Sunday, February 26, 2006

New TV

New TV news editors should really get a life. I had heard much about the remarks they make during their evening news and I am already sick of the propaganda/filtering/selectivity on Future and LBC, so I thought I’d give NTV a try. I picked the worst day, which was when Rice came to Lebanon.

NTV actually dedicated more than 10% (3 - 4 minutes) of their evening news duration to the bashing of PM Saniora for, get this, kissing (on the cheeks) Condi Rice. Around the end of the news, there was a banner at the bottom of the screen “Hajj Fouad kisses Miss Condoleezza”.

So I stayed and waited, the news item went on something like this:

“PM Siniora insisted today on kissing US Secretary of State Rice on both cheeks……” then some more talk about personal remarks during the visit and then “Just a reminder, people coming back from the pilgrimage to the holy sites should refrain from touching women.”

Again, NTV people. Get a life.

Found on

The FPM site has this small announcement in the right-hand column.
Roughly, it translates "To our people who have sought asylum in Israel, please email for help in the return to Lebanon."

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Price of Politicizing Religion

Over the past three or four decades, Islamic “vanguards” have successfully propagated their notion of political Islam. According to these radicals, Islam offers solutions to such wide-ranging problems as the Arab-Israeli conflict and the very practical matter of putting bread on the table. Unfortunately they have successfully convinced considerable portions of Muslim populations all around the world to buy into their rhetoric. These societies have offered such organizations as Hizballah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood legitimacy and authority that any secular leader or party would salivate over. What the average Muslim did not expect was the price their religion would have to pay for this process of politicization.... Thus far, that price has been extremely high, despite the fact that political Islam has only picked up steam in recent years.

Politics is universally referred to as a "dirty game." It is referred to as such for a good reason too. Politics is usually a no-holds-barred slugfest between the powerful, where almost no position or principle is too sacred to compromise or be trampled over. That is the nature of the political game. It has been as such since time-immemorial and will remain as such until the time of men on earth has come to an end.

Through politicizing Islam, Islamic radicals have subjected the religion they purportedly love so much to the nature and whims of politics. The prophet Mohammed no longer remains a religious figure who inspires reverence among believers and a mysterious curiosity among nonbelievers. Rather, the prophet becomes a political figure who is revered by his followers but despised by those who stand to loose from the agenda they perceive him to espouse.

Another contentious issue becomes who decides what is politically "holy" and what is not? A very good example of such a "conflict of holiness" manifested itself in the February 14 demonstration when Walid Jumblatt proclaimed that "their holy causes are illusions...." Of course, Hizballah’s leadership thought that by covering "the resistance" with a shroud of divine legitimacy, they would protect themselves politically. But alas, they miscalculated, and the nature of politics overruled their religious assumptions. The question to ask today is who do you blame: Hizballah for using Islam to legitimize its political position, or Jumblatt for doing what politicians do and openly disagreeing with Hizballah's "divine" position?

As the disturbing events in Iraq over the past few days have proven, even religious sites are not immune. The al Askariya mosque was targeted because of its political value. Had religion been irrelevant in Iraqi politics, why would mosques be targeted in the first place? Furthermore, if the al Askariya mosque was targeted, what is to stop Mecca from being targeted in the future? The politicization of Islam politicizes Islamic holy sites as well. Consequently, today (politically speaking), Mecca has become the equivalent of White Hall in London, the Bundestag in Germany and Congress in the United States.

There is a very famous cliché that most of us have heard: "nothing is for free!" The price of politicizing Islam will be extremely high on the religion itself. The insults will continue, the destruction of mosques will not abate, and the whole notion of “holiness” will lose its meaning since so many people will attribute it to so many different contradicting political causes. I doubt this is what most Muslims want for their religion. In fact, I doubt this is what any faithful person wants for his or her religion. I was raised to believe that religion is above politics. Maybe I am different; but considering the costs of the politicization of Islam, I believe that faithful Muslims should reconsider their support for Islamic radicals who seek political prominence by raising the banner of Islam.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Lahoud on the way out, but not quite there yet..

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's choice to hold her first meeting with the head of Lebanon's Catholic Maronite Church is indicative of the current U.S priorities towards Lebanon. The Patriarch plays a central role in determining the fate of the presidency and has only recently moved to de-legitimize President Emile Lahoud's mandate. Equally telling is her decision not to meet with the Pro-Syrian Lahoud as she had done on her prior visit.
Now that Patriarch Sfier has clearly stated that current conditions surrounding the presidency must not continue, the debate between pro and anti Syrian parties is likely to shift from whether or not to ouster President Lahoud to trying to find a compromise candidate. Yesterday's visit by the Qatari Foreign Minister to Beirut and Damascus may be an attempt to broker such a compromise. It is not entirely unimaginable that Damascus might try to bargain and compromise over Lahoud's fate rather than wait until next year and see his term expire in return for little.
In any event although it's not quite a done deal yet, Lahoud seems to be on his way out. It is increasingly unlikely that he will remain in office until the end of his mandate, but domestic and regional negotiations regarding a replacement may take weeks or even months.
We will retain the pleasure of having him in the Presidency (sarcasim of course) as the March 14 deadline comes and goes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

From Baabda To Mathaf: First Things First

Per protocol, the Cabinet will convene tomorrow Thursday evening, but this time around not in the Baabda Palace, but in a temporary location in the Mat'haf area in Beirut.

Why? The majority of the Cabinet ministers unanimously agreed not to visit Baabda while Lahoud is in power.

The first, tangible steps taken by us, Lebanese, to say: Lahoud, Tla3 Barra!

But there's more: Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has been sending invitations to prominent heads of parties and parliamentary blocs to join the negotiation table (tawilat al-hiwar). President Lahoud is not invited! He, unfortunately, does not even qualify to play the role of the national mediator; he has taken sides far when he endorsed the Ain El-Tineh Gathering last year.

Our President has truely lost his Lebanese legitimacy!

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

Arabs and Muslims should look at the mirror more often!

The attack on the Askariya Shrine in Iraq today is another major blow to the Arab and Muslim propaganda machine that has struggled for decades to draw the world's attention solely on Israeli infringements of Palestinian rights and, more recently, the "Western" attack on Islam.

When this propaganda machine screamed that Arab-Israelis were treated as second class citizens, all we had to do was point to the Copts in Egypt, who up to this day cannot even build community centers because their Muslim neighbors will suspect that they are building churches....

When this same propaganda machine screamed that the Israelis ethnically cleansed Palestinians from their homes, all we had to do was point at Saddam's actions towards the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs, who were victims of systematic ethnic cleansing campaigns....

And now, when this propaganda machine screams that the Israelis and the West are deliberately targeting Islam by desecrating its prophet and holy sites, and plotting to blow up the Dome of the Rock or nuke Mecca, all we have to do is point to al Qaeda - the only organization on this Earth that has successfully managed to blow up one of Islam's holiest sites!

Typical Arab Response: Hey let's go protest against those damn Danes, and destroy some Churches while we're at it!!! What do you say?!?!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Fellow blogger creates new and improved website

Fellow Lebanese Blogger Qais has just changed his url address to

His new website is definitely an improvement over the old one, so the change was definitely worth the inconvenience that comes with a different url.

To sweeten the medicine a little, Qais has also published an entry concerning threats that the Dailystar recieved from the Syrian Mukhabarat to publish those ridiculous Op Ed pieces that Butheina Shaaban wrote.

Check it out!

Monday, February 20, 2006

A Year Since We Started Writing...

I remember a year ago, Raja and I were boiling with energy...we wanted to take action. There were people on the streets in Lebanon, and we were here stuck watching TV. We wanted to take action, to take part in history-in-the-making.

Raja called me at work and told me to start writing; he set us a blog. I was reluctant to write, knowing that once you write something on the blogosphere, you are exposing yourself to the whole world. Yet what is interesting is that there is instant gratification in receiving comments from readers and by that creating dialogue and conversations we so much needed while away from the homeland.

I opened up and started writing. My first post is entitled: My Thoughts. Dated February 21st, 2005.

We started by inviting other friends onto this blog: Reem, Firas, May, Hassan, Hani G, Lea. Some wrote, some commented, some left us, but Raja and I continue to feel an obligation to write. Our circle of friends have widened, friends we made through this blogosphere, friends whom we would not have met ever if it was not for this venue. I can say that through this blogosphere, we have created a new "community" of Lebanese open to dialogue, willing to bounce off ideas and to expose their beliefs and thoughts for criticism and further analysis.

For a year now, we've witnessed the ups and downs of politics in Lebanon, being reflected on this blogosphere. So we've seen it through the rough tides. And we continue to have hope. I believe that hope is what characterizes our spirit and outlook towards Lebanon. After all, we want to return to Lebanon and this blog is one of the tools of engagement.

I want to thank everyone who continues to read our posts. You are what has made this blog make it through its first year. I want to also thank our fellow bloggers and my fellow writers on this blog.

And finally, a large, special thanks to Raja. Happy Birthday! Looking for another year of the same!

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

Happy Birthday!

I just wanted to announce that today is this website’s first Birthday. Yup, this blog is officially a year old! When it actually dawned on me that we reached that milestone, I couldn’t believe it! I never thought we would last this long…. I never thought I could last that long! I have to extend my gratitude to all of the Lebanese bloggers, commenters and visitors for keeping this blog and the Lebanese Blogosphere alive. We have all taken part in creating something new… we have helped to enrich Lebanon’s presence on the World Wide Web, and created a new medium for Lebanese across the sectarian divides and from all over the world to communicate through. We have essentially created Lebanon’s little space in the World Wide Web.

The first bloggers I discovered that remain active today were Tony at Across the Bay, Mustapha at Beirut Spring, LP and CG at Lebanon Political Journal and the guys at The Lebanese Blogger Forum. Today the Blogosphere grows on an almost monthly basis.

Lots of blogs came and went, but some stayed with us. From Beirut to the Beltway, Letters Apart, Lebanonesque, Welcome to my Dream, Cedars Awakening and Ms. Levantine are all blogs that I discovered along the way and continue to visit as they post more entries. New blogs have also emerged more recently. Beirut Notes and Jamal’s Propagandas Site come to mind, so does the infamous ;-) French Eagle! The Lebanese Blogosphere has also been enriched with the words of foreign bloggers who share with us a passion for our country and region.

Stacey continues to provide us with her insightful entries; Michael Totten's blog is always a treat to visit, and Joshua Landis.... Ohhhh… Joshua Landis. Where would the Lebanese Blogosphere be without Joshua Landis??? the blogger who eventually turned himself into the Lebanese piñata, and at a certain point in time inspired around half of our entries (which were written in response to some of his provocative and, to put it mildly, pro-Bashar entries).

Partially thanks to this spur of activity in the Blogosphere, the World Wide Web now hosts new websites such as Ya Libnan and The Lebanese Lobby News Website. Ya Libnan started off as a blog and is now a full-fledged news website. The guys at the Lebanese Lobby also do a great job at keeping all of us informed about Lebanon and Lebanese who live and work abroad.

And finally, let me just say that nothing sustains the Lebanese Blogosphere like The website that does so much, and can do so much more!

Guys… let’s all keep this up! I look forward to more blogs and websites. Lebanon, with all its wonderful diversity and painful contradictions is finally exposing itself to the world through the World Wide Web. In this case, all I can say is the more the merrier… so bring ‘em on! :-)

Don't overblow Lebanon's Democratic Problem!

Some in the Lebanese blogosphere have proclaimed the consensus candidate for Ba'bda Aley as a 'cataclysmic' blow to democracy. I respectfully disagree; but even if I did agree with that assessment, so what???

Lebanon's problem is not related to democracy. I repeat... Lebanon's problem is NOT related to democracy. Maybe the Syrian and Saudi problem is their lack of democratic institutions, but the Lebanese problem is not. Every democracy on this Earth possesses authoritarian elements - elements that thwart the "democratic will."

In the United States, you have the Supreme Court, the court system and the US Constitution, all of which form essential components of the "checks and balances" system, which was explicitly designed to thwart the democratic will. A less intentional and more sinister authoritarian element in the United States is the duopoly of the Republican and Democratic parties, and the fact that the system is extremely friendly to incumbents. I'm not too sure about numbers, but it is a well known fact that only an extreme minority of seats in both houses of Congress are actually contestable. The rest of the seats… well, just take a good look at Ted Kennedy.

What do the theorists say about this? Well, they don’t seem to agree. Democratic theory is more like a spectrum than anything else. On one end, are those theorists who claim that a democracy should amount to nothing more than "competition between political elites," in which the only democratic institution available to the regular citizen is the right to vote. On the other end, are those theorists who claim that the vote is inherently undemocratic because it delegates politics to "representatives," as opposed to maintaining it in the hands of the citizen.

I tend to agree more with those who claim that democracies should be limited to a competition among members of the political elite, in which citizens hold them accountable for their performance. Consequently, I disagree with those who assert that the major problem in Lebanon is its democracy (or, a lack thereof). Rather, I argue that the real problem lies in Lebanon's authoritarian institutions (the authoritarian elements within the country’s democratic system).

