'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Friday, July 28, 2006

"Everyone in southern Lebanon is a terrorist and is connected to Hizbollah" 

On Wednesday, I posted the following about the prospects for the Lebanese in light of the ambush of the IDF at Bint Jbail:

After all, somebody must be held responsible for the failures of Olmert and IDF leadership, and who better than the people of Lebanon?

Morally and ethically, it has already been squared away. Alan Dershowitz reassures us that we should not consider them the equal of Israelis who have been victimized by the conflict. Tragically, the failings of Olmert and the IDF are so severe that they have no choice but to kill large numbers of Lebanese and decimate what remains of Lebanese society in order to atone.

Days of vengence may lurk just over the horizon:

Everyone remaining in southern Lebanon will be regarded as a terrorist, Israel's justice minister said yesterday as the military prepared to employ "huge firepower" from the air in its campaign to crush Hizbollah.

Haim Ramon issued the warning as the Israeli government decided against expanding ground operations after the death of nine soldiers in fighting on Wednesday.

"What we should do in southern Lebanon is employ huge firepower before a ground force goes in," Mr Ramon said at a security cabinet meeting headed by Ehud Olmert, the prime minister. "Everyone in southern Lebanon is a terrorist and is connected to Hizbollah. Our great advantage vis-a-vis Hizbollah is our firepower, not in face-to-face combat."

Mr Olmert promised that the army would "continue toward the established goals".

Mr Ramon's comments suggested that civilian casualties in Lebanon, which stand at about 600 after 16 days of bombardment, could rise yet higher.

In preparation for this assault, the US has shipped so-called "bunker busters" to Israel, with potentially serious consequences beyond the obvious immediate loss of life, according to Dr. Doug Rokke, a former Director of the U.S. Army Depleted Uranium project:

The delivery of at least 100 GBU 28 bunker busters bombs containing depleted uranium warheads by the United States to Israel for use against targets in Lebanon will result in additional radioactive and chemical toxic contamination with consequent adverse health and environmental effects throughout the middle east.

For those unfamiliar with depleted uranium weapons, there is a belief that they leave a radioactive residue in the environment responsible for numerous adverse health effects, including death, experienced by soldiers and non-combatants exposed to them. Robert Fisk has a disturbing chapter in his most recent book, The Great War for Civilization, describing his heartrending personal encounters with hospitalized Iraqis, many of them children, exposed to depleted uranium in southern Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War, with no hope of recovery.

For Lebanese in an IDF designated free fire zone, exposure to depleted uranium is a secondary concern:

An International Committee of the Red Cross report said one of its delegates who had visited Blida, near the Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil, had found about 700 people, including 300 children, sheltering in a mosque.

Villagers were running short of water, food and medicine, displaced people were huddled in schools and patients stranded in hospitals. "Dead bodies had not been removed from the streets and others were still buried in rubble," the ICRC said.

Put bluntly, the IDF is creating a free fire zone in a bombed out region with an emerging refugee crisis:

Over 600 civilians from Naqoura, Alma Ash Shab, and other neighboring villages were sheltered inside the UNIFIL Headquarters in Naqoura yesterday, and provided with food and water. UNIFIL also provided humanitarian escorts to a group of 250 of them yesterday from Naqoura to Tyre, and to another group of around 300 this morning. Around 100 civilians still remain in the UNIFIL compound. The ICRC distributed this morning some food to UNIFIL in Naqoura for the remaining group. UNIFIL hospital in Naqoura provided treatment for 39 civilians.

Approximately 1000 local civilians from Alma Ash Shab, Al Bustan, Yarin, Al Duharya, and other neighboring villages, were sheltered inside a UNIFIL position of the Ghanaian battalion in the area of Al Duharya at noon yesterday. Around 670 of them left the position for Tyre later in the afternoon. A group of 330 remained inside the position, and UNIFIL will attempt to provide a humanitarian escort and transportation for them to Tyre today. There were other reports of convoys of civilian cars moving from these areas in the direction of Tyre.

Naturally, none of this alarms the US or Israel, where there is near unanimity of the perceived need to undertake more aggressive measures before committing ground forces again. Unfortunately, as I originally wrote about the Israeli assault upon Gaza, an assault, much like the destruction of Lebanon, launched in response to the seizure of a soldier:

Levy has astutely identified the fundamental dilemma facing the Israelis, one very similar to what the United States has failed to solve since 9/11. The kidnapping of Shalit, and the inability to rescue him, has created an impression of vulnerability that requires the application of greater and greater levels of violence and intimidation, which, paradoxically, only serve to shine a brighter and brighter light upon the exposure of the vulnerability which provoked the violence in the first place.

I concede the crude theft of Baudrillard, but the crudity of the theft is a reflection of the coarse, unsophisticated, ultimately failed strategy of the IDF. In Lebanon, the IDF has been twice humiliated, first by the seizure of two soldiers, and, then, by defeat at Bint Jbail, a defeat exponentially greater than the seizure of the soldiers, given how it has been communicated by a stunned, dismayed consolidated global media centered in the United States and Western Europe.

Faced with the humiliation of having its image of invulnerability shattered, much in the same way, as noted by Baudrillard, that the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11 exposed a fissure, an irreparable vulnerability in US capitalism, the IDF has already magnified the problem tenfold at Bint Jbail, and plans to magnify it one hundred fold by increasing the application of force in southern Lebanon, regardless of the consequences for the predominately Shia populace. The IDF is displaying a profound ignorance, an inability to comprehend a fundamental principle: the greater the force applied by the IDF, the greater the victory attained by Hizbollah.

The US defeat in Iraq is a classic example of this principle of asymmetrical warfare, and the IDF is about to be taught an equally painful lesson. Both ignored numerous examples from history which demonstrate that great powers that launch wars of choice can only lose prestige and influence (France 1812, Germany 1914, Britain 1914, the USSR 1979), as only newly emergent ones benefit from them (the US 1845, Germany 1867 and 1870, Japan 1905, the US 1917, the People's Republic of China 1950). One can summarize it by reference to the old adage (paraphrased, and hence, misconstrued, from Nietzsche?), that which does not destroy us makes us stronger.

In this instance, Israel has been slow to understand that the war in Lebanon has been fought, and ultimately decided, symbolically instead of militarily, even if the symbolism is dependent upon a required level of military prowess by Hizbollah. It is already lost, and the IDF can only compound the defeat through the senseless slaughter of more Lebanese. In my post about the assault upon Gaza, I concluded:

In the end, the longer the Gaza operation continues, the more it reveals Isreal's greatest vulnerability of all: it's moral authority and the justification of its existence as an independent Zionist state.

Now, as a consequence of the IDF's doomed Lebanon campaign, Zionism is on life support, even more so that I suggested last week:

As for Zionism, each bomb that explodes in Gaza and Lebanon further shatters what remains of the edifice of its legitimacy. Challenged by demographic and social change within Israel, and confronted by those it has occupied and brutalized, Zionism has lost whatever idealism it originally possessed and abandoned its utopian sensibility, having been reduced by its proponents to an intellectual justification for militarism and the conscious use of unrestrained violence in order to perpetuate Israeli dominance of Palestine and Lebanon. An ideology stripped of its clothes of respectability will not long survive the cold of winter.

It will not comfort them, nor should it, but every death in Lebanon caused by the IDF in the coming weeks will be a nail in Zionism's coffin.

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