What’s the SOFA Say About Shooting a Deaf Girl?

Just hours after the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in Iraq took effect, we reported that American forces shot a civilian woman in Baghdad.

Such a shooting was expected to be a big test for the SOFA, which ostensibly was meant to prevent the US from shooting and arresting so many civilians. But the US now has an explanation, and that seems good enough for the Iraqis.

See, that woman, an employee of Biladi Television, seemed suspicious, so they screamed at her to stop. When she didn’t, they fired two warning shots into her stomach. All perfectly innocent, right?

Except of course that the woman they shot couldn’t hear… now it’s been awhile since I read the SOFA, but I don’t recall there being an exemption for shooting deaf people in the question of legal immunity for crimes against civilians.

Heilbrunn Reviews Neo-Con Travails

Jacob Heilbrunn of The National Interest, which is related to the Nixon Center, has written two very interesting articles on the plight of the neo-cons after the Republican debacle in November that are well worth a read.

The first, published on the journal’s blog December 19, addresses the departure of Joshua Muravchik and Marc Reuel Gerecht, as well as that reported earlier of Michael Ledeen, from the foreign-policy ranks of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Like Ledeen, Gerecht has found a new home at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), which, so far as I can tell, is basically a front for both Israel’s Likud Party and for the pro-Likud Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC). Muravchik, who, like Ledeen, had been associated with AEI for some 20 years, is apparently yet to find a new perch. Heilbrunn suggests that these departures are evidence of an ideological purge against neo-cons led by Danielle Pletka, who came to prominence as a staffer for the ultra-right Jesse Helms, but I find this a little difficult to believe if, for no other reason, than Pletka is as neo-conservative (and Likudist) as anyone I can think of. I understand from mutual friends that Muravchik had been worried about his position at AEI for at least the past year and a half due to withering pressure from above to write and publish more than he had. It is true as Heilbrunn points out, however, that Muravchik has been a bit more nuanced in his approach to the various “evils” that neo-cons have identified over the past two decades than some of his ideological colleagues; for example, Daniel Pipes (with whom Pletka has been close) has attacked him (and Gerecht) for entertaining the notion that the West should be willing to dialogue with and possibly even support non-violent Islamist parties in the Middle East, a notion that is anathema to Pipes. Perhaps AEI’s or Pletka’s aim is guided less by Republican loyalty than by Islamophobia, if indeed ideology — and not personality, as was reportedly more the case with Ledeen — is playing a role in these decisions.

The second article by Heilbrunn, whose book, They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons I reviewed last year, is much longer and appears in the latest issue (Jan 12) of The American Conservative. It speculates on the internal splits that the neo-cons are going through as a result of the political campaign and Obama’s victory, and the possibility (I would say probability) that at least one major faction — headed by people like Robert Kagan, David Brooks and even David Frum — will seek to forge an alliance with liberal interventionists, presumably led by Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton (although Susan Rice also fits the bill), in the new administration, much as they succeeded in doing during the Clinton administration with respect to Balkans policy. As I’ve written before, the two movements have similar historical origins (inspired in major part by the “lessons” — “never again” — they drew from Munich and the Holocaust) and tend to see foreign policy in highly moralistic terms in which the U.S. and Israel are “exceptionally” good. While I don’t agree with everything in Heilbrunn’s analysis, it offers a good point of departure for watching the neo-cons as the Age of Obama gets underway.

Say What You Will About Cynthia McKinney…

But no matter what one thinks of Ms. McKinney, she backs her convictions not just with her own money but her very skin: she went as a human rights advocate aboard a Gaza relief boat. And this morning, that boat was rammed three times by an Israeli patrol vessel, leaving it damaged and forcing it to take a detour in Tyre, Lebanon.

Sometimes former US Rep. and recent Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney comes across a little…ah…wild-eyed. I do happen to agree with most of her foreign policy positions, and she even seems to prefer a hands-off approach to Zimbabwe and, surprisingly, liberal cause célèbre Darfur. I do find her positions on trade to be poorly informed but this isn’t kookery — most politicians hold similarly dirigiste views.

