Just when I thought he had shown a glimmer of statesmanship, Stephen Harper, Canada's prime minister courtesy of just over one-third of the vote, reverted to character. Following Israel's apparently-deliberate targeting of four UN observers in Lebanon, including one Canadian, Harper thought it appropriate to ask, not why Israel killed them, but why the observers were there?
His inspired question reminded me of nothing so much as a rape-case lawyer attacking the victim with questions along the lines of why was she in such a place? at such a time? wearing such a dress?
Condoleezza Rice, Bush's official idiot-savant, gave us a memorable quote last week concerning Israeli barbarism in Lebanon: "We are witnessing the birth pangs of a new Middle East." I wonder what would have been press reaction in America to some high official saying, as the World Trade Center toppled in flames, "We are witnessing the birth pangs of a new America"?
Of course, Condi was keeping her eyes on the big picture, as she tends to do, the picture as viewed from high above the earth where human beings become unseen bacilli in a vast fabric of coastlines and geometric patterns, not close-up where you can distinguish blood-spattered ruins and children's limbs snapped like broken bird wings.
You might want to ask Condi why America's murderous assault on Vietnam, where it dropped more bombs than in World War Two, was such a miserable failure rather than the birth of anything? Or why Baghdad, after experiencing American Shock and Awe, has sewers that work only to catch run-off blood from the streets? Perhaps Condi would say they just needed a little topping-up on the bombing to complete the miracle of birth?
Her words came near to the time an Israeli source explained to the world that Israeli pilots were operating now on the principle that ten Beirut apartment blocks would be bombed for every Hezbollah missile launched. A few days after, an Israeli pilot struck gold, killing fifty-seven civilians, including thirty-seven children.
From Israel, came only Goebbels-speak: Hezbollah always hides in just such places. Left unasked and unanswered in the soulless repetitions of this point is: then what kind of a human being would still fire on them?
Israel insists that Hezbollah's missiles are a horror not to be endured.
I'll remind readers that Hezbollah's main "missile" is the Katyusha artillery rocket, not a missile at all, because it is not guided. The Katyusha was designed to be fired in large barrages from mobile, multi-tube launchers to blanket an area, but Hezbollah does not posses these -- they would quickly be destroyed if they did -- and uses Katyushas as single-launch rockets. Used this way, the Katyusha is a glorified firework, totally inaccurate with a short range and a small explosive charge. Ninety-nine percent of these "missiles" land in the desert or on garage roofs or in parking lots. The few times they have killed anyone were accidents.
Hezbollah has managed to fire a few clusters now in response to Israel's horrific bombardment, but apart from one dramatic incident, killing eight, they have killed few Israelis. We have heard a great deal about a new longer-range rocket, but this is just a bigger Katyusha with a bigger warhead. It also is totally inaccurate.
By comparison, Israel drops 500-pound, high-explosive bombs which are deadly accurate, being hooked into American satellite-guidance systems. It drops them from some of the world's most sophisticated fighter-bombers. An order of American 5000-pound, "bunker-busting," laser-guided bombs was rushed recently to Israel to help in the good work. Israel also uses American Hellfire missiles, mounted on helicopters or fighter planes. These really are missiles, highly accurate, in the slick words of their manufacturer's sales pitch, they feature "dual warheads for defeating reactive armor, electro-optical countermeasures hardening, semi-active laser seeker, and a programmable auto-pilot for trajectory shaping."
Israel uses some of the world's best long-range artillery pieces, and it fills their breeches with deadly depleted-uranium shells which bring the added gift of long-lived vaporized uranium after exploding. It uses American cluster bombs, the horrible things that dismembered or crippled thousands of Iraqi children. And it now appears to be using the white-phosphorus shells or bombs Americans used in Fallujah to burn flesh in much the same way they used napalm in Vietnam.
Tony Blair, known to Bush insiders as Fluffy the toy poodle, made a showy trip to Washington about his concern over events in the Middle East, the concern apparently focusing on a revolt by his own cabinet. As usual, he got nothing from Bush, except the honor of standing at a podium next to America's first certified-moron president. Blair also got to do a little choreographed turn with Bush at the end of the press conference, allowing the pair to stride out with a ceremonial flourish after somber moments of saying nothing.
British journalists apparently miffed the American crowd because they didn't follow the mindless ritual of standing up when the president is announced, it not being the practice to stand for Blair in London. Even worse perhaps was one British journalist's description of the event as a "press availability" rather than a press conference. It was undoubtedly the most informative comment of the week.
John Chuckman lives in Canada and is former chief economist for a large Canadian oil company. Copyright © 2006 by John Chuckman.
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