WASHINGTON - August 1 - After 2 Israeli soldiers were captured in a July 12 border raid by Hezbollah guerillas, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) response has been a massive air and land assault and sea blockade against the whole country and people of Lebanon.
The human costs have been overwhelming. At this writing, 542 people, mainly civilians, are confirmed dead and Lebanon’s health minister estimates the number killed to be over 750, including those bodies not yet recovered. More than 750,000 Lebanese citizens have been forced to flee their homes as refugees.
In retaliation, Hezbollah fighters have been firing rockets at cities in northern Israel and ground combat is taking place in southern Lebanon. So far, 33 Israeli soldiers have died in fighting and 18 civilians have lost their lives from rocket attacks. The number of wounded on both sides remains unknown.
Veterans For Peace universally condemns the targeting of civilians by both sides and calls for an IMMEDIATE CEASE-FIRE and for negotiations involving all concerned parties to resolve all border disputes and prisoner release issues and to establish a secure, demilitarized border between the two countries.
However, we cannot ignore the unjustified and totally disproportionate use of force and violence by the IDF. The Hezbollah incursion was a provocation but the massive Israeli response is nothing less than full-scale aggression against the entire Lebanese people.
Israeli attacks have taken place against airports, roads and bridges, communication, power, oil storage and other basic infrastructure facilities throughout the country as well as residential areas in major cities. The entire population of southern Lebanon has been ordered to leave the area as it is being turned into a “free fire zone”.
As this offensive is taking place, the IDF is continuing their “second front” attacks against the Palestinian people in Gaza, targeting elected officials, government institutions, villages and refugee camps in their hunt for “terrorists”.
As US citizens, we find it shameful that, for the first time in our history, our government has refused to call for an end to hostilities and continues to openly fan the flames of war. Secretary of State Rice has repeatedly said that it is “too early” to stop the killing. The Pentagon has rushed new shipments of laser and satellite guided bombs to the Israel to continue their assault. Both Houses of Congress voted overwhelmingly to support Israel’s war.
It is no wonder that the United States is being condemned in the Middle East and throughout the world as an accomplice to aggression.
This is the wrong direction that the Bush administration has taken our country. What is happening in Lebanon cannot be separated from the illegal and unjust invasion and occupation of Iraq. Believing that “war is the answer,” they have encouraged and abetted others to follow that same bloody course.
As a result, the flames of death and destruction are raging even higher in the Middle East today. In spite of ringing rhetoric from the White House about “creating a new, democratic Middle East”, US and Israeli military actions are only creating more pain, anger and resistance.
It is the time for the United States to change course and the first step is to support an immediate cease-fire and an end to the killing.