Saturday, April 19, 2008

History of Foreign Intervention in the Lebanese Civil War (Part I & Introduction)

Please Check: Causes of the Lebanese Civil War, Lebanon and Democracy: Doomed to Repeat the Past, Investigating Lebanon: Investigating the Ethnic Dilemma

On the memory of the ignition of the Lebanese Civil War, I decided to write these several series of posts... and hopefully will have the time to finish them.

For a tiny country whose area is 10420 KM2 and a population of 4,000,000, Lebanon sure took the attention of the world, or almost the world. I will not argue what Ghassan Tuieni once described our Civil War as the War of others, rather , I will record each foreign intervention as they occurred. This will give a highlight on Syria, PLO, Israel, USA, among the countries involved.

To be honest if you want to count the number of foreign powers involved in our civil war, they can be counted as follows: Unites States of America, Palestinian Liberation Organization – Egypt – Syria – Jordan – Israel – Saudi Arabia – Libya – Soviet Union – Iran – Iraq – France – Italy – Eastern Europe – Tunis – Cyprus – China – Kuwait – Others. For a tiny country as Lebanon, it sure took a focal point of foreign powers to be interested in this country. Each power had its own foreign cliental, and supplier of funds/arms.

The Case of Lebanon

As I explained in an earlier post "Causes of the Civil War", Lebanon had several situations for having a war. Some were innate due to failed 1943 Pact, and others involved regional interest in the war. The Saddest part of the story, that all the war criminals (ie all the party figureheads) are not locked up in prisons, and their audiences still believe they are fighting for their Lebanon. For me, I think Aoun, Berri, Jaajaa should be locked up in prison and throw the key in a bucket of acid. Actually, I can't exclude anyone. They all deserve to be locked up in prison, they all are well-funded while the victims voices remain screaming from the graves unpunished. This concludes that the ones who inflicted maximum butcheries on the Lebanese were the Israelis, then invited by different Christian powers to come and rid them from the PLO. Now of course, the Israelis killed more Lebanese rather than harming PLO warriors. The Lebanese Front cadres failed to mention that there are also the Lebanese National Movement, which was strictly Lebanese raising arms in front of their "Christian-like" Lebanon.

The war to be clear, didn’t start as several Western (and even local) scholars like to describe between the Muslims and the Christians. As a matter of fact, several Shiite and Sunni leadership supported the Christians, while others supported the Left. Hence on a local level, it will be rather naïve and childish to say that the war broke out between these two religious sects. Other downsized it as the war between the PLO and the Christians, which again suits a lot of Western audience to believe so, but again, that is a bogus 'humbug' truth. The war broke out between the Lebanese among themselves. The Palestinian military became severely involved in post 1975 towards the end of it, when Tel Za'atar Camp was severely surrounded. The combatant coalitions were:

The Lebanese Front (Christian Extreme Parties):

The Phalange Party (Spearheaded by Pierre Gemayel Sr.) – The Partisan Liberation Party (Spear headed by Camille Shamoun) – The Marada (Spearheaded by Suleiman Franjieh Sr.), Guardians of the Cedars (Spearheaded by Etienne Sakr) – The Organization aka Tanzeem (Spearheaded by George Adwan).

The Lebanese National Movement included:

The Progressive Socialist Party (Spearheaded by Kamal Junblatt) - The Lebanese Communist Party (Spearheaded by George Hawi) – The Order for Communist Action (Spearheaded by Mohsen Ibrahim) – Syrian Social Nationalist Party (Spearheaded by Inaam Raad) .

Now both parties had mini-militias supporting them, such as AMAL Movement (which in fact fluctuated between both coalitions). They were part of the Lebanese National Movement, then switched sides when the Christians begged the Syrians to enter Lebanon.

Nature of the Civil War

Now the question to ask: "Was the Lebanese Civil war the same when the War broke out and it ended?" The answer is definitely not. The Progressive Socialist Party for example underwent drastic changes with the assassination of Kamal Junblatt and becoming more Durzi in nature in post 1982 era. There are of course new parties/players that changed the form of the war. The Morabitoun for example became a powerful militia then was destroyed by four parties allying briefly with each other into a single coalition. The fact it took four powerful militias in the 1980s to annihilate them shows their strength: The Lebanese Communist Party – The Progressive Socialist Party – AMAL Movement - Order for Communist Action. New parties/players would include the rise of Nabih Berri on a new more militant AMAL movement, Michel Aoun with the Lebanese Army, Samir Jaajaa for the Lebanese Forces, and Hezbollah as a whole. The war between the Left and the Christians ended up with the Christians battling each other, the Shiites battling each other, and the Left Wing battling the Shiites and Christians alike. Israel and the United States seized to be powerful players in Lebanon after 1985, and loyalties changed. Iraq and Iran became integral players in the war, while Egypt's role got marginalized.

Finally, only the stupid members of the Lebanese Forces would argue that is due to the Palestinians that the war broke out; the Palestinians lost politicially and most of their major powers in 1982 and ended up battling a Muslim Party = AMAL Movement. In fact, AMAL Movement opened fronts on all levels against almost everyone on a separate front. They battled Hezbollah on one wide, they battled the Lebanese Communist Party and the Progressive Party on another, and they battled the PLO on a third front. As for the Sunnis, there were two separate parties that were tagged Sunnis. The first is called "The Mourabitoun" while the other was the Islamist Movement of Unification (in Tripoli). Other than that, they were severely marginalized during the war. The Shiites almost lacked any organization prior to the war, eventually they immerged with two powerful Parties: Hezbollah and AMAL. Someone may ask why I write AMAL Movement in capital letters because AMAL is an abbreviation in Arabic to Affwaj Mouaqawa el Lebanieh (which means Legions of the Lebanese Resistance, which is ironic because they killed more Lebanese and Palestinians than they killed Israelis).


To fully comprehed the civil war, the Marxist dialect has to be followed. This includes objectivity. The Sciences of Marxism are based on re-constructing history as it happened. This means as far as trashing the Soviet Union and anything else because they already happened. In the case of Lebanon, we have to document each event as it happened. Understand how we jumped from one phase to another, and of course liberate ourselves from the War mythes we inherited from our parents/friends/relatives. The core of Marxism states that the present cannot be understood unless we understand the past and how we arrived. This means I will mention the Communist parties same as I mention the other. This also means it is not enough to say there was only a Sabra - Chatila Massacre, there were massacres at Saida, Damour, Chicca, Port Beirut, Ba'abda, West Beirut, and several others equally. In the end, to carry arms in the name of the Proletariat is one thing, but shooting innocent citizens and take away 15 years of their lives means that all parties are all accountable in the civil war.

This means that the Phalange or AMAL Movement should come out clean and say: "Yes, we butchered people based on Sect". This means that the supporters of Bashir Gemayel or Camille Shamoun should admit they invited the Israelis to enter, the US archives prove so. This leads me to analyze the sources of information. We are lucky that a lot of key players displayed their information to the public, the most recent would be Joseph Abu Khalil's memoirs. Others would include the CIA archives (we have full knowledge of what happened in 1975-1976 on the party-leadership levels). Other sources would be the Israelis (yes, you read me right, their archives also are important despite the fact several Zionist scholars try to distort history to satisfy their extremist readers). Other information would be the media, documentaries, and first person witnesses. A lot of information might involve deducation, but if deducation can be avoided and reach the truth as it happened from a fixed reference, then by all means that what should happen. Finally the current politicians shouldnt impose a bad case of amnesia on the Lebanese because they shouldnt be selfish to defend their politicial interests and expose for real what they have done to a tiny country called Lebanon.


Now mentioning so many political parties means one thing: so many foreign cliental involved in the Lebanese Civil War, and it would be interesting to investigate (as much as possible) their role in the Lebanese Civil War.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Regarding the Divorce of Aoun and Murr

It is amazing how everything is bi-polar to the extent that 14th of March has a lot of supporters now calling Michel Murr as "The Wiseman" while the Opposition call him "The Traitor". The Opposition seems to have forgotten what he has done to the Syrians.

One of the shakiest alliances that took place between any two individuals was between Aoun and Michel el Murr. During last year elections, 14th of March gambled on the chance that Aoun and Murr will break their alliance, to which the latter two disappointed them when both announced loud and clear that the trilogy alliance between Aoun, Murr, and Tashnag is still alive and kicking. Although it has to be noted, Murr and Aoun forgot to mention the Syrian Social Nationalist Party's votes (estimated at least 4500) that gave Camille Khoury the breaking factor.
Couple of months later, Michel el Murr appeared on Marcel Ghanem's show, and he defended his alliance to Aoun on the basis of paying back an old friend a favor for saving his son during the last couple of years in the civil war. But Michel el Murr was explicit to also state that he doesn’t talk with Aoun's men, and in fact he indirectly slapped their form of talking on TV with the highest pitch (almost every time between Tony Nasrallah, Alain Aoun, Salim Aoun, Nicholas Khoury, Jubran Ba"th"il, and others. Michel el Murr also stated that if he was a Maronite Christian, instead a Greek Orthodox Christian, he would have run on the elections.

To be honest, in my personal opinion, the smartest politician to join then Michel Aoun's coalition "Reform and Change" was el Murr. The man managed since the late sixties to sustain himself in the parliament, knocked out Bshara Merhej to grab hold of the Ministry of Interior, and developed a gigantic empire in Matn whereby he swept over 80% of the municipalities. To be more exact, Murr's empire was gigantic. At a one point, he was the deputy for the Speaker of the Parliament, his son was the Minister of Interior, and his daughter was head of the Upper Matn Municipalities. When Albert Mokhaiber passed away in 2002, he ran his daughter to the Parliamentary elections. The only candidate who was supposed to block his daughter from making it to the Parliament and attain a seat next to her daddy was ironically Gabriel el Murr, his own brother. When Gabriel el Murr, supported by anti-Syrian forces, won, Michel el Murr successfully closed down his channel (and don't laugh it was called MTV, aka Murr TV), and found charges to disqualify his own brother, which ironically made Ghassan Mokhaiber win in default the elections (who was actually Joubran Tuieni's and Walid Junblatt's candidate, eventually the tides changed when MP Ghassan ran against his ex - allies in Matn).

