As the rape of Lebanon proceeds on schedule, the "civilized world" rushes to give its imprimatur to the slaughter. The U.S. and France are sponsoring a United Nations resolution that neither calls for a cease-fire nor demands the withdrawal of invading Israeli troops. So much for the UN as the last, best hope for peace.
Is there a chance my liberal friends, who have long looked to the organization founded by Alger Hiss and Franklin "He Lied Us Into War" Roosevelt as a beacon of hope, will wake up and smell the burned bodies?
Most of them are looking the other way as the Israelis ravage Lebanon or are openly cheerleading the mayhem, like San Francisco Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and are on vacation, anyway, sitting on a beach somewhere with their consciences conveniently deactivated.
As I cast my eye over the American political landscape, I espy nary a single major politician, party, or publication that opposes the Israeli blitz of Lebanon. Democrats, Republicans, and even ostensible "libertarians" left, right, and center are marching in lockstep with the aggressors. Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, the exception that proves the rule, is virtually alone in proffering even the most timorous doubts. Among the pundits of some stature, critics of the invasion can be counted on one hand: Pat Buchanan, Eleanor Clift, our own Paul Craig Roberts, Georgie Anne Geyer, Vanity Fair‘s James Wolcott, and a very few others. Almost no one has risen to decry this morally indefensible and strategically disastrous invasion of a sovereign and democratic nation. The online lefty-liberal blogosphere has been noticeably silent. Arianna Huffington has managed to write at least two columns referring to events in Lebanon without directing a word of criticism at the Israelis. Her big concern is that the invasion will be bad for Israel. She doesn’t mention the horrific casualties inflicted on the practically defenseless Lebanese.
The Israelis have a skillful overseas propaganda operation, and it is calling the shots by writing the dominant narrative: Israel, they say, is simply fighting terrorism of the sort represented by Hezbollah, which is nothing more than a Shi’ite version of al-Qaeda. U.S. interests are identical with Israel’s, in this case and in all others. Israel’s amen corner is also busy prettifying the ugly facts on the ground, with the always useful Matt Drudge consumed with accusations that photographs from the scene are being doctored. Charles Johnson, of the hate-site Little Green Footballs, is crowing that a photo of smoke billowing over Beirut was made to look darker and more profuse, and this is now being touted as "proof" that the massacre at Qana and other Israeli atrocities either never took place or were greatly exaggerated by the "biased" media.
This is nonsense, of course. To begin with, to see the effects of the Israeli bombing of Beirut, one merely has to go here. Secondly, only the mentally challenged could possibly argue the American media tilts against Israel and in favor of the Lebanese but then, "mentally challenged" describes an awful lot of people, especially in this country. I mean, where else do millions believe that the prospect of a nuclear war igniting in the Middle East is a good thing, because it augurs the Second Coming of Christ? God bless America!
The pro-Israel narrative is imposed on virtually all reporting that comes out of this war, starting with newscasts that lead off with reports of Israeli casualties, even if the damage done to Lebanese is far greater that day. The general attitude of the media is reflected on the front page of Sunday’s New York Times, which features a photo of two smiling Israeli soldiers in a manly embrace and is captioned "Brother, we made it" back into Israel, that is. If only the rest of their comrades would follow them, but there’s no chance of that any time soon.
How could these two smiling, robust, benevolent figures have anything to do with war crimes? Are these the soldiers of an invading army or just two regular Joes breathing a sigh of relief to get home, basically good guys, like you and me, who are just defending their country? The Israelis couldn’t buy better publicity but they don’t have to buy it, because they get it for free. Israel gets a free pass from the media in this country, contrary to the paranoid delusions of pro-Israel fanatics, and this reflects the elite political consensus: anything the Israelis do is okay by us.
The story the pro-Israel propaganda machine is churning out wouldn’t satisfy the worst hack: they were just minding their own business, you see, routinely kidnapping and jailing Palestinians, and bulldozing their dwellings, when, out of the clear blue, those Hezbollah nasties took out after a couple of Israeli soldiers, killing some and capturing not "kidnapping" two others. How dare those Arabs fight back! Don’t they know they should be on their knees, in a position of supplication, just because the Israelis let them live?
The conquest of southern Lebanon is an accomplished fact, or will be soon, with the full complicity of the "international community" unless either Syria or Iran intervenes to save the rape victim from the clutches of its assailant. This is what the Israelis, and their neoconservative allies in the administration, are hoping for: in that case, they will be spared ginning up a pretext for striking Damascus and Tehran in fairly short order.
