A picture can tell a thousand words and this one is all too Lebanese. Where else in the world are caskets routinely draped in the flags of political parties?

The two coffins pictured above (courtesy Lebanese TV channel NBN) carry the flags of Amal, which is part of a coalition of political movements that reject the US-backed Lebanese government.

Like so many funerals of recent years, this one has evolved into an angry rally with heated calls for revenge. It follows the killing of at least 7 Lebanese citizens after a bloody Sunday afternoon marked by violent riots against the government and sporadic shooting of the protestors. It is not exactly clear who did the shooting yet, but on the streets and in the press, a pro-government party is already being implicated.

Also among the dead on Sunday was a member of Hezbollah, which cloaked its victim’s coffin in the party’s yellow flag. (Image also courtesy NBN)


Meanwhile, a third funeral procession in another part of the country mourned the loss of a man employed by the “Civil Defense,” a government institution, similar to a fire department. His coffin was draped in a Lebanese flag.

One day, three angry funerals, three separate flags. Does this sound like the democracy George Bush refers to when he speaks so fondly of his support for “the Lebanese people”?

And its not just three flags. There are dozens of political parties (i.e. sub-states) in Lebanon, and many on the pro-Western side have held similar rallies at funerals, shouting allegiance to individual leaders rather than the nation as a whole.

As the US gets ever more involved in Lebanon, the American people should realize that this is a deeply divided and complicated place. Like Iraq, Palestine and elsewhere, Lebanon will not simply succumb to the brush strokes of US foreign policy and a very convenient definition of “freedom”.

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Habib Battah
Habib Battah is an investigative journalist and founder of the news site beirutreport.com. Battah has covered Lebanon and the Middle East for over 15 years and teaches journalism and media studies at the American University of Beirut. He is a contributor to Monocle, The Guardian, BBC World, Al Jazeera and others, a former fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University and two-time recipient of the Samir Kassir Press Freedom Award. Battah's investigative work was recently recognized for outstanding local reporting by the Columbia University Oakes Award for Environmental Reporting. Battah earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.A. in Near East Studies and Journalism from New York University.

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