Thursday, November 30, 2006

Khalleek Bil Beit

Nothing were more calming and reassuring this evening than the words of May Chidiac and our Prime Minister Seniora.

May Chidiac addressed a crowd of women, the most notable of which are the female members of those who have been assassinated during the past two years, in Bkirki. She asked that if those women attending know any member in their family or in their neighborhoods who plan to go to the streets tomorrow to ask them not to, because no one wants things to get out of control.

We tend to dismiss women and their power in our societies. It's sickening sometimes seeing men control the political scene and make or break a future of generations to come. Mothers play a major role in mobilizing their children towards a certain cause, towards a certain party affiliation, or towards a way of thinking and it doesn't need to be directly political, but can be social and societal which in turn shapes political orientation as youth become adults.

As for PM Seniora. His stand diffused tensions (at least for me), which is to let the demonstrators demonstrate; it's a democratic system, but any plans of overthrowing the government without resorting to the Parliament are unacceptable.

If I was back in Lebanon, I will take a stand by staying home. It's a new way of expressing one's political views: Khalleek Bil Beit! Staying home to avoid conflict, to let those who might be among the demonstrators and who are vying for conflict to seethe with pain because they won't be reaching their sinister goal. I'm trying to be optimistic; tomorrow might just be only one day of demonstrations.

The question is what if the demonstrations dragged on until the Opposition achieved its goal of toppling the government? This is where the worse case scenarios are invoked in my mind.

At any rate, our government, the government of the Second Indpendence (houkoumat al istiklal al thani) did not get a chance to achieve a sliver of what it wanted to. Politics, heavy politics (which included political assassinations and HA/Amal Ministers boycotting Cabinet sessions) superseded all other policy areas and then the July war broke out and it inflicted problems more than the government was able to absorb and process in a short time period.

The government had a difficult task to achieve which is defining for the country a new paradigm to operate within, yet a paradigm that preserved the spirit of the Taif Agreement . So far, all parties involved failed to reach a consensus. But PM Seniora did mention in his speech today that dialogue was a challenge, as the other side when not agreeing to a proposal would immediately resort to threats, intimidation, and accusations of acts of treason.

I believed Seniora when he said today that he is not the type to seek power or domination, nevertheless he will not relinquish his responsibilities as a Prime Minister. He would step down if the Parliament rescinded its vote of confidence in the government, but right now, he's defending the Istiklel and I am with the government.

The demonstrators tomorrow might not know that by doing everything under the sun to topple this government they are handing a victory to the Syrian regime which is ready to use this upcoming disturbance to justify the need to have Lebanon return to its sphere of influence (because we are brutes and we don't know how to handle governance independently). But again, some of the demonstrators do not mind that at all.

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

a message to hizballah

get new leadership.

hassan nasrallah accomplished what millions around the world consider wonders for his organization when its main focus was repelling israel and making it too costly for the israelis to remain as occupiers in lebanon.

however, today, the situation has changed dramatically. the main focus of hizballah is no longer israel. it is lebanon. and a man who was highly proficient at one task does not necessarily need to be proficient at another - unlike, women, who I hear are masters of multi-tasking.

A flattering historical precedent of such a shift would be churchill. the man did wonders during wartime, but was booted out when his country faced the challenges of peace-time governance. if the british could do it, i'm sure lebanese can - or can they?

the point here is that hizballah has entered a new era in its history. gradually (and whether it likes it or not) the organization is being turned into a political party meant exclusively to play a role within the lebanese political process. it's focus is shifting from war to peace. And if such a dramatic shift is to take place smoothly or at all (leaving lebanon in one piece) then I believe that new leadership is called for.

Of course one could make a similar argument for the entire political elite. jumblatt, jaejae and the rest all "grew up" as politicians during the civil war. however, at least they went through a little more than a decade of what one could consider "a transition period." some of them spent it under syrian tutelage and others spent it in a prison cell or in exile. not exactly good practice to run an independent state, but definitely better than transitioning from war to peace-time leaders in a matter of a year or two.

on that note, allow me to cite the lebanese constitution. It takes special consideration of this war-peace leadership dichotomy. it specifically stipulates that the commander of the lebanese armed forces cannot become president of the republic unless he retires for a certain number of years (or - and I'm not sure this is in the constitution - the syrians decide otherwise). So you see... even the vaunted constitution supports me on this notion.

Therefore, I conclude, and reiterate that Hassan Nasrallah and his "hizballah cabinet/politburo" need a vacation. I recommend Malta. Maybe, Mohammend Fneish can take over for 10 years while Nasrallah absorbs the sun, and winds down in his temporary European home. I think everyone will be better off if he does - and I'll even be willing to pitch in if he needs the money.

On The Streets Friday

Update 3: Just got news that guns were fired in Beirut in support of Seniora's speech. This was in return for guns fired in Dahieh in support of Nasrallah's speech this morning. (Naharnet claims they're fireworks)

Update 2: I didn't get the chance to listen in on PM Seniora's speech live (which I will do at 8PM Eastern time), but for now this is what Naharnet has posted:

Prime Minister Fouad Saniora vowed on Thursday that his government will fight attempts to bring back foreign tutelage on Lebanon. Saniora also urged the Lebanese to stand by the “legitimate” government, adding that the only way to bring down the cabinet is through parliament.

Update: PM Seniora will be addressing the Lebanese at 8PM Lebanese time, which is 1PM Eastern time.
*********************************************************************************
Okay, they called for the open demonstrations starting tomorrow Friday in downtown Beirut!

Sayyid Nasrallah in a televised address called on all Lebanese to join Hizbullah in protesting against the current government. What struck me most was his claim that the government did not do much since it took power. I wonder why? The war this summer?...

And then Najah Wakim was dug out from hybernation and suddenly was on TV calling on civil servants to stop taking orders from the government, when the Opposition signals the beginning of such a move. He added that this move will ensure the success of toppling the government.

I never knew that Lahoud liked Najah Wakim and chatted together on peaceful strategies of demonstrating.

But at any rate, if I was back home I would fight to not allow this government to be toppled. It's not about any particular minister in the government or the Prime Minister, but it's more symbolic than that. At a much younger age, populism was attractive. But now, I see "one-color" populism, a la Aoun and Hizbullah, appalling!

