Exporting Death as Democracy: an essay on U.S. foreign policy in Lebanon

‘Public Diplomacy’: a history of public deception


In 1983, a Memorandum entitled, "Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy Strategies for Lebanon and the Middle East," was prepared for the Chair of the International Political Committee. It was signed by Robert C McFarlane, as Chairman of the Special Planning Group of the National Security Council. Its purpose was to mobilize public opinion in support of U.S. policy in Lebanon. Its premise was that such support was lacking because "many Americans have difficulty relating the complicated politics of Lebanon to U.S. vital interests. Appealing to our regional interests, i.e., Israeli security or our hope for democracy in Lebanon, is not likely by itself to convince the American people the costs are worth it."[1]


To overcome such limitations, the same Memorandum argued for "an effective short-term strategy which coherently argues why Lebanon is of strategic importance to the United States, not merely because of its relationship to the Soviet and Syrian threat in the Eastern Mediterranean, but also because of the linkage between what happens in Syria and Lebanon and the future stability of the Persian Gulf." Conveying this information properly required another kind of strategy, one that would "penetrate the twelve media centers in the U.S." in addition to reaching out to business, labor, special interest groups, as well as educational and religious institutions with the assistance of reliable "heavy hitters."


The above memo was as applicable in 2006 as it when issued in 1983. Both periods followed U.S.-supported Israeli invasions of Lebanon which were justified by the Reagan and, later, by the G.W. Bush administrations, in similar terms. Then as now, the administration claimed that its policies were critical to the protection of vital U.S. national interests, which included the protection of Israel and the support of democracy in Lebanon. In both instances, developments in Lebanon were linked to those in Damascus and the Gulf. In both periods, radical Lebanese Shi’ites were suspected of harboring Iranian connections. And then as now, public diplomacy was an instrument of public deception designed to effectively mask Washington’s policies and those of its allies in the region.


Yet the above Memorandum remains useful. In summary form, it identifies elements of continuity in U.S. policy in Beirut that remain relevant nearly a quarter of a century after it was issued. By framing U.S. policy in terms of support for Israel and the protection of U.S. interests in the Gulf, the authors of the Memorandum accurately conveyed Washington’s assessment of Beirut’s place in its broader Middle East design. It was one in which Lebanon was inextricably linked to the Israeli/Palestine struggle and to the conflicting currents of the Arab world and the Gulf.


From the outset, U.S. policymakers were well aware of Lebanon’s regional predicament and its impact on local politics. They did not fail to recognize that some 200,000 Palestinian refugees entered Lebanon as a result of the 1948 war, and that the number had roughly doubled by 1982.[2] But Washington’s interest in Beirut rested elsewhere. It was anchored in its commercial and strategic possibilities for U.S. oil. Under the circumstances, Washington’s prime objective in Beirut was identifying the segment of the Lebanese elite that could be reliably counted on in an environment increasingly open to the challenge of nationalist and radical forces. It was this context that shaped Washington’s permanently suspicious outlook on the Palestinian resistance in Beirut and elsewhere, as it constituted a permanent risk of radicalization.


This was the basis of the congruence with Israeli policies in Lebanon. But after 1967, it was but a portion of the far more ambitious role assigned by the U.S. to Israel in the Middle East, Latin America and Africa. In the Lebanese context, U.S. officials understood that Israel’s courtship of Lebanon’s Christians, which preceded 1948, was premised on the proposition that like minded minorities shared a common heritage and a common political outlook, notably, a hostility to Arab nationalism and Palestinian resistance. The description by no means applied to all Lebanese Christians. Hence, Israel’s support was limited to those who qualified in its terms, such as the Phalangists and their militias, which Tel Aviv supported with its 1982 invasion of Lebanon.


The role played by the U.S. in that invasion and what followed, when U.S. Marines were sent to Beirut as part of the Multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon, was directly relevant to the timing of the October 23, 1983, Memorandum identified above. Three days earlier a truck bomb exploded at the headquarters of the U.S. Marines in Beirut, leaving 241 dead.


Public opinion polls in the United States in early 1984 demonstrated that there was increasing "discontent with President Reagan’s policy in Lebanon," and the desire to "extricate marines from a country where 250 Americans have already died."[3] By then, the estimated casualty toll of the Israeli invasion in Lebanon was between 17,000 and 20,000.


