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

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Army Clashes: No More Stinking Committees

Naharnet reports (full story):

Title: Saniora, Army Reject Setting up a Joint Lebanese-Palestinian Committee to Probe Bekaa Clashes

The government and the army command have refused to establish a joint Lebanese-Palestinian investigating committee to probe the clashes between the army and pro-Syrian Palestinian gunmen in eastern Lebanon.

Good news, no more commissions and committees with the thugs shooting at our national army.

Prime Minister Fouad Saniora [Seniora} rejected an offer by Fatah al-Intifada representative in Beirut Abou Fadi Hammad to establish the committee, sources close to the premier told An Nahar.

Bad news: the thugs are so used to assaulting the state and army, killing people, and then asking for a "brotherly" commission. I can't blame them, given the formation of 546 totally useless committees over the past 30 years. Furthermore, why does this creep even have an office and a presence in Beirut? Ship him out NOW.

The death of Medlej [Moudlej] has drawn widespread condemnations of the killing and given a fresh sense of urgency to the disarmament of Palestinians stationed outside refugee camps.

Stop. For the love of God, stop talking about Goddamn "fresh sense of urgency". Act NOW, Goddamn idiots it is the LAW and your RESPONSIBILITY. And for redundancy's sake, it was also approved UNANIMOUSLY by the national dialogue participants.

After news of Moudlej's death Friday, several hundred residents of the region held a protest march, charging that the fighters were "mercenaries" who served Israeli interests.

Great. But where are the demonstrations all over Lebanon, not just 100 meters away from the place private Moudlej was killed?

Notice the protest is against "Israel's interest". Not pro-Lebanon and pro citizens' and army's security. The death of private Moudlej is barely an issue.

The military statement said the army had identified some of the gunmen who had opened fire on its soldiers and said "they will be pursued, arrested and referred to justice."

"will be pursued" is not good. If you want to build security and a state you need "are being pursued right this minute". And you need that group's offices closed all over the country, YESTERDAY.

Political leaders denounced the soldier's death and the attack targeting the army

Good to hear that the irresponsible morons, who have no answer to anything, a least don't support attacks on our army. Thanks guys, that's a relief.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Moustapha Moudlej Died

Moustapha Moudlej died.
Moustapha Moudlej died.
Moustapha Moudlej died.

Does any reality sink in, in the land of fools?

And months before him, Mohammed Ismail died. To those with short memories: Moustapha, a soldier in the Lebanese army, was shot in the head two days ago, in the most recent army-Palestinian gunmen clash.

Mohammed Ismail was a Lebanese topographer working with the army. Both men were shot on Lebanese territory by pro-Syrian Palestinian thugs.

The reactions I had feared materialized, and were even worse than I anticipated.

L'Orient-Le Jour quotes PM Seniora saying:

Patience. Let them have a little more fun with this. It strengthens our case.

[I am paraphrasing, but very close, link good one day].

A man puts his life on the line for you and the country. He dies. And our response is "let them have a little more fun with it".

What feeling is the citizen supposed to take from these words? Especially in light of 30 years of similar "events" that led to, or actually were, the destruction of the state and of the country?

And, if you are a soldier or an officer in the Lebanese army, the PM's words must really warm your heart and pump up your courage to ready you for battle. Needless to say, Lahoud, the other zero and supreme defender of the land, constitution and army, was not heard from.

To be accurate, I think Seniora said his ugly inane words before private Moudlej died. But it matters not. Seniora knew damn well the seriousness of the situation and of the man's injury.

In other activities, Seniora and the rest were celebrating Liberation Day yesterday. And Seniora called for:
unifying national and Arab efforts in order to liberate the remaining occupied lands, notably the Shebaa Farms.

Words fail me.

Honorable mention for the stupid irrelevant insulting cliche of the day goes to Minister of Something Michel Pharaon. It was his turn to utter those famous words this time: this incident does not help the Palestinian cause. Michel, next time STFU, you'll look much smarter.

Moustapha and Mohammed, rest in peace if you can, and God help your families and country because no one else will.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Army-Gunmen Clash: Deja Vu

FLASH: A Lebanese soldier was injured and another kidnapped during gunbattles between the army and gunmen of the Syrian-backed Fatah al-Intifada in eastern Lebanon near the border with Syria. TV reports said that the army laid a security siege on the area at Yanta and Wadi al-Aswad and asked for reinforcements. (Naharnet May 17, 2006)

Prime Minister Seniora's (or Saniora or Siniora) office immediately issued the following statement:

Our first priority is to have good relations with Syria and our Palestinian brothers. This behavior does not help the Palestinian cause. We are sending reinforcements to the army in the area, but military action is out of the question.

Our talking staff and "dialoguers" will be reinforced too. Let me be very clear, they can kill or kidnap everyone in the Lebanese army, we will always respond with words. I hope our brothers understand that, and that this threat will be enough to reach a resolution soon. If not, extending the national dialogue downtown is our fallback position for an even tougher response to this unacceptable behavior.

Finally if all fails, the PM will travel abroad and issue strong communiques from world capitals. Our options are clear.

The above is what I do NOT want to hear, but I am very afraid will be the official response, if history and habit are any guide (see any of my previous posts on Saniora and military clashes).

Hoping to be very wrong.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Daily Star: Lee Smith on Chomsky

Exception to the rule. In Lee Smith on Chomsky, the Daily Star publishes its rare piece not written from a leftist-arabist perspective. Thanks guys. Let's have more.

I have zero interest and or/respect for Chomsky the man or his ideas. I have tangled seriously, and less seriously, with his fans on other blogs.

The interest I still marginally have in posting this good piece is the big deal the Chomsky visit was in Lebanon, and the good points raised by Lee Smith regarding the wisdom of presenting only one American point of view at AUB.

I am guessing that like in the US, 80-90% of the faculty is on the left (Lebanese and expats). As to AUB President Waterbury, it is no secret he's a man of the left. Maybe AUB is a truly a modern American university: one point of view allowed.

From Gulag U.S.A., a tenured dissident

By Lee Smith (Link to Daily Star, or full article below)

On the eve of his first-ever visit to Lebanon last week, Noam Chomsky told a reporter he would "try to familiarize himself with the country by 'riding around in taxi cabs.'" For anyone familiar with Chomsky's work, the implication was truly astonishing, suggesting one of the great "man-bites-dog" stories in contemporary intellectual history: "Chomsky to listen! World-famous American dissident intellectual will consider other perspectives and facts to integrate into rigid worldview. Washington role as 'mother of all evil' in jeopardy."

His cab drivers must have been reading an awful lot of Chomsky because by the time the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of linguistics gave a lecture titled "The Great Soul of Power" at the American University of Beirut exactly one week ago, this newspaper described it as "vintage" Chomsky. "It is the responsibility of intellectuals to take dissident positions," Chomsky said; "This is all the more the case for Western intellectuals who can't blame their subservience on fear, only cowardice."

To be honest, I didn't get to hear this particular dissident Western intellectual call out every other Western intellectual and journalist for not speaking truth to power because I was home that night getting to the stunning surprise ending of Michael Moore's "Dude, Who Stole My Country?" - don't worry, I won't give it away. But I'm curious if everyone was too fearful, subservient and cowardly to inform the professor who co-sponsored his appearance. No? Poor Chomsky, only he could find the tens of thousands souls lost in the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory bombing in Sudan, and still miss the petro-fortune buried right under his lecture notes. Prince Walid bin Talal, owner of Kingdom Holdings, with extensive investments in American media companies, started the Center of American Studies and Research, host of the Edward Said lectures that Chomsky was invited to give, with a $5.3 million endowment.

For that much money, you'd think the AUB could hire someone to vet the subject matter to avoid any potential embarrassment. "The great soul of power," a reporter for this newspaper wrote, "refers to the special reverence which public intellectuals and journalists ordinarily hold toward those in political power." What was Chomsky thinking? Oh, but I wasn't talking about you, your highness, you're not politically powerful, just one of the world's richest men, and I'm not an intellectual or journalist, I'm a dissident.

Professor, maybe you and Michael Moore missed it while on the dissident circuit, enhancing your brand visibility, but there was plenty of intellectual debate before the Iraq war that continues to this day, from the mainstream New York Times to scores of books and new media like satellite television and the Internet. To pretend it doesn't exist may help you to market your marginalization, but in the end it makes you not an intellectual but an ideologue.

