Wednesday, January 14, 2009

An Army of One Casualty: Perplexed Meditation on Suicide Bombers

Haaretz reports on Israeli casualties engaged in fights with "Hamas militants." (I actually suspect that some Gazans may take up arms against an invading army killing civilians,* regardless of affiliation with Hamas, but that's another topic.) One thing caught my eye.

Haaretz--which is generally a credible source of information--reports that IDF soldiers killed a number of suicide bombers.

And here's something to pause about, if this is true.

Now, I'm looking at this from a purely tactical point of view. There's no moral discussion in what follows. We're in a context where two groups are trying to kill each other, a somewhat normal and popular human activity in any given century. Here are my perplexed observations:
a. This is obviously not terrorism; these guys are involved in street / guerrilla warfare with the mighty IDF soldiers. The name of the game is kill the other guys.
b. You're not going to come cozy up with the soldiers dressed as a civilian and - bam! - surprise them as you blow up the C4. I mean, the soldiers are already there and they're shooting at whoever they see. This is a workable tactic to kill civilians, but soldiers?
c. Why in the world would you ever choose to attack soldiers with a method of warfare which has one and only one guarantee: that your own guys will die?
I mean, think about it: you're a sergeant and you're sending five soldiers off to battle. Your last pep talk is: "now remember, whether or not you inflict casualty on the enemy, just make sure to pop one and shoot yourself dead!" If this whole mess wasn't so tragic, this would have a Monty Pythonesque flair to it.

I take a glib and cynical tone when human absurdity gets too much for me. It annoys some people and I apologize. But while I certainly am 200% against the occupation; I condemn Israel's oppression of Gaza and its conquest of the West Bank every day; I think this Gaza war was avoidable [and I think it's not just a stain on the conscience of Israel, it's drinking the blood of pigs straight into your conscience**]; this nonetheless shows us that there is something fundamentally off and wrong in the thinking of some of Palestinian armed groups.

"This" (the absurdity of suicide bombing) does not justify "that" (the occupation). Maybe "that" created "this." I don't know. (Suicide bombers also exist as far away as Indonesia.) But the fact is, there is a sickness in society, which will need to be healed. Of course killing more children is unlikely to start the cycle of healing and recovery any time soon. Unless you want to kill them all. (And make no mistake, some do.)

But as we condemn the atrocities of Israel today, let's also realize that healing and recovery will be needed on the two side to get us to sustainable peace. I suppose this will have to wait until Obama is inaugurated or Olmert feels he has killed enough Arabs to have a legacy, whichever comes last.

Sad and perplexed.

* All this "targeting militants" is not a lot more than good propaganda to start with.
** Welcome to Middle Eastern Over-Inflated Metaphores-R-us.

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