Unfriendly fire

The US’s selective outrage and unjust double standards are a blot on this country’s honor.

By Bruce Thorton, Frontpage Magazine

Last week Israel mistakenly attacked with missiles a humanitarian convoy in Gaza, killing seven aid workers.

As they have done for eight decades, Israel’s international enemies and alleged friends across the world immediately started demonizing Israel and accusing the IDF of intentionally targeting the aid workers.

Biden also suggested just that when he said, “Even more tragically, this is not a standalone incident,” adding that the war in Gaza “has been one of the worst in recent memory in terms of how many aid workers have been killed.”

Of course, Biden claims as well that Israel’s alleged callous indifference to the lives and well-being of civilians and aid workers “is a major reason why distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza has been so difficult—because Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers.”

Sadly, such unjust reactions and mendacious slurs against Israel have been unexceptional for decades.

And only Israel faces incessant criticism over the mistakes and miscalculations that are the tragic, eternal contingencies of war.

In every battlefield throughout history, fighters have had to face the “fog of war”–– the chaos, uncertainty, unforeseen consequences, mistaken intel, dubious tactics, mediocre leadership, faulty training and discipline, plus terror, panic, and a “thousand shapes of death,” as the Roman poet Vergil described the brutal sack of Troy.

These all lead to inadvertently killing one’s own troops or civilians.

Moreover, these grim constants of armed combat are multiplied and intensified in unconventional guerilla wars, especially in the complex landscape of towns and cities, where terrorists like Hamas shelter, spring ambushes, hide explosives, store armaments, use civilians of every age and sex as human shields, and employ humanitarian aid vehicles and ambulances to transport killers.

But over the last century, these historical realities of war have come to be understood as residues from more primitive and savage times, anomalies that modernity fancies can be corrected and mitigated with international laws, multinational covenants, institutions like the Red Cross, self-defeating “rules of engagement,” diplomatic intervention, and the conversion of illiberal autocracies into liberal democracies that acknowledge universal human rights and humanitarian restraints on war-making.

Hence the NATO nations, especially the U.S. and Great Britain, are pressuring Israel to announce a cease-fire, even though Hamas had been clear that it’s not interested, calculating that stopping Israel now, when it is close to finishing the job of destroying a genocidal enemy, is an escape hatch for their survival.

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Equally short-sighted and incoherent, Western nations are reviving the long-moribund “two-state solution” that the majority of Palestinian Arabs have serially rejected, not least because it is contrary to orthodox Islamic doctrine.

As Michel Calvo wrote for the Gatestone Institute, this long-held foreign policy received wisdom of the West was recently repeated by erstwhile twice ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, who said it’s “the only way to create lasting peace among the Israelis, the Palestinians, and the Arab countries of the Middle East.”

In fact, Calvo points out, “radical Islam does not tolerate the existence of a sovereign non-Islamic entity (such as Israel) on land that once was conquered by Muslims (dar al-Islam, ‘abode of Islam’). As most Palestinians have been creditably straightforward about, there is no place for an Israeli state.”

More despicable is Biden’s suggestions that Israel had intentionally targeted the aid van, or “has not done enough to protect aid workers” and “civilians.”

In fact, Israel’s tactic and protocols focused on protecting non-combatants have led to a low civilian-to-terrorist deaths ratio unprecedented in the history of war, especially urban guerilla warfare.

Take, for example, the IDF’s two-week operation at the end of March against Hamas terrorists using the Shifa hospital as a redoubt.

In a tweet, former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (@naftalibennett) reported:

– 6,000 civilians were evacuated by the IDF to keep them safe.
– 200 Hamas terrorists were killed.
– 500 Hamas terrorists have been captured.
– *No civilian was killed*. Not one.

Similarly, claims by Israel’s critics that it is fomenting a famine among Gazans, are, as Park MacDougald explains on The Scroll Substack.com, dubious.

More telling, MacDougald writes, “According to United Nations and Israeli numbers, Israel is already delivering twice the amount of food into Gaza than what the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) says is necessary to meet Gazan civilians’ needs.”

Moreover, it’s shamefully hypocritical for the West to slander Israel as peculiarly callous about civilian casualties, given its own track-record of lethal blunders during the “war on terror” military operations in the last few decades. Here’s a list from the Elder of Zyon site:

9,000 civilians were killed by the US-led coalition in Iraq between 2003-2005.

In July 2008, the US hit an Afghan wedding party, thinking they were a large number of terrorists. 47 Afghan civilians were killed including the bride.

And in November, a similar airstrike at a wedding killed 37 civilians, mostly women and children.

Between 86 and 147 Afghan civilians were killed in another 2009 US airstrike.

In September 2012, a US drone shot at a truck in Yemen, killing 12 civilians, including three children and a pregnant woman.

In 2015, the US fired over 200 shells at a hospital building in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing 42 patients and staff.

Days later, it admitted the mistake, saying that it had intelligence that the Taliban were in the building.

In March 2017 , the US dropped a 500-pound bomb on a building where about 50 people were sheltering in ISIS-controlled Syria.

In 2018, the US Army shot a Hellfire missile at a mother and daughter in Somalia, and when one tried to flee, it hit them again, killing them.

In 2021, a US drone shot and killed 10 civilians in Kabul, including an aid worker and seven children.

It wasn’t a split second decision – they watched the vehicle for eight hours without considering that perhaps the people they were watching were innocent.

Last May, the US announced the killing of an Al Qaeda leader – but the victim was really a 56-year old former bricklayer.

As recently as February of this year, US airstrikes in Iraq killed civilians.

In nearly all of these cases, the US didn’t admit their mistakes until weeks or months later, if ever, and only when pressured would they release any results of investigations.

And as NRO’s Jim Geraghty pointed out last week about the hypocrisy of Israel’s Western critics, “let’s note that lots of people who can shrug their shoulders at Russia’s egregious ongoing human-rights abuses in occupied Ukraine, or the Chinese government’s concentration camps and attempted genocide of the Uyghurs, or any action by the mullahs in Iran, will get out in the streets and furiously denounce Israel. When the only country that stirs your ire in terms of human rights is the one with a Jewish star on its flag, the rest of us can conclude what really motivates you.”

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The point is not to demonize the U.S., as its enemies do, but to remind us of the tragic reality of all wars. Most friendly fire deaths and killings of civilians happen because “someone had blundered,” as Tennyson said in his poem about the suicidal charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War.

And war is eternally subject to what Abraham Lincoln called the “awful arithmetic”: that some people, including the innocent, die now so that more people don’t die later.

Finally, aside from the hypocrisy, Biden’s implied moral equivalence between Israel and Hamas is despicable and morally idiotic.

As a liberal democracy, Israel’s government is accountable for its actions.

So far, two officers have been dismissed for their actions during the strike, and three reprimanded; an independent investigation has been launched; and “Israel’s Prime Minister, President and Defense Minister have also apologized and announced steps to try to prevent it from happening again,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

Israel also has opened the Eretz border crossing and Ashdod port, and has pledged to allow more aid for Gazans, despite the fact that most aid, as it has for decades, will be stolen by Hamas to feed its terrorist forces, build and repair military infrastructure, or sell to Gazans at inflated prices on the black market.

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Nor, needless to say, has Hamas, let alone its patron Iran, ever apologized for its savage violence, rape, and mutilation of Israelis.

Instead, it proudly publicizes its depredations with gruesome videos posted on the internet, and openly boasts of its intentions to repeat them until the Jews are annihilated.

Our government’s selective outrage and unjust double standards are a blot on this country’s honor.

And Biden’s bullying and threatening of Israel––which seems to be working, as Israel has withdrawn most of its forces from Khan Yunis in southern Gaza––will join the dishonorable abandonments of Saigon, the Bay of Pigs Cuban freedom fighters, and our Afghan partners as the worst betrayals of allies in our history.