No more killing in Lebanon. Seriously.
I confess that I have remained silent for three weeks as human beings suffered and died needlessly. I have pretended not to see the carnage because it was more convenient to avert my gaze, to go about my business and avoid creating offense.
Today I break the silence.
Quite simply, the killing in Lebanon must stop. No national aims or political ideology can justify the deaths of innocent civilians, inflicted intentionally or otherwise. Not Israel’s commitment to extinguish any threat to its existence. Not Hezbollah’s militant posturing behind Islamic identity and the defense of Lebanon’s territorial integrity.
I’d like to dub this the Stupid War. Neither of the two parties’ aggressive actions makes any strategic sense or serves any honorable purpose. Not Hezbollah’s raid into northern Israel to capture soldiers to be used as bargaining chips in a prisoner swap. Not Israel’s massive air bombardment and ground invasion of Lebanon.
The burden of death and injury – mounting by the day – has disproportionately fallen on the shoulders of civilians rather than armed combatants, by a ratio of roughly 10 to one. As of July 30, various news reports pegged the Lebanese death toll at between 500 and 750, while Israeli deaths – both soldiers deployed in southern Lebanon and civilians receiving rocket fire in northern Israeli towns – stood at more than 50.
Most shocking of all is the atrocity at Qana, where Israelis dropped a bomb on an apartment building in the early morning hours of July 30 as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice conducted diplomacy in Jerusalem. The attack reduced the apartment building to rubble, snuffing out the lives of at least 28 civilians -‘ many of them reported to be women and children. In a chilling reprise, the attack took place exactly 10 years after Israeli forces shelled a UN compound killing more than a hundred refugees who had already been displaced by the war in 1996.
From the start President Bush has none too subtly sent the message to Israel that it should press forward with its offensive, crush Hezbollah, and only then halt the bloodshed. It is hard to fathom how a person could remain so callous in the face of such human suffering and death. Instead of fully deploying US diplomatic power to bring an immediate end to the hostilities, Bush has exploited the conflict to step up belligerent rhetoric against Syria and Iran, both longtime supporters of Hezbollah.
Ever clinging to his sunny disposition, Bush told the world in a radio address hours before the Qana attack that the conflict in the Middle East was “a moment of opportunity for broader change in the region.”
It makes you wonder if this man who wears his piety on his sleeve has ever had a moment of prayerful reflection. His response to the slaughter in Lebanon gives him away as a sham Christian cowering behind the Bible to avoid examining the contents of his own heart.
Two days later, with Qana drawing a harsh light to the administration’s failure to broker an agreement, Bush demanded: “Iran must end its financial support and supply of weapons to terrorist groups like Hezbollah. Syria must end its support for terror and respect the sovereignty of Lebanon.”
He’s right, of course.
Inasmuch as about one in 10 casualties have resulted from attacks by Hezbollah, which is militarily supported by Iran and Syria, those two countries have a responsibility to restrain their client. Roughly 90 percent of the casualties have been inflicted by Israel, whose patron is the United States. So the greater share of responsibility falls on the Bush administration.
Attack helicopters, jet fighters, missiles, financial aid – it all comes from the United States. By far, Israel is the top recipient of US military aid in the world. And while it’s an open question whether the United States retains the prestige and credibility to shape affairs in the Middle East at this late hour, it is unconscionable that the administration would not at least try to reign in Israel.
Speaking to reporters aboard a flight from Israel to Ireland’s Shannon Airport on July 31, Secretary Rice shot down a question about reports that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told her he needed 10 to 14 additional days to finish the job in Lebanon, saying, “I’m not going to talk about what the prime minister and I talked about. And I would not, if I were you, assume that everything you read in the newspapers about what the prime minister did or did not say to me happens to be true.”
By then she was publicly professing to favor a cease-fire, but only under certain conditions.
“When we talk about a cease-fire that is sustainable, when we talk about a cease-fire that can lead to an enduring peace, obviously that cease-fire has to be at a basis that’s not going to permit a return to the status quo,” Rice said.
They don’t get it.
War does not bring us closer to peace. No, every child crushed beneath the rubble, every grandmother stricken with grief, every young man burning with rage and humiliation, little by little, makes peace ever more elusive.
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