Robert Fisk: Syria denies killing General in car-bomb attack

Published: 13 December 2007

 

So, they assassinated another one yesterday. A general, Francois El-Hajj by name, not known in Europe but a senior officer and the chief of the Lebanese general army staff, whose battle for the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camps earlier this year made him an obvious target for the Syrians, for the Iranians, for the Palestinians, for just about anyone else you care to note.

Although he was an obvious target, the implications for the current army chief and possible future president – General Michel Suleiman – were devastating.

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Hizbullah Won’t Attack Israel to Defend Iran-Syria

By Dalia Nehme
Hizbullah Stressed that it would not go into war with Israel if Syria and Iran were attacked by the Jewish state or the United States.

The stand was outlined by Hizbullah MP Hussein Hajj Hassan in an interview with Naharnet.

Hajj Hassan also said reaching consensus on a presidential candidate is “the destiny of the Lebanese people and not a choice,” noting that Hizbullah has not announced its “official Candidate for the presidential office.”

Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun “although he is a front runner for the post, but he is not the only candidate,” Hajj Hassan said.

In answering a question as to what would Hizbullah’s reaction be if Iran was targeted by a military strike, Hajj Hassan said: “We would denounce and reject this strike.”

What next?

“Just denunciation and rejection. Nothing more,” he stressed. “As a Lebanese citizen I say that I will denounce and deplore and carry out demonstrations. This is certain.”

However, he said “Things would be considered on time.”

He accused the United States of “attempting to Iraqize the region” in reference to an alleged scheme by Washington to spread the spate of violence that has ridden Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

Hajj Hassan warned against adoption of a law by the U.S. Congress to partition Lebanon similar to the law that adopts a federal approach to the Iraqi state.

He pledged that Hizbullah would confront such an alleged U.S. Scheme if it targeted Lebanon.

In answering a question as to How would Hizbullah confront such an alleged plan, Hajj Hassan said: “like we responded in the July (2006) war in case a war was staged on us, and we will confront politically if that (war) did not happen.”

If war targeted you or your allies? Hajj Hassan was asked.

“If it targeted us, directly us, our allies know how to defend themselves,” he stressed in reference to Tehran and Damascus.

Shifting to the forthcoming Presidential elections, Hajj Hassan said that reaching consensus on a presidential candidate is the Lebanese people’s “destiny, and not a choice.”

Hizbullah, he said, does not intend to boycott Walid Jumblat’s Progressive Socialist Party as well as Saad Hariri’s al-Moustaqbal Movement irrespective of political differences.

He insisted that Hizbullah wants a new president who rejects U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 of Sept. 2004 because it is “an aggression on Lebanon’s sovereignty and could lead to an internal problem.”

“Respecting international decisions is not more important than (preserving) Lebanon’s interest and its internal stability,” Hajj Hassan said.

He said Hizbullah supports the international tribunal that would try suspects in the 2005 assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes “despite objection to the context of its laws.”

He criticized the arrest of the four famous generals in connection with the Hariri Murder, suggesting putting them under house arrest in line with a conditional release if the authorities believe that they might try to leave the country or if they are worried about their safety.

Hajj Hassan rejected charges that Hizbullah was arming and training allied factions of the opposition and counter-charged that “those who accuse us” of sending groups to Jordan and Israel for training on the use of weapons and military techniques.

Asked when would the Hizbullah-led opposition dismantle its tent city protest of downtown Beirut, Hajj Hassan said the protest is “the response. When the crisis is over the response would be removed.”

 
Beirut, 01 Oct 07, 13:32

Why did Israel attack Syria?

Global Research, September 27, 2007

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Israel’s air strike on northern Syria earlier this month should be understood in the context of events unfolding since its assault last summer on neighbouring Lebanon. Although little more than rumours have been offered about what took place, one strategic forecasting group, Stratfor, still concluded: “Something important happened.”

From the leaks so far, it seems that more than half a dozen Israeli warplanes violated Syrian airspace to drop munitions on a site close to the border with Turkey. We also know from the US media that the “something” occurred in close coordination with the White House. But what was the purpose and significance of the attack?

It is worth recalling that, in the wake of Israel’s month-long war against Lebanon a year ago, a prominent American neoconservative, Meyrav Wurmser, wife of Vice-President Dick Cheney’s recently departed Middle East adviser, explained that the war had dragged on because the White House delayed in imposing a ceasefire. The neocons, she said, wanted to give Israel the time and space to expand the attack to Damascus.

The reasoning was simple: before an attack on Iran could be countenanced, Hizbullah in Lebanon had to be destroyed and Syria at the very least cowed. The plan was to isolate Tehran on these two other hostile fronts before going in for the kill.

But faced with constant rocket fire from Hizbullah last summer, Israel’s public and military nerves frayed at the first hurdle. Instead Israel and the US were forced to settle for a Security Council resolution rather than a decisive military victory.

The immediate fallout of the failed attack was an apparent waning of neocon influence. The group’s programme of “creative destruction” in the Middle East — the encouragement of regional civil war and the partition of large states that threaten Israel — was at risk of being shunted aside.

Instead the “pragmatists” in the Bush Administration, led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the new Defence Secretary Robert Gates, demanded a change of tack. The standoff reached a head in late 2006 when oilman James Baker and his Iraq Study Group began lobbying for a gradual withdrawal from Iraq — presumably only after a dictator, this one more reliable, had again been installed in Baghdad. It looked as if the neocons’ day in the sun had finally passed.

Israel’s leadership understood the gravity of the moment. In January 2007 the Herzliya conference, an annual festival of strategy-making, invited no less than 40 Washington opinion-formers to join the usual throng of Israeli politicians, generals, journalists and academics. For a week the Israeli and American delegates spoke as one: Iran and its presumed proxy, Hizbullah, were bent on the genocidal destruction of Israel. Tehran’s development of a nuclear programme — whether for civilian use, as Iran argues, or for military use, as the US and Israel claim — had to be stopped at all costs.

While the White House turned uncharacteristically quiet all spring and summer about what it planned to do next, rumours that Israel was pondering a go-it-alone strike against Iran grew noisier by the day. Ex-Mossad officers warned of an inevitable third world war, Israeli military intelligence advised that Iran was only months away from the point of no return on developing a nuclear warhead, prominent leaks in sympathetic media revealed bombing runs to Gibraltar, and Israel started upping the pressure on several tens of thousands of Jews in Tehran to flee their homes and come to Israel.

While Western analysts opined that an attack on Iran was growing unlikely, Israel’s neighbours watched nervously through the first half of the year as the vague impression of a regional war came ever more sharply into focus. In particular Syria, after witnessing the whirlwind of savagery unleashed against Lebanon last summer, feared it was next in line in the US-Israeli campaign to break Tehran’s network of regional alliances. It deduced, probably correctly, that neither the US nor Israel would dare attack Iran without first clobbering Hizbullah and Damascus.

For some time Syria had been left in no doubt of the mood in Washington. It failed to end its pariah status in the post-9/11 period, despite helping the CIA with intelligence on al-Qaeda and secretly trying to make peace with Israel over the running sore of the occupied Golan Heights. It was rebuffed at every turn.

So as the clouds of war grew darker in the spring, Syria responded as might be expected. It went to the arms market in Moscow and bought up the displays of anti-aircraft missiles as well as anti-tank weapons of the kind Hizbullah demonstrated last summer were so effective at repelling Israel’s planned ground invasion of south Lebanon.

As the renowned Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld reluctantly conceded earlier this year, US policy was forcing Damascus to remain within Iran’s uncomfortable embrace: “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad finds himself more dependent on his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, than perhaps he would like.”

Israel, never missing an opportunity to wilfully misrepresent the behaviour of an enemy, called the Syrian military build-up proof of Damascus’ appetite for war. Apparently fearful that Syria might initiate a war by mistaking the signals from Israel as evidence of aggressive intentions, the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, urged Syria to avoid a “miscalculation”. The Israeli public spent the summer braced for a far more dangerous repeat of last summer’s war along the northern border.

