Sunday, August 13, 2006

The dawn mist

Apparently Israel is surrendering, I mean entering a ceasefire, tomorrow morning. But don't let the dawn mist camouflage what has really happened. Olmert's leadership rating has gone from excellent to pretty poor in the last few weeks. The collective military inexperience of his Cabinet was exposed as they failed to give free rein to the generals for an early and decisive ground offensive. The total lack of skill at shaping world opinion, whilst the other side were staging and doctoring entire montages, has left Israel even more isolated and detested than before. The dive for a ceasefire before even coming close to achieving the objectives set out at the beginning, and will probably be interpreted as a sign of weakness by its enemies, thus leading in the near future to more hostilities.

There are only two types of victory: complete and unquestionable, ie 1967, or enough to achieve your objectives whilst letting the other side believe it was some form of success for them too, ie 1973. This is certainly not the former, and given that the objective of destroying or permanently crippling Hizballah has not been achieved, seems not to be the latter.

In any case, a first hat tip goes to Freedmansdad for the articles below, which remind us that there are some sane people left in Britain and Beirut, both unlikely to be blinded by tomorrow's dawn.

Iain Duncan Smith: Israel is one of the most vulnerable nations on the planet
Iain Duncan Smith MP reflects on the current crisis in the Middle East

Recent surveys have shown little public support within Britain for Israel’s actions against the Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon. Israel’s leaders protest that they have a right to self-defence but these protests win little sympathy. Most observers, including some leading members of my own party, believe that Israel has acted “disproportionately”. The nature of the media coverage has encouraged this belief. BBC and other reporters broadcast the horrific scenes of civilian areas flattened by Israeli bombs. Hardly any attention is given to the fact that Hezbollah launch their missiles from residential areas. Hezbollah think nothing of using family homes and flats as human shields. When Saddam Hussain did that we were appalled. But not now.

I have always supported Israel because I admire its democracy and the constitutional freedoms enjoyed by its citizens. Many of the nations in the region fund terrorists and repress their own people. All of the world’s democracies should have a natural solidarity with Israel but there has been little sign of such solidarity in recent days or in recent years.

Israel has failed to win the support it deserves because the rights and wrongs of situations do not matter enough in our postmodern societies. What weighs most heavily on today’s western minds are perceptions of strength. Israel is seen as the strong man of the region. It has the advanced weaponry, the elite troops and the support of America. The Palestinians first and now the Hezbollah operatives are seen as the underdogs. It’s plucky Hezbollah versus mighty Israel on the media. People feel ‘disproportionate’ sympathy with the people of the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon because there is a clear imbalance between their crude forms of organisation and weaponry and of that available to Israel.

If Israel is ever to win more international allies the western understanding of the region needs to be reframed. The reality is that Israel is one of the most vulnerable nations on the planet. It is certainly the most besieged. It is surrounded by fundamentalist preachers, terrorists and dictators who object to its very existence. This true axis of evil is led by the President of Iran. When President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently called for a war against the West, and for Israel “to be wiped off the face of the map”, one of the biggest mistakes made was to (i) treat this as something new and (ii) to dismiss it as political rhetoric. Far from being a one-off statement, Ahmadinejad was confirming a series of statements by Iranian leaders. In 2001 Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani stated “if a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the application of an atomic bomb, it would not leave anything in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world”. Iran, in particular, and Syria are now the world’s leading funders of terrorism. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are nurtured from Tehran. How would we feel if nearby nations were funding Britain-hating terrorists? What would we think of our political leaders if they waited six years to respond to missile attacks from those terrorists?

The ‘world community’ asks Israel to act proportionately but what will ‘world community leaders’ do in order to protect Israel if it does act in a way that Annan, Chirac and Putin think appropriate? Not, of course, that these leaders act proportionately in defence of their own interests. Putin almost bombed Grozny back to the stone age when Chechnya wanted independence. Chirac ignored world opinion when France tested nuclear weapons in the South Pacific. Annan turned a blind eye to the corruption of the oil-for-food programme – corruption that contributed to the loss of thousands of lives every month in Saddam’s Iraq. The best clue to understanding how the world will protect Israel in the next few years is to reflect on recent history. The best thing the world community does is talk. Disproportionate talking is in fact the only thing it does but jaw-jaw has not stopped the suicide bomb or missile attacks on Israel. After Israel unilaterally withdrew from Lebanon in accordance with UN resolutions the world community promised to disband Hezbollah and protect the northern territories of Israel from shelling. It didn’t. The promise never evolved into action. $100m has been sunk into the UN’s interim force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in every year of the last six but Hezbollah has only grown stronger. The only newsworthy story generated by UNIFIL was a recent financial scam.

