Hard News by Russell Brown


Here's a grim irony: Ya Libnan, an online news service that grew from a blog founded to cheerlead for freedom and democracy during last year's "cedar revolution" now finds itself keeping a body count and venting outrage as its authors' "beautiful country" is "destroyed so effortlessly and with such disregard." Ya Libnan's fair-weather friends in the commentariat have, naturally, moved on. Sorry folks.

As conveyed in news reports and blogs, the attitude of the Lebanese public has been clear enough: pissed off with Hezbollah, and angry, distraught and appalled at the destruction Israel is wreaking on their country. Looking away for a moment from the loss of life (130 Lebanese, almost all civilians, many children; 10 Israeli civilians - could have been much worse if the Hezbollah rocket attack on the railway station hadn't missed the rush hour), the economic damage inflicted in a few short days is horrific. Lebanon's modern airport has been attacked again; bridges and roads taken out; tourists, investors and diplomats are fleeing any way they can. The rebuilding and re-engagement of recent years is being laid waste. Didn't we want a democracy here?

This post, made in some anger by a moderate, democratic anti-Hezbollah blogger, in response to comments posted to his blog by armchair generals, is compulsory reading. This is a guy who namechecks Mark Steyn for goodness sake - yet he now concludes:

I still don't hate the Israeli people. But there is no way I'll ever be able to trust Israel, and there is no way I'll ever be able to feel comfortable with all of the rightwing, massacre apologists who pompously spout rhetoric at suffering people.

What kind of a result is that? More in the same vein in a report from Beiruit:

Our politics were as schizophrenic as our shopping baskets. The first day, everyone I talked to was furious at Hezbollah. "How can I express my anger?" wrote a Lebanese friend in a mass e-mail blazing with sarcasm. "Maybe by saying bravo to Hizbollah, thank you to Hizbollah. Thank you for ruining the entire season for the poor Lebanese who have been struggling so hard to cover the losses of last year's events... for destroying the tourism industry and infrastructure? for weakening yet again an already weak government and flushing all the hopes of millions of Lebanese down the drain? should I say more?"

But then Israel bombed the airport, and suddenly, surprisingly, I was hearing cautiously approving statements from people who'd always railed against the Shi'ite militia before. These were Christians and secular Muslims, not Hezbollah partisans, but they saved their wrath for Israel and the US. "I am angry, definitely, at the Israelis," said my friend George, who until now had always been adamant that the Party of God should give up its arms, like all the other militias that sprang up during the Lebanese civil war.

Meanwhile, this is the kind of news story the Arab world is reading:

Twenty civilians, including 15 children, were burnt alive yesterday in an Israeli helicopter gunship attack on residents fleeing border villages in south Lebanon. An Israeli missile incinerated a van in the deadliest single attack of the campaign launched after Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight last Wednesday.

Police said the van was carrying two families fleeing the village of Marwaheen after Israeli loudspeaker warnings to leave their homes.

Rationalisation of the week (as endorsed by Instapundit): it's all fair because Hezbollah is using the whole of Lebanon as a human shield.

Interesting interview with Mark Perry of the Beirut-based Conflicts Forum, who appears to know what he's talking about. Particularly illuminating with respect to the kidnapping incident that sparked the attacks.

And Billmon keeps score and concludes that: "With or without Iranian help, Hezbollah is making mincemeat out of the myth of overwhelming Israeli superiority. How this will ultimately play out remains to be seen, but it certainly raises the stakes, at least for the Israelis."

I saw An Inconvenient Truth yesterday and planned to write about it today. Tomorrow perhaps.