It is becoming increasingly clear that Lebanon will never be the same again. Rather than calling on Israel to halt its attacks, Western governments are telling their own citizens to flee. This indicates:
1. The violence is likely to get worse,
2. Western governments do not have either the power or inclination to stop Israeli attacks,
3. Lebanese citizens are being abandoned to their fate.
Juan Cole today publishes a letter from Patrick McGreevy:
There are so many warships and cruiseliners in the sea in front of Beirut that it looks like a cross between the Battle of Midway and Aruba.Indeed, the evactuation has become the preferred story for the Western media, focussing on their own citizens' plight while ignoring the broader context. Martin Rowson captures the moment:
Israel has now warned hundreds of thousands of people to flee southern Lebanon
"immediately," preparing for a likely ground offensive to set up a buffer zone. the USA and its "allies":
The Bush Administration is working with allies to organise a military force and a civilian international presence in Lebanon to strengthen the government and break the grip of Hezbollah, US and foreign diplomats say.Can I get me a Coalition of the Willing? Anyone??? You sir, in the front row! What's your name? John? John Winston Howard? Well, COME ON DOWN, MATE!!!
The peacekeepers would be positioned along Lebanon's southern border in an effort to prevent Hezbollah attacks on Israel, while the civilian officials would be located elsewhere to halt the suspected flow of military equipment from Syria and Iran to Hezbollah, officials said.
The move came as the United Nations human rights chief said the scale of killing and maiming of civilians in Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territory pointed to possible war crimes.
As with Iraq, where SAS soldiers parachuted into the country before war had even been declared, Australia is already sending in the first wave:
Canberra is moving in extra defence and diplomatic staff.It's really quite bizarre, isn't it?
Nineteen defence personnel were already en route to Lebanon on Thursday and another 65 left Sydney on a chartered flight early on Friday morning.
A defence spokesman said the latest contingent included logistics experts, translators, medical personnel and staff to process evacuees, but there were no troops to provide security...
An extra 29 diplomatic staff have also been sent into Beirut and locations in Turkey and Cyprus.
How do you have a "buffer zone" in southern Lebanon when Hezbollah infiltrates, if not controls, the whole country? Given that Hezbollah rockets can now reach Haifa, the buffer zone will need to stretch halfway to Beirut. Is that really feasible? Is it going to yield practical results?
The real US-Israeli long-term strategy seems to be based on ensuring that no strong and stable Arab governments arise anywhere in the region. They are sowing chaos in Lebabon, Afghanistan and Iraq simultaneously. These conditions, let us remember, provide the perfect ideological and logistical incubation environment for terrorism. But despite all the breathless rhetoric we hear on that subject, US-Israeli actions show that it really is the least of their concerns.
UPDATE: Antony Loewenstein asks What's Israel's real agenda?
Israeli, Palestinian and Lebanese civilians are the victims of an Israeli defence establishment that still believes, despite decades of policy failure, that “terrorists” must be liquidated in every corner of the region, whatever the political cost. Isi Leibler, former head of Australia's Zionist lobby, recently argued in the Jerusalem Post that, “the responsibility for casualties, even innocent bystanders, will rest entirely with the terrorists and the Palestinian leaders who enable them to carry out their barbaric acts. And if by doing so we will create a new wave of international anti-Israeli condemnation, so be it.”
This arrogance can only breed because of seemingly open-ended US support, a situation that is unsustainable due to the growing political strength of the US Arab and Muslim populations. The clock is ticking on the blank cheque offered to every Israeli manoeuvre, no matter how provocative or illegal.
Australia, not unlike many other Western nations, still sees Israel as the plucky, defenceless nation in the heart of a dangerous Middle East. It is an illusion that holds no credibility. A negotiated settlement to the current crisis should be a priority, the release of untold number of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails – many of whom are arrested and never even face court – and cessation of cross-border, state terrorism.
The uncontrolled policies of the Israeli government should now be seen as a danger to enlightened citizens and governments across the globe.