The State Department is putting on its own special performance of Kabuki theater in investigating whether Israel violated secret agreements governing the use of cluster munitions during the Lebanon invasion.
The State Department is investigating whether Israel’s use of American-made cluster bombs in southern Lebanon violated secret agreements with the United States that restrict when it can employ such weapons, two officials said.
The investigation by the department’s Office of Defense Trade Controls began this week, after reports that three types of American cluster munitions, anti-personnel weapons that spray bomblets over a wide area, have been found in many areas of southern Lebanon and were responsible for civilian casualties.
And what, pray, do you think they’ll find? Quel surprise! Israel will, of course, get a clean bill of health. After all, they’re such a good customer of ours. How could we bite the hand that feeds our weapons industry?
What are the terms of those secret agreements supposedly governing use of these heinous weapons?
The agreements…go back to the 1970’s, when the first sales of the weapons occurred, but the details of them have never been publicly confirmed. The first one was signed in 1976 and later reaffirmed in 1978 after an Israeli incursion into Lebanon. News accounts over the years have said that they require that the munitions be used only against organized Arab armies and clearly defined military targets under conditions similar to the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973.
Of course, Israel fails on all counts in its most recent usage of the munitions. It used them against a guerrilla insurgency and civilian targets. Even if one tries to argue that it aimed at military targets which just happened to be near civilian zones and that the resulting damage was unavoidable–this doesn’t wash. The bomblets are all over southern Lebanon (NPR audio stream) on the front porches of private homes, on the roofs of hospitals, in farm fields, in people’s bedrooms. A bomblet in a bedroom constitutes a civilian dwelling any way you look at it. The Israelis know how far the bomblets will fly. They can measure how close a civilian zone is to a military target. It did all those calculations and chose to bomb anyway.
One should also note that it is a clear violation of the Geneva Convention to use such munitions in civilian areas.
The NY Times article makes clear the real reasons for the “investigation:”
Several current and former officials said that they doubted the investigation would lead to sanctions against Israel but that the decision to proceed with it might be intended to help the Bush administration ease criticism from Arab governments and commentators over its support of Israel’s military operations. The investigation has not been publicly announced; the State Department confirmed it in response to questions.
So who are they fooling? Will any Arab government or commentator be taken in by such bulls(&t?