Thursday, July 20, 2006

Middle East: The Israel-Lebanon-Palestine Summer of War

Well, it didn’t take long for the world to come down from the euphoria of watching 32 nations compete in a friendly international sports competition (the FIFA World Cup 2006) into the brutality, carnage, fear, and hatred of war in the Middle East. I couldn’t have planned it better myself if I were the devil incarnate.

Splashed across TV screens around the world are Breaking News headlines about death and destruction raining down on the heads of innocent civilians, women, and children in Israel and Lebanon and Gaza. The daily carnage of sectarian violence and revenge killings and atrocities carried out by madmen operating in Iraqi cities has dropped to 2nd and 3rd position in daily TV news broadcasts and pushed back from the world’s press headlines.

The world’s bloggers immediately picked up on this outbreak of war and are jockeying for audiences around the globe right alongside many professional news reporters and news commentators for the major media networks. CNN International and newspapers i.e. the Times Online and the Washington Post online are giving valuable TV airtime and press coverage to the world’s bloggers. Bloggers are covering this worsening conflict minute-by-minute from the Israeli and Lebanese frontlines and cellars, evacuation LZ’s and ports, and hot zones where even the seasoned war reporters don’t have access or are afraid to tread (insurance problems).

While open warfare rages from Gaza to Haifa to Tyre to Beirut, Hezbollah and Hamas fighters are nowhere to be seen as they hunker down in underground bunkers and tunnels and/or crouch in dark alleyways well out of sight of Israeli airborne reconnaissance and fighter jets, and (surprisingly) out of sight of the camera lenses and microphones of international TV news teams. *1

Correction 1: CNN’s Nick Robinson found a Hezbollah press spokesman for a guided tour of the destruction in Beirut’s southern neighborhoods. Here is the link to the CNN video stream “Hezbollah - We will not surrender “(4:46).

The greatest destruction of lives and infrastructure that Lebanon has seen since the civil wars of 1975-1990, the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon in 1978, and the Lebanon War of 1982 is taking place (again) LIVE before the eyes of the world. The deepest penetration of Israeli airspace and territory by rockets fired by the radical Islamic militias Hezbollah and Hamas are causing fear and destruction in several Israeli cities, towns and villages. The largest evacuation of civilians and foreign nationals from a war zone in the Mediterranean since WWII is playing out on television and PC screens around the globe, all at an enormous expense of human nerves and effort, military and civilian logistical support, and money. *2-2b

Correction 2: the U.S. government is charging its citizens and residents for evacuation services from Beirut.
Correction 2a: U.S. taxpayers are footing the evacuation bill after all.
Correction 2b: Sh--! The U.S. Marines have landed in Beirut for the first time in 22 years in order to evacuate American citizens. Will they be invited to stay on to help others?

World leaders from the most prosperous nations and the most promising developing countries in attendance at the 2006 G8 Summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia have again been knocked off-balance and off-track from the important affairs and needs of the world community listed on their agendas. Same thing happened at the 2005 G8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland when homegrown Jihad wannabes decided to attack the people of London and Britain on July 7th.

UN, EU and other government officials are running around like their hair’s on fire with dumb looks on their faces, the Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa has declared that “…the Middle East Peace Process is dead!President G.W. Bush has been overheard (accidentally) using shocking cuss words in a private conversation with the U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair about what U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan needs to bluntly tell the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, to “Cut the Crap”. In other words, we have another Middle East SNAFU here.

It appears that the Middle East is dragging the world deeper into the abyss of all out war while people responsible for this incredible mess over the past several decades continue to run around blaming one another and pointing fingers at everyone and everything other than themselves. Israel and the U.S.A. of course stand right at the top of the List of Blame & Shame in the minds of many people caught up in this conflict, and a helluva lot of people who are a million miles away from the place. However EU leaders, Russia, and even some Arab countries’ leaders are pointing the finger squarely at Hezbollah for igniting the massive Israeli military response. World leaders are bitterly divided over whether Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and the bombardment of Lebanese towns and cities isn’t a bit “over the top”. Lot’s of people are (openly) supporting the rocket attacks and suicide bomb attacks against Israeli cities and towns by Hezbollah and Hamas.

