We Are Complicit
Meanwhile, most US media outlets are petrified of straying too far from pro-Israel orthodoxies. Time's Middle East correspondent Rania Abouzeid noted this morning on Twitter the typical template: "Just read report in major US paper about Gaza/Israel that put Israeli dead in 1st sentence. Palestinian in 6th paragraph." Or just consider the BBC's headline. Worse, this morning's New York Times editorial self-consciously drapes itself with pro-Israel caveats and completely ignores the extensive civilian deaths in Gaza before identifying this as one of the only flaws it could find with the lethal Israeli assault: "The action also threatens to divert attention from what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly described as Israel's biggest security threat: Iran's nuclear program."
In what I know will be a fruitless attempt to avoid having this discussion subsumed by that tired script: I will recommend several outstanding, truly must-read pieces written by others over the last 24 hours in lieu of my own reciting of the various arguments. Begin with this article by Yousef Munayyer in the Daily Beast setting the crucial context for the rocket attacks from Gaza; then read this Daily Beast news-breaking account from Gershon Baskin, who details how the provocations from the Israelis were geared toward disrupting an imminent peace deal with Hamas ("The assassination of Jaabari was a pre-emptive strike against the possibility of a long term ceasefire"); also vital is this time-line of events leading up to the rocket attacks from Gaza, with ample documentation from Ali Abunimah; and finally, there is this very succinct but poignant summary of what Israel has done over the last three weeks.
I want to focus on the US response to all of this. US policy always lies at the heart of these episodes, because Israeli aggression is possible only due to the unstinting financial, military and diplomatic support of the US. Needless to say, the Obama administration wasted no time expressing its "full-throttled support" for the Israeli attacks. And one can't help but notice the timing of this attack: launched just days after Obama's re-election victory, demanding an answer to the question of whether Obama was told in advance of these attacks and gave his approval.
Ultimately, though, Obama had no choice but to support these attacks, which were designed, in part, to extra-judicially assassinate Hamas military leader Ahmed al-Jabari as he was driving in his car (the IDF then proudly posted the video of its hit on YouTube). How could Obama possibly have done anything else?
Extra-judicial assassination - accompanied by the wanton killing of whatever civilians happen to be near the target, often including children - is a staple of the Obama presidency. That lawless tactic is one of the US president's favorite instruments for projecting force and killing whomever he decides should have their lives ended: all in total secrecy and with no due process or oversight. There is now a virtually complete convergence between US and Israeli aggression, making US criticism of Israel impossible not only for all the usual domestic political reasons, but also out of pure self-interest: for Obama to condemn Israel's rouge behavior would be to condemn himself.
It is vital to recognize that this is a new development. The position of the US government on extra-judicial assassinations long had been consistent with the consensus view of the international community: that it is a savage and lawless weapon to be condemned regardless of claims that it is directed at "terrorists". From a 15 February 2001 Guardian article by Brian Whitaker on the targeted killing by Israel of one of Yasser Arafat's bodyguards [emphasis added]:
That US condemnation of Israel's targeted killing came, by the way, from the George W. Bush administration. A month later, after another Israeli attack, Associated Press reported: "Secretary of State Colin Powell registered his opposition to 'a policy of targeted killings' in a 15-minute telephone conversation with Yasser Arafat, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said" (illustrating the blatant fiction that Democrats are more peaceful than Republicans, then-Senator Joe Biden, in 2001, eventually attacked Bush officials for condemning Israeli assassinations).
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has repeatedly said that "extrajudicial killings are violations of international law." EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has said: "The European Union has consistently condemned extrajudicial killings. Israel has a right to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks, but actions of this type are not only unlawful, they are not conducive to lowering tension." Former UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has similarly pointed out: "the British government has made it repeatedly clear that so-called 'target assassinations' of this kind are unlawful, unjustified and counter-productive."
Thus, to condemn Israeli aggression here, President Obama would need do no more than simply affirm universally recognized precepts of international law, ones that the US government has long claimed to support (even as it often violated them). That, however, is no longer possible for Obama - at least not without triggering a global laughing fit. As the Council on Foreign Relations documented in April of this year:
In essence, what we find, yet again, is that the governments of the United States and Israel arrogate unto themselves the right to execute anyone they want, anywhere in the world, without any limitations, regardless of how many innocent civilians they kill in the process. "Rogue nation" is a term that is often casually tossed around in the discourse of foreign relations. Here, it is quite appropriate, and - when it comes to extra-judicial assassinations - clearly applies to the two countries who apply the term most frequently to others.
Obama - the killer of Anwar al-Awlaki, Awlaki's 16-year-old American son Abdulrahman, and countless other innocent men, women, teenagers and children - could not possibly condemn Israeli actions in Gaza without indicting himself. Extra-judicial assassinations, once roundly condemned by US officials, are now a symbol of the Obama presidency, as the US and Israel converge more than ever before: if not in interests, than certainly in tactics.
Glenn Greenwald is a columnist on civil liberties and US national security issues for the Guardian. A former constitutional lawyer, he was until 2012 a contributing writer at Salon. He is the author of How Would a Patriot Act? (May 2006), a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power; A Tragic Legacy (June, 2007), which examines the Bush legacy; and With Liberty and Justice For Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerfull
© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited.
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