Filed under war

Happy New Year

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Above: Palestinian men bury the body of 4-year-old Lama Hamdan at Beit Hanoun cemetery in the northern Gaza Strip December 30, 2008. Lama and her sister were reportedly riding a donkey cart Tuesday near a rocket-launching site that was targeted by Israel. (MOHAMMED SALEM/Reuters)

The cost of war

Via Joe. My. God., from the New York Times:

Iraqwarcost Big

(Click for a larger version)

Where will it end?

Qana Girl

“Israeli PM rejects call to end Lebanon war” is the lead story on ABC News this morning. I half-expected the next line to read “We’re having too much fun!”

Wars are always terrible but the current batch seem particularly inhuman, one-sided and cynical. The arabs are painted as the enemy, as terrorists, but they are really the victims of state-sponsored terror on an unprecedented scale.

One doesn’t have to take sides in this rolling series of wars — no side occupies the moral high ground. But whether the fighting is taking place in Iraq, Palestine or Lebanon, overwhelming force is being used to kill innocent civilians, many of them women and children, for what? I can’t even tell you any more.

(Photo above: AP/Yahoo/Kevin Frayer)

The sheer willfulness of it all

Like many people, I’ve been watching events unfold in Lebanon and northern Israel with growing disquiet. It’s been hard to say much so far because the world-weary part of me just takes over; saying “here we go again” doesn’t add a lot to the discourse.

I’ve also not had the benefit of considering other viewpoints, as our internet connection has been decidedly shaky and slow1, and there are better things to do than stare at slowly-loading webpages, like work in the garden, play ball with the dogs, explore our little patch of the bush.

But the thing that strikes me about this current excursion into war is the sheer willfulness of it all. The almost-palpable thirst for war, and killing, and death and destruction that permeates both sides — all sides — of the current conflict. Israel, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Fatah, Syria, Iran, the US and Australia (and, to some extent the UK, although I picked up some sense of dissent emerging there, as it did before Iraq) are all so thirsty for war, blood and death.

They couch their excuses carefully — Israel says it is acting in self-defence (by bombing busloads of escaping women and children, it seems) and Lebanon says it is being unfairly blamed for Hezbollah’s actions. Kofi Annan suggests that diplomatic efforts be made to prevent all-out war, and George Bush says no: Israel has the right to defend itself. John Howard parrots Bush, of course2. Australia’s only concern (and it took a rather long time to establish itself) is the evacuation of Australian citizens from Lebanon3, after which time we’ll presumably be happy to sit back and watch the Israelis obliterate the country, while the evacuees are gratefully returned to the land of “Fuck off Lebs“.

The G8 summit, conveniently meeting as the war breaks out, finds time to remind Israel to “be mindful of the strategic and humanitarian consequences of its actions”. It sounded like “don’t kill them too harshly” to me.

Today, after 13 days of tit-for-tat (mostly tit, as one side is infinitely better armed, more belligerent, and quick to anger than the other) it looks like this war won’t be over soon, and that many more will die — mostly Lebanese women and children, if the toll so far is any indication. If it expands to the stage that Syria becomes directly involved, I suppose all-out-war in the middle east is a real possibility, and from there any number of scenarios can be drawn. Israel’s true intent, however, probably isn’t war on that scale — they just want to use Hezbollah’s recent actions to justify bombing Lebanon back to the state of destruction, despair and hopeless subjugation it was in 20 years ago. This will increase the power of extremist groups such as Hezbollah and open Lebanon further to Syrian influence. And from there the cycle will start again.

War breeds war, hatred breeds hate, and willfulness breeds greater willfulness. It doesn’t stop until somebody on one side stops playing the game that way. And it won’t stop soon.

Footnotes:

  1. Satellite installer man is due to arrive on Thursday to broaden my band. Frabjous!
  2. Howard, born into a different world which he steadfastly clings to even today, actually said “Israel has the right to defend herself.”
  3. Unlike other countries, Australia has only agreed to pay for the evacuation of Australian citizens who usually live in Australia; other citizens who join the convoy potentially face a hefty bill. Even those who qualify for free evacuations will be required to pay if they can claim the cost on the travel insurance. Cheap bastards!

Independence Day

Ah, the fourth of July. Not a day of any significance to me but a great day to let off a few fireworks as a demonstration of your patriotic fervour. And the good news is, anyone can play. Just light the blue touch paper and retire. Here’s some snapshots of the celebrations around the world:

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Happy Indepence Day.

(Photos above — of missile launches in the United States, North Korea and the Gaza Strip, all of which took place on 4 July — from ABC News).

