Monday, July 31, 2006

Diplomacy and the Hounds of Hell, Part XIV

The public relations fallout from the Qana strike continues, and it appears that the Israelis bungled an opportunity to show the world that the deaths of about 60 people following a collapse of the building could have been due to Hizbullah blowing up the building themselves.
"Hizbullah has been firing rockets from that area for two and a half weeks," Eisen told CNN. "The building was next to the rocket site. It was a mistake. Israel deeply regrets it. Israel does not target civilians. There will be a full investigation."

Dallal emphasized in an interview with CNN that Israel repeatedly told the people of Kafr Kana to leave the area, and accused Hizbullah of using civilians as human shields.

"This is a war zone," Dallal told CNN. "Why? Ask Hizbullah. They're responsible."

Hours before the air force's press conference, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Gillerman told NBC's Meet the Press program that he suspected the building collapse was orchestrated by Hizbullah because it was in their interests.

He said Hizbullah also might have prevented the civilians from leaving the collapsed structure "in a cynical and brutal way."

Israeli officials noted that the Lebanese rescue teams did not start evacuating the building until hours after the collapse and only when the camera crews came. The rescue team then took out the bodies of children slowly for the camera crews.
Isn't it the slightest bit odd that the rescuers would come only when the camera crews did? Hizbullah has been playing the media war masterfully, and it is costing Israel dearly.

Newsweek wonders whether Hizbullah can win simply by hanging on. Well, if you've been reading my blog all along, you'd know that I have been making that very observation for quite some time now. The article points to Nasrallah's media statements and watching how the media is swarming against Israel's acts of self defense that happen to include collateral damage.
No one denies that Hizbullah started the fight, with its unprovoked incursion into Israel, and no one doubts that Israel can win it, at least in conventional terms. But that's not what matters as much as public perceptions, and the impact those perceptions have from Tehran to Cairo. The conflagrations in Gaza, Lebanon and Iraq risk converging, if not on the ground, then in that virtual reality—on satellite television and the Web—where Al Qaeda and Hizbullah find recruits for their global networks. Israel can bomb Lebanon's infrastructure all it wants, but Hizbullah, which operates beyond the limits of a state, ultimately has no infrastructure. Hizbullah's own rockets and missiles can miss nearly all their targets, with comparatively little loss of life, but so long as they keep firing, they shatter the myth of Israeli invincibility and win friends and admirers in a radicalized Muslim world. "The Zionist enemy has not been able to reach a military victory," said Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah in a speech Friday on his organization's Al-Manar TV, still broadcasting despite Israeli Air Force strikes that obliterated its studios and transmission towers. "I'm not saying that. They said that. The whole world is saying that."
Someone thinking that just because the number of casualties seems disproportionate that the Israeli response is not justified. Sorry, but Israel's right of self defense means eliminating Hizbullah, an Islamic terrorist group dedicated to Israel's destruction and who hides in plain site by blending in with civilians. Who is going to eliminate the terrorist threat, including the weapons caches? Hizbullah is not going to agree to disarmament, and verifying that their weapons caches have been cleared out. International peacekeepers are not going to get the job done, because Hizbullah will just as easily fire upon the peacekeepers as Israelis.

The UN Security Council has announced that it is shocked by the Qana attack. Never mind that all of the facts are not in and that while the loss of life among civilians is regretful, Hizbullah has purposefully placed their assets among women and children so as to inflate the body count. Hizbullah also purposefully attacks Israeli civilians and hopes to inflict maximum casualties in Israel.

And forget about any self imposed ceasefire by Israel since the Hizbullah rockets continue flying into Israel. Israel says that the cessation of airstrikes will not include imminent threats. In other words, if they see rocket launchers firing, they will attack them.

Meanwhile, the French think that Iran has a stabilizing interest in the region. Sorry to break it to the French, but the only way Iran is a stabilizing element in the Middle East is if Iran eliminates all its enemies and imposes its brand of Islam on the region, before expanding its purview to the rest of the world. The French are also complaining that a 48-hour ceasefire is inadequate. What does the French propose doing about Hizbullah, which continues firing rockets into Israel? Use harsh language or maybe a UN resolution to get Hizbullah to comply? The UN has been completely useless in this situation, as the Egyptians note, but the Lebanese President says that they do not want a multinational force other than the UN involved. One has to wonder about that, considering that the UN overlooked Hizbullah's buildup and crossborder attacks repeatedly over the past six years after Israel withdrew from South Lebanon. Putting the UN in charge of peacekeeping in South Lebanon will not address the issues, nor will it result in improved security for Israel or Lebanon.

