Sunday, February 3, 2008

From Stalingrad to Winograd

By Uri Avnery

".....The Winograd commission has failed, the commentators exclaimed in outrage. To the many failures of the war, the failure of the commission must now be added.

EVERY EXPERIENCED politician knows the axiom: He who chooses the members of a commission determines its conclusions in advance.....

AFTER THE 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre, the "official" commission of inquiry chaired by Judge Kahan published an exemplary report which exposed all the facts. But these could have led it to much harsher conclusions than it did actually reach. Instead of finding that Ariel Sharon and his minions were guilty of "indirect responsibility" for the massacre, it could have decided that they bore direct responsibility. The facts supported such a conclusion. Why did they not do so, and only dismissed Sharon and some officers? I assume that they shrunk back for fear of causing severe damage to the State of Israel.

Now I could write much the same about the Winograd commission. The facts exposed by it justify more extreme conclusions. What held them back? One can guess: the five commission members, all pillars of the establishment - 2 generals, 2 leading academics, 1 judge - did not want to topple Olmert, the No. 1 establishment person. Perhaps they feared that his place would be taken by somebody much worse - a worry shared by many others in the country......

When Judge Winograd tried to explain why a part of the report must be kept secret, the words he used attracted no attention: "The security of the state and its foreign relations". Foreign relations? What foreign relations? Relations with whom? There is only one reasonable answer: relations with the United States.

That could be the crux of the matter: Olmert fulfilled an American wish. President Bush wanted to install his protégé, Fouad Siniora, as ruler in Beirut. For that end, Hizbullah, the main Lebanese opposition force, had to be eliminated. Also, Bush wanted to effect a regime change in Syria, one of the main obstacles to American ambitions in the region.

I believe that this is the missing link in Winograd's chain. Olmert could have argued: "I was only obeying orders". But that, of course, is unspeakable......

The answers can be summed up in two words: the occupation.

In the last few years I have written dozens of articles about the disastrous effects of the occupation on the army. One cannot employ a whole army for decades as a colonial police force for crushing the resistance of an occupied population, without changing its character. Soldiers who run after stone-throwing children in the alleys of the Qasbah, who hammer at night on the doors of civilians, who use bulldozers to destroy people's homes, and all this for year after year - such soldiers are not competent to fight a modern war......."

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