By Michael J. Totten
Butchery was the word that came to mind. Twenty-three Lebanese soldiers and police, 17 Sunni Muslim gunmen. How long can Lebanon endure this? Just before he died, one of the armed men – Palestinians? Lebanese? – we still don’t know – shot a soldier right beside me. He fell down on his back, crying with pain, and I thought he had slipped on the road until I saw the blood pumping out of his leg and the Red Cross team dragging him desperately out of the line of fire. Not since the war – yes, the Lebanese civil war that we are all still trying to forget – have I heard this many bullets cracking across the streets of a Lebanese city.
[T]he situation in Lebanon today could easily be taken from a B-movie, so rarely does life provide circumstances where the Good Guys and Bad Guys are this clearly differentiated. One can easily imagine movie goers rolling their eyes at such a simple representation of good versus evil: the under-equipped but terribly brave, multi-faith group of telegenic young soldiers battling evil, murderous terrorists to defend democracy and freedom.
The word terrorist has been devalued and possibly rendered useless by overuse, but there are still those for whom the title applies: groups and individuals whose only discernible ambition is, to put it quite simply, to terrorize. If ever there was an indisputable frontline in the international “war on terror,” it is at the entrance to Nahr el-Bared.
Most Lebanese go to work, and return home immediately. Friends, the other day, came over to my place. They said, “We’ll go out after the bomb.” There has not yet been more than one attack on the same night. Most nightspots are closing early or not opening at all. And the ones that remain open are empty, and the owners are jittery. The other night was the first time that I saw the owners of an unpopular local pub look upset when more patrons arrived. It was as if they thought, “The more popular we are, the more likely it is we will become a target.”
David Kenner, filling in for Abu Kais at From Beirut from the Beltway:
People were greeting friends and smiling, in that rueful way that Lebanese smile when they know that something is very wrong but that there is nothing to be done about it. People were scared, but they were still functioning. The bomb broke most of the windows for an approximately 300- foot radius, and totaled four or five cars.
This is what characterized the entire trip, for me. People were calmly repairing the damage. This Vero Moda store was open for business. People were shopping inside, thumbing through clothes..The conversation on the street was uniformly about how quickly everything could be rebuilt, when Aley would be up on its feet again. The cell phone store bragged about reopening on Monday; the bank employee said that he would be doing business again tomorrow.
I thought the citizens of Aley exhibited just the right mix of resolution, self-control, and defiance.
The Assad regime never reconciled itself with its forced withdrawal from Lebanon, and is now actively seeking to reimpose its hegemony over its neighbor through a network of allies and agents. A return of tens of thousands of Syrian soldiers may not be achievable in the short term, particularly as the main barrier to such a return would, this time, be an outraged Sunni community. This could have severe implications for President Bashar Assad at home. However, the Syrians often operate according to an obsolete template – that of Hafez al-Assad. While it may be easy for them to provoke conflict in Lebanon, as they did throughout the war years between 1975 and 1990, the Syrian leadership might not be able to resist the blowback this time around if new hostilities break out.
As the battle in Tripoli continues between the Lebanese Army and Fateh El Islam and as another explosion occurs, this time in Aley, the Lebanese seem to be ALMOST united once again. It’s sad how such matters unite us.
On Facebook, groups have been emerging calling for the support of our army, the love of Lebanon, encouraging people to vacation in Lebanon, and much more.
Almost every Lebanese I know, has changed their MSN display picture to some sort of symbol of patriotism such as the flag, or the army’s emblem and almost every one of them have placed a flower (F) before their display name symbolising their support for the Lebanese Army.
The Lebanese were collectively punished last summer for not being able to control a mad man who thought that kidnapping the cubs of a lioness was a game. As he hid safely like a pussy behind a chastity belt, over 1,000 Lebanese died. And the dreams of millions along with them. I hated the Israelis then. Even though I knew a lot of them personally who did not hate me back each time a missile hit Haifa.
And as we collectively punished the Palestinians in their camp for not being able to control mad men who thought that killing the kittens of a declawed housecat would demonstrate their power, I felt no remorse. None. Hypocrite. They should have controlled the madmen, I thought.
Then Boom. A bomb in Achrafieh. Again. A dead innocent woman. Again. Boom. Another bomb in another affluent neighborhood. Verdun. Boom. Another bomb in Aley. Here we go. The birthing pangs of our rebirth.
While the mad men of Damascus started softly gloating, my numbness turned to rage. And while we exercised power over the powerless, I thought back to July of 2006. And I realized. Realized that I was guilty. Of hypocricy.
The terrorists need to be eliminated.
The bottom line is this: everyone knows that this is a rabid terrorist campaign by a psychopathic murderous thug in Damascus, who will stop at nothing. The tribunal must be established without delay, and Assad must be made to pay a tangible painful price for his murderous policy. It’s as simple as that. “Engagement” (I.e. appeasement) will only be seen by Assad as a sign of surrender and encouragement to commit more terrorism. It’s telling that the only time the thuggish Assad Sr. was persuaded to back off his terrorism against one of his neighbors (and Syria is guilty of exporting terrorism to all its neighbors) was when Turkey threatened to invade Syria in 1998.
Meanwhile, United States military aid is rushed to Lebanon, as it should be.