Why Fisk is wrong about Lebanon

Mike Whitney responds to a short article by Fisk in The Independent that claims a civil war based on “sectarian hatred” is imminent. Many of the comments responding to the article at ICH were livid, questioning Fisk’s allegiances and utility to the powers that be. I’m still pondering this one, but I don’t reflexively dismiss Whitney’s reasoning (below) and alternative explanation as conspiracy theory — anyone who knows John Perkins’ work Confessions of an Economic Hitman can tell you this sort of thing is standard operating procedure. (See also here, here and here for more on Perkins). I am however wary that while one over-relies on a religious explanation (Fisk), Whitney too may be positing an oversimplified economic determinism. Food for thought.

Why Fisk is wrong about Lebanon

“This is how the conflict began in Lebanon. Outbreaks of sectarian hatred, appeals for restraint, promises of aid from Western and Arab nations and a total refusal to understand that this is how civil wars begin”.

Robert Fisk, ‘World ignores Signs of Civil War in Lebanon’, UK Independent (27 Jan)

Robert Fisk is all wrong about Lebanon. The country is not on the brink of another “civil war”, but has been subsumed in an “imperial war” engineered in Tel Aviv and Washington. He’s also mistaken in thinking that the Paris 3 Conference is designed to “save” Lebanon from the mountain of debt which piled up after Israel’s destructive 34 day war. The real purpose of the $7.6 billion in loans is to shackle Lebanon to the international lending institutions that are demanding additional taxes on the poor, more privatization of state-run industries, and restructuring the economy to meet the requirements of the global banking elite.

According to a recent article by Chris Marsden in countercurrents:

“Only a fraction of the loans will be spent on reconstruction projects. Most will go towards servicing Lebanon’s short-term debt and therefore back into the coffers of the imperialist governments and financial institutions, while leaving Lebanon’s long-term debts to climb even higher. The rest will go into paying the Lebanese army (and security services) in order to suppress the opposition in the Shia areas in the south of the country. And, once again, any money given will be made conditional on the government implementing the reforms demanded by the IMF and World Bank.”

This is the real war–the class war– that continues to be directed at the people in developing world.

How many times have we seen the World Bank and IMF swoop down on their prey after a nation has been savaged by war only to apply the vice-grips of massive debt and set up another corporate colony? The rise of sectarianism and the “clash of civilizations” bunkum is just the mask that conceals the real struggle; the ongoing war and exploitation of the people who have no voice in government.

Here’s a question for Fisk: Is there any doubt now that the US and Israel used the UN to push Syrian troops out of Lebanon just so they could execute their bloody plan to invade the country and set up a puppet regime in Beirut? Or was that merely a coincidence?

And, is there any doubt that World Bank president, Paul Wolfowitz, knew that he would be used in Phase 2 of the assault on Lebanese sovereignty by providing more economy-busting loans?

The US military is just the left hand of the banking establishment. One hand washes the other.

It’s the perfect system; the US-Israeli war machine flattens an entire country and then their buddies in the in the corporate-banking business rake in the profits from loans and reconstruction contracts. At the same time, they insist that the “New Lebanon” be rebuilt according to the neoliberal model; the same economic model that has kept Latin America and Africa in abject poverty for 2 decades.

Fisk is wrong; it’s not “sectarian hatred” that is driving the war, but outside powers that are using their proxies within Lebanon to achieve their geopolitical objectives. In other words, this not the beginning of civil war, but a continuation of the 34 Day war; the deliberate pulverizing of Lebanon to create an US-Israeli protectorate in a critical area of the Middle East. Future pipeline corridors and regional hegemony require a compliant pro-western government in Beirut. That’s why the Bush administration has armed and trained the massive security apparatus of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, so he could succeed where Israel failed, by crushing Hezbollah and the pro-democracy movement.

On the other hand, Hezbollah is demanding that the Siniora respect the constitution and step down to allow for the formation of a unity government. That is what is REQUIRED under the law (after six members of the Parliament walked out, it effectively disbanded the government) and that is why Hezbollah has been camped out in the center of the city since December 1.

If the Bush administration was serious about democracy, they’d throw their support behind the opposition. (Hezbollah and Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement) But then we know what happens when the will of the people clashes with the aims of the administration. (check the war against the democratically-elected government of Hamas)

Siniora’s political base is limited to Sunnis, some parts of the Christian community, and the Lebanese business elite (Hariri). Some of them like, Samir Geagea, “the ex-civil war militia killer” are connected to right-wing extremist organizations. These are the groups who stand to benefit the most from an open confrontation with Hezbollah. Washington needs them to conceal its dirty war; a war that Bush stepped up last week when he authorized the CIA “to take covert action against Hezbollah as part of a secret plan to help the Lebanese government prevent the spread of Iranian influence. Senators and congressmen have been briefed on the classified ‘non-lethal presidential finding’ that allows the CIA to provide financial and logistical support for Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora”. (UK Telegraph)

Consider this: Siniora is freely violating Lebanese sovereignty to conduct covert operations against the very people (Hezbollah) who stood alone in defending Lebanon from Israeli invasion. Additionally, he is accepting this “assistance” from the United States knowing that it was the Bush administration that provided the laser-guided munitions and cluster-bombs which were used to kill Lebanese nationals just months ago.

And one last thing; despite his promises, Siniora has made no effort to help the poor Shias in the South rebuilt their homes and communities. Much like the victims of Katrina, the Shia have been left to languish in the ruins created by Israel’s relentless bombing raids.

Is it any wonder why Nasrallah and Aoun want to get rid of Siniora?