At its best, Chomsky's political analysis strikes me as though it was written by a sensitive, deeply disillusioned teenager who has just found out from someone's older brother that states pursue interests. At his worst, Chomsky's just a vicious sensationalist, like when he asserted that the United States' demanding Iran cease its interference in Iraqi affairs "is like Hitler calling on the Americans to stop their interference in the affairs of a Europe pacified under German occupation." Is it really like that, professor? Don't be na•ve. Do you have any facts to back up that rhetoric, professor? Don't be na•ve.

In short, Professor Chomsky is the kind of luxury that only the U.S. can afford. Apparently, so is the AUB, which receives between $3 million to $4 million dollars every year in American taxpayer money. If I didn't know better, I'd think that the university still took its role seriously as a bridge between the U.S. and the Arab world. As such, it would try to present a fuller range of American political discourse and intellectual life, an especially useful calling at this time in our shared history. But recent invited speakers and conference attendees like Chomsky, University of Michigan professor Juan Cole and Mark LeVine of the University of California, Irvine, suggest that the only American voices worth hearing on Bliss Street are from a left decidedly hostile to current U.S. Middle East policy. Wouldn't it be instructive to hear other voices? Does everyone, even in Lebanon, think American policy in the region is really sinister? Or is it just every academic invited by the AUB who thinks so?

Here's a strange comparison: In Lebanon, democracy looks like Hizbullah, Amal, the Free Patriotic Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party, the Lebanese Forces and the Future Movement, among many others. But at the American University of Beirut's American studies lecture series, the oldest and largest democracy in the world is represented by a left-wing professoriate that believes their country has been hijacked by an extremist right.

Maybe this perspective is soothing to the university's expatriate community, which likes to be reminded of how hard it is to speak truth to power back in the gulag, and it's probably a pleasant diversion for American grad students about to head home to train another generation of dissident intellectuals or opt for the big payout in the private sector; but I wonder what it's like for Arab undergraduates who might really want to know how the U.S. works. I sure won't blame Lebanese kids graduating from AUB who having been lectured to by an endless series of tenured radicals if they are wondering who actually voted for Bush, if every American they have ever met says they hate the elected leader of the U.S. I, too, would think there was a secret cabal running the U.S. government. So, how is the AUB educating Arab students at a time when it is pretty useful to have a close understanding of the American political process, cultural and intellectual life?

There are plenty of excellent universities in Lebanon - St. Joseph, the Lebanese American University, Haigazian, among others - that could no doubt use the U.S. aid money funneled to the AUB every year, largely because of its reputation and (Chomsky will love this) the power of its Washington lobbyists. So, maybe there should be more competition for those $3 million to $4 million dollars, which American taxpayers are happy to share - just as long as you give them credit for the great diversity of American political and intellectual life and represent it as such. After all, like Lebanon, the U.S. is a democracy.

Lee Smith is a journalist and Hudson Institute visiting fellow based in Beirut. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Who is Imad Lahoud? (UPDATE)

No, no. Not al-Imad Emile Lahoud (General Lahoud, pathetic president of the republic), but a certain Imad (first name), Lahoud.

Well, well. Imad is somehow implicated in the Villepin-Chirac-Clearstream scandal rocking France right now.

He is supposed to be related to President Emile Lahoud (Liberation), though the presidency denies it (Emile has a Imad relative, but not this guy, stay tuned).

Just stumbled on the story and the two links below. Seems Imad's father was an officer in the Lebanese army. Imad was a trader in Paris and involved in some financial fraud shenanigans. And, big bonus and surprise, he also worked/collaborated for a while with French intelligence.

What is true? What is rumor? I don't know, but sure would be interesting to find out. Any of you readers know anything about this character? Or went to school with him? Please post info.


Wikipedia: Imad Lahoud

Fausta's Blog

"Who is Imad Lahoud?" An-Nahar (Arabic, via tayyar.org)

UPDATE: Added the Nahar link above. Thanks to all commenters below. Many interesting connections, though not to President Lahoud (by blood or otherwise, so far):

Early Arab money and funds (previous scandal), the list of accounts (Clearstream, bogus?), Imad Lahoud's wife is a high-rank civil servant working until recently in the office of the French foreign minister, brother Marwan heads French arms-tech manufacturer etc.

The French press and judiciary should (??) be shedding light on these aspects.

It may be totally unimportant but I am still curious about Imad Lahoud's father? Some dates seem odd to me (see below).

Wikipedia and the French press say: Imad's father was an officer in the Lebanese army, who worked with French intelligence to set up Lebanese/Syrian security services during/after the French mandate.