Bloggers to check in with for daily updates are Blue Crab Boulevard, Carl in Jerusalem, Israellycool, Dave Bender, Meryl Yourish, Euphoric Reality, Pajamas Media, Hot Air, Jameel at the Muqata, Greetings from the French Hill, R'Lazer, and Live from an Israeli Bunker. Check back with them regularly for updates.

Peter Brookes has a good op-ed today about the nature of any UN or multinational force entering the fray in Lebanon. It would have to be a peacemaking operation, not a peacekeeping operation - as there is no peace to keep right now. There are few countries who are willing or able to send forces, and even NATO is stretched to the limit with its obligation in Afghanistan. The NY Post also takes the UN to task for its inability to enforce UN SCR 1559, which requires the dissolution of militias operating in Lebanon and for creating the conditions that enable Hizbullah to operate with near impunity in Lebanon.

Israel says that it has hit 2/3 of Hizbullahs missiles and rockets, which means that there are probably a couple thousand still left to be fired into Israel. The Israelis have also killed Hizbullah's head of logistics in South Lebanon, and who was responsible for kidnapping three Israeli soldiers in 2000.

President Bush says that Iran and Syria must stop backing Hizbullah. Or else what? Words without deeds to back them up ring hollow and Iran and Syria both are realizing that they have wide latitude to deal with Lebanon and Israel as they see fit because international pressure is working to handcuff and limit Israel's response to Hizbullah attacks.

Netenyahu says that Israel must not stop its offensive against Hizbullah, despite the current difficulties. Dan Shomron says that this is a war not of Israel's choosing, but Israel must change the rules of play.
Shomron stated that Hizbullah must be neutralized and the threat facing Israel must be eliminated. He stated that a ceasefire cannot be entertained prior to reaching the objectives set by the military.

Shomron stated that mistakes do occur in war and as unfortunate as they may be, they are part of reality.

“We must achieve our goals in order to change the reality,” stating that even if there is not widespread support for such a move, including the United States, the objectives must be achieved.
Mubarak is concerned that the entire peace process in the Middle East can collapse. Well, whose fault would that be? The Islamists who rage against Israel's existence and launch attack after attack against Israel? The Iranian and Syrian terror masters who are funding the terrorists? The inability of countries in the Middle East to deal with jihadis who roam free and are spurred on by mullahs who exhort the masses to jihad?

Hamas' Mashaal says that Gilad Shalit is still in Gaza. No word on when Hamas will release him.

Sweetness and Light reports on more questions arising out of the Qana incident and wonders whether the entire incident was being stage managed by Hizbullah.
There are other mysteries. The roof of the building was intact. Journalist Ben Wedeman of CNN noted that there was a larger crater next to the building, but observed that the building appeared not to have collapsed as a result of the Israeli strike.

What we do know is that sometime after dawn a call went hour to journalists and rescue workers to come to the scene. And come they did.

While Hezbollah and its apologists have been claiming that civilians could not freely flee the scene due to Israeli destruction of bridges and roads, the journalists and rescue teams from nearby Tyre had no problem getting there.

Lebanese rescue teams did not start evacuating the building until the morning and only after the camera crews came. The absence of a real rescue effort was explained by saying that equipment was lacking. There were no scenes of live or injured people being extracted.
Read the whole thing. EU Referendum thinks Hizbullah and its supporters are milking the incident in Qana for all its worth. Of course they are; and they're quite successful at it because the facts when they come out will not be sufficient to overcome the meme that Israel was wrong.

Secretary of State Rice is optimistic that there will be a deal done this week. On what basis, I have no idea. There's no reason to be optimistic that a deal that will not only bring an end to the fighting and eliminate Hizbullah's warfighting capability is forthcoming.

Jay Tea at Wizbang has an interesting look at terrorists and hostage taking.

Michael Totten has a very thought provoking article on how Israel's self defense and push into Lebanon has brought about disasterous consequences, including polarizing the Lebanese people and expanding the influence of Syria and Iran in Lebanon.

If that's the case, then Iran has exploited Hizbullah's presence in Lebanon masterfully, and has succeeded in its goal of expanding its power and prestige at the expense of Israel. Lebanon loses no matter who claims victory. The country is once again in shambles, because Hizbullah picked a fight with Israel and sought to turn South Lebanon into a wasteland - civilians be damned.

