Saturday, July 22, 2006

'U.S. Speeds Up Bomb Delivery for the Israelis'

July 22, 2006 - Weapons - New York Times

U.S. Speeds Up Bomb Delivery for the Israelis
By DAVID S. CLOUD and HELENE COOPER

WASHINGTON, July 21 — The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday.

The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran’s efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.

The munitions that the United States is sending to Israel are part of a multimillion-dollar arms sale package approved last year that Israel is able to draw on as needed, the officials said. But Israel’s request for expedited delivery of the satellite and laser-guided bombs was described as unusual by some military officers, and as an indication that Israel still had a long list of targets in Lebanon to strike.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday that she would head to Israel on Sunday at the beginning of a round of Middle Eastern diplomacy. The original plan was to include a stop to Cairo in her travels, but she did not announce any stops in Arab capitals.

Instead, the meeting of Arab and European envoys planned for Cairo will take place in Italy, Western diplomats said. While Arab governments initially criticized Hezbollah for starting the fight with Israel in Lebanon, discontent is rising in Arab countries over the number of civilian casualties in Lebanon, and the governments have become wary of playing host to Ms. Rice until a cease-fire package is put together.

To hold the meetings in an Arab capital before a diplomatic solution is reached, said Martin S. Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel, “would have identified the Arabs as the primary partner of the United States in this project at a time where Hezbollah is accusing the Arab leaders of providing cover for the continuation of Israel’s military operation.”

The decision to stay away from Arab countries for now is a markedly different strategy from the shuttle diplomacy that previous administrations used to mediate in the Middle East. “I have no interest in diplomacy for the sake of returning Lebanon and Israel to the status quo ante,” Ms. Rice said Friday. “I could have gotten on a plane and rushed over and started shuttling around, and it wouldn’t have been clear what I was shuttling to do.”

Before Ms. Rice heads to Israel on Sunday, she will join President Bush at the White House for discussions on the Middle East crisis with two Saudi envoys, Saud al-Faisal, the foreign minister, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the secretary general of the National Security Council.

The new American arms shipment to Israel has not been announced publicly, and the officials who described the administration’s decision to rush the munitions to Israel would discuss it only after being promised anonymity. The officials included employees of two government agencies, and one described the shipment as just one example of a broad array of armaments that the United States has long provided Israel.

One American official said the shipment should not be compared to the kind of an “emergency resupply” of dwindling Israeli stockpiles that was provided during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, when an American military airlift helped Israel recover from early Arab victories.

David Siegel, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said: “We have been using precision-guided munitions in order to neutralize the military capabilities of Hezbollah and to minimize harm to civilians. As a rule, however, we do not comment on Israel’s defense acquisitions.”

Israel’s need for precision munitions is driven in part by its strategy in Lebanon, which includes destroying hardened underground bunkers where Hezbollah leaders are said to have taken refuge, as well as missile sites and other targets that would be hard to hit without laser and satellite-guided bombs.

Pentagon and military officials declined to describe in detail the size and contents of the shipment to Israel, and they would not say whether the munitions were being shipped by cargo aircraft or some other means. But an arms-sale package approved last year provides authority for Israel to purchase from the United States as many as 100 GBU-28’s, which are 5,000-pound laser-guided bombs intended to destroy concrete bunkers. The package also provides for selling satellite-guided munitions.

An announcement in 2005 that Israel was eligible to buy the “bunker buster” weapons described the GBU-28 as “a special weapon that was developed for penetrating hardened command centers located deep underground.” The document added, “The Israeli Air Force will use these GBU-28’s on their F-15 aircraft.”

American officials said that once a weapons purchase is approved, it is up to the buyer nation to set up a timetable. But one American official said normal procedures usually do not include rushing deliveries within days of a request. That was done because Israel is a close ally in the midst of hostilities, the official said.

Although Israel had some precision guided bombs in its stockpile when the campaign in Lebanon began, the Israelis may not have taken delivery of all the weapons they were entitled to under the 2005 sale.

