Monday, July 31, 2006

Oops, they did it again:

In the early morning hours of July 30 Israel bombed a house in the Lebanese town of Qana and killed at least 56 innocent civilians, 37 of whom were small children. Once again it seems Israel's US supplied smart bombs made another one of those "regrettable" mistakes that oddly keep happening over and over again. When they're not "accidentally" shelling or killing UN observers in their clearly marked outposts, they're bombing ambulances and fleeing civilians on the roads they haven't got around to destroying yet. What is really amazing about this particular outrage is that it took place in the very same town where Israeli shelling massacred 106 Lebanese refugees 10 years ago. (It looks like they're only half way in their efforts to turn back the clock in Lebanon 20 years.) So, what on earth were they thinking? Who made the call to allow that Israeli pilot to drop his payload and what does this say about the people making the political decisions in the Israeli government? As I've noted previously: Christopher Dickey quoted an Israeli official in a Newsweek article last week saying the US was giving Israel a surprising amount of slack and "absent a Qana, it might go on."

Was this a blunder of monumental proportions or does Israel just think the US government will simply sit around and take the heat for them indefinably while they conduct their collective punishment of the Lebanese people? Because, as might have been expected, the response to what King Abdullah II of Jordan called this "ugly crime," was almost universal and immediate. Protests erupted around the region and in Beirut Lebanese of mixed sectarian persuasions ransacked the UN headquarters. Kofi Annan told an emergency meeting of the UN SecurityCouncil, "Excellencies, we must condemn this action in the strongest possible terms, and I appeal to you to do likewise. No one disputes Israel's right to defend itself. But by its manner of doing so, it has caused, and is causing, death and suffering on a wholly unacceptable scale." [WaPo] Even the Pope weighed in!

In a cynical attempt to mollify the outrage of the world, Israel announced they were calling a 48-hour "humanitarian" cessation of aerial bombing while they "investigated" what happened. Not long after, though, Israel qualified this moratorium on bombing by saying they would still use air power to support their ground troops, stop imminent attacks by Hezbollah and attack vehicles they suspect of re-supplying militants. In other words, pretty much the same justifications they've been using all along for their vicious bombardment. As I write, only a few hours later, Israel is back to bombing southern Lebanon.

Something tells me the only reason they decided to dial down the bombing for a few hours in the first place was because even Condi was shocked by the brutality of the attack. Rice, incidentally, wasn't told about what happened in Qana for some 8 hours afterwards. While she was mugging for the press with Israel's defense minister (bad form there!) one of her aides had to bring her the bad news. Apparently, our good friends the Israelis -- who she's been doing her best to run interference for -- forgot to mention it to her. (Who's the protégé and who's the patron in this relationship, anyway?) By the time she found out that her whole effort to give birth to the "New Middle East" was lying under the rubble of Qana, Lebanese PM Fuad Siniora was telling the media she had been uninvited to Beirut. "We scream out to the world community to stand united in the face of Israel's war criminals. There is no place on this sad morning for any discussion other than an immediate and unconditional ceasefire [and] an investigation into the Israeli massacres," he said. [WaPo] And even worse: he thanked Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, for defending Lebanon!

The longer this goes on the more chance there is for even more serious miscalculations and mistakes. The tension is ratcheting up exponentially everyday and Israel's calling up of 15,000 reserves hasn't helped convince Syria that Israel has no intention of attacking as they keep insisting. Syria is on high alert and the potential for an errant bomb or another Qana could send this war to into a regional conflagration without even trying very hard. Things would be bad enough if Syria was drawn into the fighting but the real fear is what might happen if Hezbollah launched one of its Iranian made Zelzal-2 rockets at Tel Aviv in retaliation for something like Qana. All bets would then be off. And even though the FT reports that at present, "military analysts assume that Iran's explicit permission would be required to launch them," there's no telling what Iran might do if Syria was attacked.

At that point, we have to assume Iran's Shiite militia clients in Iraq would turn on us. It might even happen without another provocation in Lebanon. The US and our reluctant ally Nuri al-Maliki are under fire from Sciri, Muqtada al-Sadr and even Ayatollah Ali-Sistani, who said attacks on the Lebanese people would not "be forgiven." In fact, al-Maliki had to leave Washington early last week because there were rumors of a coup! [WaPo]

The threat of something like this happening has likely not been overlooked by pentagon planners, as over the past few months or so troop levels in Iraq have risen from 127,000 to 135,000. 3,700 troops in units scheduled to rotate out have been held up and the pentagon has announced the deployment of five more Army and Marine brigades going to Iraq soon. [Inquirer] And we could soon see troops levels at over 150,000 or more if we get into another tussle with Muqtada al-Sadr's Madhi army. We could even see a battle for possession of the Green Zone!

So, let's keep supporting Israel as they drag our reputation through the pools of blood of their vicitms!


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