By Franklin Lamb in Lebanon
Part III: the CIA and the Pentagon Weigh in
"Those bastards [the Israeli military] know the rules and what the US Arms Export Control Act requires! The CBU 58’s are decades out of date! We [the US] have not even had them in our weapons inventory since we last used them in 1991 during Desert Storm. They are now complete junk and I am amazed that any of them after 35 years even detonated. By using them this time in Lebanon, Israel was illegally dropping landmines." – Pentagon official commenting on Israel’s use of American weapons against civilians in Lebanon during the July 2006 war (chap. II, The Price We Pay)
Ridicule of Israel’s 2006 performance by US Intelligence and Military agencies creates pressure for the White House to engage with Hezbollah
It has been a fact that, since at least 1982, perhaps the harshest and most frustrated American critics of Israel are those who work in Langley, Virginia, at CIA Headquarters and especially those across the 14th Street Bridge from the White House, on the banks of the Potomac River, who work at the Pentagon.
Harshest because, as fed up Pentagon employees have long protested, they work with Israel closely on weapons supply matters and they know first hand how consistently the US is lied to and cheated by Israeli weapons procurement officials. Frustrated because they are prohibited by law, politics and the ever watching Israel lobby from disclosing the regular chicanery they witness to the public.
American researchers, including the late indefatigable Janet Stevens, learned about Pentagon attitudes toward Israel decades ago when she methodically wrote down serial numbers found on US cluster bomb canisters and other ordnance during the 75 day Israeli siege of West Beirut, now less than two months shy of a quarter century ago.
Janet’s motivation was transparent. She wanted proof to offer to skeptical Beirut media (’Hotel Journalism’ as she used to call it) who were blithely repeating Israeli denials regarding its use of American weapons. Many hunkered down in the Commodore Hotel Bar waiting for Israeli press releases rather than venture out into the dangerous streets of Beirut. Janet made a ‘deal’ with Pentagon contacts that they could have the scores of serial numbers she catalogued (which the Pentagon wanted in order to learn how far down its stockpile of US cluster bombs and ordnance Israel had dipped during its 1982 invasion) if the Naval Ordnance Disposal Unit working at the Indian Head, Maryland Navel Base would provide Janet with diagrams of the US cluster bombs and information on how to disarm them. It was agreed and the information Janet received was used to make public information posters for Beirut citizens warning of the danger and how to defuse the US cluster bomblets. (In those days the humanitarian work such as being done today by Qatar, UAE, UNICEF and other public information projects re cluster bombs were not functioning as well in Beirut—but Norwegian Aid, Oxfam, the Menonites and a few others were here).
Even some in the French, British and Italian contingents of the so-called ‘Multi-National Peacekeeping Force’ (MNF) used Janet’s posters because the US Marine contingent was not allowed to share their technical information concerning US weapons with their allies. (Copies of these posters distributed around Beirut are reproduced in the 1984 volume, Israel’s War in Lebanon, F. Lamb, Ed, South End Press).
Whereas in 2006 Israel saturated South Lebanon with four types of US cluster bombs, in 1982 Israel used all seven types that President Nixon had ordered transferred to Israel from the US stockpiles in Subic Bay, Philippines meant to supply US troops who were increasingly under pressure in Vietnam. Nixon later admitted he erred, but reported that Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, fearing military collapse in the face of Egypt’s 8th army during the 1973 October war, had threatened to use nuclear weapons in the Sinai unless the US rescued Israel.
Increasing Pentagon anger in 1982-83 was the fact that US marine and navy ordnance disposal specialists based at the US Marine barracks were taking casualties from unexploded American cluster bombs, which Israel continued to deny using (an acquaintance of Janet’s, Corporal David Reagan, was killed next to his Barracks on the edge of Beirut airport on September 30th, 1982 by an M-43 ‘birdie’ US cluster bomb and three of his platoon were wounded).
Researchers in West Beirut during the 11 week 1982 siege continued to catch the Israeli government’s serial lies as their officials maintained that US cluster bombs were not used against civilians in Lebanon. Janet knew differently and proved her claims with detailed lists of geographic place names, dates and types of US cluster bombs Israel dropped around Beirut on civilian areas.
