I was going to write a whole piece about Qana, but the media has pretty well made that needless on my part. In short, I don't think there's enough evidence for us
to say whether or not the specific building was being used as a Hezbollah warehouse or barracks or what have you, although we do know for a fact that this practice is widespread. What's more interesting to me is watching the media's amazingly inept handling of the subject matter. Peter Johnson's USA Today piece, ironically, might help us to recognize the problem: Reporters these days, by and large, aren't very smart
Daniel Schorr is used to producers popping into his Washington, D.C., office at National Public Radio to ask, on deadline: Which war came first, Korea or Vietnam? (Answer: Korea.)
But when one asked, "You covered the Spanish-American War, didn't you?" Schorr couldn't help but respond, matter-of-factly: "That was 1898."
Yet these are the people we're supposed to get our facts from. Whether it's Wolf Blitzer babbling on about his belief that an armored humvee would've saved soldiers from a bomb that overturned a much, much larger armored personnel carrier, a BBC reporter talking casually about an M1 "Abrahams" tank, or a CNN reporter asking one of my local officials if there's something they can do, "physically", to lower the flooding in Broome County, as though if only we all flushed our toilets at once it would just go away, they've learned a lot in journalism school about journalism, but little else. When it comes to foreign affairs and military matters, I often refer to this as "military retardation". Jefferson Morley, blogging for the Washington Post, makes a similar leap, attempting to refute obscure (and not very rational) conspiracy theories about the incident. Instead, he messes up quite a few facts himself
As Hezbollah wins support throughout the Middle East in the aftermath of the Israeli airstrike that killed at least 57 Lebanese civilians over the weekend, an alternative view of the attack is emerging in blogs -- that the incident was actually staged by Hezbollah.
This "story" is a useful companion to last week's post about watching the war as it unfolds on the Web. The Qana conspiracy theory not only underscores how the Internet can misinform (an old story), it also reveals a popular demand for online content that attempts to explain away news reports that Israel (and by proxy, its closest ally and arms supplier, the United States) was responsible for the deaths of dozens of women and children in a Hezbollah stronghold.
Well, the very fact that it is
a Hezbollah stronghold is the cause of the deaths. Tens of thousands
of German civilians died in World War II, and frankly, that and this, while both tragic, are pretty much just
that. Tragic. They're real functions of something that has a cause and a purpose totally seperate from that. The proximate cause of the bombing of Qana, which Morley himself acknowledge to be a Hezbollah stronghold and, by extension, a subject of strategic significance, was Hezbollah's attacks on Israel. Hezbollah and their supporters have long called for a war, and in retrospect, it wasn't a very well constructed idea on their part, was it? People living in Hezbollah territory are, unavoidably, going to suffer for it, although they've experienced far, far less than is the historical norm or even to be expected in modern warfare. It's entirely possible that Israel errored in attacking the building, and if so, it's a terrible mistake, war in general is usually terrible, and, as I said before in response to Hezbollah spokesma Komadi's complaints that there could be no political negotiations "while the fire is raging", there would be no Israeli tanks doing donuts in his front yard if he and his "colleagues" hadn't been setting fires.
The significance of this reality, both as a matter of ethical debate and relevance to the Geneva Conventions seems, from the tone of Morley's post, to be lost on him. There's a very good reason that Israel has repeatedly gone to great lengths (even sending cell phone text messages and calling Lebanese households on their residential telephones, which the Gulf News headlines as "terrorizing
" them, and ending with the bizarre implication that the use of text messages in relationship to emergency communications is some sort of conspiracy on the part of greedy Israeli cell phone companies) to ask people to evacuate. Hezbollah, like all Islamic terrorist groups, has quite deliberately created a situation where everyone is a suspect, and that only makes the burden the civilians bear worse.
That aside, while Morley rambles on about "how the internet can misinform", he is oblivious to his statement of fact that "at least 57 Lebanese civilians" were killed.
The actual number is now pegged at less than half that, and was thought to be such well before he made his post. According to Human Rights Watch
, the original number was 54, and was generated based on counting all the names of the people who had been known to have been inside the building at an earlier time, which had little to do with a bodycount. That apparently did not stop Hezbollah, Lebanon, and, in response, the press at large
(including Morley) from reporting it as fact that they were all dead. Even if all the people considered still unaccounted for were found dead (not likely, since anyone who was able would've fled the building before the collapse, as any rational person would), the number would be almost a third lower than the original claimed death toll. Flashback to the bogus Palestinian Jenin "Massacre"
, which went from wild-eyed Palestinian claims of hundreds and even thousands of civilian dead (complete with the same dead bodies arranged and photographed in different "Weekend at Bernie's"-style poses), to 52 dead, only 22 of whom were civilians.
