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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Dubai court sentences Lebanese to jail for having sex!

Take a break from politics. Marvel at the Arab world's social advances.

This from the Dubai based Khaleej Times.

The Dubai Court of First Instance has sentenced a 19-year-old Lebanese national student Ittab .N, and 24-year-old Syrian national Mahir to one year in prison on the charge of adultery.

On August 14 this year, Ittab’s mother informed the police that her daughter had left home in Karama area in Ajman at 2.30am and did not return. The girl was arrested in Dubai the same day at 4pm and Mahir was summoned to the police station. The two accused were referred to the Ajman police for investigation on the charge of adultery, but the case was transferred to Dubai because the two accused had had sex in a hotel at Nakheel Diera.

The Dubai public prosecution arrested them under the charge of copulation with consent. A virginity test carried out showed the girl was having sex for over six months. During the interrogation, the two accused confessed to having sex several times in the hotel in Dubai. Mahir said Ittab was his sister's friend and their relationship dated back to eight months. He loved the girl and wanted to marry her but her family objected because he is a Muslim, while the girl was Druz. Ittab told the police that she ran away from home to go to the Awqaf department where she spent the entire night waiting for the office to open in the morning. She embraced Islam and later with Mahir checked into the hotel where she was arrested. Ittab admitted making a mistake by having sex with Mahir but she had wanted to use this to pressurise family members to let her marry her lover.

The court officials tried to convince the father to let his daughter marry her lover and to cancel the lawsuit no 2076/2005. But he refused and insisted that his daughter should be imprisoned rather than marry a Syrian national because of his personal anti-Syria stand. Besides, the boy was also not from the Druz community, he added. So, the two accused were referred to the court, which sentenced them on July 11 to one year in jail.

This is Dubai, where billions of dollars are spent on fancy structures and useless man-made islands, and where people (actually, only other Muslims) get arrested for engaging in "copulation with consent."

You know, Geena Davis a few days ago became the first female American president... on television. Her first act as "president of the free world" was to liberate a Nigerian woman jailed for having sex. I am going to send an e-mail to the show to ask for the liberation of this poor couple.

I've been to Dubai. My impression was that it looked like a Martian colony.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

PFLP-GC: the new Hizbullah?

Those poor Palestinian refugees. The last thing they need right now is pro-Syrian PFLP to hijack their security and use them as shields against their hosts and pawns in Syria's dirty game in Lebanon. According to the Daily Star, Damascus-based Ahmad Jibril has instructed PFLP-GC members in all refugee camps to "be on full alert and be ready for mobilization at any moment."

Background: Last week, there were unconfirmed reports about armed Palestinians (PFLP coming from Syria) infiltrating the border and the Daily Star today confirmed that the Lebanese army has set up checkpoints at more than 25 illegal entry points along the border with Syria.
Last year, the Lebanese army issued an ultimatum to PFLP-GC to stay out of southern Lebanon after guerrillas fired 3 Katyusha rockets from South Lebanon on the outskirts of the northern Jewish settlement of Margeliot in retaliation to the assassination of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza. There were also reports that PFLP-GC has been reinforcing its bases in the Bekaa and Ne'meh following the Syrian withdrawal.

Back to the Daily Star article:
Sources said an emergency meeting was expected to be held at the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut between PFLP-GC representatives and representatives of Palestinian factions as The Daily Star went to press.

Lebanese security authorities warned all security and military personnel to stay away from the camps for "fear of friction or kidnappings," according to the source.

Many Palestinian refugees have had it with these factions manipulating and terrorising them. But as long as the refugees remain without rights and employment opportunities, we will continue to see refugee youth joining militant factions, espousing misguided causes and harboring resentment towards the Lebanese government, something that could easily play into the hands of Syria (a lot can be said about Syria's role in the camps, but that's another post).

If these reports are to be believed, then Syria is probably realizing that Hizbullah can no longer play the role it played before Hariri's assassination. Even though the party of God says it will not disarm or give up its struggle against Israel, I doubt it will be party to an escalation of violence in the south. The only groups capable of that are the pro-Syrian Palestinian factions. Some bloggers (Vox) have linked the infiltration reports to recent bombings that targeted journalists and politicians. I personally think Syria is quietly trying to building a front in the south with Palestinians replacing Hizbullah as instigators.

Perhaps if we start treating the Palestinian refugees as human beings they will start liking us a little better.

UPDATE: More on this here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Murr, Syria and al-Qaeda

Elias Murr is an unexpected entry on the so called “living martyrs” list. His claim to the title lies in a telephone interview with Marcel Ghanem on LBC, the station that will stop doubting the Hariri investigation now that one of their own has made it to the hit list. Murr basically accused Syrian intelligence of engineering the attempt on his life, a remarkable accusation considering Murr’s former ties with Syria.

According to Murr, the “problem” with Syria’s former de-facto high commissioner in Lebanon Rustom Ghazaleh started when internal security forces busted an al-Qaeda cell in Anjar (former seat of the Syrian military intelligence) in September 2004. (At the time we were told in a dramatic public broadcast by Murr that the captured terrorist cell planned to blow up the Italian embassy in downtown Beirut). Following the arrests, which was ridiculed at the time by As-Safir, an enraged Ghazaleh reportedly phoned the head of the security forces Said Eid at 3:00 am and “a heated argument ensued”, and then the “Syrian intelligence officer uttered incredible and irresponsible words” (meaning he probably insulted his mother, sister, or similar).

Murr, who was interior minister at the time, continues: “I immediately called him [Ghazaleh]… and we all remember what happened after the Anjar incident, the clashes between Syrian workers and Lebanese citizens in Burj Hammoud, Nabaa, North Metn and Sin-el-fil… (?) I called him and did the right thing. I told him that he didn’t have the rank or the authority as a non-Lebanese officer to call a high ranking Lebanese officer and talk to him in that manner… After that Eid, who was on another line listening to the conversation, offered me his condolences and said ’go pack your belongings, it looks like it’s time you went home (meaning leave the ministry).’ ”

After that seemingly courageous phone call to Ghazaleh, Murr received information that his life was in danger. He left the ministry soon after and took up semi-permanent residence outside the country until he became defence minister in the Mikati government and his convoy was targeted in an assassination attempt in the series of attacks that followed Hariri’s assassination.

“But after May Chidiac assassination attempt, I decided that I had had it. We’re all in the same boat,” said Murr, currently in hiding in Zurich.

Murr’s assassination attempt had left many scratching their heads. If Syrians were behind the attacks, why target one of their allies, the son of one of Syria’s staunchest allies, and Lahoud’s son in law? It made little sense at the time, even after Murr said from his hospital bed that the security services were intentionally neglecting information they had about serious threats against him.

Beirut’s media embraced Murr’s latest confession without much examination. The Syrian official news agency SANA, citing official media sources, denied Syrians had threatened Murr over the Anjar arrests. But Mehlis spent some time at the Lebanese defence ministry on Tuesday and reportedly asked for a copy of the LBC programme. An-Nahar said Wednesday that Murr’s testimony would provide strong evidence of how Syrian authorities freely threatened Lebanese officials, possibly validating claims that Rafik Hariri had been similarly threatened when he opposed the Lahoud extension.


Oh, and Lahoud, the father in law and Lebanon’s PRESIDENT (!!!!) jumped to Syria’s defence and reaffirmed the special ties bla bla bla… (vomit)

But what about that al-Qaeda cell? Did anybody bother to ask why would Ghazaleh lose his temper over the arrests? Did he believe those people were, umm, innocent? Or was he protecting them? Questions our media did not bother ask considering that most of these Islamists have been released under an amnesty law passed by parliament in July (the same law that secured the release of Samir Geagea)!

The ten Qaeda suspects (11 actually but one of them, their "leader", died in custody, his relatives claimed torture) were moved from prison to prison for over a year without ever being charged. Why were they not charged when Murr confidentally announced on television last year that they were planning to attack the Italian embassy, the Ukranian embassy and a bunch of Lebanese targets. "The network's role had been to enlist fundamentalists to carry out attacks in Iraq,” he added.

In interviews with the Daily Star, members of this alleged cell confessed to being Salafis with Jihadi inclinations. Some admitted they had fought in Iraq or considered joining the insurgency there.

When Syrian border police asked Yassin what he was doing in Iraq, he simply
replied, "I am a Mujahid."
I am going to ask this again: Was Syria protecting and nurturing those Islamists?