It was at this point — with tensions simmeringly hot — that Israel launched its strike, sending several fighter planes into Syria on a lightning mission to hit a site near Dayr a-Zawr. As Syria itself broke the news of the attack, Israeli generals were shown on TV toasting in the Jewish new year but refusing to comment.

Details have remained thin on the ground ever since: Israel imposed a news blackout that has been strictly enforced by the country’s military censor. Instead it has been left to the Western media to speculate on what occurred.

One point that none of the pundits and analysts have noted was that, in attacking Syria, Israel committed a blatant act of aggression against its northern neighbour of the kind denounced as the “supreme international crime” by the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal.

Also, no one pointed out the obvious double standard applied to Israel’s attack on Syria compared to the far less significant violation of Israeli sovereignty by Hizbullah a year earlier, when the Shia militia captured two Israel soldiers at a border post and killed three more. Hizbullah‘s act was widely accepted as justification for the bombardment and destruction of much of Lebanon, even if a few sensitive souls agonised over whether Israel’s response was “disproportionate”. Would these commentators now approve of similar retaliation by Syria?

The question was doubtless considered unimportant because it was clear from Western coverage that no one — including the Israeli leadership — believed Syria was in a position to respond militarily to Israel’s attack. Olmert’s fear of a Syrian “miscalculation” evaporated the moment Israel did the maths for Damascus.

So what did Israel hope to achieve with its aerial strike?

The stories emerging from the less gagged American media suggest two scenarios. The first is that Israel targeted Iranian supplies passing through Syria on their way to Hizbullah; the second that Israel struck at a fledgling Syrian nuclear plant where materials from North Korea were being offloaded, possibly as part of a joint nuclear effort by Damascus and Tehran.

(Speculation that Israel was testing Syria’s anti-aircraft defences in preparation for an attack on Iran ignores the fact that the Israeli air force would almost certainly choose a flightpath through friendlier Jordanian airspace.)

How credible are these two scenarios?

The nuclear claims against Damascus were discounted so quickly by experts of the region that Washington was soon downgrading the accusation to claims that Syria was only hiding the material on North Korea’s behalf. But why would Syria, already hounded by Israel and the US, provide such a readymade pretext for still harsher treatment? Why, equally, would North Korea undermine its hard-won disarmament deal with the US? And why, if Syria were covertly engaging in nuclear mischief, did it alert the world to the fact by revealing the Israeli air strike?

The other justification for the attack was at least based in a more credible reality: Damascus, Hizbullah and Iran undoubtedly do share some military resources. But their alliance should be seen as the kind of defensive pact needed by vulnerable actors in a Sunni-dominated region where the US wants unlimited control of Gulf oil and supports only those repressive regimes that cooperate on its terms. All three are keenly aware that it is Israel’s job to threaten and punish any regimes that fail to toe the line.

Contrary to the impression being created in the West, genocidal hatred of Israel and Jews, however often Ahmadinejad’s speeches are mistranslated, is not the engine of these countries’ alliance.

Nonetheless, the political significance of the justifications for the the Israeli air strike is that both neatly tie together various strands of an argument needed by the neocons and Israel in making their case for an attack on Iran before Bush leaves office in early 2009. Each scenario suggests a Shia “axis of evil”, coordinated by Iran, that is actively plotting Israel’s destruction. And each story offers the pretext for an attack on Syria as a prelude to a pre-emptive strike against Tehran — launched either by Washington or Tel Aviv — to save Israel.

That these stories appear to have been planted in the American media by neocon masters of spin like John Bolton is warning enough — as is the admission that the only evidence for Syrian malfeasance is Israeli “intelligence”, the basis of which cannot be questioned as Israel is not officially admitting the attack.

It should hardly need pointing out that we are again in a hall of mirrors, as we were during the period leading up to America’s invasion of Iraq and have been during its subsequent occupation.

Bush’s “war on terror” was originally justified with the convenient and manufactured links between Iraq and al-Qaeda, as well as, of course, those WMDs that, it later turned out, had been destroyed more than a decade earlier. But ever since Tehran has invariably been the ultimate target of these improbable confections.

