“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Thursday, July 27, 2006

stuff about lebanon, israel, and why the washington post editorial page is to laugh

LI must confess that we haven’t been doing the rounds of the blogs lately. We go to the news, and wonder how to make comments that are at all equal to the task – watching the rightwing in Israel, which has grown in tandem with the right wing in the U.S., commit the kind of crimes and blunders that are so characteristic of the Bush era, is painful to watch – more painful, I imagine, if you are watching from under the burning wheels of a van struck by an Israeli bomb, after the kindly dropping of pamphlets to tell you that Israel is going to violate the sovereignty of Lebanon and destroy all you possess, so flee down the road. Then we go to our new secret vice, the Google Book search. We look at Walter Savage Landor, or Ruskin’s Praeterita, instead of looking at Atrios, or Crooked Timber.

So: the best opinion piece about Israel/America’s war against Lebanon is, surprisingly, an op ed on the NYT: The Tribes of War by Abbas El Zein. He does a coldly angry rundown of Israel’s last war with Lebanon – the dead, which number more than the richly valued, much reported Israeli dead over the past fifty years – the Israeli insouciance about national boundaries, about proportional force, etc., etc.

El Zein begins with a faux pas – the story of how Israeli planes murdered his grandmother. Please, we can hear the letters now, how about the suicide bomber who blew up my aunt? Those are the polite ones. The others will be of the LGF/Washington Post editorial kind, where the blood is never washed out of the mouth. Even though, curiously, it is proxy blood – no rightwing yahoo in his right mind is going to be fighting in this war, or any other, but some will make brave little tourist trips, like Michael Totten, to assure the lobotomized at home that democracy is our cause, and the people are with us! Except the 90 some percent, the extermination fodder. Of course, the exterminated, nowadays, have something to say about their extermination. Ambushes and nuclear weaponry seem to be on the rise. Globalization, you know. First you get the mcdonalds, then you get the nuclear tipped missile.

El Zein:
“When the civil war in Lebanon ended, in 1990, we took a while to believe it. It could restart at any time, an inner voice told us. A few years later, peace became the norm. Everyone believed in it and belief made it more real. We never suspected that, years later, our original skepticism would be cruelly validated, and the fragility of collective sanity in the Middle East would be exposed once again.
The estimated death toll from the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon was 18,000, about 0.5 percent of the population. Twenty-four years later, I have yet to hear any sign of remorse emanating from Israeli society. Nor were there any reparations for the carnage wrought by the Israeli Army. When the Israeli press, politicians and intellectuals speak with regret about the ''Lebanon War,'' it is usually to say the cost to Israel was too high or to point out that the invasion failed to achieve its objectives. The Lebanese fatalities are rarely discussed.
A joke went around during the civil war that it was safer to be a target of the Israeli warplanes than to be exposed to the ineffectual anti-aircraft fire directed against them. Lebanese bullets seemed certain to hit you if you fled, whereas if you stayed put, the Israeli missiles would probably land in your neighbor's house, not yours.
Since then, air strikes have grown more precise and the Israeli Air Force appears to have expanded its range: planes now target your neighbor's house and your own. Recent images from Lebanon are chillingly familiar -- fathers watching their children die, mothers expiring in children's laps. Dozens of stories like my grandmother's are being re-enacted. Dozens of new graves are being dug.”

I would contrast this with something from the WAPO editorial page, but I don’t have the proxy poxy heart at the moment. The Washington Post has been a good crusader for years, and the El Zein’s of the world aren’t worth a good Georgetown chuckle – how could the plaints of the barbarians even be heard when you are a D.C. mover and shaker, privileged perhaps, to lunch with Charles Krauthammer himself on oysters, martinis and rabies medicine?

For laughs, however, I recommend reading Peter Baker’s analysis, a GOP sob story written as though by a high school YAF member about Bush’s bounce and why the third coming of the Crawford messiah has been delayed. A shame too, for, as Baker observes often in the piece, the President needs to rally the world – for instance, against Iran. The president has successfully created rallies in many parts of the world, at least that part is true. But Baker, being a dimwit (imagine a writer who makes Adam Nagourney look like A.J. Liebling), is in many ways a good reporter to read – the childish superhero motif isn’t hidden in his prose, but comes right to the surface. These people think like ten year old boys. Alas, they are equipped with real thermonuclear weapons.


