BACKSTAGE

A war for cowards and contemptibles

BLAIR FRASER August 2 1958

BACKSTAGE

A war for cowards and contemptibles

BLAIR FRASER August 2 1958

BACKSTAGE

A war for cowards and contemptibles

BLAIR FRASER

Seldom In the history of human conflict have there been so many lies told on both sides, so many murders of innocent bystanders, so few combat casualties and so little actual fighting as in this so-called rebellion in Lebanon. If it were not for the innocent dead, the Lebanese tragedy would be a comedy.

Every day, right here in Beirut, reporters call upon a rebel leader for whom the government has had a warrant out for months. To make the appointment you ring him on the telephone; to keep it, you take a taxi from the Hotel St. Georges. As you approach his house ten minutes later, you are challenged and searched by ragged civilians, some of them mere schoolboys, carrying automatic rifles that they claim to have bought for themselves with their own money. The army and the police are nowhere to be seen in this Moslem section of town.

IN LEBANON

BEIRUT

To interview another rebel leader at Tripoli, sixty miles up the coast, takes a little more trouble because to pass through the lines at "the front" you need permission from the local army headquarters. When we got there at 11.15 this morning the colonel had not yet arrived, so we had to wait, drinking thick sweet Turkish coffee and inspecting a bazooka shell which, we were told, had been fired by the rebels the day before. At noon the colonel turned up, apologized for keeping us waiting and gave us the necessary permission at once.

Half an hour later and two hundred yards away, rebel chieftain Rashid Karami and his men were telling us about the cowardly attacks they suffered from the army down the hill. Only the day before, look, the house next door had been shelled and a woman and two children killed. We were taken on a tour of the "barricades," thin parapets of sandbags and some bits of barbed wire, and almost immediately firing broke out a couple of blocks away, though whether it came from army or rebel positions we couldn't be sure. Nobody was hit, anyway. The rebels assured us they had no bazookas, no mortars, not even machine-guns — but rifles, with each man providing his own weapon which he had bought for himself from gun runners in the hills.

If they had only rifles, how could they hold off an army that had tanks and artillery?

Pure spirit, they said. "Our morality is very high, sir." So high, in fact, that they expected before long to put the army to flight and win the war.

Actually, the rebels control nearly a third of Lebanon and have kept an army of sorts in the field for two months. The government’s published estimate of rebel forces—twelve thousand men—is probably an exaggeration, but they must be fairly substantial even to patrol all the ground they hold. Yet rebel leaders solemnly assert that they have had no help from any outside source, Nasser or any other; that they finance their war effort out of voluntary contributions from Lebanese patriots, and buy all their arms and ammunition in the open market.

The government, of course, proclaims that the whole rebellion is maintained by Nasser’s Syria. President Camille Chamoun charged publicly that twentylive to thirty percent of the rebel force are Egyptians and Syrians.

Prime Minister Sami Sohl, in an interview, was even more emphatic;

"We have already protested to the United Nations; now we are waiting for action—effective action, not mere observers. Most of the people causing the trouble are Egyptians and Syrians. The people who are fighting are actually soldiers in civilian clothes, and not Lebanese soldiers either. We cannot fight them alone. Even a big country might succumb under such pressure. The least negligence by the United Nations or by the liberal nations will leave Lebanon to the fate of Hungary, and 1 shall be hanged like Nagy.

"Tell the people we are waiting for a favorable decision from the Security Council, not from hour to hour but from minute to minute.”

But if the situation was as desperate as all that, if foreign intervention was so urgently required, why was it that the Lebanese army itself was not fighting?

The interpreter was visibly shocked at this blunt question, but the prime minister was not at all disconcerted. "Your question shows that you have grasped the real problem here in Lebanon,” he said blandly. "I myself have put the same question to the commander of the army (General Fuad Shehab). At the very beginning of the revolt, I said, ‘Give me twenty-five men and two tanks, and I will clean up this situation.’ But the army replied. That would be suicide.’ I am sure that if my advice had been taken there would be no rebellion today.”

Was he telling me that the army commander refused to obey the government’s order to fight?

"Not exactly. The army gives as a reason for not wishing to fight that it wants to avoid needless bloodshed among innocent Lebanese people. When the army gives that explanation, we in the government can see the army’s point of view.”

But if the Lebanese army couldn’t fight without killing innocent people, how could a foreign force do it?

"I have given you the army's reason for not fighting; I have not said that I agree with their reason.”

We went on to talk of other matters, but as I rose to go I came back to the same point: why wouldn’t the Lebanese army fight? Why couldn't it take control even of the Moslem quarter of Beirut itself, where the government admits the rebel force is only seven or eight hundred men?

President Chamoun’s reply to the same query was, "I am sorry I have not more military background.” Prime Minister Sami Sohl was more blunt.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “Why don't you put it to the commander?”

One possible answer is that General Shehab has personal ambitions to become Lebanon’s next president, and does not wish to offend the opposition. Rebel leaders all say he is “acceptable” to them, and his is the only name they mention. But there is a more charitable explanation of the general's apathy, and one that is equally plausible.

This is not the first time Shehab has refused a demand that he use the army to keep a president in office. Chamoun's predecessor, Bechara El-Khoury. became so unpopular midway through a second six-year term that he too was told to resign, by a "revolutionary” group of MPs with pistols. The charge against his government was general scandal and corruption, a charge also leveled against Chamoun's regime. Bechara El-Khoury asked Shehab whether he could count on the army to resist such a coup; Shehab's answer was, "No, our soldiers are recruited to fight against foreign enemies, not against Lebanese.”

El-Khoury took the hint and resigned. Chamoun has not only stayed in office, he has repeatedly refused to deny the charge that he intends to run for a second term (forbidden by the Lebanese constitution as it now stands).

The rebels say that all they want is to get rid of Chamoun. Their real complaint against him is that he supports the West, that he has abandoned “Lebanon’s traditional neutrality” and accepted U. S. aid.

I asked Rashid Karami, the rebel leader: "Why is it bad for Chamoun and Nouri Said of Iraq to take help from the U. S., but all right for Nasser to take help from Soviet Russia?"

“Nasser accepts aid from the Soviet Union because it is offered without conditions,” Karami said. "Nasser remains free. Chamoun and Nouri Said are not free.”

What about the Poles and the Hungarians and the Bulgars, and other such friends of the Soviet Union? Were they free, too?

A veil came down over Karami’s face. "I do not interest myself in countries outside the Arab world,” he said.

For all their talk about neutrality, it was pretty clear that the rebels if they won would rack up a big score against the West, for Nasser’s Arab Republic and to some extent for the Soviet Union.

They might also lead people to forget the contemptible blend of cowardice and cruelty with which they have carried on this rebellion from the start. People are being killed here in Lebanon but in almost all of the cases the people killed are not combatants. At least five hundred, and some estimates run as high as three thousand, have died here in the past two months—shot by snipers from ambush, felled by time bombs and land mines, or hit by stray bullets from street fighters who don’t dare raise their heads high enough to see what they are shooting at. Today a bomb exploded at a spot where eight small children had been playing only minutes before — it was providential that they happened to run off just before the blast.

That is how these brave fellows wage their war against Chamoun. But since Chamoun's own army won t lift a finger to stop them, it’s hard to see how anyone else can. ★

BACKSTAGE WITH ART

Epstein’s Christ... the man-made storm that rocked Vancouver

TO ANY SKEPTIC, this may sound impossible, but for two months this summer B. C.'s Centennial took a back seat in Vancouver, its chief citadel, to a flaming controversy that had absolutely nothing to do with the province's 100 years. In fact, it is now beginning to show some of the elements of a first-class hoax.

What raised the storm was a story in the Vancouver Province (May 26) suggesting that the city might buy a statue of Christ by controversial British sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein. Only one Vancouver citizen, landscape architect Desmond Muirhead. had ever seen the statue. It's doubtful if it will ever get within 5.000 miles of Vancouver. But by the time the wind died down Epstein was a worse name than Dillinger and citizens were about ready to seal the harbor to stop his statue getting in.