‘This is so gay I’d rather be dead’

The inquest into the death of Pvt Jacob Kovco, the only Australian soldier killed on duty in Iraq, has been hearing some rather weird allegations.

First we heard that Kovco had had a dream in which he had a premonition of shooting himself in the head “to see what it would feel like”. Kovco wrote about the dream, which he had exactly one month before his death, in his diary.

Colonel Michael Griffin, said the details were “almost precisely the same” as known events of the private’s death. Family members sobbed as the diary entry was read.

A day later, more details of the accident have been revealed by “Soldier 17″, who was in the room with Kovco when he shot himself. Apparently the two were listening to a Cranberries song and singing along “in a female, homosexual way” when Kovco shot himself in the head.

Private Jake Kovco was skylarking with his two room-mates, singing along to the Cranberries song Dreams just moments before he died.

In a satellite link from Baghdad, the witness, known as Soldier 17, said his iPod was hooked up to speakers and as the three soldiers sang to the loud music, Private Kovco pulled his shorts up high in a joking way. Soldier 17 said: “We were just making fun of the song and singing in the best girl’s voice we could.”

His statement added: “…(singing) in a high voice – female homosexual way.”

Soldier 17 said, “If you’re asking me, ‘Did I see him going for his pistol?’ “No, I didn’t.” But he spoke of the numerous occasions he had seen Australian soldiers in Iraq pointing empty guns at each other and pulling the trigger for a joke.

He said: “The only way he may have (shot himself) was in a joking fashion because of the way we were singing, as if to say ‘this is so gay, I’d rather be dead’”.

We’ve come a long way from the official “died while cleaning his gun” excuse peddled by the military authorities at the time of Kovco’s death. It looks like we have some distance further to go before the truth comes out, if it ever will.

The incompetnce of the military in handling this tragedy has been astounding from the start. First they lied about the circumstances of his death, then they lost his body and flew a stranger’s corpse home with full military honours, then some clown left a disk containing the secret report into the accident in an airport computer terminal.

Meanwhile, the Defense Department of our ally across the Pacific has been criticised for listing homosexuality as a “mental disorder”.

The real mental disorder is the delusion that war is just, that young men’s lives are expendable and that Iraq is any better off today than it was under Saddam.

Look to the skies

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Is the tide turning?

From the ABC News website today:

(Coming soon: PM suspends constitution; cites pressing need to combat terrorism)

I should also mention the speech by J.M. Coetzee, the South African author who won the 2003 Novel Prize for literature, the other day. Speaking at a reading of his new book, Waiting for the Barbarians, in Sydney:

Coetzee said the South African police “could do what they wanted because there was no real recourse against them because special provisions of the legislation indemnified them in advance”.

He went on to tell the packed auditorium: “If somebody telephoned a reporter and said, ‘Tell the world — some men came last night, took my husband, my son, my father away, I don’t know who they were, they didn’t give names, they had guns’, the next thing that happened would be that you and the reporter in question would be brought into custody for furthering the aims of the proscribed organisation endangering the security of the state.”

The 2003 Nobel laureate ended his introduction with: “All of this, and much more during apartheid in South Africa, was done in the name of the fight against terror.”

While Coetzee did not specifically refer to the Howard Government, there was no question his pointed speech was directed at anti-terror laws due to be introduced into federal and state parliaments next month. [The Australian]

The new century

War, famine, pestilence … I’m finding it hard to keep my chin up and keep from getting depressed by the less-than-wonderful world I find myself living in. Wasn’t the 21st century supposed to be all hovercars and robot maids?

Seriously, between the bird flu pandemic, terrorism, official terrorism, hurricanes, global warming, mayhem, social collapse, AIDS, famine, poverty and christ-knows-what-else, sometimes it feels like there’s little hope at all. That’s where I am right now.

I feel like I’m living through a terrible, endless, barely-defined war. Every day I think of George Orwell. Every fucking day.

The worst kind of news

I was watching The Sound of Music on TV last night when the news flash crawled across the bottom of my screen. Several bombs have been detonated in tourist areas of Bali; this morning there are 24 confirmed dead, many dozens injured. The toll is likely to be dominated with Australians, just like the first Bali bombings three years ago.

It’s just heart-rending to think of the suffering this will cause. To the victims, to the people of Bali, to those of us at home for whom this will be used to justify god-knows-what new government powers in the name of beating terrorists.

As you’d expect, the Indonesian terror group Jemaah Islamiah has been blamed. Makes Gareth Evans look a bit of a dill.