Prior to the divorce between Aoun and Murr, Michel Murr still remained one of the most powerful politicians within the Reform and Change coalition. He emerged victorious from Upper Matn elections, he became a powerful figure head in the Opposition while his son is a powerful figure in the Government. Even strangely, the current government is hanging on the edge, if one more Minister resigns/gets assassinated, the government collapses. Elias Murr remained within the government. Probably what triggered the distrust in the first place between these two figures is the assassination attempt on his son, the current minister of Defense: Elias Murr. Hence, Michel Murr immerged as the most controversial figure of 2005 elections, and of course preserved his title as "King of the Upper Matn Constituency".

So who is Michel Murr?

Michel Murr has been a powerful figure that won elections since the late 1960s in Matn area. In 1979, he was a minister of President Sarkis. It has to be noted that by then Sarkis was a close ally of Bashir Gemayel who didn’t mind bringing Bashir Gemayel's loyalists to the government. Michel el Murr is actually the primary funder of Bashir Gemayel's child "the Lebanese Forces." He was the one responsible to secure that the Lebanese Forces were properly funded. Eventually, he remained a minister till 1982, primarily when Bashir Gemayel was blown to kingdom come due to his alliance with Israel.

Like Michel Aoun, Elie Hobeika, Samir Jaajaa, Karim Bakradouni, Fadi Freim, the Sarkis family, and a lot others: he was one of Bashir Gemayel's powerful figures. His marriage to the Syrians secured Upper Matn as his little kingdom, and of course Murr abused his Ministerial authority and made sure that everyone in that district found work as long as they found work.

Through blackmail, giving the Lebanese nationality to over 10,000 blue collared Syrians (and not to forget the non-Syrians), by "coincidence" they were allocated in Upper Matn. He is associated and accused of the Burj Hammoud cheating when "the electricity went out" in 1996 and of course the expulsion of Nassib Lahoud's "Freedom List" observant in 2000. Murr is also notorious for his generousity in elections during the vote cast.

Personally, I think I am risking my life by talking about this man. I myself fear him more than any other politician. This is also not to forget the speed of securing Elections Voting Cards for his supporters and their relatives while it took almost forever to secure these cards for opposition supporters. Murr's strength grew to give license for arms to all his hooligans (and a shoot-out occurred on Nassib Lahoud without the 'Ministry of Interior' investigating it).

The man, don’t get me wrong on this, has an amazing sense of humor. I think he is really the devil's advocate when it comes to politics.

Murr and Aoun lullaby

Now this is the interesting part. Aoun and Murr knew each other since 1978, when Bashir Gemayel completed his climbing of the ladder of the Phalange Party. Aoun was Bashir's Gemayel's hand inside the army; however, in Bashir's last final days he switched his allegiance to Amin Gemayel, who was then the last person to oppose Bashir politically (since Bashir militarily ended Amin's pocket cell in Bikfaya).
While Michel Murr participated in the Syrian game and the forging of the Ta'ef agreement, Aoun eventually went to exile by living in a "five-stars hotel". Murr's network and Aoun's alliance in 2005 came as a bombshell to everyone. The alliance proved fruitful for both of them, since the government wanted to politically end Michel Murr's winning streak. Even Sarkis Sarkis almost defeated Pierre Gemayel Jr. in the elections.

With Michel Murr's son in the government holding the most powerful ministry, Ministry of Defense, and he is holding a powerful position at the Opposition, specially due to his highly controversial links to Syria, the family seemed to have won the hearts of both coalitions. Probably the only person to hate him till he goes to the grave his Gabriel Murr. It is only a matter of time how long can Murr tolerate Aoun's ego and worse, Aoun's footsoldiers: the figureheads of the Free Patriotic Movement. Despite the fact that Murr tried to end his alliance peacefully with Aoun, again Aoun had to explode on Murr.

Murr argued that it is illogical to keep the nation without a president for so long, and it is insane to keep the parliament closed for that long as well. He was one of the figureheads who supported the closure of the Parliament. Yet, the top of the iceberg was exposed when Murr went to elect a President when his Son supported the election of Michel Suleiman as the President of Lebanon. While Murr said it loud and clear he wants to vote for a president, all the Free Patriotic Movement in December boycotted the Parliamentary Session to occur, and pushed the Opposition to break the quorum of 2/3 to get things rolling within the parliament. (Only AMAL's coalition in a symbolic manner were

What About the 2009 Parliamentary Elections

Well, I know one powerful leader who told me in December 2007: "Be prepared, in six months, the alliances will fluctuate and the borders will change between 14th of March and the Opposition." In fact, he added: "Expect anything!". Seems he is right although I was skeptical at first.

If the 2009 parliamentary elections take place , then where Murr will stand? Will he step down and allow his son lead his tens of thousands of supporters? Technically the primary obstacle for the 14th of March was Rafi Madayan since he is the sworn enemy of the Tashnag. Yet, now Murr fluctuated his alliances currently to neutral grounds. This may lead to a scenario of throwing Nassib Lahoud outside the Matn Formula and forge a strong alliance between 14th of March , Murr, and the Tashnag. After all, Rafi Mayadan switched sides.

Another scenario would be that Murr himself, in a vigorous manner, will go elections again but he will seek to win Matn as a whole. He might be weaker without the SSNP votes and the Free Patriotic Movement's votes (as well as the foreign votes), he still can pull it through. The Opposition and the Government can leave two or three seats for him and vote for him in the face of the others.

Or Aoun and Murr would probably strike a new alliance under different circumstances and run the elections again. This, I have to stress, has lost its cutting edge after Aoun's Tsunami disappeared to only 400 votes against Amin Gemayel. Someone will tell me that it was a nobody (Mr. Camille Khoury) crushing the ex-President, I would like to stress that Camille Khoury was not running but in name, the man who behaved as if he was running was Aoun himself.

The question would have to be asked: What about Murr's allies from the reign of the Syrian Mandate? What about Hezbollah and AMAL movement? Will they in defecto abandon the man who facilitated all black market issues for them and covered them politically? The other question is: Did Michel Murr divorce the Syrian Baathi Regime? Did the attempt on Elias Murr's life break that alliance? Time will tell…
Now isn’t it hilarious how 14th of March and the Opposition automatically switch sides in terms of Opinion?

Update: Seems Murr is heading to an alliance with Gemayel ever since announced publicly that he regrets shooting down Amin Gemayel's parliamentary electoral campaign. Interesting, does this mean that Nassib Lahoud is out of the formula? Is Murr joining 14th of March? Or a powerful coalition of Tashnag - Murr - Lahoud - Lebanese Forces/Phalange is under construction?

As lunatic Aoun, since he is trying to get out of this mess by opening the issue of a mass grave whereby the confronation took place between the Lebanese Army (whatever remained from it then) and the Lebanese Forces. Why doesnt he go to the court since he fully took the credit for the Tel Za'atar massacres on al-Jazeera's War for Lebanon?

What a long road we still have to go through…


Michael A. Lebowitz: Remembering a May Day March

Article taken from here

On May Day 2005, I marched with workers in Caracas. And the slogan workers were chanting at that time was "Without Comanagement, There Is No Revolution." Indeed, the main slogans for that May Day march, organized by the UNT, were "Comanagement Is Revolution" and "Venezuelan Workers Are Building Bolivarian Socialism."

We don't hear much of that anymore. We don't have masses of workers saying, "Without Worker-management, There Is No Socialism." Or, "You Cannot Build Socialism without Worker-management." Nevertheless, I think that we have to recognize the essential truth of this proposition.

Let me stress, though, that I'm not simply talking about worker-management as workers making decisions in individual workplaces. That's a necessary part of it, but it's not enough. When we talk about the goals of production, they should be the goals of workers -- but not in single workplaces. They should be the goals of workers in society, too -- workers in their communities. The goals which guide production should be developed democratically in both communities and workplaces and based on the concept of solidarity. In this respect, it's important to remember the different dimensions of what President Chávez has called the "elementary triangle" of socialism: units of social property, social production organized by workers, and production for the needs of communities. You can't separate those in socialism. As I've written in the new edition of Socialism Doesn't Drop from the Sky, "Without production for social needs, no real social property; without social property, no worker decision-making oriented toward society's needs; without worker decision-making, no transformation of people and their needs." . . .

There is an alternative to capitalism's effects on workers. It is the society that Marx described as characterized not by the capitalist's drive to increase the value of his capital but, rather, by "the inverse situation in which objective wealth is there to satisfy the worker's own need for development." That society oriented to the full development of human beings is socialism. It is the society where, instead of this crippling of body and mind of the worker and the alienation from the worker of all "the intellectual potentialities of the labour process," there is the re-combining of head and hand, the uniting of mental and physical labor. In this way, workers develop their capabilities through their practice. The partially developed individual is "replaced by the totally developed individual, for whom the different social functions are different modes of activity he takes up in turn." The combination of thinking and doing, Marx stressed, is "the only method of producing fully developed human beings."

That can't happen, though, when you work for capital, even if workers have complete control in the workplace. If the interconnection of workers in production "confronts them, in the realm of ideas, as a plan drawn up by the capitalist, and, in practice, as his authority, as the powerful will of a being outside them," how can workers develop all their capabilities? Without "intelligent direction of production" by workers, without production "under their conscious and planned control" --- in other words, without worker management, workers cannot develop their potential as human beings. Clearly, for "the worker's own need for development" to be the goal and to be the result requires an economic system quite different from capitalism, a socialist system which is the inversion of capitalism.

