Monday, October 31, 2005

I thank all of you who wrote to As-Safir about the banning of Ibrahim Al-Amin. Al-Amin is back in the paper today for the first time in weeks. I am told that people at As-Safir heard your noises.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Al-Jazeera's Hiwar Maftuh on Syria. Ghassan bin Jiddu is one of the best interviewers and presenters of political programs. I never met him, but spoke on the phone with him couple of time when I appeared on his program a few months ago. According to surveys, Hiwar Maftuh is one of the most widely watched programs in the Arab world (along with Bi-`Arabi with, I can't even get to mention her name. She annoys me that much. I have recently found myself yelling obscenities (in Arabic) at the TV when I see her. In her personality, she is able to encapsulates everything that I have detested about Lebanonese "culture"). This program of Hiwar Maftuh last Saturday featured Syria's ambassador in UAE, Riyad Na`san Agha, Syrian dissident Michel Kilu, and a US professor, Joshua Landis. Ghassan was not fair to Landis, I have to say. Landis insisted on speaking in Arabic, and I was able to understand him although he has difficulty with the letter `ayn and kept saying Iraq instead of `Iraq, but Bin Jiddu would constantly interrupt him, and he did not have a chance to finish one thought. Riyad Agha wants to have it both ways: to speak for the regime, and yet to praise the "patriotic opposition" in Syria. I never understood why Agha has more leeway and more freedom than most Syrian diplomats or even officials. Michel Kilu bothers me: he says the regime is guilty of crimes and human rights violations, but yet does not call for the overthrow of the regime. Why? Explain that to me, Mr. Kilogram? And this vapid liberal talk about "democracy" has lost any meaning for me especially in the age of Bush doctrine. I also have my criteria about Syrian dissidents: I of course can not support the Muslim Brothers or any religious-oriented ideology. Secondly, the movement has to be consistent, unlike Kilo above. Thirdly, those Syrian dissidents who write in An-Nahar (which has a long record of hostility and racism to Syrians in general, and Syrian workers in particular) should be ashamed of themselves. They are, wittingly or unwittingly, mere tools in the service of right-wing anti-Arab militia leftovers in Lebanon. Of course, there are many decent and courageous Syrian dissidents are are consistent and oppose the rigime on firm grouds (and do not write in AnNahar).
This will make me more unpopular with Arabs/Muslims in the US. But it is ok. Don't vote for me when I run for president of...the world, no less. It is about time that we in the Arab world stop thinking of Mustafa Aqqad as a "great director." He is not. This is a joke, really. When I was a kid, I saw his movie, the Message (about the rise of Islam), and I was led to believe that it was a great movie. Later in life, I saw it. And I could not believe it. Kids with camcorders can put better movies together. He has no understanding of the historical issues, and has not captured the dimensions of Muhammad, as a historical figure. And it is so clumsily and disjointedly put together. I am so eager to one day, and in a systematic way, systematic my potato, refute Arab myths about Arabs. The list is way too long. Aqqad is, unlike his image in the Arab world, unknown in the US, and made some money from PRODUCING some silly and sleazy sexist slasher movies, like the Halloween series (from 1 to 34). He then goes to the Arab world, and talks unendingly about "Jewish control of Hollywood" and tell governments that he is able to penetrate through that control if...only millions of dollars are given to him to "direct" important movies. I remember during the O.J. Simpson scandal, the LA Times was interviewing OJ's neighbors in Brentwood, and interviewed `Aqqad and he was identified as "a neighbor who says that he is a Hollywood producer." I remember that I loved that, because I needed to send it to all Arab leaders. But if people in the Arab world can be led to believe that the October '73 war was victory, they can also be led to believe that `Aqqad is a "great director" and that the Message is a "great movie." And it can be said by some that his movie on `Umar Al-Mukhtar plagiarized scenes and cinematic ideas from Lawrence of Arabia. (Oh, on another myth: Lebanon was NEVER independent, and never enjoyed sovereignty).
"Seeds of leak scandal sown in Italian intelligence agency" (thanks Robert)

Bush family cook speaks out: "For one thing, Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia - he won't eat shellfish. He's a constant visitor to the residence, and he is a very nice guy."
This is great. Just great. Thank you Robert F. Worth. For all in Middle Eastern studies. A New York Times reporter reveals his reading list on Iraq (and the Middle East). Now we know why they sound so ignorant and so uninsightful and so unwise. And then he says this: "There is one thing more or less lacking in the English-language literature on Iraq, as far as I know: good fiction." How about reading fiction IN ARABIC. How about that Mr. Worth? How hard is that you, you, you...esteemed New York Times reporter.
"City cracks down on hookah bars" (links between Arab smoking and terrorism suspected) to Kalamazoo. I am speaking on The Bush Doctrine and the Middle East at Kalamazoo College on Tuesday night. I shall return on Wednesday. (By the way, I never travel without this. In fact, I use this several times a day).

Robinson's Wrap, 1974. Frankenthaler, Helen.
"Syria orders probe of Hariri killing" (Investigation likely to focus on Hariri's high blood pressure and high cholesterol)
"Lack of Armor Proves Deadly for Iraqi Army" (No. Are you saying that US occupation does not treat Iraqi forces as it treat US soldiers? No way. I would not believe that, although I have noticed that the "bullet-proof" vests used by Iraqi forces are suspiciously different from ones worn by US soldiers)
"Iraq Confidential"
News from "free, peaceful, and democratic" Afghanistan: " the culmination of a week of bloodshed which has rocked the country"
"The Prince of Wales will try to persuade George W Bush and Americans of the merits of Islam this week because he thinks the United States has been too intolerant of the religion since September 11."
"Militia boasts of role in Sabra massacre" (and the pathetic and lousy director, Lukman Slim dares say that: "'Personally I don't think there are victims and perpetrators [in this conflict]")
Israel "denies schooling to Bedouin children"