There were the forged documents proving both that Iraq had imported enriched uranium from Niger to manufacture nuclear warheads and that it was sharing its nuclear know-how with Iran. And as Iraq fell apart, neocon ideologues like Michael Ledeen lost no time in spreading rumours that the missing nuclear arsenal could still be accounted for: Iranian agents had simply smuggled it out of Iraq during the chaos of the US invasion.

Since then our media have proved that they have no less of an appetite for such preposterous tales. If Iran’s involvement in stirring up its fellow Shia in Iraq against the US occupation is at least possible, the same cannot be said of the regular White House claims that Tehran is behind the Sunni-led insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. A few months ago the news media served up “revelations” that Iran was secretly conspiring with al-Qaeda and Iraq’s Sunni militias to oust the US occupiers.

So what purpose does the constant innuendo against Tehran serve?

The latest accusations should be seen as an example of Israel and the neocons “creating their own reality”, as one Bush adviser famously observed of the neocon philosophy of power. The more that Hizbullah, Syria and Iran are menaced by Israel, the more they are forced to huddle together and behave in ways to protect themselves — such as arming — that can be portrayed as a “genocidal” threat to Israel and world order.

Van Creveld once observed that Tehran would be “crazy” not to develop nuclear weapons given the clear trajectory of Israeli and US machinations to overthrow the regime. So equally Syria cannot afford to jettison its alliance with Iran or its involvement with Hizbullah. In the current reality, these connections are the only power it has to deter an attack or force the US and Israel to negotiate.

But they are also the evidence needed by Israel and the neocons to convict Syria and Iran in the court of Washington opinion. The attack on Syria is part of a clever hustle, one designed to vanquish or bypass the doubters in the Bush Administration, both by proving Syria’s culpability and by provoking it to respond.

Condoleezza Rice, it emerged at the weekend, wants to invite Syria to attend the regional peace conference that has been called by President Bush for November. There can be no doubt that such an act of détente is deeply opposed by both Israel and the neocons. It reverses their strategy of implicating Damascus in the “Shia arc of extremism” and of paving the way to an attack on the real target: Iran.

Syria, meanwhile, is fighting back, as it has been for some time, with the only means available: the diplomatic offensive. For two years Bashar al-Assad has been offering a generous peace deal to Israel on the Golan Heights that Tel Aviv has refused to consider. This week, Syria made a further gesture towards peace with an offer on another piece of territory occupied by Israel, the Shebaa Farms. Under the plan, the Farms — which the United Nations now agrees belongs to Lebanon, but which Israel still claims is Syrian and cannot be returned until there is a deal on the Golan Heights — would be transferred to UN custody until the dispute over its sovereignty can be resolved.

Were either of Damascus’ initiatives to be pursued, the region might be looking forward to a period of relative calm and security. Which is reason enough why Israel and the neocons are so bitterly opposed. Instead they must establish a new reality — one in which the forces of “creative destruction” so beloved of the neocons engulf yet more of the region. For the rest of us, a simpler vocabulary suffices. What is being sold is catastrophe.

Jonathan Cook is a journalist and writer based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the author of “Blood and Religion: The Unmasking of the Jewish and Democratic State” (Pluto Press). His forthcoming book is “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East”. His website is www.jkcook.net 

Israel harassing the regional peace and security

“This is a very dangerous provocation little short of wantonly violating the sovereignty of Syria and seriously harassing the regional peace and security.” spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry from the Fanonite

“Maybe Israel decided to send the Syrian government a message that it would understand. ” BBC News

Excellent journalism from the BBC again.  Regional peace is threatened by Israeli aggression which there’s been no official explanation for, where there’s been no positive outcomes, yet in the eyes of the BBC its legitimate.  Why?  Because Israel did it. 

Ask yourself this, if Hezbollah launched a raid into Israel firing missles would the BBC describe it as “sending a message?”

Syria ‘fires on Israel warplanes’

Something we should all understand – “Israel in fact does not want peace,” he said. “It cannot survive without aggression, treachery and military messages.”