Israel said its air force had dropped 23 tons of explosives Wednesday night alone in Beirut, in an effort to penetrate what was believed to be a bunker used by senior Hezbollah officials.

A senior Israeli official said Friday that the attacks to date had degraded Hezbollah’s military strength by roughly half, but that the campaign could go on for two more weeks or longer. “We will stay heavily with the air campaign,” he said. “There’s no time limit. We will end when we achieve our goals.”

The Bush administration announced Thursday a military equipment sale to Saudi Arabia, worth more than $6 billion, a move that may in part have been aimed at deflecting inevitable Arab government anger at the decision to supply Israel with munitions in the event that effort became public.

On Friday, Bush administration officials laid out their plans for the diplomatic strategy that Ms. Rice will pursue. In Rome, the United States will try to hammer out a diplomatic package that will offer Lebanon incentives under the condition that a United Nations resolution, which calls for the disarming of Hezbollah, is implemented.

Diplomats will also try to figure out the details around an eventual international peacekeeping force, and which countries will contribute to it. Germany and Russia have both indicated that they would be willing to contribute forces; Ms. Rice said the United States was unlikely to.

Implicit in the eventual diplomatic package is a cease-fire. But a senior American official said it remained unclear whether, under such a plan, Hezbollah would be asked to retreat from southern Lebanon and commit to a cease-fire, or whether American diplomats might depend on Israel’s continued bombardment to make Hezbollah’s acquiescence irrelevant.

Daniel Ayalon, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, said that Israel would not rule out an international force to police the borders of Lebanon and Syria and to patrol southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah has had a stronghold. But he said that Israel was first determined to take out Hezbollah’s command and control centers and weapons stockpiles.

Thom Shanker contributed reporting for this article.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Under Israeli assault, every day in Lebanon is equivalent to 9/11

Center for Democracy & the Rule of Law Press Release

Under Israeli assault, every day in Lebanon is equivalent to 9/11

Beirut, July 21: The ongoing military offensive of the Israeli army against Lebanon, through the use of superior air and sea power and long range artillery, constitutes an unacceptable assault on the international rule of law and must be brought to an end immediately, said the Beirut-based Center for Democracy and the Rule of Law ("CDRL") in a statement issued today. Following is the full statement.

Clearly, Lebanon is suffering, and will continue to suffer in the form of grave losses of lives and property. The Israeli military response to the imprisonment of its two soldiers is both morally and legally unjustified and, in all events, totally disproportionate. The average number of Lebanese civilians killed by Israel during the past days is nearly forty human beings a day. On a per capita basis, with the Lebanese population being nearly one percent of that of the USA, this exceeds the number of persons killed in New York on 9/11. Hence every day for Lebanon under Israeli attack is 9/11.

CDRL is amazed that the United States of America, that suffered from 9/11 only a few years ago, has not officially spoken a single world against the equivalent atrocity that Israel inflicts on the people of Lebanon on a daily basis. CDRL is also amazed that Israel, in mass murdering the people of Lebanon and destroying their property, private and public, disregards the moral lessons of the Holocaust. The moral betrayal, either in the USA and Israel, cannot be either ignored or brushed aside.

The Israeli Government, openly and strongly backed by the American Administration, had said that it held the Lebanese Government responsible for Hizbullah's action in taking two Israeli soldiers prisoners after a military engagement on Lebanon's southern border. It declared that the Israeli military objective is to cut Hizbullah down to size and bring the Lebanese side of the Blue Line on the Southern Lebanese border under the control of the Lebanese government by deploying the Lebanese army. Another declared Israeli objective is the implementation of UNSCR 1559, which has a propaganda value. Ironically, the ultimate Israeli objective is to beef-up the influence of the same Lebanese government Israel so holds responsible and to place it in control of a post-war Lebanon free of Hizbullah.

