The first casualty of war is the truth. For this reason it is important to provide some clarity regarding the latest Middle East conflict. The short version is Iran’s August 22nd deadline for a uranium enrichment response is expected to disappoint the US and Israel. As a result, the conflict we now see is to cut off what Israel perceives are the two arms of Iran (i.e., Hamas and Hezbollah).
While the book American Hiroshima elaborates in detail why this is happening, it is important to revisit what has happened since July 12th. In addition, I must note that war is rarely started by a single event. The seeds for war are often the product of many events that precede the actual use of military aircraft, tanks and ships. The BBC has an excelent timeline of events leading up to this conflict.
A key fact in determining what is going on is to look at is the number of civilians killed and held in prison by each side. Israel’s position that a single soldier being held captive by the Palestinians, or two soldiers being held by Hezbollah is an act of war cannot be taken seriously when Israel is simultaneously holding thousands of captured Palestinians. The mainstream media conveniently fails to mention this point. The cross-border dimension of the kidnapping may also be distorted by the mainstream media as from what I can tell Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev (the Israeli soldiers) were captured near Ayta al-Sha’b which is actually in Lebanon. When we remember that the first casualty of war is the truth and this war is about something far more than soldiers being kidnapped, then we should not be surprised by the distortions of the truth to create war propaganda. History is also helpful and in 1998 Amnesty International wrote “By Israel’s own admission, Lebanese detainees are being held as bargaining chips; they are not detained for their own actions but in exchange for Israeli soldiers missing in action or killed in Lebanon. Most have now spent 10 years in secret and isolated detention.”
Another source of sanity during war is the United Nations. Regardless of what individuals may think about the UN, this organization has an impressive track record of correctly identifying who has started a war and when a war is violating international law. The US is unfortunately on the wrong side of this litmus test with respect to invading Iraq and Israel is on the wrong side with respect to invading Lebanon (see the comments by UN official Jan Egeland in the article Israel Breaks Humanitarian Law).
In brief, what has happened is Hezbollah initiated Operation Truthful Promise on July 12, 2006. This was not an act of war but a plan to capture Israeli soldiers to swap them for three Lebanese held by Israel. Israel used the event to launch Operation Just Reward, which was interestingly renamed Operation Change of Direction. My sense is the Israeli and US leadership renamed the operation when they concluded the July 12 events provided the cover story to go after Hamas, Hezbollah and produce an incident to justify war with Iran. The bombing attacks then starting on July 13 and hundreds of civilians have been killed. July 13 is the formal beginning point for the start of the war. Israel also invaded Lebanon soon after the air attack began although Israel reports the invasion started on July 23 (which is more likely the date the US and British Special Forces became actively involved in joint operations with Israeli Special Forces). In any event, Israel desired an event to use as an excuse to attack both Hamas and Hezbollah and so far the American people are still fooled by the mass media.
Stepping back, why is this happening? The reason is the leadership in Israel and the United States see Hamas and Hezbollah as the two arms of Iran (which is without question the case for Hezbollah). Before launching an attack on Iran’s population of 68+ million people, a clean up operation of Hamas and Hezbollah is is seen as necessary to minimize “near enemy” attacks. At a minimum Israel and the US neo-cons seek to overthrow the democratically elected Hamas government in Palestine, degrade Hezbollah, and accelerate the timetable for war with Iran. On July 16 a senior US official reported in the Washington Post that “eight cabinet ministers or 30 percent of the government is in jail, another 30 percent is hiding, and the other 30 percent is doing very little.” This means the first objective of the invasion has essentially been accomplished. You may be wondering about Syria and yes Syria is a factor. However, Iran is the bigger concern for Israel. Iran has the potential to join Israel as a nuclear power in the Middle East and statements from Iran’s defense minister indicate they are already a nuclear military power or at a minimum very close to being one.
Hezbollah responded to the invasion with artillery rocket bombardments in Israel. For the record, Hezbollah had previously launched rockets and in the past Israel quickly responded with attacks from aircraft launched guided missiles. Iran is widely believed to be Hezbollah’s rocket supplier. The international community previously deemed this response by Israel as appropriate. It may be helpful to remember that Israel, even without the United States, is a military powerhouse and even a combined Hamas-Hezbollah force is a gnat without the means to threaten Israel’s national security. So now we see the Israeli Air Force and Israeli Sea Corps forces pounding away at Lebanon. Iran’s President is on record that if the invasion crosses Syria’s border, Iran will conclude that they are next and immediately join the fight. The US is pretending to have Condoleeza Rice work for a peace agreement after her initial statement rejecting an immediate ceasefire did not play well internationally. No matter what she says, the fact is the United States is sending the bombs that are being used to kill civilians in Lebanon. A few days ago I thought how hypocritical President Bush is as I read the front page story about a Canadian family in Lebanon that was killed by an Israel air strike. To drive the point home, it is hypocritical to supply the bombs for free and simultaneously position yourself as a neutral peacemaker.
What is next? The case made in American Hiroshima strongly suggests that you will see incidents to justify an attack on Iran. Since Iran has declared Syria as a trigger point, the Israeli and US leadership may decide to focus on incidents to justify attacking Syria. President Bush will need to complete face-to-face meetings with key leaders in the region so that Saudi Arabia and other Arab leaders do not interrupt the oil flow. Behind the scenes, the security efforts for all US nuclear power facilities are being increased. Unfortunately, unlike Iraq, Iran has been known to possess a weapons of mass destruction capability for over a decade. The mainstream media is conveniently forgetting to mention this so that many Americans will continue to be asleep as the violence in the Middle East escalates.
What should caring and loving people in Israel, the US, and the Arab world do? To start, the current “solutions” of more killing will only guarantee that an American and global Hiroshima will someday happen. Violence produces more violence and only love can break the cycle of destruction. Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Israel, and the US fail to see this reality and the fact that nuclear weapons will do more to empower the weak than protect the strong. Israel should therefore immediately deal with its neighbors in a humane and respectful manner. Hamas and Hezbollah should immediately stop attacking Israel as this only leads to more suffering for everyone. Military action should stop and full prisoner exchanges should begin. A two-state solution is possible and fundamentalists committed to violence can be policed by the forces for peace when acts of kindness are initiated and reinforced. Israel can exist in peace, but the path that US and Israeli leaders have taken is leading to the horrific events.
Upon reviewing the history of violence, you can better understand why Jewish citizens and many more people around the world have protested against the war Israel started on July 13. So what do we in the US specifically do now? To start, we have a special responsibility because the US government is in charge of any expansion of the current violence. In February 2005, the Israeli Cabinet agreed not to attack Iran without a “green light” from the US. This means we can pressure our government not to expand the war to Syria or Iran with letters, phone calls, and direct action. The US Congress has officially supported Israel’s illegal invasion with SR 534 on July 19th and HR 921 on July 20th.
We could use an angel of reason and perhaps one will appear. We have confronted dark times like 1962 in the past and managed to step back from the abyss. May peace return to the Middle East but let’s not rely only on prayers and participate in direct action. Please send the Internet address for this information to your friends and family. When contemplating what you will do to stop the killing, please remember that silence is permission.
Dave Dionisi is responsible for National Awareness for Freedom From War. He is a long-time supporter and an advocate for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Dave is the author of American Hiroshima, a book about how to prevent the next 9/11 attack in the United States.