The Agony of War and its Future

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The word ‘war’ is feared by all

Everything that one can think of

Environment, Economics, Politics

All joins in the fray

Man against man

War begins

Sending dancers of death into the battlefield

Changing the landscape, death to all

Leaving behind a stage, full of agony

What can we say,

When wars are waged?

There is something about the air in Beirut this morning that wreaks the fear of war. As I stroll through the Beirut that I know, I see endless holes that have not been concreted over and rusted blood stains that have not been washed away.

Today Lebanon marks the 41th anniversary of the start of the terrible civil war that claimed 150,000 lives over 15 years. It has always been said that Lebanon is the victim of other people’s wars. Today that is true in a very specific sense, one in four people living in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee. No European or North American country could have coped with this influx.

To an unknowing observer, the sheer horror of the 15-year conflict that destroyed and transformed the country cannot in any way invite nostalgia. The Lebanese Civil War was a bloody and complex conflict that raged in Lebanon from 1975 until 1990.

During the era between independence and the 1970s Lebanon was viewed as a paragon of post-colonial success. It was the wealthiest state in the region, had a freer and more open society, and was a frequently cited example of inter-faith coexistence and cooperation in a region beset by internecine violence.

There were early problems, however. The cooperation between the economically dominant Maronite Christians and the majority Muslims was always tenuous. The very existence of the state was called into question by Arab nationalists leading to a brief civil war in 1958 that was only ended by the intervention of American soldiers.

On 13 April 1975, in retaliation to an assassination attempt on a leader of the Phalange, Pierre Gemayel, the Phalangists, led by the Gemayels, massacred 27 Palestinians travelling on a bus in Ein Al-Rumaneh. In December 1975, four Christians were killed in east Beirut. In growing reprisals, the Phalangists and Muslim militias subsequently massacred at least 600 Muslims and Christians at checkpoints, beginning the 1975-1976 civil war. Full-scale civil war broke out, with the Palestinians joining the Muslim forces, controlling an increasingly lawless West Beirut. In June 1976, with the Maronites on the verge of defeat, the President called for Syrian intervention, who moved into the country and imposed a ceasefire

There is a cliché that has been verbalizing since the war ended in 1990, that the Lebanese have developed amnesia toward the war. However the reality is precisely the contrary. People still talk about it like it was yesterday. They fear it, and have learned a valuable lesson out of it. Indeed, a factor that has calmed political fervors in the past decade is the collective recollection, and the fear, of what war brought to this country. The answer is quiet simple. It brought nothing and destroyed much on its way, like a slow tsunami gaining and obliterating the human and physical being  an inch at a time and giving nothing back.

“What does one remember in a war like Lebanon’s? The people we love lost, certainly. The ultimate foolishness of partisanship and unbending political conviction as alliances and beliefs were altered in light of changing circumstances. The terrible price a country can pay for losing a generation or more to emigration. But also the enjoyment felt when the nightmare was over, when streets were no longer borders and when one finally woke up to grasp, and abandon, the countless lies sustaining the war. Often, after killing there is tolerance, and management of such tolerance is one of the most difficult of postwar legacies to negotiate.” (Micheal Young)

The war is not about armed men lurking behind every corner and barricades occupying street entrances, the war is in the mind and heart of citizens who decided long ago not to care anymore. My husband having lost his brother to the war, my father having lost his father to the war, my cousin having nearly died when he was shot in Rimal, I can see why people could not care less about the state of this country as long as they were alive.

Many thousands died over the 15 years of conflict. As Lebanon marks the 41th anniversary of the start of a nightmarish chapter in its history, there is a chance to learn some new lessons. “This anniversary gains in meaning from the fact that the roles have been reversed since 1975. Whereas then Lebanon was a rare country at war in a region characterized by cataleptic stability, today it seems to be a country that, for all its trials and the proximity of chaos, yet has avoided the worst.” (Michael Young)

You know how strong you are when your life becomes a war and you wear your every scar as your badge of honor. The casualties of war are far, far more than those lying dead on the battlefield floor. We know what peace is and we know how to do war. Now, let us do peace. The Peace that entails us being active members of this small society we live in, to seek change, to demand it and toil for it.

Let’s care… really care… to my Lebanon, the one who has seen it all over the last 6000 years and still stands proud.

Amazing video about the war in Lebanon:

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