It's challenging being diplomatic at this time. I don't feel that I need to appease anyone by being more conciliatory. Perhaps because March 14 adopted a conciliatory attitude since the Syrians left the country, we are losing power. Remember the overtures from March 14 towards Aoun to join them for elections? And then after everything that happened, PM Seniora's overtures to Aoun to take part in the government? What about coopting Hizbullah and Amal all along? We did not see any good will coming from them, least of which is supporting the tribunal. What about the dialogue sessions, which were a farce, because Hizbullah went ahead and decided to hijack the country's foreign policy? The list can go and on...

What do they want? Do they want a March 14 force that is of one color? Of one sect or two? Would they respect us more if we carried arms? If we used threats? If our Prime Minister insulted heads of states? Or wore an army fatigue?

I should stop here!

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Surprise Factor And Fear

The situation continued to deteriorate from bad to worse this past day. I realized today how words can be stronger and more effective at mobilizing viewers (whether for or against).

At any rate, the Opposition is heading to the streets; we just don't know when. Yes, they could be peaceful, but there are factors that just make it much more than that.

Today President Lahoud (whom I cannot stand to be our President anymore) told BBC that along with peaceful demonstrations to which the opposition has the right, civil servants are encouraged to disobey government orders because the government is unconstitutional. He even went to equate this situation to that of Ghandi's civil disobedience tactics under the British colonial rule! (I think at that moment I was going to puke out of embarassment for such choice of a simile; even the BBC journalist was taken aback).

It did not stop there. Aoun, who it seems is losing his mind, has called on his supporters to take part in "acts of protests" (whatever that entails) alongside guess who? SSNP! This time Aoun is not just providing a political cover for SSNP, but now overtly being allied with it.

Just like Hizbullah, Aoun refused to provide a specific day they plan on demonstrating. Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry has not received as of yet any formal request for demonstrating, which is a standard operating procedure even in the U.S. So how could HA/Aoun et al. hold the government accountable for maintaining the peace while they demonstrate, when they're not even notified of the scope and direction of the demonstrations? The element of surprise here begets me and is only making Beirut look like an army barracks at night, with army tanks circulating the downtown area and Internal Security Forces scattered everywhere, in anticipation of that surprise demonstration.

Just a side note on Aoun, in his press conference, he declared the Parliament corrupt and illegal/unconstitutional because the last elections relied on the 2000 Parliamentary law, which was heavily rigged through Syrian intelligence interference. The LBCI reporter asked him a smart question, "If the Parliament is illegal, then how can it givethe aspired-for "national unity" government a vote of confidence?" Aoun mumbled and contradicted himself by saying that the Parliament should not only give a vote of confidence to such a government but also come up and vote on a new electoral law. Go figure! And if it's unconstitutional, then how did he take part in the elections and shouldn't his representation role be in question?

He dismissed and insulted politicians here and there and yelled at reporters here and there. Is this someone who is President material?...He thinks every government institution is unconstitutional now; he's the savior, or that's what he likes to think of himself. Oh, and I forgot, he talked about the "holy" anger (al-ghadab al-moukaddas). What is that?

But going back to the demonstrations issue, Wi'am Wahhab, the fifth columnist who has returned to life after a short hybernation (including Nassir Qandil who visited Lahoud in Baabda), infuriated me the most when he threatened that, "For those who are calling for the implementation of the U.N. Chapter VII, there's a new term not found in their dictionary called the Chapter of Martyrdom and Martyrs!" What a lowly threat! And what a direct allusion to what took place in Yabous yesterday.

He continued by saying that the national unity government they're calling for is one that will consider void all resolutions/laws that have passed under the Seniora government this past year! Of course, this includes 1701, the tribunal, and Paris III among other resolutions passed.

You might say that these are just words. But a lot of chatter provides a cover for some ugly acts done against our country. We're not fools and we've been following the trends these past two years. Couple words with the suicide bombing incident in Yabous and the Beddawi piece of news and the picture starts to look scarier.

My Mom today told me that what the Opposition is doing is harb a3sab (a war of nerves). All what my family does on a daily basis now is scan all the news channels for news, and more news about what's happening and what is to happen.

Personally, I'm being pushed to the edge. I feel helpless just like I felt helpless when my country was being bombed this summer. I can't do anything from the beltway, but watch the news and get infuriated. I am becoming more convinced that I don't want a compromise with Hizbullah and all the pro-Syrian detail attached. It's sad to be pushed to that limit, but I am not able to see a functioning partnership, when there is disagreement on the basics, such as complying with U.N. resolutions and being open to the international community. Even Justice Minister Charles Rizk, who was Lahoud's man in the Cabinet, switched sides and moved forward with the tribunal resolution, leaving Lahoud behind.

But on the other hand, PM Seniora is calling once again for dialogue. But we just had two round of dialogues this past year, the first one was followed by Hizbullah's kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers which unleashed the war of hell on Lebanon, and the second of which led to the resignation of HA/Amal's Ministers from the Cabinet.

They don't have a solution to offer up for such a complicated existential dilemma, neither do I.

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

It's Bleak

I'm in a hurry. But it doesn't look good anymore. After it appeared that yesterday there was a solution in sight proposed by Amin Gemayel in Berri's residence Ain El-Tineh, Hizbullah in the same day deemed the proposals as insufficient.

And today Berri, after recommending against demonstrating on the streets, has changed his mind and is meeting with the likes of Wiam Wahhab, among other pro-Syrian figures.

LBCI's assessment is that the Opposition will be demonstrating soon on the streets of Beirut....

There's almost a determination not to come to a compromise and not to let cooler heads prevail, despite the father of a slain son taking on a brave step as leaving his residence where he was receiving condolences and heading to Ain El-Tineh to propose a solution for the good of the country.

Berri seems like he's being pressured against taking a moderate position. So where does that take the Parliamentary session that will vote on the tribunal proposal?...

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lebanon - an American foreign policy perspective.

Lebanon got a lot of coverage in some of this month's US foreign policy publications. Foreign Affairs, for example, published five articles about the war between Hizballah and Israel which looked at its local and regional implications and provided some policy recommendations. The National Interest also published an article, somewhat pessimistically referred to as "Lebanon Post-Mortem."

