Birth Pangs and Dead Babies


On August 6, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President George W. Bush pieced together (with France’s blessing) a toothless UN Security Council resolution on Lebanon. The resolution does not even call for Israel’s withdrawal from its neighboring Arab sovereign state. In so doing, the U.S. gave its imperial partner, Israel, a green light to continue its carnage.

U.S. fingerprints were already all over Israel’s war on Lebanon, graphically illustrated by the July 30th massacre of more than 60 civilians at Qana. Israel bombed Qana with U.S.-made F-16 fighter planes, while a bomb fragment found at the Qana bombing site read, “For use on MK-84, Guided Bomb BSU-37/B”-produced by the Boeing corporation to convert MK-84s into precision bombs. Like the bombs, this war is “made in the USA.”

Lebanon is just the latest of the U.S.’ many fronts in its “war on terror,” now approaching its fifth anniversary. Yet, despite its ferocity, this war is proving to be an abysmal failure for U.S. imperialism-in Afghanistan and Iraq, and also in its proxy wars in Palestine and Lebanon. Perhaps for this reason, the civilian death toll has risen sharply in this latest phase-largely dependent on aerial bombardment aimed at destroying the “enemy”, be they Taliban in Afghanistan, “insurgents” in Iraq, Hamas fighters in Gaza or the Hezbollah resistance in Lebanon.

Lebanese civilian deaths, one-third of them children, now top 800 (the figure is likely much higher, given the number of corpses still buried underneath the rubble of destroyed buildings) with a million displaced, while Iraqis are being killed at a rate of more than 100 per day according to journalist Patrick Cockburn.

In Southern Afghanistan, at least 600 of the 1,100 deaths this year have been civilians, more than at any time since the U.S.’ war on Afghanistan in late 2001, according to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).

Israel’s onslaught against Gaza has been all but ignored by the U.S. media. But in July alone, the Israeli military killed 163 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, including roughly half who were not involved in any military hostilities, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem reported. Palestinian deaths in July numbered the highest of any month since April 2002.
Operation failure

Yet Israel’s military bombardments of Lebanon and Gaza are failing in their aims, as are the U.S.’ occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan-and for the same reasons. The parallels are too striking to ignore.

Assuming that military superiority alone would ensure the submission of a conquered population has proven a grave miscalculation-as it did for the U.S. in Vietnam. On the contrary, in each case, the would-be conquered populations have resisted with surprising force. Hezbollah fighters, most recently, have succeeded in humiliating Israel, merely by preventing a quick Israeli victory.

As former Jerusalem Post editor Bret Stephens remarked in the Wall Street Journal, “So far, Israel has nothing to show for its efforts Israel is headed for the greatest military humiliation in its history.”

Israel’s new war on Lebanon has backfired, greatly increasing Hezbollah’s support among the Lebanese population, including Christians. A recent opinion poll by the Center for Research and Information in Beirut, 87 percent of all Lebanese support Hezbollah’s resistance against Israel-including 80 percent of Christians, 80 percent of Druze respondents, and 89 percent of Sunnis.

The war against Lebanon was designed to isolate Hezbollah-but has achieved the opposite. Hezbollah’s standing has not only risen inside Lebanon but all over the Middle East. This is not a religious, but an anti-imperialist, resistance. As Jwayya villager Sayyid Abu Ali told Washington Post reporters, “The [Israeli] aggression gives birth to resistance.”

Do not expect, however, either the U.S. or Israel to retreat at this juncture. The stakes are too high for both, and neither can back down because humiliation at the hands of a resistance movement spells imperial defeat. In all likelihood, the war on terror will expand to include new targets-including possibly Syria, and more likely, Iran.

As Australian journalist Ghali Hassan noted, “In fact the current Israeli aggression on Lebanon ­ a defenseless nation ­ is designed to coerce not only the Lebanese people to rise up against Hezbollah, but also to blackmail other nations and to use the war as a rehearsal for a region-wide war against Iran or Syria.
All roads lead to Tehran

The U.S. has never forgiven Iran for the 1979 Islamic revolution that overthrew the pro-U.S. Reza Shah Pahlavi, replacing him with an anti-U.S. Islamic regime. In the 1980s, the U.S. prevented an Iranian victory in its war against Iraq, by first backing Saddam Hussein in the conflict, and later by arming both sides in the conflict. As one former Reagan administration official put it, “[Saddam] Hussein is a bastard. But at the time he was our bastard.” The U.S. helped turn the eight-year Iran-Iraq war in Iraq’s favor-knowing that Iraq was using chemical weapons against Iran, yet supplying a wide range of arms to Iraq, while preventing arms from reaching Iran.

Condoleezza Rice’s recent declaration that the Lebanon crisis signals the “birth-pangs” of a new Middle East order is directed at Iran, the biggest threat to U.S. dominance in the region.

As conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer commented, “America wants, America needs, a decisive Hezbollah defeat. The defeat of Hezbollah would be a huge loss for Iran, both psychologically and strategically. Iran would be shown to have vastly overreached in trying to establish itself as the regional superpower.”

In contrast, as journalist Tamim Al-Barghouti argues, for Arabs and Muslims in the region, Hezbollah, as an indigenous resistance movement, “represents an all powerful example to Arabs and Muslims who have been longing to regain some of the dignity they lost at the hands of their leaders, who look more like employees in the American bureaucracy than heads of independent states.”

SHARON SMITH is the author of Women and Socialism and Subterranean Fire: a History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States. She can be reached at:




SHARON SMITH is the author of Women and Socialism and Subterranean Fire: a History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States. She can be reached at: