Adam Ash

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Lebanon: Hezbollah holds steady, everybody else runs around with their heads up their sphincters

1. Hizbollah digs in for long fight -- by William Wallis in Beirut (from The Financial Times )

Hizbollah militants were on Monday digging in in the expectation of prolonged fight with Israel in southern Lebanon, and were in no mood to discuss conditions under which they might lay down their weapons.

“It is not only militants who are with Hizbollah. Now a lot of Lebanese, Christians and Muslims are convinced that it is necessary to have the resistance,” Nawar Sahili, a Hizbollah member of parliament said. In an interview, he reiterated that the group would only discuss details of any internationally sponsored package to end the crisis in the aftermath of an unconditional ceasefire.

Hizbollah politicians in Beirut feel their cause has been strengthened since Israel began bombarding Lebanon from the air, land and sea in response to the abduction of two Israeli soldiers on July 12.

Many Lebanese initially blamed Hizbollah – the only political group to have maintained its armed wing in the aftermath of the 1975-1990 civil war – for provoking Israel into retaliation.

But public opinion across the country’s many religious sects has rallied behind armed resistance as increasing numbers of civilians have fallen victim to the Israeli offensive. Sunday’s bloodbath in Qana, where 37 of 56 civilians killed by Israeli bombs were children, is now perceived as a turning point, unlikely to be forgotten.

Members of Hizbollah talk only in vague terms about conditions under which they might scale back the role of their militia, saying these would have to part of a Lebanese negotiated solution, in which the relationship between Hizbollah fighters, the government and the army would be defined.

But last week Hizbollah tacitly endorsed a seven-point plan adopted by the Lebanese cabinet.

The plan would involve Israel returning a strip of occupied land that Lebanon claims sovereignty over and freeing Lebanese prisoners in exchange for the abducted Israeli soldiers, in return for Hizbollah withdrawing from the border area, the restoration of army control over all the territory and the deployment of an international force.

Despite Israel’s promise on Monday to pause its aerial bombardment of southern Lebanon for 48 hours to allow trapped civilians to flee, there were reports of continued shelling.

Nabih Berri, the speaker of Lebanon’s parliament who has emerged as a pivotal contact point between Hizbollah, the Lebanese government and the wider world, told United Nations officials yesterday Israel had only slowed the pace of its bombardment to allow time for the international community to absorb the shock of Sunday’s massacre at Qana.

Mr Sahili said Hizbollah fighters had no need to regroup and re-arm.

“In 1967 and 1973, when the Israelis won the war, they were facing four Arab armies. Now they are facing a small group of fighters but whose beliefs in God and whose will to defend their people and land are very strong,” he said.

“From the first day we were ready to stand and fight. Hizbollah is not a group coming from the moon. They are Lebanese, they come from villages, they are defending their land and they have the capability to go on for months,” he said. “I hope the US government can understand now that it is not easy to get inside Lebanon and change the map with a new Middle East.”

2. Robert Fisk: 'How can we stand by and allow this to go on?'

They wrote the names of the dead children on their plastic shrouds. "Mehdi Hashem, aged seven -- Qana," was written in felt pen on the bag in which the little boy's body lay. "Hussein al-Mohamed, aged 12 -- Qana", "Abbas al-Shalhoub, aged one -- Qana.'' And when the Lebanese soldier went to pick up Abbas's little body, it bounced on his shoulder as the boy might have done on his father's shoulder on Saturday. In all, there were 56 corpses brought to the Tyre government hospital and other surgeries, and 34 of them were children. When they ran out of plastic bags, they wrapped the small corpses in carpets. Their hair was matted with dust, most had blood running from their noses.

You must have a heart of stone not to feel the outrage that those of us watching this experienced yesterday. This slaughter was an obscenity, an atrocity -- yes, if the Israeli air force truly bombs with the “pinpoint accuracy'' it claims, this was also a war crime. Israel claimed that missiles had been fired by Hizbollah gunmen from the south Lebanese town of Qana -- as if that justified this massacre. Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, talked about "Muslim terror" threatening " western civilisation" -- as if the Hizbollah had killed all these poor people.

And in Qana, of all places. For only 10 years ago, this was the scene of another Israeli massacre, the slaughter of 106 Lebanese refugees by an Israeli artillery battery as they sheltered in a UN base in the town. More than half of those 106 were children. Israel later said it had no live-time pilotless photo-reconnaissance aircraft over the scene of that killing -- a statement that turned out to be untrue when The Independent discovered videotape showing just such an aircraft over the burning camp. It is as if Qana -- whose inhabitants claim that this was the village in which Jesus turned water into wine -- has been damned by the world, doomed forever to receive tragedy.

And there was no doubt of the missile which killed all those children yesterday. It came from the United States, and upon a fragment of it was written: "For use on MK-84 Guided Bomb BSU-37-B". No doubt the manufacturers can call it "combat-proven" because it destroyed the entire three-storey house in which the Shalhoub and Hashim families lived. They had taken refuge in the basement from an enormous Israeli bombardment, and that is where most of them died.

I found Nejwah Shalhoub lying in the government hospital in Tyre, her jaw and face bandaged like Robespierre's before his execution. She did not weep, nor did she scream, although the pain was written on her face. Her brother Taisir, who was 46, had been killed. So had her sister Najla. So had her little niece Zeinab, who was just six. "We were in the basement hiding when the bomb exploded at one o'clock in the morning,'' she said. "What in the name of God have we done to deserve this? So many of the dead are children, the old, women. Some of the children were still awake and playing. Why does the world do this to us?"

Yesterday's deaths brought to more than 500 the total civilian dead in Lebanon since Israel's air, sea and land bombardment of the country began on 12 July after Hizbollah members crossed the frontier wire, killed three Israeli soldiers and captured two others. But yesterday's slaughter ended more than a year of mutual antagonism within the Lebanese government as pro-American and pro-Syrian politicians denounced what they described as " an ugly crime".

Thousands of protesters attacked the largest United Nations building in Beirut, screaming: "Destroy Tel Aviv, destroy Tel Aviv," and Lebanon's Prime Minister, the normally unflappable Fouad Siniora, called US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and ordered her to cancel her imminent peace-making trip to Beirut.

No one in this country can forget how President George Bush, Ms Rice, and Tony Blair have repeatedly refused to call for an immediate ceasefire -- a truce that would have saved all those lives yesterday. Ms Rice would say only: "We want a ceasefire as soon as possible,'' a remark followed by an Israeli announcement that it intended to maintain its bombardment of Lebanon for at least another two weeks.

Throughout the day, Qana villagers and civil defence workers dug through the ruins of the building with spades and with their hands, tearing at the muck until they found one body after another still dressed in colourful clothes. In one section of the rubble, they found what was left of a single room with 18 bodies inside. Twelve of the dead were women. All across southern Lebanon now, you find scenes like this, not so grotesque in scale, perhaps, but just as terrible, for the people of these villages are terrified to leave and terrified to stay. The Israelis had dropped leaflets over Qana, ordering its people to leave their homes. Yet twice now since Israel's onslaught began, the Israelis have ordered villagers to leave their houses and then attacked them with aircraft as they obeyed the Israeli instructions and fled. There are at least 3,000 Shia Muslims trapped in villages between Qlaya and Aiteroun -- close to the scene of Israel's last military incursion at Bint Jbeil -- and yet none of them can leave without fear of dying on the roads.

And Mr Olmert's reaction? After expressing his "great sorrow", he announced that: "We will not stop this battle, despite the difficult incidents [sic] this morning. We will continue the activity, and if necessary it will be broadened without hesitation." But how much further can it be broadened? Lebanon's infrastructure is being steadily torn to pieces, its villages razed, its people more and more terrorised -- and terror is the word they used -- by Israel's American-made fighter bombers. Hizbollah's missiles are Iranian-made, and it was Hizbollah that started this war with its illegal and provocative raid across the border. But Israel's savagery against the civilian population has deeply shocked not only the Western diplomats who have remained in Beirut, but hundreds of humanitarian workers from the Red Cross and major aid agencies.

Incredibly, Israel yesterday denied safe passage to a UN World Food Programme aid convoy en route to the south, a six-truck mission that should have taken relief supplies to the south-eastern town of Marjayoun. More than three quarters of a million Lebanese have now fled their homes, but there is still no accurate figure for the total number still trapped in the south. Khalil Shalhoub, who survived amid the wreckage in Qana yesterday, said that his family and the Hashims were just too "terrified" to take the road out of the village, which has been attacked by aircraft for more than two weeks. The seven-mile highway between Qana and Tyre is littered with civilian homes in ruins and burnt-out family cars. On Thursday, the Israeli Army's Al-Mashriq radio, which broadcasts into southern Lebanon, told residents that their villages would be "totally destroyed" if missiles were fired from them. But anyone who has watched Israel's bombing these past two weeks knows that, in many cases, the Israelis do not know the location in which the Hizbollah are firing missiles, and -- when they do -- they frequently miss their targets. How can a villager prevent the Hizbollah from firing rockets from his street? The Hizbollah do take cover beside civilian houses -- just as Israeli troops entering Bint Jbeil last week also used civilian homes for cover. But can this be the excuse for slaughter on such a scale?

Mr Siniora addressed foreign diplomats in Beirut yesterday, telling them that the government in Beirut was now only demanding an immediate ceasefire and was not interested any longer in a political package to go with it. Needless to say, Mr Jeffrey Feltman, whose country made the bomb which killed the innocents of Qana yesterday, chose not to attend.

3. "Supporters of Hezbollah" -- by Dahr Jamail

Today, Sunday, I write this from Beirut, which is being circled by Israeli unmanned military surveillance drones, the same kind I saw so often in Fallujah. I suppose they were spying on the raging demonstrators who clogged the streets in Beirut and assaulted the UN building in a rage of vengeance after the fresh massacre of civilians by Israeli warplanes in the small town of Qana in the south.

Hundreds of the protesters ran through the building's corridors smashing offices, walls and glass while rescue teams extracted the bodies of at least 34 children and scores of other civilians from the bowels of the refugee shelter they were hiding in.

"Fuck the UN! Fuck those bastards for not stopping this Israeli slaughtering of the innocents," screamed a young protestor waving a Lebanese flag outside the UN building, which by now had smoke billowing out of portions of it. "What good are they if they cannot do what they were designed to do - to stop the killing of innocents?"

This man, 22 years old, was but a baby when the first Israeli military massacre at Qana took place. Yet the parallels of this sordid history repeating itself were not missed by most in the seething crowd.

On April 11, 1996, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, under pressure to respond to a wave of suicide bombings in Israel, launched Operation Grapes of Wrath. One week later, on April 18, while 800 civilians sought shelter from the fighting at a UN peacekeeping base in Qana, the base was shelled heavily - killing 102 and wounding 120.

After the first Qana massacre, the Israeli military rejected responsibility for the deaths, instead blaming Hezbollah because they thought fighters had entered the UN base. A similar Israeli justification, albeit the very definition of collective punishment, was given today - that they suspected Hezbollah militants had fired rockets from Qana. After the 1996 massacre, a UN investigation found no evidence to support the claim made by the Israeli military, and I suspect a similar investigation will find a similar verdict this time - that the Israeli military had no reason to bomb innocent civilians.

Astounding as this level of blood thirst is, it really cannot come as much of a surprise. Why not? Because just last Thursday, Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon announced on Israeli army radio, "All those in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah."

Using rhetoric that set the stage for justifying the collective punishment of the Lebanese people in southern Lebanon, Ramon added, "In order to prevent casualties among Israeli soldiers battling Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon, villages should be flattened by the Israeli air force before ground troops move in."

He rationalized his statements by saying that Israel had given the civilians of southern Lebanon ample time to leave the area; thus, anyone who remained could be considered a supporter of Hezbollah.

So of course by his definition, everyone in southern Lebanon supports Hezbollah.

I met some of these "supporters of Hezbollah" yesterday in the hospitals of Sidon.

I met five-year-old Hussein Jawad as his stiff little body lay prone on a hospital bed, one of his tiny legs in a cast. His eight-year-old sister Zayneb, also a "supporter of Hezbollah," lay next to him in the same bed . See, there were so many Hezbollah supporters in the southern hospitals that the small ones had to share beds.

