[Marxism] Fwd: [ohiogreens-general] The Democrats' Lebanon Failure

mlause at cinci.rr.com mlause at cinci.rr.com
Thu Aug 17 20:22:19 MDT 2006

Stephen Zunes is Middle East editor for Foreign Policy in Focus. He is 
a professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco and the 
author of Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of Terrorism 
(Common Courage Press, 2003.)

As open warfare grinds to a slow and bloody halt in Lebanon, the Bush 
administration’s unconditional support for Israeli attacks on Lebanon 
is emblematic of the profound tragedy of U.S. policy in the region over 
the past five years.

The administration has relied largely on force rather than diplomacy. 
It has shown a willingness to violate international legal norms, a 
callousness regarding massive civilian casualties, a dismissive 
attitude toward our closest allies whose security interests we share, 
and blatant double standards on U.N. Security Council resolutions, 
nonproliferation issues and human rights.

A broad consensus of moderate Arabs, Middle East scholars, independent 
security analysts, European leaders, and others have recognized that—
even putting important moral and legal issues aside—such policies have 
been a disaster for the national security interests of the United 
States and other Western nations. These policies have only further 
radicalized the region and increased support for Hezbollah and other 
extremists and supporters of terrorism.

The Democratic Party could have seized upon these tragic 
miscalculations by the Bush administration to enhance its political 
standing and help steer America’s foreign policy in a more rational and 
ethical direction. Sadly, the Democrats instead once again 
overwhelmingly threw their support behind President George W. Bush.
Soon after Israel began its offensive on July 12, House Republican 
leader John Boehner, along with House International Relations Committee 
Chairman Henry Hyde, introduced a resolution unconditionally supporting 
Israel’s military actions and commending President Bush for fully 
supporting the Israeli assault. Despite reports by Amnesty 
International, Human Rights Watch and the U.N. High Commissioner from 
Human Rights that Israel was committing war crimes in attacking 
civilians, the resolution praised Israel for its “longstanding 
commitment to minimize civilian loss” and even welcomed “Israel’s 
continued efforts to prevent civilian casualties.” The resolution also 
claimed that Israel’s actions were “in accordance with international 
law,” though they flew in the face of longstanding, universally 
recognized legal standards regarding the use of force and the treatment 
of noncombatants in wartime.

Despite such a brazen attack against the credibility of reputable human 
rights groups and the U.N. Charter that limits military action to 
legitimate self defense, Rep. Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the 
International Relations Committee and likely next committee chairman 
should the Democrats win back the majority in November, signed on as a 
full cosponsor.

Even more alarmingly, all but 15 of the 201 Democrats in the House of 
Representatives voted in favor of the resolution.

The Senate endorsed by a voice vote a similar resolution 
unconditionally supporting Israel’s military offensive. Drafted by 
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, it was cosponsored by a majority of 
Democratic senators.

The decision by Democratic members of Congress to take such hard-line 
positions against international law and human rights stems not from the 
fear that it would jeopardize their reelection. Public opinion polls 
show a sizable majority of Americans believe U.S. foreign policy should 
support these principles and only a minority of Americans, according to 
a recent New York Times poll, agree that the United States should give 
unconditional support for Israel in its war on Lebanon and support 
President Bush’s handling of the situation.

Nor is it a matter of Democratic lawmakers somehow being forced against 
their will to back Bush’s policy by Jewish voters and campaign 
contributors. Jewish public opinion is divided over the wisdom and 
morality of the Israeli attacks on Lebanon. More significantly, the 
vast majority of Democrats who supported the resolution came from very 
safe districts where a possible reduction in campaign contributions 
would not have had a negative impact on their reelection.

One reason for such broad Democratic support for the resolution may 
stem from the fact that the Arms Control Export Act forbids arms 
transfers to countries that use American weapons for non-defensive 
purposes, such as attacking civilians. Thus, in order to protect the 
profits of politically influential American arms merchants, the 
Democrats joined with Republicans in supporting language in the 
resolution claiming that Israel’s actions were “legitimate self-

Perhaps more significant in the Democrats’ decision to support the Bush 
administration’s backing of the Israeli attacks has been the absence of 
pressure from such liberal groups as MoveOn.org, which failed to 
mobilize their email list to contact their representatives and senators 
to protest. Nor did MoveOn.org call on its supporters to back proposed 
House resolutions calling for an immediate cease-fire weeks ago, 
initiatives which attracted little support among Democratic 

This reticence contrasts with other foreign policy issues related to 
international law and human rights, from U.S. intervention in Central 
America during the 1980s to Iraq today. In these other cases, liberal 
groups made it a priority to hold their elected representatives in 
Washington accountable for backing administration policy. However, it 
appears that if the victims of such policies are Lebanese or 
Palestinian civilians, there are—with some notable exceptions—few 
organized protests heard on Capitol Hill. With so little pressure from 
progressive groups, elected representatives have little inclination to 
withdraw support for administration policy toward Israel and its 

In reality, the Democrats’ support for Israeli attacks against Lebanon 
is quite consistent with their support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. 
In both cases, they rushed to the defense of right-wing governments 
that have run roughshod over international legal norms, that have taken 
military actions which have gone well beyond their legitimate right to 
self-defense, and that have taken an incredible toll in innocent 
civilian lives.

In other words, the Democratic Party’s support for Israel’s attacks on 
Lebanon is consistent with its disdain for international law and human 
rights elsewhere and its defiance of public opinion on other foreign 
policy issues. It is not, therefore, something that can simply be 
blamed on “the Zionist lobby.” Rather, it indicates that the Democrats’ 
worldview is essentially the same as that of the Republicans.

This ideological congruence calls into the question whether the 
increasingly likely prospect of the Democrats regaining a majority in 
Congress in November will make any real difference on the foreign 
policy front at all.

This is an shorter version of an article that originally appeared on  
Foreign Policy in Focus.

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