Saturday, October 13, 2007

Seventeen Years Ago Today - Lebanon Sacrificed

In tribute to the fallen soldiers of the Lebanese Army, Walid Phares writes a recount of the final battle which established the Syrian dominance and hegemony that would rule Lebanon for the next fifteen years.

Phares' article (extracts for which can be found below) highlights the international green light granted to the Syrians and their final assault on the Presidential palace, at the time occupied by Gen. Michel Aoun who had been appointed interim Prime Minister by departing President Amine Gemayel.

Phares touches on Aoun's role in the battle by highlighting the General's abandonment of the troops - being smuggled in the trunk of a car to the French embassy where he sought refuge - but fails to highlight the pivotal role the General's policies as Interim Prime Minister played in providing the international community with the internal chaos - which ultimately served the Syrians - that allowed them to give the green light for the invasion. Instead, Phares chooses to place the blame squarely on the international community and its need for Syria's goodwill in the run-up to the first Gulf War.

Whatever one's opinion of that battle, one cannot help but admire the bravery and ingenuity displayed by those units of the Lebanese Army who fought the invading Syrians. A bravery and ingenuity played out once again over the past summer when units of the Lebanese Army once again fought Syria's armed goons - this time in the guys of fundamentalist insurgents and not Syrian Army soldiers.

One also cannot help wonder how the sacrifice of these men can be claimed by the man who abandonned them then and who continues to smear their memory today by aligning himself with and providing political cover for those who continue to sing the praises of the Assad regime which murdered our soldiers. Shame.

--

In September 1990, Secretary of State James Baker gave the green light to the Syrian dictator to launch an invasion into Mount Lebanon in return of his participation in the Gulf War against Saddam. By October 12, twenty thousand Syrian troops with hundreds of Special Forces, dozens of artillery batteries, 300 tanks and with the support of pro-Syrian militias and Hezbollah have encircled the enclave. The Lebanese Army, trained mostly by the US had lined up about 4,000 soldiers and few old tanks with the support of batteries, dispersed in the valleys.

...

The Soviet-trained Syrian commandos assaulted the Lebanese Special Forces, Maghaweer, in Beit Mery. Until 8 AM, not one single front was pierced despite the massive bombardment. At 8:10 AM the Lebanese state radio aired a brief statement by Prime Minister Michel Aoun. He –stunningly- gave the orders to his army to surrender to the Syrians.

...

Despite the orders to surrender given by Aoun, young officers decided to continue the war on their own.

On the Beit Mery axis, the Syrian Special Forces were pushed back down the valley. Meanwhile the Lebanese artillery was waging a counter battery forcing the Syrian armor to stop. But the most illustrious episode took place at Dahr al Wahsh, east of the Presidential Palace. The Lebanese units executed a maneuver, allowing the advancing Baathist forces to move forward before they were encircled and destroyed. More than 300 Syrian attackers were eliminated, their ranks broke, and the Lebanese units were on the counter attack.

...

At a very high altitude, two Israeli jets were observing the fight without intervening.

According to Lebanese army officers the night before, resisting the Syrian offensive for 72 hours would suffice to break the will of the attackers. But with a balance of power 5 to 1, and all supplies roads cut off by land, air and sea, the Lebanese Army had no reason to survive the blitzkrieg. However in reality the battle of October 13, 1990 showed that those units were able to withstand the Syrian and Hezbollah forces combined, even without the guidance of a commander in chief who quit the battlefield and considered the war over.

...

For until 3 PM that day, and despite a cataclysmic shelling by hundreds of artillery pieces of all civilians areas and military zones, the Syrian offensive had failed and the first 12 of the 72 hours were about to pass as a victory by Lebanese military.

...

As of 2:30 PM phone calls were being made to the Lebanese officers who were holding their positions or commanding the artillery units. They were told that “their” Government was disbanded and that the Prime Minister has left his office and took refuge in the French embassy, that the Syrian were sending more forces to join the battle, that Hezbollah controls the lines south east of Baabda, and more importantly that no international force would come to their rescue.

...

At that point, the decision was made by these anonymous officers (their names will be revealed in a historical documentation) to stop.

...

But the drama was not over yet. The Syrian forces have a tradition of reigning terror and revenge after they capture enemy positions. At first, they used Lebanese military under their control (and commanded by the future President Lahoud) to convince the Lebanese Army to surrender to the Syrians. However, as soon as they did, particularly in Dahr al Wahsh, the Syrian officers and soldiers lined up the Lebanese prisoners and executed them. Reports from that time mentioned torture against a number of Lebanese officers and their troops. Hundreds of civilians, including two monks, were kidnapped, tortured and killed. Many citizens and soldiers were transferred to the notorious Syrian jails, some have vanished since.

--

20 comments:

  1. Anonymous2:32 AM

    Fantastic. Good job Jade! Now the world can truly understand that the syrian's true intentions (which have been shown to us in the past) are purley peaceful and harmless "concerns"!

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  2. Anonymous2:33 AM

    -Templar...