They, along with their mother Yusah in a nearby bed, covered in the kind of shrapnel wounds received from cluster bombs, had stayed in their tiny village near the border during the first three days of the bombing because they were too scared to leave. The bombing got so close; they took their chances and managed to move to another village, where they stayed for another eight days.

They ran out of food, so Yusah and the two little "supporters of Hezbollah," compelled by fear and hunger, along with another car containing Yusah's two sisters, followed an ambulance to Kafra village. When they arrived there, the car carrying the two sisters was bombed by an American-made F-16.

Then there was Khuder Gazali, an ambulance driver, whose left arm was blown off by a rocket fired by an American-made Apache war helicopter while he was rescuing civilians whose home had been bombed. The ambulance then sent to rescue the rescuer was bombed, everyone in it killed. Miraculously, the third ambulance was able to retrieve him, only because the Apache had left.

16-year-old Ibrahim Al-Hama was surely supporting Hezbollah as he played in a river with a dozen of his friends before they were bombed by a warplane. He lay in the hospital bed, his lacerated chest oozing blood, his left ankle shattered and held together by gauze and medical tape. Two of his friends are dead, along with a woman who was near the bomb's impact zone. Perhaps she too was plotting a rocket attack against Israel?

It's wonderful to see the thoroughness of the Israeli military, their effectiveness at eradicating "supporters of Hezbollah." Like 51-year-old Sumi Marden Ruwiri . On July 14th his home in Bint Jbail was bombed while most of his family members were inside, killing his mother and sister while they surely were strategizing the next rocket launches for Hezbollah. When he and several others began to sift through the rubble for their loved ones, the warplanes returned to bomb the rescuers. He lay in bed, his back shredded by shrapnel , countless patches of gauze stuck to his wounds. His sheets were stained red by blood and yellow by pus that oozed from the wounds.

Alia Abbas, a 52-year-old, fled her village with five other family members after Israeli warplanes dropped leaflets instructing them to leave their village. She lay in bed shredded by shrapnel wounds, one of her eyes missing. 10 days ago when they tried to flee, hanging white flags out the windows of their car, they were bombed by warplanes. She's the only survivor. "Why did they bomb as after we did what they told us to do," she asked me. All I could do was clench my jaw to stave off the tears.

Apparently Alia didn't know she was a "supporter of Hezbollah," since her family was wiped out after Haim Ramon's preposterous remarks about half a million inhabitants of southern Lebanon.

I met dozens of other Hezbollah supporters, most of them women, children and elderly - the kind most ill-equipped to flee their homes on a moment's notice. They lay in their beds, many of them moaning, some crying, and others comatose and kept alive only by machines . The man comatose in this picture was fleeing his village on a motorcycle after receiving the leaflets of instruction to do so, according to his mother - the only one left alive from their family of 10.

Then I met Durish Zhair, a 43-year-old man whose home near the southern border was bombed by warplanes. Half of his face was burned his back horribly burned, and the rest of his body pocked by shrapnel. He sat with a stern look on his face, distraught and confused by what happened. I asked him where his 11 family members were and he told me, "They are all wounded, scattered in hospitals in the south, or in Beirut."

I thanked him for his time, and we walked out of his room. The nurse who accompanied me softly closed the door. She then said to me quietly, "All of his family is dead. We cannot tell him yet because he is so injured. He thinks they are still alive."

Surely, they too, along with his wife and young children were "supporters of Hezbollah."

My head spun. My head still spins and I feel sick inside. I wonder how much is enough? How many more will die? Over 600 Lebanese, mostly civilians, are dead. At least 51 Israelis, the majority civilians, are dead from this.

If we look back a few years, we find the answer. Speaking before the Conference on America's Challenges in a Changed World at the US Institute of Peace (yes, "Institute of Peace") in Washington DC on September 5, 2002, the Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage had the following exchange during a Q&A session:
Q: In this war on terrorism, a group that isn't mentioned very often is one that you're very familiar with, Hezbollah. It has killed more Americans than any other terrorist group before September 11th. I just would like to hear whether they are on the agenda sometime in the future.

