James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lebanon through the looking glass

Hello? Red Queen? Hatter? Rabbit? Alice? Anyone?

Reading about the recent hostilities in Lebanon and growing ever sadder, it suddenly hit me like a two-by-four to the head that all of the reporting and all the pundit blathering on the situation, at least in this country, has a surreal, Wonderland quality.

A major, elephant-in-the-room piece of the story -– Israel's invasion of Lebanon less than two years ago -- has been entirely absent from the so-called "mainstream media" coverage of the battles and political maneuvering and the further suffering of the Lebanese people. Not so much as a whisper have we heard, not so much as a single line of agate type have we seen on that essential piece of the story.

Yes, it's true. The American corporate news organizations have blacked out an enormously significant piece of the Lebanon puzzle, an act for which I can find no reason other than to actively support the machinations of Israel and the White House.

I was so disoriented by that realization, I had to go back and check 2006 news coverage to make sure I wasn't suffering from false memory, possibly from some sort of pollution-induced delusion.

Nope. It's there in the on-line archives and in my files: Israel, with full support and hush-hush collusion of the Bushcheney administration, did invade Lebanon in the summer of 2006 and keep it's troops there for about two months.

During that time, as many observers such as Human Rights Watch attested, Israeli troops fired indiscriminately on civilians as well as opposing combatants, and in one highly memorable event, deliberately blasted a clearly identified United Nations observer outpost, killing all of the occupants. Lots of entirely innocent men, women and children were successfully slaughtered, in fact. Some reports suggest cluster bombs left in Lebanon still are killing and maiming people, in fact.

As world conflicts go, the war was brief, but up to the highest standards for brutality. And down to the lowest standards for organizational control and lack of legitimate purpose.

The dissatisfaction of Israeli citizens with the action -– mostly because a large portion of the public wanted their army to essentially destroy Lebanon then and there, or at least Hezbollah in Lebanon -– caused political upheaval in Israel. A minority of the Israeli population protested the action because they believed it was wrong. (Americans generally forget that there is a large, rational peace contingent within Israel.)

The purported motivation for the July 2006 invasion was the capture of two Israeli soldiers in a raid into Israel by Hezbollah guerrillas. (Or Hizbullah, as everyone but the U.S. press and officials spell it.)

In fact, U.S. officials gave their approval for the Israeli attack about two months before it began, according to Seymour Hersh, the master reporter who has broken many of the big stories on Bush administration and Pentagon misconduct and illegal activities in Iraq. White House approval was sought and granted before the two Israeli soldiers were kidnapped, Hersh and others reported not long after the invasion.

The kidnapping was just an excuse, and an exceptionally weak one at that.

Reason leads to the conclusion that the real Israeli motivation for the invasion was to weaken Hezbollah and prevent its retaliation against Israel if the United States should attack Iran -– an attack the Israeli government was (and is) pushing. As are some of the White House neocons.

A number of people who know the territory suggested that some in the Israeli hierarchy were hoping the attack on Lebanon would stir things up enough to give Bushcheney an excuse to move against Iran.

This is relevant today because at the time, a few people who actually know something about Lebanon and its history predicted that the ultimate result of the Israeli invasion would be to halt any shakey progress the country was making toward renewed stability and democratic government. Their knowledge was strong, their assessments based on deep understanding of the situation, and their voices were largely ignored by our government and the big “news” outfits.

(Stability and a democratic government in Lebanon is something the Bush crowd claims it wants; its actions prove it ain't necessarily so.)

Lebanon, once the most enlightened spot in the region, was ripped to shreds by a terrible civil war that went on and on, from 1975 to 1990. There were many causes, including an unsettling large influx of Palestinian refugees who mostly were driven out of their homes in what is now Israel. Interference and power-grabbing by Iran and, especially, Syria also were major factors.

At long last, Syria was forced out, and for a decade, Lebanon made slow but steady progress toward becoming what it once was.

That does not suit the purposes of those who rule Israel.

It is true, of course, that Hezbollah, a nasty ally of Iran and Syria, still wielded considerable power in large sections of Lebanon and, in fact, did conduct small but sometimes deadly raids into Israel. But the Israeli invasion of Lebanon predictably strengthened Hezbollah's position in Lebanon. People who had stood aside from the organization now look to it as a protector from Israel's brutality.

As someone I heard somewhere said in a wider context: The “war on terrorism has become terrorism.”

So Israel pulled the still wobbly legs from under Lebanon's struggling government and, they no doubt hope, have created another excuse for Bushcheney to drop explosives on Iran.

You can get a sense of the propaganda to come in this country from the column by Thomas L. Friedman – one of Israel's most aggressive shills in the American press – in the New York Times of Wednesday, May 14.

Friedman has concocted, or someone has concocted, a theory that we are entering a new cold war, a “struggle for influence across the region, with America and its Sunni Arab allies (and Israel) versus Iran, Syria and their non-state allies, Hamas and Hezbolla.”

There's more, designed to instill in his readers a fear of that insidious cabal and anger that the United States isn't being tough and smart and bullying those damned A-Rabs into doing exactly what we (and Israel) want at any given time. Essentially, Israel and the Bushies want to call the shots in Lebanon.

But, of course, “The outrage of the week is the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah attempt to take over Lebanon,” says Friedman, who goes on to rant about Bushcheney stupidity and cowardice that has led to the United States being “not liked, not feared and not respected” in the Middle East. The key word, as I read it is “feared.”

In other words, we aren't brutal enough in forcing Middle Eastern nations (other than Israel, of course) to knuckle under.

Is that Israel talking or what? It's an amazing formulation that ignores reality almost entirely.

We're disliked and certainly not respected in the region, and it's obviously true that the Arab and Palestinian populations don't tremble in fear of us, as Bush and Israel would like, but the reasons for that are many degrees from what Friedman claims.

And aside from the nonsense of suggesting that Iran, Syria and Hezbollah are acting together like a well-designed machine, nowhere does he make mention of the fact that the conditions that led to current instability in Lebanon were created, deliberately, by Israel with the blessing of the Bush White House.