June 6th marks the interstices of major pivotal battles in WWII and Israel’s fight for survival in the Middle East. It is the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway in June 1942 that crushed the Japanese carrier task force that unleashed the day of infamy at Pearl Harbor six months previously on December 7, 1941 that triggered US entry in the world wide conflict. Sir Winston Churchill considered Midway one of the most important victories in WWII. (See Daniel Mandel’s FrontPage Magazine recollection of Midway in today’s edition of this successful but costly high risk naval carrier battle). After Midway, the Japanese Imperial Fleet carrier task force never had free range of the Pacific and the US was able to unleash its successful island hopping campaign beginning with Guadacanal in August 1942.
This date also marks the allied invasion of Europe on the beaches of Normandy beginning the inevitable crushing defeat of Hitler and the Nazis in a gigantic pincer movement with US British, Canadian, Free French ground and air forces moving on the continent from the West and the juggernaut of Soviet forces in the East culminating on V-E Day, May 8, 1945.
For Israel June 6th marks the 45th anniversary of the June Six Days of War in 1967 that saw the defeat of Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi forces and the capture and reunification of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and , for a brief time, occupation of the Sinai Peninsula.
June 6th also marks the beginning of Israel’s longest war, the First Lebanon war that witnessed the temporary displacement by the IDF of the late Yassir Arafat and PLO forces from Beirut to Tunisia. That first war was not to end until the IDF left the southern Lebanese security zone in a unilateral withdrawal in May 2000 by then PM Ehud Barak , now Defense Minister in the Netanyahu unity cabinet.
Ken Timmerman, author, Nobel Peace prize nominee currently running as the GOP candidate in the Maryland 8th CD, was a young correspondent during the First Lebanon War. In our interview with him in our collection, The West Speaks, he talked of his imprisonment in a PLO dungeon and how that was a transformational experience on many different levels.
In today’s Daily Caller, Timmerman talks in an article, “Wars Past and Wars Future” about the First and the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when he was also in Israel. He highlights the opposition to the Israeli invasion in 2006 by his Democratic opponent in the Maryland 8th CD, Chris Van Hollen, a supporter of Palestinian causes, and assistant to House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi. Timmerman speculates about what Van Hollen and the Obama Administration would do if Israel must, once again, undertake a war for its survival against the annihilationist threat posed by a nuclear Iran.
__________________________________________________________________________________________________ Wars Past, Wars Future
On the morning of June 6th, 30 years ago, Israeli tanks defied the French commander of a United Nations peace-keeping mission at a place called Taibeh, and crossed the border into Lebanon.
Their mission: destroy the Palestine Liberation Organization as a military fighting force, end the P.L.O. occupation of Lebanon, and restore Lebanon’s independence.
It was a big mission that Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and his defense minister, Ariel Sharon, felt compelled to undertake because earlier, more limited attempts to stop P.L.O. artillery batteries from shelling Israeli towns and villages had failed.
The U.N. force monitoring the border between the two countries since Israel’s last incursion into Lebanon in 1978 had turned a blind eye to the P.L.O. as it rebuilt its military networks in the border zone. So Israel chose to act in defiance of the international community in order to defend its borders and its citizens.
The 1982 Lebanon war became known as Israel’s longest war, and it marked the point when international public opinion — led by a left-leaning media enamored of the P.L.O. — turned irresolutely against the Jewish state.
I know, because I went to cover the siege of Beirut that summer as a young war correspondent and learned lessons that would change my life, my politics, and my faith forever.
President Reagan initially stood by Israel and affirmed her right to self-defense. But after hysterical news coverage of a two-day bombing campaign in early August, rife with claims that Israel was “indiscriminately bombing” Lebanese civilians, he called on Prime Minister Begin to accept a ceasefire.
Later, after the war, I remember listening to an Israeli colonel as he argued with reporters that Israel was very careful to attack only known military targets. To emphasize his point, he held up an enlarged gun-camera photograph of the sports stadium in Western Beirut, where the P.L.O. had based most of its anti-aircraft artillery. “Most of our bombs dropped within a 100-meter radius of the sports stadium,” he said, pointing out the craters.
“I can confirm that, Colonel, because I was in one of those buildings just outside the sports stadium,” I said. “When I was taken hostage, on July 14th, it was eight stories high. When they moved us to another location on August 4th, there was just one-and-a-half stories and pancakes.”
Israel succeeded in driving the P.L.O. from southern Lebanon and ultimately from Beirut, but failed to accomplish her broader goals for a variety of reasons.
She had over-estimated the stamina and integrity of her Lebanese Christian partners while under-estimating the reach of Syrian intelligence, which succeeded in penetrating the entourage of President-elect Bashir Gemayel and paying someone to plant a car-bomb that killed him and dozens of others that September.
But Israel also failed because the United States failed Israel, and at a crucial moment — when I was praying for Israeli bombs to set me free in a cellar in West Beirut — turned against Israel and pressured her to abandon military action before achieving victory.
The contrast between the response of the international community to Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the Six-Day War 15 years earlier was striking. So are the lessons for U.S. policymakers today.
Fast-forward to the summer of 2006. After Iranian-backed Hezbollah militiamen kidnapped three Israeli soldiers and launched missile barrages against Israeli towns and villages, another Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, ordered Israeli forces to strike inside Lebanon against Hezbollah strongholds.
But Olmert declined at first to launch an all-out invasion, fearful of international condemnation and alarmed at the weak-kneed response from Washington, relying instead on commando raids and his air force
Seizing on the hesitations of the Bush administration, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) wrote a two-page letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, angrily demanding that the United States pressure Israel to stop its “bombing campaign” against Lebanese civilians. He claimed it was turning public opinion against Israel and the United States.
The day after Van Hollen sent that letter to Secretary of State Rice, I was in a bunker in the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona with Benjamin Netanyahu while Hezbollah rockets crashed all around us. The entire northern third of Israel had been turned into a series of ghost towns — because of Hezbollah’s indiscriminate bombings of civilian targets.
Where will the Obama administration and lawmakers such as Chris Van Hollen come out if Israel once again determines that it must take military action to defend its population from attack — this time, against a genocidal regime in Iran?
I fear that the answer is clear — and it’s deeply unsettling.
On this anniversary of wars past, we should pray as always to prevent wars future. But we must also be prepared to fight them — and to support our ally, Israel — should war become the only alternative to surrender.
Kenneth R. Timmerman is the president and CEO of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran and is the Republican candidate for Congress in Maryland’s Eight District.