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July 17, 2006

I, Water Vapor

The influence I (and most everyone else) can have on the ever-greater catastrophe in the mideast is minimal. So why do so many people feel compelled to learn as much as possible about what's happening? For myself, I've decided it's so that in 2009 when terrorists set off the atomic device ten blocks from my house, I can—just before I turn into a puff of water vapor—shout "I understand EXACTLY why this is happening!"

(Joke recycled from here.)


1. Jonathan Versen, who partly grew up in Beirut, says: "The Middle East is not a dream someone else is having"

2. Chris Floyd: "...since we do live in a world dominated by vicious (not to say vacuous) sectarian folderol, we should at least try to deal with the actual reality in front of us, not the heat mirages thrown off by warring sects."

3. Amal Saad-Ghorayeb points out some boring old facts:

The prisoners Hizbullah wants released are hostages who were taken on Lebanese soil. In the successful prisoner exchange in 2004, Israel held on to three Lebanese detainees as bargaining chips and to keep the battle front with Hizbullah open. These detentions have become a cause celebre in Lebanon.

4. Egypt's Mahmoud Sabit sez: "In a Fragile Situation, Engage Hamas"

Posted at July 17, 2006 05:03 AM | TrackBack

Before launching his all-out offensive on Judaism in 1930's Germany, der Fuhrer asked: "Who remembers the Armenians?" With a daily mantra in the Knesset that is echoed almost as frequently in the UN Security Council, the phrase "Finding a solution for the Palestinian problem" leads one to believe that these 'fearless leaders' are looking forward to the day when they may ask a similar question: "Who remembers the Palestinians?"

Posted by: americanintifada at July 17, 2006 05:23 AM

Today the blogs will analyze what Bush meant by "doing this [expletive]," but I hope they don't miss the key part of his analysis:

``You eight hours? Me too. Russia's a big country and you're a big country. Takes him eight hours to fly home. Not Coke, diet Coke. ... Russia's big and so is China. Yo Blair, what're you doing? Are you leaving,'' Bush said.,,-5956130,00.html

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at July 17, 2006 08:06 AM

Maybe he made sense when he was drinking. Just think-- he could have stayed a shiftless, ne'er-do-well scion of a powerful political family, and today you'd only hear about him if you were the type who kept up with the Houston society pages.

Then you could read about how he always showed up late to the fancy functions he hated, and ducked out early. I'll bet he was a far more likeable person too. What's one liver versus tens of thousands of war dead?

Posted by: Jonathan Versen at July 17, 2006 02:07 PM


You have mentioned before since I began reading your blog that you think the pursuit of knowledge or understanding what is happening is useless. So I wonder why do you have this blog? You also say we are helpless. Do you really feel like you are as helpless as a leaf falling from a tree at the mercy of what ever wind blows you in any direction? Beyond your control?

Just asking.

Posted by: rob payne at July 17, 2006 02:41 PM

"It is ironic, given Israel's bombing of civilian targets in Beirut, that Hizbullah is often dismissed in the west as a terrorist organisation. In fact its military record is overwhelmingly one of conflict with Israeli forces inside Lebanese territory."

They are known for launching missiles into Israel.

Why does it seem like articles either call Israel Fascist and Resistance Groups Noble, or Resistance Groups Terrorists and Israeli's Noble?

Both sides kill civilians. Both sides commit murder. Period.

What does it say when neither side is moral, and your own country is part of the problem (if not the instigator)?

Posted by: Dan at July 17, 2006 05:36 PM

Certainly some facts are boring especially when they have nothing to do with what is happening. I don't think we have to know every detail and nuance when all we really need to know is that together America and Israel are in the process of subjugating the Arab world by beating them into submission. That is a fact that is worth being aware of. Also the fact that Jonathan Versen pointed out which is we are inflicting much more damage to Gaza than Gaza is inflicting on Israel. This is a very one sided conflict with Israel who thanks to us outguns everyone else in the neighborhood. Why we cannot hang on to that little factoid is beyond me. Israel is beating the crap out of Gaza not the other way around. If Bush was interested in stabilizing the Mid-East he would be doing everything in his power to stop the violence that is for the most part the fault of Israel but he is not and he is not because he wants the violence, he wants a war with Iran, he wants to dominate the Middle-East with Israel as a helping tool. These facts are interesting in fact.

Posted by: rob payne at July 17, 2006 07:25 PM

How a 600 pound gorilla beats the crap out of a mouse.

"The beautiful viaduct that soars over the mountainside here has become a "terrorist" target. The Israelis attacked the international highway from Beirut to Damascus just after dawn yesterday and dropped a bomb clean through the central span of the Italian-built bridge a symbol of Lebanon's co-operation with the European Union sending concrete crashing hundreds of feet down into the valley beneath. It was the pride of the murdered ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri, the face of a new, emergent Lebanon. And now it is a "terrorist" target.

So I drove gingerly along the old mountain road towards the Bekaa yesterday - the Israeli jets were hissing through the sky above me - turned the corner once I rejoined the highway, and found a 50ft crater with an old woman climbing wearily down the side on her hands and knees, trying to reach her home in the valley that glimmered to the east. This too had become a "terrorist" target.

