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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Former Iraq commander blasts Goldstone

In Friday's Australian, retired General Jim Molan, who was the chief of operations of the multinational force in Iraq in 2004-05, blasts the Goldstone Commission (Hat Tip: Barry Rubin).
With experience of having to tread through this legal and moral minefield while acting as an agent of the statesman who has an obligation to act, I was looking forward to how Goldstone was going to react to questions such as: How much discrimination is enough? How much of the inevitable killing of innocents is too much? How do we equate our complex war aims with the use of military force against a terrorist organisation that flouts the rule of law? How do you assess in legal terms the proportionality of a war between a terrorist force and one of the world's most advanced militaries? If one side uses backyard rockets is the other side not allowed to use precision-guided missiles? Do three Israelis killed and hundreds wounded by backyard rockets equal 1000 Gazans killed by Israeli actions? Given the legal regime recognises the difficulty of military decision-making amid the fog of war, and thus obligates planners and commanders to base decisions on information reasonably available at the time, how did the report handle this issue?

On these and many other questions, the Goldstone report is strangely silent, a luxury that I did not have in Iraq, and a luxury that the Israeli commanders probably did not have in Gaza.

The Goldstone report is an opinion by one group of people putting forward their judgments, with limited access to the facts, and reflecting their own prejudices. The difference in tone and attitude in the report when discussing Israeli and Hamas actions is surprising.

I probably do not need to state for most readers that as a soldier who has run a war against an opponent not dissimilar to Hamas, facing problems perhaps similar to those faced by Israeli commanders, my sympathies tend to lie with the Israelis. I can hold and openly declare those prejudices even while I acknowledge that within institutions that may be overall just and moral, there can be individuals or small groups who act outside the law. They must be dealt with, and in my war, they were.

But having stated my prejudice, I think I may be more honest than Goldstone, who seems to pass off his prejudices in a report that cannot be based on fact, and uses judicial language and credibility to do so. It comes down to equality of scepticism: if you refuse to believe anything the Israelis say, then you have no right to unquestioningly accept what Hamas says.
Read the whole thing.


At 4:10 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Goldstone never pretended to be impartial. Its bias was set out in the resolution that appointed it and in the report it prepared for the UN Human Right Council's consideration.


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