|Iraq + war on terrorism + Middle East conflict + critical perspectives|
SATURDAY NEWS ROUNDUP
Stand alongside Hizbullah, Lebanon's army tells troops
Hezbollah claims it foiled IDF raid near Baalbek
U.S. and Israel focus on Mideast arms flow
Los Angeles Times
Israel seizes Palestinians' deputy premier in West Bank
Los Angeles Times
Palestinians agree to renew truce with Israel
Get set for elections
War stirs worry in Israel over state of military
Israeli troops criticize war handling
U.N. urges Europe to join Mideast effort
Villagers cheer as Lebanese army marches south
New York Times
With 'minefields' at home, war isn't over for Lebanese
New York Times
Hezbollah rebuilds and regroups
Marine officer called Haditha killings routine "combat action"
Two of Iraq's Shiite parties denounce Iran
Fearful Iraqis avoid mosques as attacks rise
New York Times
Experts fault judge's reasoning in NSA surveillance decision
New York Times An affronted home front
By Lily Galili, Haaretz, August 18, 2006
...Israeli society is enveloped in a mutual feeling that there is a need for radical changes. Some of this feeling is not new, but the war has made it more extreme. For example, the ongoing process of recognizing the limits of power. The transitions from a feeling of heady omnipotence to a feeling of unjustified impotence are sharp and painful. Up to the last moment, most Israelis expected a miracle that would restore the IDF of Operation Entebbe (the 1976 rescue of hijacked hostages in Uganda) or at least Operation Spring of Youth (the 1973 commando raid against terrorist organizations in Lebanon). That didn't happen.
The disappointment can also give rise to a series of sober conclusions. After all, the essence of unilateralism, as expressed in the disengagement, or in the convergence that will probably not take place, comes from the sense of omnipotence of those who can do everything on their own.
If there is an overall lesson in the traumatic experience of this war, it is the lesson of humility - for both the public and the leadership. What began with arrogant expressions such as "We'll crush them" was replaced toward the end with the modest statement "We'll achieve the maximum that we are able." If this insight is translated into a sense of helplessness, that would be bad; but if it leads to a more humble attitude towards reality and towards the region in which we live - that would be good. [complete article]
Death to Yuppiestan, or, Nasrallah was right
By Bradley Burston, Haaretz, August 18, 2006
The anger became stronger this week, as reservists came back and begun to spill their experiences. There was the ambulance medic who took a wounded reservist from a medivac helicopter to the trauma room at Rambam hospital in Haifa, and heard only these words from the soldier:
"Do you maybe have some food? I haven't eaten in three days."
There was another reservist, barely a year out of his compulsory three years of service, whose company was so hungry that they all crowded into the house of an elderly Lebanese couple, to search for food.
"The couple were sitting there," the soldier recalled Thursday. "They could have been my grandparents. It was a horrible scene." Other units, left without supplies for days, broke into grocery stores, searching for water and food.
The war was the catalyst for this week's unprecedented outpouring of resentment toward Tel Aviv, but it has clearly been building for years.
A week ago, with the war still at full horror, the north crippled by more than 200 Katyusha rockets a day, Maariv devoted a full 10 pages to the question of why so many of its readers would like to see Hassan Nasrallah make good on his threat to launch a Hezbollah rocket that would strike Tel Aviv. [complete article]
Ramon forfeits immunity and hearing, to resign Sunday
By Dan Izenberg, Jerusalem Post, August 17, 2006
Justice Minister Haim Ramon informed Attorney General Menahem Mazuz on Friday that he intended to forfeit his immunity and right to an appeal and would resign from his post on Sunday.
Ramon asked Attorney General Meni Mazuz to ensure a speedy trial "for personal reasons, but also because of public interest."
"I am sure that I will succeed in court. A kiss of two, three seconds, based on the version of the complainant, cannot be turned into a criminal act," Ramon said in a statement.
The Movement for Quality Government welcomed Ramon's resignation.
He will stand trial on charges of committing an indecent act without consent [on July 12 - the day Israel went to war!], Mazuz informed Ramon on Thursday. [complete article]
Comment -- Something that makes Israeli newspapers so well worth reading is the extent to which they reveal the divergence between Israel, the American fantasy, and Israel, the messy, corrupt, but vibrantly self-critical reality.
Those Americans who view Israel as a bridgehead for democratization across the Middle East, might profit more by looking at what Israelis can teach Americans when it comes to vigorous public debate.
And beyond that, perhaps there's a universal truth to glean from this: No nation poses more danger than the nation held in the imaginations of people who regard that as their homeland while nevertheless choosing to live elsewhere. Gerson's Iran insights
ArmsControlWonk, August 17, 2006
Last week, Steve Clemons posted about an Aspen conference of foreign policy luminaries who discussed solutions to the Iran nuclear issue. I'll be interested to learn what they came up with.
Anyway, Steve wrote that
...the single most important consensus that did seem to emerge from the discussion is that at some point in the not too distant future, President Bush will be handed a bleak, binary choice: either to authorize and launch an attack against Iran's nuclear capacity and assets or to acquiesce.One would hope that Bush's FoPo team would be a bit more astute than that, but former speechwriter Michael Gerson wrote something the other day which suggests otherwise. Obviously, whether Gerson's piece reflects administration thinking is anyone's guess. [complete article]
Comment -- The debate on the emerging Iranian threat tends to focus on these questions:
1. Does the West understand Iran's intentions?
2. How far advanced is Iran's nuclear program?
3. Can Iran's nuclear ambitions be effectively thwarted by military action?
Another question that doesn't get posed often enough is this: If Iran develops nuclear weapons, what are the chances they'd ever use them?
The warmongers are quick to point out that while Iran has a president who's already declared his desire to wipe Israel off the map, it would be insane risking allowing him the opportunity to put his words into action. But really, are we supposed to believe that Iran's radical Shia regime marks it as a nation with a collective dream of martyrdom?
Isn't the real issue here the threat to a regional balance of power in which Israel is currently the sole nuclear power? And doesn't an honest assessment of the implications of Iran becoming a nuclear power require that Israel's arsenal not be abstracted from the equation? Olmert: Convergence plan not 'appropriate' at this time
By Yossi Verter, Haaretz, August 18, 2006
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said this week that in view of the war in Lebanon and the significant damage caused to the residents of northern Israel, his convergence plan was no longer at the top of his government's agenda.
In conversations with ministers and senior members of his Kadima party this week, Olmert said that talk at this time about the convergence plan would not be "appropriate." [complete article] Start talking to Hezbollah
By Lakhdar Brahimi, New York Times, August 18, 2006
What a waste that it took more than 30 days to adopt a United Nations Security Council resolution for a cease-fire in Lebanon. Thirty days during which nothing positive was achieved and a great deal of pain, suffering and damage was inflicted on innocent people.
The loss of innocent civilian life is staggering and the destruction, particularly in Lebanon, is devastating. Human rights organizations and the United Nations have condemned the humanitarian crisis and violations of international humanitarian law.
Yet all the diplomatic clout of the United States was used to prevent a cease-fire, while more military hardware was rushed to the Israeli Army. It was argued that the war had to continue so that the root causes of the conflict could be addressed, but no one explained how destroying Lebanon would achieve that. [complete article] Syrians demand military action to reclaim Golan Heights
By Patrick Bishop, The Telegraph, August 18, 2006
Pressure is mounting on Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, to follow Hizbollah's example and consider force to eject Israel from Syrian land that it has occupied for nearly 40 years.
The public appetite for action is just one of the uncomfortable consequences regional rulers are facing, as Arabs compare their leaders' performances over Israel with the Lebanese "resistance".
Mr Assad, who supports Hizbollah, was quick to praise the militia's "victory" in a post-conflict speech and to bathe in its reflected glory.
Their deeds, he said, had "shattered the myth of an invincible army". But his rhetoric has turned public attention once again to the problem of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel in 1967 and annexed in 1981. [complete article]
See also, Hizbullah rejects Syrian position (Juan Cole) and Jumblat lashes out at Assad, says Hizbullah should be integrated into the regular army (Naharnet). Israel alarm at UN force members
BBC News, August 18, 2006
Israel says it would be "difficult if not inconceivable" to accept nations which do not recognise its right to exist as part of a UN force in Lebanon.
Israeli UN envoy Dan Gillerman was speaking after Indonesia and Malaysia, which do not recognise Israel, pledged troops for the UN deployment. [complete article]
See also, France declines to contribute major force for U.N. mission (WP) and Italy to deploy up to 3,000 troops (The Guardian).
Despite the bombing, Hizbullah appeals to Arab-Israelis
By Yossi Alpher, Daily Star, August 18, 2006
The monthly peace index published by Tel Aviv University's Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research found on July 31-August 1 that 68 percent of Arab citizens of Israel defined Israel's war in Lebanon as unjustified; 79 percent claimed that Israel's air attacks on Lebanon were unjustified; 56 percent judged Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's declarations to be credible while 53 percent found that Israeli military reports were not credible.
These findings corresponded roughly with declarations made to the media by Arab-Israeli citizens under fire in the north; only a small minority of those directly affected by Hizbullah's rocket attacks spoke out against the party, while most either condemned Israel or adopted the neutral pose of condemning the war and the mutual destruction and supporting an immediate cease-fire. In the Knesset, too, after an initial stunned silence, the 10 representatives of Arab parties spoke out angrily against Israel's war effort and drew furious responses from Jewish politicians and the press, who here and there went so far as to advocate ways of depriving them of their citizenship. [complete article]
Israel adds up war's damage to its economy
By Henry Chu and Vita Bekker, Los Angeles Times, August 18, 2006
The Israeli government has issued its preliminary estimate of the monthlong war's price tag: $5.3 billion, including defense spending, emergency aid to hard-hit communities, physical damage and the consequences of a 1.5% loss in the gross domestic product. It adds up to a blow for an economy that gingerly started to recover two years ago as Israeli-Palestinian violence subsided. [complete article]
Government tries to retake Lebanon
By Bruce Wallace, Los Angeles Times, August 18, 2006
The government tried to assert its limited authority across Lebanon on Thursday, reopening the bombed Beirut airport and establishing checkpoints and detonating unexploded ordnance in the battered south.
Pro-Western political leaders offered blistering criticism of Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, who has slipped comfortably into the role of hero and statesman in the wake of the stubborn fight his militia put up against Israel's vaunted military.
But across the towns and villages of southern Lebanon, Hezbollah's strength and energy appeared unaffected by the criticism, demands that it disarm or the return of the Lebanese army to the region for the first time in 28 years. [complete article]
Israel wants Turkey to impose blockade on Iranian arms
Reuters (via Haaretz), August 18, 2006
Israel wants the Turkish military to impose an air and ground embargo to prevent Iran using Turkish territory to send arms to resupply Hezbollah, a senior Israeli security source said on Thursday.
Israeli intelligence believes that nearly all of the heavy weapons that Iran has provided to Hezbollah passed through Turkish ground or airspace en route to Syria and then Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon, security sources said. [complete article] Kurds flee homes as Iran shells Iraq's northern frontier
By Michael Howard, The Guardian, August 18, 2006
Turkey and Iran have dispatched tanks, artillery and thousands of troops to their frontiers with Iraq during the past few weeks in what appears to be a coordinated effort to disrupt the activities of Kurdish rebel bases.
Scores of Kurds have fled their homes in the northern frontier region after four days of shelling by the Iranian army. Local officials said Turkey had also fired a number of shells into Iraqi territory.
Some displaced families have pitched tents in the valleys behind Qandil Mountain, which straddles Iraq's rugged borders with Turkey and Iran. They told the Guardian yesterday that at least six villages had been abandoned and one person had died following a sustained artillery barrage by Iranian forces that appeared designed to flush out guerrillas linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), who have hideouts in Iraq.
Although fighting between Turkish security forces and PKK militants is nowhere near the scale of the 1980s and 90s - which accounted for the loss of more than 30,000 mostly Turkish Kurdish lives- at least 15 Turkish police officers have died in clashes. The PKK's sister party in Iran, the Kurdistan Free Life Party (Pejak), has stepped up activities against security targets in Kurdish regions. Yesterday, Kurdish media said eight Iranian troops were killed. [complete article] Inquiry suggests marines excised files on killings
By David S. Cloud, New York Times, August 18, 2006
A high-level military investigation into the killings of 24 Iraqis in Haditha last November has uncovered instances in which American marines involved in the episode appear to have destroyed or withheld evidence, according to two Defense Department officials briefed on the case.
The investigation found that an official company logbook of the unit involved had been tampered with and that an incriminating video taken by an aerial drone the day of the killings was not given to investigators until Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the second-ranking commander in Iraq, intervened, the officials said.
Those findings, contained in a long report that was completed last month but not made public, go beyond what has been previously reported about the case. It has been known that marines who carried out the killings made misleading statements to investigators and that senior officers were criticized for not being more aggressive in investigating the case, in which most or all of the Iraqis who were killed were civilians. But this is the first time details about possible concealment or destruction of evidence have been disclosed. [complete article] Al Qaeda seen gaining strength in Sunni region
By Antonio Castaneda, AP (via Boston Globe), August 18, 2006
In the dusty plains of western Iraq, Al Qaeda is gaining strength. Daily attacks against US and Iraqi forces are on the rise, and there is little sign of progress in persuading the population to support the national government.
US commanders acknowledge they are locked in struggle with insurgents for the allegiance of Iraq's youth.
"We're in a recruiting war with the insurgency," said Brigadier General Robert Neller, the deputy Marine commander in western Iraq.
US commanders have said privately that a military solution to the insurgency in Anbar is impossible, and that what is needed is a political deal between the Sunni Arabs and the other religious and ethnic communities.
"This country needs a political solution, not a military solution," one government worker told Marines who stopped by his home in Haditha. "Are we going to stay in this situation where you shoot them, they shoot you? We are the victims." [complete article] U.S. warns against N. Korean nuke test
By Deb Riechmann, AP (vai WP), August 18, 2006
The White House said Thursday that a nuclear weapons test by North Korea would be an "extremely provocative" act that would be denounced around the globe.
The White House was reacting to an ABC News report that the communist nation may be preparing for an underground test of a nuclear bomb.
ABC on Thursday quoted an unidentified senior State Department official as saying, "It is the view of the intelligence community that a test is a real possibility."
ABC also quoted an unidentified senior military official as saying that a U.S. intelligence agency recently had observed "suspicious vehicle movement" at a suspected North Korean test site. The activity involved the unloading of reels of cable outside an underground facility in northeast North Korea. [complete article] Ex-CIA employee guilty in assault of Afghan
By Scott Shane, New York Times, August 18, 2006
A North Carolina jury today convicted a former Central Intelligence Agency contractor of felony assault for severely beating an Afghan prisoner who died soon after.
The contractor, David A. Passaro, 40, a former Army Special Forces medic who went to work for the C.I.A. in Afghanistan in 2003, is the first civilian to be convicted as a result of numerous allegations of prisoner abuse in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and in the broader campaign against terrorism. He faces a maximum of 11½ years in prison.
The trial, in federal court in Raleigh, N.C., near Mr. Passaro's town of Lillington, included testimony from clandestine C.I.A. officers who wore disguises to protect their identities, and it drew close attention from human rights advocates. [complete article] The timing is political
By Craig Murray, The Guardian, August 18, 2006
Nine days on, nobody has been charged with any crime. For there to be no clear evidence yet on something that was "imminent" and would bring "mass murder on an unbelievable scale" is, to say the least, peculiar. A 24th person, arrested amid much fanfare on Tuesday, was quietly released without charge the following day.
Media analysis has been full of information from police and security sources. By and large journalists are honourable in this kind of reporting. Their sources, unfortunately, are not - viz the non-existent ricin, the Forest Gate "chemical weapons vest", or Jean Charles de Menezes leaping the barriers. Unlike the herd of security experts, I have had the highest security clearance; I have done a huge amount of professional intelligence analysis; and I have been inside the spin machine. And I am very sceptical about the story that has been spun. [complete article] A new generation of jihad seekers
By Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor, August 18, 2006
While British investigators have revealed a trans-Atlantic plot to blow up as many as 12 US-bound planes, their case against British and Pakistani suspects also reveals that the West's war on terror is attracting more and more young Muslims to militant circles, say terrorism experts.
The US-led Iraq war and American support for Israel's bombardment of Lebanon are serving to fertilize anger in segments of the Muslim world. And, they say, this means that Al Qaeda may no longer be the primary enemy, but that disparate groups of young radicals who are imitating their tactics are emerging as equally potent threats.
"We haven't lost, but we're losing [the war on terror]," says Marc Sageman, the author of "Understanding Terror Networks" and a former CIA case officer who served as a liaison to the Afghan mujahideen in the late 1980s.
"The old Al Qaeda is basically neutralized. Now the danger comes from self- generated groups, they stay at home and they don't need to contact Al Qaeda - they know what Al Qaeda thinks. So in a way it's more ubiquitous and the theater of operations is now the whole world." [complete article] Republicans losing the 'security moms'
By Jim VandeHei, Washington Post, August 18, 2006
Married women with children, the "security moms" whose concerns about terrorism made them an essential part of Republican victories in 2002 and 2004, are taking flight from GOP politicians this year in ways that appear likely to provide a major boost for Democrats in the midterm elections, according to polls and interviews.
This critical group of swing voters -- who are an especially significant factor in many of the most competitive suburban districts on which control of Congress will hinge -- is more inclined to vote Democratic than at any point since Sept. 11, 2001, according to data compiled for The Washington Post by the Pew Research Center.
Married mothers said in interviews here that they remain concerned about national security and the ability of Democrats to keep them safe from terrorist strikes. But surveys indicate Republicans are not benefiting from this phenomenon as they have before.
Disaffection with President Bush, the Iraq war, and other concerns such as rising gasoline prices and economic anxiety are proving more powerful in shaping voter attitudes.
The study, which examined the views of married women with children from April through this week, found that they support Democrats for Congress by a 12-point margin, 50 percent to 38 percent. That is nearly a mirror-image reversal from a similar period in 2002, when this group backed Republicans 53 percent to 36 percent. In 2004, exit polls showed, Bush won a second term in part because 56 percent of married women with children supported him. [complete article] Judge rules against wiretaps
By Dan Eggen and Dafna Linzer, Washington Post, August 18, 2006
A federal judge in Detroit ruled yesterday that the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program is unconstitutional, delivering the first decision that the Bush administration's effort to monitor communications without court oversight runs afoul of the Bill of Rights and federal law.
U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ordered a halt to the wiretap program, secretly authorized by President Bush in 2001, but both sides in the lawsuit agreed to delay that action until a Sept. 7 hearing. Legal scholars said Taylor's decision is likely to receive heavy scrutiny from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit when the Justice Department appeals, and some criticized her ruling as poorly reasoned.
Ruling in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups in the Eastern District of Michigan, Taylor said that the NSA wiretapping program, aimed at communications by potential terrorists, violates privacy and free speech rights and the constitutional separation of powers among the three branches of government. She also found that the wiretaps violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law instituted to provide judicial oversight of clandestine surveillance within the United States. [complete article] Afghan president blames U.S. airstrike for 10 deaths
AP (via WP), August 18, 2006
President Hamid Karzai condemned a U.S. airstrike Thursday that Afghan officials said killed 10 border policemen.
"I have repeatedly asked the coalition forces to take maximum caution while carrying out operations," he said in a statement, adding that such incidents "must not be repeated."
Gen. Abdul Rahman, Afghanistan's deputy chief of border police, said a coalition airplane killed 10 policemen in two trucks in the southeastern province of Paktika. No one survived the strike. [complete article] Talking only to ourselves
By Daniel Ben Simon, Haaretz, August 17, 2006
I am trying to recall when I last saw Israeli leaders talking with Arab leaders about peace, and finding it hard to remember. In recent years, our compulsive tendency to talk to ourselves about an agreement with the Arabs has been strengthening, as though the real conflict in the Middle East were between the right and the left. The fruitless discussions between these two tired bodies have had two goals: to neutralize any possibility of change and to freeze the reality on the ground, for fear that any step toward peace will ignite a domestic war among the Jews. And if we are already fated to go to war, say our architects to themselves, it is better to have a war against the Arabs. It is torturous to think that had similar diplomatic energy been invested vis-a-vis Palestinian leaders, Lebanese leaders and Syrian leaders, perhaps everything would look different. Perhaps we would even be living in peace with them. [complete article] Love it or hate it, Hizbullah has lessons for all Arabs
Editorial, Daily Star, August 17, 2006
In the past month, and for some time before that, we have heard just about every possible suggestion about how to deal with Hizbullah: Attack it, degrade it, disarm it, wean it away from its friends in Syria and Iran, engage it politically, bring it into the Lebanese government in a bigger way, pressure it to show its real aims, drive it away from the border, or incorporate its military wing into the Lebanese national armed forces. One piece of advice that has not been heard sufficiently, and that strikes us as eminently sensible and relevant, is to learn from Hizbullah's history and to emulate those aspects of its ways that could help the people of this region live more productive, peaceful lives.
Hizbullah did not suddenly materialize magically on a Persian carpet or a divine edict. The organization methodically built itself up and sharpened its capabilities in all fields over a period of years. The core of its success is its capacity to identify the real needs of its constituents, meet those needs systematically through an efficient network of staff and managers, and not to waste time bragging about the fact in public. [complete article]
See also, Hezbollah wins hearts and minds amid devastation (The Times) and Trading guns for bulldozers (LAT).
Comment -- I sometimes wonder whether behind all the rhetoric about "Islamofacsists", perhaps the thing the neocons secretly find most disturbing about many of the Islamists is that they act like socialists! Hizbullah has achieved what Arab states only dreamed of
By David Hirst, The Guardian, August 17, 2006
There was nothing new about the broad objective behind Israel's war on Lebanon: through the destruction of Hizbullah it was to wreak fundamental change in a strategic, political and military environment that it had come to regard as menacing to its future. Nothing new about its methods either: the use of massive violence not merely against its military adversary but against the civilians and the infrastructure of the country in which it operates. Or about its official justification: seizing upon one single act of "terrorist" violence from the other side as the opportunity to strike at the whole "terrorist" organisation that was responsible for it. Or about the international support, even outright collaboration, it enjoyed, although in the case of the US and Britain this support was unprecedented in its partisan degree and in the perception of the vast dimensions, nature and menace of the "enemy" against which Israel was waging war. For Condoleezza Rice the "root causes" of the Lebanese crisis lay not on the Israeli side but in the wider Arab and Muslim world: Hizbullah was but the cutting edge of "global terror", of the Islamic fanaticism that nurtured it, and of those states, Iran and Syria, that succour these forces for their own purposes, whether inspired by ideology or realpolitik. [complete article] U.S. hopes to rival Hezbollah with rebuilding effort
By Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times, August 17, 2006
The Bush administration is scrambling to assemble a plan to help rebuild Lebanon, hoping that by competing with Hezbollah for the public's favor it can undo the damage the war has inflicted on its image and goals for the Middle East.
Administration officials fear that unless they move quickly to demonstrate U.S. commitment, the Lebanese will turn more fully to the militant group, which has begun rolling out an ambitious reconstruction program that Washington believes is bankrolled by Iran.
American officials also believe that the administration must restore its influence to keep a newly assertive Syria from undermining U.S.-supported reformers in Lebanon.
A major rebuilding investment would put the United States in the position of subsidizing both the Israeli munitions that caused the damage and the reconstruction work that will repair it. Such a proposal could meet with resistance from Congress, but administration officials said that the need for action was urgent.
"People have been seized by the need to do more, in a tangible way, and they're working feverishly on this," said a senior administration official who asked to remain unidentified because he was speaking about plans still in development. "They know we're in a race against time to turn around these perceptions." [complete article]
Comment -- Is Washington really this clueless?! I expect the Lebanese will accept the compensation -- even if it comes wrapped with a ribbon and gets delivered by USAID. But US dollars paying for the reconstruction of buildings and bridges destroyed by American bombs is not the way to win hearts and minds. Its the way you convince people that you're a bunch of heartless, stupid hypocrites. Oliver Stone, 9/11, and the Big Lie
By Ruth Rosen, TomDispatch, August 16, 2006
Despite the near flood of documentaries on the terrorist attacks heading toward the small screen this September, Stone's film, for many Americans, may end up being the definitive cinematic record of what it felt like to be inside the hellish cyclone known simply by the numbers 9/11.
To offer a faithful recreation of that historical catastrophe, however, Stone owed viewers the whole truth, not merely a brilliant, graphic portrayal of what happened and how it affected the lives of some of those involved.
As it ends, a written postscript appears that describes what happened to the buried Port Authority policemen, their families, and the ex-Marine who helped rescue them (whose last line is: "We're going to need some good men out there to revenge this"). We learn that the two men survived an unbearable number of surgeries and are living with their families. Next we read that the ex-Marine re-upped and later did two tours of duty in Iraq. At that moment, I wanted to shout out, "Don't you mean Afghanistan?" Then I imagined the satisfaction Dick Cheney and sore-loser Senator Joseph Lieberman would take in this not-quite-spelled-out linkage of 9/11 and Iraq.
I kept waiting for what never came -- even a note in the postscript reminding the audience of those who had actually committed the crime. This is where, by omission, Stone's film ends up reinforcing the administration's Big Lie. You could easily have left the theater thinking that the saintly ex-Marine had gone off to fight those who attacked our country. [complete article]
Comment -- It's unfortunate that the Bush administration's deceptions are so often countered with flawed reasoning. To emphasize that none of the 9/11 hijackers was an Iraqi is to imply that if they had been then somehow the war in Iraq would have made more sense.
Suppose every one of them had been an Iraqi and they had been acting under orders from Saddam Hussein, would the war then be justified? In that scenario, should the 27 million people of Iraq have been held responsible?
