Some Lebanese fired their Kalashnikovs and tapped into their permanent supply of fireworks to celebrate the victory in the north. Soldiers returned to thousands of jubilant citizens in much of the country, except where the army is replaced by a "resistance" strain. There was no shortage of rice and flowers. However, there was a shortage of common sense.
Yesterday, the images of the killed Fatah al-Islam leader Shaker al-Absi were on every news bulletin. My one year old son, who a few days earlier had waved to a soldier policing angry Sunnis and Shias in Beirut, found himself staring at a dead body on the screen. It was no Spongebob Squarepants episode, although many who gave victory speeches afterwards sounded like cartoon characters.
PM Siniora gave a prime time speech in an attempt to paint it as a political victory for his embattled cabinet. However, Army commander Michel Suleiman went ahead and dedicated the victory to his soldiers and to Hizbullah (aka resistance). Today, Defense Minister Elias Murr gave a press conference to declare, for the second time, victory over the terrorists, and used the event to warn against spoiling the victory by forming a second government. And just when you thought the defense minister was going to use army power to kick out the occupiers of downtown Beirut, the army generals sharing the microphone opened their mouths to exonerate Syrian intelligence. Investigations with the members of Fatah al-Islam did not reveal links to Syrian intelligence, they said. On the contrary, said the head of military intelligence echoing the Syrian foreign minister's statement from the day before, the Syrian army helped the Lebanese army by providing ammunitions. Fatah al-Islam was al-Qaeda 100%, the army claimed, and its members entered the country through the borders, including the airport. Some entered legally, some illegally.
In other words, everybody wins. The government can go on pretending the army is under its command, carrying out its orders, and Hizbullah can rest assured the army crossed no "red lines" by pointing the finger at the sister.
Many questions remain unanswered.
One question is: why did it take so long? Days before Fatah al-Islam fighters decided to run to their brand of martyrdom, media reports claimed some in the army had facilitated the exit of Syrian intelligence officers who were running the battle. Don't ask me for verification.
Another question: Do Fatah al-Islam fighters give different depositions to different security agencies in the countries, depending on what they want to hear? So it's Syrian intelligence to the ISF, and al-Qaeda to the army intelligence?
And how does an organization like Fatah al-Islam keep an entire army busy, plan targets all over the country, and contemplate killing the Maronite patriarch after extensive monitoring without an intelligence infrastructure of some sort? Can any transplant from Yemen rent a car and drive to the patriarch's residence and record his habits without getting caught or at least receiving support?
The Nahr El Bared affair stinks. Sadly, the truth may have become inconvenient for everyone. At least until another camp blows up in the faces of those cheering and being cheered for.
Meanwhile, my wife and I will be searched by the army every time we dare enter the unoccupied part of downtown Beirut. The ISF will pull us over on the way from the hospital, and stare at our sick baby and his unfamiliar car seat, and wonder out loud why the baby has a passport. All that while black SUVs are zooming by unsuspected, criminals getting away with murder, and Hizbullah freely maintaining an occupation not far from where we stand.
"You should be thankful we're doing our job," said the ISF and army officers.