Al-Moustaqbal in one phrase on Wednesday said that Syria ran Islamist “farms” in the country. They cited no sources, presented no evidence.

But if the Islamists were really guilty (like Murr believed), and Syria was protecting them, why were they released?

I am just a blogger. I don’t have access to information like that. I know that Lebanese officials are whining about the incompetence of the security forces and their inability to conduct investigations. But do we have to wait until more people are killed until they decide to share snippets with us?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Rizk: Lebanese police is primitive

Millions (hundreds?) of dollars were spent during the Lahoud era on the security services in Lebanon. Last night the Lebanese people were told by one of Lahoud's allies, Justice Minister Charles Rizk that:
"Unfortunately the investigation techniques and [methods of] fighting crime in Lebanon are still primitive," Rizk said. "Terrorism has reached a high level of advanced technology, and that is why it is impossible for the Lebanese judiciary and investigating techniques to proceed as they did before the UN probe."

In other words, we will never find out who killed Kassir and Hawi, who planted those midnight bombs, or who tried to kill Hamade and Chidiak.

Thanks a lot, ma3ali al wazir. Thank you for assuring us that without international probes, Lebanese people are doomed to live in a lawless jungle. We are to conclude from what you said that all the funds allocated for defense, army and security over the past 7 or so years were used to terrorize and kill Lebanese people, not defend them and protect them from crime. Of course this is not news to us. It just sucks to hear it at a time our president still will not take responsibility for running a country for the benefit of another.

Please join me in a collective TFOOOO.

Al-Jazeera's second class victims

Al-Jazeera, which claims impartiality and equal coverage of "the opinion and the other opinion" is very far from being so. Hostile interviewing of Israelis and excessive showings of Iraqi deaths does not qualify as objective coverage. Let me tell you why.

While their Iraq coverage does show us what many other news networks simply and shamefully ignore, the human cost of the imbecile American occupation, al-Jazeera insists on calling acts of murder "resistance" when they're clearly plain unjustifiable murder.

Take for example the headline of this article "Blair to keep troops in Iraq, admits resistance ferocity." As you might expect, Blair did not refer to it as "resistance." In fact, there is no mention of "resistance" in the body of the article simply because Blair called it "insurgency" and the al-Jazeera online editor could not fabricate beyond the headline.

That same article, as most al-Jazeera articles on Iraq, reports the "killing" of a number of Iraqis. If you click on an adjacent Palestine story, however, you'll learn that Palestinians were "martyred." Why can't Iraqis be martyrs too? I personally would prefer if they didn't play God and judge what part of the after life these poor souls will be sent to, but why are Iraqis being treated as second class victims?

Al-Jazeera likes to highlight the Iraqi death toll, but those deaths are clearly not as special as other deaths in the Arab world, especially when the killers are Arab or Muslim. Other "unspecial" deaths have included Rafik Hariri and the others who are still being killed/targeted by Syria. These are "killed" or "meet their deaths."

What a shame for a network that claims fairness and objectivity. Fairness is not in only covering what others ignore, but in treating everybody equal in the language you use to describe their unfortunate deaths. By reserving the label "martyr" for mostly Sunni victims killed by non-Arabs, al-Jazeera is no different from Fox news or other networks that reserve the label "terrorist" for Muslims.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Berri, Hizbullah and patriotism

Berri and Hizbullah’s recent questioning of Siniora’s patriotism did not prevent them from continuing to unpatriotically ignore Syria’s role in massacring Hariri and 20 others in broad daylight in downtown Beirut. (Even Syria is not ignoring Syria's role!)

To explain their unwillingness to point the finger at Syria (despite mounting evidence), the former warlord and his former fundamentalist enemies/friends claim that they are awaiting the results of the investigations. Yet they did not hesitate to accuse Siniora, the US and the rest of the “foreign” world including Israel of all sorts of things without any kind of evidence (of course now their minds have been put to rest by Siniora himself who did the necessary, which in Lebanon consists of making them feel important again… until the next time Siniora tries another USEFUL and CONSTRUCTIVE thing for the country).

So it does not take a genius to conclude that Berri and Hizbullah could not care less about Hariri’s death. One less obstacle, as far as they are concerned. So where do they get off questioning someone else’s patriotism? How is ignoring Hariri’s killers patriotic? Does it not take a patriot to stand up to outside forces that are trying to destroy your country over the heads of those who work for its interests?


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Siniora vs. the obscurantists

The public quarrel between Siniora and Berri has degenerated into a pure power struggle, with both sides exchanging lectures on how the country should be run and how executive decisions should be made.

Siniora’s Wednesday response to Berri’s obtuse “Lebanon is not for sale” affirmation made it clear that Siniora does not intend to seek the approval of Berri before every step, as it had been the norm in the past when Rafik Hariri had to run everything by Berri, Lahoud and of course the master Syria. Speaking to reporters before his Washington meetings, Siniora said the parliament (meaning Berri) should get used to practicing the principle of separation of powers, and threw in a reminder that the chamber of deputies only has the authority to hold the government accountable for its decisions and not play the role of an executive partner.

Berri, whose dramatic rejection of privatization shifted the focus back to Lebanon from NY and DC where Siniora and Hariri were lobbying for aid, hurried with a response published in as-Safir accusing the prime minister of unilaterally making “hasty” decisions that could send the country into the “unknown.” What is remarkable here is that Lahoud, perhaps unwittingly, lent support and constitutionality to Siniora’s international activities by announcing that the prime minister was coordinating with him every step of the way and that his actions were complimentary to the president’s own actions at the UN (whatever these were). Berri’s claim that Siniora was not acting within his constitutional rights is false, as he went there as head of the Lebanese government and with the backing of the council of ministers.

The rejection of privatisation is going to generate a massive headache for Siniora who, though patiently big on dialog, seems intent on fully exercising his constitutional prerogatives and not waste time getting stuck in Berri’s webs, which of course is an incredibly difficult thing to avoid. Berri is already showing signs of reneging on promises he made to Hariri’s bloc that he would not stand in the way of reform like he used to in the past, even if he personally didn’t think selling certain public sectors was a good idea. With Jumblatt and Hizbullah humming similar tunes, Berri will find it easy to forget any promises he made and carry on being the old stubborn and obstructionist politician he has always been.

What’s alarming at this point is that the campaign on Siniora is taking on another aspect that is tragically reminiscent of the Syrian sponsored campaign on Hariri before his assassination, which painted the former PM as a traitor who is selling his country to the US and Israel. Even Jumblatt and his followers have released (and then pulled) a statement warning of any caveats in the international support for Lebanon that might require Lebanon to give in to American demands regarding UNSC resolution 1559, something that could jeopardize, according to the PSP statement, Lebanon’s “Arab standing and the country’s stance towards the Arab Israeli struggle.“

That Siniora had to remind them that “there would be no foreign interference in Lebanon's affairs” and that seeking aid did not mean Siniora signed on to disarming Hizbullah is both insulting and a sad indicator of the decaying, hypocritical and unprogressive nature of Lebanese politics. I think Berri and co have proven that they are unqualified to pass bills let alone reform without the interference of another country, so they should be the last to talk. This whole episode makes Saad Hariri and Siniora appear like the only politicians who are attempting to deal with and are aware of the realities of international affairs. Although it appears that Siniora is in a difficult position regarding 1559 and the issue of Hizbullah, it seems like he has succeeded in, at least temporarily, convincing the US and the EU that Hizbullah is an internal affair that would be settled in due time and that economic aid should not be contingent on disarming them. That’s something he needs to be commended on and not pre-judged.

Berri, Hizbullah and Jumblatt clearly have to stop clutching onto policies that are no longer useful in post-Rafik Hariri Lebanon. Surely there must be ways to safeguard that “resistance” while establishing an overdue rule of law in the country. And surely there must be a way to accept economic aid and implement reform without fearing Lebanon would stop being “Arab” or be forced into peace with Israel. I hope Jumblatt especially realizes that by sounding the resistance alarm every time there is talk of privatization or foreign aid, he sounds like those dictators who use the Arab Israeli struggle as a permanent excuse for not implementing reform.

Somewhere in Riyadh, now a father of 3, Saad Hariri, is finally experiencing what his father went through. Perhaps now he is coming to realize that his father’s policy to keep everyone happy and bite the bullet did not even help him stay alive, let alone implement his project to carry Lebanon into the future. Saad needs to be rethinking his alliances in light of this vitriolic and reactionary attack on Siniora’s government. Perhaps now he knows that Rafik Hariri’s killers weren’t just the Syrians and their puppets. Rafik Hariri was also killed by some of his allies and political protégés whose feudal mentalities and obscurantism assassinated his vision before his person. And now these same people who wept in his funeral are trying to dispose of the resurgence of hope that his tragic death ironically gave birth to.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Arabs: Game over. Israel wins.

Has the time come for Arab leaders to cut the BS and drop their pretend conflict with Israel?
Fifty-seven years of what many of us believed to be a genuine struggle against Zionism have been reduced into this:

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom urged Arab and Muslim leaders to bring their growing contacts with Israel "out into the light of day." "Here in New York this week, I have had the honor of meeting with more than 10 of my colleagues from the Arab and Muslim world, a number unthinkable, even two years ago," he told the General Assembly.

"Unfortunately, many of our ties with the Arab and Muslim world are still deep in the shadows, away from the public eye," he added. "Today, I call on my Arab and Muslim colleagues to bring our contacts out into the light of day, so that our peoples may understand our shared desire to work with each other, to bring peace and prosperity to our region," the foreign minister said.

Yes, why don’t Israel’s “Arab and Muslim colleagues” bring the contacts out into the light? Why extend this charade any further.

After all, the self-described last bastion against Israeli “plots” has effectively decimated whatever was left of the cause last February and is now offering this:

... In a bid to gain France's support, Syrian President Bashar Assad sent military intelligence chief Assef Shawkat to Paris "to offer the French officials an interesting deal," which he believed would discharge Syria from its suspected involvement into Hariri's death. [The Kuwaiti paper al-Seyassah] said Shawkat met with his French counterpart and an official from the bureau of French President Jacques Chirac.

According to the newspaper, the deal included a Syrian pledge to "deploy 50,000 along the Syrian-Iraqi borders to help maintain security, to withdraw the remaining and secret intelligence officials from Lebanon, to hold diplomatic relations with Israel, recognize it as a state and renounce its calls for regaining the Golan Heights." The pledge also included "extradition of terrorists detained in Syrian prisons," added the newspaper. In return, Assad would be discharged from his suspected involvement in Hariri's killing.

Yes, anything to stay in power. Despicable.

But at least Qatar was open and didn't insult our intelligence. Its foreign minister even urged Arab nations on Wednesday to reciprocate Israel’s Gaza pullout by dropping their refusal to talk to the Jewish state.

Seemingly shocked, and speaking during a visit to Mars, former Lebanese PM Salim Hoss called for an Arab League meeting to take measures to "check this sweeping, ominous tide." Yes, you heard it. An Arab league meeting. The Arab leaguers can’t even agree on a date to meet let alone be relied on to speak against their own covert policies!

"I wonder how they can undertake such a step, forgetting a cause they espoused for more than half a century ... under the pretext of rewarding the Zionist enemy for withdrawing from Gaza," Hoss said in a statement.

So unbelievably naive it's laughable. But this is coming from Hoss, a failure of a politician who let a dictator's-proxy-turned-president post military personnel in every ministry and watched the abuse of the constitution in disgraceful silence-- all that while posing as champion of Arab rights.
And then Hazem Saghieh in al-Hayat puts it like this:

Most Arab countries, if they can be sure that public reaction can be controlled, would do what Qatar is doing.

What a myth! When exactly did the public reaction matter to those so called tyrants? Did it matter to the Syrians when they killed Hariri? Did it matter to Saddam when he invaded Kuwait, butchered Kurds and Shias? Did it matter to Mubarak when he forged his election? Did it matter to Arafat when he co-destroyed Lebanon and signed Oslo? Did it matter to King Hussein of Jordan when he was recruited by the CIA? Did it matter to the Saudi kings when they kept their people busy with religion while they fornicated and played poker?

Did the people matter to the Arab tyrants when they, whether intentionally or through incompetence and deceipt, transferred the Palestinian cause to fundamentalist organizations like Hizbullah and Hamas? Did it matter to them that a large number of young Arabs and Muslims would become radicalized in such a way that if and when peace happens, they will automatically find themselves in a clash with the silent and more moderate yet oppressed majority? Did it matter to Hafez and Qadhafi and Saddam that those new radicals will always need a struggle to survive because their entire raison d’etre was built on fighting an enemy through violence. When the enemy disappears, they will take it out on the very people they once defended.

it never really mattered. This whole struggle business to them was a way to subdue their people.

What a sad, sad fate. I've been called a negative person by many. I am willing to be shown another reality than what I can see now. Until that happens, I believe that it's officially over. Israel has triumphed. The Arab masses, brought up on conspiracy theories and subjugated by tyranny, are so lacking in discipline and will power that they can’t even prevent a bunch of lunatics like al-Qaeda from hijacking what should have been a noble cause and turning it into a pathetic excuse for spreading terror and ignorance.

And before anyone out there thinks that I am advocating continued war on Israel, I am not. All that I and people like me wanted was justice. Justice for all, and not for the chosen few. I don't see that happening soon, do you?

Monday, September 19, 2005

On this day in history

On this day in history:

1796: President George Washington's farewell address is published. In it, America's first chief executive advises, ''Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.''

1911: Sir William Golding, author of the novel "Lord of the Flies", is born.

1928: Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse makes his first appearance in the animated short Plane Crazy. Later that year, he will star in Steamboat Willie, the first animated film with synchronized sound.

1952: The United States prevents film legend Charlie Chaplin from returning to Hollywood until he is investigated by the Immigration Services.

1957: The United States conducts its first underground nuclear test, in the Nevada desert.

1972: This blogger is born in Beirut, Lebanon; A diplomat at the Israeli embassy in London is killed by a letter bomb.

1985: A massive quake under Mexico City kills and injures thousands, devastating three states along the Pacific coast.

1997: An Intercity 125 ploughs into a freight train in west London, killing six and injuring more than 150.

2001: The Pentagon orders combat aircraft to the Persian Gulf in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

2002: President George W. Bush asks Congress for authority to ''use all means,'' including military force if necessary, to disarm and overthrow Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein if he did not quickly meet United Nations demands to abandon all weapons of mass destruction.

2003: Hurricane Isabel hits the east coast of the United States and sweeps through the area around Washington, DC.

2005: This blogger celebrates 33 years of existence; Large-scale corruption in post-Saddam Iraq's ministries, particularly the defense ministry, leads to one of the biggest thefts in history with more than $1 billion going missing; Al-Qaeda's deputy leader says for the first time the group carried out the 7 July suicide bombings in London, in which 52 people were killed; NASA announces plans to return to the Moon by 2020.


Saturday, September 17, 2005


Gassed, 1919, John Singer Sargent.

Sargent, a leading society artist, was given an assignment by the British government to depict "Anglo-American co-operation" in World War I. He ended up painting a scene of a mustard gas attack that he witnessed on the western front. In the background, and you have to see this painting in person to notice it, there's a football match going on regardless of the procession of horror in the front (click on the photo for a larger version). I first saw this painting in Boston at the MFA. It's now back at the Imperial War Museum in London.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Remembering the Sabra and Shatila massacre

The Washington Post in September 1982 described it as “something out of someone’s worst dreams. Buildings broken, bodies lying in the street, people in alley ways crumpled in great big piles.”

On Saturday morning, September 18 1982, the world discovered a massacre in the areas of Sabra and Shatila south west of Beirut. Hundreds of bodies of Palestinian and Lebanese men, women and children, mutilated, hacked, ridden with bullets, tied up and raped, and some burnt beyond recognition covered the narrow alleys of the Palestinian refugee camp in Shatila and the surrounding Lebanese neighborhoods.

The massacre capped a bloody Israeli invasion that, according to the Macbride international commission that investigated the invasion, killed 20,000 people, 80 per cent of whom were civilians. It also orphaned 6000 children and made 800,000 refugees.

The Macbride report concluded that Israel “committed acts of aggression contrary to international law, made use of weapons and warfare forbidden by international law, deliberately and indiscriminately bombarded civilian targets including hospitals and schools, systematically bombarded cities, towns, villages and refugee camps, and was involved in the planning and the preparation of the massacres at Sabra and Shatila and played a facilitative role in the actual killings.”

A recent book by Bayan al-Hout put the number of victims in the Sabra and Shatila massacre at 3500.