Paul Salem authored one of the pieces in Foreign Affairs. I'll paste some ideas and recommendations he articulated that caught my attention and share them with you:
If Resolution 1701 is thoroughly implemented and the Lebanese government takes its security responsibilities seriously, Hezbollah will grow weaker and the Lebanese state will emerge as stronger. Despite the devastation wrought on the country, Lebanon can use the UN resolution as an opportunity for considerable progress in the immediate future. Its ability to do so will depend on what steps are taken to consolidate national security, economic recovery and political development.

...

The key players all have important choices to make. Hezbollah must decide whether it actually wishes to integrate into the Lebanese state, and the Shiite community that backs it must choose between two mutually exclusive options: a united and independent Lebanon or a "two-state solution." The government could help bring the Shiite community closer to the former choice by taking seriously the community's complaints about how the post-Taif state has developed. While Syria dominated Lebanon, the main Shiite parties allied with Damascus, enjoyed considerable power. With the Syrians gone, the Shiite's concerns have become more pressing and relevant. At some point soon, a bicameral legislature must be established, with a lower house free of confessional quotas, which would allow the Shiites better representation. It will not do to argue that the Shiites cannot be trusted with power because they are too close to outside actors (as the Maronites argued of the Sunnis in the past). They will reduce their dependence on foreign powers largely to the extent that they feel like they have a secure stake in the government. The horse must be put in front, and the cart will follow. And every group in Lebanon has at some point committed the sin of relying on extensive outside support: the Maronites allied with Israel and the Sunnis with the Palestine Liberation Organization, and everyone used-and was used-by the Syrians.
Volker Perthes also writes an article about the conflict, except, from the Syrian perspective. He writes some thought-provoking lines, including,
Especially since the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon in 2005, Hizbollah has become much more independent of Damascus. Most likely high-level Syrian officials did not know about the July 12 raid until after it happened.

...

Since Bashar al -Assad took over after the death of his father, Hafez el Assad, six years ago, state institutions have weakened and lost considerable authority.

...

Yet some remote regions in northeastern Syria, where tensions between Arabs and Kurds run high, are no longer under the central government's control. Sunni notables compalin about growing Shiite influence, especially Iranian money flowing into the country to buy, among other things, real estate around the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.

...

In private, many officials in Damascus admitted their initial uneasiness over Hezbollah's cross-border abduction in July. But the leadership quickly recognized how the confrontation in Lebanon could prove beneficial to its own strategic interests. [I have to say that this quote is somewhat disingenuous, especially considering that the overwhelming majority of Hizballah "officials" had no idea the attack would take place either].
In The National Interest, Daniel Byman & Steven Simon offer some interesting Lines:
Reports that Iran prodded HIzballah to attack to divert attention from the Iranian nuclear program seem to be false. The dispute over the Iranian program has been going on for years with no end in sight, and Hizballah had tried other operations in the past. Similarly the claim that this conflict was a proxy war initiated by Iran to test whether a foe like the US (using Israel as a stand-in) could be defeated by an opponent that would fight hard and be willing to take casualties ignores the fact that far more important in Teheran's calculations are the successes that various fighters in Iraq have had against the United States.

...

[During the war,] the Lebanese government suffered the ultimate indignity for any regime: It was ignored. Once again, it is clear to all factions in Lebanon that their government cannot protect them from foreign threats or strong domestic groups like Hizballah.

...

Syria has emerged as the only credible gurantor of HIzballah's future good behavior [in Lebanon], and Israel has been reminded that it will not have peace with HIzballah unless it has peace with Syria. [The dual role that Syria plays] as Hizballah's backer and Hizballah's controller has long fit Syrian foreign policy. As Michael Doran contends, " Ever since the 19 80s, Syria has played this game of being both the arsonist and the fire department."

anti-sectarianism campaign gets covered by Wash Post

The Washington Post runs an artilce about the recent anti-sectarianism campaign that a marketing agency in Beirut launched. check it out.

Anyways, my favorite part of the article is its conclusion - and it has barely anything to do with the campaign itself. I'll copy and paste it over here just in case you don't get the chance to read the entire thing.
At a cafe near downtown, Randy Nahle, a 21-year-old student, wondered about the way out. His father is Shiite, his mother Maronite Catholic. The neighborhood he sits in, like virtually every one in Beirut, has its markers: the posters and religious symbols on walls, the muezzin or the church bells that identify its affiliation.

For once, he said, something organized spoke to his rejection of being "categorized or oversimplified."

He smiled at his favorite ads, the ones that identified doctors by their sect. "It has infiltrated our fabric so much, almost indelibly," Nahle said. "If I have an earache, an Orthodox doctor will understand it better. It's an Orthodox ear."

He recalled sitting with a Shiite woman at a cafe near the American University in Beirut. She treated him as a fellow Shiite until he revealed his mixed background. She looked at him disapprovingly. It's bad for the children, she said. "They're going to come out confused," she told him.

"I said, 'You know, the problem of this country is we don't have enough confused people. The problem is we have too many people blindly convinced by their political orientation, by their religion, by their community's superiority.' "

She smiled, he recalled, and then laughed a little uncomfortably.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Maronite Wild Card

If Cardinal Sfeir had a pessimistic view yesterday about uniting the Christians of Lebanon, then how could anyone be optimistic?

Judging from the nature of the political conflict nowadays, we see new contending players, Hizbullah on one side and the Future Movement on the other side and judging from Iraq, the conflict is along the Shiite-Sunni lines. So when thoughts of a civil war are invoked, we quickly fear a Sunni-Shiite war.

However, the animosity among Christian factions, to be exact Maronite, is perhaps one of the last vestiges of our last civil war. That simmering, yet increasingly-apparent conflict could be just that wild card to lead the country down the violence path.

This is why Syria has focused its assassinations on Christian politicians and its bombings of Christian commercial and residential establishments for the past two years. But this last assassination targeted a Maronite politician and I fear has struck at the heart of that simmering conflict.

What brought all this home was yesterday's statement by former Kesserouan MP Farid Khazen from Bkirki. He said that if Aoun (and FPM) wants to "go down to the streets", there are many strategic areas wherein he can demonstrate. But he gravely warned from demonstrating in Christian areas and added that, "Pierre Gemayyel's blood has not cooled" (dammoo ma barad). He continued, "We did not forget the massacres that took place in Qolei'at, Sin El-Fil, and Nahr El-Mot."

This last statement was powerful, because for the first time and from Bkirki we're hearing statements alluding to the civil war, particularly the years which witnessed fierce battles among Maronites factions.

This is why our civil war has been the most destructive to the social fabric of many communities; not only was the war sectarian and ideological, but it also was intra-sectarian.

And unfortunately it seems that the Maronites have not come to terms with the past. For 15 years, the animosity was put on hold with Geagea in jail, Aoun in exile, and the Phalange Party divided. For 15 years, the Christians left their intra-conflict in their homes and slowly started working together to protest the Syrian tutelage.

I guess, we're back to square one. Except this time the political leaders are working harder to control their supporters and the streets. In my assessment, Amin Gemayyel played an important role in dampening the anger among the Phalangists; right after Pierre's death we held our breaths fearing that all hell will break loose, but that storm somehow is beyond us now.

Aoun upon his return from exile spoiled the "party" and the "love affair". He wanted things to be his way or the highway, and that did not work. His visit to Geagea in jail was a positive move then, but Aoun's provocative words, more than his actions, inflame even the most indifferent about Lebanese politics. His decision to forego the March 14 alliance during the latest Parliamentary elections, butted Christians one against the other and yes, spoiled the "love affair."

He, in the words of Amin Gemayyel, has taken a path that contradicts the slogans his movement stands for, most importantly, sovereignty (siyede). How could Aoun call for sovereignty when he is de facto allied with for instance the SSNP (and if not allied, then is providing them with a political cover)? SSNP's creed does not consider Lebanon to be sovereign, but part of a larger Syria. This is only one example. Gemayyel on Al-Jazeera two days ago called on Aoun to return to his natural place on the Lebanese political map.

From my point of view, diversity is healthy. But apparently diversity in the Maronite political sphere is dangerous and destructive because the Maronite psyche is not letting go of the civil war.

So as I said, the Maronite card is the wild card. We'll watch and see what happens on the streets this week. Hizbullah is promising a "surprise" move. In the words of a Hizbullah spokesman, "We want to keep the government on their feet."

And just when Khazen made his statement from Bkirki yesterday morning, in the evening, in a trash bin next to his house in Qolei'at, three anti-personnel mines (duds) were discovered. Not a good sign of things to come.

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

Saturday, November 25, 2006

the constituents' message to their representatives

I have been reading and hearing about how the inter-sectarian violence in Iraq could spill-over across the region, but specifically into Lebanon since the bombing of the Sammarra Mosque a year or two ago. Two more recent events have raised the prominence of those warnings:

  1. the rally organized in response to the murder of Piere Gemeyel - and subsequent response by supporters of Hizballah.
  2. the massacre of Iraqi Shi'as, the subsequent retribution on Sunnis and the subsequent spiral of violence (which is still going on as I type up this post).

With regards to the first event, I hold the Lebanese political elite responsible for any sectarian fall-out that results from the rally, as well as other political shenanigans they pull to achieve their objectives. On that note, some commentators mock the purported low turn-out to the rally on Thursday. The figure cited is 200,000 as opposed to a million, which was estimated by some to be the turn-out of the first such protest.

If true, I see this development as hopeful. It symbolizes that the Lebanese people see where their leaders are headed, and they refuse to go there willingly. Furthermore, among those who did attend, I wonder how many actually did so to protest violence and political assassinations as opposed to, say, express support for the March 14 political grouping and their policies.

Several protesters photographed during the rally, for example, carried posters with slogans such as “Lebanon means Life,” and “Shove your civil war." These messages and others like them support the hypothesis that at least a minority of the rally attendees went down primarily to express their nervousness about the perceived prospect of violence.

I hope those who gave speeches on that day took note of both those messages (i.e. the lower turn-out, as well as the posters).

In fact, and on that note, allow me to suggest that had we had our own elections last week, or even today, I am certain the results would have been as dramatic as the results of the American midterm elections. This is not to say that former March 14 voters would have voted for Hizballah. Rather, they would have voted for alternatives if they could have, or just stayed home. Again… their message: “We do not support where you're taking the country. We don't want war.”

As for the second event I listed in the beginning of this entry (the Iraqi massacres), again, I turn my attention to the Lebanese people; however, in this case, my assessment of their behavior is much less flattering. It baffles me... it really baffles me to hear a Lebanese shi'ite or sunni get the urge to harm their compatriot just because some idiots in Iraq have decided that they're going to kill each other. Their line of thinking goes like this:

I'm going to go abuse or kill my neighbor and make my life much more miserable in the process just because people I have never even met before (or ever will meet in my life) are brutally killing each other thousands of miles away.

This type of thinking (if it can be called as such) emanates from God knows the fuck where. Maybe men's penises. Therefore, I’ll take this opportunity to convey a message to my Lebanese compatriots courtesy of Robin Williams: “God gave men a brain and a penis, with only enough blood to work one at a time.” Please make good use of these words of wisdom. I know they may be vulgar, and said by a perpetual drunk (despite his denials). However, their vulgarity merely reflects a different form of vulgarity that emanates from the “thinking” I cited above.

On a more serious note though, I reiterate what I’ve said before on this blog: the solution lies in a capable Lebanese state. A state that absolutely monopolizes the use of force. A state that takes exclusively Lebanese interests to heart as defined by the Lebanese people. A state that does not fight others’ battles on Lebanese soil. A state guided by the desire of all Lebanese to live comfortable and prosperous lives.

Yes, I know… a bit obvious and tacky, but I need to join those Lebanese who did not attend the rally on Thursday as well as those who attended, but did so with their own messages, and express it anyhow.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

To hell in a hand-basket...

that's where Lebanon's leaders seem intent on taking their countrymen. Two camps with diametrically opposed views, alliances, interests and intents. Each of them stubborn; unwilling to concede. There's bound to be an explosion sooner or later.

As for yesterday’s rally, it was merely a wave; a wave that washed up against a rock and receded back into the sea. That temporary, almost fickle, nature of the March 14 protests is the reason that people who argue "the Syrians could not have killed Gemayel and all the other politicians because it runs counter to their interests" are wrong.

