By Mike Whitney
|“To confront this accursed plan, to thwart the goals of this war, to fight the battle to liberate, what remains of our land and our prisoners, I state categorically under no circumstances will we accept any term that is insulting to our country, our people, or our resistance. We will not accept any formula at the expense of the national interest, national sovereignty and national independence, especially after all these sacrifices, no matter how long the confrontation lasts and no matter how numerous the sacrifices may be. Our main and true slogan is “Honor First”. Sheik Hassan Nasrallah |
“The resistance is a weapon at the service of the entire nation. It has never acted against anyone but the Israeli occupation.” Talal Salman “A Guarantee Of Victory”
08/19/06 "Information Clearing House" -- -- One picture tells the whole story. The photograph shows a long column of Israeli soldiers, grimy and bedraggled, limping southwards towards the Israeli border. The lead soldier looks vacuously at the camera with an expression of pure gloom and fatigue. In the background a soldier is seen comforting another who is crying inconsolably.
This is what defeat looks like.
Back in Israel, the headlines are splattered with every detail of the ongoing withdrawal from Lebanon. The op-ed pages and talk shows lash out at anyone even remotely involved with the month-long debacle. Prime Minister Olmert has become the favorite target of the media’s scathing criticism and the brunt of every joke. His public approval has dipped from a pre-war high of 80% to a meager 40%. Meanwhile, political rival Benjamin Netanyahu’s popularity has soared to a hearty 57% making him the likely successor if Olmert is forced to step down.
Israel is drowning in collective angst and self-pity. The defeat has shattered the national sense of self confidence and well being. A joke that is circulating in Tel Aviv opines that Ariel Sharon’s condition suddenly worsened “when he found out what was happening in Lebanon.”
The punch-line epitomizes the general state of malaise in Israel.
The coverage of the Lebanon fiasco in the Israeli media is alternately narcissistic and hysterical. The details of the massive destruction to Lebanon’s civil infrastructure and environment are brushed aside as inconsequential; the 1,300 civilian deaths, irrelevant. The only thing that matters is Israeli suffering; everything else is trivial. While Lebanon is busy digging out another 300 or so corpses from the rubble of their destroyed homes, Israel is preoccupied with its loss of “deterrents” or its battered sense of “invincibility”.
It is an interesting study in the prevailing megalomania of Israeli society, a culture as pathologically self-absorbed as its American ally. It’s no wonder security is so hard to come by when people are so lacking in empathy.
In Lebanon, the extent of the damage is just beginning to be grasped. Whole cities in the south have been laid to waste and most of the vital infrastructure has been ruined. Barucha Peller summed it up this way in a Counterpunch article “This Pain has no Ceasefire”:
“The walls of homes that once protected families and cradled their lives are now in pieces, shreds, fine dust. Sift through the rubble. Kick the rubble. Stand still, silent, alone with the absoluteness of destruction and accompanied by the millions of shattered pieces of everything that was here before. Leave the rubble. Try to forget. Walk away from the terrible sight. But your mind is in pieces, lives in pieces, people who never again will stand in the doorway with greetings. You can walk away. There is a ceasefire. But missiles fall, they fall, not from the skies, but behind Lebanese eyes, they fall forever in memory, they are still crashing into what once was.”
“The absoluteness of destruction”; the faces that will never reappear “in the doorway”; this nagging, life-long suffering goes unrecorded in the Israeli media where the national obsession has turned to finger-pointing and empty recriminations. The lives and the civilization that’s been decimated are a mere footnote to Israel’s violated sense of security and the humiliation of losing to an Arab adversary. Looking at the papers, it’s easy to believe that the entire population is completely unaware of the misery they’ve caused. Instead, one gets the uneasy feeling that the anger is just beginning to mount and could wash across Lebanon in a second wave of hostilities.
Lebanon has been an embarrassing defeat for Israel, but this is probably just Round One. As public rage grows, it will be more and more tempting for Olmert to disregard the ceasefire and go on the offensive. He needs some way to acquit himself in the eyes of his people and revenge is an unfailing cure-all. He also needs to prove that he can be a reliable ally to the Bush team who gave him carte blanche to pulverize Hezbollah while they stalled the ceasefire at the UN. Israel needs to show that they can hold up their end of the bargain by cleaning up matters in their own back yard. Olmert’s failure will not go down well with the Washington neocons who’ve worked tirelessly to provide him with all the weaponry and support he needed.
According to Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, Israel originally planned an attack on Lebanon for September or October. This would have added an element of surprise to the war which could have been disastrous for Lebanon. It also may have affected the results of the 2006 congressional elections in the US.
The Bush administration has made no effort to conceal their involvement in the conflict. They provided logistical and material support in the form of satellite-intelligence and precision-guided missiles, and they blocked all efforts at the UN for an immediate ceasefire. Bush has stubbornly portrayed the war as “part of a broader struggle between freedom and terror”, but his platitudes have had less impact on public perceptions than the photos of bombed-out airports, bridges and factories which appear daily in the media.
The biggest champion of the war has been Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who characterized the vast and premeditated devastation as “birth pangs”. There now hangs a banner in downtown Beirut with a ghoulish picture of Rice with fangs dripping with blood which says, “The massacre of children at Qana is a gift from Rice”. The Farragamo-draped princess has quickly become the most reviled diplomat in US history. Move over Henry Kissinger.
It’s no surprise that she was rebuffed by President Siniora and told she wasn’t welcome in Lebanon until the terms of a ceasefire were in place.
Rice’s most revealing statement appeared in a USA Today article when she admitted that the Bush administration saw the conflict as an “opportunity to create a fundamentally different situation” in the Middle East.
