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

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Fall of the House of Usher 

UPDATE 2: Looks like the IDF is persisting in its war plan of prioritizing the targeting of non-combatants in Lebanon:

Four United Nations peacekeepers have been killed in an Israeli air strike on an observation post in south Lebanon.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said he was "shocked" at the "apparently deliberate targeting" of the post. Israel has expressed "deep regret".

Apparently, shelling a UNIFIL outpost 14 times, and firing upon rescuers, as related in the linked BBC article, is a lot easier than engaging Hizbollah:

As they munched watermelon yesterday, sweating Israeli soldiers were visibly shocked by the stiff opposition they had encountered, describing their Hezbollah opponents as a “guerrilla army” with landmines and anti-tank missiles capable of crippling a Merkavah battle tank.

“It was really scary. Most of our armoured personnel carriers have holes,” a paramedic told The Times after recovering three wounded tank soldiers. “It’s a very hard situation. We were in Lebanon before but it wasn’t like this for a long time.” A tank commander said: “It’s a real war.”

In the Galilee town of Safed, Brigadier-General Shuki Shachar, deputy commander of the northern forces, conceded that the foe was not an easy one. “Hezbollah is a fanatical organisation. It is highly motivated to fight. I don’t want to give grades to the enemy, but they are fighting. They are not escaping,” he said. He insisted, however, that Israel was “changing the balance” after a belated recognition that the Shia group was dug in deeper than expected.

UPDATE 1: More indications that the war is not going well for the IDF. Juan Cole has an excellent post on the subject today, along with a deconstruction of Rice's surprise trip to Beirut.

Asia Times Online provides a thorough analysis by Sami Moubayed, which it is tempting to discount because of its Syrian origin, but it remains an absorbing read, as indicated by this crystallization of the intractable problem faced by the IDF: As a Western observer put it, when walking through south Lebanon, one can feel Hezbollah but one cannot see Hezbollah.

Billmon recognized fairly early that the IDF operation lacked any attainable strategic objectives, and he implicitly addresses the subject again here. In the end, one need only read the New York Times to obtain confirmation. Instead of celebrating the triumphalism of the IDF, it has instead published an article today empathizing with the difficulties faced by young conscripts going into Lebanon.

INITIAL POST:As the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon continues, some recall an eerie videotaped presence, speaking to us across a great divide of religion, culture, intolerance and violence, suggesting a perverse circularity:

The events that affected my soul in a direct way started in 1982 when America permitted the Israelis to invade Lebanon and the American Sixth Fleet helped them in that. This bombardment began and many were killed and injured and others were terrorised and displaced.

I couldn't forget those moving scenes, blood and severed limbs, women and children sprawled everywhere. Houses destroyed along with their occupants and high rises demolished over their residents, rockets raining down on our home without mercy.

The situation was like a crocodile meeting a helpless child, powerless except for his screams. Does the crocodile understand a conversation that doesn't include a weapon? And the whole world saw and heard but it didn't respond.

In those difficult moments many hard-to-describe ideas bubbled in my soul, but in the end they produced an intense feeling of rejection of tyranny, and gave birth to a strong resolve to punish the oppressors.

And as I looked at those demolished towers in Lebanon, it entered my mind that we should punish the oppressor in kind and that we should destroy towers in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted and so that they be deterred from killing our women and children.

And that day, it was confirmed to me that oppression and the intentional killing of innocent women and children is a deliberate American policy. Destruction is freedom and democracy, while resistance is terrorism and intolerance.

This means the oppressing and embargoing to death of millions as Bush Sr did in Iraq in the greatest mass slaughter of children mankind has ever known, and it means the throwing of millions of pounds of bombs and explosives at millions of children—also in Iraq—as Bush Jr did, in order to remove an old agent and replace him with a new puppet to assist in the pilfering of Iraq's oil and other outrages.

We are left to seek words of comfort from British historian Simon Schama, such as they are:

I actually believe that history never repeats itself in precisely the same way. We often make the same kind of mistakes, but the way they play out is never like "Groundhog Day". History has its own mischievous unpredictability. The point of learning it is not to anticipate a precise replica of the cock-ups of the past; it's to learn something deep and important about the nature of the human animal and be prepared for the worst as well as the best that we're capable of. Ultimately, the truths that history gives us aren't that much different from the truths yielded by great poetry or philosophy. They're an education rather than a prophecy.

Somehow, I'm not quite reassured. If anything, it appears that the Iraqis, and now, the Lebanese Shia, have been brutally compelled to learn from history, while we (and the Israelis?) remain doggedly arrogant in the unshakeable conviction that we shape it, instead of it shaping us, as Ron Suskind so frighteningly revealed:

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

Unfortunately, we may again find ourselves confronting unimaginable horrors far beyond the detached confines of academia and journalism.

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