Monday, July 31, 2006

New World Dis-Order

... the cold-war days of balanced powers are behind us now. Faced with the threat of terror, the remaining superpower chose to unleash at once the forces of freedom and instability. From Baghdad to Beirut, Gaza City, Haifa and beyond, the consequences are beginning to be realized. We are in the world of asymmetry, of democratically legitimated militias and armed bands that fight wars with powerful states. Democracy can no longer be seen as an end in itself, and the fate of peoples lies in their own hands.

Labor pains, huh?

This is the world of the apocalypse. It is the world where those on either extreme become indistinguishable. And if we do not find a new way to speak, and soon, there will be untold suffering—not only for many innocents in the Middle East but eventually innocents at home. It was the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon that spawned and empowered Hezbollah. It was the decades-long occupation and humiliation of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank by Israel that spawned and empowered Hamas, and it is the brutal American occupation that has bred the legions of extremists in Iraq. And when Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah promises “open war” against Israel, as he did in an address shortly after his Beirut offices were bombed, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he won’t cease his attack until Israel is secure, it is time to run for cover, especially when George W. Bush is our best hope for peace.

A World Gone Mad - New York Times
The New York Times

July 31, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

A World Gone Mad
By
BOB HERBERT

As if the war in Iraq and the battles between Israel and its neighbors were
not frightening enough, now comes word of a development in Pakistan that may
well be the harbinger of a much greater catastrophe.

Over the past few years, Pakistan has been hard at work building a powerful
new plutonium reactor that when completed will be able to produce enough
fuel
to make 40 to 50 nuclear weapons a year.

This is happening at the same time that the Bush administration is pushing
hard for final Congressional approval of a nonmilitary nuclear cooperation
deal
with Pakistan's rival, India, that would in fact enhance India's bomb-making
capacity. The deal would enable India to free up its own stocks of nuclear
fuel to the extent that it could expand its nuclear weapons production from
about seven warheads a year to perhaps 50.

Yes, Virginia, the world is going mad.

Pakistan's initiative, which in a few years could increase its bomb-making
capacity twentyfold, was first reported last week by The Washington Post.
Experts
at the Institute for Science and International Security, after analyzing the
program, concluded that "South Asia may be heading for a nuclear arms race
that could lead to arsenals growing into the hundreds of nuclear weapons or,
at minimum, vastly expanded stockpiles of military fissile material."

There is no way to overstate the potential danger of an accelerated nuclear
arms race in South Asia. Breeding nukes willy-nilly is an invitation to
Armageddon.
Pakistan, for those who need to be reminded, is where Osama bin Laden and
his henchmen are thought to be hiding. It's also the home of Abdul Qadeer
Khan,
the pied piper of proliferation (now under house arrest) who provided
crucial nuclear materials and expertise to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

Representative Edward Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who led the
opposition to the deal with India, told me he was surprised by the subdued
reaction
to the news about Pakistan's reactor.

"You would have thought that a firestorm would break out," he said. "As a
nation, we should be very afraid if Pakistan can come up with a twentyfold
increase
in the amount of nuclear weapons materials that it can manufacture. The
greatest fear we have is of a bomb slipping into the hands of a terrorist
group
- and we know that Al Qaeda is in Pakistan - and then having it moved toward
the Middle East, or put on a ship headed to an American port."

Mr. Markey, who is co-chairman of a bipartisan House task force on
nonproliferation, noted that the White House had long been aware of Pakistan
's plutonium-production
reactor but had kept that knowledge from Congress and the American public.
Why? To what end? Does the administration not understand the truly
horrifying
stakes involved in this deplorable spread of nuclear adventurism?

"This is not just about Pakistan, or Pakistan and India," said Mr. Markey.
"What impact will this have on China, which is looking at what India might
do?
What impact will it have on Iran, a signatory to the Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty, being put on trial at the U.N., with sanctions
being asked by the
United States?"

(Neither India nor Pakistan are signers of the treaty.)

Common sense should tell you that thundering along the road to ever more
nuclear weapons in ever shakier hands is madness, the global equivalent to
driving
drunk at ever higher speeds. Does anyone think China will sit quietly by as
India and Pakistan develop the capacity to outpace it in the production of
nukes?

Does anyone doubt that at some point, if the spread of nuclear weapons is
not vigorously suppressed, a bomb will end up in the hands of a freak who
has
no other intention in the world than to use it?

John F. Kennedy, in a televised address to the nation in July 1963, said: "I
ask you to stop and think for a moment what it would mean to have nuclear
weapons
in so many hands, in the hands of countries large and small, stable and
unstable, responsible and irresponsible, scattered throughout the world.
There
would be no rest for anyone then, no stability, no real security, and no
chance of effective disarmament."

There was a time when the top leaders of the United States understood that
we should be moving toward fewer nukes on the planet, not an exponential,
suicidal
increase in these worst of all weapons.

Possted by Miriam V.

Very informative interview by Terry Gross about Middle East

On her NPR program Fresh Air Terry Gross interviews the Middle East Regional Editor for Newsweek magazine. Very informative and required listening.

Roberts and Alito Misled Us

by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy

Just a few weeks ago, the Supreme Court finished its first term since the arrival of Chief Justice Roberts and Associate Justice Alito. Sadly, the votes and opinions of our new Justices demonstrate that President Bush finally deserves his "Mission Accomplished" banner. He has succeeded in his effort to push the Court further to the right, and away from the mainstream.

But the administration did not succeed because of the power of its ideas. Instead, it succeeded by successfully hiding its nominees' ideas from the Senate, which is the only check on a President's power to stack the courts.

As you may remember, Senate Democrats pressed the two nominees on their views on critical issues, including executive power, civil rights, and the environment. In many of these areas, the nominees had a written record that suggested that they were right-wing partisans with strong views. But the Bush administration, and too many Senate Republicans, insisted that it was inappropriate for Senators to ask what the nominees thought about these critical issues.

And when the Democrats asked the tough questions, both nominees refused to answer, except by distancing themselves from their earlier writings and insisting they would seek to be as neutral as a baseball umpire. Unfortunately, those bland reassurances proved to be enough for a majority of the Senate.

Now that they are sitting Justices, Roberts and Alito are justifying every concern we expressed when they were nominated. The men who promised to be neutral umpires look more and more like loyal members of the President's team. They have voted more than any other two members of the Court, and those votes expanded the power of the executive branch and weakened every potential check on that power, including Congress, the Judiciary, the states and the Bill of Rights. In doing so, they showed us that the confirmation process is badly broken. Before the Judiciary Committee, Roberts had acknowledged the importance of the Voting Rights Act. But Chief Justice Roberts called it "sordid." Before the Judiciary Committee, Alito ran away from his writing that the elected branches are "supreme" over the judiciary. But Justice Alito was among the minority of the Supreme Court that would have given the Bush Administration a blank check to construct a new system of military commissions without judicial or legislative oversight. As I wrote in the Washington Post today, the new term provides a wide range of examples where the testimony of Roberts and Alito simply does not match their decisions on the Court.

The Senate Judiciary Committee needs to join with all concerned to make the confirmation process work again. My article sets forth some basic principles towards an improved process, and I look forward to others' views on the issue outside of the context of a particular nominee. And Indeed, I favor reform even though I believe the next Justice will be nominated by a Democratic President and sent to a Democratic Senate. At the end of the day, all Americans share an interest in learning enough of nominees' legal views to be certain that they will make good on the simple promise etched in marble outside the Supreme Court: "Equal Justice Under Law."

Clueless Condi

Bombs, Brahms, and "Birth Pangs"
by Arianna Huffington

Yet another reason to be worried about your future, courtesy of the Bush administration: our nation's top diplomat equates the death and destruction afflicting the Middle East with... labor contractions. "What we're seeing here," said Condi Rice before heading to the war zone, "in a sense, is...the birth pangs of a new Middle East." It takes a cockeyed optimist -- or a delusional zealot -- to see the good in all that suffering.

But, apparently, Rice is not alone. In Rush Limbaugh's opinion, "Bush is sitting around the White House pretty happy with what's going on in the Middle East -- there's a new paradigm going on." This sunny-side-up judgment was borne out during Bush's get-away day joint press conference with Tony Blair. "This is a moment of intense conflict in the Middle East," said the president, "yet our aim is to turn it into a moment of opportunity." Ah, yes... when life hands you Lebanons, make lemonade.

Birth pangs? New paradigm? Moment of opportunity? Is George Orwell alive and well and working in the GOP's messaging department?

But, to be fair, Condi is not completely insensitive to the gravity of the situation. Out of respect for the carnage in the Middle East, she opted out of the traditional comedy skits at last week's Asian security talks in Kuala Lumpur (who'll ever forget Colin Powell's 2004 performance of YMCA?) -- choosing instead to perform two pieces from the brooding classical repertoire of Johannes Brahms.

"It is a serious time," she said "it is not a time that is frivolous, and I will play something that is in accordance with my serious mood." By all accounts, the gathered diplomats and foreign ministers ate it up. "Oh, beautiful, beautiful," gushed Philippines Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo. "She's a great pianist."

It's good to know that despite the geopolitical upheaval, the world's civil servants still know how to appreciate a gal who can tickle the ivories.

The body count may be rising in Baghdad and Beirut but, really, who can resist Brahms' Sonata for Violin and Piano in D Minor, Opus 108?

The Grand Plan of the NeoCons, Up in Smoke.

Haass, the former Bush aide who leads the Council on Foreign Relations, laughed at the president's public optimism. "An opportunity?" Haass said with an incredulous tone. "Lord, spare me. I don't laugh a lot. That's the funniest thing I've heard in a long time. If this is an opportunity, what's Iraq? A once-in-a-lifetime chance?"

Sunday, July 30, 2006

July 30, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

Same-Sex Marriage Wins by Losing
By DAN SAVAGE

Seattle

THERE were community meetings in Seattle on Wednesday. Some of the couples
who had sued to overturn Washington's ban on same-sex marriage, a case they
lost
before the state's Supreme Court earlier that day, were going to appear. Gay
and straight elected officials who support "marriage equality" were going
to make speeches. I probably should have been there too.

But I had a previous engagement.

The Seattle Mariners were playing the Toronto Blue Jays at Safeco Field. My
8-year-old son - adopted at birth by my boyfriend and me - loves the M's
almost
as much as he hates the way a breaking news story can keep me late at work.
He would never have forgiven me for skipping the game.

I didn't feel too bad about missing the meetings. Washington's high court
rejected same-sex marriage for much the same reason the New York Court of
Appeals
did earlier this month. The speeches in Seattle would no doubt be similar to
those made in New York, and I didn't need to hear them again.

Basically, both courts found that marriage is like a box of Trix: It's for
kids.

In New York, the court ruled in effect that irresponsible heterosexuals
often have children by accident - we gay couples, in contrast, cannot get
drunk
and adopt in one night - so the state can reserve marriage rights for
heterosexuals in order to coerce them into taking care of their offspring.
Without
the promise of gift registries and rehearsal dinners, it seems, many more
newborns in New York would be found in trash cans.

At least the New York court acknowledged that many same-sex couples have
children. Washington's judges went out of their way to make ours disappear,
finding
that "limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation,
essential to the survival of the human race, and furthers the well-being of
children
by encouraging families where children are reared in homes headed by the
children's biological parents." Children, the decision continues, "tend to
thrive
in families consisting of a father, mother and their biological children.''

A concurring opinion gave the knife a few leisurely twists: due to the
"binary biological nature of marriage," it read, only opposite-sex couples
are capable
of "responsible child rearing."

These stunning statements fly in the face of the evidence about gay and
lesbian parents presented to the court. Similar evidence persuaded the high
court
in Arkansas to overturn that state's ban on gay and lesbian foster parents.

What the New York and Washington opinions share - besides a willful
disregard for equal protection clauses in both state Constitutions - is a
heartless
lack of concern for the rights of the hundreds of thousands of children
being raised by same-sex couples.

Even if gay couples who adopt are more stable, as New York found, don't
their children need the security and protections that the court believes
marriage
affords children? And even if heterosexual sex is essential to the survival
of the human race (a point I'm willing to concede), it's hard to see how
preventing
gay couples from marrying increases heterosexual activity. ("Keep breeding,
heterosexuals," the Washington State Supreme Court in effect shouted, "To
bed!
To bed! To bed!") Both courts have found that my son's parents have no right
to marry, but what of my son's right to have married parents?

A perverse cruelty characterizes both decisions. The courts ruled,
essentially, that making my child's life less secure somehow makes the life
of a child
with straight parents more secure. Both courts found that making
heterosexual couples stable requires keeping homosexual couples vulnerable.
And the courts
seemed to agree that heterosexuals can hardly be bothered to have children
at all - or once they've had them, can hardly be bothered to care for them -
unless marriage rights are reserved exclusively for heterosexuals. And the
religious right accuses gays and lesbians of seeking "special rights."

Even if you believe that marriage plays a special role in the lives of
heterosexuals with children (another point I'm happy to concede), can it not
play
a similar role in the lives of homosexual couples, whether they're parents
or not? Marriage, after all, is not reserved for couples with children.
(Perhaps
it will be soon, if courts keep heading in this direction.)

When my widowed grandfather remarried in his 60's, he wasn't seeking to
further the well-being of his children, who were grown and out of the house.
He
was seeking the security, companionship and legal rights that marriage
provides. The survival of humankind was the furthest thing from his mind.

These defeats have demoralized supporters of gay marriage, but I see a
silver lining. If heterosexual instability and the link between heterosexual
sex
and human reproduction are the best arguments opponents of same-sex marriage
can muster, I can't help but feel that our side must be winning. Insulting
heterosexuals and discriminating against children with same-sex parents may
score the other side a few runs, but these strategies won't win the game.

So I'm confident that one day my son will live in a country that allows his
parents to marry. His parents are already married, as far as he's concerned,
as my boyfriend and I tied the knot in Canada more than a year and a half
ago. We recognize, even if the courts do not, that it's in his best interest
for us to be married.

And while Wednesday was a dark day, the M's beat the Blue Jays 7 to 4, so it
wasn't a total loss.

Dan Savage is the editor of The Stranger, a Seattle newsweekly.

Posted by Miriam V.

Report Retort

A new study by Bush's own Treasury Department discredits supply-siders and speaks inconvenient truths about the tax cuts.
By Robert S. McIntyre

For decades, most Republican politicians have treated as an article of faith that tax cuts, especially tax cuts for the rich, will “pay for themselves” through improved economic growth and resulting higher revenues. Critics deride this implausible belief as “voodoo economics” or “the free-lunch theory.” Its adherents prefer to call it “supply-side economics.”

Oddly, the same GOP politicians who think tax cuts augment revenues also fervently hold exactly the opposite position, which they call “starve the beast.” They insist that big tax cuts will so sharply reduce revenues that they will force steep cuts in government programs.

The apostle of these conflicting dogmas was President Ronald Reagan, back in the 1980s. On the one hand, Reagan claimed that the way to stop Congress from providing what he saw as excessive public services was to “cut off their allowance.” On the other hand, he also promised that he would pay for his huge increase in defense spending “with the revenues generated by the [even huger] tax cuts” he pushed through Congress in 1981. As it happened, of course, neither theory panned out.

Despite the sorry historical record, our current president, George W. Bush, and most of his fellow Republicans in Congress are ardent disciples of Reagan’s contradictory belief system. In their ongoing and increasingly desperate search for proof of their faith -- at least the part that holds that tax cuts are a blessing for the economy and the federal budget -- Bush and Congress recently asked the Treasury Department to undertake a “dynamic analysis” of the economic and budgetary effects of making the Bush tax cuts permanent, rather than letting them expire after 2010 as current law provides.

On July 25, the Treasury Department released its report. Despite the fact that Treasury is managed by Bush appointees who profess a deep affection for Bush’s tax-cutting policies, the results offer no comfort to supply-side true believers.

Instead, Treasury’s study found that extending Bush’s tax cuts would have essentially no beneficial effect on the U.S. economy at all. But, the report casually implies, it could have grave consequences for the ability of our government to deliver the public services that Americans depend on.

Specifically, Treasury found that extending Bush’s tax cuts might increase the size of the economy by a bit under 1 percent in the “long run.” Or just as likely, it might reduce the size of the economy by about the same amount. Thirty years from now, when the “long run” apparently begins, that translates into plus or minus a few hundred dollars in per capita GDP in today’s dollars. Put another way, over the next 30 years, per capita GDP is expected to grow by a total of about 50 percent. If the tax cuts are extended, the growth might be 49 percent or it might be 51 percent. Given the uncertainties of economic forecasting, that’s no difference at all.

In making its projections, Treasury looked at two possible scenarios. What’s intriguing is that both assume a balanced federal budget starting in 2017, despite continuation of the Bush tax cuts. Treasury says it was forced to make this assumption because, by itself, “a permanent reduction in taxes … would lead to an unsustainable accumulation of government debt relative to GNP.”

How can we get the budget into balance by 2017 and still keep the Bush tax cuts? Treasury offers these options: (a) slash government services by about a fifth or (b) “feed the beast,” in Republican jargon, by increasing taxes in some way.

Double-decimating government services is actually the strategy that the Treasury claims would be most beneficial to the economy, although it declines to specify what programs would be cut. If the cuts were imposed across the board, then they would require a 20 percent cut in Social Security, Medicare, defense, environmental protection, law enforcement, homeland security -- in fact, in everything the government does. If some parts of the budget are exempted from cuts, then other parts would have to be cut by considerably more than a fifth. This is the dubious scenario under which Treasury concludes that the “long-run” economy would be about 1 percent bigger.

In Treasury’s second scenario, the budget would be balanced in 2017 by an across-the-board increase in income tax rates. Because the Bush tax cuts so heavily favor the rich, this approach would retain net tax cuts for wealthy people, but mean net tax increases for almost everyone else. Under this second scenario, Treasury says that the “long-run” GDP would be about 1 percent smaller than simply letting the Bush tax cuts expire after 2010.

You might wonder how Treasury can conclude that our economy would be better off, albeit only slightly, by helping finance bigger vacation mansions for millionaires versus, say, building reliable flood control around New Orleans. It just goes to show that Bush’s Treasury hasn’t been taken over by a bunch of liberal economists (unless “liberal” means having the ability to add and subtract). Indeed, the Treasury study itself points out that its methodology is highly simplified and subject to significant uncertainty. So its specific findings should be taken with a large grain of salt.

But besides dismissing the supply-side idea that extending the Bush tax cuts would be a boon for the economy, Treasury’s report confirms an even more important point. So long as we recognize that we can’t continue the Bush deficit-spending binge indefinitely, the real question is, which do we prefer: low taxes on the wealthy or continuation of essential federal programs? Treasury’s study makes clear that we can’t have both.

The "Decider" Takes Charge

ISRAEL "MISTAKENLY" KILLS 37 CHILDREN IN BOMBING while BUSH GIVES "IDOL" FINALISTS A TOUR

The Passion of Mel

Gibson's Anti-Semitic Tirade -- Alleged Cover Up
Posted Jul 28th 2006 9:15PM by TMZ StaffFiled under: Celebrity Justice

TMZ has learned that Mel Gibson went on a rampage when he was arrested Friday on suspicion of drunk driving, hurling religious epithets. TMZ has also learned that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department had the initial report doctored to keep the real story under wraps.

