Lebanon, The Proxy War

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In March of 1978, in response to a PLO attack on Israeli citizens, Israel launched an invasion of Lebanon moving its forces north to the Litani River of southern Lebanon and used antipersonnel cluster bombs against Beirut and its urban areas.

I quote from former President Jimmy Carter’s book, The Blood of Abraham;

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As president, I considered this major invasion to be an over reaction to the PLO attack, a serious threat to peace in the region, and perhaps part of a design to establish a permanent Israeli presence in southern Lebanon. Also, such use of American weapons including cluster bombs violated the legal agreement between the United States and Israel, which specified that such armaments sold by us could be used only for defensive purposes against an attack on Israel.

In spite of my expressions of concern and worldwide outcry, Begin seemed determined to keep his forces in Lebanon for an extended period and –” in another direct violation of American law — to transfer American weapons, including artillery and armored vehicles, to the Lebanese militia commanded by Major Saad Haddad. These troops had been trained and supported by the Israelis, in order to seal off the southern portion of the country against Palestinian terrorists. In carrying out this assignment, they also prevented Lebanese regular troops and UN peacekeeping forces from entering the area.

After consulting with Secretary Cyrus Vance and with key supporters of Israel in congress, I decided that we could not permit the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon to continue. In the event that Begin would not accede to our wishes, we prepared to notify Congress, as required by law, that US weapons were being used illegally in Lebanon, which would have automatically cut off all military aid to Israel. Also, I instructed the state department to prepare a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s action.

The American consul general in Jerusalem was instructed to deliver a message to Prime Minister Begin that explained these plans and urged that he withdraw his forces. The report came back from Jerusalem that Begin read the message, stood quietly for a few moments, and then said, “Its over.”

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I might add that Carter resisted efforts by Prime Minister Begin to delay the UN action for several days until Begin had had a chance to meet with Carter as part of a previously scheduled a trip to Washington.

Carter was defending the dual principles of international law of proportionality, that a military response must be proportionate to the severity of the provocation, and, second, that the accusation of territory by force is contrary to international law.

Since the Carter administration attitudes within the US government have diverged considerably, but also continuously, through Reagan up through Clinton and into the Bush administration, regarding the responses to aggressive actions by Israel. We have now reached a stage, under Bush, so that all such aggressive Israeli actions are interpreted as defensive and are supported by Washington. Further the US protects Israel politically and without exception in such international forms such as the UN Security Council where the US is prepared to veto any resolution not meeting the approval of Israel. Unlike Carter, the Bush administration perceives no differences between American strategic and national interest and Israeli strategic and national interest.

Reasons for the evolution of policy in this direction have to do with the rise in influence of the Jewish lobby as well of the inclusion into the government of those whose strong loyalty to the state of Israel determines their perceptions of the world. Likewise of significant influence are the Christian Zionist of which Bush himself may be included.

As Bush has been incanting the mantra, “Israel has a right to defend itself”, over the last three to four weeks, Israel has been pounding Lebanon killing as many as 900 Lebanese civilians, as of this writing, and displacing 913,000, about a quarter of the population. Israeli American made bombs have destroyed Lebanon’s post civil war network of superhighways, part of the long-term recovery plan for Lebanon. More than 70 bridges, about a fifth of all those in Lebanon have been bombed.

A major ecological disaster has been produced by the Israeli Air force having bombed the Jiyye oil refinery causing oil-thick covering of Lebanons beaches and also threatening the coasts of Cypris and Turkey.

The Israeli Air Force has dropped leaflets on southern Lebanon telling the residents that they must leave, yet attacks the cars and vans carrying families on the roads when they do. All of the bridges crossing the Litani River have been severed making evacuation of the south nearly impossible.

Like the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Lebanon is being seal from the outside world with highways and roads to Syria having been destroyed, with Beirut’s International Airport having had to shut down because Israeli aircraft have cratered the runways. Twenty three gas filling stations have been bombed causing many others to close for fear of being bombed, and fuel tanks of Beirut’s power plant has been bombed causing significant air and water pollution..

An estimated 23 large factories and 40 small factories have been destroyed by aerial bombing.

No more than tens of Hezbollah fighters have been killed, yet, aside form almost a thousand Lebanese civilians killed the entire country has will be made to suffer because of the destruction of Lebanon’s infrastructure. Christian areas of the north of the country as well as Christian areas of Beirut have been targets of Israeli bombs.

It is clear now that Bush’s celebration of the Cedar revolution, in which Syrian troops were forced to leave Lebanon was not motivated by his concern for the well being or the integrity of Lebanon but only because the evacuation of Syrian troops served Israel’s military and strategic interest and has been a long time goal of the Jewish state.

All of Bush’s actions toward the Middle East can be interpreted as support for Israeli supremacy in the region.

President Bush and Secretary Rice undoubtedly view the conflict taking place between Israel and Hezbollah as a proxy war between the US/Israel and Syria/Iran. At the present moment, a ceasefire with Israeli withdrawal would be widely recognized as a victory for Hezbollah, having frustrated the well laid designs of the large, efficient, and well supplied Israeli army would, and thus accrue to the benefit of Iran already enjoying augmented influence due to the failure on US program in Iraq of establishing a stable secular western style democracy is Israel-friendly and western oriented. This, along with Israel’s gaining time to militarily subdue Hezbollah, which it has thus far failed to do, accounts for The Bush administration’s determination to resist a cease fire.

It is difficult to know if Bush realizes how much of a disaster has been his invasion of Iraq and his efforts to “democratize” the Middle East. The Shiite influence throughout the region has grown immeasurably, with the last piece of the Shiite crescent completed with the replacement of the secular government of Saddam Hussein with a popularly elected Shia government representing the majority of the country.

The perception in the Arab world as well as elsewhere that democratization of the Middle East is no more than a euphemism for American and Israeli hegemony and imperialism is almost universal.

The hatred engendered by in the region as they see Lebanon destroyed and their fellow Arabs slaughtered, as Palestinians have been slaughtered, and not for the first time, will outlast the Bush presidency.

While Bush and Rice conduct their proxy war against Iraq, civilians, as usual, are the ones who suffer.

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