Category Archives: the war to come

The Offensive that Dares not Speak its Name

Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war – Donald Rumsfeld

 

Two days ago I happened to meet an Iran-affairs expert, who, to the best of my knowledge, was supposed to be in London. We discussed the morning’s headline. He was in despair; he estimated we are on the threshold of war with iran. “That’s not what you told me back in January,” I said; he was much more optimistic then. He nodded sadly.

 

It is quite possible Bush has already decided to attack Iran. The escalating rhetoric – “Third World War” is not, to be understated about it, a phrase frequently used by a head of state – points to it. The storage timing of the declaration of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terror organization last month, a bill pushed by the neo-conservative Senator Joe Liebermann, may signify that the administration is looking for a reason, a cause, some semblance of a congressional approval for such an attack. Should that happen to be the case, Hillary Clinton’s vote for the amendment may haunt her much more than her vote approving the Iraq war.

 

Leaving aside the future politics of 2008, the public ignoring of a certain point is astonishing. Let us assume that American planes, taking off on a bombing mission in a country as large as Germany, France and Britain combined, do find their underground targets and destroy them. That’s where public imagination halts: Mission accomplished, threat removed; the hero lands, takes off his flying gear and lights a cigar. Credits begin to roll. The end.

 

This scenario assumes utter passivity on the part of Iran. It assumes a country which justly considers itself a regional superpower will simply avoid a response after its sovereignty has been violated, a military attack has been carried out on its territory, a project which cost it untold funds and which around which the population is gathered has been destroyed. This assumption will not stand the test of reality.

 

Iran has a complete array of response options, none of them nice. The most likely of which are a Hizbullah attack on israel’s northern border, an unprecedented Iranian missile attack on Israel (which is, justly, considered the cause of the attack), and a full Shi’ite assault against the American forces in Iraq. The Mahdi’s Army, Muqtada Al Sadr’s militia which enjoys Iranian support, has more men on the ground in Iraq than the US military. And the Shi’ites take – very sensibly, from their point of view – a very dim view of the American-Sunni rapprochement in Anbar Province.

 

American forces will find it hard to get out of this trap – especially when you take into account the fact that Turkey (which threw the US’ Iraq invasion plan out of joint in 2003) may do so again following an attack on Iran, and may prevent American supplies and reinforcement from entering Iraq from within its borders.

 

And these are just the expected military outcomes. It’s perfectly possible the mullahs hold some surprises up their sleeves, such as a sleeper terror network in Europe and the US, which would be activated upon an attack.

 

But the direct military response pales before the diplomatic one. The anger in the world against the US, already at an all-time high, will rise sharply – especially if the Bush administration will give up on a UN approval of the strike, an impossibility given the veto power of Russia and China. And the rage will find its boiling point in the Middle East.

 

A fifth American attack on a Muslim country in 15 years (Somalia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Iran), is expected to lead to an explosion in the “Muslim Street”. In a much less combustive situation, at the beginning of the Second Gulf War in 1991, King Hussein of Jordan hastened to grow a beard and spout Islamic slogans. A strike against Iran, whose pro-Israeli motives are so transparent, combined with an Iranian military response, could lead to a meltdown of the Middle East.

 

Israeli experts are already speaking openly about the expected collapse of Jordan. Mubaraq holds to his throne by the skin of his teeth, and the Muslim Brotherhood enjoys a majority among the Egyptians. Syria may be dragged, following Iran, into a war with Israel, if only to prevent radicalization of Islam within it; Assad Junior is not strong enough to repeat his father’s Hama Massacre. An attack on Iran may finally push Turkey to the Islamic side, and may serve it as an excuse for an invasion of Kurdistan. Only God knows what would happen to the Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Principalities.

 

The attack may well strengthen Iran. The mullah regime has trouble ruling, it fails in supplying its subjects with livelihood, and Iran is a revolution-prone country. A large segment of the population abhors the regime, and the only thing which may bring the people together around the mullahs (thereby postponing the oh-so-necessary reform) is an attack by a foreign power.

 

In short, the concept that an air attack on Iran will rid us of the “danger of a Third World War” is a dangerous fantasy, since it gleefully disregards the counter-offensive which is certain to come. The very attack is the most likely catalyst, at the moment, for such a war. The counter-reaction will cause massive damage to the US’ standing, may bring about a military defeat in the Middle East, and may trigger an isolationist response of the voters in November.

