Sunday, July 30, 2006

As History Repeats Itself

“…let us remember that our main goal and purpose is to achieve a broader peace in all of the Middle East.” – President Ronald Wilson Reagan; October 27, 1983

Many have by now likely seen the footage of the remains of a building destroyed in an Israeli Air Force strike on the southern Lebanese town of Qana. The world was quick to condemn Israel for the air strike, as many civilians were killed.

The world, though, conveniently forgets that as Israel – unlike Hizballah, Hamas and al-Qaeda – does not have a policy of targeting civilians, the only reason Israel would bomb anywhere in Qana is because Hizballah used buildings, or other areas in the city itself, to deliberately launch missiles at – you guessed it – Israeli civilians.

I wonder, and others should too if they haven’t before, why Israel is to be always held accountable for civilian deaths, especially when rarely – if at all – do those Arab nations or groups which make no secret that they target Israeli civilians get censured by anyone else other than the U.S. or, for that matter, Israel, unequivocally? European and U.N. condemnations routinely mention either both Israeli and Arab civilian deaths when they occur around the same time, or only the Arab deaths (or U.N. deaths). Smells like rotten fish, and it has for too long.

I’m talking about the type of rotten fish left in the back of a car for too long, as in the movie “Grumpy Old Men”…only this is no comedy.

This conflict – this war – began because Israel has lived for its entire existence with the threat of terrorism, and after waiting since 2000, finally took some seriously decisive action. Terrorism against Israel did not begin when Israel took over the “Palestinian” territories.

It began when, after hostilities – started by the Arab world – ended in 1949, countries like Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon funded Arab terrorists who snuck into Israel and attacked innocent civilians. This continued through to the 1956 war, and the 1967 war. Why did Israel take over the Golan Heights in 1967? It wasn’t for the sake of conquering it – it was because the Syrians routinely used the Heights to shell Israeli farms within firing range.

This war began because, time and again, the Lebanese, the Syrians, and the Iranians have all found one way or another to avoid being held accountable for their mistakes and their machinations. The United Nations has failed in this as well, as has the Arab world, and as have the United States, Europe, Great Britain, and Israel.

I did a little research this weekend, and found a very interesting speech given by the late U.S. President Ronald Reagan on October 27, 1983. Earlier in the day, a world away from Washington, Hizballah terrorists had driven a truck bomb into the U.S. Marines barracks in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, and had also carried out a near simultaneous attack on French paratroopers. 241 Marines, and many French, died in these attacks.

To read the lines from President Reagan’s speech then, and then to see the warfare happening once again in this region, and also to hear the speeches being given and the comments being recorded in our own time about how to bring about an end to the fighting, a person is bound to come away lamenting that we are simply repeating history here…and it could have been avoided. It could have been avoided, had Lebanon taken over its southern territory after the Syrian occupation last year. It could have been avoided, had Hizballah been disarmed.

Again, all of this death and destruction could have been avoided…and that it is now happening is not Israel’s fault.

We would not be so obviously repeating history now, if the world did not tolerate Arab-Muslim funding and supplying of those carrying out terrorism against Israel for so many years. Those who died in Qana today are like those who, many years ago, died in a very similar Israeli air strike in that same town that led to the end of Israeli operations in a much earlier operation against Hizballah.

Here are some of the opening lines from the speech President Reagan gave that October day (the italics between the quotes are my own comments):

“This past Sunday, at 22 minutes after six Beirut time, with dawn just breaking, a truck - looking like a lot of other vehicles in the city - approached the airport on a busy, main road. There was nothing in its appearance to suggest it was any different than the trucks or cars that were normally seen on and around the airport. But this one was different. At the wheel was a young man on a suicide mission.

The truck carried some 2,000 pounds of explosives, but there was no way our Marine guards could know this. Their first warning that something was wrong came when the truck crashed through a series of barriers, including a chain-link fence and barbed wire entanglements. The guards opened fire, but it was too late. The truck smashed through the doors of the headquarters building in which our Marines were sleeping and instantly exploded. The four-story concrete building collapsed in a pile of rubble.

More than 200 of the sleeping men were killed in that one hideous, insane attack. Many others suffered injury and are hospitalized here or in Europe. This was not the end of the horror. At almost the same instant, another vehicle on a suicide and murder mission crashed into the headquarters of the French peacekeeping force, an eight-story building, destroying it and killing more than 50 French soldiers.”

