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

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Syria? Nah. It’s the Danes

Nahr el Bared? Bombs? Destabilization? Yep, the Danes, with some help from the Aussies.

A Danish national and a man with a residence permit in Denmark are among alleged Islamic militants arrested in northern Lebanon in recent weeks, the Foreign Ministry in Copenhagen said Tuesday. (Naharnet, June 26 2007).

Danish authorities also were investigating reports that a third man with Danish ties was arrested Sunday during fights in Tripoli between Lebanese troops and alleged Islamic extremists, Thuesen said.
Damn! We just lost a (tired) joke, and the Hezbollah gang just gained a (specious) argument.

In the never-ending discussion with the blind: Who’s destabilizing Lebanon? Pro-Syrians would invariably say: it’s not Syria. Opponents would respond: yeah right! It’s the Swiss or the Swedes, or some other peaceful and remote people.

No more. The damn Danes have been caught red handed, along with some Aussies too:
On Monday, Australia's foreign minister said that three Australians are among terrorists arrested after fighting against Lebanese soldiers in Tripoli.

Officials in Canberra were also checking reports that two other Australians were killed in the fighting, Alexander Downer said. (Naharnet, June 26 2007).
Any time now, expect Syrian attack dog Moallem or some other regime hack to issue an “I told you so” statement.

As for me, I’m taking bets that Crocodile Dundee was not among the Aussies, and that the Nahr el Bared Danes won't have names like Lars nor Anders. Takers anyone?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Nahr el-Bared: Victory or Confusion?

[Warning to excitable types: Do not construe this post as disparaging to the army and its fallen heroes. I salute the army and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. This post is about our top civilian leadership, and perhaps some top army brass.]

No matter where you stand politically, you have got to admit that our government (and army) are total ZEROES when it comes to communication.

Today, I read all the news I could get my hands on. I still have no idea what is going on in Nahr el-Bared. And our high-ranking officials appear as clueless as I am, if not more.

Defense Minister Elias Murr just said military operations have stopped but the siege continues (??).

Naharnet reports more firing and shelling today, after Defense Minister Murr said operations ended.

Murr also said that there is no proof yet of Syrian ties to Fateh al-Islam. He added more info would come in the next few days (and if you believe that I have a bridge for you…).

Murr’s own PM Saniora/Seniora and others in M14 have said, or at least implied, for weeks now that there was a Syrian connection. Which is it? And if there is no Syrian connection, whence the hell is Fatah el Islam getting reinforced?

As for the army’s communications department, though they have a web site, they still live in the 1950’s. Every time the army fires a bullet, the department issues a three-page communiqué telling us that we are all brothers, with the camps, and the Palestinian cause, and all the other brothers too. You can almost hear (divine) Um Kalthoum in the background.

I don’t want any singsong from your communications department. You are the ARMY, your job in war is to break things and kill people, as they say. Just tell me what you’re objectives are, what your casualties are, and how many SOB enemies you’ve killed today.

While I try to get info on Bared, I go to the army web site and I learn that the army commander just met with an association to commemorate former President Hrawi, headed, by his widow Mona Hrawi. Top of the news on 6/22, not in some "social" section. Is that a morale booster or what?

Of course there are other "news" on the army web site, but besides the obituaries of the fallen, it is fluff and gibberish. When are we going to get rid of the communications idiots who went to the “istaqbala” school? The Lebanese know every boy-scout and girl-scout the President or the army commander meet, but have otherwise no clue what their government is doing.

Back to the government and Murr (from Naharnet).

He [Murr] said a “large number" of Fatah al-Islam commanders had been killed over the past month, while leader Shaker Abssi, deputy leader Abu Hureira and others were on the run, suggesting they were hiding in the camp among several thousand Palestinian civilians still holed up there.
The head of the gang is “on the run” inside a sub-part of the (small) camp? "On the run?" Is he jogging around the camp for exercise? Is he on the run on his treadmill? If he is in the damn area and he's the most wanted man in Lebanon, now what? The story ends here? No sane person can believe or accept that.

