Revolution #56, August 13, 2006
The Bush Regime in the Middle East:
Global Ambitions, Murderous Logic & the Danger of Regional War
Israel’s invasion of Lebanon is taking place in the context of the Bush regime’s crusade to forcibly reshape the entire Middle East in order to solidify and deepen America’s grip on the region and its vast petroleum wealth. This in turn is part of its broader agenda of attempting to create an imperialist empire that is both unchallenged and unchallengeable—across the entire global and for decades to come.
This staggering agenda demands crushing all impediments to U.S. hegemony, whether resistance from the masses, reactionary states and forces not firmly under U.S. control, or rival global powers—current and potential.
This is why there is every reason to be alarmed that what we are witnessing in Lebanon (and in U.S. actions toward Iran) may be preparing—or may lead—to a wider and even more murderous U.S.-led war across the Middle East.
Israel’s actions are taking place in the context of both its history as an outpost of imperialism in general, and the specific demands of the Bush agenda in particular. In a nutshell, what Israel is doing (and has done) does not flow from its “Jewishness,” (nor is Israel the “tail” wagging the U.S. “dog”), it flows from its character as an outpost and creation of imperialism—and the particular needs and goals of U.S. imperialism now.
The Bush regime’s goals have meant that Israel has become even more crucial and central to U.S. designs in the region than before—as demonstrated by the close coordination between the U.S. and Israel in the current war (see "Massacres and Invasion: The Bloody Hands of the U.S. and Israel in Lebanon").
What the U.S. and Israel are trying to achieve in the Middle East—and the difference between today’s wars and past U.S. interventions and invasions—can be summed up in three dimensions: even more brutally imposing imperialist domination, necessarily in a more murderous way; doing so across the entire region, not just in this country or that; and carrying out this agenda in a more all-or-nothing, “world war” way.
The Imperialist and Genocidal Nature of Bush’s “New Middle East”
The U.S. rulers talk of spreading “democracy” across the Middle East and describe the current atrocities against Lebanon as the “birth pangs” of a new region. But what is being shown in Lebanon is instead the reality that, as Bob Avakian has put it, “What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.” And it is doing so more openly and brutally than ever.
Lebanon has an elected government, of which Hezbollah is part, and Hezbollah has a mass base among Lebanon’s Shi’ite population, the country’s largest ethnic/religious group which comprises some 40 percent of the population, or at least 1.5 million people.
Did the U.S. and Israel respect the votes and desires of the Lebanese people? No, and not because Hezbollah is at bottom a reactionary organization, representing traditional and feudal interests, which can neither thoroughly oppose imperialism nor contribute to the genuine liberation of the Lebanese people. They did so because Hezbollah has contradictions with Israel and has allied in various ways with Hamas in Palestine as well as Syria and Iran. So Hezbollah is an obstacle to unfettered U.S. regional hegemony and making Lebanon completely pliant to the U.S. and Israel, crushing the Palestinian people, and isolating and weakening Syria and Iran.
Hence Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declares (8/2) that the U.S. “will not allow a return to the status quo ante [the way things were before],” and that there will be no ceasefire until Hezbollah is disarmed. Who gave the U.S. imperialists the right to destroy the “status quo” and determine Lebanon’s future?
There are real genocidal implications to this Bush program, both because the imperialists are attempting to impose or reimpose more direct forms of imperialist domination and because there is a Hitlerian, “final solution” element to this agenda of not tolerating impediments, but seizing the moment to “fully resolve” them.
Think about Hezbollah’s roots among Lebanese Shi’ites, and the implications when Israel’s U.S. Ambassador declares, “We will not go part way and be held hostage again. We’ll have to go for the kill— Hezbollah neutralization.” (Washington Post, 7/16). Or when Jed Babbin, a former official in the Bush I administration states on CNN (7/28); “I’m willing to kill as many people as it requires to take out Hezbollah.” Or when Israel’s Justice Minister Haim Ramon claims (7/27), “Everyone in southern Lebanon is a terrorist and is connected to Hezbollah.”
Lebanon Shiites have been a major target in Israel’s air war. “Probably 90 percent of the people who fled their homes in Lebanon—some 800,000 people by United Nations accounts—are Shiite. This represents nearly a quarter of the Lebanese people. I suspect close to 95 percent of the more than 800 Lebanese killed so far are Shiite.” (“Who Is Really at War? The Patterns So Far,” Chibli Mallat)
Attacks are also continuing in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, causing world renowned writers Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, John Berger, Howard Zinn and others to warn in an open letter on July 19 that Israel was aiming for “nothing less than the liquidation of the Palestinian nation.”
Targeting Syria and Iran
No single action the U.S. takes in the world today can be understood apart from its overall objectives, and its support for Israel’s attack on Lebanon is no different: this war is also aimed— directly or indirectly—at Syria and especially Iran.
There is speculation in the media that the hardcore of the Bush regime is attempting to use the crisis to trigger a war with Syria and/or Iran. (See for example, Salon.com, where Sidney Blumenthal, a former Clinton official and Israel supporter argues that high-ranking Bush officials are working to “widen the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah and Israel and Hamas into a four-front war…. laying the condition for regional conflagration with untold consequences.”)
In an article titled “Iran Is Bush’s Target in Lebanon,” the LA Times (July 30) quoted a U.S. official who stated, “Israel’s battle with Hezbollah is merely part of a larger struggle between the U.S. and Iran for influence across the Middle East,” and that the U.S. and Iran “are conducting a proxy war” in Lebanon.
(This past week, the U.S. diplomatic assault on Iran escalated with the UN’s demand, delivered on July 30, that Iran stop enriching uranium before August 31 or face possible sanctions.)
A Murderous and Explosive Logic at Work
The U.S. is not only attempting to gain tighter control of states in the Middle East; it also envisions making deep political, social and economic changes to more thoroughly open them up to U.S. capital and more completely integrate them into the U.S. empire.
There is a murderous and potentially explosive logic at work here. On one hand, the Bush regime is compelled to stay on the offensive to realize its goals: any slowing down could stall and/or derail the whole juggernaut. What they’re doing on a world scale requires an unrelenting offensive, a dynamic in which any hesitation or retreat works against their aims and could potentially unravel the whole thing. This means that they are not going to easily pull back in the face of obstacles and difficulties, for example in Iraq, but instead envision battling through years of turmoil and upheaval to create their new world order. (Right-wing imperialist George Will recently described the Bush approach as one that “makes instability, no matter how pandemic or lethal, necessarily a sign of progress,” which he warned “creates a blind eye.” Washington Post, 7/18). Instead, they are driven to push on through—even “escape forward” from the contradictions they face and create by widening the war, to both maintain its momentum and because they feel they can only deal with the difficulties they are facing on a larger stage.
On the other hand, the very enormity and brutality of U.S. objectives, coupled with its relentless push ahead carries with it the potential for things getting wildly out of their control and for major strategic defeats (as well as fierce infighting within the ruling class over how to manage the situation), all of which can happen very quickly. There is already widespread talk that the U.S.-Israeli assault on Lebanon has failed and may backfire.
Yet as Revolution’s editorial points out this week, such surprising events and/or defeats will not translate into halting the U.S.’s murderous path unless the masses of people resist now, and seize upon any difficulties the imperialists face to mount even greater resistance.
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