Thursday, June 30, 2005

The true Lebanon: I was told that when the wife of the Filipino president tried to enter the Riviera beach in Beirut, the officials told her that "maids are not permitted on the premises."
The Wise One strikes again: "Bush Strategy: Win War at Home" and lose big time abroad, and nobody will notice.
This I can confirm: Sa`d Hariri did take special tutorials in Beiruti accent after complaints from Beiruti families about his Saudi accent. He also is taking special lessons in Fusha (classical) Arabic. There is more that I cannot post for the time being lest I lose access I have here. Fu'ad Sanyurah is the next prime minister and has already officially pledged to not address the "weapons of the resistance" in Lebanon. He needs the support of Hizbullah-Amal very badly to continue in his mission. The Sunni-Shi`ite rift worries a lot of people here, including me. UNSC 1559 is dead. Kudos to the outgoing Labor Minister in Lebanon for officially permitting Palestinians to work some jobs that were denied to them. Unemployment is as high as 70 percent in `Ayn Al-Hilwa camp. Now the Lebanese can continue to exploit the Palestinian workers as they exploited the Syrian workers in the past. For profit, Lebanese will bend any rule and break any law. I am predicting that US occupation forces will either begin withdrawal or announce a timetabled withdrawal from Iraq within two years. For those who care, I shall appear live at 8:30PM (Beirut Hummus Time Zone) on NBN TV. I have rescheduled my talk in Sidon for next week due to a dinner invitation that I had forgotten about.
The foreign correspondent told me the story herself: a foreign correspondent based in Beirut was interviewing the right-wing member of parliament and director-general of the right-wing propaganda sheet known as An-Nahar, Jubran Tuwayni, when the latter twice told her: "Pull your hair to the back; you will look nicer." When he said it to her the third time, she told him that he "cant embarrass her like that." In the kooky context of Lebanese politics, Tuwayni is considered a (Hummus) "liberal."
Why the Economist is the best magazine there is (among other reasons of course): the Middle East correspondent of the Economist has lived in the region for 30 years and is fluent in Arabic. The New York Times and the Washington Post only require their Middle East correspondents to eat 3 falafil sandwiches before they travel to the region.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

How (in)Justice gets served: "The Pentagon has promoted or nominated for promotion two senior Army officers who oversaw or advised detention and interrogation operations in Iraq during the height of the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal."
The New York Times says that Bush is "Insisting on a Fight to the Finish." Finshing what, I wonder. Does he mean that the aim is to finish off the Iraqi population? Clarify, please, oh wise one.
The vote for the speaker in parliament in Lebanon, and the celebrations by supporters of Amal-Hizbullah yesterday, reveal the deep sectarian divisions in this country. Mostly Christian candidates did not vote for Birri, while Muslim candidates did. Birri is now set for "four more years" as they say in the US. The Shi`ite political ranks are unified. Some of the celebrations for Birri's victory yesterday (which included tens of cars in long convoys--and I was astonished to see them hoisting the flags of Amal and of Hizbullah together--a very uncommon scene until very recently--included gunfire, and two innocent people were killed. The Shi`ites in those convoys were clearly sending messages to Sunnis and to Christians in Lebanon. A Christian woman who was slightly injured was interviewed on New TV: she wondered why "they" could not be "more civilized." If you only can hear how common the "word" civilized appear in the mouth of the supporters of the Lebanese right-wing opposition. Everybody here wants to be seen as civilized. Not me. The Lebanese Communist Party today officially accused Israel of the assassination of George Hawi, and rejected FBI help in the investigation. In other news, Lebanese Army units held joint maneuvers with US personnel. The right-wing propaganda sheet known as An-Nahar, had a headline today: "US ambassador feeds sweets to children." The new US-Saudi era requires that kind of propaganda.
I have received very incriminating documents revealing the corruption of Muhammad Dahlan. I shall post some of them upon return from the US. Also, a source in Ramallah has been writing to me about public displeasure with the thuggery by some armed groups there. More later.
This is dumb: "CIA analysts forced 30 flights to be cancelled and raised the US terror alert from yellow to orange because they thought that al-Qaida was sending hidden messages through the headlines of the Arabic television news channel al-Jazeera, it has been revealed."
This is Zionism: "An Israeli soldier who refused to demolish buildings in the Gaza Strip was jailed yesterday for 56 days for refusing to obey orders."
I have received this message, and I could not verify the information. But if anybody knows anything, please let me know:
"Dear Asلd,
I want to appeal to your strong sense of compassion as a colleague and a fellow Middle-Easterner. One of my dearest friends, Farshid Faraji, an independent Iranian documentary filmmaker, has recently been arrested and imprisoned by the US military in Iraq. We (his family and friends) do not know where he is being held and why. His papers were all legal, and he and his partner, US based, Kourosh Kar (Iranian-American), were in Iraq filming for a historical documentary on King Cyrus. All we know is that Farshid and Kourosh are in US custody, and nothing more. Kourosh has been listed in the Red Cross list of detainees, but not Farshid, and they are held at two different camps. If you google his name(Farshid Faraji), you'll find a few news stories on his case (all Iranian sites). I am so worried that Farshid could be lost in the black hole of US Imperialist prison camp for no reason at all, and since he is an Iranian citizen, why should the US military personnel care to release him anytime soon.
Can you do anything for him? Advocacy? advice on where to go to get help, etc.?"

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

"US resumes production of Cold War plutonium"
"Iraq: A bloody mess"
"Giving Chutzpah New Meaning"
"Israeli soldier guilty of killing Briton in Gaza"
"US polls show support for conflict waning"
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?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

"Lebanon: an illusion of unity" (thanks Joseph)
"Rice silent on women’s rights in Middle East"
"Poll: In wake of Iraq war, allies prefer China to U.S." (I prefer Sweden to China)
"From Modesto, California, a window on the Arab world" (thanks Ema)
"Big Media Interlocks with Corporate America"
"Iraqi students say arrested for wearing jeans"
"America's neo-conservative world supremacists will fail: Current US megalomania is rooted in the Puritan colonists' certainties"
"Brazilians fear U.S. is plotting to take Amazon"
I don't believe this. It is propaganda. I don't have time to explain. But former puppet prime minister/car bomber/Saddam's henchman/embezzler-in-Yemen, Iyad `Allawi, also used to make such claims when he would meet with clan leaders. It is intended for internal US audience to send a false message of full control and flexibility by US forces.
"Inquiry Exposes Canada's Role in 'Renditions': Hearings Suggest Cooperation With U.S. in Sending Arab Canadian Citizen to Syria for Interrogation"
"Turkey's Growing Sex Trade Snares Many Slavic Women"
"The extraordinary decision by an Italian judge to order the arrest of 13 people linked to the Central Intelligence Agency on charges of kidnapping a terrorism suspect here dramatizes a growing rift between American counterterrorism officials and their counterparts in Europe."
Matisse: Une Seconde Vie
Diet soda drinks outside of the US taste much better and sweeter than diet soda drinks in the US. It must be due to chemicals that they use which may not be permitted by the FDA in the US. I now officially urge the FDA to permit the use of those chemicals NOW. I said, NOW.
THE REAL BUSH DOCTRINE: "U.S. Plans Expansion of Crowded Iraq prisons: Faced with a ballooning prison population, U.S. commanders in Iraq are building new detention facilities at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison and Camp Bucca near the Kuwaiti border and are developing a third major prison, in northern Iraq."
The Bush Doctrine: "other countries also began investigations into America's role in the disappearance of their citizens."
"The Power and the Glory: Myths of American exceptionalism"
"Almost not believing that ISG could be disinterested in this story, I contacted my old graduate professor at Georgetown, Dr. Assad AbuKhalil. Dr. AbuKhalil has become a violent critic of Israel and the Bush Administration’s Iraq War, running a weblog called “the Angry Arab” chock full of pictures of suffering Palestinians and Iraqis sent to him by God-knows-who. This angry Arab (with whom I maintain a certain affection and respect) enjoys attacking government officials on television over various policy errors and mistranslations of the Arabic language, such as the Bin Laden videotapes. I sent him the original Arabic documents via email. “Interesting,” he wrote back. He said “nothing would surprise me” about the depths of Saddam’s depravity anyway, and the documents would have to be studied “more carefully.” I never heard back. The fact that this virulently anti-Administration professor could not dismiss these documents as fakes speaks well of their authenticity, in my humble opinion."
I can tell how fragmented this country is by the different moods and sub-political cultures of every audience I address. From the southern suburbs, to Beirut, and yesterday in Tyre, the audiences are quite different. But imagine how odd it was to have the brother of Layla Khalid (THE Layla Khalid) express full support for the right-wing opposition in Lebanon. One person in Tyre was a supporter of `Awn, and asked me for my reasons of opposing him. In Tyre, the centers that invite me are too poor to afford airconditioning, and I suffer greatly and yet have an emotional bond with an audience that knew me as a child or some who knew my father as a child. I took pictures of what remained of my grandfather's house in old Tyre. I have tons of pictures that I will post upon return--I dont take personal pictures, just pictures for the site. The flashcard (as this is my first camera ever) is incredible, and thanks Robert for recommending the Cannon S500). My audiences tend to attract a disproportionate number of secular Lebanese and I have to remind myself that this is not a representative crowd. I took a cab this morning from my GYM to this internet cafe. I asked the driver where he is from, and he hesitated for several seconds before saying: "Syria." ANd then he shared his ordeal with me. He wondered why poor helpless Syrian workers get blamed for things that they have not done, or for a regime that they have not selected. HE was robbed twice in the city, and his cellphone was stolen by the thugs who attacked him. Once a knife was put to his neck in East Beirut (predominantly Christian) and another time he was almost beaten up in Raml Adh-Dharif (predominantly Muslim)--Lebanese unite only when it comes to racism and chauvinism. He is related to another Syrian worker who was stabbed 10 times and killed near Mahatat Ad-Dana in Beirut. His body was taken to his village in Syria where crowds were very angry. This will not be reported in WP and NYT or in Nahar or AlArabiyya. I shudder to think of the consequences of he Sunni-Shi`ite rift in the Arab world. Grand (not really) Ayatollah Sistani was greatly admired among Shi`ites here, and among Hizbullah supporters and leaders. Among Sunnis he is despised. I learned of the details of his trip to London during the attack on Najaf but will write about that later upon return to the US. There are barely any pictures of Hariri in Sidon, his birthplace, and none whatsoever in Tyre. In Tyre, there is great frustration among leftists and secularists for the way Amal-Hizbullah decided who gets what seats in Parliament, just as the rest of the country. What a predictable election it was. I am told that Sa`d Hariri spends more politial money than his father. There is a Hariri payroll list that includes the names of prominent politicians and journalists, according to a member of parliament who has seen it. He gave me some names. Reportedly, former president Ilyas Hrawi was getting $75,000 a month, and the figure was mentioned by Hasan Sabra on LBC-TV. The social climate in South Lebanon has changed from the 1980s, when Amal tried but miserably failed to ban alcohol. Now, Amal and Hizbullah do not interfere in social affairs because Lebanese of all sects would not stand it. The elections in Iran were odd: the socio-economic divide expressed different political cultures that may translate in Arab countries once elections are held. US wars may also be boosting the fortunes of hardliners everywhere here. I visited the oldest printing house in the Arab world from 1640s. But the monastery that runs it does not know how to manage the thing. In the US, they are very good at managing historical sites for touristic purposes. I came across an "Australian" restaurant on Hamra Street in Beirut. I stopped to check the menu: it indeed had Australian food: fries and burgers. I hear that a new Bulgarian restaurant is about to open: it will feature authentic Bulgarian food: fries and burgers. I wondered when Lebanon will eventually have a Thai restaurant with authentic Thai food: fries and burgers. A person called me at my hotel at 12:45AM to invite me for a talk in Sarafand. I was furious. You never meet a supporter of president Lahhud. This morning, I read on the front page of AnNahar that yet another "senior aide" to Zarqawi was captured, and a "relative of" `Izzat Ad-Duri was also captured. Those will be added to the piles of "senior Zarqawi aides" and "relatives of Ad-Duri" who already are in US custody in Iraq. When will the book be written on US propaganda during the 2nd Iraq war that continues unabated?

