|Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives|
SATURDAY NEWS ROUNDUP
A terrible thought occurs to me - that there will be another 9/11 (Robert Fisk)
U.S. ripped for inaction on Israeli, Syrian front (The Forward)
Israel disappoints the neo-cons: more on Lebanon as a U.S. proxy war (Tony Karon)
One day in the life of Bush-Blair democratization (Rami G. Khouri)
In Israel, public support, once nearly unanimous, begins to fray (WP)
Waiting for the U.N. (Robert Rosenberg )
Iranian official admits Tehran supplied missiles to Hezbollah (Haaretz)
Iran to supply Hezbollah with surface-to-air missiles (AFP)
U.S. treads softly over Iran's role in crisis (NYT)
Israeli commandos stage Tyre raid (BBC)
In South Lebanon, a fierce fight for every yard (WP)
'Hezbollah aren't suckers, they know how to fight. You're scared all the time' (The Times)
The underground voice of Hezbollah that Israel is still unable to silence (The Times)
Protests erupt across the Muslim world (The Independent)
Iraqis march to support Hezbollah (LAT)
Iraqi civil war has already begun, U.S. troops say (McClatchy)
U.S. troops face 'war crimes' claim (BBC) A history of miscalculations
By Mark Perry, Conflicts Forum, August 3, 2006
When Ehud Olmert responded to the killing of three Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of two others by saying that Israel would "destroy" Hezbollah, he meant it. When, five days later, Olmert said that he would hold the Lebanese government responsible for disarming Hezbollah, he meant that too. And when, just fourteen days into the war, he said that Israel would push Hezbollah north of the Litani River he also meant that. Now, on Day 23 of The War for Lebanon, it's clear that Ehud Olmert does not exactly know what he means -- an uncertainty that is resulting from an internal Israeli cabinet debate about the war's goals: something that, we would have thought, might have been decided on the night of July 12.
The Israeli cabinet debate is the result of the less-than-stellar military results handed to Olmert by the IDF senior leadership. It is no secret that IDF senior commander Lt. General Dan Halutz believed that the vaunted Israeli Air Force would have little problem chasing Hezbollah from the Lebanese border. As recently as July 28, Halutz was telling the international press that the IAF had inflicted "enormous" damage on Hezbollah "at the strategic level" and that "hundreds of [Hezbollah] fighters" had been killed. After a short lull -- purposely corresponding to the a U.S. call for a 48-hour cessation in Israel's air campaign -- Hezbollah responded, firing 230 rockets at Israel on August 2 and 160 on August 3.
This is not the first time that Halutz has miscalculated. Shortly before midnight on July 23, 2002, Halutz ordered a bombing mission that destroyed the house of Hamas militant Salah Shehada -- as well as every member of his family: 15 people in all, including six children. The attack took place after Hamas announced that any cessation in Israeli activities would be followed by a complete end to Hamas operations. When he was killed, Shehada was actually in the process of initialing a ceasefire order for all members of Hamas's brigades, due to take effect immediately. Shehada's killing ended whatever chances for a ceasefire remained and Hamas continued its campaign targeting Israeli civilians. Asked how he felt knowing that his order resulted in the killing of innocent people, Halutz answered by saying that he was undisturbed: "...if you want to know what I feel when I release a bomb, I will tell you: I feel a light bump to the plane as a result of the bomb's release. A second later it's gone, and that's all. That is what I feel."
Halutz is now caught in a similar situation. While the U.S. press treated Hassan Nasrallah's recent (August 3) speech saying that Hezbollah would attack Tel Aviv if Israel attacked Beirut as a threat, the Hezbollah leader's clear intent was to limit the war. Condi Rice, touted as an intellectual heavyweight, didn't get it: "The international community needs to say to Hezbollah that these kinds of threats are also not helpful at a time when the international community, the Lebanese people, the Israeli people, all want an end to the hostility," she told CNN. Nasrallah went further, saying that Hezbollah would stop its rocket attacks if Israel stops its "aggression." Halutz, who is still apparently confident in IDF capabilities, apparently agrees with Rice. He told the Israeli cabinet that any attack by Hezbollah on Tel Aviv would result in an attack on the Lebanese infrastructure -- or what's left of it. As in July 2002 -- when an antagonist held out an olive branch -- Halutz may live to regret his words.
Hezbollah is alive and fighting well, according to one of the movement's leaders in contact with European officials in Beirut. "The leadership wants to report that it is intact at the very top," one of these diplomatic officials reports, "and was not surprised by the Beirut bombing of last night [Wednesday evening, August 2]." These officials say that Hezbollah's leadership claims that its communications systems -- "though somewhat degraded" -- are still "working well" and that Hezbollah's command and control of its units in the south "remains surprisingly resilient." How long can Hezbollah hold out? According to the European diplomat, the Hezbollah official laughed when he heard the question: "The real question is how long can Israel hold out."
Mark Perry is U.S. director of Conflicts Forum. Ending the neoconservative nightmare
By Daniel Levy, Haaretz, August 4, 2006
The key neocon protagonists, their think tanks and publications may be unfamiliar to many Israelis, but they are redefining the region we live in. This tight-knit group of "defense intellectuals" - centered around Bill Kristol, Michael Ledeen, Elliott Abrams, Perle, Feith and others - were considered somewhat off-beat until they teamed up with hawkish well-connected Republicans like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Newt Gingrich, and with the emerging powerhouse of the Christian right. Their agenda was an aggressive unilateralist U.S. global supremacy, a radical vision of transformative regime-change democratization, with a fixation on the Middle East, an obsession with Iraq and an affinity to "old Likud" politics in Israel. Their extended moment in the sun arrived after 9/11.
Finding themselves somewhat bogged down in the Iraqi quagmire, the neoconservatives are reveling in the latest crisis, displaying their customary hubris in re-seizing the initiative. The U.S. press and blogosphere is awash with neocon-inspired calls for indefinite shooting, no talking and extension of hostilities to Syria and Iran, with Gingrich calling this a third world war to "defend civilization."
Disentangling Israeli interests from the rubble of neocon "creative destruction" in the Middle East has become an urgent challenge for Israeli policy-makers. An America that seeks to reshape the region through an unsophisticated mixture of bombs and ballots, devoid of local contextual understanding, alliance-building or redressing of grievances, ultimately undermines both itself and Israel. The sight this week of Secretary of State Rice homeward bound, unable to touch down in any Arab capital, should have a sobering effect in Washington and Jerusalem. [complete article]
See also, Bush's attachment to Israel started with trip to the Holy Land (McClatchy).
To win peace, cut off road from Damascus
By Daniel Pipes, The Australian, August 4, 2006
At this point, the Government of Bashar al-Assad should be told immediately to cease supplying Hezbollah, and warned that future violence from south Lebanon will be greeted with what The Wall Street Journal calls an "offer that Syria cannot refuse", meaning military reprisals. As David Bedein explains in Philadelphia's The Evening Bulletin, "for every target hit by Syria's proxy, Israel will single out Syrian targets for attack".
Such targets could include the terrorist, military and governmental infrastructures.
This approach will work because Hezbollah's stature, strength and skills depend on Syrian support, direct as well as indirect. Given that Syrian territory is the only route by which Iranian aid reaches Hezbollah, focusing on Damascus has the significant side benefit of restricting Iranian influence in the Levant.
This plan has its drawbacks and complications - the recent Syrian-Iranian mutual defence treaty, or its giving Hezbollah the option to drag Syria into war - but it has a better chance of success, I believe, than any alternative.
Recalling how a similar approach worked in 1998, when the Turkish government successfully pressured Damascus to stop hosting a terrorist leader, the Israeli strategist Efraim Inbar rightly suggests "the time has come to speak Turkish to the Syrians". [complete article]
Israel's lost moment
By Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, August 4, 2006
The United States has gone far out on a limb to allow Israel to win and for all this to happen. It has counted on Israel's ability to do the job. It has been disappointed. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has provided unsteady and uncertain leadership. Foolishly relying on air power alone, he denied his generals the ground offensive they wanted, only to reverse himself later. He has allowed his war cabinet meetings to become fully public through the kind of leaks no serious wartime leadership would ever countenance. Divisive cabinet debates are broadcast to the world, as was Olmert's own complaint that "I'm tired. I didn't sleep at all last night" (Haaretz, July 28). Hardly the stuff to instill Churchillian confidence.
His search for victory on the cheap has jeopardized not just the Lebanon operation but America's confidence in Israel as well. That confidence -- and the relationship it reinforces -- is as important to Israel's survival as its own army. The tremulous Olmert seems not to have a clue. [complete article]
Comment -- So here we witness a two-pronged strike from the neocons. Daniel Pipes is trying to fuel the fire by encouraging threats against Syria, while Charles Krauthammer -- sounding like a mafia boss -- wants the Israelis to know how much they have disappointed their American backers. After all our generosity... this is what we get in return?!! Krauthammer is correct in suggesting that the risk of an American loss of faith constitutes a major threat to Israel, but wrong to say that this is a threat to Israel's surival. What is potentially under threat is Israel's ability to sustain its unilateralist, militaristic posture under the umbrella of U.S. protection and that constitutes a threat to the whole neoconservative enterprise.
And is all of this of interest to the American liberal blogosphere -- an arena that never used to tire of neocon-bashing? Apparently not. The pressing issue of the day is not neocon-inspired mayhem burning up the Middle East; it is whether Joe Lieberman loses his primary. Israel smashes bridges, roads into Beirut
CNN, August 4, 2006
Israeli aircraft blasted main roadways north of Beirut for the first time in the three-week conflict on Friday, knocking out four key bridges.
The attacks severed the last major overland route for relief supplies into Lebanon, international aid agencies told The Associated Press on Friday.
"This is Lebanon's umbilical cord," Christiane Berthiaume of the World Food Program told AP. "This [road] has been the only way for us to bring in aid. We really need to find other ways to bring relief in."
Israeli ambassador to the U.N. Dan Gillerman told CNN that Israel is cooperating with the United Nations' relief program. [complete article]
See also, Lebanon: Israel wages war of starvation (AP) and Rice signals possible Lebanon compromise (AP). Traumatised and afraid - 300,000 children who want to go home
By Anne Penketh and Kim Sengupta, The Independent, August 4, 2006
"I don't want to die. I want to go to school," says Jamal, a four-year-old Lebanese boy scarred by the Israeli bombing of his country. Home for Jamal is now a "displacement centre" in the southern town of Jezzine, where his family fled in fear for their lives.
"We've had our picnic, and we want to go home now," says another child,staying in a makeshift refugee camp in the Sanayeh public gardens in Beirut. "We are bored and afraid and we want to go home," says another.
These are the voices of the dispossessed of Lebanon, the hundreds of thousands of children whose world was changed forever in the seconds that followed the explosion of a bomb. "Mummy, what is a massacre?" another child asks. [complete article] Lebanese sovereignty: Will it be restored?
By Joshua Landis, Syria Comment, August 3, 2006
The three leading politicians in the Lebanese government are the President, Prime Minister, and Speaker of the Parliament. Only one of these officials, PM Siniora, is a friend of the US, and he does not command the Lebanese Army. The other two are friends of Syria.
President Emile Lahoud is the Commander in Chief of the Lebanese Army. In theory, he has constitutional control over military affairs. He was appointed by Syria, and his term as President runs for another year. The Presidential contender most likely to replace him is General Michel Aoun, who has allied with the Shiites of Lebanon and has sought to blunt the anti-Syrian attacks of the Siniora government over the last two years.
It will be very difficult for the West to build up the Lebanese army under these conditions, to say nothing of the often mentioned fact that the Lebanese Army has a large proportion of Shiite soldiers serving in its ranks, who may not be happy about the task of shooting at fellow Shiites and at Hizbullah members.
When PM Siniora and Jumblatt traveled to Washington earlier this year, they went to ask for money and arms to build up the Lebanese Army. Washington promised them a trifling 4 million dollars. This insult was an indication that Washington believes the army is a useless instrument so long as Lahoud is president. The main task of the Lebanese officials was to force Lahoud's exit from the office during the National Dialogue meetings that took place in March and April. Hariri's bloc failed to accomplish this task. In fact, it became clear that they preferred Lahoud to Aoun, his main contender. Hence, Washington gave no money to the army at the time.
Nothing has changed in the leadership of the army or presidency of Lebanon to suggest that Washington can now expect the Lebanese government to deploy the army against Hizbullah. How will it ever be able to replace a French led UN force? How will Lebanon regain its sovereignty should Israeli and European troops be placed on its soil to take over the task of policing national and border security. Lebanon rid itself of Syrian troops last year. It looks like it has merely exchanged them for some combination of Western and Israeli troops. [complete article] Israel suffers highest toll yet
By Jonathan Finer and Molly Moore, Washington Post, August 4, 2006
A new wave of Hezbollah rockets killed eight Israeli civilians Thursday, and four soldiers died in ground combat in southern Lebanon, Israel's highest daily death toll in the three-week-old war. Israeli jets blasted targets in Beirut for the first time in almost a week.
Israeli forces appeared to be struggling in efforts to control villages and towns across the Lebanese border and push deeper into the country, according to U.N. observers in Lebanon. Most of the day's fighting took place within two miles of the frontier and sometimes only a few hundred yards from it.
Hezbollah said its guerrillas destroyed four armored vehicles with antitank missiles during combat in the Aita al-Shaab region, about 15 miles from the Mediterranean, and in the hills around Taibe, about 20 miles to the northeast. In that town, a missile slammed into a house, killing a married couple and their daughter, Lebanese officials said. [complete article]
See also, Israel admits air war has failed to end the Hezbollah rocket threat (McClatchy) and For residents of northern Israel, life is reduced to a bomb shelter (McClatchy). Arab despots, not Israel, are now under a greater threat
By Jonathan Steele, The Guardian, August 4, 2006
Hizbullah's victory may do less damage to Israel than to other Arab regimes. The success of a Shia insurgency will encourage other Shias around the region, including those in Saudi Arabia. To the consternation of his American protectors, Iraq's Shia prime minister, Nuri al- Maliki, did not condemn Hizbullah. But the Sunni/Shia issue should not be exaggerated. Hizbullah's appeal across the Arab world is a wider matter of Islamism and the struggle against corrupt despotism. Egypt and, to a lesser extent, Jordan - and even in the medium term Syria, which has backed and armed Hizbullah - will feel the shockwaves running through the Arab street.
Those who argue from their pulpits in the mosques that secular modernity inevitably means decadence and selfishness will have gained new followers. Those who say that only Islam can provide the pride and backbone needed to confront the west's cultural and military interventions will be stronger.
Israel's Lebanese adventure, and the Bush/Blair folly in supporting it, have done the west damage that will last for many, many years. [complete article] 'The U.S. is the kiss of death' in the Arab world
By Jim Lobe, IPS (Asia Times), August 5, 2006
After almost four weeks of fighting between Lebanon's Hezbollah militia and Israel, the US administration's ambitions to transform the Arab Middle East into a pro-Western, more democratic region are fading fast.
Not only is Washington's thus far staunch support for Israel losing Arab "hearts and minds" at an astonishing pace, but the "moderate" governments and non-governmental forces the administration had hoped would act as catalysts for reform are increasingly isolated across the region, according to Middle East specialists.
"I have never seen the United States being so demonized or savaged by Arab commentators, by Arab politicians," Hisham Melham, veteran Washington correspondent for Lebanon's An-Nahar newspaper, told a conference this week at the Brookings Institution, an influential think-tank. [complete article] Israeli attacks amount to war crimes
Human Rights Watch, August 3, 2006
Israeli forces have systematically failed to distinguish between combatants and civilians in their military campaign against Hezbollah in Lebanon, Human Rights Watch said in report released today. The pattern of attacks in more than 20 cases investigated by Human Rights Watch researchers in Lebanon indicates that the failures cannot be dismissed as mere accidents and cannot be blamed on wrongful Hezbollah practices. In some cases, these attacks constitute war crimes.
The 50-page report, "Fatal Strikes: Israel's Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon," analyzes almost two dozen cases of Israeli air and artillery attacks on civilian homes and vehicles. Of the 153 dead civilians named in the report, 63 are children. More than 500 people have been killed in Lebanon by Israeli fire since fighting began on July 12, most of them civilians.
"The pattern of attacks shows the Israeli military's disturbing disregard for the lives of Lebanese civilians," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "Our research shows that Israel's claim that Hezbollah fighters are hiding among civilians does not explain, let alone justify, Israel's indiscriminate warfare." [complete article] Iraqis gather for pro-Hizbollah rally
AP (via The Age), August 4, 2006
Thousands of Shi'ite youths, some armed and many covered in white shrouds, gathered in Baghdad for a pro-Hizbollah rally, amid increasing sectarian violence that senior US generals warn could lead to civil war.
The Shi'ites arrived from southern provinces, heeding the call of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who will preside over the rally after Friday prayers in the Sadr City slum to show support for the Lebanese Shi'ite Hizbollah group in its fight against Israel.
Buses carrying rally participants were plastered with pictures of Hizbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who has assumed a hero status for many Arabs for confronting the Israelis.
The men waved the yellow flags of Hizbollah and carried banners proclaiming "Here we are Lebanon."
"This is all to demonstrate our support for the Lebanese people and to condemn the aggression of the Israeli enemy," said Saheb al-Ameri, an al-Sadr aide in the southern city of Najaf.
"They are willing to face death even if it's on the road" to Baghdad.
Iraqi government television said the Defence Ministry had approved the demonstration, a sign of the public anger over Israel's offensive in Lebanon and of al-Sadr's stature as a major player in Iraqi politics. [complete article] 21 killed by suicide bomber in Afghan south
By Carlotta Gall, New York Times, August 4, 2006
A suicide bomber blew up his car in the center of a small-town bazaar in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing himself and 21 civilians and injuring 14 others, among them children. Hours earlier, 4 NATO soldiers were killed and 10 wounded in two attacks in the same area, Afghan and NATO officials said.
In a nearby village, Afghan police officers clashed with insurgents. One policeman was killed and three were wounded, a doctor in a hospital near the village said.
The violence, while following several months of increased attacks by Taliban insurgents, appeared to be intended to rattle the NATO forces, which took over military command of the region from the United States on Monday, officials said. Three British soldiers were killed Tuesday in the area, and eight people were killed Monday by a car bomb. [complete article] Yet more proof of the limits of Israeli unilateralism
By Christoph Bertram, Daily Star, August 3, 2006
The current discussion surrounding an international force for Southern Lebanon has focused almost exclusively on which countries and organizations - NATO, the European Union, the United Nations - will provide the troops. This is an important issue, to be sure, but the real question concerns the changes that Israel must undertake in exchange for this force being put in place and assuming the risk of such a mission.
No international force will simply protect Israel from Hizbullah rockets while Israel continues its current strategy. After all, the recent military escalation in the region is at least partly due to that strategy. If an international force simply allows Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government to pursue its plans further, the countries that provide troops for the international force will not only be seen as rubberstamping Israeli policy, but will also be dragged into its failure.
To criticize Israel's strategy as flawed is not to condone the acts of Hamas or Hizbullah or to deny Israel's right to self-defense. It is merely to point out what should be obvious: Israel's efforts to find a unilateral solution to its security problems - whether occupation, withdrawal, or separation - have failed. [complete article]
See also, Critics debate if Israel's response to Hezbollah ambush is justified (McClatchy), Israel begins carving buffer zone (CSM), and The Times interview with Ehud Olmert. Going the distance
By Robert Padavick, Yahoo, August 2, 2006
Has Hezbollah emerged as a victor of sorts after three weeks of fighting with Israel?
Milt Bearden says yes. And he's in a good position to address the question. Now retired, he serves on the board of directors of Conflicts Forum, a U.K.-based nongovernmental organization that works to foster dialogue between Islamist groups and the West. In that role he says he has been in talks with Hezbollah officials about the group's transition to a more politically-focused party, both before and after the 2005 Lebanese elections in which Hezbollah won 14 parliament seats nationwide. [complete article] Between two friends
By Tom Segev, Haaretz, August 3, 2006
...as we approach the fifth anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers, it is possible to say that the country many Israelis adopted as their beacon of values, almost a second motherland, has lost a great deal of its moral authority in the past few years. This is a good opportunity to rethink our relationship with Europe.
During the past 39 years since the Six-Day War, the United States did not force Israel to pull out of the West Bank, but more than once acted to block Israeli military actions. Over time, we have grown accustomed to the Americans saving us, not only from the Arabs, but from ourselves too. Not in this war. It is still unclear whether this war was coordinated with the United States; only the release of government records of the past three weeks will shed light on this. Whatever the case may be, the impression is that the Americans are linking the events in Lebanon to their failing adventure in Iraq. [complete article] Who is winning the peace in Lebanon?
By Tony Karon, Time.com, August 2, 2006
Even as Israel extends its military's reach deeper into Lebanon, the war there may now increasingly be more about perception than position. After three weeks of fighting, the tenacity of Hizballah's fighters in the face of fierce Israeli air and ground assaults, and their continued ability to lob rockets into Israel, has created a problem of perception for both Israel's leaders and the Bush Administration. The Israeli public has been questioning whether the war is actually being won, while Hizballah's survival as a fighting force and its ability to exact a price from Israel has boosted its standing not only in Lebanon, but throughout the Arab world. Indeed, if international demands for a truce are heeded on the basis of the present battlefield reality, the outcome would look more like a hard-fought tie than a decisive victory for Israel. And that would be bad news both for the domestic political prospects of the current Israeli government and for the Bush administration's "new Middle East" agenda. [complete article] France moves in to fill the U.S. vacuum
By Bronwen Maddox, The Times, August 3, 2006
The U.S. took a long step towards the position of France yesterday in drawing up a United Nations resolution on the Lebanon crisis.
The text, which could be presented to the UN Security Council as early as today, represents concessions by France, the US and Britain, but its centre of gravity is closest to French views.
In a week when Tony Blair delivered his sharpest ever criticism of the US’s conduct of the War on Terror, this reflects a realignment of loyalties and some weakening of US influence, which may extend beyond this crisis. [complete article] Ground to a halt
By Robert Pape, New York Times, August 3, 2006
Evidence of the broad nature of Hezbollah's resistance to Israeli occupation can be seen in the identity of its suicide attackers. Hezbollah conducted a broad campaign of suicide bombings against American, French and Israeli targets from 1982 to 1986. Altogether, these attacks -- which included the infamous bombing of the Marine barracks in 1983 -- involved 41 suicide terrorists.
In writing my book on suicide attackers, I had researchers scour Lebanese sources to collect martyr videos, pictures and testimonials and the biographies of the Hezbollah bombers. Of the 41, we identified the names, birth places and other personal data for 38. Shockingly, only eight were Islamic fundamentalists. Twenty-seven were from leftist political groups like the Lebanese Communist Party and the Arab Socialist Union. Three were Christians, including a female high-school teacher with a college degree. All were born in Lebanon.
What these suicide attackers -- and their heirs today -- shared was not a religious or political ideology but simply a commitment to resisting a foreign occupation. Nearly two decades of Israeli military presence did not root out Hezbollah. The only thing that has proven to end suicide attacks, in Lebanon and elsewhere, is withdrawal by the occupying force.
Thus the new Israeli land offensive may take ground and destroy weapons, but it has little chance of destroying the Hezbollah movement. In fact, in the wake of the bombings of civilians, the incursion will probably aid Hezbollah's recruiting. [complete article]
See also, Among Militia's Patient loyalists, confidence and belief in victory (WP), Hezbollah leader Nasrallah reaching 'legendary' status (McClatchy), and Hizbullah guerrillas await fight amid ruin (CSM).
Comment -- Israel and its Western supporters have a vested interest in emphasizing Hezbollah's Islamist identity over and above its being a resistance movement. Many Americans - and Israelis for that matter - nevertheless have no trouble identifying with the motto live free or die.
But the Israel-Lebanon border is internationally recognized and Israel ended its occupation in 2000...
Are we supposed to have forgotten that the context for the current war is an enduring occupation of the West Bank, a renewed Israeli military incursion and onslaught on Gaza and an utter refusal by Israel, the US and Europe, to accept the democratic expression of the will of the Palestinian people? Entire Lebanese family killed in Israeli attack on hospital
By Robert Fisk, The Independent, August 3, 2006
An attack on a hospital, the killing of an entire Lebanese family, the seizure of five men in Baalbek and a new civilian death toll - 468 men, women and children - marked the 22nd day of Israel's latest war on Lebanon.
The Israelis claimed that helicopter-borne soldiers had seized senior Hizbollah leaders although one of them turned out to be a local Baalbek grocer. In a village near the city, Israeli air strikes killed the local mayor's son and brother and five children in their family.
The battle for Lebanon was fast moving out of control last night. Lebanese troops abandoned many of their checkpoints and European diplomats were warning their colleagues that militiamen were taking over the positions. Up to 8,000 Israeli troops were reported to have crossed the border by last night in what was publicised as a military advance towards the Litani river. But far more soldiers would be needed to secure so large an area of southern Lebanon. [complete article] Israeli troops raid south Gaza; 8 killed
AP (via NYT), August 3, 2006
Israeli troops raided southern Gaza early Thursday, killing at least eight Palestinians, including four militants and an 8-year-old boy, Palestinian officials said, as Israel pressed ahead with its two-front offensive against Islamic militants. [complete article] Worry about Iran, but also engage it
By Michael Young, Daily Star, August 3, 2006
As the war in Lebanon metastasizes into ever more tortuous strands, we are nearing the point where the conflict's aftermath might resolve nothing at all. In that context, the meeting between French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, on Monday at least had the merit of opening a diplomatic channel that will be needed to pave the way for a broader political resolution.
On the surface, nothing suggests the Bush administration welcomes such an opening, or that Iran will deal with Lebanon's predicament responsibly. The Israeli onslaught in Lebanon is an American effort to clip Iran's wings, while Mottaki's "reservations" about Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's peace plan suggest the Iranians are willing to cause trouble (and won't hesitate to shape Hizbullah's response to the government's proposal, grudgingly endorsed by the party's ministers).
The situation recalls what happened in April 1996, when Israel launched its "Grapes of Wrath" operation in Lebanon. Then as now, American diplomacy was in a rut, and since the Qana killings last Sunday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has seemed bewildered in offering a path out of the mounting mess. A decade ago, during "Grapes of Wrath," both the Clinton administration and the French government had proposed separate resolution plans. After the then-Qana massacre, Syrian President Hafez Assad embraced the French plan - which became the April Understanding - proposed by Foreign Minister Herve de Charette, leaving US Secretary of State Warren Christopher out in the cold. The Americans had wanted to enforce harsher conditions, but they entered the negotiation process too late, openly on Israel's side, and this allowed France to fill the breach through more timely, more evenhanded intervention.
That's why, whatever Washington's anxieties today, it would be a mistake to ignore contacts with Tehran. The French are providing a useful service, and if they are doing so mainly for their own purposes, it also makes sense for the Bush administration to use this to explore ways to open a channel of its own. [complete article] Iraq civil war warning for Blair
BBC News, August 3, 2006
Civil war is a more likely outcome in Iraq than democracy, Britain's outgoing ambassador in Baghdad has warned Tony Blair in a confidential memo.
William Patey, who left the Iraqi capital last week, also predicted the break-up of Iraq along ethnic lines.
He did also say that "the position is not hopeless" - but said Iraq would remain "messy and difficult" for the next five to 10 years. [complete article]
In Iraq, it's hard to trust anyone in uniform
By Damien Cave, New York Times, August 3, 2006
"Whenever I see uniforms now, I figure they must be militias," Mr. Hamid said in a recent interview. "I immediately try to avoid them. If I have my gun, I know I need to be ready to use it."
Such is the attitude of Iraqis in this capital shellshocked and made fearful by violence that seems to be committed almost daily by men dressed as those who are supposed to protect and serve. The audacious kidnapping on Monday was just the latest case of men using the signals of law and safety -- a uniform, a vehicle with blue lights, a patch on the sleeve -- to attack and abduct.
Everywhere Iraqis in uniform go, from ice cream shops to checkpoints, people now flee. The mottled mix of green, blue and khaki camouflage, along with the blue shirts of the local police, have all blurred into a flag for alarm. "En eles," Iraqis in Baghdad now say when a friend has been taken; in traditional Arabic it means chewed up, but in the streets it has come to mean taken by mysterious men without explanation. [complete article]
Officers allegedly pushed 'kill counts'
By Borzou Daragahi and Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times, August 3, 2006
Military prosecutors and investigators probing the killing of three Iraqi detainees by U.S. troops in May believe the unit's commanders created an atmosphere of excessive violence by encouraging "kill counts" and possibly issuing an illegal order to shoot Iraqi men.
At a military hearing Wednesday on the killing of the detainees near Samarra, witnesses painted a picture of a brigade that operated under loose rules allowing wanton killing and tolerating violent, anti-Arab racism.
Some military officials believe that the shooting of the three detainees and the killing of 24 civilians in November in Haditha reveal failures in the military chain of command, in one case to establish proper rules of engagement and in the other to vigorously investigate incidents after the fact. [complete article] White House asks Congress to redefine war crimes
By Kate Zernike, New York Times, August 3, 2006
...senators said Congress should not endorse any treatment it would not want used on American soldiers.
"We must remain a nation that is different from, and above, our enemies," said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona.
The differences between the administration and the Senate were most pronounced when Mr. McCain asked Mr. Gonzales whether statements obtained through "illegal and inhumane treatment" should be admissible. Mr. Gonzales paused for almost a minute before responding.
"The concern that I would have about such a prohibition is, what does it mean?" he said. "How do you define it? I think if we could all reach agreement about the definition of cruel and inhumane and degrading treatment, then perhaps I could give you an answer." [complete article] Top military lawyers oppose plan for special courts
By R. Jeffrey Smith, Washington Post, August 3, 2006
The military's top uniformed lawyers, appearing at a Senate hearing yesterday, criticized key provisions of a proposed new U.S. plan for special military courts, affirming that they did not see eye to eye with the senior Bush administration political appointees who developed the plan and presented it to them last week.
The lawyers' rare, open disagreement with civilian officials at the Pentagon, the Justice Department and the White House came during discussions of proposed new rules for the use of evidence derived from hearsay or coercion and the possible exclusion of defendants from the trials in some circumstances.
The administration has said such juries -- to be established within a new system of military "commissions" tailored for trying war crimes in an age of terrorism -- are the only appropriate forum for bringing to justice members or associates of terrorist groups and those accused of anti-U.S. acts in conjunction with such groups. [complete article] Israel hit by Hezbollah barrage
BBC News, August 2, 2006
Hezbollah fighters have launched more than 230 rockets from Lebanon, the biggest single-day barrage since the conflict began, Israeli officials say.
One person was killed and dozens injured as some rockets landed up to 70km inside Israel, the deepest so far.
The upsurge came as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel had destroyed Hezbollah's infrastructure. [complete article] Israel's strategic impasse
By Paul Rogers, OpenDemocracy, August 1, 2006
In recent years a complex system of movement sensors, CCTV monitors, physical barriers and patrol routes has been established, enabling the entire [Israel-Lebanon] border to be monitored on a continual and detailed basis, so much so that any action, no matter how small, can be checked and countered.
The establishment of these frontier defences has been at the core of a reorientation of the IDF described in 2006 by the chief-of-staff, General Dan Halutz. According to Defense News, Halutz "cited Israel's sensor-fused network along the northern border as an example of how the nation is achieving 'full situational awareness through intelligence superiority'. Halutz said Israel's operational concept of 'knowing first, understanding first, deciding first and acting first' allows Israel to choose the time, place and conditions when it will act'" (see Barbara Opall-Rome, "Raid Reveals Hole in Israeli Net", Defense News, 17 July 2006 [subscription only]).
Such an approach is accompanied by an extensive reconnaissance capability designed to provide near-total information superiority and a stand-off capacity to respond to perceived threats with air strikes, naval bombardment and, in some circumstances, the use of special forces. The entire approach is seen to be supremely high-tech, very modern and able to ensure Israel's security without having to maintain expensive ground forces of a size and at a level of training that was necessary in the past.
Almost everything about this approach has been found wanting by the events of 25 June onwards. Hamas's capture of Gilad Shalit was bad enough, but Hizbollah's incursion near Za'arit on the Lebanese border on 12 July was far worse. As Defense News puts it: "Evading dozens of eyes trained on computer screens in the base's combat information center, the operatives disabled at least one camera, penetrated a so-called dead zone of the border fence, and ambushed reservists despatched to investigate alarms."
A number of senior retired Israeli military officers are now deeply critical of the IDF's embrace of technocentric warfare, and profess the belief that this has been achieved at the expense of what is often termed "basic soldiering". There is also recognition that the Hizbollah militia have become far more competent in their understanding of the Israeli moves towards high-tech warfare and have recognised some of the weak points in the entire system. [complete article]
See also, Wooing Lebanese hearts, one leaflet at a time (CSM). Nasrallah and the three Lebanons
By Sami Moubayed, Asia Times, August 3, 2006
Nasrallah has outgrown his Shi'ite identity and transformed himself into a pan-Lebanese, pan-Arab and pan-Islamic leader. The fact that he is a cleric, a Muslim and a Shi'ite is actually of little importance at this stage of his war with Israel.
One Lebanon, mostly in the south, is that of Hezbollah, a Lebanon of Shi'ites and the epicenter of anti-Israeli rhetoric and action. This Lebanon is co-shared by the Amal movement of Nabih Berri.
Not all inhabitants of this Lebanon are members of Hezbollah, but all of them respect and love Nasrallah. In the 1960s, this Lebanon used to receive no more than 0.7% of the state budget for public works and hospitalization, while the other two Lebanons were being described as the "Switzerland of the East".
This is the no-alcohol Lebanon of veiled women, bearded men, poverty-stricken districts and ubiquitous posters of ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the late leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.
This is the Lebanon we see on Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV. This Lebanon is anti-American and anti-Israeli to the bone. Many here, Nasrallah included, speak fluent English, but prefer to converse, think and write in Arabic. French culture in this Lebanon is minimal.
A friend of this correspondent lived in the Jnah district of Beirut. When he wanted to move out and sell his furniture, a member of Hezbollah visited him, saying he would buy all of the furniture and appliances and donate them, in the name of Hezbollah, to needy families in the Shi'ite community. And he did.
Another story of Nasrallah's Lebanon is that of a poor woman from the Shi'ite community. She was finding a hard time making ends meet until a member of Hezbollah visited her home in al-Dahiyyieh, a Shi'ite suburb of Beirut. He presented her with a brand-new sewing machine, telling her to work on it and produce sweaters and scarves, promising that all of her output would be bought by Hezbollah.
Many hundreds of families in Shi'ite Lebanon live off monthly stipends delivered to their homes at the start of every month, in a sealed envelope, from the secretary general of Hezbollah. The families of the wounded, the arrested in Israeli jails and those who died in combat receive free education and hospitalization, at the expense of Hezbollah.
This is the Lebanon that is being targeted by Israel. For the reasons mentioned above, among others, it will be difficult - if not impossible - to turn the tables against Hezbollah and Nasrallah in their Lebanon.