Last Updated: Thursday, 6 September 2007, 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK

 

Map

Syria has said its air defences opened fire on Israeli warplanes after they violated its airspace in the north of the country.Syrian officials said the defences forced the jets to drop ammunition over deserted areas and turn back, according to the official news agency, Sana.

Israel’s military said it would not comment on the reports.

Israel and Syria remain technically at war and tensions between them have been rising in recent months.

The Syrian government has insisted that peace talks can be resumed only on the basis of Israel returning the Golan Heights, which it seized in 1967.

Israeli authorities, for their part, have demanded that Syria abandon its support for Palestinian and Lebanese militant groups before talks can begin.

‘Military messages’

A Syrian spokesman said the Israeli aircraft had flown into Syrian airspace from the Mediterranean Sea at around 0100 local time on Thursday morning, Sana reported.

They were then engaged by Syrian air defence forces in the Tall al-Abyad, an area 160km (100 miles) north of Raqqa and near the border with Turkey, witnesses said.

Israel in fact does not want peace – it cannot survive without aggression, treachery and military messages

Mohsen Bilal
Syrian Information Minister

“Air defence units confronted them and forced them to leave after they dropped some ammunition in deserted areas without causing any human or material damage,” the spokesman said.

Pilots sometimes jettison extra fuel to make their aircraft lighter and easier to manoeuvre.

Syria’s Information Minister, Mohsen Bilal, told al-Jazeera TV that his government was “seriously studying the nature of the response”.

“Israel in fact does not want peace,” he said. “It cannot survive without aggression, treachery and military messages.”

Tensions

Officials in Damascus said Syrian forces last fired at Israeli warplanes in June 2006, when they flew over the summer residence of the Syrian president in Lattakia, while he was inside.

Over the past few months, the leaders of both countries have both stressed that they do not want war.

But both sides have also been preparing for possible conflict.

In June, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert insisted his country did not want war with Syria, and that he had communicated this to Damascus through diplomatic channels.

He also repeated his warning that a “miscalculation” could spark hostilities between the two.

Mr Olmert’s statement came after the Israeli military staged major exercises in the Golan Heights.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6981674.stm

Blacksmiths of Lebanon: Syria’s Media Insurgency in Lebanon

An article exploring the issues of Hariri and the government supporting militias, trying to discount it or play it down.  I find anyone that considers the attrocities commited in Nahr Al-Bared as a victory or as something worth uniting behind has already lost credibility as a source.  This is still worth reading for an alternative perspective.

Almost as soon as the Syrian-backed Fatah al-Islam group launched a series of suprise attacks on Lebanese Army outposts and patrols, Syria’s other allies in the country mounted a suprise attack of their own, attempting to transform a battle that should have rallied all Lebanese together in the defense of the state into a partisan conspiracy aimed at breaking any potential unity that could have arisen out of this week’s national tragedy and impending victory.

Blacksmiths of Lebanon: Syria’s Media Insurgency in Lebanon

Reclaiming space Uri Avnery: Lebanon War Report A Swiss Cheese «

Reclaiming space Uri Avnery: Lebanon War Report A Swiss Cheese «

ben_tsahal-crime-against-humanity.jpg

Uri Avnery provides a peace and Israeli perspective on the consequences and failings of Israel’s Winograd Inquiry Report into last year’s war on Lebanon.

He is none too optimistic about what the findings bode for the region and this is reflective in the Report in part by how it frames a political problem in misguidedly militaristic terms.

The Report for him bespeaks of likely further belligerency against its neighbours in the near future, and the further militarisation of Israeli society and the rank corruption in the IDF.

The Report is also damning in its glaring omissions — hardly anything about the impact on Lebanon itself — and for what it says about US involvement and the Bush administration’s enablement of these monstrous events.

This is how he reads the findings; boldface emphasis is mine:

THE WINOGRAD committee of inquiry is not a part of the solution. It is a part of the problem.

Now, after the first excitement caused by the publication of the partial report has died down, it is possible to evaluate it. The conclusion is that it has done much more harm than good.

The positive side is well known. The committee has accused the three directors of the war – the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense and the Chief-of-Staff – of many faults. The committee’s favorite word is “failure”.

