View Full Version : Who Can You Trust?

08-26-2006, 11:42 AM
Wretchard at the Belmont Club blog - Who Can You Trust? (http://fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com/2006/08/who-can-you-trust.html).

In the last few days I completely missed this classic photographic analysis of a news story by Zombietime (http://www.zombietime.com/fraud/ambulance/). It describes possible fraud in depicting an ambulance allegedly struck during the Israeli-Lebanon conflict. Michelle Malkin is on target when she says, "If there were Pulitzers for Internet posts, this one would win hands down." (Hat tip: Tim Blair (http://timblair.net/ee/index.php/weblog/bomb_story_bombed/))


"The Israeli missiles had pierced the very centre of the red cross painted on the roof of each vehicle. Did the pious use the cross as their aiming point?" -- Robert Fisk (http://www.counterpunch.org/fisk07282006.html)

One poster at Samizdata (http://www.samizdata.net/blog/archives/2006/08/the_final_nail.html) had some thoughts on the ambulance picture which bear thinking about.

(1) There is no air-to-ground missile small enough that it could strike an unarmored vehicle and not destroy it through shear mass alone. If the missile detonated it would have destroyed the vehicle utterly. If it did not, remains of the missile should be easily visible inside the vehicle. Heat from the missile's rocket should have set the vehicle ablaze. An actual missile did not strike this vehicle.

(2) The supposed entry hole for the missile is normal i.e. at a 90% angle to the roof. The missile would have had to strike straight down. Only armor piercing anti-rockets fly such trajectories. We know that can't be the type of missile used because (a) they're to big and (b) they do not carry a fragmentation warhead.

(3) The large hole in the roof has an obvious flange around it. It is clearly a manufactured hole and not the result of a missile strike. Only the smaller rusted holes could have come from a fragmentation warhead.

(4) The windshield glass bends inward indicating that any blast occurred outside the vehicle. However, the front of the vehicle shows no holes or scratches. Likewise, if a fragmentation warhead detonated within the vehicle we should see a spherical hole pattern with exit holes in the sides and bottom of the vehicle. There should be visible scorching everywhere inside.

(5) The only possible scenario is that a fragmentation round detonated directly above the vehicle and at some height. In that case, there should large numbers of through-and-through holes traveling from the roof, through the seats and out through the bottom. The tires should be flat. The side door should be intact etc. The witness testimony directly contradicts this scenario.

I think someone ripped off the ventilation unit or siren from the top of the ambulance. Then stood on the roof and shot holes in it. Then they went inside and pulled down the other materials.

12-19-2006, 05:55 PM
HRW, Dec 06: The Hoax That Wasn't: The July 23 Qana Ambulance Attack (http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/mena/qana1206/qana1206web.pdf)

During the Israel-Hezbollah war, Israel was accused by Human Rights Watch and numerous local and international media outlets of attacking two Lebanese Red Cross ambulances in Qana on July 23, 2006. Following these accusations, some websites claimed that the attack on the ambulances “never happened” and was a Hezbollah orchestrated “hoax,” a charge picked up by conservative commentators such as Oliver North. These claims attracted renewed attention when the Australian foreign minister stated that “it is beyond serious dispute that this episode has all the makings of a hoax.”

In response, Human Rights Watch researchers carried out a more in-depth investigation of the Qana ambulance attacks. Our investigation involved detailed interviews with four of the six ambulance staff and the three wounded people in the ambulance, on-site visits to the Tibnine and Tyre Red Cross offices from which the ambulances originated to review their records and meet with supervisors, an examination of the ambulances that were struck, an on-site visit to the Qana site where the attack took place, and interviews with others such as international officials with the International Committee of the Red Cross who were involved in responding to the attack on the night it happened.

On the basis of this investigation, we conclude that the attack on the ambulances was not a hoax: Israeli forces attacked two Lebanese Red Cross ambulances that night in Qana, almost certainly with missiles fired from an Israeli drone flying overhead. The physical and testimonial evidence collected by Human Rights Watch disproves the allegations of a “hoax,” made by persons who never visited Lebanon and had no opportunity to assess the evidence first-hand. Those claiming a hoax relied on faulty conjectures based on a limited number of photographs of one of the ambulances....
(full 23 page report at the link)

12-20-2006, 10:00 AM
It's instructive to know that at least HRW is working as hard as possible to ensure that Hezbollah's IO campaign succeeds.

Any word on their extensive investigation into the purposeful launching of however many missiles into Israel with the INTENT of killing Israeli civilians?

12-20-2006, 12:33 PM
...Any word on their extensive investigation into the purposeful launching of however many missiles into Israel with the INTENT of killing Israeli civilians?
19 Oct 06: Lebanon/Israel: Hezbollah Hit Israel with Cluster Munitions During Conflict (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/10/18/lebano14412.htm)

...Hezbollah launched cluster attacks that were at best indiscriminate, i.e., they violated the principle of distinction by using unguided and highly inaccurate cluster munition models against populated areas. At worst, Hezbollah deliberately attacked civilian areas with these weapons....
This one is a public condemnation of Hezballah published in both the English and Arabic versions of As-Sharq Al-Awsat on 5 Oct 06: Hezbollah Needs to Answer (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/10/05/lebano14336.htm)

...We also documented the fact that Hezbollah launched thousands of rockets on densely populated cities, towns and villages in Northern Israel, using a variety of unguided rockets, often referred to as “Katyushas,” which cannot be targeted at military objects with any degree of precision because of their limited technology. When firing these rockets into civilian areas, Hezbollah knew that the likelihood of hitting a military target was slim to none, while the likely result would be the death and injury of civilians. Such attacks were at best, indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas, and at worst, direct attacks against civilians. Either way, they were serious violations of international humanitarian law and probable war crimes....
22 Sep 06: Hezbollah's Rockets and Civilian Casualties (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/09/22/lebano14262.htm)

...In a now familiar drama, partisans of each side accuse us of secretly favoring their enemy. In this latest war, we have been called, alternately, "Zionists at heart" and "anti-Semitic liars", each side pulling sentences out of context to "prove" its case. Our response to such attacks is not, as Cook claims, to shade our findings one way or the other. Rather, such accusations redouble our commitment to scrupulously objective and careful fact-finding coupled with the strictly impartial application of international human rights and humanitarian law. We hope that readers will judge our commitment to our principles and methodology based on the analysis and facts presented in our reports, all of which are publicly available on our website, http://www.hrw.org , not the selective and often deceptive snippets that some of our detractors try to highlight.
5 Aug 06: Israel/Lebanon: Hezbollah Must End Attacks on Civilians (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/08/05/lebano13921.htm)

Hezbollah must immediately stop firing rockets into civilian areas in Israel, Human Rights Watch said today. Entering the fourth week of attacks, such rockets have claimed 30 civilian lives, including six children, and wounded hundreds more.

“Lobbing rockets blindly into civilian areas is without doubt a war crime,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Nothing can justify this assault on the most fundamental standards for sparing civilians the hazards of war.”...
18 Jul 06: Lebanon: Hezbollah Rocket Attacks on Haifa Designed to Kill Civilians (http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/07/18/lebano13760.htm)

...“Attacking civilian areas indiscriminately is a serious violation of international humanitarian law and can constitute a war crime,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. “Hezbollah’s use of warheads that have limited military use and cause grievous suffering to the victims only makes the crime worse.”

On Monday, Human Rights Watch researchers inspected a three-story apartment building in Haifa's Bat Galim neighborhood after it was struck by a rocket around 3:00 p.m., causing extensive damage to the top two floors and wounding six residents, one of them seriously. They collected metal ball bearings that had pierced the walls of the apartment building across the street and car windshields up to one block away...

12-20-2006, 01:14 PM
I'd definitely trust HRW over the "Belmont Club" bloggers. Their heart may be in the right place, and they sure know a lot of big words, but they've been wrong more often than Donald Rumsfeld --- which is saying a lot, in my book.

08-29-2007, 08:56 PM
A new look by HRW at Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israel last year:

Civilians under Assault: Hezbollah’s Rocket Attacks on Israel in the 2006 War (http://hrw.org/reports/2007/iopt0807/iopt0807webwcover.pdf)

During its armed conflict with Israel from July 12 until August 14, 2006, Hezbollah claimed at various times that its rockets were aimed primarily at military targets in Israel, or that its attacks on civilians were justifiable as a response to Israel’s indiscriminate fire into southern Lebanon and as a tool to draw Israel into a ground war. In fact, the former claim is refuted by the large number of rockets that hit civilian objects far removed from any military targets, whereas the latter arguments are inadmissible under international humanitarian law.

Hezbollah forces in Lebanon fired thousands of rockets into Israel, causing civilian casualties and damage to civilian structures. Hezbollah’s means of attack relied on unguided weapons that had no capacity to hit military targets with any precision. It repeatedly bombarded cities, towns, and villages without any apparent effort to distinguish between civilians and military objectives. In doing so, Hezbollah, as a party to an armed conflict governed by international humanitarian law, violated fundamental prohibitions against deliberate and indiscriminate attacks against civilians.

This report focuses on Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on Israel. It is based on on-site research and a review of documentary evidence. We have addressed other aspects of the conflict—including violations by Israel in its conduct of hostilities—in other reports. We will be addressing additional aspects of the conflict, including allegations that Hezbollah repeatedly used civilian “shields,” in a forthcoming report, Accounting for the Dead: Civilian Deaths in Lebanon during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. At all times, we seek to measure each party’s compliance with its obligations under the laws of war, rather than measure it against the conduct of the other party. To criticize one party for violating international humanitarian law does not excuse or mitigate the violations committed by the other party....

08-30-2007, 06:29 AM
Most of the vehicles the USG donated in the 70s came with a huge bubblegum machine on the top center, directly in the middle of the red cross !

I know, I replaced several of them, literally torn out of the flange when Zairian drivers did not pay attention to the low hanging trees :wry:

Here's a cool pic from Chevy !

08-31-2007, 01:04 PM
This old hillbilly sure don't have HR expertise but I've done some prying with crowbars in my time, used a ballpeen hammer and torch too - all the fixings to doctor the top of that ambulance, do it up just right and make it almost pretty. They should have at least burnt the sharp corners of the tin where they pryed and popped out the toggle bolts and bent them sharp corners in.The only thing I've seen better is that fake Pali funeral a few years back when after IDF had to do its thing, the Palis wanted to show the world how terrible the Israelis were and how they were killing civilians. They had these pall bearers carrying a casket and a drone comes over, they drop the casket and run and out pops a Pali and runs too. Yee-haw!! ( that's a common circus holler in these parts)

Tom Odom
08-31-2007, 01:26 PM

Having served there, I have no problem believing the IDF would shoot at an ambulance. They shot at me standing on a 15 foot building with a UN flag and letters 10 feet high on white saying UN. And I saw them fire main gun rounds from Merkava's though house walls in villages occupied by women and children.

That said, clearly the "missile hole" is what Stan thinks it is.

No white hats.


08-31-2007, 01:44 PM
Tom, I recall your stories from UN duty. There are still days where I can't stop laughing, even though I'm well aware it was nothing funny. I liked the stories about the Russian UN dudes best (although I'm still not convinced it's legal to have Russians on peace keeping duty) :D

It could have been those funky Baby Blue berets ! It's that, or UN in Hebrew translates into something about one's mother :eek:

Regards, Stan


Having served there, I have no problem believing the IDF would shoot at an ambulance. They shot at me standing on a 15 foot building with a UN flag and letters 10 feet high on white saying UN. And I saw them fire main gun rounds from Merkava's though house walls in villages occupied by women and children.

That said, clearly the "missile hole" is what Stan thinks it is.

No white hats.


Rex Brynen
08-31-2007, 03:32 PM
The only thing I've seen better is that fake Pali funeral a few years back when after IDF had to do its thing, the Palis wanted to show the world how terrible the Israelis were and how they were killing civilians. They had these pall bearers carrying a casket and a drone comes over, they drop the casket and run and out pops a Pali and runs too. Yee-haw!! ( that's a common circus holler in these parts)

Actually, the alleged "fake funeral" wasn't an attempt to fake a funeral at all--it was children "playing" funeral-of-a-martyr near Jenin cemetery on 28 May 2002. The scene was also recorded by the crew of Palestinian director Mohammed Bakri, who happened to be in the camp that day filming "Jenin, Jenin". Despite this, the story maintained a life of its own on the 'net.

Anyone who has ever seen a real public-political funeral in the Palestinian territories could tell immediately this wasn't a real one (virtually no crowd, no banners, no tanzim escort), which raises some questions about whoever was doing the IDF image interpretation for the UAVs that day. Maybe they're the same ones who identified Tom's big white-with-blue-flag UN post as hostile ;)

08-31-2007, 06:13 PM
In reality kids aren't given quality caskets to play with after fighting that has left a number of their side dead. Though I might be wrong, I seem to recall some facial hair on one of the 'mourners', suffering as they were after yet another IDF atrocity. Actually it was intended for a still shot most likely for some French left wing rag, but possibly Reuters too, hence the lack of the usual crowd and the casket was weighted with a live body to distribute an even load, thus no actor could be seen out of sync with another bending slightly with an imaginary load. Too bad that drone passed over but then it was designed to augment the myth of a Jenin massacre the UN was buying into and propogating at the time, which of course we all know was totally debunked. Maybe these 'mourners' were the same ones seen dancing in the streets after 9/11 - they were pretty good at putting on a show then too.