The problem in the American response to 9/11 was not that it ended up focusing its desire for revenge on the wrong target; it is that it failed to accept that an appetite for revenge must never guide foreign policy.
The trauma of 9/11 unleashed an awesome force that the Bush administration has shamelessly exploited and renewed at every opportunity: mass fear. The biggest lie that it continues to use to its advantage is that the antidote to fear is safety. Democrats echo that view as though it was the gospel truth. Indeed, the American response to terrorism has been to guarantee that isolated acts of terrorism can effectively terrorize a whole population. This fusion of the deed and the reaction was quickly embedded in popular discourse as soon as the words terrorism and terror started being used as synonyms.
America did not face its darkest moment on 9/11 yet in the 1930's a shadow was cast across the whole nation. The new president did not respond to that emergency by promising to protect the people but rather by rousing national courage as the only means to combat fear. Roosevelt was responding to an economic catastrophe, yet his words would have been well worth remembering on 9/11 and are well worth repeating now:
This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.The difference between then and now was that at that time, a large segment of society was struggling to survive. After 9/11, according to Bush, the nation's needs would best be met if Americans kept on shopping, but a nation addicted to its comforts is, not surprisingly, a nation lacking in courage. Is Hamas ready to deal?
By Scott Atran, New York Times, August 17, 2006
Whatever the endgame between Israel, Hezbollah and Hamas, one thing is certain: Israel's hopes of ensuring its security by walling itself off from resentful neighbors are dead. One lesson from Israel's assault on Lebanon and its military operation in Gaza is that the missiles blow back.
We can hope that multinational cooperation will help to secure Israel's border with Lebanon. But what about the Palestinian issue, which has been seemingly pushed to the back burner by the war in Lebanon?
A bold gesture now by Israel would surprise its adversaries, convey strength, and even catch domestic political opposition off guard. And as strange as it may seem, were the United States able to help Israel help Hamas, it might turn the rising tide of global Muslim resentment.
Recent discussions I've had with Hamas leaders and their supporters around the globe indicate that Israel might just find a reasonable and influential bargaining partner. [complete article] Report: Hamas presents Abbas with terms for unity government
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz, August 17, 2006
Senior Hamas officials spelled out their terms for the possible formation of a unity government in a meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, according to a report appearing in Thursday's edition of the official Palestinian daily Al-Ayam.
According to the newspaper, Hamas demanded that it maintain the post of prime minister and that the ministerial positions be filled in proportion to the parliamentary strength of the respective factions, thereby giving Hamas a majority in the government.
The PA's official diplomatic platform would be based on the Prisoner's Document. The Islamic movement is also demanding that the establishment of a unity government would signal the end of the international community's policy of isolating the Hamas-led PA. [complete article] Tragedy and farce in Lebanon
By Tony Karon, Rootless Cosmopolitan, August 16, 2006
If the law of historical repetition is "To every tragedy its farce," then it may be just as well that Ariel Sharon's vital signs reminded us of his continued struggle against oblivion on the same day that a politically bloodied Ehud Olmert appeared before the Knesset to improbably claim victory in his tussle with Hizballah. Because if Sharon's 1982 invasion of Lebanon was an epic tragedy, for the Lebanese (and eventually for the Israelis, too), then Olmert's 2006 equivalent was a farce -- a spectacularly brutal farce, but a farce nonetheless. [complete article] Lebanon's pain grows by the hour as death toll hits 1,300
By Robert Fisk, The Independent, August 17, 2006
They are digging them up by the hour, the swelling death toll of the Lebanon conflict. The American poet Carl Sandburg spoke of the dead in other wars and imagined that he was the grass under which they would be buried. "Shovel them under and let me work," he said of the dead of Ypres and Verdun. But across Lebanon, they are systematically lifting the tons of rubble of old roofs and apartment blocks and finding families below, their arms wrapped around each other in the moment of death as their homes were beaten down upon them by the Israeli air force. By last night, they had found 61 more bodies, taking the Lebanese dead of the 33-day war to almost 1,300.
In Srifa, south of the Litani river, they found 26 bodies beneath ruins which I myself stood on just three days ago. At Ainata, there were eight more bodies of civilians. A corpse was discovered beneath a collapsed four-storey house north of Tyre and, near by, the remains of a 16-year old girl, along with three children and an adult. In Khiam in eastern Lebanon, besieged by the Israelis for more than a month, the elderly village "mukhtar" was found dead in the ruins of his home. [complete article] Mounting criticism at Peretz's decision to name war probe panel
By Amos Harel, Aluf Benn and Yossi Verter, Haaretz, August 17, 2006
Defense Minister Amir Peretz's announcement to the general staff that he had appointed a committee, headed by former chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, to examine the events of the war was met with harsh criticism in the IDF and the security establishment.
Security sources said Lipkin-Shahak cannot be objective since he was on Peretz's team of external advisors during the war. Shahak will not be investigating the conduct of the defense minister. [complete article] For many Israelis, a bitter homecoming
By Doug Struck, Washington Post, August 17, 2006
From her dining room window, Zvia Drori looks into Lebanon, less than a mile away from this border town, and sees the yellow flags of Hezbollah stirring slightly in the hot sun. For Drori and her neighbors, the banners seem to taunt Israel for its failure to wipe out the Shiite militia.
"I don't want to stay here anymore," said Drori, 60, who came home Tuesday after fleeing for a month to Tel Aviv. "You see my beautiful view. But you still see Hezbollah."
Thousands of Israelis are returning now to their homes near the Lebanese border. They are bitter and angry about what many call a futile war, and what others call an outright loss.
"Israel lost big-time," said Ravit Ben-Simon, 25, glumly reopening her cellphone store on Wednesday in nearby Kiryat Shemona. "It wasn't a worthwhile war at all. It all started because of the kidnapped soldiers. Where are they now? Still kidnapped. It was all for nothing." [complete article] His heart was full for Lebanon and U.S.
By Sam Quinones, Los Angeles Times, August 17, 2006
Mohamed Hammoudi admired a lot about the United States.
He lived here for 30 years. He studied its democratic system, became a citizen and took a job with the government, interviewing immigrants applying for citizenship in downtown Los Angeles.
But what Hammoudi missed most when he moved back to Lebanon two years ago were America's libraries, where he spent hours reading about U.S. and world politics. Recently he told a friend he would be returning to Southern California for the winter because he wanted to once again visit local libraries.
But two weeks ago, as Hammoudi sat down to a meal in the hilltop house in southern Lebanon that he had inherited after his father died, an Israeli bomb struck, destroying the stone structure and killing Hammoudi.
"I've been crying from the first bomb landing, not only for my brother -- for my whole family, for my whole country," said Hammoudi's sister Mariam, a nurse in San Gabriel with whom he left a large library of books about geopolitics, the Middle East, cooking and wine.
Friends and family say Mohamed Hammoudi was the kind of person the United States needed in Lebanon -- a secular man and an ambassador for American ideas, a moderate voice in a region of extremism.
When he died, "the United States lost more than what Lebanon lost," said Hassan Mansour, a lifelong friend who discovered Hammoudi's body. [complete article] Rival Shiite militias clash in southern Iraq
By Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, August 17, 2006
Clashes between rival Shiite Muslim militias erupted Wednesday in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, when scores of gunmen stormed the governor's office after accusing his supporters of assassinating their tribal leader. Meanwhile, car bombs in Baghdad killed 25 people.
The gunmen in Basra, a predominantly Shiite city, laid siege to the office for two hours, lobbing mortar shells and barricading nearby bridges, before British troops and Iraqi police pushed them back. The fighting left at least four policemen dead, police said. Authorities imposed a curfew on the city.
As U.S. and Iraqi forces focus their efforts on taming sectarian violence in Baghdad, Wednesday's bloodshed served as a reminder of the tenuous security conditions across Iraq, and how precariously the country teeters on the edge of civil war. [complete article] Insurgent bombs directed at G.I.'s increase in Iraq
By Michael R. Gordon, Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker, New York Times, August 17, 2006
The number of roadside bombs planted in Iraq rose in July to the highest monthly total of the war, offering more evidence that the anti-American insurgency has continued to strengthen despite the killing of the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Along with a sharp increase in sectarian attacks, the number of daily strikes against American and Iraqi security forces has doubled since January. The deadliest means of attack, roadside bombs, made up much of that increase. In July, of 2,625 explosive devices, 1,666 exploded and 959 were discovered before they went off. In January, 1,454 bombs exploded or were found.
The bomb statistics -- compiled by American military authorities in Baghdad and made available at the request of The New York Times -- are part of a growing body of data and intelligence analysis about the violence in Iraq that has produced somber public assessments from military commanders, administration officials and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. [complete article] Pakistan says al-Qaida link to plot found
By Duncan Campbell, The Guardian, August 17, 2006
Pakistani security sources said yesterday that al-Qaida's "number three" was behind the alleged plot to blow up several transatlantic flights leaving the UK.
They also suggested Britain wanted to allow the plotters to try a dry run, without explosives, so as to gather more evidence, but was persuaded to intervene earlier by US and Pakistani authorities.
British detectives are in Islamabad working with the Pakistani security services with regard to Rashid Rauf, the Briton held in connection with the alleged plot. No decision has been made as to whether he will be extradited to Britain. [complete article] The only crime that this will stop is travelling while Asian
By Glenda Jackson, The Guardian, August 17, 2006
On April 17 1986, a young woman presented herself at Heathrow's gate 23 for that morning's El Al flight to Tel Aviv. She had cleared the airport's own security check-in procedures, but to El Al's security staff something didn't appear right. A search of her hand luggage revealed 1½ ounces of Semtex and a detonator, hidden in a calculator.
The young woman was Anne Murphy, a white, Catholic girl from Dublin. The explosives had been planted by her boyfriend, Nezar Hindawi, a terrorist with links to the Libyan government. And had El Al security operated the passenger profiling advocated in response to last week's alleged terror plot, the 375 passengers and crew of that flight would have died.
Intelligent passenger profiling, combined with a random search component, is a vital part of aviation security. It allows security staff to do what they do best: use their intelligence, skill and intuition to intercept those they feel may represent a threat to the travelling public. And that's why, contrary to what you may have read over the past few days, it is utilised in every UK airport. [complete article]
Note to American readers: In British English the term "Asian" refers to anyone from the continent of Asia (which includes the Middle East). Nasrallah didn't mean to
By Amira Hass, Haaretz, August 16, 2006
During the past month, Hezbollah's Katyushas killed 18 Israeli Arabs among the 41 Israeli civilians who died in the war. Clearly, Hassan Nasrallah didn't mean to kill them. But as someone who knows that many Arabs live in northern Israel, and as someone who knows that the launchers for his inaccurate Katyushas cannot choose the target they will hit - the fact that it was unintended is meaningless.
More than anyone, Israelis should understand Nasrallah's claims that this was "unintended," identify with the primacy he attaches to the "unintendedness" relative to the fatal results, and identify with the disjunction he creates between the rationale that is inherent in the war machine he has built and his subjective will. "We didn't mean to" is a mantra that is frequently recited in Israel when there is a discussion of the number of civilians - among them many children - who are killed by the Israel Defense Forces. To this, the claim that "they" (Hezbollah and the Palestinians) cynically exploit civilians by locating themselves among them and firing from their midst is automatically added.
This claim is made by citizens of a state who know very well where to turn off Ibn Gvirol Street in Tel Aviv to get to the security-military complex that is located in the heart of their civilian city; this claim is repeated by the parents of armed soldiers who bring their weapons home on weekends, and is recited by soldiers whose bases are adjacent to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and who have shelled civilian Palestinian neighborhoods from positions and tanks that have been stationed inside civilian settlements.
"We didn't mean to" is the cousin of "I didn't know," and both of them are close neighbors of the double standard. What is permitted to us is forbidden to others. What hurts us does not hurt others (because they are "other").
IDF soldiers have killed 44 children in Gaza since June 28, when the failed campaign to release abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit began. That is 44 children out of the 188 people the IDF has killed in Gaza - civilians and armed men, most of whom had embarked on a doomed fight against the invading tanks. The last three who were killed, on Monday, were three farmers from Beit Hanoun who were hit by an IDF shell - about as precise as a Hezbollah Katyusha - instead of the rocket launcher it had been intended to hit.
The road to killing children by a military and civilian occupation machine is paved with many non-intentions to cause other damage to civilians; these are not fatal immediately, but day by day, they take away the taste of life from 3.5 million people. These are damages that in ordinary times earn, at best, a mention the size of a postage stamp in the newspapers. [complete article]
See also, The semantics of terror (Ian Williams) and Bush sees no end to war on terror (AP).
Comment -- One of the many ironies of living in a society that seems to regard itself as the crowning achievement in human civilization is the extent to which we make ourselves blind to our own barbarity. This is above all a technological accomplishment; a feat through which we physically, psychologically, socially, and politically, separate ourselves from the effects of our own acts of violence.
Now this process appears about to make a quantum leap. The next addition to an array of remote-control death machines -- smart bombs, cruise missiles, Predator drones -- may be a pilotless Joint Strike Fighter, the Lockheed F-35.
