Thursday, August 24, 2006

A view from Syria

UPI reports the latest Syrian view:

Syria's official Tishreen daily said in its editorial Thursday the U.S. administration will try to find new pretexts to achieve what the Israeli war machine failed to accomplish in Lebanon. The state-run paper argued the Bush administration sees the war on Lebanon as its own, not just Israel's, and is seeking to turn Lebanon into an Israeli protectorate. That's why, it claimed, Washington coordinates with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government around the clock and speeded up its diplomatic efforts in the U.N. to allow it to continue its aggression on Lebanon in different ways. It said Israel saw Security Council Resolution 1701 that stopped the war as a break to assess its calculations and allow pressure on the Lebanese resistance to take its course, adding the U.S. administration is seeking to take revenge from the resistance. "What is happening in Lebanon and the U.N. circles indicates the war on Lebanon stopped, but did not end; while Olmert's government is drowning in its losses and wants to reclaim its dignity at any cost, relying on the unlimited American support," the Syrian daily asserted. It said the London-based Amnesty International human rights organization on Wednesday had accused Israel of war crimes in Lebanon, adding the group "undoubtedly took into consideration that the Bush administration is a partner in these crimes."

UPI's report is a summary of the latest Arab editorials, interesting reading.

It's worth remmebering that there are no independent media in Syria; all papers and broadcast media are government controlled. The Tishreen is an official government organ anyway, so it's quite safe to assume that its printed views are indistinguishable from those of Syria's ruler, Bahar Assad.

Read the rest!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Syria rejects UN troops presence

A commentary on prospects for peace

UN Security Council Resolution 1701 calls for 15,000 UN-back soldiers to be deployed in southern Lebanon, expanding the presence of the small, existing UN Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL), which has been there since 1978. France, which pushed hard for the measure and was expected to lead the mission, backpedaled furiously a few days ago. (Jules Crittenden argues that since we don't speak French, we must have misunderstood what they meant.

[O]ne must understand that when France suggested it wanted to broker peace in Lebanon, it did not necessarily mean “broker” or “peace” or “Lebanon” in the way we might understand those words. The same is true when France further suggested it wanted to “lead” a “strong” “multinational” “force” there.

But I digress.)

Anyway, Italy has pledged 3,000 troops but there is still no chain of command established or a clear mission or rules of engagement or anything that would make the UN force a, well, military force. Already, UN spokespeople have ruled out absolutely that the reinforced UNIFIL will disarm Hezbollah, which the Lebanese government also has said it will not do and which is (sort of) called for by the same UNSC Resolution 1701.

Other than Israel and the sea, southern Lebanon borders Syria. Since Syria is the main supplier of Hezbollah's weapons, one might imagine that UNIFIL would take an interest in patrolling along the Syrian border, on the Lebanese side, of course. And so UNIFIL might take such an interest, if indeed a new UNIFIL actually ever sets foot there (which I doubt).

Syria has no interest at all in any new UNIFIL, however pusillanimous it may be, in stepping onto Lebanese soil, and Syrian dictator President Bashar Assad restated only last week that no peace is possible with Israel. As Lebanon's Daily Star reports,

Indeed, as the recent declaration made by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem during his brief visit to Lebanon indicated, the prospect of a wider regional war is something these regimes actually welcome. For the strong showing that Hizbullah has made, the destruction of Lebanese infrastructure notwithstanding, is encouragement enough for these regimes, with their minds and hearts still stuck in the 1980s, to revive the old dream of defeating Israel militarily through involvement in a war of attrition and thus achieving military glory that will boost their credentials both at home and abroad. With the US caught in the Iraqi quagmire and its power seemingly neutralized as a result, this prospect might appear more and more tempting with each passing day.

Add to these things that Syria has continued to resupply Hezbollah with weapons since the ceasefire went into effect (as confirmed by Israeli surveillance aircraft, the announcement of which has been studiously ignored by Western media) - well then, it shall come as no surprise that Assad,

... was quoted Wednesday as rejecting the deployment of UN troops along the Lebanon-Syria border, saying such a move would create animosity between the two countries.

"This is an infringement on Lebanese sovereignty and a hostile position," Assad told Dubai Television. The TV station's anchor quoted Assad without showing video of the interview, which would air later Wednesday.

Assad also urged the Lebanese government to adhere to its responsibilities and not embark on anything that could sabotage relations with Syria.

Does it not bring a tear to your eye that Syrian dictator President Assad is so concerned about Lebanese sovereignty? I mean, it's not like Syria ever occupied Lebanon or did something truly dastardly like, say, assassinating Lebanon's prime minister.

Fer shur Assad doesn't want Lebanon to do anything that "could sabotage relations with Syria," since Assad & Co. consider Lebanon to be a Syrian satrapy - so the Lebanese better not get any silly ideas such as actually being a self-determining people. And most of all they may not disarm Hezbollah, Syria's only real means, at present, of fighting Israel.

Now, the questions are whether the new, reinforced UNIFIL will, (a) ever be formed and if so, (b) will it defy Assad and deploy along the Syrian-Lebanese border anyway, because otherwise it cannot minimally fulfill UNSC 1701's mandate wishes.

Here's your four-letter answer: No, no.

Read the rest!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Lebanese govt.: We will not disarm Hezbollah

The Lebanese government has announced it will not disarm Hezbollah. Israeli editorialists are claiming this refusal violates the terms of the ceasefire as demanded by UNSC Resolution 1701, voted unanimously last Friday.

But does it? Consider some of the text of the resolution:
OP3. [TheUNSC] Emphasizes the importance of the extension of the control of the government of Lebanon over all Lebanese territory ... for it to exercise its full sovereignty, so that there will be no weapons without the consent of the government of Lebanon and no authority other than that of the government of Lebanon;
In other words, the UNSC never did call for Hezbollah to be disarmed absolutely. The resolution grants the Lebanese government the authority to permit Hezbollah to retain its arms. And that, Lebanon's government announced, is exactly what it is going to do.

However, it will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with committee work (and the UNSC is one big committee) that the resolution apparently contradicts itself later, calling for :
... full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of July 27, 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state,
The Taif Accords came to be in October 1989, when "the Lebanese National Assembly met in Taif, Saudi Arabia to ratify a 'National Reconciliation Accord' under Syrian and Saudi tutelage."
The Taif accords transferred power away from the Lebanese presidency, traditionally given to Maronites, and invested it in a cabinet divided equally between Muslims and Christians. The Taif accords also declared the intention of extending Lebanese government sovereignty over southern Lebanon. Though Israel eventually withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, armed Hizbollah militia remained in control of the area, apparently maintaining a tacit arrangement whereby Hizbollah could harass Israel within limits, but not so seriously that it would provoke a massive retaliation.
My analysis:

The arrangement between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government will no longer be "tacit." Since 2000 Hezbollah has won seats in the Lebanese parliament and two Hezbollahis are cabinet ministers of the Lebanese government. In weeks and months to come Hezbollah's influence inside Lebanon, high before the war, will come to dominate. By the end of this year, conservatively, there will be no meaningful distinction between Hezbollah troops and Lebanese troops. The Lebanese national army and the Hezbollah military wing will be, for all practical purposes, the same - and Hezbollah will be in control.

Ehud Olmert and Neville Chamberlian - soul brothers

"Peace in our time?" No, not under the provisions of UNSC 1701. The ineptitude of the Olmert government in prosecuting its war against Hezbollah, most of all its refusal to force a decision quickly against Hezbollah's armed force, has endangered Israel more than ever. Israel may boast that it destroyed thousands of Hezbollah rockets before firing, but that means nothing - Iran and Syria will resupply them in short order.

Israel faces very difficult times to come, and very violent ones. This war is very far from over. As former prime minister Benjamin Natanyahu told the Knesset Monday,
"Unfortunately, there will be another round [in this war] because the government's just demands weren’t met" by the cease-fire agreement that went into effect Monday morning.

"The [kidnapped] soldiers weren’t returned home, the Hizbullah was not disarmed … Right now, we are [merely] in an interim period between wars," Netanyahu warned. "And there is no one who will prevent our enemies from rearmed and preparing for the next round."
In the same session, Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik of Olmert's own Kadima party "called for the establishment of an emergency national unity government" to "prepare us for the next war."

We may hope and wish otherwise, but hope is not a method and wishes are not plans.

Read the rest!

More heat on Olmert

The Jerusalem Post continues to turn up the heat on Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert:

From all sides of the political spectrum calls are being raised for the establishment of an official commission of inquiry to investigate the Olmert government's incompetent management of the war in Lebanon. These calls are misguided.

We do not need a commission to know what happened or what has to happen. The Olmert government has failed on every level. The Olmert government must go.

The Knesset must vote no confidence in this government and new elections must be carried out as soon as the law permits. If the Knesset hesitates in taking this required step, then the people of Israel must take to the streets in mass demonstrations and demand that our representatives send Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and their comrades out to pasture. ...

Because of the Olmert government's failures, ever greater battles await us. As the dangers mount by the hour, we must replace this misbegotten government with one that can defend us.

Yossi Klein Halevi writes,

However hard Ehud Olmert tries to spin it, the U.N. ceasefire that began yesterday is a disaster for Israel and for the war on terrorism generally. ...

As one outraged TV anchor put it, Israeli towns were exposed to the worst attacks since the nation's founding, a million residents of the Galilee fled or sat in shelters for a month, more than 150 Israeli civilians and soldiers were killed along with nearly a thousand Lebanese--all in order to ensure the return of U.N. peacekeepers to southern Lebanon.

However, a columnist in Israel who thinks Olmert should be run out of town is far from sure it can actually take place.

Anyone who observed [Olmert’s] nine years as mayor of Jerusalem knows that he is quite comfortable swatting away public criticism and a hostile press. He will pay no heed to those in the media who began calling for his resignation over the weekend, and he is more than willing to take on his political rivals.

Meanwhile, his coalition seems stable. All the parties’ leaders were partners to the war decisions and they will find it hard to jump ship. It’s also difficult to see who can mount a real opposition to Olmert. The Left is still powerless, with scant public support. On the Right, Binyamin Netanyahu has yet to regain his credibility, almost totally destroyed in the last election.

Of course Netanyahu has acted as an admirable spokesman for Israel, giving the government his unstinting support throughout the crisis, but his efforts were mainly targeted at the foreign audience and it has yet to be seen whether that will be enough to reduce the deeply-held suspicion held toward him in what was formerly the Likud electoral heartland. He would be wise not to pounce too quickly and open himself to accusations of political opportunism at the expense of our soldiers. Right now, he seems to prefer a wiser, long-range strategy, and if he manages to enlist former chief of General Staff Moshe Ya’alon, he will start on the long road to political recovery.

Meanwhile, it’s hard to see where Olmert goes from here. Save for a dramatic military operation, perhaps a well-deserved attack on the Iranian nuclear project, he has no way to regain his lost credibility.

Read the rest!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Perspectives on bias

Israel's Haaretz newspaper offers a, "Postwar self test: Are you an anti-Semite?"

One of the more fruitless debates between critics and supporters of Israel, is where to draw the line between candid criticism of Israeli policy, and anti-Semitism.

As a public service, we present the following post war self-test, to assist readers in placing themselves along the continuum which stretches from taking rational issue with Israeli policy, and ends in Jew-hate. ...

3. You are CNN. When Lebanese civilians are killed, injured or rendered homeless in Israeli air strikes, you identify the victims as Lebanese civilians and elaborate on their suffering. When Israeli civilians are killed in Hezbollah rocket attacks, you should:

A. Identify them as Israeli civilians and elaborate on their suffering.
B. Identify them as Israelis, thus calling into question whether they are civilians.
C. Omit them, and elaborate on the suffering of Lebanese civilians.

Guess which choice CNN habitually used? Then we have a certain Lebanese perspective:

Translation: "Smile son, or they might think we are anti-Semitic."

Read the rest!