Simply put, Nasrallah is king in his Lebanon. Disarming him by force would be impossible. [complete article] Refugees overwhelm Lebanon
By Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, August 2, 2006
Once the enchanting tree-lined preserve of sweethearts and families alike, Beirut's small Sanaya Park has been turned into a campground by hundreds of Lebanon's war refugees.
"God help us, we did not even take our shoes," cries Halima Doughan, who brought her eight children here when the Hizbullah-Israeli conflict erupted July 12 and bombs fell close to her home near the airport.
As workers Tuesday assembled water and shower facilities - bracing for swelling numbers coming here as on-the-ground fighting spreads - the displaced know they are just one small part of a severe humanitarian crisis now engulfing Lebanon.
In hardest hit areas, the level of destruction resembles that of the Chechen capital Grozny. The UN estimate of 700,000 displaced resembles, in scale, the mass exodus from Rwanda in 1994, Kosovo in 1999, and for years from Sudan and Central Africa. [complete article] Battling the arc of extremism
By Tony Blair, World Affairs Council (via BBC), August 2, 2006
We will continue to do all we can to halt the hostilities. But once that has happened, we must commit ourselves to a complete renaissance of our strategy to defeat those that threaten us. There is an arc of extremism now stretching across the Middle East and touching, with increasing definition, countries far outside that region. To defeat it will need an alliance of moderation, that paints a different future in which Muslim, Jew and Christian; Arab and Western; wealthy and developing nations can make progress in peace and harmony with each other. My argument to you today is this: we will not win the battle against this global extremism unless we win it at the level of values as much as force, unless we show we are even-handed, fair and just in our application of those values to the world. [complete article]
See also, Blair urged to take Lebanon back seat (FT).
Comment -- I'm sure there was a glow of warm satisfaction radiating through Downing Street when they came up with the phrase, "arc of extremism" - so much more sophisticated than Washington's crude "axis of evil." Unfortunately for Blair, he seems oblivious to the fact that he already occupies a place in the detritus of global politics. Cute phrases are no substitute for credibility and integrity. Palestinians in Gaza find heroes in Hezbollah as it inflicts harm on a common foe
By Greg Myre, New York Times, August 2, 2006
As Palestinian deaths mount in the fight with Israel in the Gaza Strip, many here say they take a measure of satisfaction in the pain Hezbollah has inflicted on Israel in Lebanon.
At the P.L.O. Flag Shop, a local store that specializes in Palestinian souvenirs, the best-selling items for the past couple of weeks have been posters, T-shirts, buttons and coffee mugs featuring Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.
"If anyone fights Israel, we will support them," said one customer, Ahmed Youssef, an engineering student at the Islamic University, who bought a Nasrallah poster and a Hezbollah flag. "I'm here because I sympathize with Hezbollah. It's the least we can do." [complete article]
Chebaa Farms: Important location, but little strategic value
By Matthew Schofield, McClatchy, July 31, 2006
At first glance, the area known as Chebaa Farms doesn't look like the kind of place that would be a key issue in a Lebanese-Israeli peace process. The landscape is covered in gray sand and dust-tinted scrub brush. Its strategic value is debatable. It's not even clear to which country the area really belongs.
But for the past six years, since Israeli forces ended their 18-year occupation of Lebanon, Chebaa Farms has been a focal point of much of the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah. Before the current fighting began July 12, 15 Israeli soldiers had died in clashes since 2000 with Hezbollah. Seven of those deaths happened at Chebaa Farms.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has demanded that Israel withdraw from Chebaa Farms. Lebanese officials in Beirut say they're certain that the fate of Chebaa Farms will be on any negotiating agenda - and that U.S. officials finally have agreed to talk about the matter. [complete article]
Syrians give the Lebanese VIP treatment
By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times, August 2, 2006
The barbershop here on a shady side street says it's for VIPs, and a cut could set you back a hefty $20 or more.
But not if you're from Lebanon.
A sign lets customers know that Lebanese refugees get trimmed and shaved for free. Barber Tarek Hammami has also hit up his clients, the well-to-do kind who can afford his elite haircuts, and talked them into delivering truckloads of fans, small refrigerators and food to shelters for those who have fled the violence in Lebanon.
"All the Lebanese who ended up here in Damascus, they're poor people who have nowhere else to go. That's one reason we help," Hammami said Monday. "But there's another reason. We feel that maybe what they're doing to the Lebanese people, maybe they'll do to us, to all the Arab people, next. Maybe next year is our turn." [complete article]
Lebanon crisis deepens Israeli Arabs' rift with the state
By Ron Bousso, AFP (via Yahoo), August 2, 2006
Traditionally torn between an Arab identity and a reluctant loyalty to Israel, the nation's sizeable Arab minority has taken a clear stand against the lethal offensive in Lebanon, deepening the rift with its Jewish compatriots.
The families and neighbors of the three Israeli Arab children who have been killed by Hezbollah rockets during the three-week offensive have blamed Israel instead of the Shiite militia for the deaths.
"We are not the Hezbollah's victims. We are the victims of Israel," Suleiman Abu Saluk told AFP shortly after two Israeli Arab brothers, aged three and seven, died in a rocket attack on his neighbour's house in Nazareth on July 19.
"We are the victims of Israel's aggression against Lebanon," he said. [complete article] 9/11 panel suspected deception by Pentagon
By Dan Eggen, Washington Post, August 2, 2006
Some staff members and commissioners of the Sept. 11 panel concluded that the Pentagon's initial story of how it reacted to the 2001 terrorist attacks may have been part of a deliberate effort to mislead the commission and the public rather than a reflection of the fog of events on that day, according to sources involved in the debate.
Suspicion of wrongdoing ran so deep that the 10-member commission, in a secret meeting at the end of its tenure in summer 2004, debated referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation, according to several commission sources. Staff members and some commissioners thought that e-mails and other evidence provided enough probable cause to believe that military and aviation officials violated the law by making false statements to Congress and to the commission, hoping to hide the bungled response to the hijackings, these sources said.
In the end, the panel agreed to a compromise, turning over the allegations to the inspectors general for the Defense and Transportation departments, who can make criminal referrals if they believe they are warranted, officials said. [complete article]
9/11 Live: The NORAD Tapes
By Michael Bronner, Vanity Fair, August 2, 2006
The story of what happened in that room [in the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)], and when, has never been fully told, but is arguably more important in terms of understanding America's military capabilities that day than anything happening simultaneously on Air Force One or in the Pentagon, the White House, or NORAD's impregnable headquarters, deep within Cheyenne Mountain, in Colorado. It's a story that was intentionally obscured, some members of the 9/11 commission believe, by military higher-ups and members of the Bush administration who spoke to the press, and later the commission itself, in order to downplay the extent of the confusion and miscommunication flying through the ranks of the government.
The truth, however, is all on tape. [complete article] Losing hope in Iraq
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad interviewed by openDemocracy, August 1, 2006
openDemocracy: Do you think Iraq can remain unified?
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad: Of course Iraq can stay unified. There's a huge crisis at the moment, but the problem is not Shi'a militia killing Sunnis or Sunni insurgents bombing Shi'a mosques, but rather, it's the hatred inside the communities. The two communities are looking at each other with so much distrust and anger – the barriers are already there. It took maybe a hundred years for Iraq to come from that kind of sectarianism into a situation where it's fine if you're Sunni, Shi'a, or protestant or Catholic – it's just cultural differences. Now we've regressed to that mentality of 100 or 150 years ago where it's not fine.
I don't know what will undo this situation. I believe that sectarian fighting and civil war has its own mechanism and momentum, and it's already going in that direction. People always compare Iraq to Lebanon but I think it's more similar to former Yugoslavia. It's a bit like a Croatia-Serbia-Bosnia situation that you're talking about in Iraq because it's easy to imagine the three states. This is why people couldn't divide Lebanon, because it was so impossible to divide. But it's very easy to divide Iraq into Kurds, Shi'a, Sunni. The real fighting, the "Sarajevo of Iraq", will be around Kirkuk, Baquba, this belt around Baghdad.
There are six million people in Baghdad, and the ethnic composition is not straightforward. Now we're talking about the east part of the city being predominantly Shi'a, and the west mostly Sunni. It didn't just get like this over night, it had its roots and it's been happening in the last three or four years. If you came to me in 2002 with a map of Baghdad and asked me to pinpoint the Shi'a-Sunni neighbourhoods, apart from Sadr (formerly Saddam) city and Adhamiya (where the holiest Sunni shrine in Iraq is), you couldn't really distinguish which was which. Now I can draw clear lines, even streets, though not houses, which totally define Sunni from Shi'a neighbourhoods. This is what is happening in Baghdad at the moment, the neighbourhoods are pretty much barricaded. [complete article] U.S. troops 'smiled before killing'
BBC News, August 2, 2006
Four US paratroopers charged with murdering three detainees in Iraq smiled before shooting them, a military court has heard from a fellow soldier.
Private First Class Bradley Mason told the hearing at a US base near the Iraqi city of Tikrit that one of the accused threatened to kill him if he talked.
He also said soldiers had been ordered to "kill all the male insurgents" in the operation on 9 May of this year. [complete article] Troops fight to expand foothold in Ramadi
By Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, August 2, 2006
Under a blistering sun, 1st Lt. Matthew Arabian gripped his M-4 rifle and sprinted across a Ramadi intersection cratered by bombs, ducking through a hole blasted in an adjacent brick wall.
"We call that the circle of death," said Arabian, 34, of Vienna, Va., crouching to avoid snipers who target the crossroads from as far away as 900 yards. Around him were gutted buildings and trash-strewn streets, evidence of more than two years of combat in Ramadi.
"We're in the heart of an insurgent hotbed," said Arabian, his face streaked with sweat. "We've walked into their back yard." [complete article] Audit: Corruption in Iraq a 'pandemic'
By Pauline Jelinek, AP (via Yahoo), August 2, 2006
Corruption is "a virtual pandemic in Iraq," threatening rebuilding efforts, international aid and citizen confidence needed for a fledgling democracy, a government report said Tuesday.
One Iraqi official has estimated that corruption costs the country $4 billion annually. A recent survey indicated a third of Iraqis polled had paid a bribe to get products or services in the past 12 months and that they had a "core mistrust" of the army and police.
The details are cited in the quarterly report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. [complete article] Four British soldiers die as army fights on two fronts
By Richard Norton-Taylor and Ben Hammersley, The Guardian, August 2, 2006
Four British soldiers were killed yesterday in Afghanistan and Iraq, driving home a stark reality that the army is now facing an insurgency violently opposed to its presence on two fronts.
In one of the worst days for the army in recent years, three British soldiers were killed, and another critically injured, in an ambush in southern Afghanistan. In Iraq a soldier from the 1st Battalion, Light Infantry, was killed by a mortar fired into the old State Building, which serves as a base for the multinational force in Basra. It is the first time a British soldier in Iraq has been killed inside a base. [complete article] The most unsuccessful war
By Ze'ev Sternhell, Haaretz, August 2, 2006
No situation can continue to exist for long without an ideological reason. That's how when once it was clear that it was not achieving its aims, an unsuccessful military campaign was upgraded with the wave of a magic wand to the level of a war of survival. When everyone understood that a moral reason had to be found both for the dimensions of the destruction sowed in Lebanon and the killing of the civilian population there, and for the Israeli dead and wounded (nobody is even talking about the exposure of the entire civilian population in the North of Israel to enemy fire while people are kept in disgraceful conditions in bomb shelters), a war of survival was invented, which by nature must be long and exhausting.
That is how a campaign of collective punishment that was begun in haste, without proper judgment and on the basis of incorrect assessments, including promises that the army is incapable of fulfilling, turned into a war of life and death, if not some kind of second War of Independence. In the press there have even been embarrassing comparisons to the struggle against Nazism, comparisons that are not only a crude distortion of history, but disgrace the memory of the Jews who were exterminated. [complete article] IDF commandos nab five low-level Hezbollah men in Baalbek raid
By Amos Harel and Yoav Stern, Haaretz, August 2, 2006
Israel Defense Forces commandos completed a raid of the Hezbollah stronghold of Baalbek in east Lebanon at daybreak Wednesday, in what Lebanese security sources described as a major operation against suspected Hezbollah positions.
In Baalbek, the commandos captured five Hezbollah militants and killed at least 10 others before completing the operation and safely returning to Israel, IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said.
The IDF confirmed that its troops returned from the operation to their base in Israel unharmed and that several militants were captured by the raiding forces and taken back to Israel.
None of those seized were high-ranking Hezbollah officials, however, as the IDF had hoped. Halutz said Wednesday that the soldiers had not aimed to take any individuals in particular, but rather to demonstrate that the IDF could reach any part of Lebanon. [complete article]
Man killed by Katyusha fire on kibbutz north of Nahariya
By Amos Harel, Jack Khoury and Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz, August 2, 2006
An Israeli man was killed Wednesday when a Katyusha struck Kibbutz Saar, north of Nahariya, as Hezbollah marked the resumption of strikes on northern Israel with a record number of over 200 rockets.
The strike brings to 19 the death toll from the rocket attacks since they began on July 12. [complete article]
Comment -- With the IDF's commando raid in Baalbek, the war has turned full circle. Hezbollah took its hostages and now the IDF has theirs. Of course, in the language that legitimizes the actions of one side while delegitimizing the actions of the other, Israel's prisoners will not be referred to as hostages. IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz's claim that they were not going after anyone in particular is hardly credible and the fact that one of the men captured happens to be called Hussein Nasrallah, begs the question: On a flimsy piece of intelligence, did the IDF imagine that they were on a mission to kill or capture Hassan Nasrallah?
With the death toll in Lebanon now reaching 828 with an estimated 3200 wounded, there are those who insist that Israel still holds the moral high ground. Nadav Shragai, writes from Israel:
We cannot become confused and allow the world and ourselves, and particularly the Arab citizens of Israel who live among us, to turn things upside down. Hezbollah, like Palestinian terror, harms women and children with malice in a systematic fashion. We do it rarely and by mistake. These things must be said just because things that are self evident tend to be forgotten.Israel's military forces distinguish themselves from their foes and perhaps every other fighting force on the planet by their code of Purity of Arms. It states:
The IDF servicemen and women will use their weapons and force only for the purpose of their mission, only to the necessary extent and will maintain their humanity even during combat. IDF soldiers will not use their weapons and force to harm human beings who are not combatants or prisoners of war, and will do all in their power to avoid causing harm to their lives, bodies, dignity and property.And if the IDF actually upheld this code perhaps it could reasonably claim that it sets a moral standard for warfare. Yet through its actions, "purity of arms" has become the definition of Israeli hypocrisy.
The IDF's onslaught on Lebanese civilians over the last three weeks has already been well documented. And when writers such as Shragai assert that the IDF would never hide behind civilians, they need look no further than a recent report by the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem, to read about the latest example of Israeli soldiers using Palestinian civilians as human shields.
Although it can be argued that warfare, by definition, constitutes a fundamental breakdown of morality, the most insidious loss of moral sensibility arises in those who are convinced of their own virtue. The self-righteous construct their own tower of moral invulnerability. All those who lie outside its protection are regarded as lesser beings who lack moral authority - they can safely be ignored.
In truth, virtue should be measured by effect - not declaration - while those who most vigorously assert their own goodness do so most often simply because they are intent on hiding their own failings. 'You go a bit crazy when you see little body after little body coming up out of the ground'
By Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, The Guardian, August 2, 2006
What is obvious to everyone covering this conflict is that children are bearing the brunt of it. The few official figures collated so far seem to support this. Unicef says that 37 of the 60 dead in Qana on Sunday were children, and everywhere you go, it seems that it is the children who are being killed, injured and displaced. Yesterday the Lebanese government said that of the 828 of its civilians killed in the conflict so far, around 35% have been children - that's around 290. Unicef also estimates that about a third of the dead have been children, although it bases that figure on the fact that an estimated 30% of Lebanon's population are children, rather than any actual count of the dead. There are no official figures yet for the number of wounded children, but they will certainly exceed the number killed; as for those displaced, Unicef says that 45% of the estimated 900,000 Lebanese to have fled their homes are children.
Aid agencies believe that the reason children are suffering so much in this conflict is because of the big families that are traditional in south Lebanon. "You are not talking about nuclear families, you are talking about families huddling together with four, five or six children. Inevitably, a high percentage of children are killed," says Anis Salem, a Unicef spokesman. "We estimate that before Qana, 30% of the deaths were children, but it is a very fluid situation and that figure can quickly become redundant."
It is not just a matter of many children huddled together, of course: with numbers come all sorts of problems. If an air raid is coming, and you are running, how many children can you pick up and carry with you? How many do you have to leave behind?
Children often suffer most in wars like this - wars in which civilians suffer heavy casualties. They are weaker, they may be too small to run or walk, they may suffer more on long journeys by foot. And as Amelia Bookstein, head of humanitarian policy at Save the Children, points out: "Children who are wounded, separated from their families, or traumatised, may be too frightened or unable to flee their homes." [complete article] Israel moves thousands of soldiers into Lebanon
By Jonathan Finer and Molly Moore, Washington Post, August 2, 2006
Israeli officials said both air and land attacks would accelerate in the next few days as the military pushes deeper into southern Lebanon in an effort to clear a broad swath of villages and towns of Hezbollah fighters and the equipment they use to fire missiles into Israel. Israel has ordered its army to punch all the way to the Litani River, Israeli officials said.
Israeli military leaders said they were bracing for some of the toughest fighting in the 21-day campaign against Hezbollah.