08-31-2007, 06:49 PM
Rex and Goesh - if the two of you are going to debate an event of which neither has first hand knowledge, please provide links or references to back up your statements.



Rex Brynen
08-31-2007, 07:27 PM
Point well taken, Ted.

I don't have the Jenin press conference statement on this any more--I remember reading it in 2002, shortly after the IDF report came out. If I remember correctly, they showed ground footage taken at the same time by the film crew.

The UAV footage is on YouTube
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKmbIphpQgA) (and it certainly doesn't look anything like a real Palestinian martyr's funeral to me), although having rewatched it the litter-bearers look a bit big for kids.

This is not to say that efforts aren't made to spin or distort media coverage--they certainly are. However, some of the alleged cases of doing so (such as the ambulances in south Lebanon) are far from being as clear-cut as the blogosphere would suggest.


On the issue that started this thread, HRW had trouble actually releasing its most recent report on Hizbullah violations of IHL in Lebanon, because of local political pressure: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/898792.html

Rex Brynen
08-31-2007, 07:39 PM
..and one final observation on Jenin, which--leaving aside the manner in which the battle was conducted--highlights the need for careful IO management. While undoubtedly true that the initial casualty figures were wildly inflated, the IDF was, in part, the source for these:

First the Israelis talked of scores and then there were dozens. Early yesterday an IDF spokesman said the figure was likely to be "several hundred" dead Palestinians and 23 dead Israelis. Another spokesman put the estimate at a precise 250 Palestinians dead, but by last night the IDF count of dead Palestinians had been wound back significantly to 45.

Source: Sidney Morning Herald (http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/04/15/1018333482108.html?oneclick=true)

A similar account was provided by former IDF spokesman Jacob Dallal in the New Republic (

Indeed, the Palestinians were saying that 500 people had been killed; the Israeli army had estimated the Palestinian casualties at between 150 and 200. When we finally got to the field, he could account for no more than 50 Palestinian bodies.

09-07-2007, 01:43 PM
In keeping with their reputation for objectivity, HRW has followed up their recent report on Hezbollah linked above, to one looking at IDF actions during last year's Lebanon conflict:

Why They Died: Civilian Casualties in Lebanon During the 2006 War (http://hrw.org/reports/2007/lebanon0907/lebanon0907webwcover.pdf)

....Israeli warplanes launched some 7,000 bomb and missile strikes in Lebanon, which were supplemented by numerous artillery attacks and naval bombardment. Israeli airstrikes destroyed or damaged tens of thousands of homes. In some villages, homes completely destroyed by Israeli forces numbered in the hundreds: 340 homes completely destroyed in Srifa; 215 homes completely destroyed in Siddiquine; 180 homes completely destroyed in Yatar; 160 homes completely destroyed in Zebqine; more than 750 homes completely destroyed in `Aita al-Sha`ab; more than 800 homes completely destroyed in Bint Jbeil; and 140 homes completely destroyed in Taibe. The list throughout southern Lebanon is extensive. This report seeks to answer three central questions:

- Were the Lebanese who died in Israeli air strikes civilians or combatants?;

- Did Israel abide by international humanitarian law (the laws of war) in its attacks in Lebanon?; and,

- To what extent did Hezbollah’s actions contribute to the civilian death toll inside Lebanon?

09-07-2007, 03:19 PM
While trying to pin down how many died in Jenin may be a lost cause the HRW count of property damage does seem to imply excessive use of force and presumably a high civilian casualty count. As to who are combatants that is also probably also a lost cause. If you are in an area where Hezbollah are the defacto administration, and widely supported, and the enemy are coming up the road to your village I suspect anyone who can fire an AK47 would be doing so while the women and children would be scurrying around with ammo clips or helping the wounded. Likewise Hezbollah’s missiles are incapable of accurately hitting military targets and with Israel’s national service & reservist policy who in Israel is not military? Possibly the only difference is Israel’s superior military technology which IMO puts a greater onus on them to take care what they target as they caused most of the casualties – combatant or otherwise.