Editorial: Washington fiddles, Lebanon burns
  Saturday, Jul 15, 2006
  Imagine if, as a result of the Mumbai bombings, the Indian government assumed 
Pakistan was to blame and, without consulting any of its allies, laid waste to 
the international airport in Islamabad -- or worse. Or imagine Japan deciding 
that one more North Korean missile test over its waters or land was too many, 
before attacking North Korean missile bases. 
  Would a reasonable person expect Washington to respond to such actions with 
the line, "We respect the right of [insert name of country] to defend itself"? 
No: Americans would be expected to deplore acts of revenge and retaliation that 
are out of all proportion to the provocation because of the long-term 
instability that this feeds, if not triggering outright war.      But this is 
not the case with Israel and Lebanon.      Israel's bombing of the 
international airport in Beirut and residential areas nearby, killing at least 
60 innocent people, would in any other part of the world be considered an act 
of war.      Israel seems to think it bombed the Hezbollah International 
Airport for the capture of its soldiers. In doing so, the Israelis have thumbed 
their noses at the safety of not only innocent Lebanese, but also the 
substantial community of foreigners in Beirut, as well as the safety of 
airlines and their passengers. Tel Aviv has also vividly nationalized what 
 have been a response against a specific group.      Indeed, the outrageousness 
of the attack is compounded by the typically muted reaction of the US and other 
world powers. Though US President George W. Bush has said that the Israeli 
attack might weaken the Lebanese government and that he would press for the 
offensive to stop, the primary message from Washington is simply this: "Israel 
has the right to defend itself," and that, ipso facto, bombing an international 
airport constitutes self-defense.      Witness this exchange between a member 
of the Washington press corps and US State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack 
on Thursday:      Question: "You've talked a lot about the need for Syria, Iran 
and other countries to recognize Lebanese sovereignty under 1559 and other UN 
resolutions. If you're not holding the Lebanese government responsible for 
these actions [Hezbollah's capture of Israeli soldiers], do you think that the 
Israeli actions are an affront to Lebanese
 sovereignty?"      McCormack: "Look, we have made very clear that we, as well 
as others in the region, want to see this situation resolved. We would hope 
that it does not escalate. All of that said, we all understand Israel's right 
to defend itself."      A pathetic non-response to a crucial question.      
Israel has been subjected to horrific and despicable attacks by people who have 
lost all sense of humanity such that they would dismember the bodies of 
civilians of all faiths. But Israel has also perpetrated unjust treatment 
against Palestinians for which it is rarely held to account. Perhaps it is only 
ever a matter of time before this kind of situation so degrades the morality of 
nations -- even a region -- that the unthinkable becomes the next best option.  
    It is critical that a powerful mediator be firm but fair to both sides. The 
US, however, continues to play down Israeli excesses while effectively rebuking 
all Palestinians -- and now all Lebanese -- for the
 actions of extremist minorities.      If the US continues to rationalize acts 
of excessive aggression, perhaps Taiwan's military may take some comfort from 
the possibility that strikes against major Chinese infrastructure such as the 
Three Gorges Dam and residential areas can be put on the table. Actually, there 
is no comfort to be had whatsoever, because Taiwan has much more to lose if 
such atrocities become feasible.      As long as the US plays down Israel's 
maverick behavior, the danger of Tehran and Beijing's militant governments 
aping Tel Aviv grows ever larger. 


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