More Middle East Muddle
What is unfolding in Iraq is a staggering tragedy. An entire nation is dying, right in front of us. And the worst part of it is: It may be too late to do anything to stop it...
A United Nations report released this week says that the death toll among Iraqi civilians since January 2006 is 14,338. The number killed has been rising steadily each month, from 1,778 in January to 3,149 in June. That report significantly understates the actual totals. The U.N. relied on official data reported by the Iraqi government, which is prone to omit some of the dead. But in any case the situation in Iraq is so chaotic that it is impossible to count their numbers, especially in far-flung provinces. Still, the U.N.’s figures far surpassed previous estimates of casualties from any source.
What’s shocking—especially if you’ve been paying more attention to the destruction of Lebanon by the Israeli armed forces and missed it—is that things in Iraq has gotten qualitatively worse in July. In June, Iraqis died at the rate of nearly 1,000 per week. In July, we can only speculate—but it’s not impossible that the toll is at least twice that, 2,000 per week. The word genocide comes to mind.
In a number of right-leaning media outlets, I keep hearing the charge that we're handcuffing the Israelis as they barrel into Lebanon. I'm not sure what to make of that charge when I see that the House has passed a resolution condemning the "enemies of the Jewish state" by a vote of 410-8.
An interesting article in the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the invasion of Lebanon has been planned for years:
"Of all of Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared," said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University. "In a sense, the preparation began in May 2000, immediately after the Israeli withdrawal, when it became clear the international community was not going to prevent Hezbollah from stockpiling missiles and attacking Israel. By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we're seeing now had already been blocked out and, in the last year or two, it's been simulated and rehearsed across the board."
More than a year ago, a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations, on an off-the-record basis, to U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks, setting out the plan for the current operation in revealing detail. Under the ground rules of the briefings, the officer could not be identified.
In his talks, the officer described a three-week campaign: The first week concentrated on destroying Hezbollah's heavier long-range missiles, bombing its command-and-control centers, and disrupting transportation and communication arteries. In the second week, the focus shifted to attacks on individual sites of rocket launchers or weapons stores. In the third week, ground forces in large numbers would be introduced, but only in order to knock out targets discovered during reconnaissance missions as the campaign unfolded. There was no plan, according to this scenario, to reoccupy southern Lebanon on a long-term basis.
Meanwhile, U. S. arm manufacturers are speeding delivery of precision-guided armaments to Israel: "The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon."
Alvaro Vargas Llosa has a thoughtful commentary in The Independent:
Israel's pursuit of Hezbollah in Lebanon is a mistake. It is unwittingly targeting the best hope of civilized life in the Middle East (outside of Israel itself) and creating the kind of moral and institutional vacuum that engenders sectarian violence.
As I traveled in Lebanon two weeks ago, four things struck me: the almost miraculous reconstruction of Beirut; the free-thinking cosmopolitanism of its middle class; the spirit of peaceful coexistence among the various religious groups, thanks in part to the open-mindedness of much of the Sunni population; and the resentment against Hezbollah among Christians (who comprise more than 35 percent of the population) and Muslims almost everywhere except the Bekaa Valley and southern Lebanon.
Read the whole thing.
A blistering salvo from Paul Craig Roberts on the shame of being an American. Charlie Reese on the disaster we're currently witnessing.
Over at Counterpunch, Alexander Cockburn reviews some "ancient history:"
Let’s go on a brief excursion into pre-history. I’m talking about June 20, 2006, when Israeli aircraft fired at least one missile at a car in an attempted extrajudicial assassination attempt on a road between Jabalya and Gaza City. The missile missed the car. Instead it killed three Palestinian children and wounded 15.
Back we go again to June 13, 2006. Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a van in another attempted extrajudicial assassination. The successive barrages killed nine innocent Palestinians.
Now we’re really in the dark ages, reaching far, far back to June 9, 2006, when Israel shelled a beach in Beit Lahiya killing 8 civilians and injuring 32.
That’s just a brief trip down Memory Lane, and we trip over the bodies of twenty dead and forty-seven wounded, all of them Palestinians, most of them women and children.
Israel regrets… But no! Israel doesn’t regret in the least. Most of the time it doesn’t even bother to pretend to regret. It says, “We reserve the right to slaughter Palestinians whenever we want. We reserve the right to assassinate their leaders, crush their homes, steal their water, tear out their olive groves, and when they try to resist we call them terrorists intent on wrecking the 'peace process'"
A group of Southern Baptist missionaries who were participating in various summer ministries with Lebanese Baptists have been evacuated from Beirut. Hey, I thought they were all Islamic militants.
The UN, not necessarily the most reliable source in the world, says that 1/3 of the casualties in the Hezbollah-Israel flare-up are children.
"Conservatives" who are still looking vainly for Saddam's WMDs are heaping praise on conspiracist druggie Oliver Stone, director of the soon to be released "9/11."