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Observations on war and warfare in the Middle East on the 100th Anniversary of World War I

October 17, 2014
by Lawrence Gulotta

Observations on war and warfare in the Middle East on the 100th Anniversary of World War I:

The Arabs, like the British & French, could be savage but I’m skeptical that the level of savagery ever reached the intensity of today’s barbarisms in Iraq and Syria.  Trench warfare in WWI was barbaric. Desert warfare was savage and cruel.  Suicide bombing was not used by the Arabs during the various WWI campaigns involving Lawrence.  I’m aware of Japan’s use of the suicide bomber and all the ritual display of piety to the Sun God and Emperor. I’ve seen the Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian sects performing comparable religious rituals preparing for martyrdom.  The Japanese targeted warships and the Arabs have targeted civilians. The FLN in Algeria is often cited as precedent for terrorist action against colonialist patrons at pizzerias, cafes, bus stops, markets, train stations. The attacks against civilian colonial French were murderous actions but not suicide bombings, per se. Who can ever forget the Gillo Pontecorvo’s movie, “Battle of Algiers” (  ). With the latest Gaza-Israel war still smoldering, we have seen truly deadly,  bizarre behavior from Hamas and the deaths of approximately 2,200 innocent civilians in Gaza. It is impossible to fight a conventional war against Hamas without committing a war crime. The conflict is designed to achieve this end. War crimes are the lingua franca of modern wars. Both sides commit war crimes. The Middle East has devolved into  a war crimes zone. War crimes can materialize at anytime and place.

There is some mention of using civilians as shields during WWI & II but it doesn’t appear to be the modus vivendi for nation state armies. You can find examples of city-states or small nation states, or ghettos, whose people’s backs were against the wall and you will not find anything comparable to Hamas’ use Gazan children, though the stories are also horrifying.  If you fight against Hamas you will commit war crimes. It is part of the definition of warfare in the Region.  David Mc Reynolds calls Hamas “irresponsible.” Certainly a starting point but adolescents are irresponsible. Hamas shouldn’t be treated like a haughty adolescent, or an errant child. If you are a “non-nation state,”  I suppose you may think you can get away with barbarism and war crimes.

 The latest revelations concerning the kidnapping of the three Israeli teens continues the bloody,  surreal, byzantine subterranean saga of the Palestinian Arab at war. Kidnapping and murder are the preferred method to “spark” conflict. Ransoming of kidnapped victims has become a  dependable income stream for ISIS. The income stream from ransom activity could be collateralized  for more weapons purchases and military aide.  ISIS is inclined to commit war crimes establishing its reactionary Caliphate. “Who lost the Tigris and Euphrates ?”

The Syria is littered with war crimes committed by the Assad government as well as the appalling human rights violations and crimes committed by the Opposition.

I believe it is a mistake to ignore  war crimes committed during Protective Edge 2014 by either side.  The Hamas military’s use of civilians is scandalous and criminal. The apparent disproportionate use of force by Israel in areas of civilian habitation is intolerable. Hamas & Hzbollah use homes and apartment buildings as sites for missiles and storage of missiles. The statement by Marjorie Cohn needs a re-write. It needs to find balance and proportion in the assignment of blame for war crimes, especially when the Middle East itself is an enduring war crimes zone.


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