TMZ has four pages of the original report prepared by the arresting officer in the case, L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy James Mee. According to the report, Gibson became agitated after he was stopped on Pacific Coast Highway and told he was to be detained for drunk driving Friday morning in Malibu. The actor began swearing uncontrollably. Gibson repeatedly said, "My life is f****d." Law enforcement sources say the deputy, worried that Gibson might become violent, told the actor that he was supposed to cuff him but would not, as long as Gibson cooperated. As the two stood next to the hood of the patrol car, the deputy asked Gibson to get inside. Deputy Mee then walked over to the passenger door and opened it. The report says Gibson then said, "I'm not going to get in your car," and bolted to his car. The deputy quickly subdued Gibson, cuffed him and put him inside the patrol car.

TMZ has learned that Deputy Mee audiotaped the entire exchange between himself and Gibson, from the time of the traffic stop to the time Gibson was put in the patrol car, and that the tape fully corroborates the written report.

Once inside the car, a source directly connected with the case says Gibson began banging himself against the seat. The report says Gibson told the deputy, "You mother f****r. I'm going to f*** you." The report also says "Gibson almost continually [sic] threatened me saying he 'owns Malibu' and will spend all of his money to 'get even' with me."

The report says Gibson then launched into a barrage of anti-Semitic statements: "F*****g Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Gibson then asked the deputy, "Are you a Jew?"

The deputy became alarmed as Gibson's tirade escalated, and called ahead for a sergeant to meet them when they arrived at the station. When they arrived, a sergeant began videotaping Gibson, who noticed the camera and then said, "What the f*** do you think you're doing?"

A law enforcement source says Gibson then noticed another female sergeant and yelled, "What do you think you're looking at, sugar tits?"

We're told Gibson took two blood alcohol tests, which were videotaped, and continued saying how "f****d" he was and how he was going to "f***" Deputy Mee.
Gibson was put in a cell with handcuffs on. He said he needed to urinate, and after a few minutes tried manipulating his hands to unzip his pants. Sources say Deputy Mee thought Gibson was going to urinate on the floor of the booking cell and asked someone to take Gibson to the bathroom.

After leaving the bathroom, Gibson then demanded to make a phone call. He was taken to a pay phone and, when he didn't get a dial tone, we're told Gibson threw the receiver against the phone. Deputy Mee then warned Gibson that if he damaged the phone he could be charged with felony vandalism. We're told Gibson was then asked, and refused, to sign the necessary paperwork and was thrown in a detox cell.

Deputy Mee then wrote an eight-page report detailing Gibson's rampage and comments. Sources say the sergeant on duty felt it was too "inflammatory." A lieutenant and captain then got involved and calls were made to Sheriff's headquarters. Sources say Mee was told Gibson's comments would incite a lot of "Jewish hatred," that the situation in Israel was "way too inflammatory." It was mentioned several times that Gibson, who wrote, directed, and produced 2004's "The Passion of the Christ," had incited "anti-Jewish sentiment" and "For a drunk driving arrest, is this really worth all that?"

We're told Deputy Mee was then ordered to write another report, leaving out the incendiary comments and conduct. Sources say Deputy Mee was told the sanitized report would eventually end up in the media and that he could write a supplemental report that contained the redacted information -- a report that would be locked in the watch commander's safe.

Initially, a Sheriff's official told TMZ the arrest occurred "without incident." On Friday night, Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore told TMZ: "The L.A. County Sheriff's Department investigation into the arrest of Mr. Gibson on suspicion of driving under the influence will be complete and will contain every factual piece of evidence. Nothing will be sanitized. There was absolutely no favoritism shown to this suspect or any other. When this file is presented to the Los Angeles County District Attorney, it will contain everything. Nothing will be left out."

On Saturday, Gibson released the following statement:

"After drinking alcohol on Thursday night, I did a number of things that were very wrong and for which I am ashamed. I drove a car when I should not have, and was stopped by the LA County Sheriffs. The arresting officer was just doing his job and I feel fortunate that I was apprehended before I caused injury to any other person. I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said. Also, I take this opportunity to apologize to the deputies involved for my belligerent behavior. They have always been there for me in my community and indeed probably saved me from myself. I disgraced myself and my family with my behavior and for that I am truly sorry. I have battled with the disease of alcoholism for all of my adult life and profoundly regret my horrific relapse. I apologize for any behavior unbecoming of me in my inebriated state and have already taken necessary steps to ensure my return to health."
Click to see portions of the original report.

Rattling the Sheeple

Disowning Conservative Politics, Evangelical Pastor Rattles Flock
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
Upheaval at one megachurch reflects concern over the tendency to tie evangelical Christianity to the G.O.P.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Condoleezza Rice: Midwife From Hell

Published on Saturday, July 29, 2006 by the Progressive
by Matthew Rothschild

After being one of the most inept national security advisers in the nation’s history, Condoleezza Rice is now earning the same grade as secretary of state.

Her description of the conflagration in Lebanon as the “birthpangs of a new Middle East” was about as callous as it gets, matched only by Bush’s remark that the conflict represents “a moment of opportunity.”

Nor were families of the Israeli victims (about 50 so far, and most of them soldiers) cheering the new day, either.

Rice’s cruel opposition to an immediate cease-fire has left the whole world outside of Israel (and Tony Blair’s kennel) aghast.

And U.N. Ambassador John Bolton’s sneering about a cease-fire not being “the alpha and omega” only reinforced the arrogance.

More than half a million people in Lebanon have been turned into refugees in just a matter of weeks.

Israelis are bunkered in bomb shelters.

And all Rice can do is issue hollow words of concern and then sabotage any immediate cease-fire?

The expediting of U.S. bombs to Israel at the same time sent an all too obvious message. Did they fly in carriage on the same plane that took Rice to the region?

Is she bringing another load with her this time?

As Rice did in the lead up to the Iraq War, so she is doing now: She’s drinking her own propaganda.

The Iraq War was going to redraw the map of the Middle East.

Now the Lebanon War is going to do the trick?

The Iraqi people were going to welcome the Americans with open arms.

Now the Lebanese people are going to rise up and somehow defeat Hezbollah when Israel can’t even do the job?

Politically naïve, Rice also appears woefully jejune about human nature.

When people are being attacked by a foreign power, they rarely rally to that foreign power’s side.

And when a group in their midst fights back against the invaders, that group doesn’t lose support, it gains support.

The United States and Israel have succeeded only in making heroes of Hezbollah thugs.

Rice’s green light for Olmert’s spilling of red blood has managed only to further enrage the Arab and Muslim world and isolate the United States among its allies (except, of course, for Tony Blair, who is still wagging his tail and licking Bush’s face).

It is not in the interests of the United States, and it is not in Israel’s interests either, to show the international community utter disdain. And the war crimes of Israel, and Rice’s blessing of them, will long be remembered.

Where was Condoleezza Rice when Israel bombed the only power plant in Gaza, bringing about a humanitarian crisis?

Where was Condoleezza Rice, when Israel inflicted collective punishment on the sovereign people of Lebanon?

Where was Condoleezza Rice, when Israel was killing more than 100 Lebanese children?

Condoleezza Rice was in Israel’s corner.

For five and a half years, Rice did nothing about the most serious problem in the Middle East, and now she’s done worse than nothing.

Rice believes in is the diplomacy of the F-16.

And that style of diplomacy is crashing and burning.

Why is the US in Iraq?

by David Corn

"The sectarian violence that's taking place in the Baghdad area...is probably the gravest threat to stability that there is in the country right now."-- General John Abizaid, chief of US Central CommandJuly 25, 2006

"It is a new challenge. This isn't about insurgency, this isn't about terror, this is about sectarian violence. And it's a new challenge for the government. And they recognize that."--Stephen Hadley, national security adviserJuly 25, 2006

"The greatest threat Iraq's people face is terror; terror inflicted by extremists."--Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi prime ministerJuly 26, 2006

Why is the United States in Iraq?

That is question that is increasingly difficult for the White House to answer coherently--and honestly. This past week, George W. Bush, appearing at a press conference with Maliki, noted that the horrific and intensifying violence in Iraq of recent weeks is "terrible" and that more US troops will be deployed to Baghdad. But who--and what--is the enemy? And what can US troops do about disorder and violence there?

Sectarian violence, according to Abizaid and Hadley, is now the main problem in Iraq (which was predicted by some experts before the invasion). Maliki, for obvious reasons, does not concede that. He wants US troops to remain in Iraq. Consequently, when he spoke to the US Congress on July 27, he depicted the fight in Iraq as a struggle pitting lovers of democracy (his government and the United States) against "terrorists" connected to those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. ("I will not allow Iraq to become a launch pad for al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations," he declared, in a line rather reminiscent of the previous work of White House speechwriters.) In a fact sheet, the White House noted that when Maliki met with Bush, the Iraqi leader "made clear that he does not want American troops to leave his country until his government can protect the Iraqi people."

Mission creep is under way. The cause--despite Maliki's Bush-like rhetoric--is no longer combating jihadists (which replaced weapons of mass destruction as the reason for the war). It's making Iraq safe from Iraqi religious extremists. Maliki's government cannot protect Iraqis from their own neighbors, so he is looking to Bush to be his nation's cop-on-the-beat. But can the US military be an effective police force in a society increasingly plagued by sectarian violence that has little, if anything, to do with the fight against al Qaeda and Islamic jihadism? Maliki's own government is even part of the problem. Death squads connected to the Shiite-controlled Interior Ministry have been lead players in the current killing spree. If Maliki cannot control these elements, how can the US military? (In his speech to the US Congress, Maliki didn't address the knotty matter of the government-linked death squads. He briefly referred to "armed militias" but claimed that the rule of law and human rights are "flourishing" in Iraq.)

Sunni leaders--who once called for US forces to quit Iraq right away--now fear the ascendancy of Shiite killing squads so much that they have quieted their demands for a US withdrawal, fearing such a move would leave the Shiite militias even more unfettered. But should the United States remain in Iraq in response to such concerns? If so, US troops would be risking and sacrificing their lives to assist a government that is tied to death squads in order to prevent (Sunni) opponents of the leading (Shiite) bloc of that government from being killed by (Shiite) supporters of that leading bloc. Yes, politics in the Middle East have always been notoriously complicated and Byzantine. How many books--or intelligence reports--has Bush read about the intricacies of Arabic culture, history and politics?

Bush, all too obviously, has no good ideas how to navigate these shoals--which may not be navigable. After saying that more troops would be deployed to Baghdad, Bush was asked by an Iraqi reporter what could be done to improve the security situation in Baghdad. "There needs to be more forces inside Baghdad who are willing to hold people to account," he replied. "In other words if you find somebody who's kidnapping and murdering, the murderer ought to be held to account. And it ought to be clear in society that that kind of behavior is not tolerated....We ought to be saying that, if you murder, you're responsible for your actions. And I think the Iraqi people appreciate that type of attitude."

In other words, just say no to killing. That's not much of a plan. And there's not much of a role for US troops in such a plan.

Bush has led the United States into a rough thicket in Iraq. It has taken him months--perhaps years--to acknowledge the troubles there. And his inadequate description--it's "terrible"--is far more upbeat than the depictions shared by reporters and others who have come back from Iraq in recent weeks bearing depressing and ugly tales of a society falling apart.

Iraq is a mess. Bush bears much of the responsibility for that. He invaded the country supposedly to defend the United States from a threat that didn't exist. He did not ensure that there were proper plans for the post-invasion challenges. He did nothing as his national security aides bungled one key strategic post-invasion decision after another. Now he has to contend with a violent sectarian conflict that his elective war unleashed. He has, to a limited degree, acknowledged the problem. He hasn't yet admitted there may be little he can do about it.

Just Hot Air?

Bush and Blair Refuse to Call for Ceasefire
by Colin Brown and Francis Elliott in Washington

Tony Blair and George Bush defied the growing anger across the world yesterday by seeking a UN resolution that fell far short of a ceasefire to end the killing of Lebanese civilians.

Speaking after talks at the White House, Mr. Bush announced that on Monday the UN Security Council will discuss the creation of a multinational force to patrol a buffer zone on the southern Lebanon border. Mr. Bush said the US would be tabling a UN Security Council resolution next week to seek an end to hostilities "as soon as possible" but it failed to meet the demands for a ceasefire in an open letter in the Independent yesterday, signed by 42 leading figures in the arts, business, and politics.

Heightening fears that the war in Lebanon is being used as a proxy war between the US and Iran, Mr. Blair said Iran would be mistaken if it thought the war was an opportunity to step up its pursuit of a nuclear weapon. " They risk increasing confrontation," he said.

Cabinet ministers warned that Mr. Blair's refusal to stand up to Mr. Bush would hasten his own exit from power. "This whole episode is very damaging for Tony," said one cabinet source. "They can cobble together a resolution but it won't be a solution to the violence. Tony thinks there is an arc of Islamic extremists like the Fascists in the Second World War. But this war is acting as a recruitment sergeant for the extremists." The source was dismissive about Mr. Blair's attempts to influence the President. "The only special relationship the US has is with Israel. This is all driven by internal US politics. I don't know why Tony hasn't told Bush we have internal political pressures too."

Both Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair refused to discuss a ceasefire. Mr. Blair was expected to claim their talks were a breakthrough but their commitment to a peace plan was in danger of being dismissed by their critics as window dressing and hot air last night.

Mr. Bush offered the prospect of reconstruction of the ravaged areas of Lebanon to rehouse the thousands of refugees. But their plans failed to live up to the Downing Street spin operation in advance of their meeting at the White House which suggested there could be a call for a ceasefire next week.

Mr. Blair said the war was a "complete tragedy" but said it offered an "opportunity" to force Hezbollah to abandon its campaign against Israel. He said he wanted to see "a cessation of hostilities as quickly as possible" but he refused to condemn Israel for the indiscriminate bombing. He said: "The conditions have got to be in place for it to happen. This can only work if Hezbollah are prepared to allow it to work." He claimed the violence was "part of a bigger picture" in the Middle East of reactionary groups trying to stop progress towards democracy. "There should be no doubt at all that it will be a temporary respite unless we put in place the longer-term framework," he said.

Mr. Bush described the conflict as "the calling of the 21st century." The resolution would set out the framework for a "cessation of hostilities on an urgent basis" and the deployment of the mutlinational force, he said. "Our goal is to achieve a lasting peace that requires the free democratic and independent Lebanese government be in power to exercise full authority over its territory."

Opening their joint press conference, Mr. Bush made a joking reference to his overheard remarks to the Prime Minister at the G8 conference when a microphone was left on and he said: "Yo Blair." "You share with me your perspective and you let me know when the microphone is on ..."

Mr. Blair's aides outlined a proposed agreement that would see a UN stabilization force police a buffer zone within Lebanon's southern border. The UN would also call for the withdrawal of Iranian and Syrian personnel, and the "progressive disarmament" of Hezbollah if the draft resolution is agreed.

But Andrew Murray, chairman of the Stop the War Coalition, said: "It is simply hot air. Despite the previous spin we have heard in recent days, their position is exactly the same; they are still endorsing continuing Israeli aggression against Lebanon. There is a huge amount of anger around the country about that."

Mr. Blair's spokesman was dismissive of calls for a ceasefire without an agreement on a new force as "just so much wind." Instead, said the spokesman, Mr. Blair wants to step up the pace of diplomatic efforts. " We want to increase the pace of diplomacy in identifying the steps necessary to bring about a ceasefire on both sides," he said. "I believe what we should be working towards is a resolution as early as possible next week. We believe others are roughly in the same ballpark."

The British-backed draft resolution is designed to enable the Lebanese government to fulfil UN resolution 1559 that calls for the removal of all militias from its border with Israel, he said. "It would give a mandate to a new, UN-backed multinational force." Downing Street does not rule out the possibility that a NATO force could be deployed, so long as it has UN blessing.

A French suggestion that the security zone should straddle the border with Israel was rejected. In return for the withdrawal of Hezbollah from Lebanon and its sponsors, the UN would commit to a renewed attempt to secure the two-state road map to peace. It was clear, however, that many questions about the composition, size, mandate, and timing of deployments are unresolved.

Downing Street again made clear it was unlikely that any peacekeeping force including US or British troops would be deployed, leaving Mr. Blair to urge more speedy action from the sidelines.

The Labour MP Phyllis Starkey ­ a former Foreign Office aide ­ said Mr. Blair had a "far too rosy view" of the Israeli tactics. "I believe that the Prime Minister does not take a strong enough line with them in telling them when they are going against international law," she said

A scary survey for the GOP

A bipartisan NPR survey shows a nation that rejects "moral values" pandering -- and is very angry at Bush.
By Joe Conason

For Democrats, who have suffered repeated Election Day disappointments since the dawn of the new millennium, predictions of victory are only another reason to be wary. But while caution is always advised and excessive optimism should be avoided, portents of a voter uprising against the Republican regime can be glimpsed on the November horizon. What seemed most unlikely a year ago -- the turnover of the House of Representatives only 12 years after the "Gingrich revolution" -- is looking very ... possible.

The latest evidence is provided in an unusual survey released today by National Public Radio, whose bipartisan team interviewed a thousand likely voters last week. Many polls showing a generic preference for Democrats have appeared over the past several months, and many such polls have been dismissed by Republicans who say that national polling in a contest of 435 districts has little salience. But the NPR poll is different because, unlike most measures of midterm attitudes, this survey was conducted only in the 50 most hotly contested congressional districts. Pollsters Stan Greenberg and Glenn Bolger found that in those crucial districts, the attitudes about President Bush, the direction of the country, and the Republican congressional majority are strikingly negative.

People are angry. More than 60 percent of the voters in the NPR survey believe that the country is "pretty seriously" on the wrong track, while only 31 percent believe it is on the right track. Of those who feel that we're on the wrong track, almost two-thirds blame the war in Iraq or the economy. Another 16 percent blame "Bush in general," and only 6 percent blame illegal immigration.

People are especially angry at the president. Of the 50 districts surveyed by NPR, nine are represented by Democrats and one by an independent; the remaining 40 are represented by Republicans. But Bush's approval rating in these overwhelmingly GOP-held districts is a dismal 42 percent.

People want change. Fewer than three in 10 of the voters in these competitive districts say they are likely to vote for the incumbent. Nearly half say they are likely to vote for "someone else." (Twelve of the 50 seats are open, meaning that there is no incumbent, so that question was asked only in the other 38, of which 30 are held by Republicans.) Nearly half, or 48 percent, say they are likely to vote for the Democrat, while 41 percent say they will probably vote for the Republican. That preference was more than generic -- asked the same question with the names of the districts' candidates, those preferences varied by only 1 percent.

People reject the "moral values" demagoguery. Most voters in the contested districts say that they trust Democrats, not Republicans, on such issues as stem cell research, flag burning and gay rights. Those responses indicate that the summer strategy of setting up phony floor votes on right-wing constitutional amendments -- and the president's first veto -- may have backfired. Fifty-two percent say that the recent stem cell debate made them more inclined to vote for Democrats, and 49 percent said the same about flag burning, gay marriage and other "values issues." Only 29 percent -- essentially the conservative base -- said those debates would motivate them to vote for Republicans.

