Something about civil war in Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran

All right, Major Things have to Happen today and I've got to set about doing them real quick-like, in preparation for the trip. Have to write midterm exam all day...

Civil war stuff further down. Turns out that the Bush Administration makes up more shit than any other presidency, ever. They use fake news broadcasts with fake reporters, distributed to TV stations, to help provide the public with a fuzzy background of "a caring get-it-done Administration". The Congressional Budget Office has considered some of this stuff potentially "covert propaganda". The NY Times had a major feature on it Sunday.

"Thank you, Bush. Thank you, U.S.A.," a jubilant Iraqi-American told a camera crew in Kansas City for a segment about reaction to the fall of Baghdad. A second report told of "another success" in the Bush administration's "drive to strengthen aviation security"; the reporter called it "one of the most remarkable campaigns in aviation history." A third segment, broadcast in January, described the administration's determination to open markets for American farmers.

To a viewer, each report looked like any other 90-second segment on the local news. In fact, the federal government produced all three. The report from Kansas City was made by the State Department. The "reporter" covering airport safety was actually a public relations professional working under a false name for the Transportation Security Administration. The farming segment was done by the Agriculture Department's office of communications.

Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production.

This winter, Washington has been roiled by revelations that a handful of columnists wrote in support of administration policies without disclosing they had accepted payments from the government. But the administration's efforts to generate positive news coverage have been considerably more pervasive than previously known. At the same time, records and interviews suggest widespread complicity or negligence by television stations, given industry ethics standards that discourage the broadcast of prepackaged news segments from any outside group without revealing the source.

Federal agencies are forthright with broadcasters about the origin of the news segments they distribute. The reports themselves, though, are designed to fit seamlessly into the typical local news broadcast. In most cases, the "reporters" are careful not to state in the segment that they work for the government. Their reports generally avoid overt ideological appeals. Instead, the government's news-making apparatus has produced a quiet drumbeat of broadcasts describing a vigilant and compassionate administration.

Some reports were produced to support the administration's most cherished policy objectives, like regime change in Iraq or Medicare reform. Others focused on less prominent matters, like the administration's efforts to offer free after-school tutoring, its campaign to curb childhood obesity, its initiatives to preserve forests and wetlands, its plans to fight computer viruses, even its attempts to fight holiday drunken driving. They often feature "interviews" with senior administration officials in which questions are scripted and answers rehearsed. Critics, though, are excluded, as are any hints of mismanagement, waste or controversy.

Some of the segments were broadcast in some of nation's largest television markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta.

All right other stuff, quickly. Stratfor says that John Bolton is not such a horror for the UN post, and of course I disagree because he is A) batshit crazy B) antagonizes people purely for symbolic value C) incredibly dishonest and dangerous.

In fact, there is some extremely deep diplomacy going on here. Bolton belongs to the "put-up-or-shut-up" branch of American neocons, believing that the United Nation's original charter prescribed a much more activist organization -- where resolutions would be strengthened by possible consequences if violated, often including the use of force. In Bolton's mind, the Korean War is precisely the type of military action the United Nations was designed to authorize and carry out.

This is, needless to say, very different from the circumstances surrounding the Iraq war of 2003 -- in which the Bush administration, we believe, hoped that the United Nations would not go along with U.S. requests. The whole point of the war was not to oust Saddam Hussein but to intimidate Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia into acting against al Qaeda on Washington's behalf. Bush wanted to scare regimes that supported or enabled al Qaeda by placing uninvited, unsanctioned American armored divisions -- not a sea of polite blue helmets -- in the sands of Iraq.

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Had the administration simply wanted to destroy the United Nations, it would have appointed someone far less controversial and independent-minded who would simply rubber-veto U.N. Security Council resolutions ad nauseam. As Bush pointed out during his first term, the United Nations is relevant only if it takes steps to enforce its own dictates.

Bolton feels the same way. He believes the U.N. system is not necessarily irredeemable, but simply discredited. Rather conveniently, he has two ready-made test cases waiting: North Korea has withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty while Iran is, at best, attempting to skirt the IAEA on technical grounds. In effect, both states have -- in the eyes of the United Nations -- placed themselves outside of the system, and are therefore squarely in what Bolton and his neocon circle feel are the United Nations' crosshairs. Bolton's task will be to get the United Nations to act against them -- not for American interests, but to prevent the United Nations from sliding into total irrelevance.

In the four years to come, the United Nations is likely to have several "legitimate" targets, from the neocons' point of view. In his second term, Bush seems committed to finishing the work not just of his first administration, but of the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations as well. The White House has made no secret of goals that include not only tying up the final loose ends of the Cold War and completing the rollback of Russian power, but also of extending that geopolitical effort to Communist East Asia and the Middle East.

I don't buy it. Ok. Also a former US soldier, Nadim Abou Rabeh, claims that the U.S. faked the news of Saddam's capture on Dec. 13, 2003, and he was actually captured by Rabeh and others somewhere totally different on Dec. 12. Justin Raimondo speculates on whether this is true, and the upcoming demonization of Bashar Assad as the next-worst-thing-to-Hitler. He also has a bit about how the Neo-cons have been chased out of one of their periodical redoubts, National Journal.

The pro-Syrian govt in Lebanon is back in the saddle. Experts warn that the War on Terror (TM) is going to make more terrorists. Apparently the U.S. is finally ready to acknowledge that Hezbollah has a key role to play in Lebanon. We just don't have the traction to play the stupid demonization card anymore.

Speaking of liars around Bush, a bit by David Corn about the bad old days of massacres in El Salvador, and Elliot Abrams lying to Congress to cover it up. These days are going to be here again, with people like him and Negroponte running around. Dowd points out that these 'security-minded' bastards are not really that competent at security.

Oh yeah, here's some batty stuff. David Horowitz made up a site, discoverthenetwork.org, that purports to connect, say, the editors of The Nation with Zacharias Moussaui. It also shines light on the evil conspiracy that is Counterpunch.org. Nuts.

Ok finally, something about that civil war stuff. Uri Averny, an old-school Israeli peacenik, has a ton of good thoughts about what kind of mess we are getting drawn into with Lebanon and elsewhere.

Many years ago, I read a book called The Quiet American by Graham Greene. Its central character is a high-minded, naive young American operative in Vietnam. He has no idea about the complexities of that country but is determined to right its wrongs and create order. The results are disastrous.

I have the feeling that this is happening now in Lebanon. The Americans are not so high-minded and not so naive. Far from it. But they are quite prepared to go into a foreign country, disregard its complexities, and use force to impose on it order, democracy, and freedom.

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Exactly 50 years ago, a secret, heated debate took place among the leaders of Israel. David Ben-Gurion (then minister of defense) and Moshe Dayan (the army chief-of-staff) had a brilliant idea: to invade Lebanon, impose on it a "Christian major" as dictator, and turn it into an Israeli protectorate. Moshe Sharett, then prime minister, attacked this idea fervently. In a lengthy, closely argued letter, which has been preserved for history, he ridiculed the total ignorance of the proponents of this idea in face of the incredibly fragile complexity of the Lebanese social structure. Any adventure, he warned, would end in disaster.

At the time, Sharett won. But 27 years later, Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon did exactly what Ben-Gurion and Dayan had proposed. The result was exactly as foreseen by Sharett.

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In Lebanon, all the diverse communities are in action. Each for its own interest, each plotting to outfox the others, perhaps to attack them at a given opportunity. Some of the leaders are connected with Syria, some with Israel, all are trying to use the Americans for their ends. The jolly pictures of young demonstrators, so prominent in the media, have no meaning if one does not know the community that stands behind them.

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It took us 18 years to get out of that morass. Our only achievement was to turn the Shi'ites into a dominant force. When we entered Lebanon, the Shi'ites received us with showers of rice and candies, hoping that we would throw out the Palestinians, who had been lording it over them. A few months later, when they realized that we did not intend to leave, they started to shoot at us. Sharon is the midwife of Hezbollah.

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If a civil war breaks out in Lebanon, it will not be the only one in the region. In Iraq, such a war – if almost secret – is already in full swing.

The only effective military forces in Iraq, apart from the occupation army, are the Kurdish peshmerga ("those who face death"). The Americans use them whenever they are fighting the Sunnis. They played an important role in the battle of Fallujah, a big town that was totally destroyed, its inhabitants killed or driven out.

Now the Kurdish forces are waging a war against the Sunnis and Turkmens in the north of the country, in order to take hold of the oil-rich areas and the town of Kirkuk, and also to drive out the Sunni settlers who were implanted there by Saddam Hussein.

How can such a war be practically ignored by the media? Simple: everything is swept under the carpet of the "war against terrorism."

But this small war is nothing compared to what may happen in Iraq, once the time comes for deciding the future of the country. The Kurds want complete autonomy, or independence by another name. The Sunnis would not dream of accepting the rule of the Shi'ite majority, which they despise, even if it came about in the name of "democracy." The outbreak of a full-fledged civil war may only be a question of time.