This brings me, though, to the question of worker-management and what we should learn from the efforts to build socialism in the 20th century. . . . What does that experience demonstrate?

1. When workers don't manage, someone else does.

2. When workers don't develop their capabilities through their practice, someone else does.

3. However much you may think you have banished capitalism from the house, when production is not based upon the relation of production of associated producers, sooner or later capitalism comes in -- first, through the backdoor, and then it marches openly through the front door.

Come back to that elementary triangle of socialism: units of social property, social production organized by workers, for satisfaction of communal needs and purposes. Of course, we know that this can't all be put into place at once. Of course, we know that it is a long process of struggle to develop each side of that triangle. But we also know that if we are not actively building each side, we inevitably infect the whole process . . . sooner or later.

How can you build socialism without real workers' management? How can you build fully developed human beings without protagonistic democracy in the workplace and community?

In my book, Build It Now, I quoted a line from an old song by Bob Dylan -- "he not busy being born is busy dying." So, I have to say to you how sad it is to recognize how things have changed since 2005. I look forward to being able to march once again with masses of workers on May Day chanting, "Without Worker Management, There Is No Socialism."

Michael A. Lebowitz is professor emeritus of economics at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, and the author of Beyond Capital: Marx's Political Economy of the Working Class, winner of the Isaac Deutscher memorial prize for 2004, and Build It Now: Socialism for the Twenty-First Century, just published by Monthly Review Press. The text above is an excerpt from a talk, "Worker-management and Socialism," given at Centro Internacional Miranda on 26 October 2007 for a Conference "Worker Management: Theory and Experiences."

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Causes of the Lebanese Civil War

An Article I wrote last year for Renegade Eye's Blog

Tomorrow, the painful memory of the beginning of the civil war began. I will try to put a summary of a summary on why the war broke. Someone tell Lahoud to stop thinking he is not legitimate President in a non-technical sense.

There are several factors that tackle the events that led to the break-out of the Lebanese Civil War. Theodor Hanf (in his book Irrevocable Covenant) and others discuss different reasons that become entangled in the end, and trigger the Lebanese Civil war in 1975.

The first reason according to Hanf that the war broke out is due to the nature of Lebanon and its political structure. Lebanon is a state composed of communities whereby one community can never dominate the rest. This balance of power forced into Lebanon democracy as the best solution between the different communities. The second factor would be the class-income distribution between the sects to be involved in the 1975 clash. All the communities got their elites as well as their lower income wage earners. The 1960s witnessed class inequality on the rise among the different communities which made the major Sect leaders aim to mobilize the masses easier against the others. A third factor is the perception of the Muslims and Christians of Lebanese Nationalism. To the Christians, Lebanese Nationalism is strictly Lebanese and nothing else (as long as they were in power) while the Muslims regarded Lebanese Nationalism as complementary to Arab Nationalism and didn’t mind having both. This would play a major role in the different factions who would ally with the Palestinians. These double standards of Nationalism would threaten the Christians’ sense of Lebanese independence.

Another dimension to Theoder Hanf was the Palestinians’ activities in Lebanon starting from the late 1960s and the arrival of large quantity of combatants in 1970 after Black September in Jordan. This tipped the balance of power among the Lebanese communities as the Left-Wing considered that the Lebanese army was already biased for the Lebanese Christian Leaders and the PLO’s mass arrival can balance the power against the “isolationist” Christian Leaders. The Palestinians used Lebanon since the late 1967 as a base to launch operations on Israel. This spread fear among the Christians that Lebanon’s independence was marginalized and they became a minority in Lebanon as the PLO learnt their errors from the Jordan 1970 experience and armed its allied parties in Lebanon. They further established networks, since the PLO got no place else to go and Lebanon was the only country allowing them to launch their military operations. Solidarity to the Palestinians was expressed through the Muslims (mostly the Sunni) but with the aim to change the system in a limited manner while the left-wing Lebanese National Movement aimed to demolish the sect-based system. The PLO eventually transformed the Western Part of Beirut into its stronghold.

A third dimension to several authors is the Army and its incapability to dominate or control the PLO. The Lebanese Army was always a weak army compared to the neighboring armies’ strength of Jordan, Syria, Israel, and Egypt. The purpose of the army, as advocated by head of the Phalange Party, Pierre Gemayel, that the nation’s strength would be its weakness. Having a weaker army means discouragement for other nations to feel threatened. Nevertheless, despite its weakness compared to other institutions, the army has been the core balancer of power between the Christian Militias and the rest of the communities. The Army from 1967 till 1969 entered several confrontations with the Palestinian Commandos in order push away the PLO from the borders, primary allies of Kamal Junblatt and the Left-wing, till the Cairo agreement was signed. After 1970, with the PLO still expanding their networks and continuing with their operations on Israel, the Christian Parties decided to transform their parties into militias. The Left-wing leaders organized mass demonstrations against the Army’s crackdown attempts on the PLO.