It is now the same all over Lebanon. In the southern suburbs - where the Hizbollah, captors of the two missing Israeli soldiers, have their headquarters - a massive bomb had blasted off the sides of apartment blocks next to a church, splintering windows and crashing balconies down to parked cars. This too had become a "terrorist target.

One man was brought out shrieking with pain, covered in blood. Another "terrorist" target. All the way to the airport were broken bridges, holed roads. All these were "terrorist" targets. At the airport, tongues of fire blossomed into the sky from aircraft fuel storage tanks, darkening west Beirut. These too were now "terrorist" targets.

At Jiyeh, the Israelis attacked the power station. This too was a "terrorist" target...

...Of course, Lebanon cannot attack Tel Aviv. Its air force comprises three ancient Hawker Hunters and an equally ancient fleet of Vietnam-era Huey helicopters. Syria, however, has missiles that can reach Tel Aviv. So Syria - which Israel rightly believes to be behind Wednesday's Hizbollah attack is not going to be bombed. It is Lebanon which must be punished."

* * * * *


"Of course, it takes very little for Israel to unleash its vast arsenal, as anyone with any knowledge of the region could tell you, like the Lebanese population, for example. (Then there's Israel's history of arming and backing violent regimes like apartheid-era South Africa and Guatemala's military junta, but let's focus on the present for now.) But those who back this fresh round of bloodshed will not or cannot concede this easily-demonstrated point, for in their heads, Israel is always the victim, always on the defensive, always killing for peace. At best they'll admit that perhaps the bombing is "disproportionate" to Hezbollah's original provocation -- not wrong, wrongheaded, much less criminal, but a bit over-the-top. And those are usually the liberals."

Posted by: rob payne at July 17, 2006 08:12 PM

So Syria - which Israel rightly believes to be behind Wednesday's Hizbollah attack is not going to be bombed.

IIRC, Syria was bombed just a couple of years ago. And real close to Damascus too, some place described as a 'terrorist training camp'.

Posted by: abb1 at July 18, 2006 02:01 AM

Well Fisk may have gotten that one point wrong but that does not mean the majority of what he is saying is wrong. Still, thanks for the good news that WWIII is about to begin. Got bomb shelters?

Posted by: rob payne at July 18, 2006 02:14 AM

abb1, misread your comment and thought you said Syria was just bombed. You are talking about something that happened in 2003 I think. Fisk is talking about the present not something that happened three years ago. That is not to say that this won't or could not happen soon. I hope it does not.

Posted by: rob payne at July 18, 2006 02:58 AM

So, they didn't have missiles that could reach Tel Aviv in 2003?

It's just that I don't think that these missiles are going to protect them at all. Just a few weeks ago Israeli jets violated their airspace by flying over Assad's residence. Syria has no deterrent, they can't use their missiles.

Posted by: abb1 at July 18, 2006 03:49 AM

Not to mention the 600-ton Leviathan sitting behind that gorilla; if Syria were to respond to any bombing, the U.S. is far more likely to jump in on Israel's behalf.

Posted by: saurabh at July 18, 2006 09:12 AM


I agree with you that missiles probably won't protect them if Israel decides to start a war with Syria. I also agree with Saurabh about the U.S. being behind Israel. But that is the problem with what Israel is doing right now which is it would give Bush an excuse to jump in which I suspect is exactly what Bush is chomping at the bit to do.

What Bush should be doing is finding a way to end the violence but he just sits back and watches saying Israel has a right to defend itself which gives a false impression that all Israel is doing is protecting itself when it is really doing much more than that. If Israel bombs Syria they will be doing it with Bush's blessings and the Arab world knows that.

This whole thing could end up involving the U.S. in a war destabilizing the entire Mid-East and could even lead to more dire consequences like say a new world war.

Bush would love that but I doubt we would. And that my friend is just how stupid Bush really is. The people that are advising him are just as dumb so don't look to them to inject any rational thinking into this. Unfortunately the people running this country really are not very bright which has been a large part of the reason the Middle-East is going in up in flames and likely us and the rest of the world with them.

Posted by: rob payne at July 18, 2006 10:12 AM

I disagree that we have minimal influence in the middle east: the US is by far the most influential player there. 50% of Israel's GDP is American subsidies, and we are a major arms supplier to several Arab states. If our government truly wanted peace and democracy--as opposed to brisk arms sales and low oil prices--I'm confident we would see an end to the daily devastation in the area.

I'm well aware of the entrenched hatreds. My best friend's father, a wealthy Maronite, was held for ransom by muslim extremists in the 80's, and afterwards they fled in poverty to the US. All sides have similar stories to tell. However, the vast majority want peace, and it is only religious or political extremists (ours and theirs) who want war to continue.

Posted by: Andrew at July 18, 2006 10:16 AM

Like I said at the Max's place: I now think this may be a deliberate show of force (and sorta act of revenge) initiated by the Bushies to prevent potential disobedience in the region and everywhere prompted by the fiasco in Iraq.

Kinda like a little warning: we are still strong, we can unleash our dogs on any of you any time.

Posted by: abb1 at July 19, 2006 03:29 AM