Israel’s Dahiya Doctrine Undermines Its ‘Collateral Damage’ Claims In Gaza
It’s been a full year since Israel unleashed ‘Operation Cast Lead’ against the people of Gaza, leaving 1,400 dead (mostly civilians). Israel and Egypt continue to blockade the 1.5 million inhabitants confined within the war-torn ghetto, restricting the flow of food, fuel, and other essential items, and thus making reconstruction and recovery virtually impossible.
The Guardian reports:
There is no uncontaminated water [in Gaza]; of the 40,000 or so newborn babies, at least half are at immediate risk of nitrate poisoning – incidence of “blue baby syndrome”, methaemoglobinaemia, is exceptionally high; an unprecedented number of people have been exposed to nitrate poisoning over 10 years; in some places the nitrate content in water is 300 times World Health Organisation standards; the agricultural economy is dying from the contamination and salinated water; the underground aquifer is stressed to the point of collapse; and sewage and waste water flows into public spaces and the aquifer.
Israel purposely destroyed Palestinian farmlands with tank bulldozers, wrecking 17% of it, and leaving 30% of it unusable.
Virtually none of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure has been rebuilt since the military escalation a year ago (as building materials have largely been denied entry from Israel’s blockade). The Irish Times reports that:
Some 15,000 homes were damaged or destroyed during the offensive, displacing 100,000 Palestinians.
The UN estimates 3,450 homes need to be rebuilt, 2,870 homes require major reconstruction, and 52,000 need minor repairs.
The blockade has closed down 98 per cent of Gaza’s industries, while Israel’s offensive destroyed or damaged 700 private businesses, at a cost of $139 million. The war devastated agriculture, electricity and water purification and sanitation plants, health facilities and schools.
John Ging, director of operations in Gaza for UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, told the Guardian at the time of the military incursion, when the IDF repeatedly shelled civilian structures (including UN facilities):
Under international law, installations such as schools, health centres and UN facilities should be protected from attack. Well before the current fighting, the UN had given to the Israeli authorities the GPS co-ordinates of all its installations in Gaza, including Asma elementary school [which was shelled].
Considering that Israel has arguably the most sophisticated weaponry in the world, why were there so many civilian casualties? Why did so much of the civilian infrastructure get annihilated (including entire residential neighborhoods, farmlands, schools, UN facilities, health facilities, electricity, water purification and sanitation plants)? These questions lie at the very heart of the Goldstone Report.
A tired rhetorical tactic of Goldstone Report critics (including many of our own U.S. Congressmen) has been to re-frame the argument to a simple justification: “Israel had every right to defend itself against Hamas rocket fire.”
The truth of the matter is the Goldstone Report NEVER EVER criticizes Israel for launching a military operation against Gaza in retaliation of Hamas rocket fire. In fact, the war crimes attributed to Israel are entirely focused on its deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure (as just described above).
Here’s distinguished South African jurist Richard Goldstone making this point to Bill Moyers:
BILL MOYERS: Let me put down a few basics first. Personally, do you have any doubt about Israel’s right to self-defense?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Absolutely not. And our approach to our mission and in our report the right of Israel to defend its citizens is taken as a given.
BILL MOYERS: So the report in no way challenges Israel’s right to self-defense-
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Not at all. What we look at is how that right was used. We don’t question the right.
BILL MOYERS: What did you see with your own eyes when you went there?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well, I saw the destruction of the only flour-producing factory in Gaza. I saw fields plowed up by Israeli tank bulldozers. I saw chicken farms, for egg production, completely destroyed. Tens of thousands of chickens killed. I met with families who lost their loved ones in homes in which they were seeking shelter from the Israeli ground forces. I had to have the very emotional and difficult interviews with fathers whose little daughters were killed, whose family were killed. One family, over 21 members, killed by Israeli mortars. So, it was a very difficult investigation, which will give me nightmares for the rest of my life. [..]
BILL MOYERS: What makes those acts war crimes, as you say?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well, humanitarian law, really fundamentally is what’s known as the “principle of distinction.” It requires all people involved, commanders, troops, all people involved in making war, it requires them to distinguish between civilians and combatants. […]
BILL MOYERS: You wrote, quote, the military operation, this military operation in Gaza, was a result of the disrespect for the fundamental principle of ‘distinction’ in international humanitarian law. So in layman’s language, the distinction between what and what?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Between combatants and innocent civilians.
BILL MOYERS: And you’re saying Israel did not do that, in many of these incidents.
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: That’s correct.
BILL MOYERS: Did you find evidence that that is deliberate on their part?
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: Well, we did. We found evidence in statements made by present and former political and military leaders, who said, quite openly, that there’s going to be a disproportionate attack. They said that if rockets are going to continue, we’re going to hit back disproportionately. We’re going to punish you for doing it. And that’s not countenanced by the law of war.
