Archive for July, 2006

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The lost honour of the United States

July 29, 2006

Thomas L. Friedman, writing yesterday in the New York Times (subscription required) made what seems to me to be an epochal judgement. Maybe that’s hyperbolic, or maybe I’m tired. Maybe I’ll be over it in the morning.

After canvassing the trends towards mayhem so unmistakeably apparent in the contemporary Middle East, including the current war between Israel and Hizbollah, Friedman had this to say:

America should be galvanising the forces of order — Europe, Russia, China and India — into a coalition against these trends. But we can’t. Why? In part, it’sbecause our president and secretary of state, although they speak with great moral clarity, have no moral authority. That’s been shattered by their performance in Iraq.

It’s the kind of truth that the US’ supporters and well-wishers would rather wasn’t — well, true. Not so cruelly true. But perhaps it is.

The misadventure in Iraq has crucified the US’ moral standing. It launched a purely aggressive war — perhaps the first any western democracy has embarked upon in the modern era — with disastrous if largely unforseeable consequences. It will pay for years, even decades, in damage to its reputation, its authority, its standing, and its credibility in the conversation of nations. It may not be going too far to say that the US has sacrificed the moral force and basis of its superpower status on the altar of Iraq. The world won’t listen anymore, unless it can’t avoid it, because it does not accept — at least for now — that the US has the moral right to command its automatic attention, much less its respect, and even less its obedience.

As I suggested a while back, the eventual and most lasting victim of the United States’ war on Iraq may well be the United States itself.

Then again, maybe I’ve been watching too much CNN.

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Rushing to judgement

July 28, 2006

It seems the anti-Israel brigade was a little quick off the mark with its reflexive response to the IDF’s bombing of the UN post in Lebanon. To them, it was a deliberate attack on the UN — for a purpose never specified as far as I could see — and evidence of Israel’s usual murderous aggression.

It now appears, according to the posthumous testimony of one of the peacekeepers killed, that Hizbollah was using the UN observation post as cover for its own attacks on Israel.

An email from Major Paeta Hess-von Kruedener of the Canadian Light Infantry, while professionally careful not to disclose tactical information directly, read in part:

What I can tell you is this: we have on a daily basis had numerous occasions where our position has come under direct or indirect fire from both artillery and aerial bombing. The closest artillery has landed within 2 meters of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 meters from our patrol base. This has not been deliberate targeting, but has rather been due to tactical necessity.

The recipient of the email, retired Major-General Mackenzie, the soldier’s former commander, commented on the email thus:

We received emails from him a few days ago, and he was describing the fact that he was taking fire within, in one case, three meters of his position for tactical necessity, not being targeted. Now that’s veiled speech in the military. What he was telling us was Hezbollah soldiers were all over his position and the IDF were targeting them. And that’s a favorite trick by people who don’t have representation in the UN. They use the UN as shields knowing that they can’t be punished for it.

The pro-Israeli blogos is all over it, of course. No response yet from the usual suspects.

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Picture a war

July 27, 2006

This map of Beirut has been posted on various pro-Israeli websites in the past couple of days. The areas targeted by Israeli air strikes are represented by the grey blobs.

I don’t know what its provenance is. But if the map is accurate, it gives the lie to the stories that have been circulating in the media about the reduction of whole suburbs of Beirut to rubble.

It brings home a commonplace point: this war is about images. Lisa Goldman at On the Face recently posted a great piece about an image that stirred much fury in the Arab blogosphere, and which turned out to be just a provocative photo-op for sensation-seeking journalists.

At Vital Perpective and Harry’s Place are some revealing commentaries by CNN journalists on how Hizbollah controls access to the damaged areas of Beirut and channels the messages that the mainstream media disseminate.

Yet (easy though it sometimes is) one can’t really blame the media. They want strong stories and strong images. It was never truer than today that media reportage is only the first — and very rough– draft of history. Thank God the blogs are around now to provide the instant corrective.

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More than one crisis. Zimbabwe qualifies

July 27, 2006

An understandably bitter Zimbabwean Pundit writes:

Indictment of the world

The past week’s events in the Middle East have confirmed Zimbabwean’s fears that in eyes of the world some lives are intrinsically more valuable than others. And we now know without a doubt that our lives, those of millions of Zimbabweans ravaged by years of misrule and the extinction of democracy in our homeland, are less valuable than those of the Israeli people.

You see it has become apparent that Zimbabweans are on the opposite end of the global totem pole than the Israelis. How else are supposed to process the reality that: it has taken the death of less than 50 Israelis (in this latest episode of longranging dispute) to garner global media attention and bring diplomatic initiatives around the globe to a virtual standstill.

Less than 50 deaths, and every major media outlet across the USA and Western Europe has been fixated on the crisis. All the major bulletins, front page headlines, and syndicated commentators are focused on the crisis. Most if not all have sent their most capable and prominent personnel to report live. Incessantly returning viewers to check on new developments throughout the day (and night), the media are crooning over the crisis with the devotion like that of a physician to a patient in extremis.

[…..] Hundreds were killed during Operation Murambatsvina. Over three thousand people are dying in Zimbabwe every week. Where is our global spotlight? Where’s our Charlie Gibson, Washington Post,BBC, AFP, or carnival in the blogosphere?

Some lives have more intrinsic value than other lives–I guess.

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Ex-British Islamist’s Beirut dilemma

July 23, 2006

I just laughed at this, but This Ongoing War has a more serious, more thorough take on it.

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2006, or 1934?

July 22, 2006

From The Guardian, in case you hadn’t guessed. Takes its place right alongside this.

And these.

I don’t know what to say. Goebbels would have delighted in it, I suppose. But then again a whole generation has grown up that has probably never heard of Goebbels, or Der Sturmer.

Strange times we live(d) in.

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Flight of innocents urged, prevented

July 21, 2006

I didn’t like this, from The Washington Post:

Using local radio stations and other media, Israel warned the roughly 300,000 Lebanese civilians who live south of the Litani River, which runs about 25 miles north of Israel’s border with Lebanon, to abandon their homes. Israeli officials, meanwhile, indicated that a large ground offensive could follow as rocket fire continued into Israel’s Galilee region, although at a diminished rate.

Legitimate war objectives should not require the displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians.

But I liked this even less (from Live from an Israeli Bunker — a brilliant new entry to the warblogosphere):

I’ve also received an independant confirmation from another reader, regarding a previous post: “I can confirm this report also. A Lebanese friend has told me that family members are trapped in a village close to the border and are being prevented from leaving by Hizbollah fighters who are setting up rocket positions around the village. Her uncles’ words were ‘we are waiting for death’. They are terrified of retaliatory Israeli strikes, but can do nothing when threatened by armed guerillas.”

Far less should they involve the forced conscription of civilians as unwilling human shields.