What Israel did to the Palestinians in the OPT over decades, it did to Lebanon in 1978, 1982 and in about a five week blitzkrieg beginning July 12, ending formally but fragilely with a UN-brokered ceasefire on August 14.
Petras compares the assault to the Nazi’s November 9 and 10, 1938 infamous Kristallnacht pogrom in the German Reich against the Jews calling that event a “garden party” compared to the rape of Lebanon and vast devastation from it. It began with Hezbollah’s cross-border incursion on July 12, killing eight IDF soldiers in the exchange that followed and capturing two others.
There’s still a dispute over which side of the Lebanese border the incident took place as for years Israel routinely makes hostile incursions into Lebanon by land and air, and still illegally occupies the 25 square kilometer Shebaa Farms area of South Lebanon it never relinquished after seizing it in the 1967 war.
As against Gaza, Israel again responded swiftly and disproportionately in a reign of terror against the Lebanese people by land, air and sea. It killed and wounded thousands and displaced a million or more Lebanese civilians. It also systematically destroyed the country’s essential to life and other vital infrastructure and created an amount of physical devastation that could take a generation to recover from if Israel even allows it to happen. It was done in part to destroy Hezbollah as a political entity and as an effective resistance force against Israel’s imperial designs on the country. But Israel’s plans are much more far-reaching than that as explained below.
Petras reported Middle East expert Juan Cole claims Israel wanted the war and planned it at least a year in advance. Matthew Kallman of the San Francisco Chronicle Foreign Service also found and reported evidence that preparations for it began in May, 2000, immediately after Israel ended its occupation of the country that began with its invasion and brutal assault in 1982 that killed about 18,000 Lebanese. Kallman also reported that over a year before the conflict began a senior IDF official gave “PowerPoint presentations” off the record to US and other officials and unnamed journalists and think tanks explaining how the attack would unfold “in revealing detail.”
Again, Israel got the full backing, funding and arming as needed from the Bush administration to carry it out, effectively making this gruesome adventure a joint US-Israeli operation.
Besides wanting to neutralize Hezbollah’s resistance, the goal was to destroy Lebanon as a functioning country and ethnically cleanse the southern part of it up to the Litani River Israel wants to control and eventually annex and keep as it did the Golan after the 1967 war. Israel claims this area (like the Golan) is important for security reasons, but its greatest value (again like the Golan) is as a source of fresh water from the Litani and from the Wazzani springs that feed into the Hasbani River that’s a tributary of the Jordan River. The Hisbani flows into Israel two miles downstream from the Wazzani and runs into the Sea of Galilee that’s Israel’s largest source of fresh water.
Israel has had designs on Lebanon for 40 years or more and has kept the country in a state of instability, partial occupation and conflict over most of that time. Now the state of the country is a devastated near-wasteland monitored by so-called (Israel-approved and friendly) UN Blue Helmets and Lebanese Armed Forces replacing the IDF on the ground under a fragile UN brokered ceasefire arrangement that could end any time Israel wishes again to unleash its war machine and on any pretext.
There’s nothing to deter Israel from doing it as it has the unconditional support of the Jewish Lobby and whatever US administration is in power. Unless this changes, the people of Lebanon, like those in Iraq and Palestine, can only look ahead to more conflict and the pain and suffering from it.
That’s because there’s still unfinished business for both empires, and it’s not likely either one will soon give up on what they’re determined to achieve. So even though Iraq is a hopeless quagmire, the Bush administration says it will “stay the course.” And as long as Israel has full US backing, it will continue pursuing its imperial agenda even though Hezbollah humiliated the IDF in Lebanon and the Palestinians show no signs of ending their determined resistance short of mass-annihilation or forced expulsion. But it’s not all smooth sailing as the unholy US-Israeli alliance faces a threat it can’t ignore that could derail it. It’s a growing broad-based worldwide anti-imperialist movement against these two partnered pariah states.
It remains to be seen how far it will go, whether it can achieve critical mass in the US and in Israel, and if it can succeed in changing the direction of these two belligerents so far unstoppable and determined to go on unchecked by what passes for the civilized western world.
It now looks like the only lesson the US and Israel learned from past failure is to press on with a new adventure.
