Monthly Archives: November 2006

Debunking Paranoia

There seems to be excessive paranoia in some circles, incidentally a popular trend amongst some academics, about Syrian responsibility for the assassination of Pierre Gemayel. Here I will debunk the major arguments put forth by these people.

Assumptions and conspiracy theories: Syria, the international tribunal, and the assassinations

The argument is made that Syria is fighting the international tribunal in the assassination of Hariri tooth and nail, and that this would give credence to the argument that it is behind the assassination of Gemayel. This argument is faulty for a number of reasons.

1) It assumes that Syria is responsible for the assassination of Hariri, of which there is no proof, not even evidence. This is not to say that Syria is not behind that assassination, but that given the absence (yes, you heard me, Mehlis is a joke, as is Brammertz) of any evidence, it would not be right to accuse any side of this. Right? Or so the popular argument goes whenever the finger clearly points not at Syria but in other directions. The issue is not about who wanted Hariri dead but who had a motive in assassinating Hariri (obviously the assassins had a motive, they were not just a bunch of homicidal maniacs planting bombs in random places and targeting random people). Such an approach would actually shift the blame away from Syria, onto certain other groups and sides. Granted that this does not qualify as evidence, it is however enough to arrive to a list of possible suspects, an act that has not been carried out in the investigation. The “investigators” are not actually looking for who did it; they actually named their suspect from the first moment; they are are only working on collecting (or creating where none available, I suppose) evidence to try the “suspects”. This means that the court/tribunal itself is politically motivated, which gives further credence to the argument that this is perfectly in tune with the motives of the assassins.

2) Assuming that Syria is indeed guilty of the crime as charged, it assumes that Syria would be willing to take non-diplomatic measures to halt the tribunal. It tries to extrapolate and explain current behaviour based on past behaviour. If such an approach is to be adopted, then not only Syria, but also many Lebanese (and non-Lebanese Arab and non-Arab) figures would be primary suspects in the assassination of Hariri and the string of assassinations that have followed it.

3) It fails to take into consideration the impact that not only the latest assassination, but also previous assassinations, have had on the issue of the international tribunal.

4) It assumes that the Assad regime would actually place its survival at the mercy of public opinion in Lebanon. Here the argument is that by assassinating anti-Syrian figures Syria would be betting on the idea that people would adopt conspiracy theories and clear Syria of all blame. The reality of the situation has been much different, and fingers have continously pointed at Syria, even dismissing out of hand other possibilities.

5) It assumes that all assassinations are interrelated and need to be analyzed en masse, whereas each assassination should be analyzed and investigated separately until such links are discovered in the  course of the investigation.

6) In the latest episode, it fails to take into account the fact that the assassination pushed forward the tribunal instead of halting it.

Arguments and counter-arguments: Syria, Lebanon, and the quest for “return”

The most popular argument seems to be that Syria is attempting, through its assassinations, to return to Lebanon. This is a problematic argument in many respects. I raise a number of counter-arguments, their answers to these (where available), and my response to these counter-counter-arguments.

1) If Syria were determined to return to Lebanon, why did it leave in the first place?  They answer: it could not have possibly stayed because of the international pressure. I respond: but this fails to explain what exactly has changed now. Is the international community more willing to accept Syrian return to Lebanon, than it was willing to accept Syrian presence in Lebanon more than a year ago? The simple answer is: no.

2) How are the assassinations aiding Syrian return to Lebanon? They answer: by bringing about instability and aiming at causing civil strife, in the event of which Syria would enter Lebanon on the pretext of keeping the peace. I respond: This is an obsolete argument. First, you assume that Syria is the final decision-maker on the issue of civil strife in Lebanon. If Syria aimed to do this, and there is widespread awareness of such an intention in the ranks of the so-called anti-Syrian “March 14”, what follows is that “March 14” would take all the necessary steps to prevent such strife. And what does Future Movement (FM) MP Walid Eido say?? Well those of you who hail The New York Times as the ultimate source of news better read his latest statement: “We will sell our blood to buy weapons and confront them [referring to the opposition]. We will never let them control the country.” I can tell this encourages calm and peace in the country, and gives credence to the FM argument that Syria wants to sow civil strife. Using this logic, FM is working for Syrian interests (that wouldn’t be too surprising, they have done it before, they have also been working for Saudi and U.S interests, heck they work for ALL interests EXCEPT the people’s interests).