"They are very hard to identify, very hard to know where they are," Brig. Gen. Shuki Shachar, deputy commander of the Israeli army's northern forces, told reporters Tuesday. "And it's very hard to hit them and not hit the population that they use in a cynical way."
Shachar said about six combat brigades, most of them infantry units, were involved in the fighting. Israeli brigades vary in size, but military analysts estimate that the force now fighting in Lebanon is at least 10,000 soldiers and could be more than 18,000. Military officials said the number of troops sent into Lebanon could soon triple. [complete article]
Hezbollah says hi-tech tanks and jets are no match for its fighting spirit
By Nicholas Blanford and Daniel McGrory, The Times, August 2, 2006
Up to a thousand of Hezbollah's best-trained fighters are still deployed around the rocky hills and valleys of Lebanon's border district, most of them locals who know every contour of this forbidding terrain.
Their commanders have had six years since Israel's withdrawal to prepare for this campaign. They have dug tunnels to hide their armoury and provide escape routes that electronic surveillance cannot penetrate. A senior Hezbollah official told The Times yesterday: "We knew this day was coming, and this time we were ready." [complete article]
Might in the air will not defeat guerillas in this bitter conflict
By Charles Heyman, The Times, August 2, 2006
...the great military question of our time is how do you defeat an asymmetric warfare grouping such as Hezbollah? The reality is that you are unlikely to defeat it on the battlefield, simply because its fighters will refuse to fight on the battlefield of your choosing. If they did, they would be destroyed by a military machine such as Israel's.
Your counter-guerrilla doctrine has to be much smarter. For a start, think of a 20-year time frame -- because there are no quick fixes. Be prepared to spend an ocean of money. Identify the political grievance at the heart of the problem and prepare a comprehensive policy embracing political, economic, social, media and military means that will address that grievance over a generation.
No matter what happens, proportionate, and where possible minimum, force is absolutely necessary. In this type of campaign, large body counts are never a sign of success; they are nearly always a sign of failure.
In the short term the Israeli Defence Forces will win its campaign in southern Lebanon. It will chip away at Hezbollah's infrastructure until something that passes for control is imposed. There will be incessant patrolling by Israeli troops on the ground and drones in the sky, supported by good Israeli intelligence.
After about a month, southern Lebanon is unlikely to be an area where Hezbollah can operate at will and, apart from the occasional ambush, the IDF will have the upper hand.
But the long-term winners will almost certainly be Hezbollah. The Israelis will withdraw from southern Lebanon at some stage, because they cannot afford to keep large numbers of reservists on a war footing indefinitely. Hezbollah will move back, and any UN force that tries to disarm it will become part of the problem. Hezbollah will resist and, after extensive casualties, the UN will likely be forced to withdraw.
Hezbollah will also survive in the long term because the traumatised children fleeing today's onslaught will become the fighters of tomorrow. [complete article]
Staying power adds to Hezbollah's appeal
By Edward Cody, Washington Post, August 2, 2006
Still in the fight after three weeks of war with Israel, Hezbollah is riding a surge of popularity in Lebanon and has acquired increased influence in the Lebanese government and its component factions, according to senior Lebanese officials and analysts.
The killing of more than 50 civilians at Qana by Israeli airstrikes Sunday in particular built unity in the Lebanese population, in horror if not in politics. The shock of what happened there enveloped the border conflict in broad feelings of nationalism, rallying many Lebanese who are wary of Hezbollah to the flag of battle with Israel.
Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a Sunni Muslim who has long worked to assert government authority in the south and disarm Hezbollah's Shiite militia, gave a telling display of the new attitude in a meeting Sunday with foreign ambassadors. Asked about his relations with Hezbollah by a female reporter clad in the scarf and long dress of a conservative Muslim, he replied that he was a good friend of the movement's leader, Hasan Nasrallah, and admired his militia's fight against Israel.
"I thank his eminence Seyyed Ali for his presence," Siniora said, using Nasrallah's familiar name and title, "and I also thank all those who are sacrificing with their lives for the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon, and I ask God to reserve a place in Heaven for all those who have lost their lives for the sake of Lebanon." [complete article]
Mideast lessons from 1973
By David Ignatius, Washington Post, August 2, 2006
To turn the Lebanon disaster of 2006 into an opportunity, each side will have to alter its view of the other. In dealing with the Palestinians and the Lebanese, the Israelis will have to revise their doctrine that their adversaries can be coerced solely by military force. As Gal Luft, a retired Israeli military officer, commented at a conference in Washington last week, the days are long past when Arab fighters would see the advancing Israeli army, discard their boots and flee in terror.
The strategy of Israel's (and America's) enemies today is to lure the military superpower into a protracted conflict. To accept the bait, as the Israelis did in assaulting Lebanon and as America did in Iraq, is to risk stepping into a trap. As Lawrence Wright says in his new book, "The Looming Tower," the master of this approach is Osama bin Laden: "His strategy was to continually attack until the U.S. forces invaded; then the mujahadeen would swarm upon them and bleed them until the entire American empire fell from its wounds."
The Israeli and American resolve in this grim summer of war should be: No more falling into traps. In the age of missiles, there's limited value in a "security fence" or "security buffer." The evidence grows that you can't achieve real security without negotiating with your adversaries, and you can't succeed in such negotiations without offering reasonable concessions.
For the Arabs, the opportunity of 2006 lies in the surprising success of Hezbollah and its leader, Hasan Nasrallah. Their resistance on the battlefield makes them more dangerous adversaries -- but also more plausible negotiating partners. Little in Nasrallah's past suggests that he will use his new stature and confidence to encourage indirect negotiations with Israel, but, as 1973 reminds us, the aftermath of war can produce big surprises. U.S. officials recognize that Nasrallah is likely to emerge as the strongest political force in Beirut, and they hope he will make strategic choices that will build a stronger and more stable Lebanon.
This war is opening a door: Will the combatants have the good sense to walk through it? Will America have the guile to help them? [complete article]
Comment -- Before the U.S. is capable of playing a constructive role in this conflict, a fundamental shift in mindset is required. Abandoning the false logic of victory and defeat, the administration has to recognize that Israel's enemies deserve respect and harbor some legitimate political grievances. Israel might imagine that it has some God-given right to define its own borders but the assertion of international boundaries cannot be a mere act of will. Sustainable borders, by definition, require agreement from both sides. Agreement requires negotiation and negotiation requires that the participants first relinquish their infatuation with their own sense of righteousness. Speaking peace while making war
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, August 2, 2006
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice changed her hairstyle just before her trip to the Middle East last week. It was very becoming and increased her already graceful personal demeanor. Unfortunately, she did not similarly change her country's foreign policy in the region, particularly with respect to the current Lebanon-Israel conflict: It remains conspicuously aligned with Israel's goals and worldviews, which is why the cross-border fighting and attacks will go on for some time.
Fortunately, though, the Bush administration, for all its power and boastful posturing, cannot long dictate the turn of events on the battlefield or in the diplomacy at the United Nations that seeks to end the fighting. Rice came to the Middle East last week feeling something like an all-powerful sultan. It turned out, in fact, that she was more like the eunuch of the realm - because the US, through its all-out alignment with Israel, has effectively castrated itself diplomatically. Like the eunuchs of old - during this moment and in this conflict at least - it has power, but not much impact; and presence but not much consequence.
Washington has relegated itself to the awkward position of saying it wants a speedy cease-fire while at the same time giving Israel the diplomatic cover, time and elbow room in which to pursue its assault against Hizbullah and Lebanon. Speaking peace while making war is not a sustainable policy. This is why the steadfast alliance between the US, Israel and the United Kingdom's Tony Blair on his more incoherent days now finds itself so badly isolated diplomatically in the world. [complete article]
U.S. insists cease-fire must await plan to disarm Hezbollah
By Jim Rutenberg and Thom Shanker, New York Times, August 2, 2006
The United States firmly reiterated its position on Tuesday that there can be no cease-fire in the Middle East until there is a solid plan in place to disarm Hezbollah.
"The United States is working for a cease-fire, for an end to the hostilities that will not allow a return to the status quo ante," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday night on "The O'Reilly Factor," on Fox News Channel. "If we don't work for a cease-fire that will be lasting and enduring, then we're going to be right back here in several months talking about another cease-fire."
Ms. Rice had seemed to be ready to hasten the diplomatic effort to end the crisis as she prepared to leave Jerusalem for home on Monday, saying a solution was possible this week. But after she had dinner at the White House with Mr. Bush on Monday night, and France effectively postponed a United Nations session to work out the details of a international peacekeeping force, the administration strongly reiterated its message: a cease-fire will not be hastened without a plan to make it a lasting one. [complete article]
France bows out of U.N. meeting
By Nick Wadhams, AP (via Yahoo), August 2, 2006
Dealing a blow to a U.S.-backed strategy for Lebanon, France has refused to participate in a meeting of nations that could send troops to help monitor a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah, even though it may join -- and possibly even lead -- such a force.
The French refusal to take part in the meeting, set to take place at the U.N. on Thursday, reflects a wide divergence in views between Washington and Paris about how to impose a lasting peace after three weeks of war between Israel and Hezbollah.
France doesn't even want to talk about sending peacekeepers until fighting halts and the U.N. Security Council agrees to a wider framework for lasting peace. The U.S., which had sought the troop-contributor meeting in the first place, wants an end to the fighting to come only as part of a larger series of simultaneous moves that would include the peacekeepers. [complete article]
Saudi urges U.S. take lead in Mideast peacemaking
By Carol Giacomo, Reuters, August 1, 2006
Saudi Arabia has exhorted the United States to take the lead in efforts to immediately end the fighting between Hizbollah and Israel and faulted President George W. Bush for not following through on earlier peacemaking appeals.
"The United States must play the role of pacifier and lead the world to peace and not be led by Israel's ambitions," said the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Turki al-Faisal.
Speaking at a dinner organized by the New America Foundation thinktank, he said the goal must be a comprehensive regional peace that "balance(s) the interests of all the conflicting parties in such a way that they all feel they have achieved something of importance without a loss of face." [complete article]
EU rejects ceasefire call and UN fails to act as disunity prevails
By Nicholas Watt, Ewen MacAskill, Simon Tisdall and Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian, August 2, 2006
Efforts to secure an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon collapsed again yesterday after a divided European Union issued a watered-down statement and the United Nations postponed a full security council discussion promised by Tony Blair and Condoleezza Rice.
Despite escalating violence in southern Lebanon, EU foreign ministers rejected a draft statement that would have called for an immediate ceasefire and would have branded Israel's bombardment as "a severe breach of international humanitarian law". In a semantic bow to Washington and Tel Aviv, they called instead "for an immediate cessation of hostilities to be followed by a sustainable ceasefire".
Germany and four other countries joined Britain in opposing the tougher language that had been urged by France. In EU parlance, a "cessation" now appears to mean a temporary pause, whereas a "ceasefire" implies a more permanent arrangement. The wording is virtually identical to the statement agreed by foreign ministers at their last meeting two weeks ago in Brussels. The only difference is the addition of the call for a sustainable ceasefire after the cessation.
The foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, denied the compromise amounted to a "green light" for Israel to continue its military offensive. "I would be saddened and dismayed if someone would read that into today's conclusions," she said.
Underlining the entangled nature of the debate, the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said: "Cessation of hostilities is not the same as a ceasefire. A ceasefire can perhaps be achieved later ... We can now only ask the UN security council and put pressure on it not to waste any more time." [complete article] Israeli FM: Qana attack led to turning point in support for Israel
By Yoav Stern, Yuval Yoaz and Amos Harel, Haaretz, August 1, 2006
As the Israel Air Force continues to investigate the air strike [on Qana], questions have been raised over military accounts of the incident.
It now appears that the military had no information on rockets launched from the site of the building, or the presence of Hezbollah men at the time.
The Israel Defense Forces had said after the deadly air-strike that many rockets had been launched from Qana. However, it changed its version on Monday.
The site was included in an IAF plan to strike at several buildings in proximity to a previous launching site. Similar strikes were carried out in the past. However, there were no rocket launches from Qana on the day of the strike. [complete article]
Comment -- It seems increasingly apparent that the "48 hour halt" in bombing Lebanon was cut short not simply to press the fight against Hezbollah, but also to distract the media's attention as more information emerged about the strike on Qana.
In the IDF's original account, they claimed that the Israeli Air Force had "attacked missile launch sites" in the area of Qana. Since Hezbollah's Katyusha rockets are being fired from mobile launchers, any site only remains such for as long as the launcher is left in that location.
On Sunday morning, Israel's ambassador to the U.N., Dan Gillerman, said on NBC's Meet the Press that film released by the IDF "actually shows a missile which is being, being launched right from behind a three-story building there, very similar to the one that was hit in the area of Qana."
This is a trick out of Oliver Stone's JKF sleight-of-hand: Combine an insinuation with a black-and-white image, and fact and rumor get deftly fused together. Gillerman knew that the image would soon resonate much more strongly on cable TV than his qualification, "similar." The similar building, would in lots of viewers mind, be indistinguishable from the building that was hit.
Now we learn that no rockets had been launched from that area on the day of the Israeli attack. Rockets had been launched previously, but not that day. The target it appears, was not a missile launch site - it was a neighborhood. The message: If you stick around in a bad neighborhood, you're fair game. Civilians who "choose" not to flee end up getting what they deserve. EU ministers water down call for ceasefire
By Ingrid Melander and Darren Ennis, Reuters, August 1, 2006
European Union foreign ministers called on Tuesday for an immediate end to hostilities in Lebanon but dropped a demand for an instant ceasefire at the insistence of the United States' closest allies in the bloc.
A statement adopted at a rare August crisis meeting of the 25-nation EU said: "The Council calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities to be followed by a sustainable ceasefire."
The convoluted formula emerged from four hours of talks as Israel intensified attacks on Hizbollah guerrillas and vowed to step up ground operations, defying calls to halt an onslaught sparked by the seizure of two Israeli soldiers on July 12.
An initial draft proposed by the EU's Finnish presidency had said flatly: "The Council called for an immediate ceasefire."
But Britain, backed by Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland and Denmark, insisted on the alternative wording and unanimity is required for EU foreign policy statements.
Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, who chaired the talks, denied the bloc was split and said the meaning was the same: "There are no divisions in the EU ... This means there will be no shooting, no killing. There is no difference." [complete article]
Comment -- I can't decide which is more pathetic: that the European opponents of the C-word imagine they're doing their American and Israeli friends a favor, or that Washington will try to argue that Europe is not calling for a ceasefire? However, where the Finnish FM is obviously dead wrong is in saying "this means there will be no shooting, no killing." It will take much more than a mealy-mouthed EU statement to make it so. What can Israel achieve?
By Immanuel Wallerstein, Middle East Online, August 1, 2006
Every Israeli government has wished to create a situation in which the world and Israel's neighbours recognize its existence as a state and intergroup/interstate violence ceases. Israel has never been able to achieve this. When the level of violence is relatively low, the Israeli public is split about what strategy to pursue. But when it escalates into warfare, the Jewish Israelis and world Jewry tend to rally around the government.
In reality, Israel's basic strategy since 1948 has been to rely on two things in the pursuit of its objectives: a strong military, and strong outside Western support. So far this strategy has worked in one sense: Israel still survives. The question is how much longer this strategy will in fact continue to work.
The source of outside support has shifted over time. We forget completely that in 1948 the crucial military support for Israel came from the Soviet Union and its eastern European satellites. When the Soviet Union pulled back, it was France that came to fill the role. France was engaged in a revolution in Algeria, and it saw Israel as a crucial element in defeating the Algerian national liberation movement. But when Algeria became independent in 1962, France dropped Israel because it then sought to maintain ties with a now-independent Algeria.
It is only after that moment that the United States moved into its present total support of Israel. One major element in this turn-around was the Israeli military victory in the Six Days War in 1967. In this war, Israel conquered all the territories of the old British Mandate of Palestine, as well as more. It proved its ability to be a strong military presence in the region. It transformed the attitude of world Jewry from one in which only about 50% really approved of the creation of Israel into one which had the support of the large majority of world Jewry, for whom Israel had now become a source of pride. This is the moment when the Holocaust became a major ideological justification for Israel and its policies.
After 1967, the Israeli governments never felt they had to negotiate anything with the Palestinians or with the Arab world. They offered one-sided settlements but these were always on Israeli terms. Israel wouldn't negotiate with Nasser. Then it wouldn't negotiate with Arafat. And now it won't negotiate with so-called terrorists. Instead, it has relied on successive shows of military strength. [complete article] Israel is losing this war
By Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, August 1, 2006
Israel is losing this war.
This is not to say that it will lose the war, or that the war was unwinnable to start with. But if it keeps going as it is, Israel is headed for the greatest military humiliation in its history. During the Yom Kippur War of 1973, Israelis were stunned by their early reversals against Egypt and Syria, yet they eked out a victory over these two powerfully armed, Soviet-backed adversaries in 20 days. The conflict with Hezbollah--a 15,000-man militia chiefly armed with World War II-era Katyusha rockets--is now in its 21st day. So far, Israel has nothing to show for its efforts: no enemy territory gained, no enemy leaders killed, no abatement in the missile barrage that has sent a million Israelis from their homes and workplaces.
Generally speaking, wars are lost either militarily or politically. Israel is losing both ways. Two weeks ago, Israeli officials boasted they had destroyed 50% of Hezbollah's military capabilities and needed just 10 to 14 days to finish the job. Two days ago, after a record 140 Katyushas landed on Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told visiting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice he needed another 10 to 14 days. When the war began, Israeli officials spoke of "breaking" Hezbollah; next of evicting Hezbollah from the border area; then of "degrading" Hezbollah's capabilities; now of establishing an effective multinational force that can police the border. Israel's goals are becoming less ambitious while the time it needs to accomplish them is growing longer. [complete article]
Comment -- Israel is losing this war... and the neocons are losing faith. The king of fairyland will never grasp the realities of the Middle East
By George Monbiot, The Guardian, August 1, 2006
Though Israel ranks 23rd on the global development index - above Greece, Singapore, Portugal and Brunei - it remains the world's largest recipient of US aid. The US government dispensed $11bn of civil foreign assistance in 2004. Of this, Israel received $555m; the three poorest nations on earth - Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Niger - were given a total of $69m. More importantly, last year Israel also received $2.2bn of military aid.
It does not depend economically on this assistance. Its gross domestic product amounts to $155bn, and its military budget to $9.5bn. It manufactures many of its own weapons and buys components from all over the world, including - as the Guardian revealed last week - the United Kingdom. Rather, it depends upon it diplomatically. Most of the money given by the US foreign military financing programme - in common with all US aid disbursements - is spent in the United States. Israel uses it to obtain F-15 and F-16 jets; Apache, Cobra and Blackhawk helicopters; AGM, AIM and Patriot missiles, M-16 rifles, M-204 grenade launchers and M-2 machine guns. As the Prestwick scandal revealed, laser-guided bombs, even now, are being sent to Israel from the United States.
Many of these weapons have been used to kill Palestinian civilians and are being used in Lebanon today. The US arms export control act states that "no defence article or defence service shall be sold or leased by the United States government" unless its provision "will strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace". Weapons may be sold "to friendly countries solely for internal security, for legitimate self-defence [or for] maintaining or restoring international peace and security".
By giving these weapons to Israel, the US government is, in effect, stating that all its military actions are being pursued in the cause of legitimate self-defence, American interests and world peace. The US also becomes morally complicit in Israel's murder of civilians. The diplomatic cover this provides is indispensable. [complete article] At the epicenter of war, a city of rubble
By Megan K. Stack, Los Angeles Times, August 1, 2006
Smeared with dirt and covered in flies, the woman sat dazed and stranded in the rubble for days. When she looked up Monday to see people from the outside world approaching through the morning heat, the words tumbled from between her broken teeth.
"God brought you," said Libi Ibrahim, blinking into the sun. "I didn't want to die alone. Don't leave me."
A drive into the bombravaged town of Bint Jbeil is a voyage into the ugly epicenter of the war between Israel and Hezbollah. A short distance from the Israeli border, this village of rolling hills and olive groves has suffered some of the fiercest fighting of this sudden conflict. Now the town is a wrecked and ghostly place; the days of Israeli shelling and airstrikes laid the town center to waste.
It's impossible to tell where the streets used to dip and twist through the shops and homes in the heart of downtown; roads have been washed out by wreckage. Mangled buildings form artificial hills, jagged with broken glass, punctuated occasionally by a mosque minaret or a singed palm tree poking lopsided toward the sky. Mosques, shops, homes -- all were hammered.
The weakest, it seemed, were left to endure the attacks: elderly and disabled, shellshocked and starving, they came clambering out of the ruins. Their transistor radios had brought word that Israel had declared a temporary halt to bombardments. Entire families emerged from basements and caves and picked their way carefully through the chunks of rubble, sometimes barefooted.
Ibrahim had been sleeping in a shadowy doorway of charred cinder blocks for six days, she reckoned. She was too confused to explain what she'd done before that. She had been drinking muddy water. She was nearly deaf from the bombings.
A widow, Ibrahim has a grown daughter in Beirut, but had no way to reach the capital. She couldn't even make it up the street, washed over by tumbled walls, fallen power lines and broken glass. When she tried to walk, she fell down. [complete article] It takes forethought to end a war
By Nehemia Shtrasler, Haaretz, August 1, 2006
There was one moment during the war when we had the upper hand. It was the moment when Israel had succeeded in striking Hezbollah with strong and surprising force, Haifa was peaceful and the number of casualties was small. That was the right moment to stop the war, declare victory and move on to the diplomatic track. [complete article] A Nato-led force would be in Israel's interests, but not Lebanon's
By Robert Fisk, The Independent, August 1, 2006
Every foreign army - including the Israelis - comes to grief in Lebanon.
So, how come George Bush and Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara - after their inevitable disasters in Afghanistan and Iraq - believe that a Nato-led force is going to survive on the south Lebanese border? The Israelis would obviously enjoy watching its deployment - it will be time for the West to take the casualties - but Hizbollah is likely to view its arrival as a proxy Israeli army. It is, after all, supposed to be a "buffer" force to protect Israel - not, as the Lebanese have quickly noted, to protect Lebanon - and the last Nato army that came to this country was literally blasted out of its mission by suicide bombers. [complete article] What role can Syria play in the resolution of this conflict?
Joshua Landis interviewed by John Dagge, Syria Comment, July 29, 2006
Syria has a big role to play. Trying to shut it out of any agreement will only guarantee that future cease-fires are temporary and fragile.
The Lebanese root cause of this problem is that the Shi'ites are terribly under-represented in parliament. They have been kept at the bottom of the Lebanese political heap despite being the largest sectarian community in Lebanon. They accepted this position in the 1989 Taif Accords, largely because Syria allowed them to keep their weapons. Since Syria left Lebanon in 2005 the other Lebanese communities – Sunnis, Druze, and Christian - have been demanding that Hezbollah give up its military weapons. At the same time, they have refused to allow the Shiites their proper constitutional role in government. They can't have it both ways. If a deal to disarm Hizbullah is to be made in Lebanon, the Shi'ites, who represent 40 per cent of the population, will have to get close to 40 percent representation in parliament. This is going to be a major headache.
America professes that it wants a democratic solution to the Middle East, but it is refusing to promote true democracy in Lebanon. This is an analogy to the Hamas problem in Palestine and it is one of the reasons why Hezbollah and Hamas find themselves on the same side and why Arabs throughout the Middle East are rooting for them. So long as there is no solution to this fundamental injustice, there will be no peace in the Middle East. American and Israeli military might is no replacement for equity, justice and democracy. [complete article] Limits of Israel's high-tech power
By Joshua Mitnick, Christian Science Monitor, August 1, 2006
When Israel started its offensive against Hizbullah militants in Lebanon more than two weeks ago, it hoped its high-tech military hardware would quickly decimate the Iranian-backed militiamen with their low-tech arms.
But what began as a bid to swiftly rout the guerrillas with sophisticated air strikes has become bogged down in the hamlets of southern Lebanon, where Israeli ground troops are suffering a surprising number of casualties and where the air force killed some 60 civilians Sunday. Recent infantry losses and mounting civilian deaths are a reminder of the limits of Israel's technological advantage.
More decisive results from Israel's battle technology "would have been considered a major success. It seems that it wasn't nearly as successful as hoped," says Gerald Steinberg, a political scientist at Bar Ilan University, outside Tel Aviv. "When you have an asymmetric war and when you have a terrorist group that uses human shields extensively, no technology is going to tell you that there are dozens of children in a basement of a building that is either used to store arms or next to missile launchers." [complete article]
Comment -- Ever since the term "asymmetric warfare" entered common parlance, we have been led to believe that the West is up against particularly challenging opponents because these dastardly fellows simply don't play be the rules. The side of asymmetric warfare that gets less attention is the fact that the US and Israel are in large part currently struggling on the battlefield because their military high commands have been suckers for defense industry hype. Giving the war an image of victory, not a draw
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz, August 1, 2006
Olmert read a long speech, filled with the now familiar components of his recent speeches: the reference to the fallen and captive soldiers, the appeal to the Lebanese people, the promise to win at the price of "worry, uncertainty - and yes, also pain, tears and blood." This time around, Olmert's speechwriter, Shaul Shenhav, also included a quote from Israeli poet Nathan Alterman.
The prime minister also contributed quite a few of his own words, and practiced the speech twice at his bureau before getting on stage to win public support for the next - and possibly final - phase of the Lebanon operation.
But for all the speeches, this conflict is lacking the kind of image that will help make it memorable - images like the paratroopers at the Western Wall or Ariel Sharon with a bandage around his head. What will the image of the second Lebanon war be?
Officials at the prime minister's bureau say it will be the image of soldiers in the multinational force who will deploy on the Lebanese side of the Blue Line and at the Syrian and Lebanese border crossings. It's hard to believe, but there you have it: The Israeli political elite are looking forward to the arrival of Captain Francoise of the French Foreign Legion and his comrades, who will be stationed on the border along with Lebanese army units. That hadn't crossed anyone's mind three weeks ago, and now it's the objective of the Israeli war; Olmert promised to continue fighting until the international army takes control of positions and villages that Hezbollah had been using until the war. [complete article]
Israel: We'll swap two jailed Lebanese for captive soldiers
By Aluf Benn and Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz, August 1, 2006
Israel will release two Lebanese prisoners in return for the two soldiers abducted by Hezbollah, as part of a cease-fire agreement, government and defense officials said yesterday.
The sources added that the UN Security Council would call for a cease-fire in Lebanon on Friday, and it could take effect as early as Saturday. Alternatively, the fighting might continue for a few more days.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told British Prime Minister Tony Blair that as soon as an international force deploys along the Israel-Lebanon and Lebanon-Syria borders, "it will be possible to implement a cease-fire."
Immediately after soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were captured, Olmert said that Israel would not negotiate a prisoner exchange for their release - a position he also took following the abduction of Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit in the Gaza Strip. Olmert's position received international support in the concluding statement issued by the G-8 summit, which called for the unconditional return of all Israeli captives. [complete article]
Has Israel's assault weakened Hezbollah -- or made it stronger?
By Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, July 31, 2006
"The real battle started four days ago, when the Israelis moved their troops into Lebanon, and it became a ground war," [Ali Fayyada, member of the Hezbollah politburo who is close to the group's supreme leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah] said. "That is the preferred situation for Hezbollah. They fought four days to take Maroun al-Ras, just one mile from the border, on very open ground, with tanks -- four days." A few days after our conversation, control of Maroun al-Ras was still in dispute, and Israel was facing more resistance than expected in the village of Bint Jbail.
But Hezbollah's interests are not reducible to the conventional terms of a casualty balance sheet. Hezbollah has embedded itself deep within Lebanese society, in effect creating a state within a state, with an extensive social-service network. Even if Israel manages to dislodge Hezbollah's fighters, Nasrallah will likely remain the most powerful politician in the country, in part because the chaos of the last weeks has exposed the weakness of the government. Most of the Lebanese analysts I spoke with said they believed that Hezbollah had, on its own terms, been significantly strengthened by the conflict.
The damage to Lebanon, meanwhile, has been catastrophic. Fayyad said that he had arranged to evacuate his father from the family home in a village near the Israeli border, but he emphasized that Hezbollah's forces would not leave south Lebanon without a fight. "You must remember that the point of resistance is not to hold ground and face off in front of another position," Fayyad said. "That is classical warfare, but we are guerrillas. If the Israelis want to take the territory all the way up to the Litani River, do you think they can do it without heavy casualties?"
Fayyad finished his ice cream and stubbed out his cigar. Before we left Lina's, he said, "This doesn't mean that the battle isn’t difficult for us. It is. It's painful, too. But the longer it goes on the harder it will be for them." [complete article] Yesha Rabbinical Council: During time of war, enemy has no innocents
Ynet, July 30, 2006
The Yesha Rabbinical Council announced in response to an IDF attack in Kfar Qanna that "according to Jewish law, during a time of battle and war, there is no such term as 'innocents' of the enemy."
"All of the discussions on Christian morality are weakening the spirit of the army and the nation and are costing us in the blood of our soldiers and civilians," the statement said. [complete article]
Comment -- It's curious that these settler rabbis think Israel is being constrained by Christian morality. I have little doubt that quite a few American rightwing evangelicals (even if they might not be quite as blunt in their statements) would happily endorse this gospel of annihilation. Israel warns, Gazans panic
By Ashraf Khalil, Los Angeles Times, August 1, 2006
The man with the Israeli accent called Omar Mamluke on his cellphone just before midnight and asked for him by name.
"You have just a few minutes to get out of the house," he said. An Israeli missile was about to hit.
"I asked if he was joking, and he told me: 'The Israeli Defense Forces don't joke,' " Mamluke recalled.
The police officer and former Palestinian steeplechase champion wasted no time; he'd heard what happened to others in Gaza who'd received such calls.
He gathered up his two wives and 15 children, and they ran out of the house in their nightclothes, yelling for their neighbors to do the same.
The missile struck within half an hour, lifting Mamluke's house in the air, sending the foundation columns across the street. But no one was hurt, which the Israeli army says is the point of such phone calls.
The Israeli military, which launched campaigns in both the Gaza Strip and Lebanon after its soldiers were captured in border incursions, says it does its best to warn civilians of impending military action. Its warnings to civilians to leave southern Lebanon are at the center of controversy over the airstrike early Sunday in the Lebanese village of Qana that killed almost 60 people, most of them women and children. [complete article]
Comment -- Is this sugar-coated brutality intended to influence public opinion, or is its real purpose to anesthetize the conscience of the soldier who pulls the trigger? 'There is no ceasefire. There will not be any ceasefire'
By Ewen MacAskill, Simon Tisdall and Clancy Chassay, The Guardia, August 1, 2006
An international drive for a ceasefire in Lebanon halted yesterday amid sharp differences at the UN security council, Israel's rejection of any truce in the near future and a Hizbullah warning that it would oppose the deployment of a multinational security force.
Amid undiminished outrage after the Qana tragedy and complaints that the UN was doing nothing, Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, said she was convinced a sustainable ceasefire could be achieved at the security council this week.
But Israel signalled dissent hours after she left Jerusalem for Washington. Ehud Olmert, its prime minister, shrugged off international pressure: "The fighting continues. There is no ceasefire and there will not be any ceasefire in the coming days.
"We are not fighting against the Lebanese people. We are not fighting against its government. We are fighting terrorism and we will not stop the fight against them until we push them away from our borders." [complete article]
See also, How ceasefire hopes foundered on rock of Israeli public opinion (The Times) and Israeli generals angry at Olmert's restraint (The Telegraph). As Bush outlines cease-fire terms, U.N. talks stall
By Peter Baker and Robin Wright, Washington Post, August 1, 2006
President Bush vowed Monday to work for a cease-fire to stop the bloodshed in the Middle East as long as several broad conditions are met, but deliberations at the United Nations quickly became tangled in a dispute between the United States and France over the right approach.
Bush insisted that any cease-fire plan establish Lebanese control over its territory, dispatch a multinational force to create a buffer zone, and require Iran and Syria to stop backing the Hezbollah militia, which is firing rockets at Israeli territory. He made no demands on Israel a day after Israeli bombs killed at least 57 people in a Lebanese village, mostly women and children, and he again rejected calls for an immediate, unconditional cease-fire.
"Stopping for the sake of stopping is -- can be okay, except it won't address the root cause of the problem," Bush said in an interview with Fox News while on a domestic political trip here Monday. The deaths of Lebanese civilians in the village of Qana on Sunday, he added, were "awful. I understand that. But it's also awful that a million Israelis are worried about rockets being fired from their neighbor to the north." [complete article]
See also, Hagel breaks with Bush on Mideast (CNN).
Comment -- Bush probably isn't too worried to see Chuck Hagel "break ranks" - he's made an honorable habit of doing so. What should concern the president much more is this fatwa from Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani:
The scale of the tragedy that has befallen Lebanon is a result of the continuous Israeli attacks, which have reached the point where patience can no longer bear more. It is not possible to stand with folded hands before them. The international community must take the intitiative to impose an immediate ceasefire and to halt this horrific tragedy.Like it or not, Hezbollah is fact of life in Middle East
By Julie Flint, Chicago Tribune, July 31, 2006
America's concept of Hezbollah will always be defined by Oct. 23, 1983, when a suicide bomber killed nearly 245 U.S. servicemen at the Beirut airport in the Marines' worst one-day loss since the World War II invasion of Okinawa. But it is 23 years later and Hezbollah now lives in the mainstream of Lebanese politics, not in the small Iranian-controlled terror cells that attacked American soldiers and took American hostages in the 1980s.
Today Hezbollah is a strong social and political movement headed by an articulate and charismatic cleric, Hassan Nasrallah, who enjoys considerable popularity among many Lebanese. It has two government ministers, 14 members of parliament and an experienced and efficient guerrilla force far stronger than the Lebanese army. Most critically, Hezbollah has the devotion--not just the support--of many of Lebanon's Shiite Muslims, who make up almost half the country's population.
Hezbollah is not the Palestine Liberation Organization, which could be crushed and sent packing from a country that was not its own. Hezbollah cannot be defeated without exterminating the entire Shiite community. U.S. policy in the area will fail, with disastrous consequences regionwide but especially in Iraq, as long as Washington accepts Israel's caricature of Hezbollah as a bunch of fanatics who "want their own people as human shields ... [and] civilian casualties on both sides."
Wishful thinking must not inform U.S. policy. Hundreds of thousands of Shiites fleeing the war in south Lebanon have reached Beirut with no interference from Hezbollah. The interference has come from Israeli planes shelling them as they flee and strengthening their determination to resist, with their lives if need be. Many families, even non-Hezbollah families, are leaving at least one man behind in the south to fight against Israel. For the moment at least, Hezbollah's support is growing. [complete article] The reason they hate us lies buried in Qana
By Jonathan Cook, Electronic Lebanon, July 31, 2006
The crowds in Beirut last year demanding a Cedar Revolution, "the first shoots of democracy" supposedly planted by the United States, are a distant memory. Yesterday we saw in their place the fury of Lebanon directed against the capital's United Nations building -- an early "birth pang" in Condoleeza Rice's new Middle East.
If Israel wanted to widen its war, it could not have chosen a better way to achieve it than by sending its war planes back to the mixed Muslim and Christian village of Qana in south Lebanon to massacre civilians there, as if marking a morbid anniversary. A decade ago, Israeli shelling on the village killed more than 100 Lebanese civilians sheltering in a local UN post.
To the Lebanese, and most in the Arab world, the United Nations now symbolises everything that is corrupt about the international community and its "conscience". The world body, it has become clearer by the day, is a mere plaything of the United States and, by default, of Israel too. It is nothing more than a talking shop, one so enfeebled that it lacks the moral backbone even to denouce unequivocally the murder of four of its unarmed observers by the Israeli army last week. How can Lebanon expect protection for its civilians from an international body as emasculated as this? [complete article]
Mubarak blasts UN 'impotence,' 'foot-dragging'
Daily Star, August 1, 2006
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned Monday that the entire Middle East peace process could collapse because of Israel's war on Lebanon, as his foreign minister shuttled between Syria and Saudi Arabia in an intensified effort to end the crisis.
In Damascus, President Bashar Assad reiterated his country's support for Lebanese and Palestinian groups fighting Israel, amid reports Egypt and Saudi Arabia are working on a diplomatic initiative to entice Syria to end its support for Hizbullah.
"Egypt, which triggered the peace process, warns of the consequences of its collapse," Mubarak said in a nationally televised statement. "The Israeli aggression undermines the opportunities to continue it. [complete article]
Egytian Christians proud of Hizbollah
By Hamdy Al Husseini, Islam Online, July 31, 2006
Egypt's Copts have hailed the Lebanese resistance movement Hizbullah and its chief Hassan Nasrallah as a source of pride to Muslims and the Arab world, and launched a fund-raising campaign to help the Lebanese people in their current trial.
"All Arabs must be proud of Hizbullah's gallantry," Bishop Rafiq Gris, the spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, told IslamOnline.net Monday, July 31.
"No matter what the results will be, Hizbullah has proved that the 'invincible' Israeli army is too weak and shown that a Frankenstein created by the Arab rulers was brought to his knees by a few number of fighters," added Yuhana Qaltah, a writer and columnist. [complete article] Israel frees Palestinian Authority parliament official
By Mijal Grinberg, Haaretz, August 1, 2006
Israel has freed the deputy speaker of the Palestinian parliament, an independent lawmaker close to the governing Hamas Islamist group, after detaining him for a month, he said on Tuesday.
Hassan Khreishe was arrested along with dozens of Hamas officials and ministers about a month ago. Khreishe told Reuters he had been freed late on Sunday.
Unlike the Hamas members, Khreishe was not charged. "I was arrested and interrogated for incitement," Khreishe said. "I am not Hamas. I ran as an independent, but the Hamas ministers who were with me in jail are in a difficult position ... It doesn't look like they will be released soon." [complete article] Mideast conflict a setback for Iran reform movement
By Michael Slackman, New York Times, August 1, 2006
The Israeli onslaught in Lebanon and Hezbollah's daily victories in the regional public relations war over the conflict threaten to claim a victim in Iran: whatever hope remained of resurrecting the political reform movement.
Day by day, even as Iran's officials assess the military setbacks of Hezbollah, they have grown more and more emboldened by the gathering support in the Islamic world for the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia on the front line with Israel. They have grown more and more emboldened by what they see as a validation of their confrontational approach to foreign policy -- and in their efforts to silence political opposition at home.
That is the view of at least some opposition figures, analysts and former government officials who say they find themselves in the awkward position of opposing Israel and sympathizing with the Lebanese people, yet fear what might happen should Hezbollah prevail. [complete article]
Money can't buy us democracy
By Akbar Ganji, New York Times, August 1, 2006
Freedom-loving Iranians inside and outside the country are against American military intervention in Iran. Such a war would be of no help in our fight for freedom; in fact, it would only contribute to our further enslavement, as the regime would use war as an excuse to suppress any and all voices of opposition.
The American policy of confronting the Iranian regime's nuclear adventurism is correct. But the rationale for opposing this adventurism should not be that the mullahs oppose the West and the United States. The West's double standard on nonproliferation is not defensible. The entire Middle East must be declared a nuclear-free zone. Opposition to the dangerous process that has begun in the region -- a process that the Islamic Republic has helped turn into a crisis -- must be based on a more general call first for regional, then for global, nuclear disarmament. [complete article] Hill Democrats unite to urge Bush to begin Iraq pullout
By Charles Babington and Jim VandeHei, Washington Post, August 1, 2006
After months of struggling to forge a unified stance on the Iraq war, top congressional Democrats joined voices yesterday to call on President Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. troops by the end of the year and to "transition to a more limited mission" in the war-torn nation.
With the midterm elections three months away, and Democrats seeing public discontent over Iraq as their best chance for retaking the House or Senate, a dozen key lawmakers told Bush in a letter: "In the interests of American national security, our troops and our taxpayers, the open-ended commitment in Iraq that you have embraced cannot and should not be sustained. . . . We need to take a new direction."
The 12 Democrats, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), include liberals and centrists who have differed over Iraq in the past. The signers included the top Democrats on the House and Senate committees dealing with armed services, foreign relations, intelligence and military spending. Their action puts party leaders on the same page, and it helps clarify the Nov. 7 election as a choice between a party seeking a timeline for withdrawing troops from an unpopular war and a party resisting any such timetable. [complete article]
Soldiers targeted as 50 die in Iraq
By Ahmed Rasheed and Aseel Kami, Reuters (via Yahoo), August 1, 2006
Bombings and shootings killed up to 55 people on Tuesday, including at least 23 Iraqi soldiers, undermining the new government's attempts to convince Iraqis it could improve security.
A roadside bomb attack on a bus filled with troops on a road between Tikrit and Baiji, north of Baghdad, killed at least 23, the army said.
A British soldier was killed in a mortar attack on an army base in the southern city of Basra, a British military spokesman said.
In Baghdad, a suicide bomber in a car targeted soldiers collecting their salaries from a bank and at least 10 people, including an elderly woman, died, police said. State television put the toll at 14.
The attack took place at the same spot in the district of Karrada where a car bomb and mortars killed at least 27 people last week. [complete article] New maximum-security jail to open at Guantanamo
By Andrew Buncombe, The Independent, July 30, 2006
The controversy over the US-run detention centre at Guantanamo Bay is to erupt anew with confirmation by the Pentagon that a new, permanent prison will open in the Cuban enclave in the next few weeks.
Camp 6, a state-of-the-art maximum-security jail built by a Halliburton subsidiary, will be able to hold 200 prisoners. Commander Robert Durand, a spokesman for Joint Task Force Guantanamo, said the $30m, two-storey block was due to open at the end of September. He added: "Camp 6 is designed to improve the quality of life for the detainees and provide greater protection for the people working in the facility."
This development will refuel the controversy about the jail, which still holds 450 prisoners from President George Bush's "war on terror". Campaigners pointed to Mr Bush's claim earlier this summer that he would "like to close" Guantanamo. Just weeks after he made his comments in June, the Supreme Court ruled that the administration's system for trying prisoners using military tribunals breached United States and international law. [complete article] Bush Mideast stance may flop
By Tom Raum, AP (via Yahoo), July 31, 2006
These haven't been good days for Bush's goal of spreading democracy through the Middle East.
"I think we made a huge mistake by giving Israel a blank check," said Michael O'Hanlon, a foreign policy analyst at the Brookings Institution. "Hezbollah, after six years of relative restraint and working inside a coalition government, is accused of kidnapping a grand total of two people. A good case could be made for not doing anything."
Yet in a speech Monday in Miami, Bush showed that recent events, including the Qana killings, have had little impact on his position.
He once again depicted Israel's battle with Hezbollah as part of a wider struggle against terrorism and declined to lay blame equally on both sides even as he mourned the loss of "innocent life" both in Israel and Lebanon.
"Israel is exercising its right to defend itself," Bush said. Separately, in an interview Monday with Fox News Channel, Bush said, "stopping for the sake of stopping ... can be OK, except it won't address the root cause of the problem." [complete article]
Comment -- Bush might think that those calling for an immediate cease-fire want a cease-fire just for its own sake. Of course the real reason for an immediate cease-fire would be to prevent the unnecessary loss of life, yet in Bush's mind the lives that will be lost in the coming days are going to be sacrificed for a good cause, namely, victory in the war on terrorism. Meanwhile, the Lebanese might be wondering how it is that an American president who says that human stem cells should not be destroyed, seems less concerned about his role in the destruction of human lives. Israel approves wider ground offensive
By Ravi Nessman and Hamza Hendawi, AP (via Yahoo), July 31, 2006
Israel's prime minister declared Monday that there would be no cease-fire with Hezbollah guerrillas, apologizing for the deaths of Lebanese civilians but saying "we will not give up on our goal to live a life free of terror." His Security Cabinet approved widening the ground offensive.
Israeli warplanes hit Hezbollah fighters battling with soldiers near the border as the guerrillas fired mortars into Israel. But an Israeli suspension of most airstrikes in Lebanon — and a pause by the guerrillas on rocket attacks in northern Israel -- brought both countries their quietest day since the conflict began three weeks ago.
Lebanese fled north in overflowing trucks and cars. About 200 people -- mostly elderly -- escaped the border town of Bint Jbail, where Israeli troops and Hezbollah guerrillas fought their bloodiest clashes. Two residents dropped dead on the road out, one of malnutrition, the other of heart failure.
Some survivors described living on a piece of candy a day and dirty water as the fighting raged.
"All the time I thought of death," said Rimah Bazzi, an American visiting from Dearborn, Mich., who spent weeks hiding with her three children and mother in the house of a local doctor. [complete article] Israel responsible for Qana attack
Human Rights Watch, July 30, 2006
Responsibility for the Israeli airstrikes that killed at least 54 civilians sheltering in a home in the Lebanese village of Qana rests squarely with the Israeli military, Human Rights Watch said today. It is the latest product of an indiscriminate bombing campaign that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have waged in Lebanon over the past 18 days, leaving an estimated 750 people dead, the vast majority of them civilians.
"Today's strike on Qana, killing at least 54 civilians, more than half of them children, suggests that the Israeli military is treating southern Lebanon as a free-fire zone," said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch. "The Israeli military seems to consider anyone left in the area a combatant who is fair game for attack."
This latest, appalling loss of civilian life underscores the need for the U.N. Secretary-General to establish an International Commission of Inquiry to investigate serious violations of international humanitarian law in the context of the current conflict, Roth said. Such consistent failure to distinguish combatants and civilians is a war crime. [complete article]
Comment -- The IDF was quick to launch a damage-control campaign when it released video showing Hezbollah rockets being launched in close proximity to buildings. Yet buried close to the end of a Haaretz report headlined "IDF says it may not be responsible for Qana deaths", are these two lines:
The IDF screened a video yesterday showing rocket launches from Qana, and said it chose the objectives in the village by analyzing the locations from which Hezbollah had fired rockets on Israel. However, the house that was hit had no direct connection to the rocket-launching cells.Lull in Hezbollah rocket fire
Reuters (via News24), July 31, 2006
Hezbollah appeared on Monday to have suspended rocket fire into northern Israel as Israel largely halted air strikes on southern Lebanon.
Hezbollah fired two mortars into open areas in the northern Israeli border town of Kiryat Shmona on Monday, but nobody was wounded, a police spokesperson said.
The shells were the first to hit northern Israel since Sunday evening in a significant lessening of what had become a daily barrage of scores of rockets.
Hezbollah has fired more than 1 600 rockets into Israel since the conflict erupted on July 12 when the Shi'ite group abducted two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid.
Hezbollah had said it would cease fire if Israel did, but declined to comment on current tactics. [complete article]
See also, IDF: Hezbollah fired mortars at northern Israel, not rockets (Haaretz).
Comment -- Hezbollah can't expect praise, yet at a moment when many of their supporters would applaud a spectacular act of retaliation, instead they seem to be showing restraint. Of course, since Israel still has no interest in ending the war, who knows what Hezbollah might be holding in reserve, ready to unleash once the IDF renews its offensive? Hizbollah digs in for long fight
By William Wallis, Financial Times, July 31, 2006
Hizbollah militants were on Monday digging in in the expectation of prolonged fight with Israel in southern Lebanon, and were in no mood to discuss conditions under which they might lay down their weapons.
"It is not only militants who are with Hizbollah. Now a lot of Lebanese, Christians and Muslims are convinced that it is necessary to have the resistance," Nawar Sahili, a Hizbollah member of parliament said. In an interview, he reiterated that the group would only discuss details of any internationally sponsored package to end the crisis in the aftermath of an unconditional ceasefire.
Hizbollah politicians in Beirut feel their cause has been strengthened since Israel began bombarding Lebanon from the air, land and sea in response to the abduction of two Israeli soldiers on July 12.
Many Lebanese initially blamed Hizbollah – the only political group to have maintained its armed wing in the aftermath of the 1975-1990 civil war – for provoking Israel into retaliation.
But public opinion across the country's many religious sects has rallied behind armed resistance as increasing numbers of civilians have fallen victim to the Israeli offensive. Sunday's bloodbath in Qana, where 37 of 56 civilians killed by Israeli bombs were children, is now perceived as a turning point, unlikely to be forgotten. [complete article] Leaders in Iraq strongly rebuke Israel
By Damien Cave, New York Times, July 31, 2006
Several prominent Iraqi clerics and officials today delivered their stiffest rebuke yet of Israeli airstrikes, condemning civilian casualties in Lebanon as shootings, bombings, and mass kidnappings continued to plague Iraq.
Vice President Adil Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite, described the Irsaeli bombing that killed dozens of civilians in Qana, Lebanon, this weekend as a "massacre." Echoing earlier statements made by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, he said Iraqis of all sects were unified against the carnage and eager for a cease-fire.
"These horrible massacres carried out by the Israeli aggression, like what happened at Qana, incite in us a spirit of solidarity," Mr. Abdul Mahdi said in a speech at a memorial for Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Hakim, a revered cleric who was killed three years ago. "It's time for this nation to stand up and stop this aggression." [complete article]
See also, Sistani demands cease-fire in Lebanon (AP). Is Israel fighting a proxy war for Washington?
By Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan, July 30, 2006
Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said a curious thing Saturday: Israel has recognized reality and is ready for a cease-fire in Lebanon, Nasrallah claimed, but it is the U.S. that insists that it fight on. And if you read the analysis of Ze'ev Schiff, the dean of Israeli military correspondents and an enthusiastic advocate of the military campaign against Hizballah, there's a remarkable confirmation of Nasrullah's analysis. [complete article]
Comment -- Evidence that Israel is now acting as an American proxy is coming from many quarters. In response to the Qana massacre, Israel has agreed to a 48 hour halt to the bombing, yet instead of the announcement being made by the Israelis themselves, it came from the State Department. Can't the Israeli government speak for itself? Indeed, as the Los Angeles Times reports, "the abrupt American announcement late Sunday here that Israel would halt airstrikes in the border zone for 48 hours appeared to catch even some senior Israeli officials by surprise."
Now its being reported that Israel is still bombing Lebanon, though the army says they are not targeting anyone or anything specific. Assuming that the IDF is not disregarding orders from its own government, this looks like the kind of partial compliance that all proxies exhibit in response to the commands from their masters.
And then there's the strange manner in which Condoleezza Rice learned about the deaths in Qana. This is the Washington Post's account:
Rice did not learn of the attack until midmorning, during one-on-one talks with Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz in a meeting room on the 10th floor of Jerusalem's David Citadel Hotel. She was "reiterating our strong concern" about civilians killed during the hostilities, she said later. But Peretz did not mention the attack, nor had Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni over breakfast.Peretz and Livni seemed to be acting like juniors who were scared of delivering bad news to "the boss"! Senior government source: Despite IAF curbs, there is no cease-fire
By Ze'ev Schiff and Amos Harel, Haaretz, July 31, 2006
A senior government source said Monday morning that despite a 48-hour halt in Israel Air Force activity in Lebanon, "there is no cease-fire."
The suspension of aerial activity was announced in the wake of an IAF strike on a building in southern Lebanon killed 56 people, among them 37 children.
The government source said that the IAF had been told to continue acting against "targets that present a threat to Israel and its troops, including rocket launchers, vehicles transporting ammunition, Hezbollah fighters, weapons stores and Hezbollah assets."
The term "Hezbollah assets" refers to people identified with the organization, including those who do not pose an immediate threat. "If they are identified with Hassan Nasrallah, we will hit them," the source said.
Regarding the instructions to the IAF, the source said, however, "there will be no attacks on buildings that had not been identified" as part of efforts to strike Israel, and held, for example, ammunition, Hezbollah fighters or their commanders." [complete article] 'How can we stand by and allow this to go on?'
By Robert Fisk, The Independent, July 31, 2006
...there was no doubt of the missile which killed all those children yesterday. It came from the United States, and upon a fragment of it was written: "For use on MK-84 Guided Bomb BSU-37-B". No doubt the manufacturers can call it "combat-proven" because it destroyed the entire three-storey house in which the Shalhoub and Hashim families lived. They had taken refuge in the basement from an enormous Israeli bombardment, and that is where most of them died.
