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Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

The Evil That We Face

By: Ed Koch

New York Times columnist David Brooks writes with the clarity of Bill Safire, whom he succeeded as the Times’s in-house moderate. In a June 8 column, Brooks vividly described the cruelty of the Iraqi insurgents:

      “The insurgents’ first advantage is that not only are they cruel, they are absolutely cruel. The defining feature of their violence is not merely that they murder, but that they torture those they are about to kill. Shiite militias use drills to bore holds into their victims’ heads. Sunni insurgents saw off fingers and toes. Jihadists partially behead their victims then stomp on their torsos to create gushes of blood before finishing the job.

      Videos of such acts are posted on the Internet or sold in the markets of towns like Haditha.”

      In sharp contrast, Western countries constantly flagellate themselves when civilians are injured or killed in the course of defensive military action against Al Qaeda or its agents.

      Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, senior member of Al-Queda, was killed by U.S. forces directing bombs at a safe-house in which he was believed to be living. A number of men in the house at the time, thought to be his accomplices, were also killed. In addition, a woman and a child inside the house died. Normally when women or children are killed in a combat incident, denunciations of the American military are made. Few denunciations were made in this case, because of the prominence of the terrorist Zarqawi who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iraqi civilians and American and coalition civilian and military personnel.

      But what if Zarqawi had survived and escaped and the others in the house had not? The U.S. would have been denounced around the world by those opposed to our presence in Iraq, even though the legitimately-elected Iraqi government recently advised the United Nations that it wanted us to remain.

      Another example of foolish Western self-flagellation is seen in the different responses to actions by Hamas and Israel. Palestinian terrorists, with knowledge and approval of Hamas, launch Kassam rockets at Israel from open fields, and the Israelis respond with artillery shells. The Palestinians’ missiles are usually inaccurate, though they occasionally hit their targets – the towns and cities of Israel and their civilian populations. The Israeli artillery directed at the open fields generally hit the fields and occasionally kill those who launched the missiles.

      Israel is denounced by nations around the world when Palestinian civilians are injured or killed, but rarely are the casualties suffered by Israeli civilians noticed, let alone denounced. There is a major difference between the nature of the two sides’ actions. Israel is responding to missiles directed at its civilian population.

      It is a basic duty of any government to protect its population from foreign attack. No responsible person suggests that the Israel Defense Forces deliberately targeted innocent Palestinians on a Gaza beach who were injured by what The New York Times called “apparentlyan errant Israeli artillery shell.” It is the nature of artillery shells sometimes to go astray.

      In 1968, Egypt began the so-called war of attrition against Israel. It fired daily at Israeli troops stationed on the eastern side of the Suez Canal manning the Bar Lev line. Israel responded with a daily barrage against military installations in the Egyptian cities situated on the western side of the Canal. When the Egyptians decided they were sustaining far more casualties and physical destruction than the Israelis, they entered into a cease-fire which ended the shooting across the Canal.

      We learned last week that the IDF had ascertained and confirmed “that the explosion that killed eight Palestinians on [June 9], was caused by a stockpile of Hamas explosives.”

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