Monday, July 31, 2006

Threat Assessment 101 - Grades Israel F, USA Absent

At is a new column by Ze'ev Maoz, a professor of political science
at Tel Aviv University. Here are excerpts:

"There's practically a holy consensus right now that the war in the North is a just war and that morality is on our side. The bitter truth must be said: this holy consensus is based on short-range selective memory, an introverted worldview, and double standards.

This war is not a just war. Israel is using excessive force without distinguishing between civilian population and enemy, whose sole purpose is extortion.

"That is not to say that morality and justice are on Hezbollah's side. Most certainly not. But the fact that Hezbollah 'started it' when it kidnapped soldiers from across an international border does not even begin to tilt the scales of justice toward our side.

"Let's start with a few facts. We invaded a sovereign state, and occupied its capital in 1982. In the process of this occupation, we dropped several tons of bombs from the air, ground and sea, while wounding and killing thousands of civilians. Approximately 14,000 civilians were killed between June and September of 1982, according to a conservative estimate. The majority of these civilians had nothing to do with the PLO, which provided the official pretext for the war.

"In Operations Accountability and Grapes of Wrath, we caused the mass flight of about 500,000 refugees from southern Lebanon on each occasion. There are no exact data on the number of casualties in these operations, but one can recall that in Operation Grapes of Wrath, we bombed a shelter in the village of Kafr Kana which killed 103 civilians. The bombing may have been accidental, but that did not make the operation any more moral.

"On July 28, 1989, we kidnapped Sheikh Obeid, and on May 12, 1994, we kidnapped Mustafa Dirani, who had captured Ron Arad. Israel held these two people and another 20-odd Lebanese detainees without trial, as 'negotiating chips.' That which is permissible to us is, of course, forbidden to Hezbollah....

"The number of dead in Lebanon, the vast majority comprised of civilians who have nothing to do with Hezbollah, is more than 300.

Worse yet, bombing infrastructure targets such as power stations, bridges and other civil facilities turns the entire Lebanese civilian population into a victim and hostage, even if we are not physically harming civilians. The use of bombings to achieve a diplomatic goal - namely, coercing the Lebanese government into implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1559 - is an attempt at political blackmail, and no less than the kidnapping of IDF soldiers by Hezbollah is the aim of bringing about a prisoner exchange....

"But in terms of our own national soul searching, we owe ourselves to confront the bitter truth -- maybe we will win this conflict on the military field, maybe we will make some diplomatic gains, but on the moral plane, we have no advantage, and we have no special status."

When the weak
choose to stand up
it turns the world
downside up.

The asymmetry in the reported death tolls is marked and growing: some 230 Lebanese dead, most of them civilians, to 25 Israeli dead, 13 of them civilians. In Gaza, one Israel soldier has died from his own army’s fire, and 103 Palestinians have been killed, 70 percent of them militants. — JERUSALEM, July 18

That the weak
should dare have a choices,
Makes those empowered
hate their voices.

The point was strategic and also psychological, he said, to destroy “the symbol for the power of the state-within-the-state of Hezbollah” and attack Sheik Nasrallah’s “image as the defender of Lebanon.”Israel has now “demolished the entire compound, and the residents,
the leaders of Hezbollah, are now living underground or as refugees, and that’s a significant achievement,” the general said.

When they dare
to cross a border
they disrupt
all natural order.

Opinion polls show that Israelis back the Lebanon campaign because they see Hezbollah as a clear threat. They have also become inured to international criticism. Uri Dromi, director of international outreach for the Israel Democracy Institute, said, “Public opinion is not so sensitive, because we feel, generally speaking, the world is against us and we’re a little island in an ocean of enmity.”

Any method
of resistance,
becomes a threat
to all existence.

“Proportionality is not compared to the event, but to the threat, and the threat is bigger and wider than the captured soldiers.”

When access
to truth
is just one
click away.
It's time to
stop pretending
that this war
began today.

The estimated death toll from the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon was 18,000, about 0.5 percent of the population. Twenty-four years later, I have yet to hear any sign of remorse emanating from Israeli society. Nor were there any reparations for the carnage wrought by the Israeli Army. When the Israeli press, politicians and intellectuals speak with regret about the “Lebanon War,” it is usually to say the cost to Israel was too high or to point out that the invasion failed to achieve its objectives. The Lebanese fatalities are rarely

A joke went around during the civil war that it was safer to be a
target of the Israeli warplanes than to be exposed to the ineffectual
anti-aircraft fire directed against them. Lebanese bullets seemed certain to hit
you if you fled, whereas if you stayed put, the Israeli missiles would probably
land in your neighbor’s house, not yours.

Since then, air strikes have grown more precise and the Israeli Air Force appears to have expanded its range: planes now target your neighbor’s house and your own. Recent images from Lebanon are chillingly familiar — fathers watching their children die, mothers expiring in children’s laps. Dozens of stories like my grandmother’s are being re-enacted. Dozens of new graves are being dug.

An ancient city and a sovereign nation are being destroyed. The people of Haifa are suffering, too, and Hezbollah unquestionably bears responsibility for its raid on an Israeli military patrol, which began the latest violence. But the scale of suffering is imbalanced, and so is the apportionment of blame. It was the Israeli government, not Hezbollah, let alone the Lebanese government or people, that chose to start this all-out war.

Or that just
one side's actions
came entirely
from the blue.
Truth is that
our ally
holds people
hostage too.

During the closed door session, diplomats said, Mr. Siniora gave a heartrending speech which left many in the room calling for immediate action.