This observer distinctly recalls even during heavy bombing and shelling in West Beirut when not a soul, stray cat or terrified bird dare venture out, Janet would say: “Yala! (Let’s go!) I heard from one of the guys [fighters defending Beirut] Israel fired 155’s nearby [155 mm shells holding 143 US cluster bomblets] with ‘birdies’!”
(’Birdie’ was the nickname for the M-43 Raytheon manufactured cluster bomb which was widely used by Israel against civilians in 1978, 1982, and to a lesser extent in 1993, and 1996 but not at all, according to this observer’s research during 2006, contrary to some inaccurate reports).
Janet would lead the way through the smoke, deafening blast noise and debris along Hamra streets while her companion tried to keep up wondering to himself: “Why do I always do what this woman says?”
The Reagan administration had access to Janet’s work also through the media. President Reagan, after confronting Israeli PM Begin in late June of ‘82, with what he and Secretary of State George Shultz believed was irrefutable evidence, was shocked by Begin’s complete denial and his aggressive demeanor toward Reagan. As the President later recounted, Begin pointed his finger at him and shouted that Reagan’s accusations amounted to “a blood libel against every Jew everywhere”.
Reagan later explained that at the time of his meeting with Begin that he did not know what “blood libel” meant, but that he subsequently learned “that the man had looked me straight in the eyes and lied to me”.
Reagan immediately cut off shipments of US cluster bombs to Israel and the ban lasted for 6 years, until in 1988 George H. Bush, in a tough race for the White House, and under pressure form the Israel lobby, got Reagan to lift the ban. George W. Bush has refused to re-impose it despite the July 2006 experience.
The Pentagon’s distrust of Israel reached new depths following the July 2006 war with Israel’s use of the now ancient Lockheed Martin CBU-58 A/B cluster bomb unit. This bomb which was first used in Vietnam consists of a large canister which is designed to open in flight dropping 650 baseball sized bombs called BLU (Bomb Live Unit) 61 or 63 depending on the fusing, shocked and enraged some in the Pentagon.
As reported in the recent volume, The Price We Pay, the Pentagon at first did not believe reports that Israel still had any CBU-58’s because they had been told that Israel used up their stockpile of the type in 1982. The CBU-58, it should be noted, was among those sent to Israel by Nixon from Vietnam in 1973!
Each one has a yellow tag on the ‘mother bomb canister’ that clearly states that the shelf life is ‘365 days’. Every one used by Israel and examined in Lebanon by this researcher following the July 2006 war showed this 365 days warning plus a manufacture date of March or August 1973.
Thus, according to the Pentagon and UN deminers, Israel dropped US bombs in 2006 that were up to 35 years out of date. This guaranteed, according to Pentagon specialists, that nearly 75% of the CBU-58’s that Israel dropped were duds and now lay around South Lebanon as land mines. Other US cluster bombs Israel used (M-42’s and M-77’s) had lower dud rates as widely reported by the United Nations and various researchers on the scene.
Pentagon anger and frustration was strongly expressed in the autumn of 2006 by Pentagon officials (see The Price We Pay, Chap. II). As one official who oversees arms shipments from US stockpiles to Israel commented:
“Those bastards (the Israeli military) know the rules and what the US Arms Export Control Act requires! The CBU 58’s are decades out of date! We (the US) have not even had them in our weapons inventory since we last used them in 1991 during Desert Storm. They are now complete junk and I am amazed that any of them after 35 years even detonated. By using them this time in Lebanon Israel was illegally dropping landmines.”
When asked why Israel would use them if they didn’t function as designed, the official replied:
“They were emptying their closets of old shit so they can get the new M-26’s. We (the Pentagon) don’t resupply them (the Israelis) until their stockpile goes down to a certain level. They told us they didn’t have any CBU-58’s which are purely anti-personnel. The M-26 is the rocket fired cluster bomb [Ed: He was referring to the Honeywell manufactured Multiple Launch Rocket System that fires 7,728 M-77 bomblets up to 35 miles in less than one minute] the Israelis used across South Lebanon and will use again during their next war. We suspended shipments of the M-26 during the July war after we learned about the CBU-58 and Israeli lies about what they were doing with the M-26’s in their inventory.”
Some in the Pentagon are urging engagement with Hezbollah following the realization that Israel performed poorly in its latest attack on Lebanon. This included major military surprises as the vulnerability of Israeli armor to Hezbollah anti-tank rockets which resulted in dozens of tanks hit and the greatest proportion of Israeli casualties among tank crews. On the first day of its ground offensive 27 Israeli troops were killed.
