How many children does one have to kill to win a UN resolution?
The answer, it turns out, is 37.
And then, that doesn't even get you a halfway decent one. 37 dead kids gets you a bargain basement John Bolton-penned piece of fluff promising ceasefires 'if you feel like it, no pressure OK'; the words 'death to the terrorists'; and a James Blunt-fronted stabilization force armed only with joke-shop guns with a little flag that says 'Bang!' on it.
You can drop as many leaflets as you like onto every village in Southern Lebanon, but as Israel might already realise from its 'Build now, ask questions later' policy of landing settlements on other peoples' territory, you can't even move your own citizens out of their homes at the best of times, let alone turfing them out straight into a war-zone. Qana may have been the kick in the bollocks that world opinion needed, but even then, it's barely raised an eyebrow.
After three weeks of bombing in which Hezbollah is currently seeing how many rockets you can fire at Israel in a day, then trying to beat that record; and Israel is doing the same with not-really-that-all-smart bombs, we have finally found the fucking outrage. A bit too bloody late, mind you.
As the news of the Qana tragedy - a mere ten years since the IDF shelled a UN compound in the same village, killing over 100 civilians - reached Beirut, you can understand the locals' UN- trashing reaction. For starters, the US embassy is MILES out of town these days, and the sense of frustration that the organisation is nothing but a tool for America to use or misuse is palpable.
We've actually met UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. It is our sad duty to report that he is little more than a half-embarrassed messenger, only able to speak in the vaguest of terms, promising only talks about talks about talks, and perhaps, someday, something concrete. Once permanent members of the Security Council dig their heels in over their best friends in the Middle East, nothing that poor Kofi says makes the blindest bit of difference.
Everything is set for one of the most desperately watered-down resolutions in the UN's history, with all the potential to make the worthless, powerless intervention in Bosnia seem a diplomatic triumph. The residents of Darfur, Somalia and the Rwanda genocide aren't exactly chipper at the contribution the UN has made to their lives over recent years, so why should Lebanon, somehow taking the blame for everybody else's problems, have the right to feel optimistic over the future?
The Lebanese government knows they're onto a hiding for nothing from world diplomacy, and one can hardly blame PM Fuad Siniora telling Condi Rice to stick her good-talking-to disguised as a peace mission right where her concert piano doesn't fit. And this coming from a democratically elected, anti-Syrian, anti-Hezbollah, good-friend-of-America Christian. There's gratitude for you.
Our government has been particularly vocal about Iran and Syria's role in the re-arming of Hezbollah militants, yet are suspiciously quiet about arms exports to Israel which break our own government guidelines. We are, as a nation, particularly hot on selling torture implements to our good friends and business partners; while those US-built bombs passing through Prestwick and Mildenhall on their way to Israel contain more than their fair share of UK-constructed components, and will be dropped on a Beirut suburb by F-16s featuring British-built systems. It almost makes you proud to be British... err... a shareholder.
Still, it's pleasing, once again, that our government is doing what its best at in the circumstances: chuff all. But paint us purple and call us Daisy, it emerges that Margaret Beckett might be trying to open channels to Hezbollah through the Iranian embassy, there might even be some real, live diplomacy about to emerge from the FCO for the first time in months. All she's got to do now is open channels to Israel - we suggest through the US Embassy - and we'll soon find out how deep the 'special' relationship is. 'Special', we suspect, as in 'Special Bus'.
God help us if there's a war.
And, by God, we had better be damn well ready for one. We might think we're right on the money shaking our fists at Syria and Iran, telling them to stop being so naughty and out of order, and we might even have the right culprits over the arming and ideological training of militant groups for which the civilian populations are now reaping the collective punishments. But when Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, currently one of the most influential Shi'a voices in the region tells us 'It is not possible to stand helpless in front of this Israeli aggression on Lebanon... If an immediate cease-fire is not imposed, dire consequences will befall the region' it's not going to take long for others of a more militant bent to turn these works into red hot spiky metal, aimed at anything Israeli, American or sod it, British in the region.
'Arc of Terrorism' arse or otherwise, this cannot end well.