Impressions, views, and steam-blowing by a lonesome cowboy.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Army Response: Better, but not Enough. (Updated)

The words used by our politicians and our military have got to change. Along with their actions.

Mohamed Ismail, a civilian, doing work for and with the Lebanese Army as shot dead two days ago. In my book, the shooting killed an innocent Lebanese civilian (bad enough) AND was an assault on the authority of the army, pure and simple.

The army suspects Jibreel forces PFLP-GC (Syrian-Palestinian) near the Syrian border, and has send commando forces and tanks to the Jibreel (illegal) bases in the Bekaa. The show of force is necessary of course, but not enough. This mild/moderate so far approach has been the subject of my 3 last posts.

The Army is now saying: "we would not sit back handcuffed if we are attacked. We shall defend ourselves."


To add insult to injury, and previous insult:


PFLP-GC's Lebanon representative Anwar Raja has confirmed that the group's guerrillas had taken 6 Lebanese soldiers hostage in Sultan Yacoub, but only for one hour on Wednesday. They were turned over to the army's intelligence command in the Bekaa unmolested, Raja said.

The creeps apparently took 6 army soldiers hostages. Should we think it's "OK" because they were "only" held for one hour, and thank God released unharmed. We are "lucky" the PFLP-GC was magnanimous, and decided the soldiers had a right to be on Lebanese territory, or whatever.

Has your head exploded or not yet?


Does anyone in Lebanon understand that this CRAP will go on, and spread, and worsen to every thug in Lebanon? Why should any thug fear the authority of the State and the law? Without that, those expecting a stable secure Lebanon where the economy and other things are fixed are deluding themselves, big time. I don't even want to get into how the breakdown of authority led to the 75-76 disaster.

UPDATE AND CORRECTION (October 28/29): The army suspects a member of Fateh-Intifada (not PFLP as stated in my post) in the killing of Mohamed Ismail. The army denies 6 hostages were taken. I wonder why the PFLP spokesman said they took hostages then. The latest reports are that the army has eased he pressure( ??? the army/government want to negotiate). Yeah. That'll show them, and impress people who have been trampling on Lebanese authority for over 30 years.

Like my first sentence in this post says: I am not just advocating stronger military action. The government has to get tougher on those groups and their sponsors. The government should publicly pressure Mahmoud Abbas to do more. Also it should pressure Syria to do more and to further damage their local allies politically. Ditto the Arab League. In other words a PR campaign for the long term.

A commenter below says the army cannot handle this type of job. If that is true we are in deep, deep, trouble. And Lahoud, the "builder" of the new army has found reason number 4056 to resign.

UPDATE2 (October 29) Here's what Saniora said today about the Bekaa situation (Naharnet):

"But there is no intention for military action. Such action is absolutely out of our political dictionary," he said. What if you're attacked Fuad? Is the army joking when it is sending troops?

I give up. (See my comment below in "comments" section)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bekaa Army Action: Let's Hope it's Serious

This short post is an update and a follow-up on the previous post, Fun with Jund el Sham.

I hope the Lebanese government and Lebanese army are DEAD SERIOUS (pun intended) about the recent developments in the Bekaa valley, near the Syrian border. It is very important that a CLEAR message is sent especially since Ahmed Jibreel (a Palestinian puppet of Syria) is involved. Jibreel, who is cited as a potential accomplice in the UN Mehlis report, has the gall to make daily declarations criticizing and almost threatening Lebanese officials. He also thinks smuggling arms into Lebanon, and carrying them around (in and outside Palestinians camps) is OK. The arrogance of this (non-Lebanese) creep in defying the Lebanese State is outrageous.

An authority which ignores threats to itself, is only undermining itself, and can expect more of the same, and worse of the same.

