Revolution #58, August 27, 2006


New Revelations from Seymour Hersh

The Destruction of Lebanon and the Bush Regime's Plan for War on Iran


What Do You Call It?

Seymour Hersh's article “Watching Lebanon: Washington's Interests in Israel's War,” includes insider-based accounts of infighting within the U.S. ruling class over the strategy of relying on air power to win a modern war. Without getting into all the ins and outs of that debate, the very terms reveal that the United States, and its Mideast attack dog Israel, consciously, deliberately, and on a mass scale planned and carried out systematic terrorist attacks on the people of Lebanon.

Hersh reports that: “The initial plan, as outlined by the Israelis, called for a major bombing campaign in response to the next Hezbollah provocation, according to [a] 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...  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.”

What do you call someone, or a country, that carries out nine thousand bombing attacks, many of them consciously targeted at civilian infastructure (and of course that means civilian people) in order to “persuade” sections of people to support your cause? If that's not terrorism on a massive scale, what is?

As a tenuous UN ceasefire in Lebanon took effect on Monday, August 14, many Lebanese families took advantage of the break in the Israeli-U.S. war to return to their villages and bury their dead.  The relentless Israeli bombardment had forced over 1 million people (a quarter of Lebanon’s total population) to flee their homes, and often made it impossible to recover the bodies of those lying under the rubble. 

As Lebanese refugees returned home, the Aug. 21 issue of the New Yorker magazine published a report by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh titled “Watching Lebanon: Washington’s Interests in Israel’s War.” Hersh’s article revealed the role of the Bush administration in the planning and execution of war in Lebanon, and that the war in Lebanon was viewed by the Bush administration as preparation and a trial run for a U.S. attack on Iran.

The ceasefire in the war is not an end of the conflict in the region, but marks a different phase through which the various forces of the region contend, including the U.S. and Israel trying to “finish the job” they began with the attack on Lebanon.

At the same time, the war has set loose forces outside the control of the U.S., Israel, or the other reactionary forces involved in the fighting.  The war did not go according to the plans of Israel and the U.S. Infighting has broken out in the Israeli ruling class. There is increasing friction between the U.S. and the reactionary pro-U.S. regimes in the region because of the positions the rulers of the Arab states have felt compelled to take in relation to the U.S./Israeli invasion. There is widespread anger at the U.S. throughout the region. 

A whole set of contradictions are being pushed on that, left to the current trajectory, are moving rapidly towards a major U.S. war against Iran.

The Real Reasons for the Attack on Lebanon

One thing that emerges out of Seymour Hersh's article is that the whole reason for Israel's massive assault on Lebanon that was run out almost unanimously by the mainstream media was a complete lie. Hersh reports that, “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 [as Hersh refers to the capture of Israeli military forces—Revolution].”

Hersh says several government officials told him that “Israel viewed the soldiers’ kidnapping [again, Hersh's term for the capture of Israeli troops—Revolution] as the opportune moment to begin its planned military campaign against Hezbollah.”

Hersh reports that while Bush officials denied that they knew in advance of the plan for an attack on Lebanon, there had been substantial, high-level discussions between Israel and U.S. military and White House officials over an attack on Lebanon to be “triggered” by some event. According to Hersh, a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel revealed, “The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits. 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.” (our emphasis)

Hersh's article describes a tight and complex relationship between Israel and the U.S., one with converging interests and ways of working together that often take the form of a wink, a nod, and an airstrike. While Hersh's reporting is not from a perspective of understanding the greater global agenda of the Bush regime, and the role of Israel within that, he does in the “Watching Lebanon” article make an important case that: Israel's attack on Lebanon was sanctioned in various ways by the U.S., that the story about the war being retaliation for captured soldiers was at best a pretext, and--ominously--that the war was a tune-up and test operation for a war on Iran.

“Washington’s Interest”--Ramping Up to Attack Iran

 According to Hersh’s sources, the plan for the war in Lebanon grew out of consultations between U.S. and Israeli military officials over plans for a massive U.S. air strike against Iran.

Hersh writes that the U.S. gave Israel the green light for the war for three reasons.  First, it would serve as a test run for a U.S. attack on Iran.  According to a former senior intelligence official, the Israeli plan for Lebanon was “the mirror image of what the United States has been planning for Iran.’”  According to Hersh this would help both with military planning for a war with Iran as well as in silencing ruling class and military critics.

Hersh writes in his article, “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.”

A former senior intelligence officer told Hersh that Vice President Cheney’s office pushed Israel to move quickly against Lebanon. “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,’” Hersh quotes the official as saying.

The second reason for the U.S. support for the war in Lebanon, according to sources quoted by Hersh, was to eliminate Hezbollah’s ability to attack Israel with rockets in retaliation for U.S. strikes against Iran. “You cannot attack Iran without taking [Hezbollah’s missiles and rockets] out, because obviously that's the deterrent. You hit Iran, Hezbollah then bombs Tel Aviv and Haifa. So that's something you have to clean out first,” Hersh said in an interview on Democracy Now!

The third reason was to strike a blow at Hezbollah--both to establish Lebanon as a stable, U.S.-compliant state in the Middle East, and to constrain Iran's ability to respond to an attack by the U.S. in the form of Hezbollah attacks on Israel. A Pentagon consultant, quoted in Hersh’s article, said that the Bush White House “has been agitating for some time to find a reason for a preemptive blow against Hezbollah.” He added, “It was our intent to have Hezbollah diminished, and now we have someone else doing it.”