How much did the U.S. public know or recall of U.S. policy in Lebanon? Mainstream media coverage among some of the major newspapers on the East Coast was shattering in its images of war and glaring in what it chose to neglect. Washington had supported Israel’s policies in Lebanon prior to the 1982 invasion, and it supported Syrian intervention in 1976, as did Israel, when that was directed against the Lebanese left and the PLO. The U.S. endorsed Israel’s tactical alliance with right wing Lebanese parties and militias bent on destroying the PLO, which was the justification for the 1982 invasion.


Accounts of the Israeli invasion, images of devastation, reports of prison camps, testimony of foreign doctors working with Palestinians, evidence of the scale of destruction of Beirut, the agony of the Lebanese Guernica,[4] were on record, even if it sorely incomplete, as with respect to the impact of Israel’s invasion on the south. Nonetheless, Israel’s use of U.S.-made cluster bombs and phosphorus bombs in densely populated civilian areas, led then-President Reagan, who fully supported the invasion, to call for an indefinite " suspension of shipments of such weapons to Israel," which, in reality, "applied only to a single shipment then ready for transport."[5] In a calculated effort to salvage U.S. interests, Washington called for an end to violence, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Beirut, and support for its initiatives to deal with the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The invitation excluded the Palestinians, a fraudulent and fateful omission given the nature of the conflict. but one overlooked by those unaware of — or unprepared to — question Washington’s ‘honest broker’ image.


The authors of the 1983 Memorandum were no doubt correct in assuming that many Americans were not supporting U.S. policy. The origins and objectives of that policy remained obscure. But they were hardly invisible.


Over the intervening years, U.S. presidential doctrines consistently reiterated their support for a unified Lebanese state, which in translation meant a state governed by a regime deemed sufficiently in harmony with U.S. interests to merit support. Chief among such interests in the postwar decades, was protecting Lebanon’s transit role in the regional oil economy and promoting Beirut as a financial, trading and commercial center in the Middle East. Assuring the status quo in keeping with policies compatible with U.S. interests led to overt and covert interventions in Lebanon’s internal political struggles. It meant deliberately undermining those advocating reformist programs in Lebanon’s first civil war in 1958, and supporting Christian right-wing forces advocating anti-Palestinian, anti-left and pro-American policies, in the second that broke out in 1975 and continued in different forms through 1990.


Washington’s objective in Lebanon was to assure the elimination of radical forces, to contain the Palestinian resistance, and, from the late 1970s on, to align Beirut with Washington’s allies, Riyadh, Amman and Cairo, following the 1978 signing of the Israeli-Egyptian Camp David agreement, which Lebanon failed to join.


U.S. Policy in the 1950s


Following World War II, U.S. interests in Lebanon were defined primarily in commercial terms whose strategic importance was clearly understood by U.S. policymakers and oil executives alike. Lebanon was valued for its role as a transit state, one whose indispensable function was to carry ARAMCO’s oil through the related U.S.-built Tapline, from Saudi Arabia to the Lebanese port of Sidon. Beirut oil-related enterprises, in short, were part of the vast complex that was under the control of the Petroleum Cartel. Its history is inseparable from that of U.S. oil and political interests in the decades following World War II.


In 1958, at the time of the first Lebanese civil war and the Iraqi revolution, U.S. officials in Lebanon had the responsibility of guaranteeing the protection of both the U.S. and UK pipelines, the latter connecting the Iraq Petroleum Company’s oil (which did not belong to Iraq) to the Lebanese port of Tripoli.[6]


Long before 1958, Washington developed a network of relations with Lebanon’s financial, commercial and political elite, which reinforced its assessment of the considerable value of this very small state in the protection and projection of its interests and power across the region. In a period when Washington feared the sweep of radical change that its officials viewed as inevitable in a region they described as overtaken by the ‘struggle between defenders of the status quo and advocates of change,’ Beirut represented the pole of resistance against Egyptian President Nasser. Of incomparably greater influence in the region, the Egyptian leader was consistently courted and undermined by U.S. officials who suspected his role in every regional crisis, including that which gripped Lebanon in the year of its first civil war. Hence, the sense of increasing alarm that affected U.S. officials as they viewed the evidence of increasing disaffection with the regime in Beirut.[7]


On 14 July, the British-supported Iraqi monarchy collapsed before the forces of the Iraqi revolution. The news arrived as the U.S. was preparing for military intervention in Beirut, a move designed to shore up its Lebanese allies. In London, however, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan urged U.S. President Eisenhower to drop the idea of intervening in Lebanon and to turn, instead, to a joint intervention in Baghdad. The idea had no appeal in Washington where the prospects of a diminished British presence in the Gulf was hardly a threat. Eisenhower therefore rejected the invitation but added the following in his 18 July, response to MacMillan:


"Whatever happens in Iraq and other parts of the area, we must, I think, not only try to bolster up both the loyalties and the military and economic strength of Lebanon and Jordan, we must also, and this seems to me even more important, see that the Persian Gulf area stays within the Western orbit. The Kuwait-Dhahran-Abadan areas become extremely important and Turkey and Iran have become more important. We shall seek ways to help them be sturdy allies, first in quality and second in quantity, insofar as that quantity can be usefully provided and maintained."[8]


The members of the U.S. Senate were not consulted on these questions, as their complaints made clear. Members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee that met over the course of the summer of 1958 to consider the ‘situation in the Middle East,’ with briefings on U.S. policy by administration officials, were privy to little of what was actually going on in the region. Their prime concern was with U.S. intervention in Lebanon, though they had numerous questions about Iraq and the failure of U.S. Intelligence to anticipate the revolution. At the outset, Senate critics demanded to know the legal basis for U.S. intervention in Lebanon, obviously irritated by the evident disdain for Congressional opinion. Such questions led beyond Lebanon to Iraq, and the more general question of U.S. oil interests in the region.[9]


Concerning Lebanon, senators were told that U.S. intervention was a necessary and just response to the predicament facing the Lebanese President. They were made to understand that its broader implications were justified by Washington’s firm stance against radical currents in a region open to Soviet penetration and local subversion. Questions pertaining to Lebanon’s civil war and the precise source of external danger to which the Lebanese President and his U.S. ally consistently pointed went unanswered, save for repetitive accusations against Egypt, Syria, and radio propaganda that was considered a form of ‘aggressive indirect aggression.’


As to Iraq, senators were told that U.S. officials, including those in the Intelligence community, were unaware and unprepared for news of the Iraqi revolution. Some Senators, however, took issue with the derogatory descriptions of the event, suggesting that Iraqis might have exercised their legitimate rights in revolting against a corrupt and unrepresentative government. Questions concerning U.S. oil interests in the Gulf, including Kuwait, indicated more than a passing knowledge, but they were categorically set aside. Indeed, the juxtaposition of Senate hearings with what the record shows of parallel U.S. communiqués with Britain on the subject, offer striking evidence of the profound dis-connect between public talk and inside policy.


At the same time as the Senate welcomed administration officials (with the illusory hope of clarifying U.S. policy) the U.S. President assured Prime Minister Macmillan of the U.S. commitment to the defense of Anglo-American interests in the Gulf. As Senate hearings continued, U.S. officials offered their versions of the Iraqi ‘coup,’ while Senate critics disputed a policy of intervention at the will of the executive, repeatedly raising the question of Congressional authorization. Again, in virtually parallel though secret exchanges, the U.S. Secretary of State assured British officials that "we can put up sand bags around positions we must protect — the first group being Israel and Lebanon and the second being the oil positions around the Persian Gulf."[10]


The New Disorder in the Middle East


That was in 1958. In the two long decades that followed, the region was subjected to unprecedented turmoil as civil wars, regional wars, and revolutions fundamentally altered the political contours of the region. For the vast majority whose interests were routinely ignored, the results involved loss and displacement and a chronic political discontent. There was Israel’s 1967 war and that of October 1973, the first of which enhanced Israeli territorial acquisitions at the expense of Palestinians, as well as Egyptians and Syrians, leading not only to renewed conflict but to the imposition of an oil embargo that had entirely different repercussions. In 1975 the Lebanese civil war exploded, a toxic mix of inseparable factors whose origins were to be found in Lebanese as well as regional politics.


In the same year, Washington debated the possibilities of intervention to assure its control over oil,[11] a preoccupation that was to be magnified by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 that followed the 1979 Iranian revolution that forced the exile of the U.S. backed Shah. On 18 July, 1979, The Guardian (UK) reported that "On 16 July 1979 Saddam Hussein came to power in Iraq."


Washington’s response to developments in Iran was to promote attempts to foment a military coup, to get arms to the Iranian military, and once the Iraq-Iran broke out, to assure the defeat of Iran. The introduction of the Rapid Deployment Force into the Gulf by then Pres Carter was another means of asserting American power, one whose capacity to intervene was significantly expanded by President Reagan in 1988.[12]


Earlier, Washington considered its crafting of the Camp David Agreement, signed by Egypt and Israel in 1978, a major achievement. At the regional level, Washington rewarded Egypt and Israel, previously the recipient of generous support after its 1967 victory, with arms sales and economic assistance. According to one report, "an Israeli official who participated in the Blair House military talks with Egypt and the U.S. in 1979 described those sessions as outlining not formal alliances ‘but a loose division of labor,’ in which the U.S. would supply the military assistance for Egypt to police the Arab world and Israel to protect the Sadat regime against retaliation."[13] According to the Newsweek 1980 account of this development, Washington was reported to have been opposed to a "security partnership among Israel, Egypt and the United States," favored by Israel. In practice, Israel’s role was more extensive in the Middle East, where it supplied arms to potential opponents of the Iranian regime with U.S. support, as well as outside the region, in parts of Africa and Latin America and later extending to Asia.[14]


In Lebanon, the 1967 war and the expulsion of Palestinians from Jordan three years later, resulted in Lebanon becoming the principal base of the Palestinians outside of occupied territory. helped result in Palestinians developing their principal base of operations in its territory. The results deeply affected Lebanese domestic politics, inciting opposition among those Christians and Muslims who shared a profound unease about the presence of the Palestinian resistance movement and its potential consequences. For some, as in the case of the right wing Christian Phalangist Party, the result was an openness to Israeli support as well as that of the U.S.


Intertwined with this struggle in Lebanon was another whose class roots were to be found in the aggravated consequences of the country’s uneven socioeconomic development and its transformation into an unproductive service economy. The Lebanese south was arguably the most impoverished part of the country, with its predominantly Shi’ite population increasingly radicalized as a result. But Lebanon’s Shiite population was neither exclusively southern, rural, nor monolithic in its socioeconomic and political status. It was the disenfranchised of the south, however, who formed the supportive base of the "Movement of the Dispossessed" and its military arm, Amal. And it was the forces of Amal that, at a later stage, were locked in conflict with the Palestinian resistance and the left, in the mid 1980s.


These separate but interrelated factors figured in the different phases of Lebanon’s second civil war, including the bitter Palestinian-Lebanese struggles that deepened intra-Lebanese divisions which Israeli, Syria and the U.S. exploited and reinforced. The principal coalition of opposition forces represented in the Lebanese National Movement (LNM) was linked with the Palestinian resistance, a combination anathema to Israel and to Washington, and, for a different set of reasons, to Syria that had initially supported the left. In this context, the LNM’s proposed reforms which should have been welcome to Washington as a form of political modernization and secularization, were depicted as endangering U.S. interests in the region with the result that Washington and Tel Aviv supported Lebanese right wing forces with the assistance of Syria, as of 1976.


In 1976, the U.S. State Department issued a statement reaffirming its opposition to partition and its support of measures "which will insure security and opportunity for all individuals and communities in the country."[15] The civil war, however, was by no means over. It would continue until 1990 and the Taif agreement of that year. However, the U.S. Department of Defense justified its Security Assistance Program for Lebanon, for 1978 and 1979, in terms of U.S. support for Lebanon’s national integrity and the urgency of reconstruction. Its proposal for assistance was couched in terms of the U.S. objective of improving the capacity of the central government to promote the restoration of a moderate and a democratic state that would be favorable for Lebanon’s reintegration into the international economy.[16] As the DOD program proposal acknowledged at the time, fighting in the south continued among "contending armed factions" that required effective intervention by the central government.


What the directives of the DOD formally ignored was the terrain of the "contending armed factions." To a former Israeli conscript who had served in southern Lebanon as part of a platoon, the Christian militia were "Israeli-paid gunmen [who] acted as informants, interrogators, and enforcers. Israel’s strategy was to disrupt Palestinian guerrillas by punishing the surrounding Lebanese population; the result was deeply felt Lebanese anger."[17]


The Israeli press offered its readers the views of then retired Gen. Mordechai Gur on Israel’s March 1978 invasion of parts of southern Lebanon, known as the ‘Litany Operation’, which basically confirmed the above position with considerably more instructive details as to the mode of operations of the Israeli military in occupied territories, Jordan, Egypt as well as southern Lebanon. Reaching the Litani was the objective, as Gur made clear. Then, an accord with a strengthened Lebanese government was an option, followed by a role for the UN. If the former was lacking, Israel’s presence would be extended. He expressed no doubts as to Israel’s course or his own, when he ordered "the IDF to enter a populated area and sanction free-fire."[18]


Israeli forces were to remain in control of parts of the Lebanese south from 1978 to 2000, the year in which the Lebanese resistance, led primarily by the Hezbollah, succeeded in forcing their ouster. It was to be the preface to Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon, one in which the PLO was no longer the justification for Israeli action. This time, the target was Hizbollah; the reason, its resistance to Israeli control, a position supported by Washington policymakers who viewed it as a regional threat — additionally allied to Washington’s nemesis in Teheran.


And now for the past present


Considered in historical perspective, the latest example of U.S.-Israeli collaboration in the invasion of Lebanon offered a perverted echo of past policies whose impact was deepened by the transformations that occurred in the region and at the international level since 1982. Among the results were those catalogued in the reports of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that addressed the scale of destruction and the evidence of war crimes in Lebanon, as well UN reports that bore witness to the dire conditions affecting Gaza as a result of Israel’s systematic dismantling of its social, political and economic infrastructure.


The collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1989 and the subsequent advances of the U.S. in Central Asia and the Caucuses, to which the first U.S. invasion of Iraq in 1991 must be added, radically changed the environment in which the U.S. operated under its favored cover of exporting democracy and the values of western civilization. Unprecedented oil profits in the hands of well protected pro-American regimes in the oil producing states of the Arab world minimized the risks to U.S. policy from this source. The new ‘axis of evil’, was represented by Tehran, Damascus and the so-called non-state actor, the Lebanese Hizbollah, that came to epitomize the newest form of international scourge to the sovereignty of the state.


By contrast, the U.S.-Israeli relationship had been eminently strengthened since the 1982 war and the 1988 U.S.-Israeli ‘memorandum of understanding,’ that basically confirmed past agreements while describing Israel as ‘a major non-NATO ally.’ Neither Israel’s invasion of Lebanon nor its steady denial of Palestinian rights in Gaza and the West Bank, undermined the relationship.


Nevertheless resistance to Israeli policies persisted in occupied territories under direct Israeli control. In very different circumstances, resistance to Israel’s continuing occupation of southern Lebanon continued until 2000. At that time, Israeli forces withdrew, largely in response to Lebanese resistance mobilized primarily, though not exclusively, by Hizbollah. The elimination of such resistance activities was both an Israeli and a U.S. objective, as evidence of the joint U.S.-Israeli planning for the 2006 invasion of Lebanon suggests. Washington justified its policies not only in terms of protecting the security of its special ally, but as firmly eliminating the threat from ‘extremists’ in the region and bringing about the transformation of the ‘new Middle East.’ Examples of the latter included what was, in effect, an entente cordiale among states such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, along with the states of the Gulf, and Israel, to which Washington hoped to eventually add a newly reconstituted Lebanon, provided an appropriate regime was in place.


Washington justified its support of the Israeli invasion of 2006 in terms of Israel’s right of self-defense, and its role in the ‘war against terror’ in the Middle East, a war waged in Lebanon against what the G.W. Bush administration claimed was Iran’s proxy, the Hizbollah. Both the U.S. and Israel claimed to be supporters of Lebanon, a state whose near destruction, according to this logic, was to be considered a step on the path of democratization.


The symbol of U.S-Israeli collaboration in 2006, as in 1982, was the evidence of U.S.-made and -supplied cluster bombs. In 2006, as it had been earlier, Israel was charged with using U.S.-made cluster bombs in violation of prior agreements.[19] This time, the U.N. joined in the denunciation of Israel’s use of such weapons, revealing that clearance experts had thus far found 100.000 unexploded cluster bomblets at 359 separate sites. The map of Israeli landmines in Lebanon was one of the demands previously made by Hizbollah to the Israeli government, as part of its prisoner exchanges, without success.


On August 23, the Office of the Spokesman of the Department of State issued a statement on the subject of "United States Emergency Aid to Lebanon to Clear Explosive Remnants of War." In its first paragraph it revealed that "The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs is quickly expanding its nearly decade-long landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) humanitarian clearance program in Lebanon in order to help remove the newest explosive remnants of war that endanger the Lebanese who are returning to their homes in the southern part of the country."[20]


The State Department was apparently far ahead of the U.S. Senate that, according to the Associated Press, voted on Wednesday, September 6, 2006, to defeat by a margin of 70 to 30 an amendment calling on the Pentagon to halt the transfer or sale of cluster bombs to those using them near civilian targets.


There were other tangible signs of U.S. support for Israel.[21] At the end of July 2006, Washington accelerated delivery of ‘High Technology Bombs’ to the Israeli military. The target was ostensibly Hizbollah. Arrangements for financing U.S. military assistance to Israel had always been a lucrative business for U.S. corporations such as, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, since according to U.S. law, 74 percent of such assistance had to be spent on U.S. military materiel.[22] In 2004, according to a U.S. Congressional Research Service report, Washington increased military aid to Israel to $2.4 billion annually, from about $1.8 billion. Estimates of U.S. arms exports to Israel between 1994-2003 were approximately $6.9 billion, with Israel in possession of "more F-16s than any other country besides the U.S."[23] Washington did not entirely ignore its favored Arab partners. Suffice it to recall the recent sale of more than $6 billion worth of military equipment to Saudi Arabia.


On the ground in southern Lebanon, "Operation Peace for Galilee", the 1982 Israeli invasion, continued until 2000. As Gen. Gur had predicted, Israel remained in place. It expanded the ‘security zone’ it had defined for its operations in 1978, in spite of UN Security Council Resolution 425 of March 1978 that, in addition to calling for respect for Lebanon’s sovereignty and integrity, called on Israel "immediately to cease its military action against Lebanese territorial integrity and withdraw forthwith its forces from all Lebanese territory." Instead, incursions, abductions and attacks followed, such as those of 1993 and 1996 in Qana, the latter involving an Israeli attack on a UN post in which an estimated 100 were killed and roughly the same number injured. Israeli forces were involved in abductions of Sheikh Obeid on 28 July 1988 and Mustafa Dirani, on 21 May 1994.


As Zeev Maoz recalled in Ha’aretz (24 July 2006), "During operations ‘Accountability’ [in 1993] and ‘Grapes of Wrath’ [in 1996], Israel’s mass bombardments of civilian targets caused mass evacuations of Southern Lebanon, the estimated number of refugees in each case exceeded 500,000 Lebanese. We do not have a good estimate of the number of civilian fatalities in each of these incidents, but during the ‘Grapes of Wrath’ operation, Israeli shells hit a civilian shelter killing 103 civilians including many women and children."[21] After Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, after an 18-year occupation, largely as a result of Hizbollah’s resistance, "Israel has violated Lebanese airspace by carrying out aerial reconnaissance missions virtually every day since its withdrawal from Southern Lebanon six years ago."[22]


Preparations for war began, it appears, after the 2000 withdrawal. Discussions of such prospects with U.S. diplomats, journalists and various lobbying groups in Washington additionally provide evidence of collaboration, which was later denied. Those less reticent to confirm U.S.-Israeli consultations, if not collaboration on the Lebanon invasion, indicated that "Israel had devised a plan for attacking Hezbollah — and shared it with Bush Administration officials — well before the July 12th kidnappings."[23]


At issue for Washington was the connection between Hizbollah and Iran, the commitment to eliminate the former as a prerequisite to confronting Iran. In that guise, the conflict that exploded in Lebanon risking the very existence of state and society, was but a convenient rehearsal for a more drastic exercise.


In conjunction with the catastrophic results of its policies in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S.-supported Israeli invasion of Lebanon merits high-level inquiry and investigation as well as official denunciation and mourning. The increasing attention paid to the consequences of official deception in the manufacture of the rationale for war on Iraq, deserved to be applied to the US- Israel war on Lebanon and Gaza. In early September 2006 no such plans were in evidence, but internal opposition to Washington’s claims had long been heard from the minority of well informed intellectuals, critics and scholars prepared to challenge official claims, and it later became audible from defense analysts who challenged the official view of Hizbollah and generals who took issue with the notion that that organization was nothing more than an Iranian dependency.


It remains for the non-generals, the non-politicians, the vast majority of others, the non-important people, the rest of us, in sum, to ask, as did journalist Amira Hass in her eloquent address to Israelis and their studied indifference to the decimation of Palestinian society and to the incarceration of Gaza, "Can you really not see?"[24]


The question is ours, as well.