 

The counter-reaction may, on the other hand, wipe out Israel off the map. For some reason, Israeli thinking, too, stops at the great image of Natanz in flames, and does not look five minutes further into the future. Anyone who thinks the IDF may defend him, is hereby cordially asked to take a second look at what happened in Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

 

Such introspection won’t take place, of course. We will continue to support war with Iran, because “everybody knows” there is no other option. And when everything will go up in smoke around us, we will ask (as we do ever since that shining moment in 1967): how did this happen to us?

 

And anyone who will remind the public that this question has to end with “again”, will be termed a traitor, a person who thrusts a knife at the nation’s back.

 

Again.

 

(Written and published in the Hebrew blog today. Translated by Yossi Gurvitz)

Won’t Fall Twice in the Same Hole

Knesset Member Zahava Gal’on (Meretz) wrote the Attorney General today, asking him to force the Prime Minister to report to the Knesset’s Foreign Relations and Security Committee on the IAF’s activities in Syria two weeks ago.

This demand for a parliamentarian oversight of the on the activities of the executive branch, which would be par the course in any normal democracy, made all of the “Proud Jews”* crawl out of their lairs: they don’t want to know what happened, and they don’t want the legislators to know, either. They trust the good fellows in the Office of the Prime Minister and the Security** Ministry.

This deep yearning to take the cameras out of the IDF’s face is perfectly understandable: after all, when the camera are on, they show a pitiful, pathetic picture. Those same people now worshipping Olmert’s sphinx-like silence, have forgotten that just a few months ago he was grasping at two percent of public approval, a result of his demonstration, a little more than a year ago, of his deep military thinking.

The people acclaiming the silent figure who replaced Amir Peretz, forget the series of failures which ended his tenure as Prime Minister, forget his tendency to cheat the public, forget his tendency to bring everything into a crisis.

The air is full of rumors whose truth is questionable and which contradict each other. Israel has attacked a weapons shipment intended for Hiabullah; or it has attacked nuclear equipment which, as in a bad espionage movie, came to Syria all the way from North Korea; or, perhaps, it did nothing at all.

The talks of a Syrian nuclear project are particularly worrisome, especially when you look at their source. One of the main speakers is John Bolton, a former senior official in the State Department, a former ambassador to the UN, and a former, present and in all likelihood future extremist hawk. He stands out as one of the opponents of the recent deal with North Korea – which he now essentially blames of proliferating nuclear materials and, indirectly, of breaking the deal. Bolton is supported by State Secretary Rice – and these are two members of the same team which so successfully sold us that earlier deception, that of Saddam Hussein’s WMDa.

Then as now, they are supported by an attendant choir of Israeli intelligence. The same American sources which identify the alleged Syrian target as a nuclear one, tell us that it was Israeli intelligence which identified the target as such.

Let us put aside for the moment the monumental series of blunders by our hush-hush men: the failure to predict the wars of 1956 and 1967; the claim that Saddat’s visit to Jerusalem is an attempt to conceal a surprise Egyptian attack; that flighty entanglement in the Lebanese Civil War; the estimate which claimed in 1980 that the Iran-Iraq War will end in three weeks, and in 1988 confidently predicted it will carry on for three years more; the failure to predict the First Intifada; and I’m yet to say anything about the Yom Kippur War.

Let us put aside for the moment the fact that a special report of the Foreign Relations and Security Committee called for the smashing of AMAN (military intelligence branch) and for depriving it of its status as “national estimator”; let’s focus instead on what that “national estimator”, the traumatized troll [Major General] Amos Gilad (who, according to his superior officer, misrepresented AMAN’s estimates) had to say on the eve of the Second Gulf War. At the time, Gilad boasted that “once Saddam’s arsenal will be exposed, the world will be shocked”. Israeli intelligence briefs were used by the American army prior to the war.

Needless to say, the world was indeed shocked – when it found out there were no WMDs, and that Condi’s “mushroom cloud as a smoking gun” speech turned out as fear-mongering bullshit from beginning to end.

Now, they’re trying to convince us that Syria has, well, not nuclear arms per se, but nuclear weapon “programs”. We’re hinted that the North Korean regime is so ga-ga, it would deliver to Syria an already-made nuclear bomb. And given the bullshit we’ve been fed by AMAN during the last year, it would seem these rumors are meant to pave the way for a war with Syria: a justified war, the most justified war of all, intended to remove a nuclear threat from Israel.