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  3. Jimmy3:57 AM

    You should mention in the summary that Aoun surrendered at 8:10 am and was in the French Embassy at 8:30 am (leaving his wife and kid behind). The order to stop only came at 3:00 pm after so many Lebanese soldiers had died.

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  4. Arabic Coffee Pot4:15 AM

    What? You must be lying!!

    The great and illustrious General Aoun said he would be the last to leave!

    See for yourself --> LIAR!

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  5. Abu Kais4:37 AM

    This is why I never understood how Michel Aoun managed to keep a following after this episode. And this is why I never took his "resistance" to Syrian occupation seriously. His speeches during his "exile" were a joke and uninspiring. Not very different from his style now, if you ask me. Lebanon had to wait until Hariri died before giving him another chance. And look how fast he squandered it. The man thought he could be emperor, even if he had to step over the bodies of those who once defended him.

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  6. Thanks everyone for the comments.

    I updated the post with a video I found on You Tube. I don't know the source of the music to the video but I found it to be very powerful.

    If anybody does know the source, do let me know.

    The video also provides lists of Syrian officers accused of carrying violations of human rights laws (kidnapping, torture, murder, etc...) and assassinations of Lebanese figures in which Syria is the main suspect.

    PS - the text isn't a translation of the lyrics.

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  7. Sami Abdallah7:21 AM

    Great Blog Jade. You wrote that:
    Phares "fails to highlight the pivotal role the General's policies as Interim Prime Minister played in providing the international community with the internal chaos - which ultimately served the Syrians - that allowed them to give the green light for the invasion. Instead, Phares chooses to place the blame squarely on the international community and its need for Syria's goodwill in the run-up to the first Gulf War."

    Your judgment is too harsh. Professor Walid Phares wrote a piece specifically about that day, October 13, 1990 not about the whole war. By the way no one has written on this fight after 8:10 AM that I can remember. At least, I would thank Phares for sharing his own information from 1990 about a battle that we need to keep the memory of. In his book "Lebanese Christian Nationalism: The Rise and fall of an ethnic resistance" (Lynne Rienner, 1995) Phares was the first author in the US to explain that Aoun's international policies -including alliance with Saddam- brought a Western reaction on him and Lebanon. But when Phares mentioned the Baker-Assad agreement, he was hinting at the Arabist lobby in the US which was always against a free Lebanon, longtime before Aoun came to power. Aoun made things more catastrophic than they were before. Aoun wasn;t the first Lebanese politician to mess it up. Those before him messed as much. I'd blame the entire Lebanese (Christian) political class since before 1975 for its failures. At every opportunity Lebanon had to free itself, they spoiled it.

    Great video also

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  8. Hey Sami,

    Thanks for the comment.

    Yes its true, Phares' article was about the day itself and not about the factors that led up to that day.

    And yes, of coures, when the Army itself keeps a log of that day on its website with this brief entry:

    On October 13 a military operation resulted in the unification of the Army, ceasing the fighting and reinstating civil peace in Lebanon.

    pieces such as Phares' should be highlighted - as I believe my post is doing.

    As far as Washington lobby-groups are concerned, I'm afraid my knowledge on the subject is limited. But as far as Aoun not being the only 'politician' to have done damage to the country's interests at the time, then I would agree, but I would also insist that hit moves as interim PM broke the camel's back - and permitted the Syrian invasion and occuption to occur.

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  9. Sami Abdallah2:01 AM

    Hey Jade, I guess we agree on the big picture. Also you're right regarding the Lebanese Army's web site. Did you notice it still consider the United States as an "enemy" (from the Syrian occupation times). How ironic, when we know that th US is sending all this help to Yarze. The Lebanese Army's G5 is still under Syrian influence.

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  10. mexican tobasco pot2:58 AM

    It is good to commemorate. But dear Mr.Phares, the inclusion of Hizballah as a force that joined the Sryian army in fighting the army is ridiculous. There is not one historical account that would support that. If one doesn't agree with a specifin person or group, it still does not give the entitlement to invent stories about them

    This is how far Lebanese have gone...spreading false information to serve their own interests and push their own agendas. Have we become Israelis?

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  11. Anonymous7:22 AM

    No! We have become self-chose exiled Lebanese with "farming and foods" companies set up in Central and Latin America with which much of the funds generated are sent to each of our dearly beloved militia(s) back home. For shame misinforming us like that!
    -Templar

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  12. I read the article its not bad, I just wish he showed the americans that they SPONSORED this battle! he kept highlighting Iran's involvement and other stuff but the battle and the days leading to it were the worst period for Lebanon and the US was sponsoring the terror (like it did many time during the civil war)! every Lebanese politician helped every country in the world destroy us, we lead ourself to our destruction. I don't like Aoun bas I will never stand with Syria against anyone! I can never be with Syria to get my stability back, syria is the opposite of everything normal. They hate Aoun OK bass the country was destroyed and occupied mine warra their stupidy and Aouns stupidy! specialy the christian politicians and religious men! what did other politician gain after this battle! what did the christian gain after this battle!!! and what's worse is that the same stupid people are repeating the same stupidities again!