The Regional Situation also played a role into contributing factors that would eventually lead to the break out of the Lebanese Civil War. Ever since the end of the Six Days War, the PLO received massive support from the gulf nations in compensation to the great humiliating Arab Defeat. The Cairo agreement was drafted between the PLO and the Head of the Lebanese Army, which was approved by the Lebanese Parliament, gave the PLO legitimacy over the camps, safe influx of arms from Syria, and made West Beirut the safe-haven for the PLO warriors. The Cairo Agreement’s aftermath also made the Christian Leaders, after the influx of more PLO warriors from Jordan, to focus on their own strengths. According to Dr. Moubarak, the Arab states blocked PLO operations from their borders but encouraged the PLO’s use of arms and support in Lebanon. (Walid Moubarak, Position of A Weak State In An Unstable Region: Case of Lebanon (The Emirates Center For Strategic studies & Research ,2002), P. 3) Syria on the other hand, had its own Palestinian Militias active in Lebanon, the Sa’iqa. They were always a support to the PLO’s activism specially if the Lebanese Army pressured the PLO in a military sense. What aggravated the situation more was the fact Kamal Junblatt was the Minister of Interior, who was the PLO’s primary ally, to this, the Christian Leaders never liked it.

The International Arena also played a role into negotiations. Kissinger never struck deals with the PLO, rather with Egypt and Syria after 1973 war. The PLO were regarded as Refugees with no rights whatsoever which forced its leadership to bomb its away to attain recognition and a bargaining card via Lebanon after they changed policy and have a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza (which will happen in the Oslo agreement). Israel’s policy was also dramatic which increased the tension between the Christian Leaders and the PLO. Whenever the PLO launched an operation, Israel responded mainly on the South and the refugee camps. When Israel bombed in 1968 the 12 Middle East Airlines, Israel signaled a message to all leaders of Lebanon to control their half of the borders and cripple the PLO. The development of the Peace Treaties between Egypt and Israel via Henry Kissinger got al-Assad to develop the three nation (Syria, Jordan and Lebanon) – four people unity strategy (Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians, and Jordanians).

The US administration, under Kissinger’s dominion, was bothered with the turn of events inside Lebanon. With the escalation of the Lebanese situation, Kissinger was worried that Israel would be dragged to war with Lebanon, which in turn would trigger another regional war in less than a year. Furthermore, Kissinger didn’t want to see Israel entering a war because finally an Arab nation (supposedly the strongest military then), Egypt, decided to follow the Step-By-Step with the Zionist State. Nevertheless, PLO operations threatened a regional war. Syria already took a positive step with the States after the 1973 war, and agreed to follow the disengagement plan. The problem was Syria always supported the PLO from cross-border artillery, or its Palestinian made militias: the Palestinian Liberation Army (PLA). This did not stop Syria from establishing good contacts with the Christian Militias, in case, according to Syrian calculations, the other side dominated. To the Syrians, they wanted intervention into Lebanon, but not a left-wing Lebanese Party establishing a socialist government that would shake the whole region. Worse, they wanted to dominate the PLO politically in order to become the sole spearheads for the “Arab Cause”. This clicked with Kissinger on a latter stage to cripple the PLO.

The Division of Lebanon into Two Camps intensified matters. The Leaders of the “Lebanese Front” declined to lose one bit of their political advantage and public sector recruitment benefits (6:5). Imam el-Sadre radicalized his Shiite base and moved closer to President Suleiman Frangieh’s coalition hence forth isolating the Sunni Sect and the Left-Wing (who were attempting to link their demands with the crisis of the South). Junblatt became the recognized Muslim leader in the Arab world, as he got the support of Syria and Egypt as well as the presence of the PLO armed groups broke the hegemony of the Christian domination. His bargaining would be narrowed down to reform the system in return of limited strikes of the PLO against Israel. Pierre Gemayel and Camille Shamoun wouldn’t want to lose any privileges for their parties stressed and accompanied the army in their clashes with the PLO. Should the Christian leaders accept any declines, the warring Lebanese factions probably would have been avoided with a new Status Quo (Fawwaz Traboulsi, A History of Modern Lebanon, Pluto Press (2007), P. 180)

The state, due to the interests of both camps, has lost legitimacy in the eyes of the left-wing camp. The erosion of the State started when Israeli Commandos entered West Beirut and assassinated three PLO figures in 1973. The Army was present and didn’t do anything as Ehud Barak stated he remained for one hour in the Verdun area disguised as a blond woman in a skirt. Escalations occurred from the soon to be Lebanese Front Alliance and the Lebanese National Movement leaders. Since 1970, the future LNM leaders called for demonstrations every time the Army (usually backed with Phalange supporters) attacked the PLO.