The Bekaa situation : A topographer of the Lebanese army, Mohamed Ismail (RIP), was killed two days ago, near the Syrian border. The army is apparently trying to get the killer. Syrian dog Jibreel (PFLP-GC), who is apparently involved again, and his men are surrounded. Jibreel says "there can't be a dialogue between us with a gun pointed to our head." Good. Very good. Excellent. There is a time for dialogue, and there is a time for force.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Fun with Jund el Sham

Once more, a development that shows that in Lebanon concepts like "sovereignty" and "rule of law" are mere jokes. The tragedy is that we still do not understand, or want to understand, that the new "state", which everybody says they want, cannot exist without taking these concepts very seriously.

Armed clash Sunday in Sidon. Leaving aside the possible instigators of the clash. I'd like to post the full Naharnet story with my own comments [bracketed]. I know that this is not 1975, but still I find many aspects of this story extremely disturbing.

The Naharnet Story:

Army Disengages Warring Jund El Sham Gunmen and Nasserite Militiamen in Sidon

A wobbly cease-fire reined [sic] in Sidon Monday, a day after gun battles flared on the streets of the city's closest residential neighborhood of Ta'mir to the teeming Palestinian refugee camp of Ein El Hilweh, leaving one gunman dead and three others hospitalized with bullet and shrapnel wounds.

Lebanese army troops in full battle gear patrolled the embattled neighborhoods and redoubled security controls at all entrances to the Ein El-Hilweh camp on the southeastern outskirts of Sidon, provincial capital of south Lebanon and the nation's third largest city after Beirut and Tripoli.

"Troops have disengaged the combatants and are manning buffer zones," said a police officer on the scene.

[Bad News, I thought the army's job was to shoot and arrest these criminals and law breakers, not just "disengage" them. We're not talking "engagement" and "fiancés" here.]

He {police officer}said the daylong clashes on Sunday pitted militiamen of the outlawed Jund El Sham Palestinian faction against armed Lebanese youth loyal to Osama Saad's Nasserite organization in Ta'mir.

[Note that Jund el Sham are outlawed. We don’t know what that means in Lebanon, but "outlawed" they are]

Crouching at entrances of apartment building and street corners, the antagonists fired machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades at each other on the fringe of the one square-kilometer camp that houses 75,000 refugees, the biggest Palestinian shantytown in Lebanon.

[As long it's the fringe of the camp, it's OK and maybe it won't make page-one in the newspapers]

Tensions built to a peak between the two sides on Saturday, when a Jund El Sham guerrilla stabbed a Nasserite with a knife in what was described by police as a 'personal quarrel.' Staccato outburst of sporadic gunfire and RPG [rocket propelled grenades] explosions reverberated across Sidon, culminating in an hour-long pitched battle at sundown Sunday, police officers said.

[Explosions are "across Sidon" now. We don't know if this is Naharnet waxing poetic or actual fact. Musically, however, "staccato" is less scary than "furioso", lucky for Sidon. Also note: the police guy is only commenting the situation, like it were a football game. Anyone detect any police ACTION here?]

The city's two parliament members, Nasserite Osama Saad and Bahia Hariri, slain ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's sister, managed through intense negotiations supported by Hizbullah to call a cease-fire. Police reported 'only minor breaches' on Monday.

["Good" news: The police continue to only report, and the breaches are only minor now. We're now Andante musically, with automatic gunfire in B minor, and the RPG section is now silent. Thank God the two Sidon MP's "negotiated" with the criminals and outlaws, and had Hezbo's benediction. Is there an executive branch in Lebanon? Army or police? (other than for reporting to he press that is)? If so, what do they do, beside patrol after the fact in their spiffy uniforms?]

The dead victim was identified as Mahmoud Dirani, a Nasserite, and two of the three other wounded were pro-Nasserite gunmen. The third wounded man belonged to Jund El Sham, a notorious faction of Sunni Muslim fanatics accused of staging terrorist attacks in several parts of Lebanon and Syria.

[I am not sure the Jund were part of the most recent amnesty, but you can rest assured they will be part of the next one, provided some of them are arrested]

Jund al-Sham emerged in Ein el-Hilweh last year. Its estimated 50 members at the time regarded Shiite Muslims and Christians as infidels. The group's membership is believed to have increased to 200, who are at loggerheads with the mainstream Palestinian Fatah faction, which effectively controls the camp apart from a neighborhood called Safsaf, where fanatics are entrenched. Jund El Sham gunmen staged hit-and-run forays against Nasserites in Ta'mir from Safsaf.

[More bad news; The Jund were 50 guys. Then, they were outlawed. Result: now there are 200 of them. More fun people for MP Saad and Bahia to "negotiate" with.

Also, they are illegal, or was it "outlawed". The Palestinians in the camps hate them, the Sidawis hate them, the Nasserites hate them, and they are shooting guns and RPG at people and buildings which, I believe, is against the law in Lebanon. They also attacked Syria at one point. In other words: no one supports these people, they are criminals. The state has an army of 70,000 and the Jund are 200. We still do not have the political will to go after these creeps? As well as the other group shooting at them or with them?]

The flare-up came a week after Premier Saniora agreed with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Paris on a mechanism to restrict the presence of Palestinian arms within the camps and remove any weapons outside their boundaries.

[Even Mahmoud Abbas supports the Lebanese government, which must count for something. Does it?]

End of Naharnet story.

Now from the Daily Star. I'll use excerpts (full story here):

SIDON: Prime Minister Fouad Saniora headed a security meeting Monday to discuss the violent clashes in Taamir, near the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, and to take steps to ease the tension.

[You are the PM Mr. Sanioura, but don't you think these people should be caught and prosecuted, as opposed to "discussions" and "easing the tension"? It's not like we have office workers here who are fighting over use of the Xerox machine. By the way Mr. Prime Minister, aren't these the people who threatened to kill YOU, and Mr. Mehlis? In the old Hollywood they used to say: what does a guy need to do to get arrested in this town?]

Meanwhile, Taamir residents handed the Lebanese Army a petition asking it to move in and protect them.

{You have been warned. When criminals and thugs come to wreak havoc in your neighborhood, better lock your door and have that petition signed and ready, otherwise the army will move on to the next petition.]

When asked about the reasons for the clashes, one man replied: "Ask the state and its intelligence. We are defending ourselves against [Lebanese??] intelligence agents. We burned the house of one of them so that he would learn a lesson." On Monday, soldiers at the entrance to the Taamir area tightened security measures.

[More bad news, if true. The thugs are "teaching" army allies/agents a lesson. It means the Jund attacked someone working for army intelligence, another assault on the authority of the army and the state. Gee, have we seen this movie before?

And further bad news: Reports elsewhere indicate that both shooting groups were reporting to army intelligence, found out about each other's activities, and began shooting. The army can't keep its agents in check?. Furthermore, lock up the whole bunch, instead of having thugs reporting on thugs to army guys who report to headquarters. I thought reporting was the police's main and only job (see above)]

Finally MP Bahia Hariri, according to L'Orient-LeJour, said that the incident doesn’t "serve the Palestinian cause". OK Bahia, why is it relevant to say that? What if it did help the Palestinian cause? Then it would be OK to be shooting RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) in the middle of Saida?

Thirty years after 1975: similar armed thugs, similar absence of authority, and similar visionless and unimaginative politicians. You want to have a modern and effective state without understanding the basics? Try again.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Avian/Bird Flu: The "Zionist-Imperialist" plot thickens

This Daily Star story tells of people, in southern Lebanon, who do not believe that there is an avian flu.

The chicken plot thickens, and may very well sicken. ALRIGHT! The pun is the lowest form of humor, but I just could not resist.

The DS quotes Umm Walid:

I assure you this is not bird flu, this is an American flu, a flu of personal interests and ambitions.

Another denizen, Mohamed Masri, tells us:

This is an American creation aimed at distracting the people from their economic and political problems.

You'll find other delightful quotes in the article by like-minded worldly ignorami. The problem of course is that this kind of idiocy in Lebanon and the Middle East is not confined to some crazy man/ woman who owns three chickens.

These people may well facilitate the spread of the flu in Lebanon, the same way demented conspiracy theorists keep hindering progress or solutions.

We all know people who make similarly nutty arguments, sometimes with big words and more sophisticated language, but the impact is as bad. Some of these people are politicians. Some are published journalists/columnists. And some are (gasp!) bloggers. Very sad commentary on the damage to the culture, and the time that will be needed to overcome this dementia.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Walid Joumblatt is Cool, NOT!

This post is as much about Walid Joumblatt, as it is about the Lebanese intellectuals and journalists that make it easier for Joumblatt to say irresponsible things, at great cost to Lebanon (and the Druze community). This time its Michel Hajji-Georgiou from L'Orient-LeJour.

Joumblatt has a long history of incoherence and of saying "white" in the morning and "black" in the afternoon. In the last year or so, he flipped from wanting Americans dead in Iraq, to realizing that he US presence in Iraq had some liberating effect on the Lebanese scene. He went from telling us that Lebanon had to fight to the end for the Palestinian cause, to telling the Palestinians they could forget about Liberating Jerusalem from Lebanon, back to being worried about the Arab identity of Lebanon. He was also willing to have relations, POST Hariri murder, with ANY Syrian regime in order to preserve Lebanon's Arab identity (whatever the hell that means).

The most recent outrage, Joumblatt had nothing better to do than to pay tribute to Ghazi Kanaan, the recently "suicided" Syrian Interior Minister. Kanaan, if nothing else, was the main architect of Syria's security apparatus in Lebanon for over 20 years. Kanaan was also responsible for debauching the Lebanese security institutions. In short, Kanaan was responsible for the very apparatus that killed Hariri, and repressed the Lebanese for years, and instituted widespread high-level corruption. These were the very things that Walid Joumblatt said were unacceptable and why Syria had to leave Lebanon.

So now Joumblatt wants to pay tribute to Kanaan, and say that the poor man was "betrayed" by his successor Rustom Ghazaleh. Reading between the lines of his tribute (PDF French, shorter English version here), one could easily conclude that had Kanaan stayed at the helm running Lebanon, and had Lahoud not been extended, Walid Joumblatt would still be very happy with Syria's occupation.

The problem for the Lebanese is this: unfortunately Joumblatt is not some rock singer or some Hollywood actor, who can shoot his mouth about politics, and it won’t matter much. Unfortunately Joumblatt is a major player, and one who can and has on many occasions inflicted tremendous harm on the body politic and on the nation. Joumblatt is a divider because that is the position that he thinks fits him best. Divide the country, and with very little weight (his small community), if you stand in the middle of the seesaw, you can shift the balance by merely shifting your small weight.

People's attitude in Lebanon tends to be "hey it's Joumblatt being Joumblatt", wink wink, "isn't he cool or cute?"... No he is not. He is toying with lives and the future of Lebanon. And journalists at least should call him to task. They cannot stop him, but they can make it more difficult to indulge in this destructive behavior

Romanticization of Walid

In L'Orient-LeJour of October 14, (PDF French), Michel Hajji-Georgiou (barely) criticizes Joumblatt and then goes on to using cute expressions to describe him: "enfant terrible", "eternel rebel", "at his best in the midst of battle [my translation]". Georgiou concludes: "Joumblatt's dilemma is poignant because it reflects the terrible battle taking place inside him" [My translation]. Now we have to feel sorry for Joumblatt? What battle is Georgiou talking about? Joumblatt hasn't yet figured out what is good for Lebanon?

I am sick and tired of people letting Joumblatt off the hook under inane pretexts: "oh he is a man of contradictions (like his father). Ain't it cool and interesting he is a feudal lord, yet he is also a socialist? He wears jeans to important meetings. He's like Fonzi of "Happy Days"; he speaks his mind, wears a leather jacket, and rides a motorcycle, wow man!" It's not always cool to live out contradictions, and to act like a twenty-year old.

This silliness has got to stop. This stuff may be acceptable from a publicity seeking movie star, not for a man who has affected and still affects the political future of the country. Someone (other than Aoun) has to attack Joumblatt politically. Furthermore intellectuals and the despicable Lebanese press ought to start asking him (and others) the hard questions.