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  13. Jimmy3:55 PM

    I think he did show American involvement. He mentioned the 'green light' and that the Israelis were watching above.

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  14. Karim Malek6:41 PM

    Mexican tobasco wrote: "It is good to commemorate. But dear Mr.Phares, the inclusion of Hizballah as a force that joined the Sryian army in fighting the army is ridiculous. There is not one historical account that would support that."

    Answer: Mr Tobasco is not well informed about the battle of October 13 on two accounts. One, the war room that planned and executed the operation had the Syrians, the pro-Syrian militias such as (SSNP, Baath, PSP, etc), Hezbollah and the units of the Lebanese Army led by General Emile Lahoud. This ghurfat amalyaat had distributed the roles. Each force had an assignment. The Syrians were to do most of the action, the Lahoud forces would show themselves on TV after the operation, the SSNP and Hobeika militias would move in to seize the neighborhoods in the Matn and Baabda and act as intelligence for the Syrians. Hezbollah's assignment was to consolidate the blockade in the areas of Dahie, and Baabda, then move forward to seize some areas in the afternoon. Which they did. And as a matter of fact they clashed with Hobeika militiamen. You can check the newspapers archives of that week. Hezbollah played another role as well on the intelligence level by threatning the Shiite soldiers remaining in he Lebanese Army under Aoun. Many left under these threats. Mr Tobasco, you really need to do a serious research and realize what has really happened.

    You wrote: "If one doesn't agree with a specifin person or group, it still does not give the entitlement to invent stories about them"

    Answer: Such a statement doesn't make any sense. What group and what is the disagreement about? Phares certainly doesn't agree with Hezbollah, but that has nothing to do with describing facts as they happened. Hezbollah itself supported the operation openly and praised the Syrian action (newspapers of October 14, 15, 1991)

    You wrote: "This is how far Lebanese have gone...spreading false information to serve their own interests and push their own agendas."

    Answer: This sounds like an uneducated Lebanese cafe chat. This sentence doesn't make sense as well.

    You wrote: "Have we become Israelis?"

    Answer: What does that sentence mean? How do you become Israeli? I guess this is Hezbollah propaganda. That's how Nasrallah accuses his opponents: hal asbahna israeliyeen?

    Anyway, Tabasco's comments (which I respect) shows that a whole debate has to be opened about the years of the Syrian occupation. The archives are full. Hopefully the bloggers will begin to look into this.

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  15. Karim,

    Thanks for your comment. It was both instructive and constructive.

    Stories such as these need to be brought to the forefront and we're always looking for documents and archives which can shed light on the pages of our history some would rather keep dark. So if you come across any links to archives or resources feel free to share them in any of our comments sections or to email them to blacksmithsoflebanon@gmail.com

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  16. mexican tobasco pot9:04 PM

    Karim,

    What I meant with "Have we become Israelis?" is an allusion to inventing facts to further ones own agenda and goals. Like the Israelis always do. It has nothing to do with Hizballah propaganda. It was supposed to be humurous.

    Phares writes the article as if Hizballah was the main ally of the Syrians and contributed a great part to the defeat of the Lebanese army. Truth is it would've been done with or without them.

    Secondly, Phares' argument is logically very flawed. He perceives Aoun's army as a national institution during war. Well in the eyes of everyone...especially the LF it was just another militia.

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  17. Tobasco,

    In the eyes of the majority of Lebanese, the Lebanese Army until October 13, 1990 was the continuation of the original free and national army founded in 1943. It maintained its cohesion and command structure throughout the war despite the attempts by the PLO and Syria to create secessions. It has never been dismantled as an institution till the Syrian invasion of Yarze on that day of infamy. Today's Lebanese Army, after the Syrian withdrawal is struggling to come back to its original inception. This will only happen when Hezbollah and the other militias will be disbanded and disarmed. The myth that Hezbollah is a legitimate resistance was forced on the Lebanese as a result precisely of the Syrian invasion of 1990. At the first opportunity, March 14 2005, the majority of Lebanese expressed their opposition to the Syrian occupation and its allies, Hezbollah. This pro Iranian militia is linked orgnically to Tehran's Pasdaran. Of course Hezbollah was part of the coalition to invade the free areas. Read this account
    http://www.10452lccc.com/newsreporter/homatalarz15.10.07.htm
    Also as far as Lebanese Forces goes, they were (read Mr Geagea's statements) against Aoun not against the Lebanese Army.

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  18. arabic coffee pot4:25 PM

    Aoun: "I can assure you there are no members of the FPM in Syrian jails."

    "There are people missing from Oct 13th...now maybe they're in Syria maybe they're not in Syria..."

    This is the man who wants to claim these peoples' memories!

    Watch the video.

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  19. For those interested, here's the Aoun-sympathetic version of the events.

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  20. Orange Storange7:10 AM

    Why can't we just leave things in the past - without asigning blame?

    Today we think Syria is bombing us, we know that Israel bombed us, and we know that we should all come together. Khalas, isn't that enough?

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