Food for thought, when it was just announced that the French are considering taking on a peacekeeping role in their former colony once again.

Anyway, President Reagan went on:

“I called bereaved parents and/or widows of the victims to express on behalf of all of us our sorrow and sympathy. Sometimes there were questions. And now many of you are asking: Why should our young men be dying in Lebanon? Why is Lebanon important to us?

Well, it's true, Lebanon is a small country, more than five-and-a-half thousand miles from our shores on the edge of what we call the Middle East. But every President who has occupied this office in recent years has recognized that peace in the Middle East is of vital concern to our nation and, indeed, to our allies in Western Europe and Japan.

We've been concerned because the Middle East is a powder-keg; four times in the last 30 years, the Arabs and Israelis have gone to war. And each time, the world has teetered near the edge of catastrophe.”

The President said of international efforts to bring peace to Lebanon,

"… the multinational force was created to help stabilize the situation in Lebanon until a government could be established and a Lebanese army mobilized to restore Lebanese sovereignty over its own soil as the foreign forces withdrew."

Would you just read that last bit over again? “…a Lebanese army mobilized to restore Lebanese sovereignty over its own soil as the foreign forces withdrew.” Lebanon did not do this under Syrian occupation, and Lebanon did not do this when the Syrians – at the time of their pullout last year, the only foreign forces there – left the country after the “Cedar Revolution”.

While President George W. Bush as reiterated his support for the Lebanese government this time around, President Ronald W. Reagan’s words echo the reasons behind today’s conflict:

"The clear intent of the terrorists was to eliminate our support of the Lebanese Government and to destroy the ability of the Lebanese people to determine their own destiny."

While this war was caused in part by the Lebanese failing to take control of their territory, it was also because Hizballah – a minority in the Lebanese government – carried out an unprovoked attack against Israel that dragged Lebanon once again into a war, a war the Lebanese government, and certainly the great majority of the Lebanese people, did not want.

“…and to destroy the ability of the Lebanese people to determine their own destiny.”


These days, we’re hearing a lot about the need for a cease-fire; we also hear a lot about plans for what needs to happen when the guns do stop shooting, when the rockets do stop being launched, and when the bombs stop falling wherever they do fall.

What was the goal in the early 1980s? A little more from that Reagan speech should shed some light on this:

"What can we do now to help Lebanon gain greater stability...?"

"First, we will accelerate the search for peace and stability in that region."

"Second, we'll work even more closely with our allies in providing support for the Government of Lebanon and for the rebuilding of a national consensus."

What prophetic words came next?

We remember this line from the Great Communicator’s speech…as some in the world seem intent on still not holding Hizballah, or the Lebanese government, or Syria and Iran, truly accountable:

"If terrorism and intimidation succeed, it'll be a devastating blow to the peace process and to Israel's search for genuine security. It won't just be Lebanon sentenced to a future of chaos."

Rockets raining down on Israeli population centers – not military bases, but population centers. 330,000 people forced to leave their homes in an area of northern Israel often targeted by Hizballah long before this latest war. Bridges bombed in Lebanon. Chaos reigning as people tried to get out of a once-more war-torn Lebanon. Europe giving into intimidation, just as they have always shown they are ready to do.

Hmm. History is definitely repeating itself.

Speaking of the need to create a “new Middle East” more than two decades before Condoleeza Rice or anyone else said it, President Reagan during that October 27, 1983 address spoke then of the need for a lasting solution in this troubled region, and the need for the rest of the world to play a constructive role in bringing it about:

"Let us meet our responsibilities, for people of the Middle East have lived from war to war with no prospect for any other future. That dreadful cycle must be broken."

This cycle, obviously, has not been broken.

Alright, enough Italics for now.

This cycle has obviously not been broken, because the moment a Jew in/from Israel lifts a gun or drops a bomb in defense, Europeans and the United Nations question the right of Israel to defend itself. They give the Arabs the benefit of the doubt – out of fear, or anti-Semitism, or whatever – and place the burden of guilt on Israel’s shoulders. It is a burden that Israel has never deserved.

Israel certainly doesn’t deserve to be lectured on civilian deaths by Russia, a country whose president – in ordering Russian forces to take over Chechnya – has never shown concern for Muslim Chechen civilian deaths caused by his own forces. That he can for the Arabs, and not for Chechens...well, that's Moscow for you.

