Site Meter

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

James Wimberly weighs in on the Walzer, Davies, Zasloff discussion.

Unlike Davies, his tone is sober. Like Davies he reaches a very very harsh conclusion on Walzer, basically arguing that Walzer could not have written his column in good faith.

Wimberly writes

"It's particularly sad then that his comments ad bellum Gazae are so jejune.

First, he only considers proportionality, briefly mentions alternate means - but not the default course of doing nothing -, and ignores definite aim and chances of success, all part of the standard just war toolkit. Since he has literally written the book on this, the omissions lend support to Davies' imputation of bad faith.

Second, what he has to say about proportionality is weird. He conflates proportionality AB and IB, an elementary mistake - or, you have to think, sophistical manoeuvre:"


(Wimberly defines and apologizes for the Latin and the Latin acronyms further up in his post).

Unlike Davies and Zasloff, Wimberly actually convinced me to read the Walzer column I am a fan of Walzer, but know about his record commenting on Israel, and didn't expect to enjoy the experience. I didn't. Walzer does indeed ignore "definite aim and chance of success" which he listed as requirements for Justice of War in "Just and Unjust Wars." Basically, he feels no need to address the argument that Israel's war effort is strongly counter to Israel's interests and that proportionality between civilian deaths and damage to Israel is not the kind of porportionality that might justify bombing.

Wimberly makes this argument much better than I do of course. It is devastating.

Also, Walzer complains that people accused Israel of a disproportionate response at the very beginning of the bombing campaign -- before counting civilian casualties. This seems to be a reasonable thing to do to me, since if you have reason to believe that a lot of people are going to die, you might try to prevent their deaths and not wait to count them, but let's concede he is right on that point. He does not, however, assess the proportionality after counting civilian casualties.

Because proportionality arguments are forward-looking, and because we don't have positive, but only speculative, knowledge about the future, we need to be very cautious in using this justification. The commentators and critics using it today, however, are not being cautious at all; they are not making any kind of measured judgment, not even a speculative kind. "Disproportionate" violence for them is simply violence they don't like, or it is violence committed by people they don't like.

So Israel's Gaza war was called "disproportionate" on day one, before anyone knew very much about how many people had been killed or who they were.

This is, to put it as politely as possible, gibberish. He says we must be cautious when using proportionality as a justification, then he concludes that we must be cautious when saying an act of war is not justified. It is clear to me that advocates of the use of force are wrong until decisively proven right unless they are Israeli in which case they are right until they are decisively proven wrong.

Well except if they were condemned before there was decisive proof. In that case the case is dismissed for prosecutorial misconduct by their critics and there is no need to look at further evidence on the proportion between civilian deaths and war aims (where wishes are good enough and any coherent argument that the war will contribute to the aims is optional).

Ugh. I knew I wouldn't enjoy reading the column.

Anyway, my original motivation for commenting on Wimberly was to complain about this "You would have thought that Google had finished this ploy: the string "IDF tactics Gaza civilians risks" returned 46,000 hits, with Haaretz - not The Guardian - twice on the first page."

Actually no. I googled "IDF tactics Gaza civilians risks" and got 2 hits one of which was Wimberly's post and the other was a post linking to it.. Wimberly googled the following string: IDF + tactics + Gaza + civilians + risks

I mean one just can't use quotation marks in the usual way when describing google strings, You don't have to type the +s of course. I'd say

"the string -- IDF tactics Gaza civilians risks -- returned 46,000 hits," would be OK, but not with quotation marks.

Wimberley is criticizing this passage

The third question: Is the attacking army acting in concrete ways to minimize the risks they impose on civilians? Are they taking risks themselves for that purpose? Armies choose tactics that are more or less protective of the civilian population, and we judge them by their choices. I haven't heard this question asked about the Gaza war by commentators and critics in the Western media;

Walzer's problem is that he doesn't keep up with "the media" which currently includes the internet and can be kept up with only with google. If he had written "non Israeli Western mass media" he would have what seems to me, given my limited google skills, a point. A google News search of IDF + tactics + Gaza + civilians + risks gives 4 hits of which only one is non-Izraeli mass media (the BBC) and that posted 2 days after Walzer's article.

I mean there are people who don't google and we have to take them at their word that they haven't heard things which we read again and again on blogs.

Aside from that, Wimberley is devastating.


Anonymous said...

Well done, besides the problem of being incapable of taking a Palestinian perspective even when being sympathetic to the catastrophe being wrecked on the Palestinians.

What Israel has done, with astonishing American support is beyond conscience but all that matters is the tragedy of Gazans and Gaza.

[This is fine writing, however difficult the topic.]

Anonymous said...

January 13, 2009

Hill of Shame

You will not know from reading the articles in your American newspapers, but I am telling you that Western correspondents operating in Gaza refer to the hill to which Israeli military terrorists escort the press to show the bombing of Gaza as "the Hill of Shame."

-- As'ad AbuKhalil

Anonymous said...

January 13, 2009

Gaza Children Increasingly Traumatised - Specialists

RAMALLAH (WEST BANK) - As the Israeli aerial and ground bombardment continues in Gaza, the number of trauma cases is growing, say specialists.

"The whole community is vulnerable to the intensity of the attacks and the loss of family members that will not only cause post-traumatic stress disorder, but other mood and anxiety disorders as well," World Health Organization (WHO) mental health officer Ragiah Abu-Sway, based in Jerusalem, told IRIN by phone.

"The reality is that this current violence is already compounding high levels of trauma in children in Gaza," said World Vision UK's head of emergency affairs, Ian Gray....

