Friday, July 28, 2006

The Sheehan/Dowd Precedent

Cynthia Hess-von Kruedener is under the impression that, because she is the wife of missing-and-presumed-dead UN Military Observer Major Paeta Hess-von Kruedener, she has the authority to tell us what the IDF's intentions were when they bombed his UNIFIL outpost in south Lebanon on Tuesday. She said in a news conference yesterday, at CFB Kingston:
"Why did they bomb the UN site? In my opinion [if] those are precision-guided missiles, then that is intentional ... My information from [Major Hess-von Kruedener] is weeks upon weeks they've been firing on there. They're UN soldiers, that should have been the safest place to be — they should not have bombed that site, period ... [Israel is] fighting a whole different war, and it's changing all the time. And now they're choosing to, bomb, you know, UN sites. That's unheard of."
The obvious rebuttals to Ms. H-v K's 'opinions' have already been made ad nauseum. 1) Yes, the bombs were precision-guided. But the point is moot when one considers that a precision-guided bomb is only as precise as the coordinates it's been given--a terribly undependable quantity in the heat of battle, where (presumably) the loss of precious seconds might mean the difference between 4 innocent lives and 40. 2) The information Ms. H-v K received from her husband was apparently only half of what he knew--the 'they' from which his outpost was receiving fire was as much Hezbollah as it was the IDF (for the original UNIFIL press releases see here). Indeed, in an email to CTV, the Major himself admitted of the IDF bombing strikes that "this has not been deliberate targeting, but has rather been due to tactical necessity." 3) Most importantly: Hezbollah's primary defense tactic has always been to use non-combatants (in this particular case, UNIFIL's Khiam outpost) as shields for their positions. This, as Andrew Coyne pointed out last Saturday in the National Post, in violation of the First Protocol to the Geneva Convention.

Suggesting (particularly the last point) that it is not so much Israel that is "fighting a whole different war," but Hezbollah. (I am at odds trying to figure out how we continue to be so reluctant to believe that terrorists actually behave as terrorists.)

But what irks me most about Ms. H-v K's statements is, simply, that they were made in the first place--or at least: that they were given a public forum in which to be made (which, I guess, really is the crux of the issue). What, after all, are her qualifications in this matter? She is not herself a soldier, she's an employee of the Royal Bank. She doesn't even seem to be that familiar with her husband's mission: his own description of the activity around the Khiam base prior to its fatal bombing. And yet here she is telling us that the IDF--in a fit of what could only have been complete insanity-- killed her husband and 3 other UN Observers intentionally.

One hears the distant and troubled brayings of Cindy Sheehan here, egging on--not Ms. Hess-von Kruedener herself, who is under extreme emotional strain at the prospect of losing her husband--but a national media desperate for the kind of sensation that once caused Maureen Dowd to say--in defiance of every rule governing good judgement and common sense: "the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute." I talked about this little piece of infamy at some length here--and the risks, as ever, remain the same. Christopher Hitchens called it "ventriloquizing the dead," though I think in this case it might better be called trivializing the dead by vilifying, with disinformation and unchecked emotion, a (all reasonable indicators would suggest) possibly innocent IDF. Far be it from me to say that Ms. Hess-von Kruedener is not entitled to feel what she is presently feeling, but it is just too ridiculous to invest with any authority her accusations of cold-blooded killing when, apart from anything else, it hasn't even been determined yet whether Major Hess-von Kruedener is, in fact, dead.