Mr. Armitage: Well, let me, for those who don't know you, Buck, "Buck" Revell, formerly of the FBI, was one of the leading voices for anti-terrorism activities during the second Reagan administration and was absolutely key in some of the takedowns we had at the time. And I appreciate the question.

Hezbollah may be the "A team" of terrorists, and maybe al Qaeda is actually the "B team." And they're on the list and their time will come, there is no question about it. They have a blood debt to us, which you spoke to, and we're not going to forget it. And it's all in good time. And we're going to go after these problems just like a high school wrestler goes after a match. We're going to take 'em down one at a time.

And taking 'em down one at a time, or in the case of Qana today, scores at a time, is what they are doing in southern Lebanon. While Israel and their stalwart US backers continue to refuse pleas for a cease-fire, bombs and rockets rain down on women, children and other innocents as they huddle in their homes, in refugee shelters, or while they flee in their cars while holding white surrender flags.

Meanwhile, Israeli defense sources told Israel's Haaretz newspaper Sunday that the Israeli army's general staff had received orders to accelerate its offensive on Hezbollah before the declaration of any cease-fire.

Yet as War Criminal Rice and her cronies back in DC drag their feet, postponing any real cease-fire, Israel's military needn't hasten itself too much as they go about their daily slaughtering of the "supporters of Hezbollah."

4. America Transforms the Middle East, But Not As Envisioned -- by James Carroll

In one way, the Bush administration's Middle East policies from Iraq to Israel have been a smashing success. The watchword with which Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Condoleezza Rice defined the agenda they laid before a pliant George W. Bush was "transformative." A new strategy of unilateral action, applied with overwhelming force and preemptive strikes, and focused on protecting access to Persian Gulf oil, would transform the entire region. Upon invading Iraq, US troops would be greeted with flowers. A post-Saddam Hussein democracy in Iraq would spark democratic reforms throughout the Arab world. Fundamentalist Muslims would be discredited. Palestinians and Israelis would come to terms. Iran, faced with ascendant American power, would retreat from its revolution. As for weapons of mass destruction, with nonproliferation replaced by "counter-proliferation," rogue nations would heel. Best of all, terrorism would be defeated on its home battlefield. America militant and triumphant. Those not supporting this new order would be sorry.

Who's sorry now? Washington was poised to take full credit for the realization of its transformative fantasy in the Middle East. Can Washington accept responsibility for the transformative catastrophe that its new strategic doctrine is even now bringing about? Start with Iraq. "Without Saddam," Wolfowitz predicted in 2002, "Iraq can have perhaps the best government in the Arab world." With civilian deaths lately running at an average of 100 a day, at what point will the Bush administration acknowledge that Iraq has, instead, a tragic civil war? "Tyrants respond to toughness," Rice declared ahead of the US invasion. In Iraq, the brutal tyrant is gone. But, under US sponsorship, the Iraqi people now brutalize one another, tribally. The tyrant was replaced by the tyranny of toughness.

That tyranny lives in Israel's brutal -- and increasingly inexcusable -- air war against Lebanon. Israel is wrong, but unlike Washington, it faces a threat that is real. Hezbollah, with support from Iran and Syria, signals the return of an open Arab determination to eliminate the Jewish state. The extremes of Israel's visceral defensiveness are properly denounced as unjustified, given the Jewish state's overwhelming military superiority. But the fresh intensification of hatred of ``Zionists" among vast populations of Arabs poses an existential danger to Israel that transcends any military resolution. The Israeli government and those who condemn it both overestimate the value of Israel's arsenal. Hezbollah's successes show that. Meanwhile, bombs killing innocents do not weaken Israel's enemies, but empower them. Now hatred of the Jewish state has reached critical mass, a threat that would not go away even if Israel were to "moderate" its responses.

