Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Nice UN Observation Post You Have There

--Be a shame if something happened to it.

After the IDF bombed a clearly marked UN observer post, killing four of its personnel, you might be forgiven for agreeing with Kofi Annan that Israel either has lousy aim, lacks adequate military intelligence, or targeted the observation post deliberately.

But have no fear, two of our U.S. Senators were already briefed with the applicable talking points (from Larry King Live):

KING: We'll start with Senator Allen, what do you make about these two observers killed and the apparent anger of Kofi Annan toward Israel?

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: Well, it's unfortunate. I don't think that Israel wants to hit the U.N. What they're trying to hit is Hezbollah. They're trying to degrade them, pound them, and make sure that they're not attacking and they're protecting themselves.

So, I'm sure they'll find out what happened. But Israel has a right to defend itself and now they have these latest threats that they're going to be launching missiles further into Israel.Kofi Annan's statements I think are unduly harsh. It would be nice if the United Nations actually showed such resolve and anger and determination in actually enforcing Security Council Resolution 1559, which has as its purpose the removal of Hezbollah or disarming the militias along the Israeli-Lebanon border.

KING: Senator Bayh, is this then, do you consider this a casualty of war?

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: Unfortunately so, Larry. I simply don't believe that the Israelis would intentionally kill U.N. observers. I'd be interested to know what Mr. Annan, what facts he has at his disposal that lead him to that assertion but until I see such facts I simply don't believe it.

And, I think George was right. We have to remember who was responsible for this. It was the Hezbollah that attacked across an internationally recognized boundary, killed soldiers, took others captive.

All this violence and tragedy flows from that act, so we have to focus on bringing Hezbollah under control, disarming them, getting a force in there that can keep them from reconstituting themselves. And then ultimately, Larry, we have to look at Iran because they're in the background of all of this. And, I think Kofi Annan would be better advised to focus upon the role that Iran has played and just think how bad things would be if Iran had nuclear weapons right now. So, this is a tragedy but we got to remember who's really to blame.

"Israel has a right to defend itself..."
"U.N. Resolution 1559"
"Islamic fascism..."

rinse and repeat.

Juan Cole suggests a reason why the IDF might have "accidently" targeted the UN observers:

"The Israelis denied that they hit the base deliberately, but Kofi would know. Why do it? When you have in mind war crimes, it is better not to have neutral observers in the region."

The "accidental" bombing of the UN observation post also sounds eerily familiar to this.

Glenn Greenwald is more cautious than I am in accepting Annan's "apparently deliberate" claim:

"(5) Oddly, the very pro-Israel New York Sun says that the Israel-U.N. incident "could prove a turning point in Israel's war to rid its northern border of Hezbollah." I don't see why that would be the case. Almost every war has incidents of this sort. The U.S. bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, killed a group of Canadian troops in Afghanistan in an F-16 strike, and shot missiles at media offices in Baghdad. Incidents of this type are not uncommon.

Additionally, it was somewhat surprising that Kofi Annan would so quickly and impulsively make such serious accusations against Israel -- namely, that the bombing of the U.N. observation post was "deliberate," rather than accidental. That may well be the case, but it may very well not be, and it is hard to see how Annan could know that already."

On a 2008 note, I'm a little distressed to hear Evan Bayh employing the same saber-rattling on Iran as the administration and its neo-con supporters. I don't know if his stand here is based on a genuine fear of Iran's capabilities and intentions, or if he's posturing for a national campaign, or both. Of course, it's often the case that candidates and prospective candidates sound more alarmist or beligerent before entering office. Bill Clinton, for instance, campaigned against the first President Bush's "soft on China" policy but ultimately adopted much of the same policy once in office; the current President Bush likewise criticized his predecessor's "nation-building" efforts while going on to become among the most nation-building of presidents in Iraq.

But a harsh stance towards Iran could come back to bite Bayh, and other Democratic contenders, if they ultimately are not prepared to put up or shut up when it comes to exercising force against Tehran.

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