Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 25, 2006 5:10 pm 
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Not talking

Even Hamas talked to Israeli leaders, Robert Fisk has recently written. "Throughout history, we have ended up talking to our enemies," Fisk concludes. The mistake of America, which is very in character for the large isolated country that it is, is to refuse to talk, and no US government in modern times has been more isolated or untalkative than George W. Bush's. The Israelis talk to Hamas. They talk to Hezbollah. Bush or Cheney or Rice wouldn't consider that. They live in an increasingly solipsistic world. Their failure to talk not only leads to more violence, it also is the cause of ignorance. It's surprising what you find out when you just talk to people and how much you don't know when you don't. It helps to speak the language, too. Not just English. Another language. There are other languages, you know. Everybody doesn't speak English, after all, it turns out. Note: a year of Arabic (what the US ambassador to Lebanon has) may not be enough.

The Bush administration knows Syria and Iran are backing Hezbollah, but refuses to talk to them. It also knows Hamas won the Palestinians' democratic election, but immediately arranged an economic and diplomatic boycott of the Hamas government. Wrong democracy. Can't talk to those people. They aren't cooperative enough. (The nature of conversation is to present contrasting views, not rubber-stamp each other.) The Iraqis who've experienced testing of sinister new laser and microwave weaponry in their country wielded by the US also think they carry the wrong kind of democracy, not a kind the Iraqis will ever want. You need to talk to people, and cluster bombs and laser beams are not the way to talk.

If you don't talk to your enemies, they remain your enemies. But eventually you will have to talk to them.

The US is obviously talking to its friend, Israel. In fact one can no longer think of the US "allowing" Israel to attack Lebanon; it is encouraging the assault, and has been rushing additional weapons to Israel for the purpose. It's reactionary conspiracy thinking to regard the US-Israel relationship as "the tail wagging the dog": this is a partnership, in which little Israel serves very well the larger purposes of the big USA, and the US support of Israel's assault on Lebanon is very much a bipartisan affair in Washington. However Rice came to Beirut as a messenger for Israel, tendering its demand of a prisoner release by Hezbollah, which was angrily rejected by the Lebanese, who require an immediate ceasefire first.

Despite the absence of dialogue, the US and its partner Israel are no longer isolated. The western powers moved to sanction the war, but Britain held them back. Now the EU wants to send a peacekeeping force, which would only be an extension of the 2,000 UN troops already in South Lebanon, which protect Israeli interests, but don't seem to have hampered Hezbollah, or kept their own forces from being hit by Isreal now. These are not signs of dialogue coming. There is no opposition to US policy on Lebanon in Congress, and there is no real opposition in Europe so far. No need to talk.

The US likes nothing better than weak governments like Fouad Siniora's new one in Beirut. There's no need to talk when people are weak. There is no bravery, no statesmanship, no leadership in American world domination, no sharing or cooperation in the will to dominate. The domination is based only on superior power, and in the one conspicuous case where a small country has acquired nuclear arms, North Korea, the US keeps its distance -- another case where there has been no talk. Iraq was a "soft target"; so is Lebanon. So why not tear apart Lebanon, the neo-cons think, allowing Israel to act as attack dog to do it? And the loyal Congress goes along with this "wisdom."

The lack of communication leads to a severing of old ties. The Bush administration has pulled out of a whole string of treaties and international agreements. Such agreements are the way successful talks are sealed with documents and promises. But this government doesn't like being bound by agreements, or even talk about what it's going to do. This is a government that does not even bother to veto laws passed by Congress when it doesn't intend to follow them. And so the Bush administration, which prefers to talk and listen only to itself, need not even say "no."


As usually happens when a world becomes solipsistic, the thinking behind all this Bush government policy is delusional. Look at "democracy" in Iraq; look at "order" in Afghanistan. Look at how we are "winning" the "war on terror." Look at how Israel and the US carry out the same old processes that lead to the same old results. You cannot root out a guerrilla opposition like a virus; it only spreads like a virus when you try. Hezbollah is the result of Israel's assaults and occupation of Lebanon in the Eighties. Today Condi Rice is repeating the delusional neo-con phrase, "a new Middle East." "It is time for a new Middle East," she said today. "It is time to say to those who do not want a new Middle East that we will prevail." But new worlds don't come by force of bullying any more than democracy comes at the end of a bayonet. Such new worlds are imaginary. Yes, there will be changes in the Middle East. New resistance will arise in Lebanon just as it has in Iraq, as a result of Israeli and US aggression. Rice is a better envoy than Colin Powell was when he came to sell the Jenin massacre to Arabs in one sense: at least her heart (if she has one) is in the job -- but she will have no more good effect than Powell did.

The armchair warriors, the war-game theorists, are speculating madly. Did Israel and the US plan this together? Did Hezbollah plan it? Did Hezbollah initiate it? Or was the timing Israel's? What role did Syria and Iran play? Interesting questons, perhaps, but they don't mean much if you're walking through south Beirut looking at demolished fourteen-storey apartment buildings, or walking by houses where whole families were wiped out. The main responsiblity for the death and destruction belongs to the source of the majority of it, Israel, and the main responsiblity for Israel belongs to Washington.

Balance sheet

Like the US in Iraq, Israel in Lebanon is accomplishing nothing but damage, building nothing but future hatred and opposition - more of the forces that created Hezbollah. Remember, Israel could have talked too. The situation before their assault was the kind that usually precedes a negotiated exchange of prisoners. Negotiation= talk. Bombing is effective -- at destruction. It's not even superficially effective at rooting out an imbedded, camouflaged resistance movement. Here is a balance sheet after forty bombing raids published by the Daily Star citing Agence Paris Presse cited by Juan Cole in a long blog entry today (July 25, 2006):

'Altogether, the Israelis, who announced that they are fighting Hezbollah, have killed only 19 of its fighters. AFP notes, "Of the total 373 people killed in Lebanon since hostilities began nearly two weeks ago, 326 were civilians and 27 were Lebanese soldiers and police.' (A very high proportion were also children.) 'Another 786 civilians and 81 soldiers and policemen have been wounded, as have two members of the UN surveillance force deployed along Lebanon's southern border."'

We don't even know how many Hezbollah fighters there are, a leading expert on them says, but they're a highly effective force, possibly "the second or third most competent military force in the region, after Israel and Iran." Even if Israel had killed three quarters of Hezbollah's fighters in Lebanon, the current action will be likely to have created dozens, maybe hundreds, of new recruits. But it only got nineteen, while killing a number approaching 400 innocent bystanders, rendering 500,000 civilians homeless, and disabling a whole country's infrastructure.

That's a lot of "collateral damage."

It's going to lead to a lot of "blowback."

Like the US in Iraq, Israel, and its willing partner in this tragic game, Hezbollah, have opened a Pandora's box.

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