Israel played by the international rules for six years but ‘disproportionate diplomacy’ did nothing to stop attacks on civilians or its soldiers being kidnapped. Israel now watches the same international community engage in a ‘disproportionate dither’ over Iran’s nuclear programme. Tel Aviv has seen the world fail to protect Israel from Hezbollah. Why should it have much hope that we will protect it from a nuclear Tehran?

Ultimately the terrorists of Hezbollah and their backers are responsible for the loss of life in Israel and across Lebanon. If peace is to be found for all people of the region it needs to begin with a fundamental reappraisal of recent years of international diplomacy. From Bosnia to Darfur and from Iraq to Lebanon the UN has chalked up a terrible record of failure. After this immediate crisis has passed it is vital that we first face up to the reasons for that record of failure.

The Abdication of Lebanese Leaders
State of Denial by Michael Béhé

[ Editor's Note: This article was originally published by the Metula News Agency, for whom it was translated from the French by Llewellyn Brown, and is reprinted with permission. ]

Beirut, Lebanon

The politicians, journalists and intellectuals of Lebanon have, of late, been experiencing the shock of their lives. They knew full well that Hezbollah had created an independent state in our country, a state including all the ministers and parallel institutions, duplicating those of Lebanon. What they did not know--and are discovering with this war, and what has petrified them with surprise and terror--is the extent of this phagocytosis.

In fact, our country had become an extension of Iran, and our so-called political power also served as a political and military cover for the Islamists of Teheran. We suddenly discovered that Teheran had stocked more than 12,000 missiles, of all types and calibers, on our territory and that they had patiently, systematically, organized a suppletive force, with the help of the Syrians, that took over, day after day, all the rooms in the House of Lebanon. Just imagine it: We stock ground-to-ground missiles, Zilzals, on our territory and the firing of such devices, without our knowledge, has the power to spark a regional strategic conflict and, potentially, bring about the annihilation of Lebanon.

We knew that Iran, by means of Hezbollah, was building a veritable Maginot line in the south, but it was the pictures of Maroun el Ras and Bint Jbail that revealed to us the magnitude of these constructions. This amplitude made us understand several things at once: that we were no longer masters of our destiny; that we do not possess the most basic means necessary to reverse the course of this state of things; and that those who turned our country into an outpost of their Islamic doctrine's combat against Israel did not have the slightest intention of willingly giving up their hold over us.

The national salvation discussions that concerned the application of Resolution 1559, and which included most of the Lebanese political movements, were simply for show. Iran and Syria had not invested billions of dollars on militarizing Lebanon in order to wage their war, simply to give in to the desire of the Lebanese and the international community for them to pack up their hardware and set it up back home.

And then, the indecision, the cowardice, the division and the irresponsible behavior of our leaders are such that they had no effort to make to show their talent. No need to engage a wrestling match with the other political components of the Land of Cedars. The latter showed themselves--and continue to show themselves--to be inconsistent.

Of course, our army, reshaped over the years by the Syrian occupier so it could no longer fulfill its role as protector of the nation, did not have the capacity to tackle the militamen of the Hezbollah. Illustration courtesy Michael Behe/Metula News AgencyOur army, whom it is more dangerous to call upon--because of the explosive equilibrium that constitutes each of its brigades--than to shut up behind locked doors in its barracks. A force that is still largely loyal to its former foreign masters, to the point of being uncontrollable; to the point of having collaborated with the Iranians to put our coastal radar stations at the disposal of their missiles, that almost sunk an Israeli boat off the shores of Beirut. As for the non-Hezbollah elements in the government, they knew nothing of the existence of land-to-sea missiles on our territory ... that caused the totally justified destruction of all our radar stations by the Hebrews' army. And even then we are getting off lightly in these goings-on.

It is easy now to whine and gripe, and to play the hypocritical role of victims. We know full well how to get others to pity us and to claim that we are never responsible for the horrors that regularly occur on our soil. Of course, that is nothing but rubbish! The Security Council's Resolution 1559--that demanded that our government deploy our army on our sovereign territory, along our international border with Israel and that it disarm all the militia on our land--was voted on September 2, 2004.

We had two years to implement this resolution and thus guarantee a peaceful future to our children, but we did absolutely nothing. Our greatest crime--which was not the only one!--was not that we did not succeed, but that we did not attempt or undertake anything. And that was the fault of none else than the pathetic Lebanese politicians.

Our government, from the very moment the Syrian occupier left, let ships and truckloads of arms pour into our country. Without even bothering to look at their cargo. They jeopardized all chances for the rebirth of our country by confusing the Cedar Revolution with the liberation of Beirut. In reality, we had just received the chance--a sort of unhoped-for moratorium--that allowed us to take the future into our own hands, nothing more.

To think that we were not even capable of agreeing to "hang" Émile Lahoud --Al-Assad's puppet-- on Martyrs' Square and that he is still president of what some insist on calling our republic. ... There is no need to look any further: We are what we are, that is to say, not much.

All those who assume public and communicational responsibilities in this country are responsible for this catastrophe. Except those of my colleagues, journalists, and editors, who are dead, assassinated by the Syrian thugs, because they were clearly less cowardly than those who survived. And Lahoud remained at Baadbé, the president's palace!

And when I speak of a catastrophe, I do not mean the action accomplished by Israel in response to the aggression against its civilians and its army, which was produced from our soil and that we did strictly nothing to avoid, and for which we are consequently responsible. Any avoiding of this responsibility--some people here do not have the minimal notions of international law necessary to understand!--means that Lebanon, as a state, does not exist.

The hypocrisy goes on: Even some editorialists of the respectable L'Orient Le Jour put Hezbollah's savagery and that of the Israelis on a par! Shame! Spinelessness! And who are we in this fable? Poor ad aeternumvictims of the ambitions of others?

Politicians either support this insane idea or keep silent. Those we would expect to speak, to save our image, remain silent like the others. And I am precisely alluding to General Aoun, who could have made a move by proclaiming the truth. Even his enemy, Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader, has proved to be less ... vague.

Lebanon a victim? What a joke!

Before the Israeli attack, Lebanon no longer existed, it was no more than a hologram. In Beirut, innocent citizens like me were forbidden access to certain areas of their own capital. But our police, our army, and our judges were also excluded. That was the case, for example, of Hezbollah's and the Syrians' command zone in the Haret Hreik quarter (in red on the satellite map). A square measuring a kilometer wide, a capital within the capital, permanently guarded by a Horla army, possessing its own institutions, its schools, its crèches, its tribunals, its radio, its television and, above all ... its government. A "government" that, alone decided, in the place of the figureheads of the Lebanese government--in which Hezbollah also had its ministers!--to attack a neighboring state, with which we had no substantial or grounded quarrel, and to plunge the United States into a bloody conflict. And if attacking a sovereign nation on its territory, assassinating eight of its soldiers, kidnapping two others and, simultaneously, launching missiles on nine of its towns does not constitute a casus belli, the latter juridical principle will seriously need revising.

Thus almost all of these cowardly politicians, including numerous Shia leaders and religious personalities themselves, are blessing each bomb that falls from a Jewish F-16 turning the insult to our sovereignty that was Haret Hreik, right in the heart of Beirut, into a lunar landscape. Without the Israelis, how could we have received another chance--that we in no way deserve!--to rebuild our country?

Each Irano-Syrian fort that Jerusalem destroys, each Islamic fighter they eliminate, and Lebanon proportionally starts to live again! Once again, the soldiers of Israel are doing our work. Once again, like in 1982, we are watching--cowardly, lying low, despicable, and insulting them to boot--their heroic sacrifice that allows us to keep hoping. To not be swallowed up in the bowels of the earth. Because, of course, by dint of not giving a damn for southern Lebanon, of letting foreigners take hold of the privileges that belong to us, we no longer had the ability to recover our independence and sovereignty. If, at the end of this war, the Lebanese army retakes control over its territory and gets rid of the state within a state--that tried to suffocate the latter--it will only be thanks to the Tsahal [Israeli Defense Force], and that, all these faint-hearted politicians, from the crook Fuad Siniora, to Saad Hariri, the son of Lebanon's plunderer, and general Aoun, all know perfectly well.

