Monthly Archives: October 2006

Killing for Peace is like…

So, the thing I dread most had to happen. We had guests over for “a cup of coffee”. These are not regular guests, so the “drinking coffee” part had to be translated to “having at least 3-4 coffee-sessions”. To make it worse, I was handed the task of “entertaining” them. OK. So we sit, discuss family affairs (after going around the point for some time, eventually they get to it, and ask me about my “dating status” – seriously, why do people think that is any of their business???). So having successfully passed the first half an hour of many half-hours, we had our first Arabic/Turkish/Armenian(or Mauritanian, Fijian, Baluchian, Zanzibarian) coffee. OK. So far so good. Then, for lack of anything else to talk about and “entertain” them with, I (silly me!! :-S ) mistakenly opened a can of worms… I asked something I will never dare ask again. Call it bowing to the desires of thought controllers (and terrorists), call it whatever you like!! I say, never, EVER, again! I asked, “sooooooo… any thoughts on the political scene………” Yeah. By the time we got to the second round of coffee, my semi-deaf gramma was complaining about a terrible headache. So, what happened was that we (well, they) were going ’round and ’round the same arguments, and quite loudly so (I will let my semi-deaf gramma’s complaint be the measure of how loud we – well, they – were). Actually, there were 3 sides in this mess. Me (solo), they (the guests), my dad (the devil’s advocate, who seemed intent on giving me a major headache). So, basically, it started with a discussion of General Michel Aoun. In truth, it started between them and my dad. My dad kept insisting that Aoun would make no difference, that no one would make any difference in Lebanon, so it was better to maintain the status quo (Hariri, Siniora) than abandon it. Mmmm! The guests respectfully disagreed, and defended Aoun’s position, following which a whole new can of worms was opened (and for once I wasn’t the one who opened it). Basically, a discussion of the herd mentality. Now this was a mess, because my dad was actually contradicting himself all the time (don’t give him my blog URL or you will regret it for the rest of your miserable life : -D ) and the guests were also blabbering on and on about “those Muslims”, whom they accused of having herd mentality, and believe me, much, much worse things… Well, at least they and my dad discovered they shared common ground on that one, which earned us a much-needed pause, the second coffee break! This is where things started going downhill. The discussion started to heat up even more, and at last we stepped into the tricky realm of imperialist, sorry, U.S foreign policy, and embarked on a discussion of the real purpose behind these policies vis-a-vis the Middle East, and the response that it has elicited from “those Muslims”. Actually, we had to clarify some matters before we embarked on such a topic, because while I insisted that the “roots of Muslim rage” – as the so-called Middle East affairs expert, Bernard Lewis, ingeniously (sic) calls it (Lewis is now busy crunching numbers to determine the date that the Islamists have chosen for their collective annihilation campaign against Israel) – have nothing to do with the personality traits and/or character of Muslims (and Arabs; another thing we differed on and clashed about was the interchangeable use of Arab and Muslim) and little to do with the cultural/religious identities that are prevalent in Muslim societies, the former being a rather bigoted if not utterly racist statement to make. Rather, the “roots of Muslim rage” have more to do with – among other things – reactions to threats (in speech or action) or, at any rate, perceived threats (the way motives and intentions are viewed and analyzed, etc.), and radicalization due to forceful isolation (if they think by isolating Hamas they would be solving anything, they might want to think twice, and actually realize that their actions will only serve to radicalize it, and along with it a very large segment of Palestinian society; although one can easily argue that Palestinian affairs have become increasingly “Lebanonized” – however, as Lebanonized as they might be, Lebanonization is never a cure for imperialists’ headaches; one would expect that the Americans would have learned at least that in their dealings with, in, and through Lebanon). Scholars have been studying the impact of political mediation for possible inclusion and acceptance into the body politic, on extremist parties. These studies have shown that extremist parties tend to moderate their speech and actions when they are accepted into the real political world so to speak, and more radicalized when they are not (see for example Lisa Andersen’s “Fulfilling Prophecies: State Policy and Islamist Radicalism” in Political Islam: Revolution, Radicalism, or Reform?, ed. John L. Esposito [Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1997]). But don’t expect Bernard Lewis to pay any attention to this. So back to my guests, who surprisingly adhered to my take on this, in contrast to my dad, who insisted that “Muslims/Arabs are aggressive by nature”, and therefore the Western attempts to “pacify” them are justified and even necessary. To his credit, he did admit that the crimes of the imperialist forces/factions were unjust, but of course, he had to insert the infamous “BUT” after that sentence… Now, the whole debate was not academic at all, not even closely inspired by academic knowledge. Rather, it was inspired by “street/salon(??) discussion of politics”, where you have the chicken-seller, the fisherman, the shoe-shiner, and worst of all, the Ferrari-owner, all philosophizing about the dynamics of superpower/great power foreign policy, international relations, and so on. Not that my opinion is more valid than theirs (certainly I do not subscribe to such hierarchical/supremacist categorization systems), but there is an ocean between, on the one hand words backed by research, sound analyses, and actual knowledge of both theories and historical facts, and on the other hand perceptions of facts, assumptions of motives and intentions, and so on. Moving on, my dad put forth the thesis that while USA was in Iraq not out of any dedication to human rights or concern for the violation thereof by Saddam Hussein’s regime, its intentions were nevertheless altruistic, in that the Bush administration has planned to re-draw the map of the Middle East to allow for peaceful co-existence between the different ethnic and religious groups. This is a preposterous assertion, on a number of grounds, which I pointed out one by one: 1) The concept of altruism is pretty subjective, and not only that, but using it in the context of U.S foreign policy (in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.), or what us activists used to write sarcastically on our banners, “killing for peace” [is like f*cking for virginity], is surely a travesty; 2) The problem with the so-called U.S perceptions that the (imperialist) re-drawing of the map drawn by European colonists/colonialists (or the toppling of minority-led regimes, and their replacement with majority-led regimes) would solve the long-standing issues and blood feuds between the various groups that make up the Middle East, is that it ignores the fact that any forceful drawing of borders that does not take into account the real concerns and grievances of the indigenous populations (and completely ignores aspects beyond ethnic/national/religious identities and/or divisions; for example, economic-territorial or strictly economic concerns) would leave a number of issues hanging in the air, institutionalize injustice in the name of justice (similar to the killing for peace concept), besides the fact that it would provide no guarantees that the relatively homogeneous newly-drawn states would not be at each others’ throats the minute the imperialist “protector” turns his back (perhaps this project does not stem from altruism after all, but from the role of protector and mediator that the U.S casts itself in, which would necessitate intervention and amounts to constant influence and interference), or that they would not embark on genocidal campaigns to rid the country of the minorities that might’ve been their previous oppressors, or against whom they might have historical grievances. For example, one has to consider the possibility that following the U.S withdrawal from Iraq, the Shi’ite regime in Iran might facilitate and even directly participate in the deportation and even mass-murder of Sunni Iraqis. Is this the U.S grand plan for “eternal peace” (ironic that these same people who are portrayed to be working on achieving peace are the very same people who believe in the inevitability and even desirability of an apocalyptic showdown)? My dad explains, yes, because there will be Saudi Arabia as a deterrence to such actions. I point out that this alleged deterrence is, at best, very shaky, and at worst, totally irrelevant and conducive to war, rather than peace; 3) As for the argument that this plan is merely the result of the failure of all attempts to reconcile east and west (one could go on for hours about the misleading orientalist oversimplification of the conflicts in the Middle East as a clash between east and west) – a prime example of which is, allegedly, the opening of the doors of immigration to Europe and North America for Muslims, with the hope that they would be “educated and illuminated” (!!) and that this would in the long run result in the de-radicalization of the countries they hail from (I fail to see how one can extrapolate in this manner), and which was turned down by Muslims, who “bit the hand that fed them” – what guarantees do we have that all the “killing for peace” would eventually result in the realization that war is ineffective and destructive, and would lead to the peaceful resolution of this clash (another problem with this is that it disguises unconditional surrender as the “realization that war is ineffective and destructive”) ?; 4) Interpretations of the U.S performance in Iraq are tailored based on the so-called plan to coerce Muslims into accepting that “war is ineffective and destructive”, which is based on the argument that “it should get worse before it gets better”. This is, according to the proponents of such a view, why the Sunni-Shi’ite clashes/war in Iraq are not necessarily a bad thing (indeed according to these people, they are necessary and welcome), at least from the perspective of the achievement of the long-term U.S aims (i.e. “peace”). This is a post-failure explanation and justification of a failure, and alters the facts of pre-failure/pre-quagmire rhetoric to adapt the “killing for peace” argument to the realities on the ground; 5) The complications in Iraq are said to be part and parcel of the very long process that would span decades, even centuries, until there is a surrender of Muslim will to the reality that they cannot transcend U.S/western hegemony and have to accomodate it (this is not the exact term used. For example, this submission to U.S hegemony is termed “co-existence” or “giving up on Jihadism”). However, on what bases are we to accept a plan that is based on a time-span that perhaps stretches much further than the actual life span of the U.S empire/hegemony would? How reasonable are expections and demands that we should accept a project on such a scale embarked on by a time-constrained entity? And what if, after all the “killing for peace”, the project shows no signs of achieving the stated aims? Last but not least, on what bases are we asked to believe that Jihadism is agreed upon by (let alone on the agenda of) Muslims across sects, boundaries, ethnic/national identities, political/personal/national interests, and levels of religiosity and extremism)?

