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

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Lahoud Must Go: Part II and Again

I wrote Lahoud Must Go,Period a year ago. Today, I feel it needs repeating and a part II.

In light of Pierre Gemayel’s assassination and all the other assassinations and in light of the death threats hanging above the cabinet’s head: Emile Lahoud must go. Now. Right now, before the international tribunal, before Seniora’s economic measures.

Screw the economy. There’s no economy if there is no country. Plus the economy will never ever take off in the sick, turbulent, violent, unstable environment we are in for the foreseeable future if there is one.

If Lahoud stays, there will be neither an international tribunal nor an end to the killings. Lahoud will obstruct the tribunal and I believe setting up the tribunal requires his signature that won’t come.

One of the reasons Gemayel was assassinated was to bring the number of cabinet ministers down, now 17 down from 24. If the number goes down further (assassination or resignation by threat) the (ineffective) government falls, creating a constitutional crisis and further mayhem. That is why the government is beefing up security (har har) and asking current ministers to leave their homes and set up quarter in the PM’s headquarters.

Why does killing a minister deplete the cabinet? Because you cannot replace him. Why can’t you replace him? Because it requires Lahoud’s signature and Lahoud and his Syrian masters want the government to fall.

Killing ministers works because Lahoud is obstructing. Cleaning house at security agencies and police is impossible because Lahoud is obstructing. The international tribunal may not happen or will take forever because Lahoud is obstructing.

The country is in a deep existential crisis and Lahoud has a FULL (unconstitutional) year to go. Any other country would have declared martial law or a state of emergency a long time ago. Our politicians and religious instances are still playing games with the office of the presidency and its occupant. Of course Maronite Patriarch Sfeir carries more weight when it comes to the presidency and he is no fan of Lahoud. However, like most decision-makers in Lebanon he is totally lacking in imagination and in boldness.

The time for half-measures is long long gone. I am not saying that Lahoud is the only problem. There are many others including whore Nabih Berri who could also obstruct. And there are certainly things the government should have done, and could do, but won’t. Still, dumping Lahoud is absolutely necessary though not sufficient.

If you can’t catch the killers at least take away one of the reasons they kill. You need to name new cabinet ministers and Lahoud is in the way. Granted not many people will be lining up for a cabinet position, but some fearless souls remain and/or some big egos who will love the title.

The gravity of the situation should be brought to bear in the extreme on all, and on Aoun in particular, even if the last resort is to give him the presidency. The alternative for March 14 and everyone else is the return of Syria with a vengeance. And that dear Joumblatt, Hariri, Geagea etc means your days are counted, or if you are lucky it’s exile.

I’ll let lawyers and constitutional scholars figure out how to get rid of the Lahoud cancer. Here’s my crazy idea, especially since the Maronite Church stands to never recover should Syria re-enter Lebanon. The Maronite Church excommunicates Lahoud. He therefore is not a Maronite anymore. He can’t be president. Let’s have an election.

PS I hope and pray the funeral is peaceful today.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

But the Army Keeps Busy

The government may not be able to protect itself, ministers are gunned down, but the authorities are keeping busy, as is the army.

From the Lebanese Army Official Web Site:

Arrests of 96 persons

The Armed Forces arrested 96 persons between October 31 and November 5 2006, for different reasons related to the following infringements:

Driving cars and motorbikes without any legal papers, infractions to residence regulations, not completing the military service duties, running from the Army, stealing, hitting each other, provoking riot acts, fire shooting, provoking military men, holding fire arms without any license, holding and dealing with drugs, smuggling fuel oil, going into night clubs.

There are a couple of things on that list that are army business, but all the rest are the responsibility of the police. Ah but I forgot, the police are busy investigating cases: Hariri, Tueni, Kassir, Chidiac, Gemayel, Pharaon, and wondering: who are the jokers tossing daily grenades at our barracks?

BTW what is “fire shooting”? And do we need the army to go after nightclub goers?

Maybe that was the subject of Commander-in-Chief General Michel Sleimane’s meeting with the Iranian Ambassador, a couple of weeks ago. The army says: “The meeting concerned the current situation”. Would that be the nightclub situation? Or was that meeting's purpose a broader one “for make benefit glorious nation of Lebanon?”

On the plus side, someone in the country came to his/her senses and cancelled tomorrow’s “Independence Day” army celebration and parade in light of today’s most recent horror.

Gemayel Murder, Investigation, Blah Blah Blah

The assassination of Lebanon and its institutions continues unabated. Today a cabinet minister and an MP, Pierre Gemayel. We descend yet to another of the circles of hell. I'm too sick to write about this now.

The authorities promised an investigation to find the culprits. Should I laugh or should I cry? Is that getting beyond sick or what? Yeah, they are also "investigating" who fired at Minister Michel Pharaon's office hours after Gemayel was gunned down.

I just offer the usual pic, with the usual clueless security guys standing around not knowing what to do with themselves. Can you blame them when their higher-ups are even more clueless?

Remember Interior Minister Fatfat and his stupid secret letter? Memo-to-self: I am threatened by a foreign country, but it's a secret. Today, he accused Syria of Pierre Gemayel's murder. The time to speak up and show your evidence was then, you stupid idiot. Back to the pic, not exactly a picture of confidence in the "investigation."

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Middle East for Dummies

Once in a blue moon, I read columnist Rami Khouri in the Daily Star just to keep tabs on the dull and hackneyed writing common to the region. When Rami is not repeating some sickening cliché, he is usually busy giving advice to Arab leaders and to the President of the United States.

Today Rami wrote a human interest people-are-decent-everywhere kind of column.

In a US airport, Rami meets a young military man headed for service in the Middle East for the first time. The two happen to sit next to one another for a bite to eat.

After Rami tells us he went to college in the US during the Vietnam War (i.e. he’s been around and knows war), and after telling the young man he was in Lebanon during the war (i.e. he’s an expert on international affairs and war), he and the young man agree that war is often not the answer (brilliant conclusion based on Rami’s deep knowledge of the subject of war and warfare.)

Khouri then can’t resist taking a gratuitous swipe at America’s great achievements, he cites Chinese chicken dinner for $5.95. Now if he did not mean that as a swipe at US culture then he does not know what he is saying (or writing).

All that is innocuous enough (full piece here). The coup-de-grace for me was when the young reservist asks Rami what is it like “over there”, in the Middle East. Here’s Rami’s answer:

I told him it was just like America - a great land, full of wonderful, warm people, but often disfigured by the stupid decisions of sleazy politicians.

Take two seconds and read Rami’s answer again. Whew! Gosh the Mid-East is so much like America that I now forget why I left the hellhole in the first place.

I thought it impossible to be more condescending toward US troops than US Senator John F. (for Fop) Kerry, but by golly Ram-old-boy, you done it!

On the other hand, if this is Rami’s real view of the Middle East and its problems, a few bad politicians, he is an idiot and a stupid one at that.

Stupidity or condescension? Take your pick. My guess is that it is a lot of both.

Yep, the Middle East and the US exactly the same. "People-good/politicians-bad" says the prominent columnist of a prominent journal. Call it “Middle East for Dummies”, or rather “Middle East by Dummies.”