lebanese government at Kuntar's homecoming.)

"So, when Israel wages war and kills civilians, it's the fault of their enemy. When their enemy wages war and kills civilians, it's because they're terrorists."

I love that "wages war", it's so agnostic about who's attacking who. Hamas is the aggressor. The killing on both sides would stop whenever Hamas decides to stop attacking.

It's highly ironic that the same people who think the US is to blame every time the Iraqi insurgency kills somebody, because the US 'started' the war, suddenly abandon that attitude when it comes to a war somebody else starts.

Turbulence, how does your (or Jes's) comments on this thread have anything whatsoever to do with Publius's pretty narrow question: "maybe someone could explain why I shouldn't be disgusted at Lebanon's 'hero's welcome' for a man who once bashed in the skull of a 4-year old girl with the butt of his rifle?"

Have you read my comments? I've written about exactly how people might believe that: all it takes is for them not to believe that the Israeli government is credible. Honestly, if it were the American government, I would not be surprised at all for an American medical examiner to lie or fabricate evidence in order to get a terrorism conviction. Our MEs lie for far less important cases. Why is this so hard to understand?

There are other reasons that I've sketched out, and I'm open to argument, but this bizarre insistence that all Lebanese are just monsters whose behavior cannot be explained by anything other than their innate monsterism is very troubling.

how could it possibly justify what this man did, much less entitle him to a hero's return?

Since you asked me, let me say again that I think what he did was reprehensible and that he should rot in prison forever. I think I've made my opinion clear but perhaps you missed where I wrote that here, here, or here. I don't think it was justified. But, yet again, this is not about my opinion: I'm not Lebanese. If you want to understand why Lebanese people might do what they did, it helps to investigate rather than just assume that they are barbarians.

von,

My information on Kuntar's welcome is based on the NYT article. That's all, as I believe I indicated.

I do not suggest a cutoff of aid. I merely believe that past aid has been wasted, stolen, or worse.

That's nice. Unfortunately, after Hamas was elected, aid was cutoff. What governments actually did matters a great deal more than what you think they should have done.

Israel's ability to sell military technology does not depend on its being at war. Why would peace make the deals "hard to justify?"

Israel gets a number of important sweetheart deals for the exchange of military technology and hardware from the US. Those deals become much harder to justify in the absence of a conflict.

As for governments relying on external threats to remain in power, I think some familiarity with the Israeli political scene would disabuse you of that idea.

Are you arguing that I'm unfamiliar with the Israeli political scene? Possibly. Would you care to explain exactly what I'm missing rather than just insisting that I'm ignorant? I'd find your argument more persuasive if you had been aware of the recent aid cutoffs.

"When killings occur, the reasonable foreseeability of those killings determines the moral reprehensibility of the killing. A killer's motives are irrelevant; what matters is the degree to which the killer took proper care not to minimize but to completely avoid the deaths of innocents."

Erasmussimo, in erasing the boundaries between negligence, recklessness, and intentional wrongdoing, you summarily dispense with 2000+ years of legal and moral theory. But if you don't accept that there is a difference between negligent homicide, manslaughter, and murder, you're right: we are are an impasse.

Hamas is the aggressor.

Only if you carefully ignore all the aggressive things done by Israel.

Which I guess US news reporting does make it very easy to do.

The killing on both sides would stop whenever Hamas decides to stop attacking.

Palestinians were being killed by Israeli forces before Hamas existed. (Hamas was created in 1987 - twenty years into the Occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The killing of Palestinians by Israelis, and Israelis by Palestinians, did not magically begin with an unprovoked act of aggression by a political group that appeared out of nowhere in 1987.

I don't see any willingness on the part of either side to compromise here. I certainly won't compromise on my adherence to the latter position.

Aye, Erasmussimo, I think you've the right of it. We'll sway no one, and the basic points have been made. Time to bow out.

Since you asked me, let me say again that I think what he did was reprehensible and that he should rot in prison forever.

I'm just trying to square a circle, Turbulence. Is it fair to say that you agree that we should be disgusted with the hero's return offered to Kuntar, but that we should not allow our disgust to influence our policy?

Although you later concede that the doctor probably wasn't lying, and Kuntar probably did bash in the head of a four-year old girl, what changes if the doctor was lying? Kuntar doesn't deny that he shot the toddler's father in front of her, or that he took the father and her hostage.

