Smart Bombs, Obtuse Commentators

Veteran warmongers, some of whom are responsible for past wars of choice and for appalling fiascos, hallucinatory operations and unnecessary bloodshed, are now the voice of national reason. Ben Gal, for instance, called on the IDF to find an immediate "pretext" for returning to Lebanon.

It's been a long time since we've seen such enthusiasm. The television studios are filled to overflowing with major generals and brigadier generals who are terribly impressed with the war in Iraq and attempt to infect the viewers with their delight. Veteran warmongers, some of whom are responsible for past wars of choice and for appalling fiascos, hallucinatory operations and unnecessary bloodshed, are now the voice of national reason. Avigdor Ben Gal, for instance, a senior commander in the Lebanon War, without batting an eye called on the IDF to find an immediate "pretext" under cover of the Iraq war for returning to Lebanon. Others who dragged us into unnecessary adventurism, and their colleagues who turned the IDF into a brutal occupation army in the territories, are now our only national commentators.

It was apparent already during the waiting period that the lengthy anticipation was hard on them: They considered every postponement a terrible mistake and every debate about the justification for the war was heresy. Now that the forces are finally on their way, their enthusiasm bursts forth, not merely about the very outbreak of the war, but about the sophisticated equipment being used. The smart bombs and the guided missiles, the satellite navigation and the turbofan engines, the Stealth bombers and the mega-bombs are firing their imagination.

A smile akin to that of a child describing his new toys spreads on their face as they describe the magical allure of the American power of destruction. Former air force commanders, who apparently find it difficult to give up their posts, describe horrific bombing runs or flying extermination machines as if they were works of art.

Brigadier General (res.) Aryeh Mizrahi outdid himself in one of these countless discussions when he pulled from his pocket a small model cluster bomb - apparently manufactured by Israel Military Industries (of which he is the chairman) - and with glittering eyes told viewers that the Americans were using that very weapon. He explained how it breaks up into a vast number of "bomblets" and how it "wreaked havoc" in the Lebanon War, "pulverizing" whole armored battalions, and that "everyone who saw the results in Lebanon was appalled" - it was positively "raining steel," he said.

The small, smart bomb that Mizrahi brought was passed from hand to hand in the studio and the elderly generals fondled it reverently. It was an unforgettable spectacle. Of course, none of them bothered to point out the killing and destruction that a bomb like this can cause among innocent civilians, nor did anyone wonder what happens to a society whose spokesmen get so pathologically excited by weapons and killing.

While most of the world's television stations continue to conduct a serious discussion about the war's justification and legality, and about the price it will exact, and while most of the world continues to oppose the war, there is almost no discussion along these lines in Israel, and the few doubters are viewed as eccentrics.

No one talks about the terrible blood price that the war has already claimed and will yet claim, to the horrific destruction of the Iraqi state and society. That's how it is when the "Iraqi people are being liberated."

One might have assumed that experiencing a bit of the dread of war - the fear of Iraqi missiles and the feeling of helplessness - would awaken in Israelis some understanding of or sympathy for the far more acute dread and suffering experienced by millions of citizens like those in Iraq, or in the territories. But 6.6 million Israelis scared of a missile attack, whether their fear is justified or not, are not willing to devote even a moment's thought to 24 million Iraqi people now subjected to "the biggest assault in history," or ask whether it is justified and whether its price is not too awful.

Baghdad is beginning to go up in flames and numberless bombs and missiles are showered on Umm Qasr. "A sound-and-light extravaganza," one television reporter called it in admiration last night, as houses burned in the background. Millions of innocent civilians live in these cities, but no one here - especially not the glowing, excited commentators - cares about the harm that all these exciting weapons will cause them.

Similarly, the possibility that we will have to shut ourselves in sealed rooms for a few hours, equipped with bottled water and canned food, has not raised the obvious analogy with the suffering of more than 3 million Palestinians who for the past two-and-a-half years have been prisoners in their own homes and villages, exposed to the daily risk of being killed, even though most of them have committed no crime.

For some reason, the anxiety of our children who must carry protective kits with them for a few days, does not arouse any identification with the fate of tens of thousands of Palestinian children forced to remain in their homes, and who are killed or wounded when they venture out. They have no protective kits and no one to deal with their anxieties.

We are not responsible for the suffering of the Iraqi people and cannot come to their aid. But even so, the complete disregard in all the discussions of the war of the price the Iraqis will pay is infuriating. On the other hand, we are directly responsible for the suffering of the Palestinians, yet we ignore that too, even when we experience a tiny dose of it.