The “war on terror” is even more convenient for Washington’s dreams of hegemony and domination than the previous war on communism, writes As`ad AbuKhalil.
By As`ad AbuKhalil
Special to Consortium News
The end of the Cold War — and especially the aftermath of Sept. 11 — provided the United States with the opportunity to extend its control over large areas of the world. The “war on terror” became America’s new scheme to control armies and intelligence services in developing countries.
Included in this is U.S. consolidation of its hold over most Arab armies over the last two decades.
Most Arab armies and intelligence services — according to the U.S. — obviously need the presence of U.S. troops for training and guidance as only the U.S. can fight and teach natives how to fight “terrorists” and only the U.S. is qualified to define who the terrorists are.
Yet, the U.S. does not have a good record in fighting terrorists in the Middle East — assuming one adheres to the U.S.-Israeli definition of terrorism. None of the war crimes and terrorism committed by U.S. and Israel factor in the framework of U.S. military definitions and classifications. Client Arab armies have to adhere to U.S.-Israeli definitions; gone are the days when Arab governments in the 1970s and 1980s would attempt — at least in public — to disagree with U.S. and Israeli definitions of terrorism.
During the Cold War, the U.S. marshaled client Arab governments in the fight against communism — and in the name of “freedom” and the “free world.” It was ironic that the U.S. recruited the likes of the Saudi, UAE, Jordanian, Moroccan and other reactionary Arab autocracies to join the “free world” in its fight against communism.
Similarly, U.S. President Joe Biden in his recent European trip, announced another campaign against China and he did so in the name of a fight of “democracies against autocracies.” This time the U.S. will be recruiting Middle East despots in this fight as well.
A War Without Limits
The American “war on terrorism” is even more convenient for U.S. dreams of hegemony and domination than the previous war on communism. Unlike the latter, the “war on terrorism” knows no end and has no limits. It is a war with no timetable or specific achievable goals, and that is how the U.S. likes it.
The U.S. can’t declare a completion of its war on terrorism, just as states can’t declare an end to wars on crime or poverty. Those are virtual and theoretical wars, but with the U.S. this has become a war industry: essential for world domination.
U.S. troops are now present in most Arab countries. Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, Sudan Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and all Gulf countries host a large presence of U.S. troops.
In Lebanon, while the Western media regurgitate Israeli and Saudi propaganda to the effect that Lebanon is under the domination of Hizbullah, the U.S. actually exercises control over most sectors of state and society. The U.S. dominates through the various Western NGOs and Western-funded “new media”; and none ever deviate from U.S. foreign policy orientations.
The U.S. also exercises full control of the military and intelligence apparatuses, in addition to the central bank, judiciary, and the “private (traditional) media,” which have been presumably receiving cash payments from the UAE and U.S. to launch a campaign against resistance (even the New TV station, which for years was a voice in favor of resistance and against the Saudi regime, has become a reliable pro-UAE, pro-U.S. propaganda station).
Last week, France hosted a special conference to aid the Lebanese Army. The Lebanese Army commander has become a lynchpin of U.S. plots in Lebanon. The commander, Joseph Aoun, has been invited three times to Washington, D.C., and the U.S. hopes to elevate the Lebanese Army into the role of a savior of the nation —never mind that the army has not in its history been noted for any achievements or acts of heroism.
To be sure, the public has expressed disgust with the corrupt sectarian leaders (although it is easier for Lebanese to detest the corrupt leader of the other sect than that of their own) and the army is presented by Western powers and Gulf countries as the only credible national institution. Several conferences dealing with the Lebanese Army were held in D.C. in the last few weeks, and all in the hope that it would serve as the counter-balance to Hizbullah.
US Control Since 2005
Since the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon in the spring of 2005, following the assassination of Saudi-Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the U.S. has pretty much taken control of Lebanon and coordinated its moves there with its close Arab allies, especially the Saudi regime.
The U.S. asserted control over the Lebanese Army and the various intelligence agencies and worked to diffuse the anti-Israeli fighting doctrine of the army. Instead of fighting Israel (the biggest aggressor in modern Lebanese history), the enemy was made out to be unidentified terrorists who are always eager — for some inexplicable reason — to take over Lebanon.
As for the U.S. training of the army, no Israeli threat is permitted to be contemplated. The U.S. provided aid and arms to the Lebanese Army but the prices for the used equipment were highly exaggerated by the U.S. embassy in Beirut to send the message of a massive buildup of the Lebanese Army.
In reality, the arms that the U.S. supplies to Lebanon (with great fanfare and in official ceremonies attended by U.S. ambassadors and army chiefs) are all useless in any major military confrontation. All the weapons that Lebanon needs (like fighter jets and long-range missiles) are denied by the U.S., and the U.S. would threaten Lebanon if it were to accept free offers of military supplies from Russia or Iran.
Even before the civil war, we know from declassified U.S. diplomatic documents that the U.S. pressured Lebanon to reject generous offers of Arab financial aid for purposes of protecting Lebanon from Israeli aggression. In other words, the U.S. sponsors the Lebanese Army in order to keep it weak, ineffective and useless.
Instead of fighter jets, the U.S. supplies Lebanon with a handful of Cessna planes which are used in California to spray crops. Yet, the U.S. assumes that it can fool Lebanese public opinion by referring to those planes as the “Lebanese Air Force.”
And just like other U.S.-trained armies in the region, the Lebanese Army failed in its major test in 2014 when it could not even rescue its soldiers and officers who were kidnapped in ‘Irsal by ISIS and al Nusrah Front. Just like the Afghan army in the face of the Taliban, or the Iraqi Army in the face of ISIS, U.S.-trained armies in the region have failed in the mission they were supposedly specifically trained for: fighting what the U.S. calls “terrorism.”
Hizbullah Versus ISIS & Nusrah
When ISIS and al Nusrah (al-Qaeda) subjected Lebanon to car bombs and infiltration, it was Hizbullah and not the Lebanese Army which defeated them and threw them across the border. Just as Hizbullah and its allies across the Syrian border were about to finish off the ISIS and Nusrah threat in 2017, the U.S. insisted that the Lebanese Army should shell some unidentified locations in order to send the message that the Lebanese Army — and not Hizbullah — was responsible for the eviction of the ISIS-Nusrah threat from Lebanon.
Zionist experts in Washington talk openly about the role of the Lebanese Army against Hizbullah. But the army is a mirror of the demographics of Lebanon: a solid one-third of the rank-and-file are Shiites and there are non-Shiites who also sympathize with the mission of resisting Israel.
The army commander has been attempting to return the army to its pre-1975 days when the commander’s inner circle belonged to his sect (the commander-in-chief is always a Maronite according to the sectarian political imbalances of Lebanon which are embedded in the constitutional reforms of 1989).
The army chief has isolated himself from the pro-Hizbullah camp, which put him in his post and has largely directed the army’s affairs through direct coordination with the U.S. government. The Al-Alkhbar newspaper talks about secret funding to the army chief and the latter seems to have a special fund for paying off journalists who put out fawning propaganda tributes in the Lebanese and Arab media.
The U.S. wishes that the Lebanese Army would replace Hizbullah as the most potent military force in Lebanon, but Washington’s alliance with Israel requires that it keeps the Lebanese Army weak and ineffective. Herein is the biggest dilemma of U.S. policy in Lebanon.
It provides the army with arms befitting a local police force in the U.S. but wants the Lebanese people to believe it can take on any external or internal threat. This is the army that failed to dislodge street checkpoints set up by the right-wing party, Lebanese Forces, in 2019 and 2020.
Furthermore, the U.S. is aiming at installing Aoun as president but his U.S.-designed role will deprive him of the support he needs from Hizbullah and its allies in Lebanon. The Lebanese Army is weaker than ever, and for that the U.S. wants it to prevail. But how can this army face off — as the U.S. wants it to do—against Hizbullah?
As`ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Lebanon (1998), Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New War on Terrorism (2002) and The Battle for Saudi Arabia (2004). He tweets as @asadabukhalil
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.