Editor’s Note: The death toll from Israel’s military operation in Gaza continues to rise, now exceeding 900 dead Palestinians, with about half of them believed to be civilians including many children.

In this guest essay, Middle East expert Morgan Strong expresses his personal outrage at the human carnage and the political calculations behind the slaughter:

They have buried many children in Gaza the past two weeks. One, a little girl, was buried a week ago last Tuesday. She was only four. She was a beautiful child, long dark hair and a sweetly innocent face, far too early for such promise as she to die.

She died in a most horrific way. She was huddled in terror when a bomb landed near her, throwing her from her bed. Shrapnel tore viciously into her tiny body.

I know what that feels like. As a Marine rifleman in the Vietnam War, I suffered the same sudden terror, the blinding pain, as white hot metal rips into you. She would have felt, and smelled, the burning of her flesh. She would have seen all the blood and perhaps the bleeding gouges where the flesh was ripped from her body.

She would have been beyond terror, beyond reason, beyond understanding, of what had happened to her. Mercifully, she might have lived for only a few seconds in agony, fear and hopeless despair.

She would have cried for her mother. Everyone calls for their mother then.

Now she is just one of hundreds of innocent children who are dead because of grand design and petty interest. She didn’t matter really; nobody matters very much in Gaza. There are things to be done, scores to be settled, arrogance to belittle.

Don’t think that the trivial life of a child is to be considered when it is a matter of necessity to rid oneself of irritants, in the cause of tranquility.

Israel killed the little girl. A pilot dropped a bomb into her home. The pilot who dropped the bomb thought little about it, or what he might have done. He flew back to his base, to his sterile life, not abused by any sense of remorse.

If he had known he killed a little girl, he might not have cared very much. Surely, his superiors don’t shed many tears for these little girls who die horribly. They are interested only in their own.

The “others,” the Palestinians, are a troublesome species, given to violence and irrational rebellion. They cannot succeed, and they should not continue, so they must be eliminated, eradicated. A simple solution.

The Israelis are to decimate Hamas, and any and all who support them, and they will spread terror among the people of Gaza so that these irritants can never again lay claim to human dignity. They will be punished terribly until they are entirely submissive. Then they will be punished more because it is possible to do so.

The President of the United States says that they deserve what they get because Hamas started it – a callow schoolboy’s understanding of such horror, justifying the act of standing by and watching while little girls and little boys die so horribly.

There is no justification for what Israel is doing to these innocents, only excuses and lies. There is no shame, no pity, no contrition, no apology, no moment of despair from those who do this.

They may well win, but they will be understood as so violent and unmerciful to be forever shamed.

Morgan Strong is a former professor of Middle Eastern history and was an adviser to CBS. News’ “60 Minutes.”  

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