|March 29, 2009In the past couple of weeks, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has been vocal about war crimes committed by Israel in its invasion and destruction of Gaza. Currently, the group is featuring Israel’s use of white phosphorus, a chemical agent that burns people alive, and is illegal under international laws of combat to use against civilians. According to the Huffington Post of March 26, 2009:
(Jerusalem) – Israel’s repeated firing of white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza during its recent military campaign was indiscriminate and is evidence of war crimes, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The 71-page report, “Rain of Fire: Israel’s Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza,” provides witness accounts of the devastating effects that white phosphorus munitions had on civilians and civilian property in Gaza. Human Rights Watch researchers in Gaza immediately after hostilities ended found spent shells, canister liners, and dozens of burnt felt wedges containing white phosphorus on city streets, apartment roofs, residential courtyards, and at a United Nations school. The report also presents ballistics evidence, photographs, and satellite imagery, as well as documents from the Israeli military and government. Normally, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are long on accusations of human rights violations by countries not in the U.S. sphere of influence. Rarely, if ever, is Israel mentioned. But, HRW appears to be going for the jugular in this case.
Many fair-minded people should be quite happy to see such vigilance by HRW against Israel’s use of white phosphorus. But, there are a couple of lingering incidents that can allow people to be dubious about the reason behind HRW’s allegation.
In 2004, Fallujah was a major battlefield for the U.S. against Iraqis who opposed the U.S. occupation. Untold thousands of Iraqis died. The U.S. made liberal use of white phosphorus. We saw many bodies that consisted mostly of bones with melted skin hanging from them. At first, the U.S. denied using the chemical weapon, but eyewitnesses and many photos came forth to prove the horror.
Where was HRW when this was occurring? I checked dozens of pages on search engines before I wrote this story to see if I had missed any reports of HRW condemning the U.S. for its use of white phosphorus. There was not one line of any article that showed HRW spoke of the atrocities inflicted against the people of Fallujah.
It is evident that HRW is no fan of the Arab world, so it was quite surprising to see them put so much time and effort into reporting Israeli atrocities against Palestinians. My assessment is that HRW is bigoted against Iraqis more than other Arabs. And, although usually unspeakable against Israeli war crimes, they stepped forward to criticize them. But, U.S. actions of the same dimension, or worse, still remain unreported. Logic tells me that HRW hates Iraqis more than other Arabs, and will sacrifice its normal lack of candor against Israel for the sake of being mute about U.S. war crimes.
Human Rights Watch is the same group that assessed the figure of 182,000 Kurds killed by the Ba’ath regime during 1988 in the Anfal Campaign. The major problem with this assertion is that not one HRW person went to Iraq to try to find the evidence. Another problem was the lack of bodies, but these “minor” points did not stop HRW from using the long publicly-accepted number of 182,000.
In November 2003, the U.S. and U.K. governments announced that more than 400,000 bodies had been discovered in mass graves in Iraq. A few months after, the disclosure of the finding of almost a half million bodies, something occurred that drastically altered the story. On July 18, 2004, the headline of the day for the British newspaper, The Independent, stated: “British Prime Minister Admits Graves Claim Untrue.” According to the article:
Downing Street has admitted to The Observer that repeated claims by Tony Blair that “about 400,000 bodies have been found in Iraqi mass graves” is untrue, and only about 5,000 corpses have so far been uncovered.
The claims by Blair in November and December of last year (2003) were given widespread credence, quoted by MPs and widely published, including in the introduction to a U.S. government pamphlet on Iraq’s mass graves.
The that publication, Iraq’s Legacy of Terror, Mass Graves, produced by USAID, the U.S. government aid distribution agency, Blair is quoted from 20 November last year: “We’ve already discovered, just so far, the remains of 400,000 people in mass graves.”
Even though almost five years have passed since the truth emerged, the 400,000 figure is still included in the USAID website, along with other absurdities such as:
If these numbers prove accurate, they represent a crime against humanity surpassed only by the Rwandan genocide , Pol Pot’s Cambodian killing fields in the 1970s, and the Nazi Holocaust of World War II.
The same July 18, 2004 article from The Independent delved into the allegations of elevated figures attributed to Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath regime in the north of the country. For instance, it mentioned that Human Rights Watch admitted that it had to drastically decrease the figures of deaths and could not give an accurate figure.
Hania Mufti, who performed research and produced the original inflated figures of deaths in the north of Iraq, stated: “Our estimates were based on estimates. The eventual figure was based in part on circumstantial information gathered over the years.”
Human Rights Watch was silent over the deaths of many Iraqis in Fallujah, but it was very vocal in attributing 182,000 fictitious deaths to the Ba’ath regime. Any group who can come up with such an enormous number of deaths and state that its proof was “estimates based on estimates” and on “circumstantial information” must remain suspect in its reason for accusing Israel of war crimes. I hope the proof they have against Israel is more credible than that of the group’s still-believed number of Kurds killed in 1988 in Iraq.
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