Saturday, July 22, 2006

Making sense

It's been ten days since Israel began its collective punishment of Lebanon for the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hizbollah. Over those ten days, Lebanon's infrastructure - its roads, ports, airport, electricity generators, and a fair amount of Lebanon itself - have been destroyed. Over three hundred Lebanese civilians have been killed (around ten times the number of military casualties), and over half a million displaced. Faced with this devastation and mounting death toll, the international community has been clamouring for a ceasefire. But according to US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, that would be a "false promise":

"An immediate ceasefire without political conditions does not make sense," she said.

Well, it would certainly make sense to the Lebanese civilians Israel is murdering to reestablish its "deterrent power". But since when has the US ever given a flying fuck about them?

What is going on in Lebanon is a war crime. And the sooner it is stopped, the better.


The US administration's supplying of the weapons to commit the ethnic cleansing of Shiite areas of Lebanon is meanwhile strengthening the position of the until-now marginal anti-U.S. Shiites in Iraq who in the past week have sounded more and more like the Sunni radicals that had been running the anti US campaign.

In Iraq, radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr yesterday: "I will continue defending my Shiite and Sunni brothers, and I tell them that if we unite, we will defeat Israel without the use of weapons," Sadr said during a speech in the southern city Iraqi city of Kufa.

The strange thing in all of this thing in Lebanon is that in fact there were "incidents" in the past month - live Israeli amunition firing into Lebanese farms for example wounded people and killed a shepherd and the U.N. in Lebanon had been concerned at those Israeli actions, fearing a Hizbullah retaliation which of course eventually came in the form of the taking of the 2 soldiers... so the action in Lebanon must have been well planned with Bush administration and Blair administration under-funding but it does seem also to undermine UK and US position in Iraq big time.

But just because US and UK policy appears to us as chaotic, it doesn't mean that they don't know what they are doing. We might just not know what the strategy is.

Maybe the UK and US position is designed just to continually inflame the situation - maybe that is the purpose of the Western strategy? If that's the strategy then it is working.

Posted by Anonymous : 7/22/2006 10:43:00 PM

The capture of two soldiers is only the tip of a very large iceberg. Israel would have been perfectly justified in taking action against an officially-committed to-Israel's-destruction-arming-itself-ever-more-every-day unregulated militia on its borders had no soldiers ever been captured.

Even Fisk essentially admits that, as well as the further point that the Lebanese govt itself could do nothing about Hezbollah and had essentially ceded sovereignty to it in the South. (Maybe Israel can pound the crap out of Hezbollah in the south and Leb. with lots of help can actually start being a sov. country again as the UN called for a while back.).

The early reports from Hezbollah leaders last week were very clear - they were thrilled about initial developments and declared that this was their best chance for a final solution to the Israeli problem since 1973.

You can, therefore, complain about Israel being clumsy in the details of its fighting (the refugee flow is shocking.... but you can't have it both ways, i.e., both admit as Fisk does that Hezb. is this really formidable force that hides in among civilians etc. and yet still moan when someone takes on that force, urges the civilians to get out of the way, and then lots of those civilians take the advice). You can perhaps complain that Israel has fallen into some overall nightmare-publicity trap that Hezbollah has set for it... but any wider analysis, as here, that simply avoids the real stakes involved from Hezbollah's side of things as well as from Israel's is simply evasive, ideological crap. And the constant twisting of the story into "Israel vs. Lebanon" (ghosting Hezb. into the margins) is so bad it would be hilarious if the underlying issues weren't so serious.

Anon., your step of reasoning beginning " the action in Lebanon must have been well planned with Bush administration and Blair" is a non sequitur...

Posted by Anonymous : 7/23/2006 04:26:00 AM

The notion that the government in Israel does anything significant, or with significant regional implications, without U.S. government greenlight is just silly!

How much in hand-outs does the U.S. taxpayer provide to the government of Israel each and every year, going back decades. I think Israel, with a per capita income around NZ's, gets more "aid handouts" than a hugely populated Third World country like Egypt from the U.S.

