Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Corruption continues in the Lebanese government. I read the names of the new Lebanese cabinet. Most are ok in that they do not come from the sleazy and corrupt backgrounds of most Lebanese politicians. Two are academics I know: Ghassan Salamah and Charles Rizq. Salamah is a fine Paris-based academic who became a Minister of Culture under Hariri in 2000. I disagreed with him on two matters: he organized the silly conference for La Francophonie in Beirut when he was Minister of Culture. I visited him at the time and expressed my strong opposition to the idea, and he told me that he did not care much about Francophnie but that this was the baby of the silent president (Lahhud). The second matter was his involvement in the UN effort in Iraq, which came to legitimize the American occupation. Salamah miraculously survived when the UN headquarters was bombed. Rizq is also a French-trained academic who was a moderate and secular intellectual aligned with the Shihabi effort in the 1960s. When he was director-general of the Ministry of Information in the late 1970s, right-wing fascist leader Bashir Gemayyel arranged for his kidnapping in the trunk of a car, and then he was brought to Gemayyel at his Lebanese Forces' headquarters (where Palestinians and Muslims were routinely tortured) who was angry at the news broadcasts of the Lebanese TV, and at Rizq's rejection of Gemayyel's plans to start his own private militia TV at the time. Rizq told me this account once in Ottawa. Both Rizq and Salamah are secular intellectuals who do not support the right-wing ideologies of the Phalanges and their supporters. But I was furious to see the name of Lahhud's son-in-law, Ilyas Murr. His father is one of the most (politically and financially) corrupt politicians in Lebanese history, who is able to shift from one camp to another at the drop of a hat--or the drop of a Tarbush. I detest puppets of foreign powers, but detest more puppets who switch allegiances frequently (like prime minister Najib Miqati, Michel Murr, Elie Hubayqah, Walid Jumblat, the list is too long to list exhaustively in Lebanon). (There is also a long list in Iraq too). Michel Murr was the political grandfather of Bashir Gemayyel when he was pushed by Israeli government as puppet president in 1982. My father knew Murr when he--my father--served as secretary-general of the Lebanese parliament--that is how I came to despise Lebanese politicians: you see them up close, you see them stealing sandwiches and office supplies), and I witnessed Murr's bribing of Lebanese members of parliament, and of the then speaker of parliament, Kamil As`ad, who (reportedly) sent the bribe (more than $10 million) to his account in Switzerland. Murr paid every single deputy (who showed up for the puppet election, and he installed a car phone for each deputy--it was a big thing in 1982). Later, when Israel's fortunes were broken in Lebanon, Murr quickly switched his allegiance to Syria, and established political and financial ties with key Syrian officials, and intelligence operatives. Prime minister Salim Huss told me in 2000 that he did not want Michel Murr in his cabinet in 1998, but that the Syrian government imposed Murr on him. And this silent president of Lebanon Lahhud: he insists on brining his own people perhaps because he does not know that he has little support, and probably no support at all among Christians. His son-in-law was made a Minister of Defense, but only because he Defended his father-in-law from political and personal attacks over the years. This silent Lebanese president is really clueless.