War in Lebanon: Made in the USA?
A Letter from 18 Writers

September 3, 2006

War in Lebanon: Made in the USA?

Gar Smith / The-Edge

Cross-border kidnappings have been happening for decades along the disputed frontiers of the captured and occupied lands surrounding Israel. Prisoner exchanges have also been orchestrated on a regular basis. Israel kidnaps Palestinians -- even top elected political leaders -- and militants try to capture Israeli soldiers.

When Hezbollah seized Israeli soldiers in October 2000 and April 2002, neither Ehud Barak nor Ariel Sharon responded with military force. So, while the latest round of abductions was no surprise, the scale of the Israeli response came as a shock. But not, as it turns out, to the Bush administration which, it has now been revealed, coordinated the invasion of Lebanon with top Israeli officials.

According to UC Santa Cruz History Professor Edmund Burke III, "by 2005, the proposal [to attack Lebanon] was ready and a senior Israeli army officer began giving PowerPoint presentations of Israeli plans to US diplomats, journalists, and think tanks." Burke concludes: "The US government was fully briefed on the operation" long before the "kidnapping" incident that was used as the pretext for the attack.

On June 17-18, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, former Israeli PMs Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres along with Likud Knesset member Natan Sharansky joined Dick Cheney for intensive discussions at the American Enterprise Institute conference in Colorado. It was at this meeting that Israel apparently was given the "green light" for a long-planned attack on Lebanon. This was to be part of the "Clean Break" strategy that would forever bust and bury the Oslo Accords and all previous Mideast peace agreements. The Clean Break plan was written by a team of US neocons and presented to Netanyahu in 1997. The first step in the plan was to be the overthrow of Iraq's Saddam Hussein.

Sharansky left Colorado to speak before the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia on June 29. It was here that Sharansky, appearing alongside Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), called for attacks on Syria and Iran and introduced the phrase "Islamo-fascism" (The phrase briefly emerged from George W. Bush's lips -- until an indignant outcry from America's Muslim community compelled Mr. Bush to abandon the slur).

'Part of a Five-Year Campaign'
In his book, Winning Modern Warns, General Wesley Clark reveals the existence of a secret November 2001 Pentagon plan to attack Lebanon. "This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan," Clark wrote, "and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan." Clark was shaken. "This was not something I wanted to hear," he confessed. "I left the Pentagon that afternoon deeply concerned."

This long-sought Neocon goal of attacking Iran worries many veterans within the US military and intelligence communities. In 2004, the Monterey Institute for International Studies warned that such an attack would inflame the Middle East, destroy the global economy and would most likely "turn nuclear."

Seymour Hersh, writing in The New Yorker, underscored the military's growing concern over the Bush/Cheney/neocon plan to "remake the Middle East." Hersh exposed the "revolt of the generals," an internal rebellion in the spring of 2006 in which a number of senior US military officers refused to be "tasked" with preparing plans for a US nuclear first-strike on Iran.

On July 22, the New York Times reported that Washington was "rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel." Former Reagan administration official John Craig Roberts noted the inconsistency: "Bush denounces Syria for allegedly arming Hezbollah, while he rushes more deadly weapons to Israel. The entire world is appalled at the Bush regime's support for Israel's policy of expanding its borders through naked aggression."

The Sinister Business of 'Weapons from Abroad'
Much ado has been made in the US media about Iran and Syria supplying weapons to Hezbollah. At the same time, little mention is made of the vastly greater flow of even deadlier weapons from the Pentagon to the IDF.

In 1998, the State Department issued export licenses to ship 12,768 military guns, 28.5 million rounds of ammunition, and 32 grenade launchers from the US to Israel.

Israel has claimed credit for its humanitarian strategy of alerting civilians to imminent bombings and advising them to clear the area. But an 1997 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Israel's violent 1996 attack on southern Lebanon ("Operation Grapes of Wrath: The Civilian Victims") pointed out that "Israel's strategy of forcing civilians to evacuate their homes or risk bombing constituted acts or threats of violence, the primary purpose of which was to spread terror among the civilian population, and thus a grave violation of international humanitarian law."

Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets armed with laser-guided bombs were used in the 1996 attacks. While the US State Department criticized the attacks on civilian infrastructure and Lebanese citizens, it failed to acknowledge that US weapons were being used to commit these criminal acts.

In its May 2000 invasion of Lebanon, Israel used US attack helicopters to fire AGM-114 Hellfire missiles at non-military targets. In addition to scores of Hellfire missiles, the US also provided AGM-65 Maverick missiles for the IDF's F-15 and F-16 fighter jets. In February 2000, the US approved the sale of a dozen SH-64D Apache attack helicopters. These weapons were used to attack both strategic and civilian targets in southern Lebanon.

During 1999-2000, HRW repeatedly criticized Israel for targeting Lebanon's civilian electrical structures as "clear violations of international humanitarian law." Because of its role as the major supplier of jets and missiles, in a May 23, 2000 report, HRW called on the US to stop selling air-to-ground missiles to Tel Aviv. World outrage has forced Washington to pledge an investigation of Israel's illegal use of cluster bombs -- a banned WMD -- against Lebanon's civilian population centers.

US-Israel Military Aid Eclipses Iran-Hezbollah Aid
Israel usually receives "$1.8 billion in Foreign Military Financing from US taxpayers every year. In FY 2000, Israel also received nearly $1 billion in Economic Security Funds (ESF). Although it is one of the world's wealthiest countries, Israel receives more than one-third of the ESF handouts. Israel also gets its choice of discounted Apache and Blackhawk helicopters, Multiple Launch Rocket Systems and Patriot tactical missiles through the Pentagon's Excess Defense Articles program. Israel also pockets an additional $1.2 billion in annual military aid as a result of signing the Wye River Agreement.

The Pentagon has provided Israel with Deferred Payment Options on its purchase of Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets. Israel enjoys another unique bonus. It is the only country on Earth that is permitted to spend up to 27% of its FMF benefits on building its own weapons inside Israeli factories.

US arms-mongers offer Tel Aviv a range of attractive incentives in the form of "signing-bonuses" (some might call them "bribes") to sign purchase agreements. Other incentives include military technology transfers, weaponry co-production agreements and "non-military related investments."

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) reports that Lockheed Martin "promised to spend $900 million in Israel to secure a $2.5 billion F-16 sale" while Boeing offered "a $750 million counter-trade investment... for the sale of F-15 fighters and Black Hawk helicopters."

Tech-Trade Rip-offs and the Dotan Scandal
One of the problems of this "technology transfer" was highlighted in the Congressional Record of April 1, 1992 when it was discovered the Israel had used American technology in the design of new weapons that it proceeded to sell to foreign customers without US knowledge. "The kinds of products we are talking about," said Senator Robert Byrd, "are such things as the Israeli version of the US-made AIM-9L Sidewinder air-to-air missile [Python 3] and TOW-2 anti-tank missile [MAPATS]."

The US also gave Israel $1.5 billion to build its Lavi fighter jet, a modified version of the US F-16. Once Israel started building its Lavis, it contracted to help China a modern jet fighter. China's F-10s turned out to be close replicas of America's F-16s.

And then there was the Dotan Scandal. In 1993, as much as $70 million in FMF funds were delivered to companies that were exposed as fronts for Israeli Air Force General Rami Dotan.

Tel Aviv claimed dismissed this as a rogue operation but John Dingell, Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee, observed "it is not clear how General Dotan was plundering tens of millions of dollars of US funds and making this scarce currency available for unauthorized purposes on various military bases without top [Israeli] Ministry of Defense officials questioning where the money was coming from."

What happened to the $70 million remains a mystery since US investigators have been denied access to the relevant records in Israel.

"Israeli law says that all companies selling to Israel must commit to investing 35% of contract value into the local economy," a FAS study reports. "Israel even demands offsets on FMF-financed arms sales, a practice for which America pays twice, by taxpayers and the economy at large (a practice which the US Commerce Dept. recommends prohibiting.)"

More Weapons Means More Instability
In February 2000, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Israel had presented Washington with a $17 billion "wish list" that included cruise missiles, advanced surveillance systems, smart bombs and software codes. Sami Haijjar, Director of Middle East Studies at the US Army War College cautioned that providing these weapons would "trigger an arms race" in the region. "You cannot expect to arm to the teeth one nation in the region and expect all others to accept it willingly," he warned. Yet that is precisely what the US has been doing in the region for decades.

Israel does more than simply consume American-made weapons, it has joined the US as one of the world's major suppliers of weapons of mass destruction. In 2000, Israel exported an estimated $2 billion in arms to 48 different clients. These included Cambodia, Colombia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Russia and, ironically, southern Lebanon (the weapons reportedly went to "an Israeli-backed militia"). Israel also ships its deadly weapons to such internationally sanctioned human-rights violators as Burma, Zambia and China.

As a Pentagon official told The New York Times in November 1999: "Given the amount of weaponry that the US shared with Israel, it was difficult to separate American military technology from Israel's own."

Letter from 18 Writers
Including Three Nobel Prize Recipients

August 2 AP photo reads: "An Iranian school girl attends a pro-Hezbollah and anti-Israeli emonstration in front of the UN Office in Tehran, Iran." The girl's sign is simply a plea for peace.
The latest chapter of the conflict between Israel and Palestine began when Israeli forces abducted two civilians, a doctor and his brother, from Gaza. And incident scarcely reported anywhere, except in the Turkish press.

The following day, the Palestinians took an Israeli soldier prisoner -- and proposed a negotiated exchange against prisoners taken by the Israelis -- there are approximately 10,000 in Israeli jails.

That this "kidnapping" was considered an outrage, whereas the illegal military occupation of the West Bank and its natural resources -- most particularly that of water -- by the Israeli Defense (!) Forces is considered a regrettable but realistic fact of life, is typical of the double standards repeatedly employed by the West in the face of what has befallen the Palestinians, on the land allotted to them by international agreements, during the last 70 years.

Today, outrage follows outrage: makeshift missiles cross sophisticated ones. The latter usually find their target situated where the disinherited and crowded poor live, waiting for what was once called Justice. Both categories of missile rip bodies apart horribly -- who but field commanders can forget this for a moment?

Each provocation and counter-provocation is contested and preached over. But the subsequent arguments, accusations and vows, all serve as a distraction in order to divert world attention from a long-term military, economic and geographic practice whose political aim is nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinain nation.

This has to be said loud and clear, for the practice (only half-declared and often covert), is advancing fast these days and, in our opinion, it must be unceasingly and eternally recognized for what it is and resisted.

PS: As Juliano Mer Khamis, director of the documentary film Arns's Children, asked: "Who is going to paint the 'Geurnica' of Lebanon?"


John Berger,
Noam Chomsky,
Harold Pinter,
José Saramago,
Eduardo Galeano,
Arundhati Roy,
Naomi Klein,
Howard Zinn,
Charles Glass,
Richard Falk,
Gore Vidal,
Russell Banks,
Thomas Keneally,
Chris Abani,
Carolyn Forché,
Martin Espada,
Jessica Hagedorn,
Toni Morrison.

This letter has been published in newspapers around the world, including Le Monde, El Pais, The Independent and La Republica.
(Has it appeared in the US?)

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