Friday, June 24, 2005

I have met and interviewed many people already. Many officials and senior leaders talked to me at length but off the record. I wish I can share what I have learned. In fact, one senior leader specifically said that I am not to post what he told me on my site. I gave my first talk yesterday at Masrah Al-Madinah. NEW TV and Sahwa TV recorded the entire event, but I am not sure when or whether it will air. I offered my condolences yesterday to the leadership of the Lebanese Communist Party and to the family of George Hawi. I was pleased to be introduced yesterday by Nidal Al-Ashqar, and I saw Layla Khalid's sister in the audience. During the Q and A session, a woman in the audience innocently and casually asked me: "Do you know if you are on some assassination black list here in Lebanon?" "Not to my knowledge," I said. Not to my knowledge.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER gives its 2005 tolerance award to a torturer. It also gave the Sudanese government its 2005 award for ethnic harmony.
"Arms trade 'undermines efforts to relieve debt'"
'Our relationship was the greatest achievement of my life'
Lebanese Communist Party leaders seem to be blaming Israel for the assassination of George Hawi. George Hawi remained close to LCP leaders and members after his resignation in 1993, when he became very active in construction business (utilizing his ties to the former Soviet Union). He was indeed a dynamic personality in Lebanese politics although I do not approve--as I said yesterday--of his past hardcore Stalinist rigidity or his new Christian sectarian flexibility. I could not believe that statement of the US embassy over the death of Hawi. They only identified him as anti-Syrian, although his position toward Syria was more nuanced than the right-wing opposition. But he was much more than that. Did they forget to remember that he spent his entire life fighting (literally in many cases) against Israel and US plots and wars in the Middle East? They made him sound as if he was a right-wing militia type. How deceptive. I remember the words he wrote in September 16th, 1982 when the first communique of the Lebanese National Resistance Movement (against Israeli occupation) was issued (co-written with Muhsin Ibrahim, the head of the Lebanese Communist Action Organization) and it said that Israel and US do not want Lebanon to be "sovereign, free, or independent." Those words still ring true today, propaganda efforts notwithstanding. There is a mood of nervousness in the air; people active in politics are careful when they turn on their car engines. An-Nahar newspaper exploited to the hilt the assassination of Samir Qasir. They did not tell you this: (which I was just told by a confidential source within) when Qasir was persecuted by the Lebanese intelligence service in 2001 (of the Public Security Department to be exact with the participation of the Syrian intelligence for sure), Jubran Tuwayni (general director of An-Nahar) who shed crocodile tears over Qasir's death argued with Qasir over his criticisms of the Lebanese and Syrian intelligence order, and ASKED him to tender his resignation at the time. The publisher Ghassan Tuwayni also lashed out at Qasir in a meeting, and told him that you are "tuwarritna" (you are "dragging us into" this mess). This is the real right-wing Christian newspaper An-Nahar. As-Safir's sales are up 35 % in predominantly Christian areas probably because all newspapers of Lebanon are no more than propaganda sheets. Only in As-Safir you read more than one opinion. An-Nahar still sells more because they also have a monopoly over the distribution and advertisement business of newspapers. For those who care, I will be speaking in Tyre this Saturday at 6:00PM at Al-Muntada Ath-Thaqafi. The LA Times profile of Angry Arab was printed in Monterey Herald and here in the Detroit News which also printed the picture of Angry bed (which did not make it in the on-live version of the LA Times article). I highly recommend the falafil sandwiches at Barbar in Hamra.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