“Is the value of human life less in Lebanon than that of citizens elsewhere?” Mr. Siniora asked. “Are we children of a lesser God? Is an Israeli teardrop worth more than a drop of Lebanese blood?”

Mr. Siniora said Lebanese will begin “legal proceedings” against Israel, and appeared to accuse Israel of war crimes. He said he would “spare no avenue to make Israel compensate the Lebanese people for the barbaric destruction it has inflicted on us.”

He ended his remarks with a quote from the Roman historian Tacitus, which he said describes well what Israel is doing to Lebanon and the region today.

“They created a desolation and call it peace,” Mr. Siniora said.

A number near
ten thousand,
children, men
and many
are in limbo
unduly held.

More is at stake now than the fate of Lebanon. If the West does not persuade Israel to stop its attacks, that failure will add to a creeping sense that, in its fight with Islamic fundamentalism, the West has abandoned its claim to moral superiority based on respect for human rights and international law, and is pursuing instead a war based increasingly on tribal solidarity. What a tragedy this would be, especially for those of us who crave a modern, peaceful Middle East. And what a triumph for the varied strains of bin Ladenism — Muslim, Christian and Jewish alike.

Hezbollah didn't wake up one morning and say let's snatch a couple of soldiers.…

It's important that we stop kidding ourselves. Hezbollah didn't wake up one morning and say let's snatch a couple of soldiers. Nor did history start a couple of ( going on three ) weeks ago.

If you think we should be proud of arming the assault on
Lebanon’s infrastructure and civilian neighborhoods, fine. If you are appalled,
or worried about how others view this, okay. In either case, you might want to
read on, because you won’t see much of this in your local paper.

Probably the most publicity this received lately came just
days ago when the U.S. announced it would be providing $30 million in relief aid
to Lebanon—while at the same time rushing new weapons to Israel. Asked if there
were a contradiction between U.S. arms sales to Israel and aid supplies to
Lebanon, U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman said Washington's position was based on
"two pillars to how we need to deal with the conflict. One pillar is
humanitarian assistance. ... The other is to find conditions for a sustainable

Space does not allow a full accounting of U.S. arms
shipments to Israel in the past year, but to cite just one current budget line:
“100 Guided Bomb Units (GBU-28) that include: BLU-113 A/B penetration warhead.”
That only cost $30 million. Another budget line for $319 million cites “5,000
Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) tail kits.”

These can be dropped from the air by some of the 102 F-16
aircraft sent to Israel since 2001 (price tag: over $4.5 billion). And those
aircraft will stay in the air, thanks to emergency approval last week by the
U.S. for $210 million in JP-8 jet fuel to go to the Israeli military. Israel
also has from the U.S. over 700 M-60 tanks, 89 F-15 combat aircraft, missiles
and bombs of all kinds and scores of attack helicopters.

One of the more obscure items in that arsenal, however, came
to the fore this week, although it got little notice in the mainstream press.

Human Rights Watch, which has no dog in this fight – it has
storngly condemned the Hamas and Hizbollah rockets attacks, for example – issued
a bulletin on Monday, revealing that Israel has used artillery-fired "cluster"
bombs in populated areas of Lebanon, producing documented civilian casualties.
“Cluster munitions are unacceptably inaccurate and unreliable weapons when used
around civilians,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.
“They should never be used in populated areas.”

Newsweek online confirmed the report today, with photos,
adding, "Israel, under pressure from the United States, had not used cluster
munitions in Lebanon since 1982.

The cluster shells explode in the air and scatter hundreds
of tiny bomblets in a wide area. Because of the high "dud" rate for the
bomblets, civilians who step on them are killed months later.

Human Rights Watch researchers photographed cluster
munitions among the arsenal of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) artillery teams
stationed on the Israeli-Lebanese border on July 23. The photographs show M483A1
Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions which, of course, are U.S.-produced
and -supplied. Human Rights Watch "believes that the use of cluster munitions in
populated areas may violate the prohibition on indiscriminate attacks contained
in international humanitarian law,” it said in a statement, calling on Israel to
cease and desist. The group earlier established that the use of cluster
munitions in Iraq caused more civilian casualties than any other factor in the
early U.S.-led military operations in 2003.

But all of this leads to a final, perhaps hopeful, angle
underplayed by the press. That is: The fact that the U.S. is such a strong
patron potentially gives us enormous influence in pressuring Israel to exercise
restraint or accept a ceasefire. Newspaper editorial pages, which with rare
exception, shamefully gave Israel a blank check to bomb at will during the first
two weeks of the air assault, can make up for lost time now.

I wish I was as hopeful. America is stuck on the belief that only states can make war. It's been centuries since we had belifs strong enough to overcome the bonds of nation and home, but when we did, our jihadists, crusaders, gathered from every corner of christendom to free the holy lands. We no longer understand that kind of faith, but once we were the terrorists.

Not all christians joined the crusades, but those that didn't saw the crusaders as heroes willing to sacrifice their lives for the cause. Until we can give our enemies the same credit, we'll never talk to them. Until we talk, we can't settle grievances, theirs or ours. …

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

My Fourth

The fireflies
stream up from the ground
like roman candles.
The bottle rockets
stream up and around
like fireflies.

Mortars lift star shells
over the trees.
And, in every lull
the fireflies flash
like they're desperately,
crazily, trying to
with the fireworks,
make insectoid sense
out of the senseless
love of light
and noise.

On a normal night
they rise,
slowly, stately
toward the trees
sending their signals
to each other
calmly, carefully,
but not tonight.

They are confused
by Independence
and its illegal light.
con·cept: July 2006