For example, rather than rely on the Supreme Court for checks and balances, we rely on the Sects to balance each other out. And, rather than rely on the institution of meritocracy, we rely on nepotism. And rather than rely on a secular code of laws that regulates the “personal status” of all citizens, we rely on religious courts that pay no respect to individual rights and other modern rights such as those pertaining to women.

Therefore, the calamity in Lebanon does not lie in Ba’bda Aley or the country's democratic system. Arriving at a consensus candidate is a normal development in all democratic systems. In Lebanon, the real calamity lies elsewhere….

Friday, February 17, 2006

Headed for the slopes, my friends

I am off to the slopes of West Virginia! Will be back on Sunday.

See you all later!Posted by Picasa


I just got back. It snowed, the temp was bellow 10 fahrenheit ( - 12.2 celsius), and it was windy. Despite those murderous conditions, I had fun!

A couple of words about the slopes. First, they are called "Timberline". For those of you who have been to Farayya in Lebanon, a good comparison would be Junction! I basically snowboarded on one hill that was maybe twice as wide as Junction and 1.5 times as high.

What I found really cool though, was that people skied and snowboarded on 6 or 7 paths that were cut through the forest which covers the hill. So I had really tall and dense forest on either side of me all the time. That experience was both new and fun.

Cool Stuff! Definitely not Lake Taho nor even Farrayya... but, cool stuff!

Now, back to the grind!

The Outcome Of February 14 And The Strong State

Has the February 14 rally in Martyr's Square made a difference on the political arena in Lebanon? And are we seeing the results of gathering hundreds of thousands on the streets that day paying off?

Well, perhaps we are witnessing a change!

First, Aoun met with the Lebanese Forces MP Adwan yesteday in Rabieh to discuss the list of potential candidates that can be agreed on for the upcoming Baabda/Aley elections to fill the vacant Parliamentary seat that the late MP Edmond Naim left behind.

Aoun and MP Adwan have been meeting since Aoun returned to Lebanon. But what was so different about yesterday? In a press conference, Aoun announced that his bloc and the Lebanese Forces will disclose on Sunday the name of the candidate they agree on; they are giving themselves until Sunday to decide on one.

So how come now Aoun is negotiating with the Lebanese Forces on this Parliamentary seat, when two weeks ago, Aoun blurted that this particular election race will be negotiated between his bloc and the Future Movement, and by that totally disregarding the Lebanese Forces, which in reality had won this seat during the past Parliamentary elections? Was this new move a sign that Aoun recognizes the popular weight of the Lebanese Forces, after it succeeded to bring thousands upon thousands of its supporters out on the streets last Tuesday?

Second, yesterday Sayyid Nasrallah started out his speech in UNESCO with a conciliatory, soft-spoken tone. He said that he supports the importance of dialogue and that the resistance has always fought for Lebanon (al-watan) and will always do. He even denied that Hizbullah is affiliated with the Syria-Iran axis and that reports claiming that he said Hizbullah's arms are tied to the regional settlment with Israel are twisted and not entirely true!

We can take from his conciliatory tone that Hizbullah is open for dialogue and will negotiate on its arms. A direct result of February 14? I'm sure, some would agree and some would not.

But to move to another point regarding Nasrallah's speech: Sayyid Nasrallah said that he supports a "strong" state, a state with "strong" strategic policies. I asked myself, what he meant by "strong" and whether the Lebanese state could ever be "strong" in a foreign-policy sense (which is what Nasrallah is alluding to).

Is it that what he means by "strong" strategic policies, is basically facing up to the West? Does it mean that the Lebanese state should ally itself with the axis of "Ghaza, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Venezuela" (as Sayyid Nasrallah described in his speech, this axis versus the Tel Aviv-USA axis)?

Lebanon, in my view, cannot be a strong state in that sense. Neither its size, nor its "coexistence formula", let alone its democractic political orientation, will land us a strong state with provocative strategic stands.

Our state can and should be "strong" in attempting to forge a unified notion of what constitutes a Lebanese citizen. This is where the state plays an important role, a role our state has not played successfully since its inception.

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Such a long meeting!

Today on LBC, I watched a report that covered Seniora's visit to the Vatican. Something caught my attention about the report. LBC insisted on inserting the following into its report:

Seniora met the Pope for 30 minutes, which is unusual because the protocol calls for meetings to last for five minutes only.
LBC then reported that
Seniora went on to meet the Vatican's Secretary of State, in a meeting that lasted for 50 minutes, which was also unusual because protocol also calls for meetings to last for (if I remember correctly) five minutes.
Interesting, no? Of course, LBC could have chosen not to mention those nuances, just like Future TV chose not to mention that the Iranian official visiting Lebanon paid Hariri a visit. By the way, one of my favorite past-times has become watching Future and LBC and comparing the coverage of the same events. I just love doing that.

But going back to Seniora's meetings, and disregarding the question of LBC's coverage... Why were those meetings so long? I've heard of previous political roles that the Vatican played in the past (e.g. intermediary, messenger, etc...). Could they be playing one of those roles today?

Oh I know, they were probably trying to appeal to Seniora's Italian roots to do them a favor or something of that nature. Italian roots you ask... Well how do you think he got that last name???

Totally Different Subject...

I find it fascinating when Hizballah claims that no such thing as a Damascus-Tehran-Hizballah alliance exists on the very same day that the Iranian foreign minister visits Lebanon. How blatantly could your lie be?!?!?! C'mon tell the Iranians to come a week later or so, so that what you said may sort of fade in our memories...

And Finally...

I noticed that Nasrallah reaffirmed Hizballah's God-given right to resist. Okay, no comment... except of course, this is just one example of the problem that accompanies the participation of religious men in politics.

Step back and be amazed

Be proud of your fellow Lebanese, and never forget what they accomplished in February 14. Think of Jumblatt's speech, but forget Jumblatt, and focus on how your fellow Lebanese reacted to what he called for:

- They all cheered when Syria was challenged
- They all cheered when they heard that Lebanon was the only real sacred cause
- They all cheered when they heard "Lebanon first"
- And finally, they all chanted, "bil rou7 bil dam, nafdeeka ya Libnan"

Take a step back, and realize what your brethren have accomplished. Forget the politics of the political class; forget all the problems that Lebanon still need’s to face; and ask yourself: would you ever have thought that such a thing could have happened if you were politically aware in the 1950s and 60s? Moreover, I would bet you all of my money (very little, by the way) that had Martyr's Square been filled with Shi'as they would have cheered as well (of course, the conditions being that they not feel threatened as a sect and that they not be Fundamentalists).

