Saturday, February 26, 2005

Walid Jumblat: America's New Friend in Lebanon. Some people think that Bush is sincerely committed to his ideology, and that he sincerely believes in it. I disagree with that take. Just as George Will once said that George H. W. Bush was the most unprincipled president in US history, I think that the same can be said about his son. Witness how he was willing to ignore his "pro-life" stance to win votes in the last election. And you can also see that in his friendships and alliances; how Qadhdhafi became a friend of the US, based on opportunism, no less. America's new friend in Lebanon is none other than Walid Jumblat. Former US ambassador in Syria Edward Djerijian used to call him a "terrorist"--according to Jumblat himself (in his interview on Future TV with `Ali Hamadah). He was one of the most submissive clients of the Syrian regime over the years, especially during the most brutal days of the regime of Hafidh Al-Asad (which Jumblat still remembers as the "golden years" of his alliance with Syria--he was intimately aligned with the "old guards" of the regime). This sectarian Druze feudal warlord ran a most sectarian thuggish militia which committed massacres against defenseless Christians in Mount Lebanon (although I blame the "War of the Mountain" on the Israeli occupation army and its brutal clients of the Lebanese Forces militias which instigated the war), and ran a reign of terror in West Beirut in the 1980s. He used to mock those who called for distinguishing between Zionists and Jews, and would regularly express his hostility to all Jews on Lebanese TV, and believed (just like `Arafat) that a small group of Jewish neo-conservatives ran US foreign policy as if the president and the vice-president are mere puppets). He urged Iraqis to kill Americans, and publicly expressed his regret when Paul Wolfowitz survived an assassination attempt in Baghdad 2 years ago, and hoped for another one. A year ago (almost to the day) he told Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper that he is happy when "US soldiers are killed" in Iraq. The US promptly withdrew his US visa after that. But things have changed. Assistant Secretary of the State for the Near East, William Burns--the one who visited the Janin refugee camp after its horrific destruction by Israel (and I have less respect for Burns because he IS a Middle East expert and people who work with him or for him assure me that he is sympathetic to the Palestinians--no evidence of that in the policies and actions of his government of course) while his president was declaring Sharon a "man of peace"--had a tete-a-tete candle light dinner with Jumblat two weeks ago in Beirut. How nice. How touching. To please his new patrons, Jumblat in a recent interview with the Washington Post's David Ignatius sounds like a neo-conservative himself. He now claims that he was changed by the American war on Iraq, he who used to be most fiercely opposed to that war. This is a man who lives in palaces, while claiming or pretending that he heads a "socialist" party in Lebanon. This is a man who pretended that he cared about poor people but only in the days and week when his relations with Rafiq Hariri were strained. Hariri was once quoted as saying that Jumblat can be easily taken care of by "payments." Jumblat was furious, but only for a few days. Maybe payments later arrived. This is a man who was an essential element of the Syrian intelligence apparatus of power in Lebanon, and now wants us to believe that he represents voices of democracy and freedom. He now sits next to Amin Gemayyel, his arch enemy, and Gemayyel sent a car bomb to kill him in 1983 when Gemayyel served as president (probably the worst in Lebanon's history--and all were bad mind you). But do not worry. The Lebanese opposition alliance (which comprises murderers, criminals, Mafia types, former essential agents and clients of the Syrian regime, former(?) clients of Israel, warlords, fanatical fascists, corrupt ambitious Lebanese politicians, and medieval clergy men of the Maronite church in Lebanon) will not last. All such fronts crack due to sectarian fissures. These alliances are artificial, and you can see that when they roll out in every demonstration a man carrying the cross and the crescent or the bible and the Qur'an. This has always been part of Lebanese political folklore, even at the height of Lebanese civil war. Right-wing, Maronite-oriented groups want to promote the lie that the Lebanese people, left to their own devices, are in agreement, and that "outsiders" (they mean Arabs) are responsible for all of Lebanon's problems, 120,000 victims of the Lebanese civil war notwithstanding. But all this (the new friendship with Walid Jumblat) should not surprise anybody, unless you are one of those who naively believe the rhetoric of the Bush administration.