Murr said that a total of 76 soldiers had died since the battle broke out on May 20, and that another 150 had been wounded. He also said that there are about 100 Fatah al-Islam militants injured in the gunbattles.
The army took over 200 casualties versus 100 to end in what looks like a stalemate and more of the same garbage we have come to expect in Lebanon, including a bunch of “brotherly” thugs patrolling the streets of Saida-Taamir-Ein el-Helweh as a buffer between the army and other thugs?

Sheik Mohammed Haj of the Palestinian Scholars Association, a mediator who met with the militant group's leaders in recent days, said Fatah al-Islam "has declared a cease-fire and will comply with the Lebanese army's decision to end military operations."
Can someone explain to me what in the name of Hell does that mean? They won’t shoot at the army (for now) if the army stops shooting at them? Gee thanks!

He [Sheik Haj] said the militants would abide by conditions set by the army to end the fighting, but he would not elaborate.
So the army’s conditions DO NOT include the arrest of the thug-in-chief (and ex-Syrian prisoner) Shaker Abssi?

Ms Levantine, in a comment on another blog, suggests that maybe the politicos have stopped the army as they did back in 1973 (versus the PLO). Talk about morons who don’t learn from history.

In that regard: Murr tells the Daily Star that Army Commander Michel Suleiman would make a good president. Of course General Suleiman is NOT eligible to be elected. The Lebanese toilet-paper roll called “constitution” says the Army chief and other high officials are ineligible unless they leave office 2 years before the election (Article 49). But no one cares, its’ only the constitution. Murr and the Star don’t even bother to mention that fact.

Of course, that article was put in the law for a REASON. The reason is to prevent these high officials from making POLITICAL decisions, in the hope of being elected, close to an election. I hope that neither that, nor some political pressure, are at play here.

So why are we suspicious and entertain all sorts of crazy scenarios? Because, among many reasons, we are given ZERO information by our local ZEROES.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Song Remains the Same

Reading the daily news in Lebanon is like being the Bill Murray character in the movie Groundhog Day, where Murray wakes up every day to find out, again: "It's Groundhog Day!"

Here's a sample from the past 48 hours of stories we've been reading for weeks, if not for years. These stories just won't die. They will kill us all, but they just won't die.

1) The "Arab League envoy" story.

Like a bad sequel to Return of the Living Dead, Amr Moussa is due back in Beirut to mediate between the different parties. The number of times a League Secretary has visited Lebanon to mediate approaches infinity. How about we stop welcoming and meeting the most useless human being on the planet: Amr Moussa, head of the Effing Arab League?

Where is Sawsan Darwish to suggest that someone shoot the miserable son of a bitch? Just like that, for no reason. Just because every frigging Lebanese, on all sides I guarantee, is beyond sick and tired of seeing Moussa's name and silly smile in the news.

And, in the unlikely event someone notices the SOB is missing, we can always open another one of our very open-ended investigations, and I personally promise that we won’t rest until blah blah blah…you know the rest.

2) The "UN help" story.

Seniora/Saniora wants UN help in the murder of MP Walid Eido. Fuad, the UN can’t even help itself. Kofi Annan in his day let the Rwanda massacre happen right under his nose.

The current UN is still “working” on Darfur at the rate of 200,000 dead per year. And Ban Ki-moon (Amr Moussa in Korean) thinks global warming is responsible for genocide in Darfur. In Lebanon they're already "helping" in the camps, and the South, and with Hariri tribunal. No thanks, I’ve seen and gotten enough help and protection from the UN.

3) The "tightening the noose" on Nahr el-Bared story.

Stop clearing ordnance and mines and booby-trapped buildings and booby-trapped corpses in Nahr el Bared by sending in Lebanese soldiers. We lost three more valiant soldiers today. Blow up the Goddamn remaining quarter. The camp's civilians have left, and those still there have made their choice.

Protect your soldiers and their morale. Decisiveness and ruthlessness is not a bad signal to send to the creeps-in-wait in Ein el Helweh, Naameh etc. Stop “tightening the noose” on Nahr el Bared. It’s costly and cruel to both sides (if civilians are left) and not very believable three weeks into the “tightening”.

4) The "apply the law this time" story.

M14 thinks it can wait out an enemy like Syria/Iran/Hezbo. M14, your leaders/MPs are being murdered one by one. The other side's are not. Stop thinking the law is a negotiable joke. It’s great and overdue to call for by-elections under the 2-month constitutional requirement for a replacement election (Article 41 of the constitution).

MP Pierre Gemayel was murdered in November 2006, 7 months ago. Had you forced an election then, maybe the law would be less of a joke and maybe Walid Eido would be alive today and maybe Lahoud would be less defiant today and maybe you would not be used as a doormat.

(I know, Lahoud won't sign now and would not then, but now M14 will go ahead anyway and force the issue)

5) The "round-table talks" story.

Paris St-Cloud, after Taef, Lausanne, downtown Beirut, etc Stop going to round-table meetings with people who have no interest in a solution and/or no power to negotiate one. Been there done that. When we are lucky nothing happens, otherwise it's Cairo 69 or Taef 89: the matrices of the catastrophes befalling Lebanon.

If only we would get away from these recurrent bad ideas/habits. It may not solve the problems but it sure would give our leaders and readers a needed break from useless tiresome garbage.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Sawsan Darwish: The Halakuna Mindset:

Hahaha. What took them so long? You think the next one is Ahmad Fatfat? Halakuna!

Two days ago, a car bomb took the life of its intended victim M14 MP Walid Eido. According to some reports Eido, a former judge, worked recently on the details of the international Hariri tribunal. The bomb also killed his eldest son Khaled, two Nejmeh club players Hussein Dokmak and Hussein Naim, and 6 other passers by (RIP all). Ten people dead in all, plus countless wounded on the Corniche, a popular beach/café strip.

Everyone knows by now that a news anchor at NBN, Sawsan Darwish, was caught on mike gloating over the killing, and “jokingly” wondering when “they” would kill the next M14 MP Ahmad Fatfat. Outrage was followed by her firing (apparently) and by a very lame apology from the network.

My guess is that Sawsan, like Syria’s Bashar, is happy that a critic of Syria, of Nabih Berri (who owns/controls the TV station NBN), and of Hezbollah has been silenced. To her ilk, the added bonus is that now people will be further deterred from upsetting Syria, either by speaking their mind or by sitting on the international tribunal.

I don’t expect this airhead Sawsan newsperson to have deep thoughts on how (serial) political murder affects the rule of law, the future of the republic, the social fabric of the nation etc. But even decency and common sense are nowhere to be found.

God forbid "they" "get” the next person. Fifty people could die with that targeted person, just like the nine people who died with MP Eido. That’s "OK" with people like Sawsan. In their view, it's worth the prize, whatever the hell that may be.

Furthermore, rather attractive anchorettes like this bimbette, journalists and politicians tend to roam the same neighborhoods, and cafes, and restaurants and beaches. What are the odds YOU Sawsan Darwish, or someone dear to you, is killed or maimed in the next bombing-murder? Or the one after that?

In a bitter political fight, it’s one thing to wish you enemy ill. It’s quite another to wish for his death by murder, especially when that murder may/will kill many innocents including YOU.

After her little "joke", Sawsan adds that she/we had enough: “Halakuna!”.

That last comment, I found intriguing. Of course I don’t give a fig what Sawsan Darwish “thinks”. However she is one of very many who think like that on the Hezbo/Amal/Aoun side.

Whatever do they mean?

“Halakuna” literally means “they’ve exhausted us” or “we can’t take it anymore”. A better (though ironic) translation is “they’re killing us!”

I wonder what is it that people like Sawsan cannot take anymore from M14 and the current government? She works for Nabih Berri, so she can't be tired of corruption and incompetence:

Is it the (ill-advised) UN chapter-6 cease-fire her side begged for last summer?

Is it the M14 mushy/wussy response that gave her camp control and paralysis of the downtown area?

Is it the fact that M14 MPs and Ministers are being shot down like ducks in a pretty row at the carnival? (Can’t be that, she wants more.)

Is it the paralysis of all government institutions, led by Nabih Berri’s idled parliament?

What is it that she is tired of, or yearning for? Or is she referring to the Syrians? Halakuna! Maybe they are not killing people fast enough for her taste, as she counts down the days and the number of living M14 MPs to election day.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Attacks on Army: How Did We Get Here?

Saniora in October 2005: "But there is no intention for military action. Such action is absolutely out of our political dictionary".

Yes, that was PM Siniora/Saniora in October 2005, after the Lebanese army was attacked by pretty much the same people the army is fighting today.

Here's an old post of mine of 2, TWO, deux, dos, two, II, zwei, years ago that pretty much explains how we got to the point we are at today, with thugs everywhere shooting at the army.

Army Response: Better but not Good Enough

-Note that the 2005 events involved Fateh el-Intifada, the precursor of Fateh el-Islam (if not the very same shit), and pro-Syrian Ahmad Jibril's PFLP-GC also suspected of involvement in the current mess.

-Of course, the 2005 events PRE-DATE the July 2006 war, and the subsequent deployment of the army to the South (and later downtown). IOW, the army was NOT overstretched back then.

-Note that two years ago in 2005, the national dialogue group had UNANIMOUSLY given (or was about to give, not sure on timing) cover for army action against armed Palestinians outside the camps. Yes, Hezbo and Aoun were publicly on board.

-Seniora/Saniora's words above have come back to haunt him, the families of the recent dead, and the rest of the country.

Conclusion/mantra: Our leaders always take forever, wait for several deaths instead of one or none, and finally decide to act when it is too late.

I am not saying early action would have prevented everything we are seeing now. However, it sure would have made it more difficult for our enemies, and would have made them, and their hired hands, think twice before attacking.

PS. Sorry for the re-post, but things do not happen in a vacuum. So yeah, I repeat myself. What's new under your sun?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Fateh el-Islam: Objectives (Part II)

In an interview to L’Orient-LeJour MP and Minister Ahmad Fatfat talked about Fateh el-Islam (or Fatah, FI herein). See Part I here for the start of the interview.

From the interview with Michel Hajji-Georgiou [Sorry no link, L’Orient’s stories are accessible for just one day. It’s the June 1, 2007 issue, translation is mine.]


Their (FI) objective was to destabilize the country to serve Syria. They spread out throughout the city of Tripoli in a matter of minutes, this means they were prepared. They had a plan to control the city [Lebanon’s second largest] and then the rest of the North.
FI was about to take over Tripoli and then the rest of the North and hold it? I don’t believe 300 guys can do that. Military experts please enlighten me.

If they could have controlled the Qalamoun village, where they set up the first roadblock, the whole of the Sunni North would have fallen under their control. However the Lebanese authorities took them by surprise and they had to reveal their plans.
The “surprise” part is a joke Ahmad, right? You funny guy, you.

[Fatfat then speculates] that FI wanted to establish an emirate in the region. They had a large amount of weapons and wanted to send a political message that the Lebanese government is not in control, and that Syria is needed (again) to restore order.
I don’t know about “emirate” but the rest is self-evident.

Fellow blogger Mustafa of Beirut Spring blogged on this under “Busted”. I am glad FI was belatedly “busted”, though I won’t count my chickens before they hatch. And I maintain the government acted late, as usual (see Part I).

However, there are many aspects of Fatftat’s analysis that I find very disturbing.

-There is an aura of “unseriousness” in Fatfat’s account. Granted he is not the most responsible spokesman, but this is national security and our officials sound like minor league players (not credible, not much evidence, why no action earlier etc)

-A group, we were first told numbered 50, then 150-200, is now put at 300 before we get action beyond the usual “monitoring”. See previous post, about government tracking, then monitoring, then postponed action, then they kill 17 Lebanese soldiers before the army actually moves...

