Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bush and Blair Risk Repeating the 1982 Fiasco

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French paratroopers, Italian soldiers and a British contingent who pulled back to ships offshore after the PLO had withdrawn.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.

 

 

More articles by:

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

May 23, 2018
Nick Pemberton
Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times
Ben Debney
A Faustian Bargain with the Climate Crisis
Deepak Tripathi
A Bloody Hot Summer in Gaza: Parallels With Sharpeville, Soweto and Jallianwala Bagh
Farhang Jahanpour
Pompeo’s Outrageous Speech on Iran
Josh White
Strange Recollections of Old Labour
CJ Hopkins
The Simulation of Democracy
stclair
In Our Age of State Crimes
Dave Lindorff
The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They’re Brilliant
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Domination of West Virginia
Ty Salandy
The British Royal Wedding, Empire and Colonialism
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail