Patrick McGreevy

The War's Deathbed

It is 3 am in Beirut. The war is scheduled to keel over and give up the ghost in five hours. Those of us attending the deathbed scene are full of questions and doubts. Might we finally grasp the purpose of this war in its concluding moments the way we find, in 19th-century novels, the meaning of a character’s life in the death-bed scene? Or might we learn that the war is as meaningless as it seems? A few hours ago, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni announced that Israel will negotiate for the release of the two prisoners captured on July 12, something Hezbollah was ready to do 33 days ago. 

Facing West from Arab Country

The Bush Administration encourages Israel to crush Hezbollah, perhaps because many in the US think Israel is a settler society facing exactly the situation their own country once faced. But haven’t Israelis been here long enough to recognize that simplistic example of the eastward gaze called the war on terror? Lashing out will not make Israel safe; such a strategy is based on faulty “knowledge”: it is like plowing the sea. If crushing people will make them capitulate, the people of Gaza would long ago have become docile rather than defiant. 

"Justice" Comes to Qana

The attacks of 11 September 2001 gave many ordinary Americans a palpable experience of injustice. Addressing both houses of Congress nine days later, President Bush proclaimed: “Our grief has turned to anger and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.” By nearly conflating justice and revenge, the President - and, alas, the vast majority of Americans who applauded him - lost an opportunity to see with new clarity, justice itself cast into relief by the very experience of injustice. Instead, the United States launched an endless war, the first stage of which was to be called Operation Infinite Justice. 

They Have No Wine

We visited Qana six weeks ago. To get there from Beirut, you pass through Tyre and then head southeast. The village clusters about a hilltop less than eight miles from Lebanon’s southern border, and about thirty miles from Nazareth. There is a scholarly debate about whether this was the site of the Wedding at Cana, where Jesus is said to have performed his first miracle, creating wine from water. The Roman historian Eusebius and St. Jerome both believed this was the place. There is no doubt that Qana was an early Christian site. For those schooled in Hollywood movies and religious picture books, this is a Biblical-looking landscape that exceeds all expectations. 

Islands in Arabia

Sitting on my balcony staring down at the Sea Gate of the American University of Beirut, and to the Mediterranean beyond, I am in no danger. The bombs are in the distance. The fighting is in the south. In Tel Aviv, Israeli citizens are staring at the same sea, in perfect safety. The missiles are landing in Haifa and farther north. And those following this war from living rooms around the world are in utter cocoons of safety. Most of us are separated from the violence that under girds our world and its order. But are we safe from fear? And does our fear make us wish for an order more and more strongly under girded? 

Criminalizing Civilians

After the IDF’s devastating losses at Bint Jabeil on Wednesday, the Washington Post Foreign Service reported this statement from former Mossad officer Yossi Alpher: “I dare say, based on what we’ve seen so far, these may be the best Arab troops we’ve seen so far.” An Nahar today reported that, Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon proclaimed: “Everyone who is still in south Lebanon is linked to Hizbullah, we have called on all who are there to leave.” He then suggested that “maximum firepower has to be used.” As justification, he cited the meeting in Rome, from which “we have in effect obtained the authorization to continue our operations until Hisbullah is no longer present in southern Lebanon.” 

The Descent into Hell Is Optional

On the way to Jean-Marie’s flat, we had walked along the Corniche, a paved boardwalk that fronts the Mediterranean. It was surprising to see that people already were returning to public spaces. A few weeks earlier, the Internal Security Forces had begun to prevent small-scale venders from pushing carts along the Corniche, but now, in the space opened by the chaos of the war, they were back. The Lebanese, after decades of intermittent disruption, have evolved into the most flexible of survivors. They were out again, defiantly. 

Seven with a Single Blow

The morning air was cool, but we were all plagued by swarms of flies that nipped at our ankles. You could swipe at them, but nothing could stop their annoying attacks. Each of us was bothered by a personal swarm, our own Hezbollah. Betsy was talking to a few of the children tormented by the flies. She began to tell them the folktale of the tailor who, when similarly tormented, had once made a desperate swipe and managed to kill seven flies with a single blow. He made himself a belt, proclaiming that he had killed seven with a single blow, and fellow villagers — assuming he had vanquished seven formidable foes — admired his uncanny strength. 

Why Are We the Story?

The western media has been focused like a laser on the dramatic story of the evacuation of refugees from western countries. The Americans I know who are on their way out all have the same question: Why are we the story? With hundreds dead, thousands injured, hundreds of thousands displaced, Lebanon essentially turned into a Gaza with mountains, and the Bush Administration saying that talk of a cease-fire is “premature,” can we ever expect the western media to report what is significant rather than what will entertain its audience? 

Why We Are Staying

It will be an emotional scene tomorrow saying “yalla bye” to our friends who are evacuating from this nasty little war. Most swear they will return. The campus of the American University of Beirut (AUB) will seem a different place then, though it is hard to imagine what it will be like. A handful of non-Lebanese faculty and staff have decided to remain. Betsy and I are among them. We have been together since 1972, and we made the decision together to stay together here. What could we be thinking? We do feel anger at what is happening to Lebanon. We don