WSJ: Photos of Dead Lebanese… Hilarious

Lebanese dead - rigor mortisThe best thing about the blogosphere is that when you make claims in news stories, someone’s going to be there to fact-check your ass in a heartbeat. And while it shouldn’t put people off from holding strong views, it should make them wary of throwing “facts” out there that they can’t back up in any manner. Such snarky commentary about photos of dead Lebanese has come back to bite WSJ Opinion Journal writer Jamer Taranto square in the ass:

It’s a little hard to see exactly what’s going on at this size, but as luck would have it the Washington Post used the photo on its July 31 front page, and a sharp-eyed reader scanned it for us. Here’s an enlargement of the portion in question:

It’s a bit reminiscent of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (The Dead Body That Claims It Isn’t: “I’m getting better.”)

Plainly this scene was staged for the benefit of the cameras, though it is important to note we know of no evidence that the photographer was complicit in the staging. It is, however, a clear example of how terrorist groups use journalists to spread their propaganda.

Except it’s not funny, it’s rigor mortis, and his apology is uberweak at best:

(Update: This blog post offers pretty convincing evidence that we were mistaken.)

Look, I understand we all want to get a different angle on the same stories, but when you fuck up… fess up… and be upstanding enough to admit that you were playing your angle too hard and will take your blunder into consideration in future stories (the guy linked in the update took that bitter pill like a man).

The bigger the blunder, the bigger your mea culpa should be (in my book, pointing at the dead and laughing is pretty twisted). Otherwise your errors become the story themself (and gets blogged at places like this site).

Stephen VanDyke

I've published HoT along with about 300+ friends since 2002. We're all Americans who are snarky and love our country. I'm a libertarian that registered Republican because I like to win elections. That's pretty much it.

  1. DAP: No, just a little thing called journalist responsibility. I supposes I could have made my point a little clearer by making fun of photos showing dead Israelis.

  2. You won’t generally see pictures of dead Israelis because Israelis are culturally conditioned not to turn corpses into propaganda props. Unlike certain Lebanese persons, they don’t go around posing with dead babies for the benefit of photographers (which is the basic story of the Qana photos, even if you parse the details in the way most favorable to the pro-Hezbollah side). They would take those dead babies and bury them as respectfully as possible as soon as possible, because that’s the thing to be done with corpses. The respect due to any human being means that one also respect his/her body after death: and the reverse–governments and organizations and individuals who don’t give the dead respectful treatment do so because they never respected the living individual in the first place. He/she was as much an item to be used alive as dead.

  3. Dear Jeff, re “Israelis are culturally conditioned not to turn corpses into propaganda props..” . ACTUALLY Israelis are culturally conditioned to turn civilians into corpses, mate. The Lebanese, unlike Israelis, don’t DELIBERATELY target live babies, mate. The Lebanese, unlike Israelis, don’t possess the most sophisticated weapons systems in the world, the Israelis DON”T miss, THEY AIM AT CIVILIANS, mate…

  4. True Gregin, but Hezbollah does target civillians. The only reason Israel’s murders are getting more attention is because Israel has much nastier bombs.

  5. Hezbollah doesn’t deliberately target live babies: they just at areas where civilians are. They don’t even care if they kill Arabs, it seems. And they force non-Hezbollah people to die for them, as human shields. The Israelis, on the other hand, are deliberately targeting Hezbollah personnel and equipment. The civilians are dying because Hezbollah makes sure its fighters and equipment can be destroyed only if civilians are killed in the process. It’s Hezbollah who is “culturally conditioned to turn civilians into corpses.”
    Every single death in this current fight can be traced to deliberate actions by Hezbollah. To even think that Hezbollah has any claim on its morality is to deny morality.
    Apparently you are a worthy countrymen of Mel Gibson.

  6. “The Israelis, on the other hand, are deliberately targeting Hezbollah personnel and equipment. ”

    If by Hezbollah equipment you mean roadways, bridges, and factories in multiple Lebanese cities, having killed hundreds of lebanese civilians in the process…

    Then jeffrey smith, you’re one hundred percent correct.

    Insofar as I am concerned; anyone shooting missiles in this fight is a terrorist. How much of one is determined by how many missiles being fired.

    Both are using terroristic tactics. Both are incorrect, and *BOTH NEED TO BE STOPPED.* — or at the very least, have their funding cut off.

  7. Once again, broad generalizations about groups seems unfair, especially when negative and delivered with heat. While there might be some statistical validity to generalizations about cultures, blame is something we ought to reserve for individuals.

    Try re-reading the above comments with the word “Americans” in place of all the other groups’ names and see how you like it, and how often there’s some evidence to support it being equally true.

    I was blown away at how similar Bush’s justifications were to Osama’s. They used exactly the same reasons why the war was justified (“he started it,” and others). Every culture has a variety of people. As a libertarian, I try not to get caught up in blaming a whole country or culture. I certainly don’t want to be judged by what my “leaders” do.

  8. jeffrey smith is correct. IanC, the idea that “both need to be stopped” is what has made this war last for 4000 years. I must copy and paste because I cannot say it better myself:

    “Israel and those who attack it are not moral
    equals. Israel is a free, Westernized country,
    which recognizes the individual rights
    of its citizens (such as their right to property
    and freedom of speech). It uses military
    force only in self-defense, in order to
    protect itself.

    Those attacking Israel, by contrast,
    are terrorist organizations, theocracies,
    dictatorships and would-be dictators. They
    do not recognize the individual rights of
    their own subjects, much less those of the
    citizens of Israel. They initiate force indiscriminately
    in order to retain and expand
    their power. In contrast to the state of
    Israel, such organizations and regimes have
    no moral right to exist.”

