Christians seek visas to flee from Lebanon

Washington Times Michael Hirst April 3, 2007

BEIRUT — Christians are fleeing from Lebanon to escape the rise of radical Islam and growing fears that the trend will result in a Sunni-Shi’ite civil war, with minority Christians trapped in the middle.
In a poll to be published next month, nearly half of all Maronites, the largest Christian denomination in the country, said they were considering emigrating.
Of these, more than 100,000 have submitted visa applications to foreign embassies, according to the poll. Their exodus could rob the country of an influential minority, which has acted as an important counterbalance to the forces of Islamic extremism.
About 60,000 Christians have left since the summer’s war between Israel and Hezbollah. Many who remain fear that a violent showdown between rival Sunni and Shi’ite factions is looming.
“If we love our children, we have to tell them to get out,” said Maria, a Christian mother from the northern city of Tripoli who refused to give her surname for fear of reprisal. “When my daughter finished her high school, I sent her to Europe, and I will follow her if I can.”

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13 thoughts on “Christians seek visas to flee from Lebanon

  1. I really feel bad for our brethren in the Middle East. I wish there were no wars there. Unfortuantely, I do not think that will happen.

  2. It was the Bush administration that gave the Israelis the green light to go in and start bombing Lebanon, destroy its infrastucture and impose collective punishment. It was the Bush administration that rebuffed pleas by Lebanese Christians for a ceasefire.

    Bolton admits Lebanon truce block BBC, Thursday, 22 March 2007
    A former top American diplomat says the US deliberately resisted calls for a immediate ceasefire during the conflict in Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

    Former ambassador to the UN John Bolton told the BBC that before any ceasefire Washington wanted Israel to eliminate Hezbollah’s military capability.

    Mr Bolton said an early ceasefire would have been “dangerous and misguided”.

    The UK, US and Israeli were alone in resisting an early ceasefire. At the time US officials argued a ceasefire was insufficient and agreement was needed to address the underlying tensions and balance of power in the region.

    Mr Bolton now describes it as “perfectly legitimate… and good politics” for the Israelis to seek to defeat their enemy militarily, especially as Hezbollah had attacked Israel first and it was acting “in its own self-defence”.

    Mr Bolton, a controversial and blunt-speaking figure, said he was “damned proud of what we did” to prevent an early ceasefire

    Comments like that make ashamed to be an American.

  3. Yes, Dean. Hezbollah has the right fire missiles into Israel and take their soldiers prisoner whenever they darn well please and no one should say or do anything about it. Israel should just apologize for existing, after all, and get it over with, just like Britain should about their soldiers captured by Iran for no reason whatsoever.

  4. Oh Meona, your naivete is really something to behold. Israel had drawn up war plans to attack Hezbollah months before the actual confrontation, having decided that Hezbollah posed a potential threat. When Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, to use them as bargianing chips in some future negotiation, Israel decided that was the perfect pretext for launching its plan of attack.

    Yes, it is terrible that missiles were launched against Israeli cities. But that was after, and in response to, first-strike attacks by Israeli war planes on Lebanon. Israeli warplanes destroyed bridges, electrical power plants, office buildings and residential apartment flats in the hope that this brutal form of collective punishment would pressure the Lebanese to turn against Hezbollah.

    The Israeli attack was a complete failure in that not only did it failed to destroy Hezbollah, it instead created sympathy for that organization among outraged Lebanese Sunnis and Christians, who are normally opponents of Hezbollah. Most Israelis today regard the operation as a disaster. The United States really did Israel no favor by encouraging them to attack Lebanon and urging them on even after it had become obvious that the attack was a failure and completely counter-productive.

    US efforts to block a ceasefire caused Arabs to become further disgusted and disenchanted with the United States because it revealed how little regard we have for Arab lives, as we were clearly considered the sacrifice tens of thousands of Lebanese civilians as casualties of war to be an acceptable price for destroying Hezbollah.

  5. So, what? They should have just done nothing? I’m fairly certain that those who disagree with what happened would be singing a different tune had Hezbollah been destroyed as they need to be.

    I certainly hate it that Hezbollah used civilian neighborhoods to hide out in. However, that doesn’t give them a free pass on what they did to cause the incident.

  6. Note #5

    Dean’s take is the standard left wing view, which is full of propaganda – don‘t believe a word of it. As IF the rockets and other terrorism was started AFTER the offensive. As IF Israel was truly after “collective punishment”. Google has a good mashup (can’t find the link at the moment) describing the areas of Beirut hit. It was almost 100% Hezbollah / foreign terrorist neighborhoods. At the ground level, you can see the barred wire put up around these neighborhoods to keep these offensive foreigners protected from the population around them. Israel did Beirut a favor by bombing out these terrorists…

  7. So JBL puts up an article that includes this line:

    “Lebanon has always been a bastion of religious tolerance, but now it is moving toward the model of Islamization seen in Iraq and Egypt,” said the Rev. Samir K. Samir, a Jesuit teacher of Islamic studies at Beirut’s Universite Saint-Joseph.

    and seems to have totally missed the reference to Islamization in Iraq.

    Hmmm…..I though the Bush Administration was fighting Islamization? How is possible that our occupation of Iraq and creation of a Shia-dominated state next to Iran could have increased the influence of Islamists? That’s not possible, is it JBL? You must have missed that quote, or have you accepted the reality of it at this point?

    Exactly how is the current bleeding of Christian populations a ‘left versus right’ issue in terms of American politics? This is something I fail to understand.

    Dean is right, of course. Not only did the attach on Lebanon not succeed, it strengthened Hezbollah and harmed the Christian community. Israel ran a stupid war. Bombing the North while Hezbollah sat 1 mile over the border and blew kisses at a paralyzed army is just plain nuts.

    What are we down to now? The ‘right’ defends dumb tactics because ‘left’ happens to be critical of them? Arguing for stupidity is now a Republican characteristic, if the person attacking the stupidity is a Democrat? Talk about reactionary.

    Hezbollah is stronger today than before the war. That looks like a botched job to me. Israel’s northern border is no more secure than it was, Iran just made the Brits look like morons, and the Bush Administration is clueless about the Shia in Iraq not being little Thomas Jeffersons.

    Hey – is the preceding a ‘right wing’ or a ‘left wing’ statement?

    Is support of Christian populations in the Middle East left-wing or right-wing? I’d just like to know so that I don’t end up on the wrong side of the fence, since eveything in the whole wide world has to be analyzed in terms of U.S. electoral politics.

  8. Yes, Mr. Scourtes is right about the offensive against Hezbollah being a failure, in so far as the goal was to route Hezbollah terrorists on the ground. However, to characterize it as a “first-strike” is simply wrong. The first-strike was committed by Hezbollah when it invaded Israel, killed border guards, and kidnapped soldiers. It then launched missile attacks against civilian targets in northern Israel BEFORE Israel retaliated for Hezbollah’s violation of its border. If that wasn’t an act of war that justified retaliation, then nothing is. The targets that Israel selected were strategic in nature and justifiable targets. They were key infrastructure that Hezbollah relied on to import Iranian and Syrian weaponry. The office buildings and apartments were targeted not to brutalize the Lebanese population, but because they doubled as Hezbollah military facilities and missile launch sites.

    What was Israel supposed to do? Just sit there and let its cities gradually be reduced to rubble? That would have been an immoral act of negligence on the part of Israel’s government. As much as the offensive against Hezbollah was a failure due to poor decisions by the IDF and Israeli government regarding military spending, to sit and do nothing would have compromised the integrity of the state of Israel altogether.

    Truth be told, the reason the Israeli offensive failed to achieve all of its objectives is two-fold. First, over the past several years their military reduced funding of their land forces in favor of air forces. Meanwhile, they invested heavily in low-blast-radius bombs that reduce civilian casualties, assuming they would only need to conduct pin-point raids to take out Hamas leadership or various militants in the West Bank. Second, they pulled out of southern Lebanon on the assumption that Hezbollah would respect the border. This assumption was naive. With Israeli forces absent, Hezbollah’s Iranian and Syrian sponsors helped them construct deep bunkers that were impenetrable to Israeli munitions, and provided them with increasingly sophisticated missiles and most importantly anti-tank weaponry.

    When Israel invaded in retaliation for Hezbollah’s violation of its border, it could not wipe out Hebollah’s forces due to inability to break Hezbollah’s Iranian-built bunkers. Its tanks were vulnerable to Iranian weaponry. The IDF ground forces had been run down anyway.

    In one respect, retaliating against Hezbollah did teach Sheik Nasrallah a lesson. He admited after the war that he never would have ordered the invasion of Israeli territory if he knew Israel would retaliate as it did. Furthermore, I think Israel learned from its tactical errors, and I doubt that the story will be the same next time, as Israel put in orders for ordinance capable of penetrating deep bunkers, and wide-blast-radius bombs from the U.S. after the war came to its conclusion. The IDF’s negligance of its ground forces has also come under scrutiny.

  9. What was Israel supposed to do? Just sit there and let its cities gradually be reduced to rubble?

    No. But they weren’t supposed to a fight a stupid war either. If you fight, then you fight to win. If you can’t fight to win, then don’t fight.

