Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Why Did Human Rights Watch Suspend Marc Garlasco?

The story, as reported by The New York Times, seems pretty straightforward:
A leading human rights group has suspended its senior military analyst following revelations that he is an avid collector of Nazi memorabilia.

The group, Human Rights Watch, had initially thrown its full support behind the analyst, Marc Garlasco, when the news of his hobby came out last week. On Monday night, the group shifted course and suspended him with pay, “pending an investigation,” said Carroll Bogert, the group’s associate director.

“We have questions about whether we have learned everything we need to know,” she said.
But what more do they need to know? After all, Garlasco did appear to apologize in his piece on the Huffington Post:
I deeply regret causing pain and offense with a handful of juvenile and tasteless postings I made on two websites that study Second World War artifacts (including American, British, German, Japanese and Russian items). Other comments there might seem strange and even distasteful, but they reflect the enthusiasm of the collector, such as gloating about getting my hands on an American pilot's uniform.
Maybe the board of Human Rights Watch found it unsettling that Garlasco was not completely truthful in that article when he wrote:
I've never hidden my hobby, because there's nothing shameful in it, however weird it might seem to those who aren't fascinated by military history. Precisely because it's so obvious that the Nazis were evil, I never realized that other people, including friends and colleagues, might wonder why I care about these things.
After all, the fact is that Garlasco explicitly told other people on the forum that he realized very well that other people who knew him would wonder:
Flak88: So I am trying to figure out what to do. My book is clsoe [sic] to done, but I am not sure if I should put my name on it. If folks at work found out I might very well lose my job. That is the reality, so don't dwell on it - ok? But this is a small group of people - should I worry? And shouldn't I stand up for myself? And if I use a psyeudonym isn't that worse, like I am trying to hide something?
Maybe the board is upset with Garlasco for keeping them in the dark and allowing HRW to be caught unawares and to be put into the position it now faces in the spotlight.

Garlasco's lack of accuracy is evident in his work, as mentioned in a rare article that does not take his expertise at face value. Human Rights Watch came out this June with a report claiming that Israeli drones had fired Spike rockets during the Gaza War that killed 29 Palestinian civilians. According to Reuters:
Spike's state-controlled manufacturer, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., says the missile, which has been sold widely abroad, can be fired by helicopters, infantry units and naval craft.

Asked how it was possible to know that the Spikes in question had been fired by drones rather than these other means, Marc Garlasco, Human Rights Watch's senior military analyst, cited corroborative evidence such as Palestinian witnesses who said they had seen or heard the unmanned aircraft.

But Garlasco conceded that two of the incidents cited took place in the evening or night, something that could potentially rule out anyone seeing the small and often high-flying aircraft.
Heavy reliance on Palestinian Arab witnesses is only part of the problem.

NGO Monitor notes that this is not the only questionable observation made by Garlasco during the Gaza War:
Garlasco also headed HRW’s highly publicized examination of the use of white phosphorus during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. As NGO activists were not allowed into Gaza during the conflict, Garlasco’s claims were made on the basis of observations from a “ridge only about a mile from the Gaza border” (HRW News Release Jan. 10, 2009). Moreover, Garlasco’s statements revealed his lack of expertise regarding white phosphorous as his claims contradict well-established facts regarding the munition.43
The footnote expands upon Garlasco's unfamiliarity with white phosphorous:
Garlasco claimed the IDF intentionally used white phosphorous as an incendiary weapon even though military experts report that it is completely ineffective if used in that capacity. In addition, Garlasco criticized Israel for airbursting the munition instead of groundbursting it. Groundbursting white phosphorous, however, can lead to greater collateral damage.
In Remote Control Death, an article Garlasco wrote in March with Darryl Li for The Nation, the first paragraph reads:
"It buzzed like bees around me." Muhammad Allaw, 13, was describing the sound made by an Israeli unmanned drone overhead moments before it fired a rocket that killed his 10-year-old brother Mo'men, crushing his legs and scattering tiny identical cubes of shrapnel throughout his chest. The family had been sitting on the roof of their home at noontime in the al-Shaaf area of Gaza City on January 5. No Israeli ground forces or Palestinian fighters were nearby when the drone struck, literally out of the blue.
NGO Monitor notes in HRW’s Garlasco’s latest article: inaccurate and biased:
That same paragraph quotes 13-year old Muhammad Allaw, but according to the Palestinian NGO Al Mezan, Muhammad was killed during the war. If you are able to get testimony from the dead, your sources are indeed impressive.
If Human Rights Watch is serious about getting answers to questions they still have about Marc Garlasco, they will make a point of reviewing his past analyses that they have relied upon.

This is about more than just Garlasco's hobby.

Human Rights Watch is likely to wait a few days and announce their investigation over. They have already made clear, according to the AFP:
"Garlasco has been temporarily suspended from his research work with full pay pending the inquiry. This is not a disciplinary measure. Human Rights Watch stands behind Garlasco's research and analysis," the statement said.
This is not a disciplinary measure. No, it is merely a way to calm down their board.

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1 comment:

Floz said...

It is important that this be thoroughly examined considering Human Rights Watch publishes reports on hr in almost every country. Maybe unknown biases in some other staff members have affected country reports why some reports have created such outrage in some countries.