I don't think it's rational to imagine that the Qana scene was outright staged, but it's rather hard to argue against the contention that Hezbollah has both inflated and inflamed the incident beyond reason, and that the media has readily played along, something that they've even been known to do deliberately
. Another comment from Morley:
The American Thinker, a popular conservative site, says unnamed major media photographers were "willing" tools of Hezbollah.
Morley himself might be said to be something of a tool. In fact, photographers working for the Associated Press and other major media outlets, particularly native Arab photographers, have been repeatedly caught red-handed taking photographs in obvious coordination with terrorists, including a recent incident in which an "insurgent" was photographed close-up while firing on Western forces, although, just as likely, he was perhaps just mugging for a photographer who reported what he wished he'd caught on film. Reuters, too, was caught outright portraying a Palestinian propaganda organization's photos as "before and after" photos serving as factual proof that Rachel Corrie was deliberately run over by an Israeli tank, photos which were dutifully accepted as evidence by numerous major publications, when, in fact, they clearly represented two entirely different scenes and two different bulldozers. Mr. Magoo could've recognized the problem, but a cynical person would be inclined to think that it's quite a chummy relationship the press has with Islamists and such, really.
Rather than simply stating the claim as though it's obviously absurd, Morley would do well to try to get at the truth, and, perhaps, try to debunk the "Green Helmet
" meme, which, on initial review, seems to be a pretty compelling demonstration that the same guy depicted as part of a Hezbolllah heavy weapons crew is also posing in the foreground of damn near every "rescue" photo coming out of Qana. You'd really think photographers would want to photograph other people at some point, but perhaps this is a function of the practice of media photographers gathering dispersed groups into small crowds, then photographing closeups to make any gathering seem larger than it really is. It's entirely possible that this is a (relatively) innocent situation where the media is photographing the same few guys over and over again because they're the only ones who're doing anything worth photographing, but also somewhat improbable.
"World opinion" activists ride to a "peace rally"
in front of the United Nations.
Speaking of inflated gatherings, Morley, to back up his allegation that the United States and Israel are alone in world opinion, links to a story about an anti-war protest. Total attendance? 200
, who are, coincidentally, primarily Maltese Muslims.I've
spoken before larger gatherings, yet this is apparently as much proof of world opinion as a gathering of 200,000. If Morley wanted thousands of people opposed to the war in one place, he could've checked Saudi Arabia
"Not Sunnis, not Shi'ites -- it's one Islamic unity. Oh beloved Hizbollah, destroy Tel Aviv!" the Web site quoted the protesters as saying.
Actually, they're a bit pro-war, I guess. Unfortunately for the "one Islamic unity", the protestors were staunchly Shi'ite, and Saudi Arabia is both staunchly Sunni and staunchly opposed to public protest. Within Saudi Arabia itself, this gathering got less attention than Morley gave the gathering of 200, other than a police escort. Morley might note that in Halifax, even a candidate for leadership of the Canadian Liberal party drew a similar crowd in support of Israel
, and in Vancouver 1,600 turned out
to rally in favor of fighting Hezbollah. On the other hand, Morley might also find some backers of his allegedly universal world opinion in the petty, childish hate vandalism of the Armed Revolutionary Fascists
against Jewish shops across Rome, which is usually pretty typical of the behavior of people holding what's claimed to be "world opinion". Another prominent individual apparently holding such views is currently in rehab
after drunk driving and lashing out at various members of the LA County Sheriff's Department.
Morley's contention is even tested in the Middle East itself, where many Muslims, as well as Europeans living in the region, are starting to think now might be a good time for Hezbollah to go staight
. (Lebanese student Ameenah Sajwani apparently doesn't read Morley's blog: She thinks "everyone is backing Israel".) Even Lebanese Shi'ites have to wonder
. Hezbollah has sworn not to lay their arms
, and promises to destroy the Lebanese politicians who spoke out against them "when" they defeat the Israelis. That's not the threat of well-liked people.
I'm all in favor of debunking conspiracy theories, but it's hard for me to imagine that Morley was this obvlious.Update:
Morley's absurd post has received an Editor's Note, which they somehow managed to post at a different URL
, meaning you won't see it if you go the original link that I was heckling:
There has been further dispute over the Qana incident since this post was first published. As The Washington Post reported Thursday, the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch issued a report Wednesday putting the Qana death toll at 28 ( the Lebanese government's initial count was 57) and called for an international inquiry into the airstrike.
The rest of the falsehoods promoted by Morley remain pretty much uncontested, particularly by some of the vile people commenting on his post.
When the Israelis took the blood that had been donated by Ethiopian Jews and poured it into the gutters, because they (the Israelis) did not consider it pure Jewish blood...
The blood was disposed of because Ethiopians constituted a third of the AIDS cases in Israel at the time, the same reason people who were born in, have lived in, or had sex with anyone who's lived in many African countries is barred from giving blood in the United States or Canada. Apparently, this happy little skinhead is another representative of the "world opinion".