One thing is for certain, children and sensible people young and old, black and white and brown and yellow, Jew and Muslim and Gentile and Hindu and Buddhist, the world over, WANT THIS VIOLENCE TO STOP ASAP.

Many of us older folks around the world have been watching this madness from the sidelines for years. Nothing has changed, and very little will change until a whole lot of people over in the Middle East get their collective shit together real soon. It is clear that leaders from “the West” cannot fix these problems and it is also clear that leaders in the Middle East are either incapable of fixing these problems or unwilling to do so. Personally, I am sick of it, and I know that I am not alone in my feelings as billions of people outside of the region are becoming numb and indifferent to the perpetual Crisis in the Middle East. It is the longest-running Carnival of Hopelessness and Death and Despair on Earth. And therein lies the danger for every citizen and resident of the Middle East, that the rest of the world will stop caring about what happens there.

These long-running conflicts are depressing, psychologically disturbing for kids and grownups everywhere, very costly in human lives and economic terms, and they kill the opportunities for a better life for people all across the globe. Millions and millions of people are facing problems that are the same and many times are even worse problems than those of the suffering masses of the Middle East.

The death and destruction and hatred resulting from wars suck life out of the whole world just like a wildfire sucks oxygen from the sky. Every living thing in its path is burned and dies or is permanently damaged, and you have to wait a damned long time before any sustainable life sprouts anew from soil that has been ruined by centuries of fear and hatred and religious fanaticism and social neglect. Perhaps a new generation of Arabs and Israelis and Persians, Jews and Muslims and Gentiles, will succeed where so many generations have failed so miserably for so long. My own generation of world leaders and common people have failed you the people of the Middle East, and we should all bow our heads in shame.

Here are updates from the frontlines that may help you to better understand problems that the best minds of the world have failed to solve for generations:

The Head Heeb
House of Cards (July 14, 2006)
A Clash of Authority (July 12, 2006)
Why International Law Matters (July 17, 2006)

Global Voices Online - Voices from the War Zone

This week in Israel: War?! edited by Lisa N. Goldman
Middle East and North Africa – Israel archives

Middle East and North Africa - Lebanon archives
Lebanon: Collective Punishment & Death or Total Submission edited by Moussa Bachir

Israel Condemnation and the Cause of War and Conflicts edited by A. Fatih Syuhud
This Week in Palestinian Blogs: The Vocabulary of War edited by Nareem Tarawnah

Council on Foreign Relations (CFR and Foreign Affairs Magazine)
Syria, Iran and the Middle East Conflict – July 18, 2006

Power and Interest News Report (PINR)
The Role of Syria and Iran in the Israel-Lebanon Crisis – July 20, 2006

The Washington Post
The Guns of July - July 19, 2006
Lebanon: The Only Exit Strategy – July 19, 2006
Hunker Down with History – July 18, 2006
War Takes Lebanon Back to the Civil War Days – July 17, 2006
A War with Extremists – July 18, 2006
German Spies Have Record of Dealing with Hezbollah – July 20, 2006

The Jerusalem Post
Iran, Syria watch comfortably from the sidelines – July 19, 2006
We’ll cooperate with the international community – July 19, 2006

CNN International
Westerners flee Lebanon any way they can – July 18, 2006
Middle East News Updates

BBC News
Lebanon condemns Israel madness – July 18, 2006
In Depth – Middle East Crisis

The Times Online Newsdesk blog
World Comment: How does it end? – July 19, 2006
When booms and whooshes become an obsession – July 17, 2006

Der Spiegel International (English edition)
Israel’s costs and Rewards – July 17, 2006
Israel considers invasion as Hezbollah rejects ceasefire – July 18, 2006
America and Iran – Opening a second front – July 18, 2006

Technorati tags:

Monday, July 10, 2006

World Cup 2006: Some final thoughts on the Finale

Now that the FIFA World Cup 2006 has come to such a dramatic close, soccer fans around the globe should get back to work and stop finding excuses about why we cannot function like normal human beings. Congratulations to the Azzuri (Italian National Football Team) for winning this world championship for the fourth time since 1934 (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006). 1938! Was Benito Mussolini there at the ’38 World Cup along with his good buddy Adolf?