These are some of the points I raised; of course, the discussion was so long and so messy (with, you guessed it, frequent interruptions, yelling matches, and whoever-is-louder-gets-to-have-the-stage competitions, Lebanese style of course) that I don’t remember all the arguments and counter-arguments. But suffice to say, a deafening silence reigned in the room following the challenge I mounted against these preposterous allegations and unsubstantiated claims of American altruism and good-will. At best, the only responses I received, for example when referring to the U.S-backed regime of the Shah in Iran, and the collaboration between the CIA, Mossad, and the Iranian Savak in the incarceration and systematic torture of thousands of dissidents, which was in response to the claims that the U.S was after peace and human rights and sharing of resources for the betterment of the world and our ability to survive the ecological/environmental challenges that await us (which are in turn the result of capitalist greed), were: “well, yes, these were horrible acts, BUT this doesn’t mean….”. Ah yes, the (in)famous “BUT”. So, after 3 coffees and 1 tea, I had had just enough of going in circles, as had my opponents (primarily my dad, since the guests were mostly nodding in approval of my arguments – though they did clarify on more than one occasion that they were “not saying this out of love for Muslims”, and that they “hate those Muslims more than anyone else”), who called for an end to the debate “because no one will convince the other”. Hah! What a climactic end to a 4-hour bout…

My apologies if my parantheses burdened your eyes with excessive strain… I am sure that if you listen to Bernard Lewis’s prescriptions all your problems will go away. Or so the White House thinks…

G’night!

Arafat II? Arafat II, definitely

So, word has it that Israel will be allowing PLO elements based in Jordan to enter the Gaza Strip. I smell a Arafat-wannabe from 227 km away (that’d be the distance between Beirut and Ramallah).

Enjoy your non-adventurers (This is your Lebanon – Episode IV)

My neighbour, who went to Egypt with his family during the war and has come back to make arrangements to move there, tells me that there are two contradictory yet simultaneous currents on the Egyptian street. He tells me that on the one hand, there is immense, murderous hatred of Shi’ites, inspired by the Wahabists and Qutbists (and Wahabist-Qutbist mixture) funded ever so adventurously by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, Hassan Nasrallah leads the popularity contest by miles. He also tells me that the French schools in Cairo have been instructed to automatically accept and register Lebanese children, whereas Egyptian children are not allowed to register in these schools (or at best have to be placed on a waiting list). Well my neighbour is pretty much a bigot. He kept telling me “how dirty those Egyptians are”. My relatives, who have never been to Egypt, interjected in a chorus, insisting that “not all Egyptians are like that, take the Copts, they are Christians, and they are ‘clean'”. Perhaps they can share their secret to “cleanliness”. Maybe it’s in “ghar soap”. 😀

Then there are my other neighbours, who are of the hummus revolutionary type; they rushed to be evacuated because that’s the patriotic thing to do and because they thought the Israelis might hit “our areas”. So the Israelis didn’t hit “our areas” (save for the bzzzzz sound of the drone that kept me up all night long, and which can be compared to a mosquito feasting on one’s nerves – just imagine, oh the horror), they hit “their areas”, and our poor evacuee neighbours, fleeing the horror of the bzz-bzz of drones and the mzz-mzz of mosquitoes (no electricity, no VAPE) missed the sitting-under-starry-skies-watching-mushroom-clouds-go-up-from-the-suburbs nights and which-one-was-the-loudest-explosion-so-far early morning alarms. But our hummus revolutionaries embarked on their very own adventure. They actually had to sleep at the Biel for one day, then they were allowed onto a (North American) ship. They relate that less than half an hour after setting sail, the ship had suddenly ground to a halt. After numerous inquiries, they had discovered that the Israeli ships had intercepted the ship and another (French) one before it, demanding a list of passengers’ names in order to allow them to continue on. The lists were dutifully provided to the masters of Lebanese territorial waters (so much for Phoenicians, eh? Still, the Lebanonese fleet is something to be proud of: 15 fishing boats, 2 navy balloon boats for the fish-protection regiment, and lots of fishing rods), upon which they were given clearance. After the war was over and the siege was lifted, they returned, and told me this horrific tale of adventurism (moral of the story: non-adventurism better than adventurism). The wife was quick to add that she had been planning on going to the seashore for bronzage (sunbathing) this summer but that “those Muslims” had ruined everything with their “stupid adventures”. She finalized her complaint by saying, “oh well, something that falls into the hands of Muslims… [would have this fate]”. This is your Lebanon, and that is your Egypt. Enjoy.