On September 16, the Israeli army led select members of the “Lebanese Forces,” the “Free Lebanon Army,” “the Tigers” and the “Guardians of the Cedars” - all Christian Maronite militias trained and armed by Israel- into Sabra and Shatila. The army lit the sky with flares and supervised the killings from a tall command post overlooking the scene.

This “noble” mission, as described by one of the killers in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, was to rid “Lebanon of its last remaining enemies. We were to search the camp and take all the able-bodied men prisoners.” Acting on orders from Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon and the Israeli Army Chief of Staff to “find and destroy terrorists,” they stabbed and shot their way into the modest refugee homes and shelters, accompanied by “Israeli friends”, as the killer described them, who were there to make their work “easier."

The issue of the Palestinian refugees in Beirut had been on the table during the meetings that brought together Bashir Gemayel and then defence minister Ariel Sharon. Between June 15 and September 12, Sharon and his chief of staff Raphael Eitan pressured the Lebanese Forces to implement “Operation Spark”, which involved the entry of the Lebanese forces into West Beirut and the refugee camps.

During a meeting in the house of the Lebanese army intelligence officer Johnny Abdo on the 23rd of July (while West Beirut was under siege), Bashir appeared unwilling to take care of the Palesinian “problem” himself, and asked the Israelis to shoulder the responsibility. He told the head of Military Intelligence (General Saguy) that the “general problem” of Palestinian refugees was too early to be discussed. However, he asked the IDF to occupy southwest Beirut and destroy the camps as that action “won’t cause great sorrow among local Muslims residing in the northwestern part of the city and some would even cooperate.”

After Bashir’s assassination on September 14, Sharon met with the distraught Lebanese forces commanders and pressured them to enter Beirut. He told them to “take control of the Lebanese army” before “proposals are made.” If they entered West Beirut behind the Israeli army, he told them, they could create facts on the ground that can withstand future American pressure:

Employ every legal avenue, [but] if you don’t succeed we will support you.

According to Israeli authors Schiff and Ya’ari, Sharon at this point “ordered” the Lebanese Forces commanders to “to enter the camps and destroy whatever was left of the PLO's infrastructure in West Beirut. He is quoted as saying "I don't want a single one of them left!" When Elie Hobeika, the head of the LF military intelligence, pressed for details on “how to single them out”, Sharon replied: “I am off to Bekfaya now. We’ll discuss that at a more restricted session.”

The Sabra and Shatila massacre was essentially a military operation planned by the Israeli army. The degree of direct Israeli involvement is staggering. All evidence indicates that it was a military operation facilitated by the Israeli army in every way possible: through the maps, the presence of a liaison officer at the forward command post, the flares that lit up the skies for the killers, and the presence of Israeli soldiers with the killers.

The killer who was interviewed by Der Spiegel in February 1983 said that he belonged to the Tigers, the militia that Bashir had pretty much eliminated while consolidating his power in East Beirut. He also said that many of his comrades had lost a brother in battles with the Palestinians. He mentiones “a dozen Israelis in green uniforms without indication of rank” who came along. “They had maps with them and spoke Arabic well, except that like all Jews, they pronounced the hard 'h' as 'kh.' “Our officers had told us that "the Israeli friends who will accompany you are also volunteers, they haven’t said anything to their army about their involvement with us…they will make your work easier."

Although the Kahan commission set up after the massacre denied the existence of Israeli soldiers among the killers, many survivors and witnesses have indicated that they heard or spotted Israeli soldiers. The choice of the killers who went into the camps was made in accordance with their background and their level of hatred towards Palestinians.

The Sabra and Shatila massacre generated a lot of negative publicity for Israel. Even though Begin had given the impression that he did not care for world opinion, he started to fear the effects of this massacre on American support for Israel, especially in light of Regan’s peace plans.

Sharon and Begin thus did not hesitate to entirely blame their Christian allies for it. Following massive public outcry, the Likud led government set up an inquiry commission to investigate “all the facts and factors connected with the atrocity carried out by a unit of Lebanese forces against the civilian population in the Shatila and Sabra camps.”

The Kahan report’s main focus was to show Israel’s “moral fortitude and its functioning as a democratic state that scrupulously maintains principles of the civilized world.” It never set out to interview survivors and never visited the site of the massacre. In another word, it was not an investigation. It was considered good enough that Israel conducted such an inquiry “on a subject not related to Israel’s responsibility.”

Nevertheless, the Kahan commission recommended the dismissal of the Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, Chief of Staff Raphael Eitan and Director of Military Intelligence Yehoshua Saguy for not foreseeing the killings (and not for their role in it), in the context of “no guilt can be assigned to Israelis.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Guardians of the Cedar are back and want to kill Palestinians

A Lebanese prosecutor on Wednesday ordered the arrests of three Guardians of the Cedar members for reportedly issuing calls to expel/kill Palestinian refugees and withdraw Lebanon from the Arab League. Habib Younes, Naji Awdeh and Joseph Khoury held a press conference Tuesday in Kaslik and handed out CDs containing their party’s ideology and principles. According the As-Safir and the National News Agency (NNA), the CD carried messages declaring it a duty for every Lebanese to kill a Palestinian.

“Lebanon is not part of the Arab world and we don’t belong to Arabism,” the NNA quoted one of the members as saying. He reportedly also preached against having ties with “Arabs” on grounds they aren’t the kinds of people Lebanon should be having relations with.

PM Siniora on Wednesday condemned these statements by a “group that still lives in the illusions of the past despite all what Lebanon has been through.” He said Lebanese people reject these “terrorist” calls, adding that Palestinian refugees will remain under the protection of the Lebanese government and the Lebanese people until their "dignified return to their country."

Siniora’s own delusion about the right of return apart, the resurgence of the Guardians of the Cedar is a bit unsettling.

For those who are too young to remember them, the Guardians of the Cedar are an ultra-nationalist, anti-Arab, anti-Islam, anti-Palestinian Lebanese Christian party. Formed in 1969 by Etienne Sakr (Abu Arz) following the Cairo agreement that allowed the PLO to launch attacks against Israel from Lebanese soil, it took upon itself the task of liberating Lebanon from Palestinians, Syrians, Iranians, Arabs and all their associates (at the time, that meant the rest of Lebanon). Some of their accomplishments in that regard included participating in massacres at Tal el-Zaatar, Jisr el-Basha, Nabaa and Karantina. They became part of the Lebanese Forces in 1976 when Bashir Gemayel brought all Christian militias under his command. Some of their members are believed to have taken part in the Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982.

Abu Arz summed up his party’s ideology (developed in part by Lebanese poet Said Akl) and mission in an interview with the Jerusalem Post during the Israeli invasion on 23 July 1982:

The Lebanese are not Arabs. In fact God, in His Wisdom, gave us the eastern mountain range to separate us from the Arabs… What the situation calls for is a strong leader to replace the old rotten politicians like Pierre Gemayel, Suleiman Franjiyeh and Camille Chamoun, corrupted by Ottomanic self seeking Levantinism… We don’t care about the PLO, it is the Palestinians we have to deal with. Ten years ago there were 84,000; now there are between 600,000 and 700,000. In Six years they will be 2 million. We can’t let it come to that. [the solution is] very simple, monsieur. We shall drive them to the borders of ‘brotherly’ Syria and tell them to keep walking. Anyone who looks back, stops or returns will be shot on the spot.

After the massacres of Sabra and Shatila, Sakr held a press conference in Jerusalem and took responsibility for carrying out the massacre with the Israelis: "No one has the right to criticize us; we carried out our duty, our sacred responsibility."

Sakr, who I think is currently hiding in Israel, was sentenced to death by a Lebanese court for treason and dealing with enemy. There's a lot about their ideology on their many web sites that I won't bother repeating here, including a "Lebanese alphabet" developed by Akl. I personally find their "ideology" laughable, illogical and scientifically obsolete.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Kuwaiti Paper: Hariri taped last conversation with Assad

The following is mideastwire.com's translation of an article in al-Seyassah:

Al Seyassah, an independent Kuwaiti newspaper, reported on September 10 that sources said Detlev Mehlis, the German Prosecutor heading the UN probe into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, has in his possession a tape recording containing threats from Syrian President Bashar Assad against Hariri.The recorded tapes also show Syrian persistence on the desire to extend Lahoud’s presidential term for three more years. “The sources said that Hariri managed to record the last conversation he had with Assad, with a recording pen given to him by French President Jacques Chirac” Al Seyassah said.