Ceasefire holds - so far

As of the time of this posting, Hezbollah has fired no rockets into Israel since the ceasefire went into effect at midnight CDT last night. Some desultory small-arms fire has been exhanged in a couple of places between the IDF and some Hezbollah fighters, but Israel's air force and heavy weapons are silent.

Most observers are less than confident this state of affairs will hold. Consider this Washington Post headline: Cease-Fire Takes Effect; More Fighting Expected (link is perishable).
The Israeli cabinet approved the cease-fire on Sunday. The Lebanese government and Hezbollah agreed to the cease-fire Saturday. Prospects for a lasting halt in the fighting appeared shaky as Hezbollah's leader said his militia would keep fighting Israeli troops as long as they remained in southern Lebanon, and Israeli officials insisted they would not withdraw their soldiers until an international force and the Lebanese army took control of the border area. Assembling an international military force in Lebanon is expected to take at least two or three weeks.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah meanwhile has claimed,
... his guerrillas had achieved a "strategic, historic victory" against Israel.

"We came out victorious in a war in which big Arab armies were defeated (before)," the black-turbaned cleric said.

He further declared that now was not the time to debate the disarmament of his guerrilla fighters, saying the issue should be done in secret sessions of the government to avoid serving Israeli interests.

"This is immoral, incorrect and inappropriate," he said. "It is wrong timing on the psychological and moral level particularly before the cease-fire," he said in reference to calls from critics for the guerrillas to disarm.

Nasrallah, speaking on the day a cease-fire took effect - ending 34 days of brutal fighting between Hizbullah and Israel - called Monday "a great day."

"We are today before a strategic, historic victory, without exaggeration," he said in a taped speech on Hizbullah's al-Manar TV.

He declared that the massive destruction inflicted upon Israel was an expression of what he called its "failure and impotency."
Much of Nasrallah's rhetoric is just bluster; he can hardly confess to his own organization or the world at large that he's been whipped, even if he thinks so, though it's highly unlikely he doesn't actually believe what he's saying. (And it's useful to note that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is not claiming Israel has decisively beaten Hezbollah.)

I wonder, though, whether Olmert was sly like a fox and played the UN to gain political-diplomatic cover for crushing Hezbollah before the multinational force arrives. I don't actually think so, but it's possible.

Read the rest!

On the border

I have previously recommended Michael Totten's web site. Michael is a self-described political centrist, 35, a freelance journalist who has traveled at his own expense to many of the world's hot spots to report first-hand. I am fortunate to count him as a pen pal.

Right now Michael is in Israel with a friend. Just before the ceasefire he completed a visit to the Israeli border town of Metulla, where IDF tanks and combat vehicles prepared to enter Lebanon.
To my knowledge, no Katyusha rockets hit Metulla at any time. The little town sits just inside a “peninsula” that juts into Lebanon. It is surrounded on three sizes by Hezbollah’s territory. Presumably Hezbollah didn’t fire rockets at Metulla because three out of four would miss Israel entirely and explode inside Lebanon. So even though Metulla is literally on the front line, it may be the safest town in all of Northern Israel.

All day long thunderous outgoing artillery tore holes through the sky on the way to Hezbollah targets. But as soon as the ground invasion began, all fell eerily quiet.
Michael does not write with the "breathless drama" style of so many mainstream reporters, who seem to think every story is a potential Pulitzer winner. Michael's style is straightforward, factual and devoid of slant. Refreshing! His essays are photo-rich, too. Read the whole thing!

Read the rest!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Unexploded ordnance danger to Lebanese

When hostilities finally cease, whether attained though force of arms or diplomatic means, Lebanese civilians will still face the danger of unexploded Israeli munitions, especially in southern Lebanon.
According to experts, Israeli forces have been firing around 3,000 rockets, artillery shells, cluster bombs, and other artillery into Lebanon each day, for the past 27 days of the conflict.

