I'm still around and kicking but I'm posting these days at Non Sum Dignus. As soon as I get some time I'll be back here, but until then go to NSD!
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The WaPo reports:
"News agencies quoted the military and police as saying that more than 210 people had been killed since [Israeli] attacks began Wednesday. The Health Ministry put the number at 182 dead and 525 wounded, almost all of them civilians, but said that count included only those identified by hospital officials."
No doubt, there are probably many more killed, but their bodies are probably still buried in the rubble of their homes. Israel's assualt on Lebanon, which they say might continue for weeks, is causing tens of thousands of people to flee, many on roads Israel keeps bombing. They drop leaflets warning residents to leave areas they contend are Hezbollah "strong-holds," and then they bomb the only exits.
This is a complete disaster, it really is, and what I'm wondering is why the United States isn't rapidly moving in to sort out some kind of cease-fire to stop the totaly disproportunate number of Lebanese casualties? Judging by what Condi Rice said on This Week last Sunday, she and W. are in no hurry to prevent Israel from having time to level much of Lebanon's infrastrucutre.
She told George Stephenopolis that:
"I'm certainly willing to play whatever role I'm needed to play. We have to go at the root cause. . . It's fine to have a cessation of violence. We want to have a cessation of violence. We're worried about the escalating casualties on all sides. But unless we go to the fundamentals here, we're going to continue to have these spikes of violence in the Middle East as we have had for the past 30 years."
Translation: we want a cessation of violence, but only on our terms. Until Hezbollah does exactly what Israel tells it to do; stops firing rockets, turns over the captive soldiers, and completly disarms, the United States is perfectly satisfied with sitting back and letting Israel bomb Lebanon into the stone-age. We'll leave the diplomacy up to the UN and the EU.
And then W. can get back to munching his lunch, order a Diet-Coke and blame everything on Koffi Annan. According to W., the solution is all so simple. Instead of Annan wasting his time talking about an international force to separate the two sides and stop the killing as soon as possible, W. says: "What they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over." [Inquirer]
It's as easy as that! People are going to look back on this and ask 'what the hell were they thinking?' How could this government, which has the most influence over one of the sides in this conflict not do more to stop some much death and destruction? It is just unconscienable!
I guess, Brent Scowcroft was partly right about W. being "mesmerized" by Ariel Sharon. But it's not Sharon in particular who ahs him "wrapped around his finger," but rather the nation of Israel and what it represents to his end-time fantasies. What other explaination is there?
While the rest of the world condemns Israel's over-the-top response to Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers four days ago, the US stands alone is full support of Israel's aggression. W. says, "Israel has a right to defend herself" and he reminds everyone that "there are terrorists who will blow up innocent people in order to achieve tactical objectives." No one denies that Israel has the right to defend itself, or that Hezbollah blows up innocent people, but the difference in this situation is that Hezbollah attacked an Israeli military target and the objective was to force Israel into a trade; their two soldiers for the release of thousands of Palestinian and a small number of Lebanese prisoners in Israeli custody. This is the point that W. and the US press and media are missing here. There is no existential threat to Israel involved in this case. Hezbollah isn't anywhere close to being able to destroy the state of Israel with a few thousand Katyusha rockets.
Bombing Beirut's airport, bombing roads and bridges, destroying power plants and blockading the country's ports, trying to turn "back the clock twenty years," is a total overreaction to the original provocation. Israel has brutally attacked a sovereign country and it is imposing collective punishment on millions of Lebanese civilians to go after a militia that controls only a small portion of the southern Lebanon. The rest of the world is right to condemn Israel for its wildly disproportionate response to what amounts to a border skirmish. Instead of contracting our diplomacy out to Jordan, Egypt and the EU (all of whom have no influence on the parties involved), W. ought to get on the phone with Ehud Olmert himself and read him the riot act. I think we might have just a little bit of leverage with Israel; after all, we give them $3 billion a year and supply all their weapons. The threat to cut any of that aide off would certainly focus they're attention on ceasing and desisting pretty quickly. Has W. seen to the price of a barrel of oil lately? Has he noticed financial markets all over the world plunging the past four days on the fears of a larger regional war breaking out? And are we prepared to deal with the blow-back in Iraq for our blind allegiance to Israel?