And people are energized. Low turnouts in recent special elections have suggested that voters in both parties remain apathetic. But if this poll is accurate, that may no longer be true -- for the Democrats, at least. In the NPR survey, Democratic voters were considerably more likely than Republicans or independents to express interest in and enthusiasm for the midterm elections. So were voters who disapprove of Bush.

Even a thorough and carefully targeted poll can be misleading, of course. Things can change overnight in a volatile world. But there is still more evidence of electoral ferment to be found in individual races.

In Kentucky's 4th District, not long ago thought to be safely Republican, former Democratic Rep. Ken Lucas is running against incumbent Republican Geoff Davis. The first independent poll, released last Tuesday, showed Lucas with a 9-point lead. In Indiana's 2nd District, where Republican incumbent Chris Chocola is defending his seat against Democrat Joe Donnelly, the latest independent poll showed the challenger 5 points up -- and the pollster went on record saying that the undecideds are likely to break for Donnelly. And in Idaho, the Republicans are concerned enough about holding on to the open seat in the 1st District that they have placed it on their own "endangered" list, even though Idaho is one of a handful of states where the president still enjoys a positive approval rating.

All those indicators must be frightening for the Republicans, who will forfeit control of the House if the Democrats pick up a net total of 15 seats. That must be why so many elephants are stampeding away from their president and party, including their own congressional leadership. According to the Hill, the Washington paper that covers Congress, several leading GOP members are airing television ads that fail to mention their own party affiliation. Most notable among them perhaps is Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee -- the man whose job it is to defend the House majority. Reynolds has also put up a campaign Web site that doesn't mention his party.

History warns that the Democratic leaders could still screw this up, although they have done an outstanding job in candidate recruitment and fundraising in this cycle. If they fall short in November, nobody will be able to say that they never had a chance.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The ol' bait-n-switch move.

Sort of like buying Manhattan for $24 worth of beads.

On the Eve of Madness

A Call To Action


July 28, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist
On the Eve of Madness
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Damascus, Syria
Over Turkish coffee the other morning, I picked up a copy of The Syria Times, the local English-language paper, and my eye immediately went to a small box at the top of the front page. It said, “The Middle East on the Eve of Modernity ... P. 5.”
I thought: What a perfect way to describe the Middle East today — going back to some pre-modern era. Alas, The Syria Times was not trying to be ironic. It turned out the headline was the title of a book about Aleppo in the 18th century. But had it been a news headline it would have been apt.
Condoleezza Rice must have been severely jet-lagged when she said that what’s going on in Lebanon and Iraq today were the “birth pangs of a new Middle East.” Oh, I wish it were so. What we are actually seeing are the rebirth pangs of the old Middle East, only fueled now by oil and more destructive weaponry.
Some of the most primordial, tribal passions, which always lurk beneath the surface here — Sunnis versus Shiites, Jews versus Muslims, Lebanese versus Syrians — but are usually held in check by modern states or bonds of civilization, are exploding to the top.
There is nothing that you can’t do to someone in the Middle East today, and there is no leader or movement — no Nelson Mandela and no million-mom march — coming out of this region, or into this region, to put a stop to the madness.
And I mean madness. We’ve seen Sunni Muslims in Iraq suicide-bomb a Shiite mosque on Ramadan; we’ve seen Shiite militiamen torture Sunnis in Iraq by drilling holes in their heads with power tools; we’ve seen Jordanian Islamist parliamentarians mourning the terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, even though he once blew up a Jordanian wedding; we’ve seen hundreds of Palestinian suicide bombings of Israeli cafes and buses; and we’ve seen Israel retaliating by, at times, leveling whole buildings, with the guilty and the innocent inside.
Now we’ve seen the Hezbollah leader, Hasan Nasrallah, take all of Lebanon into a devastating, unprovoked war with Israel, just to improve his political standing and take pressure off Iran.
America should be galvanizing the forces of order — Europe, Russia, China and India — into a coalition against these trends. But we can’t. Why? In part, it’s because our president and secretary of state, although they speak with great moral clarity, have no moral authority. That’s been shattered by their performance in Iraq.
The world hates George Bush more than any U.S. president in my lifetime. He is radioactive — and so caught up in his own ideological bubble that he is incapable of imagining or forging alternative strategies.
In part, it is also because China, Europe and Russia have become freeloaders off U.S. power. They reap enormous profits from the post-cold-war order that America has shaped, but rather than become real stakeholders in that order, helping to draw and defend redlines, they duck, mumble, waffle or cut their own deals.
This does not bode well for global stability. A religious militia that calls itself “the party of God” takes over a state and drags it into war, using high-tech rockets — mullahs with drones — and the world is paralyzed. Those who ignore this madness will one day see it come to a theater near them.
In part, though, this madness is home-grown. I sat at a swank rooftop restaurant the other night with some young Syrian writers and listened to a discussion between a young woman dressed in trendy clothes, talking about how she would prefer to see Israel disappear, another writer who argued that Nasrallah was an Arab disaster, and an Arab journalist who described the “pride” and “dignity” every Arab felt at seeing Hezbollah fight Israel to a standstill.
When will the Arab-Muslim world stop getting its “pride” from fighting Israel and start getting it from constructing a society that others would envy, an economy others would respect, and inventions and medical breakthroughs from which others would benefit?
There will be no new Middle East — not as long as the New Middle Easterners, like Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, get gunned down; not as long as Old Middle Easterners, like Nasrallah, use all their wits and resources to start a new Arab-Israeli war rather than build a new Arab university; and not as long as Arab media and intellectuals refuse to speak out clearly against those who encourage their youth to embrace martyrdom with religious zeal rather than meld modernity with Arab culture.
Without that, we are wasting our time and the Arab world is wasting its future. It will forever be “on the eve of modernity.”

Back to Top Copyright 2006 The New York Times

Lamaze, anyone?

Like giving birth?

Meanwhile, back in the "homeland"

Incest, writ large.

Even neoconservatives now accepting defeat in Irag

by Glenn Greenwald

David Frum was one of the leading neoconservative advocates of the invasion of Iraq. The former Bush speechwriter is a true believer, having co-authored a radical neoconservative book with Richard Perle entitled An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror, which -- according to its publisher -- "calls for the United States to overthrow the government of Iran, abandon support of a Palestinian state, blockade North Korea, use strong-arm tactics with Syria and China, disregard much of Europe as allies, and sever ties with Saudi Arabia."

But in a strikingly candid essay on his National Review blog yesterday, Frum all but admits that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has been a failure, and says that the only realistic goal we can hope to achieve is preventing Iraq from becoming a training ground for Al Qaeda -- a goal which was already achieved, of course, prior to our invasion:

Hands up, everybody who believes that the "hundreds" of troops that the Pentagon plans to move from the rest of Iraq into Baghdad will suffice to secure the capital against the sectarian militias now waging war upon the civilian populations of the city? Anybody? No, I didn't think so.

To take back the capital from the militias that now terrorize it will take thousands, not hundreds, of American plus tens of thousands of Iraqis. . . . So a real plan for success in Baghdad will have to be built upon additional troops from out of area, potentially raising US troop levels back up to the 150,000 or so of late 2005.

Manifestly, neither the administration nor the Congress will contemplate such a move. Which means, most likely, continuing violence in Iraq and a continuing rise in the power of the militias, especially the Iranian-backed Shiite militias: the Hezbollah of Iraq.

Frum has been arguing for the last five years, at least, that Iran is an evil supporter of international terrorism and a monumental threat to the U.S. Indeed, Frum is credited with creating the phrase "axis of evil" when he was at the Bush White House, which famously included Iran, and even now is agitating for confrontation with Iran. And yet, by Frum's own admission, the invasion of Iraq which he and his comrades so desperately wanted, has delivered control of Iraq into the hands of our arch Iranian enemies, and Frum admits that the U.S. has no realistic hope of doing anything to reverse that result.

Frum now admits that the sectarian civil war will rage on until Shiites assert total dominion over Baghdad and all of Southern Iraq, at which point "Baghdad - and therefore central Iraq - will in such a case slide after Basra and the south into the unofficial new Iranian empire." About this result, Frum admits: "The consequences for the region and the world will be grim."

Admitting that the Bush administration, in an election year, will not deploy additional troops to Iraq, Frum says that the best we can hope for in Iraq is the essentially defeatist plan urged in a New York Times Op-Ed by Bill Clinton's Ambassador to Croatia, Peter Galbraith. Galbriath points out that the Iraqi government actually governs nothing beyond the Green Zone in Baghdad and that -- as Frum accepts -- it is impossible for the U.S. to stop the civil war or re-take control from Shiite militias without substantially increasing our troop presence there.

With those premises in place, Galbriath advocates -- and, notably, Frum accepts -- that the U.S. military should withdraw entirely from the Sunni region and re-deploy as a small “over the horizon” force in Kurdistan. The rationale for Galbraith's plan is this:

Seeing as we cannot maintain the peace in Iraq, we have but one overriding interest there today — to keep Al Qaeda from creating a base from which it can plot attacks on the United States. Thus we need to have troops nearby prepared to re-engage in case the Sunni Arabs prove unable to provide for their own security against the foreign jihadists. . . .

Yes, a United States withdrawal from the Shiite and Sunni Arab regions of Iraq would leave behind sectarian conflict and militia rule. But staying with the current force and mission will produce the same result. Continuing a military strategy where the ends far exceed the means is a formula for war without end.

