|Southwest Asia News Digest
Bush's Lebanon Declaration Considered Laughable
Determined to prevent new U.S. or French occupation forces from entering Lebanon under the pretext of "stabilization" auspices of the U.S./French sponsored UN Security Council resolution 1559, political figures in both the "loyalist" and "opposition" camp agreed on a caretaker Prime Minister, and elected Najib Miqati, the former Public Works and Transport Minister, on April 15. Lebanese Prime Minister Omar Karami had been unable to form a government for six weeks and resigned for the second time on April 14. After being asked to form a government by President Emile Lahoud, Miqati immediately began consulting with all political factions and religious confessions, and announced a 14-person, technocratic cabinet. The cabinet, whose primary job is to bring about parliamentary elections before the mandate of the current Parliament expires on May 31, convened and announced on April 22 that elections will be held on May 29.
After six weeks of deadlock, the selection of a new Prime Minister, formation of a caretaker cabinet, and announcement of a mechanism for the parliamentary elections was all accomplished smoothly, within a week. Many sources reported to EIRNS that the breaking of the deadlock, which many feared would be exploited by outside forces, was brought about through Saudi, French, Syrian, and Lebanese diplomatic negotiations. All sources report optimism in Lebanon that "good compromises" are being made, and look forward to electoral discussions which focus on the economic development of the country and the region. Literature on LaRouche's "Oasis Plan," for Middle East development is circulating widely in the country.
The Syrian military and intelligence forces have been leaving Lebanon, and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan agreed to postpone a UN report on Syrian compliance until April 26, despite protests from the Bush Administration.
In the midst of this moment of calm, President George Bush gave a ten-minute interview to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation which aired on April 20. Disregarding the new government, and the withdrawal of Syrian forces, Bush raved about free elections, disarming Hezbollah by international force, and shutting down Hezbollah's offices in Syria.
Then, Bush promised of lots of World Bank moneyin a barely veiled threat. "There will be plenty of help, but only if Lebanon is a democracy and the elections are held on time," he said.
A Maronite leader in Lebanon reported on the response to Bush's broadcast: "The people are asking, 'Is the President of the United States senile? There is a French word for a senile person who just repeats the same words over and over again. This is what President Bush was doingjust repeating 'freedom, democracy, freedom, democracy.' He is no longer convincing.... At no time in memory or history, during either world war, would an American President concern himself with the small internal matters of other nations, such as insisting on Tuesday that Syria close down Hezbollah offices in their own country.... World leaders are doing diplomacy without him."
A Palestinian Mother's Letter to Bush in Memory of Her Son
The mother of a 15-year-old teenager, one of three young people killed on April 9 by Israeli soldiers in Gaza, asked Bouthaina Shaaban, Syrian Minister of Expatriates, to send the following letter to President George W. Bush. The excerpts are from a UPI story of April 19:
"On the eve of Sharon's visit to your ranch in Texas, my son Khalid was playing football.... In less than an hour, he was brought back in a bundle of blood. The Israeli soldiers had killed him and two other playmates....
"Your discussions of the 'issues' were irrelevant to my pain. The issue, Mr. President, is not withdrawal from Gaza, or evacuating the settlers from Gaza. Once [former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin said it all loud and clearas you might rememberwhen he wished he would wake up one day 'to find that Gaza had been swallowed by the sea.'
"The core issue, Mr. President, is occupation and settlement. Two roads towards one goal: depriving us of our lands and waters, after killing some and forcing the rest out. When you describe our struggle for freedom as terrorism, and Israeli crimes as kin to your war on terrorism, you are entrapping Americans in an unjust war. You are abolishing the legitimate Palestinian rights to state and freedom. You are allowing Sharon to kill Palestinians wherever and whenever he wants, even if they were only few children playing football....
"Mr. President, I hear you calling for freedom and democracy, why don't you call for Palestinian freedom and democracy, too? What prompts your indifference? Our human tragedy, Mr. President, is one of the cruelest in the 20th Century.
"Khalid, my son, and his friends were killed just because the Israeli government wanted the lands of their fathers and forefathers. They were not even resisting; they were just playing football."
Iraq: The Worst of Vietnam and Lebanon
Speaking at a Jamestown Foundation conference on "Insurgency and Jihad: The Iraqi Theater and Beyond," on April 11, former Defense Intelligence Officer for the Mideast, Col. Patrick Lang, and former National Defense University and CIA analyst Phebe Marr, warned that the situation inside Iraq was hardly progressing to democracy.
Colonel Lang reported that American forces inside Iraq are now increasingly forced to remain in their military compounds, or travel in large combat units, due to the spread of the resistance. He cited the writings of T.E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia"), who catalogued a similar situation in the Arabian Peninsula during the early 20th Century, when the British were being driven out of Iraq. Lang added that, following the January elections, the resistance changed its "targetting strategy." Having driven much of the American military force back to the barracks, the attacks did not go down, they only shifted to the new Iraqi security forces and government.
Lang said that in his several tours of duty in Vietnam in the 1960s, he was always able to move around the urban areas in the south without concern for his safety. Nothing like that is possible inside the Sunni Triangle in Iraq. In effect, Iraq is worse than Vietnam, and the emphasis recently by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld et al. on turning over the security of Iraq to the Iraqis, is a replay of the "Vietnamization" program of the earlier war.
Dr. Marr detailed the disintegration of the once-vibrant Iraqi middle class. As the result of the loss of national identity, Iraqis are now reverting to sectarian differences, and religious and tribal identities. Also, both she and Lang described the new phenomenon of a merging of Arab and Iraqi nationalists, Ba'athist, etc., with Islamists, both Sunni and Shi'ite. This is a new phenomenon brought about by the U.S. invasion and failed occupation, they warned, and it has dire implications for the larger Southwest Asian region.
Bush's Quagmire: Iraq Out of Control
One aspect of the Iraq debacle is the U.S. went to war without an industrial-economic base. On April 20, shocking details of the lack of equipment for U.S. forces came out during a hearing of the Readiness Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, from Gen. John Sattler, commander of the Third Marine Expeditionary Force (see USA Digest this week).
Another aspect is the Administration's lies that the insurgency is due to "foreign terrorists." April 20 was one of the most violent, and disturbing days since the Bush-Cheney regime preemptively struck Iraq in March 2003.
Two American soldiers were killed in a bomb blast in Baghdad, and a suicide bomber killed ten people outside an Iraqi recruitment center in Baghdad. The blast occurred just outside "Saddam Hussein's palace," which is in an area secured by the U.S. military. The two Americans were killed in an attack on their convoy.
Late in the day, there was an assassination attempt against Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, the man appointed by Paul Bremer, former proconsul of the American occupation. Allawi remains in office until the new government is formed. Allawi survived a car bomb attack that killed one of his escorts, and wounded four other people.
But the most disturbing news was the discovery of some 69 Iraqi corpses50 in the Tigris River, and 19 in a sports stadium in a town 140 miles northwest of Baghdad. All were apparently killed in two incidents last week.
The 50 bodies found in the river are reportedly those of Shi'ite hostages, taken earlier, in the town of Al-Madain, in an incident reported April 16, in which Sunni gunmen had rounded up the Shi'ites. However, the story was denied April 18, when the U.S. military arrived and found no hostages, or signs of a massacre. Then, on April 20, the 50 bodies found in the river were reported to be the Al-Madain hostages. Such conflicting reports are not uncommon in the "fog of war," but they indicate the level of chaos that has been caused by the Bush-Cheney lack of policy. The 19 dead found in the soccer stadium are reportedly recent recruits to the new Iraqi security forces, who had been on their way to a holiday break.
U. S. Congressional Delegation Reports on Iraq Horrors
The scenes of April 20 (see above) are verification of the testimony provided by one witness to the Iraq quagmire, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass), who travelled with an eight-member Congressional delegation, headed by House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) to Iraq recently. McGovern described what they found in an article for the May 5 issue of The Nation. McGovern could not get a straight answer to why the U.S. forces cannot be cut back, when he was repeatedly told that there are 146,000 Iraqi troops already trained. He also observed the constant lack of electricity and infrastructure that the Iraqi population lives under.
McGovern writes that prior to their arrival in Iraq, the delegation was in Cairo, where they met Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who lamented at the mistakes made by the United States. "The army you disbanded is now the army you're fighting," Mubarak pointed out.