"Karl Marx takes lead in BBC poll of philosophers" (Bush ranked just above Hegel)
"Cairo Audience Cool to Rice's Call for Democratic Reform: Secretary of State urges Egypt to 'lead and ... define' political change in the Mideast. The invitation-only crowd answers with silence."
"FBI trawls libraries for terrorist readers"
Saddam, as if we care, "admires Ronald Reagan, respects Bill Clinton and bears no grudge against George Bush senior or junior. But he cannot abide Froot Loops." (thanks Valerie)
"Hobsbawm’s Hidden Self"
"The Rage of Ludwig"
For those who care, I will be giving a talk titled America Discovers Lebanon in Masrah Al-Madinah in Beirut on Thursday at 7:30PM. Hummus will NOT be served.
Yesterday, I was giving a talk to a group in Harat Hurayk (in the predominantly Shi`ite southern suburbs in Beirut) and I did not see one single picture of Hariri, in contrast to Sunni sectors in Beirut where Hariri pictures fill the walls and cover the buildings.
"Crucified nun dies in 'exorcism'" (thanks Julie)
Elections in the North: I happened to be at As-Safir's office on election day during the election. Correspondents were reporting a lower than expected voter turnout. But in the last hour, the Hariri apparatus was able to bring in 20,000 more voters. That is very suspicious to me, but nobody dares to press for investigation for frauds when the Minister of Interior is a Hariri political operative. So much money was spent in the North, and most if not all Sunni clerics were put on Hariri payroll, I heard. The Mufti of Tripoli (who has a reputation of corruption that goes way back) was instrumental in using mosques for Hariri propaganda. I am told that every shoe shiner, Falafil vendor, shopkeeper, etc had a sign that said: "election office." That allowed for "legal" funding from Hariri Political Inc. We will never know the amount of money that Hariri spent in this election. But he has not been impressing people. He is way too heavy-handed and way too eager, and way too impatient. His father had much more political skills and much more subtlety . It took Sa`d Hariri only weeks to alienate so many people in Lebanon, despite the electoral victory that he gained. But don't exaggerate his political victories: many of his allies will not last as allies. Lebanese Forces deputies will not serve at his pleasure in the Lebanese parliament, and the power of money can only go this far. But most alarming in the North elections is this: Muslims voted overwhelmingly one way, and Christians voted overwhelmingly the opposite way, some 80 percent of them. This is why why Christians in Zghorta, for example, will feel that Muslims selected their candidates, just as some Christians in the South felt that Muslims selected their candidates. The trend is that the small districts will become little tiny republics with their own flags and national anthems. So this little tiny homeland may splinter into little tiny homelandettes.
House of Saud and House of Hariri: I am told that succession in the House of Hariri was not decided by the House of Hariri. Rafiq Hariri was not on good terms with Crown Prince `Abdullah because he was too close to King Fahd. But he improved his relationship with him in later years. After the assassination of Hariri, Crown Prince `Abdullah assigned Prince Majid to take charge of the Hariri household. It was then decided that Sa`d Hariri (and not the eldest son, Baha') would succeed his father. Baha` was deemed to be too hot-tempered and too impatient. He would leave if he waited too long for a Prince in the kingdom. When Rafiq sent Baha' to take care of business in Saudi Arabia (in the first round) he had to recall him after 7 months or so. Baha' was not amused by that decision, and he did not even attend any of the celebrations for the Hariri electoral victories. It was also decided that Bahiyyah would only deal with Sidon affairs, and she was marginalized. Rafiq Hariri's widow, wanted to play a political role but was told that she had to stick to charitable affairs. Saudi role in Lebanon is supreme. There are some Shi`ite people and organizations (and others) who are worried about incoming Wahhabi influence in Lebanon. A person who talked to Hariri only hours before his assassination (when he was sitting at L'Etoile cafe) told me that Hariri just happened to mention that he had erred in not taking seriously the threat of Sunni extremist fundamentalist groups in Lebanon. He also told him that he would never surrender the "necks of Muslims" to extremist Christians and he named, by way of example, Jubran Tuwayni and Solange Geymayyel and Amin Gemayyel. To his credit, Hariri never trusted or even met with Amin Gemayyel who always kept trying to meet with him. After Hariri's assassination, Amin Gemayyel was a fixture in Hariri palace at Quraytim. Speculation about the involvement of Sunni fanatical groups in the assassination of Hariri increased after the press conference of the UN investigation team days ago.
Unfortunately, I could not convince the best Arab columnist, Joseph Samahah of As-Safir, to collect his articles on Lebanon in a book. I told him that he really played an important political role during the Lebanese events. He could not, and can not, be swept by popular sentiments and moods.
George Hawi: assassinated. This morning, before leaving for the GYM, I watched live footage of the scene of Hawi's car explosion. It looked similar to the car explosion of Samir Qasir. This should put to rest the baseless rumors regarding the culprits in the case of Qasir's assassination. George Hawi was a very influential person in the history of the Lebanese civil war. He was (along with Muhsin Ibrahim) the brains behind the leftist coalition known as the Lebanese National Movement. This person joined the Lebanese Communist Party very early in his youth, and rose very quickly through the ranks. He earned the trust of the Soviet Union and promoted a very loyal Leninist-Stalinist line within the Party, and was very firm in dealing with dissent and "deviations" in the party as Leninists would call them. But I learned from reading the memoirs of Karim Muruwwah that for several months in the 1960s, the Soviet Union put him under house arrest, and accused him of..."deviation". He was one of the best polemicists in the Arab world, and was a great organizer. The growth of the Lebanese Communist Party in the 1960s and 1970s was a tribute to his skills and talents. He knew how to inspire people: those who were students and intellectuals, and those who were workers and peasants. Many of the statements of the Lebanese National Movement during the war years carry his imprint. He had a tendency to attribute local events to "an imperialist-Zionist" conspiracy" and that language made its way in Arab political rhetoric outside of Lebanon. While some people may have overused the "imperialist-Zionist" cliche for blame, that conspiracy is however real in some cases. Israel is never uninvolved in Lebanese affairs in my opinion. People forget that Israel (most likely) started the car explosions in Lebanon in the last two years--not to be confused with the numerous car bombs during the civil war at the hands of Israel and others): it was certainly Israel and its agents who killed Jihad Jibril (son of Ahmad Jibril, head of PFLP-GC) (a few miles from the site of the explosion today) more than a year ago. Yes, others could be responsible too. The place is out of control, and out of whack. I could not write yesterday: I have been very busy, but have been increasingly pessimistic about the prospects for peace and stability in Lebanon. Sectarian tensions and suspicions are at an all time high here. George Hawi, ironically, was the one who argued that subversion of Lebanon was "a political option" for outside parties in Lebanon. He may have been a victim of that "option." I never agreed with Hawi: neither when he was a Stalinist communist party, and nor when he emerged in the late 1980s as a business person who became close to Christian sectarian sectors. But he also was hoping that his step-son Rafi Madoyan could make it to the parliament from Matn. He failed in the last election. Hawi was one of the most incisive analysts of the Arab world. He was one of the people that I was planning to meet during this trip to see his take on things in Lebanon and beyond. I have to say that Hawi never wavered in his opposition to Zionism and his opposition to US roles in the region. He was one of a handful of people who started the Lebanese National Resistance Movement in the wake of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. People here are not only nervous but very confused. For how long can the right-wing opposition blame everything that goes wrong on the "remnants" of the old Syrian-Lebanese intelligence order. Not that they are necessarily innocent, but the Hariri Political Inc controls the prime ministership, the Ministry of Interior, and the Ministry of Justice, and many other appointments in the intelligence sector in Lebanon. Now they say that they want ALL the powers of government. That they will get, but that will not guarantee security and peace for Lebanon.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Lebanese Mazah: There are so many rumors swirling around the assassination of Samir Qasir. So much so, that the family of Qasir had to issue a statement yesterday denouncing the rumors. The rumors suggest that he was assassinated for "personal reasons." Sulayman Franjiyyah even talked about that on LBC-TV, and Jumblat was asked point blank on LBC-TV about the rumors suggesting his culpability. I personally don't believe those rumors. The method of assassination suggests an "intelligence agency" with expertise in assassinations, and not some enraged husband. But even friends of Qasir don't discount the rumors. I have noticed that obituaries of Qasir in the Lebanese press made no mention in Qasir's membership in the Lebanese Community Party in the late 1970s. This may offend his current right-wing supporters and fans. This is how Hariri Political Inc uses the money during the election: in addition to outright bribes especially to local officials and Mukhtars, they offer a payment of $150.00 for registration of your car with the campaign on the condition that you bring your family or other voters to a specific polling station. I have talked to people who either received the money or were offered it. They also found a way to legalized bribery: they will pay you an amount of money to sit in at a polling station as a delegate of the campaign. This explains why the Hariri Political Inc has some 50000 delegates at each polling station. I have to say this, in praise of the Hariri Political Inc, :Nicolai Ceausescu would be very proud of the manifestations of the Hariri personality cult in the Beirut area. More than one person here have volunteered to be a "correspondent" for the Angry Arab News Service. That made me think about some ideas in the future. But I have to screen candidates and test their hummus recipes. Abu Mazen is discovering that he can't control the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. He thought that he can easily subdue them. They are not loyal to his political agenda, and many are suspicious of him--and that includes Fath members who support Abu AL-Lutf. A Syrian worker told me that many Syrian workers here hide their accents. Some have returned to Lebanon. But it is absolutely impossible to find cars with Syrian license plates in Lebanon, which was quite common in the past. In fact, for a conference of Syrian-Lebanese business people, the Syrian delegation had to rent Lebanese cars from the border area. My hotel had over 60% occupancy rate last year, and 30% this year. They hope that the end of the election will change things. I just received an invitation for some AUB alumni dinner invitation: at $100.00 a person, featuring Nancy Ajram. I never attended a graduation in my life, and certainly would never attend an Alumni event for the elitist and pretentious schools that I attended in this country. I would rather attend a "concert" by Celine Dion in Vegas, as painful as that would be.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

