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WHAT WE THINK
U.S. and Israel prepare for new aggression after failure in Lebanon
Israel's ceasefire sham

August 25, 2006 | Page 3

REELING FROM an unprecedented military failure in Lebanon, Israel wasted no time in violating the ceasefire brokered by the United Nations (UN) with a large commando raid and several shootings.

Less than a week after the August 15 truce began, there was little doubt that Israel--and its U.S. sponsors--were preparing the ground diplomatically and militarily for more aggression against Hezbollah in Lebanon, possibly linked to attacks on Syria and Iran for supporting the Lebanese resistance.

In the boldest violation of the first week, Israeli commandos landed August 20 in Baalbek, a Hezbollah stronghold, under the cover of sonic booms from Israeli jets that still fly constantly over Lebanon, but the Israelis were soon driven out.

More--and bigger--Israeli attacks on Lebanon are certain to come in the weeks and months ahead, along with an intensification of the assault on Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

Having failed to win what was seen as a proxy battle for a U.S. war on Iran, leading figures in the Israeli political and military establishment are pointing fingers. Meanwhile, George W. Bush was having trouble in strong-arming countries to pledge troops for a planned contingent of 15,000 UN peacekeepers to be deployed in Southern Lebanon alongside the Lebanese Army.

For its part, Hezbollah, by surviving Israel's onslaught, emerged with new prestige, having succeeded where Arab states had failed--in preventing the Israeli military juggernaut from attaining its objectives.

A headline of an opinion column in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz summed up the situation: "It's a new era, if you haven't noticed." And it certainly isn't the "new era" that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was expecting when, commenting on the Israeli war on Lebanon, she talked about the "birth pangs of a new Middle East."

Despite the fact that Hezbollah was vastly outgunned--with the U.S. rushing emergency shipments of bombs to Israel--its fighters extracted a heavy toll on the Israel Defense Force (IDF), preventing the IDF from holding Lebanese territory. While only 154 Israelis were killed--far lower than the casualties among Lebanese--70 percent of Israeli deaths were among soldiers, a shocking loss for a military that was seen until now as invincible.

On the other hand, Israel's terror bombing destroyed Lebanon's infrastructure and killed well over 1,000 people, most of them civilians--exposing the Israeli state as terrorist, even as it claimed the U.S. "war on terror" as a justification for its assault. As British journalist Robert Fisk wrote, "The Israeli military appears to be efficient at destroying bridges, power stations, gas stations and apartment blocks--but signally inefficient in crushing the 'terrorist' army they swore to liquidate."

On the contrary, Hezbollah showed that Israel's aggression could be successfully resisted. Its fighters have provided an example that is having reverberations throughout the Middle East, from the occupied Palestinian territories to Iraq and beyond--inspiring the support of many who live under the heel of foreign occupation or oppressive regimes. Arab regimes that have so far condemned Hezbollah's actions or claimed that moderation is the only way to deal with Israel are being forced to take note.

Israel's defeat represents a turning point in the Middle East--in terms of Israel's dominance in the region, and also for the U.S. empire and its historical reliance on Israel as watchdog--or attack dog, as need be--in the region.

Likewise, in Iraq, the U.S. is facing an intensification of resistance. According to the New York Times, "An analysis of the 1,666 bombs that exploded in July shows that 70 percent were directed against the American-led military force, according to a spokesman for the military command in Baghdad. Twenty percent struck Iraqi security forces, up from 9 percent in 2005. And 10 percent of the blasts struck civilians, twice the rate from last year."

In other words, as terrible as sectarian violence has become in Iraq--with death tolls as high as 100 a day--the vast majority of armed attacks are directed against U.S. and security forces, not ordinary Iraqis.

It was the threat of U.S. defeat in Iraq that prompted the Bush administration to sponsor Israel's war on Lebanon. The U.S. failure has created the potential for Iran to emerge as the dominant power in the Middle East, so Washington backed--and, according to some accounts, urged--the Israeli attack on Hezbollah, Iran's ally in Lebanon.

Writing in the New Yorker, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh quoted a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel, commenting on the war: "The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits. Why oppose it? We'll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran."

Thus, Israel's failure in Lebanon was a major defeat for the U.S. as well--however much hyper-publicized allegations of airline terror plots are used to try to change the subject.

Today, the Lebanese people face the crippling devastation left by Israel's unrelenting bombing campaign. Thousands of unexploded cluster bombs--many manufactured by the U.S.--still litter Southern Lebanon.

And more Israeli attacks are sure to come. A senior Israeli commander speaking anonymously to the New York Times emphasized Israel's determination to assassinate Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. "There's only one solution for him," he told the Times. "This man must die."

Israel's "solution" requires that many more Palestinians must die, too. Israel is continuing to pursue its own regime change policy against the democratically elected Palestinian government led by the militant Hamas organization.

Last weekend, Israel arrested yet another Hamas official--Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister, Nasser al-Shaer--at his home in Ramallah. This brings the number of Hamas cabinet ministers and legislators detained by Israel to more than two dozen since the end of June. The intensified war on Palestinians is taking place with the blessing of the White House, which has backed Israel's economic blockade of the Palestinian Authority.

The savagery not only of Israel, but its political backers in the U.S. stands exposed today. Those political backers include not only the Bush administration, but Democrats in Congress, who strain to outdo Republicans in defending Israel.

Opposition to the U.S.-Israeli drive to dominate the Middle East won't come from the Democrats, but from activists in the U.S. who are prepared to stand with those who oppose U.S. imperialism. Unfortunately, the liberal antiwar left--with its ties to the Democratic Party and its unquestioning support of Israel--have so far failed to mount a serious challenge to Israel's aggression.

Protests organized on August 12 to oppose Israel's war on Lebanon and Gaza showed the possibilities for organizing a revitalized antiwar movement, with significant turnouts from the Arab and Muslims communities most directly affected by the war and the attack on civil liberties in the U.S.

We have to build on this potential by opposing Israel's wars of terror in the Middle East and linking the liberation of Palestine to our opposition to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

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