As Kofi Annan and the usual gang of commenters– with absolutely no evidence– accuse the Israelis of deliberately attacking a UN outpost in Lebanon, allow me to quote from an interview with the Israeli historian Michael Oren:
On June 8, 1982… I was with a group of Israeli paratroopers and Special Forces outside of Beirut. We’d just fought a pitched battle in the city and were on a ridge eating breakfast in broad daylight. Our vehicles were marked with big orange panels for aerial identification. And while we were eating breakfast a squadron of Israeli Skyhawks descended on the column and bombed it. I had a piece of a cluster bomb pass right over my head. Twenty boys were killed, blown to bits. I asked a pilot, How could that happen? He said, “First of all we don’t see the orange panels, we’re moving too fast. But you know, in the fog of battle you could easily mistake one column for another.” It happens.
Now I suppose even Kofi Annan and our smuggest commenters would concede that when Israeli Skyhawks bombed to pieces 20 Israeli soldiers, it was unintentional. But if those Skyhawks had instead bombed UN personnel or Lebanese civilians, the same people would have been claiming “deliberate attack” before the dust cleared.
Update: Many thanks to commenter dave the mad jock for pointing me to this revealing photo from 2002 of the United Nations and Hezbollah flags virtually side-by-side at a UN Post across the border from Israel.
It may go at least part of the way to explaining how the Israelis could have accidentally struck a UN outpost during a battle with Hezbollah.
I served with MFO Sinai and visited UNIFIL a few years back during Gulf War 1 actually. The posts are in most cases miles from the border and those that are have their own fences….when I visited there were few signs of HZ or anyone else but having spoken to colleagues recently back from the ME including one who works for the UN they also confirm that the HZ posts and the UN posts were often close together and that the UN has ignored the problem for years.
Can anyone explain to me why the UN’s presence in south Lebanon is not worse than useless?
Further update: Ohad points to this post at Belmont Club which notes that the UN– while not performing its stated mission in Lebanon– is providing ambulance and relief services during the current war. So they deserve credit for that.
Another update: Again thanks to dave the mad jock for a link to an interview on CBC radio with Canadian retired major general Lewis Mackenzie, discussing the death of a Canadian peacekeeper, one of four killed at the UN outpost on Tuesday, whom he knew:
We received emails from him a few days ago, and he was describing the fact that he was taking fire within, in one case, three meters of his position for tactical necessity, not being targeted. Now that’s veiled speech in the military. What he was telling us was Hezbollah soldiers were all over his position and the IDF were targeting them. And that’s a favorite trick by people who don’t have representation in the UN. They use the UN as shields knowing that they can’t be punished for it.
Update again: A few days before the tragedy, Canadian TV also received an email from Major Paeta Hess-von Kruedener, the Canadian peacekeeper now missing and presumed dead. Among other things he wrote:
What I can tell you is this: we have on a daily basis had numerous occasions where our position has come under direct or indirect fire from both artillery and aerial bombing. The closest artillery has landed within 2 meters of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 meters from our patrol base. This has not been deliberate targeting, but has rather been due to tactical necessity. (My emphasis.)
I can’t claim this is definitive evidence that the attack on the outpost was accidental. And it certainly doesn’t rule out carelessness. But it’s part of the narrative to be taken into account by those seeking the truth.