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Does Hizbullah know What it Wants in Lebanon? Not Clear. The least you can say about Hizbullah's political performance in Lebanon is an acute case of political naivite. They really think that they are outsmarting their opponents, while it is obvious that they are the ones who are being outsmarted by Hariri Inc (and its appendage, Jumblat). I watched the speech by Hasan Nasrallah on Jerusalem Day, and watched parts of the parade on NBN-TV. First, I was struck how carefully the party is working to express its political stance. For the first time in recent memory, Nasrallah actually read the text of the speech (although he added a few lines of elaboration here and there). But the text of the speech was written (by him presumably) before hand. He wanted to make sure that his views are very carefully calibrated and crafted, and that the message does not get distorted by media reports. In the past, he always improvised and the audience interacted with the speaker, although he would sometimes writes an outline of the main points. But what was very important about the speech, and this has not been noted by the press, is what was NOT mentioned. Iraq and US occupation barely got a mention. The Party basically does not want to take a stance against an on going US occupation, perhaps because that is the view of Iran these days, and because Hizbullah has alliances with the main Shi`ite parties in Iraq. But this sectarian alliance that is silencing or suppressing the views of the party on US occupation is undermining the credibility of the party, in Lebanon and beyond, especially among Sunni Arabs. The party was celebrating Jerusalem Day, and yet the expressions on Palestine were rather vague and non-committal. One does not know what the party's stance is regarding US-Israeli plans for Palestine. Again, the party is reinforcing its image as a Lebanese--or Lebanonese--party that is rooted in a commitment to the Lebanese entity first and foremost, and this is partly due to the new US definition of "terrorist groups" after Sep. 11 as ones that operate across the border. But that is in conflict with the party's message, and with that sentence emblazoned on the party's flag. Hizbullah as a purely Lebanese party will clash with the ideology of the party, although the party thinks that it is playing a very smart game, which it is not. I know, I know. When I interviewed the Party's leaders in Lebanon this summer, I was always told that: "you were not here in March to see the state of Sunni-Shi`ite tensions" and the exploitation of that conflict by Hariri Inc. I know, and I am aware of that. But the party's fears of this factor, are not ameliorating the situation at all. And this Sunni-Shi`ite factor is a two-edged sword--to use a cliche, although the party acts as if it is only a sword by Sunnis against Shi`ites, or as a sword by the outside (Larsen and whoever is behind him) against the inside. This sword can easily turn against Hairri Inc especially as more Shi`ites and some Sunnis are sick and tired of the sectarian and ugly ploys and tactics pursued by Hariri Inc, and especially as his agenda (a disguise of US-Saudi agenda) is increasingly exposed. The party is the most powerful political party in Lebanon but acts as the weakest political party in Lebanon. But this has to do, partly, with what I call sectarian self-esteem in Lebanon. Shi`ites have historically been (mis)treated as an inferior community, initially because of their poverty and rural residence, and later because of thoughts of "civilizational inferiority" as Maronite and Sunni leaders often invoke terms and lexicon of "civilized groups" that they had inherited from colonial powers. Religious bigotry is another reason. So the Shi`ites today constitute the single largest group in Lebanon, but act as if they are the smallest group. The Maronites (through their leaders and political movements) are the third largest group in Lebanon, but act as the single largest group. That will take decades to change, and an awareness to challenge. The speech glaringly did not elaborate a position on Palestine. The party is even afraid to criticize Abu Mazen, and the criticisms of Sanyurah were very mild and very indirect. Nasrallah implied that Roed-Larsen was provoking the party by implying that he had received promises of support for UNSC 1559 from "the Lebanese government." No, Larsen was NOT deceiving anybody. He was telling the truth here, and the only one who does not know that is Hizbullah itself. Hizbullah, for some inexplicable reason, has decided to believe whatever lies told to them by Hariri Inc and their allies. But why? Don't judge the rhetoric, and look at the practice and actual policies. This sudden siege of Palestinian camps is NOT accidental. It is there for everybody to see. This is not a conspiracy THEORY, but a conspiracy IN ACTION, and before the TV cameras. Some people in the Middle East, were put on the defensive by critics of conspiracy theories. There are some who are now even afraid of saying "conspiracy" for fear of being mocked. But there are real conspiracies in the Middle East today, and they are being hatched and implemented before TV cameras, and I for one love to say that out loud. In the past, it was foolish to resort to conspiracy theories for explaining Middle East developments, and now it is foolish to rule out conspiracies from Middle East analysis. Hizbullah used to have an image of credibility not only among Shi`ites but also among secular and leftist Lebanese because the party was seen as an affective vehicle against Israeli occupation, and also against Hariri's disastrous economic and social policies. Now that the party is represented in the cabinet, it will be--and that was the reason for inviting them into the cabinet in the first place--seen as just another Lebanese political party which is now represented in a cabinet that is not only aligning itself with the Bush and Saudi governments, but is regarding World Bank-IMF privitization as its priority. The party was brought into the cabinet to cover for it and to legitimize it, and not--as the party thinks--to honor it. If the party thinks that it will appeal to the Lebanese by its religious ideology, this is the least appealing element of the party, and even among many Shi`ites, and even in South Lebanon where people do not remember fondly the times of puritanical religious rule and standards that were imposed on the region back in the 1980s. I don't see the reason for the party to be represented in the cabinet: this was a trap set for the party, and the party came there willingly, and it has only itself to blame when all becomes clearer and clearer, and when it will be too late to recover politically speaking. And how can one celebrate Jerusalem Day while being represented in the same cabinet with Lebanese Forces militia and Pierre Gemayyel, who were aligned with the Israeli occupation for years and decades in the modern history of Lebanon. Only the naive will believe that those groups have severed their ties with Israel, or with its agenda in Lebanon and the Middle East. And why would the party be so careful in criticizing the Mehlis Report? And what accounts for the party's careful effort to avoid offending Hariri Inc? But then again the party also covered up for Hariri's economic policies in the 1990s, and stood by while Hariri and Syrian intelligence crushed the labor movement in Lebanon. This is not new. And the party puts a show of military parades and yet has failed to present the Lebanese people with a coherent and well-thought out view or strategy of why it needs to keep its arms? The party has not given one consistent answer to this important question, and public opinion surveys among the Lebanese indidcate that support for "weapons of the resistance" has been diminishing among Sunni Lebanese, and the party has itself to blame for that, at least partly. And I don't understand why the Lebanese--at the official or popular levels--don't demand that Israel be disarmed? Surely, the massive WMDs of Israel, and its conventional weapons, pose a direct threat to the Lebanese, and to other Arabs too.
It is so frustrating to listen to sectarian feudal warlord, Walid Jumblat, these days. He just can't talk about anything except the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. Two years ago, as some of you may remember, Rafiq Hariri was quoted as saying: "that whenever Walid Jumblat gets mad at me, cash payments will take care of him." Jumblat was then angry at Hariri for several weeks, and Hariri denied saying what he said, and then they made up--we don't know how, but take your guess. In an interview yesterday on Al-`Alam TV, Jumblat was asked:
"Q. What in your opinion does Washington want from Lebanon?
A. Before Washington, we want to know who killed Rafiq Hariri."
Syrian troops "sealing" the border with Iraq for US news media; i.e. "we will do anything to stay in power."
"U.S. Quietly Issues Estimate of Iraqi Civilian Casualties" (but excludes Iraqi civilians killed by US troops--they just were unintentional victims of "liberation". But look how the NYT adds this as an afterthought: "No figures were provided for the number of Iraqis killed by American-led forces." Why bother?)

Seeing the Moon on a Hot Summer Day, 1987. Frankenthaler, Helen.
Let me get this straight. The Security Council met in a special session yesterday and issued a strong condemnation of the words of the Iranian president. In the same week, Israeli occupation forces, using fighter jets, launched more than 13 raids into Gaza, the most densely populated area of the world, and the Security Council did not even notice? Where is the outrage, as Bob Dole used to say.

Non-stop "liberation."
"Iraqis Take Control of More Territory" (Wait. Had I not read that the US so generously "transferred authority and sovereignty" back to Iraqis 2 years ago?)
Who is the terrorist?
"Embracing the Anti-Apartheid Struggle in Israel/Palestine" (thanks Virginia)
Saudi boy, 14, faces execution (and in other news, "Saudi Arabia Gets Nod for Early WTO Entry")
"The Cyber-Cemetery of the Mujahedeen"
Open information and Secrets
And who is the terrorist? This is Zionism. This is the kind of Israeli heroism that makes supporters of Israel in the US very very proud: "Israel admitted that its Mossad agents assassinated Palestinian novelist, short-story writer, and dramatist Ghassan Kanafani in 1973 by placing explosives in his car."

Foreign (US) infiltrators near the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Friday, October 28, 2005

As I was reading tomorrow's US newspapers on foreign policy, I realized this. All US press articles on foreign policy are structured around the same silly formula. The article quotes a cab driver, and then most of the "wisdom" comes from "a Western diplomat" in that capital or this, which always means the US ambassador or his/her deputy. How much do you learn from that?

Chagall's Bride with A Fan.

Baby "liberation" in Iraq. Is that not cute?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

News from "liberated" Iraq: "23 dead as Shia and Sunni militia clash"
This is Zionism: press freedoms in Israel: "Shin Bet warns Arab journalist against talking to his editor."
"Juan Anderson, 48, claims [Omar Sharif] punched him and called him a "stupid Mexican" after he told him he could not retrieve his Porsche from the parking lot with euros."
Two pro-US Syrian opposition figures, who have no support whatever inside Syria (outside of the US embassay that is) are in coflict it seems. Nabil Fayyad is accusing Farid Al-Ghadiri of collaboration with Israel. Fayyad actually accused Al-Ghadiri of being an "agent" for Israel.