“The sources continued that Assad prodded Hariri to agree on Lahoud’s presidential term’s extension whether he liked it or not, or else he [Assad] would destroy Lebanon within 10 minutes on top of Hariri’s head,” the newspaper added. Al Seyassah reported that Hariri was also threatened by the previous Syrian military intelligence chief, Rustom Ghazaleh, who shoved a gun in Hariri’s face and ordered him to listen to Assad.

Al Seyassah also reported that the sources confirmed that Assad refused a request from Jamil Sayyed, Lebanon’s former head of the General Security, to hide in Syria, instead bribing him with $100 million dollars so that he would keep silent about the assassination crime. The newspaper added that the sources also confirmed that the US President George W. Bush and French President Jacques Chirac hold a copy of the tapes.

Assad has denied he threatened Hariri, claiming he only "discussed" the "plan" to extend Lahoud's term with Hariri. Here's what he told Der Spiegel a few weeks ago.

Assad: And some have even said I threatened him. Others claimed a security agent pointed his pistol at Hariri's head. That's simply ridiculous. In that conversation, we discussed extending the term of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud. It's obvious that Hariri was against the idea. So I told him: "We don't want to pressure you. Go back to Lebanon and then give us your decision." He told us a few days later that he agreed with the plan. Why should Syria kill someone with whom it has no differences of opinion? It doesn't make any sense at all. In truth, we Syrians are the ones who ended up suffering the greatest drawbacks as a result of this affair.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

September 11 and the imaginary thresholds

Today is the fourth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. I can't think of anyone better than Edward Said to offer some perspective. The late Palestinian-American intellectual, whose passing was a great loss to those of us who desperately need an intellectual role model and guide, penned this on September 16, 2001 for the Guardian.

What is bad about all terror is when it is attached to religious and political abstractions and reductive myths that keep veering away from history and sense. This is where the secular consciousness has to try to make itself felt, whether in the US or in the Middle East. No cause, no God, no abstract idea can justify the mass slaughter of innocents, most particularly when only a small group of people are in charge of such actions and feel themselves to represent the cause without having a real mandate to do so.

Besides, much as it has been quarrelled over by Muslims, there isn't a single Islam: there are Islams, just as there are Americas. This diversity is true of all traditions, religions or nations even though some of their adherents have futiley tried to draw boundaries around themselves and pin their creeds down neatly. Yet history is far more complex and contradictory than to be represented by demagogues who are much less representative than either their followers or opponents claim. The trouble with religious or moral fundamentalists is that today their primitive ideas of revolution and resistance, including a willingness to kill and be killed, seem all too easily attached to technological sophistication and what appear to be gratifying acts of horrifying retaliation. The New York and Washington suicide bombers seem to have been middle-class, educated men, not poor refugees. Instead of getting a wise leadership that stresses education, mass mobilisation and patient organisation in the service of a cause, the poor and the desperate are often conned into the magical thinking and quick bloody solutions that such appalling models pro vide, wrapped in lying religious claptrap.

On the other hand, immense military and economic power are no guarantee of wisdom or moral vision. Sceptical and humane voices have been largely unheard in the present crisis, as 'America' girds itself for a long war to be fought somewhere out there, along with allies who have been pressed into service on very uncertain grounds and for imprecise ends. We need to step back from the imaginary thresholds that separate people from each other and re-examine the labels, reconsider the limited resources available, decide to share our fates with each other as cultures mostly have done, despite the bellicose cries and creeds.

'Islam' and 'the West' are simply inadequate as banners to follow blindly. Some will run behind them, but for future generations to condemn themselves to prolonged war and suffering without so much as a critical pause, without looking at interdependent histories of injustice and oppression, without trying for common emancipation and mutual enlightenment seems far more wilful than necessary. Demonisation of the Other is not a sufficient basis for any kind of decent politics, certainly not now when the roots of terror in injustice can be addressed, and the terrorists isolated, deterred or put out of business. It takes patience and education, but is more worth the investment than still greater levels of large-scale violence and suffering.

Bush: If you can't beat them, nuke them!

Frustrated with its unplanned and prolonged war in Iraq, and to prevent future delays in spreading freedom and democracy, the Bush administration wants to PREEMPTIVELY NUKE nations or "terrorist groups" that are using or INTENDING to use WMDs.

According to the document, combatant commanders could request approval from the president to use nuclear weapons under a variety of scenarios, such as to pre-empt an enemy's use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States, multinational or alliance forces or civilian populations... Other scenarios envisioned in the draft doctrine include nuclear weapons use to counter potentially overwhelming conventional forces, for rapid and favorable war termination on U.S. terms, to demonstrate U.S. intent and capability to use nuclear weapons to deter enemy use of weapons of mass destruction, and to respond to the use of weapons of mass destruction supplied by an enemy to a "surrogate." The document said "numerous nonstate organizations (terrorist, criminal)" and about 30 countries have programs for weapons of mass destruction.

The Washignton Post says "The document, written by the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs staff but not yet finally approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, would update rules and procedures governing use of nuclear weapons to reflect a preemption strategy first announced by the Bush White House in December 2002."

Some of you might remember the Bush administration directing the military as early as January 2002 to "prepare contingency plans to use nuclear weapons against at least seven countries and to build new smaller nuclear weapons for use in certain battlefield situations. China, Russia, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Iran and Libya. It says the weapons could be used in three types of situations: against targets able to withstand nonnuclear attack; in retaliation for attack with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons; or "in the event of surprising military developments."

So next time this country goes to war based on lies and WMDs that don't exist, be sure it will be fast, thanks to creative and morally superior uses of nuclear weapons.


Friday, September 09, 2005

Elaph: Lahoud to be interrogated, a new assassination within a week

According to Elaph, 3 Maronite politicians and 1 "media figure" are slated for assassination on a first available and easier-to-kill basis within a week from today. The politicians are Samir Franjieh, Fares S'ed and Elias Atallah. The unnamed "media figure", Elaph says, played a role in identifying the three Zalqa bombers.

The article adds that Mehlis is trying to interrogate President Lahoud before he leaves for New York.

I just hope the Lebanese security services have better sources than Elaph!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

AFP's and al-Jazeera's Lebanon coverage distorting truth?

OK-- check this out.

The statement issued by the Maronite bishops on Wednesday was reported by AFP as follows:

Lebanon's Maronite bishops called for the cloud of suspicion over President Emile Lahoud's head to be lifted... The arrests have "given critics a field day," the bishops said, adding that the presidency "should be surrounded by a halo of respect."

Al-Jazeera and other outlets picked it up from AFP, and before you could say "who is the stupid translator AFP employs" the bishops were reported as defending the president by all outlets that didn't bother to look at the original text.

Al-Jazeera's Arabic site went as far as headlining: Maronite Bishops Demand End to Lahoud Accusations. The strange thing is: I read the AFP Arabic text, and it should not have confused al-Jazeera into believing the bishops were defending Lahoud. The report also cites al-Jazeera as another source. What gives?

Naharnet has a better report on what the bishops actually said and meant.

This is not the first time AFP messes up in its coverage of Lebanon. When the four suspects were detained, it referred to their detention as arrests before the judge had actually issued the charges. As for al-Jazeera, I am not ready to accuse them of bias yet (maybe I should), though sometimes they sound too eager to discredit an international investigation that's unprecedented in the Arab world.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The so called "Arabism" threat

Lazarus from "Letters Apart" posted this on his blog.

... on the way back home, that all the anti-"panarabism" these days is an ideology in itself, and is maybe as dangerous politically as pan-arabism ...
I couldn't post my comment on his site, so I will post it here:

I don't fathom the surge in this "anti-panarabism" either. Though I harbour no illusions of the Arab nationalism kind (or any kind of nationalism for that matter), I am shocked (perhaps I shouldn't be) by the plethora of anti-Arabism (really anti-Arab) bloggers. Their analysis is so flawed and based on this isolationist dogma that I am not sure they can see event for what they are, let alone interpret them. Michael Young and Tony from Across the Bay are two good examples. Young's op-eds never made sense to me, and he has never been right on anything. Tony's pieces are not always convincing, because of an inherent presumption that "Arabism" is bad or evil, and not just dead.

