On Sunday, the New York Times published an extensive report detailing on-site reviews of 11 locations in Afghanistan where air strikes killed as many as 400 civilians.

On Monday, at a Pentagon news briefing, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told reporters: “It’s an unfortunate fact of war that, inevitably, innocent civilians are killed. This has been true, true throughout the history of warfare, and it remains true even in this age of advanced technology, and precision-guided munitions.”

He added: “We can take some comfort in the knowledge that this war has seen fewer tragic losses of civilian life than perhaps any war in modern history. We can also take pride in the fact that coalition forces have gone to extraordinary lengths not only to avoid civilian deaths, but to save civilian lives.”

On Tuesday in Gaza City, an Israeli air force plane fired a missile into the home of Sheik Salah Shehada, founder of the military wing of the terrorist organization Hamas, and one of Israel’s most wanted men. He’s wanted, among other reasons, for engineering the suicide bombing of the Tel Aviv disco that killed many Israeli teenagers.

Ten others were killed, including five children. Palestinians claimed that Shehada survived the attack – without any appearance of Shehada. This terrorist masterminded hundreds of attacks on Israeli civilians, including the March massacre of five Yeshiva students in a Jewish settlement.

At the White House, Presidential Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters:

“The president has said repeatedly that Israel needs to be mindful of the consequences of its actions in order to preserve the path to peace in the Middle East. The president views this as a heavy-handed action that is not consistent with dedication to peace in the Middle East. This message has been conveyed to Israel this morning …”

When asked about the fact that in war – whether in Gaza or Afghanistan – innocent lives are lost, Fleischer replied: “It is inaccurate to compare the two … In Gaza, this was a deliberate attack against a building in which civilians were known to be located.”

When asked by the reporter, “And when the Israeli defense forces said they are sorry for any harm, but this is the result of terror which uses civilians as human shields,” Fleischer replied: “This is an instance in which the United States and Israel do not see eye-to-eye.”

Asked about a hypothetical circumstance of Osama bin Laden being found in a cave or a house, and U.S. troops ordered to kill him despite the fact that “perhaps there would be some innocent lives lost,” Fleischer replied: “I’m not going to speculate,” and went on to say that finding a political solution to the violence in the region “makes it separate and apart from what’s happening in Afghanistan.”

Did either the president or his spokesman really listen to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s explanation? Let’s play it again: “It’s an unfortunate fact of war that inevitably civilians are killed.”

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