But no matter what one thinks of Ms. McKinney, she backs her convictions not just with her own money but her very skin: she went as a human rights advocate aboard a Gaza relief boat. And this morning, that boat was rammed three times by an Israeli patrol vessel, leaving it damaged and forcing it to take a detour in Tyre, Lebanon.

“I would call it ramming. Let’s just call it as it is,” McKinney said. “Our boat was rammed three times, twice in the front and once on the side.

“Our mission was a peaceful mission, but our mission was thwarted by the Israelis, the aggressiveness of the Israeli military.”

No other current or former US Congressperson has done something similar, as far as I know. Dennis Kucinich is calling for a United nations inquiry, and I suppose that’s a nice gesture. But Ms. McKinney got herself on board a ship to steward relief supplies to the suffering civilians of a war zone beseiged by weapons her own country financed. Maybe it takes a little wackiness to get us some real activism.

End of the Year Carnage & Absurdity in Gaza

Both Hamas and the Israeli government bear some of the blame, but the Israeli slaughter of civilians far exceeds that inflicted by the ragtag rockets fired from Gaza.

The craven response by the American political class to the use of American planes and weapons to slaughter civilians is what any reasonable cynic should have expected. Obama is maintaining his silence – perhaps because there is little hay to be made from victims outside of Darfur.

This conflict may be even more ludicrous than the typical Mideast carnage. The New York Times, in a front page story headlined, “Israel Reminds Foe It Has Teeth,” noted, “Israel’s military operation in Gaza aims to expunge the ghost of its flawed 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon and re-establish Israeli deterrence.”


Blasting the hell out of an overcrowded prison-like slab of land that has no anti-aircraft defenses? This is the New Macho??

Whom does Israel think that this will deter? Other groups of hungry and discontent convicts throughout Eurasia?

For Israel to “flaunt its strength” by using airstrikes against Gaza would be like the Bush administration seeking to regain its military swagger after Iraq by having the U.S. Air Force blast the hell out of a few Indian reservations in Arizona.

Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Children?

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Andy David was just interviewed on CNN about the attacks on the Gaza Strip. At the end he was asked if Israel would abide by the UN Security Council’s calls for a ceasefire. Instead of answering simply and saying “no,” he got to his answer in a roundabout way, insisting that the Israeli military’s killings in the Gaza Strip (300 at last count) are really being done for the children, claiming that the children of Sderot haven’t slept in eight years (a remarkable testament to their endurance, to be sure) and that anyone who looks at their tired eyes cannot help but support the continuation of the attacks.

Isn’t the welfare of children usually a reason not to kill people as opposed to a reason to kill them? How well will these children sleep hearing from their government that their rest ostensibly came at the expense of scores of innocent lives? One would hope that in the future the Israeli government will take responsibility for their own killings, instead of trying to lay the blame for a humanitarian catastrophe on innocent children.

A ‘Day’ of Intel

One of my duties at Antiwar.com is to find news links for our readers. As you can imagine, it can get pretty tedious reading the same basic story across the different news agencies, but occasionally I am rewarded with a real gem for my troubles. Yesterday, tucked away deep inside an article in The Jerusalem Post was a tiny mention that an estimated one-third of the dead in yesterday’s IAF air strikes were civilians.

Although I imagined there had to be great “collateral damage” during the assault, there were two things that struck me about the mention. First, it was in an article lauding the “year of intel” that went into the operation. Second, it was in The Jerusalem Post. Here was an article — in an Israeli newspaper — admitting there were great civilian losses during an operation that took a year to plan! I couldn’t believe the juxtaposition.

I made mention of it to a couple of co-workers and then changed our link headline to stress that information. It was so odd that I thought it must have just snuck past an editor during yesterday’s chaotic reporting. So on a whim this morning I decide to see if an editor had gotten around to “fixing” it. Sure enough, now the civilian casualties are down to only “15” deaths in the article. Thankfully, The Mercury News saw fit to quote Palestinian Health Ministry official, Moaiya Hassanain, on that same estimate and hasn’t “fixed” their article. At least, not yet.