FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Beirut as Munich

by ROBERT FISK

Beirut.

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:
May 31, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Imperial Blues: On Whitewashing Dictatorship in the 21st Century
Vijay Prashad
Stoking the Fires: Trump and His Legions
Patrick Howlett-Martin
Libya: How to Bring Down a Nation
Uri Avnery
What Happened to Netanyahu?
Corey Payne
Reentry Through Resistance: Détente with Cuba was Accomplished Through Resistance and Solidarity, Not Imperial Benevolence
Bill Quigley
From Tehran to Atlanta: Social Justice Lawyer Azadeh Shahshahani’s Fight for Human Rights
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump, Sanders and the Exhaustion of a Political Model
Bruce Lerro
“Network” 40 Years Later: Capitalism in Retrospect and Prospect and Elite Politics Today
Robert Hunziker
Chile’s Robocops
Aidan O'Brien
What’ll It be Folks: Xenophobia or Genocide?
Binoy Kampmark
Emailgate: the Clinton Spin Doctors In Action
Colin Todhunter
The Unique Risks of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud and Smear Campaigns
Dave Welsh
Jessica Williams, 29: Another Black Woman Gunned Down By Police
Gary Leupp
Rules for TV News Anchors, on Memorial Day and Every Day
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail