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Tale of Two Losers
“You’ve failed; go home”

The war lovers

That’s the message about to be delivered to Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, for his handling of the Lebanon war last summer. The message will be delivered Monday in the form of an official report by a government committee—Israel’s equivalent of an independent mission—and, according to the Times, is “widely expected to contain harsh criticism of the decision-making process leading up to the war and of the performance of the prime minister; the defense minister, Amir Peretz; and the wartime army chief of staff, Dan Halutz. Mr. Halutz resigned in January, and Mr. Peretz has said he will leave in late May or soon thereafter.” Olmert’s approval rating is in the 2 to 3 percent range. He’s putting on a Bushy front: no resignation plans, although the weight of the interim report on the war may force him to resign.

To recap: Israel went to war last June ( Israel’s favored invasion month) with two objectives: to reclaim two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah, and to destroy Hezbollah as a military force. Israel never reclaimed the soldiers, and its invasion and subsequent demolition of swaths of Lebanon (not just in the South, and not just in Shiite areas controlled by Hezbollah) managed to strength n Hezbollah into the dominant Lebanese political faction that it is today, as well as the single most powerful military force in Lebanon. It also elevated Hezbollah in the eyes of Arab militants well above al-Qaeda, and by extension gave militants in Palestine a fresh lease on life. If Israel had conspired with Hezbollah to elevate it into a force to be reckoned with, it couldn’t have done a better job. No wonder the interim report is going after Olmert’s scalp: Olmert went after Israel’s with his decision to invade.

Israel, at any rate, has had the honesty to examine, albeit with inevitable blind spots (quick bets: will the report contain anything about the overwhelmingly civilian death toll in Lebanon? Anything about the cluster-bombing of South Lebanon? Anything about the Israeli military’s provocative incursions into South Lebanon and Lebanese air space?) its latest criminal excursion. Israelis are bannering up the message to Olmert: “You’ve failed; go home.”

Now let’s examine the parallel war a time zone away. America’s objective in Iraq was to remove Saddam and destroy Iraq’s potential as a terrorist haven. Saddam is gone. Iraq as a terrorist haven,. Never an issue before the invasion, is now fact. The war is nowhere near over. To the contrary. The death toll is overwhelmingly civilian. Iraq is worse off today by almost every measure than it was before the invasion. Where are the banners telling Bush— America’s Olmert—that he failed? Where are the banners telling him to go home? They’re not absent, to be sure. But the guy still manages to pull in between 30 and 35 percent approval. The failed war in Iraq is massive on all counts, including its financial and military consequences in the United States, where the American military is in shreds. Where’s Bush? Haggling with Congress over his meaningless “surge,” putting up walls all over Baghdad, and fattening up the walls he put up between himself and the rest of the world in Washington long ago.

 

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