Ralph Nader's Stunning Remarks on Israel's "War Crime" in Lebanon



TSVN: And what are your own views [on the Israeli attacks on Lebanon]?

MR. NADER: They're the views of some of the columnists in Ha'aretz, Israeli newspaper. (Gideon) Levy said the other day -- a very respected columnist -- are we the only country that's allowed to bomb civilian populations? Are we the only country that can abduct larger numbers of civilians?

Israel's committing a major war crime against defenseless, innocent children, men and women; their homes; blowing up highways, bridges, milk factories; hitting hospitals; destroying wheat silos; blowing up bridges and highways at the same time it tells people to evacuate into the northern part of Lebanon from the southern part of Lebanon. So, they are putting their families in vans and cars and fleeing north and they find the bridges blown up or the highways blown up, and some of them get direct hits from the precision weaponry of the Israeli air force as they're fleeing north; and now they can't even recover their dead, because the whole process of transportation networks have been so demolished.

I think what's going on here is an amnesia of history. Hezbollah represents the Shiites, which are almost two million people in Lebanon. The Shiites are the downtrodden of Lebanon; and in 1982, where many of them lived in the south, Israel invaded Lebanon, breaking an 11-month PLO-Israel truce; and when they invaded, the Shiites were not hostile to Israel. They did not have the claims that the Palestinians did on land in the West Bank; and so, the Shiites, to their astonishment, were very roughly treated by the Israeli invaders, and many Shiites lost their lives and were injured; and nobody defended the Shiites. The Lebanese army didn't defend them; and out of that rose Hezbollah, which, in effect, said what so many Israelis (tape unintelligble here)said. "Nobody's going to defend our people; we're going to defend our people"; and so, they proceeded to become a very broad social service organization. They are among the largest employers in Lebanon -- schools, stores, farms, clinics, hospitals, transportation services -- and they basically controlled southern Lebanon, because Lebanon is so ridden by sectarian conflict that they can't have a unified army; and, because they can't have a unified army, various sectarian groups can't get any protection, especially the Shiites.

So, that's the history out of which Hezbollah arose; and the border, after Israel withdrew its 18-year occupation from 1982 to 2000 of Lebanon -- southern Lebanon -- the border's been porous. Israelis have raided into Lebanon. They violate Lebanese airspace routinely to take photographs and emit sonic booms. They control a slice of Lebanese territory still. They control the coastal areas, and they have engaged in raids into Lebanon. Hezbollah, on occasion, has engaged in raids into Israel; but remember, Hezbollah is about 3500 fighters compared to a hundred and seventy five thousand Israeli fighters and 400,000 ready reservists. So, I think the preponderance of violations and intrusions is on the side of the Israeli military forces.

Now, we come to three weeks ago, where, thinking that they could get a prisoner exchange, Hezbollah initiated a lethal firefight into Israeli territory, and it was a big mistake. They made a big mistake, because they underestimated the response. Hezbollah believed that, in the past, they had prisoner exchanges. They would play this game back and forth. This time, it's clear that Israel had a well-thought-out-plan for pushing toward a puppet regime in Lebanon; and so, in response to a raid on a military outpost in Israel, Israel responds with a catastrophic war against the defenseless, innocent people of Lebanon and, of course, against Hezbollah; and the world, led by the United States, is not doing anything about it; and Israel's using U.S. armaments, in part paid by U.S. tax dollars, in violation of the Arms Control Export Act of the U.S. government, which says, clearly, no weapons sold to any country can be used for offensive purposes. I think it's quite clear that when you bomb wheat silos and residential areas and trucks full of medical supplies, you're not engaging in defense.

The Congress is disgracing itself. Someday, their indifference to the suffering of the people of Lebanon will come back to haunt them, because members of the Congress know better. In private, they know better. In private, they deplore the slaughter of innocent Lebanese. In private, they say that Lebanon played by George Bush's rules, got the Syrians out of Lebanon and tried to put together a modest democratic policy, and Bush turned his back on his friend in Lebanon. Couldn't even stand up against war crimes and slaughter of innocent people; and so, to all the Congressional delegation from Connecticut, I say, at least put out a statement demanding a cease-fire and humanitarian help to what are now 700,000 homeless, defenseless, innocent men, women and children in Lebanon who don't even know where to flee and escape the weapons of war.

So, that's what we have to recognize is that the American people have less influence over foreign policy than any time in their history and that foreign policy with Iraq and all of the rest that we know about Bush's belligerence and the Democratic Party's complicity is endangering our country, damaging its reputation, and destabilizing the world.

Bush's foreign policy with the complicity of the Democrats is creating the exact opposite of what it's intended to achieve. It's creating more instability, more death and destruction, more training of stateless terrorists, more risk to the United States; and we have virtually no public debate during elections and during primary elections, except for the Green Party and other third parties, which are valiantly trying to raise the gravity of campaigning away from the trivia and the money raising franticism [sic] that characterize campaigning today. * * *