The U.S. government, dominated as it always has been by the WASP establishment, doesn't hand out billions of dollars a year because it is "sentimental" or cares about Israelis (!) - There is just very, very little "sovereign" about the government in Israel.

And the WASP establishment in Washington DC couldn't care less about the long-term safety and happiness of Israelis any more than they care about the long-term safety and interests of Lebanese Shiites in southern Lebanon. They pay the money and they get the action and the people that lose out are Israelis, Lebanese, Iraqis.

That's how it is, isn't it?

Posted by Anonymous : 7/23/2006 08:54:00 AM


Israel is subject to all the normal forces too. Its policy can be (clearly) kneejerk just as much as the Hezbollah or Palestinians can be knee-jerk.

Besides do you really think the US admin can just stop the flow of money to israel if it gets annoyed?

It gives them some influence over israel but not unlimited.

Besides if your paying large amounts of money to a guy down the street (and getting less than that value in return) - most likely it isn't you who is the powerful one.

Posted by Genius : 7/23/2006 10:12:00 AM

Anon (the one):

Your example of the US's funding for Egypt is ludicrously bad: the terms of the Camp David Accord which brokered peace between Egypt and Israel were - amazingly - that the US has to provide $1 of aid to Egypt for every $1 it gives to Israel. This may have been circumvented to some small degree (and it'll be reneged upon entirely if the Muslim Brotherhod ever takes power in Egypt) but, by and large, it's been abided by and US taxpayers send multi-billions each year to Egypt.

And your wider thoughts about Israel's sovereignty have barely any more merit. The US and Israel are allies so of course there are many connections, but Washington consensus at least is nonetheless regularly surprised by Israeli actions. Israel's not the US's poodle (far less so than the UK say) and this is so true in fact that the regnant paranoid speculation within the US is that *it's* Israel's poodle. But that's false too.

Get a grip man/woman.

Posted by Anonymous : 7/23/2006 02:17:00 PM

...Washington consensus at least is nonetheless regularly surprised by Israeli actions...

I find that hard to believe.

Posted by Anonymous : 7/23/2006 04:11:00 PM

polemic: I said "Wash. consensus" because that at least is verifiable... just do the relevant read back through papers of record and you'll see that the US govt has regularly been urked. I don't pretend to be able to rule out every imaginable back-channel or that some of the "administration sources express dismay....Congress-people call for hearings"-type accounts over the years might be smoke-and-mirrors of some kind. I'm *certain* that you can't rule such possibilities *in*, but precisely because it's in the nature of such possibilities to be unable to be absolutely ruled out.... the conspiracy o' the Jews theorizing that continually breaks out always has *some* meager purchase.

Modulo out-and-out conspiracy-mongering, the right response to your "I find that hard to believe" remains "Try harder".

Posted by Anonymous : 7/23/2006 05:26:00 PM

stephen - The "Washington consensus" is "verifiable" by a "read back through papers of record"? And where do you think these wonderful tomes of investigative journalism get the information about the "Washington Consensus"?

If these "papers of record" ever decided to try their hand at real investigative journalism, little of the information that is regularly FED to them by the Whitehouse spinmeisters would be treated as the ultimate in truth.

Washington has an agenda, after all. No?

Posted by Anonymous : 7/24/2006 12:59:00 AM

charmaine: well, it's something that's verfiable at least. Notice what you're doing here tho'... you're claiming that The New York Times etc. do no serious investigative journalism. They get spun like everybody else (most egregiously about some of theh lead up to Iraq), but it's just wrong to suggest that they don't do plenty of good work. Washington leaks like a sieve and is full of incompetents.... Administrations lie all the time.... and get caught all the time.... Screwups abound. One perhaps *wishes* the US had its shit together enough to pull off a grand illusion of Israel's independent agency for decades at a time confounding all efforts of the Times etc. to notice such a charade.... but it absolutely doesn't.

Posted by Anonymous : 7/24/2006 07:26:00 PM

When you refer to what's going on as a war crime, what do you call deliberately using the local civilian population as a shield?

Posted by stephen : 7/25/2006 02:46:00 PM