On the Arab Street, the United States is getting a well-deserved share of vilification for promoting the orgy of violence that has already claimed the lives of over a thousand Lebanese civilians. That figure might be no more than a statistic in America. But, because of extensive live coverage on satellite TV, millions of Arabs now have the ability to attend the funerals of many of the victims. Every casualty is seen as an individual tragedy more so when the funerary rituals are for a child.
After weeks of exposure to the mutilated lifeless bodies dug up from the wreckage of south Lebanon, Arab audiences now get to witness what the victims looked like before some anonymous Israeli assassin pulled the execution switch from an air-conditioned plane financed with American tax dollars.
In the tradition of the south, large color portraits of each victim are carried to the burial grounds along with the caskets. In sharp contrast to the disfigured corpses sealed in their coffins, robust pre-war faces flash carefree smiles from kinder times. Innocent toddlers are buried along with siblings and parents who suffered the same fate -- a destiny that was pre-ordained by George Bush.
As rescue teams go about the grim business of recovering additional bodies from the rubble, unexploded cluster bombs litter the Lebanese landscape awaiting new victims. Although the Israelis failed in their mission, they left behind permanent scars. One only has to probe the anguished faces in the funeral processions and listen to the angry anti-American eulogies to comprehend that the carnage of the last five weeks will not soon be forgotten.
Nothing was spared as Israeli jets rained death on the villagers of South Lebanon. Every civilian was fair game as entire families were wiped out. The invasion led to an exodus of one million refugees. Even those who made attempts to flee where mowed down in their clearly marked convoys.
The Israelis gave early warning of their intent to set Lebanon back two decades by wiping out the fruits of post civil war reconstruction. Nothing was sacred. The airport, power plants, bridges, roads, factories, hospitals, schools, houses of worship and fifteen thousand housing units.
After enforcing a blockade by sea, the IDF systematically destroyed all land links to Syria -- sealing the country from the outside world. To insure permanent damage to Lebanon’s vital tourist trade, Israeli “defense forces” deliberately inflicted an environmental catastrophe on the coastline. Even ancient Roman and Phoenician sites were not spared.
While Gaza disappeared off the radar of the western press, the daily IDF assaults against the residents of the Palestinian penitentiary were being simultaneously broadcasted into living rooms around the region. This further confirmed the popular view that the IDF and their American allies are nothing more than a ruthless gang of professional assassins.
Every seasoned observer already knew what Seymour Hersh recently revealed in a New Yorker article. The Israelis had a plan waiting for a “provocation” and the particulars of the criminal plot had been pre-approved by Washington early this summer.
The conspiracy against Lebanon was designed to be a replay of Clinton’s campaign in Kosovo -- a war that was won by the exclusive use of air power. Israel’s air force was deployed to mercilessly pound Lebanon in the hope of instigating a sectarian uprising to force the government in Beirut to disarm Hezbollah. As icing on the cake, the Americans managed to enlist endorsement from a few critical Arab countries -- most notably Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Once the hostilities were initiated, the United States committed itself to obstructing any international attempts to stop the carnage. At the United Nations, the American and British delegations were instructed to veto all attempts to pass a cease-fire resolution. Apparently Washington had given its partners in Tel Aviv an initial deadline of ten days to complete their assignment. After several extensions, international pressure and unexpected battlefield results forced a major policy reversal by the Bush administration.
As things turned out, the indiscriminate blood letting went on for 33 days and ended up as another messy neo-con “cake-walk.” The air campaign failed miserably when the Lebanese united behind the resistance. Even those Lebanese who had little fondness for Hezbollah took pride in the gutsy resistance against the vicious war-mongering Goliath from the south.
Like their Israeli partners in crime, the neo-cons made the assumption that the Lebanese would quickly divide along sectarian lines and finish the job the Israelis had started. That delusion was dashed when Prime Minister Siniora told Condi to take a hike. To make his point, Siniora also advised her that she was unwelcome in Beirut without a peace plan that was acceptable to the Lebanese cabinet. Siniora then threatened to quit -- which would have left the country in the hands of President Emile Lahoud, a Syrian ally. A day after he unceremoniously gave Condi the boot, Siniora welcomed the French and Iranian foreign ministers and publicly praised Hezbollah for resisting the invasion.
Those who have a clue about Lebanon were hardly surprised by this show of national solidarity. There are few people in the world as politically sophisticated as the Lebanese. The last thing they were going to do was to get dragged into another civil war to serve Israeli designs. To this day, they blame their fifteen years of sectarian bloodshed on outside forces -- especially the Israelis.
So, as the days passed into weeks, the charismatic Hassan Nasrallah soared to the top of the popularity charts in Lebanon, the Middle East and beyond. His Churchillian speeches electrified the region. He might have worn a Shia turban -- but he wasn’t preaching religion to his largely Sunni audience across the Arab world. His speeches were geared to rallying the Lebanese to put aside their confessional differences to confront the Israeli invasion. And that’s exactly what they did.
Meanwhile, America’s standing in the region plummeted to new depths from which it may never recover. That didn’t stop the Bush administration from accelerating the delivery of lethal “smart” bombs to their war criminal pals in Tel Aviv. While listening avidly to the words of Nasrallah, few Arabs failed to notice that every “accidental” slaughter of civilians was greeted with irrepressible Rice smiles and mindless Bush mantras.
As usual, Bush never got off message. He continued to propagate the canard that Israel’s campaign was a reflexive proportionate response to the abduction of two IDF soldiers. Our reckless fool of a President seems to have suffered a sudden bout of amnesia regarding his active involvement in drawing up the Israeli-American plans months before the invasion. Perhaps he should review his notes with Cheney -- widely credited to be the driving force behind this latest neo-con misadventure.
