Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora called the Qana bombing a “heinous crime” committed by “Israeli war criminals.” Speaking in English, so as to make clear his message was addressed to the Bush administration, Siniora scotched a planned visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, saying he would not hold talks with her until a ceasefire had been called.
For millions of people around the world, the atrocity captured the essence of the US-backed war on Lebanon, epitomizing its brutality and inhumanity. While the broad mass of humanity reacted with horror at the tragic loss of innocent life, and outrage toward the governments of the United States and Israel, the official response from Washington was utterly banal and callous.
There were the standard expressions of “regret” and “sadness,” as though such empty phrases legitimized the policy that produced this latest crime and the countless others that preceded it.
President Bush reiterated the American mantra of a “sustainable peace” in the Middle East—a euphemism for giving Israel more time to destroy all resistance within Lebanon to American and Israeli domination. With the bodies of 37 Lebanese children, killed by US-supplied missiles and fired by Washington’s war ally, yet to be buried, Bush spoke of his “hope for peace for boys and girls everywhere... especially in the Middle East.”
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a Jerusalem press conference that she was “deeply saddened” by the “terrible loss of life” and reiterated US “concern” over Israeli attacks on civilian targets.
She then said, “We are pushing for an urgent end to the current hostilities, but the views of the parties on how to achieve this are different.” The first part of that sentence was an obvious lie, and the second omitted the fact that the chief international actor whose “different views” are blocking a ceasefire is the United States.
Other US spokesmen offered cold-blooded apologies for Israel’s action. Undersecretary of State Nicolas Burns declared that Hezbollah “located its military forces among civilians” and repeated the canard that Hezbollah had provoked Israel’s massive assault by carrying out a border raid and capturing two Israeli soldiers on July 12.
As always after such atrocities, Israeli officials blamed their victims. Prime Minister Olmert declared, “The village and its surrounding areas were a source for launching hundreds of rockets.”
Dan Gillerman, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, charged that Hezbollah was responsible for the killings in Qana because it “used women and children as human shields.” He suggested that the Lebanese government and the Lebanese people were harboring Hezbollah and therefore reaping what they had sowed.
The “human shield” claim is the standard justification given by every imperialist military when it attacks civilian targets. In this case, it is an all-purpose excuse for continuing to bomb Lebanon’s Shiite population, which overwhelmingly supports Hezbollah—a mass political party with delegates in the Lebanese parliament and ministers in the current government.
Various Israeli spokesmen repeated the official line that Israel had dropped leaflets warning residents to evacuate towns and villages in south Lebanon—as if that relieved Israel of responsibility for dropping bombs and firing precision missiles on their homes! In any event, as is well known, Israel has destroyed roads and bridges to make flight nearly impossible, and bombed civilian convoys that were attempting to flee to the north.
If anything, the official responses from the United States and Israel to the massacre placed in sharper relief the chasm that separates them from the vast bulk of humanity.
The tide of international revulsion was so great that Washington felt obliged to pressure Israel to accept a 48-hour suspension of its air war in southern Lebanon. Nervous lest the opposition to the US-Israeli war spin out of control, the Bush administration decided it needed to make a gesture so as to buy time and review its joint war strategy with Israel.
Statement of the Editorial Board