So that's what our mission in Iraq has been reduced to -- ceding most of Iraq to Iranian control and acknowledging that a civil war is now inevitable and we can do nothing to stop it. Worse, the only thing we can possibly hope to accomplish is to prevent Al Qaeda from turning Iraq into its new terrorist training ground, something it was entirely incapable of doing prior to our invasion.

Put another way, in exchange for the thousands of lives lost, hundreds of billions of dollars squandered, and destruction of U.S. credibility as a result of our invasion, the best we can hope for is what we already had -- a situation where Al Qaeda cannot run free in Iraq -- along with a vicious civil war and control by Iranian mullahs over most of Iraq. And that is what one of the leading neconservative advocates of the war is saying.

Americans have long ago recognized what even David Frum (though, notably, not Joe Lieberman) now admits -- that our invasion of Iraq will produce no real benefits and that our continued presence there can achieve nothing. The newly released NYT-CBS poll shows that a solid majority of Americans favor "a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq" -- precisely what the President most steadfastly refuses to accept. With even David Frum endorsing a close permutation of the "over the horizon" re-deployment which Jack Murtha months ago advocated, Democrats should have no trouble unifying on this issue and advocating that Republicans should be turned out of office for stubbornly and destructively clinging to the prosecution of a war which cannot possibly achieve any good.

When Howard Dean, in the wake of Saddam Hussein's capture, questioned whether the invasion of Iraq would make the U.S. "safer," he was ridiculed by virtually everyone as a radical and a lunatic, with the ridicule led by Joe Lieberman. But reality has become too overwhelming for all but the most manipulative political figures to deny. As a result, there are very few people left willing to defend the invasion and occupation as anything other than a disaster, but the remaining holdouts happen to be sitting in the White House (and in one of Connecticut's Senate seats). That discrepency is disastrous for American interests, but is an excellent opportunity for Democrats to finally make the case that this administration has been a failure on every level, not just including -- but especially -- in the area of national security.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Harper's: Former official says Bush mulling sending American troops to Lebanon

Filed by RAW STORY

A "well-connected former CIA officer" has told Harper's Magazine Washington bureau chief that the Bush Administration is considering deploying US troops to Lebanon, according to a post at the magazine's website (RAW STORY has excerpted the post below because the site loads slowly when we link directly). Harper's post is here.

"The officer, who had broad experience in the Middle East while at the CIA, noted that NATO and European countries, including England, have made clear that they are either unwilling or extremely reluctant to participate in an international force. Given other nations' lack of commitment, any “robust” force—between 10,000 and 30,000 troops, according to estimates being discussed in the media—would by definition require major U.S. participation. According to the former official, Israel and the United States are currently discussing a large American role in exactly such a “multinational” deployment, and some top administration officials, along with senior civilians at the Pentagon, are receptive to the idea.

The uniformed military, however, is ardently opposed to sending American soldiers to the region, according to my source. “They are saying 'What the fuck?'” he told me. “Most of our combat-ready divisions are in Iraq or Afghanistan, or on their way, or coming back. The generals don't like it because we're already way overstretched.”

The former CIA officer said that the Bush Administration seems not to understand Hezbollah's deep roots and broad support among Lebanon's Shiites, the country's largest single ethnic bloc. “A U.S. force is going to end up making, not keeping, peace with Hezbollah. Once you start fighting in a place like that you’re basically at war with the Shiite population. That means that our soldiers are going to be getting shot at by Hezbollah. This would be a sheer disaster for us.”

The scenario of an American deployment appears to come straight out of the neoconservative playbook: send U.S. forces into the Middle East, regardless of what our own military leaders suggest, in order to “stabilize” the region. The chances of success, as we have seen in Iraq, are remote. So what should be done? My source said the situation is so volatile at the moment that the only smart policy is to get an immediate ceasefire and worry about the terms of a lasting truce afterwards.

FULL POSTING HERE.

Q&A at the Pentagon

by Greg Djerejian

Q: Is the country closer to a civil war?

SEC. RUMSFELD: " Oh, I don't know. You know, I thought about that last night, and just musing over the words, the phrase, and what constitutes it. If you think of our Civil War, this is really very different. If you think of civil wars in other countries, this is really quite different. There is -- there is a good deal of violence in Baghdad and two or three other provinces, and yet in 14 other provinces there's very little violence or numbers of incidents. So it's a -- it's a highly concentrated thing. It clearly is being stimulated by people who would like to have what could be characterized as a civil war and win it, but I'm not going to be the one to decide if, when or at all."

No, he won't, as he's become increasingly irrelevant, and a disgrace to his office. How the sitting American Secretary of Defense can be so breathtakingly glib about whether Iraq is closer to civil war in a year that has seen over 14,000 Iraqis die (mostly because of conditions of incipient civil war) beggars belief.

Note to how he is increasingly responding to questions of critical import regarding Baghdad's security by deferring to Generals Casey and Dempsey--with Casey evidently the main liason with Prime Minister Maliki on such issues--including not only military strategy per se, but also the so-called 'reconciliation' initiatives underway, or strengthening the key ministries, or rendering more efficient intelligence gathering efforts, all of which have important non-military dimensions, and all of which would benefit from protracted non-military input by a competent leader at the helm of the Pentagon.

I mean, what exactly is Rumsfeld doing, if he is not at least actively seized by the critical import of trying to bring Baghdad back from the brink (quite shockingly, he doesn't even know how many extra troops are being sent into Baghdad saying simply, "it's not in my head", and "I'm not going to do numbers")?

Stabilizing Baghdad is the linchpin struggle we must engage full-on to hope against hope to turn Iraq back from even greater calamities, and our Secretary of Defense appears, variously, dismissive, insouciant, tired, and callously disinterested in our ultimate success there. Could the urgent need for fresh leadership at the Pentagon be any clearer? Resign, Rumsfeld!

The questions the Bush administration doesn't want answered

by Tim Grieve

As we noted the other day, it appears that George W. Bush's intelligence czar is blocking a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq because he doesn't want his boss to have to deal with the unhappy conclusions any honest assessment of the situation would reach.

With Bush out stumping with the Iraqi prime minister today, Senate Democrats, led by Harry Reid and Ted Kennedy, are pushing John Negroponte to get moving. In a letter to the intelligence czar, they say a new NIE is long overdue; the last was done in 2004, a purple-fingered eternity ago. The areas of inquiry set forth in the Democrats' request provide a shouldn't-be-necessary reminder of what congressional oversight actually looks like:

Sectarianism: Is Iraq in or descending into a civil war? What factors will prevent or reverse deterioration of the sectarian situation?

Security: Is Iraq succeeding in standing up effective security forces? What factors will increase the chances of that occurring? To what extent are militias providing security in Iraq? To what extent has the government of Iraq developed and implemented a credible plan to disarm and demobilize and reintegrate militias into government security forces? To what extent is the government of Iraq working to obtain a political commitment from political parties to ban militias?

Terrorism: What is the threat from violent extremist- related terrorism, including al-Qaida, in and from Iraq? What factors will address the terrorist threat?
Political development: Is Iraq succeeding in creating a stable and effective unity government? What is the likelihood that changes to the constitution will be made to address concerns of the Sunni community? What factors will increase the chances of that occurring?

Economic reconstruction: Is Iraq succeeding in rebuilding its economy and creating economic prosperity for Iraqis? What factors will increase the chances of that occurring?

Iraq's future: According to press accounts, the 2004 NIE contained analysis on three possible scenarios for Iraq's stability through the end of 2005. What are the scenarios through 2007?

U.S. force posture: In what ways is the large-scale presence of multinational forces helping or hindering Iraqis' chances of success?

Don't expect answers from the administration anytime soon. As Think Progress reports, Donald Rumsfeld was asked today whether he thinks Iraq has descended into civil war. "Oh, I don't know," the secretary of defense said. "You know, I thought about that last night, and, just musing over the words, the phrase, and what constitutes it ... It clearly is being stimulated by people who would like to have what could be characterized as a civil war and win it, but I'm not going to be the one to decide if, when or at all."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Zbig Brzeninski: Israel's Actions in Lebanon Essentially Amount to "the killing of hostages"

by Steve Clemons

On Thursday, 20 July (last week), former National Security Advisor and one of America's top strategic thinkers, Zbigniew Brzezinksi, spoke at a public policy dinner salon that my colleagues and I at the New Amerca Foundation organized.

Brzezinski's presentation and responses to questions were riveting. He framed the stakes of what was evolving in the Middle East as well as the basic motivations of all the players in ways that many policy intellectuals and senior foreign policy writers had not considered.

I am posting Zbigniew Brzezinski's comments here. The Q&A was not fully on the record, so I will be working to digest the best material from the Q&A to protect the identities of those posing questions or making comments -- and will post that material at a later time. But I wanted to get Zbigniew Brzezinski's opening remarks on line now.

Some of the notable points made by Brzezinski were:

1. America's "policy in the Middle East is the basic test of America's capacity to exercise global leadership." This is similar to "what transpired during the Cold War when the ultimate test of America's capacity to act as a defender of the free world was its ability to conduct a meaningful policy in Europe."

If America does not do well in its Middle East challenge, the U.S. will lose its capacity to lead.

2. Neither the United States nor Israel "has the capacity to impose a unilateral solution" to Israel's problems in the Middle East. "There may be people who deceive themselves of that. We call them neo-cons in this country and there are other equivalents in Israel as well."

3. Israel and its neighbors alone "can never resolve their conflict peacefully, no matter how much they try, now matter how sincere they may be." When one party is sincere, the other's intentions are not synchronous.

4. Brzezinski stated: "I hate to say this but I will say it. I think what the Israelis are doing today for example in Lebanon is in effect, in effect -- maybe not in intent -- the killing of hostages. The killing of hostages."

