Notes On The News
By Gwydion M Williams
It was a brilliant way to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Suez Crisis. Brilliant if Hezbollah had done it, but they were merely reacting to what Israel chose to do. There had been previous clashes that had led to nothing, and the operation was far to big to be a spontaneous effort to save prisoners of war (still imprisoned at the time of writing).
Israel would also not have acted alone. The USA must have agreed and ‘bliar’ Blair must have gone along with it. In the decades since Suez, Britain’s rulers have learnt nothing, while the United States has learned the wrong things. They no longer celebrating the successes for US power and values achieved by Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower. They no longer try to learn from the methods that worked, which established a quasi-US system in Western Europe, albeit in countries which had some sort of Representative Democracy long before there was any such place as the USA. The New Deal and Welfaresm succeeded in raising the USA’s global status and popularity, but the New Right no longer want to know. Rather than learning from actual successes, they try to ignore them. (A Trotskyist background is very good preparation.)
One lesson from World War Two is that the more you bomb people, the more they hate you and the more they are likely to side with whatever crowd of bastards are visibly fighting the aggressor. This cuts both ways: the PLO doomed its own cause when it drifted into attacks on ‘soft targets’, rather than learn how to fight properly.
Terrorism gets confused with Guerrilla Warfare and Mobile Warfare. Terrorism concentrates on soft targets—this applies whether the force is a militia, a rebel group or a legally recognised army. In Guerrilla Warfare, the target is the enemy military, but the guerrilla troops are hidden most of the time. In Mobile Warfare, the enemy generally know where you are, though you may not stay there. The point of Mobile Warfare is to avoid battle except on favourable terms.
Hezbollah was formed to get Israel out of South Lebanon, and it succeeded, apart from the disputed territory of Shebaa Farms. This time, Israel showed every sign of trying to get back in, and failed to get far, despite US willingness to back them in the slaughter of Lebanese civilians. It ended with a meaningless agreement that no one takes seriously. Asking for an ‘Hezbollah withdraw’ is like asking for the Israeli Defence Force to withdraw from Israel.
During the fighting, Condoleezza Rice said that there was no going back to the way things had been for the last couple of years. Fortunately, there was no more truth in this than a lot of other things she’s said. She’s been credited with more direct lies than anyone else in the Bush administration: about what you’d expect from a black woman who’s made a grand career in a party that has been angling for white-racist votes ever since the 1970s.
When they bomb civilians, it is extremism. When we do it, it is something else – ‘normalism’? That was definitely the Anglo view of Israel repeatedly hitting non-military targets in Lebanon. Britain and the USA stood alone in their willingness to let Israel kill any number of Lebanese bystanders in their war against Hezbollah.
The idea seems to have been to beating the Lebanese until they cringed. It has worked before. The key moment was 1991, when Saudi Arabia let the USA break all of the rules, declare that Saddam Hussein would be destroyed whether or not he got out of Kuwait. Britain and the USA stood alone in their willingness to let Israel kill as many Lebanese as it liked in their war against Hezbollah. But as soon as the fighting was over, the Saudi dynasty rewarded Britain with a gigantic order for military aircraft, 72 Eurofighters.[A] Exactly the sort of fancy toys that Arab regimes like to buy and always fail to use effectively.
But then the Lebanese failed to cringe, and seemed indeed to be rallying to Hezbollah. What else were they supposed to do? The earlier Civil War had ended in a draw and was the process that created Hezbollah out of a devout but inert Lebanese Shia community. Where is the force to reverse this? The last time the “Lebanese Army”, saw action was during World War II, when they fought effectively in Lebanon with the Vichy French forces against British and Free French forces.[B] Some later joined the Free French, but within independent Lebanon they have never counted. Not only have they never seriously tried to defend the country: they even stood officially neutral in Lebanon’s Civil War. In practice they were largely on the Christian / Rightist side, but now they include a majority of Shia Muslims and are not a plausable anti-Hezbollah force
The crisis began when Israel broke an existing military agreement that avoided targeting civilians. All through the conflict, Hezbollah was much better at hitting military rather than civilians. There have also been accusations that Israel has been placing its military installations among Arabs within Israel, who have lost disproportionately.
