Falling Cedars: Fomenting War in Lebanon -- and Beyond

What's going on in Lebanon? Nothing you haven't seen before -- in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Palestine and other places where "the United States is basically instigating and funding civil wars."

So says Professor As’ad AbuKhalil -- better known perhaps as the "Angry Arab," for his indispensable website of the same name. AbuKhalil was born and raised in Lebanon and has an intimate knowledge of troubled land's warring factions there -- and their external backers. Needless to say, the American media's framing of the current flare-up of violence in Lebanon is the usual sinister caricature of reality, with "bad guys" attacking "our friends" out of pure, malevolent, world-gobbling evil.

In fact, "our friends" in Lebanon are actually in league with our allegedly erstwhile friends Al Qaeda. The Hariri faction backed by the Bush Administration is drawing upon the most extremist Sunni armed factions in an attempt to counteract the power of Shiite Hezbollah. This is of course just a continuation of current American strategy in the region, as Sy Hersh outlined last year: giving arms and money to extremist Sunni groups allied with al Qaeda in order to ward off Shiite factions making trouble in our client regimes.

This in turn is part of a broader, more long-standing strategy, going back to 2004, as we noted in a recent report: a global program of arming and funding militias and other violent "non-state actors" to foment trouble where Washington wants trouble, and pressure recalcitrant regimes to bend to the imperial will.

And no, Washington is not "behind" every twist and turn in Middle East politics. But American interventions, direct and covert, are responsible for exacerbating and intensifying conflicts, enflaming sectarian and ethnic divides (or literally building giant concrete walls between them, as in Baghdad today), bolstering tyrannical and/or ineffectual, illegitimate leaders whose misrule provoke more strife, suffering and conflict.

In an interview this week on Democracy Now, AbuKhalil cuts through the corporate media cartoons to give a truer picture of the outbreak in Lebanon:

I think that people may remember, back in the 1980s, the United States government, for two years in the administration of Ronald Reagan, deployed troops from ’82 to ’84. And there was a civil war, and the United States was supporting the rightwing militias of Israel in Lebanon, and they used the discourse of supporting the central government of Lebanon.

Something similar is taking place right now in Lebanon, and this is very much similar to what’s happening in Sudan, in Palestine, in Iraq, in Afghanistan and Somalia. The United States is basically instigating, funding and arming civil wars in all those places. We hear a lot about this inability of the international community to tolerate armed militias. Of course, Hezbollah is an armed militia, but so are the pro-militias of the government. There’s a Los Angeles Times article today detailing the efforts by the United States and allies to create militias throughout the country. And the Washington Post indicated that this government of the United States spent $1.4 billion to prop up the administration of Siniora in Lebanon.

And basically, what happened in Lebanon in the last few days is a partial coup d’etat that was in response to a full coup d’etat that was engineered by the United States and Saudi Arabia and Israel from behind the scene back in 2005, capitalizing on the assassination of Rafik Hariri.

And things have gotten to this point because America basically is responsible, more than their clients in Lebanon. I mean, there were ideas of dialogue in Lebanon, and things were moving in that direction, and then, suddenly, lo and behold, the Assistant Secretary of State of the United States for the Near East, David Welch, shows up in Lebanon, and he basically wanted to stiffen the resolve of the clients and to basically prevent the possibility of dialogue. And then, Walid Jumblatt, one of the clients of the United States and Saudi Arabia and Lebanon today, escalated by deciding on taking the issue of disarming Hezbollah, which is supported at least by half of the Lebanese; and Lebanese parties, including clients of the United States, [had] agreed that the issues of disarming Hezbollah should be left for internal dialogue of the Lebanese themselves...

This [the current violence] is something that experts have warned the United Nations about. If you push things to that point, the other side is going to lash out, and they did lash out, even if one, like me, does not like the scenes of these militias and armed thugs running into the streets of Beirut and so on. But basically, we have to say that this is the doing of US foreign policy, and this is the true face of the Bush Doctrine in the Middle East.....