It is worthwhile to ponder this word. What does it say? A person “fails” when he does not fulfill his task. The nature of the task itself is not considered, but only the fact that it has not been accomplished.

The use of the word “failure” all over the report is by itself a failure of the committee. The new Hebrew word invented by the protest groups – something like “ineptocrats” – fits all of the five committee members.

IN WHAT did the three musketeers of the war leadership fail, according to the committee?

The decision to go to war was taken in haste. The war aims proclaimed by the Prime Minister were unrealistic. There was no detailed and finalized military plan. There was no orderly staff-work. The government adopted the improvised proposal of the Chief-of-Staff at it was, without alternatives being offered or requested. The Chief-of-Staff thought that he would win by bombing and shelling alone. No ground attack was planned. The reserves were not called up in time. The ground campaign got off very late. In the years before the war, the forces were not properly trained. Much equipment was missing from the emergency stores. The big ground attack, which cost the lives of so many soldiers, started only when the terms of the cease-fire were already agreed upon in the UN.

Strong medicine. What is the conclusion? That we must learn these lessons and improve our performance quickly, before we start the next war.

And indeed, a large part of the public drew precisely this conclusion: the three “ineptocrats” have to be removed, their place has to be filled by three leaders who are more responsible and “experienced”, and we should then start Lebanon War III, so as to repair the damage caused by Lebanon War II.

The army has lost its deterrent power? We shall get it back in the next war. There was no successful ground attack? We shall do better next time. In the next war, we shall penetrate deeper.

The entire problem is technical. New leaders with military experience, orderly staff-work, meticulous preparations, an army chief from the ranks of the ground forces instead of a flying commander – and then everything will be OK.

THE MOST important part of the report is the one that is not there. The report is full of holes, like the proverbial Swiss cheese.

There is no mention of the fact that this was from the start a superfluous, senseless and hopeless war.

Such an accusation would be very serious. A war causes death and destruction on both sides. It is immoral to start one unless there is a clear danger to the very existence of the state. According to the report, Lebanon War II had no specific aim. That means that this war was not forced on us by any existential necessity. Such a war is a crime.

What did the trio go to war for? In theory: in order to free the two captured soldiers. This week, Ehud Olmert admitted publicly that he knew quite well that the soldiers could not be freed by war. That means that when he decided to start the war, he blatantly lied to the people. George Bush style.

Hizbullah, too, does not present an existential danger to the State of Israel. An irritation? Yes. A provocative enemy? Absolutely. An existential danger? Surely not.

For these problems, political solutions could be found. It was clear then, as it is now, that the prisoners must be freed through a prisoner exchange deal. The Hizbullah threat can be removed only by political means, since it stems from political causes.

THE COMMITTEE accuses the government of not examining military alternatives to the Chief-of-Staff’s proposals. By the same token, the committee itself can be accused of not examining political alternatives to the government’s decision to go to war.

Hizbullah is primarily a political organization, a part of the complex reality of Lebanon. For centuries, the Shiites in South Lebanon were downtrodden by the stronger communities – the Maronites, the Sunnis and the Druze. When the Israeli army invaded Lebanon in 1982, the Shiites received them as liberators. After it became apparent that our army did not intend to go away, the Shiites started a war of liberation against them. Only then, in the course of the long and ultimately successful guerilla war, did the Shiites emerge as a major force in Lebanon. If there were justice in the world, Hizbullah would erect statues of Ariel Sharon.

In order to strengthen their position, the Shiites needed help. They got it from the Islamic Republic of Iran, the natural patron of all the Shiites in the region. But even more important was the help coming from Syria.

And why did Sunnite Syria come to the aid of the Shiite Hizbullah? Because it wanted to create a double threat: against the government in Beirut and against the government in Jerusalem.

Syria has never given up its foothold in Lebanon. In the eyes of the Syrians, Lebanon is an integral part of their homeland, which was torn from it by the French colonialists. A look at the map is sufficient to show why Lebanon is so important for Syria, both economically and militarily. Hizbullah provides Syria with a stake in the Lebanese arena.

