Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Guest Writer: One Year On

By Marc

I wrote a piece for the Blacksmiths of Lebanon about a year ago describing my thoughts (and alarm) about the animosity that was beginning to boil amongst the partisans of the various factions of Lebanon (or is it simply the revival of the ancient Sunni-Shi’ite animosity being played out in Lebanon and beyond???). Shortly after, not more than two months later, violence did erupt. That day was indeed a turning point for me.

Prior to those events I had staunchly supported the Free Patriotic Movement’s (FPM) drive to implement their ‘agenda’; the secularization of the state, disarmament of Hizbullah alongside with the enforcement of the Lebanese Army and the development of effective defence strategies against our enemies, the anti-corruption drive, the revival of the economy, the elimination of poverty and the fair distribution of wealth, and so forth. I still support these ‘principles’, but no longer the real political agendas of the self-proclaimed champions of such ideas. I have come to realize that indeed those that I once supported are championing instead extremism, fostering even more animosity, and doing the exact same (or even more) things as their political enemies in terms of pushing forward the agendas of regional powers at the expense of Lebanon’s economy, institutions, sovereignty, and people. I had hoped that these factions that I supported with such foolish political zeal (alas! As so many of us have been infected with this social disease) would have somehow taken the lead in moderation, justice and reconciliation and now I am afraid I have been quite disappointed.

I do not wish to go into details about the FPM’s (and the General’s) statements, actions and policies in the last year or so that have greatly eroded my once strong confidence in them. Perhaps I am even quite late in writing this piece as I think much of the General’s strong support base from Christian moderates has also been eroded during this time for the same reason. One of my aims here is to point out that indeed most of the political factions in Lebanon are pushing for the return of Lebanon to tutelage and forward into a new era of sectarian extremism; sadly, foremost amongst these factions has been the FPM. I do not wish to speak of the FPM’s opponents; I have never supported them to begin with (and I don’t think I ever will) and thus I have no issue with them… its rather the leaders that we, as individual Lebanese citizens, support that deserve to be called to account by ourselves.

In conclusion, I hope that this piece does more than simply make a few March 14’ers, chronically affected by anti-Aounism, happy. Instead, I hope that Aoun’s lovers (and perhaps the blind followers of every wretched political movement and personality which claims to love Lebanon) would realize that the General (or their respective demigods) has deviated greatly (see the post ‘A word about Aoun’ for more) from the principles that won so many to his side in the first place. I also do not wish to raise the ire of FPM’ers, I rather hope that they would call General Aoun to account and demand explanations from him and realize that they are fast becoming captives of the very oppressors they sought to free Lebanon from; tutelage, corruption, sectarianism, extremism, political tribalism, ignorance and so much more. Perhaps they (all political zealots) made a mistake in expecting that our national salvation could come from any of these ‘messiahs’, don’t you think so?

[Please note that I wrote this essay about a week before the ‘Black Sunday’ of January 27th 2008. I also would like to explicitly declare that I am politically neutral in Lebanon and beyond. So long as I do not see responsible leadership amongst the so-called ‘leaders’ of Lebanon, none shall ever again have my vote or support; I can only wish all leaders of our beloved land good governance].

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Breaking News: Army Attacked by Rioters + Gunmen

Hi Everyone,

I really have no time to report on this today, but check the news services and see:

Riots started out in the Chiyyah area with road closures and burning tires. Upon deploying to the area, the Army came under fire from unidentified gunmen. A firefight broke out and one Amal official was killed. Riots are now being reported in other Shiite suburbs around Beirut with the latest development being (you guessed it) a closure of the Airport road with burning tires.

The attacks on our institutions continue with the aim of dismantling the Lebanese state and replacing it with a quasi-Syrian province [slash] Iranian paramilitary front.

Thanks to the inviability of these plans and the historically proven inability of any one side [this time Hizballah] to impose its will on the rest of the Lebanese political/sectarian groupings, these plans will most likely fail. The issue remains, however: what will it cost our country before they do? Syria, Iran and their quislings in Lebanon [starting with Nasrallah, Berri, Aoun, and going all the way down to "the Qansos", Wahhab, and Franjieh] continue to work to ensure that price is high.

For continuous updates check the Lebanon News + Infomags links in our left sidebar.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Breaking News: Top ISF Investigator Killed

I don't have any time today to follow up on this latest assassination. My condolences to the family and to that portion of the country that cares.

Captain Wissam Eid was a leading technological expert in the Internal Security Forces, one of only a handful of security services purged of Syrian infiltration. The Captain was highly involved in the investigation of the Hariri assassination as well as the string of assassinations that have plagued the country over the past three and a half years. After surviving a previous attempt on his life in February of 2006, Captain Eid was killed today along with 2 of his bodyguards and 4 civilian bystanders.

Captain Eid is not the first member of the ISF's investigations department to have been the target of assassination. Back in September 2006, Lt. Col. Samir Shehade has the target of a bomb which took the lives of a number of his aides. Shehade was a chief investigator in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. After close to three years of investigation, Syria remains the chief suspect in that assassination and those that have followed, including this one!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Meanwhile in the Gulf...

...[Sunni] Arab countries continue to take preparatory measures ahead of the oncoming confrontation with [Shiite] Iran:
France and the UAE have signed a deal allowing France to set up a permanent military base, the first in the Gulf for a Western power other than the US.


The two countries also signed a deal to develop peaceful nuclear energy during a visit by President Nicolas Sarkozy.
This as our little country bears the brunt of the "second front" of this confrontation in the shape of Iran's proxy-militia Hizballah and its war on the state [or highjacking of the state]. Look to the end of the month for the newest wave of attacks and look to Syria's tools and allies [Aoun and Franjieh] to provide the fodder for this attack in the form of the country's Christian community (and its youth, in particular).

