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In 1948 Israel launched an invasion of Lebanon that today is remembered for the litany of human rights abuses and war crimes committed; these were carried out by the ironically named ‘Israeli Defense Forces’ against mostly civilians. Already grappling with the reality of Palestinian unrest in the West Bank, early Israeli plans called for its official annexation, encouraged by the supposed ease of deporting “only 200,000 Palestinians”. Staunch American support for the regime of David Ben-Gurion would suggest at least partial American responsibility for the atrocities; instead, the continuous theme of media manipulation stood steadfastly opposed to the exposure of these events. Israel, being a representative of American geopolitical interest in the Middle East, is simply a strong arm of the west in the region. It is for this reason that Israel is enlisted by the United States to corral regimes deemed to be ‘misbehaving’ by the United States. Israel uses this power to reign in the influence of all bordering Arab states, including Lebanon and Syria.
In the early 1970’s Israel began to encroach onto Lebanese territory once again, citing security concerns posed by Arafat’s Palestinian resistance groups that were hiding in southern Lebanon. It was and remains Israeli policy to hold Border States responsible for the actions of non-state actors residing in their territory. The practice of ‘pre-emptive strikes’ against these perceived threats was widely employed in both Syria and Lebanon, and was also a reality in neighboring Jordan until 1994. It is important to reiterate that these ‘preemptive strikes’ against foreign governments are a flagrant violation of international law, as the attacks (against Israel) were carried out by non-state actors. In the case of Lebanon in the early 1970’s, Jordan had recently purged Palestinian Liberation Organization cells and its sympathizers from the government (during the notorious ‘Black September’ events), resulting in Arafat’s escape to Syria and the PLO’s reorganization abroad. The most favorable choice for a new base of operations was, in Arafat’s view, in Lebanon.
Despite having a smaller and less porous border than Jordan, Lebanon did have the advantage of being a weaker state. In other words, the PLO would encounter less domestic political (and military) resistance from the Lebanese government than it had in Jordan. As guerilla attacks on Israel began to increase, the IDF began to threaten aggressive retaliation, holding the Lebanese government responsible (as was Israel’s policy, discussed above). As Lebanon struggled with elements of the PLO, Feyadeen, and the ever present threat of Israeli attack, the United States realized its efforts to protect Israel at all costs were beginning to rob it of international recognition as an impartial third party in Arab-Israeli peace negotiations. Despite this realization, Israel enjoyed crucial United States support for IDF intervention in southern Lebanon throughout the 1970’s, culminating in a full scale invasion in 1982. It is important to note that Lebanon, unlike Syria, was generally viewed by the United States as a regional ally. Unfortunately, the security of the Israeli client state took precedent over that of the Lebanese; the argument could be made that Lebanon’s 15 year civil war would be a result of instability aggravated by the United States. The reality of Lebanon’s betrayal is indicative of the ‘worthy victims’ dichotomy discussed above. A notable example was the case of
2 IDF soldiers being killed by Fedayeen rebels from Lebanon in February 1972. Israel launched retaliatory strikes into Lebanon that killed dozens of civilians, yet did not suffer the same condemnation as the Fedayeen. This is despite the fact that while the Fedayeen targeted the IDF, Israel killed mostly civilians.
The American media continued to portray Israel as the victim of Arab aggression and terrorism despite evidence to the contrary. As early as 1969, governments from around the world, ranging from Nepal to Zambia, began to question the harsh retaliatory measures taken against civilians by Israel in its quest for ‘security’. Even the governments of western states such as Portugal and France voiced concern. By this time world opinion had clearly shifted in favor of the Arab liberation struggle; despite this international agreement, the United States stubbornly continued to support Israel. Saudi Arabia began to question United States intentions as well, with its Foreign Minister remarking that a “control over U.S media” had convinced many Americans that Israel was in fact the victim.
The Israeli meddling in Lebanon led to catastrophic instability. This instability festered throughout the disastrous civil war that would wrack Lebanon for 15 years, from 1975-1990. Israel would continuously violate Lebanese territorial integrity, including an airstrike in 1982 that killed over 200 Palestinian refugees. Again the American propaganda apparatus managed to silence the spread of such atrocities;
UN attempts to halt the bombardment of southern Lebanon were thwarted by United States vetoes on behalf of Israel. The consequences of these actions in Lebanon today and are not only to regional security, but ironically also to that of the United States. In the absence of American support the Lebanese and many Palestinian refugees were at the mercy of Syria and Israel; this would lead to decades of domination at the hands of the Assad dynasty and would exacerbate the effects of the Lebanese Civil War. This exemplifies the reality that American policy in regards to the Middle East is based not on the well being of those who live there, but on a desire to wield geopolitical leverage and military superiority via Israel and the Arab governments it controls.
This reality of chaos did not go unnoticed in Lebanon. Increasingly desperate Lebanese were forced to turn to militant groups such as Hezbollah, or succumb to the growing influence of Syria. The irony of this American policy failure in Lebanon is as tragic as it was avoidable, as the United States Ambassador to Lebanon earlier warned that “pressure on Beirut is both dangerous and ineffective” regarding Lebanese efforts to contain the PLO. The same could be said for what occurred in Vietnam from 1955 until its liberation in 1975. American support for the fascist regime of Ngo Diem sowed the seeds of anti-American anger amongst those unfortunate enough to reside south of the 17th parallel, even after his 1968 assassination. This would lead to the gradual loss of stability in South Vietnam, and eventual American defeat, culminating in the fall of Saigon in April 1975. The ramifications of American interference in Vietnam are still felt today. Landscapes peppered with undetonated landmines inflict horrendous injuries on children and other unsuspecting civilians. The use of chemical weapons by the United States, also prohibited under international law, was a reality as well. The toxic ‘agent orange’, (supplied by American manufacturing magnate DuPont) causes birth defects and early death even today. These crimes against humanity, like those carried out by Israel in Lebanon, were excused under false pretenses designed to manipulate public opinion domestically.