Max Elbaum / War Times/Tiempo de Guerras – 2006-08-30 23:30:02
(August 29, 2006) — George W. Bush claims that “staying the course” is vital to defeating terrorism and bringing peace and democracy to the Middle East.
But “the course”, so far, has produced only violence and destruction. So long as Washington regards military force as the solution to every dilemma, conditions in the Middle East can only get worse.
Perhaps even much worse: with Iraq on the verge of exploding, Israel threatening Lebanon with another assault, and Washington building another lie-filled case for attacking Iran, the danger of engulfing the entire region — perhaps the entire planet — in uncontrollable violence looms just ahead.
Even pro-war New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman admitted in early August that the Iraq mission he championed “is not happening,” and that Washington must do something different.
The number of civilians dying from violence in Iraq now averages over 100 a day. At least 3,438 civilians were killed in July, the highest level ever. According to the New York Times, “sectarian violence is spiraling out of control.” Top US generals testifying before Congress even used words on Bush’s forbidden list: “civil war.”
Attacks against US and US-commanded Iraqi troops have doubled since January. A senior Defense Department official admitted in early August that “the insurgency has more public support and is more capable in numbers of people active and in its ability to direct violence than at any point in time.”
Hostility to the US occupation has become universal. In the most recent survey of Iraqi public opinion: 76% of Iraqis said the main reason the US invaded Iraq was “to control Iraqi oil”; 41% said it was “to build military bases”; and 32% declared it was “to support Israel.” Less than 2% said it was “to bring democracy to Iraq.” (US News & World Report, 8/17/06.)
Iraq analyst Michael Schwartz of Stony Brook University points out that the US occupation is at the roots of Iraq’s miseries: “There are three distinct types of terrorism in Iraq, all directly or indirectly connected to the occupation:
“[First, t]he original terrorists in Iraq were the military and civilian officials of the Bush administration — starting with their ‘shock and awe’ bombing campaign that destroyed Iraqi infrastructure in order to ‘undermine civilian morale’… [Second,] there are suicide car bomb attacks on restaurants, markets, and mosques where large number of Shia congregate.
At the beginning of the US occupation, car bombs were nonexistent; they only became common when a tiny proportion of the Sunni resistance movement became convinced that the Shia were the main domestic support for the occupation…
“[Third,] the final link in the terrorist chain can also be traced back to the occupation.
In 2005, Newsweek broke the story that the US was establishing (Shiite) ‘death squads’ within the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, modeled after the assassination teams the CIA had helped organize in El Salvador during the 1980s. These death squads have now become a fixture in Baghdad, where thousands of corpses have been found with signs of torture…
“All these derive from the US occupation … if the occupation continues, there will certainly come a point — perhaps already passed — when the collapse of government legitimacy, the destruction wrought by the war, and the horror of terrorist violence become self-sustaining. If that point is reached, all parties will enter a new territory with incalculable consequences.”
Lebanon: Interlude between Wars?
Lebanese returning to their villages and international relief agencies are still tallying the damage inflicted by 34 days of Israeli attacks. At least 1,183 Lebanese civilians were killed, one-third of whom were children; 4,054 civilians were injured; and 970,000 civilians became refugees displaced from their homes. Moreover, the Lebanese government estimates that at least 30,000 houses, 120 bridges, 94 roads, 25 fuel stations, 900 businesses, and two hospitals were destroyed.
The country is also dealing with environmental disaster, which stemmed from the Israeli air foece’s bombing of an oil-fueled power plant on the Lebanese coast. At least 15,000 tons of heavy fuel oil spilled into the Mediterranean, heavily polluting Lebanon’s world-famous beaches and coastline.
Lebanese civilians are still being injured by unexploded cluster bombs remaining from Israel’s aerial assault. According to the UN, many of these lethal munitions — rightly condemned by human rights groups because they look like toys and spread shrapnel indiscriminately — had US labels, indicating there were supplied to Israel by the US
Israel’s air force flew roughly 7,000 bombing sorties and dropped more than 70,000 bombs on Lebanon during their assault; Israel’s navy bombarded Lebanon approximately 2,500 times.
Hezbollah fired roughly 4,000 rockets at northern Israel in response, killing about 40 civilians; 117 Israeli soldiers died during their invasion of Lebanon.
Amnesty International has charged Israel with deliberately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, and with committing other war crimes in Lebanon. Investigative reporters have also revealed that Israel used the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah as its pretext to launch a grossly-disproportionate, all-out attack that was long planned by the Israeli military in consultation with Washington. Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporter Seymour Hersh offered the most detailed account of US-Israeli collaboration. In the 8/14/06 New Yorker, Hersh reported that Washington encouraged Israel, in part because Israeli success “would be a demonstration for Iran.”