Then there is the curious case of Lieutenant Colonel Emanuel Morano, killed on an incursion into Lebanon after the cease-fire had officially begun. “Lebanese sources said the troops were carried in two Lebanese army vehicles and were wearing Lebanese army uniforms.”[C] British news sources avoid mentioning this detail, just as they repeatedly fail to mention that Iran’s nuclear reprocessing is wholly within the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, whose terms the USA has been trying to unilaterally rewrite.[D] The strange case of Lieutenant Colonel Emanuel Morano has been swept into history. No one asks what he was doing, nor why he failed to achieve it.
The whole run of the conflict, including Morano’s death, should be seen as the ‘writing on the wall’ for Europe’s last colonial project. Israel’s daring military ventures were once guaranteed to succeed, but now they are likely to fail. Time is running out for them to get a secure peace. But Israel has never defined its borders, or lost its hankering to take over the whole of Canaan. This gets in the way of the other mission, a secure refuge for the world’s Jews of the sort they lacked in the 1930s. There is no secure refuge when more than a billion Muslims see Israel as their main enemy. Israel’s best chance was to create a plausible Palestinian state on the West Bank in the 1990s. But not the ridiculous Bantustans they offered, reservations fragmented by Israeli roads and obviously not sovereign
The Arab countries and the Muslim world in general are the main portions of the former colonial empires that has not successfully restored their dignity. The failure of secular nationalism was critical, along with the selfishness of Arab regimes, each with its own artificial little state, quite unable to unite. Nasser was well placed to do it, but was prevented by the West, mostly because they had dumped their Jewish problem in Canaan and didn’t want it back. They saw it as the proper place for those Jews who were not securely attached to some non-Jewish culture, or who wanted to express themselves as Jews. Arabs already living there were ignored, they could surely be pushed off somewhere else.
The 1990s policy as it actually emerged was a continuation of this process, which Israel continues to believe in. And it might have come off, if the USA had successfully established global hegemony. The USA didn’t and won’t: the USA was handed the world on a plate and knocked the plate over. The USA is now on a downward spiral, but Israel is being slow to adjust to it.
There is nothing irrational about the rise of Islamism: secularism and quasi-Western values had been tried and had failed. People won’t live without a culture. Nor live for long with a despised culture; they will either abandon it or make it respected.
The Lebanon Crisis was a great time to bury bad news. The price of crude oil continued its upward climb, heading probably for hundred-dollar-a-barrel oil next year, with a corresponding rise in petrol prices. One contributory factor was the announced closure of the Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska, a major source for the USA. Corrosion was blamed: but it seems that the problem had been known about for maybe two years.[E] Only in the middle of other event is it classed as an important issue.
Up until 1978, the Yasukuni Shrine was just another war memorial. But then someone chose to ‘enshrine’ a large number of Japanese war-dead who had been classified as war criminals.[F] This included Tojo, the major wartime leader, former military policeman and quintessence of the worst side of Japanese militarism. His background was the ‘Kwantung Army’, the army in Japanese-occupied Manchuria who were the leading force in persuading Japan to try to conquer the whole of China.
Reporting of the issue has often been vague. If the controversial characters had been officially placed in the shrine during the war, it would be unreasonable to protest. In fact the ‘enshrining’ happened long afterwards, and could have no meaning except to say that those men were unjustly punished. (It doesn’t, incidentally, have anything to do with physical remains, which are elsewhere and not a matter of controversy.)
Interestingly, the late Emperor Hirohito has not visited the shrine since 1975, having made regular visits before that. The current Emperor has taken the same attitude. There has never been any official explanation, but it has been suggested that his objection is not to Tojo, but to two other men who played a large role in making Japan’s disastrous alliance with Germany and Italy.[G] For though the bulk of Japanese crimes were committed in China, what they were punished for was having joined one side when the USA joined the other. Without that, they would probably have got away with it.
China plans to extend its new Tibetan rail link to reach the region’s second-biggest city, Xigaze, according to China’s state news agency.[H] This would take it close to the India border. Even though the Himalayas intrude, the old idea of a China-India rail link could become real at last.
Of course sovereignty always gets mentioned. Didn’t the International Commission of Jurists rule that Tibet was still sovereign? They did indeed, but the ‘International Commission of Jurists’ is a spoof, a body with no standing or authorisation. They had no more right to judge the matter than I have to rule on the recent election in Mexico. (Which the left probably did win, as the current recount indicates, but if I were entrusted to rule on it then they would definitely have won even if in fact they did not.)
If the ‘International Commission of Jurists’ had been honest, they would have set themselves up as ‘Jurists for International Law’, operated openly as a pressure group for one viewpoint within their profession. Instead they have been partisan from the start, while pretending otherwise. Their ruling on Tibet was absurd. They say “Tibet surrendered her independence by signing in 1951 the Agreement on Peaceful Measures for the Liberation of Tibet… these and other undertakings had been violated by the Chinese People’s Republic… the Government of Tibet was entitled to repudiate the Agreement.[I]
This might be valid if the agreement had acknowledged that Tibet had briefly achieved independence—which no Chinese government has ever conceded, of course. The actual agreement says the reverse, saying that “The Tibetan nationality is one of the nationalities with a long history within the boundaries of China” and speaking of the “Local Government of Tibet”.[J] Having agreed to work within this framework, the Dalai Lama undermined any claim he might have had. No serious judicial authority could rule otherwise, and indeed no serious judicial authority did so. Just a bunch of clowns who in the 1950s were part-funded by the CIA and served the same ends (though more recently they have been critics of the CIA in the cowboy ‘war on terror’ that breaks all existing legal norms).
The International Astronomical Union are ‘lords of infinite space’, at least from a human viewpoint. They decide the names of astronomical bodies, including the small world currently an unofficially known as Xena. They also have to put ‘in a nutshell’ the vexed question of which bodies orbiting the sun could in fact count as planets.
For several decades, Pluto was viewed as the 9th planet. The trouble was, it wasn’t what its discoverers supposed it to be. At the time, astronomers believed that Neptune was being pulled out of its orbit by another really big planet, in the same way that Neptune had pulled Uranus and given clues to its existence. Pluto was in the right place, meaning it should be several times bigger than the Earth. It always looked suspiciously small, but this might have been an error. But more data showed the error was the other way – better measurements proved that Neptune was not in fact being tugged at by Pluto or any other unknown body.
Next, a lot of similar objects were found in the same part of space. Moreover, Pluto was even smaller than observers had thought it was. For a time the status quo held, all of the new bodies were smaller than Pluto, but everyone was expecting to find a bigger one soon. This was duly announced in 2005, the body currently known as “2003 UB313”, nicknamed Xena and not yet given an official name (as of 25th August). If Pluto was the 9th planet, this new body was the tenth, so an answer had to be found.
There was no exact rule. In the 19th century, the first four asteroids were classed as planets, but then reduced to ‘asteroids’ when it was realised that there were hundreds of them between Mars and Jupiter. At the recent IAU gathering, there was a bold proposal to restore planetary status to the asteroid Ceres, on the grounds that it was large enough to have been made a sphere by gravity. But this would also have been true of dozens of known bodies orbiting beyond Neptune, with a virtual certainty of more than a hundred eventually qualifying. In the end, there was an overwhelming decision that these were not planets, just ‘Dwarf Planets’, the status now of Pluto, Ceres and ‘Xena’, with other candidates to be classified when they have been observed more closely.
Asteroids have until now been called ‘Minor Planets’. Now they are ‘Small Solar System bodies’ – an awkward name, maybe deserving to be shortened to ‘Smassbos’. The upper limit of planetary size remains undefined: it applies for planets in other solar systems, which overlap with objects that may be small stars, but all of these have been dectected indirectly and remain enigmatic.
And moons? They remain moons, even though Jupiter’s Gannymede and Saturn’s Titan are larger than the planet Mercury. In the case of Pluto, its satellite Charon nearly got classified as a planet, because the centre of mass (‘barycenter’) is located between then rather than within Pluto. Charon may eventually make it as a ‘Dwarf Planet’; the rest should be simple. Or simple until the NASA mission gets to Pluto in 2015: something utterly unexpected is almost bound to turn up, as happened with the Pioneer and Voyager probes.
[A] – [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/5262120.stm]
[B] – [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/lebanon/army.htm]
[C] – [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/752185.html]
[D] – [http://www.david-morrison.org.uk/iran/iran-not-breaking-npt.htm]
[E] – [http://www.ft.com/cms/s/a828a3c6-2743-11db-80ba-0000779e2340.html]
[F] – [http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2006-01/29/content_516354.htm]
[G] – [http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/editorial/20060721TDY04005.htm]
[H] – [http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/asia-pacific/4778521.stm]
[I] – [http://www.tibet.com/Resolution/icj60.html]
[J] – [http://www.tibetjustice.org/materials/china/china3.html]