For all my cynicism and disgruntlement with Lebanese, I have to give them credit for what they accomplished on February 14th. If we take one step back and look at things in their historical perspective, we would definitely be proud of the steps they have taken. At the very least, today "Lebanon First" resonates with almost everyone!

Hurray for Lebanon... Bravo ya Libneniyyeh!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Coexistence vs. the secular society

In light of yesterday's developments, it was almost inevitable that the subject of coexistence vs. the secular society be brought up. Therefore, I have decided to introduce it into this forum.

In my humble opinion there are two main questions that need to be answered:
  • Are you willing dismiss everything you've been raised to believe regarding family and religion, in order to merge with fellow Lebanese from other sects and/or regions and form a homogenous secular community?

  • Irrespective of your personal choices and beliefs, do you think that Lebanese societies will ultimately merge into one big secular society? If not, do you believe that there are enough individuals living in Lebanon today to form what is referred to as the "19th sect"?
    Please keep in mind that sectarianism in its broad sense consists of both religious and "secular sectarian" components. So all you Druze out there, disregard the religious component of the question and focus on the familial/historical components. The same applies to all Lebanese who consider themselves to be non-practicing Christians and Muslims.

    Finally allow me to pose a third question to all those Lebanese individuals who advocate for the creation of a secular community (the 19th sect):
    • The traditional communities in Lebanon have been built upon spiritual and social foundations that stretch back to a millennia and more. The secular community, on the other hand, has no such foundation. It cannot comfort its members spiritually; it cannot provide them with a structured social environment; it cannot offer them the pride that usually accompanies long histories. With all of these handicaps, how can it compete against the other sects and win "converts"?
    I have my own answers - but I will leave them until later... I know this issue is pertinent to most Lebanese who have been educated and subscribe to modern ideals and norms, so I am waiting for your responses.
    My own answer: The "secular community" is not the answer and will never be the answer. I did not leave my community to join another one! I left my community to be my own master... to have my own opinions... to be free of the rules and obligations of any "community" that desires to claim me.... In short, I left my community to be a free individual - to have my own personal space to think, act and feel as I like. The "secular/modern society" can only be truly realized in Lebanon when individuality is realized. The path to what we all seem to seek for Lebanon lies in INDIVIDUALITY.
    Here lies the major challenge that I think we are all acutely aware of (as Lebanese). In the first part of this entry, I suggested that the "secular community" was simply no match against the other more established communities in Lebanon. A great analogy of the secular community facing off against a traditional one could be putting a gorilla and Stephen Hawking in a boxing ring. Now imagine an individual facing off against an entire community! What would that look like? An ant challenging a gorilla?
    I've read several commenters on this blog claim that some Lebanese have managed to create their own individual spaces in Lebanon. This is most likely true. Across Lebanon you are sure to find individuals scattered all over the place, happily living their lives. But the real question to ask is: will there ever be a situation in Lebanon where the majority (or even a significant minority) of Lebanese behave as individuals rather than collectives? I doubt that sort of situation will be realized any time soon.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2006

    March 14 is back!

    At first I was skeptical... The numbers were there, but the spirit seemed absent. I thought to myself: "yeah, all these guys are standing around because they followed orders and got on those busses... they're probably uncomfortable around each other, and desperately want to go home..."

    But then some things started to happen that sparked the March 14 spirit...

    • the first was Jaejae's speech. As I saw him climb up to the stage, the camera focused on the crowd and I thought to myself: "wow, who would have thought back in the 80's that Jaejae would be giving a speech to a crowd in which the majority were Sunnis and Druze.

    • the second event that helped spark the March 14 spirit was when the Shi'a MP Bassem el Saba' gave a heart-felt speech that among other things told the crowd that the "absent sect" was really present, and that it was among the crowds. His speech was among the most well-received by the gathered masses.

    • the third event that helped spark the March 14 spirit was when Jaejae saw Sa'ad el Hariri approaching the stage, then stopped his speech and said "common sheikh Sa'ad, I'm waiting for you," then Jumblatt, Jaejae and Sa'ad held their hands triumphantly in the air to the rapturous applause of the crowd. Again, when did you ever think something like that could ever happen in Lebanon? I immediately hoped that people were saying: "hey if they can do it, why can't we?"

    • the fourth event was Jumblatt's speech, in which he was able to reach out to the crowd and lift their spirits like none of the other speakers. This was the first time I've seen Jumblatt speak to a mass audience, and I was amazed at the reception they gave him.

    I know that underneath the surface the absolute majority of Lebanese gathered today in Martyr's Square identify themselves with their sects first, and are therefore sectarian. I know that after they go home, they revert to sectarian discourse and patterns of behavior. But sometimes I ask myself: "what if we had more of these events that brought all Lebanese together, from all of their sects rather than two-thirds or three-fourths? what if these events were more frequently held?"

    That is the promise of March 14... the real reason that I cling on to it so viciously and stubbornly. Because no matter how Secular Aoun claims himself to be, I simply cannot imagine him managing to pull such an event off all by himself. No matter how many Lebanese flags Hizballah provides the crowds that it gathers, I cannot imagine Druze, Maronites and Sunnis attending a Hizballah rally.

    Only March 14 has been able to bring Lebanese together in such a scale. And ironically, the two parties to thank for this development are Syria and Hizballah. For had Syria not killed Hariri, and Hizballah not been such a powerful barrier in the face of the political leaders of March 14, they would not have resorted to such measures, which in the long run may threaten their own sectarian power-bases.

    Hassan Mneimneh, a prominent journalist, once said that March 14 released a genie that the political elite may not totally be in control of. One of the potentials of this genie is that it may help the Lebanese youth who are truly non-sectarian in their outlook to create a "Lebanese Space" that is autonomous from the sects... a space in which Lebanese forgo the comforts of sectarian affiliation and push the secular and modern project in Lebanon forward.

    That is what I want from March 14. The promise of a free, modern, non-religious, non-sectarian and prosperous Lebanon!

    picture: courtesy of al Jazeera

    Hundreds Of Thousands In Martyr's Square!

    I can't believe my eyes!!! Are these scenes from last year? Could this be true?

    Hundreds of thousands in Martyr's Square/Freedom Square; tens of buses still flocking from all sides of Lebanon. And yes, Achrafieh is there, taking part in this commemoration!

    We're alive; we have not been defeated. The Lebanese people's will has not been broken.

    Jumblatt is there. Geagea is there. Saad Hariri is there...

    I wish I was one with this glorious crowd, raising a Lebanese flag. Alas, I'm thousands of miles away. My heart is in Beirut today.

    It's been a year since Rafiq Hariri was brutally killed, since Bassil Fleihan left us, since Lebanon seized to become what it was for 30 years long.

    3asha Loubnan!

    "Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

    Monday, February 13, 2006

    February 14 Candlelight Vigil In Washington DC

    To Lebanon, To Rafiq Hariri....With Love.

    Let's get together at 7:30PM tomorrow, February 14th, in front of the Lebanese Embassy in Washington D.C. to commemorate in peace a year since PM Rafiq Hariri's cruel death...

    A chance to reiterate our solidarity with all those who have been terrorized and assassinated following Hariri's assassination...

    A chance to commemorate a time that brought all Lebanese together under one banner: Truth, Freedom, National Unity!

    "Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

    Sunday, February 12, 2006

    Putting things into perspective

    In one of my last two posts, Zwixo asked the following: okay, this is all nice, but you have not answered the question: what do we do with Hizballah?

    My answer: Isolate it. Force it to accept our conditions of disarmament.

    What Aounis are not getting is that Hizballah on its own is the most powerful political entity in Lebanon. Hariri was eliminated precisely for that purpose - to remove the other heavy-weight, so that when Syria leaves, the direction that it plotted for Lebanon to follow will not be challenged because of Hizballah.

    The March 14 coalition was created expressly to challenge Hizballah's domination! It offered a cacophony of Lebanese political parties united by a vision, but more importantly, united for the sake of being able to look Hizballah eye-to-eye.

    It was based on that position of strength that the March 14 movement wanted to engage Hizballah and negotiate with it over the past several months. Unfortunately, Hizballah maintained its intransigence despite the assassinations, played on the FPM front, and knew that if push came to shove a single party would outlast a coalition in a drawn-out conflict.

    In my opinion, had Aoun swallowed his pride, and accepted a weaker political position in the March 14 alliance than that which he expected and eventually did gain, then maybe, the March 14 coalition would have succeeded in resolving the Hizballah issue on their terms. Of course, history tells us a different story, and the FPM has striven to demolish the March 14 movement since its return to Lebanon.

    My question to Aoun and FPMers is that if the March 14 coalition was unable to bring Hizballah to heel, how the hell do they expect to do it? If they were as interested in seeing Syria's influence in Lebanon totally eliminated and militias totally disarmed, then they would have understood the game, swallowed their pride and gone along!

    But noooo... of course not! They are too clean to deal with the dirty Jumblatt and the corrupt Hariris! Besides, their first priority is to become a strong sect, and then they can deal with Syria and Hizballah.

    As we say in Arabic, khaleena 'nshouf shoo 7a yitla3 min amrun. As I said in my last post, Hizballah and Syria may have just successfully cracked the only coalition that could have challenged their dominance. Now the Maronites have their strong position in Lebanese politics, but allow me to suggest that they have just been bought off! Everything they fought for over the past 20 years has just been thrown down the drain.

    Bravo Aoun! If only you thought this way back when you were in Ba'bda fighting to the death for Lebanese sovereignty!

    Sectarian does not mean religious

    Hizballah is the only mainstream party in Lebanon that is not merely sectarian, but religious. It's agenda is not political, it is also social. Lebanese Shi'a who are secular, but defending that organization as a result of their sectarian impulses must understand the repercussions of their support.

    Do they really want to live in the society that Hizballahis want to create?Posted by Picasa

    Saturday, February 11, 2006

    Aoun's historic miscalculation, and more...

    He thinks that he can get Hizballah to bend to his will, but he will fail. Hizballah is not a Lebanese institution, it is an Islamic - Shi'a institution. It is religious, not secular in its outlook. It sees itself as much larger than Lebanon, and will not cave into Lebanese pressures, whatever they amount to. Hizballah's world view is Islamic, not modern. Modern boundaries mean nothing to it... Religious boundaries mean everything. If Aoun thinks that he possesses the capabilities to disarm Hizballah, he is wrong. They are using him to break the unanimous pressure they were under. They will buy time, and foment more divisions. They seek a reality similar to that which existed when Syria was present... one in which those calling for their disarmament are in the fringe of politics. God knows, they appear to be succeeding.

    What Aoun does not understand is that he is helping one of two mutually exclusive visions for Lebanon. He is propping up the vision of Lebanon that places it in the forefront of conflict with Israel. He is propping up the vision that sacrifices individual freedoms for the sake of war. He is propping up the vision that sacrifices economic prosperity for the sake of perpetual conflict. He must understand the price that Lebanon is going to pay for his political ambitions and coalitions.

    The Historic miscalculation of secular Shi'as

    I wish the Shi'as had a sectarian (non-religious) alternative that they could offer their allegiance to. Ideally, all of us could get a secular alternative that we, whatever our sect, could offer our allegiance to; but alas, we are not in an ideal world. Berri is simply too corrupt and self-serving to offer a viable alternative to Hizballah. Indeed it is precisely because of those weaknesses that he has become an appendage of Hizballah.

    Secular Shi'as must understand that Hizballah's vision is to vanquish their secularism. Hizballah is an Islamic party that is totalitarian. Its agenda is not just political, but social. It seeks to impose its form of social order on all Shi'as. Hizballah is not merely a sectarian party - it is a religious one.

    Are all Shi'as who offer their support to Hizballah willing to give up their personal freedoms in order to prescribe to Hizballah's world-view and social order? I think not. But if that is the case, then why do my secular Shi’a friends continue to support it? Sectarianism, of course! Hizballah is the pride of the shi’a community. But if these friends really fully comprehended Hizballah’s agenda, I am sure they would cease supporting it! In fact, they would oppose it! I hope they eventually come to their senses.

    The Campaign has Begun... I hope it succeeds!

    Today's Future TV news broadcast included a speech by Saad el Hariri that called on all Lebanese to reclaim their streets. I am not confident that the turn-out in the one-year commemoration of the Hariri's and Fleihan's assassination will be high. The "village Sunnis" are terrified because of the state clampdown on their Achrafieh rampage. The Maronite wounds may not have healed. Hizballah and Syria with Aoun's help have punched a deep dent in the March 14 political initiative.

    Yet I have hope.

    Some of March 14’s old voices have resurfaced. Bahia el Hariri, for example, spoke for the first time in several months; and her voice sparked a little flame in my heart. Amin el Gmeyyel gave an inspirational speech to followers that called on them to take back the initiative and forget the wounds of the past. The Bristol meetings, which have not been held for quite some time, have also started taking place. And finally, the new documentary about Hariri emotionally moves the individual because it shows an uncut version of the man that the Syrians so brutally annihilated.

    All these factors combined may serve to bring the Lebanese street back to life. The March 14 Street. The Street that calls for

    7urriyeh, Siyadeh, Isti2lal!

    Freedom, Sovereignty, Independence!

    Those words may echo in Lebanon once again. And I pray that they do! For the sake of Rafik, Basil, Samir, Gebran,George and every other Lebanese who has died at the hands of the Syrians and their agents, I pray that they do!

    Addendum: Fellow blogger, Firas, has just informed me that Saad el Hariri has returned to Lebanon to lead his father's one-year commemoration.

    Friday, February 10, 2006

    Suffocating Individuals

    I see no room for the individual in Lebanon. The different communities are antagonistic towards each other, but I believe that their ire is mainly directed towards The Individual.

    Most people claim that Lebanese leave Lebanon because of economic reasons. I doubt that that is the complete truth.

    People also leave Lebanon because of social reasons - primarily among those, is the desire to escape from the suffocating grip of their families and communities. They seek to live life as free individuals.

    So the immediate question to answer is: can an individual live in Lebanon today? If yes, I'd like to know how. If not, then I'd also like to know what can be done to change the situation.

    Thursday, February 09, 2006

    The Fake Outrage of the "Muslim Street"

    Egyptian Sandmonkey has stumbled upon a very interesting discovery!

    It turns out that in October of 2005, an Egyptian publication published those very cartoons that Muslims all over the world are now "outraged" about, but not a single peep emerged from the "Muslim street" back then!

    Click here to check out the Sand Monkey's Entry. He has scaned the newspaper, so there is no doubting the authenticity of his claim!

    The question we now have to ask ourselves now is WHY?

    Why did Muslims decide that it was appropriate to protest and burn embassies these past two weeks, but not in October when the cartoons were first published (in a prominent Egyptian daily mind you)?

    I have my suspicions (they're quite obvious), the Sand Monkey has his....

    Now while the arab islamic population was going crazy over the outrage created by their government's media over these cartoons, their governments was benifitting from its people's distraction. The Saudi royal Family used it to distract its people from the outrage over the Hajj stampede. The Jordanian government used it to distract its people from their new minimum wage law demanded by their labor unions. The Syrian Government used it to create secterian division in Lebanon and change the focus on the Harriri murder. And, finally, the Egyptian government is using it to distract us while it passes through the new Judiciary reforms and Social Security Bill- which will cut over $300 million dollars in benefits to some of Egypt's poorest families. But, see, the people were not paying attention, because they were too busy defending the prophet by sending out millions of e-mails and SMS-messages, boycotting cheese and Lego and burning Butter and the danish Flag. Let's not even mention the idiots who went the usual route of "It's a jewish conspiracy", spouted the stupid argument about the Holocaust, or went on a diatribe with the old favorite "There is an organized campaign-headed by the west and the jews- to attack and discredit Islam, and we have to defend it". They proved, once again, that the arab world is retarded and deserves no better than its leaders.

    Qudos to Sand Monkey for this wonderfull discovery! This type of stuff is what the Blogosphere was made for!

    Update: Michael Totten has brought to my attention this article from the Wall Street Journal that documents the Egyptian government's role in fanning the flames of protest. The article will be accessible today only, so I will copy and paste some exerpts.

    In this volatile environment, a group of Danish Islamic clerics angered by the cartoons succeeded in enlisting help from Egypt's secular government, which has been struggling to contain a potent Islamist opposition. Secular forces in the Arab world, eager to burnish their image as defenders of Islam, provided an important initial impetus for the protests, but now are scrambling to control the fury.


    Mr. Abu-Laban began working closely with Cairo's embassy in Copenhagen, holding several meetings with Egypt's ambassador to Denmark, Mona Omar Attia. "Egypt's embassy played a fundamental role," he says. Egypt and other Arab regimes saw the furor as a good opportunity "to counteract pressure from the West" and "to show people they are good Muslims," he says.


    The first delegation left for Cairo in early December. As that nation was about to hold the final round of the first democratic election in modern Egyptian history, the government was battling accusations from some quarters of insufficient piety. Ms. Attia, the ambassador, denies that authorities tried to manipulate the cartoon issue as an electoral ploy.

    Tuesday, February 07, 2006

    Why March 14 will always trump Aoun.

    March 14 sparks hope in Lebanese because it symbolizes reconciliation. Reconciliation with our past and reconciliation with ourselves. Aoun, on the other hand, symbolizes confrontation.

    March 14 sparks hope in Lebanese because it encourages Lebanese to focus on their best attributes. Aoun, on the other hand, always reminds us of our worst attributes.

    March 14 sparks hope in Lebanese because it stands up to the terrorizing Ba'ath regime that occupied us for 16 years after the civil war and continues to wage war on us. Aoun, on the other hand, continues to maintain a disturbingly vague position with regards to the enemy.

    March 14 sparks hope in Lebanese because it is one of those rare moments during which Lebanon shined brightly and attracted the entire world's attention. Aoun, on the other hand, seems to get attention for all the wrong reasons.

    March 14 sparks hope in Lebanese because it is a coalition of moderates. All members of the coalition strive to highlight their moderate elements and burry their extreme elements. Aoun, on the other hand, is extreme in his essence.

    March 14 sparks hope in Lebanese because the glue that binds its members together is modernity and Lebanonism. Aoun, on the other hand, needs to explain exactly what the glue that binds him to Hizballah is.

    For all of these reasons, March 14 will always trump Aoun. Behind the sectarian politics that we are all familiar with, there is the realm of ideas, ideals and norms. The ideals that March 14 represents are the foundation of the Lebanon we all would like to see come to fruition.

    March 14 is our hope. It is what binds us all together, whatever our sect.

    A Masterful Blow to March 14

    Seems to me like a very heavy blow has been masterfully delivered to the March 14 camp by Hizballah only days after their return to cabinet. Not only are they in position to obstruct from within, but now have a solid working relationship with Aoun and working paper fit to be a future government manifesto. (No need to mention that their weapons are secure for the foreseeable future)

    For the March 14 forces its a one-two punch that now threatens to knock them of their feet. First the Sunday riot, that was designed and implemented to show that Hariri does not effectively control the Sunni street, and now this. If we don't see a massive crowd on 14 February I’m afraid the momentum would have been lost and we can all kiss things good bye. I think Nasser Ass'ad picked up on this today and is starting to highlight the importance of somehow regaining the initiative.

    It’s been my long standing opinion, as others on this blogg know, that accommodating Aoun (no matter how bitter an experience) was essential. Yes he is a hot-head that could promise trouble once secure in the Presidency, but better he gets there with March 14 than with Hizballah. What happened yesterday was a direct consequence of excessive cockiness by Jumblat and a Hariri camp that outsourced politics to him. The caricature in Al Balad of Jumblat eating his nails and on IV as he watches Aoun-Nasrallah says it all.

