Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

The Insane Idea That Nations Get To Do War Crimes Whenever Something Bad Happens To Them

Oct 16, 2023

Listen to a reading of this article (reading by Tim Foley):

One of the most destructive ideas in modern times is this notion that it’s fine and appropriate for governments to act like monsters whenever anything bad happens to their country. We saw it happen with the United States after 9/11, and we’re seeing it now with Israel.

Dropping military explosives on children is just as wrong now as it was on October 6th. Wars of aggression were just as wrong on September 12th 2001 as they were on September 10th. But there’s this idiotic belief in mainstream culture that a nation experiencing a traumatic event means it gets to go on a murderous rampage until it feels better.

As soon as the Hamas attack occurred we were inundated with messaging from the western political/media class which conveyed the idea that because something bad happened to Israel, Israel now gets to do a little genocide, as a treat. This is stupid nonsense, and should be rejected by all thinking people.

No other aspect of human life works like this. A normal guy isn’t permitted to go on a shooting spree at his wife’s workplace just because she cheated on him with Kyle from marketing. He’s not even allowed to be mean to customers at work or he’ll get fired. The rules don’t stop applying to normal people just because something bad happened to them; only when we’re thinking about the giant power conglomerates known as governments is this sloppy thinking ever taken seriously.

In fact, in other aspects of life we understand that after a traumatic event it’s actually important to protect our friends and loved ones from making bad decisions in the emotional heat of the moment. You wouldn’t let your sister get an ugly face tattoo after a nasty breakup. If you saw your friend stumbling around with his car keys in one hand and a bottle in the other after losing his job, you wouldn’t tell him you stand with him and support whatever it is he’s getting ready to do. You’d understand that people can make unwise decisions after something bad happens to them, and you’d do what you can to help steer them away from it.

But when we extend our thinking out to the world’s deadliest military forces — precisely the things toward which we should be most careful about bad decision-making — all that goes out the window. All of a sudden “You’re either with us or against us” is framed as a perfectly sound and reasonable position to have on issues like multiple full-scale ground invasions, and if you don’t “Stand with Israel” while it bombs Gaza, Lebanon and Syria that means you’re an evil terrorist supporter who probably hates Jews.

The death toll from Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza has already more than doubled the death toll from the Hamas attack, and we can expect it to keep multiplying because there’s no meaningful opposition to the bloodshed. The United States, who as an indispensable backer of Israel could end all this with a word, has refused to draw a single red line on what Israel may or may not do if it wishes to retain US support — even its indiscriminate use of white phosphorus, which violates international humanitarian law. War crimes are being committed not just openly but announced in advance as Tel Aviv commits itself to the collective punishment of Palestinians with a complete siege of Gaza, and Israel’s allies have no objection to this.

And it’s pretty bad in the general western public as well. Because of the frenetic propaganda campaign by the western press in the wake of the Hamas attack, a new CNN poll finds that half of Americans have been successfully convinced that because something bad happened to Israel, Israel is “fully justified” in raining hellfire on a giant concentration camp in which half the population are children.

The moments after a scary and traumatizing event are the very moments we should be most vigilant against abuses by the nation affected by it. Instead we’re doing the exact opposite as a society and silently agreeing that certain nations get a hall pass on war crimes and mass murder whenever something bad happens to them. At the exact time when the light of wisdom needs to be shining at its very brightest, we’re allowing it to be flushed down the toilet.

And now as anti-war voices like Trita Parsi, Branko Marcetic and Connor Echols have noted, we’re looking at a conflict that could easily escalate and expand to include other nations in the middle east and the US alliance. All because the world decided that we are now on a temporary holiday away from reason and compassion.

This needs to stop. We need to be thinking rationally not just about the current violence but the factors which led to it. That means taking a full accounting of the apartheid abuses which gave rise to Hamas and the Palestinian resistance, ending those abuses and righting the wrongs. It means negotiations. It means diplomacy. It means reparations. It means making concessions. It means sitting down and talking. It means acknowledging the problem so that it can be fixed.

And all of this can be avoided for as long as Israel and its allies want to strut about huffing about how they have special license to kill Palestinians now because blah blah victim story. At this point in history, just as after 9/11, war looks so very, very easy and peace looks so very, very difficult. But it’s at these exact moments that we need to be pushing hardest for peace, because this is when it actually matters.

This is where the rubber meets the road, folks. This is where the real work of creating a healthy world takes place.


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