FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bush and Blair Risk Repeating the 1982 Fiasco

by PATRICK COCKBURN

Amman.

The arrival of the multinational force in Lebanon in 1982 brought with it a train of disasters. I still recall that great concrete sandwich near the airport that was all that remained of the US barracks in which 241 Marines died after it was hit by a suicide bomber on 23 October 1983. Elsewhere in Beirut, 58 French paratroopers were entombed when the building in which they were living was rammed by a second vehicle packed with explosives.

There is no reason why a multinational force landing in Lebanon in 2006 will not face the same dangers, and possibly suffer the same disasters, as 24 years ago. Its arrival will be opposed wholly by the Shia community, 40 per cent of the population, since the force will be seen as the creature of the US, which has so wholly supported the Israeli onslaught.

A multinational force is also likely to reopen the never entirely healed wounds of the Lebanese civil war because some Lebanese–mostly Christian–may support it, and others–mainly Muslim–will oppose it. It will not be considered neutral by the Lebanese, or the rest of the Arab world. It is extraordinary, given the fate of the so-called “coalition” in Iraq, of which the US and Britain are the only operative members, that any other country would now consider sending troops to Lebanon.

The record of the multinational force in Lebanon was futile, shameful and bloody by turns. Its first purpose was to cover the withdrawal of the Palestine Liberation Organisation after the Israeli invasion, in which 20,000 people, mostly Lebanese civilians, were to die. There were US Marines, French paratroopers, Italian soldiers and a British contingent who pulled back to ships offshore after the PLO had withdrawn. Their mission appeared over.

In fact, it had scarcely begun. On September 14, 1982 the newly-elected Lebanese President, Bashir Gemayel, was addressing a meeting of his party in Christian east Beirut when he was killed by a bomb. On September 16-18 Israeli forces allowed Lebanese Christian militias into the Sabra and Chatila Palestinian camps where they butchered men, women and children. I remember the sweet smell of the rotting bodies when I walked through the camps a day later.

President Ronald Reagan sent a new contingent of 1,800 Marines to Beirut, joined by 1,500 French Foreign Legion paratroopers, 1,400 Italian troops and, a few months later, a smaller British force. It was officially neutral, but meant to support the Lebanese government under President Amin Gemayel, who was allied with the US and Israel. But the Lebanese government was seen as Christian-dominated by many. On April18, 1983, a suicide bomber destroyed the US embassy in Beirut. In May the Israelis withdrew from around the capital.

When Druze fighters drove the Lebanese army out of the mountains it was supported by gunfire from US vessels offshore and American aircraft. The US was deemed to have joined the Lebanese war on the side of the Christians and Israel’s allies. Retaliation came when the US Marines and French paratroopers were slaughtered. The US blamed Hizbollah, Syria and Iran for the suicide attacks. By December the US was attacking Syrian anti-aircraft positions in the Bekaa valley, but lost two planes shot down. In February 2004 President Reagan ordered the surviving US troops out of Lebanon.

A multinational force sent to Lebanon will be seen much as the US and British in Iraq. They will be fought as a new detachment of crusaders. The US is probably more unpopular than it has ever been across the Middle East. Even if there are no American troops in the new multinational force they will be seen as opening another front in the West’s perceived war on Islam. They will be joining a war, not ending it.

 

 

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

February 10, 2016
Eoin Higgins
Clinton and the Democratic Establishment: the Ties That Bind
Fred Nagel
The Role of Legitimacy in Social Change
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Aleppo Gamble Pays Off
Chris Martenson
The Return of Crisis: Everywhere Banks are in Deep Trouble
Ramzy Baroud
Next Onslaught in Gaza: Why the Status Quo Is a Precursor for War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Why Bernie Still Won’t Win
Sheldon Richman
End, Don’t Extend, Draft Registration
Benjamin Willis
Obama in Havana
Jack Smith
Obama Intensifies Wars and Threats of War
Rob Hager
How Hillary Clinton Co-opted the Term “Progressive”
Mark Boothroyd
Syria: Peace Talks Collapse, Aleppo Encircled, Disaster Looms
Lawrence Ware
If You Hate Cam Newton, It’s Probably Because He’s Black
Jesse Jackson
Starving Government Creates Disasters Like Flint
Bill Laurance
A Last Chance for the World’s Forests?
Gary Corseri
ABC’s of the US Empire
Frances Madeson
The Pain of the Earth: an Interview With Duane “Chili” Yazzie
Binoy Kampmark
The New Hampshire Distortion: The Primaries Begin
Andrew Raposa
Portugal: Europe’s Weak Link?
Wahid Azal
Dugin’s Occult Fascism and the Hijacking of Left Anti-Imperialism and Muslim Anti-Salafism
February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Neve Gordon
Israeli Labor Party Adopts the Apartheid Mantra
Kristin Kolb
The “Great” Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
Brian Foley
Interview With a Bernie Broad: We Need to Start Focusing on Positions and Stop Relying on Sexism
February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail