Thursday, August 17, 2006


There's a lot of excellent material in Seymour Hersh's latest in the New Yorker.

“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.”

A Pentagon consultant said that the Bush White House “has been agitating for some time to find a reason for a preëmptive blow against Hezbollah.” He added, “It was our intent to have Hezbollah diminished, and now we have someone else doing it.”

Except that Hezbollah has not been diminished; it has been shored up not only in Lebanon but throughout the Arab world, because it took a stronger than expected stand against a much more powerful enemy, and because it is now prepared, with financial backing from Iran, to rebuild the Lebanese infrastructure destroyed in the war, which America and Israel are unwilling to do.

According to Richard Armitage, who served as Deputy Secretary of State in Bush’s first term—and who, in 2002, said that Hezbollah “may be the A team of terrorists”—Israel’s campaign in Lebanon, which has faced unexpected difficulties and widespread criticism, may, in the end, serve as a warning to the White House about Iran.

“If the most dominant military force in the region—the Israel Defense Forces—can’t pacify a country like Lebanon, with a population of four million, you should think carefully about taking that template to Iran, with strategic depth and a population of seventy million,” Armitage said. “The only thing that the bombing has achieved so far is to unite the population against the Israelis.”

But here's the kicker, the crux, the fulcrum on which the whole thing rests:

"For almost a year before its victory in the Palestinian elections in January, Hamas had curtailed its terrorist activities. In the late May intercepted conversation, the consultant told me, the Hamas leadership said that “they got no benefit from it, and were losing standing among the Palestinian population.” The conclusion, he said, was “ ‘Let’s go back into the terror business and then try and wrestle concessions from the Israeli government.’"

I'll repeat:

"...they got no benefit from it, and were losing standing among the Palestinian population..."

Sometimes the naive accusations really cut deep for me. I wrote a few days ago about credibility, the fact that pacifists are assumed to have none, while military brass are assumed to have buckets of it. Then I was thinking about it more, and thought maybe the military brass keep going back for more because they genuinely believe they just haven't killed wholesale enough, that it really would be possible to kill every single angry man and woman who opposes U.S. world dominance with violence, that there could be a last terrorist checked off the list, and time would stand still, and babies born into squalor would no longer grow up with the spirit to object to their abjectitude.

But then I read about the thinking of the Palestinian terrorists, and it all came back into focus. They want the "benefit" that everyone wants: decent lives for themselves and their families. Maybe they even want the "benefit" that ambitious, political types want: respect, authority, the chance to chart a course for an entire people, not just a self or a family.

But their non-violent attempt to gain those things was not rewarded, was not even acknowledged by the powers in the best position to respond with encouragement and negotiations and humanitarian relief and all the other benefits of being a full-fledged, equally-important member of the human species.

Hamas and Hezbollah are not symbols of evil. They're real people, and so long as America stomps on their fledgeling attempts to achieve their aspirations without violence, they will return to violence, again, and again, and again.


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