Whether peace depends on 'elimination of Hamas' is the wrong question...
By Ernest A. Canning on 3/1/2024, 10:35am PT  

As I wrote here in 2010...

If we are to put an end to what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described as the "madness," the American public must...acquire the point of view of those upon whom the bombs are falling. For it is only by acquiring their point of view that Americans can appreciate and answer the poignant question [of] "why" growing numbers of Middle East residents just might be motivated to attack us. Without that understanding, peace will always remain beyond our grasp.

The point came to mind with a question posed during a recent CA U.S. Senate debate suggesting that many in the mainstream media remain trapped within this nation's irrational, post-9/11, global "war on terror" mindset. Trapped, as it were, despite President Joe Biden's sage (if ignored) advice to Israel's far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to not "repeat mistakes" the U.S. made in the aftermath of 9/11.

Paraphrasing a remark said to be made by an unnamed Biden Administration official, KTLA 5 moderator Frank Buckley asked primary candidate Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) whether she agreed that "peace [in Gaza] can only begin with the elimination of Hamas"?

After condemning the October 7th Hamas terrorist attack, Lee proclaimed that "a diplomatic and political settlement" that eventually included a "two-state solution" offers the only means for achieving peace and security. "Killing twenty-five to thirty thousand civilians is counterproductive to Israel's security." That's why, Lee explained, she was calling for a "permanent ceasefire"...


It is especially ironic that Buckley directed a question to Barbara Lee, of all people, grounded upon the same fallacious assumptions that triggered our perpetual global "war on terror" after 9/11. She was the only member of Congress, in either chamber, who displayed the wisdom and courage to vote against the 9/14/2001 Congressional Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) in response to the attacks.

The 2001 AUMF gave rise to a more than two-decades long military campaign, conducted at a cost of over $8 trillion. The U.S. global "war on terror" directly killed over 432,000 civilians; indirectly caused between 3.6 and 3.8 million deaths for those living in war zones, and resulted in the displacement of 38 million people. That post-9/11 strategy did not so much as contemplate, let alone attempt, the application of so-called "soft power", the use of international law and peaceful negotiation as a means to address the scourge of terrorism.

Sadly, the cost and casualties from our global "war on terror" will likely continue to grow. Last year, the U.S. Senate, via an 86 - 9 margin, rejected an amendment, offered by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), that would have added a repeal of the 2001 AUMF to a measure repealing the subsequent 2002 AUMF that served to authorize the Iraq War.

The problem entails more than the continuing threat of both domestic and international terrorism. As Biden acknowledged last year, quoting James Madison in an Address to the National Defense University: "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."


Buckley's debate question could not have been more ill-timed.

Over the past 5 months, the Israeli military has reduced most of Northern Gaza into an uninhabitable wasteland. Approximately 80% of the Palestinian population (1.9 million) has been internally displaced and pushed to the brink of famine. Yet, more than 28,000 civilian deaths, mostly women and children, and mass displacement have failed to achieve the unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas in Gaza --- an unconditional release that had been called for in three unsuccessful UN Security Council Ceasefire Resolutions.

Moreover, according to The New York Times, "U.S. intelligence officials told members of Congress...that Israel...was not close to eliminating [Hamas]" despite the unbridled carnage.

Better questions?

Given the carnage wrought by Israel's ongoing war on Gaza, a far more poignant debate question might have been whether the military objective of "eliminating Hamas" can even be achieved without an accompanying genocide?

Ending the presence of Hamas in Gaza may be a laudable goal, but at what price? Both Israelis and Palestinians would be better served if, for example, UN-brokered negotiations led to the replacement of Hamas control of Gaza by the far more responsible Palestinian Authority. But, of course, Netanyahu has opposed UN Security Council resolutions after years of both propping up Hamas in Gaza, while holding the Palestinian Authority down.

In light of recent polling reflecting that "only 15% of Israelis want Netanyahu to remain in power after the war in Gaza ends", perhaps a better question for the U.S. Senate candidates in California would have been whether peace in Gaza can only begin once Netanyahu is removed as Israel's Prime Minister?

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Ernest A. Canning is a retired attorney, author, and Vietnam Veteran (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). He previously served as a Senior Advisor to Veterans For Bernie. Canning has been a member of the California state bar since 1977. In addition to a juris doctor, he has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science. Follow him on twitter: @cann4ing

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