Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2006 2:48 pm 
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Hassan Nasrallah has said in an interview on Lebanese TV that if he'd known the effect Hezbollah's July 12th border raid would have, he would "absolutely not" have allowed it. If you see truth in Juan Cole's opinionated description of how "stupid" the Israel-Hezbollah war was on both sides, you'd wonder why anyone would want to claim victory. After the major Lebanese-Israeli fighting had ended Donald Macintyre wrote for the Independent from Metulla (Israel) that Israel generally was acknowledging having lost the war and that he believed this might "make Israel quicker to seek negotiated solutions." Whatever may have been learned in Israel may be undercut by the US taboo against any criticism of Tel Aviv, as Alexander Cockburn suggests in a recent essay, and this will remain a serious obstacle to Israel's changing its policies. Cockburn also points to various kinds of corruption, moral and otherwise, handicapping the US and Israeli armies and marring their relationships with each other, which have helped render ineffectual both Iraq pacification efforts and the campaign to weaken Hezbollah.

Israelis know they didn't win, but don't know why, as Reuven Pedatzur says in an opinion piece in Haaretz, "The Day After/How we suffered a knockout.". Pedantzur's explanations are disappointing. He thinks Israel ought to have used a superior force; sent in lots more troops right away. That sounds a lot like the hawkish critics of Rumsfeld's failed Iraq invasion strategies and this suggests that like US hawks Israelis still haven't learned a major lesson of Vietnam -- that you can't beat a highly motivated guerrilla force on its own terrain with conventional firepower, no matter how or when you deploy it. Nor do they see the lesson that what was needed was not different military management, but negotiation and prisoner exchange, cooperation with neighbors to become a peaceful inhabitant of the region rather than to be a little island surrounded by a sea of hostility. It must be depressing to be surrounded by enemies you now know you can't defeat, and have no vision beyond trying to fight them in a different way.

If we need to review the false pretexts for Israel's attack and remind ourselves of how the Bush neo-cons exaggerate the threat of Iran, these are laid out in an interview with Noam Chomsky by Merav Yudilovitch, and in a question-and-answer session with Nermeen Al Mufti for Al Ahram Weekly Chomsky goes over how the arrogance of power plays into these events and the US and its allies restrict the UN. Bush's nuclear threat vis-à-vis Iran is analyzed and set in the historical context of Nixon's "madman theory" approach in a Bulletin of Atomic Scientists commentary, "US Nuclear Threats: Then and Now." The scientists conclude that such threats have no effect other than nuclear proliferation.

Lebanon is a devastated country. All its gains since the early Eighties have been reversed; and other nations are stumbling in their efforts to begin to help -- which of course aids the image of Iran-backed Hezbollah, which is on the scene, and providing help. The fact remains that only Hezbollah has benefited from this disaster. But it has, indeed, benefited. Even a NYTimes front-page story (one that has shocked many) proclaimed, "Hezbollah Leads Work to Rebuild, Gaining Stature": Iran is providing them with an "unlimited budget" for reconstruction efforts, so Hezbollah's success in the fighting will be crowned with its role as benefactor. According to this much-discussed Times article and other reports, work is already fast under way to clear rubble and make roads passable. Nasrallah promises help on rebuilding houses, furnishing them, and paying rents, and he has a reputation even among Sunnis as a man who makes good on promises. Lebanon will come back; it has come back before. Hezbollah's reputation is enhanced and Israel's has faded even among its own citizens. Nasrallah's increased stature is "one of the important political repercussions of this war," the NYTimes reported, quoting Rami Khouri, a columnist for The Daily Star in Beirut.

In the extended Middle Eastern front western propagandists define as the "war on terror," things have not gone any better for the Bush side. The last three months have been Iraq's most violent since the invasion began and President Bush (whose approval rating due to Iraq is in the mid-thirties now) has gone so far as to acknowledge in a press conference that the occupation is "straining the psyche" of Americans It's a lot worse than that for the Iraqis; but Bush's mantra remains "stay the course." In a commentary in The Baltimore Chronicle Anwaar Hussain gives an ironic list of Orwellian US-Israel double-think and double-speak in "Rules of Transition to the New World Order." Hussain says, as we have long been saying, that the"war on terror" is now used as an excuse for any belligerency the "Anglo-U$raeli campaign" cooks up. In his weekly commentary John Tirman, who believes the popular media-enhanced picture of bomb "terrorists" is completely mistaken, presents a partly counter-intuitive list of the characteristics of current bomb plotters. They aren't (if such things exist) "Islamic fascists." "Religious fervor is not a principal motivation for violent acts." The plotters get their inspiration abroad, chiefly in Europe, and work in affinity groups, not religious cabals, Tirman finds, relying on an MIT report he co-authored.

Tirman is focused currently on the alleged airplane bomb plot case in England. This was a welcome distraction for the neo-cons, who immediately pointed to Al Qaeda and the aforementioned "islamic fascists." In fact, the public remains skeptical about this splashy police venture, which may have been prompted by Blair in response to pressure from the Yanks. As has been widely reported, the British would have waited longer, and in pouncing too soon, they acted before any supposed bomber had even bought a plane ticket. As a source of anxiety the case is still enthusiastically worked by British politicians but has fizzled out for now because the press is barred from reporting the details. There may or may not be anything to reveal. At any rate not much seems likely to be made known before trials of those charged take place and that is to be delayed for two years, a NYTimes summary reveals.

(August 27, 2006)

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