The spreading war in Lebanon and the ghastly massacre at Qana has bared the bizarre contradictions and self-destructive nature of US Mideast policy.
With one hand, the US sends $30 million of food and blankets to Lebanon for the 20% of its population made refugees by the American-encouraged Israeli bombing.
With the other, it rushes planeloads of precision bombs to Israel, one of which may have destroyed a UN border observer post, killing four UN soldiers. A decade ago, Israeli shells killed 100 civilians seeking shelter at the main UN compound in Qana, the town where Christ turned water to wine.
In Washington, the US Congress voted unanimously on 18 June to condemn Hamas and Hizbullah, and supporting “Israel’s right to self-defense.” The House voted 410 to 8 for the resolution after a provision urging all sides to “respect civilian life” was actually dropped from the bill by Congressmen slavering to show their loyalty to Israel.
No one in the US media dared raise the interesting question that some early press reports by respected news agencies of the clash that led to the current war say it may have occurred inside Lebanon rather than inside Israel, as Jerusalem and its American supporters insisted. So far, everyone has accepted the Israeli version of events, which, of course, may be perfectly accurate.
In Rome, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice blocked international efforts by Europe and Washington’s Arab allies to halt the war. Not since Colin Powell’s grotesque lies to the UN about Iraq has American diplomacy so debased itself. Small wonder hatred for America has reached a fever pitch across the Muslim World.
Rice also proclaimed the US was going to midwife the birth of a “new Mideast” by means of the Lebanon war. This latest absurdity comes from the same arrogant fools and rightwing ideologues that fathered the Iraq debacle.
Vice President Dick Cheney and his neocon Praetorian Guard’s true agenda was becoming clear. Israel’s attempted destruction of Hezbullah is the first step in a long-planned campaign to strip away Iran’s allies and turn Lebanon into a joint US-Israeli protectorate.
The second step will be an assault on Syria. Step three: isolating and crippling Iran by a massive bombing campaign accompanied by renewed efforts to overthrow its government.
Attacking Hezbullah also serves as the long-predicted “November surprise” to boost sagging Republican fortunes in mid-term elections. The White House knows that loss of Congress, or even the Senate, might open it to criminal investigations over how it concocted the Iraq War and lied to Congress and the American people.
Americans, steeped in deep ignorance and prejudice about the Mideast, and misguided by a deeply biased media, are now being misled by the Administration that Lebanon is a “new front” in the so-called war on terrorism.
As I recently learned doing radio shows across the US, most Americans cannot distinguish between Hezbullah, al-Qaida, Taliban, the PLO, Hamas, etc. All are terrorists. Listeners in rural areas of core Bush support even called in to ask me if the fighting in Lebanon was the prelude to Armageddon and the destruction of the earth. I assured them the world was not about to end, but I am not sure they were relieved by my cheery news or disappointed. Many of these fundamentalist primitives can’t wait to see those not born again be roasted, flayed alive, torn to pieces and otherwise tormented in Armageddon’s hellfires.
President Bush has failed to stop al-Qaida and can’t catch its pesky leaders who keep popping up on TV. He is now stuck in lost wars in Iraq and Afghanistan costing some $7 billion monthly. Bush’s answer: start a new crusade in Lebanon against the latest bogeyman, Hezbullah, and its Syrian and Iranian allies. War fever wins elections.
Having covered Israel’s 1980’s disastrous invasion of Lebanon, I am appalled it is again getting sucked into another bloody, dirty, pointless war there. Hezbullah, which represents a third of Lebanon’s population, won’t be defeated by bombing or limited ground assaults: it fought Israel for 18 years and won.
Hezbullah’s 3,000 tough fighters just battled Israel’s mighty armed forces to a standstill for two weeks. In fact, Hezbullah’s warriors appear to have emerged victorious from their clashes with Israel. Only ethnic-cleansing southern Lebanon’s Shia’s will push back Hezbullah
Israel may have been intending to do just this, using mass bombing to terrorize Lebanese into flight, but the massacre at Qana and attacks on road traffic thwarted this plan.
Israel’s new Olmert government could have avoided the current war and Hezbullah’s rocket barrages by a low-key response to the border skirmish, some ritual artillery fire, and the usual prisoner swap.
But Olmert, and his neophyte defense minister, Amir Peretz, allowed the chief of staff, an air force general, to take charge and go destroy much of Lebanon. Olmert had to prove to Israelis he was even tougher than Ariel Sharon.
Emotions (more about this in next week’s column), not good sense or experience, guided their response. Now, Israeli soldiers are being once again sent into the Lebanese quagmire — from which they will not easily withdraw. Olmert and Peretz have gotten Israel into a huge mess and blackened its name around the globe.
The bitter lessons of Israel’s 1980’s disaster in Lebanon are forgotten, just as the US military in Iraq forgot the lessons of Vietnam. A triumphant Hezbullah may even emerge as the victor of this battle. It has become a hero across the Muslim World and greatly enhanced the influence of its main backer, Iran. Score another fiasco for George Bush.
But the big winner in this unfolding catastrophe is Osama bin Laden.