On the first night of Passover in late March 2002, a Palestinian suicide bomber walked into the Park Hotel in Netanya, Israel and blew himself up in the dining hall. About 200 mostly elderly Jews (some of them Holocaust survivors) were sitting down for the traditional Seder meal. The explosion killed 30 people, and injured over 100, many of them seriously. In the days that followed, the Palestinians unleashed a series of additional suicide bombing attacks in several Israeli cities. In all, 130 Israelis were killed in the attacks, the worst devastation in any period in the three and a half years of the current intifada.
Israeli Prime Minister Sharon decided that there was no longer any purpose in paying any allegiance to the fiction of the Oslo 'peace process'. Israeli forces moved to reoccupy the major Palestinian cities that had been surrendered to the Palestinian Authority in 1995 and 1996, and in certain cities, especially Jenin and Nablus, began house to house searches in the crowded refugee camps to locate the terror leaders who had recruited, trained, armed, and finally dispatched the suicide bombers on their deadly missions.
In Jenin, the IDF made a remarkably careful attempt to capture or kill the terrorists while avoiding harm to Palestinian civilians. The terrorists effectively exploitewd the narrow passages of the Jenin refugee camp, and used the civilian population as shields to trap and then kill 23 Israeli soldiers during the several day battle in the city. All in all, 53 Palestinians were killed in the battle, all but five of them terror group members and fighters.
At West Point, the Israeli operation became a case study, because Americans take the same care to target the enemy and avoid unnecessary civilian casualties. Our improved weapon systems and pinpoint bombing accuracy have served the same purpose. This, of course, is in sharp contrast to the suicide bombers in Israel, or the savages who desecrated the bodies of American civilians they had slaughtered in Fallujah last week. These killers seek maximum lethality. They are callous murderers.
Despite Israeli efforts to avoid civilian casualties, the Jenin battle today is the subject of several pro—Palestinian movies ('Jenin, Jenin' is one of them), and the source of a major myth. Saeb Erekat, a leading PA official, pointed to piles of dead Palestinians in Jenin, and claimed that Israel had committed, a massacre there, murdering over 500 civilians. In fact, the bodies Erekat pointed to, had, in some cases, been moved from a morgue after natural deaths, but theatrics is a big part of the Palestinian propaganda campaign, and has been for many years.
Major human rights groups were quick to condemn Israel, and slow to investigate what really had happened in Jenin. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are reflexively anti—Israel (and anti—American), and were quick to broadcast the Palestinian claims as real. Truth in the end may be uncovered, if anyone is still listening. The smear is what most people remember.
The current ugly fight, against the remnants of the Saddam regime and the jihadist fighters from other Arab countries, in the triangle area around Baghdad, and against the militias of the radical Shiite leader al Sadr, will undoubtedly claim some Iraqi civilian victims. It is also inevitable that there will be quick condemnation of the American military response to the deadly attacks on our forces and civilian workers as war crimes, genocide, brutal aggression, human rights violations, atrocities, etc.
These canards are reserved by the human rights community, the United Nations, and left wing journalists exclusively for Israel and America. Such language was never heard when Rwandan Hutus murdered a million Tutsis in just four months, or when Muslim Arabs killed almost as many black Christian Sudanese over the past few years. Cultural relativism prevents any elite spokespersons in the West from condemning any such behavior by 'third world people'.
Regardless of how careful our forces are in the current conflict, they will be tarred by those who want to condemn us because of who we are, not what we do. So it seems that we need to get on with our business, and damn the inevitable public outcry. Americans will not win the hearts and minds of Iraqis when there is civil disorder, and we will never impress the professional left or elite opinion whatever we do.
The forces we are now fighting in Iraq are well aware of our election calendar, and the schedule for the handover to civilian rule. Iran, which undoubtedly has its finger in the middle of the sudden Shiite uprising, wants very badly to distract the international community from any close scrutiny of its nearly completed nuclear weapons program. Iranians and Syrians have already been captured and killed in the current fighting.
This is a moment of supreme testing for our forces, and our strategy in Iraq. We are not there to secure Iraq's oil, or to be permanent occupiers. Our goals are to create a society which will allow Iraq's three distinct ethnic groups (Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds) to co—exist without any one group dominating and murdering the others, and to insure that Iraq is not a country that ever again threatens its neighbors. We may not yet have found large stockpiles of ready—to—fire weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but we are confronting plenty of conventional weapons, which are causing quite a bit of individual destruction.
The President has chosen to fight, and not flee from our commitment. There will be plenty of time to question the wisdom of what we embarked on in Iraq. For now, our men are under attack for daring to try something so noble as creating a better country. We must fight, and try to overcome the resistance, and anticipate and reject the criticism that will come our way for doing what is necessary to restore order.
The 'human rights' groups were comfortable with Iraq under Saddam, and Iran under the mullahs, and Syria under Assad. Their targets are, and always will be, Israel and the US. Much like the United Nations, their guns aim only in one direction. It is America which has fought for human rights in Kosovo, and Bosnia, and Kuwait, and Afghanistan and now Iraq. This is war we are fighting, and we are not committing war crimes just because it is America that is taking the battle to the other side. The only crime will be how the actions of our very brave men and women will be labeled.