I think Condi's right. As Israel wreaks biblical vengeance on Lebanon, we may well be witnessing, as she put it, "the birth pangs of a new Middle East." But the devil baby that crawls out of the wreckage will be one that makes even her boss pause mid-swagger.

God help us. The reckless cynics are in control. Just like that - hundreds dead, half a million refugees, a nation's infrastructure shattered. The perpetrators beat their chests and reload. The U.S. expedites its delivery of bombs to Israel, which is driving Lebanon "to the gates of hell and madness," as Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said.

"I don't want to remember, but I can't help it. What I remember most is the sound, the sound of the planes, and I was scared because I thought there were so many. I fell asleep last night, but all I could hear in my sleep were the planes."

Birth pangs. Maybe the bombs that destroyed the home of the 8-year-old girl in the southern Lebanon village of Ayta Chaeb, quoted by an AP reporter from her hospital bed in Tyre, were autographed by little Israeli girls. Maybe they were decorated with hearts and Stars of David. Maybe they said "from Israel with love."

The Jerusalem Post confirmed the authenticity of the photos of Israeli children autographing shells destined for Lebanon. More collateral damage: the corruption, the militarization, of the young. The photos, making the rounds online, brought to my mind, in their sweetly innocent horror, pictures from a book called Without Sanctuary. This coffee-table book from hell, published six years ago, is a stunningly graphic compilation of old lynch mob postcards from the American South, some of which showed little white children dressed up in their Sunday best, smiling at the camera while a black man dangled from a tree limb or lamp post several feet away.

The photos also reminded me of a news photo that splashed across the front pages of the world press about four years ago, before the invasion of Iraq. The occasion was a parade in Baghdad celebrating Saddam Hussein's 65th birthday. One proud marcher was a little boy all dressed up in a camouflage outfit, warrior headband and - duct-taped around his middle - a dozen sticks of pretend dynamite.

This is the collective obscenity of militarized hatred. It's not just a game that adults play. We pull the children into it. We extract their blessing, and far too often their blood as well.

Yes, the cynicism and ugliness - the evil - is on all sides, in this war and every war. Hezbollah and Hamas target civilians and irreparably demean their cause; they are every bit the equal of the Israeli right in cynical calculation, if pathetically their inferior in kill power. To condemn Israel, then, as I do, for its brutal occupation of Palestine and for the criminal collective punishment it is now visiting on Lebanon, does not mean I sympathize with Israel's barbaric taunters.

That said, my God, I can hardly suppress my nausea at the nation's evil-tempered irrationality and suicidal blindness, and long ago lost my childhood allegiance to it.

"Who are (Israel's) enemies?" writes Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun. "Those who encourage it to persist in the fantasy that it can 'win' militarily or politically. Just as the objective enemies of America in the 1960s were those who egged it on to persist in the Vietnam war, and those who were its objective friends were those of its citizens who actively opposed that war, so similarly today the friends of the Jewish people are those who are doing everything possible to restrain . . . from cheerleading for Israel's militarist adventures and refusal to treat the Palestinians as equally entitled to freedom and self-determination as the Jewish people."

Israel's enemies, then, include Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush, our "End Times"-believing president, who applaud and, of course, partially underwrite the wanton destruction of Lebanon, since it furthers their agenda of war without end.

William Rivers Pitt, writing for, describes the "unspeakably dangerous convulsion" Israel now risks provoking across the Middle East, as it polarizes the Arab world and fuels the cause of Islamic fanaticism.

"Even the Arab governments who chastised Hezbollah would be forced to choose between opposing Israel or being themselves toppled by the swell," Pitt writes. ". . . If such an eruption of anger reaches Pakistan, whose hard-core fundamentalists are umbilically and spiritually tied to their Taliban neighbors in Afghanistan, Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf could be faced with a sudden revolution. . . . If his government is toppled, the world will be faced with the fact that a nuclear power has been overthrown by Islamic extremists."

Welcome to the gates of hell and madness. We can no longer afford to militarize our irrational streak. When we do - when we play "let's be enemies" and perform what I call ritual soulectomy on a nation or people, when we sanction their murder - we light a fuse of hatred that is ultimately connected to a nuclear bomb.

Who are the enemies of the human race? Those who rev the engines of war and feed the children into its maw, and pretend they're doing it for the future.

Robert Koehler, an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist, is an editor at Tribune Media Services and nationally syndicated writer. You can respond to this column at or visit his Web site at © 2006 Tribune Media Services, Inc.