Monday, July 24, 2006

And the rockets red glare...

Back in the 1980s when I began to actually care about the world outside my idyllic existence in suburban Massachusetts, I observed something then that continues to be true today...

...whenever I encountered the words "Middle East" in TV or print, the word "crisis" was never far behind. Today, with the recent escalation of hostilities between Israel and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah, the word "crisis" may soon be replaced with "conflagration" as the conflict threatens to widen and involve other countries in the region.

The responsibility for this latest escalation has been laid squarely at the feet of Hezbollah, and in a narrow sense, it is responsible. Yet diplomacy demands that all who are interested in a solution examine more closely the region and its complex dynamics of politics, religion, and culture.

It is just such an examination that appears to be lacking in America if one believes the recent public opinion polls that show about 65-70% of Americans support Israel's actions. Though the rest of the world seems to be in agreement that Israel response has been "disproportionate," Americans and its leaders continue to utter the inane comment that, "Israel has the right to defend itself."

Perhaps better said would be, "Israel has the right to defend itself with reasonable force against specific, non-civilian targets." The claim that Hezbollah militants hide among the civilian population can not and should not justify random bombardment of civilian areas. As noted bby Mary Ann Sieghart, journalist for the Times, UK:
The War on Terror is too easy a pretext for Israel to hide behind. It does not give free licence for a state to bombard the innocent citizens of another in the hope that a few terrorists might be killed in the process. Imagine if we had bombed Dublin in the same way, with more than 300 deaths in a week and half a million people displaced. That would surely have been seen as a war crime.
---TheTimesOnline-UK, "The Shocking Silence from No 10," 7/21/06
Another international newspaper expressing the world's consensus is The Daily Herald, Canada. Journalist Dan Leger writes,
[PM] Harper's statements failed to recognize the disproportionality of Israel’s response to what was really a minor incursion by Hezbollah fighters. I think any fair-minded person would agree that the destruction of Lebanon’s airports, bridges and roads and the killing of hundreds of civilians is a wild overreaction to the immediate threat from the militants..
---The Daily Herald, Halifax, Canada, "Why Canada's Response Has Fallen Far Short," 7/24/06
Another paper questions the "neocon mentality" that seems to dominate some policymakers' decisions in Washington and Israel:
You might say that the mindset of the neocons is very September 12. It has not altered one jot since that day in 2001. It is as if we have learned nothing from the debacle in Iraq about the limits of military force in changing culture and politics in countries we do not fully understand and do not have the expertise or manpower to micro-manage...
---The Australian, op-ed piece, "Neocons Face Right Rebellion," 7/24/06
UN humanitarian coordinator Jan Egeland, in Beirut this week also weighed in:

"This is destruction of block after block of mainly residential areas. I would say it seems to be an excessive use of force in an area with so many citizens." ..."It [Israeli bombardment of civilian areas] makes it a violation of humanitarian law."
---CNN Report, 7/23/06
Other world leaders, notably Jacques Chirac of France and Vladimir Putin of Russia, have called for an end to hostilities by both parties and have also criticized Israel for a "disproportionate" response. Indeed, at a United Nations emergency meeting last week, out of 192 member nations, 189 supported an immediate ceasefire in the Israel/Hezbollah/Lebanon conflict. The three who did not support such an effort: the United States, the UK, and Israel. Even Pope Benedict has essentially said enough already.

There was another time that the United States stood in defiance of the international community when it invaded Iraq three years ago. And today, even with a democratically-elected government, Iraq descends into escalating violence and civil war. What is interesting to note is that American public opinion at the beginning of the Iraq war was about 70% for, and now only about 35% agree it was the right thing to do. So today, American public opinion about Iraq has finally coalesced with the rest of the world's. What will it take for it to catch up with the world's opinion on the current Middle East conflict?

Re-posted from Political Physics with permission of sane yet not.
photo: source

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