Beirut, Lebanon 1982
The Lebanon war went from 1975 (and earlier) to 1990 (and is likely to flare up again). It is still a mess there, for humanity and for the environment. No objective view of the war is available. We have merely the views of combatants: a Christian view, an Arab view, a Muslim view, an Israeli view, a French view, an American view, a Syrian view, a Palestinian view, a Lebanese view. Inhumane atrocities were committed by ALL of the above during the Lebanon war.
The war affected Americans profoundly in several ways that Americans do not understand because the mass media has not been forthcoming with information. One of those ways of course was the tragic revenge of 9-11. Another was the tragic election of Ronald Reagan, arranged in part by his secret backroom deal to only release the U.S. embassy hostages in Iran until after his election -- in exchange for an arms deal. The very day of Reagan's inauguration, the deal went through and the hostages were released. This is now in the public record, but you must search for it as the news has been censored. It is one of those "Fog Facts" I introduced in the post below. The complex connections between the Iranian hostage crisis and the smaller number of hostages in Lebanon will take too long to explain here, so instead I've given some links below for more background. In general, the struggles throughout that region continue to refer to the Palestinians and also to anti-Muslim intervention from western powers.
Although there is no objective or transcendent view of this conflict, I can tell you my view which is derived from a much longer historical depth than most. It begins in the modern era with the widespread popular hatred of Jews throughout Europe. This pervasive anti-semitism supported the rise of fascist powers that led to the near genocide of the European Jews. After fascism was suppressed at the end of WWII, the Jews still had no welcome place; hence an international agreement was made among the victors and victims of WWII: the creation of a new homeland for Jews in Palestine. This would become Israel, but it meant the displacement of the local population already living there. That displacement was not conducted fairly and with due compensation. In fact, it quickly led to resistance and brutality on all sides.
We will also have to skip over a longer history of western colonialism that divided Lebanon from Greater Syria. And we will have to foreshorten the historical roots to exclude a very very long history of invasions and conquests and defeats by virtually every known peoples in that area, notably the Ottoman Turks, but also just about everyone else including Christian Crusaders in Lebanon.
After 1948, Lebanon was initially a small force against Israel, but became a larger force because displaced Palestinians migrated there and became intensely militant on the shared border with the new Israeli state. Chaotic wars ensued with every group against every other group at some point.
The US sent marines several times, but abandoned Lebanon as hopeless eventually. During the period of the photo above, US warships shelled civilian populations and destroyed many buildings in the city of Beirut. [Please see updated correction of this last claim in the comments link below 11/17/2005.] The bombing of civilians is nothing new in the history of European warfare, but how it is different from terrorist bombings of civilians is a bit of a stretch.
American involvement in the chaos of postcolonial wars is neither good nor evil. It is extremely complex since you can find both good and evil on all sides. But American involvement has not led to much progress, and it has been naive. Sometimes we supported fascists and fundamentalist militants simply because they were against leftists. Incredible atrocities ensued. And now we are suffering through a period of revenge which we fail to comprehend.
The ultimate view for me is, as in Auden's poem: Those to whom evil is done, do evil in return.
Violence begets violence. There is no end of it, until we finally sicken of it and realize that there are other ways to negotiate conflicts. Neither Bush nor Kerry is willing to lead in that direction. So based on this rather long and depressing history, I predict more violence ahead. I may become a victim, or you, or someone we don't know. But if you are not contributing to the solution, then you are part of the problem. Peace be with you.
Links for further info:
Iranian Hostage Crisis
American Reaction to Hostages in Lebanon & Iran & other historical incidents
Congressional Record testimony of Gary Sick about Reagan's Iranian arms deal, along with numerous articles
Subsequent history of hostage taking in Lebanon
Mid-80s Iran-Contra Scandal of Reagan's administration connected to Hostages in Lebanon
Very informative and loving website about Lebanon