3) If the outright aim of these assassinations is  bringing about civil strife, how is the assassination of Gemayel and others before him (Qassir, Hawi, Tueni, etc.) conducive of such an objective? Surely such a grand project aiming at sectarian strife would necessitate the assassination of more prominent sectarian figures? Say, Jumblatt or Aoun or Nasrallah? I have not received any answers to these questions from proponents of the paranoia trend.

4) If the intention is to sow civil strife, would it not make sense that the party aiming at it would also assassinate “pro-Syrian” figures? Not only does the non-assassination of “pro-Syrian” figures facilitate the accusation of Syrian responsibility for all the mess in Lebanon, it fails to drive the anti-Syrians and pro-Syrians into a serious clash based on the trading of accusations of targeted assassinations on both sides. In fact it pacifies the “pro-Syrian” figures rather than mobilizing them. Assuming that Syria is behind these assassinations, the smartest thing for Syria to do would be to also “off” some “pro-Syrian” figures (now I’m really giving the assassins some ideas… I hope they have better thigns to do than reading this), as this would internalize the issue. I have not received any answers to these questions and points either.

The big game: Syria, Iran, Iraq, and… Lebanon

Arguments addressing the wider picture, namely future Syrian involvement in the pacification of Iraq, incorporate the assertion that Syria would be stirring troubles in Lebanon as part of its general strategy in the region. The claimed objective is the widening of influence in the region. Not only does this necessitate Syrian military involvement in Iraq (and we can see this strategy nearing fruition), it also allegedly necessitates the renewal of Syrian involvement in (i.e. occupation of) Lebanon. This would be done, it is argued, by the above-mentioned mechanism, namely stirring civil strife and entering Lebanon on the pretext of pacifying it. This argument is a shaky one for a number of reasons:

1) Is Syria able to exert military control over two countries on its borders without risking internal fracturing? If it is able to take on such a mission and accomplish it, why did it withdraw from Lebanon, only to seek to return shortly afterwards?

2) If the Ba’ath regime is capable of doing what USA has failed to do militarily in Iraq, and at the same time of regaining control over Lebanon and preserving itself, this does not give one the image of a militarily weak and diplomatically stupid country. Why are the Golan Heights still occupied (for the record, I keep hearing the heights were occupied in 1973, this is untrue, false information my friends, the heights were occupied in 1967) and why is the Assad regime making all these stupid mistakes that facilitated its exit from Lebanon and which are putting the final touches on its demise??

3) If Syria’s help is being sought to pacify Iraq, what does Syria get in return? It can’t be that it gets nothing in return. It got Lebanon in return for supporting the U.S in the first Gulf War. What would it get now? If it would get Lebanon, would this not mean that USA is paving the way for this? If this theory is true, USA is as guilty of the crimes (assuming the assassinations are for that purpose) as Syria. So who are they kidding with the international tribunal? And if they are only kidding about the international tribunal, what happens to the argument that Syria is trying to fight it tooth and nail?

Make up your minds and stick to one argument already!

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Cui bono?

During the popular funeral-festival of show of political muscle, mini-Hariri addressed his revolutionary crowds, which western media have hailed as “anti-Syrian” (as opposed to the “pro-Syrians” who were supposed to be holding a demonstration had the assassination not taken place, as per Adrian Brown of BBC) and concluded:

And you [the crowds] tell those who say about you that you are a fake majority, [looks at paper] we are the truth, and you are the fantasy. [looks at paper] We are the truth and you are the fantasy. [looks at paper] We are freedom, [looks at paper] and you are the fantasy. We are the national unity, and you are the fantasy. [looks at paper] To those we say, leave your fantasies [looks at paper] and come back to the truth, [looks at paper] come back to sovereignty, come back to [looks at paper] national unity, come back to Lebanon. And we will stay, [looks at paper] we will stay, [looks at paper] we will stay, [looks at paper] until the knowledge of the truth, [looks at paper] until the achievement of justice, [looks at paper] until Lebanon is victorious. [looks at paper] Long live the people, [looks at paper] long live Pierre Amin Gemayel, [looks at paper] long live Rafiq al-Hariri, and long live Lebanon.

An assassination being marketed to boost the declining standing of “March 14”. Fear of losing one’s dominion leads one to do that. It also leads one to do such things as assassinate one’s own allies. I wonder who wrote his speech though. Perhaps a colleague who works at the Saudi embassy might be able to shed some light on that.

