Thirty six years ago, on September 12, 1982, a Lebanese Maronite militia invaded two refugee camps occupied by Palestinians. As The New York Times remembered on the 30th anniversary of the disaster,
In the ensuing three-day rampage, the militia, linked to the Maronite Christian Phalange Party, raped, killed and dismembered at least 800 civilians, while Israeli flares illuminated the camps’ narrow and darkened alleyways. Nearly all of the dead were women, children and elderly men.
That reference to the flares points to the miserable truth behind the blood and broken bodies: the people on the spot, those militiamen handled the killing. They pulled the triggers, broke the women, shattered the bodies. They were guilty of those crimes; they did the worst that human beings can do.
But there were others who stood aside, hands nominally clean while the predictable result of their actions and their studied inactions played out in Sabra and Shatila.
After the fact, the Israeli government ordered an investigation into the massacres, and they got a real one. It concluded that
Israeli leaders were “indirectly responsible” for the killings and that Ariel Sharon, then the defense minister and later prime minister, bore “personal responsibility” for failing to prevent them.
Sharon didn’t fire a single shot; no blood spattered the shoes of his colleagues, and the Israeli soldiers on the front lines in Lebanon did nothing more than stay out of the way. But as the report concluded, those in charge in Israeli knew what would happen if the Maronite militias gained free rein in the camps, and they let events unfold anyway. They were guilty not of murder, but of enabling the killings, of giving permission for an atrocity.
Adam, below and elsewhere, has laid out a compelling case that Donald Trump is similarly guilty of complicity in the ongoing racist and anti-Semitic violence occurring now in America’s civic space. When you tell armed and angry supporters that they have enemies, that those enemies are ruthless, relentless, and Jewish or Black or Brown, then for all that Trump himself never slams home a magazine, he’s the man giving those who do kill a target list and permission to go after it.
What I want to add to that is that this responsibility, this complicity in the slaughter of innocents lies with the entire public apparatus of the Republican Party. They have had every opportunity to push back on Trump’s white supremacy, his barely-coded demonization of Jews, his overt and explicit racism. Concerned Jeff Flake and sincere Susan Collins — and the more important figures, the Paul Ryans and the Mitch McConnells and the Mitt Romneys and the rest — all had opportunity after opportunity to say no. Just no: that this isn’t what the Republican Party is about; that it’s dangerous and hateful and so on.
Instead we got the pieties, “incivility” policing and the rest.
And now we have a body count of at least ten in just the last two days, not even to mention the assassination campaign that fortunately did not succeed. They were all victims of exactly the kind of hatred Trump explicitly fomented as recently as last night — after the two deaths in Louisville, KY.
Democrats’ condemnation is important, because the country has to hear that hate is vicious, deadly, and to be reviled. But as a matter of effectiveness, the Republicans have a far greater duty here: they can hold Trump priorities hostage, and they give permission to the GOP “tribe” to recognize that there are, there need to be, lines beyond which our politics should not go.
That’s the duty the Republican party has entirely failed. It’s why the current GOP must go, root and branch. And it is why each Republican in power — the elected officials and their staffs, the party apparatus, all of them — bear exactly the same kind of indirect responsibility carried by the Israeli commanders and politicians who presided over those massacre. It didn’t take a genius to realize that a nightly incitement to violence would end in actual murder. As it has, repeatedly over the last two years, and ten more times in the last two days.
I got nothing more. The US government is in the hands of a cabal that is, so far, willing to trade street murder for tax cuts and Supreme Court seats. That rule has to end. Which we knew. Hence the PGO.
Images: Nicholas Poussin, Massacre of the Innocents, before 1665.
Mattia Pretti, Pilate washing his hands, 1663.