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Escalation 27 July 2006

Posted by marisacat in Beirut, DC Politics, Israel/AIPAC, WAR!.

   Rabin, in front of a picture of Moshe Dayan, former general and def minister

From the Irish Times

Meanwhile, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second in command in al-Qaeda, called on Muslims not to “stand idly by” but join the war against “Crusaders and Zionists”. Zawahiri’s remarks, in a videotape released yesterday, raised the spectre of conflict beyond the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.

Israeli radio quoted a minister who is a member of the national security council saying: “If need be, we must raze the villages of southern Lebanon. The Israeli army is a long way from having won, and we have to change the rules of the game.”

While Israeli justice minister Mr Ramon said that “anyone still in southern Lebanon is linked to Hizbullah.”.

Oh just a little hard line there…  

Which leads in nicely to a comment piece in Ha’aretz [thanks CSTAR] from Ze’ev Schiff:

It is important for the Israeli public to know that there are critical issues to be decided. What matters is not the future of the Shiite town of Bint Jbail or the Hezbollah positions in Maroun Ras, but the future and safety of the State of Israel. This struggle will also determine Iran’s position in the Middle East and its role among the Arab states. […]

If Israel’s deterrence is shaken as a result of failure in battle, the hard-won peace with Jordan and Egypt will also be undermined. Israel’s deterrence is what lies behind the willingness of moderate Arabs to make peace with it. Hamas, which calls for Israel’s destruction, will be strengthened and it is doubtful whether any Palestinians will be willing to reach agreements with Israel. Therein lies the link between the fight with Hezbollah and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

There is also a link between Israel’s deterrence and what the Israeli public feels, as well as what it is fed. Unfortunately, over the past few days, a new national sport has emerged in the Israeli media: criticizing the IDF to the point of humiliation and unearthing failures, real or otherwise. The war has barely started, yet there are already calls for a commission of inquiry. If this had been the case during the War of Independence, we would not even have managed to take Jaffa.


Which leads to Woolacott in The Guardian on Israel and her absolutes – and how it is not working – and should be abandoned.  I’d add it is not working, but it is propped up – and I don’t see how Israel wants to stop fighting…  Pity.

Yoram Schweitzer, at the Israeli thinktank the Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies, put it this way in a recent commentary:

“Israel’s objective is to turn tactical setbacks into strategic outcomes whose gains outweigh the losses.”

Life is not so simple, certainly in the Middle East. With the fighting not over, the balance of gains and losses cannot yet be fully assessed. But it does not look that promising for Israel or the United States. There are five obvious reasons.

First, casualties in the Israeli armed forces have been high by that country’s standards. Hizbullah casualties have been high, too, the Israelis say, yet the rockets keep coming.

Second, there is anger within the international community at being handed this hot potato.

Third, Israel loses every day in terms of world public opinion.

 Fourth, Israel loses even more every day in terms of Middle Eastern public opinion. Governments can sign peace treaties, or adopt “reasonable” policies, but it is peoples who decide whether the treaties, the policies, and sometimes even the governments, will stick. All over the region moderates within the elites face a popular opinion further hardened against Israel.

Fifth, by enhancing Hizbullah’s status against that of al-Qaeda, the Olmert government may have intensified the rivalry between the two, something that could rebound on Israel in the future.

  Israelis walk on Gaza Strip, under armed guard

And that leads to a Ha’aretz piece [thanks CSTAR] on how the IDF leadership and Defense Minister hold power in Israel… and make the decisions. (Frankly with our weakened Congress, rather too reminiscent of the W administration, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al.  The Bush Junta, as Vidal has said from Day One.)

The security policy-making process is in fact the domain of the Israel Defense Forces and the defense establishment. In the absence of non-IDF national security planning bodies, the major part of the planning – not only operational and tactical planning but also strategic and political planning – is done within the army.

The result is that military considerations have often become more dominant than political ones. Thus, Israel’s foreign policies have come to be based on an essentially belligerent perception that favors military considerations over diplomatic ones. Violence is seen not only as a legitimate instrument in international affairs, but almost as the only means that can bring positive results.

