The Winograd Committee is set to hear tomorrow the explanations of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for the course of the second Lebanon war, ending the first stage of its task. Until now the committee has managed to keep secret the picture taking shape before it, but it is not difficult to see the common line of defense among the main witnesses: "We're not the guilty ones; it was somebody else."
Outgoing Galilee Brigade Commander Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch wrote in his letter of resignation that he performed well in the period preceding the abduction of the two soldiers and during the war as well. "The concrete responsibility for the errors, the missteps and the failures falls not only on the forward units and their commanders," Hirsch wrote. "It should also be taken concretely by the higher echelons."
In his letter of resignation to the chief of staff and the minister of defense, Maj. Gen. Udi Adam wrote: "You are aware that I disagreed with a number of decisions taken in the course of the fighting and the manner in which they were taken ... The principal issues concerning this war that must be examined are preparedness, the timing of reserve duty call-up and the deployment of the reserve forces."
Chief of Staff Dan Halutz claimed, in his letter of resignation, that "the military establishment is profoundly affected by long term processes ... These processes have implications for Israeli society in general and the overall capabilities of the army in particular." After Halutz testified before the Winograd Committee this week, an abstract of his version of the events was made public by his "associates": Responsibility for the abortive manner in which the war was pursued lies with the political leaders, who chose the most extreme of the options presented to them without understanding the implications.
Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky laid out his argument before the media prior to testifying to the committee: Because of his position he was prevented from publicly and firmly disagreeing with the chief of staff, despite his reservations about the manner in which Halutz handled the war; he attempted to do so but was hampered by the rules of the game of the military hierarchy.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz argued that no one can complain about him; the source of the screw-up was in the previous leadership and in the military's failure to effectuate its own optimistic scenarios. Expressions of disappointment with the performance of the military command and reminders about the responsibility he attributes to previous governments in creating the threat on the northern border - and failing to ensure the IDF's readiness to cope with it - have also come from the direction of the prime minister.
This is the face of the country's leadership at present: It blames others for its own failures. In the political sphere, the scene is a familiar one; in the IDF it is a worrying development because it affects human lives. The explanations of the chief of staff and his subordinates for their performance in the war beg the question: Why did none of them question the handling of the war in real time, forcefully enough to cause a shock and obligate the decision-makers to change course? Colonel Eli Geva did so in the first Lebanon war when he refused to lead his soldiers into Beirut.
Of course the circumstances are different. Six months ago the war was not wrapped in an atmosphere of deceit, but even while it was developing it was wrapped in an atmosphere of failure, of missteps. Why wasn't that enough to motivate one of the persons involved to challenge the order and directives?
If the answer is that this is an unrealistic expectation, that this is the way armies generally work, that during the war there were no illegal orders that had to be disobeyed but rather only unwise orders that caused losses - then all of these officials must accept responsibility for the results of the war and not deflect it onto others.
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