Syndicated columnist Richard Cohen declared in
the Washington Post on Tuesday that an-eye-for-an-eye would be a hopelessly
wimpy policy for the Israeli government.
"Anyone who knows anything about the Middle East knows that proportionality
is madness," he
wrote. "For Israel, a small country within reach, as we are finding
out, of a missile launched from any enemy's back yard, proportionality is not
only inapplicable, it is suicide. The last thing it needs is a war of attrition.
It is not good enough to take out this or that missile battery. It is necessary
to reestablish deterrence: You slap me, I will punch out your lights."
Cohen likes to sit in front of a computer and use flip phrases
like "punch out your lights" as euphemisms for burning human flesh
bones with high-tech weapons, courtesy of American taxpayers.
In mid-November 1998, when President Clinton canceled plans for air attacks
on Iraq after Saddam Hussein promised full cooperation with UN weapons inspectors,
Cohen wrote: "Something is out of balance here. The Clinton administration
waited too long to act. It needed to punch out Iraq's lights, and it did not
The resort to euphemism tells us a lot. So does Cohen's track
record of sweeping statements on behalf of his zeal for military
actions funded by the U.S. Treasury.
On February 6, 2003, the Washington Post published Richard Cohen's
judgment the morning after Colin Powell made his televised presentation to the
UN Security Council. "The evidence he presented to the United Nations –
some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail
– had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn't accounted for its weapons
of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them," Cohen wrote.
"Only a fool – or possibly a Frenchman – could conclude otherwise."
Cohen's moral certainties are on a par with his technical ones.
While he condemns rockets fired into Israel, he expresses pleasure
about missiles fired by the Israeli government. That the death toll of
civilians is far higher from Israel's weaponry does not appear to
bother him. On the contrary, he seems glad about the killing spree by
the Israeli military.
In a column with bigoted overtones ("Israel is, as I have often said,
unfortunately located, gentrifying a pretty bad neighborhood"), Cohen's
eagerness to support additional large-scale bombing by Israel is thematic. Consider
"Hezbollah, with the aid of Iran and Syria, has shown that it is no
longer necessary to send a dazed suicide bomber over the border – all that
is needed is the requisite amount of thrust and a warhead. That being the case,
it's either stupid or mean for anyone to call for proportionality. The only
way to ensure that babies don't die in their cribs and old people in the streets
is to make the Lebanese or the Palestinians understand that if they, no matter
how reluctantly, host those rockets, they will pay a very, very steep price."
Such phrasing is classic evasion by keyboard cheerleaders for war:
"The" Lebanese. "The" Palestinians. "They will pay
a very, very steep
price." Meanwhile, in the real world, the vast majority of the victims
of the Israeli onslaught are civilians being subjected to collective
Cohen – like so many others in the American punditocracy –
depicts the death of an Israeli civilian as far more tragic and
important than the death of an Arab civilian.
There's something really sick about such righteous support for
civilian death and destruction.
Osama bin Laden, meet Richard Cohen.
Richard, meet Osama.