Anonymous said...

January 13, 2009

The Man whose Back is Against the Wall

The Man Whose Back is Against the Wall by Egyptian-Sudanese poet Muhammad Al-Fayturi

"For whom?
I embrace fire while dead...
and fight
I, who have no land, no country
no face, no time
no glory, no price
For whom?
Your eyes spit in my eyes..
I am the fugitive..
Stare in my eyes as you wish
Say that I was a coward
that I was weak
Cry over my birth
Raise your quivering hands
to the sky
If only you searched my soul..
my blood..
You will only find
rejection and contempt
I hate you all..
Do not beg..
Do not smile..
Your dry smile..
only fills me with contempt
for you
A rock I am,
so do not call
I condemn you all,
you clowns
I do not make exceptions..
In the name of your glory,
my nation is clothed
in mourning
And in the dust of your horses,
my homeland was lost!
...My cause is mine alone
and after me, there is fire"

-- As'ad AbuKhalil

Anonymous said...

January 13, 2009

Gaza is a graveyard? Never.

"One family buried a slain son over his grandfather. Another bundled up the tiny bodies of three young cousins and lowered them into the grave of a long-dead aunt. A man was laid to rest with his brother. More than two weeks into the Israeli offensive that has killed more than 940 Palestinians, Gazans are struggling to find places to bury their dead. Cemeteries throughout Gaza City that were closed for new burials have now reopened. "Gaza is all a graveyard," gravedigger Salman Omar said, as he shoveled earth in Gaza City's crammed Sheik Radwan cemetery, a cigarette dangling from his lips." *


-- As'ad AbuKhalil


Anonymous said...

This post was suitably brave, when braveness is needed.

Anonymous said...

"This is, to put it as politely as possible, gibberish. He says we must be cautious when using proportionality as a justification, then he concludes that we must be cautious when saying an act of war is not justified. It is clear to me that advocates of the use of force are wrong until decisively proven right unless they are Israeli in which case they are right until they are decisively proven wrong."

Perfect, and really morally essential.

Anonymous said...

Thinking more, I realize again how important this analysis is since unless there is a moral vacuousness to America that is beyond hope fear has stopped so much protest, so much polite protest, so much as a request for peace.

The reason there has been such a spread of political support for Israel is fear. There was obvious fear that swept Republicans and Democrats to immediately condemn Russia for responding in a measured vein to a bombardment by Georgia of Russian peace keepers and Russian and Ossetian civilians on the Russian border followed by a Georgian invasion of Ossetia. Immediately Russia was condemned whether by Bush or Obama and every possible foreign policy analyst. I had by chance though actually watched the Georgian bombardment on French television, and understood.

With the war on Gaza though, the fear is not of appearing sympathetic to Russia but fear of Israel so that the Prime Minister of Israel could openly shame Condoleezza Rice with no recrimination while there was more political and analytical support for the war on Gaza than the war on Iraq. Expecting simple decency from our foreign policy analysts is comical, I understand. Politically, there is foreign policy emptiness morally when supposedly important interest groups are the issue.

A tragedy, beyond tragedy.

Anonymous said...

January 15, 2009

Israel Strike Hits U.N. Complex in Gaza

Workers at a U.N. building in Gaza City on Thursday. Israel’s defense minister said the shelling was a mistake.

[Beyond shameful, but notice the absence of discussion of the wretched shelling of children. Gaza is Guernica, many, many times over and generations beyond the lesson of Guernica. Gaza is beyond shameful.]

Anonymous said...

January 15, 2009

U.N. Building in Gaza Strip Is Hit by Strike From Israel

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed regret for the incident but said that Israeli forces were fired on by Hamas militants from just outside the compound.

[I understand, and this has been the reasoning all along, as children were being smashed, which was the reasoning of Guernica generations ago, but Guernica has been forgotten. I remember however that Guernica which hangs before the United Nations Security Council was covered over when Colin Powell went before the Council to propose war on Iraq.]

Anonymous said...

Imagine bombing a city, bombing a city from which there is nowhere to go for those who live there, bombing a city filled with children day on day, and America has not asked for a ceasefire and will not even ask for a ceasefire on the birthday of Martin Luther King. I care little for the United Nations building as a building, though Gaza has been and is being rubbled, but I care about the children who are seen the world through, from what I can tell, save seen in America.

Anonymous said...

January 14, 2009

Look at the standards of the New York Times

This was what disturbed the New York Times about Hillary Clinton's testimony in Congress: "Her emphasis on the civilian costs of the violence in Gaza suggested that the incoming administration might be more inclined than President Bush has been to urge restraint on the Israelis." * I won't be surprised if the New York Times decides that any mention of the civilian suffering in Palestine is in fact anti-Semitic.


-- As'ad AbuKhalil

Anonymous said...

Notice carefully the lack of conscience among Democratic leaders who will not even ask, just ask, Israel for a ceasefire. Barack Obama has shown just what can be expected in this regard, and what can be expected is shameful.

Hillary Clinton? Please....

Notice also, Tony Blair, and understand that Blair was always George Bush with what passes for polish.

Anonymous said...

January 15, 2009

Israel Shells Crowded Hospital
By Amy Goodman

Israel continues its relentless attack on Gaza with more bombings of civilian targets, including a crowded hospital. The past hours have seen some of the most intensive Israeli bombing of the twenty-day assault. The Al-Quds hospital was hit by Israeli shells, setting it ablaze. Around 500 patients were being treated inside.