It appears the likely prime target is the Islamic Republic of Iran, as ill-advised as it will be to attack it. Petras explains that “Israel’s political and military leadership have repeatedly and openly declared (their intention) to attack Iran in the immediate future.” And once again it looks like the power of the Jewish Lobby in the US has the Bush administration thinking the same way to help its Israeli partner free itself from another “irritant” in the region that stands in the way of both countries’ imperial aims. Petras calls Israel’s Iran-directed war preparations “the greatest immediate threat to world peace and political stability (today).”
It’s hard to disagree.
That threat was heightened following North Korea’s nuclear test which Israeli officials were quick to jump on suggesting it will benefit Iran. It came from an inflammatory statement by Miri Eisin, Prime Minister Olmert’s spokeswoman, who told the AP: “We should remind ourselves that the North Koreans have already been suppliers of launching platforms which could reach Europe and certainly Israel. As such, they have already shown their willingness to be suppliers to Iran.”
Then Israel’s UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman went further on Israel’s Channel 2 TV referencing North Korea’s nuclear activity and adding: “what Iran is about to do could be much worse, much more frightening and much more dangerous.”
This language practically demands an attack on Iran to destroy its presumed “nuclear threat” even though Iran is no threat to any country and the real threat is a growing likelihood of an Israeli and/or US attack on Iran or any other country in the region targeted as an enemy.
The US and Israel are allowed to get away with these kinds of outrageously stark and provocative statements even though the only pretext either country can fabricate is the baseless claim that Iran’s legitimate right to enrich uranium for commercial use means the country has embarked on a nuclear weapons program that will threaten Israel.
In fact, Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and, from all the evidence uncovered from years of monitoring by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is in full compliance with it. It has every legal right to pursue its commercial nuclear program and nuclear enrichment for it.
Israel, on the other hand, never signed the treaty, is known to have two to three hundred or more sophisticated nuclear weapons and launching systems for them, has stated its intention to use them if it chooses to, and is a nuclear outlaw — but one with an important ally the Iranians lack.
Today the debate in Israel is only over the method and timing of attacking Iran. Petras explains the Israelis have been pushing the US to do it for over a decade with the power of the Jewish Lobby in full support claiming the Islamic Republic threatens Israel’s security and its dominance in the region. It doesn’t matter that Iran never attacked its neighbors and isn’t likely to undertake a military action except in self-defense as it did against Iraq in the 1980s. Further, it’s an Israeli and made-in-America agitprop fabrication that Iranian President Ahmadinejad threatened “to wipe Israel off the map.” The president said a number of things including … “this regime that is occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time” meaning an illegal racist colonial one, but he didn’t say or mean it should be removed by force or that Jews should be expelled from Israel.
Further proof of Iran’s intentions came from Grand Ayatollah Khamenei’s public pledge never to attack another country. He also condemned the development and use of nuclear weapons as being against Islam. The Western media was careful to suppress Khamenei’s pledge and instead published false reports that he threatened the US to heighten the tension between the two countries. It’s all part of the scheme to get full US support for Israel’s intended war plans and the long held desire of both countries for regime change in Iran.
Petras lays out a dire scenario if a US, Israeli or joint attack is launched. It will be especially bad if the US does it using so-called “mini-nuke robust earth penetrator bunker-buster” munitions which are weapons that can be made to any desired potency and are likely to be from one-third to two-thirds as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb. In other words, there’s nothing “mini” about them. Aside from the catastrophic level of immediate and long-term casualties from nuclear annihilation and radiation in Iran and beyond, Petras explains such an attack will only be a “pyrrhic victory.”
If Israel does it alone, it may set off a chain “political conflagration (to) unseat the rulers of Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia.”
If the US attacks, it “would be even worse: major oil wells burning, US troops in Iraq surrounded (with the catastrophic consequences of far greater loss of life on both sides), long-term relations with Arab regimes undermined and increased oil prices (possibly high enough to cause a worldwide economic calamity) and supplies disrupted.” It’s almost certain this would inflame or enrage public opinion in the US and Israel that could lead to the ouster of the ruling parties in both countries.
It would also likely undermine Big Oil’s existing and desired major oil exploration projects and cause the Israelis to crack down harder on the Palestinians and make them face forced massive ethnic cleansing expulsion from their homeland. Further, it would almost certainly get a response from Hezbollah or other resistance in South Lebanon, reignite the conflict there, unleash the Israeli killing machine all over again and cause more mass displacement and reoccupation by the IDF as the UN Blue Helmets and Lebanese forces evacuate the conflict zone. And it would lead to a growing threat of retaliatory terror attacks in the US, other Western countries and in Israel and would likely strengthen the resolve of other nations feeling potentially threatened by a hostile US, Israel and the West to seek defensive economic and military alliances in a structure like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) that was formed in 2001 for political, diplomatic, economic and security reasons to act as a counterweight to NATO which the US dominates.
Still, with all the hazards of attacking Iran clearly in the minds of US policy makers, the momentum for it is moving ahead. It’s happening in spite of serious high-level dispute in Washington about undertaking it. The Pentagon has war plans for it to include NATO, Israel and Canada, and it currently has a major US naval strike group deployment in the Persian Gulf and Eastern Mediterranean. Part of it is permanently stationed in the region, and in early October, The powerful Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group got “prepare to deploy” orders, headed there on October 3 and is now in place for whatever action may be intended. It joins the Enterprise and Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Groups making a total of three US naval task forces in position opposite Iran for whatever purpose may be planned and will shortly be joined by a fourth Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group that left Singapore on October 16 for the region. Naval forces already there have been engaged in what the Iranian foreign ministry calls “dangerous and suspicious” exercises in the Gulf practicing intercepting and searching ships for potential WMDs and missiles.
This all may be just a saber-rattling bluff, but if it’s more than that it could unfold as a late October or early November “surprise” ahead of the November 7 congressional elections now only days away and be initiated in response to a manufactured incident on the order of the August, 1964 Gulf of Tonkin one or the blowing up of the USS Maine in February, 1898 in Havana Harbor. It’s never hard for an aggressor to find reasons for war if it wants one and just needs a convenient excuse to start it.
The Bush administration and Israelis may get their wish if the Navy goes ahead with its reported plans to blockade Iranian oil ports. This action will be an act of war if it’s done that Iran will have a legal right to respond to in self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter but will surely be met with a “shock and awe” counterattack against about 400 Iranian target sites already designated as ones to destroy in the event of hostilities. None of this guarantees an attack is imminent, but it shows a real possibility one may be coming. It also shows the power of the Jewish Lobby in the US that supports Israel’s long-term aim to attack Iran no matter how grim the fallout from it may be.
There’s so much open speculation about this, it’s gotten saner military, political and economic analysts here to believe this would be an act of insanity with the kind of potentially catastrophic consequences Petras outlined above.
Will it happen? We can only hold our breathe waiting to find out, but it may not be long before we do.
In this part of his book, Petras goes head-to-head with the so-called self-styled “terrorist experts” (TE) and clearly comes out ahead with his incisive dissection of them explaining why they’re prominently featured in the major media. He calls them the “set-up” people – there to play a role to “motivate the colonial and imperial conquerors and reinforce their idea that the terrorists are not worthy of ruling or being ruled,” so we have to get rid of them.
It doesn’t matter that the so-called “war on terrorism” is a shameless overused but very effective ruse scare tactic. It’s always used because the public never catches on no matter how many times before supposed threats turned out to be another scam to get them to go along with whatever schemes our government had in mind to undertake. It never ceases to amaze how short an attention span the public has, but it’s clear the power of the corporate-run media has a lot to do with it. It led author Studs Terkel to refer to a national Alzheimer’s disease and author and political critic Gore Vidal to subtitle his 2004 book ‘Imperial America – Reflections on the United States of Amnesia.’
It gives the whole propaganda apparatus and the TE an open field to manipulate the public mind and get it to believe most anything. Petras calls these people “verbal assassins” who can’t or won’t understand that people pummeled by “shock and awe” attacks, their countries plundered in the name of “liberation,” their people mass-murdered, raped, arrested and tortured might be desperate and motivated enough to strike back in retaliatory self-defense.
It follows logically from Newton’s law that for every action there’s a corresponding reaction. In 1954, the CIA understood this and invented a term for it (no self-respecting TE will touch). The agency called it “blowback” referring to the unintended consequences from US hostile acts abroad like overthrowing legitimate or otherwise constituted governments as it did against Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 ushering in the 25 year terror reign of the Shah.
It finally led to the “blowback” 1979 revolution, and it causes other instances of retaliation now ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan and for nearly six decades in Palestine.
But prominent TE featured in the major media have a different diagnosis of resistance fighters. They call them “incurable psychopaths (who are) extremely dangerous when at large (so we must flush them out to) capture, confine, torture or kill (them).”
A convenient division of labor is then arranged to do it and the TE play their assigned role along with the military, recruited satraps, prison commandants, interrogators, guards and assorted other functionaries. They’re team member hegemon-devil’s disciples turning “victims into executioners and the executioners into victims.”
They do it by dehumanizing the legitimate resistance they label Islamo-fascists, Islamic fundamentalists, terrorists or other invented designations of inferiority or implied threat that must be destroyed.
It’s incomprehensible to the TE that almost any act of retaliatory self-defense might be justifiable resistance given the level of state-directed violence used against them mercilessly. In Israel, and now in Iraq and Afghanistan it led to the phenomenon of suicide bombings which Petras calls “a form of individual sacrifice, of individual resistance taken in the name of the collective.” He explains further that in the West individual sacrifice is rewarded with medals, but in the Middle East and specifically in the case of suicide bombers the reward is martyrdom for giving their lives in the cause of national liberation against a superior hostile force.
This is a phenomenon common throughout history when a people face an overpowering conquerer and occupier. Petras explains “there have always been and always will be self-sacrificing individuals or (whole populations) … prepared to defend nation and home … and to use (their) body as a missile or weapon (to do it).”
Petras also explains there are different forms of imperial conquest and subjugation, and the one the US uses in Iraq and Afghanistan and that Israel uses against the Palestinians is a cruel and dehumanizing “process of destruction, degradation, and exploitation followed by efforts to ‘reconstruct’ a colonized military, police, and political structure willing and able to repress and contain anti-colonial resistance.”
It’s a doctrine of “total war” against target nations too weak to fight back except by asymmetrical guerilla warfare means that include tactics like car and suicide bombings. Petras calls this practice “one of the ultimate forms of rejection of tyranny” that will only end when “total war” does. And that will only happen when the “colonial revivalist strand of imperialism in … its US, European and Israel variants” are defeated … Peace and reconciliation is only possible if justice is meted to the architects and practitioners of total war and human degradation.”
A long and painful struggle for liberation may be ahead before that goal is ever achieved.
In the book’s final part, Petras challenges a man who may best be described as an iconic figure on the Left, an anti-war activist, and much more but not one unused to being challenged and sometimes harshly. Petras points out that Chomsky has been a sharp critic of Israeli policies through the years and has been strongly attacked for his views by pro-Israeli organizations and the major media on the rare times his name is even allowed in it. Still he defends the existence of the Zionist state and has a different view than Petras on the power and influence of the Jewish Lobby in shaping US policy toward Israel. Petras lists what he calls Chomsky’s fifteen erroneous theses reflecting his long-held belief that the Lobby isn’t as potent as the strong case Petras makes in this book that it is. Not wishing to take sides with two distinguished men this writer holds in high esteem, the points of disagreement will only be listed so the reader can decide who makes the better case.
Petras begins by listing what he calls Chomsky’s eight “dubious propositions:”
1. The pro-Israel Lobby is like any other one.
2. The Lobby’s backers have no more power than other pressure groups.
3. The Lobby succeeds because its interests coincide with those of the US.
4. Israel is a tool of the US empire and used as needed.
5. “Big Oil” and the “military-industrial complex” are the major forces shaping Middle East policy.
6. US and Israeli interests usually coincide.
7. The Iraq war and threats to Iran and Syria stem from the “oil interests” and “military-industrial complex.”
8. US behavior in the Middle East is the same as what it practices worldwide.
Petras then uses the above list to discuss what he calls Chomsky’s 15 theses and uses the persuasive evidence presented in his book to take issue with them, one by one. He sums up his case stating he’s done this because of Chomsky’s enormous stature making whatever his views are stand out prominently.
It’s a matter of consequence when a man like Noam Chomsky believes the Jewish Lobby is like all others which in Petras’ view gives a “free ride to the principal authors, architects and lobbyists in favor of the (Iraq) war (and is an) obstacle to achieving clarity about whom we are fighting and why. To ignore the pro-Israel Lobby is (also) to allow it a free hand in pushing for the invasion of Iran and Syria (and any other regime in the region Israel may wish to remove).”
Petras sums up saying that “the peace and justice movements, at home and abroad, are bigger than any individual or intellectual — no matter what their past credentials.”
In this battle of noted titans on the Left, it’s for the reader to decide who’s right.
Reclaiming American Middle East Policy
Petras has written a powerful and important new book that needs broad exposure and resonance. But he’ll never get its content past the corporate gatekeepers controlling the major media because of his courage to reveal what others fear to do — confront Zionism, its agenda of aggressive wars and colonization, and the power of the Jewish Lobby to assure Israel gets the full and unconditional support of every US administration regardless of whether what it does serves the interests of this country. That Lobby power reached its apogee and full fruition with the ascent of the Bush administration neocons that effectively pledge their fealty to the rulers of the Israeli state and prove Ariel Sharon may have been right when he once arrogantly boasted about his relationship with George Bush saying: “We have the US under our control.”
The result has been disastrous for this country and the sacred principles on which it was founded. In partnership with Israel, the US began tearing apart the Middle East and Central Asia by attacking and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan.
It now threatens to inflame the whole region enough to make it explode if we go ahead with plans to attack Iran, do it with nuclear weapons, and then move on to Syria and even Saudi Arabia while continuing to hold Lebanon hostage and under siege in a state of interregnum awaiting the next inevitable trigger igniting the whole ugly business there all over again.
The Bush administration “long war” against Islam enraged 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide growing in unity against us.
It’s also destroying our freedom and democracy at home in the process threatening everyone with the emerging power of a national security police state that spells tyranny with an out-of-control president usurping the dictatorial power of a “unitary executive” claiming the right to go around the law of the land and its international obligations to govern as he pleases.
Petras sounds the alarm and asks how did we get into this debacle, and who’s responsible for it. He stresses the need for a full-scale Congressional investigation to find out, but laments it’s not likely to happen as long as the Bush neocons have their way. The central thesis of his book is that the Jewish Lobby serves the interests of Zionism and acts as agents for the state of Israel. It co-opted the Bush administration, all others preceding it, and the key centers of power and influence in the country leading us to the disaster we now face because of our misguided Middle East adventurism. He equates our actions in league with Israel to the Nazi war crimes committed in WW II, saying “These are the highest crimes against humanity.”
Referring to the crime of aggression, the Nuremberg Tribunal called it the “supreme international crime,” and those Nazis found guilty of it were hanged.
Petras explains that the “worst crimes are committed by those who claim to be a divinely chosen people, a people with ‘righteous’ claims of supreme victimhood.”
He goes on to say: “Righteous victimology, linked to ethno-religious loyalties and directed by fanatical civilian militarists with advanced weaponry, is the greatest threat to world peace and humanity.”
Petras makes an impassioned plea for progressives (really all people of conscience) to reject the imperial agenda of all nations, and in the case of Israel, to stand firm against inevitably being labeled anti-Semitic. Scurrilous name-calling is another refuge of scoundrels that shouldn’t be tolerated or allowed to deter our committed assault against the forces of darkness that will destroy us unless we stand firmly against them. Petras tells us it won’t be easy, and we can expect forceful ideological attacks against us premised on the notion that Israel is the embodiment of “democracy, liberty and justice” and those daring to criticize the Jewish state will be called supporters of “Arab dictatorships, repression, injustice and terrorism.”
The stakes are much too high to let them get away with it using scurrilous name-calling in defense of it. In Petras’ words: “Israel and its overseas network in the US….(threatens) not only the oppressed people of Palestine (<>and Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria and any other state Israel takes aim at<>) but the rights of people throughout the world.” He stresses we have mass public opinion on our side nearly everywhere outside the US, and it’s gaining resonance here as well.
It sees Israel and our actions in support of the Jewish state as the greatest of all threats to world peace and stability.
Petras ends his book with one final impassioned call to arms: “Let’s move ahead and de-colonize our country, our minds and politics as a first step in reconstituting a democratic republic, free of entangling colonial and neo-imperial alliances.”
Wise thoughts from a wise and courageous man.
We can’t ignore them lest we pay the supreme price of the loss of our freedom (and maybe our lives) because we didn’t know it was being taken from us until it was too late to act to save it.