By Daan de Wit
Translation by Ben Kearney
On July 12th 2006, Israel invaded Lebanon. The official casus belli were the killings of three members of the Israeli Army by Hezbollah in Israel and the capture of two others. In actuality Israel prepared for the war in advance and waited for the opportunity to present itself in order to justify an attack. Motives such as these keep coming up for both sides in the border area between the two countries. Critic Noam Chomsky recounts a few of the incidents: 'IDF kidnapping of civilians on June 24, Hamas capture of a soldier the next day, then the huge U.S.-Israeli escalation of attacks on Gaza... then the kidnapping of soldiers by Hezbollah, then the U.S.-Israeli destruction of most of Lebanon, justified by the pretense of outrage over kidnapping, which – to repeat – is demonstrated, conclusively, to be cynical fraud'. While the war was still going on, Israel changed the code name by which military operations were being carried out from Operation Just Cause to Operation Change of Direction.
In March of 2007 Israeli Prime Minister Olmert admitted to the Winograd Commission that approximately three months before the Lebanon War he gave his permission for the operation by accepting a plan from his then-chief of staff Dan Halutz. Shortly after the kidnapping and in the midst of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, Halutz sold off his shares, and in so doing avoided the losses that occurred when the market fell by ten percent as a result of the war that followed. Olmert made his admission to the commission in order to demonstrate that the dramatic loss of the war was not due to ill preparedness .
In reality, the Lebanon War was even better planned than Prime Minister Olmert would admit to the commission. In January of 2006, four days after succeeding a comatose Ariel Sharon, Olmert held an initial conversation on a war against Lebanon. But it might be correct to look back even further. The war was 'in a sense' already being planned back in 2000, right after Israel withdrew troops from Lebanon after being there for 18 years, says Professor Gerald Steinberg of Israel's Bar-Ilan University. According to Steinberg, a war of about three weeks had been devised by 2004, after which it was simulated and rehearsed. The actual Lebanon War ended up lasting 34 days, resulting in 159 deaths on the Israeli side and 1125 deaths on the Lebanese side, of which hundreds were children. America was made aware of Israeli plans to attack Lebanon. American and other diplomats, journalists and thinktanks were notified approximately one year prior to the war with the help of a PowerPoint presentation, given by a senior Israeli army officer, writes the San Fransisco Chronicle. The meetings in which the plans for war were discussed in detail were held off the record and on the condition that the identity of the officer be kept secret.
The armies of both Israel and Hezbollah were criticized in a report by Human Rights Watch for intentionally killing civilians. During the fighting, Israel dropped up to a million cluster bombs, probably acquired from the world's biggest producer of this type of explosive, as well as the one that provides Israel with billions of dollars in military aid - the United States. 'We already had a major landmine problem from previous Israeli invasions, but this is far worse', says Chris Clark of the UN Mine Action Coordination Center, standing before a map filled with flags indicating bomb sites. Cluster bombs were first used by the Nazis and are permitted under international law. In January of 2008 the United States resists proposals for stricter laws relating to cluster bombs and said that the explosives aren't bad as long as they are used responsibly. In June Defense Secretary Robert Gates states that by 2018 the military will no longer use cluster weapons with a failure rate greater than 1 percent. In the interim period the US will deplete its existing stockpiles of cluster munitions with a greater than 1 percent dud rate by exporting them to foreign governments that agree not to use them starting in 2018.
In the bombing of Lebanon, Israel may have made use - as it has done for decades - of American intelligence. In the area of psychological warfare, upwards of 700,000 automated voice mails were delivered to Lebanese citizens in and around the time of the war, and 17 million leaflets were dropped above Lebanon during 47 missions, some of which for example depicted Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah as a snake or a scorpion. Israel also interrupted a Hezbollah TV channel in order to show a dead Hezbollah fighter, accompanied by the message that there will be many more such bodies to come. After the war was over, the Beirut advertising agency Idea Creation launched a $100,000 ad campaign at Hezbollah's behest called Divine Victory, delivering the message of a military victory over Israel .
A Middle East expert familiar with the mindset of both the Israeli and American governments says in August of 2006 to journalist Seymour Hersh that the White House had several reasons for supporting the Israeli attack. The most important was Iran. Another source, the neoconservative Middle East expert Meyrav Wurmser, confims this by saying that the main argument by the White House for supporting Israel was that the war 'would damage and weaken Hezbollah so that it would pose less of a threat to Israel in the event of an attack on Iran'. Wurmser is employed by the conservative thinktank Hudson Institute and is the wife of David Wurmser, who up until mid-2007 was the Middle East advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney. According to Meyrav Wurmser some of her colleagues are unhappy over what Israel did: 'The thought in America was that Israel should fight against the real enemy, the one backing Hizbullah. It was obvious that it is impossible to fight directly against Iran , but the thought was that its strategic and important ally Syria should be hit. [...] The neocons are responsible for the fact that Israel got a lot of time and space [for the execution of the war]'. Wurmser feels that an attack on Syria would have been a harsh blow to Iran. The great dissatisfaction in the White House - Wurmser even calls it 'anger' at Israel - over the loss of the war is focused on the fact that Israel didn't take the fight to Syria. On 6 September 2007 Israël attacked Syria: Operation Orchard.