Problems for U.S. Imperialism and Dangers for the People of the World

Hersh writes that U.S. war planners were surprised by the strength of Hezbollah’s resistance, and its continuing ability to fire rockets into northern Israel in the face of the constant Israeli bombing.   “Nonetheless,” Hersh writes, “some officers serving with the Joint Chiefs of Staff remain deeply concerned that the Administration will have a far more positive assessment of the air campaign than they should, the former senior intelligence official said. ‘There is no way that Rumsfeld and Cheney will draw the right conclusion about this,’ he said. ‘When the smoke clears, they’ll say it was a success, and they’ll draw reinforcement for their plan to attack Iran.’”

Fundamentally, this is not because the Bush regime is stupid or blind to the dangers and difficulties posed by an invasion of Iran.  As Larry Everest wrote in a recent article (“Global Ambitions, Murderous Logic & the Danger of Regional War,” Revolution #56), “There is a murderous and potentially explosive logic at work here. On one hand, the Bush regime is compelled to stay on the offensive to realize its goals: any slowing down could stall and/or derail the whole juggernaut. What they’re doing on a world scale requires an unrelenting offensive, a dynamic in which any hesitation or retreat works against their aims and could potentially unravel the whole thing. This means that they are not going to easily pull back in the face of obstacles and difficulties, for example in Iraq, but instead envision battling through years of turmoil and upheaval to create their new world order. (Right-wing imperialist George Will recently described the Bush approach as one that ‘makes instability, no matter how pandemic or lethal, necessarily a sign of progress,’ which he warned ‘creates a blind eye.’ Washington Post, 7/18). Instead, they are driven to push on through—even ‘escape forward’ from the contradictions they face and create by widening the war, to both maintain its momentum and because they feel they can only deal with the difficulties they are facing on a larger stage.”

In fact, the U.S. is already working to lay the basis for an attack on Iran or Syria in the midst of the current fighting, both by blaming Iran and Syria for the fighting and by other means. In an article titled “The Neocons’ Next War,” Sidney Blumenthal writes that President Bush has approved a secret program in which the NSA provides signal intelligence (interception of radio communications and other forms of communication) to Israel to monitor whether Syria and Iran are supplying new armaments to Hezbollah.  “Inside the administration, neoconservatives on Vice President Dick Cheney's national security staff and Elliott Abrams, the neoconservative senior director for the Near East on the National Security Council, are prime movers behind sharing NSA intelligence with Israel, and they have discussed Syrian and Iranian supply activities as a potential pretext for Israeli bombing of both countries, the source privy to conversations about the program says,” Blumenthal writes.  “The neoconservatives are described as enthusiastic about the possibility of using NSA intelligence as a lever to widen the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah and Israel and Hamas into a four-front war.”  ( 8/3/2006)

For its part, the reactionary Islamic Republic of Iran has its own compulsion to push a confrontation with the U.S. The Iranian rulers, who have been faced with massive protests in recent years and who are widely hated for imposing fundamentalist theocratic rule, see confrontation with the U.S. and Israel as a way to bolster their internal base of support and isolate the opposition within Iran. They have their own aspirations to regional influence and power. And they are looking for a way to create conditions for a less unipolar world, where they can shop around for a better deal on oil exports and imperialist investment. The role of Iran (and Syria) in relation to Hezbollah in Lebanon can only be fully understood in the context of those compulsions.

On the battlefield, Israel was not able to win a decisive victory over Hezbollah.  Their air war did not destroy Hezbollah, as the U.S. and Israel had hoped, and on the ground they had difficulty seizing and holding onto Lebanese villages that were right on the border with Israel.  The war appears to have dragged on longer than originally planned and has given rise to intense anger throughout the region and caused problems with the reactionary Arab states that the U.S. supports.    

"The defeat of Hezbollah would be a huge loss for Iran, both psychologically and strategically. Iran would lose its foothold in Lebanon. It would lose its major means to destabilize and inject itself into the heart of the Middle East. It would be shown to have vastly overreached in trying to establish itself as the regional superpower,” conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote. “The United States has gone far out on a limb to allow Israel to win and for all this to happen. It has counted on Israel's ability to do the job. It has been disappointed." (Washington Post, 8/4/2006)

The problems the U.S. and its attack dog Israel encountered in these conflicts mean increased danger for people of the Middle East. The very dynamics of the capitalist-imperialist system, and the pursuit of the Bush regime’s “grand strategy,” compel the U.S. to continue to pursue its objectives in the Middle East and around the world, and to try to overcome obstacles through military aggression regardless of cost.

In the Washington Post Krauthammer wrote, “By the now-inevitable Round Two, Israel will have rejected the failed Olmert-led exercise in hesitancy and will have new leadership, new tactics and new equipment (for example, expensive new plating for its tanks, which were so vulnerable to advanced Iranian antitank weaponry).”  (Washington Post, 8/18/2006)

In the face of these monstrous crimes and the even more monstrous crimes being planned,  it is up to the masses of people, who see the horror of what the U.S. and Israel have done in Lebanon, and the further horrors that they are planning, to transform the situation through struggle that breaks through the middle on the terms of “McCrusade vs. Jihad,” and brings forward an opposition that refuses to accept those terms.

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