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Saturday, July 29, 2006 

Oh, what a lovely war!


31 Lebanese are laid to rest in a mass grave in Tyre; an environmental disaster is now also taking hold across Lebanon, as an estimated 15,000 tons of oil from the bombed Jiyeh power station is washed ashore.

Despite being hyped up by Downing Street, yesterday's talks between George Bush and Tony Blair were yet another miserable failure. If Blair did tell Bush that a ceasefire was urgently needed, then neither of them showed it at yesterday's joint press conference. Instead, it was all too depressingly familiar.

Mr Blair said events such as the conflict in Lebanon underscored the "simple choice" faced by Iran and Syria. "They can either come in and participate as proper and responsible members of the international community, or they will face the risk of increasing confrontation," he said.

Quite right. Except that, err, Iran and Syria were purposefully not invited to the talks in Rome on Thursday, and have been shut out of all discussions about the conflict. There are no signs that diplomatic contact has even been attempted to be made with Syria. Iran and Syria are therefore damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Mr. Bush said that, despite the bloodshed in Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, democracy is taking root in the region and will flower “unless we lose our nerve.”

Indeed. Iraq gets ever closer to civil war with each passing day, the democratically elected government of the Palestinian occupied territories is boycotted and as a result cannot pay the workers of the Palestinian authority, while Israel arrests numerous members of that government without a word of criticism from those who are determined to make sure that democracy takes root. Instead of urging Israel to act proportionally, or even, god forbid, call a ceasefire, the US and Britain continue to give carte blanche for even more civilian casualties and the almost wholesale destruction of Lebanon, driving ever more of the remaining population in southern Lebanon into the arms of Hizbullah. Rather than supporting the democratically elected government which gained power in the aftermath of the "cedar revolution", they'd rather see Israel destroy a militia and most of the country in the process, just in case they have to attack Iran at some point in the future.

The whole of the meeting of the two minds can be summed up more succinctly using Bush's words of two weeks ago:

You see, the ... thing is what they need to do is to get Syria, to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over

That's about as far as the analysis of the current situation goes, and even that is full of doublespeak. They have no intention of talking to Syria, let alone getting them to stop Hizbullah from doing this "shit".

In the meantime, while we wait for what looks to be another false dawn of hope at the UN security council on Monday, Israeli spokesmen continue to lie through their teeth. They're now rejecting calls from the UN for a 3 day truce so that humanitarian aid can be delivered because
"Israel has opened humanitarian corridors to and from Lebanon." That would be the same corridors that are repeatedly coming under attack from Israel shelling and bombing raids, as evidenced by Robert Fisk and Fergal Keane (Click on the "refugee convoy comes under fire" link in the box on the right).

The motto of the Israelis seems to be, if in doubt, blame Hizbullah. They've blamed the high civilian casualty rates on Hizbullah rockets and arm caches being located right next to houses or even inside them, while there has been absolutely no evidence whatsoever to substantiate this.
In fact, Salon has even reported that this is a complete and utter lie. Israel is now saying it's Hizbullah's fault that aid isn't getting through, yet another falsehood, as confirmed by both the UN and Observer journalists. That Israeli jets are seemingly willing to pound almost anything that moves has nothing to do with it. After all, the Israeli justice minister spelled it out only a couple of days ago: all those still in southern Lebanon are terrorists, and no one should shed any tears if they're targeted, aid convoys, refugees or otherwise.

As the Guardian leader notes, the situation is getting worse, not better. It's also entirely correct in highlighting that yesterday's talks were a charade. Even if the Foreign Office disagrees with the policy adopted by Downing Street, there's nothing they can do to persuade Blair to change his mind. He's already decided to support America's decision to let Israel do whatever the hell it likes until it feels that Hizbullah has taken enough of a battering. All the talk so far has been just that: talk to make it look as if they, and as a result, we, are genuinely concerned. Neither Bush or Blair has uttered one word in condemnation of the Israeli reaction; the nearest Blair has come is admitting that the conflict has been a "complete tragedy". Sadiq Khan, the Labour MP for Tooting, is rightly furious, and recognises just how badly this is going down not just with British Muslims, but with most of the population.

What we're left seeing is the real agenda of Blair. The mission to the White House yesterday was purely an afterthought:
today he speaks at a News International bash, surrounded by acolytes and other political spent forces. While the Sun screams about a terrorist war on Israelis, you have to wonder whether Blair believes exactly the same thing. He's done nothing to suggest otherwise. A foreign and home policy set by servility to both Murdoch and Bush? Stranger things have happened.

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Yes, Blair has been such a huge disappointment because we (or at least I) expected more from him, he is so much more intelligent and more aware than our Bush. I found your block through a link from Salon (Prothro's article). Regards -

If Prothero's article is true, then why did Jan Egeland of the UN accuse Hezbollah of blending among civilians?

Telemaque: It's true that Hizbullah are in some villages and in civilian areas, as evidenced by the raids on Bint Jbeil. Yet the Israelis are claiming that almost every strike where civilians are killed has been because Hizbullah etc were in the area, even though there's been nothing to suggest this. Strikes on factories, ambulances, aid convoys have all been justified as Hizbullah was in the area. It's purely an excuse.

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