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July 18, 2006

Israel's 'Collateral' War

By Ron Fullwood

Is this really 'war' on Hizbollah? They don't seem to be affected by the Israeli killings in Lebanon.

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Ali El-Akhras and seven members of his Canadian family were on holiday at their family home in Lebanon when the Israelis began their military assault against Lebanon. All were killed, "in one room," as a missile from an Israeli airstrike ripped through their home in the village of Aitarun near the Israeli border. The Israeli Army says it warned the residents to leave the area because they were targeting Hizbollah militants they believed were launching retaliatory rockets from there into Israel. However, that was little comfort to the survivors in the family, who felt that not enough of an effort was made to protect the residents from the retaliatory campaign against the militants who threatened Israel.

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.

Israelis dropped flyers warning Lebanese civilians against associating with Hizbollah, yet the flyers also have cartoons mocking Hizbollah, portraying Hizbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah as a dancing cobra, mesmerized by the flutes of Iran, Syria, and Hamas. The cartoons are to substitute for the dialog Israel refuses to engage in with the Lebanese leaders. Over 200 Lebanese civilians have been killed by Israeli airstrikes. Twenty were killed as the fled the Israeli missiles on roads that were targeted for airstrikes, even as the Israelis were urging the residents to evacuate.

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?

Is this really 'war' on Hizbollah? They don't seem to be affected by the Israeli killings in Lebanon.

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.

Why should ANYONE looking on believe these claims? Especially in the wake of Bush and Blair's lies that led us into Iraq. I personally don't think Iran would want to 'distract' from their present nuclear showdown, as it was reported today that they were near to accepting the incentives offered in exchange for reigning their uranium enrichment program in. It makes no sense at all that they would invite attacks on Lebanon, endanger Syria, and give Israel pretext to attack them.

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.

That's not the way we should operate our foreign policy or justify military action. Just asserting their claims of Iranian or Syrian complicity in the recent attacks as truth until it's proved false is Kangaroo justice.

Rice stated earlier in the week that she will go to the Middle East only if it will "make a difference." Apparently, after Bush told Blair into an open microphone, "I think Condi's going to go (to Mideast) pretty soon", they made plans to send her there. However, Rice is still hanging around Washington; waiting, I suppose, for the Israelis to have some sort of decisive success in their violent assault on Lebanon. "I am thinking about it, as you might imagine," Rice said, "and assessing (it) every day."

Hizbollah seems to be muckraking for chaos with their shelling. Unfortunately, Israel is obliging with their bombing and its 'collateral' killings of innocent Lebanese. I think they would have been better served to work with the Lebanese government in a coordinated campaign against the militarized forces of Hizbollah. Indeed, there was an opportunity for negotiations with Syria which was shunned by Israel earlier this year.

The notion that the route Israel has taken is their only defense seems wrongheaded in the face of the escalation that has occurred. Like in Iraq, there seems to be a stubborn insistence that MORE militarism is the answer, but, I don't think Israel or the U.S. should be drawn into potentially misguided killings as reprisals against every splinter organization which lobs rockets or explodes a bomb. It just plays into the hands of those who really don't want a 'peace' process, and creates a new wave of recriminations and reprisals.

We used to understand this. That was the basis for continuing the peace process in the face of continuing violent attacks from both sides of the Mideast conflict. Nothing that has occurred justifies the killing of innocents in Lebanon by Israel, whose leaders profess to be so concerned with the loss of innocent lives. Now would be a good time to demonstrate the restraint and comity that they expect from those who oppose them.

Submitters Bio:
Ron Fullwood, is an activist from Columbia, Md. and the author of the book 'Power of Mischief' : Military Industry Executives are Making Bush Policy and the Country is Paying the Price

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