Every morning I wake up on

The wrong side of capitalism

Who don’t count

You know when you’re playing Snakes and Ladders as a child, and you roll a number that would take you to a snake, and you say “oh, that roll was an accident, it didn’t count,” and roll again? There you have the civilized Western defense of warfare: “Oh, we don’t kill civilians, except when we do, but that’s an accident and it doesn’t count.” Or rather, in the terrifyingly cheerful words of Don Shepperd on CNN this morning:

The problem is those weapons can malfunction. You can make fat-fingered typing errors. There are still mistakes in warfare. And that’s where you get those trenches full of bodies, Kyra.

Trenches full of bodies. But, you know, Israel didn’t mean it, so it doesn’t count. The “pedantic, casuistic jesuitry” of a “useless and barbaric ruling class.”



  1. Excellent post, Tim!

    Comment by rachel @ 7/26/2006 4:00 am

  2. All too true - Hizb targets civilians, we massacre them by mistake

    Comment by jim jay @ 7/26/2006 4:10 am

  3. Joking aside, isn’t this precisely the desperate, pathetic truth of it? “Hizb”, as the kids appear to be calling them, target civilians because there’s not much else they’re capable of doing (though their attacks on military targets are underestimated) and the Israelis accidentally (though entirely predictably) massacre civilians because there’s not much else they’re capable of doing (though their efforts to limit themselves to legitimate targets are underestimated). There is a feeling amongst those on the left who support (Support! This isn’t sport - you don’t have to take a side!) the resistance to Israel that recognising the equivalence of Israeli actions with those of their opponents shows that Israel is bad. It doesn’t. It just shows that they’re in as much shit as everyone else and as incapable of changing the situation as their opponents. It’s only crypto-racism (They Israelis are sort-of white - they should know better! vs. the “Arab street” is blood-thirsty, what else can you expect?) that can spin a distinction and a needless moral judgement from this.

    Comment by Stefan @ 7/26/2006 7:06 am

  4. stefan–

    i almost sympathize with your comment, there is some truth to it, but it makes things too even and smooth.

    the fact of the matter in this specific instance is that hizbollah didn’t target civilians at the outset. they carried out a military operation against an enemy that enters their territory and attacks on a daily basis. it was only after israel responded by slaughtering civilians that hizbollah launched (largely ineffective) attacks on civilian targets.

    and you also suggest that israel’s targeting of civilians was accidental, which can’t be substantiated. the accuracy of katyusha rockets can’t be compared with that of us-supplied satellite-guided missiles. israel chooses to use cluster bombs in civilian areas, when they know these will effectively kill many civilians (in contrast to hizbollah rockets). are we to believe that the killing of the UN troops was also an accident?

    and you’ve got the operation of race backwards: the israeli government uses race explicitly in their valorization of life. the life of one israeli fluctuates in value between ten and a hundred arabs (this is an explicit policy aim vis-a-vis the palestinians).

    how on earth could “moral judgement” be deemed “unnecessary”? is the israeli invasion akin to a natural disaster, to be mourned but not prepared for or defended against?

    Comment by geo @ 7/26/2006 8:49 am

  5. There are two replies.

    One, the formal and pedantic is that Tim’s post and much of the coverage of this and related conflicts makes the case that Israel (/the US/whoever) are *as bad* as whoever, but then leap to the conclusion that they are therefore worse. The only plauside lacuna is that Israel/the US/etc should be held to higher standards and I don’t know why this should be. This is not to make things too even and smooth - it’s just an observation about the workings of a popular form of argument.

    The more long-winded and more debatable point is on the specifics of your reply and is fairly boring.

    In short:

    - Talking about the “specific incident” is basically “He started it!” in a situation where both sides have an awful lot of grievances and a fig-leaf for the on-going beligerant actions of both sides

    - We can argue either way about who has the burden of proof regarding “accidental” killing of civilians, but I do agree that Israel know full well what’s going to happen

    - As an Israeli I would very much hope that my government values my life more highly than that of those who are trying to kill me (and vice versa were I one of those the Israelis are trying to kill). It’s unpleasant but that’s the way Governments have to operate. That’s partly what they’re for.

    - “Moral judgement” was the wrong phrase - the moral judgement is clear: the whole thing is fucking awful. What I meant to refer to was the choosing of sides.

    Comment by Stefan @ 7/26/2006 9:31 am

  6. I would opine that, contrary to statements made about the “rooting out of Hezbollah” or at the very least the weakening of them, the Israeli government is instead intent on demolishing a new and vibrant democracy - a peaceful, democratic and multi-faceted country with many links to and solidarity with other members of the Arab world. This is obvious in the targets the IDF chooses - for instance two predominantly Christian towns and Christian neighbourhoods in Beirut.
    Hezbollah - a shi’a organisation that is much more than simple a terrorist organisation and at the very least an organisation that bears no resemblence to Al Qaeda - does not reside in these citeis and neighbourhoods, and thus attacking them is a demonstrable attack on the entire nation of Lebanon, thus throwing claims of measured and careful precision attacks into serious question.

    Comment by elise @ 7/26/2006 1:50 pm

  7. I think there are a number of things to say in response to Stefan - but I’ll limit myself to two little ones…

    firstly there is the qualitative difference between the military actions of Hezbollah and those of the IDF. Not just the scale of civilian casualties that the IDF has inflicted upon Lebanon - but also the obliteration of transportation and power networks and other parts of the infrastructure. When you destroy the bridges you are inflicting a collective punishment upon an entire people. Just as they had been doing for months in Gaza.

    secondly I think its worth looking at the historical roots of Hezbollah - when they were formed in 1982 it was as a direct response to Israeli occupation. H would not even exist if it was not for the aggressive foreign policy of the Israeli state - and if there is lesson from that its that this current round of murders will sow another generation of hatred for Israel - and I would suggest that is in no one’s interests.

    Comment by jim jay @ 7/26/2006 4:01 pm

  8. respect. just linked to you.


    Comment by confucius @ 8/2/2006 10:46 pm

  9. my name is agustina and i live in argentina. i’m 14 years old and i would like to understand this texts but there are some words that i don’t know and i have to do my homework. but i’m really interesting about the capitalism all over the world. not only in my country.
    have a nice day. PEACE

    Comment by Agustina @ 3/17/2008 5:03 pm

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