Revolution #54, July 23, 2006
Israel: U.S. Attack Dog Unleashed in Lebanon
“Mohammed Akkash’s voice cracked as he listed the names of his 10 grandchildren who were killed just hours earlier in an Israeli air raid on his son’s home. The youngest one, Safat, was just 6 months old. ‘Is a 6-month-old baby a resistance fighter? What happened is a crime,’ he says, as other mourners sitting on plastic seats outside his home nodded quietly in agreement.”
Christian Science Monitor
on Israel’s bombing of Dweir
in Southern Lebanon, July 14, 2006
“Nothing is safe in [Lebanon], it’s as simple as that.”
Dan Halutz , Israeli Army Chief of Staff,
On July 13, Israel, with U.S. backing, launched a major military assault on the country of Lebanon. Coming in the wake of its bloody and ongoing siege of Palestinian Gaza, this is yet another reactionary and criminal act of aggression by Israel. But it is also more than that. It is taking place in the context of the ongoing U.S. occupation in Iraq, growing threats by the U.S. and its allies against Iran, and the Bush doctrine of radically reshaping the entire Middle East in the service of U.S. imperialism and global hegemony, and it represents a serious escalation of tensions in the entire region.
The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy, but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism.
Many different forces are at work in this situation, and Israel’s aggression carries with it the potential for a regional war. Such a war portends both enormous suffering for the peoples of the region—on top of the suffering they are already enduring at the hands of the U.S. and Israel—as well as deep and unpredictable consequences for all of the forces involved.
The Attack on Lebanon
The situation in the Middle East is unfolding rapidly. On the first day of its attack, Israeli planes attacked Beirut’s international airport, bombing runways and gas tanks used to store fuel for planes. All bridges and roads linking Beirut to the south have been bombed. The Beirut-Damascus Road has also been damaged. Israeli military ships have sealed off Lebanon’s harbors. All routes in and out of the country are being destroyed.
In southern Lebanon, Israel has attacked villages where the group Hezbollah has political influence. Reporting from Lebanon, British journalist Robert Fisk wrote, “They came first to the little village of Dweir near Nabatiya in southern Lebanon where an Israeli plane dropped a bomb on to the home of a Shia Muslim cleric. He was killed. So was his wife. So were eight of his children. One was decapitated. All they could find of a baby was its head and torso, which a young villager brandished in fury in front of the cameras. Then the planes visited another home in Dweir and disposed of a family of seven.”
Journalist Dahr Jamail reported that an estimated 15,000 Lebanese crossed the border into Syria on the first day of the attack to escape the bombing. “I was in an area south of Beirut which was bombed heavily by the Israelis,” 55 year-old electrician Ali Suleiman told Jamail. “There were so many refugees in shelters nearby us, which was also nearby an old hospital which the Israelis bombed last night. It was terrifying at night when they attacked our area, and the Israelis thought the hospital was an ammunition dump for Hezbollah so they bombed the hospital. Both Syrian and Lebanese people are leaving now. There is no more food, not even bread. There was no more electricity or water in our area. If this situation continues, it will be a giant catastrophe.”
Lebanese government officials put the death toll from the first two days of air strikes at 63 and the number of wounded at 165.
As this article is being written, Israel is expanding its attack to include central Beirut as well as the region near the border with Syria, and a ground invasion appears likely.
Israel: U.S. Attack Dog in the Middle East
These latest crimes and horrors are products of U.S. imperialism’s decades-long efforts to maintain its grip on the Middle East, in particular its building up of the state of Israel into an indispensable regional attack dog and gendarme.
A key U.S. objective has been attempting to drown the revolutionary and national aspirations of region’s people in blood, while strengthening the state of Israel. The U.S. has consistently backed (and funded to the tune of billions of dollars a year) Israel’s systematic, 50-plus-year campaign, marked by one crime against humanity after another, to destroy Palestinian society, prevent the emergence of any viable Palestinian state, and crush the Palestinian people. In recent years this has taken place, under the rhetorical veil of various “peace plans,” through what Noam Chomsky calls a “program of annexing the valuable lands, most of the resources, including water, of the West Bank and cantonizing the rest and imprisoning it.” (Democracy Now!, July 14)
The assault on the Palestinian people has escalated following the election of Hamas to lead the Palestinian Authority in 20051 — Israel and the United States at once announced that they were going to punish the people of Palestine and the punishment has been severe. The United States and most Western European countries cut off all financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority. This caused extreme hardship among the Palestinian people, who lack an independent economy and are reliant on this aid. At the same time, Israel made it impossible for Palestinians who worked inside Israel to cross the border, cutting off another major source of Palestinian income.
Today, the Bush regime is attempting to forcibly reshape the entire Middle East in order to solidify and deepen America’s hold on the region and its petroleum wealth, as part of its broader global agenda. This means wiping away all impediments to U.S. hegemony, ranging from the resistance of the masses to reactionary states and forces not firmly under U.S. control. In this situation, Israel has become an even more crucial ally and tool, and Israel’s actions cannot be understood apart from either this history of U.S. support or the current Bush agenda.
