Tuesday, June 28, 2005

It seems that everybody here has an entourage. Journalists, politicians, and crooks. There is a measure of simplicity in the US that I like: when I first came to Washington, DC I encountered Robert McNamara walking by himself around Dupont Circle (and I did not yell Arabic obscenities at him). I asked an Italian journalist this morning about the Lebanese upper class' practice of speaking on their cellphones while walking leisurely on the treadmill. She said that this was only one of many weird things here. I met a talented and dynamic director yesterday: she is part of a Lebanese collective known as Beirut, DC. They produce and show documentaries that are challenging. She is working on one about the Hummus Revolution. She has some 50 hours of footage already. Never assume a people, any people, including the Hummus people, to be a monolithic group. I am impressed on a daily basis with the number of people I meet who don't agree with the right-wing opposition or with any side for that matter. You hear grumbling about Hariri, even in Beirut, and even among Sunnis. It is clear that among mainstream Christians Sa`d Hariri is the most despised man: he is seen as the person who selected Christian parliamentarians on behalf of Christians. The position of Hizbullah-Amal is stronger than ever: Nabih Birri is most indebted to Hizbullah for the next 4 years--the duration of his term as speaker of parliament. For those who care, I taped an hour interview for ANB TV: it will air this week on the program Question Mark. I will also appear live for an interview on Al-Malaf program on NBN TV this coming Thursday night (Hummus Time Zone). I am giving a talk in Sidon this Saturday titled: Lebanon: New or Old? Details later. Salih gave me his analysis of the Iranian election: the hardliners among the population constitute a minority; the reformists constitute another minority; and the centrists constitute yet another minority. The majority is "independent" as we call it in the US: they are flexible and will judge each candidate on the merits. In their eyes, Khatemi failed miserably and appeared weak. This one appears to have a program and can work with the spiritual guide, in their eyes. Of course, his platform does not sit well with me as he comes from a background of religious dogmatism. Certainly, Syria and Hizbullah will feel more secure with his position. I hear many people complain about the electoral opportunism of everybody here in Lebanon: including of Hizbullah for aligning with Hariri and Lebanese Forces representatives. But Hizbullah is in such a strong position among Shi`ites: they could have easily won every single Shi`ite seat in parliament. The Saudi role in Lebanon is becoming quite clear for many: I was glad about that because there was an attempt to disguise it. The influence of underground Sunni Wahhabi groups is the the unreported story about Lebanon: more on that later. The French role will only diminish and the US will use France to cover its own hands and face in Lebanon. They have to do so to promote the myth of "an international legitimacy" in Lebanon. Apparently, Emile Lahhud's son runs the biggest security company in Beirut: the silent president who ran on a campaign against corruption has watched innocently the enrichment of his sons, one of whom was on the Saddam's coupon list. I may be meeting him next week: don't tell him I wrote this. Tell him that Angry Arab looks like me, and acts like me, but is NOT me. The plight of Sri Lankan maids, and other foreign and local domestic workers, in Lebanon continues to outrage me. Something must be done, or at least said, about that. They are prisoners (with their passport confiscated by their "masters" and virtual slaves. I told the Lebanese upper class in one public talk to liberate their maids before they talk about liberating Lebanon. And what does the upper class Lebanese know about "liberation" anyway?