Which reminds me, Germany’s Der Speigel has a good article about the issue of race and professional football in Europe titled “FIFA’s Anti-Racism Campaign: Talking Race in Hitler’s Stadium”. The Globalist online has an equally important article about the positive impact that the FIFA World Cup 2006 may have on race relations for the people of the South American Andes, “Dateline Ecuador: Soccer and Racial Justice”.

A big congratulations to the French National Team (Les Bleus) and their devoted fans for putting up such a great fight for the title, despite the “head butt” incident between France’s team captain Zinédine Zidane and Italy’s Marco Matterazzi in the final minutes of overtime play. As described in this Sports Illustrated (AP) article about the final match, “the beautiful game turned vicious, even venomous on Sunday.” I mean what was on Zizou’s mind to make him flip out like that toward the end of such an important match? What did Italy’s Marco Matterazzi say to Zinédine Zidane to make him so angry? Does any one know?

I can understand Zidane if a very serious insult was made by Matterazzi as I almost “lost it” twice myself at one of Germany’s World Cup 2006 Fan Fests. Oft times it is best to just walk away from an idiot vs. “sending him to the deck “, albeit I sometimes prefer the latter solution. Violence is simply not recommended behavior before an audience of billions of sports fans… and especially not in front of the kids around the world who were watching. Next time Zizou, just throw one of those Les Bleus French fighting cocks at the perpetrator, the bird will take care of the rest. Guaranteed. You won’t get a Red Card but the rooster may be thrown out of the game for good.

I think from the point-of-view of football fans the world over Germany deserves the biggest congratulations at this World Cup 2006. I know that it is my job to keep constant pressure on “the Germans”, but sometimes you just have to give credit where credit is due. Germany, you did an excellent job of being host to the world for the biggest sporting event this side of the Olympics. The German team could have just as well been in the finals due to their excellent and consistent play under the brilliant leadership of coach Jürgen Klinsmann. Your team was great, the organization and execution of the events was great, German fans and revelers and the many Fan Fests were outstanding, it was overall a big success.

It has been a very long time since I have seen so many people in Germany being so jubilant and happy, perhaps not since the fall of the Berlin Wall back in 1989. Don’t lose what you have gained through this experience, because as you can plainly see, the world really likes you. Weiter so Deutschalnd, weiter machen. See you down in South Africa for the World Cup 2010. That will be a football event and outrageous party for millions that the world will never forget, even if this Der Spiegel journalist can only see Schwarz.

While I’m on the subject of Germany and the Germans, let’s have a closer look at what’s up with… (to be continued).

Sports Illustrated
Italy wins shootout with France in Cup Final

The Bitter End (Mark Bechtel analyzes Zidane’s blunder for the SI World Cup 2006 blog readers – 350+ comments and counting…)

Out of their league (Luis Bueno on why a CONCAF nation may never win the World Cup Championship. This is total BS, but it is well written BS. America can win the World Cup someday! Can’t we???)

Spiegel International Online
(English language edition of the popular German news magazine)
Moment of Madness Wrecks Zidane’s Fairy Tale
Feeling Bleu: Paris Mourns World Cup Loss
World Cup 2010: Fan Fests in the Townships

Washington Post
Frances Zidane Sees Red, Ends Fabled Career with an Ejection
Curtain Falls on Zidane Years in Traumatic Fashion

The Globalist
Dateline Ecuador: Soccer and Racial Justice by Raul Gangotena

Additional Online Resources about the World Cup 2006

Sports Illustrated FIFA World Cup 2006 special
SI World Cup official blog (home)

ESPN SoccerNet – FIFA World Cup 2006
ESPN Podcast Center – World Cup 2006 podcasts

Spiegel Online World Cup 2006 Special

Technorati Tags: