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July 27, 2006
General MacKenzie Responds To Annan At G&M

General Lewis MacKenzie told the CBC yesterday about communications from the Canadian soldier killed in the Israeli bombardment at their UNIFIL position, information that Kofi Annan could have used before leaping publicly to the conclusion that the IDF deliberately attacked the UN. Today he expands on his comments in the Globe & Mail in an article entitled, "Kofi's Rush To Judgement" (via Newsbeat1, one of the best aggregators in Canada):

The blast on Tuesday claimed the lives of Major Paeta Derek Hess-von Kruedener, a Canadian serving with the UN Truce Supervision Organization mission in southern Lebanon, and three other UN soldiers. On July 18, Major Hess-von Kruedener had sent a number of his colleagues, including regimental officers such as myself, an e-mail describing what the situation was like at his location since the Israeli attacks began against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

"Based on the intensity and volatility of this current situation and the unpredictability of both sides (Hezbollah and Israel), and given the operational tempo of the Hezbollah and the IDF, we are not safe to venture out to conduct our normal patrol activities. We have now switched to Observation Post Duties and are observing any and all violations as they occur." ...

The penultimate paragraph of Major Hess-von Kruedener's e-mail is prophetic, to say the least: "The closest artillery has landed within two metres of our position and the closest 1,000-pound aerial bomb has landed 100 metres from our patrol base. This has not been deliberate targeting, but has rather been due to tactical necessity."

This is what we call "veiled speech" in military jargon. It means hiding the truth in lingo that outsiders would not necessarily understand. What he is saying translates roughly as: "We have Hezbollah fighters all over our position engaging the IDF and using us as shields. They will probably stay, hoping that the IDF won't target them for fear of hitting us."

Surprising? Not really.

The general explains that he has personally experienced the deliberate placement of weapons systems around civilian assets such as hospitals, schools, and churches to take advantage of their status and avoid returning fire. He himself saw this happen around his own UN positions in Sarajevo, when MacKenzie served as the first UN commander of peacekeeping forces in Sarajevo -- and Annan served as the UN undersecretary of peacekeeping. MacKenzie solved the problem by informing the forces attempting to take advantage that he would start firing on their positions within the hour, a message that the terrorists took as a good piece of advice.

Unfortunately, the UNIFIL forces did not have that kind of option. MacKenzie writes that as unarmed observers, they had no ability to fend off Hezbollah terrorists and keep them from using UNIFIL positions as shields against the Israelis. That is what led to the death of the four soldiers. Had the IDF refused to fire back, Hezbollah would still be using the UNIFIL position as a shelling station.

That begs the question: why didn't Annan get the UNIFIL troops out of southern Lebanon when the fighting erupted? They could do absolutely no good, and wound up being exploited by the terrorists. Perhaps Annan wanted them to "observe" in order to report on war crimes, and that would only mean pursuing those issues against the IDF. After all, Hezbollah is not a member of the UN.

Annan has some explaining to do. In the meantime, the Globe & Mail should pull this column out from behind its paid-subscription firewall and allow all Canadians to read the general's explanation. The good folks at G&M will shortly conclude that this information should be readily accessible to all of their nation; this issue is too important to let Gen. Mackenzie's words get screened away from readers.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 27, 2006 8:03 AM

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