Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dangerous precedent

If Hezbollah resistance continues (as it seems likely to do), the United States and Israel have stated that Syria and Iran become, by extension, legitimate military targets.

This discussion is offered without any thought or recognition of the "other side of the coin," namely the mindset in much of the Arab and Muslim world that if Iran and Syria are targeted for providing military support for Hezbollah, then the No. 1 underwriter for the ongoing Israeli slaughter of Lebanese, the United States, likewise becomes a legitimate military target.

Scott Ritter, August 2006

Friday, August 18, 2006

Watching Lebanon

In his most recent column for The New Yorker Seymour Hersh alleges that the United States prompted Israel to invade Lebanon. Read the article here. You can also read and listen to an interview of Hersh on Democracy Now!, one of the finest news services on the radio anywhere.

Hizbullah rockets cannot be fired from buildings

31/07/2006 | The Irish Times
Tom Clonan

Hizbullah has fired almost 2,000 missiles into Israel over the last fortnight, killing more than 50 Israelis and forcing almost one million into air raid shelters.

Despite this provocation, however, Israel's response has been sharply criticised as "disproportionate" in many quarters. In the aftermath of the deaths of dozens of innocent Lebanese women and children at Qana yesterday, even the US has urged the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) to modify their responses to Hizbullah's attacks.

IDF spokespeople are maintaining that Hizbullah had been mounting missile attacks on Israeli territory from Qana in recent days. The IDF has claimed it targeted the three-storey house in Qana at 1.30am local time in the belief it contained a Hizbullah "asset".

Any investigation into the targeting of this house will have to consider precisely what kind of Hizbullah "asset" could possibly have been hidden in a modest, low-rise building among the narrow streets of a village such as Qana.

The type of missiles being fired by Hizbullah at Israeli cities cannot be fired from within houses, mosques, hospitals or even UN facilities as has been suggested by the IDF. Due to the massive "back-blast" caused by the rocket launchers of these missiles, they can only be fired from open ground. To fire them from within a building would result in the instant death of the missile crew and probable destruction of the missile before launch. Most of the missiles are truck-mounted and are fired - on open ground - from the backs of flat-bedded trucks or larger four-wheel-drive vehicles.

When fired, these missiles generate an enormous flare of light, heat and sound energy - a heat and light signature which is readily detected by IDF target-acquisition systems. Accurate retaliatory fire can be directed at Hizbullah launch sites by IDF aircraft and ground artillery in seconds. Such a reaction would be considered by international military norms to be proportionate and within the general "rules of engagement".

In these circumstances, having fired their missiles, Hizbullah tends to disperse as rapidly as possible. It is unlikely that a flat-bedded truck with a multilaunch rocket-system mounted on it could be easily and rapidly hidden in a village as small as Qana. Nor is it likely that such a truck-mounted weapon or four-wheel-drive vehicle could easily be hidden in a house such as the one targeted by the IDF yesterday.

The pattern and circumstances of the attack are sinister. With no telltale scorch marks from a Hizbullah missile launch visible near the destroyed house, and with no Hizbullah fighters among the dead and injured, the question remains as to what kind of "asset" the IDF could credibly allege to have been contained within the building.

The timing of the attack, taking place as it did during a period of relative calm and not in the immediate aftermath of a Hizbullah missile launch, speaks of a punitive strike designed simply to kill members of the Shia community from which Hizbullah is drawn and receives its moral support. The targeting of unarmed Shia women and children would represent a deliberate targeting of innocent civilians for retaliatory or punitive purposes, and may well constitute a war crime.

Tom Clonan is The Irish Times security analyst.

© The Irish Times

(Accessed from

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Friday, August 11, 2006

Canberra over and out

Today is my last day in the public service for the foreseeable future. Long time readers of this blog will recall that I made a similar statement around this time last year, when I left Canberra for the Pilbara and Palestine. Unlike on that occasion, I will refrain from posting a commentary on my Canberra experiences. The reason for this is simple. On this occasion I have chosen to look forwards, not backwards. And, honestly, it isn't because everyone in the department I used to work in, including the good folk in the departmental security section, have access to this blog.

You'll probably hear from me next in dusty old Karachi where I'm staying with family for a few days. After that I head to the Old Dart. Remind me not to pack any gel-based products in my hand luggage. Better put my Gone Jihadin' t-shirt deep inside my suitcase too.

In the interim there are plenty of loosends to tie, a few lectures on Palestine to give, and the odd party to dj. There truly is no rest for the wicked. Or is that wick-ed?

