Friday, June 09, 2006

At Bay From Iraq, Or On The Brink Of An Iraq

"Sheathed in powder-blue body bags are the remains of 72 men, many of them bearing signs of terrible torture--holes in the skull made by power drills, mutilated genitals, burns. They are the signature of the shadowy Shiite groups that have been kidnapping and murdering hundreds of men and boys, most of them Sunnis, in a campaign that has terrorized Baghdad's neighborhoods."

As I read that in the Time magazine, on the train heading to the capital this morning, I quickly turned the magazine onto my lap and held my stomach closely afraid I would hurl.

This is real; this is what is going on in Iraq...not so far away from Lebanon. Sunnis and Shiites are murdering each other daily, and the Iraqi government still does not brand all this a civil war.

We have grown up in our part of the world hearing (and witnessing) of deaths and murders in Lebanon during the civil war and of brutal killings and torture of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers on a daily basis. No wonder we have become as a generation so desensitized to descriptive sentences such as the one above.

However, for some reason, as I sat comfortably in my train seat, I felt a shiver of fear inside me. How can someone distinguish between a Sunni and a Shiite? If now, we lined a Maronite, an Orthodox, a Shiite, and a Sunni next to each other, how can we tell them apart by their looks? Or demeanor? That's what is so scary about civil wars, what's so brutal.

Regardless of what many might say of the Lebanese national dialogue meeting that took place yesterday--that the "pact of honor" is a tribal mode of political operation--at least the leaders at the roundtable are still meeting face to face and have not ordered their followers to take positions behind war trenches.

This pact of honor is necessary, necessary because if leaders do not keep tabs on their followers, and leave them to take matters into their own hands, we will inevitably relapse to war. Once political leaders lose the grip, just like in Iraq, no government decree can stop the bloody domino effect.

If it wasn't for the above Time quote, which struck a cord inside me, I would have sat in front of the computer today morning to write a post that ridiculed the dialogue. But today, I sit before you to express gratitude that "our" leaders are still sitting to talk and still at least agreeing on a lowest common denominator.

Forget the government and making it accountable of security matters in the country. We should face it: we are operating in a tribal context and at the moment the political leaders on the table are stronger than a Lahoud, stronger than a Parliament, stronger than a Cabinet...stronger than state institutions. They have the keys to keep us at bay from Iraq, or to bring us close to the brink of an Iraq!

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

14 comments:

Marwan said...

glad to see you a bit optimistic while keepin it realistic :)

Anonymous said...

"the political leaders on the table are stronger than a Lahoud, stronger than a Parliament, stronger than a Cabinet...stronger than state institutions"

therefore we as citizen do not have any power... stronger then democracy, stronger then the citizen's will

Doha said...

anon 10:33AM:

yes I know. where is the citizen's will in all that. but again, let's define a lebanese citizen: a subject? a follower of some sect? of some political leader?...

it's unfortunate, but it's the reality on the ground. to tell you the truth, if those leaders operating in a tribal mode can keep us at bay from Iraq, then you know what? i'll say fine, sit on this dialogue table as long as you want and please don't stop talking...

Doha said...

marwan,

it's tough to be optimistic and realistic at once, but i try :) that's almost the secret ingredient for staying sane in this world.

Anonymous said...

You may be right Doha. Maybe we ARE asking too much of our leaders. Very well said.

But the again... I think the dismay of most of us springs from the fact that we are stuck in this tribal context and that we cannot seem to get out of it.

CK

Anonymous said...

I read your post and Raja's and I am sorry that I can't make sense of what you guys are trying to say…

Time magazine did all this to you?

You're writing as if we did not have the civil war in Lebanon and did not see all these atrocities in our country.
The scariest thing to me is that the same people who have f***ed up our country are still talking.... yeah, now we are accepting the fact that they keep talking???
I wish one day they will get bored and decide to start walking, and keep walking to get the hell out of this country and then maybe, well maybe, they will give us the chance to bring a change.

