I thought for sure it would happen this month. The attack on Iran, I mean, or the one on Syria. The Israelis had said that by June Iran would pass “the point of no return” in acquiring the ability to enrich uranium, had declared they could not accept that possibility, and had purchased bunker-busting bombs from the U.S. Seymour Hersh had reported in January that the U.S. was conducting secret reconnaissance missions in Iran preparatory for precision strikes and commando raids. Scott Ritter had stated in February that President Bush had “signed off” on an Iran attack in June.
The administration had been relentlessly fixing intelligence around the policy of regime change in both Iran and Syria, demanding that Mohamed ElBaradei abet its efforts to stigmatize Iran, and attacking the International Atomic Energy Agency for its failure to condemn Iran. It had been preparing to sic John Bolton on the United Nations the better to harness that body to its world-changing program (or to destroy it). It had set up Syria for attack, accusing Damascus of occupying Lebanon in defiance of Lebanese people supposedly united in hatred for Syria, aiding the Iraqi “insurgency,” maintaining ongoing intelligence operations in Lebanon, interfering in Lebanese politics and sponsoring “terrorism.” It had accused Iran of harboring al-Qaeda members and of interfering in Iraq in various ways. It had been preparing a case for war with the same dishonest proliferation of charges that had preceded the invasion of Iraq.
So I was thinking that something along the following lines might transpire. At the regular IAEA meeting in Vienna in June, the U.S. would arrange the replacement of ElBaradei by some lackey who’d damn Iran. The case would go to the UN; the U.S. would get British, French and German support but not Russian; and China would veto any anti-Iranian resolution. Israel would attack Iran with tacit or active U.S. support; U.S. and/or Israeli foces would attack Hizbollah in Lebanon; the UN would collapse; the Shiites in Iraq would demand an immediate U.S. withdrawal as Iranian forces amassed on the border; Putin would demand payment for Russian oil and gas in euros; Japanese and Chinese central banks would withdraw funds from the U.S., the U.S. economy would be in freefall.
But nope, nothing so dramatic. I was mistaken. Here it is June 30, and still no fireworks. The elections in Lebanon and Iran produced no crises, although the corporate press is strongly suggesting that the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who apparently played a role in the “hostage crisis” way back when, somehow constitutes a provocation. ElBaradei remains IAEA chief for a third term after an embarrassing Bolton-led U.S. effort to bounce him. Bolton still hasn’t been confirmed as UN saboteur. The Europeans continue to diplomatically engage Iran, although Washington has forced them to agree to haul Iran before the Security Council if it insists on its legal right to enrich uranium. So maybe the next stage in the Terror War will be in July. Or maybe the resistance in Iraq, the rebounding Hekmatyar-Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, Bush’s plummeting polls and the military recruitment crisis have stymied the neocons’ grand plan.
And yet “We may be looking at a summer of simultaneous crises on opposite sides of the world,” says “one of Mr. Bush’s closest aides” to David E. Sanger of the New York Times. Sanger takes that to mean Iran and North Korea, neither of which wants to provoke a crisis, both of which want to be left alone but are confronted with an administration that wants to defeat them while it remains in power. The summer crises if they come will be contrived, involve lies, shamelessly manipulate the stupider sectors of public opinion and probably require further assaults on civil liberties. I don’t think another Korean War is in the cards; the “crisis” in Korea can simmer indefinitely. All it does is make the U.S. look unreasonable, in the eyes of the Chinese and most other people; encourage South Korean sympathy with Northern compatriots striving to stave off imperialist attack; and give the Japanese right an opportunity to jettison Japan’s “pacifist” constitution. I think the real summer crisis will be the Middle Eastern one.
So Iran or Syria, I was thinking. But the fairly reputable Jane’s Intelligence Digest points in another direction. It reports that Rumsfeld plans a “confrontation with Syrian troops” in the Bekaa Valley soon. That’s in Lebanon, from whence the UN has confirmed that Syria, in haste, has recently withdrawn (in response to bulling U.S. demands) the troops sent long ago—at Lebanese Christians’ request—to mediate in a brutal civil war. But constantly raising the bar, the U.S. insists that Syria withdraw all its intelligence agents from Lebanon too. Washington will—just watch—keep asserting without evidence that Syria’s intelligence apparatus, which like any such apparatus is invisible, hard to identify or quantify, remains in Lebanon screwing with Lebanese politics in a way that, say, the U.S. CIA never screws with anybody.
Weak, divided, pulverized Lebanon may well be the next stage for U.S. aggression. That would keep the ball rolling. Bush would refer to the Bekaa Valley as “the latest battleground in the war on terrorism”—all in response to 9-11 when the terrorists attacked us. “Better get them in Lebanon than face them here,” he’ll spew, and some will swallow it. They’ll buy the notion that Hizbollah, a Shiite-based mainstream highly popular political party with an armed wing in southern Lebanon, which embarrassed the U.S. by organizing massive demonstrations dwarfing the its client parties in Lebanon last month, is an al-Qaeda type terrorist organization. They’ll surely bring up the Reagan-era Hizbollah attack on the U.S. force in Lebanon that shouldn’t have been there to begin with, since it was just deployed to abet Israel’s criminal invasion.
So, yes, I’m still betting on more war this summer. And expecting to march yet again in the humid Boston heat against the neo-fascist beast, hell-bent on obtaining empire in the “Greater Middle East.”
GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org