For Lebanese Sunnis, Support for the Army but no Hero Worship

Public expressions of support and a pragmatic acceptance of the important role the army plays, but suspicion lingers.

— Some see flawed heroes —

To witness the public expressions of support for the army on Lebanese TV, billboards and blogs, you’d be excused to believe that everybody is taking part of the collective festival of idolatry sweeping the country and that only terrorists and cold-hearted fanatics disagree with the sentiment. But there is one group that supports the army without being terribly excited about over-the-top expressions of unconditional support.

Some explaining to do

The general attitudes of average Sunnis is that the army has every right to respond forcefully to criminals and soldier-slayers like Ahmad al Assir, and that every dead soldier is a terrible loss for Lebanon. But there is a very real and disconcerting sense that the army is only expressing its lethal force on Sunni militias and criminals, while turning a blind eye to Shiaa criminals and coordinating with their militias.

Where are the plain-faced killers of Hashem Salman? Where is the man accused of planning to kill Butros Harb? Where are the four people indicted by the international Tribunal for killing Hariri? What with Nasrallah’s blatant confession of fighting in Syria? All questions that are constantly being asked by Sunnis, with dark mutterings of army complicity. Facebook and twitter are drowned in photos and footage of the Lebanese army sitting idly as Hezbollah gunmen with yellow armed bands handle “security”.

To put it plainly, the support of the Sunni community for the army is guarded and conditional. Guarded because they understand that the army, despite their suspicions, is the only institution left that has a semblance of state control and unity, and conditional because they are waiting to see what the Army is planning to do with Hezbollah’s armed security zones in Sunni areas.

The pragmatic and right thing to do is to support the Lebanese army. All the heavyweight Sunni politicians have been driving home that message relentlessly (to the extent you wonder why they feel compelled to repeat it again and again). For now, most of the population understand this and are very aware of its importance.

But they will pass on the hero worship.

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  • Jessy

    Common sense would say that the army prob can’t stand against hizb allah and they have been playing nice. The army isn’t in charge of what it can or cannot do. It follows orders and it’s not here to deal with vendettas. When a force threatens the cities that ppl live in it is given the right to take action. Stop using religion sunni, shiaa, orthodox maronite or druze to segregate the different situations and maybe everyone else will start.

    • romeo

      This is a very good point. People in general, and the Lebanese in particular, tend to see an *entire sect* as a solid homogeneous entity.

      With no allowance for individual freedom of thought.

      This is dangerous and can lead to “dehumanizing” an entire group. This started with demonizing the Shiites, now it is turn of the Sunnis, then who is next?

      As long as we generalize, then people will react by tightening their ranks and looking at the world as “us versus them”.

      And as it is alluded above, we should remember that “The Army” is composed of individuals. Individuals in armies follow orders. You and I may not like this way of life, but this is what armies are for whether we like it or not.

      So lighten up everyone. Look at the world as a collection of individual humans. And more importantly, treat everyone as an individual.

      And those who followed my comments know that I blame religion and faith as the worst offender in creating divisions.

      But if we start shifting our attitudes and writings, hopefully religious intolerance and sectarianism will fade with time.

      They did in the developed world.

  • Fadi

    I beg to differ: I hear all my friends cussing every soldier or LAF Humvee that passes-by while driving. I have never heard of any sunni supporting it, and by that I mean “moderate” sunnis I was out with yesterday on Urugway street pubs.

    Sunnis now see the army as a puppet of hezbo like hezbo is a puppet of khomaini and don’t trust it with anything

  • R

    Well lets compare Shiaa “criminals” – Army relationship vs Sunni – army relationship these past years:

    One side keeps sprouting like cancer from externally financed ideology breeding camps, looking to spark civil wars and have constant deadly clashes with the army. For a clear second time now.

    While the other, clearly better equipped than the army itself, yet it shows no hostility towards it and it’s main offensives are directed outwards.
    Lebanon lies in the dead center of a hostile zone whether you like it or not.

    Looking at the advantages and disadvantages, and past your religious quarrels, please tell me why the army shouldn’t be one sided like you’re accusing it of being.

  • Anonymous

    I think this hits the nail on the head. And while Sunnis are muttering about the army, its role and relationship with Hezbollah, it doesn’t negate the fact that people understand the importance of (if only for show) being vocal and supporting the army. So yes, being from Saida, seeing Assir become what he is and what people have been saying for the past two years, this is a pretty accurate read of the current situation.

  • J

    Don’t listen to R, he’s an idiot. And he’s ok with man love !!!

    • R

      3tine ekhtak

      • J

        3tine hal $ 300 ba2a.
        Allah ouwet

  • Dude

    The Lebanese State is a joke, it has no national principals and the army is a reflection of that. Today’s state policy is to protect Bashar’s flank and maintain the Iranian influence on the country, and the army is helping with this agenda. when the tide changes then the army will change with it. That is the fate of Lebanon since the dawn of time and will continue to be so…

  • zreik

    The army pulled out from the streets of Beirut in 2008 and gave a free hand to hizb el shaytan to do as they please. Although nasrallah claimed at that time on tv that the guns will not turn on fellow lebanese yet his thugs roamed ras el nabe3, bourj abou haidar, mazra3a and barbeer terrorizing people and killing at random!! where was the army then ? why he failed to protect lebanese ? and aren’t nasrallah and al assir very similar ?
    Most of Lebanese have no loyalty to their home country and until the strings are cut we will be always living on top of a volcano !

  • S

    Assir is equally bad as Hezbollah even though one shoots the army while the other shoots civilians. The LA responded on the weaker criminals leaving the stronger ones in control. If Hezbollah demands that some of his followers be freed then that’s what happens because the LA is very weak and can be easily defeated. What Lebanon should do is invest most of it’s money on security and use the donations from countries such as the USA on military. The only way to stop a new civil war is if they have the power to do so. As long as Hezbollah is free, there will always be new groups trying to take control.

  • fraps

    gebran bassil