Monday, July 31, 2006

“Why, we wonder, did they choose Qana yet again?” --Fouad Siniora

Allright, here is what Bush and Rice are supporting with their dithering:

Israel said the Qana raid was aimed at Hezbollah fighters firing rockets into Israel from the area, but the strike collapsed a residential apartment building, crushing Lebanese civilians who were taking shelter for the night in the basement.

There were different accounts of the death toll. Residents said as many as 60 people had been inside. News agencies reported that 56 had been killed, and that 34 of them were children. The Lebanese Red Cross, which conducted the rescue, counted 27 bodies, as many of 17 of them children. The youngest of the dead was 10 months old, and the oldest was 95. One was in a wheelchair.

One Israeli military official raised the possibility that the building collapsed hours after the strike and that munitions had been stored in it. American and Israeli officials said Israel would use the pause in air attacks to investigate.
Here is the precise statement, a bit later in the article:

The Israeli Army said that it was puzzled that the strike occurred between midnight and 1 a.m., and hit next to the building, but that the building collapsed around 7 a.m. Brig. Gen. Amir Eshel said it was at least possible that the explosion was caused by munitions stored inside the building.

“It is possible that various things were stored inside the house, things that ultimately caused an explosion,” General Eshel said.
The article points out that most of the dead were children, and the age range ran from 10 months to 95; one person was in a wheelchair.

NPR is reporting that there is no sign of Hezbollah militants among the dead, and that people there still have memories of civilians killed by Israeli bombs in 1996, per the NYT article: "a United Nations post in Qana where refugees were taking shelter, killing 100 people and wounding another 100. The attack prompted the United States to embark on eight days of shuttle diplomacy that brought about a cease-fire." The NPR report also mentions the seething anger of the people in Qana, anger that is making them want to support, not condemn, Hezbollah.

I have a memory that studies of heavy bombing in World War II found similar results; far from convincing people to surrender, or turn against their governments, the bombs angered them and steeled their resolve. Funny how we always think "we" are brave and courageous (we praise the British for their courage in the Battle of Britain, which was nothing more than a bombing campaign) but expect our enemies to be mewling cowards who will bend to our will if we simply show them enough violence. We continue to think that if we are simply the meanest SOB in the valley, we will walk unscathed through the valley of the shadow of death.

Robert Fiske puts a very human face on the valley of the shadow of death:

When I arrived there, there were a number of, maybe 20, 30 children, the corpses of children, lined up outside the government hospital, hair matted, still in their night clothes. The bomb that killed them was dropped at 1:00 in the morning. And they ran out of plastic bags. They were trying to put the children in plastic bags, their corpses, and they would put on it, you know, “Abbas Mehdi, aged seven,” and so and so, aged one, and use a kind of sticking tape on it. But then they ran out of plastic bags, so they had to put the children's corpses in a kind of cheap carpet that you can buy in the supermarkets, and they roll them up in that and then put their names on again. I was having to go around very carefully and write down, from the Arabic, their names and their ages. It would just say “Abbas Mehdi, aged seven, Qana.”

And, of course, every time I saw the “Qana,” I remember that I was actually in Qana ten years ago when the massacre occurred there then. This is the second massacre in the town whose inhabitants believe that this is the place where Jesus turned water into wine in the Bible, most of whom, 95% of whom, are Christians -- I’m sorry, are Muslims. I think all who died were Muslims. The 5% is Christians who have been there for hundreds of years, their families, because they do believe it is the Biblical Qana. There is a claimant to the rival of Qana in Galilee in northern Israel actually.

The Lebanese soldiers were trying take down the names of all who had died, but I found a man with a clipboard who had taken down 40 names, and he said that they weren't accurate, because some of the children were blown into bits and they couldn't fit them together accurately and there might be -- they couldn't put the right head on the right body, and therefore they might not be able to have an accurate list of the dead. But he was doing his best in the circumstances of war to maintain the bureaucracy of government.

One by one the children's bodies were taken away from the courtyard of the government hospital on the shoulders of soldiers and hospital workers and were put in a big refrigerated truck, very dirty, dusty truck, which had been parked just outside the hospital. The grownups, the adult dead, including twelve women, were taken out later. The children were put in the truck first. Pretty grim. As I said, the children's hair, when you could see the bodies, were matted with dust and mud. And most of them appear to have been bleeding from the nose. I assume that’s because their lungs were crushed by the bomb, and therefore they naturally hemorrhaged as they died.
"Woman," Jesus asks his mother, "what is it with you and me? It's not my time yet." John calls those miracles, beginning with the first one, semeia, signs. Christians take the sign in Cana as a sign of life and celebration and the blessing of marriage. What sign is this, then?

Meanwhile our government continues to ignore human beings and to uphold abstractions:

In Washington, the third-ranking official of the State Department, R. Nicholas Burns, said, “We are close to a political agreement between Israel and Lebanon to end this fighting.”

But he added, “We want to avoid a situation where we essentially put a Band-Aid on something.”
Israel, on the other hand, continues to insist it needs 10 to 14 more days of uninterrupted violence. And that 48 hour abatement of air strikes? Well, first, they say what they are doing now is supporting ground troops, so it isn't covered by the ban (that NPR report notes there has been no cessation in flights of IDF military aircraft); second, they've never announced the ban. The US State Department did.

A Band-Aid would stop the bleeding, and clearly our government can't have that. Without a sense of justice, they have no sense of peace.

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