Charge Your Voice

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

$10 million to go to Lebanese Military from US-or not?

Lebanon is keeping its army away from the battlefront between Israeli forces and Hezbollah fighters because it lacks the firepower to sway the conflict and fears it may spark a civil war by intervening.

``The Lebanese army won't disarm Hezbollah,'' President Emile Lahoud told reporters in Beirut yesterday. ``Disarming Hezbollah by force may lead to a civil war.''

Lebanon told the United States Condoleeza Rice that unless they call for an immediate cease fire, their is no point to Lebanon receiving the US on diplomatic terms. It is uncertain what the Lebanese military will do, but its ill-will towards the onslaught from Israel has been marked.

The Lebanese army, with about 40,000 troops, is larger yet weaker than Hezbollah's militia, which has several thousand fighters, said Brigadier General Walid Sukkarieh. Lebanon's ground forces have aging Soviet tanks and lack anti-aircraft or anti-ship weapons. It has an annual budget of about $500 million, according to the Central Intelligence Agency's Web site.

Hezbollah has about 12,000 rockets and has improved its technology with guided missiles that were used to attack an Israeli ship off the coast in mid-July, according to military experts. The militia is better equipped than the army, said Sukkarieh.

Israel's Hezbollah targets, including rocket launchers, were hit during the night in the city of Tyre, the eastern Bekaa Valley, and in southern Lebanon, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman said, speaking anonymously by regulation. One of the raids destroyed Hezbollah's regional command center in Tyre that directed rocket attacks on Israeli towns, he said.

The Lebanese army would ``likely disintegrate if it clashes with Hezbollah because it is made of soldiers and officers who belong to the different communities that make up Lebanon, and to a significant extent the Shiite community,'' said Sukkarieh.

Israel continues to insist that the Hezbollah militia disband. Israel plans to hold on to a chunk of the country that it occupied previously to create a 'security zone'. It plans to claim territory that it believes has been used and occupied by its enemies, accorsing to Israeli statements. ``Everybody who knows the Middle East knows Lebanon isn't a serious state and the Lebanese army isn't going to be serious and capable either,''``It has no combat capabilities, only the ability to police Lebanon's streets.''It would be up to an International force to strengthen the Lebanese military as seen fit to secure.

Death & Passion at the Frontlines

Hezbollah cease fire is rejected by Israelis...

Israel prepares for major invasion...
Israel in Race to Complete Task...
Israel Hurries to Complete Task Before EU Ceasefire...

Devotion & discipline fuel Hezbollah's fight...

Stemch of death hangs over south Lebanon villages...
""Four bodies inside this house", reads the notice scrawled with charcoal on the remains of a house in the southern Lebanese village of Aynata."

In the neighbouring town of Bint Jbeil, the stench of death rises from the ruins of the once-bustling market street.

One village along in Aitaroun, tearful residents clutch white sheets and what belongings they can salvage, begging journalists and rescue workers alike for a ride out of "hell".

"We have been living in hell and fear for 21 days, without power or water and we felt real hunger. We even ate stale and mouldy bread to keep going," sobbed Zeinab Baalbaki, who said a number of her relatives have been killed in Israeli air raids.

"The children felt the worst pain because we could not find milk. Is it their fault, these people who had their homes brought down on their heads?"

Says one Hezbollah fighter, ``I'm not crying for the fighters. The fighters can handle it. I'm crying for the ordinary people." One day, he said, he gave his only food, a can of tuna, to a dog so hungry that its tongue was hanging contorted from its mouth. ``If I showed mercy on the dog, maybe God would show mercy on me," he said.

Hezbollah fighters state that only experienced fighters are allowed into front-line combat. Men eat what they can find where they find it, even if it means a plant growing on the side of the road. In the same way, they take advantage of whatever weapons they can, where they find them and "use the kitchen sink if we have to." They know they are experiencing deaths, but do not know the total death toll on their side. It would not matter if they did, they say. "We are unafraid of death. We are tired of living life humiliated, and are ready to die now, if we must."

Forces Abate Momentarily....

"The Israeli suspension of offensive air strikes and general Hizbollah restraint about firing Katyushas has held up now for more than 24 hours, but according to Israel, from the prime minister and defense minister, through the MKs and down to the northerners peeking out of their shelters, are all saying the campaign is not over -- and won't be over until Hizbollah is at least out of sight of the border with Israel, if not out of south Lebanon entirely."

--> Its not over, but its the right idea...a "cease fire" without saying its a cease fire...the idea is not an end, but a period to allow women and children an avenue of escape that keeps them from taking a bullet or a shelling. Soldiers do not shoot through women and children to hit their enemy. They find a way to face their enemy without such a scenario.

Losing Face...the Hard Way

By not losing in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah is winning the hearts and minds war on occupation. By not winning in Iraq, Washington is losing the ground and psychological war on terrorism.

Stripped to bare bones, that's the skeletal shape of this century's first titanic struggle. A zealous cause is proving more than a match for history's most powerful nation, its military and its Middle East proxy.

The implications are momentous. A two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is slipping away, militant Islam is gaining at the expense of moderate Arab states and protecting open societies is increasingly problematic.

Much of this can be traced to a willful misunderstanding. In simplifying the motivation underlying the 9/11 shocks, the Bush administration muddied the root reasons why the
U.S. was a target then and Hezbollah is gaining strength now by wrestling Israel to a bloody stalemate.