-Enough with the stupid monitoring and gathering information on such groups. Arrest them or shoot them when they are still numbering 10 guys. Then, and only then, figure out who is behind them and what their purpose is.

-The government probably did the same thing with Jund el-Sham in the southern camp of Ein el-Helweh camp. What the hell is the government monitoring?

These groups are armed and dangerous thugs who have an agenda opposed to that of the Lebanese government, people, and state. I can tell you that from my armchair at home. Do we need to monitor them for 2 years, watch them grow to 300, and let them take over large areas before we figure out that their activities go beyond organizing Saturday night dances?

Fateh el-Islam: Insider View (Part I)

How the Lebanese government works (or rather does not), courtesy of Minister and MP Ahmad Faftat.

In an interview to L’Orient-LeJour Ahmad Fatfat said quite a bit about Fateh el-Islam (FI herein), the group at the heart of the current fighting in the Nahr el-Bared camp, near Tripoli.

Fatfat is not just anyone. He is full-fledged minister (Youth and Sports) in the current Saniora/Seniora cabinet. Furthermore, he was the interim minister of the INTERIOR for about a year, until very recently and when Fatah el-Islam (FI) appeared on the radar screens.

From the interview with Michel Hajji-Georgiou (Fatfat is in part reacting to accusations of having gone easy on such groups):

[Sorry no link, L’Orient’s stories are accessible for just one day. It’s the June 1, 2007 issue, translation is mine.]

-Fatfat (and security officials) started tracking the FI group back in October-November 2006.

-Chaker Absi (head of the group) comes in from Syria, associates with Fateh el-Intifada in the Beddawi camp (next to Bared). The new group fights with local Hamas, becomes Fateh el-Islam (FI) and moves north to Nahr el-Bared where they take over the camp from Fateh Intifada and get their hands on stashes of weapons.

-At that point authorities were between two theories: FI is a Syrian controlled group versus FI is just "another" Palestinian formation.
[IMO it should not matter, both are unacceptable but that’s just me.]

-When bus bombs claimed 4 Lebanese civilian lives in Ain Alak in February 2007, police arrested 4 Syrians belonging to FI who confessed to being trained and sent by Syria.

-That’s when Lebanese security formed a “central cell” (coordinating different services) to monitor the group in and out of the camp.
Why did this level of monitoring start only after Ain Alak, and not when the group first appeared? Especially given suspicions it was a Syrian group?

Fatfat was not interior minister at that time anymore and he says the army apparently asked the police to postpone the storming of FI offices in order to gather more information.

Earlier and fuller monitoring before the Ain Alak bombs may have spared those victims. Cracking down on FI right after Ain Alak may have saved the tens of lives lost in the past few days.

We’ll never know, but these aggressive measures were necessary. We are not formally in a state of emergency, but, damn it, that’s what it is.

Then, to justify the army's strong action, Fatfat says that for the first time in Lebanese history there is convergence among:

“an extraordinary reaction by the army, strong local Sunni support, Fateh support, Hamas and other Palestinian organizations support as well as Arab and international support.”
Please go back and re-read Fatfat’s words.

Notice anything?

There is no Lebanese government and no Lebanese people. It's Sunni support, and Palestinian this and international that. This from the government trying to rebuild the Lebanese NATION and its STATE.

Four people going to work by bus were killed in Ain Alak. FI starts hostilities against the army by killing 17 unsuspecting (sleeping?) soldiers. And we can only act against this scum of the earth because of Sunni local support and Palestinian approval etc???

We have gotten to this point BECAUSE visionless/coward governments were sovereign neither over their decisions nor over their lands.

I wish the army a swift victory and I hope it gains respect and uses it. And I sure hope to God that next time the government/army need to act, they don't have to wait for Mercury to be in Gemini nor for anyone's approval, local or foreign.