Am I the only one with a sense of deja-vu? Haven’t we watched this movie, with Iraqi subtitles?

Most respected gentlemen of the government: I do not trust your judgment – damn it, I’m not even sure you possess judgment, seeing as you went to the last war after a 20-minutes debate – and I will not have you play war games which just might suck me in. Since we are still a parliamentary regime, kindly turn over all of the information in your possession to the Knesset, who just remembered it’s supposed to provide oversight over you. Maybe in this way you’d be less tempted to go out on adventures. Thank you.

Honorable Knesset Members: Overseeing the government is your duty. The army, in particular, doesn’t like it, which is why oversight over it must be increased. Please remember that, prior to the Second Gulf War, Congress held lengthy debates over the issue. Please, do not be blinded by fear-mongering and the claims of “secrecy” and “intelligence sources”: study the material, ask difficult questions, and if you think you and the public are led by the nose, say so loud and clear. Each and everyone of you will, after all, have to face himself in the morning, and going to war based on erroneous or false intelligence is a heavy burden. You can avoid us, but you will not be able to tell yourself “our hands did not spill this blood”.

Dear Israeli public, if you still exist: Please remember how did all our wars in the last 40 years began, and how they ended. Remember how the gorilla-like chest-beating were replaced by mournful whimpers. You’d better turn off the TV and wake up before it’s too late.

And if I may just quote President Bush: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…. That’s not going to happen”.

* – Proud Jews: a common nickname among ultra-nationalistic, ultra-xenophobe, often Orthodox Israeli talkbackers.

** –  Israel does not have a Defense Ministry, it has a Security Ministry (Misrad Ha’Bitakhon). The two terms are similar but not exact translations: the original meaning of Bitakhon was trusting God. And while an army can certainly defend, it cannot assure security – which is an Israeli obsession.

(Written by Yossi Gurvitz and posted in the Hebrew blog on September 17th. Translation by Yossi Gurvitz)

As the Old Trumpets are Blown Once More

During the final preparations for Operation Greater Oranim, which would soon become the First Lebanon War, an ambitious young Major General Ehud Barak wrote a memo to the Minister of Security, Ariel Sharon.

Barak considered the war plans to be too pedestrian, and he wanted to broaden the scope of the war, so that it would include the destruction of the Syrian armed forces.
Knowing the Israeli public would object, he suggested to Sharon the public should be deceived. Sharon, no stranger to such planning, was impressed; but he rejected the suggestion.

This summer the very same Barak – older, yet still lacking in honesty – was appointed Minister of Defense, after winning his party’s internal elections. His winning seems to have come about by means of a combination of ballot fraud, an avoidance of any controversial statement, and his slogan: “Choose the better leader for the next war”. Not, heaven forbid, the one to bring about the next peace.

* * * * *

The Lebanon War began as a fraud upon the public. Its goal was not just to push the PLO away from the northern border – the PLO adhered strictly to a cease fire lasting almost a year – but also to “remake Lebanon”, and elect Bashir Gemayel president on the points of the Israeli army’s spears.


Prime Minister Menachem Begin made what could be considered – from his own point of view – a tragic mistake: he spoke the truth, and claimed the war was “a war of choice”.


But, of course, so were most of Israel’s wars. It can cautiously be claimed that following the first ceasefire,the entire War of Independence was a war of choice. The 1956 Sinai War was the result of a British-French-Israeli conspiracy against the Egyptian Nasser regime, and was preceded by no Egyptian aggression. In fact, Egyptian provocations were so scarce, the Israeli army was forced to fabricate its own, dressing Israeli soldiers in Egyptian uniforms and claiming border incursions.

The Six-Day War began with an Israeli surprise attack. True, it was preceded by a significant Egyptian provocation, but Israel didn’t bother with the usual rules: it did not announce the occupation of the Sinai and the closing of the Tiran Straits to be a casus belli, and did not issue an ultimatum. No; Israel always believed in a surprise blow. The Yom Kippur War was the direct result of the Israeli refusal to negotiate the return of the territories occupied in 1967. The Egyptians and Syrians, going for a surprise attack, had excellent mentors.


