Sunday, October 05, 2014

White House Double Standard on Civilian Casualties from Airstrikes

On October 2, as reported by CNN, the White House announced that the rules intended to avoid civilian casualties from drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan will not apply to drone attacks or airstrikes on ISIS in Syria and Iraq.   "The specific standards at issue in the NDU speech apply only when we take direct action 'outside areas of active hostilities,' as was noted at the time," said Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman for Obama's National Security Council, referring to Obama's address at the National Defense University in the spring of 2013. "That description—outside areas of active hostilities—simply does not fit what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria right now."

So what about this past summer, when Israel was unquestionably involved in "active hostilities" with Hamas in Gaza, and received scathing criticism from the Obama Administration for civilian casualties.   Well, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured above gazing congenially at President Obama) stated before the United Nations that Hamas and ISIS represent one and the same threat, United States State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki (pictured below) pointedly disagreed, as reported by the Jerusalem Post.  "Certainly we see differences," she said.  "We would not agree with that characterization. Obviously, we’ve designated both as terrorist organizations, but ISIL [Islamic State] poses a different threat to Western interests and to the United States, and that’s just a fact.”

Let's examine that proposition.  In terms of whether Israel's use of airstrikes in Gaza produced unjustified civilian casualties, in contrast with civilian casualties caused by U.S. drone strikes and airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, certainly the criteria for judging the Israeli policy must be the threat Hamas posed to Israel, as compared to the threat that ISIS poses to the United States.  In that regard, there are certainly telling distinctions that make ISIS a "different threat" from Hamas, but they all tend to refute Ms. Psaki's remarks and substantiate the legitimacy of  Israel's actions.

  1.   ISIS has not staged an attack on the U.S. homeland.  Hamas has attacked Israel thousands of times, including bombings of buses, restaurants and other civilian targets, armed raids, kidnappings, rockets and artillery attacks.
  2.   To date, thank God, ISIS has only taken two American lives.  Hamas terrorism has killed hundreds of Israelis and injured thousands more.  Were it not for the Iron Shield anti-missile system and the robust military response by the Israel Defense Forces, the toll of Israeli lives from Hamas attacks would be many times higher.
  3.   Hamas, as stated in its founding covenant and constantly repeated by its leadership, wants nothing less than the destruction of the State of Israel and the extermination of the Jewish people.  ISIS would like to destroy American democracy and see America ruled by Sharia law, but has never expressed a desire to kill all Americans.
  4. When Israel launched attacks in Gaza, it would first drop warning leaflets, make telephone calls, and broadcast radio announcements, notifying civilians of the impending attack and urging them to leave the area.  Neither the United States, nor any country in the history of warfare, has gone to the lengths taken by the Israel Defense Forces to reduce civilian casualties.
So, yes, Ms. Psaki, Hamas poses a very different threat from ISIS, just not in the way you intended.

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