Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: Ignoring a lesson from history | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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In this Aug. 4, 2014, file photo, Lebanese army reinforcements arrive to the outskirts of Arsal, a predominantly Sunni Muslim town near the Syrian border in eastern Lebanon. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein, File)

Two videos that went viral in the last two weeks summarize the current situation in Lebanon. The first one shows the execution of the third Lebanese soldier from among the military personnel kidnapped by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al-Nusra Front terrorists. The video showed the latter murdering soldier Mohammad Hamieh as other soldiers collapsed and pleaded for their lives.

The second video is that of Syrian refugees rounded up and being made to lie face down on the ground in the town of Arsal. Among them there appeared to be an amputee who was seemingly being kicked by a Lebanese soldier. The video also apparently showed other soldiers kicking and humiliating the rest of the refugees.

The Lebanese army did not deny the authenticity of this leaked video, which showed some of its soldiers violated the army’s rules of conduct.

Truth be told, the video of the execution of Hamieh summarizes the situation of the hijacked Lebanese state, a state that has had its decision-making power taken away. Meanwhile, the second video shows how the state attempts to cover its inability to confront the reasons behind its crisis, and that it seems as though it thinks that the only way to restore the balance is to mistreat refugees under the excuse of fighting terrorism.

The two examples are not the only incidents circulating on the Internet. Photos of Lebanese soldiers beating up and humiliating Syrian refugees and destroying their belongings under the excuse of looking for wanted men continue to surface. Of course, the state aimed to excuse these actions by saying they were carried out as part of efforts to crack down on terrorism.

It seems the trend of submitting to the military boot—which has become popular in several countries as it is considered salvation from chaos and extremism—is increasing in Lebanon. We have once again ignored an important lesson from history: insulting others and tyrannizing over them produces terrorists of all kinds.

Syrian refugees quickly responded to the second video of Lebanese army violations and protested in front of the Arsal municipality building, raising slogans of ISIS. Those in the Lebanese army command are making a fatal mistake if they think that the appeals of the kidnapped soldiers and the horrific footage gives them carte blanche to intimidate Syrian refugees.

The army is apparently committing violations against refugees without any hesitations whatsoever, and so far nothing has happened to suggest that these practices were individual violations. The army has neither announced that those responsible will be held accountable, nor has an apology been made. More importantly, this happened amid a widespread lack of political debate and media coverage, so disapproving voices have remained faint. Perhaps there is a prevailing desire to fix Syria’s Ba’athist model in Lebanon.

The Lebanese army, dear to its people’s hearts, should be careful. This brutality is not how you protect a country. Rather, this is how you destroy it, or at least what is left of it.