To achieve these objectives, Israel has maliciously treated most of Lebanon's civilian infra structure as belonging to Hizbullah and proceeded with a campaign of destruction that has so far included airports, sea ports, fuel depots, roads, overpasses and bridges. Then its planes attacked Lebanese army posts and barracks and killed or wounded over a hundred soldiers who have nothing to do with Hizbullah. Following that Israel escalated its campaign to include privately owned Lebanese industry such as dairy factories, paper towel factories, plastic factories and pharmaceutical factories, and their warehouses of finished products. In the meantime, hundreds of innocent civilians were being killed and hundreds more wounded. Israel openly threatened and continues to threaten civilians in South Lebanon, by leaflets and phone calls, ordering them to leave their homes or causing them enough fear to make them do so. As a result of all this deliberate Israeli action, hundreds of thousands of civilians were suddenly displaced. The ability of the country to feed itself or to import food and medical products has been sharply reduced and almost eliminated because all trucks are being targeted on the suspicion of working for Hizbullah and Israel imposes on Lebanon a tight air and sea embargo. Israeli spokesmen and apologists for Israel are willing to acknowledge flatly that Israel seeks to inflict a harsh measure of pain on Lebanon's civilians in order to make them turn against Hizbullah. What is happening is just the opposite, as the Lebanese are putting the blame squarely on Israel.

Lebanon's destiny can not be dictated by the Israeli Army, even if backed by the entire Western Alliance led by the mightiest power on earth, the USA. The future of Lebanon can only be made by the Lebanese in a true democracy that upholds the constitution, the rule of law and human rights, based on full equality and the strict separation of state and church. This task becomes so much more difficult when Israel so openly and grossly violates the international rule of law, to the cheers of its chorus of backers who otherwise profess support for democracy and the rule of law.

All parties concerned should learn lessons from contemporary history. In 1982 Israel launched a full scale invasion of Lebanon after a series of more limited incursions. The major achievement of that invasion was the forced eviction from Beirut of the Syrian Army and PLO forces of the late Mr. Arafat. Furthermore, Israel, with close American tutoring, succeeded in installing a new Lebanese government under Amine Gemayel, the brother of the slain leader of the Lebanese Forces militia financed and equipped by Israel. Gemayel's government was as impotent and corrupt as its predecessor or successor Lebanese governments. The events of 1982-1983 gave the impetus for the birth of Hizbullah. The end result was a big fiasco that cost Lebanon dearly ending in Israel's own eviction from most Lebanese territory at the hands of Hizbullah. Most of Hizbullah's fighters today were born after the Israeli invasion of 1982. When an Israeli spokesman recently threatened that Lebanon will be pushed back twenty years, his statement could only be understood as a reference to the1982 experience. Recalling that experience with the intent to duplicate it in one form of another will lead to an even bigger fiasco. The children of the Lebanese civilians killed, wounded or displaced by Israel over the past days will grow up to become potential recruits of Hizbullah or the other guerilla organizations that will be born out of the current events and perhaps succeed Hizbullah.

It would be sad indeed if Israel and the USA see a future for Lebanon under a government similar to the one they helped install in 1982, and consisting of elements of the same corrupt and impotent political class that dominate the present Siniora cabinet, and openly wish to invest in such an insignificant creature through the illusory capital of Israel's military might. They would be making a big mistake, much bigger than the one they made in 1982 that led the country to unforgettable catastrophes.

Any credible wish by the international community to help a weary Lebanese republic revitalize itself and achieve true independence, democracy and the rule of law, must first recognize the need to desist from any attempt to re-empower the defunct, corrupt and impotent political class. Lebanon can only be helped by an international demonstration, in deeds more than in words, of the fullest respect for, and upholding of, the rule of law on every level, nationally, regionally and internationally. Hizbullah could not be contained except as a result of a credible democratic process in a revitalized republic of Lebanon under the rule of law and integrity, benefiting from a credible international rule of law equally applied to, and respected by, all parties in the Region, and after Lebanon shall have been supplied by such defensive weapons as would enable its army to defend the country against the likes of today's Israeli invasion.

For further information: E-mail info@cdrl.org and visit http://www.cdrl.org/

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Beirut takes Fisk's breath away...

