Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chalice from Hell

The latest Hezb’O’tantrum is revealing in two ways;

First, it now establishes that Lebanon is indeed a failed state. We're beyond simple electile dysfunction; the absence of the rule of law had already been documented, it is now exposed to the outside world. The Lebanese government now has received two warnings. The first warning comes from its hawkish American protectors that it needed to live up to its responsibilities, or face the consequences of its incompetence. The second warning is from Hezb’O’’Partners that it better do no such thing, lest Bachar’s promise to Hariri be realized.

Second, it demonstrates that we’ve been barking up the wrong occupier. Those who fear “Saudization of Lebanon” under Hariri better take heed. We have lost much more than a presidential "chair" warmer. What may have started as a Syrian occupation has now turned into an Iranian takeover of Lebanon, if not the entire Levant. This indicates that Lebanon may not be a failed state as much as a “pod-state”, a bystander to its own demise, taken over by a parasitic Hezb’O’State.

With the above in mind, consider that Assad’s last “offer” of a peace-related land swap is now all but rejected by a skeptical Israel. Factor out the much-abused UNIFIL. Add in the fact that Israel, now chafing at the bit, may have a better land-swap in mind.

You get an interesting “external” motivation.

Now, in addition to the external implications. Consider the corrosive effect of Hezb’O’Monopoly. Factor in the rising Sunni anger at the martyrdom of “our modern-day Hussein”. Add in the unique features of our Lebanese "lobster basket".

You get an interesting “internal” motivation.

Now, mix both implications. Add a zest of Arab-Iranian rivalry, and a pinch of a “frozen” Palestinian issue.

And Wait…

But be mindful of Von Moltke, and keep a safe distance away

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Prince Feisal, King Assad

History does not repeat itself.

Humans Do.

More accurately, those of us who ignore its lessons. Humans like today’s “leaders” with their excessive focus on the short term, often invite even more trouble.

In Lebanon, history matters supremely. Our “leaders”, however, often ignore its lessons and obfuscate the truth. As they scurry around missing election deadlines and bullying the nation, their respective masters are working hard behind the scenes to sell us down the river…

If we go even that far….

Defining Sovereignty Down

The Syrians are busy making noises about a peace deal with Israel. Maybe the Americans do not really mind that some Israelis appear ready to give up the Golan provided the Syrians can be allowed back in Lebanon to finish what they could not. After all, it worked before, didn’t it?

At first blush, it appears that Syria would get the land back... A land where no Syrians are allowed, and where American radars will monitor Syrian goat movements (No troops will be allowed anywhere near the region). A land without water

Heck of a deal… Indeed, why bother with “inconvenient truths”, bothersome facts, or uncomfortable evidence? The solution is only a contradiction away if you’re willing to delude yourself…

Short Memories and NeoLibs

In response to such a Syrian “advance”, NeoLibs are jumping with excitement as they see their “talk” bear fruition.

They are angry at the NeoCons for leaking out information about the Syrian reactor. Yes, the timing of the information release is aimed at “misguiding congress”, as it endangers the North Korean deal. However, whether this is a “distraction” remains beside the point. From our perspective; if the Syrian’s talk about peace is serious, so should their actions.


It is a sad fact that, for all the professed peace loving, the NeoLib’s worldview is no less stereotypical than the NeoCons. It is essentially an elitist mindset that assumes that “Leaders” can sign away what their own people would not relinquish. Whatever one thinks of the merits of the underlying popular claims, this expectation is unrealistic; recall the last Arab “leader” who promised to sign his people’s rights away? After he failed to deliver, he could only wither away in disgrace, exiled from the land he claimed to cherish. His people had little option but to give him a hero’s burial, in gratitude for services (not) rendered.

The pattern continues today. We Lebanese are limited to choosing among war criminals, pretentious politicians, petty demagogues, false prophets... Is the hype so loud as to hide all their lies?

Back to the Past

The trouble with lost political “purity” is that it is hard to reclaim… From compromise to compromise, such “leaders” will each sell their (respective) people short. They have turned their coats far too often, and can only lower their pants.

For now, it appears the Israelis are not biting. But they may do so under different circumstances; today’s petty trading is nothing new in our region’s history.

Back in 1919, some of the hopes of a nascent nation were once signed away by its self proclaimed King of the Arabs who longed for the throne of Damascus. Back then, Lebanon was part of the deal.

Today, some of the hopes of the exiled nation(s) today are being sold at a bargain price by a self proclaimed Champion of the Palestinians eager to keep his throne in Damascus. And today, Lebanon is still part of the deal.

