World out of control

Lebanon, India, North Korea, Iran -- and we haven't even gotten to Iraq or Darfur yet.

Published July 13, 2006 1:40PM (EDT)

We're not all that young, but sometimes we wish we were older. It's not that we want to be closer to retirement or death or the AARP. It's that we wish we had the perspective that maybe only age can bring on a day like today.

What the hell is happening here?

When we were in grade school, we were taught that the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand led to the start of World War I. It wasn't quite as simple as that, but how did it feel when events were unfolding then? Did people know what was coming? Did it feel like it does this morning -- like too many things are going too wrong in too many places for something worse not to happen?

In Lebanon overnight, Israeli aircraft attacked the runways at the Beirut airport and imposed an air and naval blockade. Israel increased pressure on Hezbollah to free two of its soldiers captured in a cross-border raid earlier this week. The chief of Israel's army, Brig. Gen. Dan Halutz, warns that "nothing is safe" in Lebanon until the soldiers are returned and Hezbollah stops attacking northern Israel. "We are not at war, but we are in a very high volume crisis," he says.

In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responded to news that his nation has been referred to the U.N. Security Council by making threats against Europe. "The people of Iran will not give up their right to exploit peaceful nuclear technology," Ahmadinejad said. "We are interested in seeing this issue resolved peacefully. But if they (the West) create tension, then the outcome would affect the Europeans. The tension would primarily harm them."

In India, officials have detained as many as 350 "known thugs, gangsters and troublemakers who might have information" about this week's train bombings. A man claiming to speak for al-Qaida in Kashmir has praised the attacks -- a sign that the terrorist group may have spread to India, the Associated Press says.

The U.N. seems headed for a confrontation over North Korea's nuclear program as the U.S. says that China is running out of time to make its own diplomatic efforts work. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said the North Koreans, who fired a test missile in the direction of the United States earlier this month, "don't seem to be interested in listening, much less doing anything to address the situation."

In Iraq, British and Australian troops handed over control of the Muthanna province to Iraqi forces, but violence continued elsewhere, claiming the lives of at least 18 Iraqis. In a village near Baquba, a bicycle bomber -- that's a new one for us -- blew up a government building, killing at least four members of the local town council. The top U.S. commander in Iraq says he may need to move more U.S. troops into Baghdad to quell sectarian fighting there.

In Sudan, a top U.N. official said that rapes, murders and other crimes are on the rise as tribal tensions increase in Darfur. Describing reports of a recent attack on a group of female refugees, U.N. envoy Jan Pronk said: "They were tied to a tree, beaten, forced to eat donkey dung, raped in turn for three days by 30 men who had accused the women of espionage because they were married to Zaghawa men."

At a joint press conference in Germany this morning, George W. Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the "disturbing situation" in the Middle East "fills us with concern," and they appealed to "the powers in the region to see to it that further escalation is warded off." But as Merkel acknowledged, it's more than just the Middle East now. "Just now, in our talks, we talked at great length about international issues," Merkel said. "Unfortunately, there are quite a lot of problems that we need to deal with and for whose solution we feel responsible."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

MORE FROM Tim Grieve

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

War Room