Lebanon is mired in a terrifying labyrinth of death and destruction. Beirut’s airport is bombed. Israel has imposed a sea blockade. Other than privileged Westerners who are being evacuated by air or sea, people have overnight become refugees. They are plunged into an exodus of hundreds of thousands crammed on rickety rural trucks, overcrowded buses, Red Crescent convoys and even Mercedes with Saudi license plates on a mad dash through Lebanese back roads to Syria.
Israel’s lethal bombing is ubiquitous – raining hell over family homes in the Bekaa Valley, over the Liban Lait milk factory on the road to Baalbek, over a Greek Orthodox church, over civilian trucks carrying rice and sugar near the Christian village of Zaleh, over a civil-defense building in Tyre, over a paper mill, over a packaging firm, over a pharmaceutical plant, over the Lake Qaraoun dam, over bridges, water reservoirs, electric plants, gas stations, ambulances, even over Beirut’s main Christian neighborhood.
Among the 300-plus killed so far in Lebanon, Israel has killed Canadians and Brazilians of Lebanese ancestry. None of these “targets” are military; this means the Lebanese could prosecute Israel for war crimes. Roberto Laurenti, the United Nations’ man in Beirut, had to scream that the situation is “both alarming and catastrophic. There are about 500,000 people displaced already. The situation is extreme.”
So where is the much-vaunted “international community”? It is not listening.
The figures don’t lie. At the end of the eighth day of fighting, a total of 29 people had been reported killed on the Israeli side of the border, including 14 soldiers and 15 civilians. But the majority of Lebanese deaths have been civilian – and only a very few, less than a handful, according to any number of Lebanese-based news media, were Hezbollah military.
Civilian Lebanese are thus being killed, in proportion to Israelis, at a rate of more than 10:1. This implies that Israel is not targeting Hezbollah, but above all Lebanon’s infrastructure.
Israel’s war has nothing to do with Hezbollah’s ideology, as the Israeli public relations machine spins non-stop; it’s already configured as collective punishment unleashed over the Lebanese civilian population. Israel officially ordered the entire population of southern Lebanon in essence to become IDPs (internally displaced persons). Southern Lebanon’s population, overwhelmingly poor Arab Shi’ites, overwhelmingly supports Hezbollah.
Hezbollah for its part may have fired about 1,000 Katyusha rockets toward Israel. Hezbollah may possess 12,000 rockets in total. At the current rate, it could keep firing rockets non-stop for more than two months – while Israel bombs Lebanon back to the Stone Age. The decision anyway has been made. According to diplomatic leaks in Washington, London and Brussels, the Israeli offensive will last at least for another week to 10 days.
You deserve to die
Although there is no direct evidence pointing to Iran and/or Syria behind Hezbollah’s strategy, US President George W Bush has blamed Syria (“What they need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit” – as overheard during the Group of Eight summit in St Petersburg on the weekend).
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for his part has blamed Hezbollah as being in cahoots with Iran. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there were no “conducive circumstances” for a ceasefire; she will land her Ferragamo-clad feet on Middle Eastern soil only when it’s “appropriate”, “necessary” and “helpful to the situation” (perhaps “appropriate” would mean the “international community” waiting until Lebanon is totally destroyed and hundreds or thousands more Lebanese are dead).
At any rate, Lebanon is fast joining Bush’s “democratic” Iraq. The latest UN report states that more than 3,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in June, and no fewer than 14,338 civilians were killed in the first six months of 2006.
The US ambassador to the UN, notorious neo-con John Bolton, believes “it would be a mistake to ascribe moral equivalence to civilians who die as the direct result of malicious terrorist acts”. Israel’s bombing for its part is “self-defense” that has had “the tragic and unfortunate consequence of civilian deaths”.
Translation: dead Lebanese civilians are collateral damage, expendable and not worth the life of a single Israeli. After all, the Israeli foreign minister had the gall to proclaim that “many civilians in southern Lebanon have Katyusha and other rockets under their beds”.
Former Israeli congressman and committed pacifist Uri Avnery, on the Israeli website Gus Shalom, says that Israel’s real objective is “regime change in Beirut, and the installation of a puppet government”. It’s what Israel wanted – and didn’t get – with the 1982 invasion led by Ariel Sharon. Israeli journalist Gideon Levy goes one step further, accusing Israel of being a society in “moral collapse”. Israelis overwhelming support the bombing of Lebanon to dust.
Even if you survive, no one will help you
The tragedy is that the “international community” has totally deserted the Lebanese people; they are the new Palestinians. The minutes at the recent Arab League meeting in Cairo were leaked. The Arabic-language press could not fail to notice what Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis and Kuwaitis were up to; basically a united front to smash and “disarm” Hezbollah. The specter of the Shi’ite crescent – brandished by Washington neo-cons and dictatorial Sunni Arab governments – is alive and kicking.
The ultra-wealthy Persian Gulf emirates could not give a damn – their only interest is oil at US\$80 a barrel. Both Egypt and Jordan are US client regimes – and non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies – and in addition have signed peace treaties with Israel. Turkey is also a US-Israel-axis ally. And US-controlled Iraq is smashed, destroyed and mired in its own “Lebanonized” civil war.
Even by its own standards of irrelevance, the European Union has excelled – with the added spectacle of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meekly toeing the US line. Britain, France, Germany and Italy may condemn – rhetorically – the gulag established by Israel in occupied Palestine. But they are afraid of Hamas and they are also afraid of Hezbollah – what if these Arabs started striking right at the heart of Fortress Europe? Under this rationale, the indiscriminate killing of Lebanese civilians would never rate as a priority.
All according to plan
The world has seen this movie before. The seed for understanding the New Middle East war was sown 10 years ago, in 1996. Everything keeps pointing back to the infamous paper “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm”, prepared by neo-cons such as Richard Perle, David and Meyrav Wurmser and Douglas Feith for Likud hardliner Benyamin Netanyahu.
The “getting rid of Saddam” part has already been accomplished. The total degradation of the Palestinians is ongoing. The “destabilizing of Syria in Lebanon” took place last year. The next step would be hitting at both Syria and Iran via Lebanon.
Five months ago, Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, warned in a public speech that if Israel did not release the Lebanese prisoners it was holding, “we will try to get an Israeli soldier”. That’s exactly what happened. Israel knew it and had five months to prepare for an invasion and/or the current “pinpoint” bombing of Lebanon’s infrastructure – something that any military strategist knows cannot be prepared in a day or two.
The fact that the Bush administration and the Olmert government in tandem blame both Syria and Iran follows the Clean Break plan to the letter. And the plan could have been fine-tuned very recently. Former Likudnik Olmert went to the US in May and Likud chairman Netanyahu followed him in June – and landed in neo-con heaven, participating in a meeting with US Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a conference organized by the American Enterprise Institute in Colorado.
As far as Bush’s “get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit” is concerned, it makes absolutely no sense: it was Bush himself who forced Syria out of Lebanon last year, to clear the way for Israel to attack Lebanon facing no resistance. As for the Israel-Iran confrontation, it has nothing to do with ideology, as the Bush administration puts it. It’s pure power play. Israel and Iran are two regional military powers entangled in a battle for regional supremacy. And even the guessing game on Syria and/or Iran supporting Hezbollah is also irrelevant.
The US/Israel axis has historically supported plenty of Islamist groups all over the Arab world – in tune with the supreme objective of fighting what it always considered the real enemy, pan-Arab and secular nationalism. Hamas has been supported by Israel in the past. The US supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. And the US (blowback, anyone?) also supported the Afghan mujahideen in the anti-Soviet 1980s jihad.
Give me a (Clean) Break
There is simply no solution whatsoever to the ongoing Middle East disaster until “David” Israel (with its nuclear weapons) stops stealing Arab lands and returns all occupied territory to the “Goliaths” – the Sheba Farms to Lebanon, the Golan Heights to Syria, the West Bank and East Jerusalem to the Palestinians.
Arab puppet regimes will inevitably fall, by the force of their population’s rage. The Washington elite may even realize one day (no one is counting on it, though) that the US gains absolutely nothing from Israel’s wag-the-dog tactics. Israel inevitably will be forced to negotiate with its neighbors. Then and only then, if still no peace can be reached, Israel might find some legitimacy to keep attacking Arabs at random.
There are diplomatic rumblings about a peace agreement of sorts. Israel and Hezbollah would exchange prisoners; the Lebanese army (what army?) would be deployed up to the Israeli border, and Hezbollah would pull back north of the Litani River; and a new, bigger, UN monitoring force would step in.
There are reports that Israel “might” accept these blue helmets – but only temporarily. Israel, though – as Clean Break rules – does not feel any incentive to accept this solution. Its military logic points to a devastating preemption of both Hamas and Hezbollah – so Iran would have much reduced means to retaliate against Israel in the (likely) event of a US or US/Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear installations.
No one at this point may predict with certainty what the Bush/Blair/Olmert troika is actually cooking. But there is the terrifying possibility that these may be the early stages of the Great Middle East war outlined in A Clean Break; the chance for the US/Israel axis to strike at both Syria and Iran – with no one, be it Russia, China or the cowardly EU, being able to stop it.
 Readers can access the essential points on www.iasps.org/strat1.htm.