But then we’ll be facing another issue…

I would like to ask you to take some time and reflect on the effect of having power on people. It would be nice if you can someday write about that. Maybe we can start a line of discussion that could lead us to understand what we’d truly like to do for our country and how much effort each one of us is willing to put. Is it all worth it in the end? What’s our/your/my goal?

Marwan said...

you know what something just occurred to me, from reading this post, and believing in what Doha said, that this roundtable is to a large extent the reason why the BLIND followers are still somewhat at bay.

we (the moderate Lebanese) always wonder what CAN WE DO, to help the situation. Well, here's a wild idea. can we setup similar ROUNDTABLES among us and the FOLLOWERS! keep it real, civil, informal and two-way. No one is pre-conceivably right or wrong. may be if we engaged in such acts, there will be less of the recent LAU incident, and less of the madness of tire burning and road blocking that we had to endure in the past week. PLEASE PLEASE PEOPLE, talk, argue, and debate.

Raja can you test the water for such a project while you're there? am I dreamin, or can this be done?

Doha said...

anon 1:31pm:

the quote i put up on the post made me cringe. i was scared to continue reading on. and then this quote led me straight to what's happening in lebanon and i said to myself: you know? what's going in my country is terrible, we're moving no where, but at least, we're not killing each other. that's all. it was a reminder for me to look at the bigger picture; it's pretty bleak in iraq. it was a reminder that i believe so much in not having a war in lebanon. i don't care; but i don't want a war. it's not that i don't get "profiled" in lebanon (what region and sect and family i come from) now, but i don't want that i when i get profiled, i get shot for being born that way.

if you read all my other posts, i am usually critical of where our so-called leaders are taking us; i even questioned their extent of representation. i don't think anyone there on the table represents me. there's not even a single woman on the table. did we ask ourselves that? this is why i stopped caring much for the outcomes; it's all talk.

but then it dawned at me that they are the ones who have so much power. and we did discuss on this blog the institutional rationale of having a national dialogue table. what is it? the senate? a replacement for the parliament?...

yes, i do think it's a good idea to write about the effect that power has on people. but the question is what kind of power? sometimes you have the power or let's say the ability to do good, but then no one even looks your way; you're insignificant. and then only those who the power to manipulate, are listened to and followed because they instill fear. is this the only language the lebanese living in lebanon know?....

Hassan said...

Marwan,

There are many dialogue projects already underway in some places around Lebanon. One such initiative is Nahwa Almuwatiniah's Hiwar (http://www.na-am.org/Hiwar.asp). All are welcome to join them at Gemayze. It is very interesting. Email me for more info. You can get my email from my profile.

Lebanon has a very active civil society and dialogue seems to be getting more attention.

Fares said...

Check out some democratic discussion about Syria
Why Christians in Syria support the Current Regime? or do they?

Peace and Prosperity for all countries in the region

Anonymous said...

Doha,

I'm sorry for the long reply, but i found it necessary:

"the quote i put up on the post made me cringe. i was scared to continue reading on. and then this quote led me straight to what's happening in lebanon and i said to myself: you know? what's going in my country is terrible, we're moving no where, but at least, we're not killing each other. that's all. it was a reminder for me to look at the bigger picture; it's pretty bleak in iraq. it was a reminder that i believe so much in not having a war in lebanon. i don't care; but i don't want a war. it's not that i don't get "profiled" in lebanon (what region and sect and family i come from) now, but i don't want that i when i get profiled, i get shot for being born that way."

I think all of us agree that we don’t want any new war in Lebanon, and I’m sure that those living in Lebanon don’t want it, even more than us who are living and working abroad.
As for the “profiling”, do you truly believe that this only happens in Lebanon? Don’t you sometimes get profiled when you are in a different country, because of your nationality? Why is it any different? Is it because anywhere else you won’t get shot? and what do you mean by "being born that way"? There is a bit of exaggeration here.