Note: I am told that the more accurate translation for the Arabic word which I translated as “fantasy” is “illusion”. I am unsure if “illusion” underlines as well as “fantasy” would, mini-Hariri’s emphasis on deliberate deception on the part of his rivals (or perhaps he was implying his rivals are genuinely convinced they are the true majority?), but if true, I stand corrected. Not that I am losing any sleep over what mini-Hariri (as Angry Arab refers to him) was thinking…

UN Resolutions: Only for Arabs to Abide By?

I must say, despite the fact that Mrs. Bouthaina Chaaban “forgot” to mention the brutal and oppressive and repressive measures of the Ba’ath regime in Lebanon, in addition to its decades-long occupation (this reference ought to please the nationalist “Marxists” out there who believe in national borders and integrity and divine inviolability thereof), she was quite eloquent and convincing on BBC’s HARDtalk yesterday. I am impressed, especially given the incompetence of Lebanese politicians in that regard. I must add that I gasped on a number of occasions at the terminology that Mr. Sackur used in referring to some domestic (Lebanese) and regional actors, and the manner in which he kept putting words into Mrs. Chaaban’s mouth. Of course, Mrs. Chaaban was aware of this, and pointed out on a number of occasions that she did not say what he claimed she said. The questions he posed to her were rather silly to be honest. At one point he mentioned the entry of “insurgents” from Syria into Iraq, and she grinned, pointing out that it was the U.S that was standing on the opposite side of the border which the “insurgents” were allegedly crossing. Another question was about UN SCR 1701, and Syria’s compliance with it (in terms of alleged weapons smuggling), and here she was quick to ask why Israel was in violation of UN SCR 242 (and I think she also mentioned 497), and if UN resolutions were only for Arabs to abide by? It was quite entertaining. I wish I could find a transcript of the interview.

What are the cedar revolutionaries up to?

Not that I subscribe to the hysteria that the Western media and their “leftist” complicits in Lebanon are trying to spread, but I thought I would post a few photos which might paint a more accurate picture of what the planners of this assassination might have been aiming for.

antisyrian.jpg antiaoun.jpg hooligans.jpg militia.jpg

From left to right

Photo #1: A Lebanese army officer tries to stop an angry Christian Lebanese man beating a Syrian driver who sits inside his Syrian taxi car after it destroyed by other angry protesters in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP) At least they didn’t serve tea to the hooligans.

Photo #2: Supporters of assasinated Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel show their anger by stepping on a poster of Hezbollah ally General Michel Aoun in the Beirut Christian stronghold of Ashrafieh. (AFP) Am sure this will please our resident “Marxist”comrade (sic).

Photo #3: Angry Lebanese Christian protesters, burn a street side garbage container in reaction of the assassination of prominent anti-Syrian Christian politician Pierre Gemayel, in Beirut, Lebanon. (AFP) Oh, yeah, we will show them pictorial proofs of their hooliganism every time they dare open their mouths to criticize the hooligans who attacked churches over the Danish cartoons.

Photo #4: Furious supporters of prominent anti-Syrian Christian politician Pierre Gemayel, who was assassinated in a suburb of Beirut on Tuesday, raise aloft posters of Gemayel at the St. Josephs’s hospital where his body was brought in the Jdeideh suburb of eastern Beirut, Lebano. (AP) Just furious? Or dressed up in militia outfit?

Enjoy. Your cedar revolutionaries that is. Apologies for “taking one side against the second.”

This is your Lebanon – Episode VII: Islamophobes and Proletarians with Mobile Phones

A conversation at work today:

Some dude at work: What are you reading?

Me: Learning Hebrew.

Dude: Oh, I want to learn too. Can you photocopy them for me?

Me: No.

Dude: Can I see it?

Me: Sure.

I hand him the papers. Since there is no book on modern Hebrew at any of the libraries I have checked, I had to rely on print-outs from the net in Arabic, prepared by a Lebanese teacher of Hebrew. The print-outs had at the top of each unit an opener sentence like “In the name of Allah”.

Dude [looking at the papers] : What’s this?

Me: What’s what?

Dude: This. [pointing at the opener sentence]

Me: Oh, that. Yes, the guy happens to be Muslim.

Dude: Take it, I don’t want it. I will find another source.

Me: ?? What???!

Dude: Khalas it’s OK.

Idiot.

Add him to the 100,000 idiots I had to “fight” on the roads today. Why do people in this country drive as if they don’t have to reach a destination?? Or do I have a severe chronic case of road rage??!

