Sunday, June 05, 2005

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."