Armed with such an awesomely versatile and lethal weapons platform, what level of moral responsibility can we expect its operators to exercise? When it comes to dropping bombs and firing missiles the conventions of modern warfare seem to require less from the military than a court expects from a drunk driver. When was the last time a judge accepted, "I didn't mean to," as a legal defense? Hezbollah leads work to rebuild, gaining stature
By John Kifner, New York Times, August 16, 2006
As stunned Lebanese returned Tuesday over broken roads to shattered apartments in the south, it increasingly seemed that the beneficiary of the destruction was most likely to be Hezbollah.
A major reason -- in addition to its hard-won reputation as the only Arab force that fought Israel to a standstill -- is that it is already dominating the efforts to rebuild with a torrent of money from oil-rich Iran.
Nehme Y. Tohme, a member of Parliament from the anti-Syrian reform bloc and the country's minister for the displaced, said he had been told by Hezbollah officials that when the shooting stopped, Iran would provide Hezbollah with an "unlimited budget" for reconstruction.
In his victory speech on Monday night, Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, offered money for "decent and suitable furniture" and a year's rent on a house to any Lebanese who lost his home in the month-long war.
"Completing the victory," he said, "can come with reconstruction." [complete article]
Analysis: why Hezbollah will not be disarmed
By Nick Blanford, The Times, August 16, 2006
Many people regard the [Lebanese] army as almost a proxy of Hezbollah. The Shia contingent in the army, which represents about 60 per cent of all soldiers, would have refused to take on their Shia brothers in Hezbollah.
If they had accepted the job, they would have been annihilated in a face-to-face confrontation. Hezbollah has just fought the most powerful army in the Middle East to a standstill - the Lebanese army is weak, lightly armed and used to performing more of a policing than a military role.
The alternative option is to send international troops to disarm Hezbollah, when the United Nations mission in South Lebanon is given a new mandate and beefed up with an extra 13,000 peacekeepers.
But that is not going to happen either. It is clearly understood that the last thing that foreign countries sending troops to maintain the ceasefire want to do is to get involved in disarming Hezbollah - or even in preventing Hezbollah from reaching the border and attacking Israel. There is no way they want to be caught in the middle, or seen as Israel's extra line of defence against Hezbollah. [complete article]
Hezbollah's arms still a reason to fight
By Sami Moubayed, Asia Times, August 17, 2006
A good reading of history shows that multinational forces do not necessarily mean that Hezbollah will stop firing rockets into Israel. Multinational forces were there after all in 1982-1984, numbering 5,000 troops, including 1,800 US marines. They went to Lebanon to help put an end to the civil war that had raged since 1975. They were sent home after a suicide truck bomb killed 241 marines and 58 French soldiers in October 1983.
The new coalition force of 15,000 troops would be larger than the one of the 1980s, but it is doubtful that Hezbollah will pay any attention to it. The troops will not be authorized to inspect the bases of Hezbollah or the underground bunkers and tunnels that the Lebanese group has created in South Lebanon, along the border of Israel, since 2000.
They will also be unable to disarm Hezbollah. That has to be done by the Lebanese state or the Lebanese Army, and clearly neither is in a position to do so at this stage.
From where everybody stands today, nobody has a formula on how to disarm Hezbollah. Nasrallah has said that disarming Hezbollah, or even talking about such an act at this stage, would be "wrong timing and immoral". If any party tries to disarm it by force, Hezbollah will fight back, and the results would be nothing less than another bloody civil war for Lebanon. [complete article]
See also, U.N. drive to agree Lebanon force (BBC).
Hezbollah balks at withdrawal from the South
By Edward Cody and Doug Struck, Washington Post, August 16, 2006
Hezbollah refused to disarm and withdraw its fighters from the battle-scarred hills along the border with Israel on Tuesday, threatening to delay deployment of the Lebanese army and endangering a fragile cease-fire.
The makings of a compromise emerged from all-day meetings in Beirut, according to senior officials involved in the negotiations, and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora scheduled a cabinet session Wednesday for what he hoped would be formal approval of the deal. Hezbollah indicated it would be willing to pull back its fighters and weapons in exchange for a promise from the army not to probe too carefully for underground bunkers and weapons caches, the officials said.
Hasan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, had insisted that any disarmament of his militia -- even in the border area -- should be handled in longer-term discussions within the Lebanese government, according to government ministers. But the Lebanese army, backed by key political leaders, refused to send troops into the just-becalmed battle zone until Hezbollah's missiles, rockets and other weapons were taken north of the Litani River, the ministers said. [complete article]
Comment -- Realistically, Hezbollah's disarmament only makes sense in the context of a political process as a result of which the party acquires a larger stake in the power of the Lebanese state. Hezbollah will disarm itself at such a time that it stands to gain more than it will lose by doing so. Outside such a context, the effort to disarm the group without its consent will inevitably result in war. In the course of time, Israel and the US will likely vent their frustration that the UN is failing to enforce resolution 1559, yet that is a goal that Israel (with US support) has already demonstrated its own inability to accomplish. First Halutz must go
Editorial, Haaretz, August 12, 2006
The fact that the chief of staff found time to sell his stock portfolio at noon on July 12, three hours after two soldiers were kidnapped, is intolerable from every conceivable angle. When the person in question is a senior public figure who bears responsibility for the fate of all the state's citizens, including the kidnapped soldiers and those who were killed trying to rescue them, this cannot be considered an invasion of privacy. The chief of staff's conduct of his private life is indicative of his ability of function in his public life. If Halutz can find time to deal with matters of this nature at such a critical practical and psychological moment, that alone is enough to demonstrate that he should cease serving as chief of staff. The cumulative feeling created by the fact that the chief of staff took time off on that bitter day to hastily sell his stocks, while the justice minister found time on that day to be photographed with, and take down the telephone number of, a passing clerk who later accused him of sexual harassment, is one of despair, as if the public has no one on whom to rely. [complete article]
Israel needs a purge
By Bradley Burston, Haaretz, August 16, 2006
Israel needs a purge. Israel needs a new government. It needs real leaders, and soon.
There was a time when self-made statesmen - unlikely, ungainly, but superbly able to rise to the occasion - led the nation the hard way, by putting the nation first.
Leaders like David Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin, who, in envisioning the state and forging peace with Arab neighbors, displayed vision far beyond many of their political peers.
Ben-Gurion, Begin, and Rabin were realists who took wing and succeeded because they were under the illusion that they were dreamers.
Our present leaders have shown themselves to be pipe dreamers who failed because they were under the illusion that they were realists.
The moment the smoke of battle cleared this week, it became clear that the purge that Israel sorely needs had already begun. Soon after the Halutz investment affair became public knowledge on Tuesday, it was disclosed that two senior cabinet members face the possibility of indictment, one for allegations of election-related bribery and perjury, the other over suspicions of sexual harassment of a government employee.
We've known for too long that our obscenity of a political system breeds perversion. We've known that in allowing corruption to replace sacrifice, in fostering the personal gain of politicians over the common good, we allowed ourselves to be corrupted as well. [complete article]
The pitfalls of machismo
By Dan Rabinowitz, Haaretz, August 16, 2006
The IDF's overreaction in the first few days of the war will eventually be investigated, but whoever does this must not hesitate to analyze personal factors as well. Of all of Israel's generals, Dan Halutz appears the most skilled in one of the basis talents that Israeli men nurture from childhood: camouflaging the emotional and psychological elements of their actions. This humorless man, utterly lacking in nuance, who feels nothing when a bomb is released from the belly of his plane - and who even found time on the first day of the war to sell his stocks - recently said of himself that he is unaware of Israel's Lebanon trauma. The statements he made at the beginning of the war to cover his rear - that "the war's aims are defined by the political echelon" - succeeded in silencing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz for two critical weeks. The result was sweeping approval for a strategy of one-ton bombs that ignored the broader geopolitical picture that the general refused to see.
The campaign that Israel is waging against Hezbollah, as a forward outpost of Iran, is too important to leave to the generals. It has a chance only if Israel can succeed in building coalitions, both in the Middle East and beyond. And this will require a deep human understanding, free of ego and the intoxication of force. [complete article] Halutz: Deploy Lebanon army to south or IDF will halt pullout
By Gideon Alon and Yoav Stern, Haaretz, August 16, 2006
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said Wednesday that the IDF would halt its withdrawal from southern Lebanon if the Lebanese army did not deploy in the area within days.
"The withdrawal of the IDF within 10 days is dependent upon the deployment of the Lebanese army," Halutz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Commitee, according to a spokesman.
"If the Lebanese army does not move down within a number of days to the south... the way I see it, we must stop our withdrawal," Halutz added. [complete article]
IDF: We'll disarm Hizbullah if UN can't
By Gil Hoffman, Jerusalem Post, August 16, 2006
The IDF will have to resume operations in Lebanon if the expanded United Nations force being assembled does not fulfill its obligation to dismantle Hizbullah, an official in the Prime Minister's Office warned on Tuesday.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora and Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah reportedly reached a deal allowing Hizbullah to keep its weapons but refrain from exhibiting them in public. Israeli officials called the arrangement a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which passed over the weekend and was approved on Sunday by the cabinet.
"The resolution is clear that Hizbullah needs to be removed from the border area, embargoed and dismantled," the official said. "If the resolution is not implemented, we will have to take action to prevent the rearming of Hizbullah. I don't think backtracking will serve any useful purpose. There has to be pressure on Hizbullah to disarm or there will have to be another round."
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is expected to raise the issue when she meets in New York on Wednesday with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Annan angered Israeli officials when he told Channel 2 on Tuesday that "dismantling Hizbullah is not the direct mandate of the UN," which could only help Lebanon disarm the organization. Annan upset officials further when he said that deploying international forces in Lebanon would take "weeks or months," and not days as expected. [complete article] Peretz: We should create conditions for talks with Syria
By Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz, August 16, 2006
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Tuesday that a resumption of talks with Syria was still possible, a day after a cease-fire brought to an end the month-long conflict with the Syrian-backed Hezbollah organization in Lebanon.
"Every war creates an opportunity for a new political process. and I am sure that our enemies understand today they cannot defeat us by force," Peretz said.
"We must hold a dialogue with Lebanon, and we should create the conditions for dialogue also with Syria," he added. [complete article]
Assad and Bush both claim victory: next stage of conflict begins
By Joshua Landis, Syria Comment, August 15, 2006
The next stage of the Lebanon conflict has begun. Both Asad and Bush are claiming victory. Bush has turned his sights on Syria and Iran. He must limit their influence in Lebanon and attempts to rearm Hizbullah and rebuild it as an independent force in Lebanon. In the coming weeks we will see the Bush administration paint Syria as a force of evil that doesn't want peace and that is building dangerous nuclear and WMD programs.
Syria will try to paint Washington and Israel as the aggressors who don't want peace. [Assad's] statement that: "Peace would involve Israel returning occupied lands to their owners and restoring their rights," is a first salvo. He is claiming that real peace means supporting international borders and all UN resolutions. He accuses Israel and the US of only wanting justice for themselves and of aiming to dominate the region in their own narrow interests. [complete article]
In the face of Bush's lies, it's left to Assad to tell the truth
By Robert Fisk, The Independent, August 16, 2006
In the sparse Baathist drawing rooms of Damascus, reality often seems a long way away. But it was a sign of the times that President Bashar al-Assad was able to bring the great and the good of Damascus to their feet by the simple token of telling the truth - which no other Arab leader has chosen to do these past five weeks: that the Lebanese Hizbollah guerrilla army has, in effect, won this round of their war with Israel.
There was plenty of hyperbole in the Assad speech. A conflict that has cost 1,000 Lebanese civilian lives can hardly be called a "glorious battle" but he did at least reflect more reality than his opposite number in Washington who, driven by self-delusion or his love of Israel, claimed that Hizbollah had been defeated in Lebanon. [complete article] Who really won the war?
By Tony Karon, Time.com, August 16, 2006
It would be an understatement to say that Olmert's claims of victory have not exactly resonated with Israelis. His poll numbers are low, and a cloud hangs over his government's long-term prospects. It's abundantly clear to Israelis that an exercise designed to demonstrate the brutal efficiency of Israel's military deterrent against violent challenges has accomplished much the opposite, with Hizballah's performance emboldening Israel's enemies -- from Gaza to Tehran.
That's bad news also for the Bush Administration, whose fantasies of leading an Arab front against Hizballah and Iran collapsed under pressure from Arab allies -- Lebanon foremost among them -- for an immediate cease-fire. The U.S. suffered diplomatically for its support of Israel's campaign -- and may have made its work in Iraq that much more difficult -- and was forced to settle for something less than the emphatic victory over Hizballah it had expected.
Indeed, the outcome has done so little to alter the basic strategic geography of Lebanon and the wider region that it's hard to envisage this truce as the first step towards a comprehensive regional peace. Right now, it looks more like a time-out. [complete article]
See also, A path to lasting peace (Condoleezza Rice). Iran 'will discuss nuclear halt'
BBC News, August 16, 2006
Iran is ready to discuss the suspension of its uranium enrichment programme as demanded by Western powers, the country's foreign minister has said.