  9. DAP — I don’t give a damn. Terroristic actions are not to be endorsed for any reason.

    It is not the quality of your enemies that determines if you are just or unjust. It is wether you are just or unjust.

    Israel routinely employs assassination, summary imprisonment and execution, and is an imperialistic, aggressor state.

    Hezbollah are guerilla terrorists with political backing & authority.

    I will not endorse either in these actions. SHOULD Israel release all untried prisoners, disband the ‘assassination wing’ of Masod, and release all conquered territories, then I could approve of it.

    So, I’ll rephrase this; if you support terroristic tactics, you support unfounded aggression.

    *YOU*, DAP, are in this conversation supporting terrorism, unfounded aggression, and the suppression of peoples based on their disagreeing ideologies.

    None of this is remotely ‘libertarian.’

    And for the love of non-existant God — Do try not to let that Randian mouth-foam spill on me?

  10. IanC, I agree that Israel should try or release untried prisoners and release unconquered territories (if they have any; I know for certain Palestine does). However, I approve of the assassination of dictators and terrorists and would love to know why you do not.

    My “ideology” is the empowerment of the individual, and how this somehow “suppresses people” is a mystery to me.

    If you only disagree with Israel on the aforementioned three points, I do not understand why that means Israel must tolerate a violent Hezbollah and Palestine at her borders. Is that not a “suppression” of her people? Surely you understand that the moral crimes of Hezbollah and Palestine dwarf those of Israel.

  11. >My “ideology” is the empowerment of the individual, and how this somehow “suppresses people” is a mystery to me.

    Well, sometimes empowerement of some individuals means supressing other people, didn’t you know? All the “Western traditions” come from the slave-owning countries like Rome and Greece, and there’s a very long tradition in West of having both individual rights praised and whole nations supressed at the same time. Can’t understand what could be mystery here.

  12. jeffrey smith,

    If you don’t like dead babies “posed” for press photography, then I would suggest that the best way for the Israeli military to avoid this problem would be not to fucking kill children.


    Do you approve of the assassination of dictators and terrorists by any means necessary, no matter what the level of violence inflicted on innocent third parties in the process of carrying out the assassination?

  13. DAP,

    Can you give me a ballpark figure for the number of innocent bystanders who can be killed in the process of getting to the dictator or terrorist before the violence exceeds the limits of proportionality? One? Two? Twelve? Forty? Seven hundred?

  14. DAP,

    Are you referring to Onkar Ghate’s article, “Innocents in War?” If so, it seems to directly contradict your earlier claim that you do NOT approve of employing any means necessary, whatever the level of violence inflicted on innocent third parties, to assassinate dictators and terrorists.

    Ghate explicitly argues that there is no moral limit to the level of violence that a “free nation” can use against a “terrorist state” in a just war. Thus: “The moral [sic] principle is: the responsibility for all deaths in war lies with the aggressor who initiates force, not with those who defend themselves.” Ghate goes on to argue that even deliberate targeting of civilians (as at Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden) is justifiable.

    I think this position is absolutely barbarous. But whether reasonable or not, it would entail a “Yes” rather than a “No” to my question above, unless there is some subtly I’ve missed.

  15. Your are right, I misread your question. The answer should be ‘yes’.

    Is there anything about this position that you find unreasonable? Calling it ‘barbarous’ is hardly an arguement.

  16. DAP,

    I do indeed think that there is something unreasonable about Ghate’s position. Several things, actually, but the most important one is the complete disregard for considerations of proportionality. There are limits on the amount of violence you can inflict in retaliation against aggression, and how much violence against innocent bystanders you can blame on the initial aggressor. Living in a relatively advanced society does not entitle you to the strategy and tactics of Genghis Khan.

    To test your own leanings, consider a hypothetical example. Suppose that the Israeli military determined that the most efficient way to retaliate against Hizbollah was to firebomb southern Lebanon until everything moving was dead. Would you consider this a morally legitimate response to the killing or capture of a handful of Israeli soldiers and the indiscriminate firing of inaccurate rockets? Would all of the blame for the tens or hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths rest solely on Hizbollah?

  17. “There are limits on the amount of violence you can inflict in retaliation against aggression”

    You argue as if you believe that there is an arbitrary limit of the number of people you can kill in retaliation to an aggressor. Is the ratio of the number of enemy civilians that can me morally killed to the number of your citizens that have already been killed a 1:1 ratio? Or a 1:5 ratio? This question is impossible to answer, and your line of reasoning implies that there is some magical number that will solve this impossibility.

  18. The answer to your hypothetical question is yes. Remember what Ghate said about this situation:

    “[The] truly innocent who live in countries that initiate
    force against other nations will acknowledge the moral right of
    a free nation to bomb their countries and destroy their governments””
    even if this jeopardizes their own lives. No truly innocent
    civilian in Nazi Germany, for example, would have questioned
    the morality of the Allies razing Germany, even if he knew
    he may die in the attacks. No truly innocent individual wishes
    to become a tool of or a shield for his murderous government;
    he wishes to see his government toppled.

    We should not allow human shields, innocent or otherwise,
    to deter us from defending ourselves.”

  19. DAP:

    Errr…Bullshit. Actually what the allies did in nazi Germany was barbaric, since people under murderous goverment are usually prisoners of it, not accomplices. Is like saying you have the right to murder people kidnaped in a building by a band of terrorists, simply cause the people “allowed to be kidnaped”.Funny how randists love to preach against “collectivism”, except when the issue mass punishment(bu the way, by your own logic 9/11 attacks will be justified, considering the various criminal activities the US goverment has sponsored in the world).