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Commentary Last Updated: Aug 1st, 2006 - 01:14:44

A war of self-defense against mothers and children
By Luciana Bohne
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Aug 1, 2006, 01:06

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Israel's official justification for attacking Lebanon relies on the capture by Hizballah of two Israeli soldiers in disputed border territories. The massive military retaliation on Lebanon and the refusal to concede to international calls for a cease-fire show that Israel has no interest in minimizing the effects of war on civilians -- Lebanese or Israelis -- and on life-sustaining infrastructures, which it targets with planned precision and some considerable "collateral damage."

Furthermore, its "disproportionate" use of force (I use the term "disproportionate," bean-counting obnoxious and paternalistic as it may be, in its legalistic, Geneva-Conventions sense) it must be recognized for what it is: an act of state terrorism. Terrorism, as we know by now, is defined in various US codes as the use of force against civilians to obtain political objectives. It was not Hizballah that launched the first round of this terror: they targeted military personnel to obtain the release of their prisoners in Israel -- a common military tactic between hostile forces.

Israel's all-out attack on a sovereign country, which had nothing to do with Hizballah's action nor had any power to control it, sets a record -- topping the already egregious example of Iraq -- for unprovoked imperial aggression and ratchets up the threshold of terror to which defenseless and blameless victims can be subjected by nations protected by the imperial umbrella of US power.

Too, the Lebanese people should draw conclusions in the interest of their future self-preservation from the consequences of US false democracy-building projects like the expulsion of Syria and the installation of a US-friendly regime in Lebanon, which left them unprotected against the latest attack. They should weigh the gifting of any alleged US democracy export against the relentless reality of the US onslaught for hegemony in the region.

The US is not an honest broker -- the Lebanese war proves it. Bunker-busters for Israel. No ceasefire for Lebanon. If anything, the US is Israel's dishonest broker for war and occupation, furnishing the funds and the weapons. As someone (most probably Gandhi) once noted of a previous empire, so it should be noted of the current one: "The sun never sets on the British Empire. Who would trust them in the dark?"

The US's conscious lies, proferred as democracy offerings, are calculated to open up the deceived countries to either military or economic aggression. In fact, the people of Lebanon, including 74 percent of Lebanese Christians, are already coming to the conclusion that Hizballah -- not the UN, the western democracies, the Arab states, the EU -- is their only defense against the unscrupulous might of the triple entente of the US, Britain, and Israel.

The world is aghast -- and rightly so -- at this inhuman scandal and triumphalist celebration in Lebanon of naked force by a state claiming to be defending itself against the existential threat of UN peacekeepers, ambulances, fleeing families, airports, bridges, ports, electrical grids, and water purifying plants. The threat seems to be Lebanese life itself and the object seems to be terrorizing the life out of the Lebanese people.

Imagine if Britain in the 1970s had found that two of its soldiers in Northern Ireland had been captured by the IRA and decided to "negotiate" their release by bombing Dublin and Ireland to smithereens in retaliation, claiming it was defending itself. Who would have believed that the objective of Britain was defensive? Britain could have argued, too, that the US was complicit with, perhaps even a sponsor of IRA terror, since a sizeable portion of IRA funds came from supporters in the US. Who could have blamed us if we assumed that the real target of Britain's assault was the US, that by killing Irish civilians it was sending a message to the US?

Such a scenario was unthinkable then and is unthinkable now.

For one thing, the Irish were Catholic -- though, from a Protestant point of view, unfortunately so. The IRA, though designated a "terrorist" group, were not pegged by official propaganda as enemies of western civilization. No one was calling Catholicism an irrational religion of war, intolerant of democracy -- though the claim might have easily found some solid evidence in a long history of Vatican opposition to democracy and freedom from autocratic rule. For another thing, the Irish as a Catholic people were not stigmatized as "untermenschen" quite to the degree that Arab-Muslims have been stigmatized by the Israeli-Anglo-American campaign to subjugate the Middle East.

Absent the complete demonization of the Irish people (and the smashing of British imperialism on all fronts), such an attack by Britain on Ireland was and remained unthinkable in modern times, though it had empowered Irish massacres in the past by the British in their thousand-year brutal domination and repression of Ireland.

Jonathan Swift, the eighteenth century writer and intellectual, advisor to Queen Anne of England, well understood that British policy toward Ireland was rooted in an internalized conception of the Irish as "sub-human." He wrote the infamously famous essay

"A Modest Proposal" in which he served up to English readers the formula that, since they consumed Ireland's life to the point where life for the Irish was unsustainable, they should consider a proposal to buy, roast and eat Irish babies, like suckling pigs at their tenderest. In this way, the Irish problem would go away, while the modest fee of buying an infant to sup on would make, for a time, the Irish dependency self-paying.

Swift was deemed mad -- what, for holding up the mirror to England of the implications of its virtually cannibalistic policy toward Ireland? Why not make it literal -- as it, indeed, appeared to be.

Empires are finicky. Many videos depicting the reality of war in Lebanon made available on the Internet by progressive sites are preceded by a warning that the graphic content may be "disturbing" to some viewers. What an infinitely depraved and hypocritical society we live in! The killings our governments carry out in our name are indeed "disturbing," but, unlike our victims by proxy, we can choose not to see them. That was Swift's point -- and one we would do well to heed, if we want to prevent our descent into protective moral callousness, enabling the murder of innocents while we close our eyes to images of bloody dying and our ears to agonized cries for help. To force oneself to view the violence of our government and its protegees is the duty we owe to the prevention of violence. It is to bear witness to violence, the last comfort and ultimate right we owe to the slain.

Every war has its picture. Mine, in this cruelest, most heartless, and least excusable of all recent inexcusable wars is an image of a mother and a son -- a reversed "Pieta." You may have seen it. It is all over the Internet.
A woman, a mother, is dying, her eyes turned in the last, lingering sweetness of her now helpless love toward her young son, her white arm raised to touch his blood-streaked face, to calm his wildly sobbing and inconsolable grief, to soothe his desperate entreaties attempting to convince her not to die, while himself gripped by the dawning certainty that she is beyond recall. In the moment before her death, she is already far from the war, calm in the intimacy of her departure, her large, liquid eyes softened by the tender softness of a love that no war can kill, her sadness not for her fate but for his own.

This killing of mothers in Lebanon is not in any "self-defense." How could it be? I see no gun in the dying victim's hand nor in the hand of the orphan she leaves behind.

Luciana Bohne teaches film and literature at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. She can be reached at

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