Actual reality-based information was always kept secret from the Israeli public. Until 1973, the press was the slavish handmaiden of the army and the government; this was a position it adored. During his final illness, Moshe Dayan confessed Israel was responsible for the vast majority of border incidents in the 1950s and 1960s. The government used the printed media to feed the public stories about Arab provocations and Israeli reactions. Questioning these official fairy tales meant branding oneself as a traitor.


The army is in the habit of knowingly fooling the government. On the eve of the Six-Day War, the General Staff terrorized the government – while knowing full well the expected results of the war. Under Sharon’s direction, Israeli army officers presented Begin’s cabinet with incorrect maps of Lebanon. During the last war, the Israeli army refrained from informing Olmert that the two kidnapped soldiers – the casus belli of the war – are likely dead. He had to learn it from a reporter.


In order to carry out such schticks, the army needs the cooperation of Trojan horse in the cabinet, the Minister of Security. And if the Minister of Security is new and not familiar with the material, he can simply be passed over – as indeed happened to Amir Peretz.

* * * * *

I don’t purport to know what happened in Syria yesterday. It may have been an Air Force sortie. It may be that the Air Force plane simply made a navigation error. It may be – given the location where it is claimed the incident took place – that it was an American plane, or a Turkish one. I really don’t know.


Had a Israeli army Spokesman denied the event, one would assume he was lying, as is traditional for the position. Since the Israeli army refuses to deny it, it is reasonable to assume it is afraid of being caught at yet another lie. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that somewhere in the Syrian Desert lies a pile of Israeli military equipment, waiting to be found by Syrian soldiers.


Now, according to the reports – which were not denied – the pilots made every effort to make sure they were noticed by the Syrians: flying low and breaking the sound barrier. This was no clandestine sortie, and it would seem it was not an attempt to stress-test the Syrian radar system, either. Given this information, it is reasonable to assume that those who sent the plane, wanted it to be noticed.

Why?


There are several possible reasons. One, to torpedo peace talks held by the energetic President Peres with Syrian officials, behind the Prime Minister’s back. This, at any rate, is the claim made by Syrian officials . Israeli officials deny such talks take place – but they would deny them in any case.
The second possibility, even more troubling, is an that attempt to get Israel into a war by hook or by crook. Since the summer of ‘06, the Israeli army has been beating the drums of war, dating it for the summer of ‘07. Inter alia, its spokesmen howled that Syria is strengthening its anti-aircraft system to an unprecedented degree; but anti-aircraft systems are defensive weapons, and its strengthening only highlighted the fact that Syria is – justly! – afraid of an Israeli attack.

The Syrians, knowing full well their military and regime constitute tempting targets for our generals, refrained from any provocation.

Summer has ended. The collapse of the Olmert government is drawing closer by the day, and the Minister of Security who promised us a well-run war needs some success he can point to before facing Binyamin Netanyahu in general elections. The army is ready, quivering with ripeness; the public wants to see blood, the more the merrier, something to wipe off the disgrace of August 2006; and the Syrians, the bastards, adamantly refuse to play the part tailored for them.


Therefore, the bunch of good-for-nothings who serve as Israel’s leadership should be told as follows: we are not living in 1956 or 1967. We are not even living in 1982. If you insist on drawing us into another war of choice, if you carry out provocations to heat up the border and don’t even bother to hide it, prepare for fighting on your own. We will not answer your call.

War is no laughing matter. It is worse than hunger and plague; it is the handmaiden of death. Soldiers and civilians are not chess pieces on a board, to be moved when the King plays with the Queen. Once, at the beginning of the earlier century, the leaders of a country were assumed to have the right to take it to war as they please. We’ve gone some distance since then; starting an aggressive war is a war crime, and we shall not participate in it.


Should we go to war because of this or any other provocation, every Israeli will have to choose his or her path: Some will flee and hide, some will openly refuse orders, some will demonstrate. But none should show up when the trumpets are sounded again. It is time for the Israeli army to learn what happens when some declares a war, and nobody shows up.

Update: Turkey found two IAF detachable fuel tanks, close to the Iraqi/Syrian/Turkish border triangle. Now Turkey, practically an ally, is also demanding a clarification. One hell of a day for the Israeli Air Force,  harming relations with two countries, one of which is friendly. And the Israeli government keeps silent.

And aside from that, the Darfur genocide should be stopped.


(Written and posted in the Hebrew blog today; translated by Yossi Gurvitz.)