I found Nejwah Shalhoub lying in the government hospital in Tyre, her jaw and face bandaged like Robespierre's before his execution. She did not weep, nor did she scream, although the pain was written on her face. Her brother Taisir, who was 46, had been killed. So had her sister Najla. So had her little niece Zeinab, who was just six. "We were in the basement hiding when the bomb exploded at one o'clock in the morning," she said. "What in the name of God have we done to deserve this? So many of the dead are children, the old, women. Some of the children were still awake and playing. Why does the world do this to us?" [complete article] How can the children of the holocaust mete out the same racist rage?
Editorial, Daily Star, July 31, 2006
Israel has committed many atrocities on Lebanese soil during several invasions, incursions, occupations, offensives and escalations. But none of these unconscionable attacks, which have stolen the lives of thousands of innocent civilians, has had the same historical and psychological significance as the Jewish state's massacres of civilians at Qana.
Israel's attack in Qana on Sunday not only shredded the bodies of at least 54 civilians, mostly children - it also tore open the wounds of the recent past. The atrocity immediately conjured images of another massacre committed in the same village a little over 10 years ago, on April 18, 1996, when during "Operation Grapes of Wrath" the Israelis slaughtered 106 civilians who had taken refuge at a United Nations compound. Although that massacre, which is commemorated in Lebanon every year, went unpunished, the Lebanese have long vowed that they will never forget it.
Now that fresh images of the broken bodies of the women and children of Qana are being shown on our television screens, the idea of forgetting has become all the more unthinkable. These images have stirred the anger and outrage of even the most moderate Lebanese, proving that Israeli brutality - not Hizbullah - has become Israel's own worst enemy. Israel's unabashed butchery in Qana has only demonstrated to many of those who were on the fence that there is indeed a legitimate need for resistance. [complete article] Time is running out for the IDF
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz, July 31, 2006
The Israel Defense Forces realizes that it is involved in a race against time in order to complete its operation against Hezbollah.
Staff in the offices of the prime minister and the defense minister continue to say that 10 to 14 more days are needed for the military offensive, and IDF officials spoke publicly yesterday in favor of continuing the operation despite the deadly results of yesterday's air strike on Qana.
Nevertheless, the General Staff estimates that it will have less time than it is officially seeking. Calculations have already begun regarding when to end the operation, and the army is preparing for the possibility that it will have to wrap it up on Wednesday or Thursday, when the UN Security Council is slated to discuss a cease-fire. Despite U.S. President George W. Bush's support of Israel, the IDF understands that time is not on its side. [complete article]
See also, Israel 'not ready for truce yet' (BBC) and Rice expects cease-fire this week (WP). Hezbollah sends message with missile barrage
By Dion Nissenbaum and Matthew Schofield, McClatchy, July 30, 2006
"Hezbollah looks like the big winner here," said Dick Leurdijk, a terrorism expert at Holland's prestigious Clingendael Institute. "They are clearly winning the war for world public opinion. From a public relations point of view, Israel is doing a very poor job."
Analysts say Israel's failure to make quick work of Hezbollah after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers on July 12 is likely to have long-term ramifications, emboldening Israel's opponents and shattering the regional belief that Israel's military is all but unbeatable.
"Militarily it looks pretty much like a stand-off," said Robert Lowe, manager of English political research center Chatham House's Middle East program. "From a public relations perspective, it looks like a crushing defeat for Israel." [complete article] Crisis could undercut Bush's long-term goals
By Peter Baker, Washington Post, July 31, 2006
The Israeli bombs that slammed into the Lebanese village of Qana yesterday did more than kill three dozen children and a score of adults. They struck at the core of U.S. foreign policy in the region and illustrated in heart-breaking images the enormous risks for Washington in the current Middle East crisis.
With each new scene of carnage in southern Lebanon, outrage in the Arab world and Europe has intensified against Israel and its prime sponsor, raising the prospect of a backlash resulting in a new Middle East quagmire for the United States, according to regional specialists, diplomats and former U.S. officials.
Although the United States has urged Israel to use restraint, it has also strongly defended the military assaults as a reasonable response to Hezbollah rocket attacks, a position increasingly at odds with allies that see a deadly overreaction. Analysts think that if the war drags on, as appears likely, it could leave the United States more isolated than at any time since the Iraq invasion three years ago and hindered in its foreign policy goals such as shutting down Iran's nuclear program and spreading democracy around the world. [complete article] How can 'terrorism' be condemned while war crimes go without rebuke?
By David Clark, The Guardian, July 31, 2006
...the allegations of terrorism levelled at Hizbullah (as well as Hamas and other groups) by America and Israel go well beyond the targeting of non-combatants. The US state department's annual reports on terrorism also list operations carried out against the Israeli Defence Force as examples of terrorism. The US government justifies this conclusion by way of a logical contortion that defines Israeli troops as "non-combatants", despite the fact that Israel continues to occupy territory in Lebanon and Palestine with military force. The intention is not just to stamp out terrorism as commonly understood, but also to stigmatise perfectly legitimate acts of resistance.
Terrorism has always been extraordinarily difficult to define, but the American approach lacks any pretence at objectivity, thus making the term utterly meaningless. Used in this way, terrorism becomes simply "political violence of which we disapprove". The answer, of course, must not be to abandon any attempt to distinguish between right and wrong in the use of force. There need to be standards if we are to prevent the free-for-all of violence without limit. But these standards must be disinterested, legitimate and robust. As it happens, most of what we need is adequately provided for in international humanitarian law. Numerous treaties and judgments from the Geneva conventions onwards set out quite detailed rules governing the use of force, including the principles of proportionality and civilian immunity. [complete article] AIPAC's hold
By Ari Berman, The Nation, July 29, 2006
AIPAC is the leading player in what is sometimes referred to as "The Israel Lobby"--a coalition that includes major Jewish groups, neoconservative intellectuals and Christian Zionists. With its impressive contacts among Hill staffers, influential grassroots supporters and deep connections to wealthy donors, AIPAC is the lobby's key emissary to Congress. But in many ways, AIPAC has become greater than just another lobby; its work has made unconditional support for Israel an accepted cost of doing business inside the halls of Congress. AIPAC's interest, Israel's interest and America's interest are today perceived by most elected leaders to be one and the same. [complete article] Iraq supporting Lebanon
By Robert H. Reid, AP (via Yahoo), July 31, 2006
Many American politicians were surprised by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's criticism of Israel's attacks on Lebanon. They need only look at the stance taken by Iraq's top Shiite spiritual leader to understand why al-Maliki cannot stand with the U.S. in the crisis.
On Sunday, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani condemned the "Israeli aggression" and warned that "Islamic nations will not forgive the entities that hinder a cease-fire" -- a clear reference to the United States. His statement came after an Israeli airstrike that killed 56 people, mostly women and children, in the southern Lebanese village of Qana.
Al-Maliki's comments came five days earlier, but it was no secret that the grand ayatollah and the rest of the Shiite clerical leadership strongly opposed Israel's offensive -- and supported their fellow Shiites in Hezbollah.
The Iraqi prime minister angered many Americans -- especially Democrats -- during a visit to Washington last week when he called for an immediate cease-fire without criticizing Hezbollah for provoking the crisis by capturing two Israeli soldiers and firing missiles into Israel.
Some Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Hillary Clinton, boycotted al-Maliki's speech to Congress the following day. Sen. Charles Schumer (news, bio, voting record) said a "large number of people" were "uncomfortable" with al-Maliki's stance.
Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean went so far as to label al-Maliki an "anti-Semite" for failing to denounce Hezbollah.
In fact, the Shiite prime minister was doing what politicians do everywhere -- playing to his support base. And that base includes a Shiite religious leadership that sees the world, especially the Middle East, far differently than many Americans. [complete article] At least 23 killed in ambush near Baghdad
By Andy Mosher and Saad al-Izzi, Washington Post, July 31, 2006
Gunmen killed at least 23 Iraqis on Sunday on a highway south of Baghdad, commandeering three minibuses and herding their occupants into nearby palm groves, where they were lined up and shot, according to police and a witness.
The ambush occurred about 10 miles south of Baghdad where two major highways intersect near the town of al-Rasheed. The witness, Mohammed Mohan al-Janabi, said at least 15 masked gunmen positioned themselves Sunday morning on both sides of the expressway that links western and southern Iraq.
"We knew they wanted to kidnap or kill someone or even hit the American convoys that come to this part of the road, because it is really bumpy and drivers have to slow down" to about 12 mph, said Janabi, 43, a teacher.
The gunmen stopped three minibuses that were traveling together, Janabi said. The passengers and drivers were taken into one of the groves of palm trees lining the highway, where the attackers took their identification cards "and lined them up against the palm trees and shot them all," said Janabi, who lives about 500 yards from the expressway. [complete article] "I came over here because I wanted to kill people."
By Andrew Tilghman, Washington Post, July 30, 2006
"I came over here because I wanted to kill people."
Over a mess-tent dinner of turkey cutlets, the bony-faced 21-year-old private from West Texas looked right at me as he talked about killing Iraqis with casual indifference. It was February, and we were at his small patrol base about 20 miles south of Baghdad. "The truth is, it wasn't all I thought it was cracked up to be. I mean, I thought killing somebody would be this life-changing experience. And then I did it, and I was like, 'All right, whatever.' "
"I shot a guy who wouldn't stop when we were out at a traffic checkpoint and it was like nothing," he went on. "Over here, killing people is like squashing an ant. I mean, you kill somebody and it's like 'All right, let's go get some pizza.' " [complete article] Qana strike: civilians in the line of fire
By Mark Perry, Conflicts Forum, July 30, 2006
The claim that Israel is somehow indifferent to the deaths of innocents in Lebanon -- and Israel's own claim that Hezbollah uses human shields to mask its operations -- are both superficial explanations of a much more complex political problem. According to both Israeli and American defense experts, the Qana tragedy is the direct result of the failure of the U.S. and Israel to provide a political resolution to the current crisis.
There is little question that, eighteen days after Israel's ferocious military response to the abduction of two of its soldiers and the killing of eight others, the IDF has yet to show that it is capable of decisively defeating Hezbollah in open battle or significantly degrading Hezbollah's military capacity. As a result, IDF senior officers have stridently argued that Hezbollah infrastructure strong points and marshalling stations not yet included in IAF strike packages because of their proximity to civilian concentrations be "put on the table."
Over the last 48 hours, and in the run-up to Condoleezza Rice's return to the region, pressures have mounted inside Ehud Olmert's cabinet to expand the IAF's target list to include these marginal sites, despite their proximity to high concentrations of Lebanese civilians. The calculation of the IDF's senior command, and the argument they used with Olmert, was that while expanding the target list might lead to increased civilian deaths in Lebanon the prospective military gains from successfully degrading these high value but high-cost targets was too good to ignore.
Olmert and his defense minister hesitantly gave permission to expand the target list on Friday afternoon, I have been told. Included on the target list were Hezbollah command and control centers in Tyre and in the string of towns south and east of that city. Striking these sites, it was thought, would have a decisive political -- and not just military -- impact, by degrading Hezbollah's missile capacity. Significantly bringing down the actual numbers of rockets launched against Israel would allow the U.S. and Israel to declare that the current operation was a success, thereby establishing the ground from which the U.S. could argue that the "terrorist threat" from Lebanon had been defeated. Bringing down the number of rocket strikes on Israel would also allow the IDF to claim a victory in its campaign -- an absolute necessity given the current Israeli political environment.
Reports from the ground in Lebanon confirm that the IAF has expanded its target envelope, hitting sites that were considered off limits just 48 hours previously. Unfortunately, as nearly every military expert knows, precision weapons are not that precise -- and a miscue of even ten meters can make a huge difference. This is what happened at Qana. Nor, it seems, do IDF officers take seriously the more graphic defense of IAF targeting, as justified because Hezbollah uses human shields. Israel also co-locates many of its basing operations in cities and amongst the civilian population -- simply because of the ease of logistics operations that such co-locations necessitate. "The human shield argument just doesn't wash and we know it," an IDF commander says. "We don't expect Hezbollah to deploy in the open with a sign that says 'here we are.'"
Mark Perry is the U.S. director of Conflicts Forum. Israeli raid in Lebanon kills 54
By Hussein Saad, Reuters, July 30, 2006
An Israeli air strike killed 54 Lebanese civilians, including 37 children, on Sunday, prompting Lebanon to tell U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice she was unwelcome in Beirut before a cease-fire.
The raid on the southern village of Qana was the bloodiest single attack during Israel's 19-day-old war on Hizbollah.
As a wave of anger spread across Lebanon and the Arab world, several thousand protesters chanted "Death to Israel, Death to America" outside the United Nations headquarters in downtown Beirut and some smashed their way into the building.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said he would not hold negotiations before a cease-fire, scuppering Rice's visit.
Rice, who was in Israel and had planned to go to Beirut later in the day, said she was saddened by the Qana air raid, but stopped well short of calling for an immediate cease-fire. [complete article]
Comment -- George Bush and Condoleezza Rice obviously thought that they could serve both Israeli and American interests and further their crusade against Islamist extremism by giving the Israeli military a free pass as it unleashed a wave of terror across Lebanon. Now, both Israel and Washington have deprived themselves of the one bit of political cover they could have provided themselves: neither can pretend that they have been constrained in pursuing their war aims by having their hands tied behind their backs. Hands free, Israel and America are now up to their elbows in blood.
Rice abandons Middle East negotiations
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, July 30, 2006
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was forced to cancel a trip to Beirut Sunday after an Israeli airstrike killed more than 50 people, mostly women and children, in the southern Lebanese town of Qana in the bloodiest attack since the hostilities began between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah militia. But she did not call for an immediate ceasefire.
Rice will abandon her Middle East negotiations at least temporarily to return to Washington Monday, U.S. officials said Sunday. Rice will shift her diplomatic efforts to the United Nations, aides say. The U.N. Security Council is planning an emergency session this morning. [complete article]
Comment -- Rice went through the charade of saying, "I have decided to postpone my discussions in Beirut," but after the Lebanese prime minister said, "There is no place on this sad morning for any discussion other than an immediate and unconditional ceasefire as well as an international investigation into the Israeli massacres in Lebanon now," Rice clearly had no choice but run and hide.
See also, Hamas vows to avenge Qana deaths with attacks, even bombings (Haaretz).
Analysis: A second Qana Massacre?
By Martin Asser, BBC News, July 30, 2006
The southern Lebanese town of Qana is known for two events in history, and there could soon be a third as news comes in of rising civilian casualties from an Israeli air strike there.
In realms of biblical narrative, some believe it to be the scene of Jesus Christ's first miracle, turning water into wine during the wedding at Cana of Galilee.
In modern times, it was the scene of one of the bloodiest events of the modern Arab-Israeli conflict, the Israeli shelling of a UN base sheltering Lebanese civilians 10 years ago.
International shock at those deaths - more than 100, and another 100 injured - led to huge pressure for a ceasefire deal bringing an end to Israel's last sustained military operation against Hezbollah militants, codenamed Operation Grapes of Wrath.
The Qana Massacre, as it is known in Lebanon, remains a powerful symbol for Lebanese people of what they say is Israel's indiscriminate and disproportionate response to Hezbollah's rocket attacks. [complete article] Days of darkness
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, July 30, 2006
In war as in war: Israel is sinking into a strident, nationalistic atmosphere and darkness is beginning to cover everything. The brakes we still had are eroding, the insensitivity and blindness that characterized Israeli society in recent years is intensifying. The home front is cut in half: the north suffers and the center is serene. But both have been taken over by tones of jingoism, ruthlessness and vengeance, and the voices of extremism that previously characterized the camp's margins are now expressing its heart. The left has once again lost its way, wrapped in silence or "admitting mistakes." Israel is exposing a unified, nationalistic face.
The devastation we are sowing in Lebanon doesn't touch anyone here and most of it is not even shown to Israelis. Those who want to know what Tyre looks like now have to turn to foreign channels - the BBC reporter brings chilling images from there, the likes of which won't be seen here. How can one not be shocked by the suffering of the other, at our hands, even when our north suffers? The death we are sowing at the same time, right now in Gaza, with close to 120 dead since the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, 27 last Wednesday alone, touches us even less. The hospitals in Gaza are full of burned children, but who cares? The darkness of the war in the north covers them, too. [complete article] Why good countries fight dirty wars
By Caleb Carr, Los Angeles Times, July 30, 2006
All too often the armies of modern democracies have tolerated and even initiated outrages against civilians, in manners uneasily close to those of their totalitarian and terrorist enemies. Israeli troops are currently demonstrating this fact in their response to the Hezbollah rocket offensive — a response most of the world community, according to recent polls, believes is taking an unacceptably disproportionate toll on Lebanese civilians. And there have been times when democratic leaders have been even more open about their brutal intentions: Speaking of the Allied bombing campaign during World War II that culminated in that consummate act of state terrorism, the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, Winston Churchill flatly stated that the objective was "to make the enemy burn and bleed in every way."
Any examination of why this record of behavior on the part of democracies exists -- and why it has been so carefully distorted -- requires a look back over thousands of years of military history, as well as a willingness to dispense with long-cherished but false historical narratives. [complete article] Iran Is Bush's target in Lebanon
By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times, July 30, 2006
To President Bush, the conflict in Lebanon is more than a campaign by Israel to protect its citizens from Hezbollah missiles. Instead, it is "a moment of opportunity" for the United States -- with the most important target not Hezbollah or even neighboring Syria, but distant Iran.
When Bush talks publicly about the 18-day-old campaign, he often makes the point of blaming Iran, one of Hezbollah's main sponsors. Aides say that's a reflection of what he has said in private: that Israel's battle with Hezbollah is merely part of a larger struggle between the U.S. and Iran for influence across the Middle East.
