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Meditations in a Time of Delusions and Lies - 12: Adding Up the Score

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I write these meditations from time to time in an attempt to stay sane.

Adding Up the Score

August 14, 2006

Now that there's a cease-fire in the works, let us count up the war crimes.

Hezbollah manages to toss unguided rockets randomly at civilian targets, blood-letting for no strategic reason. I suppose the attempt to demoralize the population counts for something - a little satisfaction that at least the Israeli population should feel some pain - could count for a kind of political-military accomplishment. Still, there's no doubt that hurling weapons randomly at civilians is criminal - not to mention the fact that close to 40 percent of the victims were Arab citizens of Israel.

On the other hand, Israel does it with precision. Precision guided laser bombs, precision rockets that hit pinpoint targets, plus the good manners to send leaflets telling people that they need to flee. So, precision weapons hit civilian apartment buildings, precisely blast UN outposts, precisely hit marked ambulances, precisely blow up humanitarian convoys, and precisely kill the very civilians they had told to flee. Hezbollah hides among civilians, goes the Israeli rationale, which may be at least partially true, in so much as the militia is completely intertwined with the civilian population. Even so, precision targeting of civilian targets - the destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure, for one thing - is a war crime.

By quantity and quality, I would say Israel wins this competition hands down.

And who won the war? It's easier to say who lost.

Israel lost because it finally could not get its unilateral way through military force. The goal was to destroy Hezbollah, and they discovered the toughest, best trained, best equipped fighters they have ever encountered. The goal then shifted to pushing Hezbollah away from the South. Then Shimon Peres appeared on American TV to say that, since Israel didn't start the war, all Israel had to do was to stop it to win. Nope, Israel lost. It wasn't a loss that meant "the Jews will be pushed into the sea," etc., etc., but it was a loss nonetheless. This could be the best thing to come out of the miserable mess. Israelis may decide to re-think aggression as policy and turn to actual negotiations. They can start with the Palestinians. Maybe, but I'm doubtful. Much more arrogance needs to be cracked before Israelis start seeing reality rather than delusions.

Hezbollah lost because - well, what was their goal to begin with? To gain freedom for their prisoners? To liberate the Sheeba Farms? To distract from Iran's nuclear intentions? I'm not sure, although putting up such a ferocious defense accounts for a major victory, of sorts. They fought Israel to a standstill, the first Arab army to do so. But precipitating the destruction of Lebanon was the price, religious fanaticism that leads to rubble. If they were smart, they would declare victory, disband as a militia, join up with the Lebanese military with all of their arms, and dominate Lebanese politics. We'll see about that . . .

No question, Lebanese civilians of all faiths lost this war. The beautiful country, rebuilt after civil war and Israel's last debacle, has been wrecked again. Displacement, fear, horror, death for the ordinary people. Likewise the people of northern Israel, although, again, at only about one tenth the scale of the Lebanese. The young soldiers of both sides killed . . . but that's to be expected of war: sorrow and bitter loss.

War is always vicious and stupid, but some wars are more stupid than others. Many people compared this war to World War One, especially for the way it started over a minor incident and its absurd futility. Exactly why do these armies and militias need to kill civilians? Why did Israel need to destroy Lebanon to get at Hezbollah? Why lob exploding stones at Haifa?

Finally, the Bush bozos are big losers. They backed Israel's assault all the way, cheering on, declaring that it was necessary to destroy Lebanon in order to save it - until they realized they had lost. As practice for the U.S. invading Iran, this war taught a lot, mainly, DON'T DO IT! That is, if Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld can learn any "reality-based" lessons. As soon as Bush and his crowd realized Israel wasn't going to cut through Lebanon like cheese, they decided that diplomacy was a good idea, after all.

The American people also lost. We had the opportunity to watch mayhem paid for by our tax money non-stop on 24-hour newschannels - if we wanted. Mostly, the American public was relieved it wasn't our troops caught in close combat. Of course, Iraq is exploding into chaos, and all of America's Middle East adventures seem shakier than ever. With Bush in power, that could be dangerous, since his solution usually ends up meaning more war.

The fact that the great airplane-bomb-red-alert took over just as the ceasefire was being negotiated was a bad sign. It's always been useful to inject a sizeable dose of FEAR into Americans, just to bolster Bush's imperial power. If indeed this mass-murder plot is real - and I'm always suspicious - and the suddenness of the arrests is not engineered for political effect, the war has given Muslims, Arabs, and pretty much the entire world more reasons for hating Americans (or at least our foreign policy). Our bombs dropped by "our" Israelis. When someone asks, why do they hate us, just point to Lebanon.

So ends the first phase of the American Israeli War Against Lebanon. Everyone loses! Hurrah!
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Hilton Obenzinger is the author of "American Palestine: Melville, Twain and the Holy Land Mania" (Princeton), among many other books of criticism, poetry and fiction, and the recipient of the American Book Award. His most recent book is the (more...)
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