Recently I posted on my Facebook wall a commemoration to the thousands of Palestinian civilians slaughtered in Beirut one ghastly weekend 28 years ago this month.
One of my friends later pointedly said that I "wasn't giving the whole story." There have been plenty of atrocities committed, she said, by the other side--Palestinian terrorists, murdering defenseless civilians, Lebanese and Israeli alike.
And she is absolutely correct. This is a picture of what remained of a church in the Christian town of Damour, about a half hour's drive south of Beirut, after PLO terrorists had locked women and children inside, set the building on fire, and burned them alive. The date was January 20, 1976, as the second of 15 horrific years of civil war was just beginning.
These are some of the murdered children of Damour. No different or less important than those murdered children laying out in the alleys of Sabra & Shatila over six years later.
There is no moral distinction, of course, between the killing of civilians, whatever age, that are Jewish or Christian or Muslim, or any other race or religion. Some militarists like to make the disingenuous argument that murdering an entire family, or two, or ten, is "unavoidable" because their enemies deploy in civilian areas.
That means, well, sadly the families are expendable because it's for the cause. A bit like, perhaps, if you had a spouse and kids and are home one evening when a dangerous armed man forces himself inside. The SWAT team outside takes no chances, aims directly at your living room window, and fires that white phosphorus bomb right into your home. Bulls eye! And another desperado is "taken out."
Mission accomplished. Well, sort of. There is that nettlesome thing the good guys refer to as "collateral damage." And, yep, it seems that those obtrusive human shields--your spouse and three little children--have also been wiped out. And you've lost both your legs. An sadly "unavoidable" effect of fighting the good fight.
Here's a picture of the kind of "collateral damage" the Israelis regularly inflict; one of the byproducts of their "Cast Lead" adventure in Gaza less than two short years ago. Like that hypothetical gung ho SWAT team, they are the unchallenged experts at these kinds of kills.
The Damour episode was much less subtle carnage, like Sabra & Shitala. In fact, the same journalist that revealed the gruesome results at the two Palestinian camps in 1982, Robert Fisk, reported on the Damour Massacre. It went something like this:
"The attackers destroyed the buildings in the seaside village systematically and then took revenge on the remaining Christian inhabitants. The Christian cemetery was destroyed, coffins dug up, the dead robbed, vaults opened, and bodies and skeletons thrown across the graveyard.
The church was burnt and an outside wall was covered with a mural of Fatah guerrillas holding AK47 rifles. A portrait of Yasser Arafat was placed at one end. Other sources claim that the church was used as a repair garage for PLO vehicles, and also as a range for shooting-practice with targets painted on the eastern wall of the nave.
Twenty Phalangist militiamen were executed and then civilians were lined up against a wall and sprayed with machine-gun fire. None of the remaining inhabitants survived."
Estimates of the total civilian body count at Damour were about 584. Yes, less than Sabra & Shatila. But no less evil and utterly appalling.
This particular view conjures up visions of what Hell might look like. It's the largely Muslim slum district of Karantina, in East Beirut. As you can see, obviously all was not well that day in the neighborhood. It was January 18, 1976 and there was a massacre unfolding. Two days later, revenge came roaring into the little town of Damour.
The serial killers at Karantina were Lebanese Christian Militias, the same types that did all that dirty work later at Sabra & Shatilla under Israeli supervision. The Karantina Massacre resulted in the deaths of over 1,500 men, women, and children.
And, yes, this bloodletting was a spillover from "Black Saturday," a series of Beirut massacres the month before. And on and on and on it went for the next horrific 15 years.
So my friend is quite right. There's cruelty and murder and all manner of evil on both sides of war. Terrorism is a two-way street, in the Middle East or just about anywhere in the world. It's a cycle that runs like an atomic clock until either one side is completely annihilated or both antagonists can arrive at terms both equitable and lasting.
Anyone like to trade places with this mother?
Israel's blame game for the real root of all this murder and mayhem will continue on as long as the United States keeps serving as its official ATM. That's the big story here.