The other side, those stuck in a time-warp and who cry anti-Arab anti-Islam conspiracy, are only right in that the constant vilification of anything Arab is like calling for establishment of mini states in the region along ethnic and religious lines: mini Israels, Kurdistans and Irans. And yes, this would serve the interests of Israel, though not sure if the US was convinced it would serve theirs. I hope not.

I personally think Arab nationalism died a long time ago. I pronounced it dead when Sharon rolled his tanks into Lebanon, though many can argue it never really existed (or was applied) in the ideal secular form it was conceived in. From Nasser to Assad and Saddam, it was islamised and conveniently re-modelled to suit the political ambitions of the various political leaders.

So perceiving "Arabism" as a threat makes no sense to me in this day and age. It's like resurrecting a dead child and shooting at it until it learns to shoot back and transforms itself into the enemy it was made out to be. So a few authors out there still use Arab nationalist terms. Big deal. I don't think this is the same as calling for a united Arab nation. I think they all learned their lesson the hard way. At least I hope they did.

My point is: Arab nationalism (I don't really understand the term "Arabism".. it's vague and potentially offensive to those who view themselves as Arab, and there is nothing wrong with that) might be a bad idea for a divided region, but how is it an evil? And when you want to criticise it, be specific. Do you mean Nasserism? Baathism, with its two main applications in Iraq and Syria? Attack Saddam's Baath Arab nationalism (which, incidentally, was mixed with Iraqi nationalist ideas) but not “Arabism.”

It sounds fanatical and orientalist, if you ask me.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Hariri assassination and the Syrian stabilizers

Those of you following the news of the investigation already know the story of the Syrian defector who provided Mehlis with information on the explosives used in the blast that killed Hariri. The defector, who managed the office of the former Syrian army intelligency chief (who was replaced immediately after the Hariri assassination), told the German prosecutor that Syria procured the RDX explosives from a company in Slovakia, through a Syrian businessman with close ties to Syrian intelligence.

Der Spiegel on 5 September added this piece to the "puzzle":

According to new information, a unit of the Syrian intelligence service stationed in Lebanon at the time of the murder could have been involved in the attack, but without the knowledge of Presidents Assad or Lahoud. Lahoud, who is said to have been filled in on the details after the murder, subsequently attempted to flee to France, but was turned away by French authorities.

Mehlis' final report will likely play a role in determining Lahoud's fate -- and possibly even the future of the Assad regime. That's because the report by Mehlis, who plans to meet with Syrian intelligence officials in Damascus soon, will play a key role in determining the UN Security Council's next steps against Syria. The Americans, in particular, are pushing for sanctions.

However, neither Mehlis nor his investigators believe that the Lebanese agents ever came into direct contact with the bomb, and they are now looking for supporters. "Those who were arrested," says Mehlis, "are only part of the puzzle."

Today I happened to read Bashar's recent interview with the same German magazine. It was disheartening how much his rhetoric has changed over the years- from a young president with possibly real desire for change into a dictator with a strange kind of pragmatism mixed with fear and poor excuses for oppression. Here are excerpts from the interview:

SPIEGEL: Many politicians in neighboring Lebanon blame your government for the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Some have even said that the two of you had a loud argument the last time he was in Damascus.

Assad: And some have even said I threatened him. Others claimed a security agent pointed his pistol at Hariri's head. That's simply ridiculous. In that conversation, we discussed extending the term of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud. It's obvious that Hariri was against the idea. So I told him: "We don't want to pressure you. Go back to Lebanon and then give us your decision." He told us a few days later that he agreed with the plan. Why should Syria kill someone with whom it has no differences of opinion? It doesn't make any sense at all. In truth, we Syrians are the ones who ended up suffering the greatest drawbacks as a result of this affair.

SPIEGEL: Can you really completely rule out the possibility that neither your intelligence services nor any other Syrian is involved?

Assad: I'm absolutely certain. That kind of plan requires the cooperation
of several individuals and organizations. If this cooperation had existed, we
would have known about it.

Hariri agreed with "the plan"? What plan? The Syrian-imposed plan on a country with no sovereignty? Assad has no shame in admitting he concocted a plan for an extension of the president's term and shared it with Hariri who then, after years of opposition, magically agreed overnnight to the terms.

A colleague of mine asked me the other day if I thought Assad would pull a Qadhafi and hand in the culprits like the Libyan dictator did in the Lockerbie case. I said I didn't think so-- Assad is still maintaining the innocence of his people.

One guess, and I hope I'm wrong, is Assad is trying to pull an Ariel Sharon. Sharon planned and then played dumb in Sabra and Shatila. He wanted to send a terror message to the Palestinians and the international community. Assad, still adjusting to his dictator status, wanted, or somebody wanted for him, to establish a balance of terror, naively thinking that he could bring the US to its knees in Iraq and Lebanon.

All this might be pure speculation. But I just don't buy his innocence. But perhaps there is more to this. Read the first part of the interview. You will notice a lot of talk about "stability."

Assad: When we put someone on trial, we're not trying him as a person. Instead, what concerns us is that he does not attack the population's religious and ethnic structure. The umbrella of stability must not be damaged. We gave the go-ahead for the formation of parties two months ago, and we are currently taking a very close look at these parties. I certainly don't dispute the contention that we do not have a well-developed system of political parties yet. I simply wanted to show you where we have to be cautious.

SPIEGEL: What exactly are you afraid of?

Assad: Developments like those in Algeria since 1991. At that time, the government misjudged the people, and the Islamists threatened to assume power. To this day, the Algerians are paying the price for this miscalculation with their own blood.

SPIEGEL: Look at the example of Riad Seif, a self-made businessman and member of the Syrian National Assembly. He criticized the omnipotence of the monopoly and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Assad: He questioned the unity of the nation, and we happen to have a law that calls for penalties for those who assail the mosaic of the various ethnic and religious groups.

Assad concluded the interview with this:

Assad: Once again, we cannot apply Western standards to development in the orient. In Germany, you may have a religious Christian party, the CDU (Christian Democratic Union), but it has effectively assimilated itself into the fabric of the country. In return, your history prevents you from having any large nationalist parties. Our experience has shown us that the situation in Syria became stable because the entire society is secular. We must preserve that.

Read preserving a stable and "secular" society as preserving an Alawite controlled state. The army and religion are red lines. Syria cannot afford to be a democracy, because as in Iraq, the centre of power that is the ruling party will collapse. Syria cannot afford to admit to murder, because unlike Libya, this would destablize the minority rule over the majority.

It will be an interesting exercise to try to place the Hariri assassination into this context of Syrian "stability." Lahoud, to Bashar, was a stable and reliable ally. Hariri had to be reigned in on many occasions. The Christians were too weak to mount a challenge (and Aoun's conversion was a major achievement in that regard to reign in the Maronites and turn them against Hariri and Jumblatt). The Jumblatt-Hariri combination was a source of instability for the Syrian stabilizers. There was probably this calculation that killing Hariri won't be any worse than the killing of Kamal Jumblatt and Bashir Gemayel (question mark here on who really killed him).

Did the Syrians mess up and shoot themselves in the foot when they got rid of Lebanon's only real bridge to the west? History and Mehlis will tell. In the meantime, don't expect Bashar to admit to the murder or willingly implicate any of his people- his people being the Alawite controlled Baath, the "new guard". After all, the "stability" of his rule depends on it.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Lebanese cabinet ministers should look to the sea!

With Lebanese sea life (and soon humans) feasting on poisonous medical waste and other trash from Sidon (floating soon to a beach near you), politicians in the capital Beirut have called an extraordinary session to deal with the pressing issue of …where the four murder suspects should be held, at the ISF headquarters or defense ministry jail.

The Daily Star reported Tuesday that

tons of collapsed garbage could be seen just off the coast swaying in the waters both north and south of this southern port town, with waves washing the rotting waste onto the shores of the public beach. Trash collectors were dispatched to remove the myriad of nylon bags, soda cans, serums and syringes scattered along the shoreline.

Out at sea, however, floating masses of solid waste were spread over large areas, blocking local fisherman from being able to make their living. For those fishermen who attempted to cut their way through the murky waters, they soon found themselves in need of assistance as the debris wrapped itself around the boats' propellers, shutting down the engines.

Lebanese cabinet and environment ministry reaction: Complete disregard.

Why are ALL the ministers engaged in this Lahoud/ex-security officials business?

Why aren’t the ministers doing their jobs?