And excuse me, but I would like our resident Marxist or Trotskyist or communist or Palestinian or Lebanese or or or… to clarify this: how does one reconcile proletarianism with owning mobile phones while more than half the country is below the poverty line and cannot put food on the table? Or better yet, how does one reconcile proletarianism and communism with capitalism and imperialism, one symbol of which is … yup, Pepsi?

Give it to Lebanese proletarianists or Marxists or Trotskyists or or or… to put a special touch on things and call it “intellectualism”.

Idiots.

I guess I will now be accused of inciting and encouraging civil war. That’s pretty much the battle-cry of silencers these days (a revamped version of the bookburners of Al-Azhar, if you ask me). But come to think of it, I am now part of the “nationalistic power struggle”. Oh, I did not know Marxists tended to denounce nationalism, and the whole concept of “self-determination” for national groups. Guess that’s part of the remodeling of Marxism, since it was a dismal failure after how many years (perhaps our resident Marxist/pseudo-intellectual can clarify) of totalitarian (that’s what hierarchy ALWAYS ends up doing) rule?

Idol-worshippers accusing others of worshipping idols. Enjoy your proletarianISTs (different from proletarian) and Islamophobes. Enjoy your silencers who accuse those who wish to end the silence imposed upon opposing voices, of “siding with one side against the second”, or of disrespecting the dead (tell me what’s more disrespectful than freeing a war criminal with the blood of thousands on his hand, or never even jailing another criminal [and there is an abundance of those in this country] who bragged about his civilian kills of the day?). Enjoy your idol-worshippers who think sipping a cuppa coffee with Amory Starr increases their value. Oh, the workings of the ego…

Also see: Episode I, Episode II, Episode III, Episode IV, Episode V, Episode VI

March 14 fingerprints all over Gemayel’s assassination

So Pierre Gemayel is dead. Gunned down in broad daylight.

The media immediately underlined that he was an “anti-Syrian politician”. OK. So he was “anti-Syrian” (whatever the hell that is supposed to mean…), that means that the culprits are “pro-Syrians”. Of course (brilliant logic I must add). Very convenient. The Syrians (or pro-Syrians – again whatever the hell that means) must be very dumb to only assassinate “anti-Syrian” politicians; they couldn’t have tried to assassinate “pro-Syrian” politicians too, “as appetizer”, to have fingers pointed in all directions rather than only at Syria. But then again, even if that happens, expect that Jumblatt would somehow put the blame for the assassination of “pro-Syrians” on… Syria. Anyway, coupled with the incitement of the “March 14” as of late and the “tekhwin” (accusation of treason) game that they have been playing, and the “lan nansa” (we will not forget) billboards all over the place with pictures of all those who have been victims of assassination attempts, it seemed that another assassination was “in order”, to keep the “lan nansa” mood in the country alive, and to prevent any demonstrations to topple the government. As the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Jumblatt, Geagea, Hariri Jr., and Siniora signed Mr. Gemayel’s death warrant. No buts. Period.

Topple this government and put Jumblatt, Geagea, Hariri, Siniora, Fatfat, & co. on trial. NOW. Or else I will have to call 4 million Lebanese IDIOTS. NOW.

Update #1: My dad was at the crime scene seconds after the assassination had taken place. He describes the following. A fuel truck stopped in the middle of the road, and in front of it a car, and then another damaged car (a KIA) that had swerved to the left. The passenger door of the KIA was open, and in it Gemayel in the driver’s seat, his chest riddled with bullets & all red. There were a few bystanders, in particular a young woman who was shocked, and all were looking on in confusion and shock.

Update #2: Apparently the assassins were so comfortable that they did not even feel the need to cover their faces. This substantiates the argument that these were professional hitmen hired from outside. Another thing that might be related to this is the issue of gun silencers being shipped to the American embassy (see Al-Akhbar, Oct. 30, p. 7)

In a Thoreau Mood

Excuse this a-bit-off-topic post, but I am in the mood for some Thoreau.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to “glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails. Let us rise early and fast, or break fast, gently and without perturbation; let company come and let company go, let the bells ring and the children cry — determined to make a day of it. Why should we knock under and go with the stream? Let us not be upset and overwhelmed in that terrible rapid and whirlpool called a dinner, situated in the meridian shallows. Weather this danger and you are safe, for the rest of the way is down hill. With unrelaxed nerves, with morning vigor, sail by it, looking another way, tied to the mast like Ulysses. If the engine whistles, let it whistle till it is hoarse for its pains. If the bell rings, why should we run? We will consider what kind of music they are like. Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe, through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, through Church and State, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, and no mistake;”

– Henry David Thoreau