I always say that there is no humiliation that is visited on Saddam that is sufficient to punish him for his crimes. I should add that there is no punishment sufficient for Saddam or his half-brother Barazan. This pathetic former head of Saddam's intelligence apparatus, whose tenure witnessed an elaboration and development of torture techniques, now wrote a letter that was printed in a Kuwaiti newspaper in which he pleaded with (and with fawning praise) Bush, King `Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and any other leader that he can beg. What a pathetic Ba`thist junta it was.
Those who love wars: Another deception of the Iraq war. Al-Arabiyya TV aired a hagriographic "documentary" on Shaykh Zayid of UAE. I only watched the 2nd part of it, and it dealt partly with the Iraq war. In it, Abu Dhabi heir apparent, Shaykh Muhammad Bin Zayid, revealed, after a moment of hesitancy, that Saddam Husayn had indeed accepted the Zayid Iraq Peace proposal which would have avoided war, and achieved the resignation of Saddam. Shaykh Muhammad said that he can't elaborate much on the matter, and why it failed. It is obvious that the US, which had blocked the French proposal in August 1990, is also behind the blocking of the Zayid proposal in 2003. Why miss the opportunity to launch two Iraq wars?
Where is the perspective? The statement by the Iranian president generated more Western outrage than the regular Israeli murder of Palestinians.
Rafiq Hariri on Rustum Ghazalah and Ghazi Kan`an (and yet he is still referred to in the US press as "anti-Syrian"):
I finally found it. On October 9th, 2002, Rafiq Hariri arranged for the Key of Beirut to be awarded to the head of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon, Ghazi Kan`an, upon the end of his service in Lebanon. Hariri then gave a speech in which he said: “Your excellency General, friends, we lived together for more than 10 years. These were not easy years; but your presence among us resolved many of the problems and difficulties, and removed many of the obstacles that faced the state upon its rise. We faced, with you, Israeli attempts to subjugate the Lebanese people. And you always and forever stood with Lebanon. And I do not exaggerate when I say this talk for the first time, but I said it many times. I always felt that you are the first defenders of the supreme interest of Lebanon. And I used to wish to find many of the Lebanese brothers on the level of your understanding of the problem of the state, the country, the government, and the general political situation, and the dangers and challenges that we face….O, brother Abu Ya`rub…You fulfilled, are fulfilling, and will continue to fulfill your duties in the service of your country Syria and Lebanon. And the gift that you gave us is brother Rustum Ghazalah who on the first day that you introduced me to him when I met him, you said: “I will introduce you to a brother of mine named Rustum Ghazalah, Abu `Abduh, and this man is me. And I still remember this talk. And days over the last 10 years have proven that. Whether we were in or out of power, you and the brother Rustum Ghazalah were the truest of friend, and the loyal brother who always stood on the side of the interests of Syria and the interests of Lebanon.”
«سعادة اللواء، ايها الاصدقاء، لقد عشنا معاً ما يزيد عن عشر سنوات. لم تكن سنوات سهلة، لكن وجودكم الى جانبنا ذلل كثيراً من المشاكل والصعوبات وازال كثيراً من العقبات التي واجهت الدولة اثناء قيامها. واجهنا واياكم محاولات اسرائيلية عدة لاخضاع الشعب اللبناني. ووقفتم دائما وابدا الى جانب لبنان. ولا أبالغ ولا أقول هذا الكلام للمرة الاولى، بل قلته مرات عدة. كنت اشعر باستمرار أنكم المدافعون الاوائل عن مصلحة لبنان العليا. وكنت أتمنى ان اجد كثيراً من الاخوان اللبنانيين في مستوى تفهمكم لمشاكل الدولة والبلاد والحكومة والوضع السياسي العام والأخطار والتحديات التي تواجهنا». واضاف: «يا اخ ابو يعرب... قمتم وتقومون وستستمرون بالقيام بواجباتكم في خدمة بلدكم سورية ولبنان. والهدية التي اهديتمونا اياها هي الاخ رستم غزالة الذي في اليوم الاول لتعرفه بي، قلت لي: سأعرفك بأخ لي يدعى رستم غزالة، ابو عبدو، وهذا الرجل هو أنا. ما زلت أذكر هذا الكلام. وقد برهنت الأيام خلال عشر سنوات، إن كنا في السلطة أو خارج السلطة، أنكم والأخ رستم كنتم نعم الصديق والاخ الوفي الذي وقف دائما بجانب مصالح سورية ومصالح لبنان». ٌ
The Mufti of Lebanon, who has the intellectual abilities of...a potato, issued this declaration: نشرت جريدة <<السفير>> نص المقابلة التي أجرتها مع مفتي الجمهورية الشيخ محمد رشيد قباني بتاريخ 8/10/2005، عن أوضاع المساجد وضبطها بالاوقاف الاسلامية وإداراتها، ولوحظ أن الصحيفة قد استبدلت في نص المقابلة المنشورة لفظ <<صلى>> الذي يأتي بعد ذكر النبي محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم في أكثر من موضع برمز (ص) أو صلعم). علما أن مفتي الجمهورية قد نبه الصحيفة التي أجرت معه المقابلة الى ضرورة الالتزام بذكر عبارة <<صلى>> بعد كل مرة يرد فيها اسم النبي محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم في المقابلة.
ويود المكتب الاعلامي في دار الفتوى أن يذكر صحيفة <<السفير>> وسائر الصحف والكتّاب والمؤلفين بأنه لا يجوز شرعاً اختصار عبارة <<صلى>> في الصحف أو المجلات أو الكتب بحرف <<ص>> أو <<صلعم>>، بل يجب كتابتها بكاملها، وان الامانة العلمية توجب التقيد بذلك>>.

While Israeli planes freely roam the airspace of Lebanon, and while Israeli land mines fill the land of South Lebanon, and while Israeli warships intercept Lebanese boats and ships and regularly arrest and kidnap Lebanese fisherpeople, and while Israeli soldiers kidnap Lebanese shepherds, the brave soldiers of the Lebanese Army (who are too eager these days to be defeated by the young fighters of the PFLP-GC) yesterday arrested, I am not making this up, sheep that they say snuck in from Syria. How brave.

Yesterday, women in the Hirmil area in Lebanon stoned convoys of the Lebanese Army as they were trying to intimidate Palestinian fighters who can defeat them, with their hands tied behind their backs. The women were furious because the Lebanese Army is closing all passage points between Syria and Lebanon, and poor Lebanese have for decades bought fuels and groceries from Syria because they are cheaper.

The gifted artist of Lebanese police is back with a new sketch of yet another suspect. It is the previous suspect with a different shirt and less hair. Upon release of this sketch, 500000 Lebanese were arrested for resembling the above suspect.
What? You think that I have nothing better to do than to go over the articles of Hassan Fattah to locate errors, mistakes, and biases? Today, the highly incompetent Hassan Fattah of the New York Times was talking about the Ramadan TV serials and only mentioned one, of the tens of TV serials showing, that would please MEMRI. He referred to its title as ""Hour el Ayn," or "The Beautiful Virgins,". He should have said "hur" and not "hour" and it has nothing to do with virgins, so his translation is quite off but that is not surprising. But this reinforces the silly reports about the "hur" al-`ayn" in the afterlife (see my article on on Sex and the Suicide Bomber). The word Al-Hawar (n.) is the strong black of the eye and the strong white of the eye. When one says "hur al-`ayn" one refers to women whose eyes, according to ancient Arabs, resemble the eyes of cows and deer in the blackness of the black of the eye. Al-Asma`i said: "I don't know what the hawar of eyes is." It is said:
عيناءُ حوراءُ من العين الحير
فقل للحواريات يبكين غيرنا, ولا تبكنا الا الكلابُ النوابحُ
In the Qur'an, huru al-`ayn were mentioned of course in Surat At-Tur for example:
مُتَّكِئِينَ عَلَى سُرُرٍ مَصْفُوفَةٍ وَزَوَّجْنَاهُمْ بِحُورٍ عِينٍ
(Reclining on thrones arranged in ranks; and We shall join them to huri-l-`ayni companions)
Freedom of Expression in the "new" Lebanon. The (unintentionally funny) spokesperson of the Ahbash Movement in Lebanon, `Abdul-Qadir Al-Fakhani, held a press conference the other day to explain the references to Al-Ahbash in the Mehlis report. Of course, his explanations were dubious; and he simply dismissed the phone calls from and to the `Abdul-`Al brothers as "natural." But I noticed that he blamed the campaign against Al-Ahbash on a "fanatical Wahhabi chorus." But that phrase was censored in most Lebanese AND Arab press reports about the conference. Al-Ahbash, since the 1990s, have become a tool of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon, but they still have a strong cultish organization that refers to its spiritual guide as "the renewer of the age, the supporter of the Prophet's path, and the modernizer of Time." In one family we know, when the kids joined Al-Ahbash in the 1980s, they kicked out their father from the house and dismissed him as kafir (because he was a Shi`ite).
Who Silenced Ibrahim Al-Amin of As-Safir? Hariri Inc Silenced Ibrahim Al-Amin. I just wish to confirm that Hariri Inc is indeed behind the pressures on As-Safir to ban Ibrahim Al-Amin from writing. Another (silent) victim of the Hummus Revolution. Will the US ambassador in Lebanon (who has visited May Shidyaq in the hospital 10 times already) show solidarity with Al-Amin? Will Kofi Annan issue a statement of condemnation? Will the various factions of the Hummus Revolution speak about the threats (posed by the money of Hariri Inc) to press freedoms in the "new" Lebanon? It is amazing, frustrating really, that I can't write about this matter in any Lebanese newspaper.
I call upon the readers to express their outrage and displeasure by contacting As-Safir:
Phone: +(961) 1 350001
PS: Be polite. I have friends there.
I will be signing my contract for my new Lebanon book this week. Here are some tentative titles. Let me know what you think: "When Hummus Hit the Fan"; "A Homeland Full of...Hummus;" "Gone with Hummus"; "Hummus of Arabia"; "Dude, where is my Hummus?"; "Drenched in Hummus"; and "Republic of Hummus".
Chagall's "Juggler."
Rich Nations are accused of giving 'nothing'"
Terje Roed-Larsen: "The existence of armed groups defying the control of the legitimate government which by definition is vested with a monopoly on the use of force throughout its territory, is incompatible with the restoration and full respect of the sovereignty". (Angry Arab: Roed-Larsen's report is incompatible with the restoration and full respect of sovereignty.) And UN supports the existence of armed militias and groups in Iraq, provided they support US occupation.)
Political cowardice award: Sen. Kerry "says 20,000 troops should be sent home after December elections." A year ago, while running for president, he called for an increase in the number of US occupation troops.
Chirac seems particularly eager to appease the US these days. I hear that the US government (and cooperating media) are protecting Chirac from very incriminating documents pertaining to illegal cash donations from Arab oil sources to his notoriously corrupt campaigns over the years and decades. Did the US find information about Saddam's donations to Chirac back in the 1970s when Chirac's wife was overwhelmed with the gifts that vice-president Saddam was sending? So France summoned Iranian ambassador over remark about the destruction of Israel. Will France summon Israeli ambassador over the actual destruction of Palestine by Israel?
"evidence of a growing split in the insurgency"
"après la Syrie, l'Arabie saoudite..." (thanks Kamal)
The Lebanese Army pathetically moved 1000 troops to the Biqa` region to intimidate Palestinian fighters. It would require 50 fighters from PFLP-GC to defeat 1000 soldiers of the Lebanese Army.
Harirism of the Day: mini-Hariri today said that Lebanon shares a border with Syria. For years, Sa`d Hariri was under the impression that Lebanon shared a border with China. Mini-Hariri observed to his aides: "It is amazing how much I am learning on the job." "What job"?, they asked him.
I was talking to my mother (a Sunni Muslim) about this the other day. It occurred to me that only Christians, Shi`ites, and Druzes in Lebanon have family names with "Abu" in them. But not Sunni families, for some reason. But Palestinian families (including Sunnis) have "Abu" in the family names. There are Palestinian AbuKhalil family names for example. But American Protestants families also don't have "Abu" in the family names. Is there any "AbuSmith"?
Angry Arab on the Simpsons (again)
Last year, Mahmud `Abbas got in trouble with the US and Israel when he referred to Israel as "the enemy." He learned his lesson well. Today, while giving a live speech at the PNC, he referred to Israel as "the enemy" but then quickly corrected himself and said: ", occuption." Good boy Mahmud. Good boy.
What irony: John Bolton preaching to the world community about civilized behavior.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Flash: Where is Ibrahim Al-Amin? I am really angry. I have been wondering about As-Safir's columnist Ibrahim Al-Amin. He is one of the finest investigative journalists in Lebanon, and the only one who dared to go against the Hariri Inc. He has not written a word in 2 weeks, and I was worried about that. I have just learned that Hariri Inc has pressured As-Safir's publisher to ban Ibrahim Al-Amin. He is banned for being free of Hariri's sinister control. Will people speak out on his behalf? Will Western journalist associations publicize his case? Ibrahim Al-Amin: another victim of the Hummus Revolution.