Whatever the reason, such partial/limited agreements remain unworkable in the regional context. The 1919 deal did not last back then, it will not sell now, and it will never work tomorrow.

But the NeoLibs/NeoCon will each keep on trying, with a little local help.

As long as we keep herding after such "leaders"…

Monday, April 21, 2008

From NeoCons to NeoLibs?

With Bush, we endured the NeoCons.

They tried to change the world by force, only to our make things worse.

With Snobama & Co., we may suffer the NeoLibs,

who claim they can change the world by talk. They are also likely to make it even worse.

And why is that? Simply because each misunderstood Teddy Roosevelt’s tried and true method;

have always been fond of the West African proverb: "Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far

Each one of those simpletons confined themselves to one part of this sentence.

The NeoCons prefer the Big Stick.

By relying on force, they hope that dictators would marshal those pesky Ragheads into accepting whatever diktat suited the great and good. Their “New Middle East” would continue to witness Arafat’s lies and deceits, Mubarak’s grip on power, and Bashar’s bloody dictatorship… Whatever you do, please do it quietly as long as you’re willing to sign a “peace” treaty with Israel.

The NeoLibs prefer the Soft Talk.

By relying on suasion, they hope that those pesky Camel Jockeys would herd themselves into a less confrontational stance. They will soon propose their own “Improved Middle East”, with restless, messy states, mis-governed by smallish strongmen who will carry on our great tradition of sectarian strife… Whatever you do, please do it quietly as long as you’re fighting away from Israel

The NeoPilots Like Both of Them...

It is a wonder that no one ever tried a less dogmatic approach to the Middle East. After all, the region is rather easy to figure out once you pragmatically remove the prisms of ideology. It is amazing how little Americans understand of their own history, and how little they comprehend of the Founding Father’s wisdom. Had they missed Benjamin Franklin’s;

“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”

Or maybe those simpletons think that freedom can be “walled in”. So I will put it in plain English; our Freedom and your "Essential Liberty" are intertwined, and our "Temporary Safety" and your security are deeply linked

Quand on est Con...

Those who ignore it will let either NeoCon’s or NeoLib’s lead the United States into making further mistakes. And when the next Carpet Pilot will fly their way into another high rise building, or worse, they will blame all but themselves.

No wonder few Arabs can really see “change we can believe in”.

[Snobama] effectively told the Iraqis once again that they weren't worth anything to America. If violence and corruption were controllable, if Al-Qaeda was still around but was limited to Iraq proper, if Washington could stomach the Iranian manipulation of Iraqis, then it made little difference what the deeper aspirations of Iraqis in general were. Iraq could be a suppurating wound at the heart of the Middle East - a suppurating wound, Obama has tirelessly reminded us, which the US helped create - but that counted for little when faced with the American urge to get out as soon as possible.


Someone please call the Pottery Barn!


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Why Go After Drunkards?

At one political rally that I was attending, the speaker fire up;

We should finish off all the Jews, and all Drunkards!

In the audience, one person demurred;

Why the Drunkards? Can't we Rehabilitate them?

OK, That was a joke

Really. I don’t attend political rallies.

Not anymore.

However, the implication is not a joke, not really; the fools abound. One of them got angry at me because I berated him for ranting about "Alawite Dictators". Another was adamant about the "Shiite Crescent". Yet another insisted on "Fanatical Sunnis"... The point I kept making to those intellectuals is simple to understand for anyone who does not buy whoppers such as Obama's crapola; whoever your "uncles" are, whatever the support (you think) you need, sectarian politics can explain things (particularly in the Middle East), but they cannot justify policies or form the basis of opinion.

Think about it; whichever community you belong to, through your many conversations in Lebanon you may have overheard similar discussion threads. One hypocrisy at a time, we’re slowly “drifting” into a zone of “soft bigotry”, with people harping on the supposed evil motivations of the “others” and their nefarious plans.

But No One Really Wants War...

Of course not. No one wants war. Well, not really. Not intentionally

No one really wanted the first one.

No one really wanted nor planned any of the region’s orgies of confessional massacres, global imprisonments, mass graves, widespread kidnappings…

No one plans to become a refugee of hubris, be emigrated away from their country, or become the jailers of their fellow brothers….

No one really prepares for such things.

But once the road to hell is paved with the good intentions of politicians, we will easily walk on it, step by incremental step, led on by the soft bigotry of a growing racist expectation…

After All, They All Did It, Didn’t They?

Of all the people who were led down this road to carry out such atrocities, only the Germans learned the Lesson of history… Well, maybe not so well.

Not everything that happens, good or bad, can be really planned for or thought of… We Lebanese may well be laying the grounds for something that will improve of the innovations of the former Yugoslavs. Yes, our past performance is not encouraging in this respect; we Lebanese did not even go as far the Turks in their orgy of massacre, but there’s hope for us to best them all… And more.

So however you worship, do keep up the pace. Keep up the talk about Devious Sunnis, Treacherous Shiites, Untrustworthy Druze, or Crusading Christians…

…We’ll get there soon enough


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Nobel's Hell

What’s the relation between the number of Nobel Peace Laureates and the probability of peace?

An Inverse Correlation.

After all, Ghandi was never considered worthy of the prize, was he? So we should not be too harsh on Jimmy Carter; after all, the best ex-president of the United States is only trying to live up to this peace prize by inadvertently heating things up here for us peones...

In his misguided foray, he is trying harder than even Henry "Cambodia" Kissinger ever dared, and we can be assured that whatever deals he makes in the region will have as much staying power as Lester B. Pearson’s "Thin Blue Line". But such is expected; after the “success” of the Camp David accord, Carter can only go down from that.

However, Carter is at least trying to do a better job than other laureates, some of whom he contributed to "make".

Indeed, the prize money was not enough for Anwar "Islamic Brotherhood" Sadate. He had to continue Egypt’s tradition of corruption and nepotism. He had big shoes to fill, after all, and the current Pharaoh can only continue the tradition, The lofty ideals did not rub-off on Menachem "Irgun" Begin. Soon after, he had to invade Lebanon in an attempt to enforce peace over there. It all ended with Sabra and Shatila, the “War of the Mountain”... and, perversely, to the rise of Hezb’O.

Some may feel disappointed that Carter’s best efforts go unrecognized. The “Middle Fool” unable to meet with fellow laureates.

Too bad; Shimon "Father of the Bomb" Peres would not receive him, and the other two co-laureates, Ishak "Break their Bones" Rabin and Yasser "Road to Jounieh and Damour" Arafat remain unavailable for comment.

Still, there were some interesting reactions to the trip...

...At the very least, Carter demonstrated his good intentions.

...And all of us riding along this road need the paving.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

How Many Miles...

How many roads must Berri walk down

And still be worthy of the man?

Yes, 'n' how many “victories” must Nasrallah claim

Before they're forever banned?

Yes, 'n' how many seas must our people sail

Before they can come back to their home?

Our sister, my friend, is blowin' up the free,

Our country’s wastin' its best minds.

How many years must Geagea have spent

Before we can see past his past?

Yes, 'n' how many ears must Michel Aoun have

Before he can hear people cry?

Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till Joumblat

Sees that too many people were killed?

Our sister, my friend, is armin’ up the worst,

Our country’s wastin’ too much time.

How many dollars can the Hariris still waste

Before it's washed to the sea?

Yes, 'n' how many years can our people resist

Before they're allowed to be free?

Yes, 'n' how many times can the West turn their head,

Pretending they just do not see?

Their own smoke, my friend, is blowin' up their a#s,

Our nation’s nowhere to be found.

Graphic Video... This could have been any other group/town
Uploaded by mnmlynda2000

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Chattering Classes

There is much “signal noise” being generated in and around the Middle East these days. More “noise” than “news”.

There is much talk about a testifying general, an investigator who’s missing “key witness” and who may be going nowhere(?), another investigation that is being “cooked”, jawjaw among lame ducks while one successor quietly readies himself, a couple of touring Lebanese officials, the future hopes of an ex-president, some tourists “going native”… Nothing of substance, really, but the papers must write up something.

And so, in spite of a few (funny) exceptions, newspapers can only report on the noise.

The Local Mess

In the Middle East, nothing worthwhile is likely to happen before the results of the elections in the United States.

Sure, there will likely be a killing or two, another invasion, or another war. But matter no more than the movement of the waves preceding the tide. We local peones hardly matter in the grand scheme of things.

We can only watch the flowing and ebbing of influences. The allure of Lebanon is likely to keep tugging at Syria; yesterday the Assad clan was in retreat, now it is advancing… The Syrians may never be allowed back in Lebanon, but they have nothing else to do

Pottery Barn

In the United States, presidential candidates vying for sound bites will try to use the public event to appear knowledgeable or bullshit their way into the 24’O Clock news. Whatever good it will do them is unclear, but the fact remains that the United States cannot leave Iraq any time soon. Whatever the electioneering;

They break it, they own it


Or they’re “owned” by it. So whatever the facts, some politicos will try to use the issue as a punching bag to mark some points against the other side. At this stage, however, it all remains useless grand standing.