From the "home of the free": "A U.S. military policeman who was beaten by fellow MPs during a botched training drill at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison for detainees has sued the Pentagon for $15 million, alleging that the incident violated his constitutional rights. Spec. Sean Baker, 38, was assaulted in January 2003 after he volunteered to wear an orange jumpsuit and portray an uncooperative detainee. Baker said the MPs, who were told that he was an unruly detainee who had assaulted an American sergeant, inflicted a beating that resulted in a traumatic brain injury."
Democratic party chairman Howard Dean thinks that criticisms of Israel equals anti-Semitism. Love for Israeli violence against Arabs is ok, and should be encouraged, he added.
No Hummus in this revolution: "Revolution in Bolivia"
Major revelation. U.N. investigators in Lebanon revealed this: Rafiq Hariri did NOT die from natural causes.
There is the highly publicized Hummus Revolution, and then there is this ignored Revolution.
"C.I.A. Role in Visit of Sudan Intelligence Chief Causes Dispute Within Administration"
Examples of Bush's support for "democracy": "Uzbek Ministries in Crackdown Received U.S. Aid"
"US sergeant charged with murder of officers in Iraq"
Expansion of American "freedom" (at a bargain price)
Palestinian people and fish under brutal Israeli occupation.
"The philosopher and the ayatollah"
Wahhabi influence in Lebanon: Saudi Arabia is more involved in Lebanese affairs than in any other time in Lebanese contemporary history. There are concerns among some Sunnis and others that Saudi Arabia is trying to coopt all Sunni clerics in Lebanon, and spread Wahhabi message. Saudi Arabia, I am told, also spent a lot of money during the Hummus revolution.
Plastic Surgery in Lebanon: A friend of mine was at a clothing store buying a pair of jeans. When the jeans appeared tight on her, the vendor casually told her: "Don't worry. I know a great doctor" (meaning plastic surgeon).
Saddam's Last message from jail: A person in touch with Saddam's pathetic lawyer told me that Saddam recently sent this message to what is left of his Ba`th party. According to the message, Saddam requested that in all matters relating to the resistance, `Izzat Ad-Duri is in charge, but that in all matters relating to "negotiating with the Americans," Saddam is in charge.
Last Days of Saddam: I spoke yesterday to a well-known Arab nationalist figure who knew Saddam from 1968, before he left the Ba`th party, and Saddam tried repeatedly to have him killed with...RPGs. He met with Saddam one month prior to the recent US war in and on Iraq (I made it clear to him that I was (and am) fiercely opposed to any meetings with Saddam). He tried to appeal to him to make the necessary changes, and offer some concessions to avert the US war. Saddam looked at him and said: "You know me better. My physiological makeup (bunyani As-saykuluji) prevents me from making concessions under pressures." The person then told him, I spent half of my life being fearful of you, and now I will spend the rest being fearful for you. Saddam then said: "Yes, so many good comrades were lost over the years." I said: what did he mean by "lost"? He killed them. The person said that Saddam was conceding that at that point.
Al-Manar TV is changing its tune on the US occupation in Iraq. While they still refer to the occupation as occupation (unlike most other Arab TV stations), they are so clocely identifying with the Ja`fari government.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The US ambassador in Lebanon actually calls TV Stations when guests criticize the US government. A former Lebanese ambassador in the US (who is in fact right-wing) told me that the US amabassador made frantic calls after a recent appearance by him on LBC-TV. There were people who dared to criticize Syria when the latter dominated the country, but the new US era in Lebanon does not permit criticisms of the US. I saw graffiti in Beirut condemning US intervention in Lebanon (even in Sunni neighborhoods). With my Cannon S500, I will be documenting everything and posting upon my return to the US.
Lebanese always want to fit you into narrow sectarian or political categories. And if you don't fit, you confuse them. My recent post about `Awn was grossly misinterpreted by some of the commentators on this blog. I only said that he has some appeal (very unfortunately in my eyes) among some Muslims and leftists. No, I have not softened on `Awn, and am not waiting to get out of Lebanon to post against him. In fact, I have brought many copies with me of a past interview with `Awn on Pat Robertston's CBN, and have been distributing it to politicians and journalists. I have been advocating against `Awn, especially to members or leaders of movements who have made alliances with him. I view him as a thinly-disguised sectarian agitator with fascistic ambitions, and his past involvements with Saddam Husayn and his alliance with fanatic Zionists in DC should disqualify him. I have been told that some people praised me on the `Awn's official website following my AlJazeera appearance. I am not responsible for that obviously, especially that I did criticize `Awn on that very program (the transcript is on this site, if you are in doubt). A Lebanese Ministry of of Information official who recently met with the European election monitors told me that they told him that they obtained footage of cash payments on the street in the Zahlah election where Hariri Political Inc reportedly spent a lot of money, and lost. Yesterday, I was delighted to meet with Anwar Yasin (a Lebanese Communist Party resistance fighter against Israel who spent years in Israeli jails, and who ran for--but did not win--a parliamentary seat from the South). I told Anwar: "You alone won, and all the other "winners" lost." I mean that. I was also delighted to introduce David Barsamian in a talk yesterday at Nadi As-Sahah. If you really want to enjoy the food here, you can. The formula: just run 6.5 miles every day, 7 days a week. Saudi Arabia has a plan: they want Sunni Hariri political domination, and want Syria to play no role in Lebanon, but want to jointly with the US run the country. This plan is beginning face obstacles. I am told that Sa`d Hariri is spending more political money than his father.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I was talking to two people who attended the early days of the Hummus festivities in Lebanon following the assassination of Hariri. They say that the `Awn people were running the show. Among the racist anti-Syrian slogan chanted (and not reported in the Arabic or the Western press) were: "Ya Bashshar, Ya Bashshar; Ash-Sha`b As-Suri Kullu Hmar" (Oh, Bashshar, Oh Bashshar; the Syrian people are all donkeys). The crowds were so fragmented into sectarian groups, and did not even mingle. Each segment stuck to itw own corner, my sources tell me. The anti-Syrian racism of the crowds, and the leading roles played by notorious right-wing anti-Palestinian militia types, turned off many people, including my friends.
This is clear: Gen. Michel `Awn has obtained some appeal, not only among Christians where he is hugely popular, but also among some secularists and Muslims. But they tend to be cautious and just giving him the benefit of the doubt.
A well-known--no, a very well-known--American journalist got a hold of incriminating documents revealing the financial nature of the relationship between the Rafiq Hariri and Jacque Chirac. He was planning a major story about it when his sources in the US government pressured him to not run it for the time being.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

I am still amazed at the manifestations of the Hariri personality cult all around Beirut. And they are so fancy and costly: we are not talking about simple posters, but building-size pictures, fancy billboards with special lightings. I was just telling a cab driver this morning (Unlike American reporters, I don't report the sayings of cab drivers in foreign lands. I merely report MY sayings to cab drivers in foreign lands) that those Hariri pictures will not last. Knowing Beirut as it is, they will sooner or later replace them with the pictures of the new masters. The Sunni-Shi`ite rift in Lebanon (not to be confused with other sectarian rifts in the Hummus land) is quite deep, and can explain many things about the recent Hummus revolution. Yesterday, I spoke to Nidal Al-Ashqar: the famous Lebanese stage actor, and the best stage actor probably in the Arab world. She invited me to speak at her Madinah Theatre next Thursday (not this one, the one after--for those who asked me to report my public speakings in Lebanon). I did not tell Nidal Al-Ashqar that I had a huge crush on her in my teens. Don't tell her that I said that. My talk is titled: America Discovers Lebanon. Al-Ashqar also asked me to not cut my hair, as so many Lebanese who see me on TV plead (along with my family) that I get a hair cut. Fat chance of course. The tourism season is non-existent. My hotel (which is usually hustling and bustling--I dont know what hustling and bustling mean but will use it on occasion--at this time of year) is almost empty. They told me that all hotels are empty. The downtown area, however, is still busy with people until early morning, smoking, eating, and drinking. This time I did not run into that nice but always drunk Saudi visitor who would invite me every day for dinner, and I would say no every day. My friend said that he run into him last week. The food: that is one things that is excellent, for those who can afford the pricy places. I notice a decrease of foreign workers in Lebanon. What will happen to the Lebanese middle and upper classes if Sri Lankan maids leave the country? I bet that Lebanon would reinstate slavery. I know that many Lebanese would just love to reinstate slavery.
Culprit of the Week in the Iraqi Insurgency: In the never ending search for the those responsible for the Iraqi insurgency, the US government has just found those responsible in.....SPAIN. Secretary of Defense explained this new development. He said that it was just discovered that there is ineed a small piece of Iraqi territory that borders...SPAIN. In that area of the border, terrorists have been smuggled in by Zarqawi and his 500000 senior aides (50000 of whom have been arrested by US occupation soldiers). Wait. Arab media are not allowed to refer to US occupation as "occupation." Did I make a mistake here? Well, I can simply refer to it as the Macedonian occupation of Iraq as Macedonia still has those very able 38 soldiers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

From Beirut: the city that knows how to serve and welcome its masters, no matter who they are. A year ago, this city was a monument personality cults for Bashshar Al-Asad and his father. Now, I find that the city has constructed a new personality cult, for Sa`d Al-Hariri and his father. This cult is quite costly, and some people tell you that Sa`d is dispensing more cash than his father. How fast masters come and go. There is a lousy proverb here which says: "whoever marries my mother, I shall call him my uncle." Talk of bribery in the election is so common, and I just heard one reporter say on Lebanese state run TV, that people were dispensing cash on street corners with the international observers standing right there. You certainly notice the absence of Syriran workers here. I did, and that saddens me. The garbage collectors of this city were almost all Syrian workers. After they were chased out (via violence and intimidation), I see that the city has imported poor workers from African countries. Somebody has to clean up the garbage for this city, and it can't be its own people. I just thought of this exercise: whether I can be positioned somewhere in Beirut without seeing a picture--or more, much more--of Rafiq Hariri. I am looking at one right across from me, through the glass of this internet cafe. Wait, I now can see tens of posters on the wall to my left which declares "With you." Do they mean Hariri or his son, I don't know. This is a city of rumors, the wilder the better for people to consume. People also love to slander the reputation of women, especially working women in high position of power, as rare as they are.
Global warming: the US contribution in figures
The United States constitutes 4 per cent of the world population
It is responsible for a quarter of all carbon dioxide emissions - an average of 40,000 pounds of carbon dioxide is released by each US citizen every year - the highest of any country in the world, and more than China, India and Japan combined
Americans use 50 million tons of paper annually - consuming more than 850 million trees
There are more than 200 million cars and light trucks on american roads
According to the Federal Department of Transportation, they use over 200 million gallons of petrol a day
Motor vehicles account for 56 per cent of all air pollution in The United States
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2002 concluded that people living in the most heavily polluted metropolitan areas have a 12 per cent increased risk of dying of lung cancer than people in the least polluted areas
32 of the 50 busiest US airports currently have plans to expand operations
Every year US industries release at least 2.4 billion pounds of chemicals into the atmosphere
Despite having just 2 per cent of known oil reserves, the US consumes 25 per cent of the world's oil production
16 per cent of world oil production goes into american cars alone.
Approximately 160 million people living in 32 US states live in regions with smog and soot levels considered dangerous to health
The new clear air interstate rule aims to cut sulphur dioxide by 73 per cent and nitrogen oxide by 61 per cent in the next 10 years
Around 50 million new cars roll off US assembly lines each year
There are already more than 20 million four-wheel-drive vehicles on US roads
More than 1.5 million gallons of oil were spilled into US waters in 2000 alone
Only 1 per cent of american travel is on public transport, an eighth of that in the UK and an eighteenth of that in Japan
As much as 5.99 tonnes of carbon dioxide is emitted per American per year, compared with 0.31 tonnes per Indian or 0.05 tonnes per Bangladeshi.
The US had 16 major oil spills between 1976 and 1989, whereas France suffered six and the UK five
The average american produces 864kg of municipal waste per year, almost three times the quantity of rubbish produced annually by an Italian

Monday, June 13, 2005

Is Robert Fisk losing his mind? He ended his dispatch today with this: "On Friday night, I drove up for dinner with Walid Jumblatt in his Druze castle at Mukhatara. There was fine wine and the best salads and the funniest of conversations..." What on earth is that? This really reminds me of Geraldo's reporting from the Middle East in years past. And in the article, Fisk has nothing to say except to reproduce to us rumors that Jumblat has been peddling for weeks. Oddly, Fisk may be so out of materials that he even reproduced the silliest and least credible accounts that are regularly published (and mostly later denied) in the most tabloidish and sensational Arab newsapaper, As-Siyasah, whose editor, Ahmad Jarallah, has a hard time completing a meaningful sentence. Now Fisk repeats Jumblat's allegations that Rustum Ghazalah returned to Lebanon. The question is: why would he return to Lebanon. Does Syria not have plenty of agents in Lebanon (Lebanese and Syrians with Lebanese citizenships) to do the job for it? The other day, a Lebanese TV station showed how a person was harrassed because he was suspected of being...a Syrian. This is the new Lebanon. And how will the new UN team verify the presence or absence of Syrian agents (not to be confused with Israeli, US, Egyptian, Libyans, Jordanian, Saudi, etc agents)? How dumb is that? Robert Fisk now serves as a platform for Hariri, Political inc and Jumblat. Shame. This is a man that I have admired for years, and avidly read his dispatches from the Middle East. On Jumblat: now that he secured his parliamentary seats, don't be surprised if he shows up soon in Damascus.
For those who care, the transcript of my last week's appearance on Al-Jazeera.
News from dictatorships "you" like: "Pakistan detains striking workers"
"Immigration Law as Anti-Terrorism Tool"
Years, only. "As Iraqi Army Trains, Word in the Field Is It May Take Years."
"Iraqis Deny U.S. Claims of 40 Insurgent Casualties: Residents of a town hit by American airstrikes say there were no rebels in the area at the time of the attacks. It is unclear how many people died."
"Beethoven joins iPod generation"
From here and there: Egyptian media reported that, unhappy with Aljazeera's coverage of Egyptian demonstrations, Husni Mubarak sent his advisor Usamah Al-Baz to plead with the Amir of Qatar to reduce Al-Jazeera's coverage. He did. You now will notice that AlJazeera is paying less, far less, attention. It is amazing how much advertisements AlArabiyya has, and mostly from American companies, and Iraqi and Saudi "public service" announcements. Abu Mazen signed the execution of 4 Palestinians today; 3 were hanged, and one was shot by a firing squad. US Congress hailed this as a step in the path of peace, but called for more execution of Palestinians. The Central Committee of Fath recommended the nomination of Abu Al-Lutf as Palestinian vice-president. That only reveals the rift in Fath. This explains the sudden statement by Palestinian foreign minister, Nasir Al-Qidwah, that PA will not disarm Palestinians. He needed the support of Fath in the face of Abu Al-Lutf's attacks on his leadership of Palestinian foreign policy. Times of London is reporting that Mrs. Husni Mubarak wants her son to succeed his father. The Arabic press reported with little information or facts the revolt by Iraqis in Jordan who were receiving training by Jordanian security forces. The Jordanian government gave the most implausible explanations of the riots, which included vandalism of government buildings. A Jordanian government insisted that this was not directed against the Jordanian government that they love, but resulted from displeasure with a soup served.
"Sectarianism still prevails despite a national uprising", writes Brian Whitaker in the Guardian.
Angry Pope cites Derrida.
3rd Round of the Lebanese Election: A Christian Revolt. The Syrian government and its client regime in Lebanon in the post-Ta'if period (with the full participation of Hrawi, Hariri, Jumblat, Lahhud, Birri, etc) basically established the premise that Lebanese Christians would not be able to select their own representatives, and that the ruling order (and predominantly Muslims) would select and approve Christian representatives. This was not unlike the way things were done in pre 1975 Lebanon when the powerful Maronite president would try very hard to select and approve Muslim representatives regardless of their true representativeness. This continued even in the 1980s, when Amin Gemayyel plucked the obscure buffoon Shafiq Al-Wazzan and installed him in the prime ministership. In 1957, President Kamil Sham`un rigged the elections to bring his version of Muslim representatives, and he arranged that the real Muslim representatives stay home. In the 1990s, this was reversed against Christian interests. And just to be sure, the most powerful Maronite leaders, Michel `Awn, Samir Ja`ja`, and Amin Gemayyel were either exiled or jailed. This also explained the apathy that was exhibited by Christian voters in the 1996 and 2000 elections. In 1992 there was a successful boycott of the elections by most Christian voters. In this election, the ones who really angered and provoked the Christians were Walid Jumblat and Sa`d Hariri. They wanted to be the final arbiters in the selection and approval of Christian representatives. To be sure, they would say that "we" also brought in "representative" Christians like the fanatics Solange Gemayyel and Jubran Tuwayni. Still, they were selected by Hariri and Jumblat. And in the absence of Syrian troops, Christian voters were not going to accept that, and hence the phenomenon of `Awn. I read some of those indications when the right-wing fanatical publisher Jubran Tuwayni went to the crime scene of the bomb that killed Samir Qasir. Crowds in the Christian area of Ashrafiyyah--which he now represents in parliament--yelled at him, and shouted: "Go to Quraytim." (Quraytim is the name of the area where Sa`d Hariri's palace is located). The high voter turnout in Christian areas and the overwhelming support for `Awn's candidate was very revealing, as was the defeat of major Maronite personalities like Faris S`uayd and Nasib Lahhud. They paid the price for their alliance with Hariri-Jumblat. This will now end once and for all the myth of the "united" "multi-sectarian" opposition in Lebanon. And what opposition? Hariri is now in power represented by the prime minister, Minister of Interior, and Minister of Justice. And key Hariri functionaries are being appointed throughout the Lebanese bureaucracy. You may say that Jumblat still managed to have his list win. True, but by Druze and Muslim voters. In that particular electoral district (Ba`abda-`Alayy), 80 % of Christian voters voted for `Awn. Jumblat, the shifty politician, said that this was a victory of [Christian] extremism versus Christian "moderation." Give me a break; he cannot call his allies Tuwayni, Gemayyel, and most importantly George `Udwan "moderates." In the Biqa` area, `Awn also was victorious in Christian areas, as was Hizbullah in Shi`ite areas. I still do not understand the Hizbullah's alliance with Jumblat, Hariri, Lebanese Forces, etc. That will be the first question I ask to Hasan Nasrallah when I interview him during my trip. `Awn (and I am no fan of his) is absolutely right in calling attention to the petro-dollar role in Lebanese election by the Hariri Political Inc. In this election, there was absolutely no constraints or regulation of political money. Hariri all but threw cash to the crowds in campaign rallies. There was no more clear indications of the changing times than in the fortunes of one particular candidate. Sami Al-Khatib has been aligned with the Syrian government and its intelligence services since the 1960s. For that, he has been rewarded with a variety of positions and perks. But left on his own, he ran and could not even get 3000 votes. His political career is now officially over. This only shows how inaccurate the results of the elections in some areas in past elections. As I had predicted, Hizbullah will even do better politically, and obtain more votes (and administrative appointments as Nasrallah declared the willingness of the party to now fully participate) in the absence of Syrian forces. The sectarian fragmentation of the country deepens, and the Jumblat-Hariri alliance has really provoked Christian sensibilities, and may lead Lebanon into a very unsafe adventure. Now that the elections are almost over, you may expect sectarian discourse to get more blatant and more ugly. Talal Salman now declared the end of the political role of Patriarch Sfayr, and his vehicle the Qurnat Shihwan. And to think that that there were some who believed the lies of the Lebanese opposition about a "united Lebanese front." In the next (and last) round next Sunday, I will be in Lebanon, and I shall

