Thursday, August 03, 2006

Let the excuses flow

It isn't intentional, it's the "fog of war," the newest euphemism for "Whoops!"

On a mountain road just south of here, a convoy of Lebanese villagers was fleeing north shortly after the war began. They had heard Israeli soldiers telling them to evacuate. Suddenly, a rocket struck a pickup truck full of people. Twenty-one people were killed, more than half of them children.

Israel said it believed the convoy was transporting rockets. The convoy had not notified Israel that it was going to make the trip. Those who survived said in interviews that they were simply following Israeli orders to flee the south as best they could.
The aren't soldiers and police, they are "men in police/military uniforms:"

The camouflaged Iraqi commandos who kidnapped 20 people from a pair of central Baghdad offices this week used Interior Ministry vehicles and left little trace of their true identities.

Were they legitimate officers? Members of a Shiite or Sunni death squad? Or criminals in counterfeit uniforms bought at the market?
"Run, run, said the bird/Humankind cannot bear very much reality."--T.S. Eliot

None of this, by the way, is unintentional:

Gidi Grinstein, a former Israeli negotiator and director of the Reut Institute, a research group, calls it the “90-10 paradox.” Israel can eliminate 90 percent of Hezbollah’s fighting capacity, but Hezbollah can still declare victory and claim that it fought the mighty Israeli Army to a draw.

“At the end of the war, they’ll have a narrative, and so will we,” he said. “It’s all about perception.”

An Israeli cabinet minister, who spoke anonymously because of the delicacy of the topic, said, “The narrative at the end is part of the problem.” He added: “That’s why we’re making up this balance sheet of accomplishments.
Even the description of how this started, is a matter of perception. From the NYT article:

Israel is trying to underline the contradictions. Mr. Nasrallah is widely considered to have miscalculated when he authorized the raid into Israel on July 12, when two soldiers were captured. He said he thought Israel would respond as in the past, with token tank fire.
But has that narrative itself changed? Here is how Forbes reported it July 12:

The militant group Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers during clashes Wednesday across the border in southern Lebanon, prompting a swift reaction from Israel, which sent ground forces into its neighbor to look for them.

The forces were trying to keep the soldiers' captors from moving them deeper into Lebanon, Israeli government officials said on condition of anonymity.

The Israeli military would not confirm the report.
Peter Hart points out that the US media prefers a timeline, a "who started it?" Part of the problem with that approach, of course, is that context is lost, and ""Who threw the first punch?" is a question that is never properly answered. Perhaps this is why what is obvious to everyone is not yet obvious to the American press.

Truth is always the first victim of the "fog of war," but demanding an artificial starting point assures that truth is never even present. Surely the question of "who started it?" is a legitimate one. Too bad it already seems to have been lost.

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