The March 14 protests constitute nothing but bursts of activity that ultimately whither away into oblivion. For God's sake, if the murder of Hariri himself did not change much in Lebanon's internal political dynamics, how much would the murder of George Hawi, Gebran Tueini or even Pierre Gemayel bring? One could counter that Hariri’s murder lead to “a Parliamentary revolution.” However, all it takes is one look at that institution’s irrelevance in politics today to notice how inconsequential that electoral victory turned out.

The Syrians feel pretty secure about Hizballah's ability to hold its own against these waves of protest and fury. So they do what they need to, to gain any sort of advantage on the international playing field. Their message to the powers that seek to remove Lebanon from the Syrian orbit is obvious:

You see your precious little Lebanon... your example of democracy in the middle east... your prized example of religious co-existence (both christian-muslim and sunni-shi'a); I can light it up with the push of a button. And if you don't talk to me... if you don't deal with the Syrian state as the guarantor of peace in Lebanon, that's exactly what I'll do.

And alas, those two reasons: Syria's international dealings, which are partially motivated by its intent to return to Lebanon and Hizballah's immunity from the March 14 waves, lie behind the continued assassinations in the country.

As for the reasons behind the continued peace, it appears that the interests of the French and Americans lie in the removal of Lebanon from the Syrian orbit – yet, in so doing, keeping the country in tact. In other words, the costs of a civil war apparently outweigh the benefits of engaging Hizballah militarily or keeping the country outside of the Syrian sphere. The March 14 politicians also harbor the same calculations. The Syrians, on the other hand, have already declared their intentions: "if you kick us out, we'll bring it down over your head." They feel Lebanon is their property. They feel it was taken from them. They want it back.

Both Hizballah and March 14 project dispositions similar to those of the Syrians (in the sense of their absoluteness and intensity). Hizballah asserts that it would rather be caught dead than allow Lebanon to fall under the sway of the West. The March 14 camp says the same with regards to returning to Syrian tutelage.

In such a tense and gridlocked situation, where all the major local parties' positions are so intransigent and uncompromising, something is gonna have to give. An appropriate analogy would be two major tectonic plates pushing against each other incessantly until, at some point in time, all hell breaks loose - think of the Indian Ocean tsunami.

The most pliable players in the Lebanon saga appear to be the Western nations. They believe they have the least to lose and the most to gain from a compromise with Syria regarding Lebanon. The March 14 camp, might not accept such a compromise however, and the price of a return to "stability" in Lebanon may ultimately be the heads of some of its top leaders – most notably the most intransigent among them.

Sadly enough, I think that that scenario may be one of the better outlooks for Lebanon’s future. Of course, the Lebanese state could step up to the plate and protect Lebanese from Syrian efforts destabilization efforts, or the two camps could get together and come to some sort of agreement, or the Lebanese people could rise up against their sectarian overlords and establish a New Republic.

But who am I kidding? I'm snuggling myself into that hand-basket, and getting ready for a long, simmering ride.

HA Playing Hard Ball

MP Ali Ammar spoke in the name of Hizbullah and claimed that Hizbullah refuses PM Seniora's invitation for the HA Cabinet Ministers to return to the Cabinet. He added that PM Seniora is a liar and receives his instructions from U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Feltman. He reiterated the importance of forming a new national unity government because the current government is illegitimate and unconstitutional.

So Hizbullah is playing hard ball!

On another point, Fares Soueid whispered in Amin Gemayyel's ear while Gemayyel was addressing the crowds earlier in the day some words where the word, "I'tissam" (Protest/Sit in) was audible through the microphone. Gemayyel, however after pausing for few seconds, did not mention the protest. I wonder why Gemayyel decided not to go ahead and announce the sit-in, that perhaps was being planned to take place in Martyr's Square.

We'll know maybe by tomorrow the details.

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

After The Funeral...

Hizbullah supporters were asked by Nasrallah to return home after they blocked the main highway to the airport.

But the more disturbing news is that in Tripoli, again for the second night, there was an exchange of fire, but the clashes were between Internal Security Forces and armed men in the Palestinian refugee camp of Biddawi. There were sounds of gunshots and also of rocket fire.

Anyways, the speeches today at Gemayyel's funeral were extremely charged, it felt like March 14ers will be asked to head to Baabda. But later we learned that the leaders of March 14 do not want to use the streets to achieve their political goals. It remains to be seen what their strategy is other than managing to pass the tribunal resolution in the Cabinet on Saturday.

On another point, Associated Press claims that Amin Gemayyel, the father of the slain Pierre, skipped Parliament Speaker Berri as he greeted politicians and diplomats who attended his son's funeral in the St. Georges Cathedral.

However, MP Butros Harb said on LBC's Kalam Innass talk show that this piece of news is incorrect. Amin Gemayyil greeted Berri at the entrance of the Cathedral thanking him for attending and so that's why when he was shaking hands with politicians at a later point, he shook hands with Arab League President Amr Moussa, then skipped Berri (because he already greeted him) and shook hands with PM Seniora.

And...Hizbullah sent no delegation to the funeral. The question is why?

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

surprising, notable and appreciated presences

As I watched the proceedings, I was pleased with the appearances of the following:
  • Delegation from Hizballah - unfortunately, I'm not sure who they are yet (I heard they were there through the commentator - actually, I'm not sure - I'll have to reconfirm.) CORRECTION: There is no Hizballah delegation.

  • The Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, Nabih Berri, his wife, and three members of his parliamentary bloc.
Had Berri not made his presence felt, I would have been terrified of the repercussions on sectarian relations. Of course, now that I stand corrected on Hizballah, I can't bring myself to comprehend why Hizballah didn't send a delegation.
  • The Patriarch of the Lebanese Maronite Church, Mar Nasrallah Butrous Sfeir. The Patriarch did not send a representative and remain within the safe confines of Bkirki - as we have come to expect.

  • The French Foreign Minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy.

  • The Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Mousa.
Maybe the attendance of these two signify that the country still has at least some regional and international support.

Addendum: Commenter, Ghassan, says that a Hizballah delegation is at the church. I don't know who's right frankly.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Banners From Beirut Spring

Our blogger friend Mustapha from Beirut Spring designed a couple of banners for those who are planning to head tomorrow to Central Beirut. Check them out; they can be easily downloaded and printed in different sizes.

