The Middle East, Part VI

There is no circumstance that justifies the use of cluster bombs. The following report could have come out of Afghanistan, Iraq, Angola, Cambodia or any place cluster bombs and landmines are used.

After the article is the latest message from the USA Ban Landmines group. The U.S. and Israel refuse to sign the international ban on making, selling or using landmines. Cluster bombs are also landmines, as you may read.

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After Lebanon war, unexploded bombs continue to sow death
By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Friday, August 18, 2006
by Anne Chaon

TEBNIN, Lebanon, Aug 18, 2006 (AFP) – Kneeling in the rubble, the de-miner gently handled a tiny metallic tube, trying to defuse one of the thousands of bomblets littering southern Lebanon.

These deadly leftovers of weeks of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas continue to kill and maim nearly a week after both sides silenced their guns, creating what one munitions expert called a “humanitarian catastrophe” as thousands displaced by the war return home.

“This has the potential to be a huge humanitarian issue,” said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch. “People are coming back to their homes, they’re hugging and kissing and glad just to have survived and then there are bombs going off,” he said.

Full Article
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Alan Pogue

Yes, Alan
This was part of the background of my concern last week. I guess Steve thinks these are better than fighting with hand made knives or whatever he replied.

BTW the article you included calls them “Israeli cluster bombs.” But aren’t they really US-made cluster bombs used by the Israelis?

Paz–Val Liveoak

Val,
I think you are right. The Israeli military was asking for expedited shipment of “cluster munitions.” I think hand made knives would be a vast improvement only because many fewer people would be killed. Long range artillery, chemical weapons, airplanes and now rockets of all types kill indiscriminately and mostly civilians, 90% is the percent I always see. The old landmines rusted eventually but now they are made with plastic covers that last indefinitely. A knife, at least, requires the killer to be close up and somewhat personal. A dropped knife does not later jump up and stab someone. No snipers using knives. Accurate knife throwing only occurs at fixed distances. I know a great deal of cutting was done in Africa with machetes but that pales in comparison to the 8 million land mines in Angola. Angola was a food exporting country but now farmers cannot venture onto much of the land.

When I was in D.C. lobbying against landmines, with the vets who had had their legs blown off, I was told by congressional aides that Israel had plans, on paper, to place neutron bomb landmines on the border of Golan Heights/Syria. The military mindset is “if we have it, or can get it, we must use it.”

As Molly Ivins puts it in her Texas pseudo-red neck way, “I am not so much anti-gun as pro-knife.”

Alan Pogue

I’m not sure why Alan and Val think I’m OK with cluster bombs and land mines.

Like I’m not sure why David thinks I’m OK with some of the outrageous shit Israel has done in this current dustup.

My claims are very limited:

This is such a thing as terrorism as a tactic.

It may be used by state actors or non-state actors. When state actors do it, it is often a war crime and if I had my way it would always be a war crime.

There is a moral distinction between practicing terrorism and making war by lawful means. That the means are lawful does not mean I agree with the law — e.g., cluster bombs and land mines. (And, by the way, there is a way to render them unlawful without the agreement of the US.)

When we can’t bring ourselves to express outrage at terrorism, we cede moral and political capital to nutcases like George W. Bush.

There is perhaps a sense in which there is no difference between a terrorist and a soldier. That sense is not the public policy of any nation or agreed upon by any substantial number of American voters. Stand on it and render yourself irrelevant. I don’t agree with that position, but if I did I would be hard put to see what to do but stand aside and wag my finger.

Steve Russell

OK Steve,
I am glad to know you are not in favor of weapons whose very nature constitute war crimes. (I’d add depleted uranium shells to the list…)

“When we can’t bring ourselves to express outrage at terrorism, we cede moral and political capital to nutcases like George W. Bush.”

You’re right about this, too.

“There is perhaps a sense in which there is no difference between a terrorist and a soldier. That sense is not the public policy of any nation or agreed upon by any substantial number of American voters. Stand on it and render yourself irrelevant. I don’t agree with that position, but if I did I would be hard put to see what to do but stand aside and wag my finger.”

As for terrorism, I agree that it’s time for nonselective condemnation of violence. From governments, “liberation” movements, or whoever. I think the only real revolution will have to be accomplished by revolutionary nonviolence. (Because changing the process changes the outcome.) If all of us actively protested nonviolently, or even a large number of us, we could stop our own government’s terrorism. Folks in the tax resistance movement think that if even a small number — I don’t know how many — were visible war tax resisters, then we’d make a big impression. Large demonstrations may have worked in the 70s (or maybe it was the GI movement as ‘Sir, No Sir!’ shows) but they have not so far worked on post 9-11 state terror by or sponsored by the US. I haven’t seen much results from complaining about things to folks who think like us. So while I am a devoted weekly peace vigiler, I agree it’s not much more than wagging a finger. Others write letters, send e-mails etc. while going along with whatever else they do in everyday life.

Maybe we need to change everyday life.

At least, if we are actively in one way or another saying ‘NO!’ we are not passively cooperating with the crimes.

Paz–Val Liveoak

Mark Twain, writing about the French Revolution in “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”.

‘There were two “Reigns of Terror”, if we could but remember and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passions, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon a thousand persons, the other upon a hundred million; but our shudders are all for the “horrors” of the… momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty and heartbreak? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror – that unspeakable bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.’

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August 17, 2006
Haaretz (an Israeli newspaper)
Nasrallah Didn’t Mean To
by Amira Hass

During the past month, Hezbollah’s Katyushas killed 18 Israeli Arabs among the 41 Israeli civilians who died in the war. Clearly, Hassan Nasrallah didn’t mean to kill them. But as someone who knows that many Arabs live in northern Israel, and as someone who knows that the launchers for his inaccurate Katyushas cannot choose the target they will hit – the fact that it was unintended is meaningless.

More than anyone, Israelis should understand Nasrallah’s claims that this was “unintended,” identify with the primacy he attaches to the “unintendedness” relative to the fatal results, and identify with the disjunction he creates between the rationale that is inherent in the war machine he has built and his subjective will. “We didn’t mean to” is a mantra that is frequently recited in Israel when there is a discussion of the number of civilians – among them many children – who are killed by the Israel Defense Forces. To this, the claim that “they” (Hezbollah and the Palestinians) cynically exploit civilians by locating themselves among them and firing from their midst is automatically added.

This claim is made by citizens of a state who know very well where to turn off Ibn Gvirol Street in Tel Aviv to get to the security-military complex that is located in the heart of their civilian city; this claim is repeated by the parents of armed soldiers who bring their weapons home on weekends, and is recited by soldiers whose bases are adjacent to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and who have shelled civilian Palestinian neighborhoods from positions and tanks that have been stationed inside civilian settlements.

“We didn’t mean to” is the cousin of “I didn’t know,” and both of them are close neighbors of the double standard. What is permitted to us is forbidden to others. What hurts us does not hurt others (because they are “other”).

Full Article
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As Herzl said:

“We shall try to spirit away the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country. …expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.”

Theodor Herzl, Handwritten Diary entry 12 June 1895, (CZA H ii B i) ; The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, trans. Harry Zohn, (New York, 1960), vol.1, p.88. Also Patai edition and others.

And Alan concludes:

There is systematic, long term injustice and there are reactions. Both end in innocent people being killed. One is huge in its long term scope and intent whereas the other is short term and reactionary. The French poor, revolting slaves and black South Africans should never have killed innocent white people/Europeans/ruling class family members. Unfortunately there are many angry, confused and even opportunistic people. Class warfare is begun by the ruling class and ended by the peasants/working class. Even some upper class people can become apostates to wealth.

The Confederacy was a democracy also, just like Israel is now. Do slaves not have the right to revolt? Do plantations have the right to exist? I invite anyone who thinks these statements are extreme to go live with a Palestinian family in the West Bank or Gaza. I have.

