It's with a heavy heart that I pen this week's column. What I would
really like to say isn't publishable. Like the host of an Arabic network, who
visibly fought back tears at the sight of so many angelic-faced toddlers
dragged out from under a bombed building in Qana, it's hard for me to cast
What was done to Qana for the second time in 10 years is a war crime but
Israel isn't the lone perpetrator. The killing would have stopped days ago if
it wasn't for the tacit and material support Israel has received from the US
President George W. Bush and my own British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
How ironic that the Lebanese are dying from American-made missiles and
bombs that are transported from the US to Israel by planes that refuel in
Scotland, while other US planes carry food and medicines.
Following the "Yo Blair" moment the British prime minister was
roundly condemned for his unswerving obedience and subservience to the White
Blair's trip to Washington last Friday was billed as the moment he would
finally stand up to the swaggering Texan. Those of us who thought Blair might
put some distance between Britain and the US, were sorely disappointed.
This is a man, who went to war for the oppressed in the former
Yugoslavia, is committed to bettering the lives of Africans and says he
champions a Palestinian state. Yet when he shared the podium with the US
president, they were as one, united in condemning Lebanon to weeks of further
Bush and Blair could have put a stop to the killing. But they chose not
to. In this case they are surely just as responsible for the deaths of those
children in Qana as the Israeli pilot with his hand on the button.
They may be even more so.
The Israeli government can arguably contend it is defending its people
under its "never again" mantra although this in no way explains the
disproportionate response to the capture of its soldiers.
On the other hand, the Bush/Blair duo have subsumed this conflict into
their own "war on terror" and consider the de-clawing of Hezbollah as
one step towards what US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls the birth of
"a new Middle East".
During the gestation period the region must be scourged of all groups
likely to be resistant to the American boot. And what better method of doing
this than lumping all of them together under a broad umbrella called
This is what they tried to do in Iraq when they labelled the resistance
Iraqis who rightly objected to the US-led military presence as
"terrorist", although they were later forced to admit that only two
per cent of the militants were foreign fighters.
They did the same with Hamas when it was democratically elected to lead
the Palestinian National Authority. It was on its way to morphing into a
respectable political party when it was demonised, marginalised and its
leadership threatened with assassination.
When it comes to Hezbollah, they are once again humming from the same
hymn sheet. In other words, they want their publics to believe that Hezbollah
acts out of an extremist ideology. This is far from the truth but unfortunately
most Americans, judging from polls, have fallen for this faux branding.
Tipped the balance
It didn't help that Al Qaida's number two Ayman Al Zawahiri chose to
crawl out of the woodwork during Blair's US visit to offer support for
Hezbollah and call for a global jihad. The same happened just before the last
US elections and was thought to have tipped the balance in Bush's favour.
In fact, Hezbollah is first and foremost Lebanese. Its social wing is
engaged in educating, housing and feeding the poor as well as providing free
medical treatment. Like Hamas, several of its members have been elected into
In 2000, Hezbollah was celebrated by all Lebanese as having run the
Israeli occupiers out of town. By all accounts, today, most Lebanese, whether
Sunni, Shiite or Christian, stand with Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah,
even those who didn't initially approve of the capture.
This support is reflected throughout the Arab and Muslim world. The EU
has recently resisted adding Hezbollah to its terrorist list, as has Russia.
If one cares to engage in finger pointing when it comes to the
deliberate prolongation of the conflict, Blair comes off worse than Bush. The
US president doesn't have the luxury of cracking down hard on Israel when his
own support base is made up of Evangelical Christian Zionists and the last
thing he wants to do is tick off the powerful pro-Israel lobby in the face of
upcoming mid-term elections. But what is driving Blair? What excuse does he
have aside from maintaining the Trans-Atlantic relationship, or rather, being a
slave to it?
I don't think anyone with the exception of those closest to him really
Totally unrelated, of course, is this snippet courtesy of Sunday's
Independent under the headline "Tony and Cherie's American Dream".
"With their �200,000 mortgage and his �87,000 pension, the Blairs
have their future to think of. And in the land of opportunity, from Pebble
Beach to Bohemia Grove, the movers are just a handshake away."
One of those movers
is the owner of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch, a pro-Israel right-winger who is a
loyal friend to Bush. Blair gave a talk to the Murdoch News Corp on Sunday and
as the paper suggests he is about to be offered a seat on that company's board.
Now given that Blair began his political career firmly left of centre wouldn't
that be a turn-up for the books.
Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on
Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at email@example.com.