"The stakes are larger than just Lebanon," the president told reporters Friday after meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. "The root cause of the problem is you've got Hezbollah that is armed and willing to fire rockets into Israel; a Hezbollah ... that I firmly believe is backed by Iran and encouraged by Iran."
He added: "I also believe that Iran would like to exert additional influence in the region. A theocracy would like to spread its influence, using surrogates…. And so, for the sake of long-term stability, we've got to deal with this issue now."
Another U.S. official, who spoke about the Middle East turmoil on condition of anonymity, was more blunt. In Lebanon, the United States and Iran "are conducting a proxy war," he said, with Israel fighting for one side and Hezbollah for the other. [complete article]
Press overlooks U.S. role as arms merchant in Mideast conflict
By Greg Mitchell, E&P, July 27, 2006
The conflict would be worth massive attention on its own merits (or demerits), but what really makes it so significant for an American audience is our own deep involvement in that war and the possible dire consequences for our country. The issue does not get much play -- Fox News, for example, seems to be more concerned about Hezbollah sneaking agents over the Mexican or Canadian borders into the U.S.
Simply put: Those are largely American made, supplied, and/or paid for missiles falling on Lebanon today, emerging from jets, tanks and artillery linked to the USA. Much of it could be described as your tax dollars at work -- or the best weapons money can buy. In all, Israel has received since 2001 about $10.5 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) from the U.S., the most of any country, while also spending $6.3 billion on U.S. arms deliveries.
While the U.S. press -- and leading liberal bloggers -- pretty much ignores this, the media abroad does not, and none of it is lost on those who live in or near the Middle East. In this country we read or hear countless references to "Iranian-supplied rockets" or "weapons provided by Syria" but when is the last time you heard a reference to a particular Israeli jet or missile that was sent over by our country? [complete article] What next, Lebanon?
By Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, July 30, 2006
From his hilltop citadel, Walid Jumblatt was a worried man Saturday. In Lebanon's Byzantine, ever-shifting politics, the leader of the country's Druze community has emerged as one of Hezbollah's harshest critics. But a savvy veteran, he understood the arithmetic of the Middle East these days: In war, survival often means victory. And after 18 days of the conflict with Israel, he was bracing for what Hezbollah's survival would mean for a country seized with volatile uncertainty.
Lebanon's survival, he said, was now in the hands of Hezbollah and its leader, Hasan Nasrallah.
"We have to acknowledge that they have defeated the Israelis. It's not a question of gaining one more village or losing one more village. They have defeated the Israelis," he said. "But the question now is to whom Nasrallah will offer this victory." [complete article] Hezbollah: we've planned this for 6 years
By Hala Jaber, The Sunday Times, July 30, 2006
Until now Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militant group, has refused to reveal much about its response to Israel's assault. But in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Times yesterday, Sheikh Naim Qassem, Hezbollah's second in command, spoke out -- and attacked Britain for allowing US planes carrying bombs to Israel to transit through a British airport.
"The transportation of American weapons to Israel is a blatant scandal of America's full involvement in the battle," he said, "and flying them over London bears large responsibility over Britain.
"Instead of working on solving the continuous conflicts in the Middle East, the powerful nations are participating in intensifying and complicating the issues. This is dangerous for peace, and for future relationships between this region and these countries." [complete article]
Many Arabs applaud Hezbollah
By Faiza Saleh Ambah, Washington Post, July 30, 2006
Ever since the seizure of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah sparked an Israeli offensive in Lebanon, Huda Fatani has set her alarm for 3:15 each morning, gotten up to perform her ablutions, then spent more than an hour on her knees praying for the Lebanese militia.
Despite her grueling days at the King Fahd Hospital, where she works as a hematologist, Fatani said this was the least she could do to support the group fighting "on behalf of all Arabs."
Hezbollah's fight with Israel, viewed widely here as a battle between the militia's David and the Jewish state's Goliath, has solidified support for the militant group and left U.S. credibility, already at an all-time low, in tatters. The conflict has highlighted how far apart the United States and the majority of Arabs stand on the most visceral conflict in the Middle East.
Arabs see the U.S. refusal to press Israel, its ally, for a cease-fire as a clear bias toward the Jewish state and against Arabs. They also believe that U.S. delivery of weapons to Israel makes the United States complicit in the deaths of civilians. [complete article] Returning to old approach, U.S. faces risky path ahead
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, July 30, 2006
The Bush administration is now entangled in a risky new diplomatic venture in the Middle East -- and one with huge potential pitfalls even if Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice succeeds in negotiating a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah in the days ahead, according to several former diplomats and specialists with long experience in the region.
The controversial U.S. position -- which has pitted Washington against most European and Arab allies that pressed unsuccessfully for an immediate cease-fire -- also reflects a shift back to the Bush administration's first-term strategy, foreign policy specialists said. With Rice at the helm of foreign policy, the second Bush term had been characterized by a more realistic and collegial approach to foreign policy, a shift from the hard-charging go-it-alone push epitomized by the Iraq war during the first term.
But now, analysts said, the administration is effectively back endorsing all-out force again, in defiance of allies, as part of its policy of trying to rid the Middle East of militants and radicals, or the "drain the swamp" policy. [complete article]
Washington risks a wider conflict
By Jim Muir, BBC News, July 28, 2006
Previous eruptions of violence that began in a roughly similar manner, such as the 1996 Grapes of Wrath bombardment, were curtailed at a much lower level than the current paroxysm.
One major difference this time is that Israel enjoys an indulgence from Washington far beyond anything previous, essentially giving it a free hand.
While previous administrations, despite commitment to the strategic alliance with Israel, kept at least some distance in earlier crises, the US under George W Bush immediately adopted Israel's primary war aim.
There could be no ceasefire until the "root problem - Hezbollah is addressed". Israel would not be under pressure to halt until Hezbollah had been defeated and destroyed.
The agony of Lebanon was, like the carnage in Iraq, part of the birth pains of the New Middle East for the neo-conservative ideologues in Washington. [complete article]
Cabinet in open revolt over Blair's Israel policy
By Gaby Hinsliff, Ned Temko and Peter Beaumont, The Observer, July 30, 2006
Tony Blair was facing a full-scale cabinet rebellion last night over the Middle East crisis after his former Foreign Secretary warned that Israel's actions risked destabilising all of Lebanon.
Jack Straw, now Leader of the Commons, said in a statement released after meeting Muslim residents of his Blackburn constituency that while he grieved for the innocent Israelis killed, he also mourned the '10 times as many innocent Lebanese men, women and children killed by Israeli fire'.
He said he agreed with the Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells that it was 'very difficult to understand the kind of military tactics used by Israel', adding: 'These are not surgical strikes but have instead caused death and misery amongst innocent civilians.' Straw said he was worried that 'a continuation of such tactics by Israel could destabilise the already fragile Lebanese nation'.
The Observer can also reveal that at a cabinet meeting before Blair left for last Friday's Washington summit with President George Bush, minister after minister pressed him to break with the Americans and publicly criticise Israel over the scale of death and destruction. [complete article] Israel is powerful, yes. But not so invincible
By John Kifner, New York Times, July 30, 2006
As the bloodbath in Lebanon spilled past its second week -- with at least 400 Lebanese dead and many more presumed buried in rubble; some 800,000 refugees, nearly a quarter of the population, on the run; and the fragile nation's infrastructure shattered -- there was no easy way out for either Israel or Hezbollah, the combatants locked in what each saw as a deadly existential struggle.
The very clear winner, for the moment at least, was Hezbollah and its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. (Unless, of course, Israel succeeds in its efforts to assassinate him.) As the only Arab leader seen to have defeated the Israelis -- on the basis of their withdrawal in 2000 from an 18-year occupation -- he already enjoyed wide respect. Now, with Hezbollah standing firm and inflicting casualties, he has become a folk hero across the Muslim world, apparently uniting Sunnis and Shiites. [complete article]
The day Israel realised that this was a real war
By Ian Black, Inigo Gilmore and Mitchell Prothero, The Observer, July 30, 2006
It was five in the morning and the lead Golani Brigade squad was moving carefully through the outskirts of Bint Jbeil when a burst of automatic fire rang out. Hizbollah fighters engaged the Israeli patrol at close range with machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades, from alleys, windows and rooftops. Two men died in the first moments; six more were killed over the coming hours. It was, one survivor said later, an 'ambush from hell'.
Sergeant Evyatar Dahan, shot through the shoulder, managed to kick away a live grenade seconds before it exploded but watched as his company commander was killed. 'It was terrible: the shooting went on and on and there was screaming from all directions,' the young infantryman recalled afterwards. 'We were like sitting ducks,' said another soldier.
After the initial shock, reinforcements arrived and air strikes were called in from across the border - just two kilometres south - to pin down the Lebanese Shia guerrillas. But it was seven hours before the wounded could be evacuated by helicopter, and only then under heavy fire. Hizbollah said its men could hear the Israelis screaming. [complete article]
Hezbollah declares victory after Israel announces troop withdrawal
By Warren P. Strobel and Shashank Bengali, McClatchy, July 29, 2006
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared victory on Saturday after Israel announced it was withdrawing its forces from the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbail where Israeli troops found unexpected difficulty in dislodging the guerrilla group from its strongholds.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev defended the decision to pull troops from Bint Jbeil, saying Israel had never intended to occupy the town, but Nasrallah's quick declaration of victory underscored the propaganda gains Hezbollah is reaping across the Muslim world as it battles Israel to a stalemate.
"The Israelis are ready to halt the aggression because they are afraid of the unknown," Nasrallah said in a speech in which he also expressed measured support for the Lebanese government's efforts to reach a peace agreement. [complete article] My journey on the highway of fear with families who lost everything
By Peter Beaumont, The Observer, July 30, 2006
You can hear the bombs detonate and see the damage in Beirut, but something changes in people's faces as you drive out and down along the coast road. South of Sidon you reach the war. By Tyre, the faces are desperate as they race their cars north, seeking some element of safety.
Israeli gunships shell the coastal road. They sit out of sight, just over the horizon. All you hear is the buzzing of the Predator drones transmitting GPS coordinates of targets to the ships and planes. Where the coastal road is destroyed you wind on to a track lined with abandoned, dust-covered cars that have run out of petrol. Others are wrecked by shell and missile blasts.
An Israeli transmission breaks into the frequencies on the car radio in perfect Arabic, but with Rs that roll a bit too much. It is on a loop. 'Where is Hassan Nasrallah? [Hizbollah's general secretary],' it asks. It blames him for the violence and Lebanon's woes. It warns that there may be worse to come. [complete article]
Families struggle to stay together while fleeing violence in Lebanon
By Hannah Allam, McClatchy, July 29, 2006
When Israeli airstrikes tore through the lemon orchards and potato patches of Mansouri, a village near Lebanon's border with Israel, the Mdayhli family disappeared.
Manal Mdayhli, her husband and their infant daughter took cover with strangers in a neighboring village, where relief workers discovered them days later, hungry and with no word of their relatives.
On Saturday, news trickled in. One cousin had been evacuated to Germany. An aunt was camping at a school in Beirut. Another cousin, Darwish Mdayhli, had become body No. 97 in a mass grave in the southern port city of Tyre.
The whereabouts of many others are still unknown, uprooted, like tens of thousands of other Lebanese villagers, from places where their families have lived for generations. The resulting demographic shift will take months, probably years, to sort out. [complete article]
500,000 Israelis living in bomb shelters
By Kathy Gannon, AP (via ABC), July 29, 2006
Hezbollah launched a new kind of rocket Friday that made the deepest strike into Israel yet, rattling Israelis as their warplanes and artillery targeted guerrillas in attacks on apartment buildings and roads.
Lebanese officials said about 12 civilians died in the day's fighting; Israel said it killed 26 militants, raising to about 230 the total number killed in the campaign.
Hezbollah's launching of the new weapon unnerved Israelis, 500,000 of whom are already living in northern shelters because of rocket bombardments. The rocket firing was also likely to escalate a conflict now in its 18th day, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heading back to the Middle East this weekend to make a second attempt to resolve the crisis. [complete article] Iran hangs in suspense as war offers new strength, and sudden weakness
By Michael Slackman, New York Times, July 30, 2006
These should be heady days for Iran's leaders. Hezbollah, widely regarded as its proxy force in Lebanon, continues to rain down rockets on Israel despite 17 days of punishing airstrikes. Hezbollah's leader is a hero of the Arab world, and Iran is basking in the reflected glory.
Yet this capital is unusually tense. Officials, former officials and analysts say that it is too dangerous even to discuss the crisis. In newspapers, the slightest questioning of support for Hezbollah has been attacked as unpatriotic, pro-Zionist and anti-Islamic.
As the war in Lebanon grinds on, Iranian officials cannot seem to decide whether Iran will emerge stronger -- or unexpectedly weakened. [complete article] Audit finds U.S. hid cost of Iraq projects
By James Glanz, New York Times, July 30, 2006
The State Department agency in charge of $1.4 billion in reconstruction money in Iraq used an accounting shell game to hide ballooning cost overruns on its projects there and knowingly withheld information on schedule delays from Congress, a federal audit released late Friday has found.
The agency hid construction overruns by listing them as overhead or administrative costs, according to the audit, written by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, an independent office that reports to Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department.
Called the United States Agency for International Development, or A.I.D., the agency administers foreign aid projects around the world. It has been working in Iraq on reconstruction since shortly after the 2003 invasion. [complete article]
Report on prewar intelligence lagging
By Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, July 30, 2006
When angry Democrats briefly shut down the Senate last year to protest the slow pace of a congressional investigation into prewar intelligence on Iraq, Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) claimed a rare victory.
Republicans called it a stunt but promised to quickly wrap up the inquiry. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is overseeing the investigation, said his report was near completion and there was no need for the fuss.
That was nine months ago. [complete article]
Partisan divide on Iraq exceeds split on Vietnam
By Robin Toner and Jim Rutenberg, New York Times, July 30, 2006
No military conflict in modern times has divided Americans on partisan lines more than the war in Iraq, scholars and pollsters say -- not even Vietnam. And those divisions are likely to intensify in what is expected to be a contentious fall election campaign.
The latest New York Times/CBS News poll shows what one expert describes as a continuing "chasm" between the way Republicans and Democrats see the war. Three-fourths of the Republicans, for example, said the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, while just 24 percent of the Democrats did. Independents split down the middle.
"The present divisions are quite without precedent," said Ole R. Holsti, a professor of political science at Duke University and the author of "Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy." [complete article] Relentless sectarian violence in Baghdad stalks its victims even at the morgues
By Kirk Semple, New York Times, July 30, 2006
As violence in the Iraqi capital continues to rise, the task of tracking down missing people here has become a grim ordeal. Iraq's anemic investigative agencies have been ill-equipped to keep up with soaring crime, so for families seeking information, the morgues have often provided the only certainty.
Now, even the morgues have become a source of danger, at least for Sunni Arabs. In recent months, Shiite militias have been staking out Baghdad's central morgue in particular, and the authorities have received dozens of reports of kidnappings and killings of Sunni Arabs there.
Many Sunnis now refuse to go there to look for missing family members and are forced to take extraordinary measures to recover a relative’s body, including sending Shiite friends in their stead. [complete article] Disowning conservative politics, evangelical pastor rattles flock
By Laurie Goodstein, New York Times, July 30, 2006
Like most pastors who lead thriving evangelical megachurches, the Rev. Gregory A. Boyd was asked frequently to give his blessing -- and the church's -- to conservative political candidates and causes.
The requests came from church members and visitors alike: Would he please announce a rally against gay marriage during services? Would he introduce a politician from the pulpit? Could members set up a table in the lobby promoting their anti-abortion work? Would the church distribute "voters' guides" that all but endorsed Republican candidates? And with the country at war, please couldn't the church hang an American flag in the sanctuary?
After refusing each time, Mr. Boyd finally became fed up, he said. Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called "The Cross and the Sword" in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a "Christian nation" and stop glorifying American military campaigns. [complete article]
Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:
By Brent Scowcroft, Washington Post, July 30, 2006
Does Arab public opinion matter?
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, July 29, 2006
Hezbollah: The "hiding among civilians" myth
By Mitch Prothero, Salon, July 28, 2006
The Middle East and the barbarism of war from the air
By Tom Englehardt, TomDispatch, July 28, 2006
The 'Arab system' is dying in Lebanon
By David Hirst, The Guardian, July 28, 2006
Israel: Let's declare victory and start talking
By Ze'ev Sternhell, Haaretz, July 28, 2006
The alternative to Hezbollah may be occupation
By Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz, July 28, 2006
Lebanon: History repeats with a vengeance
By Jim Muir, BBC News, July 28, 2006
Syria will emerge stronger from the Lebanon debacle
By Joshua Landis, Syria Comment, July 26, 2006
Condi in diplomatic disneyland
By Tony Karon, Time.com, July 26, 2006
Israel's barrier to peace
By Chris Hedges, Truthdig, July 25, 2006
Morality is not on our side
By Ze'ev Maoz, Haaretz, July 25, 2006
Hezbollah is nobody's puppet
By Reza Aslan, Los Angeles Times, July 25, 2006
Israel's pretext for war - a lethal non sequitur
By Paul Woodward, The War in Context, July 25, 2006
A new Middle East, or Rice's fantasy ride?
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, July 24, 2006
Bush's Middle East democracy flop
By Anatol Lieven, Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2006
The West's moral erosion has undermined the war on terror
By Max Hastings, The Guardian, July 24, 2006
U.S. in Iraq: 'Waiting to get blown up'
By Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, July 27, 2006
No blood, no foul: Soldiers' accounts of detainee abuse in Iraq
Human Rights Watch, July 23, 2006
In Iraq, military forgot lessons of Vietnam
By Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post, July 23, 2006
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