When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert unleashed his navy and air force on Lebanon, accusing that tiny nation of an “act of war,” the last pillar of Bush’s Middle East policy collapsed.
First came capitulation on the Bush Doctrine, as Pyongyang and Tehran defied Bush’s dictum: The world’s worst regimes will not be allowed to acquire the world’s worst weapons. Then came suspension of the democracy crusade as Islamic militants exploited free elections to advance to power and office in Egypt, Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, Iraq and Iran.
Now, Israel’s rampage against a defenseless Lebanon – smashing airport runways, fuel tanks, power plants, gas stations, lighthouses, bridges, roads and the occasional refugee convoy – has exposed Bush’s folly in subcontracting U.S. policy out to Tel Aviv, thus making Israel the custodian of our reputation and interests in the Middle East.
The Lebanon that Israel, with Bush’s blessing, is smashing up has a pro-American government, heretofore considered a shining example of his democracy crusade. Yet, asked in St. Petersburg if he would urge Israel to use restraint in its airstrikes, Bush sounded less like the leader of the Free World than some bellicose city councilman from Brooklyn Heights.
What Israel is up to was described by its army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, when he threatened to “turn back the clock in Lebanon 20 years.”
Olmert seized upon Hezbollah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers to unleash the IDF in a pre-planned attack to make the Lebanese people suffer until the Lebanese government disarms Hezbollah, a task the Israeli army could not accomplish in 18 years of occupation.
Israel is doing the same to the Palestinians. To punish these people for the crime of electing Hamas, Olmert imposed an economic blockade of Gaza and the West Bank and withheld the $50 million in monthly tax and customs receipts due the Palestinians.
Then, Israel instructed the United States to terminate all aid to the Palestinian Authority, though Bush himself had called for the elections and for the participation of Hamas. Our Crawford cowboy meekly complied.
The predictable result: Fatah and Hamas fell to fratricidal fighting, and Hamas militants began launching Qassam rockets over the fence from Gaza into Israel. Hamas then tunneled into Israel, killed two soldiers, captured one, took him back into Gaza and demanded a prisoner exchange.
Israel’s response was to abduct half of the Palestinian cabinet and parliament and blow up a $50 million U.S.-insured power plant. That cut off electricity for half a million Palestinians. Their food spoiled, their water could not be purified, and their families sweltered in the summer heat of the Gaza desert. One family of seven was wiped out on a beach by what the IDF assures us was an errant artillery shell.
Let it be said: Israel has a right to defend herself, a right to counter-attack against Hezbollah and Hamas, a right to clean out bases from which Katyusha or Qassam rockets are being fired and a right to occupy land from which attacks are mounted on her people.
But what Israel is doing is imposing deliberate suffering on civilians, collective punishment on innocent people, to force them to do something they are powerless to do: disarm the gunmen among them. Such a policy violates international law and comports neither with our values nor our interests. It is un-American and un-Christian.
But where are the Christians? Why is Pope Benedict virtually alone among Christian leaders to have spoken out against what is being done to Lebanese Christians and Muslims?
When al-Qaida captured two U.S. soldiers and barbarically butchered them, the U.S. Army did not smash power plants across the Sunni Triangle. Why then is Bush not only silent but openly supportive when Israelis do this?
Democrats attack Bush for crimes of which he is not guilty, including Haditha and Abu Ghraib. Why are they, too, silent when Israel pursues a conscious policy of collective punishment of innocent peoples?
Britain’s diplomatic goal in two world wars was to bring the naive cousins in, to “pull their chestnuts out of the fire.” Israel and her paid and pro-bono agents here appear determined to expand the Iraq war into Syria and Iran, and have America fight and finish all of Israel’s enemies.
That Tel Aviv is maneuvering us to fight its wars is understandable. That Americans are ignorant of, or complicit in this, is deplorable.
Already, Bush is ranting about Syria being behind the Hezbollah capture of the Israeli soldiers. But where is the proof?
Who is whispering in his ear? The same people who told him Iraq was maybe months away from an atom bomb, that an invasion would be a “cakewalk,” that he would be Churchill, that U.S. troops would be greeted with candy and flowers, that democracy would break out across the region, that Palestinians and Israelis would then sit down and make peace?
How much must America pay for the education of this man?