Friday, November 25, 2005

Citizen Hariri (and Hariri Watch). We need a Citizen Hariri project for Lebanon. We need to produce a work of art, literature, politics, and popular culture that would illustrate the devastating damage that Rafiq Hariri (and his Inc) inflicted (and continue to inflict) on Lebanon. The Lebanese political system has two ills: political money and sectarianism (and external intervention exploit both, always), and Hariri perfected and expanded the use of those two evils of Lebanese politics. When Hearst lamented the rival press barons, he went against them with his sensational and exploitive methods. Hariri went against rivals in the media and popular culture by simply buying off ALL Lebanese media. This is a country that is suffocating from press and political restrictions and manipulations, and many don't even know it. This is a country that does not allow--under the new US-Saudi domination, "the other point of view." Sa`d Hariri actually said during the parliamentary campaign that whoever disagreed with him must be his father's killer. PR firms are hired to manipulate public opinion, and to package propaganda messages (just as the King of Jordan spend millions to have Saatchi & Saatchi design billboards of propaganda in Jordan, and it produced and designed the slogan, Jordan first for him, to the tune of $30 million, I am told), and to sell images to Western media and governments, that are more than willing to absorb and to accommodate, especially when Hariri Inc has become a mere tool in US policy in the Middle East. Cheney's advisor (Hanna) has more say over Lebanon than all the Lebanonese leaders that you see on your Hariri-funded TV. We need to document what Hariri has done to Lebanon, for those who care about the real concerns of the people in that fictitious homeland. We need to first chart how Hariri started his (sectarian) charity to build a political base, while also funding the militias of the various sects (including the Lebanese Forces) to facilitate his entry into Lebanon politics. We need documentation of Hariri's reported cash payments to the presidential campaign of Chirac, and his bribes in Damascus which reached a very high level of the political, intelligence, and military leadership. We then need to document how Hariri ruled Lebanon, in conjunction with the Syrian intelligence service for much of the Hrawi administration, whose term was extended without any attention by the UNSC. Hrawi, once put on the Hariri payroll, was more than willing to go along providing Hariri with the opportunity to rule Lebanon. Hariri's first act as prime minister was to request from Hafidh Al-Asad, who put him in power, "extraordinary powers" for his government, so that he can rule by decree without any role by the Lebanese parliament. His second act was to give orders to shoot at demonstrators who were protesting the Oslo accords. These were the days when Hariri was expecting the "fruits of Arab-Israeli peace" to reach Lebanon. His third act was to crush--with the support of Syrian intelligence AND Shi`ite leader Nabih Birri--the labor movement in Lebanon. The final act in that regard was in 2001, when he--with Nabih Birri--arranged for the installation of a puppet as head of the General Union of Workers. We then need to document how Hariri's financial and political interests intersected with the interests of factions in the Syrian intelligence service. It could be a movie, a novel, a play, a biography, a website, a poem, or all that combined. We are talking about a country that has been put on the payroll of one family, with its political loyalties always extending outward, toward Syria, toward Saudi Arabia, and as of late very much toward the US (and Israel with it--directly or indirectly). We need to ask for an accountability for Hariri's disastrous financial decisions of the 1990s, which accumulated the foreign debt of Lebanon (the largest per capita worldwide), and his privatization of key sectors of the economy to the benefit of family members, relatives, and business associates and partners. As we see that Lebanese media are ALL (except Ad-Diyar which used to be on the payroll of Hariri, and New TV which sometimes is influenced by outside pressures especially given its links to the Qatari government) under the direct influence of Hariri Inc, and the Lebanese people are deprived, more than during the era of Syrian domination, the opportunity for"alternative views and opinions." Maybe we need to set up a Hariri Watch website, by people living in Lebanon and are willing to provide information, documentation, and verification. We need to demolish, challenge, and undermine the dangerous Hariri cult in Lebanon. For those who are interested, especially those who are in Lebanon, and for those who have ideas, contact me. This is real politics, much more than the waving of the Hummus flag.