Watching Lebanon by Seymour M. Hersh: Washington’s interests in Israel’s war
August 13, 2006 6:06 PM   Subscribe

In the days after Hezbollah crossed from Lebanon into Israel, on July 12th, to kidnap two soldiers, triggering an Israeli air attack on Lebanon and a full-scale war, the Bush Administration seemed strangely passive... The Bush Administration, however, was closely involved in the planning of Israel’s retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel’s security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preëmptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.
Test Case
posted by y2karl (78 comments total)

 
The United States and Israel have shared intelligence and enjoyed close military coöperation for decades, but early this spring, according to a former senior intelligence official, high-level planners from the U.S. Air Force--under pressure from the White House to develop a war plan for a decisive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities--began consulting with their counterparts in the Israeli Air Force.

'The big question for our Air Force was how to hit a series of hard targets in Iran successfully,' the former senior intelligence official said. 'Who is the closest ally of the U.S. Air Force in its planning? It’s not Congo--it’s Israel. Everybody knows that Iranian engineers have been advising Hezbollah on tunnels and underground gun emplacements. And so the Air Force went to the Israelis with some new tactics and said to them, ‘Let’s concentrate on the bombing and share what we have on Iran and what you have on Lebanon.’ ' The discussions reached the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he said.

'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 cheap war with many benefits...
posted by y2karl at 6:07 PM on August 13, 2006


i wonder if Israel's failure will stop them at all?
posted by amberglow at 6:09 PM on August 13, 2006


what's with the ümlauts?
posted by delmoi at 6:09 PM on August 13, 2006


Works for me. What's the issue?
posted by mischief at 6:10 PM on August 13, 2006



I'll just run this thru again................


on the phone

Olmert---Well, we plan to blow a few things up and then make the trade.

Cheney----No, no. Go for it. Shoot the works across Lebanon and make a good demonstration on the border.

Olmert----Huh?

Cheney---Suuuuurrre. Listen. You start blasting Shiites in Lebanon and that's bound to get Iran's back up

Olmert---Get Iran's back up?

Cheney (smirk beginning to deploy across his face)-----Of course. We want them to do something stupid.

Olmert---Get them to do something stupid?

Cheney ( rolling his eyes)----If Iran does almost anything, I got U.S, public opinion on my side to pound them. That story about your soldier being taken to Iran? That was mine. That story about your soldier in the Iranian embassy in Damascus? That was mine. Heck, every bad thing on the cables you hear about Iran is mine.

Olmert---You wanna invade Iran?

Cheney-----Oh hell no. We just wanna pound them for a bit. The voters love that stuff. Then, when we begin to warn of Iranian revenge, we get the cling tight voters who are scared.

Olmert----Huh? Look, Dick, I don't know about.....

Cheney-----Come on, buck up! It will be fun. Look. You just take care of the Lebanon stuff and we'll take care of the Iranianm stuff. Won't be long before we double your...hell triple your aid package. You could do a lot with 9 billion a year, you know.

Olmert----Well, I guess it would be OK.

Cheney---Trust me. I'm an expert at this stuff.
posted by wrapper at 6:14 PM on August 13, 2006


Does anyone else find the idea of Hezbollah troops crossing willy-nilly into Israel -- necessary to the acceptance of the official story, which is that the Israeli troops were actually abducted from their home country -- to be at the very least a little hard to believe?

It's not exactly an undefended border. In fact one would have to think that the border separating Israel from the Lebanon is quite well-guarded.

It's one of those little nagging questions that's been gnawing away at me for the past few weeks.
posted by clevershark at 6:15 PM on August 13, 2006



Works for me. What's the issue?


For one, it isn't working.
posted by pompomtom at 6:20 PM on August 13, 2006


What isn't working? For all we know, whatever they were testing could have been an absolute success. But then, we do not know what Israel's specific goal was.
posted by mischief at 6:23 PM on August 13, 2006


OK fair point. I was presuming that some noticeable degradation of Hezbollah's fighting capability would be an objective. Perhaps I'm out on a limb there.
posted by pompomtom at 6:29 PM on August 13, 2006


Is Poppy spanking Jr?

James Baker puts Bush's Iraq policy into rehab. Or is he spanking Cheneyco via Jr. proxy...Eitherway, looks link the Ouroboros infighting has begun.
posted by Unregistered User at 6:30 PM on August 13, 2006


delmoi-- they are correctly used to show a change in the vowel, i.e. they aren't blended together. Hence, naïve is two syllables and doesn't have the same sound as rain; coöperate is 4 syllables, etc.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 6:32 PM on August 13, 2006


clever, i'm with you. I find it impossible to buy too, unless all the stuff we constantly hear about beseiged little Israel constantly having to be on the defense is just spin. It could be that they just have 2-man posts dotted all over the border where the guys monitor, sleep, and play cards and stuff or something.
posted by amberglow at 6:40 PM on August 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


Does anyone else find the idea of Hezbollah troops crossing willy-nilly into Israel -- necessary to the acceptance of the official story, which is that the Israeli troops were actually abducted from their home country -- to be at the very least a little hard to believe?

It's not like they just ran in and grabbed two random people. They killed a lot of Israelis in the process. It also may be that they were in the Sheba farms area, which is claimed by both sides.
posted by delmoi at 6:41 PM on August 13, 2006


Unregistered, that's amazing--they haven't brought in "the family fixer" since 2000 i think--it really shows they're in trouble.
posted by amberglow at 6:42 PM on August 13, 2006


Did they really tho, delmoi? Has it been verified?
posted by amberglow at 6:42 PM on August 13, 2006


It could be that they just have 2-man posts dotted all over the border where the guys monitor, sleep, and play cards and stuff or something.

It wasn't just two guys, I think they killed like 9 Israelis and captured two. They also blew up a tank that followed them back into Lebanon. It was no minor operation.
posted by delmoi at 6:43 PM on August 13, 2006


Today, Israel not only fiercely denied seeking a "green light" from the White House, but insisted it had no advance plan to strike — that it launched missiles solely in response to Hezbollah's provocative attacks...

Israel also denied another Hersh claim: That its military leaders began talking tactics with U.S. generals early this spring, developing a strategy that could be used not only by Israel against Hezbollah, but potentially by U.S. forces in a military campaign against Iran.

"Let Israel attack Hezbollah, we'll watch and see how it works, learn from it, and if we do decide to go to Iran, we can't go to Iran anyway as long as Hezbollah has rockets," Hersh said. President Bush echoed the Israeli denial, calling the story "patently untrue."

And the White House quoted national security adviser Steven Hadley, who said: "The suggestion that the U.S. and Israel planned and coordinated an attack on Hezbollah — and did so as a prelude to an attack on Iran — is just flat wrong."
CBS Report: The U.S. Pushed Israeli Plan

Hersh hit a nerve or two.
posted by y2karl at 6:44 PM on August 13, 2006


Did they really tho, delmoi? Has it been verified?

I've never heard it disputed. Here is an article that goes into the details of what happened.
But as you may recall, those tanks got a real different reception when they chased Hezbollah's raiding party back into Lebanon after the Hezzies killed three IDF soldiers and kidnapped another two...So they shouted, "Charge!" and the first Merkava steamed over the border.

Guess how far it got. Ten meters. Ten goddamn meters. Then KABOOM! A Hezbollah mine or shaped charge turned it into a very expensive oven, with four crew killed. Another IDF soldier died trying to rescue them
The author is hardly what you would call anti-Hezbollah, by the way.

It's interesting how the details about how this all got started have really not been elucidated in the mainstream press at all.
posted by delmoi at 6:48 PM on August 13, 2006


clevershark::vDoes anyone else find the idea of Hezbollah troops crossing willy-nilly into Israel -- necessary to the acceptance of the official story, which is that the Israeli troops were actually abducted from their home country -- to be at the very least a little hard to believe?


If you have ever been to the Israeli and Lebanese border, you wouldn't find it so hard to believe. This picture is taken from Lebanon, the town in foreground is inside Israel proper, the town in the background is in Lebanon.



From Michael Totten: "Here’s how crazy the border is. The town in the foreground, Metulla, is inside Israel. The town in the background, Kafr Kila, is in Lebanon. You might think you would have to stand inside Israel to take a picture such as this one. How else would you get a picture of a Lebanese town behind an Israeli town? But you can, because I did. That Israeli town is inside a “penninsula,” or a finger, that juts into Lebanon. It is surrounded by Hezbollah-controlled territory on three sides."

Also, Hezbollah has entered Israel before to kill civilians. And Hezbollah admitted entering Israeli territory as well.
posted by blahblahblah at 6:51 PM on August 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


Speculation aside, we do know that Don Rumsfeld has placed US forces on alert. "We're now at the point where we are essentially on alert," lieutenant-colonel Bruce Carlson, commander of the 8th Air Force, said. "We have the capacity to plan and execute global strikes in half a day or less."

Under the command of marine-general James Cartwright, US Global Strike planning has the potential to destroy over 10,000 targets in Iran in one mission with "smart" conventional weapons. US government documents obtained by Hans Kristensen and analysed by William Arkin has described the development of this Global Strike capability.

Awaiting his orders, George Bush has more than 200 strategic bombers (B52-B1-B2-F117A) and US Navy Tomahawk cruise missiles. One B2 bomber dropped 80,500lb bombs on separate targets in 22 seconds in a test flight. Using just half the available force, 10,000 targets could be attacked almost simultaneously. This strike power alone is sufficient to destroy all major Iranian political, military, economic and transport capabilities.

Such a strike would take "shock and awe" to a new level and leave Iran with few if any conventional military capabilities to block the straights of Hormuz or provide conventional military support to insurgents in Iraq. If this was not enough, the latest generation of smart bombs now being delivered to the US air force quadruples the number of weapons all US warplanes can carry.
The end of the beginning
posted by y2karl at 6:59 PM on August 13, 2006


I love the Nëw Yörkër.
posted by Zozo at 7:00 PM on August 13, 2006


delmoi writes "I've never heard it disputed. Here is an article that goes into the details of what happened."

It's a nice story, but Brecher doesn't exactly have the credentials one would like in a war reporter. All indications are that his war reporting is done from Fresno, California. Unless the IDF has outposts that far, I'm rather tempted to take his stories with a grain of salt. Even if one assumes (as some are wont to do) that Brecher is none other than eXile EIC John Dolan, that still places him in Moscow, a great distance away from the action.
posted by clevershark at 7:03 PM on August 13, 2006


I'm not saying it's impossible. However if it is, it tells quite the story about the IDF's real ability to defend its territory, as opposed to the public image it projects.
posted by clevershark at 7:05 PM on August 13, 2006


The attack happened near Zarit, which is nowhere near Sheba farms, and is not in any sort of disputed territory.

And Clevershark, you don't have to look for conspiracy. Nasrallah said that he attacked across the border in his July 12 press conference, the same one where he said he was legally allowed to attack civilians whenever he wanted. The border is just some barbed wire, it isn't guarded by soldiers every ten feet.
posted by blahblahblah at 7:18 PM on August 13, 2006


The people of Iran. They're fucked aren't they?
Anyone know if there is national health care for the women and children? And burial. Any burial benefits?

How did I become this caloused? Bush?
No. He's a simpleton. I think it was Cheney who did it.

I'm not a religionist. But if there is such a thing as -evil-
he may be it.
Sorry. Just another frustrated rant.
posted by notreally at 7:23 PM on August 13, 2006


Sorry but it's all wrong, all this is only because the entire world hates Israel, she has to defend herself from those barbarians, that wants their land and people back, what a strange idea.
posted by zouhair at 7:23 PM on August 13, 2006


y2karl writes "a cheap war with many benefits..."

This sounds familiar. So cheap it would pay for itself? And something about being greeted with flowers and candy?
posted by orthogonality at 7:29 PM on August 13, 2006


It's a nice story, but Brecher doesn't exactly have the credentials one would like in a war reporter. All indications are that his war reporting is done from Fresno, California.

Well no, but I'm assuming he would be knowledgeable about the basic facts of what happened. It's an opinion piece, but as I said I haven't seen it disputed anywhere. Simply saying, "I don't believe your source" isn't very productive. Why don't you go find a more credible source that gives us a more clear picture of what actually happened?
posted by delmoi at 7:34 PM on August 13, 2006


Such a strike would take "shock and awe" to a new level and leave Iran with few if any conventional military capabilities to block the straights of Hormuz or provide conventional military support to insurgents in Iraq.

Sure, just like all the Israeli smart munitions have managed to keep Hizbullah from firing rockets into northern Israel.
posted by eriko at 7:35 PM on August 13, 2006


Delmoi, Ha'aretz had a good description of what happened on July 13, and, as you correctly pointed out, I don't believe any source has contracted the account given in the article (certainly Nasrallah's speeches said the same thing).
posted by blahblahblah at 7:38 PM on August 13, 2006


Condoleëzza
posted by arialblack at 7:44 PM on August 13, 2006


Within the State Department, it was seen as a way to strengthen the Lebanese government

"All that the Cedar Revolution was is gone."
posted by homunculus at 7:48 PM on August 13, 2006


If you want to make the argument of this war as a "test case" I think a much stronger argument could be made that the scientists conducting the experiment were not the United States and Israel, but Iran and Hezbollah.

While Hezbollah (and Iran) may have miscalculated to some degree, basically, they got to find out just how strong their defenses were, and how effective their offenses could be.

I think they probably gained much more in direct knowledge from the experiment (at high, but bearable cost). And in conducting their test case before the world's media, they also showed others sympathetic to their cause how to counter a military response from an advanced force like the IDF.
posted by extrabox at 8:26 PM on August 13, 2006


If we attack Iran I will drive to D.C. and join what I hope will be the massive protests. But I'm not so ambitious that smaller protests won't do. I'm retired, it will be an adventure.
posted by wrapper at 8:26 PM on August 13, 2006


"All that the Cedar Revolution was is gone."

I want a copy of that banner.
posted by dejah420 at 8:49 PM on August 13, 2006


I'm with demoi here. There's absolutely no need for the New Yorker to put their fancy-schmancy umlauts on cooperation and preemptive. Nobody does that.

Now what's this about Israel and Iran?
posted by justkevin at 8:53 PM on August 13, 2006


Weirdly, a possible measure of the veracity of Hersh's contentions will be the cease fire due to begin in a few hours. If it ever comes to hold, it will be a strong indication that pressure from larger outside interests can be effective in controlling the belligerent proxies, as the belligerents themselves appear still capable of continuing hostilities, and neither has as yet accomplished the destruction of the other, to a point that would make the running cost of this conflict worth it to either side.

Thus, only outside pressure can force the parties to halt hostilities, but given the intractably independent nature of the parties, I doubt that will work, any more than I believe either the U.S. or Iran was in control of setting up this conflict directly. The U.S. has chafed before in trying to influence Israeli policy, and has failed to do so repeatedly. The Syrians, Iranians and other Arab interests are not regarded without suspicion by Hezbollah or any other Lebanese interest. Nobody trusts anybody now in Lebanon. There is no Camp David in the offing, and this dust up has buried whatever "peace process" still existed from that long ago time. This bullshit U.N. resolution isn't worth the paper it has been printed on, or the shoe boxes Condi brought home from her trip to New York.

Even U.N. peacekeepers in force on the ground there would not, in my opinion, be effective in stopping the fighting. Israel will continue to maneuver in southern Lebanon in the coming days, and Hezbollah and other parties in the region will respond before Israel will withdraw, and that will engender new rounds of tit-for-tat. I think it is likely that this conflict will not wind down on its own, either, and it may not spread, as some fear. It may just grind on, for years, as parties in the region become more practiced at conducting armed conflict at various intensities, and the weapons and methods become more deadly over time. Southern Lebanon may return again to being a complicated, but not "free," fire zone, a place where young men train for a life of conflict against other young men who live to oppose them, as it has been, on again and off again, under various regimes, more or less since 1973.

The blackly cynical old man in me suggests that too many people have too much to gain by continued conflict, for a long time to come, for peace to be imposed. The Europeans, particularly, have never been afraid of smoke rising behind Turkey, as they were with Kosovo. Let the arms and the carnage come again near Germany or France, and that thinking may change, but it will take something like that before they add real weight to any peace effort. It will take Europe to embargo Israel, and/or Iran, and the EU is not willing to do anything at this juncture, or in any foreseeable future, until they smell smoke from their own doorstep.
posted by paulsc at 8:58 PM on August 13, 2006


Such a strike would take "shock and awe" to a new level and leave Iran with few if any conventional military capabilities to block the straights of Hormuz or provide conventional military support to insurgents in Iraq.

With as much oil and natural gas as is presently known to be retrievable in Iran, there is no way that China would allow a preëmptive attack by the US, much less any second Shahesque puppet "democracy".

The neocon US hegemony doesn't have to worry about retaliation from Iran, post-occupation — it has the sleeping giant in China to contend with.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:04 PM on August 13, 2006


References:
Israeli military and intelligence experts I spoke to emphasized...
According to a Middle East expert with knowledge of the current thinking...
The Middle East expert said...
Administration officials denied...
A Pentagon spokesman said...
as did a State Department spokesman...
former senior intelligence official said...
a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said...
A Pentagon consultant said that...
Several current and former officials involved in the Middle East told me that...
the U.S. government consultant with ties to Israel said...
The Pentagon consultant noted that...
several Israeli academics, journalists, and retired military and intelligence officers all made one point...
an Israeli official said...
The U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel told me...
the U.S. government consultant said...
according to the former senior intelligence official...
according to current and former officials...
I was told by the Middle East expert and the government consultant...
A former intelligence officer said...
the former senior intelligence official said...
The Pentagon consultant told me that...
the consultant with close ties to Israel said...
the Middle East expert told me...
the former senior intelligence official said...
In the White House, especially in the Vice-President’s office, many officials believe that...
the government consultant said, some policymakers in the Administration have concluded...
A European intelligence officer told me...
A high-level American military planner told me...
Some current and former intelligence officials who were interviewed for this article believe...
The U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said that...
A Western diplomat said that...
The Pentagon consultant dismissed...
The former senior intelligence official similarly depicted...
The Pentagon consultant said that...
the Times reported that...
The Western diplomat told me his embassy believes that...
as a former diplomat said...

Another cocktail anyone?
posted by semmi at 9:06 PM on August 13, 2006


Immortal Technique

Immortal technique - cause of death

Niggah's spittin some truth...
posted by Unregistered User at 9:09 PM on August 13, 2006


it has the sleeping giant in China to contend with

Mebbe that's the plan.
posted by mischief at 9:25 PM on August 13, 2006


If this is a test, it is failing so far. Israel is having as much problem as the US is in Iraq, even more so, Hez are better supplied, organized and trained.
posted by stbalbach at 9:51 PM on August 13, 2006


If that's the plan, it's a pretty fucking stupid plan for the US to piss off one of its largest creditors, push OPEC to a petro-Euro economy, and even further devalue its weak dollar.

Or perhaps the plan is for multinationals to use a third World War to turn the US into a third-world autocratic dictatorship like any one of a handful in South America.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:54 PM on August 13, 2006


what's with the ümlauts? -- delmoi

Diaeresis
posted by iconjack at 10:12 PM on August 13, 2006


it's a pretty fucking stupid plan

Look at who's commander in chief.
posted by mischief at 10:16 PM on August 13, 2006


Does the Bush administration really have a plan any more?

Surely everything has been so disastrous that the plan now is to get out and hope that the Democrats don't take either house and go at them and to worry about being prosecuted for international war crimes.

Seriously, see if Rumsfeld ever goes to Europe after he retires.

The other thing is that Iraq and now Lebanon has demonstrated that you can basically beat the US or Israel if you can get them into a guerilla war. This is beyond what was shown in Vietnam or Afghanistan to the Soviet. There is no super-power supplying the Sunni insurgency or Hez.

On a conventional battlefield the Americans and the West is unbeatable, but in a guerilla war they can be defeated.
posted by sien at 10:18 PM on August 13, 2006


If Israel's goal was to convince the Lebanese government and its civilians that they need to get their shit together concerning policing Hezbollah, I would say Israel won.
posted by mischief at 10:47 PM on August 13, 2006


mischief writes "If Israel's goal was to convince the Lebanese government and its civilians that they need to get their shit together concerning policing Hezbollah, I would say Israel won."

If Israel's goal was to get their soldiers back safely and have peace and prosperity, I would say Israel lost.
posted by mullingitover at 11:01 PM on August 13, 2006


The White House was more focussed on stripping Hezbollah of its missiles, because, if there was to be a military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities, it had to get rid of the weapons that Hezbollah could use in a potential retaliation at Israel.

Gosh, in that paragraph, it almost sounds like the White House is thinking ahead, taking contingencies into account and generally performing effective planning operations. You'd almost think they were actually good at this.

And that's why I don't believe it.
posted by frogan at 11:02 PM on August 13, 2006


You really believe that whole cock fight was about two kidnapped soldiers? You wouldn't happen to be interested in buying a bridge, would ya? ;-P
posted by mischief at 11:10 PM on August 13, 2006


The White House was more focussed on stripping Hezbollah of its missiles, because, if there was to be a military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities, it had to get rid of the weapons that Hezbollah could use in a potential retaliation at Israel.

And, as wee all know, the best way to disarm someone is to get them to shoot all of their armaments at you.
posted by wilful at 11:35 PM on August 13, 2006


Israeli troops were actually abducted ....It's one of those little nagging questions that's been gnawing away at me for the past few weeks.
posted by clevershark at 6:15 PM PST


At least you didn't say there were 'kidnapped' - if Hizbollah is worthy of using armed force on a massive scale, I'd pick a different tag like POW. And I'm not sure there was a request for money, a big part of "being kidnapped".

Yes, well, there are claims that the actual capture was in Lebanon.
http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/israeli_solders.html
posted by rough ashlar at 11:40 PM on August 13, 2006


Ya' know, I see a URL called "whatreallyhappened.com," and I automatically know that nothing I read there will describe with any accuracy what really happpened. Not that I know what really happened. I'm just certain that they don't.
posted by frogan at 11:59 PM on August 13, 2006


Not that I know what really happened. I'm just certain that they don't.
posted by frogan at 11:59 PM PST


They are low hanging fruit in the 'the media says this and here is a counter' position. Mr. Rivero has a spin and sees the world through a filter of 'the state of israel is bad', not to mention a distrust of governments in general.

I have no idea if the quoted sources mis-reported, if the border is under dispute, or exactly how the detention by force went down. But I do know that page was making the claim that supported clevershark was questioning, so he can go and form his own opinion.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:42 AM on August 14, 2006


There has been a heated debate on the internet about whether the two Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hizbullah that day were captured in Israel or in Lebanon, but it now seems pretty clear that they were seized in Israel. This is what the UN says, and even Hizbullah seems to have forgotten that they were supposed to have been found sneaking around the outskirts of the Lebanese village of Aita al-Shaab. Now it simply states that "the Islamic resistance captured two Israeli soldiers at the border with occupied Palestine". Three other Israeli soldiers were killed by the militants. There is also some dispute about when, on July 12, Hizbullah first fired its rockets; but Unifil makes it clear that the firing took place at the same time as the raid - 9am. Its purpose seems to have been to create a diversion. No one was hit.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:59 AM on August 14, 2006


Of cxourse! White House conspiracy! the Israelis were on Lebonese soil when their guys got taken. And Hezbollah has not even tried to announce this to the world because they abhor publicity. And so too the soldier in Gaza. Everything is the fault of bad America and Israel and Hezbolla, Hamas, Iran and Syria are just peace-lvoing poeples who ask only to be let alone.
posted by Postroad at 4:39 AM on August 14, 2006


At least you didn't say there were 'kidnapped' - if Hizbollah is worthy of using armed force on a massive scale, I'd pick a different tag like POW. And I'm not sure there was a request for money, a big part of "being kidnapped".

The soldiers that were abducted are defined under international law as "hostages;" taking them is legally a war crime.

According to Human Rights Watch: "Hezbollah leader Hassan Nassrallah has stated that the captured soldiers will be used to negotiate the release of Palestinian, Lebanese and other Arab prisoners from Israel. The use of captives who are no longer involved in the conflict for this purpose constitutes hostage-taking. Hostage-taking as part of an armed conflict is strictly forbidden under international law, by both Common Article 3 and customary international law, and is a war crime."
posted by blahblahblah at 5:44 AM on August 14, 2006


See also
...American troops all over central and northern Iraq are supplied with fuel, food, and ammunition by truck convoy from a supply base hundreds of miles away in Kuwait. All but a small amount of our soldiers' supplies come into the country over roads that pass through the Shiite-dominated south of Iraq.

Until now the Shiite Arabs of Iraq have been told by their leaders to leave American forces alone. But an escalation of tensions between Iran and the US could change that overnight. Moreover, the ever-increasing violence of the civil war in Iraq can change the alignment of forces there unexpectedly.

Southern Iraq is thoroughly infiltrated by Iranian special operations forces working with Shiite militias, such as Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigades. Hostilities between Iran and the United States or a change in attitude toward US forces on the part of the Baghdad government could quickly turn the supply roads into a "shooting gallery" 400 to 800 miles long...

Compounding the looming menace of the Kuwait-based line of supply is the route followed by the cargo ships en route to Kuwait. Geography dictates that the ships all pass through the Strait of Hormuz and then proceed to the ports at the other end of the Gulf. Those who are familiar with the record of Iran's efforts against Kuwaiti shipping in the Iran-Iraq War will be concerned about this maritime vulnerability...
The vulnerable line of supply to US troops in Iraq
posted by y2karl at 6:22 AM on August 14, 2006


And
As soon as the facts of the Bint Jbeil ambush, which ended with relatively high Israeli casualties (eight soldiers died there), became public, the press and television in Israel began marginalising any opinion that was critical of the war. The media also fell back on the kitsch to which Israelis grow accustomed from childhood: the most menacing army in the region is described here as if it is David against an Arab Goliath. Yet the Jewish Goliath has sent Lebanon back 20 years, and Israelis themselves even further: we now appear to be a lynch-mob culture, glued to our televisions, incited by a premier whose ‘leadership’ is being launched and legitimised with rivers of fire and destruction on both sides of the border. Mass psychology works best when you can pinpoint an institution or a phenomenon with which large numbers of people identify. Israelis identify with the IDF, and even after the deaths of many Lebanese children in Qana, they think that stopping the war without scoring a definitive victory would amount to defeat. This logic reveals our national psychosis, and it derives from our over-identification with Israeli military thinking.

