George the Foolish
By Ralph Nader - July 21, 2006
British Kings used to be described with an epithet after their name, as with
Richard-the Lion Hearted. Events on the warring grounds of the Middle East—from
Iraq to Palestine to Lebanon – that Bush, by his aggressive choice is mired in –
warrant him being called “George-the War Criminal” or “George-the Patron Saint
of Elected Islamic Theocracies,” or “George-the Foolish.” Take your pick.
Consider the little, defenseless country of Lebanon—so friendly to the United
States—being “torn to shreds,” in the words of its desperate Lebanese Prime
Minister, Fouad Siniora, by Israel’s American-built warplanes, missile and
Bush’s main foreign policy theme has been to spread democracy in the Middle East
(while he daily weakens democracy in America), and all he has done so far is to
destroy or injure hundreds of thousands of people, leaving the chaos and utter
destruction that strengthens the power of grassroots Islamists and trains more
stateless terrorists in Iraq. In other words, to use the CIA’s phrase,
“blowback” against our country’s interests is breaking out all over.
But Lebanon was supposed to be the exception. With U.S. pressure, Syrian troops
– originally invited in with U.S. support during the Lebanese civil war to
provide stability – were pressured to leave last year. The “Cedar Revolution”
was peaceably proclaimed in Lebanon by a U.S. friendly government composed of
the various religious denominations. Finally, independent of both Israeli and
Syrian troops for the first time in twenty-three years, the Lebanese started to
pull themselves and their economy together.
See Lebanon, see the future in the Middle East, cried George W. Bush – the
American Caeser and his advisors in the White House.
Now see Lebanon. In a matter of days, the country is in ruins, its economy
shattered, roads, bridges, airports, wheat silos, trucks with medical supplies,
new ambulances rushing into service and whole families fleeing north in packed
vehicles blown up.
The horrific stillness is in the civilian neighborhoods mostly populated by the
innocent poor and their children. The New York Times reports “In Srifa, a
neighborhood was wiped out – 15 houses flattened, 21 people killed, 30 wounded –
in an Israeli air strike. The town’s mayor, Afif Najdi called it a massacre.”
Half-a-million civilians and growing are homeless.
In the Palestinian refugee camp of Al Bourj holding 20,000 people, Israeli
bombers unleashed explosives. In a frantic appeal for help to anyone on the
global internet a charitable rescue organization entered the area and described
a scene of “total devastation with all the buildings and roads totally smashed.
There was the smell of death and destruction everywhere.”
And so the rain of Israeli terror fell over this utterly defenseless country,
while Bush does nothing but emit go signals to the fifth most powerful military
in the world. He repeats again and again that “Israel has a right to defend
itself.” Of course, but not against millions of people (including tens of
thousands of Arab-Americans and other U.S. citizens living or visiting there)
who had nothing whatsoever to do with the border raid at Hezbollah.
The Israeli practice of collective punishment, a war crime under the Geneva
Convention, is standard against the Palestinians, who lost 78% of their land in
the 1940s and want to preserve the 22% that is left to them (the 1967
boundaries). More collective punishments against the Lebanese now, just like
during the unprovoked invasion of 1982.
Then, Israel broke an 11 month truce with the PLO and smashed their way to
Beirut, destroying 20,000 Lebanese lives and injuring many more. The New York
Times reported “indiscriminate” bombing of Beirut. Israeli planes dropped deadly
cluster bombs all over the country including four clearly marked hospitals, as
reported in The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Who took the brunt of these war crimes? The Shiites who make up the bulk of the
population of south Lebanon. And what emerged to defend these defenseless human
beings who were not part of the PLO resistance that was the alleged object of
the invasion? Hezbollah. A product of Israel’s collective punishment.
Since the Israelis withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000 – after 18 years of
oppression over the natives – the still land-mined border has been porous. Far
more for the well-equipped Israelis than to Hezbollah. Israel routinely violated
Lebanon’s airspace and coastal waters, terrorized the area with abductions and
damage, retained control over Lebanese territory called Shebaa Farms and
generally got away with it without international news coverage. Since 2000,
Israeli soldiers and Hezbollah fighters would ritually eye each other over the
border and sometimes engage in skirmishes. Still, Hezbollah and Israel wisely
negotiated some prisoner exchanges. Israel had 100 times more prisoners to
exchange than did Hezbollah.
So on July 12, Hezbollah went for another prisoner exchange by capturing two
Israeli soldiers in a firefight, and thought the result would be another such
exchange. Big mistake. Even Hezbollah under-estimated the need for each new
Israeli Prime Minister to demonstrate his capability for massive mayhem.
Among other towns, he is destroying the ancient coastal town of Tyre where the
carpenters have run out of wood for the coffins and the fleeing inhabitants of
this municipality of approximately 25,000 people wonder whether they will
survive the flight to who knows where from Israeli shelling and aircraft.
So George W. Bush, who knows that Hezbollah’s rockets were fired after Israel
started its mass bombing and shelling of Lebanon, willfully rejects a truce,
typical of his refusal for five years to overcome Israel’s opposition to an
adequate multinational peacekeeping force on the Lebanese-Israeli border.
Finally, did you know that Hezbollah is one of the largest employers in Lebanon
– schools, clinics, stores, farming, transport? It has 14 elected members in the
Lebanese Parliament. It is militantly determined to defend its nearly 2 million
Shiites – the downtrodden of Lebanon – from all aggressions. It receives weapons
from Iran and the international weapons markets, while Israel receives weapons
from the United States within an overall annual aid program of $4 billion.
Israel has 175,000 soldiers and another 400,000 ready reservists. It controls
totally the skies, the seas and the ground forces with its advanced precision
armaments. It is backed up by the United States to whose Congress it will send
the bill for this war. Hezbollah has anywhere from 2,000 to 3,500 fighters,
according to U.S. press reports, with small arms and short to medium range
This is a relevant comparative reality, which should replace the apoplectic
exaggerations so that sane voices and powers – Israeli, Arab, American and
European – can stop the battles, stabilize the border with an effective
international guard and move toward a broader Israeli-Palestinian peace
The powerful parties and their allies can make this happen far easier than the
weaker parties to the conflict. Meanwhile, George W. better stop “losing
Lebanon,” and fast. END
-- Source: www.nader.org