For me, nothing much changes. I think terrorist killings are extremely bad and the addition of little girl's corpse doesn't really change that assessment.

However, many comments here seem extremely focused on the killing of the little girl and the breaking of her skull specifically. See publius and Seb for examples. These arguments seem closely tied to these particular features of the case. My hunch is that such features make it easier to sustain an emotional reaction since smashing a child's skull tends to get you in a way that hearing about a child dying of malnutrition during a blockade just doesn't. But that's only my guess.

And Publius' question is why he shouldn't be disgusted at what (a minority) of Lebanese people think regarding Kuntar.

You can be disgusted at anyone you want; why do you think you (or publius) need my approval? Seriously, why?

I've already said that I find it disgusting, but I also find it typical of nations and governments. Lots of people celebrated Lt Calley as a hero and were outraged at his (very mild) punishment.

von: I see Jes explaining (repeatedly) why it is purportedly just for Hizbollah and its predecessors to fight Israel.

For some reason, Von, I find it difficult to understand - as you evidently do - that while it's just and right for Israeli forces to kill Palestinians and Lebanese, it's completely unjust for them to fight back.

I also find it difficult to understand why Americans feel it's unjust for Iraqis to attack Americans occupying Iraq.

It seems to me fairly obvious that if you have a foreign military occupation of your country, while it is morally better to engage in non-violent direct resistance, it's bloody inevitable that violence directed against the civilian population will create a violent response from at least part of it.

Whether I agree with Jes claims or not, how could it possibly justify what this man did, much less entitle him to a hero's return?

You'll have to ask someone who would argue that it's just for children to be killed in wartime, and that the people who kill children are entitled to a hero's return. I wouldn't argue that. My point to publius was that there any number of people in all nations who do dismiss the killing of "enemy children" as irrelevant when a hero returns from the enemy country. Americans, as much as anyone else, are guilty of this.

I'm just trying to square a circle, Turbulence. Is it fair to say that you agree that we should be disgusted with the hero's return offered to Kuntar, but that we should not allow our disgust to influence our policy?

I think a number of reactions are justifiable to this act. I personally find it disgusting but I can also imagine circumstances under which a rational normal person would not find it disgusting (such as if they didn't think the Israeli government was telling the truth). Absent some more substantial evidence, I don't see this one news story as sufficient basis to claim anything special about the population of Lebanon.

I don't really know how to answer your policy question. What policy issues could be informed by this affair? publius very specifically disclaimed any policy relevance so I'm flying in the dark here. In general, I don't think we should be making policy decisions on the basis of one newspaper reporter's assessment of how millions of people feel. I'd like to see what actual experts who have studied the middle east at length and speak arabic say first. Even if we did accept that all Lebanese hate Israelis, I'm not sure where that gets us: there was a war between these nations two years ago. That doesn't mean such hatred is immovable or even relevant given the limited capacity of the Lebanese state.

I'm sorry if my answer is kind of a mush. If you can explain what policy issues you think might be relevant, I could probably give you a better answer.

"Dude – an IP thread? Whoa…"

Yeah, that'll be productive. It always is.

Better to just post "hey, explain why Macs sux."

[reads thread]

Yes, as productive as ever.

von, also, part of my response may stem from the fact that I have very different beliefs than I suspect you do. Terrorism is wrong. But I also think my government has engaged in many extremely serious acts of terrorism. Since I'm disinclined to say that all Americans are fundamentally evil monsters because of that, I'm disinclined towards saying that all Lebanese are evil monsters.

People suck. They suck worse and much more effectively when they're working together in a government. But they're still people. Shrug.

von writes:

in erasing the boundaries between negligence, recklessness, and intentional wrongdoing, you summarily dispense with 2000+ years of legal and moral theory. But if you don't accept that there is a difference between negligent homicide, manslaughter, and murder, you're right: we are are an impasse.

You misread my statement. I am not arguing the absence of any difference between negligence, recklessness, and intentional wrongdoing. Read what I wrote:

the reasonable foreseeability of those killings determines the moral reprehensibility of the killing.

This statement clearly establishes that the moral reprehensibility of the killing depends upon the reasonable foreseeability of the killing.

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