Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2006 9:37 am 
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Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2003 1:50 pm
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Location: California/NYC
Published in the Baltimore Chronicle

For five prisoners, 500 civilians killed and an infrastructure wrecked

The Middle East is a place of perpetually reopened wounds. Israel, funded and armed to the teeth by the US, lives in a state of hyper-vigilance that has again led to brutal consequences. After a month of relentless assaults on Gaza whose sanction in the UN was vetoed by the US, Israel has used the capture of two of its soldiers and killing of three others by Hamas and Hezbollah as the pretext for a massive assault on Lebanon that has so far resulted in the deaths of 500 Lebanese, a number daily growing, most of them civilians and an estimated third of them children. Half a million or more Lebanese so far have become homeless, which would be a sixth of the country's total population. Dozens of Israelis too have died: allowing this warfare to continue causes serious loss on both sides, though the damage is disproportionately on the Lebanese side, easily ten to one in terms of human loss and worse than that in damage to the infrastructure. Lebanon is a tiny country -- even tinier than Israel -- and Israel is heavily armed. Lebanon has no means to resist.

Hezbollah is like a state within a state. It is not directly related to the new Lebanese government of Fouad Seniora, whose whole policy has been to end fifteen years of Syrian influence in the country. The Lebanese government has been the helpless bystander while Israel has disabled Lebanon's main airport, factories, a hospital, and many bridges with its bombs. The European Union on Thursday criticized Israel for “the disproportionate use of force.” By July 19th 24 Israelis had died as a result of what the NYTimes has headlined as "wide strikes by Hezbollah." President Bush however has taken no action to curb Israel's assault and in fact has stood with Israel against all others in the Security Council. Clearly the Bush inaction is calculated, and it is widely understood that the US plans to allow the Israeli invasion to proceed for a week. The prisoners are a pretext for Israel to undertake a massive assault aimed at crushing Hezbollah. It's war, again. But Lebanon is only the battleground, participating only as victim -- again.

The strong provocation to Israel that started this massive, brutal response may very well have its direct sources in Syria and Iran as Robert Fisk of the London Independent says, but as Osama Siblani, Editor and Publisher of The Arab American, has commented, it is obvious from the Arab point of view that Bush's position of inaction favoring Israel allowing the assault on Lebanon to continue will only increase hostility toward the US in the region and compound the effect of the Iraq quagmire. Who's winning? Hezbollah and Hamas. It is only they who are gaining more supporters by reminding Lebanese and Syrians who their main enemies in the region are and how obviously the US is behind them. The tragic losers are the Israeli and Lebanese people. What the US is allowing to continue leads to Israeli losses as well as Lebanese. Once again but on a larger scale than in many years, preceding on two fronts, Gaza and Lebanon, Israel is carrying out collective punishment and committing acts as a state that are in violation of international law. Needless to say, Hezbollah is in violation of international law, but Hezbollah is not a state.

These are matters that ought to be debated in the UN with full participation by Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, and surrounding countries as well as the US, but unlike the Sixties this is a time of greatly diminished authority for the international body. We have an administration that uses the UN as a place to unload propaganda or ask for rubber stamps, not as a forum of free discussion.

All this underscores the point I was making earlier that Washington's "New American Century" superpower mentality has led to futility and outright disaster in the very region where Bush and his cronies most overtly seek geopolitical control -- as well in the crucial sphere of planetary eco-balance.

Again: Who's in charge? Where are the benefits?

There is no moral leadership and no strategic logic in Bush's current action or inaction. As Middle East expert and Arabist Juan Cole has recently pointed out in a rueful commentary, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora came to power as part of an anti-Syrian political movement supported by the Bush administration, dubbed by the American press "the Cedar Revolution." Just three months ago Bush met with Siniora and declared: "We talked about the great tradition of Lebanon to serve as a model of entrepreneurship and prosperity. Beirut is one of the great international cities, and I'm convinced that if Lebanon is truly free and independent and democratic, that Beirut will once again regain her place as a center of financial and culture and the arts." Lebanon is indeed a vibrant and entrepreneurial land and it had been rebuilt from the destruction of the Eighties. But now this tiny jewel of a country is being torn apart again and its weak but well-meaning government, blatently powerless, is left with virtually no country to govern. Cole comments: "What you have to admire most about W. is how he stands by his friends." Why didn't Bush truly support the Lebanese government? One might step in and say his true friend is Israel. But is he really standing by Israel and is his inaction as Israel goes on a rampage furthering that nation's standing in the world or its future stability?

Condi to the rescue?

Not to worry, the US is sending its Secretary of State to mediate. But honestly, Condilezza Rice isn't likely to be a more effective advocate of the majority in the region than Colin Powell was when he was sent out to deny a massacre at Jenin four years ago; she is simply a more humbly loyal and cooperative helpmate of Mr. Bush, and the stated aim isn't even to calm the situation, but "to build support for the effective crippling of Hezbollah" (Ari Berman, quoting the Wall Street Journal). Crippling Hezbollah: that would seem to call for strengthening the Lebanese government. But Condi isn't interested in that. What is the exact goal of Rice's Middle East trip? Maybe it's like Bush's support of Hydrogen fuel cells for cars -- just a way of stalling for time, while striking poses calculated to appeal to Bush's base. Berman concludes his online Nation commentary on these events by saying that the administration's only Middle East policy seems to be the invasion of Iraq. That isn't quite true. Evidently the invasion of Lebanon is an additional welcome diversion. Palestinian land is invaded via Israel and maintained as a vast prison, Gaza is under armed assault, and Iran remains always on the horizon as a future target. To the amoral war game planners who advise the Bush administration, all this may look positive -- when you ignore the vast human consequences. But in truth as the positive value of these policies becomes increasingly mysterious, there's virtually no policy visible at all.

Clearly it is the Bush administration's failure to engage in the Middle East peace process that has allowed things to come to this pass. "It is very hard to understand from the people calling for a cease-fire how you have a cease-fire with a terrorist organization like Hezbollah," the NYTimes quotes US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton as saying. Yes; but how do you combat terror by bombarding innocent civilians? This is a problem the US has never yet perceived.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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