    Monday, February 06, 2006

    What Is Lebanese And Un-Lebanese

    It's been a year now, since Lebanon has brandished headline news on American newspapers. Today, as I grabbed the "Express" (a shortened version of the Washington Post), I saw a picture of a protester with the Shahadatan banded around his forehead and the familiar Tabaris building burning behind him.

    What happened yesterday was at best surreal. An event of hatred that was uncalled for. It's as if the hands of those who want to break Lebanon are itching for yet another plot to break us, break our will of living free, free of hate, fear, and death.

    It's been a year, a year of tests, one after the other...but how much can the Lebanese take. The anger I saw on the faces of the Achrafieh residents made me realize that patience has limits...and I cannot blame them.

    Whether in Tripoli or the South, there are hundreds of churches and mazars, never thrown stones at, never ravaged in such a way. Why this time around? Why are Tripolitans driving all the way to Beirut, to throw stones at cars in a Christian neighborhood?

    If this angry mob should hurl stones at, it should be my house; because I'm a Muslim who disagrees with their way. This angry mob did not need to go as far as the Danish Consulate to burn it; they should have just turned to cars and houses in their neighborhood...because hundreds of Lebanese have let the issue of the cartoons go...there are more pertinent issues in life to worry about.

    There are two news items that gave me the shivers yesterday: one when a number of Sunni clerics rushed to Bkirki to denounce such violence and then conducted their prayers from there...

    The second was when Interior Minister Sabeh announced his resignation. He said that since he took over the Interior portfolio, the political and security command structure have not been centralized. And then he confessed that he would never have ordered the shooting at civilians and no one in his position would have taken such action.

    I agree with him and applaud his bold move. If this angry, barbaric mob was shot at, then imagine what would have happened; perhaps then instead of stones being hurled at the Achrafieh residents, we would've witnessed a massacre. This is exactly what those "agents" who were causing this violence were waiting for...and we did not give it to them.

    You know? At AUB, in a U.S. Politics course I took some six years ago, we learned that the Americans have come up with a term of what is "American" and what is "unAmerican". I believe that what happened yesterday is "unLebanese". The freedom to protest is "Lebanese" and I was proud to hear this right being reinforced on TV over and over. Clerics standing on police cars to stop the uncontrollable mob from causing harm to a church, is "Lebanese". But hurling stones at churches, burning buildings, and harrassing and injuring people of other sects is very "unLebanese".

    Yesterday, an Achrafieh resident said that he would have joined the protesters in voicing their contempt against depictions of the Prophet, but he was shocked when he saw destroyed mazars. This is a red line, he said, and then he went to ask: Why?

    And again on that same day, on the music talent show Super Star finale, we saw women brandishing the Saudi flag, which was used early that day to justify barbarism and violence, in support of a Saudi contestant.

    This is Lebanon for you: we have confused the world. Are we westernized or not? Are we civilized or not? Should they support our cause for freedom or not? Well, today, many around the world are confused by the headlines coming from Beirut.

    And those who hate to see Christians and Muslims united for a free Lebanon have shown their face and intentions yet again, and they are getting better at it.

    "Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

    Sunday, February 05, 2006

    Okay this has gotten ridiculous!

    The Lebanese have now torched the Danish consulate! I am yet to find out who organized this protest. Was it the Lebanese Basij or some al Qaeda-inspired Sunni group, or maybe some sort of warped coalition between the two?

    Some report that 20,000 were involved! Moreover, after torching the Danish consulate, they went on satiate their appetite for destruction by torching shops, restaurants and cars in Achrafieh.

    What a peace-loving people!

    Oh how they respect their neighbors and fellow compatriots!

    What a perfect example of "co-existence"

    What a wonderful depiction of how backwards our society is!

    A Danish artist decides to utilize his modern right of freedom of expression to express what he felt about Muslim terrorism, and Muslims respond like this! The Danes don't need cartoons anymore, all they need to do is to watch their TV sets.

    One irony chokes me up more than all the others: The Arab-Muslim world as we know it today is almost completely subsidized by the West.

    Arab Muslims are employed by European countries, and then send their remittances home. Arab Muslims also recieve humanitarian and economic aid from Western countries. But most importantly, Arab Muslims (and Persian Muslims) sell oil to the West... oil that is drilled and refined using Western technology and know-how (and, until recently, labor). It is this oil money that then subsidizes the Persian and Arab societies that we live in today.

    I don't know if I will ever forgive the West for this addiction of theirs!

    Update: The interior minister has submitted his resignation to the cabinet. He claimed that he did what he could to control the protests, but would not order the security services to open fire on Lebanese citizens.

    This is good news. Any peaceful resignation of officials that sets an example for the Arab world is a good development. The caveat I have for this particular resignation is that a more competent individual takes his place, and that corresponding political consensus concerning security issues follows.

    According to Mr. Saba', there were 1,200 Policemen deployed in Achrafiyeh at the time, and 1,700 army personnel. He also claimed that around a third of those arrested thus far are Lebanese, another third are Syrians and the final third are either Palestinian or claim to belong to Beduin tribes without nationalities.

    With regards to the security arrangements taken, I have a couple of words to say: I am no expert on matters of riot control or security affairs, so I may be wrong if I claim that 2,900 security personnel deployed to control a mob of 20,000 seems a bit parsimonious! However, I have seen on TV, and I am sure most of you have too, that the overwhelming majority of those men in uniform are not equiped with riot gear, but rather are thrown in the melee with nothing but M-16 rifles.

    Troops carrying rifles sent to riot-control duty are simply useless... unless of course, they are sanctioned to shoot! I've seen this scene over and over again in Lebanon. Security personnel sent to control riots with nothing but their M-16 rifles! Every time I witness those scenes, I get infuriated!

    What the hell are these guys gonna do??? Shoot??? If that is what the government wants, then great... put them to use! Don't just send them there to get hurt with rocks and sticks!

    So the priority for this next Interior Minister is to get RIOT GEAR... LOTS OF THEM! Forget helicopters, tanks, jets... we need RIOT GEAR! The next time some idiots decide to protest, the POLICE need to be equiped with the right gear to handle the situation... NOT machine-guns!

    Saturday, February 04, 2006

    Bashar to the world:

    If you get rid of me, you will end up with these crazies.

    He's really lucky that the "Muslim outrage" really got sparked when a Danish publication published the cartoons. I don't think he would have thought the German or French embassies to be so disposable.