“Opportunity”? Is that how the Washington mandarins see the utter destruction of an American-friendly ally?
Condi’s bromides only confirm Nasrallah’s claims that the plan to invade Lebanon is actually part of a broader strategy for establishing US/Israeli hegemony throughout the region so that they can “exclusively manage its affairs and resources”. The main obstacles to this “New Middle East” are the resistance organizations Hamas and Hezbollah as well as Syria and Iran. Bush and Olmert conspired to disarm Hezbollah by pushing Syria out of Lebanon and creating a political climate where (they believed) Hezbollah would be forced to give up their weapons.
Their plan failed. Hezbollah joined the government but maintained its guerilla network at the same time; accumulating the Katyushas and sophisticated anti-tank rockets it needed to take on Israel’s advancing army. It should be noted that Hezbollah was the only entity in Lebanon that wasn’t swept up in the heady revival of Beirut and vigilantly awaited Israel’s next rampage.
Their success in battling Israel is due in large part to the Russian-made Kornet anti-tank rockets they obtained from Syria. As reported in the UK Telegraph the rockets are “some of the best in the world” and “require serious training to operate which could be beyond the capabilities of some supposedly regular armies in the Middle East….It is laser-guided, has a range of three miles and carries a double-warhead capable of penetrating reactive amour on Israeli Merkava Tanks.”
Hezbollah used their anti-tank missiles with lethal efficiency during the campaign taking out an estimated 20 tanks, armored vehicles and buildings where troops were located. It was a critical part of the conflict and had a profound effect on the outcome.
Still, there’s little chance that Hezbollah’s victory will stop Israel from restarting the war. America and Israel are ideologically committed to establishing their mutual hegemony throughout the Middle East and they won’t be deterred by a bloody nose in south Lebanon. Israel will retool and return with greater determination to crush the resistance and set up a proxy government in Beirut. So far, they’ve enlisted the support of Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, France and Denmark to patrol the southern border while Germany has offered “a rather substantive maritime component which could patrol and secure the whole of the Lebanese coast.” The German ambassador said, “We could also offer a substantial border patrol along the Syrian border.” (Al Jazeera) Germany certainly understands that their actions will establish a de-facto blockade which serves US/Israeli interests alone. This illustrates how Olmert and Bush have manipulated the UN to compromise Lebanon’s sovereignty and create a permanent state of siege. If Israel is able to cut Hezbollah’s supply-lines they can easily move in and crush them at a later date.
So, the US and Israel have found accomplices they need to help them achieve their goals of reshaping the Middle East and extending America’s dominance throughout the oil-rich region. If they succeed, they will have a stranglehold on the world’s most crucial natural resources and will be able to control the growth of China, India, Japan, and other potential rivals in the 21st century. Israel will also play a central role as regional leader in the oil trade; opening pipeline routes from Ceyhan to the Far East and from Kirkuk to Haifa. (check “Triple Alliance”: The US, Turkey, Israel and the war on Lebanon” Michel Chossudovsky)
But we shouldn’t underestimate the growing strength of non state actors and guerilla forces. In Iraq, the resistance has brought the world’s only superpower to a grinding standstill; frustrating all attempts to establish security, rebuild infrastructure, or transport vital resources.
Similarly, Hezbollah has won a stunning victory against a high-tech and well-disciplined Israeli army. They have shown the world that they are resourceful and ferocious fighters capable of forcing a fully-armed modern army of 30,000 men to withdrawal. That’s no small feat.
They have shattered the illusion of Israeli invincibility and emboldened a new generation of Arab youths to see beyond their present subjugation and despair and aspire to reclaim their countries from the corrupt US-backed regimes.
The imperial juggernaut will continue lurching recklessly through the Middle East until it is worn-down piecemeal by the bold actions of the resistance. Iraq and Lebanon foreshadow an even wider war extending from the Caspian to the Red Sea; destabilizing oil supplies and overturning the teetering Arab monarchies.
Bush and Olmert have thrown open Pandora’s Box thinking they can contain the chaos within, but have failed to achieve any of their objectives. They continue to misread the lessons of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Lebanon. High-altitude bombing and trigger-happy soldiers only swell the ranks of the resistance and feed their determination. If Bush and Olmert choose to fight a generation-long 4-G (4th Generation) war, they should at least consider the modest goals set out by their adversary, Hassan Nasrallah, in a recent public statement:
“We are not a classic army. We are waging guerilla warfare Therefore what is important is the number of losses we inflict on the Israeli enemy. No matter how deep the incursion the Israeli enemy might accomplish, and the enemy has great capabilities in this area, it will not accomplish the goal of this incursion, preventing the shelling of the settlements in north of occupied Palestine, This shelling will continue no matter how deep the ground incursion and the reoccupation the Zionist enemy is trying to accomplish. The occupation of any inch of our Lebanese land will further motivate us to continue and escalate the resistance…In the ground war we will have the upper hand. In the ground war , the criterion is the attrition of the enemy rather than what territory does or does not remain in our hands because we are not fighting with the methods of a regular army we will definitely regain any land occupied by the enemy after inflicting great losses on it”.
Bush would be wise to pay attention to Nasrallah’s warnings. The conflict that the US and Israel are facing has no central battlefield and no timeline. It is war against men who know every street and every alleyway, and every cave in every mountain. It is “death by a thousand lashes”; engaging and killing the enemy and then disappearing into the shadows. The conflict only ends when every American and Israeli soldier has left Arab soil. This is a “no win” situation. Our leaders should recognize this and withdrawal.
As the resistance continues to mushroom in Iraq and Lebanon, we’re bound to see more devastation, more retreating armies, and more hand-wringing in Washington and Tel Aviv.
It could all be so easily avoided.