Remembering Qana, five years on

On this day five years ago, at 1:30 am Lebanon time, Israel’s U.S.-supplied warplanes attacked houses in the south Lebanese village of Qana, killing more than 60 civilians, 37 of them children. Go watch this soberly reported video clip from Britain’s Channel 4 to get a measure of the horror.
The Qana Massacre of 2006 was the single deadliest episode in the gruesome 33-day assault that the government of Israel unleashed against Lebanon– with the full support of the U.S. government– in July 2006.
Washington’s role throughout the war was twofold. At the military level it provided many services including speedy replacement of the huge amounts of ordnance with which Israel pummeled Lebanon’s people and their national infrastructure. At the political level, Washington’s main role was to stave off all the calls for a ceasefire that mounted internationally as the long-planned assault proceeded throughout July and the first half of August.
Over the weeks that the war lasted it became increasingly clear to Israel’s military leaders that (1) they could not force a Lebanese surrender purely through the use of standoff weapons, as their super-arrogant chief of staff Dan Halutz had imagined; (2) that they would therefore have to use ground forces, as well, to try to achieve their objective; but (3) their ground forces were unable to prevail against the very well-planned defenses that Hizbullah maintained throughout South Lebanon… The war– which had been designed to “restore the credibility of Israel’s military deterrent” in the eyes of potential opponents from throughout the region– was instead having quite the opposite effect! So by the second week of August, Ehud Olmert’s government in Israel was becoming increasingly eager for a ceasefire. A ceasefire agreement was finally agreed among the parties, via the U.N. Security Council, on August 11 and it went into effect on August 14.
Throughout the entire 33 days of the war, Washington put not one iota of pressure on Israel to stop the carnage. Indeed, some days before the July 30 Qana Massacre, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed the importance of the already heavy Lebanese civilian casualties by describing these losses as only “the birth pangs of the New Middle East.”
This woman– who fwiw has never herself experienced “birth pangs”– helped bring to the families of Qana and so many other places in Lebanon a stream of dead babies and toddlers, caked in the dust, grime, and blood of the sarcophaguses that had been their families’ homes.
For the people of Qana, the massacre of 2006 was an eery replay of the massacre they suffered ten years earlier, during the assault that Israel launched against Lebanon in April 1996. On that occasion, Israeli artillery demolished a clearly marked U.N.-run refuge in which hundreds of old people from the local area had sought shelter from the fighting, killing 106 of them.
On both occasions, Israeli leaders did all they could to deflect responsibility for these acts. They challenged the veracity of the very well-documented news accounts (and U.N. reports) of the incidents. And they claimed that because they had “instructed” local residents to leave the area prior to the attacks, the residents “had only themselves to blame” by staying their home villages: an amazingly arrogant and quite illegal argument for an attacking foreign army to make! In addition, very early in the fighting, the Israeli air force had demolished all the key highway bridges linking south Lebanon to the rest of the country. How were families with old people, disabled people, and young children supposed to “leave” their home village when “instructed” to do so by a foreign army?
I still have a deep well of sadness about what the Israeli military did– with the full backing of my own government– in Lebanon in 2006. Longtime JWN readers will know that on August 11, 2006, a cousin of my ex-husband was killed when the Israeli air force attacked a civilian convoy that was leaving Marjayoun for safer areas further north. The route and timing of that convoy had been clearly pre-arranged in coordination with the Israeli military. But still, the Israelis attacked, killing Colette Rashed and six others of the fleeing Marjayoun civilians. Read more details about that attack here.
… And please, don’t forget to check out (and buy) War Diary: Lebanon 2006, Rami Zurayk’s amazing account of what it was like to be in Beirut and South Lebanon during the whole of that war, which my company is publishing as an ebook ($4.00; several formats) and a short paperback ($7.00). The Israeli assault against Lebanon in 2006 was a turning point for the whole region in several ways. It gave Arabs and Muslims everywhere the idea that there were indeed ways for well-organized national groups to stand up to and defy military organizations that enjoyed apparently unchallengeable superiority on the battlefield. It revealed (yet again) the degree to which U.S. policy had been made into a handmaiden of Israel’s. And it showed the importance of forging strong bonds of unity between secular anti-imperial forces and more Islamist anti-imperial forces if the power of a a hostile and aggressive imperial alliance is ever to be successfully broken.
Rami Zurayk’s book is a wonderful document: humane, impassioned, tender, intimate, and wise. Advance orders for it will be fulfilled on or before August 10. Yes, I think it is important to sell this book and get the story it tells much more widely disseminated within the Anglosphere. But I also want JWN readers to stay keenly alive to the tragedies and costs of war, everywhere. In 2006– and still, today.

4 thoughts on “Remembering Qana, five years on

  1. Ken Ward

    Rice’s ‘birth pangs’ remark deserves to be placed alongside her predecessor plus one’s crude evaluation of the impact of sanctions on Iraqi child mortality in the category of statements of gross insensivity issued by Secretaries of State.

  2. anonymous

    It is important to keep the information such as this in public view – because the other side is hell bent on keeping their version of history in public view – thanks to internet people can learn that there is always the other side of the coin. The ‘birth pangs’ story should be remembered well. Thank you Ms Cobban.

  3. Clif

    It is always disturbing to read accounts of the powerful making decisions that bring death to so many so far from where those decisions are made. Living the affluent lives that they always do and retiring to write self-serving memoires, one wishes that just once they were on the ground at the point where their decisions reached the point of impact.
    Big political names decide to end the lives of so many whose names they never know, nor care to know. Naturally they phrase what they do in terms of physical objectives that would make one think there are no bystanders in the area.
    With advances in military technology, it looks like even the common soldier and certainly the common pilot will be sitting at joysticks far removed from combat. We read of the huge expense for America to field one soldier in Afghanistan. What is an Afghan farmer worth – the one who is fielding himself on his farm? I think it’s safe to say he is essentially worthless in Washington. (A possible movie of that title? I’d love to see it!)
    We must make armies safer so as to project power while taking fewer casualties – increasing the efficiency of professional destruction. But who speaks for the civilians? Lebanon 2006 was bad but the future looks worse.

  4. Salah

    The human tragedy in occupied Palestine its on-going matter. None in development world moved to stop it. Reasons well known but no one of them moved to protect human on that land.
    We see US rushing in Libya, Sudan, and yet recently Obama on non-stop mode with France and UK threating Syria in heavy reaction and asking for regime change.
    Comparing human tragedy and loses between all these it called falsely “Arab Spring” is far less that human loses and tragedy in Palestine.
    Nevertheless, let talk different here, were Palestinians leader in all of this?
    Why they telling we can go to ask UN for getting Palestine state? Why they go and do not and let see those mongers who stand and talking about democracy and human life and saving life?
    Let see those war criminals Blair or Bush telling the world will be Palestine state?
    In Palestine just two day ago, we have this very funny incident
    Mohammed Dahlan? Who is this man?
    Some news telling we was involved in supplying Libyan dictator regime with weapons long time ago and even right now, this man caught on a diplomatic car they cannot arrested of different charges and should bring to justices.
    Therefore, he fled to Jordan in foreign diplomatic car…
    These we call Palestine leaders, please do not bother for what they had and have if these people in charge.

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