Le Mont Sainte-Victoire vu des Lauves, 1902-06. Cezanne.
She is carrying a sign in Damascus; it says: "Syria declares that it is not responsible for Hurricane Katrina."

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

It is amazing that the Lebanese racist press wanted to stigmatize the Palestinian people with the clashes in Ta`mir area near Sidon, when we now know for sure that the Palestinians were not involved. Two Lebanese groups were involved: Ad-Dinniyyah group versus Jund Ash-Sham.
Another reason to oppose him: Bill Gates in Israel. "He will meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Industry, Trade and Employment Minister Ehud Olmert, as well as with economic leaders. He is expected to announce a cooperation agreement with Israel."
Cedars of...MOROCCO. They have cedars in Morocco too. They just don't make a big deal out of like Lebanonese, and they do not paint it on their flag. They, unlike Lebanonese, know who they are, and are secure about their identity. Unlike Lebanonese nationalists, they do not feel they have to invent fantasy nationalism, and fake histories.
"Arabic classes gain popularity" (thanks Amir)
" 'Brain drain' is damaging world's poorest countries, study shows" (But Bush's "Brain" remains safe in the US)

He came to "liberate" them. Is he not nice?
Detliv Mehlis, sounding like a big baby, said that his team received threats in Lebanon. Everybody receives threats in Lebanon. The grocer next to our house in Beirut was receiving threats on a weekly basis, and he did not take that to the Security Council.
The Hummus Revolution Continues. A restaurant (Istirahat Al-`Ayn in the town of `Ayn in Northern Biqa`) owned by a Syrian was bombed yesterday. No picture of the suspect was circulated by Lebanese police. He may resemble the Minister of Interior.
I wrote 45 questions about the Mehlis report, but I lost them due to a technological glitch that is driving me crazy. This blogger service is now insisting on inserting a word recognition system for every post, and it often looses what I have written. Even Neal could not answer that one.
Where can I go to escape praise for King `Abdullah of Saudi Arabia? Where?
The book burners of Al-Azhar are at it again, and again. Mufti Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi (who last year threw an ash tray at a journalist when she asked him a question he did not like, and who was appointed to his position only because he possessed the qualifications of servility and senility that Mubarak insists on) just ordered a ban against the book Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad by Natana J. Delong-Bas because he said that it is offensive to Islam and Wahhabiyyah. Not true, I say. In fact, not only is the book NOT offensive to Islam or Wahhabiyyah, but I view it as an apologetic book on the topic, and the author received funding for it from a member of the Saudi royal family, as she herself says in the acknowledgement.
A family tradition continues. Jubran Tuwayni's daughter, Nayla, who cannot write or speak Arabic, is now an official correspondent for An-Nahar.
You see all those columnists at An-Nahar. But they all sound the same. Even the Washington Post and New York Times (and As-Safir) have a much more diverse, and interesting, op-ed page.
I never agreed with Yasir `Arafat on anything. But in private, when the Palestinians were facing difficulties, he used to tell his advisors that you cannot rely on the Arab masses for solidarity or support. With that, I agree.
The headline of the Lebanese right-wing sectarian newspaper, An-Nahar, contains a lie. But with An-Nahar, lies are part of their editorial policy provided they fit into their right-wing sectarian agenda.
What do I think of Sa`ib `Urayqat? Well, he is what the ancient Greeks used to call "flatterer of the masses" (demagogue in Greek).
Trying to save his toys from his house after its destruction by Israeli occupation soldiers.
This is a major lie of the Israeli (in)justice system: the Israeli government vehemently denies that it uses Palestinian children as "human shields" but the Israeli supreme court asked the Israeli government to stop the practice of "human shields." So the Israeli government is officially asked to stop doing what it does not do. OK. The US press is convinced, but nobody else.
Nobody is going to agree with me. But I am not a fan of the art work of Diya' `Azzawi.
Jund Ash-Sham: are out in the open. People who know on this matter in Lebanon, especially the very well-informed expert on Islamic affairs Qasim Qasir of Al-Mustaqbal newspaper, assure me that Jund Ash-Sham is a very small group, and that An-Nahar for obvious reasons exaggerates its significance and role. The leader of Jund Ash-Sham, Abu Ramiz As-Suhmurani (nicknamed the Tough Guy, or Ash-Sharis) spoke to the press for the first time, discussing the clashes between Lebanese groups in Ta`mir area near Sidon. He accused agents of Lebanese government of triggering the clashes. That echoes the opinion voiced by Usamah Sa`d.
Bush gave an interview to Al-Arabiyya TV today. Yes, he spoke in classical Arabic. I can't believe how much his Arabic has improved. But the interview was interrupted twice: Bush could not stop crying over the death of Rafiq Hariri.
Hazim Al-Amin (a fine reporter although I dislike his politics) writes in Al-Hayat that there are nightly tensions in Sunni areas of West Beirut between armed men of Hariri Inc and armed men of Al-Ahbash movement. There are attempts to wrestle control of some mosques from Al-Ahbash. This is the new Lebanon. Be giddy now. Just like Bush and Rice are.
The most secular Arab TV: Without a doubt, the most secular Arab TV is New TV. The station was initially owned by Lebanese Communist Party, and was then sold to Lebanese anti-Hariri businessman Tahsin Khayyat, who kept many of the communist staff. And the staff represents all the constituent sects of Lebanon, unlike LBC-TV which is notorious for only hiring Christians. When I saw Anwar Yasin in Lebanon this summer, I asked him where he was working. "New TV" he said. They do not show any religious ceremonies. I like that. But...they have a very annoying New Agy woman called Maryam Nur, who spends hours preaching New Agy stuff which is comparable to kooky religious rituals.
Did you see the Mehlis' press conference today? Answer me NOW. Well, I did. He sounded as confident and as sure of himself as Bush when quizzed on foreign policy during his first (or second) presidential campaign. He is still to explain how the Report (that he said had no political interference) had tack changes at the same time when he was meeting with Annan? Who "revised" the report Mehlis? Inquiring minds want to know.
I watched LBC-TV on Sunday. It is the Lebanese Forces militia, as you know. In fact, Samir Ja`ja` told an interviewer yesterday than he now coordinates with the newsroom of LBC-TV on daily basis. And it shows. The station is as racistly anti-Syrian, anti-Palestinians as it has been, and more, living up to the long record of the right-wing death squads of Lebanon. Now that the King of Warlords of Lebanon, Samir Ja`ja`, not to be confused with the King of Potatoes on Hamra Street, is back in Lebanon, and given his established perfected record of sending car bombs all around Lebanon, we may have clues to the "new Lebanon". A Lebanon that is leaving Bush and Rice giddy on a daily basis. So I saw the Syrian ambassador going against the Hariri tool, Ahmad Fatfat (Minister of Youth and Ping Pong in the new Lebanese cabinet). Now Fatfat, as you know, competes for the title of The Most Buffoonish Hariri tool with Walid `Idu and Muhammad Qabbani. The Syrian ambassador (a British trained scientist) was much more forceful and logical; he is an ambassador that his lousy government does not deserve. But I was disappointed with him when he praised Martin Indyk, who also was invited to say nothing and to add nothing to the program. Martin Indyk, for potatoes sake. Did you really have to praise him as a "friend"? Friend of whom? Of Zionist militancy, no more. And did you really have to say that he worked for "peace." Peace"? Or did you mean that he worked for the addition of "pieces" of land to Israel? How far will the Syrian government go to appease the US? Will the Syrian government now praise Bush as a founder of the Movement of Arab Nationalists? But LBC-TV was stunned. They invited a Lebanese (Christian in LBC's strictly sectarian standards) American professor at Georgetown University Law Center, Dawud Khayralllah. Khayrallah, a fine progressive and secularist, so disappointed LBC-TV, and they did not know what to do with him. He undermined the credibility of the Mehlis Report, and that bothered LBC-TV. They must still be in tears. As for fatfat: he continued to have a silly smile on his face throughout the program. Today, in As-Safir, columnist Husam `Itani revealed that previous public spectacles of the Ahbash Movement in Lebanon, which is now being suspected of Hariri's assassination, were attended by Hariri tools. This is the true Lebanon.
Harirism of the day. Mini-Hariri said this in London today: "Lebanon has always been a peaceful contry" (savage and prolonged civil wars notwithstanding, he forgot to add).
Route tournante en sous-bois, 1902-06. Cezanne.
"The case that I saw for four-plus years was a case I have never seen in my studies of aberrations, bastardizations, perturbations, changes to the national security decision-making process,"
"Israel praises 'strategic partner' Jordan"
Why can't US forces preserve the right to abuse prisoners, asks Cheney?
"Protests at Yale over sacking of rebel professor"
"Could Syria have been so stupid? Yes, says Brian Whitaker"

