As the U.N begins evacuating non-essential staff from Beirut today, there is a surreal air to the exodus as hundreds of Westerners, including U.S. citizens, find themselves fleeing the six days of retaliatory bombings from Israel, a supposed ally of their respective countries. It's more than ironic that the U.S. - led by Bush, Rice, and Bolton - has been openly encouraging Israel to continue the deadly assaults, even as its own country's citizens remain in the way of its staunch ally's determination to strike deep into Lebanon's cities and residential areas with their missiles. The spectacle of U.S. citizens fleeing Israeli bombs is amazing, even as our Secretary of State Rice urges Israel on.
It would be Tuesday, six days into the bombing campaign, before the U.S. managed to get a ship to Lebanon to evacuate whoever wanted to leave. However, the majority of Americans in Lebanon have not left and continue to be on the receiving end of Israel's reprisals against Hizbollah.
Why then, are civilian areas being targeted by Israel in their defense? The raids demonstrate little concern for the lives of the Lebanese civilians who have nothing to do with the rocket attacks. I've not heard anything expressed from the Israeli government about regret or concern for those caught in the middle of their war; only the self-righteous declaration that they're defending themselves. Even Bush mouthed concern for 'Iraqi citizens' before his bloody invasion.
Its hard to see how the killing of those innocents, and innocent Lebanese as well, makes Israel more secure. Is this just a vengeful attack on Lebanon, or is there some strategic purpose in killing so many innocent civilians? Those looking on speak of 'collateral damage', but that's just a fancy term for murder, especially when knowingly firing missiles into civilian areas.
What is gained by the killings? The attacks on Israel have continued. I heard that Hizbollah has some 13,000 rockets in their arsenal. These attacks on the population are a recipe for a prolonged, bloody conflict that will end up making Israel even less secure because of all of the animosity that comes with the 'collateral' deaths. What is the purpose in killing so many innocent Lebanese and others?
Some have argued that the Lebanese are a legitimate target because Hizbollah is 'part of the government.' Hizbollah's a big party, but it's numbers don't seem very impressive. After the 2005 elections, Hizbollah held 23 seats (up from eight previously) in the 128-member Lebanese Parliament. Hizbollah has two ministers in the government, holding non-influential Labor and Energy posts. I don't see how you get to the ones lobbing missiles through these government folks, especially the ones without any independent authority in the Parliament. Labor and Energy posts?
This week, world leaders issued a balanced statement condemning violence on all sides of the conflict. It urged Israel to "be mindful of the strategic and humanitarian consequences of its actions" and, "to exercise utmost restraint". Remarkable really in its warning to Israel. It will stand as a mirror for any appeal to the body of continued or escalating reprisals by Israel which impact innocents. But, the Bush regime is not ready to let their partner Israel's assault be stifled by diplomacy. They don't want to let the pursuit of peace get in the way of the Israeli killing spree.
On Saturday, the U.S. blocked a Security Council statement that called for a cease-fire and deployment of a peace-keeping force. Ambassador Bolton told reporters, "I think it's very important that with events as unclear and fast-moving as they are that the Security Council not do anything to unsettle the matter further." The effect of the Bush regime's obstruction of a negotiated settlement of the conflict is a prolonging of the violence, on both sides, and a certain increase of the numbers of innocents killed, maimed or driven from their homes. The chaos serves them. It's just fine with Israel that Hizbollah has given them an excuse to dismantle the peace process, in which democracy brought Hamas to power.
I think negotiations with the Lebanese govt. could work to end the conflict. If troops are imposed then it's nothing but a provocation. However, I think Blair's proposal makes sense if the intent is to replace Israel's assault with a buffer between Lebanon and Israel. It doesn't have to be a contingent of Western forces. The troops can be regional. There should be enough countries in the region that would offer to help. The majority of Gulf states pledged aid to Lebanon today. The notion behind Tony Blair's and Kofi Annan's proposal for the introduction of peacekeepers is to halt the escalation of violence by lessening the prospect of rockets launched from southern Lebanon. It's not all of what's needed, but, I think it can be constructed in a way that makes sense.
What doesn't wash is the Bush regime's ambition to give authority for the proposed 'peacekeepers' to actively hunt down Hizbollah members to put them down. That's not peacekeeping, it's a formula for more military muckraking; the imperious kind that the Bush regime practices in Iraq and Afghanistan. Over and over they claim Iran set Hizbollah on its present violent course without presenting any evidence at all. The Iran canard is being repeated by Democrats and republicans alike. They should be pressed to prove their claims before they use Iran as a pretext for anything involved with the Israeli/Lebanon conflict. Clearly, Bolton is fishing for an excuse to begin the demonization of Iran and Syria as pretext for some sort of assault on the sovereign nations.
If the U.S. allows Israel to act against Iran because of this incident, they will be setting a precedent for other nations who may be compelled to act against their neighbors without any visible, justifiable proof of complicity.
Israel is piling on the innuendo about Iran's involvement, hoping that they can create enough of consensus against them to give cover for an attack. The military campaign the Israelis are executing in Lebanon has been in the works for 5 years. You can bet it has an attack on Iran as a component. That's the neo-con dream. PNAC revived. Perle and Kristol are wetting their pants with anticipation of their domino strategy actually being pursued by Israel as their PNAC organization proscribed in their pre-Bush presidency policy documents.