Official Report on the death of a Canadian Soldier in Lebanon 2006

Something about this just isn’t Right

What follows is a horror story, released on Friday, February 1st, by Stephen Harper’s government.

When the Israeli Armed Forces killed a Canadian U.N. soldier and three others, during Israel’s failed invasion of Lebanon, they explained that the killings were a mistake.

I don’t know why the Israelis killed the Canadian – Major Paeta Hess-Von Kruedener, a member of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry,  and three of his colleagues in a clearly-marked United Nations Observation Post.  But they did.

I don’t know for sure if the post was deliberately targeted – but I think it was.

The results of a Canadian Board Of Inquiry have finally come out. Today the Globe and Mail published a tiny story…not even 200 words long…explaining what we all knew a long time ago. That an unarmed Canadian Major was killed by an Israeli bomb.

The New York Times published a few words too (279). The Times explained that the U.N. wanted Israel to stop attacking its post.

So did the Winnipeg Free Press – also quite short.

This story…just like our reputation for peacekeeping…is off the government radar and hence, off the mainstream media radar as well.

In a rather bizarre addendum to a press release on this subject, the Canadian government said:

“Appropriate portions of the final report have been severed out (read censored), in accordance with Access to Information regulations to protect the operational security of the IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) and the UN. (Read Cover their Asses). However the essence of the report remains and tells a little of the story of what happened that night”.

They begged, they pleaded and they yelled out.

A half hour before the fatal bomb was dropped, a United Nations Commander yelled over a radio hookup at an Israeli official: “You are killing my people”.

After that there was a brief period of silence and the Canadian soldier and his fellow soldiers thought it was all over. They thought, ah, Israel has heard us and listened.

They then prepared to evacuate the Observation Post – just in case.

But before they could pack their bags, that big Israeli bomb…a 1,100 pound GPS-guided bomb…went whistling down right on the spot. Continue reading

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)


Whose Mission is it fulfilling?

lebanon-flag.gifFranklin Lamb
UN Headquarters
Naquora, Lebanon
peoplesgeography.com

Ever since one of this student’s favorite Professors, Dr. Ruth Widmeyer, an accomplished and rare beauty still, who was the first woman to receive a PhD in Soviet Studies from Harvard nearly a half century ago, announced to our Political Science class at Portland State University that our class would be representing France at the Model United Nations Session in San Diego, Lamb was smitten: both with Professor Widmeyer and with the United Nations.

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Robert Fisk: Syria denies killing General in car-bomb attack

Published: 13 December 2007

 

So, they assassinated another one yesterday. A general, Francois El-Hajj by name, not known in Europe but a senior officer and the chief of the Lebanese general army staff, whose battle for the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camps earlier this year made him an obvious target for the Syrians, for the Iranians, for the Palestinians, for just about anyone else you care to note.

Although he was an obvious target, the implications for the current army chief and possible future president – General Michel Suleiman – were devastating.

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Blast kills Lebanon army general

Soldier near bomb damaged vehicles

The blast damaged buildings and vehicles over a wide area


Scene of blast

The Lebanese army’s chief of operations, General Francois al-Hajj, has been killed in a bomb attack. Three other people also died in the blast in the Christian town of Baabda, close to the presidential palace, on the outskirts of the capital Beirut.

Gen Hajj had been tipped to become army chief if Gen Michel Suleiman is made president to remedy a political crisis.

Parliament has failed to elect a president and the opposition refuses to recognise the elected government.

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Letter from Lebanon: Where Justice Seems Very Far Away

The summer break is officially over in Lebanon. At about 5pm yesterday, a roughly 40 kg bomb placed in a Mercedes was detonated in a bustling part of Sin el-Fil district of Beirut. The immediate target was member of Parliament (MP) Antoine Ghanim of the right-wing Phalange party and pro-government March 14 coalition, the fourth MP to be assassinated since former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri’s murder in March 2005 split the country and paralyzed the state.

Six other civilians were killed and over 50 wounded in the blast, with the vast majority of Lebanese both apprehensive and disgusted with a political class that has failed them politically, socially, economically, and security-wise.

