Jan 1 2001

ABC’s Military Analyst Calls for “Excessive Force”

CSIS's Cordesman advocates brutality against Palestinians

“Excessive force” should be used against Palestinian civilians, including “interrogation methods that border on psychological and/or physical torture.” These are extreme proposals–but it is their author, Anthony Cordesman, to whom ABC News regularly turns to in wartime to provide military analysis.

Cordesman made these recommendations in an October 2000 report released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), an influential Washington think tank where Cordesman holds a chair in international security. The report urged the Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority to use security methods that violate human rights in order to implement any future U.S.-brokered peace agreement. Amnesty International quickly condemned the document as a “dangerously irresponsible contribution to the escalating violence in Israel and the Palestinian Authority” that risks “legitimizing torture.”

CSIS’s Middle East task force, which Cordesman co-directs, includes prominent American policymakers such as Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Sen. John McCain. According to the London Independent (11/6/00), copies of the report have been circulating among senior U.S., Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials.

Cordesman has been a prominent military analyst for ABC News for over ten years, frequently appearing on-air to provide analysis of military and Middle East issues. During last year’s NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, he was often invited to comment on NATO’s military strategy. His commentary is notable for an extreme reluctance to criticize the Pentagon and for a striking indifference to civilian damage.

When the question of potential civilian casualties arises, his reply is invariably along the lines of “civilians are going to die and they have to die” (Nightline, 3/30/99). During the Kosovo war, Cordesman often wrapped this sentiment in the rhetoric of humanitarianism: “Civilian casualties are unfortunately the price of being effective in protecting the people as a whole” (Nightline 4/14/99).

But humanitarianism was not much of a factor in his Middle East report. In a section entitled “Peace and Security as the Natural Enemies of Human Rights,” Cordesman laid out his recommendations: “There will be no future peace or stable peace process,” he wrote, “if the Palestinian security forces do not act ruthlessly and effectively.”

Specifically, he noted that “effective counter-terrorism relies on interrogation methods that border on psychological and/or physical torture, arrests and detentions that are ‘arbitrary’ by the standards of civil law, break-ins and intelligence operations that violate the normal rights of privacy, levels of violence in making arrests that are unacceptable in civil cases, and measures that involve the innocent (or at least not provably guilty) in arrests and penalties.”

As a model for the Palestinian Authority, Cordesman held up the British forces in Northern Ireland, who often “used excessive force, abused human rights, and used extreme interrogation methods and torture” but who nevertheless “did an excellent job of balancing the conflicting problems of effective security and a concern for human rights.”

Marty Rosenbluth, Israel/Occupied Territories coordinator for Amnesty International USA, said in an interview: “I’ve been doing human rights work for almost 20 years and this is one of the most bizarre documents I’ve ever seen. It’s basically a blueprint for human rights violations that [the authors] want the Palestinian Authority to follow.”