    This assumption was naive. With Israeli forces absent, Hezbollah’s Iranian and Syrian sponsors helped them construct deep bunkers that were impenetrable to Israeli munitions, and provided them with increasingly sophisticated missiles and most importantly anti-tank weaponry.

    Bunkers aren’t an issue for ground forces. They were hard to take out from the air, but the IDF would have had no problem destroying them on the ground. As you made clear, the IDF was unwilling to take casualties. This is directly related to the weak position of the Olmert government. Olmert believed he could fight an air war and make decisive strikes on Hezbollah. When that didn’t happen, the IDF played around at ground offense but seemed totally reluctant to fight in a meaningful fashion. The loss of tanks and the loss of soldiers are not deterrents to battle if you actually feel like you need to win.

    Olmert did not have the full backing of the Israeli public for a ‘do-what-it-takes’ kind of war, so he tried to fight one on the cheap. It didn’t work.

    The same types of people who encouraged his thinking are now in favor of bombing Iran. If you bomb a country, then you had best be prepared to follow it up with actual ground forces. We’ve gotten very attached to the idea of air power somehow being decisive. It rarely is, not by itself. The end game is still usually played out on the ground, and if you commit forces then you had better be politically prepared for taking casualties in pursuit of your objectives. Western leaders keep selling their public on small casualty wars, and then become shocked that when things get rough, people would just as soon get their sons home.

  10. Glen writes: “Olmert did not have the full backing of the Israeli public for a ‘do-what-it-takes’ kind of war, so he tried to fight one on the cheap. It didn’t work.”

    Also, “do what it takes” would have been pretty expensive. Hezbollah had years in which to prepare the battlefield on their own turf. They had years to build bunkers, store weapons, dig tunnels, plan fall back positions and ambushes. Most of this was unknown to the Israelis, and would be discovered when they walked into it. Meanwhile the Israelis kill a number of civilians because Hezbollah established positions in civilians areas. Conventional armies see that as “immoral,” and “unfair,” but it’s a common strategy among irregular Islamic militias, designed to provoke embarrassing attacks by the conventional army. Unfair or not, that’s the situation on the ground, and an invading army needs to take that into account. Want to fire HE rounds into a residential area? Great, just be prepared to explain on the nightly news why you killed 30 civilians in an apartment complex.

    Remember when China invaded Vietnam? At that time most of the NVA regulars were in Cambodia, so the Chinese had what, 30 or 40 divisions going up against NVA militia. But again, the Vietnamese had years to prepare. The Chinese made it in about 30 miles before the attack stalled, then they declared victory and withdrew after a month.

    The lesson is that conventional armies can have a really tough time when going up against well-prepared and trained irregular forces. Bring plenty of body bags, and don’t be surprised when the home population demands to know the compelling reason why their nice young people are coming home dead and wounded. I’m not saying you can’t do it, but there is a very big price to pay.

  11. # 10 Mr. Scourtes wrote:

    “It is inappropriate to describe the kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers as a first-strike military action. Obviously, it was instead the opening gambit in what Hezbollah thought would be a delicate chess game like negotiation.”

    Hezbollah didn’t just kidnap two soldiers. It also killed some other soldiers in the same incursion, and immediately started firing missiles at civilian targets. Do missile attacks qualify as a first-strike military action, or do they not, in your opinion? I’m very curious about what would be required to make a first strike if this doesn’t qualify.

    I suppose Olmert should have responded to Hezbollahs first move in the “delicate chess game like negotiation” by picking up the phone and said: “Hello Mr. Sheik Nasrallah, would you kindly stop firing your missiles at our civilians so we can discuss the matter of the soldiers you kidnapped and killed? … Sure, we would be glad to give you that land you want, and we’ll release all sorts of terrorists from our prisons, too.” Perhaps he could have tried to shame Sheik Nasrallah by reminding him how bad he looks in the international community when he goes around kidnapping, killing, and firing missiles at civilian targets. Perhaps he could have (oh no!) threatened to take the matter to the UN!

    Notes # 9 and #11.

    I agree with very much of what was said in these notes, especially about lack of preparedness and the inadvisability of relying primarily on air forces to fight entrenched forces like Hezbollah. But I think it is important to keep in mind that the IDF (wrongly) thought that they were prepared to take on Hezbollah decisively. Even if unprepared, doing nothing would be unacceptable because Israeli civilian targets were under unprovoked missile attacks. Giving land away (say, the Chebaa Farms – which was Hezbollah’s demand) or exchanging prisoners would only encourage additional kidnapping and attacks on civilian targets in the future. Israel did the right thing given that it could not win outright but it could not afford to lose: It inflicted enough damage on Hezbollah to make it think twice about such adventures in the future and to bring in the international community to secure the border (we’ll see how that works in the long run – I’m skeptical).

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