Finally, an international tribunal will be tasked with investigating and prosecuting murder and mayhem in an Arab country. For human rights activists who have railed against continuing impunity for grave crimes in the Middle East, whether committed by Israelis or Arabs, whether orchestrated by states or non-state actors, this should be an occasion for unalloyed celebration, or at least relief. After all, mass murderers such as Ariel Sharon and Saddam Hussein escaped international justice for their crimes, the former by narrowly avoiding prosecution in Belgium under that country’s now-rescinded universal jurisdiction law, the latter being tried in an improvised court devoid of international oversight that could have revealed past American support for Hussein in the late 1980s, when he was gassing Kurdish villagers with chemical weapons he probably obtained from the United States.
A survey of US television and radio news over the last 24 hours has told me the following:
• Bombings and gunfights in Lebanon. Again.
• Breathless analyses on US news programs about Al-Qaida’s spread to the shores of the eastern Mediterranean.
• Analysts using the “cookie cutter” approach to this new development by citing the events of 1975-1976 and the tensions between Lebanese and Palestinian refugees.
• CNN’s putative Lebanon analyst, Brent Sadler, characterized Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon as “breeding grounds for terrorism,” but now, according to Mr. Sadler, it’s Islamic-flavored terrorism.
News reports from Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon harp on and on about the emerging “Shi’a Crescent,” which now poses an allegedly mortal danger to the West (whatever that is!). In the last 60 years, we have seen the Red Scare, the Green Scare (politicized Sunni Islam), and of course, the Axis of Evil, which still gets a lot of air time. The political “flavour of the month” danger now is clearly Iran, which, after the events of the last two weeks, is increasingly in the cross-hairs of those who believe that traditions, societies, and histories can be collapsed into a catchy soundbyte or a caricature of the Evil Other.