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Hillary Clinton and Syria’s X-factor

13 Mar 2012

written by NSR


Syrians have it, but Gaza probably never will.

Hillary Clinton Syria

  “We reject any equivalence between premeditated murders by a government’s military machine and the actions of civilians under siege driven to self-defence…”

‒ Hillary Clinton at the UN Security Council, referring to conflict between Syrian authorities and rebels.

Hillary Clinton is right. You really can’t compare the violence committed by oppressed people fighting out of desperation with the violence of a large and well-equipped army against them. Both sides may well be guilty of killings, but to suggest, as Russian delegates to the Security Council did, that any condemnation of violence in Syria should focus on both demonstrators and government forces is ridiculous, right? It’s like shooting someone in the head for slapping your face and saying, “I guess we’ve both done things we’re not proud of.”

Hillary Clinton was quite right to reject that thinking out of hand. If only she (and the US State Department) were more consistent, it would be easier to take her seriously.

When it comes to Gaza, probably the very definition of ‘civilians under siege’, Clinton and the State Department’s attitude seems a little different. Oppressed, hemmed in and periodically and indiscriminately bombed by Israeli forces, the civilians of Gaza are familiar with ‘premeditated murders by a government’s military machine,’ particularly this week, as dozens were killed by Israeli air-strikes.

When jet aircraft drop bombs on the civilians of Gaza, and, yes, those using the limited weapons at their disposal to fight for freedom, Hillary Clinton excuses and justifies like a Russian delegate at a UN security Council Meeting. When it’s Gaza, Clinton calls on both sides for calm. “We condemn in the strongest terms the rocket fire from Gaza by terrorists into southern Israel in recent days,” she and her department say. 

What magic ingredient, what X-factor, the people of Gaza must be wondering, do the freedom fighters of Syria possess that makes their violence so palatable to America?

But, then, this is nothing new and not limited to governments. Ask any youth in a Che Guevara t-shirt how many times he’s been accosted by the ethics-police about the appropriateness of his hero. If the shirt featured Winston Churchill, who ordered the bombing of non-military targets full of civilians, would the Che fan get a talking-to?  No, sir. The people who did his killing wore uniforms were on the right side. And more importantly, they had proper uniforms and equipment.

The point is made beautifully in the 1966 film, The Battle of Algiers. A French reporter asks an insurgent leader who has ordered suicide bombings against the colonial French: “Don’t you think it’s a bit cowardly to use women’s baskets and handbags to carry explosive devices that kill so many innocent people?”

The insurgent leader replies: “And doesn’t it seem to you even more cowardly to drop napalm bombs on defenceless villages, so that there are a thousand times more innocent victims? Of course, if we had your airplanes it would be a lot easier for us. Give us your bombers, and you can have our baskets.”

As a Christian, I have always to oppose and regret the use of violence. Every death is one too many. But if we are going to talk of methods instead of the justness of their cause (as is the tactic whenever we wish to demonise Palestinian resistance), then let’s be consistent, shall we?


Related posts:

Occupy: the next phase - Q&A with Kalle Lasn
Dr King, Pope Francis and Shane Claiborne on attacking Syria
Bad reasons for NOT attacking Syria

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