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Violent Teevee

War isn't supposed to be pretty, is it?

For quite a number of days now, I've watched news reel after news reel on the telly with broken children and damaged adults coming out of Lebanon. I watched a cynical, confrontational Robert Fisk take on an ABC commentator from wherever he is near the warzone the day after the new conflict began -- and I don't blame his style or his doubts about the honour of having been there every time in the past when Israel went into Lebanon. Fisk was asked what could possibly prevent the crisis from going further from the then incursions into just southern Lebanon. He said it would take an Israel willing to send envoys to speak directly to Beirut about Hizbollah's rocket attacks, which they would never do. He said it would take a large UN peacekeeping presence along the borders, and not from Christian countries or the US, that this would have to be a majority Muslim operation to earn the people's trust. He laughed quite openly at the idea that Mr. Blair would send in British troops -- if Mr. Blair says he will, then British troops will have to show up, wouldn't they?

For quite a number of days now, I've been hearing people go on about surgical attacks that still look exactly like any other attack ever conducted in modern warfare as seen through the eyes of the media -- crushing, bloody and violent. I don't particularly care that the Israelis have given fair warning to Lebanese citizens to clear out of their homes before they come in. I don't particularly care that people are saying they're trying to invade a country with the most minimal loss of life possible. The last people to have uttered things along those lines are still occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, and minimal loss of life is a joke that implies a war is a single wound at a single point in time which heals itself up before the next minute is over. If we look carefully at the kinds of strategic, minimal attacks Israel has conducted in the last week, we will see business districts destroyed, television stations bombed and public services crippled. A minimalist approach does not involve destroying the lives of millions of people for decades to come, or turning the clock back on an otherwise modern, thriving state. And here's the funny thing -- Lebanon has Hizbollah, but Lebanon is also an otherwise modern, moderate Middle Eastern state in a region that does not have a reputation for modernity or moderation.

Here's another funny thing about attacking Lebanon -- the chaos Israel is causing now will only incite the wrath of those neighbours around them who are not nearly as moderate, and increase their extreme, if not outright violent influence, on the vulnerable Lebanon. It will give people a reason to fight, and if they are not doing it for moderate religion and patriotic nationalism, they can also do it for extreme religion under the cover of patriotism, or real and imagined brotherhoods. It's not impossible. Look at Iraq and Afghanistan. Look specifically at Iraq -- that was a relatively secular, moderate state under a certain Saddam Hussein. Now look at what imbalancing the authority in that country has done to unleash all manner of fundamentalist and extremist influences.

And the only reasons I can think of that I haven't been able to say anything about what I've seen come out of my TV are that I am angry and numb at the same time. I am angry that a conflict this unecessary is happening out there, but the UN is now too crippled to do really do anything about it. I am angry that the UN is crippled because the powers that are physically stronger than others have essentially rubbished the organization so crucially in the last few years that when something happens that actually counts, nothing can really be done. I am angry that the powers who may not be physically strong enough on their own aren't picking up the ball and banding together -- giving others the right to bully them because they're right. I am generally angry at the face of this Bush person who shows up on my screen laughing in the face of a country being picked apart, over some imagined war on terror.

I am numb because in the last few years, this has been little more than a cycle repeating itself. Israel is repeating a pattern. If we look closely, the words, the images, the ideas, the fundamental humanity and the reasons for being in conflict are neither as inhumane nor as terrible as the ones that have come before it. That this is all part of a cycle, and it has to happen, that people and countries have to burn before we kind of figure it out -- that peace is something we all contribute towards, and that it can be done. And that we will forget it again. It is the way it is.