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Tuesday, July 18, 2006 

"I don't think it's helpful to get into that..."

From Israel with love; seriously injured Israeli; dead Lebanese man.

That glorious former old Labourite Margaret Beckett was on fine form when she talked to Jim Naughtie this morning on the Today programme. Blairwatch has the full discussion, but it'll probably make you want to take off all your clothes and go dance in the middle of the M1, so it isn't recommended.

Here's the main points:
Naughtie: Is Israel's response proportionate?
Beckett: I don't think it's helpful to get into that...
Naughtie: Well, surely you have a view?
Beckett: Well, it's not proportionate to be firing rockets into Israel all the time either...

An old classic, ignoring the question and pointing out the opposite sides' faults at the same time. While the Guardian estimated that 50 rockets were fired into Israel yesterday, they mainly only did structural damage, and far less structural damage than that being inflicted all over Lebanon, not just in the Hizbullah dominated south. 11 were injured by Hizbullah's rockets, while 47 were killed in Israeli bombings raids, with at least 53 wounded. The BBC is reporting that 25 Israelis in total, 13 of them civilians, have been killed since last Wednesday. That's hell of a difference to the at least 200 mostly Lebanese civilians killed. That the British government, and indeed, almost the entirity of Europe cannot even manage to call unanimously for a ceasefire to end the bloodshed is an indictment of the weakness and slavishness to Israeli and American interests that is now dominating our diplomacy. As ever, everything returns to being about Iraq, despite Margaret Beckett's rose-tinted glasses in that respect:

Naughtie: But you see Mr Blair talks about an arc of extremism err, curving through the Middle East, and isn't it the case, that in Iraq, what's happened as a result of the invasion is not that terrorism has been obliterated, but a new generation of militants is being created?
Beckett: No, it's not as simple as that...
Naughtie: Not simple, but..
Beckett: and I should have known that you would drag this back to Iraq, Jim...
Naughtie (angrily, with passion): Oh, oh! Foreign Secretary, if I may so that is ridiculous. To say "drag the situation back to Iraq". The Middle East is in flames. Lebanon is being destroyed. Israel is being attacked. The President of the United States saying that "Syria has got to stop all this shit", I quote the President. Mr Blair wants to go there; the President doesn't want him to go. 60, 100 and 150 people are being killed every day in Iraq and you say to me, "you're dragging Iraq into it.
Beckett: I speak just as one of your humble listeners Jim, who listens to you every morning, and every, most mornings I turn and I say "aha" I might have known, we're talking again about the situation in Iraq. The situation in Iraq is difficult but Iraq has an elected government and many things are improving in Iraq and that's something we need to continue working on. We've just had the handover of the first province in Iraq to Iraqi security forces.

The situation in Lebanon is actually deteriorating and that is something that does require not only help to nationals who are there but also help to try and bring this situation into a rather better place, into somewhere where we can credibly have and maintain, and I repeat, that is the key, maintain a ceasefire, and that will be more difficult if all of the kind of context of that conversation is "oh, but this is impossible, it isn't working in Iraq, it isn't working in Afghanistan", it is not as simple as that. And there is some good that the international community can do, let's not discourage them from doing it.

Naughtie has absolutely hit the nail on the head. The situation in Iraq has everything to do with Israel-Lebanon, as even Blair admitted yesterday in his craven conversation with Bush. The horror which has been unleashed on the country, as a direct result of the US/UK invasion, means around 50 Iraqis are dying every day. 56 were killed in a massacre in Mahmudiya on Monday. 53 were killed in a car bomb today in Kufa. Not only is Iraq spawning a whole new wave of militants, the entire world is seeing Israel break numerous international laws, inflicting collective punishment on the whole of the Lebanon because two of its soldiers were snatched and more killed, with unknown consequences for the future. In the words of the Lebanese prime minister, Israel has "opened the gates of hell and madness". Meanwhile, the United States continues to bleat that "Israel has the right to defend itself", but cynically calls for restraint, something it knows full well will be ignored. Even if the US and Britain did call for a ceasefire, why should Israel listen to them? Israel at least has the justification that it was attacked; the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq certainly didn't. Why should anyone ever listen to calls for peace from us again? Anti-semites and those opposed to the existence of Israel are rubbing their hands together with glee, as no one has either the stature or the courage to tell Israel what they're doing will only result in inevitable blowback.

The situation just reflects the impotence that Britain as a whole now has on the world stage. Our prime minister is called like a dog by the United States president, humiliated and then agrees with everything that he says, while the new foreign secretary installed primarily because Jack Straw wasn't hawkish enough on Iran performs apologia for Israel and then conjures up an image of Iraq which no one there would recognise. In effect, we've given over our foreign policy to the Republican right and the likes of the Sun, which instead of calling for a ceasefire on Saturday attacked Jacques Chirac for doing so. When you're expected by your own government to turn a blind eye to atrocities on a grand scale, committed by whoever it is, something has to have gone horribly wrong.

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Every time I think our elected government couldn't possibly get any lower, they go and prove me wrong. Definitely another new low today. Beckett is a disgrace.

The evacuation of foreign nationals from Lebanon says everything about the proportionality of Israel's response. Presuming that the UK and other government's have consulted with the Israeli govt before deciding on evacuation, you've got to worry about what's going to happen next.

What makes it worse is that this is what America (and thus the UK) government wants. They love war (As long as they themselves don't get hurt)! It answers all the questions about new laws restricting human rights, gives them more excuses to introduce ID cards, and they probably get to make some money out of the military contracts. They can't lose.

I'm not sure why you had to post the pics of the dead people, the one with the kids and the bombs was upsetting enough. You talk about our impotence that we have on the world stage, to me that was illustrated in black and white in the infamous g8 vid. When I saw the apparent ease with which he backed down after bush said condi should go to the middle east instead of him was jaw dropping. Pippa

War isn't bloodless. If we don't personally see what the consequences of military action are, we may as well not bother discussing it. Self-censorship is never the answer.

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