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Thursday, October 01, 2009

It's impossible to wage war without civilian casualties

Writing in JPost, Evelyn Gordon argues that in Richard Goldstone's world, war is made with insufficient force and therefore - if the world makes war the way Goldstone proposes - the war would never end.
And that is the truth Goldstone's commission signally ignored: It is not possible to wage any kind of war without civilian casualties. The Allies did not slaughter French civilians intentionally. But if civilians are present in a war zone, many will inevitably die.

Partly, this is because mistakes are inevitable. Information in wartime is always imperfect; it is often impossible to know whether the people in your sights are civilians, enemy fighters or your own soldiers. Soldiers must make split-second judgments using this imperfect information, and sometimes they are wrong.

Moreover, even with correct information, nobody is infallible. And misaiming by even a hair can mean hitting an innocent person or building instead of the target.

That is why all battles produce friendly-fire casualties. Indeed, four of the 10 IDF soldiers killed in the Gaza fighting - fully 40 percent - were friendly-fire deaths. Does Goldstone believe Israeli troops shot their own comrades deliberately? Presumably not. Yet he insists that numerous Palestinian civilians were killed deliberately. That Israelis err when killing their comrades but never when killing Palestinians is a conclusion so illogical as to defy comprehension.

And indeed, simple error can easily explain many of Goldstone's "Israeli war crimes." But Hitchcock also offers a lesson relevant to the rest: Not only is it impossible to wage war without civilian casualties, but the harder you try, the less effective your fighting becomes.
Read the whole thing.

The picture at the top is a group of smugglers inside a Gaza smuggling tunnel under Gaza.


At 6:22 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

There is no such thing as a "clean" war - and never will be. People do die in wars and those like Goldstone who have never been in the heat of battle don't have any moral or practical right to judge soldiers' actions. In war, you can live or die or others around you can in a split second. This is not a place where lawyers are well equipped to determine the legality of military conduct. Goldstone had no trained military experts with combat experience to rely on in assessing wartime events in Operation Cast Lead and that alone renders the entire report invalid.


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