Fox and the right wing blogosphere, have been playing this whole thing as if it is solely Israel being under attack, and it is waging a battle in the War Against Terror, on our behalf.
On Fox some National Review writer argued that American credibility in the Middle East suffered because the US "Cut and Run" in Lebanon after the bombging of the Marine Barracks.
On the other side of this is the absolute hysterics of Prensa Latina, which sees this as the deliberate targeting of civilians, and whose stories minimize Hizbullah guerrilla atacks.
Britain's Guardian, while acknowledging Hizbollah's rocket attacks, focuses disproportionally on Israel's reaction as the headlines alone show: Lebanon: the world looks on· EU criticism of Israel removed · Statement diluted following British pressure · Death toll passes 200. The "international response" that has people exasperated is directed solely to the Israelis. There is hardly a word about any Iranian or Syrian involvement in the situation, given their long association with Hizbullah and Hamas, and consequently a role in inciting or at least being able to control them.
THIS AIN'T NOTHING NEW PEOPLE
First of all, facts straight. Hizbullah are nuts, Juan Cole has a translation of what Nisrallah had to say.
"We arose to strike at the city of Haifa, and we know the importance and grave significance of this city. Had we targeted with our missiles the chemical and petrochemical factories, an enormous catastrophe would have ensued for the inhabitants of that area. But we deliberately avoided those factories, which were in the sites of our missiles, since we were eager not to push things toward the unknown and were eager that this weapon be a weapon not of revenge but of defense . . . a weapon that would return the crazies in the Olmert government to a modicum of reason and save them from a grandiosity complex, or, I might say, the stupidity whereby they distinguish themselves . . . But because we set those targets aside this time does not mean that we we always adopt this position. At any point where we consider that we are involved in defending our nation and our people and our families, we will resort to all means we can in pursuit of that defense . . . "
These guys do not like Israel and they are willing to do crazy things - people who threaten chemical warfare are not right.
Hizbullah has first of all taken 2 Israeli soldiers hostage. Then they are rocketing the northern part of Israel, with fairly old rocket launchers, though they have bigger one in hiding. Launching these rockets at a city is going to intimidate, scare, destroy houses, and kill civilians unlucky enough to be caught outside. But the effect is limited to the mobility of the enemy, which is not that great to begin with. This round of attacks, and the level of destructive power, is no worse, and arguably less damaging and effective than the SCUD attacks on Israel during the Gulf War, where Saddam was launching ballistic missles with many more times the explosive power, and which could hit a variety of targets outside of one specific geographic area. There are civilian areas of Israel that have been subject to shelling from fixed positions for decades. That is no excuse, it is simply saying that this is not the worst attacks seen.
Israel is Under Attack and Has a Right To Respond.
Even the much-maligned (at least by the right), Cole has this to say
Hizbullah's attacks on Israeli civilians are war crimes. The killing of the civilians in Haifa at the train station was a war crime. And threatening to release chemicals from factories on civilian populations is probably a war crime in itself, much less the doing of it.
Obviously, I do not accept that Hizbullah's actions justify the wholesale indiscriminate destruction and slaughter in which the Israelis have been engaged against the Lebanese in general. But they do have every right to defend themselves against Nasrallah and his mad bombers.
Once the attacks start and they retaliate, you know the Israeli's are going to bring out their "A" game and get nasty. It is going to involve much more than drive-by launchings of old rockets into enemy cities. Someone fires rockets at you, you bomb the people who launch them, maybe even invade where they are launching from, so be it. If Israel were to invade the areas it held prior to its withdrawal from Lebanon,
not too many reasonable people would complain.
Israel's Response Is Disproportionate
This is a really good article comparing first of all the damage done to both sides. Well, because it is Lebanon there are never two sides.
Most of the time in Beirut, the bombs come without warning. Occasionally, above the hooting of cars and other street noises, you hear the roar of an invisible plane. Then there's a loud bang, perhaps two of three in quick succession. Sometimes it's more of a muffled thud, and sometimes you hear nothing at all. Sound and blast travel in strange ways, especially when there are buildings around.
Judging by the TV over the weekend, the picture in Israel is rather different. There, at least, they have warnings of attacks and people try to take shelter.
That about sums up the equation of force, one side fires a bunch of vintage unguided rockets, the other side comes in and uses precision bombs and non-precision bombs with at least ten times the explosive power.
The Damage Done
Reality is that Israel's response has gone way beyond the proverbial "gun to a knife-fight." Their air attacks, have killed over 180 civilians. The Israeli's are hitting areas in highly sectarian Lebanon which are not even Hizbullah alllies. Included in the dead were 7 Canadians of Lebanese origin visiting family. There are hundreds of thousands of refugees, which is a major human tragedy, no matter which side you cut it. And anytime you displace that many people you create automatic tension in small fragmented countries. They are also trashing the infraestructure of the entire country of Lebanon, a job the Lebanese generally reserved for themselves and their multiple factions, before they invited outsiders in to help.
Israel, while it has suffered civilian deaths and caos due to the attacks, has simply gone too far, and for too long. It is shattering the gains of the Cedar Revolution, and destroying things that the Lebanese finally had been able to rebuild.
U.S. T.V. Coverage Has Been Way Too One-Sided
A further striking difference, when you compare the pictures from Israel and Lebanon, is that Israeli weapons are far more destructive than those of Hizbullah, though you might not realise that if you watch CNN - an issue that bloggers have begun to comment on.
I watched a lot of the coverage on Fox and CNN, and it was wild how much they focused on Israel, spot coverage of whenever another rocket landed, hanging out with the IDF shelling Hizbullah. They even cut away to show fields burning because of rocket attacks!! Coverage of Lebanon was limited to phone calls from Lebanese-Americans who were trying to get out. This blog, detailed the coverage from CNN, on a day when 50 civilians died in Lebanon.
I made a point of watching CNN's afternoon "Situation Room" with the network's high-profile anchor Wolf Blitzer, who gravely intoned about the "fear of all-out war" in the Middle East. ("Mideast: Brink of War?" read the on-screen graphic.) Indeed, "The Situation Room" chewed on Middle East story almost without interruption. I watched a CNN reporter from Israel file a dispatch, and then a reporter traveling with the president, a reporter from the United Nations, a reporter from Lebanon, an in-studio discussion with the U.S. ambassador to Iraq and then an interview with Republican Sen. Bill Frist. Yet during the first 40 minutes of "The Situation Room," which devoted itself almost exclusively to the escalating Mideast chaos, there was no reference to the fact the Israeli military had killed more than 50 Lebanese civilians. (It wasn't until halfway through the second hour of "The Situation Room" that Blitzer finally clued viewers in.)
Later, I went back and checked CNN's reporting, via TVeyes.com, and discovered that throughout the day CNN repeatedly reported on the lone Israeli civilian causality without making any mention of the more than 50 Lebanese civilian casualties. To be exact, CNN did that at 10:31 a.m., 11:02, 12:09 p.m., 12:19, 1:00, 1:30, 1:52, 2:00, 2:17, 2:30, 2:50, and 4:04.
You can not skew the coverage this way, it is a disservice to the public. It also allows favored talking heads to repeatedly spin this thing into a simplistic good guy vs. bad guy picture, with the good guy being Israel. Throw in the incessant emphasis on the Israel part early on, and it seems like the U.S. public/media/government are behind Israel on this.
Can Not Say This Enough
Lebanon is all about Multiple Factions Most Lebanese who are not in Hizbullah, belong to any variety of religious and ethnic factions. Many of them could care less what Hizzbolah does to Israel, much less feel any real connection to Hizbullah. Once you have experienced civil conflict you develop rough ideas of proportion. If one side kidnapped 2 soldiers and fires rockets at another, it does not merit you getting bombed, specially when you think you do not have a damn thing to do with the lunatics doing it, much less the ability to influence them. It seems to the Lebanese, that they are being punished as a geographical unit, because they happen to share territory with one of many factions.
Nothing New Either.
And what that idiot on Fox said shows just how soon people forget yesterdays lessons. That U.S. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon in the early 80's was a fiasco because some policymakers read the chaotic situation very wrong, and essentially turned the Marines into just another combatant in Lebanon's traditional mess, which is what Senator John McCain at the time had warned about right from the beginning.
Israel made the same mistake in going into Lebanon in 1982, when it thought it could destroy the P.L.O. and assorted other Palestinian factions, and install the Falangist as a central government. Turns out the P.L.O. was the equivalent of a standing army, and as much of a player in Lebanese politics as was Gemayel, other Chrisitian and Palestinian factions, the Syrians, Druze, Shia, Iranians, etc, etc. And that by backing one side, and eliminating the other they found themselves caught in the middle of a muddled mess, that after they left West Beirut became its own quagmire.
And the other lesson, this is hardly the worst conflict the region has ever seen. Last time Israel invaded Lebanon, it massed thousands of troops, armor, and artillery and was besieging West Beirut. And there have been countless direct incursions into Lebanon by Israel and attacks by terrorists on Israel through South Lebanon, without even getting into multi-state wars against Israel. Even if Israel enters South Lebanon searching for the rockets, it is probably more rational than bombing Lebanese soldiers.
To keep WWIII from starting, the best thing to is to encourage Israel to contain its attacks to people who actually launch rockets, kidnap soldiers, and their backers. And the media need to be balanced, the last place in the world to make any simplistic and one-sided assumptions about is Lebanon. And from a public relations perspective reporting the news from Israel's angle - which to many reasonable people it looks like news media are doing - confirms the greater Arab worlds impression of the whole country. So stop it.