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

the conspicuous absence

The number-one role of the state; the priority that precedes all others. Indeed, the raison dĂȘtre of the state, in both the theoretical and worldly realms, lies in its effective monopolization of the use of force within the territory it claims as its own.

If that condition cannot be met, then it,, cannot be said that a state exists. Using this logic, it is safe to assert that Lebanon is yet to be governed by a state.

Acting as a "middle-man" for Saudi, European and American money intended for use by Lebanese civilians who seek to rebuild their homes following the Israeli onslaught earlier this year is not enough.

Gaining recognition from other states and international bodies is not even close to enough.

Hosting legislative or ministerial meetings that yield legislation, policies, decrees, panels, committees or programs is not enough.

Not even taxation, the provision of services, subsidies, and the employment of hundreds of thousands of individuals is enough. None of these functions, either in-and-of-themselves or as a combined whole, characterize a state.

Rather, the state distinguishes itself from all other governing institutions, by its exclusive ability and right to use force against – and to kill, if necessary - those deemed by the law of the land as enemies of Lebanon. Every other function is secondary in nature.

Members of Lebanon's political elite... for all their purported finesse and wisdom; for all their rumored insight and prescience; for all their apparent shrewdness and cunning, have, thus far, failed at this most basic of tasks.... This priority of priorities.

Should they be given more time? How much more time? Does the incessant killing push them to redouble their efforts? What progress is there to be seen? As a citizen, I want to know – I demand transparency! Is there any progress at all?

Without a state, no one in Lebanon will be safe – neither the peasant nor the "first-tier" politician. Those who are betting on the international tribunal or some other international development or pressure to protect them only fool themselves.

The clock is ticking.

Grand Serail Sleep Over

I was thinking to myself this morning that perhaps the Ministers and Prime Minister should just stay put in the Grand Serail until they pass the tribunal resolution on Saturday. If they just sleep over this week, the country will probably be somewhat saved from another Minister taking the path of Pierre's.

Little did I know that sources are saying that PM Seniora is in fact contemplating the idea of asking the Ministers to sleep over at the Grand Serail until Monday of next week.

I guess we're all thinking the same thing...

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

Geagea Not Discounting Heading to Baabda

Geagea was asked by reporters in Bikfaya, where he was paying his condolences, whether the rumors that the March 14 demonstrators will be asked to head to Baabda tomorrow after Pierre Gemayel's funeral, he paused and then responded by shaking his head as in saying, "Perhaps, maybe..."

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

Tripoli: Yesterday and Tomorrow

The family in Tripoli told me just now that they're heading to Beirut tomorrow and that the gathering in Central Beirut will look similar to the March 14 mass demonstration two years ago.

But they also said that yesterday night there was an exchange of fire between Tibbeneh and Jabal Mihsen, an area heavily populated by Alawites and Syrian Alawites who have been naturalized in the '90s.

There's a fear that tomorrow might just bring another tragedy, perhaps another assassination attempt to stop the demonstration from taking place.

There's this widespread feeling that things are getting worse, not better. People are afraid to leave their homes at night and afraid to speak out.

We'll wait and see what tomorrow brings.

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

Critical Two Weeks

News sources on LBC announced that the Cabinet is scheduled to meet on Friday/Saturday to pass the tribunal resolution. Moreover, sources say that Interior Minister Sabeh might just rescind his resignation and return to the Cabinet.

After Cabinet passage, the tribunal package will go to Baabda for approval by the President. Lahoud will have 15 days, per law, to either approve or disapprove the package. If he approves, then the law will to the Parliament for ratification and if he does not approve, then at the end of the 15-day period, the Cabinet has the right to rescind the package from Baabda and send it straight to the Parliament for final ratification.

Starting Saturday, Lebanon will go through critical 17 days. And 17 days are long enough for any to wreak havoc with a course that will change our region's history.

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

Tribunal Won't Immunize Lebanon From Violence

It's 7:30AM now in Lebanon, 12:30AM here. The morning news back home do not point to any violence occurring over night.

A millions things are spinning in my head, yet I am so speechless.

The UN Security Council has unanimously passed the tribunal resolution, but in order for the process to be complete, the Lebanese government needs to ratify the resolution. The Cabinet meeting that was scheduled to take place on Thursday, is of course now postponed...

The passing of the tribunal in the UN does not mean that Lebanon is immune from more murders, from being held hostage to a looming civil strife.

This is where the international meets the local...almost always a bloody affair for our country.

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Afraid To Demonstrate

So the March 14 Forces met in the Saifi Kataeb office this evening. They asked all March 14 supporters to attend en masse the late Pierre Gemayel's funeral on Thursday.

If I was back home, I would be reluctant to take part in the demonstrations on Thursday, for the fear things might just become violent. Things are not the way they were two years ago; now the situation is like a pressure-cooker, just ready to explode if given the chance to. The animosity is no longer entirely directed towards the Syrian forces, but now it's directed towards the other Lebanese.

Will the Lebanese be able to overcome the pressures and head out to demonstrate peacefully? I can feel the cry: Enough is enough. But as I wrote before, this tribunal when passed will become a milestone in the history of the Middle East. And I can totally understand why perhaps some regimes around us might see it disadvantageous to have the tribunal process move ahead and might just pull the plug on us and watch Lebanon return to chaos.

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

The Second Independence Government

In his latest press conference, PM Seniora called the current government the government of the Second Independence.

PM Seniora added: "My brother, Pierre, send my greetings to Rafik, to Bassil, to Samir, to George, to Gebran and to all those who died for freedom. You all did not die in vain, you did not die for a mirage, you died for a homeland, and Lebanon is our homeland."

Amen.

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

Pierre Gemayel Shot Dead!

Update 2: All roads leading to the Baabda Palace were closed in anticipation of an angry mob heading towards there.

Tires were lit on fire in Jbeil which led to the closing of the highway leading to Tripoli.

Update: Gemayel's bodyguard, Samir Shartooni, died of his wounds.

Details: Gemayel was leaving New Jdeideh where he was paying condolences St. Anthony-Jdeideh church. He was driving his Kia, accompanied by two others. 50 meters past the church, a car stopped and three men went down from the car and sprayed him with bullets.

