Thursday, August 03, 2006

"How many deaths will it take 'til he knows that too many people have died?"*

By Nancy Jane Moore

Today's Guardian Unlimited has a special report on children killed in the Israeli bombing of Lebanon. Reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad writes:
Then another child was pulled from under the rubble, and another followed, and then another. You go a little crazy when you see little body after little body coming up out of the ground. I looked around me and all I could see in the house was the detritus of their short lives -- big plastic bags filled with clothes, milk cans, plastic toys and a baby carriage.
The actual civilian body count in Lebanon is unclear -- a July 28 Inter Press News Service story on Common Dreams News Center estimates the real total as 750 people -- but however many there are, no one doubts that lots of them are children.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been driven from their homes. Every news report contains pictures of towns reduced to rubble.

The Israelis keep saying that they must bomb residential areas, because Hezbollah fighters are hiding out among citizens. Most general news reports repeat this as if it were fact. But more detailed reports -- such as this one on Salon -- suggest that this is untrue. Reporter Mitch Prothero writes:
My own reporting and that of other journalists reveals that in fact Hezbollah fighters -- as opposed to the much more numerous Hezbollah political members, and the vastly more numerous Hezbollah sympathizers -- avoid civilians like the plague.
And while civilians are suffering in Lebanon, Hezbollah doesn't seem to be going away. Today's New York Times says they fired over 200 rockets into Israel. Israeli civilians have been killed and displaced as well, though the death and destruction in Israel is much smaller than that in Lebanon.

Israel has become its own worst enemy. Yes, it was provoked, but the response is out of all proportion to the provocation. I have been shocked by the poll numbers that suggest most Israelis support this war, but I am heartened by a report on, an Israeli publication, that some authors, songwriters, critics and editors have come together to seek an end to the war. According to the news report, they sent a letter to Israeli officials that said in part:
There is no doubt that Israel has the right to defend herself against the aggression that infringes on her sovereignty and harms her citizens. Nevertheless, the exercising of unreasonable force, mainly toward civilians, attests to neither might nor deterrent power. On the contrary, it is an expression of hysteria, of the loss of ability to distinguish between a localized threat and existential danger, between a reasonable response and an excessive show of strength.
Juan Cole observes "that the only way this conflict can end is for the Lebanese state to be strengthened so that it has a hope of dealing with Hizbullah." But the Israeli bombing campaign is destabilizing Lebanon, making that unlikely.

Cole also points out that the conflict is leading Al Qaeda to support Hezbollah, even though Bin Laden considers that group heretical since they are Shi'ites. That is, extremist groups who hate each other are uniting under the theory that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." Surely this is not an outcome that any sane government seeks.

But the U.S. is standing behind Israel, and refusing to help broker a ceasefire until, as The Times reports, "there is a solid plan in place to disarm Hezbollah."

Now I keep reading speculation that we're actually in World War III or IV, depending on how they count. And on the front page of July 27's Wall Street Journal (which, alas, is restricted to paying customers online), there is a story about support for Israel's actions from the "Christian-Zionist" movement, which the Journal describes as an "evangelical political philosophy rooted in biblical prophecies and a belief that Israel's struggles signal a prelude to Armageddon." See my earlier post "And now for something completely scary" for more about fundamentalists who see the war in Lebanon as fulfilling the prophecies in the Book of Revelation.

The WSJ article goes on to observe:
While Mr. Bush is clearly close to evangelicals, he has never fully embraced their agenda or rhetoric. But their views are generally in sync with the aims of his national-security strategists, who reach similar conclusions through a different logic. . . . This melding of realpolitik and religion, say former and current U.S. officials, has produced a potent force.
That potent force is sowing more death and destruction.

I have reached one conclusion as I struggle to comprehend all this suffering and hatred: We will never solve the problems of the Middle East with violence.

I have been reading the Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh's book Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames. "Punishing the other person is self-punishment," he says, and adds that this is true for countries as well as individuals. Every time one country invades, both countries suffer.
In a section called "Stopping Wars Before They Happen," he writes:
Violence can never bring about peace and understanding. Only by looking deeply in order to understand the true roots of violence can we achieve peace.
And that's the answer here. It's so obvious that violence isn't working, not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan, not in Lebanon. It's time to try something else.

*Bob Dylan "Blowin' in the Wind" Written in 1963 and still relevant today.

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