By Sherwood Ross
Condoleeza Rice shocked the world when she rejected calls for an immediate cease-fire after Israel invaded Lebanon. But her stalling may have been to give Israel the time it needed to wind up its bombing campaign against Hezbollah.
According to an article in The New Yorker, which is setting records for its brilliant coverage of the Middle East, CheneyBush believed a successful Israeli aerial attack on Hezbollah’s underground command-and-control centers could “serve as a prelude to a potential American preemptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.” Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh said Cheney reportedly was enthusiastic about the chance to learn from Israel’s attack.
So maybe President Bush let on more than he knew when he said the conflict represented “a moment of opportunity.” Indeed, the Pentagon expedited the shipment of bombs and fuel for the Israeli warplanes. The scheme was “the mirror image of what the United States has been planning for Iran,” a former senior intelligence official told Hersh.
Israel believed by targeting Lebanon’s infrastructure, such as highways, fuel depots, bridges, and the Beirut airport, it could get Lebanon’s Christian and Sunni populations to turn on Hezbollah, Hersh wrote. But the bombing only united the Lebanese against Israel.
Even though it has strongly denied it, the White House was “closely involved” in the planning of Israel’s invasion – planning that started well before Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers last July 12th.
In fact, the U.S. told Israel it would be better to attack sooner than later so that the Pentagon would have more time to learn from Israel’s tactics to aid its own contemplated assault against Iran before President Bush departed in January, 2009, Hersh noted.
As far back as last Spring, “under pressure from the White House to develop a war plan for a decisive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities,” ranking U.S. Air Force officials met with their Israeli counterparts. What’s more, early last summer, before Hezbollah crossed into Israel to capture the two soldiers, Hersh wrote, several Israeli officials made separate visits to Washington “to get a green light for the bombing operation and to find out how much the United States would bear.”
A consultant to the U.S. government stated, “Israel began with Cheney. It wanted to be sure that it had his support and the support of his office and the Middle East desk of the
National Security Council,” Hersh wrote. The Israelis outlined a major bombing campaign to start after the next Hezbollah provocation.
“The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel told Hersh. “Why oppose it? We’ll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran.”
“The long-term Administration goal was to help set up a Sunni Arab coalition --- including countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt --- that would join the United States and Europe to pressure the ruling Shiite mullahs in Iran,” Hersh wrote. “But the thought behind that plan was that Israel would defeat Hezbollah, not lose to it,” a consultant with close ties to Israel said.
One Middle East expert told Hersh that Hezbollah’s military showing “is a massive setback for those in the White House who want to use force in Iran. And those who argue that the bombing will create internal dissent and revolt in Iran are also set back.”
U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps leaders have been arguing a like aerial assault against Iran will not work. They claim it will lead to sending in ground forces, just as the Israelis were forced to do in Lebanon. Richard Armitage, deputy Secretary of State during Bush’s first term, told Hersh:
“If the most dominant military force in the region --- the Israel Defense Forces --- can’t pacify a country like Lebanon, with a population of four million, you should think carefully about taking that template to Iran, with strategic depth and a population of seventy million.”
“Strategic bombing has been a failed military concept for 90 years, and yet air forces all over the world keep on doing it,” observed John Arquilla, a defense analyst at the Naval Postgraduate School.
“The warfare of today is not mass on mass,” he added. “You have to hunt like a network to defeat a network. Israel focused on bombing against Hezbollah, and, when that did not work, it became more aggressive on the ground. The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result.”
President Bush’s thrashing by the voters November 7th might curb his appetite for bombing Iran. Or it might inspire this vindictive individual “to show them all” by attacking before he leaves office or gets booted out.
To prevent Bush-Cheney from launching yet another aggression is an urgent reason to impeach this Dangerous Duo now. If it defies belief Bush will trigger another war when he is in the deep doo-doo up to his lying lips in Iraq, recall Hitler invaded the Soviet Union while the British bulldog had its teeth clinging to the seat of his pants.
Sherwood Ross is a reporter and columnist. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org