Tigerhawk provides a reality check on Hizbullah's activities, courtesy of the Guardian, which is embedded with Hizbullah's terror minions in Tyre. A sampling:
Inside a well-furnished apartment in a village on the outskirts of Tyre, with shelves of books piled from floor to ceiling, a black turbaned cleric and three men sit sipping bitter coffee. By the door is a pile of Kalashnikovs and ammunition boxes; handguns are tucked into the men's trousers. The four are Hizbullah fighters, waiting for the Israelis.
Go forth and read on. Hizbullah is confident that it will not matter that such imagery and reporting gets out because they expect the media and world opinion to come down against Israel. Thus far, that view appears to be priescent; as witnessed by the Qana incident and other incidents where Israeli strikes against Hizbullah have turned into questions of why Israeli strikes are hitting civilians, despite the fact that we've repeatedly seen and heard that Hizbullah is operating in and among civilian populations and has even used the UNIFIL outposts for cover.

Rantings of a Sandmonkey sees yet more trouble for Lebanon once the conflict with Israel is set aside. Retribution will come against those Lebanese who stood against Hizbullah and its allies. The Big Pharoah concurs and sees this as yet another opening for Syria to get back into Lebanon in the name of 'stability'.

PM Olmert says that we should never have allowed Hizbullah to have created a terror state in South Lebanon. Well, it wasn't up to Israel was it? The international community sanctioned this as part of the Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon and the terms of UN SCR 1559 were clear as to disarming militias and ensuring Lebanon's territorial integrity. Instead, the UN looked the other way as Hizbullah turned South Lebanon into a weapons bazaar, complete with bunkers, tunnels, and arms caches stashed among residences throughout South Lebanon. Olmert also apologies for the airstrike in Qana, but doesn't apologize.

Others blogging the conflict and the situation in Qana: Outside the Beltway, AJ Strata, Hot Air, Blue Crab Boulevard, Michelle Malkin, Pajamas Media, Macranger, Liberty and Justice, Confederate Yankee, and Polipundit.

Michelle Malkin wonders whether terrorists bother to warn civilians of impending attacks. We know Israel has dropped thousands of leaflets and made announcements, including phone calls to villages where Israel intended to operate warning the residents to flee the violence. Hizbullah and Hamas have done no such thing. They've purposefully targeted civilians and done so without warning. Yet, Malkin forgets that the IRA would regularly phone in bomb threats to the British government so that the area affected would be cleared before the bombs went off. Also, the Islamists have provided a most general warning to the West; either submit to Islam or face the consequences. The warnings aren't specific as to time or place, which means that the West must be vigilant on an ongoing basis or else face additional terrorist attacks at home. That doesn't diminish the central point; Islamic terrorists purposefully target civilians to maximize civilian deaths.

Has another Israeli ship been hit by Hizbullah anti-ship missiles?
Hizbullah said in a statement the attack was the start of its retaliation for Sunday's bombing of a building in south Lebanon that killed 54 civilians, including 37 children. An Israeli security source said no Israeli vessel had been hit.
Like Hizbullah needs an excuse to kill Israelis? Israel's existence is enough of an excuse for Hizbullah to make the destruction and annihilation of Israel a central tenet of its worldview. That's what the nearly 2,000 rockets fired into Israel have sought to accomplish. That's what killing eight Israelis and taking two others into Lebanon was all about. Enough with the excuses. Hizbullah isn't stopping attacking Israeli positions because its intent and purpose is to destroy Israel by all the means at its disposal, and its ideology is such that it will continue to agitate for Israel's destruction ad infinitum unless Israel eliminates Hizbullah completely or Israel itself is destroyed.

Also, a mine was detonated near the Israel/Syria border in the Golan Heights on Sunday near an Israeli patrol. This could have been done so as to attempt to escalate the conflict between Syria and Israel - broadening the war so as to lessen the pressure on Hizbullah. There's no word on the cause of the detonation.

Olmert says that no other countries have a right to lecture Israel about morality. That's an excellent point, and one that should not have to be made because sovereignty and the right to protect one's citizenry against the belligerent acts of its neighbors is an essential part of the Westphalian nation/state system. Of course, those rules don't apply to Israel or the US, thus the need to repeat this fact constantly.

And we shouldn't forget that Hizbullah is continuing to use UN observer positions to attack Israel and draw fire onto these positions. Where are the condemnations by Kofi Annan? Is he too busy to read the UNIFIL daily briefing sheets showing how Hizbullah is completely infesting and overruning UNIFIL positions so as to draw Israeli fire?

John Hawkins has an interesting recap of the situation in Lebanon and Israel's ongoing campaign to destroy Hizbullah's capabilities. Allah warns about overreaching on the Qana incident while noting that the presentation of the bodies was staged to maximize media exposure although the nature of the deaths is more questionable. He also notes, along with Patterico, that "Israel’s going to be blamed no matter what, so why not ignore them and keep the heat on Hezbollah."