Here is the real meaning of the catastrophe that the Bush administration is bringing about. The prewar naïveté of US planners, enshrined in the much-noted Bernard Lewis/Samuel Huntington alarms, assumed that the defining ``other" of the civilizational clash was a univocal enemy -- "Islam." Washington had no idea that Islam, in its Middle East manifestation, was an atom waiting to be split. A sectarian argument had divided followers of Mohammed not long after his death, and that conflict defined the Muslim tradition. Shi'ites (implying "faction") and Sunnis (implying "lawful") had savaged each other in the 16th and 17th centuries, a violent intolerance that scholars compare to the religious wars between Catholics and Protestants in the same period. Who knew this? In the colonial and post-colonial periods, with the coming of secularism and the rule of Western-sponsored tyrants, Sunni and Shi'ite tensions had been held, whether through accident or despotic control, in fragile balance. How fragile, no one in Washington knew.

Shi'ites are the Islamic minority, but their political ambition made its powerful comeback with the 1978-79 revolution in Iran, launching a search for polity that would be modern as well as Islamic. Surprising many, democracy then took root in Iran, with even some pro-Western leaders elected, but Washington saw only one pole of an "axis of evil." That Bush pronouncement in 2002 was the ultimate self-fulfilling prophecy, as Iran next fell to its own fringe. The other evil pole, of course, was the Sunni regime of Saddam, and wasn't the axis sent spinning then? The civil war in Iraq -- Sunnis, Shi'ites, 17th-century savagery, 21st-century explosives -- is one result. Israel's war against newly enflamed forces of the Bush-created "Shi'ite crescent" is the other. The innovative character of what Bush has wrought is laid bare, of course, by the fact that some Sunni-led Arab states with their own restive Shi'ites are as threatened by this new level of chaos as Israel is. Now that's transformative.

(James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Boston Globe.)

5. Why Good Countries Fight Dirty Wars
Think democracies wage clean wars? Think again -- by Caleb Carr

THE DISCOVERY of an alleged mass murder of Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines in Haditha in November and the more recent rape-murder case in Mahmoudiya that led to charges against five men of the 101st Airborne Division stand in stark contrast to the traditional portrait of the behavior of U.S. armed forces abroad.

Since the time of our own revolution, we have been taught to expect such savage behavior from the inheritors of Attila and Tamerlane, be they Barbary pirates or Nazi Germans — but not from the armies of democratic nations, the philosophical descendants of ancient Greece and Rome.

The citizen-soldiers sent into the field by the United States or any other Western popular government are expected, by virtue of not so long ago having been free civilians themselves, to be more empathetic with the plight of the noncombatants with whom they come into contact. Certainly, brutal incidents like the My Lai massacre or the Abu Ghraib scandal occur from time to time, but they are widely viewed as cultural aberrations.

This interpretation, however, is as simplistic as it is misleading. All too often the armies of modern democracies have tolerated and even initiated outrages against civilians, in manners uneasily close to those of their totalitarian and terrorist enemies. Israeli troops are currently demonstrating this fact in their response to the Hezbollah rocket offensive — a response most of the world community, according to recent polls, believes is taking an unacceptably disproportionate toll on Lebanese civilians. And there have been times when democratic leaders have been even more open about their brutal intentions: Speaking of the Allied bombing campaign during World War II that culminated in that consummate act of state terrorism, the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, Winston Churchill flatly stated that the objective was "to make the enemy burn and bleed in every way."

Any examination of why this record of behavior on the part of democracies exists — and why it has been so carefully distorted — requires a look back over thousands of years of military history, as well as a willingness to dispense with long-cherished but false historical narratives.

Many of the ancient cultures that provided the philosophical inspiration for the modern West in general, and especially for our founders — the Roman republic most particularly — believed in allowing their troops to enslave, rape and impoverish enemy civilians as a matter of reward and routine.

The romantic narrative of chivalric medieval knights, in which noble warriors supposedly rallied their followers to champion the helpless against exploitation, is similarly mythical, created late in the medieval game to conceal the ruthlessness with which those knights and their troops preyed upon merchants and peasants — a situation that became so ugly and anarchic that, late in the 11th century, Pope Urban II was forced to devise the ingeniously enduring scheme of dispatching murderous, plundering European nobles and their followers to the Holy Land to defend Jerusalem against Islam.