It is estimated that around 10 percent of these munitions have not exploded, so it is likely there are more than 7,000 unexploded munitions across the conflict zone.
There's no doubt that some weapons dropped or fired by Israeli forces have turned out "dud." The dud rate for ordinary bombs or artillery shells is extremely low, significantly less than one percent. So far, according to news reports, the IDF (Israeli army) has fired just over 100,000 artillery rounds into southern Lebanon. Not all of these were explosive, though; a large number were illuminating, or flare rounds and some other numbers were smoke for concealment of IDF troops as they moved across the battlefield. Nonetheless, the vast majority would have been explosive rounds or bomblet rounds.

Artillery bomblets, called DPICM, are packed 88 per shell, each bomblet weighing less than a pound. In the air, over the target, the shell casing breaks apart and the DPICM bomblets are dispersed as they fall.

They are principally designed to penetrate light armor. Their dud rate ranges from two to five percent when they fall onto hard-packed soil or rock, and higher when falling upon steeply sloping or soft terrain such as mud or snow.

If only five percent of the IDF's artillery rounds have been DPCIM, though, that means that potentially several thousand bomblets did not explode.

Since 1991's Gulf War, when the US first identified the severe problems unexploded DPICM causes for postwar activities, US DPICM bomblets have been manufactured with a failsafe mechanism that explodes duds after an short interval has passed. Whether the IDF's munitions include this failsafe I do not know.

The IDF has fired some MLRS artillery rockets at Hezbollah positions. These are filled with 644 DPICM per rocket; there are no MLRS rockets with a solid-explosive warhead.

Based on the target types the Israeli Air Force has attacked, the vast majority of aerial bombs dropped have been high-explosive bombs ("iron bombs"), not cluster bombs. Cluster bombs are militarily ineffective against infrastructure targets. Nonetheless, it can be expected that some number of cluster bombs have been used against Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon. These bomblets are much larger, weighing up to 40 pounds each. They are actually less dangerous to postwar civilians than DPICM because they are much more easily seen and can be avoided.

There is also an artillery shell called FASCAM that lays down instant minefields, with either antipersonnel or antiarmor mines. The mines are of either "short delay" or "long delay," referring to the time that elapses before each mine detonates on its own. These shells, if the IDF is even using them, will present practically no postwar hazard.

Even with the best dud rates of bomblets, there will be a signficant hazard for people after they move back to their homes in southern Lebanon. Particularly dangerous are the DPICM bomblets because they may be covered by a thin layer of soil from wind or rain runoff. They are small and difficult to see even lying on top of the ground. This will indeed be a serious postwar issue.

Update: The United States has agreed to sell Israel more artillery rockets, of the kind fired by the US-made Multiple Launch Rocket System. (I served as operations officer for 3d Battalion, 27th Field Artillery, based at Ft Bragg, NC and which was equipped with 27 MLRS launchers.) A single laucnher holds 12 rockets at a time. They can be fired singly or up to all 12, which takes 48 seconds. One launcher's full load carries more than 7,700 DPCIM bomblets ("submunitions" as they are called). The impact area of all those submunitions encompasses 600,000 square meters, or 60 percent of a square kilometer. This weapon was used with very deadly effect in 1991's Gulf War against Iraqi artilery - so lethal was MLRS that Iraqi soldiers called it "steel rain" (the few who lived through it, anyway).
Israel has long told American officials that it wanted M-26 [MLRS] rockets for use against conventional armies in case Israel was invaded, one of the American officials said. But after being pressed in recent days on what they intended to use the weapons for, Israeli officials disclosed that they planned to use them against [Hezbollah] rocket sites in Lebanon. It was this prospect that raised the intense concerns over civilian casualties. ...

State Department officials "are discussing whether or not there needs to be a block on this sale because of the past history and because of the current circumstances," said the senior official, adding that it was likely that Israel will get the rockets, but will be told to be "be careful." ...

In the case of cluster munitions, including the Multiple Launch Rocket System, which fires the M-26 [rocket], the Israeli military only fires into open terrain where rocket launchers or other military targets are found, to avoid killing civilians, an Israeli official said.
That means that if Hezbollah decides to continue rocketing northern Israel it will simply locate its launchers in urban areas near civilians, as it has been doing all along.