But Israel’s campaign failed to destroy Hezbollah’s military capacity, to intimidate its social base, or to bully Lebanese Sunnis and Christians into turn against the Shiite-based Hezbollah. To the contrary, Israel’s indiscriminate bombing, combined with Hezbollah’s effective guerrilla resistance, won backing for Hezbollah from over 80% of the Lebanese people. And it made Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah the most popular figure in the entire Muslim world, among Sunni and Shia alike.
The UN cease-fire resolution being implemented now is a compromise. It was shaped by heavy-handed Washington bullying, plus European recognition that no international force can disarm Hezbollah when this could not be accomplished by an all-out Israeli assault.
Because Israel and Washington did not achieve victory through military might, they have launched a new propaganda barrage. There is no mention of: Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon (which killed 14,000 civilians); its bloody 18-year illegal occupation of Lebanese territory (1982-2000); or its continuing illegal occupation of Lebanese and Syrian land (Shebaa Farms, Golan Heights). Inste ad, we are bombarded with stories about the alleged mortal danger that “Iran- and Syria-backed” Hezbollah poses to Israel and the US
Supposedly this justifies the almost daily threats Israeli leaders make to launch a new war. As for the Bush administration, Seymour Hersh reports:
“‘There is no way that Rumsfeld and Cheney will draw the right conclusion about this,’ a former senior intelligence official said. ‘When the smoke clears they’ll say it was a success, and they’ll draw reinforcement for their plan to attack Iran.'”
Palestine at the Pivot
Two weeks before Israel’s assault on Lebanon its army invaded Gaza, and it is still there. Israeli peace activist, former war hero, and former Member of the Israeli Parliament Uri Avnery points out that this invasion, too, was based on a lie:
“Hamas and its partners captured a soldier, which provided the excuse for a massive operation that had been prepared for a long time and whose aim is to destroy the Palestinian government.”
Israeli forces have kidnapped and imprisoned one-third of the members of Palestine’s democratically elected government. According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, since June 28, 2006, Israeli firepower has killed at least 225 Palestinian civilians, including 46 children and 10 women, and wounded at least 815, including 232 children and 27 women. UN agencies report desperate shortages of food and water in Palestinian Gaza. One declares that “Gaza is on the brink of a public health disaster.”
Imposing such conditions on Gaza is, according to Israeli peace activist Gideon Levy, “a wide scale act of vengeance.” Palestinians are being collectively punished for resisting Israel’s plan to “settle” the Israel-Palestine conflict on Israeli terms. Months ago, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared that Israel would unilaterally turn its apartheid “Separation Wall” into a permanent border and annex huge swaths of the Palestinian West Bank.
Olmert — who shouts daily about Hezbollah’s alleged violations of UN Resolu tions — never mentions that his annexation plan clearly violates international law.
For instance: UN Resolution 242 calls for Israeli withdrawal from all lands taken in the 1967 war; the World Court has ruled Israel’s apartheid “Separation Fence” illegal; and UN Resolution 194, which Israel agreed to when it first joined the UN, affirms the right of Palestinians displaced in 1948 to return to their homes.
Israel’s ongoing US-backed dispossession of the Palestinians is the “open wound” (to use Uri Avnery’s words) that is pivotal in creating both the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and anti-US sentiment throughout the Middle East. Until a just resolution of the Palestinian issue is achieved, the region will be constantly on the verge of explosion.
Iran in the Gunsights
The biggest immediate danger is a US attack on Iran. Washington’s one-track, rely-on-military-force strategy has resulted in one disaster after another, and yet neoconservative war-hawks are pushing for more of the same. For i nstance, ultra-right-winger Bill Kristol demanded even more wars on 7/16/06:
“The right response is renewed strength — in supporting the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, in standing with Israel, and in pursuing regime-change in Syria and Iran…. We might consider… a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait?”
Iran has long declared that its nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes.
There is no reliable intelligence information indicating otherwise. And the bulk of the world — including 21 US retired generals and security experts — supports negotiations to resolve our outstanding differences over Iran’s uranium-enrichment program.
Figures ranging from top leaders in the US Army, Navy and Marines, to Iranian human-rights advocate and Nobel-Prize-winner Shirin Ebadi, to world-famous left-wing intellectual Noam Chomsky, all agree that a military strike on Iran threatens to be a catastrophe: potentially killing tens of thousands of innocent Iranians; unleashing full-scale regional war; jeopardizing the life of every US soldier in Iraq; ruining the global economy with oil-prices going over $100 a barrel; and spreading terrorism across the planet.
But the Bush administration, in a replay of its propaganda campaign to promote the invasion of Iraq, blames Iran for every problem from Lebanon to Iraq, ratchets up tensions, and keeps “all options on the table.” Seymour Hersh did not mince words when he told Amy Goodman, during an interview on “Democracy Now!”, that: “I don’t think this president is going to leave office with Iran still being — as he sees it — a nuclear threat.”
The Bush administration’s “let’s-replay-Iraq” notion ought to scare the living daylights out of everyone everywhere on the planet, for the very definition of fanatical insanity is continuing to do the same failed thing, and yet expecting a different result.
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