"Because when you kill 300 people, 400 people, who have nothing to do with the provocations Hezbollah staged, but you do it in effect deliberately by being indifferent to the scale of collateral damage, you're killing hostages in the hope of intimidating those that you want to intimidate. And more likely than not you will not intimidate them. You'll simply outrage them and make them into permanent enemies with the number of such enemies increasing."

5. "The solution can only come if there is a serious international involvement that supports the moderates from both sides, however numerous or non-numerous they are, but also creates the situation in which it becomes of greater interest to both parties to accommodate than to resist because both of the incentives and the capacity of the external intervention to impose costs. That means a deliberate peace effort led by the United States, which then doubtless would be supported by the international community, which defines openly in a semi-binding fashion how the United States and the international community envisages the outlines of the accommodation."

6. It's becoming increasingly difficult to separate the Israeli-Palestinian, problem, the Iraq problem and Iran from each other.

7. "The Iraq problem, look what Prime Minister al-Maliki said today -- it's an indication of things to come. The notion that we're going to get a pliant, democratic, stable, pro-American, Israel-loving Iraq is a myth which is rapidly eroding and which is now being contradicted by political realities."

8. "And that leads me then to the proposition beforehand, namely that we have now, we're not only committed to what I said earlier, regarding the Israeli-Palestinian process, but more deliberately by terminating our involvement in Iraq. And I have put forth a four-point program which [I am sure] I have discussed in one of the rare occasions within the last year administration has talked to me, some top level people in the administration. They listened to this:That we start talking to the Iraqis of the day of our disengagement., We say to them we want to set it jointly, but in the process, indicate to them that we will not leave precipitously. I asked Khalilzad what would be his definition of precipitous and he said four months and I said I agree. Are you saying to the Iraqis, we intend to disengage by some period? We need to."

9. "As far as Iran is concerned--and with this I'll end--thanks to Iraq, I think we have made an offer to the Iranians that is reasonable. I do not know that Iranians have the smarts to respond favorably or at least not negatively. I sort of lean to the idea that they'll probably respond not negatively but not positively and try to stall out the process. But that is not so bad provided they do not reject it.

Because while the Iranian nuclear problem is serious, and while the Iranians are marginally involved in Lebanon and to a greater extent in Syria, the fact of the matter is that the challenge they pose to us, while serious, is not imminent. And because it isn't imminent, it gives us time to deal with it. And sometimes in international politics, the better part of wisdom is to defer dangers rather than try to eliminate them altogether instantly, because the later produces intense counter-reactions that are destructive. We have time to deal with Iran, provided the process is launched, dealing with the nuclear energy problem, which can then be extended to involve also security talks about the region.

In the final analysis, Iran is a serious country, it's not Iraq. It's going to be there. It's going to be a player. And in the longer historical term, it has all of the preconditions for a constructive internal evolution if you measure it by rates of literacy, access to higher education, the role of women in society, a sense of tradition and status which is real.

I'm convinced that the mullahs are part of the past in Iran, not its future. But that process can change in Iran, not in a confrontation but through engagement. I think if we pursue these policies, we can perhaps avert the dangers that we face but if we do not, I fear that the region will explode, and for that matter, Israel will be in the long run in great jeopardy."

Again, the transcript of Zbigniew Brzezinski's opening comments is available by clicking here.

Five Myths That Sanction Israel's War Crimes

Published on Tuesday, July 25, 2006 by CommonDreams.org
by Jonathan Cook

This week I had the pleasure to appear on American radio, on the Laura Ingraham show, pitted against David Horowitz, a "Semite supremacist” who most recently made his name under the banner of Campus Watch, leading McCarthyite witch-hunts against American professors who have the impertinence to suggest that maybe, just maybe, Arabs have minds and feelings like the rest of us.

It was a revealing experience, at least for a British journalist rarely exposed to the depths of ignorance and prejudice in the United States on Middle East matters -- well, apart from the regular wackos who fill my email inbox. But five minutes of listening to Horowitz speak, and the sympathy with which his arguments were greeted by Laura (“The Professors -- your book’s a great read, David”), left me a lot more frightened about the world’s future.

Horowitz’s response to every question, every development in the Middle East, whether it concerns Lebanon, the Palestinians, Syria, or Iran, is the same: “They want to drive the Jews into the sea." It’s as simple as that. Not even a superficial attempt at analysis; just the message that the Arab world is trying to finish off the genocide started by Europe. And if Laura is any yardstick, a lot of Americans buy that stuff.

Horowitz is keen to bang the square peg of the Lebanon story into the round hole of his claims that the “Jews” are facing an imminent genocide in the Middle East. And to help him, he and the massed ranks of US apologists for Israel -- regulars, I suspect, of shows like Laura’s -- are promoting at least four myths regarding Hezbollah’s current rockets strikes on Israel. Unless they are challenged at every turn, the danger is that they will win the ground war against common sense in the US

The first myth is that Israel was forced to pound Lebanon with its military hardware because Hezbollah began “raining down” rockets on the Galilee. Anyone with a short memory can probably recall that was not the first justification we were offered: that had to do with the two soldiers captured by Hezbollah on a border post on July 12.

But presumably Horowitz and his friends realized that 400 Lebanese dead and counting in little more than a week was hard to sell as a “proportionate” response. In any case Hezbollah kept telling the world how keen it was to return the soldiers in a prisoner swap.

Hundreds of dead in Lebanon, at least 1,000 severely injured and more than half a million refugees -- all because Israel is not ready to sit down at the negotiating table. Even Horowitz could not “advocate for Israel” on that one.

So the chronology of war has been reorganized: now we are being told that Israel was forced to attack Lebanon to defend itself from the barrage of Hezbollah rockets falling on Israeli civilians. The international community is buying the argument hook, line, and sinker. “Israel has the right to defend itself," says every politician who can find a microphone to talk into.

But, if we cast our minds back, that is not how the “Middle East crisis," as TV channels now describe it, started. It is worth recapping on those early events (and I won’t document the long history of Lebanese suffering at Israel’s hands that preceded it) before they become entirely shrouded in the mythology being peddled by Horowitz and others.

Early on July 12 Hezbollah launched a raid against an army border post, in what was in the best interpretation a foolhardy violation of Israeli sovereignty. In the fighting the Shiite militia killed three soldiers and captured two others, while Hezbollah fired a few mortars at border areas in what the Israeli army described at the time as “diversionary tactics." As a result of the shelling, five Israelis were “lightly injured," with most needing treatment for shock, according to Haaretz.

Israel’s immediate response was to send a tank into Lebanon in pursuit of the Hezbollah fighters (its own foolhardy violation of Lebanese sovereignty). The tank ran over a landmine, which exploded, killing four soldiers inside. Another soldier died in further clashes inside Lebanon as his unit tried to retrieve the bodies.

Rather than open diplomatic channels to calm the violence down and start the process of getting its soldiers back, Israel launched bombing raids deep into Lebanese territory the same day. Given Israel’s worldview that it alone has a right to project power and fear, that might have been expected.

But the next day Israel continued its rampage across the south and into Beirut, where the airport, roads, bridges, and power stations were pummelled. We now know from reports in the US media that the Israeli army had been planning such a strike against Lebanon for at least a year.

In contrast to the image of Hezbollah frothing at the mouth to destroy Israel, its leader Hassan Nasrallah held off from serious retaliation. For the first day and a half, he limited his strikes to the northern borders areas, which have faced Hezbollah attacks in the past and are well protected.

He waited till late on June 13 before turning his guns on Haifa, even though we now know he could have targeted Israel’s third largest city from the outset. A small volley of rockets directed at Haifa caused no injuries and looked more like a warning than an escalation.

It was another three days -- days of constant Israeli bombardment of Lebanon, destroying the country and injuring countless civilians -- before Nasrallah hit Haifa again, including a shell that killed eight workers in a railway depot.

No one should have been surprised. Nasrallah was doing exactly what he had threatened to do if Israel refused to negotiate and chose the path of war instead. Although the international media quoted his ominous televised message that “Haifa is just the beginning," Nasrallah in fact made his threat conditional on Israel’s continuing strikes against Lebanon. In the same speech he warned: “As long as the enemy pursues its aggression without limits and red lines, we will pursue the confrontation without limits and red lines.” Well, Israel did, and so now has Nasrallah.

The second myth is that Hezbollah’s stockpile of 12,000 rockets -- the Israeli army’s estimate -- poses an existential threat to Israel. According to Horowitz and others, Hezbollah collected its armory with the sole intent of destroying the Jewish state.

If this really was Hezbollah’s intention in amassing the weapons, it has a very deluded view of what is required to wipe Israel off the map. More likely, it collected the armory in the hope that it might prove a deterrence -- even if a very inadequate one, as Lebanon is now discovering -- against a repeat of Israel’s invasions of 1978 and 1982, and the occupation that lasted nearly two decades afterwards.

In fact, according to other figures supplied by the Israeli army, at least 2,000 Hezbollah rockets have already been fired into Israel while the army’s bombardments have so far destroyed a further 2,000 rockets. In other words, northern Israel has already received a fifth of Hezbollah’s arsenal. As someone living in the north, and within range of the rockets, I have to say Israel does not look close to being expunged. The Galilee may be emptier, as up to third of Israeli Jews seek temporary refuge in the south, but Israel’s existence is in no doubt at all.

The third myth is that, while Israel is trying to fight a clean war by targeting only terrorists, Hezbollah prefers to bring death and destruction on innocents by firing rockets at Israeli civilians.

It is amazing that this myth even needs exploding, but after the efforts of Horowitz and Co. it most certainly does. As the civilian death toll in Lebanon has skyrocketed, international criticism of Israel has remained at the mealy-mouthed level of diplomatic requests for “restraint” and “proportionate responses."