Because it's not long in coming: The NYT reports today that our old friend in Iraq, Muqtada al-Sadr (who's political bloc in the "unity" government has 30 seats) says that Iraqis will not "sit back with hands folded" while Israel attacks Lebanon. The Times reports: "In a written statement, Mr. Sadr also said that he considered the United States culpable in the conflict unfolding in Lebanon, since America was the largest foreign ally of Israel." Al-Sadr writes, "Eyes are shedding tears, and the heart feels pain and sadness for our people in Lebanon due to the bombing, terror and clear aggression that the Zionist enemy conducts and that is shielded by a number of countries, including the United States."
The specter of Iran making our lives a living hell in Iraq is quickly raising its ugly head. The timing of Hezbollah's operation on the Israel's border just coincidentally coincides with the G-8 meeting in Russia and the US effort to convince the international community to take Iran to the UN Security Counsel. If Iran starts throwing their weight around in Iraq, we're in big trouble. Our 129,000 troops over there are already incapable of dealing with the Sunni insurgency, what happens if the Shiites turn on us? And beyond that, what happens if Israel decides to turn on Syria next? Whereas, before it looked like we had Iran hemmed in from the east and west, they now have us at a disadvantage. Not only can they strike at us in Iraq but they can also get us in Afghanistan, while their buddies in Syria will be more than happy to open up their borders for the flow of arms and fighters into Iraq to really start flowing. Now, we're the ones who are surrounded.
This is a pretty precarious position to be in, W. & co. really needs to put their thinking caps on and stop screwing around. We need to fundamentally change our thinking on Iran and start dealing with the reality that they're the regional power. We should drop the idea of going to the Security Counsel, because Russia and China are never going to vote for sanctions or military action anyway; loose the preconditions to direct talks; and we should push for negotiations on all matters pertaining to the region, not just the nuclear program. It is an unfortunate truth that our blundering in Iraq has left us no choice but to deal with Tehran.
We're still the only super power in the world, so we don’t have to worry about losing face and the benefits of talks with the Iranians outweigh the drawbacks. They could help resolve a whole host of problems plaguing the Middle East or they can make them a lot worse. The question is: does this administration have the intelligence and imagination to do this the right way or are they going to keep making the same mistakes? Don't answer that!
Read more on this at NSD.
Israel is in the news again: Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse and just as Israel was escalating its "incursion" into central Gaza, killing 23 Palestinians in the process... AFP: "TYRE, Lebanon - Israel bombarded Lebanon after two soldiers were snatched by Hezbollah guerrillas in bloody day of cross-border violence that left 11 people dead, opening up a dangerous new front in the Middle East conflict. Israeli forces pounded targets from the land, sea and air and sent troops into Lebanon after the Hezbollah raid on an army patrol on the volatile border which Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert branded an "act of war." Eight Israeli soldiers were killed, along with a Hezbollah fighter and two Lebanese civilians in the deadliest day on the border since Israel ended its 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon six years ago."
Here we go again: Once again Israel is making the same mistakes it always makes, shooting wildly, spreading its bombs all over the place, not caring where their bombs fall. After two weeks of making life for Palestinians in Gaza a living hell, they're no closer to getting their missing soldier back. Whereas before their incursion, Hamas was on the ropes, actually coming around to signing an agreement to implicitly recognize Israel under pressure from Abu Mazen, now because of this misguided, boneheaded, knee-jerk reaction, Hamas is back in the saddle. Once again, Abu Mazen, the only person Israel has any chance of having a rational conversation with has been marginalized.
The brilliant plan to go after the elected Hamas faction in Gaza, when the real perpetrators of the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit were in Syria, has got them no where. Bombing civilian infrastructure has gained them international condemnation and still Shalit is no closer to coming home. Now, they're making the same error by going after the government of Lebanon. The Israelis know as well as anybody that the Lebanese government is much too weak to take on Hezbollah. The Israeli demand that Hezbollah be disarmed sounds good on paper, but in actually it would lead to another Lebanese civil war.
There are all kinds of people in Lebanon that don't like Hezbollah and its Shiite brand of Islam. The Sunnis and Christians in that country resent very much Hezbollah's politics, their militia and their power. And now I'm sure the vast majority of Lebanese are not too thrilled to be in the firing line of Israel's air force and artillery thanks to Hezbollah's unilateral attack on Israel. Israel could use that discontent with a minimum of military pressure to negotiate the release of their two soldiers, possibly with the help of the US and also the French, who have a lot of influence in Lebanon and Syria. If we weren't on such bad terms with Iran, we might be able to convince them to lean on Iran, but that's out the window, of course.
If Israel isn't careful, if they start bombing Lebanese infrastructure and buzzing Beirut, this could really spin out of control. It this were then to spread into Syria, there's no telling where things could wind up.