Speak soon.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Israel’s Indiscriminate Attacks Against Civilians in Lebanon

This report documents serious violations of international humanitarian law (the laws of war) by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Lebanon between July 12 and July 27, 2006, as well as the July 30 attack in Qana. During this period, the IDF killed an estimated 400 people, the vast majority of them civilians, and that number climbed to over 500 by the time this report went to print. The Israeli government claims it is taking all possible measures to minimize civilian harm, but the cases documented here reveal a systematic failure by the IDF to distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Human Rights Watch has prepared an excellent 50 page report documenting indiscriminate attacks by Israel on civilians in Lebanon. The entire report is available here. You can also read a good summary of it here.

Is Israel's response disproportionate?

Find out for yourself!

Survivors of 1996 Qana Massacre Sue Israel Military Chief For War Crimes

In April of 1996 the Israeli Defense Force shelled Qana's U.N. compound, killing 106 civilians who had been seeking refuge inside. The Center for Constitutional Rights has filed a class-action lawsuit against former IDF Chief of Staff and Head of Intelligence, Lieutenant General Moshe Ya'alon. The suit alleges that Ya'alon commanded the attack and is guilty of war crimes, extrajudicial killings and crimes against humanity. We talk with Maria LaHood, an attorney on the case with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Read on or listen to the audio.

UPDATE - A Lebanese couple in Belgium has brought a suit against Israel for committing war crimes in Lebanon. At the same time, the Head of the Union of Belgian Jewish Progressives Dr Jacques Ravedovitch has publicly stated that Israel is committing war crimes in Lebanon.

Friday, August 04, 2006

A fascinating insight into Hezbollah

In writing my book on suicide attackers, I had researchers scour Lebanese sources to collect martyr videos, pictures and testimonials and the biographies of the Hezbollah bombers. Of the 41, we identified the names, birth places and other personal data for 38. Shockingly, only eight were Islamic fundamentalists. Twenty-seven were from leftist political groups like the Lebanese Communist Party and the Arab Socialist Union. Three were Christians, including a female high-school teacher with a college degree. All were born in Lebanon.

Robert Pape writing in The New York Times

War crimes and Lebanon

The Guardian

The US-backed Israeli assault on Lebanon has left the country numb, smouldering and angry. The massacre in Qana and the loss of life is not simply "disproportionate". It is, according to existing international laws, a war crime.

The deliberate and systematic destruction of Lebanon's social infrastructure by the Israeli air force was also a war crime, designed to reduce that country to the status of an Israeli-US protectorate. The attempt has backfired. In Lebanon itself, 87% of the population now support Hizbullah's resistance, including 80% of Christian and Druze and 89% of Sunni Muslims, while 8% believe the US supports Lebanon. But these actions will not be tried by any court set up by the "international community" since the US and its allies that commit or are complicit in these appalling crimes will not permit it.

It has now become clear that the assault on Lebanon to wipe out Hizbullah had been prepared long before. Israel's crimes had been given a green light by the US and its loyal British ally, despite the opposition to Blair in his own country.

In short, the peace that Lebanon enjoyed has come to an end, and a paralysed country is forced to remember a past it had hoped to forget. The state terror inflicted on Lebanon is being repeated in the Gaza ghetto, while the "international community" stands by and watches in silence. Meanwhile, the rest of Palestine is annexed and dismantled with the direct participation of the US and the tacit approval of its allies.

We offer our solidarity and support to the victims of this brutality and to those who mount a resistance against it. For our part, we will use all the means at our disposal to expose the complicity of our governments in these crimes. There will be no peace in the Middle East while the occupations of Palestine and Iraq and the temporarily "paused" bombings of Lebanon continue.

Tariq Ali
Noam Chomsky
Eduardo Galeano
Howard Zinn
Ken Loach
John Berger
Arundhati Roy

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Mirror images

“Until civilians — frankly, I’m not sure how many of them are actually just innocent little civilians running around versus active Hezbo types, particularly the men — but until those civilians start paying a price for propping up these kinds of regimes, it’s not going to end, folks. What do you mean, civilians start paying a price? I just ask you to consult history for the answer to that.”

- Rush LimbaughOn the Qana MassacreJuly 31, 2006

“We declared jihad against the US government, because the US government is unjust, criminal and tyrannical. It has committed acts that are extremely unjust, hideous and criminal . . . As for what you asked regarding the American people, they are not exonerated from responsibility, because they chose this government and voted for it despite their knowledge of its crimes in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and in other places.”

- Osama bin LadenOn His Fatwa Against AmericaMarch 1997