The War Party temporarily knocked from the saddle by the disastrous outcome of the Iraq war is back holding the reins. And we are all at their mercy. This time, there will be not a peep from most of the "antiwar" Democrats if anything, they are more obsequious in kowtowing to the Israel lobby than the Republicans. The Democrats, at any rate, don’t have a Chuck Hagel among their presidential wannabes. For any really substantive critique of the Israel lobby and its deleterious effect on the pursuit of American interests, you have to look to the "realist" Republican Right, which fears a wider conflict and the prospect of America’s entry into Israel’s war.
There are two possible avenues of American intervention in this battle aside from the rush of U.S. armaments to Israel and whatever covert cooperation is underway. The first is via the "international force" called for in the UN resolution: of course, an American presence is not stipulated, but, as I have said before, it is difficult to imagine what other country is either prepared or willing to undertake such an operation. Policing southern Lebanon will require anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 troops. Where will they come from? You guessed it
Secondly, Israel’s actions have put U.S. troops in Iraq in mortal danger. The other day, tens of thousands of Iraqi Shi’ites demonstrated against the attack on Lebanon, crying "Death to Israel!" and "Death to America!" in nearly the same breath. We have yet to defeat the Sunni-led insurgency, which is plunging the nation into civil war what will we do when the Shi’ite majority turns its guns against us? Now there‘s a familiar "narrative" replete with flashes of déjà vu: it’s that helicopter taking off from the rooftop of the U.S. embassy all over again. Only this time, it will be broadcast in full color my cheap family didn’t get a color television until the late ’70s and over the worldwide Web.
The most perceptive comments I have come across on this subject have been by former Oslo negotiator Daniel Levy, who also took part in the Taba talks and was the lead Israeli drafter of the Geneva Initiative. Writing in Ha’aretz, Levy avers, "Disentangling Israeli interests from the rubble of neocon ‘creative destruction’ in the Middle East" is a strategic priority for Israel, else they will drag Tel Aviv down into the same abyss that awaits Washington. He delves into the history of the 1996 "Clean Break" initiative proffered by key neoconservative defense intellectuals, who, once in power, implemented their strategy of "regime change" via wars of "liberation."
The decisive influence of this single-mindedly pro-Israel faction in the councils of state had an unfortunate effect, however, on the "special relationship" that has always existed between Israel and the U.S.:
"Witnessing the near-perfect symmetry of Israeli and American policy has been one of the more noteworthy aspects of the latest Lebanon war. A true friend in the White House. No deescalate and stabilize, honest-broker, diplomatic jaw-jaw from this president. Great. Except that Israel was actually in need of an early exit strategy, had its diplomatic options narrowed by American weakness and marginalization in the region, and found itself ratcheting up aerial and ground operations in ways that largely worked to Hezbollah’s advantage, the Qana tragedy included. The American ladder had gone AWOL.
"Israelis have grown used to a different kind of American embrace less instrumental, more emotional, but also responsible. A dependable friend, ready to lend a guiding hand back to the path of stabilization when necessary."
American appeasement of Israel, against all moral and practical considerations, has resulted in the weakening of Israel, Levy argues, and ratcheted up hostility to the Jewish state in the region to a fever pitch. I agree with Levy’s analysis, and would add that American interests aren’t too well served by this "symmetry," either.
As opposed to the heroic narrative marketed by the Lobby and its friends, which portrays this as a defensive war, a mere reaction to Lebanese attacks, the reality is that this is the most cynical exercise in brazen aggression since the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia in the run-up to World War II. Prior to offering the thinnest of pretexts to justify the invasion of Poland the Germans claimed Polish soldiers had launched a raid into their territory Hitler’s wolves tore off a large chunk of Czech flesh in the form of the Sudetenland. Today, Israeli predators are biting off a similar-sized chunk of Lebanon on their way to a much larger meal.
Like the Germans, who utilized the German minority for their own purposes, the Israelis have the Christian Maronites of the Phalangist groups to act as their sock-puppets although perhaps even these guys have abandoned them. After all, the Israeli air force has been bombing Christian villages, too.
One hopes the historical parallels will end there, but I fear not: just as the German push for Lebensraum ended in a world war, so an apparent campaign to give Israel a bit of elbow room may result in yet another global conflagration. The UN resolution, then, amounts to a new Munich agreement, which if history teaches us anything will serve to embolden the Israelis to go on the offensive against Syria, and, perhaps, Iran. If the appeasement of Israel continues while the U.S. sacrifices its own clear interest in lessening support for extremists in the Arab-Muslim world, Condoleezza Rice will go down in history as the Neville Chamberlain of her time.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
I trust everyone puts two and two together and connects the point of this column that the "narrative" is being determined, at the moment, by the War Party and the fact that this is the first day of our summer fundraising campaign.
Our job is to counter the "official" narrative, and offer an alternative i.e., the unvarnished truth. The War Party has many millions including full access to the U.S. Treasury and your tax dollars and we depend on you.
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