Belaboring the Obvious

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Who's Blocking All of Bush's Brain Waves?

Shorter George Bush: "Just wait, I'll prove ta y'all that I have shit for brains."

There's been so many contradictory bits in the last week that, when they're all placed side by side, little of it seems either rational or considered or coordinated, or those bits are, when considered together, sending out exactly the opposite message than the one intended. In other words, business as usual for the Bushies.

Let's review. Hizbollah makes a cross-border military raid which in a few minutes kills three Israeli soldiers and captures two. Israel responds by destroying much of the infrasture of an entire country, Lebanon, and though Hizbollah fighters are mostly concentrated in the twenty or thirty miles of southernmost Lebanon adjoining Israel's northern border, Israel attacks, from the air, targets as far north as Tripoli, coastal Beirut, in the south of Lebanon and virtually all routes out of Lebanon on the Syrian border. Once Israeli attacks begin inside Israel, Hizbollah begins short-range katushya rocket attacks on northern Israel, and longer-range rocket attacks on Haifa. Israel sends ships to blockade Lebanon's coastline. Israel, more than once, pelts southern villages with leaflets ordering the population to evacuate, then attacks fleeing civilians on the roads from the air with rocket and bomb attacks. Then Israel bombs the roads, making evacuation impossible.

Almost immediately, it becomes apparent to most observers that Israel's intention is not to simply strike back at Hizbollah, but to incapacitate the country. Israeli targets in the first two weeks of fighting have included television stations, commercial radio and antenna arrays in both north, south and Beirut, major viaducts bringing water to Beirut, hospitals, ambulances, residential housing in east and south Beirut, virtually all major bridges in the country (46 at last count), Beirut's international airport (three times at last count), Beirut's largest dairy farm, electrical plants, most of the country's Mediterranean ports, along with several non-defense factories. Israel jets even blew off the top of the recently-built Roman-style lighthouse on the Corniche in Beirut.

While Israel argues that it is cutting off routes of resupply, the total damage far more suggests that Israel's intent is for non-Shi'ite Lebanese to blame Hizbollah for the carnage. Some do, but as time passes and the damage increases, the blame seems to be shifting and accruing to Israel and the United States.

This shift probably began with Bush and his G8 buttered roll-in-the-open-mouth comments that it would be simple for Kofi Annan to call Syria: "What they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over."

Not only did Bush have Emily Post spinning in her grave (and you thought LBJ showing reporters his gall bladder surgery scar was gross), but most of the world almost immediately came to the fairly solid conclusion, because of that remark, that Bush doesn't have a friggin' clue about what's going on. Hizbollah certainly has allies in Syria, but they weren't the ones that ordered Hizbollah's cross-border incursion, nor would Hizbollah be sacrificed by Syria--even if they had the power to disband them, which they don't--when Syria still cannot get Israel to relinquish its occupation of the Golan Heights and Shebaa Farms.

Of course, no phone call would stop it--at least not until Israel had accomplished its aims. Matthew Kalman of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote on July 21st that war against Lebanon and the Hizbollah had been planned in earnest for a year, and that "U.S. and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks" had been fully briefed on the details. Remember the nervousness last year about the U.S. authorizing the transfer of bunker-busting bombs to Israel? Everyone thought that meant the possibility of a surprise attack on Iran. Now we know.

We also now know, because U.S. diplomacy has been moving in slow motion on any kind of cease-fire, that the U.S. knew this attack was coming, if not on July 12th, then reasonably soon, and that the U.S. intends to sleepwalk through this until Israel's air war and invasion of southern Lebanon has been completed to Israel's satisfaction.

The rest of the world may also know more than what we know, because nine days into the war, the U.S. expedited shipment of 100 GBU-28 5000-lb. laser-guided bombs, along with additional satellite-guided bombs. Just a few days into the war, the U.S. agreed to transfers of $210 million worth of jet fuel to Israel. If we've supplied Israel with the planes and attack helicopters to embark on this operation of sweeping destruction, and then have supplied them with the bombs to be dropped by those aircraft and the jet fuel to run them, and had foreknowledge of the plan, does this mean we have, in effect, engaged Israel as our proxy for the purposes of destroying the country and government of Lebanon after praising Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution?" (Bush, of course, will take credit for instituting "democracy" in Lebanon--even though the country has had open elections since at least 1948--but will he take credit for destroying the country when open elections made Hizbollah a party in that Lebanese government? One imagines not.)

