At Large

Civilian Shields

The big story in Lebanon is under-reported.

By 8.2.06

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One question I have yet to see the Mainstream Media address is why there are still so many civilians in south Lebanon. The BBC says the stragglers are too old, sick and poor to leave. If Lebanese families are abandoning their sick and elderly as they flee the war zone, it speaks poorly of the Muslims, not the Jews.

If we go back to 1978, when Israel launched an offensive in southern Lebanon in retaliation for a PLO bus hijacking in Tel Aviv (35 Israelis killed, 100 injured) we find this story -- also from the BBC:

Civilians Flee Southern Lebanon

The large town of Nabatiya, only two miles from the Litani river, has been almost totally depopulated of its 30,000 inhabitants who have fled the shelling.


What's different this time? Certainly there are no more poor, sick and elderly than in that earlier conflict? Perhaps the difference is that Hizbullah has been schooled in the overarching importance PR, of sacrificing civilians as a means of winning the propaganda war, and the weight of world opinion in wartime.

Listening to the mainstream media one is unlikely to know that Lebanese civilians were warned to leave southern Lebanon before the fighting started. To quote Israeli Foreign Ministry official Gideon Meir: "The Israeli defense forces dropped leaflets and warned the civilian population to leave the place because the Hizbullah turned it into a war zone." In fact, the Israelis telephoned Lebanese civilians. Such courtesy is unprecedented in the annals of military history.

Nor are we likely to have heard the report from the Israeli military that Hizbullah has prevented civilians from leaving villages in southern Lebanon:

Roadblocks have been set up outside some of the villages to prevent residents from leaving, while in other villages Hizbullah is preventing UN representatives from entering, who are trying to help residents leave. In two villages, exchanges of fire between residents and Hizbullah have broken out.

Hizbullah, of course, knows that without its civilian shields to hide behind, the Israeli forces will wipe them out within days. Likewise, the only way to defeat a superior Israeli force is to turn world opinion against the Jews. And that can only happen if lots of Lebanese women and children are "martyred."

Have you noticed that when there are casualties, the media automatically assumes that all are civilians or noncombatants -- even though Hizbullah fighters don civilian clothes, fire rockets from civilian areas, and scramble into nearby buildings afterwards to hide among civilian populations -- and this before any legitimate investigation takes place?

As usual, the media is cooperating with the terrorists. A decade ago in the Bosnian War, Slobodan Milosevic happily invited television crews to broadcast the hostage U.N. peacekeepers' plight to the world. Saddam employed a similar device. Bomb us, and you murder your own people. Today, southern Lebanon is crawling with journalists interviewing every Lebanese civilian they can scare up, ordinary folks who have long tolerated the terrorists' presence.

THE HUMAN SHIELD strategy is a relatively new tactic, first cooked up by Saddam in the First Gulf War. The Iraqi dictator, however, used Western civilians, not his own people, to discourage attacks. This strategy was soon copied by Milosevic in Bosnia and the Taliban in Afghanistan. American peace activists even picked up the trick, volunteering to be human shields prior to the Second Gulf War. What's new here is that Hizbullah has taken the criminal tactic one step further in cynically and cowardly using its own people as civilian shields.

This is not Clausewitz's brand of warfare. It bears no resemblance to traditional warfare among civilized nations, which was waged with honor and dignity. Rather we have non-state terrorist groups hiding behind the skirts of women and the bibs of babies. As we've seen in Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan and now Lebanon, civilians, particularly dead civilians, are more important to winning than rockets and guns. And it takes a lot of dead women and infants to win a war.

Another question needs addressing: Why does Hizbullah, which started this war, get a free pass from the media and human rights groups when it puts its civilians at risk and when its missiles kill Israeli civilians? Critics call Israel's response disproportionate. What is disproportionate is the anti-Israel coverage from the international media. Much of it, in my view, bordering on anti-Semitism.

Christopher Orlet is a frequent contributor and runs the Existential Journalist.

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About the Author
Christopher Orlet writes from St. Louis.