Wednesday, July 26, 2006

We stand on guard for thee

I hope both these men are alive today. [See Updates below.] The man on the right is Major Paeta Hess-von Kruedener, a Canadian serving at the UNIFIL UN Truce Supervision Organization post in south Lebanon that was destroyed by Israeli bombing yesterday. Four UN observers were killed, one of them Canadian.

A week ago, Major Hess-von Kruedener emailed CTV, a Canadian network, an on-the-ground report. It gives some context to yesterday's events.

As does this:
The U.N. observers killed when an Israeli bomb hit their bunker in Lebanon Tuesday called an Israeli military liaison about 10 times in the six hours before they died to warn that aerial attacks were getting close to their position, a U.N. officer said.

After each call, the Israeli officer promised to have the bombing stopped, an officer at the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) base in Noqoura said.

Finally, an Israeli bomb exploded directly on the U.N. post near Khiyam, killing four U.N. observers from Austria, Finland, Canada and China, the U.N. officer said.
Update: 6:45 pm 26 July - The Canadian killed is now thought to be Maj. Hess-von Kruedener, I'm sorry to say.

Update 2: 6:30 pm 27 July - Bruce R., a Canadian military blogger who earned my enduring respect in the darkest moments of winter 2001-2, provides a corrective rundown of the UN deployments in Lebanon. Maj. H-vK was with the UN Truce Supervision Organization, UNTSO. I hope Canadians are as steamed as I am at Prime Minister Harper's effort to blame the victims rather than the military that killed them:
[Harper] questioned why the observation was manned, given the Israeli offensive that had started in southern Lebanon two weeks earlier.

"We want to find out why this United Nations post was attacked and also why it remained manned during what is now, more or less, a war during obvious danger to these individuals," said Harper.

He also did not condemn Israel's show of force.
Bruce, replying to right-wing commenters at Kevin Drum's site who, like the PM, sought to blame the UN for the Israeli Air Force's bombing, answered that "question" clearly and concisely:
...50 military observers from UNTSO's Observer Group-Lebanon, four of whom were just killed. Their job was to observe the hostilities and report back on what was going on to New York. They could hardly give the UN their independent eyes on the ground if they weren't actually close enough to observe the situation. That's what military observers do.
Update 3: 11:55 am 30 July - More from Bruce R.:
when national leaders who have lost personnel on UN service react by saying they don't understand why those personnel were there in the first place, what they're really saying is they place no value in old-style peacekeeping, or the deterrent effects it can produce, in the current situation or anywhere else.



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