Manouchehr Mottaki told a news conference that Iran was ready to talk but still regarded any suspension of its programme as "illogical".
A package of incentives has been offered to Iran by six world powers in return for a halt to its programme. Tehran has said it will respond to the offer by 22 August.
"We are ready to discuss all the issues, including the suspension. There is no logic behind the suspension of Iran's activities. We are ready to explain this to them," Mr Mottaki said. [complete article] A year later, Gazans say Israel's pullout was a mirage
By Djallal Malti, AFP (via Daily Star), August 16, 2006
Gaza marked the first anniversary of the start of Israel's pullout from the coastal strip Tuesday amid bitterness that the end of the Jewish settlements did not bring an end to occupation and bloodshed. At midnight on August 15, 2005, Israel began withdrawing 8,000 Jewish settlers and thousands of troops from Gaza, the start of a month-long operation to end the country's 38-year occupation. But a year later residents in the impoverished strip continue to die from Israeli fire, the economy is in shambles and the mood is grim.
"They say they withdrew, but the occupation is going on in Gaza," said Abu Yasser, 50, a shop owner in Gaza City. "They're still everywhere and the killing and the shelling is continuing despite the withdrawal."
Immediately following the pullout last year, hope was high in both Gaza and Israel that the move would mark a major step toward a Palestinian state on the one hand, and security for Israel on the other.
But the optimism was short-lived.
For Palestinians, Israel still tightly controlled the borders of the territory and the army continued to carry out raids targeting militants in the strip, strikes that often left civilians dead.
For Israel, Palestinian militants continued to fire rockets from the strip into the country and smuggle weapons. [complete article] The West can't win this fight
By Peter W Galbraith, The Guardian, August 16, 2006
What would it take to win the Iraq War? From the perspective of Washington and London, victory is a unified and democratic Iraq capable of sustaining itself without major external military support.
But Iraq has already broken up and is in the midst of a civil war. Kurdistan in the north is for all practical purposes a separate nation with its own government, army and flag. By Kurdistan law, the Iraqi Army cannot enter Kurdistan and the Iraqi flag does not fly.
The Shia south is also ruled independently from Baghdad by religious parties and clerics who model their regime on neighbouring Iran, although in many cases Shia militias enforce an Islamic rule far stricter than that applicable in Iran.
The Sunni Arab centre of Iraq is a battleground between Sunni insurgents and the US military operating in alliance with Shia troops of the Iraqi Army. Baghdad is the frontline of a civil war that is dividing the city along the Tigris River into a Shia east and a Sunni west. The Mahdi Army, a radical Shia militia, controls the Shia neighbourhoods, while the Sunni neighbourhoods are mostly controlled by al-Qaida offshoots and copycats, Baathists, or both.
To "win", the US and Britain would have to dismantle clerical rule in Iraq's south, disband Shia militias, persuade Iraq's Kurds to accept some control from the central government in Baghdad, end the Sunni-Shia civil war that is now taking 3000 lives a month, and find a more effective strategy for combating the Sunni Arab insurgency. At a minimum, this would entail a vastly greater military commitment to Iraq and many more coalition casualties. [complete article] Number of civilian deaths highest in July, Iraqis say
By Edward Wong and Damien Cave, New York Times, August 16, 2006
July appears to have been the deadliest month of the war for Iraqi civilians, according to figures from the Health Ministry and the Baghdad morgue, reinforcing criticism that the Baghdad security plan started in June by the new government has failed.
An average of more than 110 Iraqis were killed each day in July, according to the figures. The total number of civilian deaths that month, 3,438, is a 9 percent increase over the tally in June and nearly double the toll in January.
The rising numbers suggested that sectarian violence is spiraling out of control, and seemed to bolster an assertion many senior Iraqi officials and American military analysts have made in recent months: that the country is already embroiled in a civil war, not just slipping toward one, and that the American-led forces are caught between Sunni Arab guerrillas and Shiite militias.
The numbers also provide the most definitive evidence yet that the Baghdad security plan started by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki on June 14 has not quelled the violence. The plan, promoted by top Iraqi and American officials at the time, relied on setting up more Iraqi-run checkpoints to stymie insurgents. [complete article] Iraq city locked down after clashes, as car bomb hits capital
By Abdelamir Hanun, AFP (via Yahoo), August 16, 2006
Police have locked down the Iraqi holy city of Karbala after a day of violent clashes with militiamen loyal to a local Shiite cleric left at least 18 people dead.
At the same time, deadly violence continued in the capital Wednesday, where a car bomb killed eight people and wounded another 28 near the main bus station.
The Karbala skirmishes, which also spread to a second Shiite city, were seen as a sign of growing tension between unofficial militias and goverment forces battling to quell a wave of sectarian violence. [complete article] Strife moving out from Baghdad to villages
By Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, August 16, 2006
Telba Khalif was in the vineyard when the mortar shell crashed down, sending her running terrified toward her house. Day and night, similar explosions had rocked her village -- on the road, by the canal, in the fields -- in what U.S. and Iraqi military officials call a bleeding of sectarian strife out from Baghdad.
"We can't sleep every night because this is happening," Khalif said in her stucco home, surrounded by other veiled women and girls. "We're very scared."
Mortar attacks that erupted last month between Sunni and Shiite villages around Khan Bani Sad are part of a complex power struggle in the demographically mixed province of Diyala, a contested area stretching from Baghdad to Iran. Sunni fighters are trying to push Shiite families out of the region, while Shiite militiamen from Baghdad are moving in aggressively to attack Sunnis and expand their turf, the officials say.
U.S. commanders had planned on withdrawing hundreds of American troops from this province, but instead this month they ordered an increase in troop levels to help stem the spread of sectarian violence. The Iraqi army has grown more capable in Diyala, and took over a large portion of the province last month. But the decision to add American troops underscored the limitations of their Iraqi counterparts, particularly the police, who must overcome mistrust fostered by the sectarian tensions. [complete article] A foretaste of larger furies to come
By Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star, August 16, 2006
As I watched Hizbullah's secretary general, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, making his frequent television addresses in recent weeks, especially on Monday night after the fighting had stopped, he seemed to take on the veneer of a national leader rather than that as head of a single group in Lebanon's rich mosaic of parties. In tone and content, his remarks seemed like those that a president or prime minister should be making while addressing the nation after a terrible month of destruction and human suffering. His prominence is one of the important political repercussions of this war.
The intense interest of some politicians, foreign leaders and many journalists in "when and how Hizbullah will be disarmed" is understandable. Israel, the United States, others in Europe and some in Lebanon have stressed this issue for many months, well before the war. But this focus is too narrow to be a useful peg for a full analysis of the political implications of this war. Hizbullah's arms should be assessed in the wider domestic, regional and international context in which they exist and operate.
That context has been clarified by the war, which inflicted severe human and material damage on the two countries. Now its political ripples will be felt throughout the Middle East, and perhaps further afield. One of these is the prominence of non-state actors, such as Hizbullah, that act with more efficacy and, in some cases, more legitimacy than some governments in the Arab world. The significant political fact is not only that such an organization has become very powerful in tandem with the formal Lebanese institutions of state, but also that it has in part provoked and single-handedly fought a war with a neighboring state - and emerged in rather good shape. So, Nasrallah speaks to the nation after the fighting stops. [complete article]
Comment -- The real threat that Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah poses has nothing to do with Iran or Islamism or terrorism. It is that symbolically (even if not necessarily in actuality) he and his organization pose a challenge to the notion of political legitimacy. Whereas his opponents wield their power through the instruments of state, Nasrallah wields another power that unfortunately eludes most contemporary politicians: credibility. While democracy has well-established foundations -- free and fair elections enabling the peaceful transfer of power; the rule of law; the separation of judicial, legislative, and executive powers -- the presence of all of these elements does not ensure that those who enter office necessarily possess much credibility, or if they do that they manage to retain it while governing. Credibility is not conferred by any institution or tradition but simply a congruence between words and deeds.
When states have leaders whose lack of integrity undermines their political authority, their claim to legitimacy can no longer rest on the mere fact that they won an election. When political leaders operate in an arena where each are more or less equal in their lack of credibility, then their legitimacy is likely to go unchallenged. But then along comes a figure such as Nasrallah who by all appearances means what he says and acts in accordance with his words. If you happen to be sitting in the White House, nothing could be more troubling.
Bush acknowledges that Hezbollah has a "fantastic propaganda machine", but what's that supposed to mean? Hassan Nassrallah has an easy time persuading people to believe his lies, while George Bush has a hard time convincing people when he's really telling the truth?
Why, Mr truth-telling Bush, do you have such an extraordinary credibility problem? You ask, "are we willing to support reformers and young democracies?" and then go on to assert, "this administration is willing to do so. And that's what we're doing."
Would you have the gall to go to Beirut and repeat those words while surveying the damage wrought on Lebanon's young democracy by the bombs that you gladly provided?! Not only have you tarnished the reputation of the nation that you arrogantly command, but you have succeeded in turning the word "democracy" into an object of contempt across much of the Middle East. So much for your so-called forward strategy of freedom! Desert of trapped corpses testifies to Israel's failure
By Robert Fisk, The Independent, August 15, 2006
You have to be down here with the Hizbollah amid this terrifying destruction - way south of the Litani river, in the territory from which Israel once vowed to expel them - to realise the nature of the past month of war and of its enormous political significance to the Middle East. Israel's mighty army has already retreated from the neighbouring village of Ghandoutiya after losing 40 men in just over 36 hours of fighting. It has not even managed to penetrate the smashed town of Khiam where the Hizbollah were celebrating yesterday afternoon. In Srifa, I stood with Hizbollah men looking at the empty roads to the south and could see all the way to Israel and the settlement of Mizgav Am on the other side of the frontier. This is not the way the war was supposed to have ended for Israel.
Far from humiliating Iran and Syria - which was the Israeli-American plan - these two supposedly pariah states have been left untouched and the Hizbollah's reputation lionised across the Arab world. The "opportunity" which President George Bush and his Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, apparently saw in the Lebanon war has turned out to be an opportunity for America's enemies to show the weakness of Israel's army. Indeed, last night, scarcely any Israeli armour was to be seen inside Lebanon - just one solitary tank could be glimpsed outside Bint Jbeil and the Israelis had retreated even from the "safe" Christian town of Marjayoun. It is now clear that the 30,000-strong Israeli army reported to be racing north to the Litani river never existed. [complete article] America's one-eyed view of war: Stars, stripes, and the Star of David
By Andrew Gumbel, The Independent, August 15, 2006
The media, more generally, has left little doubt in the minds of a majority of American news consumers that the Israelis are the good guys, the aggrieved victims, while Hizbollah is an incarnation of the same evil responsible for bringing down the World Trade Centre, a heartless and faceless organisation whose destruction is so important it can justify all the damage Israel is inflicting on Lebanon and its civilians.
The point is not that this viewpoint is necessarily wrong. The point - and this is what distinguishes the US from every other Western country in its attitude to the conflict - is that it is presented as a foregone conclusion. Not only is there next to no debate, but debate itself is considered unnecessary and suspect. [complete article] Lebanon government compromise would allow Hezbollah to keep hidden weapons in south
By Yoav Stern and Amos Harel, Haaretz, August 15, 2006
A compromise agreement now being hammered out between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government would allow the Shi'ite guerillas to keep hidden weapons in south Lebanon, the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported on Tuesday.
While Hezbollah would need to keep the weapons it possesses south of the Litani River hidden, an agreement for areas north of the river would be "left to a long term solution," the paper reported.
If the proposed compromise is accepted Tuesday by the Lebanese government, it would violate the terms of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 ending the war in Lebanon. The resolution rules that the Lebanese army and UNIFIL may be the only armed forces in the territory between the Litani River south to the Israeli border. [complete article] A defiant Hezbollah rises from the rubble
By Megan K. Stack, Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2006
Hezbollah's urban nerve center is a shattered shell. Its most loyal followers trudged homeward to a heartland laid to waste. And yet the Shiite organization lighted up the night sky with fireworks Monday and declared itself triumphant over Israel.
Israel meant to break Hezbollah with its monthlong offensive, but instead the militant organization has been strengthened politically in Lebanon, analysts say. The movement has a fresh boost of popularity, at least for now, and a renewed sense that it is entitled to keep its armed militia outside the control of the Lebanese army, they say.
Hezbollah's newfound clout has come at a staggering cost to Lebanon's infrastructure, economy and civilians, hundreds of whom died under the rubble of Israeli bombs. The fragile central government, which the U.S. administration strove to present as an example of democracy taking root in the Arab world, also has suffered from the month of fighting.
"The reality is, they have weakened the government significantly," said Charles Ayoub, editor of Ad Diyar newspaper. "What room do [officials] have to maneuver? If Nasrallah says he won't give up the weapons, what are they going to do?"