It should be noted that the Bush administration sees no inconsistency in a policy that supports Sunnis in Lebanon, but Shias in Iraq. The rule of thumb appears to be: “If our actions create greater mayhem and suffering for Muslims, then we are on the right course.”

Hezbollah chief, Hassan Nasrallah, has wisely ordered his people to stop their acts of civil disobedience and to get off the streets to avoid further violence. Three Shias were reportedly killed by snipers at the university. Already we can see the familiar tactics which have been used in cities in Iraq.

Nasrallah, is portrayed in the western press as a provocateur, but he has kept the peace for the last 2 months and is committed to preventing another civil war. Just days ago, he told his people, “Even if they kill 1,000 of us, we will not use our weapons against them.”

He also added, “We have the political, popular and organizational strength to bring down the unconstitutional government at any time. What has prevented the fall of this government is not the support of the western powers but the opposition’s will to preserve civil peace in the country.”

But it’s likely that Nasrallah will not be able to stop the fighting; already events are beyond his control. Washington is preparing to open another front in its ongoing war on terror and is looking for a showdown with Hezbollah. The neoconservative ideal of “creative destruction” is now in full-flower and has extended the conflict from the northern tip of Afghanistan to the southern coast of Somalia swallowing up an immense swath of the Middle East and Central Asia. This is the “total war” the neocons promised when Bush took office. It isn’t civil war, but the calculated destruction of an entire region by the imperial powers.


Israel ‘broke US arms deal terms’


Cluster bomb in Lebanon

Thousands of bomblets have been found across Lebanon

Israel probably violated the terms of its arms deals with Washington by using US-made cluster bombs in Lebanon last year, a US government report says.The state department looked into Israel’s use of cluster bombs in civilian areas of southern Lebanon during its conflict with Hezbollah.

US-made weapons are sold to the Israeli military with restriction on their use.

Cluster bombs can scatter hundreds of small bomblets over a wide area, and their use has been widely criticised.

The International Committee of the Red Cross called for a ban on the use of cluster bombs in populated areas, because of the indiscriminate civilian deaths they caused.

And Amnesty International has criticised Israel for its use of cluster bombs in the final days of the conflict.

Military aid

The US government has now sent a preliminary report on its investigation into the matter to the US Congress.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the report delivered to Congress was not a “final judgement”.

Israel takes the concerns raised by the US very seriously

Mark Regev
Israeli spokesman

He refused to elaborate on the report’s conclusion, but said the terms agreed with Israel for the use of US-supplied munitions were “likely” to have been violated.

“This is a preliminary finding and because it also involves the agreements about use (of munitions), which are classified, I cannot get into the details,” he added.

Congress will now consider the report before deciding whether to take any further action against Israel.

Israel has consistently maintained it uses cluster bombs in line with international law, although in November the military said it would investigate how the bombs were used during the conflict.

Israel denies breaking any agreement with the US and says it is co-operating with investigators.

“Israel takes the concerns raised by the US very seriously. In our response, we have been as detailed, as forthcoming and transparent as possible,” said government spokesman Mark Regev.

The US is Israel’s biggest military donor, offering about $2bn of aid and assistance each year.

Hezbollah head hails resignation


Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. File photo

Sheikh Nasrallah: “When I heard the news, I was happy”

Hezbollah head Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has welcomed the resignation of Israeli army chief Lt-Gen Dan Halutz in the wake of the two sides’ summer conflict.Sheikh Nasrallah told his movement’s al-Manar TV in Lebanon: “Any of them that don’t resign will be forced out.”

Gen Halutz said he was taking responsibility for the failures of the Israeli military campaign.

Hezbollah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers in July, and killing of eight others, sparked 34 days of fighting.

A UN-brokered truce ended the conflict, in which more than 1,200 people died.

‘Fresh action’

In a three-hour interview broadcast live, Sheikh Nasrallah told al-Manar he had been “happy” when he heard of Gen Halutz’ resignation.

It’s the first war that Israel has lost and in which it’s failed to achieve its objectives

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah

He said the move showed that Israel had been plunged into a “crisis of leadership”.

“Since the end of the war we had been expecting Halutz to resign and [Defence Minister Amir] Peretz and [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert to follow him,” Sheikh Nasrallah added.

“It’s the first war that Israel has lost and in which it’s failed to achieve its objectives.”

On Lebanon’s internal political crisis, Sheikh Nasrallah said Hezbollah and other opposition groups, who have been campaigning for the removal of the pro-Western government of Fouad Siniora, would announce a new phase of action in the coming days.

The BBC Jim Muir in Beirut says there is speculation this may include a general strike.

The opposition, with Hezbollah at the forefront, has been carrying out daily protests against Mr Fouad Siniora.

It is demanding the formation of a new administration in which its allies have the power of veto.

Sheikh Nasrallah’s address comes the week before international donors discuss whether to approve billions of dollars in aid for Lebanon.

Our correspondent says those donors will be looking to Lebanon’s politicians from all parties for reassurance that political tensions will not derail their plans for Lebanon’s reconstruction.


Bias BBC Middle East crisis: Facts and figures

BBC facts and figures from  the Lebanon conflict.  Seems like blatant propaganda to me.

Notice the percentage for Lebanon is of the TOTAL POPULATION displaced. Whereas when we look at israel its the percentage of the NORTH TOTAL POPULATION. So we have two percentage figures which at a glace make it look like there was a bigger factor of population displacement in Israel 50% compared to a Lebanese 25%. If this isn’t BLATANT manipulation of statistics i don’t know what is….

With a total population of 7,100,000 the figures should be 7% Israelis displaced 25% Lebanese displaced.

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