Mitchell Bard

Blinken Needs A History Lesson Before Lecturing Israel

Do not listen to the partisan right-wing hacks smearing President Joe Biden by accusing him of having some responsibility for the Hamas attack on Israel. President Biden has been the most supportive president in history during wartime. As he would say, full stop.

Still, Biden’s secretary of state, Tony Blinken, cannot help from playing the role of chief schoolmarm. Earlier in the year, he lectured Israel on democracy; now he is telling Israel how war should be conducted, emphasizing the laws of war and the importance of protecting civilians.

The teacher needs a history lesson.

Let’s start with Presidents Roosevelt and Truman. How much care did they give to protecting civilians during World War II? Weren’t German civilians considered as guilty as Nazis? Does Blinken need to be reminded of the fire-bombing of Tokyo, Dresden, and Hamburg that killed tens of thousands of civilians? Oh, and there were those two little explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Would he compare Israel’s airstrikes to those examples of US adherence to the laws of war?

The forgotten war in Korea also featured US attacks that killed thousands of civilians. Dean Rusk, who later held Blinken’s position, said the US bombed “everything that moved in North Korea.”

Israel has already lost more of its population, proportionally, than the United States did in the entire Vietnam War. That war was fought thousands of miles away, so the casualties were almost entirely soldiers. During that war, the US carpet-bombed Cambodia, sometimes indiscriminately, killing at least 50,000 civilians. When the US warns Israel that doing the same would inflame the population, it knows what it is talking about since the killing of Cambodian civilians played a role in prolonging the war and the rise of the Khmer Rouge.

In 1967, pictures were published of mutilated Vietnamese children caused by the US use of Napalm in Vietnam. These and other photos provoked widespread demonstrations against the war.

In reaction to an attempt to assassinate President Bush in 1993, the US launched 23 cruise missiles at Iraq’s intelligence headquarters and hit a civilian neighborhood. Colin Powell later said this was an “appropriate, proportional” response.

The attack on Israel has been compared to 9/11. Proportionally, the slaughter of Israelis on October 7 was 13 times the number of victims of al-Qaeda. What did the US do? We went to war against Iraq, where tens of thousands of civilians were killed. In one incident, a bomb was dropped on a bunker, killing 408 Iraqis sheltering there.

The second US war with Iraq is believed to have caused as many as 300,000 civilian deaths.

The virtuous Barack Obama authorized 542 drone strikes that killed 324 civilians. In 2013, for example, a drone launched four Hellfire missiles at what it thought were al-Qaeda terrorists in Yemen but was a wedding procession.

During the war in Afghanistan, airstrikes authorized by Obama and President Donald Trump resulted in thousands of civilian casualties. In one case, an airstrike targeting a religious school reportedly killed 12 children.

History shows Israel does not need to be lectured by the United States about the importance of adhering to the laws of war and doing its best to avoid civilian casualties.

Israel could teach the United States and its critics some lessons about prosecuting a war to avoid hitting non-combatants. No other army in the world warns people to leave an area they intend to attack, even though it gives up the element of surprise and allows terrorists to escape with the civilians.

After Operation Cast Lead in Gaza ended in 2009, British Colonel (ret.) Richard Kemp commented on the BBC, “I don’t think there’s ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza.”

It is doing the same today.

By contrast, Israel’s enemies recognize no rules. They purposely use civilians as shields. On October 7, we saw the atrocities they committed.

Israel is frequently told to adhere to a higher standard because it is a democracy. As the examples above show, the United States does not always live up to the same yardstick. There is a different measure for world powers. The United States, China, Russia, and European nations can get away with murder.

The world rarely bothers to judge Muslim and Arab states. The media seldom covers their actions and does not hold them to even a minimal standard of decency, maintaining the prejudicial attitude that savagery is to be expected from them.

This double standard is understandably maddening for Israelis, but it is the milieu in which their actions are judged.

About the Author
Dr Mitchell Bard is the Executive Director of the nonprofit American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) and a foreign policy analyst who lectures frequently on U.S.-Middle East policy. Dr. Bard is the director of the Jewish Virtual Library, the world's most comprehensive online encyclopedia of Jewish history and culture. He is also the author/editor of 24 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.
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