The first shots of what appears to be a renewed Lebanese civil war rang out three days ago as the U.S.-backed government cracked down on Hezbollah, the main opposition party, with a ban on the group’s private telecommunications network and the attempted ouster of an alleged sympathizer, Brig. Gen. Wafiq Shuqeir, as overseer of the Beirut airport. This is plainly meant as a provocation: Hezbollah, which fought off the Israelis during the 2006 war, is not about to give up its communications infrastructure. After all, it was Hezbollah, not the Lebanese army, that resisted the Israelis when they rained bombs down on Lebanese civilians, killing and maiming thousands, destroying homes, factories, and houses of worship. The army stayed in its barracks while Hezbollah fought for Lebanon. But no matter. The Lebanese government with the Americans and the Israelis behind it clearly wants a fight.
That fight is part of a brewing regional battle that would leave the Middle East a cauldron of flame and blood. This dire prospect doesn’t deter the War Party: they have been waiting for this moment for years. It is their moment of triumph.
As we ordinary folk go about our lives paying bills, raising children, attending to the mundane and increasingly difficult everyday affairs that dominate our lives our betters are planning a surprise. You might call it an October Surprise, although it may take place much sooner rumor has it as early as summer.
The second chapter in the Great Middle Eastern War is being written, and its authors in Washington have in mind an even more dramatic plot-line than we witnessed in chapter one, which was, of course, the invasion of Iraq. In the run-up to that conflict, we were told Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, links to al-Qaeda, and was getting ready to wreak havoc on our allies in the region and even attack the United States. None of it turned out to be true, as we now know, but, as John McCain says, "we’re there now," "we’re in it to win it" and winning it apparently means extending the war to Iran.
In a rerun of the cherry-picked "intelligence"-mongering of the pre-Iraq war years, we are being treated to a propaganda campaign that blames Iran for the failure of the "surge," ignoring the inherent impossibility of subduing an occupied people. Ever since Judy Miller, the New York Times has been the neocons’ favorite venue for war propaganda, and now we have a new report from the Old Gray Lady that asserts Hezbollah is training Iraqi militias on the outskirts of Tehran.
Here we have an all-inclusive stew that includes practically all the "bad guys": Hezbollah, the Iraqi militias, and the Iranians. If we hear tomorrow that Osama bin Laden himself is personally instructing the attendees of this "training camp" and plotting another 9/11 with their assistance, no one wil be the least bit surprised. It’s Halloween in springtime: all the ghouls and goblins are out, haunting and gibbering and howling at the moon.
With U.S. casualties up in the last month and the situation on the ground steadily worsening, the War Party is seizing the opportunity to target Tehran, positioning itself to launch Operation Iranian Freedom under the guise of "defending" our troops in Iraq. But first comes the provocation, the catalyzing incident that creates a "crisis" atmosphere and inspires our warmongers and theirs to act.
Lebanon is a tinderbox, the Balkans of the Middle East, and the "government" which is not quite a government, since it lacks a president has lit the fuse. For 17 months, the two sides have been locked in a confrontation with little prospect for a peaceful resolution, and foreign hands the Americans, the Israelis, the Iranians, the Syrians, the Saudis are stirring the pot.
Amid all this tumult and drama, as armed factions engage in street battles and a country that was once the jewel of the Middle East is blackened in the flames of war, what is the American interest? What does the United States have to gain by starting World War III?
The answer is clearly nothing. War with Iran would put our troops in Iraq at risk and plunge the entire region into chaos: the economic consequences of this alone should be enough to deter us. Rumors of oil at $200 a barrel already have the markets roiling. Wait until you see what happens to prices when the Persian Gulf is impassable.
Who benefits from such a war? Not the Lebanese, who have suffered enough over the years and want only to live in peace. Not the Iranians, either, who are stumbling under the weight of economic sanctions imposed at the instigation of the Western powers. And surely not the war-weary American people, who want out of Iraq and have no desire to "liberate" another unwilling candidate for "democratic" emancipation.
Israel’s lobby in the U.S. has been calling for confrontation with Iran ever since "Mission Accomplished." AIPAC, the powerhouse lobby for the Jewish state, has made the Iranian "threat" the centerpiece of its legislative and "educational" agenda. The Lobby’s neoconservative allies have been clamoring for a fresh conflict, using their key positions as columnists, publicists, think-tank gurus, and television talking heads to beat the drums for war. And those neocons still in positions of power in the government, centered in the office of the vice president, have been making the case inside the administration, with some success.
The people of Israel will also be big losers if or, rather, when war comes. The governing elites, on the other hand, have plenty to gain. In both Israel and the U.S., where pressing economic problems and continuing scandals threaten their grip on power, the elites will have a welcome respite from having to explain their failures, and a new "enemy" to pin the blame on. The rulers of both countries desperately want to change the subject, diverting the rising tide of anger away from themselves by conjuring up an external "threat." Both regimes are in the midst of a political crisis and could use a good old-fashioned war to channel the frustrations and pent up hostility of their long-suffering citizens in a convenient direction. It’s the oldest trick in the book and it’s working.
We are in the midst of a presidential campaign season, yet not a single major candidate has pointed with alarm to the rather obvious fact that we are on the brink of a major military conflict. Indeed, two of them have welcomed this prospect, while the third the Democratic front-runner, who owes his status to his antiwar credentials has addressed the subject only indirectly.
It’s like one of those dreams where you scream and no sound comes out, so that none can hear your cries for help. Peace advocates might as well be living ghosts, whose hands pass through solid matter and whose voices merge with the sighing of the wind. We are invisible and unheard: the Silenced Majority.