PARADISE LOST

Robert Fisk

19 July 2006
The Independent

ROBERT FISK'S ELEGY FOR BEIRUT Elegant buildings lie in ruins. The heady scent of gardenias gives way to the acrid stench of bombed-out oil installations. And everywhere terrified people are scrambling to get out of a city that seems tragically doomed to chaos and destruction. As Beirut - 'the Paris of the East' - is defiled yet again, Robert Fisk, a resident for 30 years, asks: how much more punishment can it take?

In the year 551, the magnificent, wealthy city of Berytus-headquarters of the imperial East Mediterranean Roman fleet - was struck by a massive earthquake. In its after math, these a with drew several miles and the survivors - ancestors of the present-day Lebanese - walked out on the sands to loot the long-sunken merchant ships revealed in front of them.

That was when a tidal wall higher than a tsunami returned to swamp the city and kill them all. So savagely was the old Beirut damaged that the Emperor Justinian sent gold from Constantinople as compensation to every family left alive. Some cities seem forever doomed. When the Crusaders arrived at Beirut on their way to Jerusalem in the 11th century, they slaughtered every man, woman and child in the city. In the First World War, Ottoman Beirut suffered a terrible famine' the Turkish army had commandeered all the grain and the Allied powers blockaded the coast. I still have some ancient postcards I bought here 30 years ago of stick-like children standing in an orphanage, naked and abandoned.

An American woman living in Beirut in 1916 described how she "passed women and children lying by the roadside with closed eyes and ghastly, pale faces. It was a common thing to find people searching the garbage heaps for orange peel, old bones or other refuse, and eating them greedily when found. Everywhere women could be seen seeking eatable weeds among the grass along the roads..."

How does this happen to Beirut? For 30 years, I've watched this place die and then rise from the grave and then die again, its apartment blocks pitted with so many bullets they looked like Irish lace, its people massacring each other.

I lived here through 15 years of civil war that took 150,000 lives, and two Israeli invasions and years of Israeli bombardments that cost the lives of a further 20,000 of its people. I have seen them armless, legless, headless, knifed, bombed and splashed across the walls of houses. Yet they are a fine, educated, moral people whose generosity amazes every foreigner, whose gentleness puts any Westerner to shame, and whose suffering we almost always ignore.

They look like us, the people of Beirut. They have light-coloured skin and speak beautiful English and French. They travel the world. Their women are gorgeous and their food exquisite. But what are we saying of their fate today as the Israelis - in some of their cruellest attacks on this city and the surrounding countryside - tear them from their homes, bomb them on river bridges, cut them off from food and water and electricity? We say that they started this latest war, and we compare their appalling casualties - 240 in all of Lebanon by last night - with Israel's 24 dead, as if the figures are the same.

And then, most disgraceful of all, we leave the Lebanese to their fate like a diseased people and spend our time evacuating our precious foreigners while tut-tutting about Israel's "disproportionate" response to the capture of its soldiers by Hizbollah.

I walked through the deserted city centre of Beirut yesterday and it reminded more than ever of a film lot, a place of dreams too beautiful to last, a phoenix from the ashes of civil war whose plumage was so brightly coloured that it blinded its own people. This part of the city - once a Dresden of ruins - was rebuilt by Rafiq Hariri, the prime minister who was murdered scarcely a mile away on 14 February last year.

The wreckage of that bomb blast, an awful precursor to the present war in which his inheritance is being vandalised by the Israelis, still stands beside the Mediterranean, waiting for the last UN investigator to look for clues to the assassination - an investigator who has long ago abandoned this besieged city for the safety of Cyprus.

At the empty Etoile restaurant - best snails and cappuccino in Beirut, where Hariri once dined Jacques Chirac - I sat on the pavement and watched the parliamentary guard still patrolling the façade of the French-built emporium that houses what is left of Lebanon's democracy. So many of these streets were built by Parisians under the French mandate and they have been exquisitely restored, their mock Arabian
doorways bejewelled with marble Roman columns dug from the ancient Via Maxima a few metres away.

Hariri loved this place and, taking Chirac for a beer one day, he caught sight of me sitting at a table. "Ah Robert, come over here," he roared and then turned to Chirac like a cat that was about to eat a canary. "I want to introduce you, Jacques, to the reporter who said I couldn't rebuild Beirut!"

And now it is being un-built. The Martyr Rafiq Hariri International Airport has been attacked three times by the Israelis, its glistening halls and shopping malls vibrating to the missiles that thunder into the runways and fuel depots. Hariri's wonderful transnational highway viaduct has been broken by Israeli bombers. Most of his motorway bridges have been destroyed. The Roman-style lighthouse has been smashed by a missile from an Apache helicopter. Only this small jewel of a restaurant in the centre of Beirut has been spared. So far.

It is the slums of Haret Hreik and Ghobeiri and Shiyah that have been levelled and "rub-ble-ised" and pounded to dust, sending a quarter of a million Shia Muslims to seek sanctuary in schools and abandoned parks across the city. Here, indeed, was the headquarters of Hizbollah, another of those "centres of world terror" which the West keeps discovering in Muslim lands. Here lived Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the Party of God's leader, a ruthless, caustic, calculating man' and Sayad Mohamed Fadlallah, among the wisest and most eloquent of clerics' and many of Hizbollah's top military planners - including, no doubt, the men who planned over many months the capture of the two Israeli soldiers last Wednesday.

But did the tens of thousands of poor who live here deserve this act of mass punishment? For a country that boasts of its pin-point accuracy - a doubtful notion in any case, but that's not the issue - what does this act of destruction tell us about Israel? Or about ourselves?

In a modern building in an undamaged part of Beirut, I come, quite by chance, across a well known and prominent Hizbollah figure, open-neck white shirt, dark suit, clean shoes. "We will go on if we have to for days or weeks or months or..." And he counts these awful statistics off on the fingers of his left hand. "Believe me, we have bigger surprises still to come for the Israelis - much bigger, you will see. Then we will get our prisoners and it will take just a few small concessions."

I walk outside, feeling as if I have been beaten over the head. Over the wall opposite there is purple bougainvillaea and white jasmine and a swamp of gardenias. The Lebanese love flowers, their colour and scent, and Beirut is draped in trees and bushes that smell like paradise.

As for the huddled masses southern slums of Haret Hreik, I found hundreds of them yesterday, sitting under trees and lying on the parched grass beside an ancient fountain donated to the city of Beirut by the Ottoman Sultan Abdul-Hamid. How empires fall.

Far away, across the Mediterranean, two American helicopters from the USS Iwo Jima could be seen, heading through the mist and smoke towards the US embassy bunker complex at Awkar to evacuate more citizens of the American Empire. There was not a word from that same empire to help the people lying in the park, to offer them food or medical aid.

And across them all has spread a dark grey smoke that works its way through the entire city, the fires of oil terminals and burning buildings turning into a cocktail of sulphurous air that moves below our doors and through our windows. I smell it when I wake in the morning. Half the people of Beirut are coughing in this filth, breathing their own destruction as they contemplate their dead.

The anger that any human soul should feel at such suffering and loss was expressed so well by Lebanon's greatest poet, the mystic Khalil Gibran, when he wrote of the half million Lebanese who died in the 1916 famine, most of them residents of Beirut:

My people died of hunger, and he who

Did not perish from starvation was

Butchered with the sword'

They perished from hunger In a land rich with milk and honey.

They died because the vipers and

Sons of vipers spat out poison into

The space where the Holy Cedars and

The roses and the jasmine breathe

Their fragrance.


And the sword continues to cut its way through Beirut. When part of an aircraft - perhaps the wing-tip of an F-16 hit by a missile, although the Israelis deny this - came streaking out of the sky over the eastern suburbs at the weekend, I raced to the scene to find a partly decapitated driver in his car and three Lebanese soldiers from the army's logistics unit. These are the tough, brave non-combat soldiers of Kfar Chim, who have been mending power and water lines these past six days to keep Beirut alive.

