Personally, I think the whole Garlasco affair is starting to make Human Rights Watch look like a character in opera bouffe. Marc Garlasco, the group’s senior military analyst, the guy who visits battlefields to determine what types of atrocious munitions have been used to kill innocent civilians in pointless conflicts, collects World War II memorabilia, including badges of Nazi anti-aircraft units (in which his grandfather served). Apparently this is enough to land you in hot water in this crazy world we live in–that is if your every move is under scrutiny by the pro-Israel smear industry in the form of NGO Monitor (with a little help from Avigdor Lieberman’s Israeli foreign ministry).
The N.Y. Times reports today that HRW has, as I expected, quivered in its boots and suspended Garlasco from his job. I don’t really understand why you would suspend someone from his professional assignment when his only fault is having a hobby that few outsiders can comprehend as meaningful or interesting. Garlasco has made no statement either supporting Nazism or condemning Israel or Jews. In fact, he has harshly criticized the Nazis in the introduction to a book he wrote on collecting such historical artifacts. The main charge, aside from the distortion (continued in the Times’ inaccurate headline, Rights Group Assailed for Analyst’s Nazi Collection) claiming he collects Nazi memorabilia, is that his hobby is somehow weird or ghoulish.
My hope is that HRW is suspending Garlasco with the intent on resolving this matter quickly and reinstating him. The ostensible reason for suspending him is to investigate the matter more fully. I presume someone will want to go over his 8,000 posts contributed to a few collectors discussion forums, to ensure he never said anything that might be further damaging to HRW. Thus far, nothing I have read is in the least incriminating.
Once again I take strong issue with the role Helena Cobban has played in this matter. As I wrote yesterday, normally I find Helena’s instincts to be impeccable on matters political and journalistic. But not this one. For the life of me, I don’t understand how allowing yourself to be interviewed on this matter by the N.Y. Times and speaking harshly against Garlasco sheds anything other heat on the matter, rather than light.
In addition, it seems to me that one of Helena’s main issues with Garlasco is that, as a military man, he comes from an entirely different cultural milieu than she (who is a pacifist Quaker). But think of this–doesn’t HRW need military experts with military backgrounds and yes, perhaps odd (to us) military hobbies? How else can it get the goods when something like the Gaza war occurs? Are we going to send Quaker pacifists to examine shell casings and serial numbers? I have pro-Israel readers of this blog applauding Helena for her stand. Isn’t there something wrong with this picture??