How it really started: Ex-war correspondent Ross Munro, editor of the Province, was in Amsterdam where he met Muirhead, who told him about visiting Epstein in London. Epstein had a statue kicking around his studio since 1935. He'd sell it for $15.000 and had even suggested “a spacious country like Canada.” Muirhead smiled, but Munro didn’t.

“It sounded like a good newspaper story," says Munro. “It had religion and art. What more could you ask, except sex?” Back home, Munro ran his story in the Province’s second section under a picture (see cartoon) and a heading: "City Gets First Chance to Buy Epstein Statue.” Not for weeks was it known Epstein had been trying to sell it for 23 years.

How it grew: Province readers

raged against Epstein’s “blasphemy.” “My God, is that my God?” stormed one. So bitter were the attacks that one clergyman criticized the critics as un-Christian. So hot was the story that the rival Sun jumped on the bandwagon. The story was promoted to the front pages. The Province reported a committee of the Vancouver Arts Council would buy the statue. Money was “pouring in." A deluge of 2,000 letters hit the newspapers. Vancouver's worst tragedy in ten years, a bridge collapse killing 18, finally killed the story.

After the storm, these facts emerged: Epstein hadn't offered his statue to Vancouver; the Province had. Vancouver hadn’t offered to buy it; the money “pouring in" was actually $100. "The story was a phony,” says the Sun’s acting city editor Ron Rose, who helped build

it.-RAY GARDNER.

Backstage WITH THE PIVTS VISION

Will his election dream come

true? Here are the facts

PRIME MINISTER Diefenbaker's election-born vision of a bigger, better and more prosperous Canada of the future has inspired almost as much political rib-nudging as admiration since the Conservatives took office. Behind scenes in Ottawa, however, the “vision” is passing quietly but surely from ribaldry to reality. A sure sign that it’s no joke: plans for assessing the nation's wealth and potentialities and for opening up undeveloped areas now add up to a $2-billion bill on taxpayers.

The principal architect of these plans and chief visionary behind the Diefenbaker vision is 46-yearold Alvin Hamilton, a former Saskatoon high-school teacher who is minister of northern affairs and national resources in the PC government.

The size of his job: “From 50% to 70% of our area is not only unexplored for development,” says Hamilton, pointing mostly north.

"it is inaccessible to exploration.” Here are some of Hamilton's plans—most of them so far undisclosed—for doing the job:

* Build a second trans-Canada highway in the north, above the road system now being completed. Estimated cost: $1 billion.

* Give the prairies a stronger link with the St. Lawrence Seaway system by providing a new four-lane super-highway from the Lakehead to Winnipeg.

* Thread a $ 150-million network of arterial roads through northern parts of the provinces. In the west these would connect with the $ 100million highway system already announced for the Yukon and Northwest Territories.

* Begin studies on the possibility of making the Yukon and N.W.T. full provinces. (Statehood for Alaska is now accelerating this plan.)

* Create new government boards to catalogue—for the first time— the extent of Canada's mineral and energy reserves. The government will also survey its new underwater areas — a million square miles added to Canadian sovereignty by the Geneva conference decision that gave countries ownership of their continental shelves. “Our lands beneath the sea undoubtedly have the same mineral potential as lands above water,” says Hamilton.

^ These plans are in addition to the big northern settlement projects already started: the $75-million plan for our first subarctic metropolis at Frobisher Bay and the $40-million relocation of Aklavik in the Mackenzie River delta.

-PETER C. NEWMAN

Backstage WITH OFFICE CRIME

Workers ‘tap the till” for $3V2 millions a year. Here’s who’s stealing—and why . . .

HEADLINE: "Broker Bankrupt. Clerk and $700.000 in Stocks and Bonds Missing.”

This story, originating in Montreal, is only one of many in recent months pointing to a costly, embarrassing and growing canker in Canadian business, more employees—and bosses—than ever before aie indulging in an often-joked-about but nevertheless criminal pastime known as “dipping into the till. More business firms are paying more money than ever before for anti-embezzlement insurance to protect themselves.

Until recent years this insurance was considered hard-to-sell—employers prided themselves on “knowing an honest person when 1 see one." Now more and more are being proved wrongand changing their minds about bonding. Last year Canada’s surety firms (a dozen major outfits and 100 others who sell employee bonding as a sideline) paid out a record $3,263,000 to cover thefts by employees. It’s so bad they say they're losing money. Claims now amount to 76% of the premiums paid. Companies assert their break-even point is 40% when selling and other expenses are included.

Who steals ami why? A clerk who stole $1,000 said he needed it to bury his mother-in-law. A girl snitched $500 to finance her honeymoon. A secretary made off with $5,000 and blamed her boss—she loved him but he didn't love her. The embezzler five times out of six is a man, often the branch manager in a shop or business selling directly to the public. His reasons for embezzling are most often the old ones: drinking, gambling and the other woman.

Who is bonded? About a million Canadians are insured against stealing from the boss, most under a blanket policy that covers the firm. The cost of such bonding varies with jobs. The rate runs up to $15 a year for $10,000 coverage on each Class A employee—anyone who handles money or signs cheques. But it may be much less in firms where there’s a staff of 500 or more. Average cost for Class B workers, who don't handle cash but are near it, is about 80c each a year for $10.000. Factory employees are often bonded as a sort of bonus in a blanket policy.

Who can’t get bonding? Ex-convicts—even under a company blanket policy. Neither can bank employees. “Banks have too many Class A risks,” says one bonding-company official. "We haven’t found a premium satisfactory to us or the banks.” Most banks have their own surety funds to w'hich employees contribute.

The blackest part of this picture, according to bonding-company investigators, is that today’s embezzler is apparently less conscience-stricken than his prewar counterpart. Only one commits suicide today for every three who once took that way out.

—ERIC HUTTON

B ackground

FOLK-DANCE REVIVAL

That old down-athcels standby of cutrate vaudeville and TV—folk singers and dancers in native costume—is becoming not only respectable but fashionable.

Reason: the smash hit of Russia’s Moiseyev dancers in the U. S. and Canada and on Sullivan's TV show. One result: Ballet master Boris Volkoff, a Moiseyev alumnus, and music director Ivan Romanoff had been trying to interest CBC in a folk song-and-dance TV show; the answer was always no. Then came the Moiseyev group, CBC changed its mind and quickly booked the Volkoff-Romanoff show, Rhapsody, for the summer. Romanoff's chorus sings in 44 languages.

ITS AN ILL WIND DEPT.: Two

government agencies, the National Employment Service and the Unemployment Insurance Commission, have had to take on 2,722 extra help to handle an overflow of applicants in the recession. In the past year UIC has paid out $437 million in out-of-work benefits while collecting $252 million from workers and employers. But there’s still money in the till: end of May figure, $662 million.

RESORTS CASHING IN

The salty mixture of business with pleasure is proving a bonanza to resort hotels. Booking conventions of all kinds in spring and fall, many are stretching what used to be a three-month season to seven and even eight months. Says Didace Grise, vice-president of the Ontario Resort Owners Association whose Delawana Inn is turning overflow trade to other resorts: "We used to open mid-June to Labor Day. Now it’s April to November, and we’re always busy.”

FICTION-STORY DOCTOR

Montreal scientist Dr. Hans Selye has a novel — his first — in New York publisher’s hands, following the lead set by Montreal scientist and novelist Dr. Wilder Penfield. It's actually Selye’s own story of frustrations (many of them financial) in medical research. Selye’s Montreal institute is just about broke, needs $200,000 to finish this year’s work. Recently he sent 200 letters to top U. S. and Canadian businessmen, asking for research aid. He got two replies, $20.

MORE DATA ON CANADA

The proposed joint committee on defense was one move to repair slightly frayed relations between Canada and the U.S., but the U.S. government had already begun others: 1. The American embassy in Ottawa is getting a new information officer to tell us more about the U.S.; 2. A “Canada desk” has been set up in Washington to advise the government on how we react to the U.S.