The U.N. resolution that paved the way for the truce calls for Hezbollah's disarmament. So, for that matter, does an earlier, long-ignored resolution. But the terms for giving up the weaponry are vague. And as a prominent party in the Lebanese government, Hezbollah will have a hand in deciding how and whether the language translates into fact.
If anything, analysts say, the war has worsened Lebanon's underlying instability, bolstering Hezbollah at the expense of more moderate, secular figures in government. [complete article] Returning to their devastated homes, the people of Lebanon claim victory
By Declan Walsh, The Guardian, August 15, 2006
The war started in Aitta Shaab, where Hizbullah fighters stole across the border and kidnapped two Israeli soldiers one month ago. When it ended at 8am yesterday morning - and not a minute earlier - the tiny town bore fearful testament to Israel's wrath.
The town centre was utterly destroyed, reduced to a line of disembowelled buildings cloaked in ashen dust. Gigantic craters pitted the roads. Scorched vehicles slouched in the gutters.
Yet for the townspeople who slowly trickled home, many to decimated homes, the bombs had failed to obliterate one thing - a defiant sense of victory.
"I feel joy," said Ibrahim Awada, whose grocery store had been flattened, house destroyed and three neighbours killed. "These buildings can be rebuilt. All I care is that Hizbullah defeats Israel." [complete article] Gaza militants get new proposal over Israeli soldier
By Nidal al-Mughrabi, Reuters, August 15, 2006
Egyptian mediators have presented Hamas and other militant groups with a new proposal aimed at ending a six-week-old standoff over an Israeli soldier seized near the Gaza strip, Hamas officials said on Tuesday.
A source close to the negotiations said the proposal called for Hamas to transfer Corporal Gilad Shalit to Egyptian authorities in return for Israel's release of up to 600 Palestinian prisoners, including women and minors.
Another group of Palestinian prisoners, including many who have served longer sentences, would be freed by Israel at a later date. [complete article] Palestinians seek abducted journalists
By Diaa Hadid, AP (via SF Chronicle), August 15, 2006
Palestinian security forces hunted for two abducted Fox News journalists Tuesday, and the Palestinian president and prime minister were intervening in an attempt to gain their release.
President Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the Hamas-led government, scheduled meetings with the news organization's Jerusalem bureau chief, Eli Fastman, and its chief correspondent in Israel, Jennifer Griffin. [complete article] Rosy assessments on Iraq 'not related to reality,' some say
By Tom Lasseter, McClatchy, August 14, 2006
As security conditions continue to deteriorate in Iraq, many Iraqi politicians are challenging the optimistic forecasts of governments in Baghdad and Washington, with some worrying that the rosy views are preventing the creation of effective strategies against the escalating violence.
Their worst fear, one that some American soldiers share, is that top officials don't really understand what's happening. Those concerns seem to be supported by statistics that show Iraq's violence has increased steadily during the past three years.
"The American policy has failed both in terms of politics and security, but the big problem is that they will not confess or admit that," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of parliament. "They are telling the American public that the situation in Iraq will be improved, they want to encourage positive public opinion (in the U.S.), but the Iraqi citizens are seeing something different. They know the real situation."
Othman charges that top American officials spend most of their time in the heavily guarded Green Zone in Baghdad and at large military bases across the country, and don't know what's happening in the neighborhoods and provinces beyond.
Shiite Muslim parliament member Jalaladin al Saghir had a similar view.
"All the American policies have failed because the American analysis of the situation is wrong; it is not related to reality," Saghir said. "The slaughtered Iraqi man on the street conveys the best explanation" for what's happening in Iraq.
Some U.S. soldiers in Iraq reluctantly agree.
"As an intelligence officer ... I have had the chance to move around Baghdad on mounted and dismounted patrols and see the city and violence from the ground," wrote one American military officer in Iraq. "I think that the greatest problem that we deal (besides the insurgents and militia) with is that our leadership has no real comprehension of the ground truth. I wish that I could offer a solution, but I can't. When I have briefed General Officers, I have given them my perspective and assessment of the situation. Many have been surprised at what I have to say, but I suspect that in the end nothing will or has changed." [complete article]
Comment -- President Bush has never hesitated to use his role as commander-in-chief to what he sees as his political advantage, yet the thing that makes his and Cheney's war-making policies rotten at the core is that these are two men who have never willingly put their own lives at risk. To be fully aware of the ways in which they have recklessly endangered others and been responsible for the loss of tens of thousands of lives, would require that they starkly confront the depth of their own hypocrisy. As cowards, this is something they are incapable of doing. Fierce gunbattles erupt in Iraq
By Qassid Jabar, AP (via Yahoo), August 15, 2006
Fierce gunbattles broke out Tuesday between armed supporters of an anti-U.S. Shiite cleric and Iraqi security forces after a raid on his office in this southern holy city, leaving many people injured, officials and witnesses said.
The two sides exchanged gunfire near one of Iraq's holiest shrines containing the mausoleum of Imam Hussein, a revered figure in Shiite history.
At least two soldiers lay motionless on the street, apparently shot. Minutes later, other soldiers lifted their limp bodies and ferried them away in trucks. It was not clear if they were alive. Four other soldiers also suffered gunshot wounds, but were on their feet.
The fighting, which began early Tuesday, spread to at least four other parts of Karbala by afternoon in violation of a curfew. Gunmen in civilian clothes could be seen firing AK-47 rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades at army patrols and running away. [complete article] Iran said to support Shiite militias in Iraq
By Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, August 15, 2006
Through proxies, Iran is giving weapons, bomb technology and training to Shiite Muslim militias in Iraq, U.S. military officials said Monday.
"We do know that Shia extremist groups have received training through some sort of third element associated with Iran," said Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman. "We do know that weapons have been provided."
The U.S. assertions echo previous warnings about Iranian support for Shiite militias in Iraq. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told The Washington Post in March that Iranian agents in Iraq train and arm Shiite militias such as the Mahdi Army, which is linked to the powerful, anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
"Our judgment is that training and supplying, direct or indirect, takes place, and that there is also provision of financial resources to people, to militias, and that there is presence of people associated with Revolutionary Guard and with MOIS," Khalilzad said, referring to Iran's main military force and its Ministry of Intelligence and Security. [complete article] Speaker of Iraqi parliament may step down
By Edward Wong, New York Times, August 15, 2006
The speaker of Parliament said Monday that he was considering stepping down because of bitter enmity from Kurdish and Shiite political blocs, revealing the first major crack in Iraq's fragile unity government since it was formed nearly three months ago.
The speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, is the third-ranking official in Iraq and a conservative Sunni Arab. Shiite and Kurdish legislators have banded together to try to push him out, mainly because he is considered too radical.
Since taking office in late May, Mr. Mashhadani has publicly praised the Sunni insurgency, called the Americans "butchers" and denounced the idea of carving up Iraq into autonomous regions, which the Kurds and some Shiites support.
"Maybe now is the best time for me to withdraw," Mr. Mashhadani said in a telephone interview. "My hand won't be stained as they want it to be stained." [complete article] U.S. sending 300 newly returned troops back to Iraq
By Will Dunham, Reuters, August 15, 2006
About 300 U.S. soldiers who just weeks ago returned home to Alaska after a year in Iraq are being ordered back to try to help bolster security in Baghdad, the U.S. Army said on Monday.
The soldiers are part of the 3,900-strong 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team from Fort Wainwright in Alaska. Facing rising sectarian violence in Baghdad, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on July 27 ordered the unit to remain in Iraq for up to four months past its scheduled departure.
That order provoked anger and disappointment among some of the soldiers' families in Alaska. It also made clear that any significant reduction in the 135,000-strong U.S. force in Iraq was unlikely in the immediate future.
The brigade was so far along in the process of flowing out of Iraq after its yearlong tour that 378 soldiers had returned home to Alaska and about 300 had arrived in Kuwait en route home, the Army said.
All of the soldiers who had reached Kuwait were sent back to Iraq, the Army said. Now, 301 of the 378 who made it to Alaska will be sent back to Iraq in roughly a week, with the remainder allowed to remain home, said Maj. Gen. Charles Jacoby, head of Army forces in Alaska. [complete article] In Afghanistan, lamenting refuge for militants across border
By Carlotta Gall, New York Times, August 15, 2006
In the memorial garden at the American military base in this dusty provincial town, the names of four Afghans -- a soldier, two policemen and an intelligence officer -- were recently added to the list of American soldiers who have died here since 2002.
The names are a sign that Afghan government forces are now bearing more of the burden for security in this eastern province, Paktika.
But they are also an indicator of how, in the nearly five years since Al Qaeda and the Taliban were chased from Afghanistan, the groups have continued operating from bases just across the border in Pakistan.
While the terrorist scare in London last week provided a fresh reminder to the United States and its allies of the threat from militant groups that have made Pakistan their home, the soldiers here did not need reminding. That threat has been constant, and it has largely frustrated American efforts to rebuild the country and bring peace and stability. [complete article] No process, no peace
By Paul Woodward, The War in Context, August 15, 2006
On July 12, three hours after Hezbollah lit the fuse, triggering Israel's existential threat, IDF chief of staff, Dan Halutz, ran to the bank. It was time to sell his 120,000 shekel investment portfolio. An IDF spokesman, explaining the timing, said that:
Halutz has a bank account like any other Israeli citizen and needs to perform transactions in the account from time to time. Any attempt to link between personal matters of the chief of staff and Israel's national security is inappropriate, the army said.Halutz himself says that, "At the time I did not expect or think that there would be a war."
If the IDF's chief is to be taken at his word, we can only conclude that the military did not regard the abduction of two soldiers as an act of war. If Halutz is simply trying to protect himself, then when he sold off his portfolio he either had more concern about his wealth than the fate of Israel, or he thought that his wealth was in greater jeopardy than the nation. Either way, his actions seem emblematic of the folly of Israel's war against Hezbollah.
Now the fighting is over, President Bush insists on making the hollow claim that Hezbollah has been defeated. Presumably it was Dick Cheney who assured Bush that Hezbollah's 250-rocket attack on Sunday meant that the organization must be in its last throes. Yet strangely, Hezbollah's "defeat" has resulted in no celebrations in Israel. Indeed, this defeat with no victor is already bringing demands that the Olmert government must go.
As for what happens next, the expectation is that Hezbollah will not be disarmed, and yesterday Bush inadvertently let it slip that the peace process really is well and truly dead.
Bush says, "We want peace. We're not interested in process." Peace Not Process might work for antiwar demonstrators, but what any politician knows is that you can't get there from here without a process. Bush's apparent loss of faith in the peace process is really an implicit confession that his own feeble effort -- his so-called "road map" -- was nothing more than a facade designed to conceal the fact that the peace process had already been abandoned.
It was widely acknowledged that the peace process had been abandoned once Ariel Sharon initiated Israel's unilateral policy of "convergence." But this was simply an overt departure from any semblance of a path to reconciliation between Israel and its foes. The fatal blow to the process had already been struck. As soon as the Bush administration embraced the view that Israel's "war on terrorism" was a key front in its "global war on terrorism," the peace process was dead.
A lesson that the latest war could yield (but probably won't) is this: Terrorism is a concept that contains very little explanatory power; global terrorism even less. Likewise, Islamism is a beguilingly simplistic notion.
As Islamist terrorist organizations, Hezbollah and Hamas are by definition unfit to become "partners for peace." But as political entities they are not only fit but indispensable to a comprehensive resolution to the Middle East conflict. The starting point of reconciliation isn't going to be some implausible renunciation of violence (something Nelson Mandela was never willing to do); it comes when the warring parties are finally willing to sit down and face each other with a measure of respect in spite of an enduring enmity. American support may no longer be enough
By Martin Jacques, The Guardian, August 14, 2006
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the creation of the state of Israel, the reality today is that it is - by the manner of its creation, self-image and attitude towards its neighbours, and how it is regarded by the west - a western transplant sustained by an American life-support machine. Under such circumstances, the very idea that peace in the Middle East is in any meaningful sense possible is illusory. Israel has been the primary means by which the US has exercised its hegemony over the region. It has, using the classic imperial device of divide and rule, vested its means of control over the Middle East - as Amy Chua argues in her book World on Fire - in a small but privileged ethnic minority state, namely Israel. Whatever the recent rhetoric about democracy, such a mode of control means that western hegemony in the region has been primarily exercised by force. The Arab world has been rendered embittered, divided, resentful and politically frozen, in a manner that should surprise nobody. It is understandable that terrorism has become such a fixture in Arab politics: it is the weapon of the impotent, the disenfranchised and the unorganised in the face of profound grievance.