So far, the cabinet proved that it is very far from being forward-looking or focused on the livelihood of Lebanese citizens. The ministers are busy being politicians, waiting to be talked into sharing a room with Lahoud by Hizbullah, forgetting their jobs of safeguarding the interests of citizens regardless of who's in the room, neglecting an environmental disaster with dire consequences for ALL Lebanese. That's all Lebanese regardless of their religion, sect, class or how much more stupid they want to appear defending an incompetent president and his four terrorists.


Meanwhile, the Daily Star said Fouad Siniora has expressed the country's "keenness on implementing the principles of good governance and a separation of powers.. adding Lebanon will soon bear witness to true reforms that will pave the way for the establishment of democracy and freedom. "

Addressing a group of Arab central banks governors, he said "The Lebanese have once again confirmed they are up to the challenges and able to overcome the sufferings of the past and carry on the march toward the establishment of democracy and the consolidation of national accord and reconciliation."

Really? I couldn't tell. In fact, I can hear a Syrian snickering at how former staunch enemies of Syria are now rallying behind Syria's symbols in Lebanon. "I told you their insecurities, hatred for anything remotely Arab/Islamic, their imagined uniqueness and willingness to sleep in the arms of dictator than acknowledge their compatriots' different interests let alone economic needs-- all these are proof that the killing of Hariri can only unite Lebanese for so long, sooner or later this group will realize they can't live without Syria." The snickering Syrian who planned Hariri's assassination continues: "Look at how easy we converted Aoun from a US neo-con tool into a pro-Syrian presidential aspirant." "Those Lebanese will never learn," the Syrian killer said.


Sunday, September 04, 2005

US media sick of lies, Arab media what?

Some US media is starting to justify and contextualize the New Orleans “looting.”

It's clear from the comments of the president, the governor, the FEMA director, and the secretary of homeland security that they never planned for this. I don't mean that they failed to anticipate the magnitude of the flooding; we knew that already. I mean that they have no idea how easily a natural disaster can turn human beings into a second-wave destructive force. They don't understand that disasters often bring out the worst in us, that the human dynamics are collective, and that "responsibility" is quickly swamped. If you don't understand these dynamics, you can't plan for them…

What do you think OCCUPATION and WAR do to the “human dynamic” then? Perhaps people can understand and empathize now? Compare 5 days in New Orleans to 50+ years in Palestine and x number of years in Iraq. That’s what irks me about US media coverage. They are willing to contextualize and humanize the reactions of “human beings” here, but not over there, in the land of scary Islam and beautiful democratic Israel.

This is not to undermine the commendable drive by the media to hold officials accountable for their laxity and disconnect from reality in their response to Katrina. But when journalists in the Arab world, " sick of official lies and stonewalling, finally start snarling" because "the only way to get the story is by getting mad," they are accused of sensationalism. Here they transform themselves "into the voice of the disenfranchised."

Perhaps now we understand?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Lahoud's ouster and Lebanese sectarianism

Some Lebanese media are rushing to defend Lahoud for no other reason than his being a Maronite president. A few bloggers have also rushed to his defence by arguing that his ouster was not a priority. Some are even hinting that Rafik Hariri was not a great man anyway, engaging in a totally unnecessary (and unfair) character assassination of the man whose contributions to post-war Lebanon will unfortunately never impress an increasingly delusional group of Lebanese. The following are edited responses I posted in some blogs.

I fail to understand why anybody would waste brain cells defending Lahoud (which is basically what LBC and some blogs are doing). Is it because he's a Maronite? How can anyone claim they want a country free of religious influence, free of the so called threat of fundamentalist Islam (which is suddenly becoming a concern in Lebanon), when they can't shake off their own sectarian and fanatical mentalities?

Lahoud for a long time symbolized and embodied Syria's hegemony over Lebanon. He was their man more than any other person in Lebanon. With the fall of his support system in the country, it only makes sense for him to go. You may not like the other politicians on the scene, that's your right, but that doesn't mean you should defend a guilty man out because of shared religious affiliation and political insecurity over the presidency post. So you don't care that Lahoud played a part in the Hariri assassination, but you should care that, as a president with near-totalitarian power over the country he bears direct legal responsibility - spare me the evidence talk, the man and his security chiefs are legally responsible and should be held accountable for this country's woes.

I find the anti-Saudi Arabia rhetoric rather strange. What motivates it? Are the Saudis blowing up shopping centres in Lebanon? Did Hariri destroy downtown Beirut? We might not like their way of life or their historic support for fundamentalist groups, but how is villifying Saudis going to move Lebanon forward? I am not sure they are the enemy right now. Our real enemy is our sectarian mentality, and as I can tell from this unfortunate debate over Lahoud and the sudden outbreak of love for him, sectarianism constitutes a more immediate threat to Lebanon's existence.

This debate should not be about Hariri's character or history, it's about Lahoud's police regime and whether he should be held accountable like many others should in Lebanon. Yes, they all were slaves to Syria, whether by choice or not. But you know, sometimes we forget that they were also slaves to their narrow sectarian agendas. I mean look at Aoun. After so many years of anti-syrian opposition, he reducned himself into a Maronite leader, as opposed to national, and went as far as allying himself with pro-Syrian figures.

Lahoud's ouster would send a message that nobody is above the law. I think Hizbullah should disarm quickly after this and leave the defence business to the army. I don't buy Jumblatt's resistance talk. I also think they should pass laws prohibiting religious figures, especially the Maronite patriarch, the muftis and all others from interfering in politics or acting like heads of states.

Abolishing our sectarian system might take a long time, and frankly I am not sure Lebanese people are ready for it, but we can start with a gradual secularization of politics and our political discourse.

Friday, September 02, 2005

We do not live in a vacuum

Message to Bush and his apologists:

We do not live in a vacuum. Environmental disasters are products of an undiscriminating and ruthless nature. We have been screwing nature for decades, and one can only hope that this latest catastrophe acts as a reminder that we can no longer pretend our actions do not affect our surroundings. Nature is like a house of cards- everything is interconnected, from bird and tree to river and stone. And man, the creature you naively believe was put on a pedestal by an intelligent designer- man is part of that nature.

Because human beings are not better than other animals, because we're just a branch on the tree of life, if we don't wake up soon and realize that we shape our own fate through our actions and the actions of those before us, then we will all fall off the tree and die. It's called extinction.

Apply this to politics and foreign policy. This nation's past, current and future actions have great bearing on all of humanity. That's because our fates, like us, are interconnected. Pretending that what we do does not affect others is like saying we live in a vacuum. Blaming murder on vague and indefinable concepts such as evil, terrorism and so on is equivalent to pretending we've lived in a bubble for the past 100 years.

We are all responsible, and those of us in positions of power are even more responsible. I pray that Katrina has awakened you to the dangers of ignoring history, science and reason.

Where are the helicopters, Mr Bush?

As Bush "flies" over devastated areas he is "not looking forward" to visit, Michael Moore writes asking about those helicopters...

Dear Mr. Bush:

Any idea where all our helicopters are? It's Day 5 of Hurricane Katrina and thousands remain stranded in New Orleans and need to be airlifted. Where on earth could you have misplaced all our military choppers? Do you need help finding them? I once lost my car in a Sears parking lot. Man, was that a drag.

Also, any idea where all our national guard soldiers are? We could really use them right now for the type of thing they signed up to do like helping with national disasters. How come they weren't there to begin with?

Last Thursday I was in south Florida and sat outside while the eye of Hurricane Katrina passed over my head. It was only a Category 1 then but it was pretty nasty. Eleven people died and, as of today, there were still homes without power. That night the weatherman said this storm was on its way to New Orleans. That was Thursday! Did anybody tell you? I know you didn't want to interrupt your vacation and I know how you don't like to get bad news. Plus, you had fundraisers to go to and mothers of dead soldiers to ignore and smear. You sure showed her!

I especially like how, the day after the hurricane, instead of flying to Louisiana, you flew to San Diego to party with your business peeps. Don't let people criticize you for this -- after all, the hurricane was over and what the heck could you do, put your finger in the dike?

And don't listen to those who, in the coming days, will reveal how you specifically reduced the Army Corps of Engineers' budget for New Orleans this summer for the third year in a row. You just tell them that even if you hadn't cut the money to fix those levees, there weren't going to be any Army engineers to fix them anyway because you had a much more important construction job for them -- BUILDING DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ!