2:27 a.m. Off to my nightly adventures. Later.

Also see: Episode I, Episode II, Episode III

A Letter to UNIFIL

Dear UNIFIL,

We are one of the peoples that some of you have previously colonized, once or more than once. Then circumstances were such that they left before it was too late. Please set your watches correctly this time.

You know that some want to limit your role to being “international policemen”. Honestly, this is a mission that does not suit you. You have crossed seas; it is not reasonable to be satisfied with such a secondary role.

Today the land and sea are in your custody. And you did well to pose the issue of what you called the regulation of the airspace. Our air cannot remain unregulated, especially that the Lebanese are spendthrifty. We hear you have extremely accurate measurement tools, so please control our breathing well.

We are actually embarrassed, but … we have some financial problems. And since your numbers will reach 15,000, we suggest that you extend your activities and administer the treasury. We have, for years, been unable to limit the expenditure or increase the income. We know that in your countries there are experts who specialize in “finance”, so if you want, we can add this clause to the “rules of engagement”. And as you will discover, we also need experts in prison administration, judiciary, education, diet, elections, etiquette, municipalities, silicon (plastic surgery), restaurants, and traffic signs. Honestly… everything. And we are ready, in return, to honour resolutions of international law, and willingly abandon sovereignty, freedom, and independence.

-Khaled Saghieh, Al-Akhbar, Monday, October 16, 2006

Good Legislation, Bad Legislation

Speaking on the occasion of the passing of a bill that would make it a crime to deny the Armenian Holocaust in France, Dominique de Villepin insisted that it is “not a good thing to legislate on issues of history and of memory.” Paranthetically, isn’t the Jewish Holocaust also an issue of history and memory?

It is not a good thing to legislate. Period.

Discuss the bill here if you would like (incidentally, I was reading the BBC have your say section on this topic, and came across a number of comments threatening a boycott of French goods. Maybe those people, who talk as if they are the representatives of a Freedom of Speech Club in Turkey, should also boycott their own country’s goods. Be the change you want to see. Or so said a certain wise man). Or we can move on to a discussion of richer topics, such as some of the (racist) mottos raised during the Armenian demonstration against the Turkish contribution to UNIFIL in Lebanon, yesterday. Like that Victor Hugo quote: “The Turks came this way. Everything is ruin and mourning.”

Sorry to disappoint.

Off to check up on Dan today. Will update and reply to comments on Saturday.

Beirut 1982, 2006

realbeirut.jpg

Beiruti remnants of 1982, in 2006. The Magen Abraham Synagogue to the left.

This is your Lebanon – Episode III

The authorities at Beirut International Airport (now known as Rafik el-Hariri Airport, but I refuse to call it that, because Hariri is one of the worst things that has happened to the people in Lebanon) have blocked internet access to the forum (discussion board) of Michel Aoun’s LFPM (Lebanese Free Patriotic Movement), currently in the opposition to the Hariri-controlled Junblatt-infested warlord-glorifying allegedly democratic and supposedly freedom-loving spineless government that kills its own citizens and serves tea to its avowed enemies. Word has it that LFPM has issued a warning to the airport administration to remove the block on its website, and if it fails to do so within the next 7 days, it will sue airport authorities.

This is your Lebanon of web filters and thought control… of Saudi condemnation for HezbAllah’s “adventurism” and American shipping of “smart bombs” to strengthen democracy and freedom-loving forces led by Mr. Fuad Crocodile Tears Siniora and Ahmad Tea Serving Fatfat (interim interior minister). By the way, Ahmad Fatfat has a personal website, and has a section dedicated to “accomplishments”, and another to “political projects and principles“. Principles and accomplishments: Such as the killing of 11-year-old kids and serving tea to the Israeli occupiers.

Sounds like we will soon have an official Egypt-Israel-Turkey-Jordan-KSA-Hariri, Inc. axis to counter the Iran-Syria-HezbAllah axis. With imperial America as a friend, who needs enemies? On second thoughts, I am sure Afghans are loving every inch of their newly-awarded freedom, as are the Iraqis. Never mind how many have been killed in the past 24 hours. And did you think that democracy and freedom were free??? No, sorry, they are god’s gifts and America is the medium through which god is working his (sic) “miracles”.

Also see: Episode I, Episode II