The real game is not won on points.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

War of the Worlds

A downfall fascinates

Whoever reads history has wondered at some point about the fall of Roman Empire, or the disintegration of the Chinese Empire. Many great books have been written about the underlying causes and mechanisms, but the debate remains unsettled.

Small Stuff

This may well because the underlying cause remains to be found.

Or, more likely, there is no underlying cause; a downfall is made up of small stuff.

So there are no small battles for the survival of civilization; here and there, some odd things chip away at the common values who hold together a society. The stories are odd enough to be reported, but few people did any deeper, and the facts remain hidden among the little oddities of life…

But the facts are not odd. This latest tidbit in the British media was interesting; it seems a polygamist can be allowed exceptions in order to honour his multiple wives, all in the name of “respect” of his customs.

His lawyer told a Scottish court the Muslim restaurant owner has one wife in Motherwell and another in Glasgow - he is allowed up to four under his religion - and sleeps with them on alternate nights.

On the face of it, driving above the speed limit is illegal; even considering that man’s laudable aim to get lucky twice in a day we’re far from a medical emergency there. Normally, such an excuse would have landed the guy in jail, with a roommate named Ben…

This is because polygamy is far from being an acceptable practice. Aside from the fact that few average men who can convince different women to “share” him, it is frowned upon in both the religious and secular realm.

Polygamy in Islam

To be sure, there is a confusion among many circles about polygamy. Yes, Islam does not provide an explicit prohibition of polygamy. But neither do Judaism nor Christianity. The prohibition "evolved" over time.

Crucially, Islam was innovative in this respect, maybe because it had to address the societal ills of the "Jahiliya". Rather than avoiding the issue, it addressed it head on. It does not regard polygamy as a substitute for monogamy.

Islam talks about polygamy only where it concerns "oppressed or the orphans among women". And yes, it is allowed by (Al-Nisa-4:3):

If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three, or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly (with them) then only one.

Then, much like all religions, Islam quickly provides a cautionary note (Al-Nisa-4:3):

You are never able to be fair and just between women even if that were your ardent desire.

As you can see, the issue is therefore more delicate than reported, and it remains far from settled. In this context, the practice of polygamy that endures is not rooted in the Koran, but owes far more to a still dynamic "Jahiliya" societal practice. Much of is based on a biased interpretation of the texts, and an excessive focus on “hadith” and tradition, often at the expense of logic.

In Secular Societies

In secular societies, the equality of rights means that polygamy is illegal. But the case of England is interesting.

While polygamy was originally prohibited in Britain because of arguments grounded on the Christian view of marriage in that country, those arguments have now "metamorphosed into the unacceptability of the custom on grounds of ‘community relations' or the norms of gender equality and human rights."

So now equality is a “Christian mental construct”? What kind of ignorant racists came up with that? And worse, what kind of arrogant racists (are set to) accept that?

We’re far from Ibn-Rushd here. The ancient Andalousian had understood that the Prophet Mohammad had not only to preach a religion, but also to reform with a brutal “Jahiliya” society. In the Arab society of the time, women were not merely treated as second-class citizens, but as property, with few rights. Capitalism can be a hard opponent, and its “Jahiliya” form no less than any other.

His ideas were extrapolated to Christianity, and when adapted by Saint Thomas Aquinas, they strongly influenced the Renaissance in the West, which brought about our modern, secular-universal values. Modern Islamic scholars, however, are reverted back to earlier interpretations of the “Jahiliya”, when women were treated as real estate…

Interestingly, the few Islamic Feminists who dare opposing them find little support in the West, into which the “Jahiliya” ideals are now trickling back.

Maybe Rome just got tired...

Waste of Oxygen

I guess that such “eating the air” were “guarbajized” during the days of the “last breath” of Rome.

It is possible that, before Atilla came along, some guy had argued to the Roman courts for the right to carry out some odd “practice” sanctioned by his religion. It would be interesting to see if some historian carried out some sleuthing among archives of Roman courts, and looked at the pattern of cases and judgments…

Whatever archives did not get destroyed during the fall of Rome, that is. So welcome to the dark ages. In a sense, Western extremists are (w)right;

One's downfall is of one's making