The big winner ... is Osama bin Laden.

"...Having covered Israel’s 1980’s disastrous invasion of Lebanon, I am appalled it is again getting sucked into another bloody, dirty, pointless war there.

Hezbullah, which represents a third of Lebanon’s population, won’t be defeated by bombing or limited ground assaults: it fought Israel for 18 years and won. Hezbullah’s 3,000 tough fighters just battled Israel’s mighty armed forces to a standstill for two weeks. In fact, Hezbullah’s warriors appear to have emerged victorious from their clashes with Israel. Only ethnic-cleansing southern Lebanon’s Shia’s will push back Hezbullah

Israel may have been intending to do just this, using mass bombing to terrorize Lebanese into flight, but the massacre at Qana and attacks on road traffic thwarted this plan.

Israel’s new Olmert government could have avoided the current war and Hezbullah’s rocket barrages by a low-key response to the border skirmish, some ritual artillery fire, and the usual prisoner swap.

But Olmert, and his neophyte defense minister, Amir Peretz, allowed the chief of staff, an air force general, to take charge and go destroy much of Lebanon. Olmert had to prove to Israelis he was even tougher than Ariel Sharon. Emotions (more about this in next week’s column), not good sense or experience, guided their response. Now, Israeli soldiers are being once again sent into the Lebanese quagmire – from which they will not easily withdraw. Olmert and Peretz have gotten Israel into a huge mess and blackened its name around the globe.

The bitter lessons of Israel’s 1980’s disaster in Lebanon are forgotten, just as the US military in Iraq forgot the lessons of Vietnam. A triumphant Hezbullah may even emerge as the victor of this battle. It has become a hero across the Muslim World and greatly enhanced the influence of its main backer, Iran. Score another fiasco for George Bush.

But the big winner in this unfolding catastrophe is Osama bin Laden." No Miracle This Time at Qana by Eric Margolis
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