Moral context

This story is being played on NPR and CBS as well as CNN, and probably on other media outlets by now. Certainly, Al-Jazeera is using the CNN footage. The following assumes you’ve read it. I’ll wait until you come back.

It tears your heart and it rips your gut. Only those with similar experience can understand the anguish a parent would feel in the face of this child’s pain, but the parents I know could at least imagine it.

They could imagine that they could not bear it. It brings tears and anger and sorrow to any sane person. No parent should ever be subjected to the excruciatingly painful death of their child.

It is symbolic of the horror of war. I only wish it were presented that way.

The moral responsibility for this child’s injuries lies with Hizbollah and nowhere else. In this, it does not matter what their complaints are. After deliberately provoking Israel, they are trapping civilians in a war zone for the purposes of propaganda. They deliberately hide among babies to maximize the chances for damage to those babies. The babies are either infidels, and unworthy of consideration, or they are believers, and therefore glorious martyrs.

IEDs against soldiers are one thing, trapping civilians in a war zone so their deaths provide plus-propaganda is quite another.

The only parents who could approve such tactics would be those who strap toy bomb-belts to their toddlers and hand them real AK-47’s in preparation for martyrdom 15 years later. And then take a family photo for the baby-book.

Disproportionate is last week’s media word, it is this week’s media practice. “Disproportionate” was the setup for this week’s images of fatally injured children screaming in pain in their hospital death beds. In Tyre, not Haifa. Despite Perry’s disclaimer – he wasn’t there and neither was any other CNN reporter.

This happens in every war. It is no more acceptable now than it was in 1066, 1914 or 1940. I do not know if Americans would have mustered the intestinal fortitude to continue WWII if images like this had been as readily available.

Seen Saving Private Ryan? Remember that scene where the German machine gun opens up at point blank range as soon as the ramp on the LTD drops? Civilians were hardly exempt.

I don’t know if we could have persevered. I do not know. I do know that the people who not only countenance, but arrange civilian mutilation – as images for the 6 O’Clock news – will not be defeated if we cannot match their hardness when they are morally culpable and we are not. They cannot make us morally responsible for the deaths of babies they hide behind while they are shooting our babies.

No one wants innocents killed, with the notable exception of Islamic terrorists who think your status as an infidel automatically makes you guilty.

James Taranto:

Complaining Without Context

CNN’s Cal Perry delivers an emotional report from Tyre, Lebanon;

*** QUOTE ***

Standing in front of this 8-year-old boy lying in a hospital bed, the “conflict in the Middle East” and the “cost of war” seem endless and suffocating. His pain cannot possibly be imagined as he shakes uncontrollably in and out of shock. He has blood coming from his eyes. . . .

His name is Mahmood Monsoor and he is horribly burned. In the hospital bed next to him is his 8-month-old sister, Maria–also burned.

*** END QUOTE ***

Their family, Perry reports, was “fleeing the fighting–trying to get north, waving white flags, when an Israeli bomb or missile slammed into their car.” Two other siblings are in surgery, their father was killed, and their mother is hysterical:

*** QUOTE ***

The city of Tyre has been enduring stories like this for more than a week. Buildings are crumpled; those who have not left are hiding in basements. Those who dare to pack into cars run the risk of ending up like the Monsoor family. Some who move north die on the road. Some stay in basements, and die there. Others hope against hope that the bombs will fall elsewhere–missing them.

Politics creeps into the ward like the blood that runs on the floors. “Clearly he is Hezbollah,” says one of the doctors outside the room–sarcastically referring to 8-year-old Mahmood, whose screams can be heard from the hallway. His screams now blend with the wails of his mother, matching the baby’s cries.

*** END QUOTE ***

Perry concludes by suggesting an equivalence between Israel and Hezbollah:

*** QUOTE ***

Today, as I finish I am sitting in the same spot and the shells are still falling. Hezbollah rockets are firing toward northern Israel. I can imagine another reporter, in another flak jacket, standing over an 8-year old Israeli boy.

*** END QUOTE ***

For the context that Perry misses, we turn to Ha’aretz’s Ze’ev Schiff :

*** QUOTE ***

We can say without a doubt that the war of attrition against the city of Haifa and its residents is a tale of two cities: Tyre in Lebanon versus Haifa in Israel. The Hezbollah unit deployed in Tyre and its environs has been bombarding Haifa with Syrian rockets and upgraded Iranian-made Katyushas. If this unit is not destroyed, it will continue to target Haifa.

*** END QUOTE ***

The difference, of course, is that Hezbollah is deliberately targeting civilians in Haifa, whereas Israel is accidentally harming civilians in the course of protecting its own people from a violent threat. In fact, Hezbollah is deliberately endangering civilians in Tyre, too, by using them as human shields:

*** QUOTE ***

In one known case, a bomb struck a basement and killed those inside. Later, it turned out that of the 32 casualties, mostly dead, 11 were armed Hezbollah militants. The basement served Hezbollah and civilians that sought cover. In the current fighting there is no alternative but to convince the citizens of the city to leave, and make it easy to do so. But it is unclear whether Hezbollah will allow the evacuation of civilians from Tyre.

*** END QUOTE ***

Israel, unlike Hezbollah, is constrained by human decency. By using civilians as shields, Hezbollah hopes to limit the Jewish state’s military options. Hezbollah wins either way, since if Israeli strikes do hurt or kill civilians, the international media, including CNN, depict this as the result of Israel’s, rather than Hezbollah’s, brutality.

A report like Cal Perry’s, in other words, provides Hezbollah with an incentive to endanger Lebanese civilians further. CNN, then, must bear some degree of moral culpability for the suffering of Lebanon’s population.

1 thought on “Moral context”

  1. “I do know that the people who not only countenance, but arrange civilian mutilation – as images for the 6 O’Clock news – will not be defeated if we cannot match their hardness when they are morally culpable and we are not.”Very, very well said.JPM