Two incidents will trigger the Lebanese civil war in 1975 despite the fact some confrontations occurred between Junblatt’s socialists and the Phalange militia earlier to the zero hour. The first is the demonstration led my MP Ma’ruf Sa’ad against Protein Corp. in Saida. The corporation itself has the Ahhrar’s Camille Shamo’un as one of its primary shareholders. The army shoots on the demonstrators, and the Pro-Nasserite MP Sa’ad is killed among others. Riots break up between the Army and the Nasserite, leftist, and Palestinian supporters. President Frangieh refutes to hold the army accountable while the Phalange supporters did several counter – demonstrations in solidarity with the army. After a month Frangieh transfers two officers from Saida while its governor was placed on probation. Eventually Pierre Gemayel objects on the rotation of the Army’s officer transfer. A month later, the Project of establishing Protein in Saida was abandoned and the government decides to compensate the fishermen. The Next day, April 13,1975, a shoot out takes place in Ain el-Remaini at the Phalange (which is assumed an operation on Pierre Gemayel) while the Phalanges retaliate by shooting a bus going to Tel el-Zaatar camp. The war would break and would last for a decade and a half. (Fawwaz Traboulsi, A History of Modern Lebanon, Pluto Press (2007), P. 183).

Different factors boiled down to trigger the Civil War in Lebanon. Whether it was class inequality among the sects which allowed the “Sect-Defenders” to mobilize their supporters against the “other”, or the newly balance of power between the Leftists and the Christian militias has triggered down the civil war. The presence of two armies, the PLO guerilla warfare organized commandos and the Lebanese Army, definitely shoved the direction of Lebanon towards a new civil war. Philip Habib once compared Lebanon to a vacuum that sucked in the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Israelis, the United States, and others into its whirlpool.

Keep in mind that this is just a summary of a summary for the causes why the Civil War broke, I didn’t tackle the events of the war. All are to be blamed. Just to make a remark, the causes which triggered the war on Lebanese level, the Christians and the Left, changed as the civil war, accompanied with different foreign interventions, progressed till 1990. The war is divided into different reasons, which changed as the turn of events progressed. This reflects also the expulsion of the Palestinians from their homeland triggered a chain reaction that reflected badly on Lebanon. In the end, the Proletariat suffered the greed of the elites.

Regarding New TV Riyad Kobeissi's Documentary on Arms

It is a very interesting documentary on people owning arms that shoot in the open air. Why doesnt our esteemed army and internal security forces go arrest them since they appeared on the documentary (and other TV stations) ...

More to the point, like most of the Lebanese, I have access to ex-militia members. I remember 5 years ago I got an offer for AK-47 for 40$, second hand. Now, any AK-47 in the black market exceeds 1000$ (again my contact's price list), not to forget how the ammunition of different arms are higher. Ever since the Ministry of Interior banned the sales of licenses to carry arms, prices have been sky rocketing... another bad sign of our damned country.

If you belong to a certain location that is famous for a partisan affiliations, you will be dubbed to that. The same applies per sect, and a lot are purchasing arms because they will be blindly dubbed to this or that party.

BTW, I declined to buy the AK-47 then for 40$ and sure like hell I would buy one for 1000$.


Friday, April 11, 2008

The Destruction of Alternatives

In Lebanon, the majority of the civilians do not want a civil war; however, that was the case back in 1975 and they were dragged to a civil war.

The current politicians are practicing a process what is called: demobilization. This means all non-party affiliates are de-activated due to the lack of availability of alternatives or options to impose the over-all populations' voice on the politicians. Henceforth, the destruction of alternative aka space to function in opposition to the political parties' duet singing of 14th of March and the Opposition.

More to the point, activists who oppose the war are suffocated by the demolition forces of 14th of March and the opposition. They can't do nothing, and personally someone may wonder if they agreed with each other to cripple the activists from expressing their opinions. This becomes very much apparent when riots break out between party affiliates and the shooting takes place. In fact, the immigrants who left Lebanon in the quest of seeking a better life are the same victims of these politicians (partly because of those, and partly due to the Israeli aggression and foreign interventions). Those who are left immobile are given with the choice to choose: 14th of March or Opposition? Usually the question, my dear readers comes as follows: choose the worse of the two. In fact, they are both worse than each other. There is no country in the world currently that celebrates: "Our martyrs and their martyrs" more bluntly than our melancholic parties who promise us doom and destruction by the hands of the "Other Coalition".

With the progressive forces crippled, there is no space to be active at all. In fact, a person would simply watch TV rather attempt to change the reality. Political apathy has reached it's maximum when in 2005 the voting turnabout throughout Lebanon was barely 50%.