Sunday, June 12, 2005

"A Noose, Not a Bracelet"
"A human rights report details the gruesome cost of the Bush administration's hostility to workplace safety"
"For Jordan, which established diplomatic ties with Israel in 1994, discussion of democratic ideas under Islam is in and talk of the "Israeli enemy" is out."
"Once Shunned as Racist, Storybook Bestseller in Japan"
"In Politics, Sunnis Speak With Many Voices". Now look carefully at this silly headline from the Washington Post. What are the implications? Well, obviously that the Sunnis, like ALL Arabs and Muslims, should all speak with one voice, because they all form one monolithic bloc. A blob, so to speak. And when they speak in many voices they confuse the hell out of the Washington Post and Bernard Lewis.
Heroin Addicts for Bush: "Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Iraq has become a transit point in the flow of hashish and heroin from Iran and Afghanistan to Persian Gulf countries and Europe."
"Justice Dept. effort to identify terrorists in U.S. has been less successful than officials suggested, Post probe shows."
"British Memo: U.S. Lacked Full Iraq Plan: Briefing paper prepared 8 months before U.S.-led invasion warned of potential for "protracted and costly" postwar occupation."
"Associates of Avraham Marcus Klinberg, an Israeli immigrant who spied on Israel for the Soviet Union, are accusing the Israeli security establishment of posting fake death notices near Klinberg's former home in Paris."
Lest the British get intellectually arrogant, I was reading the best-seller list in the London Times, and it is no better than the NYTimes'. And they also have Jane Fonda's on the list.
"Sizing Up Jacques-Louis David"
The "Marat Assassinating" painting is on the cover of the Economist. Potato chips are on the cover of Time magazine.
I love the Guardian and Independent, and really their foreign news section every day. But I don't like the tabloid format of the independent that I am holding in my hand here in London. The Gaurdian is reporting that its readership is expanding tremendously, and in one month received some 9 million unique visitors.
Bill Clinton's One and Only Love Affair. This man is really capable of love after all, but only for himself. I had a choice on my flight, between having dental work done on my teeth by somebody with Parkinson disease, and reading Bill Clinton's autobiography. To my great regret, I selected the latter. This is not an autobiography; it is an anthology of chronologies. And with all the interesting things that he dealt with, and the interesting people he met, there was nothing interesting in this book which clearly is reproduced from his daily White House schedule. He would not even provide interesting profiles of the world leaders that he met. Compare that to the highly interesting memoirs of Henry Kissinger for example. But he has no interest in anybody but himself. There is only ego-promotion here, and not a single interest in anybody else. And when he lists everybody as a "friend" it shows that he really has no friends, and is not capable of having friends. Nobody is an aquaintance; they all are "friends." His insincerity reeks from the pages, and the Babylonian Talmudic saying applies to him squarely: he can never be believed. It is his punishment. And the lies that he tells. And note that he never met a dictator that he did not like. And he retroactively wants us to think that he was working against Bin Laden every day. How convenient in retrospect for him. And his account of the Camp David summit between Arafat and Barak is now much closer to the account given by Bob Malley and Hussein Agha in NYR, which only proves that he had lied when he told the press at the time that the failure was due to the Palestinian side. He even acknowledges that he made those statements to bolster the political fortunes of Ehud Barak, whom he praises as a renaissance man. A renaissance man? Maybe I don't know what that means, but do renaissance men shoot poets in their sleep as Barak did in 1973 when he shot in cold blood the Palestinian poet Kamal Nasser in Beirut? Bill Clinton; I just wish that you never write another word.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

For some reason, this computer at the Virgin Atlantic Lounge, does not permit me to copy and paste. This is quite frustrating as I was planning to post. I just finished reading a front page article in the Washington Post about the time in 2002 when Israeli soldiers in a crime of revenge (not to be confused with other crimes of their revenge) "opened fire without warning" on a group of Palestinian policemen. The amazing thing is that the article is quite sympathetic to the killers, and a picture of the soldiers in grief is attached to the article. Only in the US media. Even when Israeli occupation soldiers engage in killing of Palestinians, which they habitually do, the US media focus is always on the "anguish" of the killers, about their "spiritual struggle"; about how for 3 days after their killing they could not eat carrot cake. Such coverage by the way is the specialty of the lousy journal known as Tekkun. Which reminds me, is Michael Lerner still in his new agy mode of the "politics of meaning" as opposed to the politics of meaninglessness which he is really good at? We need to know, NOW. This morning in my hotel I caught on Showtime the last part of a documentary on Iraq which featured Raed Jarrar who has a good website. Is that the same Raid who posts comments here? What is the name of the documentary I saw? And at what time did I watch it, and why? You have 4 minutes to answer my questions in sequence. Also, my friends who were behind the excellent About Baghdad documentary are doing a great documentary on the "war on terrorism." They have conducted interviews in (I forgot, 20 countries or so). It is going to be spectacular. In one interview, the..I forgot, that I was not authorized to talk about contents of the footage that I saw. Damn. I heard that Bush is worried about Syrian intelligence agents in Lebanon. Really? Really? And more stupidly, a UN team will be dispatched to look for them. Really? Really? And how will they search for them? Under hummus plates? As if Syrians can be distinguished from Lebanese, and as if Syrian mukhabrat people in Lebanon wear special badges that say "mukhabrat of Syria loves you." How stupid can US policy be these days, and how stupid can Syrian government be these days? And as if there are no intelligence agents from Israel, US, France, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, Libya, and Egypt roaming in Lebanon. But will that gifted UN team also look for them? Or are their electronic devices only capable of pinpointing the genetic presence of Syrians? Let me know Kofi Annan. And Syria's Lebanese corrupt politician Michel Murr (who previously was the corrupt politician who worked with Israel after 1982 and who bribed deputies on behalf of Bashir Gemayyel then) gave citizenship not only to some 17,000 people to vote for him in Northern Matn, but be certainly gave citizenship to whomever Syria (or Israel before that) wanted that "privilege." Whenever I go to London I dread the lousy airport and the dirty restaurants although I love the city and people (and the mayor). Let us hope that I do not run into the demagogue George Galloway this time on Edgeware Road (my favorite food street in London). I said this before, and I shall say it again, the best weather in the world is northern California. Thomas Friedman's book is at every corner at every American airport. You have to close your eyes to miss it. My eyes have been closed all day. Where is the screen? Where am I? I can't see. Help.

Friday, June 10, 2005

"Israel May Use Sound Weapon on Settlers" (Lethal weapons reserved for use against Arabs)
"Building Iraq's Army: Mission Improbable: Project in North Reveals Deep Divide Between U.S. and Iraqi Forces"
Why if you want to follow the Middle East, you need Arabic. This story was all over the Arabic press more than a week ago, and only now reaches the front page of the New York Times. Where is Hassan Fattah when you need him. "Assault on Women at Protest Stirs Anger, Not Fear, in Egypt."
"Global law claims new turf in Sudan"
"Terror allegations disappear from charges: Different affidavit in Lodi father-son case given to media than filed in court." Now Lodi is no more than 15 miles or so north of where I live in the Central Valley. I was first surprised when I heard the news, especially as I am now subjected to US electronic media coverage of this case and Michael Jackson as I am away from my precious two satellite dishes. I have always doubted that Al-Qa`idah has even a handful of members in the US. Arabs and Muslims in the US are not crazy; some may be crazy, but not that crazy, I believe. In fact, the very fact the Al-Qa`idah had to recruit every single one of the 19 hijackers from the Middle East and from Europe tells me that they were not able to find willing recruits here in the US. And the Middle East/Muslim immigrant community in the US is one of the most affluent, in comparison with other immigrant communities, and that gives them a stake in the system, and explains (especially in pre-Bush days) why they overwhelmingly went Republican. I don't know much about the case but exercise caution when I consume US media on this matter. As I had indicated before, I was a consultant for the first terrorism case after Sep. 11 (the Detroit case) hired by the law firm that was defending 2 of the four. And you learn things about the justice system, and about the distance between claims made by prosecution in some cases and the evidence. Don't get me wrong: the evidence I read led me to believe that the people in question were crooks and con-artists, but not terrorists. As you know, the Justice Department later harshly criticized the prosecution, etc.
"Israeli cows yield more milk than their competitors" Zionism given credit.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