We have to say that this level of intense tensions and conflict and animosity is the product of a deliberate American-Saudi policy of instigating a Sunni-Shiite conflict, the likes of which Lebanon has never seen. I mean, even somebody like myself who comes from a split background—my mother is Sunni, and my father is Shiite—I mean, we’ve never seen anything like this. Saudi media, with the full cooperation of the United States, have been for three years mobilizing the Lebanese opposition, because that’s the only thing they have....They have been [doing] serious propagandizing to [split] Sunnis from Shiites in order [to] create a militia that can stand up to Hezbollah.

Back at his website, AbuKhalil notes:

What is quite ironic is that Lebanese Forces' media (like LBC-TV) are gleefully airing calls for Jihad... by (Hariri- and Saudi-funded) Salafite groups in North Lebanon. Do they not know what those groups' views are of Christians? They even refer to Lebanese Christians as "crusaders". These are clones of Al-Qa`idah, but the Lebanese Forces seem to be embracing them.

And so in Lebanon -- as in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia -- the policies of the Bush Administration have only produced more extremism, more terrorists, more violence.

Can we not discern a pattern here, a clear intention? The "War on Terror" produces terror; it's part of the "creative destruction" that the militarists used to boast about, when they dreamed that their crimes of aggression, torture and murder would lead future generations to "sing songs about us," in the immortal words of Michael Ledeen.

This quote is often attributed to Richard Perle, but it comes from Ledeen's call for "total war" in a speech at American Enterprise Institute on October 29, 2001. Ledeen followed this up with a piece on National Review Online in August 2002, when he mocked Brent Scowcroft's concern that an invasion of Iraq could turn the Middle East into a cauldron. Ledeen's response:

One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today.

Ledeen is no mere kibitzer on the rightwing gravy train. He is one of the architects and chief abettors of the cauldronization -- the slaughter and suffering -- we see across the Middle East today. As the Washington Post noted back in the glory days of 2003, when these bloodthirsty wretches were still strutting around beating their chests about their importance:

One [of Karl Rove's advisers] is Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute, whose specialties include terrorism and the Middle East. His latest book, according to the official summary, asserts that "America must topple the regimes of the terror masters to eliminate the threat of terrorism."

The two met after Bush's election. "He said, 'Anytime you have a good idea, tell me,' " Ledeen said. Every month or six weeks, Ledeen will offer Rove "something you should be thinking about." More than once, Ledeen has seen his ideas, faxed to Rove, become official policy or rhetoric.

Nowadays, of course, Ledeen skulks around pretending he opposed the invasion of Iraq: the kind of astonishing lie one might have heard in a Nuremberg courtoom back in the day, and one easily refuted. (As is his current lie that he has always opposed an attack on Iran.) But he, Rove and all the other facilitators of the militarists bear a direct and substantial share of responsibility for the murder and chaos that continues to erupt across the tormented region.

UPDATE: And now Bush is proposing an even more direct U.S. military intervention in Lebanon. Speaking in Cairo -- on yet another one of his pointless trots* around the cauldron (maybe he wants another fancy sword -- or just some more good smoochin' -- from the Saudi king) -- Bush offered to help the Lebanese army "respond more effectively" to Hezbollah. He also took the opportunity to -- what else? -- blame Iran for everything happening in Lebanon, claiming that without the backing of the devilish Persians, Hezbollah -- which, as AbuKhalil noted, is supported by almost half of the Lebanese population -- would be "powerless."

So Bush will soon have yet another proxy war playground to while away his time before retiring to stick his snout in the same corporate trough that has so enriched his fellow war crminal, Tony Blair -- who has already made almost $20 million in corporate pork in less than a year after leaving office.

Who says crime -- especially war crime -- doesn't pay?

*Note. Some might think that Bush is touring the region to build support for an attack on Iran. But that kind of head-knocking and arm-twisting is left to Dick Cheney (who took an ominious swing through the cauldron not long ago). Junior is too witless for any hard-core dealing -- although no doubt he will bluster and bellow to his hosts about Iranian perfidy and "doin' God's will" and whatever else vomits up from his murder-rotted brain.