An enduring peace in the Middle East requires two things: first, that the Arab states accept Israel's right to exist; and second, that Israel must come to see itself as an integral part of the region. The latter requires the kind of transformation in Israeli - and western - attitudes that is not even conceived of, let alone discussed. Israelis typically regard themselves as superior to their neighbours, and the root cause of this mentality lies in their sense of racial superiority. Indeed it is impossible to explain Israel's attitude towards the west on the one hand and its Arab neighbours on the other without understanding its racial character and motivation. Israelis aspire to be treated on a par with westerners - that is, of course, white westerners; by the same token they have contempt for Arabs, including those who are citizens of Israel, whom they look down on as less civilised than themselves. Israel behaves in the manner of a settler colony whose people do not believe they are of the region but who none the less think they have every right to be there. [complete article]
Comment -- There is an even deeper truth here -- one to which everyone living in a world conditioned by illusions of proximity needs to be attentive. To the extent that we abstract ourselves from where we are and from a deep understanding of where we stand, we are living on false ground. Coupled to the philosopher's injunction, know thyself, is a material, cultural, and ecological demand that in the profoundest way we know where we live. Washington's interests in Israel's war
By Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker, August 13, 2006
According to a Middle East expert with knowledge of the current thinking of both the Israeli and the U.S. governments, Israel had devised a plan for attacking Hezbollah -- and shared it with Bush Administration officials -- well before the July 12th kidnappings. "It's not that the Israelis had a trap that Hezbollah walked into," he said, "but there was a strong feeling in the White House that sooner or later the Israelis were going to do it."
The Middle East expert said that the Administration had several reasons for supporting the Israeli bombing campaign. Within the State Department, it was seen as a way to strengthen the Lebanese government so that it could assert its authority over the south of the country, much of which is controlled by Hezbollah. He went on, "The White House was more focussed on stripping Hezbollah of its missiles, because, if there was to be a military option against Iran's nuclear facilities, it had to get rid of the weapons that Hezbollah could use in a potential retaliation at Israel. Bush wanted both. Bush was going after Iran, as part of the Axis of Evil, and its nuclear sites, and he was interested in going after Hezbollah as part of his interest in democratization, with Lebanon as one of the crown jewels of Middle East democracy."
The United States and Israel have shared intelligence and enjoyed close military coöperation for decades, but early this spring, according to a former senior intelligence official, high-level planners from the U.S. Air Force -- under pressure from the White House to develop a war plan for a decisive strike against Iran's nuclear facilities -- began consulting with their counterparts in the Israeli Air Force.
"The big question for our Air Force was how to hit a series of hard targets in Iran successfully," the former senior intelligence official said. "Who is the closest ally of the U.S. Air Force in its planning? It's not Congo -- it's Israel. Everybody knows that Iranian engineers have been advising Hezbollah on tunnels and underground gun emplacements. And so the Air Force went to the Israelis with some new tactics and said to them, 'Let's concentrate on the bombing and share what we have on Iran and what you have on Lebanon.' " The discussions reached the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he said.
"The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits," a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. "Why oppose it? We'll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran."
Earlier this summer, before the Hezbollah kidnappings, the U.S. government consultant said, several Israeli officials visited Washington, separately, "to get a green light for the bombing operation and to find out how much the United States would bear." The consultant added, "Israel began with Cheney. It wanted to be sure that it had his support and the support of his office and the Middle East desk of the National Security Council." After that, "persuading Bush was never a problem, and Condi Rice was on board," the consultant said.
The initial plan, as outlined by the Israelis, called for a major bombing campaign in response to the next Hezbollah provocation, according to the Middle East expert with knowledge of U.S. and Israeli thinking. Israel believed that, by targeting Lebanon's infrastructure, including highways, fuel depots, and even the civilian runways at the main Beirut airport, it could persuade Lebanon's large Christian and Sunni populations to turn against Hezbollah, according to the former senior intelligence official. The airport, highways, and bridges, among other things, have been hit in the bombing campaign. The Israeli Air Force had flown almost nine thousand missions as of last week. (David Siegel, the Israeli spokesman, said that Israel had targeted only sites connected to Hezbollah; the bombing of bridges and roads was meant to prevent the transport of weapons.)
The Israeli plan, according to the former senior intelligence official, was "the mirror image of what the United States has been planning for Iran." (The initial U.S. Air Force proposals for an air attack to destroy Iran's nuclear capacity, which included the option of intense bombing of civilian infrastructure targets inside Iran, have been resisted by the top leadership of the Army, the Navy, and the Marine Corps, according to current and former officials. They argue that the Air Force plan will not work and will inevitably lead, as in the Israeli war with Hezbollah, to the insertion of troops on the ground.)
Cheney's office supported the Israeli plan, as did Elliott Abrams, a deputy national-security adviser, according to several former and current officials. (A spokesman for the N.S.C. denied that Abrams had done so.) They believed that Israel should move quickly in its air war against Hezbollah. A former intelligence officer said, "We told Israel, 'Look, if you guys have to go, we're behind you all the way. But we think it should be sooner rather than later -- the longer you wait, the less time we have to evaluate and plan for Iran before Bush gets out of office.' "
Cheney's point, the former senior intelligence official said, was "What if the Israelis execute their part of this first, and it's really successful? It'd be great. We can learn what to do in Iran by watching what the Israelis do in Lebanon."
The Pentagon consultant told me that intelligence about Hezbollah and Iran is being mishandled by the White House the same way intelligence had been when, in 2002 and early 2003, the Administration was making the case that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. "The big complaint now in the intelligence community is that all of the important stuff is being sent directly to the top -- at the insistence of the White House -- and not being analyzed at all, or scarcely," he said. "It's an awful policy and violates all of the N.S.A.'s strictures, and if you complain about it you're out," he said. "Cheney had a strong hand in this." [complete article]
See also, U.S. denies role in attacking Hezbollah (LAT). Lebanon falters over truce detail
BBC News, August 14, 2006
Crucial Lebanese cabinet talks on disarming Hezbollah fighters in southern Lebanon under a UN-brokered ceasefire have been put off.
A truce between Israel and Hezbollah is due to come into force at 0500 GMT.
The postponement, amid reported divisions, seriously complicates the establishment of a stable ceasefire, the BBC's Nick Childs in Beirut says. [complete article]
See also, Peretz: Israel coordinating with UNIFIL; IDF kills Hezbollah man who fired at them (Haaretz), IDF general: Troops lacking food can steal from Lebanese stores (Haaretz), Senior cabinet minister Ramon: Hezbollah is now a beaten force (Haaretz), and Hezbollah torpedoes Lebanese gov't meeting on disarmament (Haaretz).
Comment -- In its desperate 11th hour efforts to make some tenuous claim of victory, Israel lost 29 soldiers in less than 48 hours. The likes of Haim Ramon might still want to insist the Hezbollah is a "beaten force", but the fact is Israel can't afford to keep on fighting. Perhaps Ehud Olmert is now wondering whether the worst curse of all came right at the beginning of this war: a green light from Washington. 'The best guerrilla force in the world'
By Edward Cody and Molly Moore, Washington Post, August 14, 2006
Hezbollah's irregular fighters stood off the modern Israeli army for a month in the hills of southern Lebanon thanks to extraordinary zeal and secrecy, rigorous training, tight controls over the population, and a steady flow of Iranian money to acquire effective weaponry, according to informed assessments in Lebanon and Israel.
"They are the best guerrilla force in the world," said a Lebanese specialist who has sifted through intelligence on Hezbollah for more than two decades and strongly opposes the militant Shiite Muslim movement.
Because Hezbollah was entrenched in friendly Shiite-inhabited villages and underground bunkers constructed in secret over several years, a withering Israeli air campaign and a tank-led ground assault were unable to establish full control over a border strip and sweep it clear of Hezbollah guerrillas -- one of Israel's main declared war aims. Largely as a result, the U.N. Security Council resolution approved unanimously Friday night fell short of the original objectives laid out by Israel and the Bush administration when the conflict began July 12. [complete article] U.S. shift kicked off frantic diplomacy at U.N.
By Warren Hoge, New York Times, August 15, 2006
A senior administration official said a crucial moment came when Ms. Rice decided to intervene personally in New York.
"Condi sat in her office Thursday night," he said. "In a very clear moment, she decided to go to New York and just force this through by going there and sitting there until it got done."
The feeling was one of hopelessness, but Mr. Bolton, departing 30 minutes later, boldly predicted there would be a vote on Friday.
As evidence of how committed the United States had become to the notion that an Israeli military victory was no longer an option, Ms. Rice and other administration officials posed pointed questions to the Israelis about the likely consequences of an intensified military push. And in a rare pointed remark clearly aimed at Israel, Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, said Wednesday, "We do not want escalations."
Ms. Rice was particularly prominent in conducting the Lebanon policy because President Bush left the high-level contacts to her in a way that he has not in past crises, when he has made direct phone calls and personal appeals to world leaders. [complete article]
Comment -- Diplomatic superheroes Condi Rice and John Bolton ride to the rescue and the New York Times catches all the action. Super president George Bush holds back from micromanaging the crisis and lets superwoman work her wonders. Shockingly, Tony Snow puts the Israelis in their place. This is embedded reporting at its finest! No one can go in this deep and come out smelling like a lily, but the Times has never been shy about doing a job that stinks. The land of the free - but free speech is a rare commodity
By Henry Porter, The Observer, August 13, 2006
It used to be said that academic rows were vicious because the stakes were so small. That's no longer true in America, where a battle is underway on campuses over what can be said about the Middle East and US foreign policy.
Douglas Giles is a recent casualty. He used to teach a class on world religions at Roosevelt University, Chicago, founded in memory of FDR and his liberal-inclined wife, Eleanor. Last year, Giles was ordered by his head of department, art historian Susan Weininger, not to allow students to ask questions about Palestine and Israel; in fact, nothing was to be mentioned in class, textbooks and examinations that could possibly open Judaism to criticism.
Students, being what they are, did not go along with the ban. A young woman, originally from Pakistan, asked a question about Palestinian rights. Someone complained and Professor Giles was promptly fired.
Leaving aside his boss's doubtful qualifications to set limits on a class of comparative religion - her speciality is early 20th-century Midwestern artists such as Tunis Ponsen (nor have I) - the point to grasp is that Professor Giles did not make inflammatory statements himself: he merely refused to limit debate among the young minds in front of him.
This might be seen as a troubling one-off like the story involving the president of Harvard, Lawrence Summers, who suggested that innate differences between the minds of men and women could be one reason why fewer women succeed in science and maths careers and was then ousted. But Giles's sacking is far more important because it is part of the movement to suppress criticism of Israel on the grounds that it is anti-semitic. A mild man, Giles seems astonished to find the battle for free speech in his own lecture theatre.
'It may be sexy to get on a bus and go to DC and march against war,' he said to me last week. 'It is much less sexy to fight in your own university for the right of free speech. But that is where it begins. That is because they are taking away what you can talk about.' He feels there is a pattern of intolerance in his sacking that has been encouraged by websites such as FrontPageMag.com and Campus Watch. [complete article] Islamist conspiracy is foolish and dangerous
By Max Hastings, The Guardian, August 14, 2006
George Bush sometimes sounds more like the Mahdi, preaching jihad against infidels, than the leader of a western democracy. In his regular radio address to the American people on Saturday he linked the British alleged aircraft plotters with Hizbullah in Lebanon, and these in turn with the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
All, said the president of the world's most powerful nation, share a "totalitarian ideology", and a desire to "establish a safe haven from which to attack free nations". Bush's remarks put me in mind of a proverb attributed to Ali ibn Abu Talib: "He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare, and he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere."
In the United States a disturbingly large minority of people - polls suggest around 40% - remain willing to accept Bush's assertions that Americans and their allies, which chiefly means the British, are faced with a single global conspiracy by Islamic fundamentalists to destroy our societies. [complete article]
Does calling it Jihad make it so?
By David E. Sanger, New York Times, August 13, 2006
Soon after the British police announced last week that they had broken up a plot to blow up aircraft across the Atlantic, President Bush declared the affair "a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists."
British officials, on the other hand, referred to the men in custody as "main players," and declined to discuss either their motives or ideology so that they would not jeopardize "criminal proceedings."
The difference in these initial public characterizations was revealing: The American president summoned up language reaffirming that the United States is locked in a global war in which its enemies are bound together by a common ideology, and a common hatred of democracy. For the moment, the British carefully stuck to the toned-down language of law enforcement. [complete article] Source: U.S., U.K. at odds over timing of arrests
By Aram Roston, Lisa Myers, NBC News, August 12, 2006
NBC News has learned that U.S. and British authorities had a significant disagreement over when to move in on the suspects in the alleged plot to bring down trans-Atlantic airliners bound for the United States.
A senior British official knowledgeable about the case said British police were planning to continue to run surveillance for at least another week to try to obtain more evidence, while American officials pressured them to arrest the suspects sooner. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.
In contrast to previous reports, the official suggested an attack was not imminent, saying the suspects had not yet purchased any airline tickets. In fact, some did not even have passports. [complete article] In Iraq, a failure to deliver the spoils
By James Glanz, New York Times, August 13, 2006
They were just two tribal sheiks from a town so small it does not appear on most maps, and they were meeting two weeks ago in the local police station with an American officer to talk about reconstruction projects. Still, they could have been old-time Chicago ward heelers looking out for the neighborhood when a little pork barrel was at stake.
