Monday, July 31, 2006

Flashbacks of Katrina

Those watching world events have heard of the deaths of civilians, women and children, in the Lebanese town of Qana by a precision - guided Israeli bomb. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed regret at the killings, but Olmert and Israeli officials have said repeatedly that Hezbollah must be stopped and that civilians were given notice to evacuate.

The implication is that Hezbollah must be stopped at any cost and that those who failed to evacuate are responsible for their deaths.

The later echoes in my head.

Didn't "Brownie" and various government officials after the chaos that Katrina invoked in New Orleans say the same thing of those who didn't get out before the huricane hit?

Do none of these government officials recognize how difficult it is for many people to "evacuate" on a moment's notice? Especially people who are poor, who do not have cars, who do not have safety nets and social networks to give them some place to go? If Hezbollah was the primary social safety net in Southern Lebanon, then the Lebanese government likely was not assisting evacuees out of Southern Labanon in any way. How are the elderly, young families, the destitute to get themselves out of bomb blasts?

Moreover, how the hell are people supposed to flee on wrecked roads and bombed bridges while Israeli missiles rain down from on high?

The rhetoric that civilians were warned constructs a moral exit for Israel. If they warned civilians to leave, but they are still there, then it's their own fault they were killed. The blame is on them (and Hezbollah), not on Israel.

Other Israeli rhetoric further pushes blame elsewhere. The New York Times reported the following:

But Dan Gillerman, the Israeli ambassador, said Hezbollah had used Lebanese civilians as human shields and had deliberately exposed them to danger in the hopes of stirring expressions of outrage against Israel. “What is happening around this table is exactly what they wanted to happen,” he said.

Lebanese civilians “may have been killed by Israeli fire,” Mr. Gillerman said, “but they are the victims of Hezbollah, victims of terror.”

Now that is a twisted logic.

No, they are the victims of Israeli's grossly disproportionate force against Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers. Soldiers mind you, the guys who are in the military, who are not civilians, who are generally, for lack of a better phrase, "fair game" when violent force is the order of the day.

Using precision guided weapons heightens Israel's culpability. They knew exactly what they were hitting when they blew up the apartment building in Qana this weekend. They knew it was an apartment building. Israel has footage of what appears to be a rocket launched from somewhere behind the apartment building. Note: behind the building, not from the building. Yet, Israel chose to bomb the building. Why? (And for that reason, why on earth did they bomb the U.N. building last week?)

The 24 hour cease fire that Israel announced after the deaths has, unsurprisingly, been rescinded, the New York Times is reporting. Bombing continues today.

And this just underscores the problem. Civilians weren't able to get out before Israel began bombing. They've been stuck. They'd still be stuck if it weren't for the Red Cross and Lebanese soldiers, and a short period of calm to get themselves out.

How many are still stuck? Pawns in a terrible game that kills dozens by the day.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Cease Fire?

So, after the meeting in Rome and the lack of a clear message from several world leaders (thanks to Rice thwarting such efforts), Isreal's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared that the lack of a message out of the meeting in Rome was a signal that his country was authorized to keep bombing southern Lebanon to smitherings.

Now, hold on a minute.

The U.S. was the only country quibbling over the terminology of "immediate" in the phrase "cease fire." The rest of the leaders, especially the European leaders, were crystal clear in their opposition to the continued airstrikes and ground war by Israel as well as Hezbollah's launching of rockets into Israel.

Fortunately, the European Union leaders have continued to put pressure on Isreal and on the United States to reject a long-term war. Indeed, after Prime Minister Blair met with Bush yesterday it seems that Bush is changing his message somewhat on the Israel/Hezbollah war and seems to now be pushing for a shorter time period before international peacekeepers would move into the region. Until then, Isreal can continue to pound sounthern Lebanon with abandon, but once the peacekeepers enter that can no longer happen. Israel will be effectively reigned in from their current unabandoned bombing spree.

Now, I should be clear and say that Hezbollah needs to be disarmed. They have basically held Lebanon hostage, bringing death and destruction to thousands of Lebanese citizens who have no interest in this war. The U.S. needs to help Lebanon strengthen its military and its government. One of the reasons Hezbollah continues to exist and to receive tepid suppport from Lebanese citizens is because Hezbollah runs hospitals, grocery stores, and cares for the poor. The Lebanese government must step in and offer better services to its citizens, removing the incentive for support of Hezbollah.

I fear, though, that the overwhelming force Isreal has used on Lebanon against Hezbollah and by extension the Lebanese citizens will turn Arab sentiment further against Israel and create renewed sympathy for Hezbollah. Indeed, reports from CNN suggest that is the case.

It's hard to get people to join your cause if they think you're evil.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Cease Fire

Today, Condoleeza Rice met with leaders from several European and Arab governments to discuss a possible cease fire between Hezbollah and Israel (Syria, Iran, and Israel were not there, I should note - the three countries that might be able to actualize a halt to the killings). The Bush Administration dragged its feet, sending Rice only this week to the region to talk with both sides.

The Administration clearly has no desire to see a cease fire between Israel and Hezbollah. Although the other government officials came to the meeting in Rome arguing for a demand for an immediate cease fire, Rice was hell bent on preventing that.

The BBC reported that nearly an hour and a half was spent debating whether the phrase "immediate" should be used in relation to a cease fire. In the end, Kofi Annan, still declared the need for an immediate cease fire, and BBC News ran with that as its headline.

[Note: the photo is courtesy of About.com. I quite like the Condi-Conan look.]