Talk about your gross, confused, double standards and hypocrisy.

Let's move on.

True to the adage that says “God helps those who help themselves”, Ronald Reagan had this to say in 1983 – and the words like so many others in this speech, apply today:

"Our role is to help the Lebanese put their country together, not to do it for them."

This war, in 2006, started because the Lebanese let the Syrians, and the rest of the Arab world, rebuild hotels and their capital without making Beirut fulfill previous agreements or fall in line with international requests. This war was bound to happen the moment that Syria left Lebanon and Beirut didn’t force Hizballah to disarm and leave the border with Israel, in keeping with UN Security Council Resolution 1559.

The Lebanese thought they could let Hizballah reign in the south, and participate in government in the north, and avoid the catastrophe that would surely follow. The past weeks have revealed their folly. Twenty-three years later, "...the multinational force was created to help stabilize the situation in Lebanon until a government could be established and a Lebanese army mobilized to restore Lebanese sovereignty over its own soil as the foreign forces withdrew," is a quote from a speech in 1983 that haunts us today.

I remind readers again that Lebanon, far from even trying to take over the south from Hizballah, deliberately chose not to. Whether this was because of the pro-Syrian leanings of the President of Lebanon, or a Prime Minister who didn't feel up to the task and responsibilities demanded of a national leader in a country like Lebanon, doesn't matter.

Even now, Lebanese official statements indicate that they not only have failed to learn from their own past mistakes, but still stubbornly refuse to take responsibility for them. Lebanon is keen on portraying itself as the victim, but it has been a willing victim. Like the Palestinians, the Lebanese government has become a willing pawn in the never-ending war against Israel.

“Poor us, poor us,” the Lebanese declare. And the world buys it.

It needs to be spoken of over and over again. And over and over again...this is not Israel's fault.

Lebanon is increasingly being reduced to rubble because the Lebanese government – and, for that matter, the Lebanese people – didn't take responsibility for their own affairs, and they were allowed to get away with it. When they couldn't take this responsibility under Syrian occupation, it was understandable. But even when finally permitted the chance, when the foreign occupiers left, they didn't do what the international community, in the form of a Security Council resolution, demanded they do...and that was a deplorable, deliberate choice on their part.

Those who died at Qana were only the latest to pay the price.

The world lacks the political will to hold Hizballah, or its backers, accountable. Weakness will let Lebanon, like a child, get away for its irresponsible actions with maybe a slap on the wrist. Their country is a wreck, after all.

Still, Israel has never deliberately targeted Arab civilians in warfare, making it wholly unlike those Arab countries and terrorist groups which have explicitly targeted – or supported the targeting – of Israeli civilians since 1948.Unfortunately, another war will be inevitable in this region so long as the world punishes Israel for accidentally killing civilians, while Arabs and Muslims are hardly even chastised for specifically targeting them.

Another war will be inevitable, and today’s words shown to be as prophetic about the future of the Middle East as Ronald Reagan’s once were, if Lebanon is allowed to shirk its responsibilities not only to the international community, and to its neighbors, but to its own people…and we should not forget that Hamas, a terrorist group, controls the Palestinian Authority. And the destruction in Gaza was caused when members of Hamas cooperated with others to tunnel into Israel and kill and kidnap Israeli soldiers. Where’s the accountability?

Right now, any cease-fire really worth having seems illusory. The Europeans, and others, are not holding Lebanon accountable for failing in its duties, and are hardly condemning the Hizballah rocket attacks on Israel. David is portrayed as Goliath, and Goliath as David. This is funny, because the last time I checked the Arab world outnumbers Israel by hundreds of millions to just seven million…or six million Jews, when taking the Arabs of Israel as part of the wider Arab world.

In any case, the prospects for a future war still appear very good.

I don’t think you need to be a prophet, or a President, to realize this is very bad.

The great Benjamin Franklin once said “There never was a good war or a bad peace.”

He might have been right, except for one thing…

Ben Franklin never lived in the Middle East.

“With patience and firmness, we can help bring peace to that strife-torn region—and make our own lives more secure.”President Ronald Wilson Reagan; October 27, 1983

By the way...before September 11, 2001, Hizballah had killed more Americans than al-Qaeda.

1 comment:

Avram said...

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