Twelve days in -- we cannot be surprised -- we have seen this before.
Early in the first term of the Bush administration, Sharon sent Israeli troops into the Jenin refugee camp. The rest of the world recoiled in horror at the destruction the Israeli government visited upon the refugees. How did the Bush administration respond to this crisis?
Bush made several statements to the effect that the Israeli forces should leave Jenin some day. Asked how soon the Israelis should end their invasion of the camp, Bush simply said, "soon." Meanwhile, his administration did absolutely nothing to bring an end to the terrible suffering of Jenin. It quickly became clear to all observers that Bush had given Sharon the proverbial wink and nod. Israel had been given the green light to create whatever "facts on the ground" it chose, with no fear of any consequences.
You didn't have to have access to alternative media to see the consequences for the Palestinians. The Isreali forces engaged in an orgy of devastation. One of many images from the press coverage I have never been able to get out of my mind -- Israeli tanks proceeding through the streets of Jenin, diverting from their course, making a point of crushing every private vehicle on the street.
After they left, we saw the full extent of the destruction. An education office building completely wrecked -- every computer destroyed by hand -- every piece of office furniture crushed -- every usable piece of anything rendered beyond use.
Israeli spokesmen are on record announcing their intention to set Lebanon back decades. These are the same spokespersons we have seen rushing in front of cameras to declare that they are actually doing the people of Lebanon a favor.
The Israeli officials like to make a distinction between themselves and the terrorists. They say repeatedly that Palestinian terrorists deliberately target civilians. They excuse their own killings of civilians by pointing to the fact that guerilla fighters conceal themselves among the civilian populations. There were no terrorists concealing themsleves in the cars that Israeli tanks crushed. There were no guerillas working in that education office. There were no suicide bombs concealed in those computers.
This morning, I saw an editorial cartoon that dramatized the Israeli official position. It showed a member of Hezbollah hiding behind civilians and complaining about civilian casualties.
And yet, the Isreali army has long employed a strategy of using human shields. In Jenin, as elsewhere in the West Bank and Gaza, the IDF makes a practice of grabbing innocent Arab citizens and making them serve as human shields as the Israeli soldiers approach houses they want to enter. This has long been an undisputed fact of Israeli strategy, but we don't hear much about it in our media.
The rest of the world calls out for an end to the destruction, for a cease fire. The Bush response, as mouthed by Bolton, Rice and others, is that a cease fire would be simplistic -- that the problem is more complex -- that there should be no cease fire till a political solution is in place.
It is clear what this means. Israel is to be at liberty do destroy as much of Lebanon as it chooses, to kill as many civilians as it wants, with no consequences. Not only does the Bush administration make no effort to constrain the savagery, they are currently speeding up delivery of sophisticated weaponry to assist the Israeli military.
Yes, we have seen this before. We will see it again.