As a result, the chief of staff in Israel is afforded power that exceeds that of his counterparts in other Western armies. He is the one to decide on the policy recommendations that will be presented to the prime minister and his ministers.

This, of course, gives him great political power.

Absolute zinger of an opinion piece in Al-Ahram I can hardly pick an excerpt, but in selfishness, I think we all deserve a good slam, a well written one, at Condi.  So here…

Between the Greater Middle East and the ignominious, blood-drenched return to the New Middle East, the cities of Iraq and Lebanon crumble, corpses are strewn along the sides of the roads and the groans of the wounded, screams of grieving mothers and wails of orphaned children rend the air.

Such are the birth pangs of the New Middle East, as explained calmly and dispassionately by a nasty lady whose pathologically sedate, hysterically cool voice contains nothing of the ear-shattering reverberations of smart bombs and dumb bombs, the bewildered screams of the living who have had their hearts ripped out and the silence of the dead beneath the rubble. The doctor of bombardment and displacement, the minister of death and destruction, the envoy of desolation and grief speaks, without a flicker of emotion on her face and lips that barely move.

From Nur al-Cubicle:

And now have advanced to Phase 2 of in infernal game: Provoction of Syria. Israeli jets are testing Syria’s defenses near the Anti-Lebanon Mountains between Masnaa and the Syrian border crossing at Jdaïdit Yabous.

La Repubblica has a link to a video of the bombing of Tyre. [this goes to a multimedia page at La Repubblica, it did not work for me, but may for some]

   Intifada 2

This essay in Forward, from nearly three years ago, by Avraham Burg, a former speaker of the Knesset and Labor party member, is well worth a read… and America should hear the echo.   [thanks NYCee]

There is time to change course, but not much. What is needed is a new vision of a just society and the political will to implement it. Nor is this merely an internal Israeli affair. Diaspora Jews for whom Israel is a central pillar of their identity must pay heed and speak out. If the pillar collapses, the upper floors will come crashing down.

The opposition does not exist, and the coalition, with Arik Sharon at its head, claims the right to remain silent. In a nation of chatterboxes, everyone has suddenly fallen dumb, because there’s nothing left to say. We live in a thunderously failed reality. Yes, we have revived the Hebrew language, created a marvelous theater and a strong national currency. Our Jewish minds are as sharp as ever. We are traded on the Nasdaq. But is this why we created a state? The Jewish people did not survive for two millennia in order to pioneer new weaponry, computer security programs or anti-missile missiles. We were supposed to be a light unto the nations. In this we have failed.

   ultra-orthodox at an artillery site, near Fassuta N Israel.  [Reuters]


UPDATE:  12:30 am PT

Good diary by Mash at Dkos on Israel – Lebanon – Hizbollah – EXIT issues… [thanks to D Throat]

Israel Looks For An Exit

by Mash

Thu Jul 27, 2006 at 09:42:48 PM PDT

Ehud Olmert’s two-week misadventure in Lebanon is coming to a close. The unexpected ambush in the town of Bint Jbeil and the shelling of the UN observation post may have become catalysts for a draw down of the conflict. These two tragic events, in retrospect, will be seen to have saved many Israeli and Lebanese lives. […]

Also posted at my web site.


UPDATE: 1 am

This in TimesONline makes mention of support numbers inside Israel (high, no shock) for the campaign.  Just before the 11 pm e-mail chugged in with the NYT headlines for tomorrow – and a big piece on the numbers game, I landed on this at Angry Arab:

 These are some of the highlights:

70 % support the capture of the two Israeli soldiers (73.1 among Sunnis, 96.3 among Shi`ites, 40% among Druzes, and 55 among Christians); 87% support that “the resistance fight Israeli aggression on Lebanon” (88.9 among Sunnis, 96.3 among Shi`ites, 80% among Druzes, and 80% among Christians); 8% think that America adopted a positive position toward Lebanon during this war (7.9% among Sunnis, 4 among Shi`ites, 13.6 among Druzes, and 15 among Christians).
PS Sample size is 800. The overwhelming majority were face- to -face interviews (including all displaced individuals)


UPDATE, 7:15 am…

Danny Schechter is up, and from there, first Fisk and then a no link quote from bird colonel Sam Gardiner…

The battle for southern Lebanon is on an epic scale but, from the heights above Khiam, the Israelis appear to be in deep trouble. Their F-16s turn in the high bright sun – small, silver fish whose whispers gain in volume as they dive – and their bombs burst over the old prison, where the Hizbollah are still holding out; beyond the frontier, I can see livid fires burning across the Israeli hillsides and the Jewish settlement of Metullah billowing smoke.

It was not meant to be like this, 15 days into Israel’s assault on Lebanon. The Katyushas still streak in pairs out of southern Lebanon, clearly visible to the naked eye, white contrails that thump into Israeli’s hillsides and border towns.

Oh you know the religionists of how great modern warfare is are flummoxed.  My guess, ordinary citizens will continue to pay for the frustration of the military leaders…

Retired US Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner adds:

“Israel’s call of 30,000 reservists tells me they understand there will have to be a major ground operation inside Lebanon. Calling the reserves seriously impacts the civilian economy, however which means the invasion has to come soon.

“The IDF has not performed well. Intelligence has not been good. The leadership has fallen for the siren song of airpower advocates. The ground forces fell into a trap at Bent Jabail. If you discount the “on-purpose” argument for hitting the UN post, you have to add it to the category of “not well done.” (During the attack part of Gulf II, the US Army units had lawyers review artillery fire missions to confirm rules of collateral damage were not being violated.)

“The longer Israel takes to achieve its military objective, the more serious the problem….”

Note here’s an Air Force man referencing the limits of Aerial bombardments.


Tom Dispatch, again on the religion of air power and some discussion of language to cleanse modern warfare – here a “list” of the hits:

Now, with the fervent backing of the Bush administration, another country is being “remade” from the air — in this case, Lebanon. With the highest-tech American precision-guided and bunker-busting bombs, the Israelis have been launching air strike after strike, thousands of them, in that country.

They have hit an international airport, the nation’s largest milk factories; a major food factory; aid convoys; Red Cross ambulances; a UN observer post; a power plant; apartment complexes; villages because they house or support the enemy; branches of banks because they might facilitate Hezbollah finances; the telecommunications system because of the messages that might pass along it; highways because they might transport weapons to the enemy; bridges because they might be crossed by those transporting weapons; a lighthouse in Beirut harbor for reasons unknown; trucks because they might be transporting those weapons (though they might also be transporting vegetables); families who just happen to be jammed into cars or minivans fleeing at the urging of the attackers who have turned at least 20% of all Lebanese (and probably many more) into refugees, while creating a “landscape of death (in the phrase of the superb Washington Post reporter Anthony Shadid) in the southern part of the country.

I have always credited leaders with truth in what they say.  It has proved out over time, if one just applies a slight twistYes.  Precision hits.  They meant to kill all those children and the milk factories. Too.


CNN (Daran Kagen) is reporting that the UN is pulling their people back from the outposts to spots farther inland – and Dan Gillerman, the Israeli Amb to the UN, is saying UNIFIL, the UN presence in Lebanon (from 1978 irrc) is “useless”.

Right, get rid of the observers.  What else is new.


UPDATE, 8:30 am

Also from Schechter: 

AMNESTY: “….According to media reports, the USA is transferring GBU 28 bunker-buster bombs containing depleted-uranium warheads to Israel for use against targets in Lebanon.”


And via Schechter also:


”A private US-Israeli company, Security Solutions International, is responding to the need for better quality training by sponsoring a training missions to Israel for US law enforcement and security officers.

“While the Department of Homeland Security continues to fund courses for law enforcement at local community colleges and other educational institutes, they are not exactly what most first responders really need.

“I think that while the curriculum in these courses is well thought out, law enforcement needs to have real-time, real-world experience of the terror situation to be able to really counter terror,” says Henry Morgenstern, Security Solutions’ President.



Don’t miss it… a classic for the ages.  A Condi special.




1. bayprairie - 28 July 2006

The “hiding among civilians” myth

Throughout this now 16-day-old war, Israeli planes high above civilian areas make decisions on what to bomb. They send huge bombs capable of killing things for hundreds of meters around those targets to destroy them, and then blame the inevitable civilian deaths — the Lebanese government says 600 civilians have been killed so far — on “terrorists” who callously use the civilian infrastructure for protection.

But this claim is almost always false. My own reporting and that of other journalists reveals that in fact Hezbollah fighters — as opposed to the much more numerous Hezbollah political members, and the vastly more numerous Hezbollah sympathizers — avoid civilians like the plague. Much smarter and better trained than the PLO and Hamas fighters, they know that if they mingle with civilians, they will sooner or later be betrayed by collaborators — as so many Palestinian militants have been.

2. NYCO - 28 July 2006


Thirty-three Israeli soldiers have died in the fighting and 19 civilians have been killed in Hezbollah’s unyielding rocket attacks on Israel’s northern towns, the army said.

So let me get this straight. Hezbollah, the admittedly ruthless terrorist organization, is apparently now doing a better job of actually targeting Israel’s military than Israel’s civilian population, by a ratio of about 2 to 1.

Meanwhile, when it comes to Israeli aim, the kill ratio of actual Hezbollah militants to Lebanese civilians is about 1 to 3.

WHAT are my tax dollars paying for again?

3. NYCee - 28 July 2006

Thanks for posting the Avraham Burg essay, mc. I have written an essay around it this morning, but more about USA & Israel. May post later. Have to give it another look when I return.

I urge everyone to read the link marisacat has provided above to the Burg essay. Written 3 years ago, but still so timely.

Btw, I also urge folks to listen to James Zogby on Cspan, online or on WJ if you record it. It is actually on right now, again. He was absolutely stellar. Dignified, strong in his points, extremely informative, and unwilling to bend to bullying or rather misinformed PRO Israel callers. Quite a few history lessons.

He touched on history and on the current situation. He offered links to further info. On recent events, he spoke to the ludicrous Dem reaction to Maliki; the horrible PRO Israel resolution (wouldnt even allow statement in urging care toward Lebanese civilians); the poor, poor role Congress, both parties, has typically played on resolving the ME conflict. He says when we are headed toward the edge of the cliff, Congress typically pushes us over. Even when administrations have been going in a better direction, Congress usually impedes progress with their (ignorant, my word) behavior. He said lately Dems seem to be trying to outdo Republicans as Tough Guys/Gals (Maliki), right out of the Rove playbook. Oh, and the host read from a recent Thomas Freidman column and he made an expression of disdain (so appropriate). He said he long ago stopped reading TF, as he is too smart to show such a glaring absence of historical knowledge in his writing. (What a class act. I would say much worse!)

i am so in agreement. With all of the above.

My boyfriend caught part of it as he was getting ready for work. Typically, really as a rule, he doesnt comment on politics in the morning … getting head in gear for different focus… but this caught his attention and he couldnt help but remark that Zogby is one smart man.

Glad he was on. I think he is the sort of person who can guide people who are not too informed but want to learn more on this issue, or who feel they have been misinformed on the bias, to see from a perspective outside the officially sanctioned PRO Israel stance.

4. marisacat - 28 July 2006

I caught zogby on the replay… and also caught Pipes at a [totally pro Israel] Heritage panel… LOL so in a way I did not miss him.

NYCee, do you have a website? let me have the link. Thanks.

5. NYCee - 28 July 2006

I dont Marisacat. God, I spend too much time as is online! 🙂

Maybe someday tho..

6. NYCee - 28 July 2006

Or did you mean a website to something in particular I mentioned?

7. marisacat - 28 July 2006

I have written an essay around it this morning, but more about USA & Israel. May post later. Have to give it another look when I return.

Sounded like a website that you post to… 😉

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