Monday, October 24, 2005

American Charm Offensive Gone Awry. You had to be there. David Welsh, US Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East, was on AlJazeera, and receiving live calls from Arabs around the world. Welsh, as you may have noticed does have some charisma; the charisma of a …tomato, let's say. While he was receiving the “questions, —if you can call it that, from the audience, he looked as comfortable as I looked when they pulled my wisdom teeth out, but not on live TV. He did what every inexperienced and unsavy public official would do: just attack the audience. His main problem was that he was using the cliched lines of US propaganda, but to an Arab audience, it just did not click, let us say, not even after the wonderfully successful trip by Karen Hughes which in fact turned Arab public opinion in favor of US and Israeli wars. In fact, during the trip, Fox News reported that Arabs took to the streets in several Arab capitals wishing, nay demanding, that US and Israeli bombs fall on their heads. Several asked for the looting, mayhem, and plunder of "liberated"” Iraq to be brought to their own countries. No word from Hughes about that demand. Welsh was producing his plastic lines, and one guy called from Iraq. From Iraq, for potato's sake. Welsh, clearly used to just reproduce the same lines, started telling the angry caller from Iraq, from Iraq for potatoe'’s sake, that things are in fact good in Iraq, while the Iraqi caller was insisting that US policy is based on naked lies, etc. OK. Several people called to mock US concerns and crocodile tears over Hariri'’s death, and one wrote an email asking about the sudden US interests in Lebanon. One person accused the US of being behind the murder of Hariri, and others accused the US of surrendering Iraq to Iran. One caller asked about US policy toward human rights violations in Tunisia. Welsh answered by praising the economic "reforms"” in Tunisia. This was a festival of failed propagandistic rhetoric that I have not seen in a long time. It is clear to me that this show probably brought down the favorable Arab public opinion toward the US from 2 % to 0.5%. Good job David. Keep it up.

"`Amr Musa: go to Iraq, NOW." OK. Muqtada As-Sadr refused to meet with `Amru Musa during his visit to Iraq. He wanted a statement from the Arab League to denounce Zarqawi terrorism and Saddam's crimes. The Ba`th Party in Iraq also denied that Musa met with any of its leaders. And a Kurdish newspaper criticized Musa for saying that Kurdistan is "part of the Arab world." But Musa was pleased with his Bush-ordered mission in Iraq.
"Leave me alone. I just don't want to be "liberated" by you. Just go away."
Demonstrations in Syria (just to prove that you don't have to be democratic to allow demonstrations). I watched some footage of Syrian demonstrations. While I feel that the threats' campaign (orchestrated by US, Israel, and France using the Hariri Inc and exploiting the Hariri assassination) has probably generated some sympathy with the regime among the Syrian people, the demonstrations (and I am not a fan of "the masses") were as choreographed as the Hummus revolution was, but with less money, and with less pictures and with less bombast. As Syrian human rights advocate (and one of my favorite Arab human rights advocates, see his book Tufulat Ash-Shay'), Haitham Al-Manna` told Al-Arabiyya: "the only spontaneous demonstrations in Syria are the ones that result in Police crackdowns." Sahar Mandur of As-Safir wrote about the TV images of the Syrian demonstrations, and noted that they were more likely to use classical Arabic in comparison to Hummus revolutionaries, and that they were more polite with the exception of one disturbing anti-Semitic picture with 4 Lebanese politicians portrayed--An-Nahar, Al-Mustaqbal, and Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat (all of which avoided showing or reporting about the blatantly racist slogans, pictures, and chants of the Hummus Revolution) made sure to show it out of the thousands raised. When you think of the racist slogans and chants of the Hummus revolutionaries, Mandur is right. Mandur writes: "Among the demonstrators some demonstrate by virtue of a Party command or in response to an official "invitation" that can't be rejected. Just as some took to the streets to watch those people. But among them are those who don't care about the report, but [worry about] a life they know and fear losing. And there are some who may not usually like raising the portrait of the president but want to raise it now in defiance. And many demonstrate because they love their homeland, and others demonstrate because they reject the alternatives."
I was reading about American (people not government) charity, and about Saudi (people and not government) charity, and reached those conclusions: the American people and the Saudi people are probably among the most generous people in the world, but their governments are not.
A "a public service annoucement" running on LBC-TV ends with the statement that "we [Lebanonese people, that is] are a civilized people."
"One of the advertising industry's most celebrated executives has offered to resign after reportedly describing women creative directors as "crap" who would inevitably "wimp out and go suckle something."" (thansk Maryam)
"The Dangerously Incomplete Hariri Report" (thanks Ali)
Lebanese correspondents in US and France (with the exception of Sami Klayb of As-Safir) now serve as mere mouthpieces for the French and US governments.
PS: I also should add the name of Talal Al-Hajj, Al-Arabiyya correspondent at UN as being independent. (Is he Lebanese though?) Kamal tells me that he is Iraqi.

Remembering Baghdad of the classical era. Baghdad of pre-Bush and pre-Saddam.
So who does the New York Times send to cover the opening of an Arab-American museum? A bigot of course. You see, Edward Rothstein would like a museum for Arab terrorists. Is that too much to ask?
""Hulagu?" said Fatina Hamdi, a philosophy professor at Baghdad University. "Hulagu was humane compared with the Americans.""
"Twenty-Seven Detainee Homicides in U.S. Custody: Lax Policies and Inadequate Investigations Create Culture of Impunity, Human Rights First Research Shows"
I like and respect Alexander Cockburn. I think that he is a rare courageous writer. But why did he have to bring up the "sexual resume" of Judith Miller? Will that be considered relevant if the writer was a male?
A reader (Henry) and I noticed that John Kifner in an article on the Mehlis report in yesterday's NYTimes said this: "" Mr. Hariri, an ebullient billionaire who had almost single-handedly rebuilt the city center shattered by 15 years of civil war, ..."
28 % of Americans will not vote for a female president
Hide the news and hope that nobody will notice: "Four U.S. contractors were killed last month when their convoy took a wrong turn, drove into a town north of Baghdad and was attacked by an angry mob, a senior U.S. military official said Saturday. The incident, which occurred Sept. 20 in the town of Duluiyah, about 45 miles north of Baghdad, was first reported Saturday by Britain's Daily Telegraph. The senior U.S. military commander confirmed the account to The Washington Post. There was no explanation for why the military did not report the deaths earlier."
"Rice finally said, irritably, "The world is a messy place, and someone has to clean it up.""
"Iraq Insurgency Shows No Signs of Abating" (but Bush keeps making progress in Iraq)
These are fanatics you like and arm: "Islamists and Mujahedeen Secure Victory in Afghan Vote"
News from "liberated", US-run Afghanistan: "Editor Sentenced for 'Anti-Islamic' Articles"
My comments on the Simpsons in Dutch (thanks Nadia)
"They sleep on dirty mattresses, behind stairwells and elevator shafts, lulled by the flicker of scavenged televisions or the scratch of battered radios. Gnomish, often illiterate men in worn robes and knotted turbans, they live in this clanging city, far from home, with no realistic hope of climbing out of the gutters of Egypt's elaborate caste system."
"Psyches of Iraq's Children Caught in the Cross-Fire" (Send Karen Hughes to soothe them)
"Climate change 'could ruin drive to eradicate poverty'"
"History of race bias atop the Ivy League: Harvard, Yale and Princeton practiced shameful exclusion policies until 1960s"

