Lessons Not Learned

As the situation in Iraq continues its downward spiral, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the U.S. learned nothing from its 1982-1983 involvement in Lebanon.

The U.S. Marines initially got a very good response from the Lebanese in that they were neutral and didn’t take sides and even protected Lebanese from the Israelis frequently–earning them the contempt of the IDF and Mossad.

Likewise, after paying off various Iraquis to the tune of well over $20-million according to some reports, and getting rid of an autocratic leader not popular with large sections of the Iraqui populace, the U.S. military enjoyed an initial grace period in Iraq.

In Lebanon, the U.S. brokered a PLO withdrawal from West Beiruit and agreed to prevent an Israeli occupation. So far so good. Then it all went wrong. The U.S. left early and the Israelis under Ariel Sharon rampaged into West Beiruit with high civilian casualties and opened the way for the slaughter in Sabra and Shatilla. Then, with the assassination of Bashir Gemayel, the Israeli plans for a Phalangist-dominated Lebanese government hit a wall and the U.S. troops had to return to help get the Israeli "white steak" out of the proverbial fire. Another major mistake that made the Marines combatants rather than mediators. This mistake was compounded when U.S. warships were ordered to shell Lebanese positions in fire-support for Israeli-backed Phalangist militias. Another major mistake that probably led to more than 200 Marines being killed in 1983, and a subsequent U.S. withdrawal.

The Iraq invasion was like a page out of Ariel Sharon’s playbook for Lebanon, in which the Phalangists were favored over all other groups. One does not bring justice to a nation by completely excising one group (the Sunnis in Iraq) from government and favoring other groups. Which was the first thing the U.S. did, repeating the old Lebanese mistake. This was compounded by the assassination of Saddam’s sons and grandson, the levelling of Fallujah (birthplace of Wahhab), and opression of Saddam’s tribal center of Tikrit. All these actions–to say nothing of perhaps 80,000 civilian deaths and torture centers–just added to the U.S. role of combatant rather than mediator.

President Bush’s new strategy of arial bombing "insurgents" in Iraq has long been suggested by Neocon media outlets such as Michael Savage (Weiner) and Sean Hannity. If U.S. troops receive fire of bombings we’ll just turn the immediate area into a "parking lot" the reasoning goes. This will repeat the Lebanese shelling mistake as well and increase the perception of our forces as combatants rather than mediators.

I can’t add the final parallel with Lebanon: that this is all being done mostly for the benefit of Israel. That’s because President Bush has just said that saying that would be sedition–giving aid and comfort to "America’s enemies" in time of war.