A recent Pentagon funded study of Israel’s July 2006 performance reached the following summarized conclusions:
– Israel erred in going to war over two captured soldiers.
– “Israel disregarded the central American tenet of precision targeting—that fewer weapons and less physical destruction can achieve desired effects with far less “collateral” damage, human and political.”
– “Israel’s military strategy was deeply flawed. Israel bombed too much and bombed the wrong targets, falling back upon cookie-cutter conventional targeting in attacking traditional military objects. Israel also undertook an intentionally punishing and destructive air campaign against the people and government of Lebanon.”
– “The IDF seemed to satisfy itself with conventional measures of “success”—accumulating suspect statistics of Hezbollah launchers and rockets hit, dead fighters, and destroyed Hezbollah “structures.” Israel may have satisfied itself that every building and structure it was attacking in Beirut and every civilian home in the south was associated with Hezbollah, but the cumulative impact was far less impressive militarily and far more politically damaging than the planners and commanders projected.”
– “Hundreds if not thousands of civilian buildings were falsely and promiscuously labeled Hezbollah “structures” and attacked in the name of degrading or destroying that organization”.
– “Israel expanded its attacks on civilian targets to exact punishment on Hezbollah supporters and the government and people of Lebanon. Israel doggedly explained its action by reiterating again and again that Hezbollah fighters were “terrorists” and that Hezbollah was ultimately responsible for any damage caused, but outside of a small circle of supporters, Israel increasingly was objectified, by US military analysts, as the aggressor.”
– “The argument we hear from the Israeli government is dubious i.e. that it had no alternative—that these otherwise civilian homes and buildings had to be attacked because of the nature of Hezbollah and its use of Lebanese society as a human shield.”
– “Hezbollah’s resilience demonstrated that the organization had deep roots and enormous popular support in Lebanon, and yet Israeli political and military leaders seemed to believe their own propaganda that Hezbollah had no Lebanese support, was weak, and was losing. From this stemmed a wholly conventional and false measure of success that Israel seemed content to apply: Hezbollah’s six years of investment and effort to build up infrastructure in Lebanon was gone, the routes of Syrian and Iranian resupply were disrupted, 70–80 percent of the long-range and 50 percent of the short-range launchers were destroyed, half of the stock of actual rockets and missiles was destroyed or expended, and more than 600 Hezbollah fighters were dead. Destruction of the organization’s support infrastructure—roads and bridges, fuel, communications, media, even financial institutions—accumulated. The Pentagon knew that this was not true. Israel failed to make a holistic analysis of the military benefit relative to the human and political impact”.
“From a military standpoint, a different course should have been followed. Airpower as it was employed by Israel is not that alternative. (Added to this is the speculation that Hezbollah’s recently mentioned ‘Surprise for Israel” includes surface to air missiles that can destroy Israeli aircraft when they attack Lebanon).
Israel also failed to protect its tank crews.
The potency of infantry anti-armor weapons have plagued the Israelis since the 1973 Ramadan War when Russian made wire guided Sagger missiles were fired in barrages at Israeli tanks by Egyptian forces crossing the Suez Canal.
In July 2006 Hezbollah used the Russian AT-13 Metis or Saxhorn, the modern tube-launched successor to the Sagger which can punch through 18 inches (46cm) of Merkava IV tank armor.
Israel’s ‘reactive armor’–which consists of explosive pads or bricks on the outside of a tank or vehicle–is designed to explode outwards when hit by an incoming missile, disrupting the effect of the missile warhead. But these enhancements have not proved sufficiently effective against the most modern anti-tank systems operated by determined fighters on the ground. Hezbollah adapted and used tandem charges whereby the first warhead triggers the Israeli ‘reactive armor’ and the second penetrated the tank. Hezbollah’s RPG-29, a shoulder-fired weapon designed with a tandem charge proved devastating to Israeli tanks. Military analysts speculate that were Israel to launch a major ground assault on Lebanon it would lose hundreds of tanks from tandem charge weapons including the Kornet which is accurate form three miles away, includes tandem charges, and can penetrate 1,200 cm of hardened armor. A reporter from the London Daily Telegraph reported seeing Kornet missile casings laying around Mar al Ras, Eita Shaab, and Aitayoun.
-Dr. Franklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org