Angry Phalangists are burning tires in front of the Kataeb headquarters in Saifi, Beirut. The Internal Security Forces blocked the road from Doura to Saifi.

PM Seniora is heading a Cabinet meeting right now.
********************************************************************************

Pierre Gemayel was shot dead! Is it a deja-vu? Our civil war in 1975 started with the Phalangists and here we are back to square one.

He was in his Kia in Jdeideh, when a Range Rover passed by and sprayed him with bullets. He's dead now. He's gone.

I don't know what's going to happen to our country. I'm at work and I'm scared of tomorrow.

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

Monday, November 20, 2006

charging up...

I can feel it from here. The fear. The venom. The hatred. I can hear the vitriol in the privacy of homes - it's so loud, it deafens me. If Lebanese were not polarized already, then today, after the speeches given by two of the country's top henchmen, there is no question about it. Druze, Shi'ites, Sunnis and Maronites, cluster together in ever-tighter circles. People ask each other whether they have armed themselves. Wait... what am I saying? They asked themselves that question almost a year ago... . I remember.

"God damn those Shi'as..."

"Those Druze are not even worth my slippers..."

"Who do those spineless Sunnis think they are?"

"We can finish those brutish Maronites..."

The ugly, raw Lebanon gradually rises to the surface as the icing falls off the rotten cake. Yet even if Lebanon manages to avoid stumbling into full-fledged violence this year, or the next, or a decade from now, the country's arrival to this point tears me apart. The fact that people allow themselves to be dragged to this point, embitters me even more.

But who am I kidding? These people... these non-individuals, face a tyranny of the majority that I doubt John Stuart Mill ever contended with. The power of the sect over the individual, I have come to realize, can only be overcome by flight. Lebanon, apparently, only supports sects. It remains as hospitable to individuals as the atmosphere of Mars is to life. And when the sect says you hate, you hate. When it says you like, you like. And lastly, when it tells you to fight, you fight.

Friday, November 17, 2006

good news for lebanese

not all Lebanese, of course - that would be outright scandalous! Just a segment of the population. However, assuming that adult males constitute something like 35 percent of Lebanon's population, I would think this information impacts, say, 33 percent of Lebanese. Anyways, let me just cut to the point: a recent HealthDay article about the links between diet and cancer, said the following:
male smokers who eat foods containing high amounts of vitamin E – such as nuts, whole grains and green leafy vegetables – may have a decreased risk of developing tobacco-related cancers.
Ever wonder why your grand pa hasn't died of cancer yet even though he's 90 and he's been smoking since he was 13? Well, there you go! This little snippet of information could be Ghassan Tueini's secret of longevity. Take heed, and go stuff yourself with nuts!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

my attitude is that i'm disgusted with the situation

Lebanon's politicos/gangsters continue to take their orders, play their games of brinkmanship to impress their bosses, and bet on international developments, praying that the dice rolls in their favor.

As for international developments (the dice)... The Democratic electoral victory appears to have shaken things up a bit. How can you tell? Well, just read the headlines! "Berri says government is illegitimate," "Iran says the US and Israel will be defeated in Lebanon," "Hizballah rules out talks on Lebanon's political crisis," "Hope fades as Hizballah signals 'civil disobedience,'" " Syria ruled out of Iraq solution as state department looks to Iran," etc, etc...

Ahhh... how refreshing! some change for once! It appears as if the Iranians feel like they’ve got the Americans by the balls. The Democratic victory in the mid-term elections. The inevitable pressure on the Bush administration by the Republican Party to change course because the party would like to win the next round of elections and sees Middle East policy as a major obstacle. The Baker Commission and the rumored rise of the Realists at the expense of the Neocons within the administration itself - witness Rumsfeld's departure and the entrance of Robert Gates.

All of these developments apparently effect the Lebanese peasantry - yes, yes... I said peasantry. I figured citizenry is too generous a description. No, we're not citizens, we're all peasants. We're a collection of some of the most over-educated, over-confident, arrogant, spoilt, self-righteous, idiotic and oblivious peasant-groupings in the world. And we're so inept publicly and politically that we'd spend our time more valuably watching C-SPAN cover a Senate hearing on Medicare than watching our own daily news bulletins, or even discussing politics amongst ourselves.

In light of the aforementioned international developments, the "lords," as is their habit, continue to implement others' foreign policies on Lebanese soil. One grouping of them has just begun implementing the order to, as they say, raise the tempo. In the coming days, we'll see how far they are willing to go. We shall also see how the other grouping of idiots behaves now that they're the ones under pressure.

It's too bad this is happening. Lebanon's politicians have, quite literally, all the incentives in the world to follow the will of foreign patrons and absolutely no incentives to listen to their own people! How the hell do peasants act like citizens in such a miserable environment - even if they wanted to?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Tribunal

It is clear that the country is divided over the Hariri tribunal. Let's be honest and straightforward here: it's not about the failure of the last round of hiwar and it's not about the refusal of the majority to grant Hizbullah and co. the right to obstruct legislations tabled in Cabinet deliberations. It's about the international tribunal that will try those implicated in the assassination of former PM Hariri, MP Bassil Fleihan and all the other innocent lives that were claimed on that gloomy day of February 14, 2004.

If PM Seniora and the majority in the Cabinet were vindicated two days ago by managing to pass the tribunal's draft resolution; today's newspapers write that President Lahoud is refusing to acknowledge that move. Technically, it is not required that the President ratify the proposal at the moment; at a later stage though his signature will be required. And frankly, it does not bode well for those who want to see justice followed through, and for the first time in our history, on such a crime.

Just think about the precedent this tribunal will set for us and for our children moving forward. Just think about all those who were assassinated throughout the years, not only in Lebanon, but also around the Arab world, and we never learned who committed the crime.

It is apparent that Lahoud and Hizbullah are against the tribunal, despite all the chatter in the media that that's not the case. And even despite MP Saad Hariri's words in an interview yesterday claiming that Hizbullah has no hand in his father's assassination. I mean, first, he is not supposed to reveal what he knows regarding the investigations. Second, do you think by saying that we are more comforted or their resignation and upping the ante in their rhetoric at the particular moment of tabling the resolution is justified?