And the sheiks, Abu Jawad and Abu Ghazwan, had not gotten their piece of the action. An American military man they remembered only as Captain Burns had come to their town, a dusty place around 30 miles south of Baghdad, and left without coming through on his promises of electricity projects, water projects, schools, said the sheiks and the local police commander, Lt. Col. Hussein Daher Layg.
The sheiks' disappointment had nothing to do with America's wider strategic aims in Iraq. Rather, explained the sheiks, suited up in traditional checked headdresses and formal robes, dishdashas, they simply could not look their people in the eye after passing on the promises they had received.
The episode said everything about where the failures of the American reconstruction program in Iraq have had their greatest impact -- community by community, block by block, house by house as the lights do not go on and water does not squirt from the taps. In Iraq, politics is not merely local: it can seem microscopic, with winners and losers on every crumbling street corner as projects succeed and fail.
"We meet here a lot and you promise us a lot, and nothing happens," said Abu Jawad. "When I go to my people and say, 'Next week, next week,' they start to say I'm lying." [complete article] The Jill Carroll story
Christian Science Monitor, August 14, 2006
Jill Carroll, a freelance reporter for The Christian Science Monitor, was kidnapped by Sunni Muslim insurgents in Baghdad on Jan. 7, 2006.
Over the next 82 days, she was shuttled blindfolded among at least six safe houses and had closer contact with Sunni insurgents than any American who has lived to tell the tale.
She cooked with the women. She played with the children. She was locked away in rooms to the sound of cocking guns.
Deprived of control over the smallest aspect of existence, she feared for her life every day.
Her chief captor required his journalist hostage to "interview" him for hours at a time. He would expound on the insurgent worldview and the ruling council set up by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Ms. Carroll stared at the floor. She was afraid to meet his gaze, lest he decide that she knew too much about his features.
In her last hours of captivity this man told her: "Forget about the council. You can only say I am a member of a medium group. You can't talk about the women or the children. You have to say you were in one room the whole time. Everything is forbidden. You must forget it all."
She couldn't. This is her story. [complete article] 56 Iraqis die in attacks on marketplace
By Solomon Moore, Los Angeles Times, August 14, 2006
Coordinated attacks Sunday in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood in south Baghdad killed at least 56 people and wounded 148, local officials said.
The attacks on a market in Zafaraniya included a barrage of mortar rockets, a car bomb and a suicide bomber on a bicycle, police reported.
Elsewhere, insurgents appeared to strike a blow to efforts to bolster security in the restive western city of Fallouja, where hundreds of newly recruited police officers failed to show up for work Sunday after insurgents circulated pamphlets threatening officers, said police officials.
"We will kill all the policemen infidels," read the pamphlets, "whether or not they quit or are still in their jobs." [complete article] The IDF must leave Lebanon at once
By Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz, August 14, 2006
The UN cease-fire resolution currently looks like an undated check: All the parties have received it and recognize its nominal value, but its redemption date, as well as the currency in which it will be paid, are still unclear.
That is why the Lebanese government, which met Sunday to discuss the resolution, adjourned with no decision: A dispute erupted between Hezbollah's representatives and the cabinet majority over Hezbollah's disarmament. The issue is not the government's complete disarmament at some time in the future, but rather its immediate disarmament south of the Litani River, as called for in the cease-fire that is due to take effect this morning.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's position is clear: He will comply with that element of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 only after the Israel Defense Forces withdraws from south Lebanon and the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL take its place. Until then, he is willing to accept only the 1996 Operation Grapes of Wrath understandings, under which both sides will keep fighting, but will not target each other's civilians. In other words, Hezbollah will not fire rockets at Israel if Israel does not bomb Lebanon, but the ground war in south Lebanon will continue and if Israel's bombing continues, so will Hezbollah's Katyushas. [complete article] As Mideast smoke clears, political fates may shift
By Robin Wright, Washington Post, August 13, 2006
What many now consider to be the sixth modern Middle East war has some distinct winners and losers, interviews with a range of former U.S. officials and Middle East analysts reveal.
Although the outcome will be long debated, big losers at this stage appear to be Israel's government, the Lebanese people, and the Bush administration's struggle against terrorism and its campaign for democracy, these observers said.
In waging the longest Arab war against Israel, the big winner may be Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah -- for now. One surprise has been the strong leadership of neophyte Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.
Yet every party has lost something. [complete article]
See also, In Mideast, it's Condi's fight now (James Mann). One killed as more than 230 Hezbollah rockets pummel northern Israel
By Nir Hasson, Eli Askenazi, Jack Houri, Ran Reznick, Haaretz, August 13, 2006
Hezbollah gunners in Lebanon fired at least 230 rockets at northern Israeli towns on Sunday, killing one person and injuring at least 26 others, including three seriously.
At least five of the rockets were long-range missiles provided by Syria, which landed in open areas in the Jezreel Valley town of Migdal Hae'emek. [complete article]
24 IDF soldiers killed Saturday in south Lebanon
By Amos Harel, Yoav Stern and Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz, August 13, 2006
Twenty-four Israel Defense Forces soldiers were killed and another 11 seriously wounded in heavy clashes Saturday with Hezbollah forces in south Lebanon, after Israel dramatically expanded its ground operation in the area.
Five air crewmen were believed to be dead after an Israel Air Force helicopter was shot down by Hezbollah fire late Saturday, the IDF said. Hezbollah claimed the helicopter was struck by an anti-tank missile. IDF sources confirmed a helicopter had gone down and that the five crewmen were missing. [complete article]
Israeli cabinet backs truce deal
BBC News, August 13, 2006
The Israeli cabinet has endorsed a UN Security Council resolution calling for a end to fighting in southern Lebanon.
A ceasefire between Israel and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah is due to come into force at 0500 GMT on Monday. [complete article]
Hizbollah says it will abide by ceasefire
By Tom Perry, Reuters, August 12, 2006
Hizbollah said on Saturday it would abide by any U.N.-backed ceasefire in Lebanon, but would resist Israeli troops expanding their offensive in the south.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Shi'ite Muslim guerrillas, said Hizbollah would cooperate with Lebanese and U.N. troops due to be deployed in south Lebanon under a Security Council resolution adopted on Friday to end the month-old war. [complete article]
Syria still transferring supply of rockets, missiles to Hezbollah
By Amos Harel, Haaretz, August 13, 2006
Syria continues its efforts to transfer large quantities of war materiel, including rockets, to Lebanon, in an effort to assist Hezbollah in its war against Israel, a senior Israel Defense Forces source told Haaretz on Saturday.
According to the IDF source, the air force has succeeded in partially stemming the arms transfers, but intelligence shows that supply convoys have managed to cross into Lebanon from Syria. [complete article] Success or failure is in the mind
By Aluf Benn and Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz, August 11, 2006
As has happened more than once in Israel's short history, this time, too, it turned out that the country's top officials have a tendency to fall quickly into two extreme conditions - the euphoria of victory in six days, or depression in the face of the danger of annihilation. There was Moshe Dayan decrying the "dest ruction of the Third Temple" - referring to the third Jewish national home - in the first days of the Yom Kippur War, the feeling of "the state is going down the tubes" after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, and the concept of a "war for our existence" in the second intifada.
True, Israel is engaged in an ongoing existential war, but not every loss heralds a quick demise. This point seems to have been better understood in Washington this week. Following the bloody events on Wednesday, when 15 reserve soldiers were killed on the front, a senior U.S. figure told Haaretz that "there is still a chance of reaching the right outcome, both militarily and politically."
But that wasn't the feeling in Israel. The large number of casualties on Sunday and the incessant hail of rockets slamming into the north of the country heightened the feeling that the IDF has no solution to the threat. An analysis of the public's attitudes showed it was ready to suffer only if there were results. But in the absence of concrete achievements on the battlefield - only more and more casualties in an endless effort to take over a few villages near the border - civilian staying power was also eroded. The penny finally fell for Olmert: Either the Katyushas have to be dealt with quickly or there has to be a cease-fire. It is no longer possible to claim that the ability to absorb thousands of rockets only shows how strong Israel is. [complete article]
See also, Israel seeks hint of victory (NYT), Nobody's victory, but in the end Israel could not defeat Hizbollah (Peter Beaumont), and Letting the IDF win (Uzi Benziman).
Comment -- So, a month after Israelis warned themselves and were warned by others that the nation faced an "existential threat," the object of the threat is now coming into a focus: It was not the country but the government that was threatened - and not with annihilation but with losing office.
And perhaps that's the nature of executive power: that those who possess it soon forget that they are meant to be acting on behalf of a nation. Instead, they are swiftly seduced by the vanity of the office and see themselves as the embodiment of the nation. Let the devil take tomorrow
By Moshe Arens, Haaretz, August 13, 2006
The war, which according to our leaders was supposed to restore Israel's deterrent posture, has within one month succeeded in destroying it. That message will not be lost on Hamas, the Syrians and the Iranians, and possibly even some of our Arab neighbors who for many years had forsworn belligerence against Israel.
The task facing Israel now is to restore its deterrent posture and prepare for the attacks that are sure to come. But not with this leadership. They have exhausted whatever little credit they had when they were voted into office. [complete article]
See also, Israelis turn on Olmert as UN agrees ceasefire (The Observer).
Comment -- I shudder to imagine what former freedom fighter/terrorist (Irgun member) and Likud defense minister, Moshe Arens, has in mind when he talks about Israel restoring its deterrent posture. But a lesson Israel and the U.S. should have learnt by now is that preemptive war is the worst possible way of deterring hostility. Their recent displays of military might have turned into spectacular demonstrations of weakness. Even true-believers in the art of exploiting fear and unleashing violence should understand that the sword left in its sheath can appear more potent than when it gets put into use. And that's something worth keeping in mind when everyone trumpets the danger of Iran possessing nuclear weapons -- their goals likely have more to do with the deterrent power of weapons unused than the capability of those weapons to wipe anyone off the map. To failure's credit
By Gideon Levy, Haaretz, August 13, 2006
Since 1948's war, Israel has only achieved one sweeping military victory on its own, in the Six-Day War. There is no way of imagining an easier and sweeter victory. Israel's "deterrent capability" was restored - and in a big way - in a manner that was supposed to guarantee its security for many years. And what happened? Only six years went by and the most difficult war in Israeli history, the Yom Kippur War, took place. Hardly deterrence. On the contrary, the defeat in 1967 only pushed the Arab armies to try to restore their lost honor and they managed to do so in a very short time. Against an arrogant, complacent Israel enjoying the rotten fruits of that dizzying victory, the Syrian and Egyptian armies chalked up considerable achievements, and Israel understood the limits of its power. Maybe now, this war will also bring us back down to reality, where military force is only military force, and cannot guarantee everything. After all, we are constantly scoring "victories" and "achievements" against the Palestinians. And what comes of them? Deterrence? Have the Palestinians given up their dreams to be free people in their own country?
The IDF's failure against Hezbollah is not a fateful defeat. Israel killed and absorbed casualties, but its existence or any part of its territory were not endangered for a moment. Our favorite phrase, "an existential war" is nothing more than another expression of the ridiculous pathos of this war, which from the start was a cursed war of choice. [complete article] You are terrorists, we are virtuous
By Yitzhak Laor, London Review of Books, August 3, 2006
In Israel there is still no proper history of our acts in Lebanon. Israelis in the peace camp used to carry posters with the figure '680' on them -- the number of Israelis who died during the 1982 invasion. Six hundred and eighty Israeli soldiers. How many members of that once sizeable peace camp protested about the tens of thousands of Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian casualties? Isn't the failure of the peace camp a result of its inability to speak about the cheapness of Arab blood? General Udi Adam, one of the architects of the current war, has told Israelis that we shouldn't count the dead. He meant this very seriously and Israelis should take him seriously. We should make it our business to count the dead in Lebanon and in Israel and, to the best of our abilities, to find out their names, all of them. [complete article]
Noteworthy articles from the last seven days:
The battle for Lebanon's soul
By Rami G. Khouri, Newsweek, August 6, 2006
101 uses of chaos in the Middle East
By Mark LeVine, TomDispatch, August 10, 2006
Fighting by proxy - the looming conflict with Iran
By Michael Hirsh, Newsweek, August 9, 2006
'Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue.'
By Rami Khouri, The Observer, August 6, 2006
Talking to the enemy
By Paul Woodward, The War in Context, August 8, 2006
Will we soon miss the Shebaa standoff?
By Augustus Richard Norton, Daily Star, August 11, 2006
Shiites press for a partition of Iraq
By Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, August 9, 2006
Sunnis form their own militias in fight for Baghdad
By James Hider, The Times, August 8, 2006
So what's our role in Iraq's civil war?
By Harold Meyerson, Washington Post, August 9, 2006
Then and now: Requiem for Baghdad
By Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, August 8, 2006
Why U.S. policy toward Tehran will only make matters worse
By Nisid Hajari, Newsweek, August 14, 2006
Birth pangs of a new Christian Zionism
By Max Blumenthal, The Nation, August 8, 2006
A fight against terrorism -- and disorganization
By Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, August 9, 2006
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