News from "liberated" Afghanistan: "Violence Linked to Taliban Swells in Afghanistan"
In "liberated" Iraq: there are "good" militias and "bad" militias. US and Iraqi government favor the "good" militias.
"Iran Preparing for Advanced Nuclear Work, Officials Say" (Israel completed advanced Nuclear work years ago, Angry Arab says)
Patriotic Americans should be very proud. "Once again, America was by far the greatest spender on arms. In 2004, it spent $455bn, an increase from 2003 of 12 per cent, fuelled largely by the investment in President George Bush's "war on terror". America's foreign aid spending is around 4.1 per cent of its arms bill. Britain, the second largest arms spender, spent $47bn - a tenth of the US total."
"Millions in America Turn to Ethnic Media"
"Pakistan's sexual outcasts at risk from HIV"
Full text. "Uzbekistan: New Report Documents Massacre" Annan was asked about his silence (and the silence of the UNSC), he explained: None of the victims were billionaires like Rafiq Hariri.
The wisdom of Sa`d Al-Hariri. Sa`d Al-Hariri was asked about the high voter turnout in South Lebanon (unlike in Beirut where he was running), and he gave this astute political analysis: "People liked to vote, and they voted." It is not clear whether the aphorisms of Sa`d Al-Hariri will ever be collected in a leather bound book form.
"Time and the River (and Heidegger)"
"As France celebrated victory in Europe on 8 May 1945, its army was massacring thousands of civilians in Sétif and Guelma - events that were the real beginning of Algeria’s war of independence." (thanks Gabriela)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Los Angeles Times' article was nice; and I liked Robin, which made it easier for me to talk openly. In fact, the very way in which she first approached me about the idea via email was appealing. Geraldo will not be doing a feature on me, rumors to the contrary notwithstanding. I now will be teased forever about the "gardener" in my house. Somebody who takes care of my lawn once a week. But please: don't confuse my gardener with my live-in potato slicer, without whom I can't even survive. The picture (which appeared in the print edition) but not the web edition: showed me looking very angry. But I told Richard that I did not want to smile or act for the camera. All the people who are close to me commented that the article captured my personality or my essence accurately, whatever that means. I enjoyed doing AlJazeera show; I felt very animated and excited; I felt that many things about Lebanon need to be said and are not being said. Despite all my commentaries and pontification on the show, I still felt that I wanted to say more. So much so, that this was the first time that I kept talking to the very last second. I was reading the biography of Albert Speer by J. Fest on the plane. I have always detested Speer who tried to absolve himself of the crimes of Nazism. Albert Speer exists in every authoritarian or fascist regime: not the true believer of the regime, but the unprincipled opportunist, who adjusts to the times, just as he adjusted in Nazi times and post-Nazi times. He deceived the world, but recent books about him (the three that I recently read) do a good job of exposing him. I expect Tariq Aziz in the upcoming trials in Iraq to play the Albert Speer's role. He can't do that. This avid propagandist has a trail record of hate speech behind him, and sat at the most horrific meetings of the Revolutionary Command Council of Saddam. But he will play the role; he will claim that he was busy reading Western literature and did not notice the crimes of Saddam, just as Speer unbelievably claimed that he did not notice the shattered glass the day after Kristallnacht. And there may be evidence that Speer was present at that notorious event in October 1943 when Himmler talked about the extermination of Jews. I worry that Tariq Aziz will be released, and will get a job propagandizing for another Arab government. Do you know that there are people who assign Thomas Friedman's books in college courses? Is that not an insult to the intelligence of the students? The racist anti-Syrian (against the people I mean, as opposition to Arab governments, all of them, pleases me) campaign in Hariri's newspaper, AlMustqbal, continues. Today, they printed one of their reliable rumors; that Ka'k (a kind of bread) vendors (who are often very poor Syrians, and many of them have been killed or beaten up in recent Hummus developments) suddenly disappeared from Samir Qasir's neighborhood. They are basically accusing those poor Syrian vendors of killing Qasir. The poor Syrian vendors are too poor to sue Al-Mustaqbal for the slander. It is easy in the media (east and west) to defame and lie about poor people. Did they capture a "senior aide to Zarqawi" while I was flying? Is Bush still "making progress" in Iraq? Public opinion surveys indicate a change of mind among Americans about the war; Bush may be able to fix that in one prime time speech. In the last one, support for the war went up 10 percent.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

…with this, I am leaving now for a taping of a live show on AlJazeera (Al-Ittijah Al-Mu’akis) dealing with Lebanon. I will then be leaving for a couple of days in DC, and a couple of days in London, and then to Lebanon, where I will be staying until around July 19th. I will be working on several projects all dealing with Lebanon. I will be working on a second edition of my Historical Dictionary of Lebanon, a book on the clash of political identities in Lebanon, and a short primer on the Myths of the Lebanese “Revolution.” The latter will deal with the recent elections, and will require that I conduct several interviews between Syria and Lebanon (assuming that I will find people to talk to me—if they don’t, I will just do what US correspondents in the Middle East do: hire me a bevy of translators, body guards, chefs, personal trainers, butlers, shoe shiners, gardeners, and potato slicers, and just talk to cab drivers, a “Western diplomat” in this capital or that, and a terrorism “expert”). I will be updating the blog from the various places that I will be at—yes, they have the internet in Arab lands. For technological reasons, I will not be posting pictures or paintings. I don’t travel with a computer, and simply use internet cafes. But I am warning you: I bought my first camera ever (an S500 Cannon recommended to me by a Los Angeles Times photographer) and I will be taking hundreds of pictures during my trip--all for the site, and will then post upon my return. I will be visiting museums and galleries for that purpose. To help maintain my site during my absence, please submerge your computers in hot boiling olive oil twice a day. For friends and media, my hotel number in Beirut is left on the answering machine of my home in California.
Los Angeles Times' profile of Angry Arab.

Monday, June 06, 2005

La Pluie, 1911. Marc Chagall.
 Posted by Hello
"Sudan officials may face trial" (Sudan officials SHOULD face trial)
"Why Arab women are still in the slow lane of reform"
Oh, it is another day. I am sure that yet another "senior aide to Zarqawi" has been captured in Iraq.
Since US newspapers only report anti-Syrian demonstrations in Lebanon, I shall report this to you. Members of Hizbullah clashed yesterday with right-wing activists in Sasin square in Beirut.
"America's rising religious zealotry"
News from "liberated" Iraq: "Iraqis Look at Cuts in Payroll"
"U.S.: Despite election triumph Hezbollah must be disarmed" (Would the US like a beverage with that?)
"Indian lesbians find their affair brings social exclusion"
"Bahrain: Courts Try to Silence Womenْs Rights Activist"
"Torture in the US Gulag"

These Palestinian boys are holding the house numbers that will be domoilshed by Israeli occupation forces. Posted by Hello
"Islam Is Gaining a Foothold in Chiapas" (And Bush claims that Chiapas has WMDs. A "liberation" war is planned).
Welcome to Lebanese Politics: Those who pin their hopes on the principleness of any Lebanese political (i.e. sectarian) party, will be disappointed. On one stage yesterday, and on one electoral list, stood candidates representing Jumblat's Party, Hizbullah, and the Lebanese Forces militia, Hariri's group, among others. All on one stage. For a fistful of parliamentary seats, they are willing to hold hands with their bitter enemies, to claim that old wounds have healed, to pretend that all is well between them, and then--once they win their seats--they will begin plotting against one another. This is the Lebanese game of politics. I was reading that Gen. Michel `Awn may be forming a list in the north with `Abdul-Majid Ar-Rafi`i (former member of the Pan-Arab Command of the Ba`th Party of Saddam). That is not surprising. Saddam and `Awn were close allies in the late 1980s. Yet, all in Lebanon chant slogans about "freedom" and "democracy" without knowing the implications of those words. Just like Bush. Just like Bush. Bush was today yet again singing the praises of the Hummus Revolution in Lebanon. Does that mean that he was bragging about the victory of Hizbullah in the South?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Untitled (Public Opinion), 1991. Black rod licorice candy, individually wrapped in cellophane (endless supply), ideal weight, 700 pounds, dimensions variable. Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Posted by Hello
Oh, no. It looks like war will be going to Latin America. "US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called for greater intervention by the Organisation of American States in promoting democracy in Latin America."

Israeli occupation soldiers uprooted his Palestinian olive trees. Posted by Hello
"As Hamas makes gains, will Abbas's ruling party unravel? On Saturday, the Palestinian president delayed a vote amid disarray in his party."
"Museum planned for late PA leader Arafat's personal belongings." It is not clear whether the museum will display the millions that Arafat was sending to his wife, Suha.
I have changed my mind. All along, I have assumed that the US government (White House, Congress, etc) does not care about Palestinian lives. Not anymore. I now firmly believe that the US government sincerely cares about the lives of some Palestinians: those who collaborate with Israeli occupation.
Now really. How many times have you read that US soldiers captured "a senior aide to Zarqawi." How many times? How many senior aides does Zarqawi have? And do these announcements lend credibility to US annoucements?
Clashes between supporters of traditional Druze rivals, Walid Jumblat and Talal Arsalan, continue in Lebanon.

