Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Some 'victory'

Commentary by Pat Murphy


By PAT MURPHY

Pat Murphy

There he goes again, announcing victory prematurely.

President Bush was years too early when he proclaimed in May 2003 "mission accomplished" in Iraq. He proclaimed another premature celebration last week when he concluded Israel was victorious and Hezbollah was beaten in the Lebanon fighting.

If this was an Israeli triumph, oy.

For starters, Israel didn't retrieve soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah, the act that prompted the shooting in the first place. More than 1,000 killed on both sides, although fewer in Israel. At least $3 billion damage in Lebanon, more hundreds of millions in Israel.

And the United States, which stood by while President Bush tacitly egged on fighting in the foolish hope that Hezbollah would be crushed, now is ponying up $230 million in taxpayer dollars to help rebuild Lebanon and other millions for military replenishment to Israel. Meanwhile, Hezbollah has won new converts for surviving the best Israel could dish out and the United States has garnered more anger in the Muslim world.

Israelis are reacting to their war the way Americans are reacting to President Bush and the Iraq war.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's mid-July popularity nose-dived last week from 78 percent to 40 percent. (President Bush's popularity has plunged to the 30s.)

Demands are rising in Parliament and the public for the resignation of Defense Minister Amir Peretz for incompetence in fighting the war. (In parallel, demands are increasing in Congress for U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign for mismanaging the Iraq war.)

As for Israelis, a poll found 28 percent said Israel won the war, 26 percent thought Hezbollah won and 36 percent saw no victory for either. (Only 35 of the U.S. public support the war in Iraq, with a record 61 percent opposed.)

Capping off gloom in Israel, a group of Israeli Army reservists are staging protests, demanding the prime minister, defense minister and Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz resign for negligence in providing supplies for troops. (Shades of U.S. troops lacking body and Humvee armor in Iraq.)

(Halutz was caught profiteering: He cashed in $28,000 in mutual fund shares shortly after Hezbollah kidnapped Israeli soldiers. Israelis concluded he had no confidence in the military outcome of taking on Hezbollah.)

This is the way most wars begin, are fought and end—lives wasted, communities destroyed, aid for rebuilding solicited, communities rebuilt, a new generation matures to military age in time for a new war's bloody outbreak for similarly inane reasons to end with the same pointless results.




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