Amie said...

LI, you know Hegel used to lecture his students on the necessity of reading newspapers.
alas, i've been ignoring the master's advice. i only have so many voodoo dolls and pins handy, a number far exceeded by news people deserving a little spasm of pain.
those, for example, who drone on about Israel's trauma during its 1982 invasion and occupation of Lebanon with narry a mention of any possible trauma to the occupied people. check! and please let's not mention any camps or what that had to do with Hizbullah coming into existence. In all the ink spilled about Hizbullah's links to Syria and Iran there is little mention that Hizbullah is Lebanese! why? perhaps because this would mean openly stating what the option being presented to Lebanon really is, i.e, either engage in a civil war and kill each other or we will kill all of you. such is the 'enduring peace' being proposed. check!
yesterday, over at the Mars Bar, the cheerful clientele was trying to create a checklist of the laudable efforts these past years to further peace, freedom, planetary well-being and such. as you might suspect, the list got rather long and anyway i ran out of money. but not before we'd jotted down election fraud, misleading (in more than one sense) into war, war crimes, torture camps, illegal spying on civilians, use of banned weapons on civilians, an energy and environmental policy guaranteed to asphyxiate the planet...i'm forgetting a lot i know...but there was a numbing moment when it occurred to us that there remained but one crowning achievement as yet unfulfilled: those thermonuclear weapons...

roger said...

Amie, if you do that too much, I gotta feeling the Mars bar bouncers will be after you!

That's quite the list. And it doesn't even include the absolute non-necessity of it all. While at one time, the war culture was really a way to keep the economic system going - it was a bad and disgusting thing, but at least there was some reason behind it - it now simply is a vast drag on the economy. So millions of people across this fair land have to be driven crazy, day after day, by the morally bankrupt governing class and their impress in the headlines - when they could all be painting watercolors and making friends on the massive amounts of public transportation that the money wasted on the war industry could have purchased, turning on their lights in the evening from power that is wind or solar driven, or even -- a much criticized thing among environmentalists, but something I believe is possible and energy efficient -- hydrogen fuel cell powered, and having great sex and peaceful slumbers. Mailer thought the fifties, in and of themselves, caused cancer - myself, I think the double os are giving rise to all the diseases in all those Oliver Sacks books.
PS - hey, I watched Damnation last night and I'm going to watch it again tonight. You were right about Bella Tarr. He perfectly suits my present mood.

Amie said...

LI, couldn't agree more about the non-necessity of it all. though you know, there are some who find it necessary to tool about Manhattan in hummers.
say about Bela Tarr, a couple of things LI might appreciate. i was at a screening of Damnation where BT responded to questions. he was asked about that incredible scene with the dog at the end of the film. turns out, they rehearsed that scene every day for six months! was also asked what he learned in film school. said he had a fine teacher who told him to just go out and make films, and that he would better learn from his own stupidity than from theirs.

Ray Davis said...

But Amie, why would I want to emulate Hegel's students? I don't even want to emulate Hegel.

Instead, I'm reading my way through Ruskin's late zine, Fors Clavigera, while Mark Scroggins is tackling The Stones of Venice. I don't know what this craze portends, but I'm sure Ruskin would agree it's nothing good.

roger said...

Ray, I'm a big fan of F.C. myself. Guy Davenport, years ago, published an essay about Fors as the equivalent of the Cantos in the Victorian era.

But at some point, about four years ago, I started suffering from Ruskin overdose. The man never stopped writing. I'm a graphomaniac myself, but he is the king.

Since coming upon it in the Google Bookarama, I'm reading Fuller's Worthies of England. Here's a piece of raw ore for ya, the true wierd England that disappears for long stretches at a time and then comes back, sometimes as a Chartist pamphleteer, sometimes as the Sex Pistols:

"Musick is nothing else but Wild Sounds civilized into Time and Tune; so extensive that it stoopeth to Beasts and mounteth as high as Angels, for Horses will do more for a Whistle than for a whip. And

We know no more what Angels do above
Save only that they Sing and that they Love."