The Portuguese on Lebanon

Since this blog is written in English, I’m going to guess at least some of your other media consumption is also in English. And I’ll go out on a limb a little further and guess that perhaps you don’t often hear what the Portuguese people (nevermind the media) think about the sad state of affairs in Lebanon and Israel. Well I have had the privledge of spending many days with constant contact with the Portuguese elderly of my family; grandparents, cousins, great aunts and uncles, and occasionally after all the pleasantries have passed – they express strong opinions on what is happening.

Before I head in to what they say, I should first point out why it matters. To me, it matters because the elderly of Portugal lived most of their lives under a dictatorship. Beyond that, most of them also lived and fought in the nightmare of wars in Mozambique, Angola, and Guinea-Bissau of the 60’s and 70’s… where a still unknown and vast number of people were killed, frequently in gruesome ways. Those wars eventually ended in stalemate and eventually withdrawal by the Portuguese, returning home to a country that had been extremely impoverished and who’s population had dwindled thanks to the government’s obsession with fighting those wars.

I kept all of this in mind over the past days, as relatives and friends in their golden years, spoke about their disgust with what they understood to be happening in Lebanon. My great uncle in particular, who served in the military during colonialism and had even settled in Mozambique until war drove him from his home, he had a particular sadness for the images on the news. I had expected him to support the action of the Israeli military… self-defense, as they call it. I figured he’d support that.

Instead he looked on in frustration:

“There’s no real goal. They have no real goal, and thats obvious from the evidence we see before our eyes. All this destruction and death; They just drop bombs and make war with these unattainable objectives. I’m no fan of terrorism or murder of any kind, but this military strategy is crazy. And of course, (he turns away from the TV to look at me now) you know who makes lots of money on this, don’t you? Besides all the parties involved, it’s the companies that make bombs and tanks and planes that cash in on this. Now they’ll have lot’s of new orders and plenty of money. And the American government is very good friends with these companies, you know BM?”

Of course you can write him off. He’s old. He’s not your great uncle. And surely he’s not a first hand observer, or Israeli or Lebanese for that matter.

But I listened with special attention… because of the life experience he has had. A man who knows all about what military sactioned violence has done and can do. Sure terrorism is terrible, and attention should be given to its causes and to reduce terrorist acts. But clearly if we look to history and those who lived it, there is much to indicate that the stategy of the Israeli military is more dangerous and misguided then noble or necessary.