Why are we in Lebanon?

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The destruction of U.S. Marine headquarters in Beirut on October 23, which left over 200 Marines dead, has raised the bitter question: just what is the U.S. doing in Lebanon?

The Reagan administration’s response, that the U.S. is on some kind of altruistic peacekeeping mission, is laughable. There is no peace whatsoever to be kept.

The U.S. “emergency” intervention was planned even before the Israelis invaded Lebanon in June 1982. The Paris-based magazine Israel and Palestine reported in March 1982 that Israel was planning to bomb southern Lebanon into a wasteland, take over Beirut, destroy the Palestinian Liberation Organization leadership, and then withdraw in favor of an international force under U.S. control.

In May 1982, Israeli “Defense” Minister Sharon signed a strategic cooperative agreement with Reagan. On June 1, the USS Kennedy left the Indian Ocean and sped to the Israeli/ Lebanese coast. Israel invaded on June 6.

The Israelis strafed their way into Lebanon and installed the fascistdominated Gemayel government to advance their longterm strategy of slaughtering and dispersing the Palestinian people out of existence. The Israelis wanted a pro-imperialist client state in Lebanon, and so does the U.S. — to advance its own fundamental interests in the region.

The U.S. must maintain access to Mideastern oil, which will become even more important when Alaska and North Sea supplies are depleted in the foreseeable future. To do so, it must throttle the Arab revolution which will otherwise chase the U.S. out of the region and ignite revolt in the rest of the Third World. Lastly, of utmost importance to U.S. global military strategists is the continued existence of Israel as a major military base near the southwestern border of the USSR.

The U.S. presence in Lebanon guarantees an escalating spiral of carnage and destruction directed against the Lebanese, the Palestinians, and Arab revolt throughout the Middle East.

The Lebanese civil war. Lebanon hardly exists as a nation today. The south is occupied and controlled by Israeli troops. The north and east are controlled by Syria. Only Beirut and its environs are held by Gemayal’s government.

That government, dominated by the fascist Phalange party, is based on the Maronite Christian population, a small minority in Lebanon. Opposed to the government, and taking up arms against it, are the Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and the Druse, a religious community that broke away from Islam in the 11th century.

The dispersal of the PLO blurred the sharp anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist focus that the Palestinians brought to the war against the Phalangists. A religious/ethnic coloration has since overshadowed the essential class nature of the conflict. Factionalism within the religious communities themselves further complicates matters as the rightward-most factions of each community seek rapproachement with the Phalangists and Zionists in order to further their own religious/nationalist ends.

Still, the Lebanese conflagration is class war. The ruling capitalists are overwhelmingly Maronite, while the working masses are primarily Muslim and Druse.

Inside the PLO. Meanwhile, the PLO is in almost total disarray. While the Israeli invaders were unable to destroy the PLO, they weakened it considerably. And the Palestinians have been further weakened by factional war within Fatah, the largest component of the PLO. In recent weeks, the conflict has broken out in shooting, with Fatah founder and PLO leader Yasser Arafat trapped in the Lebanese port city of Tripoli by an army of PLO rebels, some Druse and Muslim factions, and the Syrian army.

The rebels point to Arafat’s opportunist and conciliationist overtures to imperialism and reactionary Arab monarchs, his support for a “peacekeeping” force to oversee the dispersal of the PLO from Lebanon, and his support for a bantustan-style Palestinian “homeland” outside Israel as the reasons for their mutiny.

Arafat denounces the Syrian involvement, pointing to Syrian president Assad’s territorial ambitions in northeastern Lebanon and his wish to control the PLO.

The rebels are right about Arafat and Arafat is right about Assad. Arafat’s opportunism and mis-leadership are criminally suicidal for the Palestinian cause, and he must be replaced by leaders willing to launch a revolutionary political offensive against Zionism. But Assad does want to control the PLO and subordinate it to Syrian nationalist interests, above all to stave off potentially disastrous full-scale war with Israel.

Regardless of the need to remove Arafat, the rebels’ shooting war against him serves Israel by destroying PLO fighters who could be won over to a revolutionary orientation, and by shattering the possibility of Palestinian leadership in the struggle against imperialist control of Lebanon.

Hope for the Middle East. The Palestinian struggle remains the crux of the Lebanese civil war as well as the entire Middle East conflict. The PLO must rid itself of Arafat, avoid coming under the thumb of the Syrians, and focus its struggle against Arab reactionaries as well as the Israelis, Lebanese fascists, and the U.S. It must rally the Arab working masses against these forces and demand utmost support from its international allies.

U.S. workers have a singular stake in a PLO victory. Reagan is throwing U.S. troops and munitions into a sinkhole of imperialist violence.

We must demand immediate U.S. withdrawal from Lebanon.
Victory to the Lebanese and Palestinian freedom fighters!

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