Chicago Sun Times columnist Robert D. Novak, whose work appears nationally through Creators Syndicate Inc., alleges that a U.S.-led war against Iraq — if it comes — will be largely on behalf of Israel. He calls it “Sharon’s war.” The Washington Post headlined his Dec. 26 Op-Ed “Sharon’s War?” It’s Novak’s latest effort in a long campaign slandering Israel as a Middle East obstructionist exerting a sinister influence on U.S. policy.
Recycling Arab Propaganda
The claim that American Middle East policy runs from Washington through Jerusalem, with American Jews and the Israeli government directing traffic is a hoary staple of Arab-Islamic agitation. Nevertheless, Novak reiterates it. He ascribes private remarks to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice emphasizing the danger of Hizballah over al-Qaeda. According to Novak, these “suggest that the U.S. war against terrorism, accused of being Iraq-centric, actually is Israel-centric.” He also asserts that “what is widely perceived as an indissoluble Bush-Sharon bond creates tension throughout Islam ….”
Novak leads his column with quotes from U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), that “the road to Arab-Israeli peace will not likely go through Baghdad, as some may claim” — Novak emphasizes that “the ‘some’ are led by … Sharon” — and quotes Hagel that “military force alone will neither assure a democratic transition in Iraq, bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians, nor assure stability in the Middle East.”
The Old Straw Man
1) No one argues that “military force alone” is a panacea anywhere. But many have argued that without regime change — by force if unavoidable — the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD) will not be curbed. Moreover, the possibility of Iraqi links to Al-Qaeda raises the troubling issue of Iraq transferring WMD to this terrorist group.
2) Successive Israeli governments, including Sharon’s, publicly have identified Iran, not Iraq, as the primary regional threat.
3) America’s low standing in Islam, decried by Novak, results much more from Arab-Islamic envy of and frustration with the West, led by the United States. Israel and U.S.-Israeli ties make handy scapegoats for oppressive Arab rulers and their inefficient regimes, and for anti-Christian, anti-Jewish Islamic radicals. Novak again swallows this old line. But the “root cause” of that envy and frustration — as a U.N. study detailed last summer — is the Arab-Islamic world’s failure to modernize, democratize, and adopt free markets. Neither U.S. indulgence of Saddam Hussein nor additional, unreciprocated Israeli concessions to Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority (another corrupt, oppressive Arab leadership) would change that.
Novak writes that “in truth, Hizballah is the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization from Israel’s standpoint,” but not America’s, as Rice purportedly said. In fact, there are obvious reasons to view Hizballah as a threat to the United States and other countries, not only to Israel. Hizballah enjoys advantages now that Al-Qaeda previously had in Afghanistan before being routed and disrupted by US-led forces — a safe base of operations in Lebanon, state sponsorship (by Iran and Syria), plentiful arms and ample, secure funding. Hizballah benefits from its quasi-legitimate status within Lebanon, where it has gained a political foothold. Additionally, Imad Mugniyeh, one of the most dangerous terrorist leaders, guides Hizballah’s violent activity.
Furthermore, according to a November 8, 2002 CNN report:
CNN has learned from coalition intelligence sources that several top terrorist operatives met recently in the area —where the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay intersect — to plan attacks against U.S. and Israeli targets in the Western hemisphere. Sources said the meetings, which took place in and around Ciudad del Este, were attended by representatives of Hizballah and other groups sympathetic to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network.” (see article)
Nor should it be forgotten that Hizballah has killed hundreds of Americans in the past, blowing up the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Lebanon in the 1980s, and kidnapping and murdering American military and CIA officials.
Novak’s obsession with Israel causes him to minimize if not miss this entirely. When one insists on poking a twig in one’s eye, chances of seeing a tree, let alone the forest, decrease dramatically.
[In the original alert, action items and contact information were listed here.]
The column appears below.
Narrow approach to Mideast, terror war
by Robert Novak, Chicago Sun-Times Columnist
December 26, 2002
Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, having just returned from a weeklong fact-finding trip to the Middle East, addressed the Chicago Council of Foreign Relations Dec. 16 and said out loud what is whispered on Capitol Hill: “The road to Arab-Israeli peace will not likely go through Baghdad, as some may claim.”
The “some” are led by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In private conversation with Hagel and many other members of Congress, the former general leaves no doubt that the greatest U.S. assistance to Israel would be to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime. That view is widely shared inside the Bush administration, and is a major reason U.S. forces today are assembling for war.
“Military force alone,” Hagel told his Chicago audience, “will neither assure a democratic transition in Iraq, bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians, nor assure stability in the Middle East.” Indeed, the senator returned from the Mideast more concerned than his prepared speech indicates. As the U.S. gets ready for war, its standing in Islam — even among longtime allies — stands low.
Yet, the Bush administration has tied itself firmly to Gen. Sharon and his policies. Gen. Amram Mitzna, the new Labor Party leader challenging the heavily favored Sharon in the Jan. 28 election, is denied access to senior U.S. officials.
In private conversation, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has insisted that Hizballah — not al Qaida — is the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization. How could that be, considering al Qaida’s global record of mass carnage?
In truth, Hizballah is the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization from Israel’s standpoint. While viciously anti-American in rhetoric, the Lebanon-based Hizballah is focused on the destruction of Israel. ”Outside this fight [against Israel], we have done nothing,” Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the organization’s secretary-general, said in a recent New York Times interview. Thus, Rice’s comments suggest that the U.S. war against terrorism, accused of being Iraq-centric, actually is Israel-centric.
That ties George W. Bush to Sharon. The prime minister says astonishing things to U.S. visitors. He once rejected hope for negotiations, contending that Arabs and Jews will kill each other for a hundred years. More recently, he promised to put a Jewish settlement on top o f any high ground.
What is widely perceived as an indissoluble Bush-Sharon bond creates tension throughout Islam–including Turkey, long a faithful U.S. ally and even longer a secularized state. A poll of Turks by Pew Global Attitudes released Dec. 4 shows 83 percent opposition to permission for U.S. use of bases in their country. Furthermore, a 53 percent Turkish majority asserted that the U.S. wants to oust Saddam Hussein as part of an anti-Muslim crusade rather than because he is a threat to peace.
Turkish cooperation in the war must be approved by Turkey’s newly elected parliament, consisting of about 90 percent new members with an Islamic party in a heavy majority. The parliament’s mood did not improve when the European Union on Dec. 12 rebuffed both the Turkish and the U.S. governments by rejecting Turkey’s application for membership. Abdullah Gul, the new prime minister, accused European leaders of “discrimination” and “prejudice” — reflecting Islam’s current view of the West.
That is the background for an attack on Iraq by a coalition of English-speaking countries. “We should refrain from a rush to declare a ‘material breach’ because of the gaps in Iraq’s 12,000-page document,” Hagel advised in Chicago, calling on the United States to “marshal our own evidence.” Nevertheless, Hagel’s close associate, Secretary of State Colin Powell, declared a material breach three days after the senator’s advice.
Powell’s uncharacteristic bellicosity may have been necessary for him to stay in the complicated game played within the Bush administration. Without Powell, President Bush may not have gone to Congress and the United Nations or delivered his masterly speech to the UN General Assembly. Day to day, only the secretary of state stands up to the forceful Vice President Dick Cheney.
On balance, war with Iraq may not be inevitable but is highly probable. But it looks like Sharon’s war disturbs Americans such as Chuck Hagel, who have no use for Saddam Hussein but worry about the background of an attack against him..