As for the destruction caused by the Israelis ... that is another imposture: Look at the satellite map! I have situated, as best I could, but in their correct proportions, the parts of my capital that have been destroyed by Israel. They are Haret Hreik--in its totality--and the dwellings of Hezbollah's leaders, situated in the large Shia suburb of Dayaa (as they spell it) and that I have circled in blue.

In addition to these two zones, Tsahal has exploded a nine-storied building that housed Hezbollah's command, in Beirut's city center, above and slightly to the left (to the north west) of Haret Hreik on the map. Image courtesy Metula News AgencyIt was Nasrallah's "perch" inside the city, whereby he asserted his presence and domination over us. A depot of Syrian arms in the port, two army radars that the Shiite officers had put at Hezbollah's disposal, and a truck suspected of transporting arms, in the Christian quarter of Ashrafieh.

Moreover the road and airport infrastructures were put out of working order : they served to provide Hezbollah with arms and munitions. Apart from that, Tsahal has neither hit nor deteriorated anything, and all those who speak of the "destruction of Beirut" are either liars, Iranians, anti-Semites or absent. Even the houses situated one alley's distance from the targets I mentioned have not been hit, they have not even suffered a scratch; on contemplating these results of this workyou understand the meaning of the concept "surgical strikes" and you can admire the dexterity of the Jewish pilots. Beirut, all the rest of Beirut, 95 percent of Beirut, lives and breathes better than a fortnight ago. All those who have not sided with terrorism know they have strictly nothing to fear from the Israeli planes, on the contrary! One example: Last night the restaurant where I went to eat was jammed full and I had to wait until 9:30 p.m. to get a table. Everyone was smiling, relaxed, but no one filmed them: a strange destruction of Beirut, is it not?

Of course, there are some 500,000 refugees from the south who are experiencing a veritable tragedy and who are not smiling. But Jean Tsadik, who has his eyes fixed on Kfar Kileh, and from whom I have learned to believe each word he says, assures me that practically all the houses of the aforesaid refugees are intact. So they will be able to come back as soon as Hezbollah is vanquished.

The defeat of the Shia fundamentalists of Iranian allegiance is imminent. The figures communicated by Nasrallah's minions and by the Lebanese Red Cross are deceiving: firstly, of the 400 dead declared by Lebanon, only 150 are real collateral civilian victims of the war, the others were militiamen without uniform serving Iran. The photographic report "Les Civils des bilans libanais" made by Stéphane Juffa for the Metula News Agency constitutes, to this day, the unique tangible evidence of this gigantic morbid manipulation. Which makes this document eminently important.

Moreover, Hassan Nasrallah's organization has not lost 200 combatants, as Tsahal claims. This figure only concerns the combats taking place on the border and even then the Israelis underestimate it, for a reason that escapes me, by about a hundred militiamen eliminated. The real count of Hezbollah's casualties, that includes those dead in Beirut, the Bekaa Valley, Baalbek and their other camps, rocket and missile launchers and arms and munition depots amounts to 1,100 supplementary Hezbollah militiamen who have definitively ceased to terrorize and humiliate my country.

Like the overwhelming majority of Lebanese, I pray that no one puts an end to the Israeli attack before it finishes shattering the terrorists. I pray that the Hebrew soldiers will penetrate all the hidden recesses of southern Lebanon and will hunt out, in our stead, the vermin that has taken root there. Like the overwhelming majority of Lebanese, I have put the champagne ready in the refrigerator to celebrate the Israeli victory.

But contrary to them--and to paraphrase [French singer] Michel Sardou--I recognize that they are also fighting for our liberty, another battle "where you were not present"! And in the name of my people, I wish to express my infinite gratitude to the relatives of the Israeli victims--civilian and military--whose loved ones have fallen so that I can live standing upright in my identity. They should know that I weep with them.

As for the pathetic clique that thrives at the head of my country, it is time for them to understand that after this war, after our natural allies have rid us of those who are hindering us from rebuilding a nation, a cease-fire or an armistice will not suffice. To ensure the future of Lebanon, it is time to make peace with those we have no reason to go to war against. In fact, only peace will ensure peace. Someone must tell them because in this country we have not learnt what a truism is.

Michael Béhé is a writer for the Metula News Agency.

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