Monday, July 17, 2006

Beirut International Airport 2006 - Dawson's Field 1970 redux

Israel’s systemic bombing of Beirut’s runways seems to fall within two otherwise quite mutually-exclusive categories: “conventional war” and “high-production-value terrorism”. Here I use the T-word with some misgivings, as the runway bombing was done without the loss of human life, AFAIK.

But in its broader context, this seems to be an act of drunk-on-power, televisual spectacle (as well as, FWIW, a fairly standard strategic move, in conventional war terms). “Terrorism” is going to be the label that sticks, of course – even without loss of life, the runway bombing is of a rare intensity and unsettling familiarity, such that it “jumps out” through the television screen, and into the lounge-room of almost any Western viewer. Precisely as it was intended to, one can only assume.

In this, the Beirut runway bombings resemble the unexpected blowing up in 1970 of a billion dollar’s worth of aircraft at Dawson's Field (near Zarqa, Jordan, a town latterly famous in another terrorist context). Again, Dawson's Field – when narrowly construed – was an act of pure property damage. But as an act of violence, it was exemplary – it showed the actors behind it as being without limits – financial and, by implication, moral.

The late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was three years and eleven months old at the time of the Dawson's Field spectacle. I shudder to think of what the current crop of four-year-olds in Beirut may become in due course. Unlike their same-aged counterparts in Haifa/Israel, there is insufficient moral logic* behind the Beirut runway bombings – an undeniable, undignified adult tantrum – to satisfy even a four-year-old.

* Note: “logic” (a subjective concept), not (objective) justification

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