Signs of Lebanese "liberation": this is the new Lebanon. These are signs of the new Lebanon, the Lebanon that is promoted as a model of "freedom" and "independence" by Lebanonese nationalists and by Bush's advocates. RPGs and other not-light weapons were used in those clashes in Ta`mir near Sidon. MP Usamah Sa`d (one of the few members of parliament that I respect, and who managed the great defeat of the Hariri list in the municipal elections in Sidon in 2004) said that a new group in Sidon has been receiving weapons from Hariri apparatus in Beirut (he did not use that phrase, but I know the code language of Usamah).
Something is wrong with the comments' section. What is to be done? Let me try to fix it: NEAL! NEAL! NEAL!
In appointing the Mufti of Al-Azhar, Husni Mubarak only insists on two important qualifications: servility and senility. By that criterion, the current Mufti of Al-Azhar is supremely qualified. Really.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Yesterday, the US ambassador in Lebanon visited May Shidqaq for the 9th time in her hospital. US ambassadors in the Middle East have a hard time going to sleep before ensuring the safety of Arab journalists.
US ambassador in Lebanon was visiting the town of Khiyam in South Lebanon yesterday to open a museum for WWII. The father of two men who were killed by Israel, showed up (Muhammad Hammud) and called upon him to leave the area. He started chanting slogans against him and against his government (while saying that he respects the American people). The guards of the ambassador quickly came to push him away, and the ambassador had to flee the scene. To be honest with you, when I saw the footage, I was surprised. I mean this happened AFTER the famous trip by Karen Hughes, who dramatically changed Muslim AND Arab public opinion toward the US and its wars.

From the world of Baghdad of classical times.
(Colleges only protest the cost)"The federal government, vastly extending the reach of an 11-year-old law, is requiring hundreds of universities, online communications companies and cities to overhaul their Internet computer networks to make it easier for law enforcement authorities to monitor e-mail and other online communications."
"C.I.A. to Avoid Charges in Most Prisoner Deaths"
This is a casual question in the New York Times (and by a liberal writer): "If we keep borrowing at this level, won't the Arabs or the Chinese eventually own this country?"
"It must be nice to live in a world in which you can be pleasantly amused about injustices from which you do not suffer. The 6- and 8- year-olds whom I describe do not have that luxury."
"The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton"
'I stand by my words. And even more, I stand by my right to say them...'
"Secret MoD poll: Iraqis support attacks on British troops"

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Arab League's budget is $18 million per year (less than the amount of money spent by King Fahd on one casino table in one night in the 1970s--but I would not give any money to the Arab league under its current management and under the current Arab state system). 14$ million of the budget goes to salaries.
Former Lebanese communist leader, Karim Muruwwah says: "We should put Lenin on trial." Angry Arab says: No, we should put people like Karim Muruwwah on trial. They, not Lenin, were responsible for the Stalinization and the ossification of the communist movement in Lebanon. People like him turned the Communist Party first into a tool of Khalid Bakdash, and later into a tool of the foreign intelligence branch of the Soviet Union. People like him squandered the opportunities (not to mention the millions) that came their way over a period of decades. People like him let the communist movement in Lebanon splinter, and then some, like George Hawi became typical sectarian Christian leaders (in the case of Hawi mostly to further the political fortunes of his son Rafi), and others, like Karim Muruwwah, became voices for the Hariri Inc and An-Nahar Inc apparatus. If Muruwwah wanted to put Lenin on trial he should have said so back in 1968 when he and his comrades in the leadership of the Stalinist party persecuted those communists who objected to the Soviet invasion of Checkoslovakia.
Harirism of the Day. I am not making this up. In the address that mini-Hariri gave to the Lebanese people, he said that his father was not assassinated "by accident."
Let me report to you the coherent and consistent position of the Syrian government toward the Mehlis Report: the Syrian government considers the report full of "lies and deception" but expresses its determination to cooperate with the Mehlis investigation. Do you see what kind of governments the Arab people live under (and suffer)?

The magnificent sketch artists of Lebanese police: an entire force of Lebanese police stormed into the house of a Lebanese citizen yesterday because he looked like the recent sketch of a wanted suspect (shown above). In a short time, it became clear that person in custody was not the wanted man. He was released, and the Lebanese police issued a statement in which it asserted that he really resembled the sketch of the suspect (shown above).
Karen Hughes, a historian of modern Iraq.
"Howard Zinn: Vision and Voice"
This is what it really is about, Lebanonese foolish naivite notwithstanding: "the United States was determined to rely on the report's damning of Damascus to further its campaign to isolate Syria, which it holds responsible for financing anti-Israel guerrilla groups and encouraging insurgents crossing its border into Iraq."
My review of the Simpsons (and here I am identified as "An Arab TV critic")
Dowd on Miller
"Zentraler Zeuge in Mehlis-Report ist verurteilter Betrüger" (If Rif`at Al-Asad is involved, then you know the results)

From Elie Kan`an's exhibit in Beirut.
Today was a very difficult day for Sa`d Hariri. His aides read him an abstract of the executive summary of the executive summary of the executive summary of the executive summary of the executive summary of the Mehlis Report. He was devastated when he learned that his father was actually murdered. "Why didn't anybody tell me?," he yelled out.
From Tabaqat Ash-Sha`rani (my translation): "If you see a policeman sleeping during prayer time, don't wake him up. He may wake up and harm people." (Sufyan Ath-Thawri)

Friday, October 21, 2005

"The Scandalous History of the Red Cross"
Time magazine justifies the US GI's burning of two dead Afghan bodies: "Stench Prompted U.S. Troops to Burn Corpses"
To stay in power, the regime in Syria will be more than willing to sell Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Golan. All to stay in power. Just like any other Arab regime.
"Baby who died was fed on a diet of raw vegetables."
"Karzai tries to play down burning of Taliban bodies" (He said, chicken are also burnt and roasted in Afghanistan.)
"Lebanon's cedar revolution withers" (Withered? It withered before it even started).
Zizek: "This brings us back to rumours and “reports” about “subjects supposed to loot and rape:” New Orleans is one of those cities within the United States most heavily marked by the internal wall that separates the affluent from ghettoized blacks. And it is about those on the other side of the wall that we fantasize: More and more, they live in another world, in a blank zone that offers itself as a screen for the projection of our fears, anxieties and secret desires. The “subject supposed to loot and rape” is on the other side of the Wall—this is the subject about whom Bennett can afford to make his slips of the tongue and confess in a censored mode his murderous dreams. More than anything else, the rumors and fake reports from the aftermath of Katrina bear witness to the deep class division of American society."
My review of the Simpsons (in Norwegian)

Israeli occupation soldiers preventing Palestinian women from visiting their lands.
"Between the end of the French mandate over Syria after World War II and the 1970 coup by Air Force chief Hafez Assad, Bashar's father, the country experienced 21 military coups."
My interview with NPR's On the Media (airing today) (on Ramadan's TV serials): " Serial for Dinner"
One of those most annoying, and most unwise in the analysis of some in the Arab world who oppose US wars and policies, is their expectations that either Russia or China will abruptly emerge as a new Super Power, which will assume the role of the protector of Arab interests. I heard Najah Wakim the other day expecting Russia to emerge yet again as a Super Power.
This is what the Lebanese conflict often degenerates into. This fine reporter at As-Safir reports about the gathering near Hariri's gravesite after the release of the Mehlis report. It was no more than 2000 people (Hassan Fattah will make them 2000000000), he reported, with clear sectarian composition and slogans. The Sunni contingent was chanting this:
الله عثمان ابو بكر وعلي ... دم السنية عم يغلي غلي
(God, `Uthman, Abu Bakr and `Ali; the blood of Sunnis is really boiling). So much for Lebanonese unity. This reminds me of the comment that Karl Marx wrote about conflict in Algeria back in 1860s for the New York Tribune. Not that I agree with his take on things Eastern or Islamic, but in this case it applies to Lebanon). (Of course, sectarianism is not confined to Sunnis only).
PS In fairness, Hassan Fattah in today's article mentioned "hundreds" of demonstrators. He identified MP Ghinwa Jallul as being "associated" with Hariri's bloc, when she has been a member of the bloc since 2000.
A funny and intelligent piece on the Mehlis report by Khalid Saghiyyah.

World Press Freedom Index (ranking): 1Denmark0,50 -Finland0,50 -Iceland0,50 -Ireland0,50 -Netherlands0,50 -Norway0,50 -Switzerland0,50 8Slovakia0,75 9Czech Republic1,00 -Slovenia1,00 11Estonia1,50 12Hungary2,00 -New Zealand2,00 -Sweden2,00 -Trinidad and Tobago2,00 16Austria2,50 -Latvia2,50 18Belgium4,00 -Germany4,00 -Greece4,00 21Canada4,50 -Lithuania4,50 23Portugal4,83 24United Kingdom5,17 25Benin5,50 -Cyprus5,50 -Namibia5,50 28El Salvador5,75 29Cape Verde6,00 30France6,25 31Australia6,50 -South Africa6,50 33Bosnia and Herzegovina7,00 34Jamaica7,50 -Mauritius7,50 -South Korea7,50 37Japan8,00 -Mali8,00 39Hong-Kong8,25 40Spain8,33 41Costa Rica8,50 42Italy8,67 43Macedonia8,75 44United States of America (American territory)9,50 (Lebanon is 108)

The Syrian Minister of Information, Mahdi Dakhlallah, told Al-Jazeera that while he has not read the Mehlis report, he knows that it is a "biased" and "politicized" report. Similarly, George W. Bush offered opinions on the report. Does anybody really think that George W. has read it when he asks his aides to not give him memos that are longer than one page?
Today I watched a program on Al-Arabiyya TV on reform in the Arab world featuring Sa`d Ad-Din Ibrahim, and UAE professor `Abdul-Khaliq `Abdullah. I was so delighted to see `Abdul-Khaliq, a friend and colleague from my Washington, DC days. He was one of the first people I met in the US. I have always had tremendous respect for this man of principle, and I saw that he has not changed over the years. I had not seen `Abdul-Khaliq in years, but we had a reunion of sorts last year at Georgetown University's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies' symposium. Today, `Abdullah (who is friendly with Ibrahim) made very important points, and, unlike Ibrahim (who, like Arafat and the King of Jordan, speaks so differently in Arabic than when he speaks in English to Western media) refused to give any credit to Bush for "reform" in the Arab world, and said that the US enters the scene at the last minute, and often to thwart and sabotage reform. He said that the credit, whatever credit that is, should go to the Arab men and women who struggled for decades for change.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

What did Mehlis Know, and How did He know it? The Mehlis Report, or the Birth Certificate of US-Run Lebanon? So the report is out. How do you know that? Well, the Hariri (Future) TV resumed their unending cheesy Hariri songs. That is how you know. The text that was first posted on the Washington Post's website, wad edited and the "track changes" marks were still on it. I don't know whether they later changed the version that they posted. But I enjoyed reading the text, with the deletions, especially when the names of Maher Al-Asad and Asaf Shawkat were mentioned but marked as deleted. Also, a passage that criticized the spread of rumors in Lebanese media (clearly a reference to Hariri media themselves) was also deleted. Mini-Hariri would not have liked that at all, just as a reference to Lebanese politicians (read Hariri tools) spreading rumors and leaking to the press was also deleted. As a whole, the report is not very strong; i.e. there is no smoking gun technically speaking. But when you read the report as a whole, you find the details and the circumstantial evidence add up to a picture of Syrian and Lebanese military and intelligence culpability. That is certain. I was of the view from the begining that Syrian intelligence may quite likely be behind the assassination, and the question was the level of the decision making. (And while I wrote those words I am pained when I think of many assassinations of Palestinians by Israelis on regular basis, but those murders never generate investigations. They just don't have billions in their bank accounts, and do not know Cheney personally). Also, when you read the report, you can't but think about the Arab Israeli conflict. The skills and efforts of the Israeli intelligence apparatus is directed against the Arabs (including their poets and writers as many were assassinated by Israeli forces over the years), and the skills and efforts--criminal in both cases--of the Arab intelligence apparatus are directed against the Arabs themselves. You see here a picture of Arab regimes; how they operate and how they use people, and how they conspire and how they manipulate, and how they utilize human beings and throw them. You see that they devote so much of their energies and efforts in their little dirty wars, and little campaigns against one another. The Arab media will not say this: not a good picture of Rafiq Hariri emerges here. It only underlines that his conflict with the Syrian regime, which installed him in power with his cronies in 1992, was not over principle, but over one issue: the role of Emile Lahhud. Lahhud became obstructive of Hariri's plans and designs, and when Hariri gave up on changing him and on having his way, he turned, but never publicly, against the Syrian regime. You see this today in Lebanon: the Hariri camp and Jumblat still talk fondly about the regime of Hafidh Al-Asad. That regime was favored by them, because they benefited from it. Human rights violations in Syria AND in Lebanon are the least of their concern. You will notice if you read the report that Hariri, when he went for that famous meeting with Bashshar Al-Asad, visited the headquarters of Rustum Ghazalah twice in the same day: once on the way to Syria, and another time on the way from Syria. When a Hariri senior aide was telling me about the humiliation of Hariri by Rustum Ghazalah, especially in the meeting when Hariri went to tell Ghazalah that he is willing to support Lahhud's extension of his term in the service of Syria--when Ghazalah I am told held him by his shirt to chastise him--, I could only say this: "Why would he take such humiliation? Why would he accept such mistreatment by intelligence functionaries"? "It is all about greed and hunger for power," I said. He could not but agree with my observation. You read the report and you see a picture of extensive culpability by ALL branches of the Syrian military-intelligence apparatus, and by ALL branches of the Lebanese military-intelligence apparatus. The report also adds that there may be involvement by PFLP-GC, and by the Ahbash fundamentalist group, and by various Lebanese politicians. But if that is the case, you wonder: are they that dumb? Are they that stupid? And if that many people and groups were involvement in the planning and execution, how come not a single person yet has cracked? Yes, there are references to two unnamed Syrian sources, but they seem to be low-level. One of them saw the Mitsubishi van in Zabadani camp and another saw it in Hammana camp. But yes, Arab regimes, and the Syrian government has a long record, can be that stupid, not to mention that they can be that criminal and bloody. Witness the beating of Anwar Bunni the other day in Damascus. But why would the Lebanese-Syrian regimes allow so many layers of involvement by so many groups and factions and individuals? But the answer is that they did not anticipate that level of international attention, and that level of outside intrusion by the UN investigation. In other words, if they were clumsy--but not that clumsy given that there is still no smoking gun--it is because they were accustomed to be clumsy and careless. There was no accountability on the behavior of the Syrian AND Lebanese governments over the years, in the post-Ta'if period. Hariri is guilty in that regard, as were all those who were part of the Lebanese government at the time. I mean guilty of crimes. Hariri's assassination was not the first murder by the Syrian-Lebanese military-intelligence apparatus, but that outside UN investigations can only be directed against foes of the US, and never against friends of the US. Remember what happened to Boutros Ghali when he insisted on releasing the Qana massacre report, after heavy political editing. When Lebanese ask about politicization, the answer is of course there is politicization. The US is willing and desirous to politicize every little thing in Lebanon today if it adds pressure on Syria, and if it exploits Lebanese events in the service of US propaganda and plans. How many times has the US ambassador visited May Shidyaq so far? Eight times already? And do you really believe that the US, just like that, suddenly out of the blue decided to care so deeply and so affectionately about the "sovereignty" and "independence" of Lebanon? Can be people be that naive? (Yes, some Lebanonese nationalists are really that naive, or worse than naive). Some parts of the report clearly read like an anthology of the accounts, theories, and opinions of Hariri functionaries: what Basim Sab`, what Ghazi `Aridi, what Walid Jumblat, what Jubran Tuwayni, what Sa`d Hariri, what Marwan Hamadi, and others have told Mehlis. Just like the Fitzgerald Report. But why did the report not include the accounts and opinions of the other side? That was an omission, and will contribute to the impression that will be used by the Syrian government and its supporters and puppets--does the Syrian government allow anybody but puppets?--in Lebanon. I was amused today that the Syrian president received Kamal Shatila, head of the Popular Conference. This is a man who was chased out of Lebanon by the Syrian government (after a phone call from the former Minister of Defense Mustafa Tlas--according to Shatila's account in Al-Jazeera), and now the Syrian government discovered that it has a Sunni problem in Lebanon (and in Syria). For years they marginalized so many Sunni figures in Lebanon, in order to push and promote Hariri. The decent politician Salim Huss was marginalized by the Syrian government for much of the post-Ta'if period. Now, I will get into specifics. The biggest and most suspicious lie of the report: it said in paragraph 19 that: "it is to be regretted that no Member State relayed useable information to the Commission". But why would Mehlis say that in this report when he had said in the preliminary report that ISRAEL and Jordan gave help to his investigation, and when he had told Le Figaro that Israel provided help, and when the Israeli press reported that Israeli intelligence agents had met with his team in Europe? That will only raise doubts about the alleged "objectivity"--they lie to you when they use that word, always--and non-political nature of the report. The account by Rustum Ghazalah in paragraph 27 is so clearly untrue, for anybody who knows anything about the nature of the relationship between Ghazalah and Hariri. Equally lying, is the account of Jubran Tuwayni, and I don't understand why he got into the report except due to his love of the cameras, and to seeing his name in print, just like Sen. Schumer of New York. And the account of Tuwayni, who never was a confidante of Hariri, was not corroborated by anybody else. Nobody except Tuwayni claims that Hariri was threatened with bombings to his face by Bashshar Al-Asad. From his hotel in Paris, Jubran Tuwayni wanted to get into the story, this right-wing untalented writer who is discredited among Muslims and who was told by Christian voters in East Beirut to go to "Hariri's house" when he showed his face after the assassination of Samir Qasir. I talked to a Hariri confidante who saw Hariri just after returning from the meeting with Bashshar on 26th of August. According to that person, Hariri said that the meeting was "not good" but did not report threats. I heard about the comment about "bring down Lebanon over their heads" but that was not said by Bashshar, but was said to Hariri in another setting according to my information. And the tapes conversation between Hariri and Walid Mu`allim does not refer to the threat either, and I am not saying whether it was said or not, but have to dissect the text before me. And Mehlis needed, no needs as he will be with us for years I predict, somebody to help with transliteration of Arabic. In paragraph 28, you see that Hariri's main beef was not principles or the lofty ideals by the professionally hired chanters of the Hummus Revolution. It was about the petty feud between Hariri and Lahhud. I also noticed that the name of Ghazi Kan`an was not mentioned. If Kan`an did not "commit suicide" I bet that his name would have been mentioned. Paragraph 29 may surprise people because Walid Mu`allim always comes across as a jovial fellow, and he may be, but his last meetings with Hariri were pretty tense and conflictual, as I know form an account of an Arab journalist. Paragraph 30 is correct: Walid Mu`allim lied when he portrayed the meeting with Hariri as "friendly and constructive". A journalist who spoke to Mu`allim told me that Mu`allim presented Hariri in the Feb. 1st meeting with a list of Syrian grievances against him. And the report did a good job in tracing the footsteps of Abu Adas, but only mentions that his father died while in Lebanese state custody. Another innocent victim that nobody cares to talk about. Paragraph 63 should have noted that Ashraf Rifi (the current director-general of the Surete Generale), the author of the cited report in this report was a Hariri functionary. There are no objective sources in Lebanon, outside of the Angry Arab zone of course. Paragraph 75 is damning: that Mustafa Hamdan claimed that he did not remember details of his day on 14th of February. If I can remember that day clearly while in California, surely Hamdan, unless he has something to hide, has to remember, and in details that day. Paragraph 80 is not accurate in talking about the home of the Ahbash movement. It is not a Palestinian movement, but mostly Beirut Sunni movement, and Abu Adas lived in a Sunni Beiruti neighborhood and not in a refugee camp. I have an entry of this movement in my Historical Dictionary of Lebanon, and there is an article about them in IJMES by Nezar Hamzeh from 5 years or more. Check it out. It is a very odd movement that got my attention while a graduate student in the 1980s. I was curious about it because a distant relative of ours joined the movement, and his behavior got more and more bizarre. He declared his Muslim father a kafir at one point. This Sunni fundamentalist movement is more like a cult, and named after a Shaykh (al-Harari) who came from Ethiopia, hence the name Ahbash, plural of Habashi, the Abyssinian. The movement is based on iron discipline, and worried the Syrian government back in the 1980s. The Syrian government in Lebanon always dealt carefully with Sunni fundamentalist groups in Lebanon: if they can't be coopted, they have to be captured or killed. But the Ahbash movement was coopted, and became a tool of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon. But why would the Syrian government rely on them for the plan, I wonder. Why not rely on a more reliable pro-Syrian organization? Paragraph 95 really distressed me and bothered me. It shows the utter contempt felt by Arab officials toward their citizens. It also shows the blatant manipulation of Lebanese politics by Syrian AND Lebanese intelligence agents and services. It also bothers me to see how the post-Ta'if regime manipulated and controlled the Labor Movement in Lebanon--the only hope for non-sectarian collective action, with the full participation of Hariri, Birri, Jumblat, SSNP, and the Syrian government of course. This current head of the labor unions in Lebanon is a Nabih Birri puppet, and has no credibility or standing. Paragraph 96 begins to report the account of an unnamed Syrian who now resides in Lebanon. In the first text that I saw, which has editing changes marked, the name of Maher Al-Asad, and Bahjat Sulayman, and Asaf Shawkat were deleted. This witness claimed that he saw the van in Hammana. Why were the Syrian so keen on displaying "tools of the crime" so to speak? And what was his standing within the Syrian intelligence apparatus? Why should we accept this account as credible? And how did the Mehlis team "know" that the van came from Syria? What is the evidence? This same witness throws in the name of Ahmad Jibril in for extra effect. Why Ahmad Jibril? Why would the Syrian government which was, according to the story, relying on its own intelligence agencies and on the Lebanese agencies, need the help of Jibril? Why widen the scope of the planning of the crime?? Paragraph 101 also throws the names of Nasir Qandil and `Ali Al-Hajj as people who knew of the crime before it happened. Why would the circle of those who knew of the crime be so wide, and do those details, and this tendency to accept allegations that incriminate Syria not undermine the credibility of the report and the investigation? I mean if somebody came forward to Mehlis and allege that he knew of an Israeli plot against Hariri, would he put that information in? Would he pass the allegation on and make it part of the report? Paragraph 103 parades yet another unnamed witness, and that claimed that Mustafa Hamdan basically bragged to him about wanting to kill Hariri. Are they that dumb? They could be. They could be. Now the account of Muhammad Zahayr As-Siddiq occupies several paragraphs, and seems to have been a major source for the report according to the Lebanese press. But some of the allegations by Siddiq were refuted (that all those Lebanese and Syrian intelligence leaders met in an apartment in Mu`awwad for example)? And Siddiq's status changed from that of a cooperating witness to that of a suspect, and yet the report adds, almost in passing, that that should add, not diminish, his credibility. Why? Paragraph 111 clearly catches the Syrian government in a lie, and it also shows how dumb Arab governments can be, and that they are not aware that they are being watched and monitored including by satellites. Paragraph 112 and 113 clearly were rushed and do not add up that easily, and do not explain the change in the account of Siddiq. And suddenly paragraph 114, almost in an after thought, says this: "At the present stage of investigation, a certain amount of information given by Mr. Saddik cannot be confirmed through other evidence." The mention of the name of the Lebanese Army's commander-in-chief is very damaging. Here was somebody who has been praised by all sides since the Hummus Revolution because he refused to use the army to suppress popular demonstrations against Syria. But Michel Sulayman clearly is part of the intelligence-military apparatus that was set up with Syrian knowledge and order. The conclusion after paragraph 182 is rather odd. It says: "The evidence does show that it is likely that Mr. Abu Adass left his home on 16 January 2005 and was taken, voluntarily or not, to Syria, where he has since disappeared. " Evidence and "likely" in the same sentence? If there is evidence it should be more than likely, no? The most important damning part was the information on the use of cellphones and landline communications between the various parties. But it was curious that they insisted on throwing in the name of `Umar Karami although there is nothing that links him at all. This was clearly political, and may indicate that Hariri Inc functionaries were quite involved, directly or indirectly, in the preparation of the report. I was surprised that former Lebanese intelligence chief, and later advisor to Bashir Gemayyel, Johny `Abduh, admitted in an interview on LBC-TV that he asked Mehlis about his investigation, and that the latter answered him. Certainly, the phone call between `Abdul-`Al and the cellphone of Emile Lahhud is quite damaging to the latter. The calls for his resignation will only get louder, and Lahhud will never resign. But this damning evidence if pursued may make his position more than precarious. And paragraph 208 was actually hilarious: Mehlis has ideas and plans for the reform of the Lebanese political system and Lebanese society. He says: "Much needs to be done to overcome sectarian divisions". What? How? Why? Does Mehlis has plans to also investigate the origins of Lebanese conflict through history? But you know what? The report could have been more damning of the Syrian and Lebanese governments if they also talked about the various active role played by Rafiq Hariri in preparing for UNSC 1559, AND the fact that the Syrian and Lebanese government knew of those activities in great detail. Hariri's political (if not also security) apparatus was breached, but the report did not want to shed light on that role by Hariri which is either denied or not mentioned at all in Lebanese media. And now, the propaganda wars will begin. It can be predicted that one side (the Hariri funded side) will insist that this is an "objective" and "professional" report, and and that the author, because he is a German--white European--is not capable of politicization because white Europeans are just genetically inclined toward professionalism. Some Hariri people are really talking like that these days, especially the Hariri propgandist Farish Khashshan. The other side, will insist that the report is politicized and will dig holes in it. And the Syrian government will continue to lie, and to even deny the obvious: that the Syrian government hated Hariri at the time of his assassination. The US will have a new tool in its hand to add pressure on Syria, and if the regime feels endangered, the confronation between US and Syria will only get uglier, and the people of Syria, Lebanon AND Iraq will pay the price. The US is still tempted to play with fire in Lebanon, and that will not be pretty, not pretty for anybody. If the Syrian governmet and its allies feel the need, they can play dirty, or dirtier, in Lebanon and beyond, just as the US continues its dirty playing in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond. And you wonder why I often miss the Cold War?