The Bush administration, backed by Britain, has blocked efforts for an immediate halt to the fighting initiated at the UN security council, the G8 summit in St Petersburg and the European foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels.
"It's clear the Americans have given the Israelis the green light. They [the Israeli attacks] will be allowed to go on longer, perhaps for another week," a senior European official said yesterday. Diplomatic sources said there was a clear time limit, partly dictated by fears that a prolonged conflict could spin out of control.
George Bush last night said that he suspected Syria was trying to reassert its influence in Lebanon. Speaking in Washington, he said: "It's in our interest for Syria to stay out of Lebanon and for this government in Lebanon to succeed and survive. The root cause of the problem is Hizbullah and that problem needs to be addressed."
Tony Blair yesterday swung behind the US position that Israel need not end the bombing until Hizbullah hands over captured prisoners and ends its rocket attacks. During a Commons statement, he resisted backbench demands that he call for a ceasefire.
It is not at all clear that it will be over in a week: Israeli commanders say that it will be several weeks. If they're serious about breaking Hezbollah, rather than simply terrorising Lebanese society and its fragile government, then they would be likely to take months if not years. Blair, of course, could not be more craven. UK imperialist strategy has been for some decades to ride on the coat-tails of American power, but I would be willing to bet that this policy is controversial even among Whitehall mandarins used to doing whatever the Americans say. Regardless, the US-UK axis is directly culpable for the wave of atrocities currently engulfing Lebanon. Let's look at some of those. According to the Lebanese Daily Star, the latest targets of the Israeli assault are milk and medicine. Reuters reports that Israel has "killed 230 people, all but 26 of them civilians" and "About 100,000 Lebanese have fled their homes to escape the violence". Meanwhile, Israel has sent tanks into Palestinian refugee camps and killed nine people and wounding 45. An attack on Srifa kills tens of civilians, but merits only a few measly sentences. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, Israel is using toxic weapons on the civilian population. Socialist Worker carries eyewitness reports from Lebanon: white phosphorous shells explode, sonic booms are set off, poor neighbourhoods are levelled, people have to pay £500 if they want a taxi ride to neighbouring Syria... but what for? Will Syria be safe from attack? A doctor from the al-Awda hospital in Palestine says Israeli tanks are destroying agricultural land - having starved the Palestinians for months, having taken away their power supply, having razed the infrastructure, they are making sure that the Palestinians have nothing left.
Everything is licensed because "Hezbollah started it n they're the bad guys n they're gonna git their asses kicked." Everyone insists, certainly American senators like McCain are making a hobby of it now, that no other state would behave differently. Hillary Clinton said, with the ruthless nullity of her class: "I want us here in New York to imagine, if extremist terrorists were launching rocket attacks across the Mexican or Canadian border, would we stand by or would we defend America against these attacks from extremists?” This should give Mexico and Canada pause for thought at the very least, and one doesn't expect her to imagine that Palestinians might also like to defend themselves from attack, as might Lebanese people. Their desire to survive is simply irrelevant.
Israel has been yearning for war, and that too is eminently understable to any American senator.
Meanwhile, the crushing conformity of the media continues apace. Why even discuss it? They tell us some people died once in a while. Then they allow Bush or someone to remind us that Iran or Syria is to blame. Then they clamour about the evacuation of Westerners. Then they tell us about the heatwave and the difficulties in filling in forms. They even have a Labour MP sitting in front of a camera ready to discuss this inanity. Protests happening across the country (I know of several that happened only last night) are ignored. Eli Stephens notes the dehumanising language: the obliteration of poor Shi'ite neighbourhoods is described clinically as "Israeli warplanes pounded Hezbollah's stronghold in south Beirut". My intention, for what it's worth, is to reduce my time spent watching television news from a couple of hours a day to zero. It is demobilising, it dulls the senses, it cripples one's thinking with sheer insanity. The mindless subservience of a mannered reporter with rolled-up shirt sleeves standing in the baking sun not more than a few hundred yards away from devastation while simply uttering the Israeli line without hesitation or deviation is a compelling spectacle, but I personally can't take any more of it.
Parenthetically, Angry Arab reports on the curious standards of Human Rights Watch in relation to this brazen assault - summarised brutally, Hezbollah is condemned, while Israel is asked some polite questions. HRW is the same outfit that greasily evaded saying anything about the US-backed terror in Haiti for months and eventually only did so reluctantly and with some glibly dilute apologia. Groups like HRW aren't completely useless, any more than the New York Times is completely useless, but it is worth bearing this sort of thing in mind for the future.