On Day 3, when you finally left your vacation home, I have to say I was moved by how you had your Air Force One pilot descend from the clouds as you flew over New Orleans so you could catch a quick look of the disaster. Hey, I know you couldn't stop and grab a bullhorn and stand on some rubble and act like a commander in chief. Been there done that.

There will be those who will try to politicize this tragedy and try to use it against you. Just have your people keep pointing that out. Respond to nothing. Even those pesky scientists who predicted this would happen because the water in the Gulf of Mexico is getting hotter and hotter making a storm like this inevitable. Ignore them and all their global warming Chicken Littles. There is nothing unusual about a hurricane that was so wide it would be like having one F-4 tornado that stretched from New York to Cleveland.

No, Mr. Bush, you just stay the course. It's not your fault that 30 percent of New Orleans lives in poverty or that tens of thousands had no transportation to get out of town. C'mon, they're black! I mean, it's not like this happened to Kennebunkport. Can you imagine leaving white people on their roofs for five days? Don't make me laugh! Race has nothing -- NOTHING -- to do with this!

You hang in there, Mr. Bush. Just try to find a few of our Army helicopters and send them there. Pretend the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are near Tikrit.

Michael Moore
P.S. That annoying mother, Cindy Sheehan, is no longer at your ranch. She and dozens of other relatives of the Iraqi War dead are now driving across the country, stopping in many cities along the way. Maybe you can catch up with them before they get to DC on September21st.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Kuwaiti paper: Assad and Lahoud won't last

This is from Kuwait's al-Seyassah, translation courtesy of mideastwire.com.

Al Seyassah, an independent Kuwaiti newspaper, reported on September 1 that: “While the arrests of heads of Lebanese and Syrian security apparatuses were being made by ... Detlev Mehlis ... meetings of the highest levels were being held in Damascus to look over the current situation and form expectations for the future. The meetings also consisted of numerous calls being made to Beirut in more attempts to try to figure out the nature of the next step, and what it will consist of.”

Prominent sources told Al Seyassah that what pressured the congregation and made them worry even more was information they received that the “highest head in Lebanon will depart, and he will be brought to stand trial in front of an international court to be assembled especially for the Hariri assassination case.” The information also pointed out that Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and Syrian President Bashar Assad will not survive for long, and if they do, they will not survive in power past October 2005.

The officials at the meeting linked this information to previous information where French President Jacques Chirac asked an Arab acquaintance to tell his friend to leave "because we know who was behind Hariri’s assassination."Sources close to the officials who met in Damascus told Al Seyassah that after considering what may happen in the future, they decided to advise the Syrian President not to travel to New York for the international summit celebrating the United Nations’ 60th anniversary, for fear of internal developments that may occur during his trip. Others also agreed to this advice because of international condemnation and isolation Assad is facing.

Foreign Affairs: democratisation will not end terrorism

A Foreign Affairs report argues that there is no link between terrorism and authoritarianism, and that the Bush administration should stop indiscriminately promoting democracy in the Arab world because it will neither end terrorism, which has other roots, nor bring to power pro-US governments.

Excerpts follow:

Between 2000 and 2003, according to the State Department's annual "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report, 269 major terrorist incidents around the world occurred in countries classified as "free" by Freedom House, 119 occurred in "partly free" countries, and 138 occurred in "not free" countries .. these numbers simply indicate that there is no relationship between the incidence of terrorism in a given country and the degree of freedom enjoyed by its citizens. They certainly do not indicate that democracies are substantially less susceptible to terrorism than are other forms of government.

Comparing India, the world's most populous democracy, and China, the world's most populous authoritarian state, highlights the difficulty of assuming that democracy can solve the terrorism problem. For 2000-2003, the "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report indicates 203 international terrorist attacks in India and none in China. A list of terrorist incidents between 1976 and 2004, compiled by the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, shows more than 400 in India and only 18 in China.

More anecdotal evidence also calls into question a necessary relationship between regime type and terrorism. In the 1970s and 1980s, a number of brutal terrorist organizations arose in democratic countries: the Red Brigades in Italy, the Provisional Irish Republican Army in Ireland and the United Kingdom, the Japanese Red Army in Japan, and the Red Army Faction (or Baader-Meinhof Gang) in West Germany. The transition to democracy in Spain did not eliminate Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) Basque separatist terrorism. Turkish democracy suffered through a decade of mounting political violence that lasted until the late 1970s. The strong and admirable democratic system in Israel has produced its own terrorists, including the assassin of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. It appears that at least three of the suicide bombers in the London attacks of July were born and raised in the democratic United Kingdom. Nearly every day brings a painful reminder that real democratization in Iraq has been accompanied by serious terrorism. And a memorial in Oklahoma City testifies to the fact that even U.S. democracy has not been free of terrorism of domestic origins.

There is, in other words, no solid empirical evidence for a strong link between democracy, or any other regime type, and terrorism, in either a positive or a negative direction...Terrorism springs from sources other than the form of government of a state. There is no reason to believe that a more democratic Arab world will, simply by virtue of being more democratic, generate fewer terrorists.

The report adds:

There are also logical problems with the argument supporting the U.S. push for democracy as part of the war on terrorism... Underlying the assertion that democracy will reduce terrorism is the belief that, able to participate openly in competitive politics and have their voices heard in the public square, potential terrorists and terrorist sympathizers would not need to resort to violence to achieve their goals.

Well, maybe. But it is just as logical to assume that terrorists, who rarely represent political agendas that could mobilize electoral majorities, would reject the very principles of majority rule and minority rights on which liberal democracy is based.. The United States' major foe in the war on terrorism, al Qaeda, certainly would not close up shop if every Muslim country in the world were to become a democracy.

The report suggests that the US is currently acting against its own interests by blindly promoting democracy in the Arab world. Islamists are bound to win elections in most Arab countries and this will not produce pro-US governments. The US should instead "focus on pushing Arab governments to make political space for liberal, secular, leftist, nationalist, and other non-Islamist parties to set down roots and mobilize voters. Washington should support those groups that are more likely to accept U.S. foreign policy and emulate U.S. political values."

In other words, US foreign policy should stay true to all of this country's founding principles and not harbor the illusion that terrorism is caused by lack of voting.

I have always believed that, eventhough many Arab governments are despicable dictatorships, their rule was not responsible for the spread of terrorism (a word I hate very much but will use for the time being). On the contrary, those dictators helped serve US and western interests for a long time. And if Islamists hate their governments, it's because of their subservience to the west (or what they term as infidels) and not because they couldn't elect them.

The idea of removing dictators is fine by me. But it will only render militant movements redundant and unpopular if the removal was not carried out through tanks or to further western interests. In other words, you cannot remove one dictator whose role was created during the colonial era to maintain profitable friendships with foreign powers and replace him with a more elaborate "democracy" of people that are expected to fulfill the same obedient role.

Change has to come from within -- anything else won't stick.

Now, one problem I have with the Foreign Affairs report is my lingering doubt about the Bush administration's real intentions. This whole democracy pushing business is fairly recent and arose mostly when the WMD argument backfired. Is the administration really stupid, one might ask, to risk so many lives for the promotion of democracy in some Arab country very few can pronounce right?

Think tanks, I believe, are wasting their money trying to decipher and deconstruct the Bush "democratisation" policy, mostly because I believe it's a facade. After 9-11, Rumsfeld said the best way to protect America was to take "the war to them." Bush said something similar recently during his speech to the veterans. Creating a surrogate battleground is the classic way of avoiding conflict on your own land. That's what's happening now. I believe Bush when he says the war in Iraq is protecting America. However it's protecting America not by promoting its values, but by fighting war in a land far away. This might not shield America forever, as some in the administration must have realized lately, but it's a good temporary fix and can get you elected. My fear, of course, is that long term solutions are not being taken seriously by the White House, or at least they are not being devised as more than PR or political survival ploys.

Another problem is is-- what then are the causes of this so called terrorism? And how do we define terrorism? Is is violence against the state? Is it wide-scale murder? Many in the US administration who love to exalt freedom and liberty and refuse to acknowledge that US foreign policy wasn't always benign, blame it on Islamists and even Islam. This report could play well into their hands-- if authoritarianism is not responsible for breeding terrorist, then it must be Islam. That would be unfortunate.

Four ex-security chiefs charged with murder

It's official- Said Mirza, the lebanese prosecutor, charged the four detained generals with "murder, attempted murder and carrying out a terrorist act in the February killing of Hariri and 20 others."

Allah la yriddon.

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