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Escalating Terrorism: U.S. policy and the Israel-Hezbollah war

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U.S. intelligence analysts, in a recent National Intelligence Estimate, have once again reiterated that "The war in Iraq has become a primary recruitment vehicle for violent Islamic extremists, motivating a new generation of potential terrorists around the world whose numbers may be increasing faster than the United States and its allies can reduce the threat"-the predicted result of the invasion.[1]

It is difficult to ignore the conclusion that, rhetoric aside, fighting terrorism is simply not a high priority for the U.S. government. Noam Chomsky has observed that in cases of an ongoing atrocity, there are three possible responses a nation could choose from, which similarly present themselves with the response to the threat from terrorism: 1) try to mitigate the threat; 2) do nothing; 3) try to escalate the threat.[2]

The U.S. has repeatedly chosen to act in ways which, predictably, escalate the threat of terrorism, with the so-called "war on terrorism" being merely a continuation of earlier policies under a variation of the familiar pretext. Its recent support for Israel's violations of international law, including collective punishment and targeting of civilian infrastructure in both the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, is simply another chapter in a long history demonstrating that patently obvious, but rarely articulated, fact.

According to official legend, the U.S. was responsible, in its usual role as an "honest broker" in the Middle East, for bringing about a U.N. sponsored cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and thus putting an end to the tragic acts of violence that have resulted in thousands of civilian casualties.

The facts tell quite a different story.

The language of the U.N. resolution itself calls for "the immediate cessation by Hizbollah of all attacks and the immediate cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations."[3] However, Israel and the U.S., according to custom, reserve to themselves the right to unilaterally interpret U.N. resolutions how they see fit; and since both countries insist that Israel has had no "offensive" operations in Lebanon, but has only acted in "self-defense", the U.N. resolution effectively permits Israel to continue to act with impunity.

The results were predictable, and articulated by The New York Times in an article entitled, "Villages See Violations of a Cease-Fire That Israel Says Doesn't Exist." The Times observed that ongoing Israeli violence in Lebanon since the passing of the resolution "underscores two fundamentally different views of the uneasy truce that has held in southern Lebanon for the past two weeks. Secretary General Kofi Annan cited numbers from the United Nations forces on Tuesday indicating that Israel had violated the cease-fire nearly 70 times, while Hezbollah had done so only 4 times. But the Israelis do not believe there is a cease-fire to violate."

Israel's interpretation of U.N. resolution 1701 "is apparent every day across southern Lebanon. Israeli tanks crisscross the dry brown hills, shooting into the fields and smashing up houses and stone walls."

If the object of Israel's military operations in Lebanon is to sow the seeds of hatred and increase the threat that there will be more terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians in the future, then the operation has certainly been a success, the results being along predictable lines. "They destroyed our school in the village," the Times quoted a Lebanese schoolteacher as saying, "but we will teach the children under the trees. And we will teach them to hate Israel and love the resistance."[4]

The official legend also ignores the fact that, in the weeks prior to the adoption of what has been called a "cease-fire" resolution, the U.S. repeatedly expressed its opposition to an immediate cease-fire, favoring instead what it called a "sustainable cease-fire," a euphemism by which was meant an ultimatum to Hezbollah and the government of Lebanon which must be acquiesced to while Israel continues bombing the civilian infrastructure of the country in an effort to terrorize the population into submission.

Explaining the U.S. opposition to a cease-fire, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that, while the U.S. does "seek an end to the current violence," any action that "simply returns us to the status quo" would be "a guarantee of future violence," and so the present violence must be allowed to continue. The bloodshed was, Rice explained, merely "the birth pangs of a new Middle East"-no great consolation to the victims.[5]

A "sustainable cease-fire," U.S. officials made clear, was one which condemned Hezbollah and called for the group's disarmament while characterizing Israel's actions as legitimate self-defense. No criticism of Israel would be tolerated.

The U.S. punctuated the latter point by vetoing a U.N. resolution calling for an end to hostilities in the Gaza Strip. The proposed resolution condemned the firing of rockets by Palestinian militants into Israel and the abduction of an Israeli soldier and called upon the Palestinian Authority to take action to end the violence. But it also condemned Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip for causing civilian casualties and destroying property and civilian infrastructure, including the destruction of a power plant. It called upon Israel to halt its disproportionate military operations and release the democratically elected Palestinian officials who had been abducted. This was unacceptable to the U.S., which made that point clear by using its veto, alone in opposition to a resolution designed to bring about an end to the tragic ongoing violence.[6]

The point was reiterated again after Israel bombed a U.N. post in Lebanon, killing four U.N. observers. "I am shocked," said U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, "and deeply distressed by the apparently deliberate targeting by Israeli Defense Forces of a UN Observer post in southern Lebanon."[7] The U.N. sought to produce a statement condemning Israel for the attack, but the effort was blocked by the U.S., which "rejected any criticism of the Israeli attack."[8]

Israel's declared objective in both the Gaza Strip and Lebanon was to obtain the release of its soldiers who had been abducted. Yet it took actions which virtually guaranteed that the soldiers would not be released. In Gaza, Israel abducted elected Palestinian officials, ensuring that the Palestinian Authority would be helpless to pressure the Hamas militants responsible for the abduction to release the soldier. Its actions also served to hinder efforts by the Palestinian Authority to form a unity government and a deal in which Hamas would agree to hold a referendum implicitly recognizing the 1967 green line as the border of Israel. Its assault against the civilian population and infrastructure guaranteed that popular support for militant factions of Hamas would increase. Israel's assault on Lebanon had the same effect of increasing popular support for Hezbollah.

An editorial in the Israeli Ha'aretz entitled "The government is losing its reason," noted that

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Jeremy R. Hammond is the owner, editor, and principle writer for Foreign Policy Journal, a website dedicated to providing news, critical analysis, and commentary on U.S. foreign policy, particularly with regard to the "war on terrorism" and events (more...)
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