Sunday, August 13, 2006

Human Rights Watch Produces Dubious Report, Part Two

In Part One of my critical review of the Human Rights Watch report on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict, I explained the credibility problem that HRW has in their pro-Hezbollah biased report based on the Summary section alone. This time around, we shall focus on what I found in the Methodology section, which provides a clearer picture of exactly how research should not be carried out if an organization wishes to maintain credibility. Interestingly, enough objective data is provided by the writers themselves to create serious doubts about the reliability and accuracy of the collection process, the veracity of the findings, and the credibility and integrity of the organization that produced it. I again recommend going to the link and following along. Please remember that I am focusing only on the "Methodology" section at this time.

First of all, there are glaring omissions in the objective details necessary to support a charge against Israel of crimes against humanity. Strangely, HRW does not include any objective findings and does not claim to have any. Why would HRW choose not to include a list of objective data that would undoubtedly support their accusations against Israel, and instead build their case against Israel on the basis of exclusively subjective (hearsay) evidence?

"In the many cases" is a spurious figure. Exactly how many cases did HRW investigate? Two? Three? Seven? One hundred? Doesn't anyone at HRW keep track of such important objective data?

How can HRW say authoritatively that Hezbollah was not in those areas before or during the attack when HRW admits that no observers were even on the scene until they were cleared by Lebanese "officials" to enter? Did HRW conduct a door-ro-door census? Were they allowed to go through an entire neighborhood or town without interference, or were they led to only the immediate area surrounding the blast scene? According to HRW, they were not even allowed to examine "many" of the scenes: "Security conditions did not permit on-site visits to many of the villages or other sites where civilian casualties are documented in this report."

That statement alone should cast a pall of doubt over the veracity of the HRW report.

Granted, HRW states that they looked for signs of military activity in the blast area and found none- but they were not present to observe the scenes before, during, and immediately after the attacks. And during the period that they were barred from entering the area, it is entirely possible that Hezbollah was hastily clearing the place of evidence of their presence while the HRW observers were kept a "safe" distance from the "hazard". Come on. That's the oldest trick in the book!

Did HRW expand their search in a pattern extending outward from the area? Nope. They were escorted to the scenes by Lebanese guides for "security." So how did they gather this damning evidence against Israel? They interviewed 'inhabitants' of the area (likely Hezbollah supporters or troops) and took the word of these people as gospel.

That's like asking a thug if the cop used brutality after said thug is shot for pulling a gun on the officer. What do you think the thug will say? "No, he was only using that level of force necessary to ensure his own safety"?

True, HRW mentions in passing that they also used information from the IDF, but their opening abstract makes it clear that they disregarded the IDF information and have chosen instead to use hearsay as the basis of their report with regard to Israel's conduct. Having looked at the whole document, I can say with great certainty that the formal demand for HRW to produce the complete inventory of the evidence gathered for this report would be justified.

And the second paragraph of the Methodology section contains a most intriguing statement:

"Security conditions did not permit on-site visits to many of the villages or other sites where civilian casualties are documented in this report, but in all cases Human Rights Watch located eyewitnesses to attacks."

This begs the question: if HRW was not there, how the hell do they know if these people were there? The obvious answer is, they cannot verify such a thing. HRW took the testimonies of these "eyewitnesses" simply because they claimed to have been there. Incidentally, that kind of sloppiness in vetting one's data is what got Dan Rather and Reuters in trouble.

How much of southern Lebanon is controlled by Hezbollah? Pretty much all of it. So what do you think these "eyewitness" are going to tell HRW about the attack- particularly the ones living in Hezbollah-run camps?

HRW seeks to undergird their defense of these witnesses by stating, "International and local journalists, rescue workers, and international observers also did not produce evidence to contradict the statements of witnesses interviewed for this report."

Yippee. So what? Were any of those people allowed to enter the sites during and immediately after the attack when HRW was not? HRW does not provide any evidence that would lead the reader to reach such a conclusion, but leaves plenty of room for the reader to assume that such was the case.

In conlusion for the critique of the Methodology section: Hezbollah thinks they can win this war if they can just turn world opinion against Israel. If they can convince organizations like the UN and HRW that Israel is indiscriminately killing innocent civilians regardless of the presence of absence of Hezbollah, the gullible world will force Israel to stop. That's the only way that Hezbollah can prevent Israel from hunting them down and wiping them out. They use doctored pictures, staged "massacres," a biased, gullible, anti-semitic media and impressionable lazy people to spread their stories.

This tactic is older than buckskin skivvies. Yet amazingly, some people are intellectually lazy enough to buy it at face value without thinking carefully about what things were not done by HRW in their 'quest for truth.'

But any person who can think critically can see that Human Rights Watch does not include specific, objective evidence because it probably doesn't exist. If such evidence did exist, then one would think that HRW would be more than happy to provide it in full detail in order to establish and support the veracity of their accusations. No such attempt has been made.

Ah, but then at the end of the story, HRW tacks on this disclaimer: "Although Human Rights Watch’s research has been extensive, it is, as noted, not comprehensive."

Hmm. Why then are they accusing Israel of war crimes when they have not even conducted a comprehensive investigation and base their report solely on hearsay from eyewitness whose presence at the scene during the attack is itself only as good as the word of those whom HRW interviewed?

In a court of law, that would be thrown out like yesterday's 5-alarm chili.

But then again, there are enough gullible laypersons and media types around to allow HRW to be sloppy with their details. Besides- nobody checks these things out for themselves, right?