I knew one of them. "Hello Robert, be quick because I think the Israelis will bomb again but we'll show you everything we can." And they took me through the fires to show me what they could of the wreckage, standing around me to protect me.

And a few hours later, the Israelis did come back, as the men of the small logistics unit were going to bed, and they bombed the barracks and killed 10 soldiers, including those three kind men who looked after me amid the fires of Kfar Chim.

And why? Be sure - the Israelis know what they are hitting. That's why they killed nine soldiers near Tripoli when they bombed the military radio antennas. But a logistics unit? Men whose sole job was to mend electricity lines? And then it dawns on me. Beirut is to die. It is to be starved of electricity now that the power station in Jiyeh is on fire. No one is to be allowed to keep Beirut alive. So those poor men had to be liquidated.

Beirutis are tough people and are not easily moved. But at the end of last week, many of them were overcome by a photograph in their daily papers of a small girl, discarded like a broken flower in a field near Ter Harfa, her feet curled up, her hand resting on her torn blue pyjamas, her eyes - beneath long, soft hair - closed, turned away from the camera. She had been another "terrorist" target of Israel and
several people, myself among them, saw a frightening similarity between this picture and the photograph of a Polish girl lying dead in a field beside her weeping sister in 1939.

I go home and flick through my files, old pictures of the Israeli invasion of 1982. There are more photographs of dead children, of broken bridges. "Israelis Threaten to Storm Beirut", says one headline. "Israelis Retaliate". "Lebanon At War". "Beirut Under Siege". "Massacre at Sabra and Chatila".

Yes, how easily we forget these earlier slaughters. Up to 1,700 Palestinians were butchered at Sabra and Chatila by Israel's proxy Christian militia allies in September of 1982 while Israeli troops - as they later testified to Israel's own court of inquiry - watched the killings. I was there. I stopped counting the corpses when I reached 100. Many of the women had been raped before being knifed or shot.

Yet when I was fleeing the bombing of Ghobeiri with my driver Abed last week, we swept right past the entrance of the camp, the very spot where I saw the first murdered Palestinians. And we did not think of them. We did not remember them. They were dead in Beirut and we were trying to stay alive in Beirut, as I have been trying to stay alive here for 30 years.

I am back on the sea coast when my mobile phone rings. It is an Israeli woman calling me from the United States, the author of a fine novel about the Palestinians. "Robert, please take care," she says. "I am so, so sorry about what is being done to the Lebanese. It is unforgivable. I pray for the Lebanese people, and the Palestinians, and the Israelis." I thank her for her thoughtfulness and the
graceful, generous way she condemned this slaughter.

Then, on my balcony - a glance to check the location of the Israeli gunboat far out in the sea-smog - I find older clippings. This is from an English paper in 1840, when Beirut was a great Ottoman city. "Beyrouth" was the dateline. "Anarchy is now the order of the day, our properties and personal safety are endangered, no satisfaction can be obtained, and crimes are committed with impunity. Several Europeans have quitted their houses and suspended their affairs, in order to
find protection in more peaceable countries."

On my dining-room wall, I remember, there is a hand-painted lithograph of French troops arriving in Beirut in 1842 to protect the Christian Maronites from the Druze. They are camping in the Jardin des Pins, which will later become the site of the French embassy where, only a few hours ago, I saw French men and women registering for their evacuation. And outside the window, I hear again the whisper of Israeli jets, hidden behind the smoke that now drifts 20 miles out to sea.

Fairouz, the most popular of Lebanese singers, was to have performed at this year's Baalbek festival, cancelled now like all Lebanon's festivals of music, dance, theatre and painting. One of her most popular songs is dedicated to her native city:

To Beirut - peace to Beirut with all my heart

And kisses - to the sea and clouds,

To the rock of a city that looks like an old sailor's face.

From the soul of her people she makes wine,

From their sweat, she makes bread and jasmine.

So how did it come to taste of smoke and fire?


'Disgracefully, we evacuate our precious foreigners and just leave the
Lebanese to their fate'