When we hear of such conflicts as the "Peasants' Revolt" in Europe during the early 16th century, we don't tend to think of hideous massacres of civilians by their formerly oppressed equals, but such in fact occurred. And the phrase "wars of religious liberation" does not suggest that those seeking the right to worship as they pleased would commit the same sins as did the often-brutal Catholic Church from which they wished to separate, yet they did.

All this confusion and bloodshed meant that by the early to mid-17th century, Europe was one massive battlefield, with few if any leaders who could really claim to have the interests of noncombatants at heart.

Systematic relief for civilians from such ravages finally began to take shape near the end of the Thirty Years' War in the mid-1600s; but it was not budding democracy that supplied it, nor lofty philosophers seeking to define what constituted "just war." When real reform occurred, it came from some of the most reactionary leaders and rulers of the era.

During the English Civil War (1642-49), for instance, Puritan rebel officers led by that country's future and only military dictator, Oliver Cromwell, discovered that keeping an army under control vis-a-vis civilians had a pragmatic as well as a moral side: It tended to gain the local population's loyalty far faster and more effectively than either threats or long philosophical and political harangues.

Through such simple steps as the strict use of distinctive uniforms (to discourage soldiers from the popular practice of deserting once armed and creating civil mayhem) and the institution of public and severe punishment for anyone caught molesting noncombatants in any way, Cromwell's "New Model Army" solidified popular support more than any other military unit in the war.

At about the same time, perceptive continental monarchs and generals also began to turn toward the reform of war and the disciplining of troops as a pragmatic, rather than moral, consideration. The greatest of these, ultimately, was Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, who became notorious for imposing disciplinary regulations on his soldiers that were almost inhuman but that turned his minor kingdom into one of the most consistently victorious and, finally, powerful nations on the continent — and himself into one of the most popular monarchs of the 18th century.

By the end of Frederick's reign, the way forward to the real and generally accepted reform of war's negative effect on civilians seemed clear and feasible: "limited war," in which professional armies — distinctly uniformed, highly disciplined and tightly controlled — fought each other according to strict rules of engagement.

But this enlightened progress was soon slowed and then stopped by a pesky new philosophical and political movement: liberal democracy.

Why should democracy, which gave common people a voice in the conduct of their nation's affairs, interfere with military developments that were increasingly offering protection to those same common people? Precisely because democracy called for the involvement of all citizens in every aspect of national life — including war. This was an idea diametrically opposed to the notion of highly trained professional armies deciding the fates of nations without heavily affecting civilian populations.

The result was "popular war" — the concept that we in the U.S. quickly came to associate with noble backwoods civilians setting aside their plows and taking up their long rifles to battle wicked British professional soldiers. In truth, it was almost indistinguishable from what we now call "total war": conflicts in which all citizens, whether uniformed or civilian, are considered to be involved in the fight.

During the American Revolution, for instance, rebel forces committed plunder, murder and other outrages against civilians even suspected of being loyal to the British homeland, particularly in the Hudson Valley and the Southern states. And even if some such crimes were reprisals against similar British acts, they demonstrated the true and escalating nature of total war.

They also demonstrated that the romantic narrative of the revolution, in which rebel citizen-soldiers "cleanly" baffled and defeated British professionals, was developed in no small part out of the need to cover the many ugly truths of the conflict, which were perhaps best summed up, so far as the colonial side, went, by the rebels' finest battlefield commander, Nathanael Greene: "Nothing has been more destructive to the true interest of this country, than the mode adopted for its defence."

The French Revolution, even more than the American Revolution, dealt the effective death blow to the cause of limited war. When France's revolutionaries found themselves surrounded by autocratic enemies who were determined to stamp out the spreading fire of liberal democracy in Europe, they stretched the notion of popular war to its very limits.

The famous Article One of the French National Convention's conscription order in 1793 specifically detailed the role to be played in the national war machine by every French civilian, including children and the elderly. The French labeled this true, universal patriotism, but it really amounted to a return to wholly indiscriminate combat.

From that time on, all hope of limiting war according to the pragmatic rules worked out during the 17th and 18th centuries faded. Certain aspects of limited war, such as basic training and uniforms, remained, but the severest forms of punishment for abusing civilians gradually disappeared. Victory through any means became identified with success, and whole populations were targeted along with their armed forces in the majority of wars from the Napoleonic wars through World War II.