BILL MOYERS: So they were doing, on the ground, what they had said earlier they intended to do.
RICHARD GOLDSTONE: That’s correct.
BILL MOYERS: -so there was intention.
Israel’s Deliberate Intent: “The Dahiya Doctrine”
A key lesson taken away from Israel’s 2006 military escalation in Lebanon — where over 1,100 Lebanese civilians were killed, 915,762 displaced (25% of Lebanon’s entire population), and significant civil infrastructure was destroyed — became known to Israeli Officials as “The Dahiya Doctrine”. Israeli Defense Forces’ Northern Command chief, Maj.-Gen. Eisenkot, described the doctrine to the press while actively serving in a senior command position (also transcribed into the contents of the Goldstone Report):
“What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on,” said Gadi Eisenkot, head of the army’s northern division. Dahiya was a Hizbullah stronghold that Israel flattened in sustained air raids during a 34-day war with the Shiite group two years ago.
“We will apply disproportionate force on it (village) and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases,” Eisenkot told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.
“This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved,” Eisenkot added.
The Goldstone Report quoted Major General (Ret.) Giora Eiland as having revealed (also in October of 2008 — less than two months before the Gaza offensive) that:
In the event of another war with Hizbullah, the target must not be the defeat of Hizbullah but “the elimination of the Lebanese military, the destruction of the national infrastructure and intense suffering among the population… Serious damage to the Republic of Lebanon, the destruction of homes and infrastructure, and the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people are consequences that can influence Hizbollah’s behaviour more than anything else”.
Israeli Leader, Col. (Ret.) Gabriel Siboni, also weeks before the Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, had this to say about Israel’s military plans:
With an outbreak of hostilities, the IDF will need to act immediately, decisively,and with force that is disproportionate to the enemy’s actions and the threat it poses. Such a response aims at inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes. The strike must be carried out as quickly as possible, and must prioritize damaging assets over seeking out each and every launcher. Punishment must be aimed at decision makers and the power elite… In Lebanon, attacks should both aim at Hizbollah’s military capabilities and should target economic interests and the centres of civilian power that support the organization. Moreover, the closer the relationship between Hezbollah and the Lebanese Government, the more the elements of the Lebanese State infrastructure should be targeted. Such a response will create a lasting memory among … Lebanese decision makers, thereby increasing Israeli deterrence and reducing the likelihood of hostilities against Israel for an extended period. At the same time, it will force Syria, Hizbollah, and Lebanon to commit to lengthy and resource-intensive reconstruction programmes…
This approach is applicable to the Gaza Strip as well. There, the IDF will be required to strike hard at Hamas and to refrain from the cat and mouse games of searching for Qassam rocket launchers. The IDF should not be expected to stop the rocket and missile fire against the Israeli home front through attacks on the launchers themselves, but by means of imposing a ceasefire on the enemy
The Goldstone Report adds this paragraph on Israeli intent:
The Mission does not have to consider whether Israeli military officials were directly influenced by these writings. It is able to conclude from a review of the facts on the ground that it witnessed for itself that what is prescribed as the best strategy appears to have been precisely what was put into practice.
The Report concludes that Palestinian civilians and their non-military infrastructure in Gaza were NOT collateral damage in Operation Cast Lead; they were intentionally and deliberately targeted for destruction.
Which begs the question: if the UN had insisted on forming its own fact finding mission to investigate the war crimes that had been extensively reported in Lebanon, could that undertaking have deterred Israel from pursuing the Dahiya Doctrine in Gaza? The Israeli government had instead been permitted to appoint its own commission of inquiry, the Winograd Commission — whose findings were blasted by Amnesty International and other human rights groups for completely disregarding Israeli actions that could implicate its officials in war crimes. The Independent said of the Commission’s findings:
The commission’s statement last night omitted any mention of civilian casualties in Lebanon – for which Israel faced widespread criticism during the war. Instead it contained a strong, if hawkish, message to the Israeli political and military establishment that its only hope of “peace or non-war” is if Israeli society and others in the region believe “Israel has the political and military capabilities… to deter… its neighbours.”
Israel obviously interpreted the Winograd findings along with the international community’s reluctance to pursue war crimes investigations as something of a green light for pursuing the Dahiya Doctrine in Gaza. Let us hope that the Goldstone Report — which was resoundingly endorsed in October in a UN Human Rights Council Resolution — will help to serve as a deterrent against future crimes against humanity.
War Of Words: Why Failed Theories, Like Reaganomics, Continue To Linger
The Republicans have long engaged in historic revisionism as a means of covering up a long record of failed policies and blunders. Some of their most disastrous ideological experiments over the years, like Reaganomics, have been successfully re-framed into mythological successes. Democrats have no one to blame for this, but themselves. They’ve done next to nothing in setting the record straight on their own accomplishments, much less in casting Republican failures in stone. Though the Democrats have a far superior governing record, many Americans today would never know it.
Democrats have lacked a coherent rhetorical strategy in defining their opposition. The Republican Party’s two core ideological imperatives: Supply-Side economic policies, and neo-con foreign policies should now both ring synonymous with ‘abysmal failure’ in the American psyche. The calamity inflicted upon this country over the last eight years by a Republican President and a Republican Congress is — politically speaking — something akin to a perfectly lobbed volleyball — set up for a game-winning spike — only to find no Democrat there to slam it home. Democrats contend they are looking forward, not backwards.
The problem is there is a missed lesson here. By neglecting to set the record straight (i.e. targeting failed Republican strategies) our country is bound to repeat these mistakes. They are granting Republicans an opportunity to re-impose their failed policies on us at a later time. Democrats MUST provide a ‘moral’ to the end of this failed Republican ‘story’. They need to put together simple, memorable, talking points to brand the opposition in a way that conjures up their failures. Not only would this help to provide some governing longevity for the Left, it would more importantly force Republicans to come up with new (and hopefully better) ideas.
Republicans are famous for spinning themselves away from their failures. They are a well-oiled misinformation machine (lie, spin, repeat; lie spin, repeat; everyone on message — from Fox News to Talk Radio to political pundits). Their greatest political achievement to date has been to sell main stream America on one of the most disingenuous branding campaigns in modern history: namely, that Republicans advocate for fiscally-sound policies (i.e. “fiscal conservatism”), and Democrats are fiscal misfits (i.e. “tax and spend liberals”). This branding effort was so successful that Democrats were eventually forced to distance themselves from the ‘liberal’ tag in favor of the new ‘progressive’ tag.
But when you look at the historic record — and actually compare the fiscal performances (as measured by the increases in national debt) of the last five U.S. Presidents — you see these stereotypes are clearly unfounded:
Democrats (in blue), Republicans (in red)
% Increase in Debt
|% Increase in Debt
Per Each 4-Year Term
|Jimmy Carter||4||$706 billion||$994 billion||41%||41%|
|Ronald Reagan||8||$994 billion||$2867 billion||189%||94.5%|
|George H.W. Bush||4||$2867 billion||$4351 billion||52%||52%|
|Bill Clinton||8||$4351 billion||$5769 billion||33%||16.5%|
|George W. Bush||8||$5769 billion||$10413 billion||81%||40.5%|
Over the last 30+ years, Democrats have clearly demonstrated sounder fiscal policies than Republicans. In fact, Republicans have proven to be so fiscally irresponsible (Ronald Reagan, in particular ) that they can almost resoundingly be blamed for the lion’s share of our entire national debt.
The two Democratic Presidents (Carter and Clinton) created $1.706 trillion in national debt over a 12 year period, or $142 billion in debt added per year, on average.
The three Republican Presidents (Reagan, and the two Bushes) created $8.001 trillion in national debt — 80% of our entire national debt — over a 20 year period, or $400.1 billion in debt added per year, on average.
On average, Republican Presidents add between two to three times more debt per year than Democratic Presidents.
The evidence is a resounding indictment of the Republican Party’s prized economic theory — Supply-Side Economics, AKA “Trickle Down Theory,” AKA “Reaganomics.” And yet, there’s been no concerted effort by the Left to vocalize this fact to the public; to ensure this failed theory gets its proper cremation — its ashes tossed to the wind.
Ushered in by Ronald Reagan in 1980 to stimulate the broken economy, and abandoned by George H.W. Bush during his Presidency (he astutely labeled it “Voodoo economics” ), Supply-Side policies were given a new lease on life eight years later by George W. Bush (who pushed trillions in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans at a time of increased federal spending). And once again — second time around now — it resulted in MASSIVE, STAGGERING, UNMANAGEABLE DEBT!
And yet, ‘Conservatism’ as a brand, and ‘Reagonomics’ as a theory, are still somehow portrayed by the media as the the ultimate in fiscal responsibility — a depiction which barely gets challenged, even by Democrats. Consider this: when you hear Republican pundits and politicians refer to themselves as “Reagan Republicans” how often do you hear the Democrats or media pundits call Reagan out as the fiscal disaster he actually was — a President who tripled our national debt in eight years? It never happens. Democrats sheepishly cede the Reagan point, as if they themselves have bought into it. In doing this, they have given the Republicans a mythical figurehead — one they can reliably rally around, even after a disastrous calamity, like George W. Bush’s tenure.
Why didn’t the Democrats chisel out the epitaph onto the ‘Reaganomics’ hedge stone years ago? Reagan’s tripling of the national debt should have been a key talking point after his Presidency — repeated over and over again — until it became figuratively branded onto the hide of the Republican elephant; until the real Ronald Reagan (instead of the mythical one) was etched forever into the public consciousness. This may very well have prevented George W. Bush from vigorously reinstating the very same failed economic policies, some twelve years later.
When Paul O’Neil, George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary, argued against a second round of tax cuts for the wealthy (the first round had been over $1 trillion dollars, ultimately added onto the national debt), Dick Cheney was quoted as having responded:
“You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter. We won the mid-term elections, this is our due.”
Cheney was, essentially, correct in pointing out that Reagan paid no political price (not even after the fact) for running huge deficits. Reagan proved to Dick Cheney that there would be little if any political backlash (as engineered by the opposition) for writing such fiscally irresponsible — though politically popular — economic policies.
In fact, it could be said that Ronald Reagan paid no price for any of his Presidential failures. Here was a President who deployed American troops into a Lebanese Civil War against the advice of most of his military leaders. Then on October 23, 1983, the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon was bombed, and 243 U.S. servicemen immediately lost their lives. Within a few months after that, Reagan ordered all U.S. troops to make a hasty retreat. (Note: can you even imagine how the neo-cons would portray a Democratic President who ordered troops to flee under fire? He’d be caricatured as spinelessly weak on defense; one who humiliated the country by choosing flight over fight, in a way that displayed cowardice and could only embolden the enemy). And yet, Jimmy Carter is the one who is ostracized to this day by the Right as weak on defense, because 53 American embassy workers were taken hostage during the Iranian revolution; never mind the fact Carter eventually secured their safe release!
Furthermore, Reagan illegally sold arms to Iran (the same regime that had just taken our 53 embassy workers hostage), laundered the money, and diverted it to the Contra terrorist group in Nicaragua. Each of these covert operations were felonious — in clear violation of U.S. law. The scandal resulted in 14 indictments and 11 convictions of high-ranking members of his administration. Not only did Reagan’s administration violate numerous U.S. criminal laws, but also international laws — as ruled by the International Court of Justice
And yet Republicans routinely tout Reagan’s Presidency as one defined by fiscal responsibility, strength, fearlessness, and of high-moral clarity. They successfully changed the name of Washington-National Airport to Ronald Reagan Airport, and then named a newly constructed federal building in our nation’s capitol after him — the most expensive building ever constructed at the time. The Ronald Reagan Building today remains the second largest federal building, in size, after the Pentagon.
Somehow Republicans have managed to elevate this leader — a leader who had failed so dramatically on every front — to a near mythical status. Count the number of times Republican politicians, conservative talk show hosts, Fox News pundits, Joe Scarborough, George Will, etc. evoke Ronald Reagan as the very pinnacle of conservative greatness.
The Right is already laying the groundwork to shift the blame for much of the calamity they themselves unleashed over the last eight years. On April 15, 2009 — not even three months into Barack Obama’s first term — Republicans took to the streets in their so called ‘Tea Parties,’ laying blame for all our country’s fiscal woes at his feet. Their vitriol bypassed their beloved George W. Bush — and instead leveled its scope directly at Obama, whom they claimed stole their country, destroyed its fiscal health, and ruined their children’s futures — all within two plus months of being sworn in. They hope to conflate Obama’s spending to clean up Bush’s catastrophic messes with Bush’s actual catastrophic messes so that one day, they might be able to peg the Bush disaster, at least in dollar terms, on Obama. And when confronted about George W. Bush actually deserving these honors, these Tea Partiers — while waving signs of President Obama donning a Hitler mustache — claim they are actually apolitical; just frustrated ‘fiscal conservatives,’ and add, “Bush was not a true conservative.”
This is a blatant attempt by the Republican Party to salvage its ‘fiscal conservative’ brand, after their fiscal ‘train wreck’ policies over the last eight years. The fact of the matter is Republicans and Conservatives alike supported each and every one of Bush’s spending bills and ‘trickle down’ tax cuts for the rich. In fact they STILL advocate for the EXACT same failed policies whenever they’re asked what policies should be implemented. It’s all “tax cuts,” “stay in Iraq and Afghanistan,” “attack Iran,” and kill “Obama care.”
Democrats can no longer afford to let dishonest Republican rhetoric go uncontested. The Left needs to control the narrative on the Bush years, to ensure the truth doesn’t slowly get propagandized into another work of fiction. The Left must formulate a rhetorical strategy that targets key failed Republican ideologies: namely, supply-side economics and neo-con ideology. These are the ideologies that created the Bush disaster, and these ideologies are still fanatically embraced by everyone on the right (outside of Ron Paul): Republicans, ‘Tea Partiers,’ and ‘Conservatives.’
Labeling and setting the record straight on failed economic theories and foreign policies is crucial to our country’s future. As our economy continues to tank, and the Left continues to become disenchanted with President Obama as a change agent, I fear Republicans may actually get a chance at returning to power in 2012. There will never be a more perfect time to define the opposition by its failed ideologies. The Left must win the war of words, or else …