Saturday, September 09, 2006


By Thomas Riggins

David Brooks, the ultra-right columnist for the New York Times’ op ed page (hired for “balance” no doubt) has penned an analysis of the current Israeli attack on Lebanese civilians which purports to tell us what must be done (and its not a let up on killing civilians, especially women and children.) His article, “Cease-Fire to Nowhere” can be found in the Sunday New York Times (July 30, 2006) and was written before the latest Israeli butchery of unarmed civilians, mostly children, in Qana.

Brooks is afraid that Hezbollah will emerge stronger as a result of the Israeli attack on Lebanon and that a cease-fire will come into place before the inept Israeli killing machine can attain its goal of eliminating Hezbollah as a threat. The tortured logic and twisted acessments of the realities of this conflict which Brooks bases his views upon reveals the weakness of the ultra-right world view.

Brooks says that “most of the world is calling for an immediate Lebanese cease-fire and another Israeli withdrawal.” This is not due to any love of Hezbollah but, and Brooks doesn’t mention this at all, because most people are appalled by the brutal killings of the civilian population. Israel is not inflicting much damage on Hezbollah at all but is simply killing anything that moves in what are effectively “free fire zones”. This type of unprincipled mass slaughter of civilians, rememinesent of the practices of the US in Korea and Vietnam and the Japanese and Germans in WW 2 ( and by some of the allies towards the end of that conflict) are simply ineffective and militarily unjustified (as well as morally repugnant.)

Brooks concedes that many of those calling for a cease-fire “are people of good will whose anguish” over the “suffering” clouds their appreciation of “long term considerations.” Brooks, far from the field of battle, seems immune to such “anguish” since he has spent “a week on the telephone with experts and policy makers” he will not be influenced by the mere dead bodies of Lebanese civilians. ”Hey come on guys, grow up, war is war.”

The killing must go on to prevent, what is really unpreventable by now, the growth of Hezbollah’s influence. He tells us that Muslims will think “terror” is the right tactic to use to bring about the “Muslim renaissance.” Of course it is always the other side that uses “terror.” The state of Israel itself used “terror” to come into existence so don’t worry that Hezbollah is the role model for the success of “terror.” What is dropping bombs on women and children if not “terror.”

From the Arab point of view it is justified resistance to Zionism and imperialism that is being successful and that is what really worries Israel and the US-- the “terror” boggie man is just for Brooks’ ultra-right constituency. (But don’t take this to mean I justify killing civilians by any side.).

Brooks says Bush should get “enormous credit” for keeping the killing going so that Israel can weaken Hezbollah. But Israel’s counterproductive policies of mass murder are actually having the opposite effect. Those who think that political and moral questions can be solved by having a bigger gun, as Brooks evidently does, have no understanding of what is behind the problems of the Middle East.

Here are a few observations that Brooks makes that really tell you where he is coming from. Some are correct but most are not. He is worried that we will not easily succeed in Lebanon (we being the US and Israel, which Brooks confuses with Western Civilization). This is because first, the “U.S. lacks authority because of Iraq.” He doesn’t explain this, but he is correct. Iraq is not to the enormous credit of Bush and would seem to indicate the US has no idea what is going on the Middle East as a whole. (Hint-- solve the Palestinian problem first and everything else, except who gets the oil, will fall into place.)

Second, he says that Israel is “wary” of going into Lebanon because it might not get “help” in getting out. More likely it is afraid of another defeat such as led to its withdrawal in the first place. Third, he says “The Europeans, being the Europeans, are again squandering a chance to play a big role in world affairs.” What type of analysis is that? “The Europeans, being the Europeans...” Are we to think that there is something in the nature of being a European that makes one want to squander one’s chances? What he means is that the Europeans have a better understandings of what is going on and don’t want to follow in the footsteps of the clueless Bush administration.

Finally he says the “moderate” arabs (his quotes, there are no moderate arabs for the ultra-right) “are finding that if you spend a generation inciting hatred of Israel you will wind up prisoner to groups who hare Israel more than you do.” Just where did this “hatred” of Israel come from anyway? Maybe Brooks should look at John Kilfer’s article “Israel Is Powerful, Yes. But Not So Invincible” in the same issue of the Times.

Kilfer quotes Augustus Richard Norton, a Shia expert at Boston University, a retired Army officer who taught at West Point and served in Southern Lebanon with the UN. Norton notes that Israel has been bombing and killing in Lebanon for more that twenty years. That is its answer to everything--kill civilians. The hatred that Hezbollah has for Israel: “That hatred was created by Israel; it wasn’t there at the beginning.”

David Brooks doesn’t want an immediate cease-fire. He, along with Bush and all those who support this unjustified “over reaction” by Israel and the continuing killing of civilians, have blood on their hands.

Thomas Riggins is the book review editor of Political Affairs and can be reached at pabooks @

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