Friday, March 30, 2007

Mr. Hariri Propagandist: The Tale of the Kind Billionaire who allowed his bodyguard to kiss his hand. I finished reading Nicholas Blanford's Killing Mr. Lebanon. I am reviewing a couple of books on Lebanon for an academic journal. Are you kidding me? When I finished reading it on the plane, I felt that I owe an apology to Hariri propagandists Farish Khashshan and Brent Sadler. Where do I begin. You can read my review elsewhere, but this is quite unbelievable. It is an official Hariri biography and "research" is solely interviews with Hariri entourage, and he no more than repeats the gossips, rumors, and innuendos that are contained in the vulgar and crude columns of official Hariri propagandist, Farish Khashshan in the Hariri rag. He did interview two pro-Syrian politicians but only to mock them. But in fairness: when he needed insights on Sunni public mood in Lebanon, he did cite the famous Sunni thinker, Michael `Umar Young (not to be confused with his Shi`ite twin brother, Michael Husayn Young).(p. 197). Even when Rafiq Hariri offers his hand to be kissed by his bodyguard (a well-known opportunist thug), it is portrayed by Blanford as a great act of generosity and kindness on the part of Hariri: "Hariri had sat on the sofa and raised his hand. [Yahya] Arab took it and kissed it. It was intensely personal moment."(p. 137). I mean, when I read that on the plane, tears started to stream down my cheeks. Were you not as touched as I was? (And Blanford who sometimes tells the same story twice in the badly edited book, tells the kissing-of-the-hand story twice). Why not thrice, Mr. Blanford. But worse, he dares to mock a Syrian demonstrator for allegedly holding a sign in English upside down (p. 160). Let me tell you, Mr. correspondent of the White Man. That Syrian worker you mocked, I am sure, has a better command of English than your (lack of) command in Arabic. Let me see you handle an Arabic sign. And I am sure that his Arabic is as good as your English, if not better (Syrian schooling really stresses Arabic unlike Lebanon). (And you mock the Syrian's English when you refer to Allah Akbar as "Akhbar"? Did you hear that on Israeli radio one day and it stuck in your ear? And you refer to mourning as "azar"? And you have the audacity to mock that Syrian worker? And Blanford (who under his name wrote about "tele-genic" March 14th demonstrators in a lousy MERIP piece after Hariri's assassination although he claimed (accurately) that the word was inserted by the editor as if this was the only problem with that article) is still impressed with the March 14th demonstrators. He cited a Lebanese man saying: "These aren't the $10 crowd. This is the bourgeoisie." Blandford was very impressed, and he adds: "Glamorous Maronite women, wearing chic black dresses, and sporting designer sunglasses, chatted in French and held aloft pictures of Hariri" (p. 146). And Blanford does not know that Hariri had any role in the UNSC 1559, which can only lead to one of two conclusions: 1) that he has not read the Western accounts and has not talked to people in Lebanon and outside of Lebanon who can tell him about Hariri's energetic role described in London Times among other places; 2) or he knows and is deliberately lying and covering up in the manner known for Hariri sycophants--and those sycophants are the only ones that he talked to, and whose accounts he reports UNCRITICALLY. Why not publish this book as a transcript of Hariri's entourage's conversations. But if you want a good laugh, you have to read his references to mini-Hariri. This is how mini-Hariri is described: "His mild-mannered, almost shy, persona, soft voice and quiet, self-deprecating wit could have been mistaken for insecurity, but Saad was no neophyte."(p. 168). But in fairness he does cite some of the aphorisms of mini-Hariri, and some are more profound than those of Nietzsche: "Politics is very difficult life."(p. 183) Or "My father served Lebanon all his life, and we will keep serving Lebanon also, like him."(p. 145) And everybody in March 14th, including right-wing zealots, fascists, and war criminals are simply described as "democracy campaigner." That is how he fondly remembers Jubran Tuwayni ,the notoriously sectarian and racist agitator who aligned himself with Saddam Husayn in 1990-1991. And this is Nayla Mu`awwad: "an energetic and attractive woman with a crown of Auburn hair." (p. 143.) As for the economic problems of Lebanon during more than 10 years of Hariri's holding the office of prime minister and controlling much of the government, well, he simply blames that on `Umar Karami who held the office of prime minister in 1991-1992.(p. 115). His term is, in Blanford's propaganda account, responsible for the massive debt and corruption of Lebanon. Well, corruption is no big deal for Blanford: he even justifies and dismisses the massive bribery by Hariri family in elections by saying "Vote-buying is a traditional feature of Lebanese elections..."(p. 227). And there is more, but I will save that for the full review.