The M-26 standard rocket ranges out to 30 kilometers. There is an extended-range model that flies considerably farther but carries fewer submunitions to make room for more rocket fuel. In the 1980s the US Army developed a rocket called ATACMS that ranges to 150 kilometers, also with a DPICM warhead. This rocket is so large that an MLRS launcher can carry only two, but its DPICM load is much greater. This rocket has been sold to few other countries, Turkey, Greece, South Korea, and Bahrain being examples.

MLRS was designed in the late 1970s to attack large armored Soviet formations if the USSR ever invaded western Europe. It is so powerful that it replaced 8-inch howitzers in the US Army. That the 8-inch howitzer was capable of firing atomic projectiles and the MLRS is not reveals a lot about its destructive capability.

Read the rest!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Split in Israeli politics on the war?

Heretofore, media have reported near unanimity among Israeli political factions about prosecuting the war, with some polls showing up to 90 percent of Israeli adults supporting it.

Now a fissure, however small has appeared.

The political left in Israel slammed the Wednesday afternoon cabinet decision to widen the military ground offensive in Lebanon.

Meretz MK Ran Cohen called the move "unfortunate and dangerous." He said continued operations will "increase the large number of victims and will not solve the problem."

Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On added the decision "will distance the chances of a cease-fire and of quiet in the northern communities."

Meretz Chairman MK Yossi Beilin said the cabinet "made a tragic mistake that is liable to unnecessary lengthen the war? Rather than taking advantage of the opportunity to leave Lebanon and let its army deploy in the south, Israel is entering deeper into Hezbollah's trap on the verge of a war of attrition on the ground."

Hadash MK Mohammad Barakeh said the cabinet decision is "insanity testifying to military arrogance." He said Israel was closing the window of opportunity that was opened by the Lebanese government.

The "window of opportunity" referred to was the Lebanese government's call for a ceasefire after Israel withdraws from Lebanon, to be followed by the deployment of 15,000 Lebanese national troops to southern Lebanon. As I explained in my Aug. 4. post, "Why did Israel attack Lebanon?" even Lebanon's President Emile Lahoud has said bluntly that the Lebanese army "is not an army to fight a war." Furthermore, the Lebanese government has never referred to Hezbollah as a "militia," since that would recognize that UN Resolution 1559, calling for all Lebanese militias to disarm, applies to Hezbollah. This the Lebanese government denies, always characterizing Hezbollah as a Lebanese "resistance movement."

Between 40-50 percent of the Lebanese army consists of members of Hezbollah, which is a political party inside Lebanon as well as a militia. To expect that any number of Lebanese army troops in southern Lebanon will control Hezbollah's well trained, well equipped and highly disciplined fighters is simple fantasy. Here's a brief synopsis why.

Read the rest!

Whither Israeli Arabs?

Many people are not aware that Arabs make up a fifth of Israel's population. Sixteen percent of Israel's population is Muslim (almost two percent of Israels's Arabs are Christian, the rest are something else). Almost all are Muslims and some members of the Knesset are Israeli-Arab Muslims. The number of Arabs in Israel is growing, relative to the Jews, because Arab parents have more children than the Jewish parents. In fact, at current growth rates of Jews and Arabs in Israel, Arabs could become a numerical majority by mid-century, maybe sooner.

Until yesterday, Hezbollah had a word for Israeli Arabs: "targets." Hezbollah rockets have struck Arab neighborhoods in Haifa, killing Arab Israelis. However, yesterday Hezbollah chief terrorist Hassan Nasrallah,
... warned all Israeli Arabs to leave the port city of Haifa so the militant group could step up attacks without fear of shedding the blood of fellow Muslims.

Haifa, Israel's third-largest city, has been the frequent target of Hezbollah's rocket attacks.

"I have a special message to the Arabs of Haifa, to your martyrs and to your wounded. I call on you to leave this city. I hope you do this. ... Please leave so we don't shed your blood, which is our blood," Nasrallah said.
It's worth noting that Israeli forces warn everyone in the Lebanese combat zone to leave to avoid being killed, but Nasrallah wants the Jews to stay in Haifa precisely so he can kill them.

