Note to the Washington Post: Military-Aged Does Not Mean Combatant

Over the weekend, Professor David Bernstein penned an article for the Washington Post accusing the media of “journalistic malpractice” for using Gaza Health Ministry figures on civilian deaths in the Israeli onslaught, insisting they were inflated. And I quote

Contrary to early reports that 80% or so of the early casualties were civilians, Al-Jazeera published names and ages, and about 3/4 were men of fighting age (16-50), compared to a rough estimate of 20% of the Gazan population (40% to 50% of which is fourteen and under). Some of those men were undoubtedly civilians, but it strains credulity to believe that 80% of the casualties were civilian but just-so-happened to be overwhelmingly fighting-age men.

Does it strain credulity? Not at all. Let’s go to the mother of all civilian-centric incidents in recent history, 9/11, and do a similar calculation of the “military-aged” victims among the 2,977 slain there. Since this is America, and women are in the military here too, we’ll count both just to be fair. We’ll also use Bernstein’s age group of 16-50, even though 50-year-old men in blockaded Palestine probably aren’t really healthy enough to still be fighting.

We go to CNN’s memorial, sort by age, do a little math and we get:

2,500 “military-aged” / 2,977 victims = 84%.

84% of the victims of 9/11 were “military-aged,” but would it “strain credulity” to say they were overwhelmingly civilians when census data shows “military-aged” Americans only account for a hair over 40% of the overall population? Of course not!

In fact, there’s a very good reason that “military-aged” people, by which we really mean “able-bodied” people, are disproportionately hit in such incidents. It’s because those people are more active, out and doing stuff. Israel is leveling a lot of houses full of children in Gaza, but the deaths are doubtless primarily from people who are out-of-doors hit by shrapnel, and able-bodied people are more apt to be out-of-doors, especially mid-war.

Professor Bernstein seems to be trying to imply that “military-aged” is tantamount to an antonym for “innocent civilians.” As a law professor he surely knows that is not the case, yet efforts to gloss over the humanitarian calamity of the Gaza war is getting the better of common sense for many people.

33 thoughts on “Note to the Washington Post: Military-Aged Does Not Mean Combatant”

    1. Shame about Professor Bernstein. Interviewed him for my old radio show in another lifetime. Excellent on civil liberties in the abstract. Absolutely loopy and superstitious when it comes to anything about the Middle East.

  1. "it strains credulity to believe that 80% of the casualties were civilian"

    No, Professor Bernstein, it doesn't. But it does strain credulity that you'd try to justify even a 25% civilian casualty rate by claiming the rest were military age males

    1. The bias here is self evident. Although not directly related, this sort of bias is related to the constant chorus of voices complaining about "anti-Semitism." And obviously all of this mental/emotional package is directly related to those zealots who constantly declare that the U.N. is anti-Semitic, that the U.S. Secretary of State is actively engaged in undercutting Israel's legitimacy, etc., etc.
      Regardless of Prof. Bernstein's charts and figures designed to excuse Israel's savagery, the fact remains that the entire world — with the exception of the U.S. — can see the figures on t.v.: one thousand one hundred plus (1100 +) dead Palestinians, mostly civilians according to that vicious anti-Semitic organization the U.N., and three (3) dead Israeli civilians and 50+ dead Israeli soldiers.

  2. But hasn't our lawgiver and Tuesday executioner decreed that military-aged victims of US drones are combatants?

  3. It is pitiful that Israel has chosen to pursue the culture of death with fury, instead of the culture of life.
    They have occupied Palestinian land and imprisoned millions of people for a generation. When the wrath of God falls down on Israel it is going to be very unpleasant indeed, but they refuse to listen.

  4. It's sickening to read Bernstein's piece arguing what age is the "right" age to be exterminated. These aren't wild dogs we're talking about, they're human beings! That we can discuss so casually these horrors seems to reflect the rot at the core of this country's heart. I'm ashamed to be an American.

  5. This is a good time to raise an argument I make about the strategy of those of us who are against war. It is a common tactic to bring up the accounts of dead children. The danger of using this tactic is that it has an indirect and subliminal effect of making the deaths of adults seem "OK." I am not trying to minimize the horror of the deaths of children, but rather to maximize the horror of the deaths of adults. To someone my age, an 18-year old is a baby, even a 28-year old is a baby. Most mothers of dead soldiers are in no less anguish than mothers of dead infants. The greatest attribute of this website is how it points out that wars – all wars – result from failed leadership, not from the heroic deeds of "war presidents." To that end there should be no differentiation between a death in war of a child and a death in war of an adult. Both were tragic and pointless. Sorry, Abe Lincoln, soldiers, all soldiers, die in vain because the leadership failed. Are the Czechs and Slovaks the only adults in the room of goverment leadership?

    1. From a purely ethical perspective, the loss of an adult is worse than the loss of a child. And an injured adult suffers far more than an injured child does.

  6. This issue (what is "military aged") is part of the larger problem. Namely, every adult in Gaza is labeled a "terrorist" for merely existing. Few Gazan females have military roles, so that's at least half of those in the age brackets. But how many actual "military" are in Gaza? Few if any in formal military units. Far more in informal or political/religious militia groups. But how many? What percentage actively take roles in military or security duties? Since very few Israeli soldiers have been casualties of the invasion, one can assume outright military resistance has been light. Israeli tactics involve bombardment from offshore, from aircraft and from artillery and tanks at considerable distances, shooting at mainly fixed targets. One can imagine how few actual military targets exist in Gaza, given the lack of formal military units, weaponry, organization. Hence targets are simply places were Israeli military planners think targets might happen to be, or where they might live, or have communications/logistics centers.
    Given this, how could there not be huge percentages of civilian deaths? Of course if every adult Gazan male is a "terrorist" then perhaps not. They are by definition all terrorists. Hence the only solution is a form of genocide from afar, within artillery range. Opening the door to this entire subject, via a typical over reaching complaint by a pro Zionist professor, and you reveal the deeper ugly truth of the matter.

  7. Seriously, the World Trade, a place of business, is like Gaza neighborhoods? Military age *men* is the equivalent of military-age people? LOL.

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