The ground work is already being laid with the vilest attacks against the spiritual seat of the community since the last time that demented General sought to burn the country and the community.

Add to that a new [or old] intent to undermine the unity and trust in the Army that street protests would entail [and that Franjieh has also started laying the ground work for], and what do you get?

...let’s for a moment deconstruct what such [opposition-led street] action might actually mean. First, if Hezbollah decides to go ahead with street action, what is the result likely to be? One of two things will happen: The army will either confront the protestors, forcing soldiers to fight civilians, or it will stand aloof and do nothing. In either case, the army would be discredited. Is that the opposition’s true aim in its continuing efforts to derail the election of Michel Sleiman as president?

Read rest of NOW Lebanon Editorial here.
The answer is a breakdown in the state. Lebanon, Lebanese beware.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Lebanese Economy in 2007: Brief Review

While Syria's goons - led primarily by Hizballah - have threatened a series of civil disturbance actions [one of which we witnessed yesterday just before the attack on a U.S. Embassy vehicle] meant to intimidate the country into handing all executive authority back to Syria and its instruments in the country, I thought it would be interesting to briefly highlight the state of the economy in the country...

...especially as social and economic woes will be the guise under which the protests will take place [kinda like those barely perceptible labour strikes we were hit with last January before the attempted coup - or coup rehearsal]. In any case, here is the briefest of looks at Lebanon's economic situation in 2007 provided by the Oxford Business Group [HatTip David B. Kenner],
Rather remarkably, given the political turmoil, some elements of Lebanon's economy functioned quite well during the year. On January 8, 2008 the finance ministry announced the state deficit for the first 11 months of 2007 had been reduced from 37% to 31%. To the 11 months ending November 30, Lebanon recorded a primary budgetary surplus, excluding debt servicing costs, of $643m, a 372% improvement over the same period in 2006.


One area that saw little improvement during the year was Lebanon's debt level, which remained fixed at $41bn, 185% percent of GDP. Servicing that debt ate up 48% of the state's revenues of $5.3bn to the end of November, with wages payments to public servants being the next largest singe expense, an expense the government wants to reduce through reforming the civil service in the coming year.

Read more here.
And if you think having debt is bad, consider how bad it is when a country can't even conduct an analysis of the short-term costs of that debt vs. the long-run benefits derived from an economic policy based on the long-term infrastructural investments [supposedly] built with that debt.

But then again, it is hard to do any such analysis when those benefits are blown to smithereens in a July War of a certain group's [Hizballah's] making and all you're left with are coffins, burnt cinders, and - of course, the debt.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Video Blogger goes to Scene of Attack

Blogger Harold Doornbos provides this video from the scene of the bombing directly after it happened:

Breaking News: Bomb Targets American Embassy Convoy

Four people have been reported dead in an explosion which targetted an American Embassy vehicle in the Dora-Karantina district, near the Beirut Seaport.

News services in Lebanon report that the explosion was caused by a remote-detonated car bomb. Images from the scene show the targeted amored embassy SUV as being largely unscathed (save crashing into a storefront) while other [unarmored] civilian cars lay totally destroyed.
Lebanese Premier, Fouad Seniora, has called an emergency cabinet meeting in response to the attack. Meanwhile the Lebanese Army has reportedly taken two people present at the scene of the crime into custody for questioning.

The Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC) has reported that the convoy had been on its way back from the airport. Approximately 20 minutes before the bombing occured a "spontaneous" protest had broken out along a highway leading to the Airport. The area in which the protest broke out is a heavily-controlled Hizballah stronghold. Any link between the two events remains speculative, however.

According to Lebanese news website, YaLibnan, the US Embassy had scheduled a farewell party for departing U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman at the Pheonecia Hotel for that evenning. That event has now been cancelled.

The site also reported the name of an American national injured the attack as: Mathew Claiton. The names of the Lebanese victims have not yet been released.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Song Remains the Same

I received this image by email the other day and thought I would put it up ... you know, just for kicks.

As far as I can tell the license plate visible on the bike is most probably Photoshopped - but that matters little.

Given today's highly polarized atmosphere and the presence of Hizballah-controlled security zones in which police patrols [and fire-rescue engines] are short, few, and controlled - if they take place at all - the image could just as well be real.

[For those of you having trouble reading it, the license plate depicts a cedar below which are two crossed zulfiqar scimitars along with the inscription: Jumhuriyyat el Dahiyeh - translated as Republic of Dahiyeh].

In any case, this post shouldn’t be taken as a sign of a return to regular blogging...

...after all the situation on the ground has remained the same: We already know that Hizballah is trying to thrash and trash the Taef (along with the movement to secular governance it embodies) and replace it with a dual institutional system in which it [as a non-democratic, fundamentalist, paramilitary institution] would hold exclusive status.

We know that it is succeeding in accomplishing this [by virtue of simply not having a President – as a first step at least] thanks primarily to the political cover being provided by our own buffoonish General Michel “BenedictAounald [NOW Lebanon provides an entertaining look at Aoun-logic].

And we know that both of these [destructive] forces have aligned themselves with a Syrian regime intent on smothering that movement for sovereignty known as the Cedar Revolution (now gasping for breath!), and scuttling the International Tribunal.

Heck!, we even know what violent and disruptive measures they’ve been planning (since 2006 and before) to use to bring about their desired results [as if assassinations and terrorist insurgencies weren't enough!]

And so despite all the genuis, courage, and beauty of our country, the song remaings the same...

...nobody said securing a truly independent secular state was going to be easy [traitors, buffoons, fundamentalists, terrorist regimes (to the South as well as to the North and East), slimeball politicians, and all]!
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