As long as one’s sense of identity is tied to a particular group then that group must be held unaccountable lest one also be held accountable. After my Vietnam experience I had to overhaul my identity. Zionism is intimately and explicitly tied to Capitalist Imperialism, England-U.S.-Israel (ruling classes). On an individual level I have met some kind, but confused, Zionists on the leftward side of Zionism. Just as, among Republicans, there is Harry Widdington, Dick Cheney’s target, who was very good on the Texas prison board. Humans are very able to compartmentalize their brains.

You can take a horse to the movies but you may not be able to have the horse see what you see.

Alan Pogue

I find Val’s prescription of non-violent resistance attractive in some ways, especially for action in the US, but see it as part of political education within America, not as a feasible way of changing American policy. For one thing, I think at this point most Americans still think that it would be a fine thing for the US to rule the world (although many would like to see it done more smoothly and cheaply). I do not think that blockading recruiting offices will have any more concrete impact than blockading abortion clinics — the real fight here is a political one (for which some blockades may in fact be useful tools), ultimately measured in election results.

I agree that non-violence is an important value to push, especially in the strong, rich countries which use violence the most and can justify it least. During the recent British political fight over making “glorifying terrorism” a crime, it occurred to me that I might support a proposal to outlaw “glorifying violence” in general. I would miss Henry V, but not “support our troops,” “shock and awe,” and the steady stream of violence promotion in movies, video games, and Fox News. There is something to the idea that young males are particularly susceptible to enrollment in violence, whether via jihad or the Marines.

But it’s easy for those of us in functioning (if seriously flawed) democracies to eschew violence, since it is clear that we are much more likely to succeed by political means and by litigation than by gunfights. Those whose societies are effectively under colonial control have a much more difficult situation, and for them Alan’s quote from Mark Twain is more relevant — they may only have the choice between fast violence and slow violence, and the path with the least total violence may be war (especially if other paths to change are blocked).

Moral legitimacy for the use of force arises from both the worthiness of the purpose and the extent to which the least violent alternatives are used among those that can achieve that purpose. Freedom from slavery or colonial domination is a worthy purpose by current standards. Keeping a population in subservience because your country wants their oil (US & UK) or land (Israel) is not, and bombing of civilians by a power with overwhelming military superiority does not meet world standards for responsible behavior. This is why both the US and Israel have lost the moral authority they once widely held.

It is not any one military campaign that has cost Israel the sympathy of many (since they clearly are reacting to real threats), but rather their steady colonization via settlements and expansion of their boundaries, and their persistent sabotage of Palestinian political and economic development. And even so they are merely a century or so late — their reasons and tactics are milder than those used by Europeans in North America (many of whose settlers were also fleeing vicious oppression). The US does not have as good a case, since what we have now is the richest country in the world using military power to get cheap resources from much poorer areas, and in exchange providing mainly the arms needed to keep the local populations under control.

But in any case, it is absurd for the US government to take a moral stance against resistance tactics other than stand-up fights with a much better armed foe, just as it was when the British made the same complaint about the cowardly American rebels who shot at them from behind stone fences, and who drove law-abiding Tories from their homes. If America intends to maintain the quasi-colonial status of the Middle East, it should face up to the fact that this will be resisted with all means at their disposal by fighters who will be supported by the great majority of the inhabitants of the area.

Hunter Ellinger

OF COURSE the oppressed have a right to resist if not a duty.

OF COURSE the body count from crime in the suites exceeds that of crime in the streets, internationally as well as domestically.

OF COURSE you can understand circumstances that drive some people crazy enough to aim their “resistance” at the innocent AS PREFERRED TARGETS. Our death rows are full of such people.

They’re still crazy. And dangerous.

Steve Russell

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Collapse of the Flanks
by William S. Lind

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the “coalition” defeats continue slowly to unroll. In Lebanon, it appears Hezbollah may win not only at the moral and mental, strategic and operational levels, but, astonishingly, at the physical and tactical levels as well. That outcome remains uncertain, but the fact that it is possible portends a revolutionary reassessment of what Fourth Generation forces can accomplish. If it actually happens, the walls of the temple that is the state system will be shaken world-wide.

Full Article
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Jeffrey Nightbyrd

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