As expected, Hizbullah is taking advantage of the IAF pause to regroup and rearm. Gazans are now clamoring for international peacekeepers as well. That speaks volumes about how well their war with Israel is progressing, although it isn't stopping them from attacking Israelis. They need to be saved from themselves.

Syria has been a busy bunch today. Assad says that he wont be deterred from helping Lebanon. I think his idea of coming to assist is quite different than what we would take to be assistance. He's like a vulture ready for a meal feasting on the carcass of Lebanon after his proxies have gotten through with it. Syria also tells Egypt that it opposes an international force in Lebanon. Of course it does. Lebanon is Syria's playground, and they don't like sharing. They had to withdraw from Lebanon with their tails between their legs in the aftermath of the Harari assassination. You can bet they want back in Lebanon in a big way.

The Iranians have also been busy. They want to meet up with the French Foreign Minister in Beirut. They're also calling for an immediate ceasefire. That's after once again demonizing Israel in the media. Lest we forget, Hizbullah is operating at the behest of Iran.

The Lebanese Prime Minister is calling on an international investigation into the Qana incident. I doubt he'd find satisfaction especially when there are highly suspicious actions taken in the aftermath of the airstrike, the long delay between the airstrike and the collapse, and then the delay in recovering the bodies. Meanwhile, the Lebanese are refusing to talk about a ceasefire while the US is making more ovetures. Anyone else think this is just a kabuki play?

The Palestinian terrorists are still at it too. They detonated a bomb along the security fence.

Meanwhile, there's one omission from the Rice ceasefire plans that is quite troubling; the three Israeli soldiers who were taken by the terrorists in precipitating the current crisis. That's no recipe for a solution as far as Israel is concerned.

So what do the human rights groups have to say? Blame Israel seems to be the name of the game. HRW puts the blame squarely on Israel. Any mention of Hizbullah? Sure, but no blame is assessed or acrrued to them, despite the fact that they're violating every international law and human rights law in the books:
Even if the IDF claims of Hezbollah rocket fire from the Qana area are correct, Israel remains under a strict obligation to direct attacks at only military objectives, and to take all feasible precautions to avoid the incidental loss of civilian life. To date, Israel has not presented any evidence to show that Hezbollah was present in or around the building that was struck at the time of the attack.
What obligations accrue to Hizbullah. Apparently none according to HRW.

Amnesty International levels some blame on Hizbullah, but calls on all sides to agree to a ceasefire. And yet Israel is called on the carpet for warning civilians in the path of the violence:
Israeli authorities have claimed that Hizbullah intentionally used civilians in Qana as "human shields". International humanitarian law expressly prohibits the use of tactics such as "human shields" to prevent an attack on military targets. However, international humanitarian law also makes it clear that even if one side is shielding itself behind civilians, such an abuse does not "...release the Parties to the conflict from their legal obligations with respect to the civilian population and civilians."

Reports that Israel has warned all civilians living south of the Litani River to leave the area demonstrates how the concept of effective warning is being distorted. If anything, such a warning to over 400,000 people seems only to spread panic among the civilian population, rather than enhance their safety. Many fear they are more likely to be attacked on the road. Some simply are not able to leave. In several cases where Israeli forces gave warning to residents of certain towns or villages in southern Lebanon, they then attacked those trying to flee. Israel's relentless bombing of roads and bridges has also made it extremely difficult for civilians in south Lebanon to flee north following warnings from Israel.

Under customary international law, intentionally launching a disproportionate or indiscriminate attack or intentionally directing attacks at civilians or civilian objects is a war crime.
Israel is defending itself using limited force against Hizbullah, whereas Hizbullah purposefully attacks civilians and civilian objects. Amnesty Int'l confuses and blurs the distinction between a terrorist group and a state defending its citizens from terrorist acts.

Others blogging: Flopping Aces, Mark in Mexico, and memeorandum.

Somehow I don't think that President Bush had this in mind when he said that the violence had to stop for the sake of the children.

Israel's expanded ground assault has gotten the go ahead. Thus far, we've only seen the undercard. The real hard work is ahead. Israeli aircraft also pounded targets deep inside Lebanon, including the Bekaa Valley.

Qatar is trying to burnish its Muslim image by complaining that other Muslim countries are backing Israel.

Alan Dershowitz opines on what would happen if Lebanon's military comes to the aid of Hizbullah. The short answer: they'd become legitimate military targets for Israel.

How is it that the media keeps carrying water for Hizbullah by focusing on the suffering in Lebanon and ignoring the ongoing problems in Israel? It's not as though the rocket attacks have stopped or that the terrorists aren't trying to kill Israeli civilians at every turn.

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