It was not out of character for this president to get a free ride on the “Cedar Revolution” bandwagon only to turn his back on the Lebanese and conspire to destroy their country and ignite a civil war. For George Bush, the Middle East is just a big blot on a Risk Board. He went to Lebanon to temporarily escape the heat of the Iraq war -- which continues to exact a daily toll of over a hundred civilian fatalities at the cost of six billion dollars a month to the treasury of the United States.
The essential George Bush is a gambler -- the kind who doubles his bets when he finds himself entangled in a losing streak. After making his wagers based on “hot tips” from his neo-con advisers, he invariably gets fleeced by the realities of the Middle Eastern casino. As his losses pile up, he orders more drinks from the neo-con Kool Aid bar. Once the rent money is lost, he casually walks away from the table with the strut of a man who just hit the jackpot. It’s an old habit acquired while losing other people’s money as a wildcatter in Texas.
These days you can find this habitual loser boasting that he scored a decisive win against Hezbollah -- a position that even Israelis would dispute. Besides, if he wasn’t a party to the conflict -- why is he so adamant about claiming victory?
As for the Arab regimes that gave the nod to this bloody venture -- what little was left of their legitimacy has been seriously eroded. By the second week of this fiasco -- Saudi Arabia and Egypt had to withdraw their early endorsement of the Israeli/American project and go into reverse gear.
While the Egyptian government found itself fending off incessant assaults by the opposition press and putting down street demonstrations -- the Saudis were digging deep into their pocket and playing their traditional role of rich uncle. They promised to help repair what they had conspired to destroy. With “Arab” brothers like these, do the Lebanese really need relatives?
Of course, Americans can always find solace in the alternative White House narrative propagated by the mass media. The story line approved by the censors at CNN and FOX sounds suspiciously identical to IDF press releases. Israel was only defending itself. It acted spontaneously when two of its soldiers were apprehended by Iranian sponsored “Islamic fascists” -- out to destroy our way of life. Hezbollah is the Lebanese branch of Al Qaeda. And Hassan Nasrallah is another Bin Laden and a sworn enemy in the everlasting global war on terror. This alone should be enough to grant Olmert’s government a license to incinerate Lebanon. The slaughter of Lebanese civilians was justified because Hezbollah was involved in ‘terrorist activities’ like defending their homeland against belligerent foreign invaders.
According to this line of reasoning, negotiations were not an option and a prisoner exchange was out of the question. Israel was left with one choice – “total war” and indiscriminate carpet-bombing of entire neighborhoods and villages.
Bush and Condi are now denying that they actively obstructed a cease-fire resolution at the UN. The new spin is that they stood alone against virtually every other nation because Bolton was working on a more “constructive” document and spell checking the final version. Providing Israel with additional smart bombs was not a result of indifference to civilian casualties. Rather, it was to prove the point that war is hell and no good war is worth fighting without collateral damage -- preferably of the Arab variety. Even as the mutilated bodies of Lebanese babies were being prepared for burial, Condi had the audacity to cheerfully declare that this Washington inspired conflict would pave the path to a “New Middle East” -- a fantasy land with fertile ground for planting non-existent budding democracies that share our values.
To buy into the official narrative, one has to ignore that Bush is “spreading democracy” in alliance with Saudi Arabia, arguably the most undemocratic pseudo-theocracy in the world. In conjunction, his in-house neo-con cabal is conspiring with Israel in an effort to redraw the political map of Lebanon -- by far the most liberal multi-ethnic cosmopolitan country in the entire Middle East. Even as they brutalized Lebanon, the IDF continued its homicidal rampage against Gaza. Here again, the Palestinians were paying the price for electing a Hamas government in an internationally supervised election. While the Bush administration expresses its newfound fondness for certain UN resolutions like 1559, the wizards in Washington never bother to take note of Israel’s penchant for committing war crimes.
Be certain of this. Even the neo-crazies in the Bush administration take a few weeks to consider a major policy shift like Condi’s “New Middle East.” From the day hostilities broke out, the American government had a new ready-made policy with very specific goals. Isn’t that convenient? The very existence of this new plan is sufficient evidence that Bush and his merry band of neo-cons were involved in the early stages of plotting the conspiracy against Lebanon.
In a recent interview with Time magazine (8/14/2006) -- which is owned and operated by the same Likudnik cultists who broadcast CNN -- Condi Rice gave us a peak of the kind of gibberish that passes for policy deliberations behind White House walls. “We are in transition to a different kind of Middle East. And it is very turbulent. It is even violent. But it has a chance, at least, in which there is a democratic, multiethnic Iraq where people solve their differences by politics, not by repression.” Here’s a short translation. “This is a game of chance. You make a few “shock and awe” bets in Iraq. If you lose, you try doubling up the violence in Lebanon. Of course, you never bet against the House of Saud. In the end, we might get something that better suits American and Israeli interests. Let’s roll the dice and let the violence begin. Our violence is better than Saddam’s violence.”
Next time they play Middle Eastern roulette, maybe Bush and his crew should consider a safer bet. They can bet the house that overwhelming majorities of the people in the region want a new Middle East completely free of American intervention. Another sure bet is that an emerging Americans majority would be more than happy to pack up and cut their losses. Sooner rather than later, both Americans and Arabs will realize that the time has come to permanently toss Bush and his neo-con losers out of the Middle Eastern casino.
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