Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Beirut as Munich



How brave our warships looked at dawn. Spread over the pale blue Mediterranean, bristling with cannons and machine guns and missiles, it was an armada led by the destroyer HMS Gloucester and the USS Nashville and York and the sleek French anti-submarine frigate Jean-de- Vienne. They represented Us, those ships upon which the Lebanese stared with such intensity yesterday. They represented our Western power, the military strength of our billion-dollar economies. Who would dare challenge this naval might?

It was, our journalists told us, to be the greatest evacuation since Dunkirk. There it was again, the Second World War. And it was another cruel lie which the Lebanese spotted at once. For these mighty craft had not arrived to save Lebanon, to protect a nation now being destroyed by America’s ally, Israel, Lebanon whose newly flourishing democracy was hailed by our leaders last year as a rose amid the dictatorships of the Arab world. No, they were creeping through the dawn after asking Israel’s permission to help their citizens to flee. These great warships had been sent here by Western leaders (Jacques Chirac excepted) too craven, too gutless, too immoral, to utter a single word of compassion for Lebanon’s suffering.

Even Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara could only condemn Hizbollah for attacking the Israelis last week–yes, of course, Lord Blair, they did indeed “start this”, as our Foreign Secretary never ceases to say–without mentioning Israel’s savage killing of more than 300 Lebanese civilians. No, those ships I watched steaming into Beirut port yesterday did not represent Dunkirk. They represented Munich.

Even the newspaper and television stories managed to avoid the reality. As our Jolly Tars helped the elderly on board and US Marines landed very briefly–or “stormed the beach”, to quote the Associated Press’s imperishable report–to protect their ship, television crews hunted through the crowds of refugees for suitable pictures. Their problem, of course, was that almost the entire evacuation is of Lebanese who happen to hold dual citizenship. Cameras moved inexorably towards the very few blue-eyed men and blonde ladies of the “kith and kin” variety, anyone in fact who didn’t look remotely like most of the rest of the refugees. It was pathetic. Even while we are betraying the Lebanese, we tried not to film the lucky few who could escape on our ships.

Of course, there are various kinds of escape, and one of the most adept of political Houdinis is His Excellency Mr Jeffrey Feldman, the US ambassador to Lebanon. In the past few hours, he had to listen–in person–as the Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, desperately appealed for a ceasefire to end the destruction of Lebanon by the Israeli air force. “Is the value of human life in Lebanon less than that of the citizens of other countries?” Mr Siniora asked. “Can the international community stand by while such callous retribution by Israel is inflicted on us?” Answer: yes.

Now all this presented Mr Feldman with a little problem. This was the same Mr Feldman, remember, who was heaping laurels on Mr Siniora and his democratically elected government last year for its “cedar revolution”, for throwing the Syrian army out. But if he were to praise Mr Siniora’s speech condemning Israel, Mr Feldman would, no doubt, be summoned back to the State Department in Washington and dispatched to the US embassy in Ulan Bator. So what was he to say when asked for a comment on Mr Siniora’s speech? It was, Mr Feldman said, “articulate and touching”. Articulate–as in “he-knows-how-to-string-the-words-together”–and touching, as in “sad”.

Now to the Department of Home Truths. Mr Siniora did not mention the Hizbollah. He did not say he had been powerless to stop its reckless attack on Israel last week. He didn’t want to criticise this powerful guerrilla army in his midst which had proved that Syria still controls events in this beautiful, damaged country. And he did not dare criticise Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbollah’s leader, whom Israel tried to assassinate a few hours later by dropping a massive bomb on what it called a “bunker” in Beirut’s southern suburbs, an explosion which physically shook the entire city. Untrue, cried the Hizbollah. It was the building site for a new mosque.

Ho hum. One has to say that it was indeed a building site that was hit and a few of the unfinished walls appeared to be of Islamic design. But on closer inspection, it did also have a very big basement. A very big basement indeed. “Well,” as one colleague put it to me, “I suppose even mosques have basements, but…”

Quite so. For no one takes anything at face value these days. And that applied to President Bush’s promise to ask Israel to stop destroying any more of Lebanon’s infrastructure. It was an eloquent gesture. And no doubt touching. But there isn’t much of Lebanon’s infrastructure left to destroy.

ROBERT FISK is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s collection, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. Fisk’s new book is The Conquest of the Middle East.



Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future