More than a fanciful clash of cultures, what fuels extremism is foreign boots on home soil. As the University of Chicago's Robert Pape documented in the largest and most profound study of suicide terrorism, 95 per cent of attacks are linked to occupation.
"The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven as much by religion as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory the terrorists view as their homeland," Pape said in an interview published last year.

It's an important if hardly all-inclusive conclusion. Hezbollah and organizations like it usually have religious as well as state connections and don't limit their tactics to suicide attacks.

But it's also true Hezbollah rose to prominence by using suicidal combatants to drive Israel out of southern Lebanon after an 18-year occupation. And it's even more significant that Hezbollah owes its resurgent popularity to surprisingly stubborn resistance to what is widely seen across the Muslim crescent as another invasion of Arab lands.

George W. Bush sees it differently. In a Miami speech Monday, the U.S. president again tossed this Middle East crisis into the blender with good and evil, the war on terror and the Machiavellian regional machinations of Iran and Syria.

That's good politics and some of it may even be true. But seeing the world through a selective prism doesn't change reality or make failing policies succeed.

The reality is that respective military adventures in Iraq and Lebanon have left the U.S. and Israel exposed as weak. A global superpower is fighting a losing battle after effortlessly toppling Saddam Hussein while a regional superpower is, for the second time, making heroes of Hezbollah.

Memorable lessons are being painfully taught. Assumptions that U.S. troops would be welcomed as saviors and that democracy would flourish in the Baghdad rubble have been exposed as delusional. Expectations the fabled Israel Defense Forces would relatively effortlessly degrade Hezbollah militarily and humiliate it publicly have been sharply diminished.

Consider the net result of current policies. Chaos is the common Middle East denominator, moderates needed for peace are being isolated by war and there is no reason to believe North America is safer now than it was five years ago.

If that isn't convincing, add these: Rocketing oil prices (and profits) are one legacy of the Iraq invasion while Israel's incursions into Lebanon first hardened Hezbollah and then helped make it an asymmetrical guerrilla model admired — and easily replicated — from Afghanistan to South America.

Reflection suggests a course change is overdue. Constructive rather than destructive engagement surely couldn't be more damaging than making more enemies daily and would carry with it the unusual satisfaction of doing the right thing for the right reasons.
It would be dangerously naïve to mistake an injection of Boy Scout morality for an instant Middle East fix. Tensions are simply too high, hatreds too old and the situation too precarious.

Still, going back to the future has a certain appeal when the status quo is unpalatable and a military solution impossible. Reversing direction would mean muscling Israelis and Palestinians back onto the road to peace, encouraging democracy with more carrot, less stick and relying on collective international pressure, not brinkmanship, to discipline rogue states.

Canada's minor role should be to re-establish its foreign policy equilibrium. Wise support for Israel includes the persistent reminder that occupation is a cause, not a cure, for terrorism.

Or we can go on ignoring the inconvenient truths about a war against something that is, after all, only a tactic.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

We're sorry, BUT...our ends justify the means

"Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed ``great sorrow" today for the airstrikes that destroyed houses in the Lebanese town of Qana and killed dozens of people, many of them children, but said he would not halt the army's operation ... "

--> The difficulty for a leader who on one hand expresses regrets over the agonizing deaths of children, but on the other hand says that it must go on....represents a dichotomy and split-tongue that gaurantees he will be viewed as a hypocrite by many. He represents the philosophy that the ends justify the means, that any action towards the achievement of one's goals is therefore justified. This is a slippery slope to base declarations of intent on.

While I do not take sides in this conflict, the formal position of the Israeli cabinet, at present, is difficult to justify. A cease fire is being treated as a peace agreement. Cease fires are intended to be temporary, with the possibility of permanence, mostly so that civilians like women, children, the elderly, etc. can escape the war zone while both sides stand down in a face off and then return to battle. A peace agreement, of course, would mean that the opposing armies had reached resolution and declared an end to conflict amongst themselves, gauranteeing their own safety. In the event of a cease fire, which I presently advocate for, a 3-day cease fire allows Red Cross and humanitarian workers to shuttle those out who need to escape, or allows people to leave by foot or vehicle on their own accord without fear of fire.

It is important to consider that the enemies of Israel have taken life, but do not treat it in as casual a manner. It may be retaliatory, but not an act of 'regretable' habit. Disproportionate inneffectiveness on the part of Israel indicates that while heavy displays of armament may be a feel good policy for an Israeli state that is used to feeling threatened with anhilation, effective war is much more reasoned and an excercise in mental scrutiny. Only the equivolant of a child leader always believes that there actions are justified without careful consideration. The restraint that Israel has been encouraged to display, at this point, has been used to more advantage by the opposition in the public domain.

It is true that this arguement can be broken down, diced, and found wanting. The point is that war is public opinion and other matters even as it is territory won and lost. Leaders are analyzed as they make their decisions and faux pas, and these are crucial. They indicate a leaders state of mind, whether it be rational, arrogant, selfish or altruistic. If the Israeli cabinet wasn't as emotionally driven in a conflict that requires reason, I might be more generous with my commentary. As it stands now, I believe that their course of action will be the catalyst for a major shift of power in the Middle East because Israel failed to address grievances for which the only recourse was war, and those who aspire for this shift of power in the region, far from the battlelines, will take advantage of the results for their own profit. The army may win against Israel, but they will not bring peace.