What exactly does this say about the ability of the U.S. to be an impartial broker in any future disputes in the Middle East? If the U.S. ever wanted to play that role again, the Bushies pretty well have screwed the pooch with that confluence of news. For forty years or so, the U.S. has been able to maintain the fiction that it could treat adversaries of Israel with equal rapport and respect in any negotiations involving Israel, but now? If the debacle in Iraq hadn't completely sealed the reputation of the U.S. as incompetent, this latest badly-intentioned bumbling regarding Lebanon will convince everyone that the U.S. is hopelessly biased in any matter concerning Israel and cannot be trusted to mediate in good faith.

Complicating this is the White House's recent statement, as reported by the Telegraph in the UK:

White House aides have said they consider the Lebanon crisis to be a "leadership moment" for Mr Bush and an opportunity to proceed with his post-September 11 plan to reshape the Middle East by building Sunni Arab opposition to Shia terrorism. Yesterday Mr Bush cited the role of Iran and Syria in providing help to Hezbollah.

Now, maybe that statement was made because Bush managed to get Saudi Arabia to initially blame Hizbollah for the destruction of Lebanon, but that won't last. And it's far more complicated, as usual, than Bush understands. After all, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" has its origin in Arabic lore. Moreover, the complexity of the situation often originates in longstanding disapproval of--and sometimes hatred for--Israel's actions in the Middle East. In Bush's pea-brained assessment, Syria is Shi'ite because it aids Hizbollah. In fact, Syria is mostly Sunni, as are its leaders. Syria supports the Shi'ite Hizbollah because of the latter's proximity to Israel and the defiance of Israel it provides. Syria, as mentioned above, still has aims to recover the Golan Heights from Israeli control, and certainly thinks Hizbollah can help toward that end.

Too, how does that statement jive with the election results in Iraq, which Bush extolled as an example of "democracy on the march" in his 2005 State of the Union address? The Iraqi government, up until this major upset in Lebanon principally generated by Israel, was in fairly firm Shia control, with good relations with Iran--and the U.S., if White House propaganda is to be believed. If one were blunt, it would not be unfair to say that all factions in Iraq--Shia, Sunni and Kurds alike--have done their fair share of terrorizing the population. Many astute observers in the region will see Bush's statement as both inherently ignorant and favoring the corrupt Sunni monarchy of Saudi Arabia as the preferred U.S. model for stability in the region. And yet, Saudi Arabia's own greatest terrorist threat comes from... wait for it... Sunni fundamentalist extremists. Has Bush forgotten (or did he ever know) that Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri were both fundamentalist Sunnis, with the latter aligned with the Egyptian Sunni Islamic Brotherhood?

Want more complicated? Pakistan, our friend in the "war on terror," is mostly Sunni, but gives considerable surreptitious aid to Afghanistan fundamentalist fighters and the Taliban, who are... Sunni. A majority of the hijackers of 9/11 were reported to be... Sunnis from Saudi Arabia.

Ultimately, not everyone Bush and Israel say are terrorists, are (it's an easy label to throw around), and there's plenty of exceptions that disprove Bush's notions about who are our friends in the region. The genuine problem in the Middle East and central Asia is fundamentalist extremism, Shia and Sunni and Israeli alike, but you're not likely to hear Bush utter that phrase, since about half of those in his voting base in this country are fundamentalist extremists.

His message is probably mostly directed at Iran (predominantly Shi'ite, not Arab, and the only Islamic republic in the region), and that should be of concern to everyone who is wondering what's next on the neo-con agenda. Iran isn't the largest part of the problem, though. After what has happened to Lebanon, if either the U.S. or Israel embark on a large-scale attack on Iran, Bush and the U.S. will likely discover that the various factions of the Muslim world are a lot more united against Israel, and its friends, than they are opposed to each other. The Saudi royals still see the fundamentalists as a threat, too... and they aren't much interested in having their opulently cared-for heads hanging from the lampposts in Riyadh.


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