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.

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