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Marc Garlasco And Human Rights Watch
The Warped Mirror: The anti-Israel professionals at HRW
In recent weeks, there have been a number of disturbing revelations about Human Rights Watch (HRW) and about individual staff members involved in the organization's work on Israel.
Predictably, HRW and the group's many supporters have brushed off all concerns and criticism as politically motivated.
And they didn't change their tactics when it turned out that one senior staff member, HRW "senior military analyst" Marc Garlasco - who has issued quite a few damning statements about Israel - is consumed by fascination with military Nazi memorabilia.
Indeed, it seems we are even supposed to think Garlasco's obsession with Nazi military memorabilia somehow enhances his professional expertise.
One thing is for sure: Being an avid collector of Nazi medals doesn't make anyone a military analyst - so what exactly are Garlasco's professional qualifications?
According to the information provided on the HRW Web site, Garlasco has a B.A. in government from St. John's University and an M.A. in International Relations from the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University.
Before joining HRW, he worked as a senior intelligence analyst on Iraq at the Pentagon. It is obviously somewhat unclear how any of this qualifies Garlasco for his work at HRW, where he "specializes in battle damage assessment, military operations, and interrogations."
In this context it is also quite revealing to consider a letter written by HRW Associate Director Carroll Bogert to protest the publication of news about the controversy surrounding Garlasco in the British paper The Guardian.
Bogert argues in this letter that "[the] fact that Marc Garlasco has been cited by your newspaper 19 times since he joined Human Rights Watch six years ago ... testifies to his authority as a military expert."
Really? It's that easy to become a military expert?
But it is definitely worthwhile to read the entire letter, because it provides an excellent illustration of the rigid ideological stance of HRW. Consider this line of "argument":
The fact that the Israeli foreign ministry is spreading such ad hominem attacks against him [i.e. Garlasco] should have been a warning sign, not a green light to publish. The allegations of pro-Nazi sympathies are part of a larger campaign to smear non-governmental organisations which criticise the Israel Defence Forces' conduct of the Gaza offensive."
Unmistakably, this echoes one of the favorite mantras of (semi-) professional Israel-bashers: Whatever comes from the Israeli government or any group or individual that can be labeled as "pro-Israel" should be dismissed out of hand as "propaganda."
Since Bogert brings up criticism of the IDF's conduct during the recent campaign in Gaza - which she of course describes as an "offensive" despite the fact that it came after some 3000 rocket and mortar attacks launched from Gaza in 2008 alone - it is most interesting to see how Garlasco once explained the high civilian casualties in Afghanistan.
Some of Garlasco's relevant statements have been posted on several blogs, highlighting his explanation in a CBS interview:
'I don't think people really appreciate the gymnastics that the U.S. military goes through in order to make sure that they're not killing civilians,' Garlasco points out. 'If so much care is being taken why are so many civilians getting killed?' Pelley asks. 'Because the Taliban are violating international law,' says Garlasco, 'and because the U.S. just doesn't have enough troops on the ground. You have the Taliban shielding in people's homes. And you have this small number of troops on the ground. And sometimes the only thing they can do is drop bombs.'"
Sounds like the dilemmas the IDF is facing in Gaza, doesn't it?
So how come Garlasco shows so much understanding for the predicament faced by US forces in Afghanistan, and so little for the challenges the IDF faces in trying to defend southern Israel against the rocket threat from Gaza?
This question becomes even harder to answer once you check out the entire CBS interview, which sheds some more light on what Garlasco was doing in the Pentagon:
At the Pentagon, Garlasco was chief of high value targeting at the start of the Iraq war. He told 60 Minutes how many civilians he was allowed to kill around each high-value target - targets like Saddam Hussein and his leadership. 'Our number was 30. So, for example, Saddam Hussein. If you're gonna kill up to 29 people in a strike against Saddam Hussein, that's not a problem,' Garlasco explains. 'But once you hit that number 30, we actually had to go to either President Bush or Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld.' Garlasco says before the invasion of Iraq he recommended 50 air strikes aimed at high-value targets - Iraqi officials. But he says none of the targets on the list were actually killed. Instead, he says, 'a couple of hundred civilians at least' were killed."
In other words, in his previous job Garlasco contributed to the unnecessary deaths of "a couple of hundred civilians at least," and in his current job he goes after those faced with the same difficult task of fighting wars that inevitably cost the lives of innocent civilians.