Saturday, July 22, 2006


With the death of a beautiful Lebanese child the world comes to an end. Oh, it's understood that there is war going on elsewhere; but yesterday the US House of Representatives stood up, drowning out eight dissenting votes, and declared with a great hoorah that Israel's war of collective punishment, its war of callous retribution can continue to kill Lebanese children.

The world is ended utterly for loved ones who see the loss with their own eyes. US-made weapons from the workshops of Boeing and Lockeed-Martin are the instruments of choice that cover the skies of Sidon, Tyre, and Beirut. And yet, the call for a ceasefire from many nations and from UN Secretary Kofi Annan is being opposed by President Bush and Prime Minister Blair. And because the bloodletting is promiscuous now, the sequence of events leading to this tragedy can be obscured, in order to allow the Olmert government of Israel a free hand.

This outbreak of war is a rising flow of violence, after the abduction of an Israeli soldier from his guard post just outside of Gaza. This came about after Israeli leader Sharon suffered a stroke and was permanently incapacitated. The trigger-happy Olmert, his successor, went to work with a major armed incursion into densely populated Gaza. Severe destruction of infrastructure interrupted water, sewage, electricity, and the hostility continued during Olmert's operation. But despite the draconian measures, there was no progress toward release of the captured soldier.

In an interview a week ago, Noam Chomsky pinpoints where this latest trouble started, which he describes as the determination of Israel and the United States "to punish the people of Palestine for voting the wrong way in a free election." Chomsky also provides an essential piece of the backstory:
"...the punishment has been severe"..."it's partly in Gaza, and sort of hidden in a way, but even more extreme in the West Bank, where Olmert announced his annexation program, what's euphemistically called "convergence" and described here often as "withdrawal," but in fact it's a formalization of the program of annexing the valuable lands, most of the resources, including water, of the West Bank and cantonizing the rest and imprisoning it, since he also announced that Israel would take over the Jordan Valley."
Chomsky goes on to say that the Israelis have abducted Palestinians, civilians too, and have not released information in some instances, regarding the prisoners' names or fates.

Hezbollah's ambush on Israeli territory, and its capture of two more Israeli soldiers, just opposite the Lebanese border, was a provocation. It was foolhardy because the hysterical over-reaction of the Olmert government in Gaza was more than likely to be repeated against Lebanon. One may at least suspect that Hezbollah anticipated the outcome. And altruism, the motive of solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza, doesn't really stack up against Hezbollah's treason against their own country. Hezbollah has representatives in Lebanon's Parliament; and yet, its own militia drew Lebanon into war, a war which Parliament as a whole would never have desired or approved.

International law forbids collective punishment in war. That didn't stop Olmert. He looked at the border attack by Hezbollah militia, not as a terrorist attack, not as the act of outlaws, but rather decided that the State of Lebanon had made war on Israel.

Professor Juan Cole has posted an eloquent letter from a Lebanese woman named Rasha, who is living in Beirut. In part of it, an Israeli reporter, a woman, conducts an interview with Rasha by e-mail. The reporter says that the Israeli leadership believes that if they target Hezbollah it will convince the local population to turn against Hezbollah.
RASHA: "It is pure folly, but even if it were true it is a terrible strategy, an imploded Lebanon is a nightmare to all, not only the Lebanese but to everyone. Does Israel want an Iraq at its doorstep? There seems to be consensus now in Israel over the military campaign. It is because Israelis are not yet pressing their leadership and military with smart questions. Do you actually believe it would be possible to eliminate the Shi'i sect from Lebanon, and that it would go down easy in the region? If the Americans are advising you, duck for cover or move. Need I list their record of wisdom and foresight recently? Vietnam, Central America, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq? If you need to listen to imperialists, find less idiotic ones, at least who have a sense of history.
America's elected leaders are not informed by the tragedies of their own country. History is casually deconstructed and repackaged. They have already forgotten events like the Little Bighorn, the Massacre at Wounded Knee, Mai Lai, and Haditha.

It's like Rasha said in her interview,
"But this is the stage of your destiny that you have reached: you build walls around yourselves"..."and you chase barefoot, toothless, illiterate, hungry people with a state of the art military arsenal. And you insist that you are victims, and you insist that you are on the right side of history. All this bullshit will catch up with you."


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