For all the
cries of outrage and shock over what is happening in the Middle
East, is there really much difference between the US invasions
of Afghanistan and Iraq and the Israeli attacks on Lebanon? A
familiar parody of the Cartesian mindset is on display once more
- I can (get away with it), therefore I do.
States destroyed huge parts of Afghanistan after 9/11. Thousands
were rendered homeless, large numbers killed and maimed. In the
end, Osama Bin Laden, the purported quarry, was never found.
Iraq, where there was not even the fig leaf of hot pursuit. A
warmed over dish of fear, concocted from the embers of 9/11, old
UN resolutions (proving in the process that some UN resolutions
are more important than others), fake intelligence reports and
journalistic fabrications, was enough to get a nod from a craven
and petrified Congress. Thousands perished. And, along with the
usual toll of infrastructure, deliberate American negligence caused
priceless museum artifacts to be destroyed, a piece of its history
forever lost to mankind.
engagements in Afghanistan or Iraq are far from over, as the news
makes clear. Already, here comes the third volume in the series:
Lebanon. Watch out, JK Rowling.
stated Israeli objective is to remove
the threat of missiles and recover
the captives. Fair enough. But why
bomb Beirut, 100 miles to the north,
and Tripoli, another hundred miles
farther? Why destroy dozens of
bridges, airports and seaports,
oil depots and power plants?
Why punish the people of all Lebanon?
guerrillas have kidnapped Israeli soldiers, and Hezbollah is lobbing
missiles on Israeli border towns. The stated Israeli objective
is to remove the threat of missiles and recover the captives.
Fair enough. But why bomb Beirut, 100 miles to the north, and
Tripoli, another hundred miles farther? Why destroy dozens of
bridges, airports and seaports, oil depots and power plants? Why
punish the people of all Lebanon? Because the terrorists are hiding
everywhere, comes the answer. The United States is on record supporting
this logic. Quite naturally, too, for it applies an identical
reasoning to justify its own actions.
But, if this
rationale is accepted, an impartial observer might wonder, could
one justify the bombing of the World Trade Center? Did not the
CIA have offices in one of the collapsed buildings, and was it
not well known that the CIA had orchestrated coups, assassinations,
riots, military takeovers, etc., in several parts of the world?
If the Israelis could bomb Lebanese army bases without any provocation
from the Lebanese army, and the US could defend such an act, was
not the Pentagon undoubtedly a military target?
to ponder, surely, but all such introspection is persona non grata
in our times. We like to keep it simple: I can (get away with
it), therefore I do. The same powers that chided Russia for its
actions in Chechnya, and bombed Serbia into submission for its
moves against Albanian drug runners, today make the all-purpose
claim that "Israel has a right to defend itself", a mindless phrase
that must rank right up there on the inanity scale with that other
one, "We are a nation of immigrants".
every country has a right to defend itself. But by bombing power
plants and bridges all across a non-combatant state? By demolishing
residences and roads? All for the actions of one group? Israel,
of all countries, should know that that mass punishment of populations
is a war crime.
the US has demonstrated anything
during the past three years, it is that
today, after spending a half-trillion
dollars (US$11 million an hour, to quote
John Murtha), it is unable to prevail
in a contest with a ragtag band of
insurgents with no overt support from
any major power (unlike its opponents
in the Vietnam or Korean wars, who
were backed by China and the USSR).
and Republican worthies have dutifully thronged the microphones
since, many to aver that bombing civilian targets is justified;
for the terrorists are holed up among civilians. An even more
amusing (if sad) variant of their plaint: "But Hezbollah does
it". Is the standard for a modern, democratic, state the same
as it is for terrorists and warlords? But who would ask that question?
They never raised it when Bush rammed through the Patriot Act,
not when it became known that their government was spying on its
citizens and prying into their financial transactions, not when
Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo surfaced. Why should they raise it now?
Israel's actions were not spur-of-the-moment, far from it. Several
commentators have asserted that the Israelis had planned for precisely
such an opportunity for years. That's merely a tactical element.
As a strategic backdrop, it was America that provided the enabling
logic with its two singular examples of attacking non-combatant
countries with not a whimper from the world.
country has employed the same logic to justify the same tactic.
More world silence. Wasn't the UN created for just such occasions?
Deconstructionists may ponder the significance of the term "United
Nations" sounding so much like "Eunuch Nations". It is further
a hallmark of our times that the worst presidency of US history
coincides with the tenure of possibly the most spineless UN Secretary
General in the organization's life. That line about the age producing
the man takes on a whole new meaning.
been made of how the Israeli public is solidly behind Ehud Olmert.
It bears reminding oneself how solid American public support once
was for going into Iraq, and how high Bush's approval was as he
first bombed Afghanistan. It was said of the intrepid scooter
wallah of New Delhi that if the front wheel could make it, he
would proceed boldly into the narrowest lane, forgetting to consider
the rest of his vehicle. That's public opinion in a nutshell.
consequence of silent acquiescence
in state aggression three times in
five years will take the whole world,
not just Lebanon, back into the
dark ages. The clearest lesson of
all this is that the collective deterrent
of world opinion exists no longer.
If the US
has demonstrated anything during the past three years, it is that
today, after spending a half-trillion dollars (US$11 million an
hour, to quote John Murtha), it is unable to prevail in a contest
with a ragtag band of insurgents with no overt support from any
major power (unlike its opponents in the Vietnam or Korean wars,
who were backed by China and the USSR). An honest reflection might
have led to a sober view of the current crisis. Instead, Bush
is busy rattling his sabers at Syria and Iran, trying to widen
the conflict. Rather than calling for an immediate cease fire
(a reasonable step even while condemning Hezbollah), he has justified
the destruction of Lebanon, a friendly country whose government
was installed at his own behest.
It is tempting
to hang the well-worn phrase, "The Arrogance of Power", on Israel's
attitude and on America's. But realistically, it is rather more
a case of the Power of Arrogance. Consider this spectacle: The
biggest debtor nation in the world tacitly encourages the destruction
of a small and powerless country by another nation, whose defense
budget too is largely underwritten by itself. Guess who is going
to pay for the reconstruction aid to Lebanon that must inevitably
ensue? The American Taxpayer, it would seem, is the world's perennial
dupe. In his article (How Time Flies), Michael Neumann captured
this paradox well, "America's weakness is not a problem; the problem
is that it acts as if it were strong..."
has the power to sideline reality and embark on ever more ambitious
projects. Let's not forget the words of a White House official
quoted in Ron Susskind's book, boasting that the White House created
its own reality.
prime minister this week said Israel had set his country decades
back in time. An Israeli general concurred, stating on the record
that that was the intention. The consequence of silent acquiescence
in state aggression three times in five years will take the whole
world, not just Lebanon, back into the dark ages. The clearest
lesson of all this is that the collective deterrent of world opinion
exists no longer. A very real proliferation has resulted - that
of the idea that powerful nations can attack others without fear
of consequence - unless...
the New (clear) World Order.
Niranjan Ramakrishnan is a writer living on the West Coast. His
writings can be found on http://www.indogram.com.
He can be reached at [email protected]
or visit http://njn-blogogram.blogspot.com
Other articles by Niranjan Ramakrishnan:
Trade Or Free Speech
Use It Or Lose It
Paradox Of Prosperity