    What a way to get a message across, eh?

    Major Development...

    The IAEA has just reported Iran to the UN Security Council!

    Twenty seven of thirty five board members of the IAEA voted to support the resulotion that sent Tehran to the UNSC.

    Wanna know who voted against the resolution????

    Booboo Bashar - Syria
    Crazy Chavez - Venezuela
    Senile Castro - Cuba

    Need I say more?

    Anyways, the ante has just been upped! Cocky Ahmedenijad responded by claiming that Uranium enrichment has been initiated within Iranian territory.

    Could he ask the Lebanese Basij to do something if the pressure increases even more?

    We will see.

    Frankly, if this whole episode ends with the collapse of the "Islamic Republic" I'll celebrate for a week!

    Friday, February 03, 2006

    How am I supposed to react to this?

    Naharnet has quoted Hizballah MP Raad as saying the following:

    The resistance will stay on alert as long as our people's security is threatened. Even if Israel withdraws, the resistance is an element of strength in Lebanon's hand. Why then give it up and to whom?
    The arms of the resistance are not exclusively linked to an Israeli withdrawal from
    They are part of an equation to protect Lebanon as long as it needs such a protection because neither a truce with the Israelis would reassure the Lebanese, nor would international resolutions shield us
    The resistance is aware of the Zionist danger to Lebanon and can't relinquish its duty to defend Lebanon if it is attacked by Israel

    It is now clearer than ever before: Qais's hypothesis is correct. Hizballah will never relinquish its arms (at least willingly). It seeks to create a Lebanese Basij (if in fact, it has not already done so)... It seeks perpetual war with the state of Israel to justify its armed component, which it ultimately uses to perpetuate itself.
    In Iran, the Basij has been used to crush student uprisings and kill desenters. The Iranian Basij is as much an internal security force as it is a protection against external threats. I wonder what makes Lebanese (specifically Lebanese of the Shi'a sect) so sure that Hizballah will not use its own Basij in a similar fashion?
    I ask myself: what is the use of having someone represent me in parliament if every time I went and complained that he was not doing a good enough job, he would retort that I was blasphemous... or not praying to god enough??? Okay now assume that this man of god has weapons! So if I decide to run against him or to support a competing candidate in the next round of elections, I may end up seeing his dead mother before he does!
    Ahhhh... religion, politics and weapons! What a refreshing mix!
    *Picture: A group of enthusiastic members of the Iranian Basij. Look familiar?

    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    Back From Inertia, The Ministers Return!

    The Government is back from its inertia! The Hizbullah and Amal Ministers have declared their return to the Cabinet and by that ending a more than a month-long boycott of the weekly Cabinet meetings.

    Time can only tell what was it that made the Shiite Ministers return; what the dialogue was all about and whether they have conceded or got their demands accepted....

    But most importantly, they have returned; because Lebanon cannot be run without the Shiite community represented in Government, whatever their political backing is.

    "Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."

    Wednesday, February 01, 2006

    Aoun... Sectarian politics vs. Ideals and a Vision for Lebanon

    The Sunni political elite’s alliance with the West - notably the US and France has put the Maronite political elite (specifically, General Michel Aoun) in a somewhat awkward position. Traditionally, Maronite politicians were the ones who were closely tied to Western governments, whereas everyone else was stuck with either the USSR or some other “brotherly/sisterly/motherly” Arab country. These strong political bonds between the West and the Maronites were manifestations of broader cultural ones (as well as economic ones) that go as far back as the early 17th century.

    Today, the seismic shift of political alliances has made the chess board unrecognizable and provided Lebanon with a unique opportunity. The shift should have created an opening for the Sunni and Maronite political elites to, at the very least, form the most solid political alliance since Lebanon’s independence – one that is based on both parties’ strong relations with Western powers and a shared vision for Lebanon. Unfortunately, that reality has yet to take place. Instead, the top Maronite politician of today, General Michel Aoun, has lead the Maronites into a very unnatural alliance with Syria and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

    Aoun’s calculation in refusing to join the March 14 forces was a short-sighted political one, and the support that he has received from the Maronite population is based solely on sectarian competition. He wanted to enter Lebanon the way Yasser Arafat entered Palestine. He saw himself as the true representative of the Maronites, and completely disregarded those politicians who stayed behind. His self-righteousness and short-sighted vindictiveness has, among other things, helped to destroy March 14 and has turned the Maronite population into supporters of Tehran’s agenda in Lebanon!

    The justifications one would find in Lebanon for Aoun’s behavior on the Lebanese Maronite street are the following:

    1. He is actually “neutral”
    2. He is protecting the Maronite population while the Muslims duke it out amongst themselves
    3. He is teaching both Jumblatt and Nasrallah a lesson because they formed their Baabda-Aley electoral alliance and left him out in the cold
    4. Finally, there is old Dr. Victorino’s line, that the Hariri’s are nothing more than Wahhabists in disguise – and that if the Maronites had to choose between Wahhabists and Khomeinists, they prefer the latter.

    It is so disheartening to witness how sectarianism manifests itself in politics… Whereas this conflict could easily have been framed as a conflict between Culture, Ideals and Visions, it is now framed in purely sectarian terms. If the March 14 alliance had included Aoun, Hizballah would have been isolated and had no choice but to face all of Lebanon. Given those circumstances, this current crisis we now face would have ended a long time ago.

    Of course, the cement – or glue – that would bring all of the March 14 forces together (with Aoun) would not have been sectarian – there is no sectarian reason why Druze Sunnis, and Maronites should converge against Shi’as. Rather, the glue of the coalition would have been:

    1. a shared vision for Lebanon and Lebanon’s future – one that is modern and economically prosperous as well as one that is not in a perpetual state of war with Israel (fighting for Tehran’s and Damascus’s interests)
    2. a shared belief that modern civilization along with an open society and liberal economy is the path that Lebanon will take in the future – rather than a religiously conservative one that suggests visions that compete with modernity and secularism.

    Of course, rather than take this path, Aoun has decided that political calculations are the more pertinent ones. Just look at the way he handled MP Naim’s death! Ultimately by doing so, Aoun may have gained more political stature – and consequently given the Maronite community the loudest voice they have ever had since the late 1980s. But at what price???

    Where will this take Lebanon as a country??? Where will Aoun’s politicking lead us?

    I believe that the Maronite population will eventually regret Aoun’s entry into Lebanese politics. For the first time in Lebanon’s history, the Sunni and Druze political elites screamed “Lebanon First” with the backing of the West, and the Maronite elite quietly swam in the other direction! What a shame! This lost opportunity will be recorded in our long, sad and bloody history.