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Candide's Latest: Sunday, August 13, 2006
Israel's Apocalyptic Destruction of Lebanon

An environmental disaster exceeding the Exxon Valdez spill, with one exception: Israel's act was willful.

The toll is devastating: human, economic, environmental: When Saddam Hussein in 1991 destroyed hundreds of Kuwait oil wells, causing massive spills and fires, he was called an eco-terrorist. What’s Israel to be called for the environmental disaster it has set off along Lebanon’s coast-line? An environmental self-defender? The reports are finally getting out: “A massive oil spill off the coast of Lebanon is choking marine life, polluting the air as it evaporates and threatening to produce a long-lasting ecological disaster if Israel doesn't allow cleanup crews into the sea soon, environmental officials here warned Friday,” McClatchy reports. “The spill already has reached Syrian waters north of Lebanon, and the governments of Cyprus, Turkey and Greece are on alert as strong tides spread what experts are calling the worst spill ever in the Mediterranean and a disaster comparable to the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989.”

The Los Angeles Times has a recap of the economic destruction of Lebanon, a $2.5 billion bill: “Overall losses to housing and small business are likely to exceed the total for the country's 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990, the government says. A quarter of Lebanon's population has been forced out of their homes, and as many as 200,000 of the estimated 1 million evacuees may have no home to return to when the war is over, the Economy and Trade Ministry says.” The LATimes story tries to mitigate the severity of the damage by noting that in Beirut, “most” of the bombing was limited to a 1 square mile area, and that Israel has largely avoided hitting major power and water plants and factories. The New York Times, however, has a graphic that dissolves any attempt to qualify Israel’s barbaric campaign of destruction. So while they talk of an imminent cease-fire, it is a) too late for Lebanon, and b) meaningless for now, as the ongoing and “expanded offensive,” says the Financial Times, “included the Israeli army’s biggest airlift of soldiers since the 1973 Yom Kippur war.”

Israel will negotiate with Hezbollah on a prisoner swap, according to Haaretz: “ A senior diplomatic source said Israel has no information on the fate of Regev and Goldwasser, but it is assumed they are still alive. The source said the IDF has launched high-risk operations to obtain information on the abductees, but they were all unsuccessful.” If the Israelis are willing to negotiate with “terrorists” (as they always have, as they always will, knowing fully well that the word terrorist exists in the Middle East only for public and media consumption), why not the United States ? In Israel, however, Olmert has lost his honeymoon with the Israeli public: “The future of Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, was last night hanging on how successfully he could sell his citizens the idea that the country had been 'victorious' in the 'war in the north' as criticism of his shaky performance began to escalate amid the first calls for his resignation,” the Guardian reports.

Just as the war rages on, so do the arms shipments from both suppliers: “ Syria continues its efforts to transfer large quantities of war materiel, including rockets, to Lebanon , in an effort to assist Hezbollah in its war against Israel , a senior Israel Defense Forces source told Haaretz on Saturday.” But let’s not forget that what shipments do get through from Syria are scraps compared with American arms shipments to Israel impeded neither by bombs or by the U.S. state department, which has been rush-stamping Israel ’s arsenal.

London’s Independent has a long narrative about the British terror plot, as well as attempted profiles of the “fine young men” arrested: they were “quiet” men, of course. The Australian has word of a “martyrdom” video. And the Washington Post describes America’s secret services as themselves shrouded in secrecy as they went about investigating what they were told of the plot: Neither the British nor America’s own intelligence hierarchy trusted the process enough to reveal much to its own agents. Palestinian journalist and Washington Post commentator Daoud Kuttab nails it, after comparing the way Mideastern and Amecan and European media reacted to the terror plot:

As if they were waiting for an excuse to change, CNN, BBC, and Sky turned completely to the London-based story even though the war on Lebanon had escalated both militarily and politically. The Arab stations, by contrast, stayed on the Lebanon story with only slight reference to the London arrests. Other than causing more hardships for travelers, it is hard to say how this case will affect the so-called "war on terror." On the one hand it shows that people with intentions on causing the most harm to western civilians are still active. On the other hand the fact that it was foiled shows that their abilities have been reduced. The refusal of Arab media to make a major shift in their coverage should not be seen as a journalistic failure but as a political statement of sorts. What is happening to the people of Lebanon and Gaza, the issue of its injustice, raise the passion and anger of peoples in the east. This can't simply be dealt with militarily. What is needed has been repeated many times by many wise people: Without letting down on legitimate security activities, it is extremely important to address the root causes of discontent among Arabs and Muslims the world over.

An example of the ongoing futility in Iraq, as described, unwittingly, by Stars & Stripes, the US military’s newspaper: “Marines, GIs take up residence in insurgent haven,” goes the headline. The story is about the military’s taking up residence in “downtown” Ramadi, the city that has replaced Fallujah as the insurgency’s capital. “ If there’s one good thing U.S. Army Capt. Michael Bajema can say about living in downtown Ramadi,” the story begins with perverse cheekiness, “it’s that he doesn’t commute to work.” What the story doesn’t tell us, because the US military never admits failure, is that Ramadi has been a constant target of the military’s failed attempts at mounting an effective counter-insurgency. And that, now approaching four years, the very necessity of sending the military to “downtown Ramadi,” where it is the obvious underdog, underscores the extent of the failure, and the certain futility of any attempts to reverse it: the war was lost long ago. They may “retake” Ramadi. But Iraq is lost.

In Other Worlds

Republican Victimhood: The wonderful Thomas Frank, who would be an excellent choice to replace Thomas Friedman on the New York Times OpEd page, is a guest-columnist there for a couple of weeks. His piece on Saturday takes on the still-potent myth that Republicans are somehow the outsiders, the insurgents against “bureaucratic” Washington and the power structure: “Let’s see: These insurgents today control all three branches of government; they are underwritten by the biggest of businesses; they are backed by a robust social movement with chapters across the radio dial. The insurgency spreads before its talented young recruits all the appurtenances of power — a view from the upper stories of the Heritage Foundation, a few years at a conquered government agency where expertise is not an issue, then a quick transition to K Street, to a chateau in Rehoboth and a suite at the Ritz. For the truly rebellious, princely tribute waits to be extracted from a long queue of defense contractors, sweatshop owners and Indian casinos eager to remain in the good graces of the party of values. […] That conservatives continue, as Rick Perlstein writes, to “soak in [their] marginalization” four decades after the election of the last liberal president puts this victimology beyond implausible. It is more on the order of a foundational myth, like the divine right of kings, a fiction that everyone involved must accept as fact.

Lamont-Lieberman and the Problem with Pundits: Eric Boehlert in The Nation: “In the wake of Tuesday's Connecticut primary, it's hard to say which group came across looking more desperate and out of sorts: Sen. Joseph Lieberman's bungling campaign staff, universally derided as tone-deaf and slow-footed, or Beltway-based pundits who sounded noisy alarms about the disastrous impact a win by Ned Lamont would have. Progressives would be wise to ignore the pundits' free advice, since it seems to have been driven less by concern about the Democratic Party's well-being and more by personal affinity towards Lieberman, insecurity about the surging liberal bloggers, and fear that Americans might start holding somebody--anybody--responsible for Iraq.”

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