The encouragement and support of Hizbullah as a threat against Israel is even more important for Syria. Damascus wants to regain the Golan Heights, which were conquered by Israel in 1967. This, for Syrians, is a paramount national duty, a matter of national pride, and they will not give it up for any price. They know that for now, they cannot win a war against Israel. Hizbullah offers an alternative: continual pinpricks that are intended to remind Israel that it might be worthwhile to return the Golan.

Anyone who ignores this political background and sees Hizbullah only as a military problem shows himself to be an ignoramus. It was the duty of the committee to say so clearly, instead of prattling on about “orderly staff-work” and “military alternatives”. It should have issued a red card to the three ineptocrats for not weighing the political alternative to the war: negotiations with Syria for neutralizing the Hizbullah threat by means of an Israeli-Syrian-Lebanese accord. The price would have been an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan heights.

By not doing so, the committee really said: there is no escape from Lebanon War III. But please, folks, try harder next time.

A CONSPICUOUS hole in the report concerns the international background of the war.

The part played by the United States was obvious from the first moment. Olmert would not have decided to start the war without obtaining explicit American permission. If the US had forbidden it, Olmert would not have dreamt of starting it.

George Bush had an interest in this war. He was (and is) stuck in the Iraqi morass. He is trying to put the blame on Syria. Therefore he wanted to strike a blow against Damascus. He also wanted to break the Lebanese opposition, in order to help America’s proxy in Beirut. He was sure that it would be a cakewalk for the Israeli army.

When the expected victory was late in coming, American diplomacy did everything possible to prevent a cease-fire, so as to “give time” to the Israeli army to win. That was done almost openly.

How much did the Americans dictate to Olmert the decision to start the war, to bomb Lebanon (but not the infrastructure of the Siniora government), to prolong the war and to start a ground offensive at the last moment? We don’t know. Perhaps the committee dealt with this in the secret part of the report. But without this information it is impossible to understand what happened, and therefore the report is to a large extent worthless for understanding the war.

WHAT ELSE is missing in the report? Hard to believe, but there is not a single word about the terrible suffering inflicted on the Lebanese population.

Under the influence of the Chief-of-Staff, the government agreed to a strategy that said: let’s bomb Lebanon, turn the life of the Lebanese into hell, so they will exert pressure on their government in Beirut, which will then disband Hizbullah. It was slavish imitation of the American strategy in Kosovo and Afghanistan.

This strategy killed about a thousand Lebanese, destroyed whole neighborhoods, bridges and roads, and not only in Shiite areas. From the military point of view, that was easy to do, but the political price was immense. For weeks pictures of the death and destruction wrought by Israel dominated world news. It is impossible to measure the damage done to Israel’s standing in world public opinion, damage that is irreversible and that will have lasting consequences.

All this did not interest the committee. It concerned itself only with the military side. The political side it ignored, except to remark that the Foreign Minister was not invited to the important consultations. The moral side was not mentioned at all.

Nor is the occupation mentioned. The committee ignores a fact that cries out to heaven: that an army cannot be capable of conducting a modern war when for 40 years it has been employed as a colonial police force in occupied territories. An officer who acts like a drunken Cossak against unarmed peace activists or stone-throwing children, as shown this week on television, cannot lead a company in real war. That is one of the most important lessons of Lebanon War II: the occupation has corrupted the Israeli army to the core. How can this be ignored?

THE COMMITTEE judges Olmert and Peretz as unfit because of their lack of “experience”, meaning military experience. This can lead to the conclusion that the Israeli democracy cannot rely on civilian leaders, that it needs leaders who are generals. It imposes on the country a military agenda. That may well be the most dangerous result.

This week I saw on the internet a well-done presentation by the “Reservists”, a group of embittered reserve soldiers set up to lead the protest against the three “ineptocrats”. It shows, picture after picture, many of the failures of the war, and reaches its climax with the statement that the incompetent political leadership did not allow the army to win.

The young producers of this presentation are certainly unaware of the unpleasant smell surrounding this idea, the odor of the “Dolchstoss im Ruecken” – the stab in the back of the army. Otherwise they would probably not have expressed themselves in this form, which served not so long ago as the rallying cry of German Fascism.