Not so ironically, only the reactionary Germans tried to adapt limited war to the Industrial Age, through such means as blitzkrieg, which relied for success on panicking enemy armies through swift maneuver, thus making mass bombardment of noncombatants unnecessary and reducing the probability of civilian resistance.

The U.S. would revive the concept of blitzkrieg, with slight variations, during the opening stages of both the Afghan and the Iraqi campaigns, and those demonstrations should remind us that the military forces of democratic nations retain at least the capacity for limited, discriminatory warfare. The U.S. Army still does have officers who have decried such nondiscriminatory notions as "overwhelming force" and "shock and awe."

But what happens when a democratic army faces an opponent whose command-and-control structure, as well as its fighting units, is intimately woven into the fabric of civilian society? Is there any solution to the problem of such insurgencies? There is, but it involves the same kind of thinking that pragmatic commanders throughout the modern age have turned to: increased and innovative discipline.

Right now, there are senior U.S. commanders in Iraq (notably Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli) who are urging new and strict training to teach American troops the cultural, political and military methods necessary to fight this kind of war, steps that could be as revolutionary in reforming how the U.S. projects its power as the more primitive but equally critical reforms instituted by Cromwell and Frederick the Great were for their nations.

If support for such steps among top Pentagon and White House leaders continues to be as halfhearted as it has proved to date, however, the beast inside America's armed forces will remain alive, and America's own noncombatants will suffer for it along with the nation's soldiers, as an active desire for revenge on the part of increasing numbers of foreign civilians steadily mounts.

(Caleb Carr is visiting professor of military studies at Bard College. He is the author of "The Lessons of Terror: A History of Warfare Against Civilians.")

6. Is Israel fighting a proxy war for Washington? (from

Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan: Hizballah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said a curious thing Saturday: Israel has recognized reality and is ready for a cease-fire in Lebanon, Nasrallah claimed, but it is the U.S. that insists that it fight on. And if you read the analysis of Ze'ev Schiff, the dean of Israeli military correspondents and an enthusiastic advocate of the military campaign against Hizballah, there's a remarkable confirmation of Nasrullah's analysis.

Comment: Evidence that Israel is now acting as an American proxy is coming from many quarters. In response to the Qana massacre, Israel has agreed to a 48 hour halt to the bombing, yet instead of the announcement being made by the Israelis themselves, it came from the State Department . Can't the Israeli government speak for itself? Indeed, as the Los Angeles Times reports, "the abrupt American announcement late Sunday here that Israel would halt airstrikes in the border zone for 48 hours appeared to catch even some senior Israeli officials by surprise. "

Now its being reported that Israel is still bombing Lebanon, though the army says they are not targeting anyone or anything specific . Assuming that the IDF is not disregarding orders from its own government, this looks like the kind of partial compliance that all proxies exhibit in response to the commands from their masters.

And then there's the strange manner in which Condoleezza Rice learned about the deaths in Qana. This is the Washington Post 's account:

Rice did not learn of the attack until midmorning, during one-on-one talks with Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz in a meeting room on the 10th floor of Jerusalem's David Citadel Hotel. She was "reiterating our strong concern" about civilians killed during the hostilities, she said later. But Peretz did not mention the attack, nor had Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni over breakfast. Rice found out via e-mail. It came from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. Assistant Secretary of State C. David Welch got the message and interrupted the meeting to tell her, U.S. officials said. Rice was "sickened" by the report, a close aide said. "What is this?" she asked Peretz. Israel was looking into it, Peretz responded, according to U.S. officials. Peretz said he would get back to her. The meeting ended within 15 minutes.”
Peretz and Livni seemed to be acting like juniors who were scared of delivering bad news to "the boss"!


At 8/02/2006 8:25 AM, Blogger Vigilante said...

There are stories that this war actually started over the taking of two I.D.F. soldiers in Aïta Al-Chaab, Lebanon, not on Israeli turk. Is there anything to this? Or (if there is), does it really matter anymore?


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