I don't need a politician to dissuade me from increasing suspicions that those who are opposing the tribunal have some connection to the crime. And perhaps Rafiq Hariri's crime was that he wanted to break with Syria and to discuss the disarmament of Hizbullah.

What's missing in the political discourse is a reason given by Nasrallah and Lahoud of why they oppose the tribunal. Instead what we get is holier than thou rhetoric that is leading our country down to the abyss.

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

the illusion of a state and of a people

a friend of mine continues to march on the long and winding journey that ends with a doctorate in political studies. He is not Lebanese. However, his subject constitutes those of us in this world who identify ourselves as Lebanese - (ouch!). This blond, blue-eyed man wants to understand us... wants to comprehend what this notion of "Lebaneseness" means to us. I can only cheer him on.

Around a week ago, he sent me a link to a webpage on which an essay written by AUB sociology professor Nabil Dajani was published. Dajani's subject: Lebanon's television broadcasting stations. More specifically, their role in the Lebanese political process as well as their impact on Lebanese society.

The professor's conclusions were obvious. However his putting them in words, and within the template of an academic study makes them that much more profound. He argues, the role of television stations in the political process is top-down in nature: a tool of the elites. Contrast this portrayal with the role of media institutions in more civilized political systems (where, if you are not aware, the media constitutes a tool of accountability) and feel the pain!

As for the impact of television stations on Lebanese society, Dajani claims they serve to reinforce sectarian divisions. He cites the selective flow and witholding of information or disinformation based on sectarian audiences as the main reason. Ultimately, Lebanese who watch different channels see their worlds through different and, sometimes, dangerously contradictory prisms.

Dajani's conclusion:
The problematic nature of television and other mass media in Lebanon lies in a flawed visualization of the meaning of freedom. It does not lie in the issue of censorship or lack of a free media environment. This distorted visualization of feedom plays into the hands of private interests that both override and overwhelm social responsibility.
Here are some more pertinent quotes for your enjoyment.

Concerning television's penetration into Lebanese houeholds, Dajani writes,

Television dominates the flow of information in Lebanon. According to recent figures by an authoritative study, about 65 percent of Lebanese adults view two to four hours per day, and about 82 percent of the population views television on a daily basis, while 95 percent watch television, but not regularly... . In 2003, terrestrial television penetration was at approximately 99 percent of all households.

Concerning the effect of Lebanon's television stations on relationships amongst Lebanese of different sects, he noted,


Television has both helped maintain the divisions that exist within the society and contributed to the alienation of the average individual. Indeed, inasmuch as Lebanese television typically appeals to individual sects and ethnic groups within the country, it helps to sustain the condition of sectarian and ethnic division.

Concerning the public square,


citizens remain ignorant of how their political affairs are handled. Because of their ignorance, they are powerless. Consequently, we are today witnessing in Lebanon a media situation that in fact contributes to the re-feudalization of the public sphere.

Concerning freedom (in fact, his hypothesis),


The problematic nature of television and other mass media in Lebanon lies in a flawed visualization of the meaning of freedom. It does not lie in the issue of censorship or lack of a free media environment. This distorted visualization of freedom plays into the hands of private interests that both override and overwhelm social responsibility. Censorship is no longer the most useful lens through which to focus on the subject of freedom of expression. A better means of focusing on freedom of expression is the subject of human rights, particularly the right of the individual to communicate in order to improve the quality of her or his life and to practice true democracy.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Contradictions And Old Games

Interestingly enough, both Ministers Charles Rizk and Ya'coub Sarraf are closely affiliated with President Lahoud, to be more exact, were chosen to take part in the Cabinet as his representatives, yet Sarraf decided to turn in his resignation on the eve of voting to authorize the Hariri tribunal, while Rizk stayed behind to vote for that landmark legislation.

Ya'coub Sarraf, as the former Beirut Governor when PM Hariri was assassinated, has a lot to lose from enacting the tribunal. His name many times was brought up when discussing construction/maintenance permits that he authorized before and around the time Hariri was assassinated back in February 2004.

The question is why didn't Rizk resign as well? Him staying behind did in effect provide a rather more legitimate face to the currently-paralyzed Cabinet. Perhaps his position as the Justice Minister renders it hypocritical to opt out when such an important legislation is being put on the table for ratification.

Another puzzling move was how Berri approved the resignations of his Ministers, yet still considered the process of voting for the tribunal with six Ministers missing on the table as constitutional and legitimate (as opposed to Lahoud and Aoun touting the government as defunct). I wonder how much more Berri can squeeze out of taking a clear position; he's been trying to be on everyone's side, but it's proving to be a haggard game, almost like a deja-vu and it gets boring.

At any rate, it only seems like it's the beginning of some end. Nothing bodes well. If PM Seniora was able to approve the Hariri tribunal, then Hizbullah/Amal/FPM still have the Parliament to bring about further pressure on the current system.

We'll wait and see.

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

Monday, November 13, 2006

the boxing match

The boxing match continues. Except the boxers (both of whom wear shorts with the Lebanese colors) continue to shout at each other, and occasionally get beat up by supposed spectators from outside the ring. Actually, a better analogy would be a cock fight – and, again, every once-in-a-while the owner of one of the birds punches the his adversary's on the head.

As for the cocks themselves, well… as with the boxing analogy, they haven’t pecked at each other yet. Except, they stand by gleefully and watch the beating their opponent gets.

Come to think of it, the animals manifest a very Lebanese kind of behavior! Those of you who happened to be male, and who grew up in Lebanon know exactly what I mean. I’m referring to the fight between two guys or “2urtas.” I'm referring to the telephone calls, the shouting and screaming, the "hold me backs" because "I'm gonna $*%& him up" and finally, the hope of all involved that somebody else (anybody) would just come and do the beating for them.

So the elite in Lebanon – along with their hot-blooded moronic buffoons (a.k.a. followers) – posture and wait. They pray that they don’t have to fight, but desire, with equal intensity, that their adversary somehow yields.

For her part, the average Lebanese just sits, watches and tries to avoid getting hurt in the fracas. She tosses her hopes and concerns into the toilet. She watches the elite and prays to God that they don’t step beyond the threshold. And lastly, she makes preparations for the worst.