I grew up in Lebanon to accept this kind of questions, and actually I don’t have this resistance towards them. Although you are an AUBite, and you always say that you had a very good experience with students from different areas of Lebanon, I sometimes wonder why you keep coming back to this point.
AUB was a great experience for me, and actually it softened a lot that fear in me and changed my perception totally. I would expect this kind of fear from our parents and grandparents, but we should come out of this and we should stop bringing up this subject “kil ma da’el kooz bil jarra”… 

"if you read all my other posts, i am usually critical of where our so-called leaders are taking us; i even questioned their extent of representation. i don't think anyone there on the table represents me. there's not even a single woman on the table. did we ask ourselves that? this is why i stopped caring much for the outcomes; it's all talk."

Since I don’t accept this national dialogue idea from the beginning, I think in this case women are on the winning side. Yet again, they are losing because they are participating in THIS government and parliament, right?

"but then it dawned at me that they are the ones who have so much power. and we did discuss on this blog the institutional rationale of having a national dialogue table. what is it? the senate? a replacement for the parliament?..."

We now come to the issue of power. Yes they do have the power since we are guilty of giving it to them. Now, who’s more guilty (us or them) that there is abuse of power?
I asked your opinion on the effect of what power does to people for this specific reason. Since as human beings, I believe we are predisposed to have this urge of needing someone in power to attach to, I have been wondering where the problem lies. In our “stupidity” or in our “instinctive needs”?

"yes, i do think it's a good idea to write about the effect that power has on people. but the question is what kind of power? sometimes you have the power or let's say the ability to do good, but then no one even looks your way; you're insignificant. and then only those who the power to manipulate, are listened to and followed because they instill fear. is this the only language the lebanese living in lebanon know?.... "

I disagree with you about the issue of having power to do “good”. I think these two words are like oil and water. There’s barely a thin line where these two can be combined and it’s not because you become insignificant... You can become a great person if you have the power to do “good”, but you will face the biggest challenge of your life. You have to acknowledge and always be aware of the risk that you might fall in the trap of the “power syndrome”. You start asking for, looking for and seeking more power and very soon you will lose control… you become beast… why is that?
I like it that you brought up the fear factor… The issue is how this fear develops so that it starts feeding the powerful more power… Can we find a fear inhibitor?

Doha said...

anon 11:14pm (it would've been nice to have a name):

blogs are for bloggers to share with the world their thoughts. Sometimes I find myself repeating what I wrote in the original post several times in the comment section; really, you should take what I wrote at face value and not attach to it necessarily connotations or deep symbolism or meaning.

I wanted to share with others how I felt when I read a quote depicting harm done to people because of what sect they come from. Now, this is not new to me. But I'm happy that at once I wasn't desensitized when I read this and something inside me moved.

Of course we're all used to "profiling". I don't think that in one post or a comment or two I can share with everyone the universe of profiling and how that differs from one country to another. I'm talking about Lebanon.

i'm not in the business of inciting fear in others about other sects. My post meant to say: "Hey, despite all the chaos going on next door, let's at least keep a lowest common denominator floating amongst the political leaders."

AUB was an enriching experience; but we all know that AUB in no way reflects the outside world, meaning Lebanon. That's why many who leave AUB, end up returning to the main gate steps or leaving the country because they couldn't fit out there.

I believe that we have a duty, as AUBites, to take a leadership role in moving our country ahead (like so many AUBite have done and are doing right now). Back in Trablos, my experience at AUB not many can grasp. They're still stuck in their cocoons. And those who are stuck in their cocoons are the ones who at one point would take their positions on the front lines of a civil war.

Anonymous said...

AUB is currently loosing some of its accreditations ;)

so it might not be anymore a standart for education

Anonymous said...

Doha,

Thanks for your reply.
I like it.

Till ur next post,