1. 26 October 1983, Memorandum For the Honorable Lawrence S. Eagleburger, Chairman, International Political Committee. Prepared for the Honorable Robert C. McFarlane, Chairman, Special Planning Group. U.S. Department of State, Office of FOI, Privacy and Classification Review. U.S. Propaganda Action in the Middle East, National Security Archive.


2. Alexander Cockburn and James Ridgeway, "War in Lebanon," The Village Voice, vol.. XXV11, no.25, 22 June 1982.


3. Steven V. Roberts, "Support Waning for Beirut Role," The New York Times, 4 January 1984, p. A10.


4. Fawwaz Trabulsi, "Beirut-Guernica: A City and a Painting," Middle East Report, September-October 1988.


5. Eleanor Randolph, "Reagan Suspends Indefinitely Sale of Cluster Bombs to Israel," The Boston Globe, 28 July 1982, p. 8.


6. In discussion with Pres. Eisenhower, V.P. Nixon and Defense officials, Secretary of State J.F. Dulles was reported to have argued that if Iraqi pipelines were destroyed, the U.S. "should of course help them [the British] meet their shortages." Cited in Irene L. Gendzier, Notes From the Minefield (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), p. 300.


7. For further discussion on Lebanon and Iraq in 1958, see the Preface to the 2006 edition of Notes From the Minefield, United States Intervention in Lebanon and the Middle East, 1945-1958 (New York: Columbia University Press, forthcoming 2006). I wish to express my thanks to the editors of this work for allowing me to cite from its pages.


8. Preface, Notes From the Minefield (2006), pp. xxv-xxvi.


9. Ibid., pp. xxvi-xxvii. Further discussion of U.S. Senate hearings on the 1958 crisis will find them in ch.13 of Notes From the Minefield. (2006).


10. Ibid., p. 355.


11. "Oil Fields as Military Objectives: a Feasibility Study," Prepared for the Special Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on International Relations by the Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. 21 August 1975, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1975.


12. John Cushman, Jr., "Reagan Consulted in Midst of Battle," The New York Times, 22 April 1988, p. A8.


13. "We Have Problems," by Steven Strasser with Kim WIllenson, Fred Coleman and David Martin, William E Schmidt and Martin Kasindorf, Newsweek, 14 July 1980, cited in Joe Stork, "The Carter Doctrine and U.S. Bases in the Middle East," MERIP Report, September 1980, p. 10.


14. Noam Chomsky, Pirates and Emperors, (Cambridge, MA, 1986), see Israeli sources cited on p.113-114; and in Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1999), pp. 23-27; 457 and note, and 458.


15. Department of State Bulletin, "United States Reaffirms Commitment to Integrity and Unity of Lebanon," 11 October 1976, p.459.


16. United States Department of Defense, Security Assistance Program, 1978, 1979.


17. James Ron, "The Next Step for Israel," The Boston Globe, 25 May 2000, p. A 25.


18. Interview by Alex Fishman with General (reserves) Mordechai Gur, Al Hamishmar, 10 May 1978 (trans. by I. Shahak).


19. Julian Borger, "US Investigates Whether Israel Violated Deal on Cluster Bombs," The Guardian, 26 August 2006.


20. "United States Emergency Aid to Lebanon to Clear Explosive Remnants of War," Media Note, Office of the Spokesman, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C., released 23 August 2006.


21. The following paragraph is taken from I. Gendzier, "The Secretary of State Prefers Brahms," ZNet, 31 July 2006.


22. As cited in Thalif Deen, "Israel Violates U.S. Law With Attack on Lebanon," Antiwar.com, 18 July 2006.


23. Frida Berrigan and William D. Hartung, with Leslie Heffel, U.S. Weapons at War 2005: Promoting Freedom or Fueling Conflict: U.S. Military Aid and Arms Transfers Since September 11, Arms Trade Resource Center, June 2005, p.34.


23. Zeev Maoz, "The War of Double Standards," Ha’aretz, 24 July 2006.


24. Ibid.


25. Seymour M. Hersh: "Watching Lebanon," The New Yorker, 21 August 2006.


26. Amira Hass, "Can you really not see?" Ha’aretz, 30 August 2006.



Irene L. Gendzier is a professor of Political Science at Boston University. Note: This essay was originally written for the special issue on Lebanon of the MIT Electronic Journal of Middle East Studies, forthcoming Fall 2006. The present version includes some minor changes.

Leave a comment