Israeli occupation forces destroy an Arab house in Hayfa. Posted by Hello
Heavily Armed Tourism: Neither Aljazeera nor Al-Arabiyya refers to US occupation of Iraq "as occupation." They call it "presence." If it is not occupation, what is it? It must be heavily armed tourism.
Why Hizbullah is grateful To George W. Bush: Hizbullah never knew that the George W. Bush was going to make their electoral victory sweeter and more resounding. But it happened. Bush thought that he would achieve with his harping on voting and elections what he could not achieve in his war in Iraq. He wanted to install American puppets throughout the region: not that the US does not have puppets around the region, but it wants more, Allawi-like. His vapid rhetoric on the ritual of voting (which was considered non-political by Hannah Arendt) will eventually be used--and has been used in few places already--to lend political and electoral legitimacy to the same political forces and movements that Bush wants to defeat and eliminate. Of course, Bush is not consistent democratic advocate; he is not even a consistent elections' advocate. If you want to ignore the massacre by the pro-US regime in Uzbekistan (which barely got a notice in US media or UN halls), you will notice that Bush wants election to occur according to schedule in Lebanon. But in places where forces that are opposed to the US seem to have good political fortunes, he supports the postponement or even cancellation of elections, as Abu Mazen has recently done. Elections in Afghanistan and Iraq have also been postponed in the hope that pro-US puppets may enhance their chances. That also did not work as Allawi (former puppet prime minister/car bomber/former Saddam's henchman/embezzler-in-Yemen) has been rejected by Iraqi voters (despite unprecedented US support--we are yet to learn of the exact scale and magnitude), and has been vacationing in Lebanon for weeks with an army of bodyguards I read. The second round of elections in South Lebanon constituted the biggest victory to date for Hizbullah. Even Amal (and its leader Nabih Birri) seems to have benefited. The recent sectarian tensions in Lebanon (and the non-so-subtle anti-Shi`ite tone of many in the Lebanese opposition) and the promotion of UNSC 1559, unified Shi`ite ranks in a way that is unprecedented. The Amal Movement was in decline over the years, especially due to a deserved reputation for corruption. Hizbullah, on the other hand, benefited from Amal's decline and from a reputation of incorruptibility. Also, Hasan Nasrallah's leadership has boosted Hizbullah's fortunes further. But you should understand that Hizbullah's popularity does not mean popularity of the original goal of Hizbullah (the establishment of an Islamic republic of Lebanon) especially in a country known for its "sinful" indulgences. This explains why Hizbullah has been downplaying that part of its message for fear of alienating voters and supporters. Hizbullah also benefits from a reputation of discipline and organization, qualities that are not common in many parts of Lebanon. So the second round of the election yesterday (in the two electoral districts of South Lebanon (I am still listed on the voters's list of the Tyre region by virtue of birth) came to award Hizbullah a high degree of legitimacy and strength. Nabih Birri, who solidified his alliance with Hizbullah (they both need one another--Hizbullah needs Amal to chart a course of fending off international (read American) pressures, while Amal needs Hizbullah for its effective and skillful political/election apparatus) came also stronger, and he is now slated to win the speakership of parliament yet again for another 4 more years. But the balance of forces between the two sides swung widely in favor of Hizbullah; results were being announced by Hizbullah officials and not by Amal officials, and Hizbullah could have easily won all the seats on its own. It did not need Amal in the election. Furthermore, the campaign against Nabih Birri in the Lebanese sectarian Christian right-wing media (namely LBC-TV and An-Nahar) backfired, and unified the ranks of Shi`ite voters. And despite right-wing (and very likely outside) support for opponents of Amal and Hizbullah in South Lebanon, and despite calls for boycotts of the elections by Awn and others, the entire list won and the two sides managed to prevent any crossing of names on their two lists in the two districts. The opponents were very far behind. The voters'turnout was a respectable 45%; higher than previous elections in the last decade, and certainly much higher than the dismal election of Beirut where turnout did not exceed 27% despite heavy expenditure and efforts by Hariri, Inc. These results in the South will also be seen as a defeat for Hariri because it will be used to contrast the elections in the South and in Beirut--to his disfavor. Even in predominantly Christian Jizzin: the boycott was less than was assumed. It was also amazing that the turnout was around 43% in Sidon where the two candidates (Usamah Sa`d and Bahiyyah Hariri--bitter rivals) had run and won unopposed. Hassan Fattah of the New York Times, typically influenced by the right-wing voices and commentators that he exclusively talks to in Lebanon, wrote an amazingly unrepresentative and highly unreliable account of the situation in South Lebanon. I could not believe the coverage he gave to three rivals of Hizbulah-Amal lists in South Lebanon. He singled out Bushra Al-Khalil and Riad Al-As`ad. Bushra Al-Khalil is mostly an unknown and has a reputation for being a) a loony; b) and a consistent propagandist for Saddam Husayn, and has been eagerly trying to represent him in court. Riad Al-As`ad is another story. (He was a classmate of mine, and rode in my school bus). He enjoys the financial powers of his cousin, the famous Al-Walid Bin Talal, and has an effective organization in South Lebanon. And then Fattah describes Ibrahim Shams Id-Din (who fared very abysmally in the Beirut election) as "a widely respected Shiite leader." You really have to be so clueless about Lebanon to say this about this guy, and Fattah keeps topping himself. And Fattah never mentions the more credible leftist rivals of Amal-Hizbullah. But maybe the New York Times (or the New Republic where Fattah previously had worked) do not permit any references to Arab leftists. Take Ilyas Abu Rizq. This was the overall union leader of the labor federations in Lebanon, until Syria and its allies in Lebanon (including Hariri, Amal, and SSNP) conspired to get rid of him in the 1990s when he led a brave labor campaign against the cruel economic policies of the government, and installed a puppet in his place (Amal's puppet, Ghassan Ghusn). Abu Rizq is a union advocate and has an appeal among some in South Lebanon. But the most glaring omission was any reference to the Lebanese Communist Party, which has a respectable serious presence in South Lebanon. Anwar Yasin (a communist resistance fighter and former prisoner in Israeli jail) was one of the most widely watched candidate in the South. Read the great article about him by my dear friend Hanady Salman in As-Safir. (I am told that close AbuKhalil relatives, including Angry Arab's sister, voted for him today). I was also sad that Anwar Yasin did not make it. I was hoping to write about the first communist member of parliament in Lebanon. It is an outrage that in the Syrian era, the corrupt, lousy, and widely unpopular Ba`th Party was represented in several seats in parliament AND in every cabinet (Hariri's cabinets), while the Syrian government and its Lebanese allies (including Hariri) exerted all efforts to keep the communists out, perhaps for fear of offending Saudi Arabia. This while I have always been critical of the LCP for its Leninist-Stalinist rigidity, and its ineffective "reformism" as we used say. The new leader of the LCP is trying to rejuvenate the party, and I will be seeing him soon. IT was noteworthy that As`ad Hardan (one of the most important allies of Syria and its intelligence apparatus in Lebanon) also won a seat yesterday. Hardan is a feared man among opponents of Syria. I noticed that many Druze voters did not vote for him. In conclusion, Hizbullah comes out stronger than before the election. As I had indicated at the time of Syria's withdrawal, Hizbullah is very likely to now grow without Syrian constraints and restraints. And note, that Hizbullah is already gearing up for the election in Ba`albak region. In that area, a famous Hashish grower and dealer, Yahya Shamas (who was convicted of drug dealings but blamed Syrian intelligence for his conviction), is heading his own list. But he is not expected to win, although his candidates were seen standing up quite "high."
Robert Fisk on Lebanon: I never thought I would say this. Robert Fisk is no longer reliable on Lebanon. He, the one that I used to describe as the best foreign correspondent in the Middle East. He has become a loyal and uncritical voice of the right-wing opposition in Lebanon. To be sure, one cannot but agree with his critical commentaries against the Syrian-Lebanese military-intelligence order; but it is different matter when he spares the right-wing opposition (which includes the likes of the Lebanese Forces, Phalanges, among others) any criticisms. In a recent article, he even reproduced rumors printed in An-Nahar and Al-Mustaqbal. Many of the rumors printed in those two newspapers (reliable voices of the right-wing opposition) have not been proven correct since Hariri's assassination. Just today, Al-Mustaqbal had to deny a news item from yesterday's edition in which it falsely claimed that the assassinated Lebanese journalist Samir Qasir was in Damascus (meeting allegedly with Syrian intellectuals) days before his assassination.

Riddle of the Sphinx, 1991. M. Kelley. Posted by Hello