Israel and its supporters are howling that they have done everything possible for peace by withdrawing from Gaza and Lebanon and claiming that the “terrorists” are attacking anyway and taking Israeli soldiers captive (a couple of its soldiers have recently been taken captive). This ignores what led to this crisis and the basic fact that Israel (and the U.S.) are holding the whole Palestinian nation captive, while reigning death and terror on tens of thousands in Lebanon.
What preceded the kidnapping of the three Israeli soldiers? Over the last few months, Israel has fired over 6000 artillery shells and missiles into the Gaza Strip. On June 8, an artillery shell landed on Beith Lahia Beach killing seven members of the Gahila family. Four days later, Israel killed seven more people, including two children and three medical workers in an attack on a crowded section of Gaza City. On June 20 another Israeli missile hit a refugee camp and killed three children, aged 5, 6 and 16.
Israel’s current military offensive in Lebanon has a number of immediate objectives: first, to weaken or destroy Hezbollah and to turn Lebanon into a state pliant to Israel. “We will not go part way and be held hostage again. We’ll have to go for the kill— Hezbollah neutralization,” the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. stated, “and it won’t stop until militias like Hezbollah are disarmed and the Lebanese State is in full control.” (Washington Post, July 16)
Second, to inflict another blow on the Palestinian people by attacking its supporters. Third, Israel is stepping up pressure on Syria and Iran to cease support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and warning them about what is in store if they refuse to come to terms with U.S. imperialism.
In other words, Israeli/U.S. goals are not merely to knock Hamas or Hezbollah down a peg but to completely destroy these groups or force them to come to terms with the U.S./Israeli vision of the Middle East. “We’ve decided to put an end to this saga and to change the rules of the game,” said Isaac Herzog, a member of the Israeli Cabinet.
All this fits within U.S. strategic goals in the region, and the Bush regime has stood firmly behind the Israeli assault and may well have given Israel a green light in advance. U.S. officials told the Washington Post (July 16), “For the United States, the broader goal is to strangle the axis of Hezbollah, Hamas, Syria and Iran, which the Bush administration believes is pooling resources to change the strategic playing field in the Middle East,” and against “a hegemonic Persian threat” in the region.
The U.S. and Israel have gone out of their way to blame Syria and Iran for the current fighting. These two states are on the Bush regime hit list because they have supported, in varying degrees, Hamas and Hezbollah, and their actions and agenda pose impediments to unfettered U.S. imperialist regional domination.
“Again, the Iranians and Syrians also have a choice to make,” threatened presidential spokesman Tony Snow, “which is whether they continue provoking and supporting terrorist organizations within the region.” The U.S. posture constitutes giving a bright green light to Israeli aggression, while preparing the ground for further U.S. and/or Israeli assaults on Iran and Syria. George Bush continues to declare, “Israel has the right to defend itself,” deliberately covering up the Israeli aggression that led to the current crisis.
The United States used its veto power on Thursday to block a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have accused Israel of a “disproportionate use of force,” and pointedly rejected Lebanon’s calls for a cease-fire.
Risk of Wider War
Many different forces are at work in this situation, and Israel’s aggression carries with it the potential for a regional war, whether by design of any of the forces involved, as a result of the underlying dynamics of the situation, by accident or miscalculation, or by a combination of factors.
The Bush regime’s strategic goal is to gain radically greater control of the Middle East as a crucial step in its overarching agenda of unchallenged and unchallengeable global hegemony. While not anti-imperialist, the reactionary regimes in both Iran and Syria are obstacles to that goal and the Islamic Republic of Iran is currently the focus of intense international pressure (it recently turned down demands by the U.S. and its allies to immediately agree to their terms for negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program) and growing military threats from the Bush regime.
Significant ruling class voices are calling for seizing on the current crisis to escalate the U.S. attacks on Iran and Syria. In a February 14 editorial, the Wall Street Journal (July 14), whose editorials often reflect the thinking of neo-conservative forces around Bush, declared, “The White House has cited Syria and Iran as the culprits behind this week’s events, but more forceful words and action are called for. The Middle East stands on the cusp of its worst crisis in a generation, and this is no time for formulaic statements calling for ‘restraint from both sides.’”
And leading neo-conservative William Kristol wrote: “No Islamic Republic of Iran, no Hezbollah… And perhaps no Hamas either… We might consider countering this act of Iranian aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait?” (It’s Our War,” Weekly Standard, 7/24).
While the situation holds great danger for the people of the Middle East, there is also the potential for problems to develop for the imperialists and other reactionary forces in the region. In Iraq, initial victories in the war against Saddam has turned into a very difficult situation for the U.S. What is needed are people, with an understanding of class interests of all the various forces, working to seize revolutionary opportunity out of every outrage the imperialists and reactionaries commit and every difficulty they face.
1 For an analysis of the role of Hamas see the article Submit or Die the Politics of Israel’s Attack on Gaza in Revolution #53
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