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The dictionary of war clich’e’s

Sep 26, 2007
rosnersdomain@haaretz.co.il
 

Like every important event, the war in Lebanon has already given us a large variety of spin and banal political clichés, from Israel, Lebanon and the international community. A leader usually throws an expression into the air that the ordinary citizen will pick up and relay to every passing television camera.

 

So here it is – the first big parade of words.

 

As long as it takes: Usually means as long as the US administration allows it to happen. In the current crisis the Americans are sensing there's a genuine opportunity to weaken Hezbollah. They will feel obligated to intervene sooner rather than later in one of two cases: Heavier price in human life on the Lebanese side; or growing outcry from important allies in the international community.

 

The fragile Lebanese democracy: The Arab world is now working on a new definition for democracy. From now on please use "democracies" to denote countries in which there's a weak government chosen by the people, and a strong militia controlled by outside forces. Thus, the democracy is safe on both accounts: You cannot act against the government, as it is a legitimate, democratically-elected leadership, and you cannot ask the government to take responsibility for its territory as it is too weak to act against the militias, and you don't want to risk its collapse.

 

Hezbollah is a terror organization: And like all terror organizations, it is allowed to get people elected to the parliament, operate freely in a sovereign state and demand negotiations with its leadership.

 

Resolution 1559: Yet another proof that the UN is capable of calming a troubled area and that good paperwork is an efficient tool in the war against terror.

 

Crossing red lines: Something your enemy does. Israel says the abduction of soldiers was the crossing of a red line, and later it was the firing of Katyushas on Israeli cities. Hezbollah draw their lines in other places. "As long as the enemy pursues its aggression without limits and red lines we will pursue the confrontation without limits and without red lines," its leader said.

 

We are monitoring the situation: By way of drinking champagne, having fun and talking about a whole lot of other issues.

 

The right to self-defense: No country or leader will deny the right of every man to self-defense. Of course Israel has the right to self-defense. The question, argued by Israel's critics, is whether the actions in Lebanon can be considered an act of self-defense. But hey, who are we kidding here? We all know the real meaning of this expression, don't we? It means "you can keep bombing until we say otherwise."

 

Restraint: Bombing Beirut.

It was irresponsible and unacceptable: The sentence with which one describes Hezbollah's behaviour before adding: "The Israeli strikes targeted Lebanon's equipment, its roads, its communications, its energy sector and its airport. Why?" Here's a hint: The answer to the question (this one was articulated by France's Jacques Chirac) might be hiding in the first sentence.

 

Iran and Syria are responsible: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that "Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas – are trying to destabilize democratic and moderate forces." And what do we do about it? Bomb Hamas and Hezbollah and denounce Iran and Syria. Does this line of action have any connection to the fact that it's easier to pick a fight with the weaker bully?

 

We would call for a 'show of moderation' from all parties involved: Another one from Chirac, but you could hear similar statements coming from a variety of international leaders. What they mean is one of two things: We care so much that even taking a side from afar seems too demanding. Or: We know Israel has every right to defend itself, but upsetting Hezbollah is too risky.

 

Lobby: Is this great timing to publish a long piece asking if the Israel lobby has too much influence? The Post gave it its entire magazine cover, proving, yet again, that I was right when I wrote the following a couple of weeks ago:

 

The dictionary of war clichés – part 2
We have hit a large part of their weapons arsenal (IDF): And in two weeks they'll get more by way of Iran or Syria. The same goes for "we hit the top commanders of…", "we hit 80 percent of the terrorists infrastructure" etc.

 

We condemn both sides…: Conan O'Brien had a good one perfectly suitable for this. "This morning the Vatican weighed in on the crisis. The Vatican came out and condemned Israel's attacks on Lebanon… which is great, because all day yesterday, the Jews and Muslims were asking, 'What do the Catholics think?'"

 

United Nations delegation: Are you Americans? You're not Americans? Then why would you even think Israel is going to listen to you? (The same goes to EU envoys, Russian messengers, and all other goodwill ambassadors).

 

Special envoy Vijay Nambiar: The operation will continue for as long as it takes us to learn how to pronounce your name right. At some point in the future, the secretary intends to travel to the region (U.S State department): At some point in the future Secretary Rice also intends to have a hair cut, to ride a horse and to retire after a long, fulfilling career. But seriously, the date they're talking about is not far off and maybe as soon as next Sunday.

 

The situation is very serious, very grave (EU's Solana): The EU was impotent so far, and intends to stay so – but will always be ready to give a grave assessment of "the situation." How about sending an international force?

 

We have exercised pressure on the Syrian government (Italian foreign minister): The truth is, the world hasn't yet put real pressure on Syria. Just consider this: The UN started a process of investigating the parties responsible for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. This should have led to more Security Council resolutions and more sanctions on Syria – but it never happened. At such a pace, the resolution might be ready by the time Assad's grandson comes to power.

 

International force: A military unit capable of escaping as fast as everyone else.

 

The Lebanese army is strong enough (Israel): To do nothing. The chances it will fight Hezbollah, so I'm told by Lebanese in the know, is zero. The military is mostly Shi'ite and is taking orders from the president, a Syrian puppet. On the other hand, Israel doesn't trust an international force, and for good reasons. No more. Israel will not be held hostage – not by terror gangs or by a terrorist authority or by any sovereign state (Ehud Olmert): Well, not until next week.

 

Everyone wants it to stop now (Tony Blair): It's like saying "everyone wants peace," or "everyone wants to be rich". Of course everyone wants it to stop – on their terms!

 

Disproportionate / Disproportionate response: This expression is the clear winner of the day, with many readers suggesting it should be included in our dictionary. Michael Weingarten wrote: "How about adding 'disproportionate'? What does it mean? If they kill 10 of our guys, we should only kill 10 of theirs, or it's not proportional?"

 

Bruce Feldman of West Lafayette, Indiana, suggested: "A dangerous condition threatening an actual solution to a problem. Targets of disproportionate response are entitled to the status of "victims."

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