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August 14, 2006

Feet To The Fire


I have my doubts about the Lebanese peace plan – at least as far as the Lebanese army is concerned.

Following the lethal Qana air strikes, variations on the photo above were widely distributed.  The images showed protesters smashing the windows of the U.N. building in downtown Beirut shortly after the civilian deaths were reported.


What didn’t get much exposure was this shot by LAT photographer Robert Gauthier which I stumbled across in a Times photo gallery a couple weeks ago.  It grabbed me at the time, but it does so even more today, given the prominent role of the Lebanese in disarming Hezbollah and enforcing the ceasefire.

In the shot, the Lebanese military personnel, looking otherwise able and well trained, merely stand across the way, watching the other scene.

(images: Robert Gauthier / LAT.  July 30, 2006.  Beirut)

  • Rafael

    They look more like cops than soldiers, just hanging about. Then again, their is the fear that any agressive action taken by the goverment may spark another civil war. It is as if these soldiers are not there to stop the crowd but to let them vent their anger in a “contrustive” way!

  • Keir

    I noticed immediately that the civilian’s foot was sandaled. He’s smashing a glass window. Tip: don’t mess with that guy, his anger is real.
    Great resonance between the two legs—the civilian aggressive, the soldier passive. Perhaps old definitions need to be reexamined. What makes the Lebanese Army the army of the Lebanese? Between 90 and 98 percent of the Lebanese population—Shi’a, Sunni, Druze and Christian—are said to support Hezbollah’s resistance. I suppose this also reflects the opinions of many of those soldiers, who as far as I know received orders to turn the other cheek for the past month while the IDF intentionally “turn[ed] back the clock 20 years” (Army Chief of Staff Dan Halutz). From the looks on some of the soldiers’ faces, they are living vicariously through those civilians.

  • mugatea

    They wore a mint-berry beret.
    The kind ya find in a second hand war.

  • Simon

    I watched the destruction of the place on EuroNews. While they had outside shots of the area, I don’t recall seeing any soliders in any of the shots standing in a line or otherwise. The UN building was also long since abandoned before the rioters had gotten there.
    The picture reminds me of the time the Chinese embassy was bombed by the US. Riots broke out in China on the Embassy street over it and the cops stood back and let the riots continue but it was a bit more civil (only brick throwing and general chanting).

  • me

    Soldiers don’t know how to keep peace; they only know how to kill. I’m not dramatizing. Keeping the peace is for police. What were the police doing in this case?

  • error27

    The bombing was designed to start a civil war in Lebenon. The soldiers are there but they’re not fighting it.

  • GeorgeF

    look at the first picture. The mob aggressing the UN carries a Nasrallah picture. So it was an organized thing by Hisbollah, demonstrating their neglectance to the UN and their dominance over the Lebanese government.

  • readytoblowagasket

    “I have my doubts about the Lebanese peace plan — at least as far as the Lebanese army is concerned.”
    Although the visual parallels are convenient, these images don’t *predict* anything.
    “. . . given the prominent role of the Lebanese in disarming Hezbollah and enforcing the ceasefire.”
    They won’t have a prominent role for quite some time. Let’s see if Israel withdraws first. Let’s see if prisoners are released (or “resolved,” as the case may be). Let’s see if aid/reconstruction assistance is swift and abundant (from international sources, not just from Hezbollah). Let’s see if Annan can work out a deal about Shebaa Farms. That’s a lot of “ifs” requiring cooperation from a lot of uncooperative people.
    And let’s see if ceaseless fighting in Gaza has any bearing on peace in Lebanon.
    The Lebanese army seems the least of the concerns at the moment.

  • jt from BC

    mugatea, look closely they have helmets, but no orders, remember the massive bombing was initially intended to incite civil war, obviously this Israeli strategy was declined. The first rule ‘Know your enemy’-Sun Tzu, was lost on Ehud Olmert and his military. Never thought I would *ever* wish Ariel Sharon was in command but I believe he would not have authorized such a catastrophic demise of the IDF, with far less slaughter and destruction he might have carried the day.

  • Pedro

    Without wanting to get into the peace plan… Do you have anybody other than the LA Times linking the soldiers to the UN-building both in space and time? Do you have a link to the LA Times piece linking these two images?
    GeorgeF: If at a peace rally somebody carries a picutre of Martin Luther King Jr., does that mean that he organised it? I think not…

  • mugatea

    jt-BC > Yes, the look in thier eyes kind of says that.
    I realize now a lot of my discomfort in this situation is Olmert being a wildcard-like figure.
    I felt like I knew Sharon, but Olmert makes less of an impression of being his own man.
    Translation: Who’s pulling the strings?
    This situation has blown my mind for decades. Not sure I’ll ever understand it. But ya know, following these burlap Bag threads with the diversity of pleasantly opinionated people has really been a positive to my interest and attempted understanding of the subject.

  • readytoblowagasket

    GeorgeF: Why would Hezbollah have any respect for the U.N.? Because of the U.N.’s utter ineffectiveness and near-complete neglect of Lebanon for the last 28 years, Israel, Hezbollah, and others have run roughshod over the country. Read the history of UNIFIL’s (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon’s) miserable lack of accomplishments since 1978 from its own website:
    When new governments are not supported, countries become breeding grounds for the likes of Hezbollah. Just like when a gang takes over a neglected neighborhood.
    Here’s the 2006 “peace plan” mandate, which of course includes the (unfulfilled) mandates from 1978:
    According to Security Council resolutions 425 (1978) and 426 (1978) of 19 March 1978, UNIFIL was established to:
    * Confirm the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon;
    * Restore international peace and security;
    * Assist the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area.
    According to Security Council resolution 1701 (2006) of 11 August 2006, UNIFIL, in addition to carrying out its mandate under resolutions 425 and 426, shall:
    * Monitor the cessation of hostilities;
    * Accompany and support the Lebanese armed forces as they deploy throughout the South, including along the Blue Line, as Israel withdraws its armed forces from Lebanon;
    * Coordinate its activities referred to in the preceding paragraph (above) with the Government of Lebanon and the Government of Israel;
    * Extend its assistance to help ensure humanitarian access to civilian populations and the voluntary and safe return of displaced persons;
    * Assist the Lebanese armed forces in taking steps towards the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL deployed in this area;
    * Assist the Government of Lebanon, at its request, in securing its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms or related materiel.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    RE: “I have my doubts about the Lebanese peace plan — at least as far as the Lebanese army is concerned.”
    The PEACE KEEPERS Have Arrived
    “Thousands of vehicles jammed a bombed-out coastal highway linking Beirut to the south … general calm has prompted a chaotic tide of Shi’ite Muslim refugees flowing back to southern villages. The truce also allowed many Israelis to leave bomb shelters for the first time in a month, and others to come home.”
    The WAR MAKERS Are Humiliated
    Far from driving the Hizbollah north across the Litani river, Israel has entrenched them in their Lebanese villages as never before…
    …Far from humiliating Iran and Syria – which was the Israeli-American plan – these two supposedly pariah states have been left untouched and the Hizbollah’s reputation lionised across the Arab world.
    The “opportunity” which President George Bush and his Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, apparently saw in the Lebanon war has turned out to be an opportunity for America’s enemies to show the weakness of Israel’s army
    Chutzpah has its limits : You cannot lead an entire nation to war promising victory, produce humiliating defeats, and remain in power.

  • GeorgeF

    You are right, UNIFIL has missed all the targets of their mission, that’s why the aggression of Hisbollah against the UN-institution is nothing but the (organized) expression of neglectance to the UN – they wanted to make the UN even more riduculous and demonstrate Hisbollahs laughter above international agreements.
    They declared not to concede to the UN resolutions. I would propose to simply rename Hisbollah to “Einsatzgruppe”

  • ummabdulla

    I don’t know who actually organized this rally, but there were Lebanese of all religious and political stripes. After getting the news from Qana, people were filled with rage; I don’t think they had to be forced to go there by Hezbollah. When some of the protesters went inside the building and started to wreck it, it was a Hezbollah minister (member of teh government) who physically stopped them from doing so; this was live on the BBC.

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