In the melodramatic barrage fired off by the press, the army is assigned the dual role of hero and victim. And the enemy? In Hebrew broadcasts the formulations are always the same: on the one hand ‘we’, ‘ours’, ‘us’; on the other, Nasrallah and Hizbullah. There aren’t, it seems, any Lebanese in this war. So who is dying under Israeli fire? Hizbullah. And if we ask about the Lebanese? The answer is always that Israel has no quarrel with Lebanon. It’s yet another illustration of our unilateralism, the thundering Israeli battle-cry for years: no matter what happens around us, we have the power and therefore we can enforce the logic. If only Israelis could see the damage that’s been done by all these years of unilateral thinking. But we cannot, because the army – which has always been the core of the state – determines the shape of our lives and the nature of our memories, and wars like this one erase everything we thought we knew, creating a new version of history with which we can only concur. If the army wins, its success becomes part of ‘our heritage’. Israelis have assimilated the logic and the language of the IDF – and in the process, they have lost their memories. Is there a better way to understand why we have never learned from history? We have never been a match for the army, whose memory – the official Israeli memory – is hammered into place at the centre of our culture by an intelligentsia in the service of the IDF and the state...

The truth behind this is that Israel must always be allowed to do as it likes even if this involves scorching its supremacy into Arab bodies. This supremacy is beyond discussion and it is simple to the point of madness. We have the right to abduct. You don’t. We have the right to arrest. You don’t. You are terrorists. We are virtuous. We have sovereignty. You don’t. We can ruin you. You cannot ruin us, even when you retaliate, because we are tied to the most powerful nation on earth. We are angels of death...
You are terrorists, we are virtuous - Yitzhak Laor on the IDF
posted by y2karl at 6:39 AM on August 14, 2006


There's absolutely no need for the New Yorker to put their fancy-schmancy umlauts on cooperation and preemptive. Nobody does that.

The New Yorker does, and so what? It's their style, and they've done it for eighty years. Why is that any worse than some publications hyphenating compounds that others don't? I don't understand people getting hot and bothered about punctuation.

From the Wikipedia article on the New Yorker:
One uncommonly formal feature of the magazine's in-house style is the placement of diaeresis marks in words with repeating vowels—such as reëlected and coöperate—in which the two vowel letters indicate different vowel sounds.

The magazine does not put the titles of plays or books in italics but simply sets them off with quotation marks. When referring to other publications that include locations in their names, it uses italics only for the "non-location" portion of the name, such as the Los Angeles Times or the Chicago Tribune.

Formerly, when a word or phrase in quotation marks came at the end of a phrase or clause that ended with a semicolon, the semicolon would be put before the trailing quotation mark; now, however, the magazine follows the usual American punctuation style and puts the semicolon after the second quotation mark.
They have an example of the old inside-semicolon style, if you want to see something really perverse.

On topic, all I can say is that this doesn't surprise me one bit.
posted by languagehat at 6:46 AM on August 14, 2006


On a conventional battlefield the Americans and the West is unbeatable, but in a guerilla war they can be defeated.
posted by sien at 1:18 AM EST on August 14 [+] [!]


Keep in mind that fighting "a guerilla war" the way that Hezbollah and the Iraqi insurgents do it is a war crime if the West does it. The only reason the US can be defeated is that they won't go to the extremes their opponents do.

And before anyone snarks back with Abu Ghraib or some random isolated incident for which a soldier has been arrested, let me point out that the US military doesn't as a policy matter cut the heads off their prisoners on videotape and circulate the video on Al Jazeera.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:13 AM on August 14, 2006


From Amir Taheri, in Asharq al Awsat:
Hussein Shariatmadari, a top aide to Khamenehi, and director of Iran's main daily newspaper Kayhan (Universe) believes that with the fall of Communism, the task of challenging the "Infidel" West, under US leadership, in setting the global agenda, has devolved to the Islamic Republic and its Khomeinist ideology.

In an editorial bearing the title of "This Is Our War," Shariatmadari made it clear that Hezbollah was fighting not for prisoners, the Shabaa farms or even "Arab causes," whatever they may be at any given time, but for Iran in its broader struggle to prevent the US from creating "an American Middle East."
posted by blahblahblah at 7:14 AM on August 14, 2006


And before anyone snarks back with Abu Ghraib or some random isolated incident for which a soldier has been arrested, let me point out that the US military doesn't as a policy matter cut the heads off their prisoners on videotape and circulate the video on Al Jazeera.

No, they just bomb the fuck out of areas known to be full of civilians.

If you feel you must play "who's more evil?", I'd rather have my head cut off on TV than have my whole family blown up, even if they weren't "targetted" by evil terrorists, but instead were only deemed "acceptable casualties" by the righteous Moral Calculus of Freedom.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:17 AM on August 14, 2006


The soldiers that were abducted are defined under international law as "hostages;" taking them is legally a war crime.

Thanks. I knew kidnapping wasn't the right word. POW doesn't work as hizbullah isn't a state.
posted by rough ashlar at 7:30 AM on August 14, 2006


You are terrorists, we are virtuous - Yitzhak Laor on the IDF
posted by y2karl at 9:39 AM EST on August 14 [+] [!]


This is a fascianting article because it's so schizophrenic. On the one hand he criticizines the role of the IDF in shaping Israels memory and view of its own history, and seems to lament the fact that Israelis don't consider the human cost to the other side. On the other, he says things like "The truth behind this is that Israel must always be allowed to do as it likes even if this involves scorching its supremacy into Arab bodies" and "I cannot urge my Lebanese friends to remember the crimes my state and its army have committed in Lebanon" that seems to reinforce the idea that Israel is by definition morally superior and justified in all things than Arabs. So it seems like he's criticizing the IDF when in fact he seems to be saying that Israelis should remember their own bad acts only because it is part of what defines them, but not because that's how others will remember them. It's a very narcissistic outlook.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:31 AM on August 14, 2006


Sigh

No, they just bomb the fuck out of areas known to be full of civilians.


Only because that's where the insurgents are hiding - among civilians, which is a war crime. And the military makes an effort to limit the civilian casualties.

I'm not playing a "who is more evil" game. I'm pointing out that asymmetric warfare is always tipped in favor of whoever fights dirtier. The only reason we lose those fights is because there's some line the US military isn't going to cross, which is to their credit. The insurgents, however, failing in their effort to inflict massive US casualties, have simply resort to outright targetting and killing of Iraqi civilians.

Can't you see the difference?
posted by Pastabagel at 7:35 AM on August 14, 2006


speaking of "who is more evil" : Bush's belief in a worldwide Islamist conspiracy is foolish and dangerous
--...Bush has chosen to lump together all violent Muslim opposition to what he perceives as western interests everywhere in the world, as part of a single conspiracy. He is indifferent to the huge variance of interests that drives the Taliban in Afghanistan, insurgents in Iraq, Hamas and Hizbullah fighting the Israelis. He simply identifies them as common enemies of the United States.
...
There is no chance that the west will get anywhere with the Muslim world until the US government is willing to disassemble a spread of grievances in widely diverse societies, examine them as separate components, and treat each on its merits. America cannot prevail through the mere deployment of superior wealth and military power, the failure of which is manifest. Judicious and discriminatory political judgments are fundamental, and today quite lacking.
The madness of Bush's policy is that he has made a wilful choice to amalgamate the grossly irrational, totalitarian and homicidal objectives of al-Qaida with the just claims of Palestinians and grievances of Iraqis. ...

posted by amberglow at 7:50 AM on August 14, 2006


lieutenant-colonel Bruce Carlson, commander of the 8th Air Force

A humble O-5 is commanding the entire Eighth Air Farce? I knew the USAF is weird, and the post '90s drawdowns really bit into the manpower base, but next you're gonna try to tell me LANTFLT is commanded by a Senior Chief....
posted by pax digita at 7:51 AM on August 14, 2006


Can't you see the difference?

I think it is largely a specious difference. You presume that insurgents' main goal is to inflict as many casualties as possible, when in reality, this is a means to various (and sometimes conflicting) ends for them.

I'm pointing out that asymmetric warfare is always tipped in favor of whoever fights dirtier.

How is the conflict "tipped in favor" of insurgents outside of rhetoric? They are being killed by the score. No matter what else one may think, it's absurd to pretend that the insurgency is pulling one over on us with their tricksy tactics. We have not and will not sustain anywhere near the casualties they will. If their goals are met before ours, that's mainly going to be because our goals are very unrealistic, not because of the power of asymmetric warfare.

You know what they used to call this kind of "asymmetric warfare"? Trying to occupy a country. There's nothing new here.

And before anyone snarks back with Abu Ghraib or some random isolated incident for which a soldier has been arrested, let me point out that the US military doesn't as a policy matter cut the heads off their prisoners on videotape and circulate the video on Al Jazeera.

I'm not playing a "who is more evil" game.

Sure seems like it. You're saying that American atrocities are anomalies and insurgent atrocities are SOP.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:57 AM on August 14, 2006


pax- I think they meant Gen. Carlson. The Guardian blogs don't really do fact checking...
posted by blahblahblah at 7:58 AM on August 14, 2006


The only reason we lose those fights is because there's some line the US military isn't going to cross, which is to their credit.

That's ridiculous. The only line we didn't cross in Southeast Asia was using nukes (which was seriously considered, and I don't think it was moral considerations that stopped us). We tortured, we threw people out of helicopters, we killed civilians en masse, we did every damn thing we could think of, sure that if we only hit those bastards hard enough we'd win. But somehow we didn't.
posted by languagehat at 8:02 AM on August 14, 2006


This brief by the International Crisis Group gives the best summary of what happened and why what the raid was about from the international crisis group. It's a couple weeks old but I suggest all of you to read it.

Rather than making random claims about motives etc they actually go around interviewing and meeting with involved parties...

This brief really have been a post in itself a couple weeks ago...
posted by stratastar at 8:07 AM on August 14, 2006


How is the conflict "tipped in favor" of insurgents outside of rhetoric? They are being killed by the score. No matter what else one may think, it's absurd to pretend that the insurgency is pulling one over on us with their tricksy tactics. We have not and will not sustain anywhere near the casualties they will. If their goals are met before ours, that's mainly going to be because our goals are very unrealistic, not because of the power of asymmetric warfare.

That leaves out both the fact that our responses invariably create more insurgents and terrorists as a result, perpetuating an endless cycle -- and that each new security measure lessens the freedoms we had at home (or lessens the native populations' freedoms and rights, like in Iraq itself), which is a total victory, depending on the insurgents' goals. Israelis don't live free. We don't either anymore. If they hate us for our freedoms, and we restrict those freedoms as a result, or if they're fighting against an occupying force and life is restricted as a result for natives, they win. The conflicts are always thus tipped in favor of insurgents if they affect the operations and rights of people in the targeted places, whether incountry or not. They always win, it seems.
posted by amberglow at 8:31 AM on August 14, 2006


This brief by the International Crisis Group gives the best summary of what happened and why what the raid was about from the international crisis group.

That was a home page link to the International Crisis Group home page. Israel/Palestine/Lebanon: Climbing Out of the Abyss is most likely the document in question. [Word format version.]
posted by y2karl at 8:33 AM on August 14, 2006


I love the sub-thread here about the NYer and umlauts. The copyediting dept. at the magazine is legendary: On the umlauts-vs.-dashes question, they're taking a stand for American English vs. European English, among other things (including the Chicago Manual). It's not an elitist thing to indicate where the emphasis should fall on consecutive vowels -- it's like including an instruction manual within the word itself, which most of us need these days.

At a time when American's are using apostrophe's to pluralize noun's more than ever, yet the country has no idea how to apply them to it's contractions -- while insisting that new arrivals speak the language, right now -- and ESPN uses the term "to defend" to mean exactly the opposite, thank God (or whomever) someone is taking a stand.

Hate our umlauts, hate our freedom!
posted by turducken at 8:51 AM on August 14, 2006 [1 favorite]


... I guess the only other time in history where you can look back on such misguided optimism or one of the more recent times was, of course, us going into Iraq. Shades of Iraq, deja-vu or however you want to put it. Israel was convinced it would be easy. The Air Force was going to go and clean them out.

There was another element, and you mentioned that in your intro and also in your news report. One of the things that struck me right away, as soon as I saw how Israel was bombing, and my instinct told me there was something there, because in one of the Air Force plans that I knew about but didn't write about, one of the Air Force options for taking out Iran was, of course, shock and awe, a massive, massive bombing well beyond any of the nuclear facilities. Go hit the country hard for 36 hours, drive people into underground bunkers. Don't target civilians, necessarily, but hit their infrastructure, hit the roads, hit the power plants, hit the water facilities.

And so, when they come out of their bunkers after 36 hours, they look around. In the American neo-con view, they were going to say to each other, 'Oh, my god, the mullahs did this to us, the religious mullahs who run the country. We're going to overthrow them and install a secular government.' That was the thinking for the last year. That is the thinking for the last year inside some elements of the Pentagon, the civilian side, and also in Cheney's shop.

So when you watch what Israel did in its opening salvo, the first targets, I remember vividly, was -- and everybody should -- they took out the civilian airstrip. They took away civilian -- the ability to use aircraft to travel. They took out highways. They took out roads. They took out petrol stations. They basically isolated Southern Lebanon. But I think part of the reason they did so much damage to the infrastructure was they believed -- and I think the Israelis have been very clear about it -- that the Christian population and the Sunni population -- don't forget Hezbollah is Shia -- would rise up against Hezbollah, and it would be a great feather in the cap, etc., etc., etc.
De,ocracy Now: Seymour Hersh - U.S. Helped Plan Israeli Attack, Cheney "Convinced" Assault on Lebanon Could Serve as Prelude to Preemptive Attack on Iran
...Hersh: You know, when I did Abu Ghraib, the same kind of stuff was thrown at me, that I'm fantasizing, I'm a fantasizer, and I'll just put, you know -- I'm not writing from some off the wall weekly. The New Yorker is very solid. The editors of The New Yorker, my editor Dave Remnick and others know who my sources are. In many cases, they've talked to my sources. This is one of the procedures that The New Yorker -- very close fact-checking.

It's not about they're denying what I'm saying. It's about what these people have said to me. These are people inside, very much inside who are very concerned about the policy. And something else that was in the story is this, is that this White House will find a way to view what happened with the Israelis against Hezbollah as a victory. And they'll find a way to see it as a positive for any planning that is going on towards Iran.

I'm not saying Iran's a done deal. What I'm saying is, the idee fixe about Iran is almost as it was about in the first couple years after 9/11 in the White House as about Iraq. These guys, the president, Cheney and others, want to go. It's very much on their minds.
CNN Late Editon With Wolf Blitzer East August 13, 2006
posted by y2karl at 12:41 PM on August 14, 2006


OOps, that link should have read and linked as Democracy Now: Seymour Hersh - U.S. Helped Plan Israeli Attack, Cheney "Convinced" Assault on Lebanon Could Serve as Prelude to Preemptive Attack on Iran
posted by y2karl at 12:46 PM on August 14, 2006


Grim Historical Irony (the 1st President of Israel, Hezbollah and the UK "terror plot")
posted by amberglow at 9:57 PM on August 16, 2006


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