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If the Americans succeed, with Israel's discreet help, in breaking the ruling Syrian dictatorship, there is no assurance at all that it will be replaced by "freedom" and "democracy."

Syria is almost as splintered as Lebanon. There is a strong Druze community in the south, a rebellious Kurdish community in the north, an Alawite community (to which the Assad family belongs) in the west. The Sunni majority is traditionally divided between Damascus in the south and Aleppo in the north. The people have resigned themselves to the Assad dictatorship out of fear of what may happen if the regime collapses.

It is not likely that a full-scale civil war will break out there. But a prolonged situation of total chaos is quite likely. Sharon would be happy, though I am not sure that it would be good for Israel.

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Israel is now openly threatening to bomb the Iranian nuclear installations. Every few days we see on our TV screens the digitally blurred faces of pilots boasting of their readiness to do this at a moment's notice.

The religious fervor of the ayatollahs has been flagging lately, as happens with every victorious revolution after some time. But a military attack by the "Big Satan" (the U.S.) or the "Little Satan" (us) may set fire to the whole Shi'ite crescent: Iran, south Iraq, and south Lebanon.

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And here, too. Israel, too, has recently witnessed a tiny civil war.

In the Galilean village Marrar, where a Druze and an Arab Christian community have been living side by side for generations, a bloody incident suddenly erupted. It was a full-fledged pogrom: the Druze fell upon the Christians, attacking, burning, and destroying. By a miracle, nobody was killed. The Christians say that the Israeli police (many of whose members are Druze) stood aside. The immediate reason for the outbreak: some doctored nude pictures on the Internet.

Here are a couple other writings by Averny. This one is interesting but in particular please read "Israel's coming civil war," it is scary as hell. It was written back in October but it is highly relevant.

Everybody in Israel is talking about the Next War. The most popular TV channel is running a whole series about it. Not another war with the Arabs. Not the nuclear threat from Iran. Not the ongoing bloody confrontation with the Palestinians.

The talk is about the coming civil war.

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The seeds of the civil war were sown when the first settlement was put up in the occupied territories. At the time, I told the prime minister in the Knesset: "You are laying a land mine. Some day you will have to dismantle it. As a former soldier, let me warn you that the dismantling of land mines is a very unpleasant job."

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Many settlers do not yet say so openly and pretend to be insulted when such attitudes are attributed to them, but in fact they are dragged along by the hard core that has already thrown off all the masks. They challenge not only the policy of the government, but Israeli democracy as such. They declare openly that their aim is to overthrow the State of Law and put in its place the State of the Halakha.

A State of Law is subject to the will of the majority, which enacts the laws and amends them as necessary. The State of the Halakha is subject to the Torah, revealed once and for all on Mount Sinai and unchangeable. Only a very small number of eminent rabbis have the authority to interpret the Halakha. That is, of course, the opposite of democracy. In any other country, these people would be called fascists. The religious coloration makes no difference.

The religious-rightist rebels are powerfully motivated. Many of them believe in the Kabbala – not Madonna's fashionable Kabbala, but the real one, which says that today's secular Jews are really Amalekites who succeeded in infiltrating the People of Israel at the time of the exodus from Egypt. God Himself has commanded, as everyone knows, the eradication of Amalek from the face of the earth. Can there be a more perfect ideological basis for civil war?

In preparation for the Great Rebellion, the settlers have unveiled their potential. The most eminent rabbis of the "Religious Zionist movement" have declared that the evacuation of a settlement is a sin against God and have called upon the soldiers to refuse orders. Hundreds of rabbis, including the rabbis of the settlements and the rabbis of the religious units in the army, have joined the call.

The voice of the few opponents is being drowned out. They quote the Talmudic saying "the law of the kingdom is law," meaning that every government has to be obeyed, much as Christians are required to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, etc. But who listens to these "moderate rabbis" now?

The conquest of the army from the inside began long ago. The "arrangement" with the yeshivot (religious schools) that serve in the army as separate units has allowed the entry of a huge Trojan horse. In any confrontation between their rabbis and their army commanders, the soldiers of the "arrangement yeshivot" will obey the rabbis. Worse: for years now, the settlers have systematically penetrated the ranks of the officers' corps, where they now constitute an even more dangerous Trojan horse.

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Altogether, the settlers, together with their close allies in Israel including the yeshivot students, may amount to something like half a million people – a mighty phalanx for rebellion.

Well that's a pretty serious blog post. I don't think I'll have time to add anything else. I didn't really even have time for this, but it is really important stuff to note. Everyone have a great spring break, and hopefully Mordred will offer something to us over that time....

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