The real target of yesterday’s assassination, however, was the apparently not-far-off consensus among key government and opposition players seeking to resolve the crisis enveloping the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for next week. March 14 currently holds a slim (though disputed) Parliamentary majority-now, tragically, made even slimmer-and has hinted that it could break from the traditional constitutional interpretation and elect a president by a simple majority rather than the customary two-thirds required quorum. This has infuriated opposition figures who consider the current pro-US government of Fouad Siniora to be illegitimate and supportive of US-Israeli desires to disarm the resistance.

Following several months of futile negotiations and bitter recriminations from both sides, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri recently launched a last-ditch compromise initiative which was widely seen to have achieved a break through. As former President Amin Gemeyal correctly noted: “This is how Lebanese politics work. At the last quarter-hour, everybody realizes that the bargaining time is up, and they would put all the papers on the table and agree on a compromise that would save the country. The alternative is disastrous.”

Berri’s compromise requires the opposition–which includes Hizbullah and the Free Patriotic Movement lead by General Michel Aoun, the most popular Christian leader in Lebanon–to participate in a Parliament session on 25 September to elect a new President in return for explicit recognition by March 14 that a two-thirds parliamentary majority is indeed required for the election as per the Lebanese Constitution. After this, a national unity government would be appointed.

After receiving the blessing by the leader of March 14 coalition, Saad Hariri, Speaker Berri was due to meet with the Maronite (Christian) Patriarch, who serves as a power broker among the competing presidential candidates (who must be Maronite Christian according to Lebanon’s power-sharing agreement). Such a meeting, if successful, could have paved the way for a consensus Presidential candidate and, just maybe, the beginning of a wider resolution of the Lebanese crisis that has deepened since Israel’s bloody invasion of Lebanon last summer.

This week’s car bomb, then, must be read against this context. While we will never know who actually masterminded this murder-such cases stretching back many years have never been solved by Lebanese investigators, usually for political reasons-it did not take long for accusations to be bandied about.

Live on TV, several MPs and officials from March 14 stated clearly that “everyone” knows who is behind not only this heinous murder, but all the others of the past two and a half years: Syria. Saad Hariri even, bizarrely, accused Syria of assassinating Ghanim in retaliation for Israel’s recent aerial strike in Syrian territory. Some March 14 politicians also seized the opportunity to openly accuse any opposition MP who does not attend the 25 September parliamentary session of treason, and thus indirectly of being complicit with Ghanim’s assassination.

Lebanese opposition figures and Syrian spokesmen, who had all unequivocally condemned yesterday’s terrorist act, angrily rejected such logic and accused anyone who took advantage of this tragedy for political gains of fomenting discord and serving “foreign” interests. For them, these attacks on March 14 MPs always come conveniently whenever the momentum seems to be swinging away from US and Israeli interests and towards internal consensus.

It is too early to tell what the precise fall out from this latest murder will be. Alas, genuine statesmen capable of rising above petty interests are in short supply here, and Lebanese will now expect more assassinations as Lebanon head towards a worst case scenario, namely the formation of two governments (in case no consensus is reached before the current President’s term expires on 24 November) and the effective partition of the country, not to mention state institutions. If this is allowed to happen, the future could be grim indeed.

Yesterday’s events cannot be taken out of the larger regional context. Just as prospects for Lebanon’s unity was taking a beating-and Iraq continues its violent spiral towards partition-Palestine was being further divided with Israel officially declaring Gaza, now a huge prison with 1.5 million people living in atrocious conditions, a “hostile territory” (with American blessing). Leaving aside the obvious legal and humanitarian considerations of such a provocative move by Israel, as noted by the UN Secretary General, it is clear that the Arab region is undergoing yet another round of internationally-sponsored violence and perhaps even partition, redrawing the regional map along the line fantasized by some neocons. The objective of such policy is to establish a string of “pro-US” (and neoliberal) regimes across the region and punish the “bad guys,” those state (e.g., Iran, Syria) or non-state (e.g., Hizbullah, Hamas) actors who reject Pax Americana and Israeli regional hegemony.

It is customary to end such an article with a plea to sane people everywhere to ensure that just settlements are reached in Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq. However, my feeling today is that we have only just begun a particularly violent stage of our history here, and lasting settlements–let alone justice–seems very far away indeed.

Karim Makdisi is an Assistant Professor of International Relations in the Dept. of Political Studies and Public Administration at the American University of Beirut. He can be reached at: makdisi007@yahoo.com

What’s next for Nahr al-Bared

Jamal Ghosn, Electronic Lebanon, Sep 6, 2007

A young refugee from Nahr al-Bared fills up water in the Baddawi refugee camp, August 2007. (Razan Ghazzawi)

Victory celebrations are dominating the Lebanese airwaves for the foreseeable future and presidential election “campaigns” here are in full swing. The issue of reconstructing the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp will never see the light of day in any of the Lebanese media outlets, whether pro-government or opposition — just like the humanitarian crisis at Baddawi refugee camp has failed to capture any front page headlines over the past three months. The sole exception being when the disgruntled double-refugees attempted to return home, only to find themselves accused of attacking the Lebanese army. Shots from unidentified sources resulted in the death of three returning Palestinian refugees. Apparently human suffering with no potential political gain is not newsworthy.

Living conditions in the Palestinian refugee camps have never been easy. Lack of basic amenities, sub-par health care, and overcrowded schools are the common denominators between all the camps on Lebanese territory. None of the densely populated camps are in a condition to host a sudden influx of tens of thousands of twice-displaced refugees. Naturally, the overflowing Baddawi will not be a viable home for the Nahr al-Bared residents who will move back to their homes (reconstructed or not). The skeletons of buildings will be patched up, most likely by the refugees themselves with the help of the handful of activists that still care about the plight of Palestinians. These death-infested, bomb-riddled structures will make for a more dignified living than the pre-fabricated cardboard boxes, designed for nuclear families rather than traditional Palestinian extended ones, that have surfaced as alternative homes courtesy of some generous donors. Of course, the sea-front strip of the camp will be kept off-limits by the Lebanese army for questionable future development.

Hopes for real aid materializing from the Lebanese or other Arab governments for the reconstruction of Nahr al-Bared are delusional. The precedent was set by the snail-paced reconstruction of south Lebanon following the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon. And unlike the residents of south Lebanon, the Palestinian refugees do not enjoy the strong political backing of any major Lebanese or regional power. No propaganda machines will be mobilized for their sake. History shows that media coverage of the camps only occurs when it means casting Palestinians in a negative light. Never has a media campaign been dedicated to addressing the cyclical victimhood of the residents of the camps. They are on their own and at the mercy of often failed, albeit generous, promises.

Sadly, the repopulation without proper reconstruction of Nahr al-Bared would not lead to standards of living much different than those in Ein al-Hilwe or Sabra. The lack of utilities and infrastructure will not be missed much as the residents of Nahr al-Bared faced the same problems even before the birth of Fatah al-Islam and the destruction of the camp. Over the years, Palestinian refugee camps have been decked with a constant dose of heavy artillery of Lebanese government, Arab, and international neglect. Neglect as ravaging as the half-ton bombs airlifted from the US and other third-party allies like Jordan to be dropped on Nahr al-Bared. The attention given to Nahr al-Bared will rapidly wane, and as always none of the humanitarian or political issues associated with the Palestinian camps will be addressed. Meanwhile, a new generation of Palestinians can now claim their own painful memories of the ongoing struggle for existence. The refugees from Nahr al-Bared and elsewhere are left, until further notice, with only hopes and prayers that the next incident involving one of their camps will not be as bloody and devastating as previous episodes.

Jamal Ghosn is a 28-year-old strategy consultant from Beirut. He has covered Lebanese affairs on his blog for over two years.

Two Kidnapped Youths Found Slain, Tension High

The dead bodies of two youths kidnapped four days ago were found at the Jadra district south of Beirut Thursday, security sources said.
The sources said the two were found around 200 meters off the main highway linking Beirut with south Lebanon.

One security source said preliminary tests indicate Ziad Ghandour and Ziad Qabalan were killed “a few hours after they were kidnapped.”

Local television and radio stations blared the news about finding bodies of the two, which sparked fears across Beirut and its environs of possible reprisals by their relatives and Walid Jumblat’s Progressive Socialist Party with which they were affiliated.

However, Jumblat, in a statement broadcast live by TV stations, called for maximum restraint, stressing that only state authorities should handle the issue.

The crime was denounced and condemned by the various factions in Lebanon, especially that it involved the kidnapping of 12-year-old Ghandour.

Shortly after the bodies of the two were found, streets were deserted in most of Beirut as residents sought refuge to avoid possible violence.

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