Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

The Fishbarrel War


“It was just like shooting fish in a barrel,” recalled the U.S. pilot, describing the carnage along the “highway of death” stretching from Kuwait to Basra on February 26-27, 1991. While tens of thousands of Iraqi conscripts withdrew from Kuwait in compliance with UN resolutions, terrified boys commandeering school buses and milk trucks when military vehicles weren’t available, U.S. aircraft bombed as many of the helpless as possible. The point was to debase Saddam’s defeated army for the foreseeable future. Of course, Iraq remained helpless and bleeding for another dozen years before Bush II destroyed what was left of it.

Similarly over the weekend, when Israel rained down death onto the vast concentration camp which is the Gaza Strip. There was no contest. The point was to eliminate the Palestinian authority structure in place: all the government offices, all the police force. As the London Telegraph headline put it: “Israel changed the rules forever with Gaza airstrike.”

The purposewas to kill all those in the Hamas political party, democratically elected in 2006, and in the security apparatus of Gaza. As the Telegraph puts it: “Membership alone of the security structures of Hamas was yesterday turned by Israel into grounds for attack. To put on a Hamas police baseball cap is to make oneself a target. This means that any Hamas traffic cop on a street corner in Gaza – or manning a makeshift ‘border’ checkpoint – can expect to be attacked.”

Thus the Israeli state is not merely hitting civilians (which is what ordinary policemen are, in the of the U.S. government) as collateral damage, and officially regretting it as most governments do. It is targeting them. It destroyed within hours every security station in Gaza. AP headline: “Chaos in Gaza as Israel’s strikes continue.”

So the message came from on high, from the Israeli warplanes: “Vengeance is mine! Let there be chaos in Gaza!”

Israel’s applying state terror, secure in the assumption that since the U.S., EU, Japan and most other significant international players consider Hamas a “terrorist” organization, have offered only token protest of the Israeli strangulation of the Gazan population and justified the most draconian and murderous measures as understandable responses to Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israeli towns there will be few negative international repercussions. At the end of the day, they figure, Hamas will be so vitiated that those pathetic efforts at resistance will stop, Palestinian factions preferred by Israel and allied with Washington will regain control over Gaza, and a new U.S. administration will ascend to power just as a new chapter in Palestinian humiliation begins.

Like shooting fish in a barrel.

Now of course Israeli PR people, whom foreign minister Tzipi Livni has called back from their European vacations for emergency duty, will insist with that air of self-righteousness peculiar to those who truly believe that God is on their side, or that if there is no God, there are enough people believing that there is, and that Israel somehow arose from and survives out of some unique divine favor, will ignore the most obvious truths in their desire to believe the most transparent deceptions:

We had no alternative. We had to protect our people.

How many Israelis have in fact been killed by Qassam, Grad, or Katyusha rockets, fired by Palestinians from Gaza, compared to “retaliatory” Israeli attacks? How many Palestinians in Gaza have been killed by “retaliatory” Israeli fire?

And while we’re asking questions: when Israeli officials complain of Palestinian fire hitting Ashdod or Ahkelon, do they ever think about who was living in those towns in 1948 before the Zionists established their settler-state?

There they are, 1.3 million Palestinians in Gaza, trapped, nowhere to go. They can’t flee to Egypt; border guards will fire on them. They can’t flee by sea. The airport is inoperative. Like fish in a barrel. At least 300 are dead at this point. This is the most intensive Israeli assault on Palestinians in over twenty years and proportionately a far more devastating blow than the loss of 3000 on 9-11 was to the U.S.

It is oh so easy to say, as White House Deputy Press Secretary Gordon G. Johndroe said Sunday, “These people are nothing but thugs. Israel is going to defend its people against terrorists like Hamas.” But does this clown have any clue or care about the history the founding of the Israeli state, its inception in the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians through tactics including terror (well-documented by Israeli historians like Ilan Pappé) whose demand for justice is never going to go away?

David Axelrod, senior adviser to Barack Obama, blandly told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that “Obviously…as Hamas began its shelling, Israel responded.” Is that all he thinks the audience needs to know? And to what prior history does Hamas respond? Does the candidate of “change” who has surrounded himself with intractable Israel advocates (beginning with chief of staff Rahm Emanuel), who has withheld comment during Israel’s siege while phoning Condi Rice to confer on the situation, have any understanding of the basis for Palestinian rage? Can his staff ever apply a term like “thugs” to those who committing this current fish-in-a-barrel shoot?

Does Obama have the audacity to break with the Lobby he groveled before as a presidential candidate on June 3, even going so far as do declare himself in favor of an eternal undivided Jewish capital of Jerusalem? (Official Washington policy has actually been to favor part of East Jerusalem—occupied by Israel in 1967—as capital of a future Palestinian state.)

For that I have absolutely no hope. He will leave Israel/Palestine to “experienced” people, the people the pundits have so lauded him for appointing, Hillary Clinton at the head of the pack. The people through whom he’s reassured the system that he’s absolutely not going to rock the boat. True believers in change, take notice.

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.

He can be reached at:









Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at:

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Qaddafi
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Winslow Myers
Christopher Brauchli
Wonder Woman at the UN
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
Lee Ballinger
Tupac: Holler If You Hear Him
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”
October 20, 2016
Eric Draitser
Syria and the Left: Time to Break the Silence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Extreme Unction: Illusions of Democracy in Vegas
Binoy Kampmark
Digital Information Warfare: WikiLeaks, Assange and the US Presidential Elections
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Bogus History Lesson
Bruce Mastron
Killing the Messenger, Again