The BBC and Syrian national news aired an interview (transcript) Bashar al-Assad gave to Jeremy Bowen. The BBC coverage I heard noted Assad’s claim that his regime doesn’t kill civilians, except in a few circumstances and by accident. Of course the claim is false. But he manages to transform it into ‘truth’ by a rhetorical sleight of hand. Since his forces warn all civilians to flee areas under rebel control, and the regime expects any true civilian to flee an area under assault, all those who remain must be guerrillas or terrorists:
Bowen: Can we talk about the humanitarian situation a little bit? One of the effective military tactics your… the Syrian Army has used, is to isolate areas held by rebels, and effectively to starve them out. But that has had the effect also to starve the civilians, and that, again, is against the laws of war, starving civilians.
President Assad: That’s not correct for one reason, because in most of the areas where the rebels took over, the civilians fled and came to our areas, so in most of the areas that we encircle and attack are only militants.
His forces operate under the assumption that there are no civilians in areas they attack. Anything that moves is the enemy regardless of who they are, how they are dressed, even whether they’re women or children. All are terrorists.
I cannot wait for the day when Assad steps into the dock at the Hague and this lame-brained excuse is offered in his defense. I look forward to seeing it ripped to shreds by the prosecutors.
Israel operates under the same set of assumptions in its repeated invasions of Gaza. According to IDF apologists it sends text messages to civilians, uses PA systems to warn them to evacuate their homes, and “even” “taps” on the roof of targeted buildings. All in the expectation that real civilians will leave their homes and find shelter elsewhere.
This allows the IDF in good conscience to tell its soldiers that anything that moves in the field is a militant who may be killed on sight. Even old men and women waving white flags have been executed by IDF snipers. No Israeli court has tried or imprisoned any soldier for such offenses.
The one difference between Assad and the IDF is that at the least the latter concedes that it kills civilians in large numbers (80% of fatalities were civilians). However, it even blames this fact on Hamas, saying it deliberately fights in urban areas surrounded by civilians (hence the lie about “human shields”). I look forward to this defense being tested and demolished at The Hague.
So to Israel’s generals and politicians I say: Kol haKavod. You’ve joined the hallowed company of Bashar al-Assad as joint war criminals who justify the murder of civilians by saying simply: they aren’t there.
NOTE: 16o signatories so far to the petition demanding Congress cancel Bibi’s speech. Today, Sen. Pat Leahy joined the swelling ranks of Congressmembers, American Jewish leaders, and Israeli analysts who’ve called on the prime minister to stay home. Please sign and ask others to do so as well.