One need only cast a quick eye over the casualty figures from this conflict to see that if Israel is targeting only Hezbollah fighters it has been making disastrous miscalculations. So far some 400 Lebanese civilians are reported dead -- unfortunately for Horowitz’s story at least a third of them children. From the images coming out of Lebanon’s hospitals, many more children have survived but with terrible burns or disabling injuries.

The best estimates, though no one knows for sure, are that Hezbollah deaths are not yet close to the three-figures range.

In the latest emerging news from Lebanon, human rights groups are accusing Israel of violating international law and using cluster grenades, which kill indiscriminately. There are reports too, so far unconfirmed, that Israel has been firing illegal incendiary bombs.

Conversely, the breakdown of the smaller number of deaths of Israelis at the hands of Hezbollah -- 42 at the time of writing -- show that more soldiers have been killed than civilians.

In fact, although no one is making the point, Hezbollah’s rockets have been targeted overwhelming at strategic locations: the northern economic hub of Haifa, its satellite towns and the array of military sites across the Galilee.

Nasrallah seems fully aware that Israel has an impressive civil defense program of shelters that keep most civilians out of harm’s way. Unlike Horowitz I won’t presume to read Nasrallah’s mind: whether he wants to kill large numbers of Israeli civilians or not cannot be known, given his inability to do so.

But we can see from the choice of the sites he is striking that his primary goal is to give Israelis a small taste of the disruption of normal life that is being endured by the Lebanese. He has effectively closed Haifa for more than a week, shutting its port and financial centers. Israeli TV is speaking increasingly of the damage being inflicted on the country’s economy.

Because of Israel’s press censorship laws, it is impossible to discuss the locations of Israel’s military installations. But Hezbollah’s rockets are accurate enough to show that many are intended for the army’s sites in the Galilee, even if they are rarely precise enough to hit them.

It is obvious to everyone in Nazareth, for example, that the rockets landing close by, and once on, the city over the past week are searching out, and some have fallen extremely close to, the weapons factory sited near us.

Hezbollah seems to have as little concern for the collateral damage of civilian deaths as Israel -- each wants the balance of terror in its favor -- but it is nonsense to suggest that Hezbollah’s goals are any more ignoble than Israel’s. It is trying to dent the economy of northern Israel in retaliation for Israel’s total destruction of the Lebanese economy. Equally, it is trying to show Israel that it knows where its military installations are to be found. Both strategies appear to be having an impact, even if a minor one, on weakening Israeli resolve.

The fourth myth is a continuation of the third: Hezbollah has been endangering the lives of ordinary Lebanese by hiding among non-combatants.

We have seen this kind of dissembling by Israel and Horowitz before, though not repeated so enthusiastically by Western officials. The UN head of humanitarian affairs, Jan Egeland, who is in the region, accused Hezbollah of “cowardly blending” among the civilian population, and a similar accuation was levelled by the British foreign minister Kim Howells when he arrived in Israel.

In 2002 Israel made the same charge: that Palestinians resisting its army’s rampage through the refugee camps of the West Bank were hiding among civilians.

The claim grew louder as more Palestinian civilians showed the irritating habit of gettting in the way of Israeli strikes against population centers. The complaints reached a crescendo when at least two dozen civilians were killed in Jenin as Israel razed the camp with Apache helicopters and Caterpillar bulldozers.

The implication of Egeland’s cowardly statement seems to be that any Lebanese fighter, or Palestinian one, resisting Israel and its powerful military should stand in an open field, his rifle raised to the sky, waiting to see who fares worse in a shoot-out with an Apache helicopter or F-16 fighter jet. Hezbollah’s reluctance to conduct the war in this manner, we are supposed to infer, is proof that they are terrorists.

Egeland and Howells need reminding that Hezbollah’s fighters are not aliens recently arrived from training camps in Iran, whatever Horowitz claims. They belong to and are strongly supported by the Shiite community, nearly half the country’s population, and many other Lebanese. They have families, friends, and neighbors living alongside them in the country’s south and the neighborhoods of Beirut who believe Hezbollah is the best hope of defending their country from Israel’s regular onslaughts.

Given the indigenous nature of Hezbollah’s resistance, we should not be surprised at the lengths the Shiite militia is going to ensure their loved ones, and the Lebanese people more generally, are not put directly in danger by their combat.

If only the same could be said of the Israeli army and airforce. One need only look at the images of the victims of its strikes against residential neighborhoods, cars, ambulances, and factories to see why most of the dead being extracted from the rubble are civilians.

And finally, there is a fifth myth I almost forgot to mention. That people like David Horowitz only want to tell us the truth…

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His book “Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democatic State” is published by Pluto Press. His website is www.jkcook.net
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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Friendly Advice

A foolish war is never a just one -- and Israel's war is a moral and strategic folly.
By Matthew Yglesias

Print Friendly Email Article It's usually best in the American context to keep one's criticisms of Israel polite and measured, but there are times when it's better to be blunt in the hopes of achieving clarity. Israel's current war in Lebanon is strategically blinkered and morally obtuse. The idea that the United States or American Jews like me should support it out of friendship is akin to the notion that a real friend would lend a car to a drunk buddy after the bartender confiscates his keys. I understand why the Israeli government and public think this war is a good idea, but they're simply mistaken.

Moral obtuseness is this case follows directly from strategic foolishness. Much -- too much -- ink and hypertext has been spilled on the question of "proportionate response," which leads only to the blind alley of debating arcane points of just war theory. The more basic point is this: War is a terrible thing.

Waging it is a terrible thing to do, but sometimes a necessary thing. A misguided, counterproductive action, however, can never be necessary. A foolish war is never a just one.

One can tell simply by the extreme speed with which the Israeli operation in Lebanon was launched -- with no interval for threats, diplomacy, preparation, or negotiations -- that little if any thought was put into the merits of this venture. Already, one hears word from Israel's camp that the IDF itself deems talk of "crushing" Hezbollah as little more than bluster. Eighteen years of previous warfare did not render southern Lebanon terrorist-free, and Israel now seems to have reached a consensus that past efforts to actually occupy and administer portions of Lebanon were disastrous. Israel's Hezbollah problem is not, fundamentally, one amenable to forcible resolution. The issue is less the presence of an armed anti-Israeli militia just north of Israel's border than the widespread public support just north of Israel's border for the presence of an armed anti-Israeli militia.

What's more -- and however impolitic it is to say -- the fact remains that this operation came about in response to a problem that wasn't very problematic.

In the years between Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon and the current crisis, Hezbollah was known, now and again, to fire off a rocket or two in Israel's direction. Primarily, however, the organization directed its energies at Lebanese domestic politics. Indeed, even the occasional rocket attack is best understood as having been undertaken for domestic consumption. The nominal rationale for Hezbollah being allowed to maintain a militia while other Lebanese factions were not was the struggle against Israel. Therefore, it was necessary to launch a notional attack or two to prove that the group was still in the fight. These attacks were, morally speaking, despicable -- the targeting of civilians with no possibility of achieving any legitimate war aims. They were not, however, a large problem in practice for the state of Israel. Efforts to root out Hezbollah rocketeers by force have made Israelis civilians much less safe than they were before.

The cross-border raid to capture Israeli soldiers was, of course, another matter. But here Israel had options. If they wanted their soldiers back, they could have traded some Hezbollah captives for them. If they wanted to act tough in the face of threats, they could have refused to negotiate and mounted a smallish, well-targeted retaliatory strike that would have garnered significant international support. Instead, Israel chose to escalate a low-intensity border conflict that posed no serious threat to its security into a much larger-scale battle it can't possibly win -- one that will only harden anti-Israeli sentiments in its neighbor to the north.

Hawkish pundits in Israel and the United States are celebrating the move by Sunni regimes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan to take an anti-Hezbollah line in the current conflict. This is blinkered and short-sighted. Popular sentiment in all three states is running sharply against Israel and in favor of its adversaries. Osama bin Laden's longtime contention that the United States, Israel, and the Arab world's homegrown autocrats have banded together in an anti-Muslim conspiracy are seemingly vindicated by these events. Nothing threatens American interests more in the long run than actions which push the Islamic world's masses into the arms of the extremists. That is precisely the main effect of this incursion.

Israel and its friends abroad need to face reality-- the problem that needs solving is the Palestinian problem. Were Israel's conflict with the Palestinians resolved, other challenges like Hezbollah would soon melt away. The idea of firing rockets into Israeli towns would appear absurd. Iran and Syria would have nothing to gain from supporting groups that behaved in that manner. Arab public opinion would no longer applaud the firing of rockets at random into Israeli cities.

The Palestinian problem is, to state the obvious, not an easy one to solve. The Israelis made an offer at Camp David they regarded as generous and that the Palestinians deemed inadequate. Israel, in turn, rejected a peace proposal emanating from the government of Saudi Arabia that Arabs saw as generous and Israelis saw as inadequate. This is a thorny issue. But the difficulty of finding a mutually acceptable agreement is no excuse for the Bush/Sharon/Olmert policy of just giving up. Certainly, it in no way justifies wreaking devastation on Lebanon in a quixotic effort to alter what is fundamentally a public opinion problem by means of airstrikes and mass displacements of the civilian population. Rather, the very difficulty of reaching an agreement points toward the vital importance of doing so.

Given a mutually acceptable agreement, Israel's other difficulties would subside or become amenable to much easier solutions. Absent such an agreement, solving the ancillary problems will be impossible. And efforts to solve those problems through force -- efforts like the disastrous folly we are currently witnessing -- will only worsen the problem while piling on the loss of innocent life.

This, rather than hearty bromides of encouragement and solidarity, is what Israel needs to hear from its American friends right now.

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