Another Tack: Blame the black cat

How could there be such flawless organization in Gush Katif and such an inglorious mess in Lebanon?

Ehud Olmert, with the fear of the inquiry into his Lebanese fiasco upon him, desperately ventures into a dark room to chase a non-existent black cat which he professes to believe is really there. His panicky propagandists follow him, also chasing the non-existent black cat, knowing full well, all along, that there is no cat. They only fool others into thinking they can catch it. Last into the proverbial dark room are the ever-obedient press-pooches, also chasing the non-existent black cat. The problem is that they claim they keep finding it. That claim, repeated and resonated often enough, can change minds and convince ordinary folks that the non-existent cat is for real. These aren't harmless perceptual peculiarities. To understand their context it's helpful to realize that the above imagery is borrowed from the parlance of the erstwhile USSR, where the cat first popularly embodied unattainable Communist utopia. Its most striking feature was that it was imaginary, a fact which didn't prevent Marxists from seeking the invisible feline inside a closed unlit space. In time, however, the cat took on a more sinister significance, and came to represent official fabrications - some malicious to the extreme - geared at concocting false pretexts to remove political dissidents. That's what the pitch-colored kitty now being tracked so avidly by our troubled higher-ups is expected to do for them. They conjure the creature and then go after it in pursuit of a cop-out for their northern summer fling. They need someone handy and hated to blame for it. Enter Binyamin Netanyahu. What a perfectly odious puss. Bibi after all has long been in the cat-chasers' sights. They ingenuously managed to turn his rescue of the economy into a terrible transgression sufficient to exile him to the political gulag. If they can again get a solid grip on the cat-that-isn't, they might dump all the logistical failings of the July-August campaign on it - and all resultant or attendant inadequacies, including operational shortsightedness, conceptual muddle and strategic indecisiveness. Hence the cat-chasers latest hit refrain has indeed become Bibi's 2005 budget cut. The former finance minister is accordingly charged with having trimmed defense outlays ultra-radically, rendering the IDF under-trained, ill-equipped and unprepared for battle. Two question, however, are left unanswered: 1. Why did the cat-chasers urge the cuts and pillory Netanyahu for not slashing defense deeper? 2. Having suspected that the IDF was so out-of-sorts, why did they send it into an avoidable confrontation rather than first rehabilitating it from Bibi's ravages? Maybe because there were no Bibi ravages. The real value of the defense budget hadn't decreased since 2000. The intifada, spawned that year by Ehud Barak's flash flight from Lebanon, mandated special security expenditures, which in turn aggravated a worsening economic situation. Between 2003-2005 Netanyahu indeed reduced makeshift extraordinary defense disbursements - as he should have. Nonetheless, the overall defense budget remains larger than in 2000. MOREOVER, NO one forced a scale of priorities on the defense establishment. How it spent what was at its disposal was solely its responsibility. Even a cursory acquaintance with the IDF reveals that there's no shortage of waste therein, with last year's disengagement extravaganza undoubtedly constituting the definitive culmination. The Sharon government, with Olmert its vociferous second-in-command, insisted the IDF carry out the Gush Katif expulsion. Billions were squandered on that ignominy. While the IDF dispatched soldiers without sufficient food or water into Hizbullahland, the disengagement folly was among its best mounted campaigns ever. Soldiers were even outfitted with spanking new-design gear like hats, overalls, backpacks, water canteens and unforgettable flag-insignia appliques. It was all quite deluxe, with lots of frills, drills, maneuvers, pep-talks and preparation. Quite the antithesis of the Lebanese misadventure a few weeks back. Only because he promised to produce the grand eviction spectacle was Dan Halutz handpicked by best-bud Omri Sharon to replace the heretical Moshe Ya'alon. Conformity in the ranks was paramount. Those who refused to endorse the IDF's most expensive logistical undertaking are now brazenly blamed for the failings of its most ill-planned operation. Yes, the Olmerites are out to get Ya'alon too, though - for now - still not quite as energetically as they hunt prime-black cat Netanyahu. After all, Ya'alon hasn't yet thrown his hat in the political ring. He may be a convenient fall-guy, but isn't pro-forma an adversary. Netanyahu is a distinct and immediate threat. It's expedient to hound him rather than ask why the government, in which Olmert was such a central fixture, splurged so much on every dispensable disengagement detail, yet was so hesitant and parsimonious when it came to acquiring essential military hardware. How could there be such flawless organization in Gush Katif and such an inglorious mess in Lebanon? Why could funds allocated so generously to the cause of uprooting Jews not have been earmarked for improving the armor of tanks and other vehicles, for ceramic vests for reservists, for minimal refresher exercises, for supplying emergency provisions and even for looking after the civilians abandoned to their fates in substandard bomb-shelters? But then again, the Gush Katif expellees have been abandoned too. These are the harsh facts in the full light of day. Yet the elusive cat's allure doesn't fade even under the starkest illumination. Olmert's spin-docs and media lackeys swear they detect it crouching concealed in some corner and dream up "creative methods" to tempt out the mythic meower. If they try hard enough - they hope - they may yet convince a sympathetic inquiry panel that they have the unreal feline firmly by the scruff of its neck.