WASHINGTON, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- A former U.S. Marine who served in Lebanon is angry that an Egyptian filmmaker would presume to lecture the ghost of one of his dead comrades about U.S. foreign policy in relation to the Sept. 11 attacks.
The movie montage, titled "11'09"01 September 11," which was screened at the Venice Film Festival last week, consists of the short contributions of 11 directors from around the world.
Egyptian auteur Youssef Chahine uses the artistic device of having the director's alter ego tell the ghost of a Marine killed in Lebanon about the suffering of the Palestinian people and the myriad deaths caused by the United States from Hiroshima to Vietnam.
"Mr. Chahine should look to his own country for the cause of U.S. foreign policy," said William Brownawell of Newville, Pa.
"Experts say bin Laden's terror network grew in part out of Egyptian extremist groups, and many of al Qaida's leaders are Egyptians," said a Council on Foreign Relations fact sheet.
"In recent years, bin Laden brought two leaders of (the) Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Ayman al-Zawahiri and the late Muhammad Atef, into the top echelons of al Qaida ... Dozens of Egyptian militants passed though al Qaida training camps in Taliban-run Afghanistan," it said.
Brownawell served with the Marine peacekeeping force in Lebanon in 1983. In the summer of 1982 the Lebanese government requested a U.S. military presence in that country to serve as a buffer between warring Muslim and Christian factions. In March 1983, the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit, stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., received orders to head to Beirut.
Initially the Americans, along with French, Italian and British forces, provided a measure of stability. But as diplomatic efforts failed to achieve a basis for a lasting settlement, the Muslim factions came to perceive the Marines as enemies, and their positions came under artillery, mortar and small arms fire.
Brownawell blamed U.S. leaders not for their foreign policy decisions but for "tying the hands of the commander on the ground. They refused to let us carry loaded weapons or fortify our compound," he said. "They felt these measures would be seen as aggressive and inconsistent with our 'peacekeeping' role."
In the early morning of Oct. 23, 1983, Iranian-backed Hizballah suicide bombers crashed a truck through the security perimeter of the First Battalion, 8th Marines, headquarters building at Beirut International Airport.
The Marine sentry on duty, who was not allowed to keep a loaded magazine in his rifle, couldn't react in time. The resulting explosion and the collapse of the building killed 241 Marines, sailors and soldiers.
At almost the same time, another truck bomb killed 58 French peacekeepers.
"In Vietnam our (military) leaders were limited by the leadership in Washington," Brownawell said, "and in Somalia when the commander on the ground asked for tanks and heavy artillery to be moved on shore, his request was denied. Our government does not learn from its mistakes, and I fear for our servicemen today."
But he directed his strongest criticism against Chahine. "I am angry that anyone, let alone an Egyptian, would use the image of a Beirut Marine in this way," he said.
"He mentions Nagasaki and Hiroshima as if these were acts of terrorism carried out by the U.S. military. These were acts of retribution for the terrorism committed by the Japanese navy in an unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor. As for the Middle East crisis, even the Palestinian government now realizes that peace cannot be had through the killing of innocent women and children."
In the film, the father of a Palestinian suicide bomber says: "Israel fools everyone. Bush lets them decide who the terrorists are, but imagine your house or the olive trees your ancestors planted being bulldozed."
Brownawell said the "ghost" Chahine attempts to enlighten "is one of the 241 friends I lost that day, killed in his sleep by cowards for bringing peace, not war, to Lebanon. These young men were there to separate the warring parties, including the IDF (Israeli Defense Force), so that a lasting peace could be established and the killing stopped. Neither they nor the U.S. government had any other objective than to assist the Lebanese government in securing peace."
The BBC reported that Chahine's segment brought boos from the audience in Venice.
"Some Americans ... felt the film showed a one-sided view of world events," the network said. It quoted Taran Davies, a New Yorker who was at the festival to show an independent film about Afghanistan in the wake of Sept. 11.
"People are going too far," Davis said. "They are criticizing a lot of purported atrocities committed by the United States rather than the atrocities committed against the United States."
Alain Brigand, the film's French producer, said the collage of shorts wouldn't be shown in the United States "while the American people are still mourning."