Ms. Levantine below says Imad is related to Victor Khoury (head of the Leb. army 1977-82). Unless there's a quirk in the story (adoption or such), Khoury is not Imad Lahoud's father and his father is a Lahoud.

The Nahar article, in typical incompetent fashion, does not bother telling us who Imad's father is. Could it be Colonel Gaby Lahoud? Gen. Chehab's famous head of the Deuxieme Bureau (Maktab Tani, i.e. Lebanese intelligence) back in the 1960's. Possible but my guess is that the son does not quite fit the profile.

The curious thing is that Imad was born in 1966. Lebanese independence was in 1943.

If his father worked with French intelligence officer Pierre Rondot around that time, setting up a new service, the father must have had some seniority, in both age and rank. Say he was 30 years old in 1943, then he would have been 53 years old at the time of Imad's birth in 1966. It is possible but a tad remote. And if that work started well before independence the numbers get more unlikely.

Maybe it's a total dud (men can father in their 90s), but I am still curious to know who Imad's father was, and what was his role in the army.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Stop Corruption: But Not Now, Next Time

"The March 14 Forces have strong clues on corruption nests at the heart of several sectors, and we can share them with the other camp, if they so wish. In any case, we'll have to discuss the matter at length." Walid Jumblatt (Joumblatt). (L'Orient-Le Jour, May 6, 2006, my translation).

The issue is not only Joumblatt (Jumblatt), or March 14, but a political culture that sees fit to make statements like the above without any follow through whatsoever. And a worthless press corps that hears these types of statements and goes back to sleep or to pontificate on matters they barely comprehend, like international politics.

This is President Lahoud about a month ago:

"there is a scandal in the telecommunications file resulting from distortion of facts since the two telecommunications companies operating in the country are not making profits currently and the government will soon sell one of them." He added: "Of course, I will stop this corruption and squandering of public money. ... I will not sign on the sale of the telecommunications firms' licenses!"
Lahoud threatened [bold mine] to uncover the schemes behind the issue which he considered "a scandal that will not pass unnoticed." (Daily Star, March 17, 2006).

On many other occasions when Hariri Sr. or Joumblatt or others would refer to corruption, Lahoud would reply (paraphrasing): "my opponents talk about corruption, everyone knows who is really involved in corruption. If my opponents want to talk about this, I threaten to open those files etc…" Of course the old Addoum-Lahoud-Syrian judiciary was an "if-then" judiciary. Not if you break the law then we will prosecute you. Rather, if you go against the regime, then we'll prosecute you. If you keep silent and do your corruption quietly, then we won't. In fairness the old judiciary was not much better, but this was carried to new extremes in recent years.

Another example I recall, more "abuse" than "corruption but in the same spirit. A couple of years ago, Ambassador Johnny Abdo's wife was assaulted and pushed to the ground by some goons in some supermarket. It was meant as a "shut-up" message to the Haririst Mr. Abdo (likely from Lebanese/Syrian Mukhabarat). Later Abdo stated he knew (or had a very good idea) who the culprits were, and that, by good golly, if it happened again, he would "speak".

These attitudes and statements, especially on part of public officials, are outrageous. And, even if not actionable, they should at the very least prompt the judiciary to seek a chat with the statements' author.

If you are a major politician (or anyone for that matter) in possession of corruption or abuse information, there should be NOTHING to discuss, with the "other camp" or amongst your own group.. The matters should be taken immediately to the judiciary, central inspection (Taftish el-Markazi), or some parliamentary commission.

The press should be hounding you for answers. Parliamentary groups should be holding hearings. The judiciary should be sending investigators. NGO's should be all over this.

Discussing a new plan for the economy, current Finance Minister Azour said that without losses due to corruption at EDL (Electrical Utility), the plan would not require any new taxes. Wanna bet that’s' the end of the story and new taxes will be imposed on a moribund citizen and economy?

Finally, the mother of all witnesses and scandals. Rana Koleilate sits at he heart of the biggest crime ever committed in Lebanon (Hariri murder, the UN suspects). She is also at the heart of the biggest Lebanese financial scandal ever, Al-Madina. The Lebanese government is "trying" to extradite her from Brazil where she was arrested TWO months ago. And for the umpteenth time, where are the editorials lambasting the officials on this one?

I don't believe they are trying to extradite her. Do you?