Israeli news reporter and Arab, Riad Ali, says that in the name of Allah,
This is the time to address the Arab citizens of Israel, and tell them that the time has come for them to decide where they stand. And they should do so for their own sake, and not for the sake of the Jews. For the sake of the values they want to instill in their children. For the sake of retaining their intellectual dignity. It is clear to all that a Hamas-led Palestinian government and a Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon will not bring democratic societies with a flourishing political and social pluralism. It is clear that in regimes such as those, the rule of law, human rights, the freedom of religion and worship, women's rights, the freedom of creation, the freedom of movement, the freedom of expression and thought - all will be alien, ridiculed concepts, to say the least.
Read the whole thing.

Read the rest!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Julles Crittenden has an incisive, insightful piece in the BostonHerald about photo fakery, concluding,

Everyone in the news business gets taken for a ride sooner or later. It’s an occupational hazard. What is surprising is the scale of it in Lebanon. And what is tragic about this is, as a Boston Herald photo editor noted, editors everywhere can no longer trust the pictures from Lebanon. The public cannot know what is staged and what is real. They cannot know the true scope of the devastation that Hezbollah’s aggression against Israel and its cynical tactics have brought on the Lebanese people. The con artists have shafted themselves and their own people with their cheap tricks.

But it also indicates that Hezbollah and Palestinian movie-set directors are trapped by oldthink. They've been hosing the West with "fauxtography" for so long that they do not realize thatthe media environment has changed. As Jules points out, there are countless eyeballs examining the photos and video released by news media from the theater. Jules names a few blogs that exposed the Photoshopped fakery of Adnan Hajj's pic of Beirut being bombed.

Another example: the "the unluckiest multiple home owner in Beirut," a Beirut woman photographed wailing over "the wreckage of her apartment" on July 22. Then on Aug. 5 the same woman, in the same clothing, was photographed wailing at the destruction of her house in the suburbs of Beirut.

Michelle Malkin has a long, illustrated post led by an expose of the New York Times' run of this photo of a "dead bombing victim."

NYT's caption: "The mayor of Tyre said that in the worst-hit area, bodies were still buried under the rubble, and he appealed to the Israelis to allow government authorities to pull them out."

The only problem is that there is a whole series of photos showing this same man running around the area. Besides, he seems pretty clean to have been "buried under the rubble," doesn't he?

NPR ran the same photo on its web site with a more realistic and quite plausible caption - that the man had fallen down and was being helped up.

Jules Crittenden is correct: the Lebanese people are suffering enough and their plight doesn't even need such propagandistic exaggeration. These fraudulent audiovisuals increase our skepticism of all such reports. For my earlier post on this topic, see here.

Update: Today the NYT today ran a correction: "The man pictured, who had been seen in previous images appearing to assist with the rescue effort, was injured during that rescue effort, not during the initial attack, and was not killed." It took them 20 days, but better late than never, I suppose.

Read the rest!

Hard bombing

Some thoughts on why Israel is bombing Lebanon so severely can be found here.

Read the rest!

Minute by minute

The Wall Street Journal has a page called Mideast Crisis Tracker that is, "Updated regularly with news on the Israel-Hezbollah-Lebanon crisis." Excellent resource - no editorializing, just what has happened. Free to non-subscribers.

An entry from yesterday says this about the prospects of the Lebanese national army successfuly disarming Hezbollah.
Tuesday, Aug. 8

11:45 p.m.: With the U.N.pushing to disarm the militant group Hezbollah, the U.S. and other countries have expressed confidence that Lebanon's army can handle the job with help from a multinational force. But Lebanese commanders believe the task could prove difficult. Lebanon's military is poorly equipped and fragmented along ethnic and religious lines. Its police force has 20,000 members, but fewer than half have guns or ammunition. Some of the weapons they use are World War II-era rifles. Lebanon's army, the other branch of its security forces, currently numbers about 40,000. Some of its tanks were produced in the 1940s, say senior army officers. And American-made helicopters it has purchased are one-engine models that are no longer legal to fly in the U.S.

Read the rest!