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American and Israeli War Crimes: Same Atrocities, Different Responses

Dave Lindorff

In the last few days, both the Israeli military and the US military have fired missiles into homes, in an effort to target what they said were terrorists, in the process killing many innocent civilians.

But what a contrast we see in both the reporting on these events, and in the response within the two countries!

In the Israeli case, the IDF fired a missile into a family home in Gaza, killing a mother and her four young children, who were eating breakfast at the time. The children were aged 6 through 15 months. While the IDF and the Israeli government blamed the tragedy on Hamas, saying it operates in proximity of civilians and is thus responsible for their deaths, an Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, has caqlled for a criminal investigation into the killings, saying that Israel and the IDF have violated internation law by firing the missile in a densely populated area where civilian casualties would be likely. A spokesman for the group, Sarit Michaeli, says that Israeli claims that it is not responsible for such deaths are incorrect, and adds that under international law, "Even if you attack a legitimate military target, the anticipated damage has to be in proportion to the anticipated gain."

How does such a moral calculus apply to American military policy? The most recent example of US military tactics in this regard came yesterday, when American forces, in clear violation of international law regarding national sovereignty, fired a missile into a house in Somalia (a nation that the US is not at war with), reportedly killing an alleged leader of the Al Qaeda organization in Somalia, Aden Hashi Ayro, but also another nine people -- all unidentified. Reports suggest that many of those killed and another seven who were wounded, were innocent civilians who happened to be sleeping in the house in question.

To date, no American human rights group has protested this action as a criminal violation or a violation of international law. No member of Congress has decried the attack.

The AP story reporting the incident didn't even mention the possibility that the action could be a violation of law.

Nor is this an isolated incident. In Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Pakistan, in Somalia and elsewhere, the US regularly launches missiles, often from remote controlled drone aircraft, and drops large bombs on houses and even larger compounds, sometimes destroying whole villages at a time, in order to hit individual alleged terrorists. Often, it turns out on investigation that the target individuals weren't even present at the scene of these bloody massacres of civilians.

So commonplace are these wanton acts of violence by US forces that the US-installed leader of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, has publicly called for a halt to them, because of the number of innocent Afghan citizens being killed. Iraqis too, are enraged at the number of innocent victims of US bombings in places like Sadr City, where the killing of innocent children by US bombs has become a deadly routine.

No one -- not one person -- in the US military, the Pentagon or the Bush administration has been prosecuted for war crimes or criminal violations for these atrocities.

It becomes clearer and clearer with the passing of time that Bush's and Cheney's so-called War on Terror is actually a War of Terror, being waged against the people of such places as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia.

At least in Israel, some citizens are willing to call such behavior criminal, and to demand a halt to it.

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is "The Case for Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006 and now available in paperback edition). His work is available at

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