Friday, July 24, 2009

The Profiling Prof, the Pandering President, and the Poisonous Precedent

James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal writes in his Best of the Web blog of the kerfuffle between Prof. Gates and the Cambridge Police:
We still think, as we wrote yesterday, that in the incident itself, Crowley was more in the wrong than Gates. In a confrontation between a policeman and a private citizen, the former has far more power, and concomitantly more responsibility. But in a public debate over race, the black Harvard professor is the one with authority. Neither Gates’s social status nor his race absolves him from the responsibility of acknowledging and working to overcome his own prejudices.

I disagree with Mr. Taranto and I believe his criticism of Prof. Gates seriously underestimates the harm the professor's behavior has done.

About 15 years ago, Animal Control officers in Oakland, California, called on the home of a young Black man who owned a pit bull accused of biting a neighbor, and when the owner could not produce a current certificate of rabies vaccination, the Animal Control officers were obliged to take the dog in for quarantine. When the owner resisted, the officers called for backup. The responding officers were unable to get the young man to calm down once his dog was in custody, and so had to arrest him for disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer.

But as OPD Officer William Grijalva attempted to handcuff the owner, he became violent. Though the officers used pepper spray, they were unable to subdue him, and he ran into his home, where his father kept a loaded shotgun behind the front door. When Officer Grijalva saw the shotgun leveled at him, he turned to find cover, and the shotgun pellets hit him in the side, where his bulletproof vest didn't provide protection. Despite his mortal wound, Officer Grijalva returned fire through the front door, as did his partner: the dog's owner was killed, but so was his disabled father, who was in a wheelchair behind the door.

As a leading scholar in African-American studies, Prof. Gates serves as a role model for Black American men. His behavior toward the police who responded to a call to protect his property appears from all accounts -- including the professor's -- to have been driven by his resentment of how police in the United States have treated Black men in the past. He chose to behave in a provocative and belligerent fashion toward the police officers in order to make them fully aware that he put his pride as an African-American man above his obligation as a citizen to allow the police to carry out their legitimate and necessary duties.

Prof. Gates's behavior, especially with President Obama's implicit endorsement, is likely to encourage young Black men to emulate him and "stand up to police racism" with belligerence and defiance. As Officer Grijalva's family can attest, that can easily lead to an escalation with consequences far more dire than mere charges of disorderly conduct. Prof. Gates and President Obama should both consider how their high dudgeon may well lead to unnecessary deaths of young Black men and police officers who encounter them in situations that otherwise could easily be defused.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

UNIFIL (allegedly) demonstrates grasp of the obvious

A house full of short-range rockets and small arms blew up in southern Lebanon and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon apparently noticed the fireworks.
A day after Israel cried foul over an explosion that uncovered a hidden Hizbullah arms cache in southern Lebanon, the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon said Wednesday that storing the ammunition was a "serious violation" of the UN-brokered ceasefire that ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

According to estimates in the IDF's Northern Command, Hizbullah has turned hundreds of homes in southern Lebanese villages into warehouses to store short- and medium-range Katyusha rockets.

The IDF released video footage taken from an Israeli aircraft, showing a home that had exploded on Tuesday in the village of Hirbet Selm - located some 20 kilometers north of the Lebanese border. The roof is seen in the footage with dozens of holes, which IDF ballistic experts said were the size of 122-mm. Katyusha rockets.

Given that a house blowing up is pretty obvious (especially since Israeli surveillance aircraft were watching the area), it would have been difficult for UNIFIL to deny that the incident took place. And since they had to admit that it took place, they also had to admit that it was a blatant violation of Security Council Resolution 1701.

UNIFIL seems to find a lot of blatant violations of UNSC Res. 1701, like the 20 Katyusha rockets set up and ready to fire it discovered last month:
In an effort to prevent a flare-up along the northern border, UNIFIL has increased its operations in southern Lebanon and has begun entering villages in search of Hizbullah weapons caches, according to information obtained recently by Israel.

In one recent successful operation in the eastern sector of southern Lebanon, UNIFIL peacekeepers uncovered close to 20 Katyusha rockets that were ready for launch.

UNIFIL operates under Security Council Resolution 1701, passed following the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Operations in villages have been a point of contention between UNIFIL and Israel, which said over the past three years that the peacekeeping force was failing to prevent Hizbullah's military buildup in southern Lebanon since it refrained from entering villages.

Hizbullah, the IDF believes, has deployed most of its forces and weaponry - including Katyusha rockets - inside homes in the villages. Until now, UNIFIL and the Lebanese army have mostly operated in open areas.

According to information obtained by Israel, UNIFIL has also succeeded recently in thwarting attacks that were planned against its own personnel.

Is UNIFIL actually taking on Hizbullah's arms caches south of the Litani River, or is it only reacting to each individual "serious breach" as if it were an isolated incident?