Her rhetoric justifying a position of no cease fire is worth considering. According to the New York Times, Rice said after the meeting:
"It doesn't do anyone any good to raise false hopes about something that's not going to happen. It's not going to happen. I did say to the group 'When will we learn?' The fields of the Middle East are littered with broken cease-fires."
Translation:
"What is the point of working towards a solution? People will only die anyway? Best to give up now, and just let Israel bomb Hezbollah into the stone age, along with the Lebanese civilians who are stuck in the middle."
The U.S. apparently has a new approach to diplomacy: Diplomacy works best that works least.

Time has a compelling commentary on "Condi in Diplomatic Disneyland".

Monday, July 24, 2006

Indy and Bella's Journeys

For those of you who have been following our dog adventures - a little update. Yesterday, Jon and I attended a "happy hour" for dog owners at a local pub. The benefits went to Peppertree Rescue, where Jon and I got the big beasts.

When we arrived we were surrounded by friendly people who knew these two dogs - especially Indy. Several people praised us for having taken him in, and a few said they didn't think he'd ever get adopted and would be put down.

I also learned a little more of the circumstances of the dogs. Bella was originally named Edie. She came to Peppertree from Georgia with her sister Eva in November, 2005. She was adopted out twice and returned because of her many issues. Somewhere in there she was renamed Bella.

[Side note - you'll see in the photos that Bella loves having things in her mouth: sticks, kongs, bones. She'll wander around the house all day with her red kong in her mouth. If she were a human, she'd be a smoker.]

Indy was turned in to the Mohawk & Hudson Humane Society as a stray. He was found with a second dog, both of whose faces were covered in porcupine quills. The Humane Society was able to track down Indy's owner, but when they called to tell them that Indy had been turned in, the owner said they were through with Indy and didn't want him. Thus began Indy's journey in foster homes where he became an escape artist of remarkable feats (jumping over 6' fences, eating through plastic crates and tearing through screen doors).

It gives me some more perspective on what these dogs have been through.

I have to say, though, I am getting very sick of Bella's bad habits. She has two that are frustrating. First, she jumps. Second, she's not quite housebroken. If anyone has any tips on how to deal with these two problems, please share!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The First 5K

Today, in the rain, my friend Emily and I ran the Berne 5K. We placed first and second in our age class. You should be impressed . . . . or not, since Emily and I were the only two people in that class!

There were 103 runners, so a perfect first race - small and surrounded by friendly people, some of whom were my neighbors.

The route of the race is one that I run at least once a week, and it was a joy-ful feeling to run with others on what is usually my solo course.

It was a delight to run it with Emily. She has run marathons, and I've been intimidated by her feats. But, after today, I have new confidence that perhaps I could run longer distances. If she could do it, then maybe I could do.

I have felt the runner's high - and it is good.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Where is Jenny S-G?

Joshie Juice posted on the last entry a question: Where am I?

I've not been a good blogger for a while. I know. I've been sort of hiding. I don't have good reasons, but I have reasons.

The run-up to the trip to Dresden and Budapest at the end of June was hectic. I had both an encyclopedia entry and a book chapter due immediately upon my return, and as usual it was a scramble to get them finished.

Upon my return, I've buried my head deep in analyzing and writing up research I've been working on for forever now. At the conference in Dresden it sunk in that I'm going up for tenure in a year, so now is the last big push. When I'm in the writing stage, I find it best to be a bit of a recluse (even a bit enjoyable after the high social interaction and distractions of the semester). I'm trying to be disciplined and not distracted by such things as thoughts for the blog.

As well, I feel overwhelmed by what is happening in the Middle East and in the United States both domestically and our foreign policies, and I don't even know where to start to express my thoughts on the many bad happenings.

Even more preoccupying, I've been taken with the journey of my fellow ASC alum Danna and her husband Mike who had a brain tumor. He died Tuesday, and I've been coping with my sadness for her, my grief that has resurfaced about my mom's death, and my own fears of mortality . . . . I'm afraid of death, so I'm not blogging (how's that for an excuse?).

But, on the positive side, I'm running my first 5K on Saturday with my friend Emily (I know, you couch potatos will say there's nothing positive about running a 5K race . . . . . ) . I've been running two days a week and doing a long run on weekends. I'm up to 7 miles. My goal is 10 by the end of the summer. The dogs make great running companions.

So, maybe now that I've broken the seal of solitude, I'll be a good blogger again?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

And Then There Were Two Dogs

(Apologies for being quiet on the blog - I've been traveling)

So, May 15, we brought a second dog into our lives. Her name is Bella (that's the name she came with). She's a 62 pound black lab/hound mix, and around a year old.

After we got Indy, we thought he would do well with a second dog in the house. He is quite anxious, and we hoped that a second dog would help him be more calm. Plus, Peppertree Rescue has an endless supply of needy dogs, and we felt we could accomodate one more.

Bella's backstory is that she came out of the New York shelter system. Apparently, her first owner got her as a puppy, lived in an apartment somewhere in the city, and turned her in to the shelter after neighbors complained that Bella barked while the owner was at work. Bella was subsequently placed in a couple of different homes up here, but her barking when left alone was found unsuitable. When we got her, she was being kenneled at an animal hospital. We agreed to long term foster care for her to at least get her out of the animal hospital. If she worked out we'd keep her.

Two days after we got her, I left for Eastern Europe. My unlucky husband had to manage two big dogs in my absence. Bella turns out to be very poorly mannered, not really knowing or obeying any commands, and walking like a torpedo when on a leash. But, Jon worked magic while I was gone, and she is increasingly becoming a well-behaved dog. It helps that she is very lovey.

As per my last post, the plight of dogs in shelters has not decreased. Give to your local animal shelter, and urge your friends and relatives to spay and neuter their pets. Consider taking in a first or second (or in our case sixth) animal. The rewards are endless.