As a matter of fact, if a new player or a third force would rise to oppose both coalitions, they will surely agree against them. This we witnessed when Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces allied with each other against Aoun and his ex-Syrian buddies back in 2005. Then the lunatic general marginalized to a second force as an extension of 8th of March to become the new second line = the Opposition. Probably the majority of those who would vote for ex-war criminals and current business corrupted elites would do so because they would fear that the other would for their "scary alliance from foreign lands" (be that the USA or Iran). This means due to lack of activism and progressive (and real democratic) movements, a lot of the voters would simply vote as what they against what they view as the "invaders" to the "lesser evil".

The stalemate is on-going, while few civil society activists are attempting to maximize the odds. The majority of the Proletariat are de-activated in Lebanon. As the deadlock between the two corrupted forces of Lebanon continues, more people flee the country (due to security, possible a second war with Israel, lack of good economy, or a higher degree).

The arena remains for the Elites (the self-proclaimed Sect-Defenders) and their followers who refuse to wake up to the reality that they are all corrupt.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Our Esteemed Members of Parliament and the Public Debt

Here is a thought for you,

The parliamentarians keep complaining that we need money to cover the national debt or to cut down on governmental extravagant expenditures, but how about we look at them now or overall?

For starters, a member of parliament (MP) makes 5,000,000 LL per month. Roughly, that number means 3333.33 US dollars per month. For starters, the parliament has not been functional since the end of 2006. I suggest that this money should be directed to pay for the national debt. In theory we have 126 (and depends on the political assassinations) and parliamentarian quotas for seats. Now 126 x 3333.33 $ equates to 420,000 $. Henceforth, 420,000$ per month are excellent to go to the national debt. Now transform that sum on an annual basis (12 x 420,000 $), that would equate to 5, 040,000 $. That is the sum of money paid on our parliamentarians to sit and do nothing in relations to legislative work. Now if we add the months of the wasted months as a whole (17 x 420,000$) = 7,140,000 $ of money that could have gone to be paid to the Public Debt. They haven’t legislated anything. Rather Opposition MPs have spent their time preaching against the Government and visiting funerals/weddings at their elected districts. The Pro Government MPs have been also wasting the tax-payers' money in attacking the Opposition and hiding due to the death-threats. Henceforth, that sum of money is better than none to be pitched into the National Debt. This of course (excuse my ignorance but I don’t know a minister's salary) but I know for sure that five ministers shouldn’t be receiving their salaries since they are "resigned" till they suddenly decide to visit the government and sign proper papers for their wastas (special connections). Of course, this is not to exclude the fact that the Speaker of the Parliament also receives higher pay than the other.

Now is this is the end of my argument? Of course not !

Each MP also has a different retirement salary. That means once they are no longer MPs, they receive also money from the Tax – Payers which in my opinion shouldn’t do that at all. After all, most of the MPs who run are usually better-off financially, or became during their term. This is not to forget the gigantic sum of money their rich coalitions are part off.

The rates of a retired MP or an MP that fails to make it as follows:

(One Elected Term = 0 sum of money)
(Two Elected Terms = 50% of their salary per month is paid)
(Three Elected Terms = 75% of their salary paid)
(Four Elected Terms = 100% of their salary paid per month).
Now, I am not sure if the formula goes as this:
Five Terms = 125% of their salary paid per month
Six Terms = 150% of their salary paid per month
If this is the case, then we have serious issues, such as MP Abdel Latif Zain or Michel el Murr, or others. Other than Adel Osseiran's reputation for entering the Parliament, being the Speaker of the Parliament, and leaving for over 40 years, and leaving the parliament penniless, I think this is a serious glitch that has to be severely resolved (btw Adel Osseiran's son now is member of Parliament with Berri's Liberation and Development Coalition).

So let me attempt to name the current MPs who have been more than three times elected, and not to forget those who were appointed for one year in 1991.
Yeghia Jerjian (1992 – 1996 – 2000 – 2005; Future Bloc/Government) ; Michel el Murr (1968 - 1991 - 1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005; Reform and Change Coalition/Opposition); Ayman Chouchair (1991 - 1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005; Democratic Gathering/Government), Bassem Sabai' (1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Future Bloc/Government); Akram Chehayeb (1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Democratic Gathering/Government), Ala'a el Dean Tirro (1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Democratic Gathering/Government), Walid Junblatt (1991 - 1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005 Democratic Gathering/Government), Marwan Hmaidi (1991 - 1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Democratic Gathering/ Government), Mohammad Kabbara (1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Tripoli Bloc/Government), Maurice Fadel (1972 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005), Neyla Mou'awad (1991 - 1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Qornet Shahwan/Government), Farid Makarri (Future Bloc/Government), Boutros Harb (1972 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Qornet Shahwan/Government), Nabih Berri (1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Development and Development Coalition/Opposition), Ali Osseiran (1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Development and Development Coalition/Opposition), Michel Moussa (1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Development and Development/Opposition), Mohammad Fneish (1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Loyalty for the Resistance/Opposition), Samir Azar (1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Liberation and Development/Opposition), Ayoub Hmayed (1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Liberation and Development/Opposition), Anwar Khalil (1991 - 1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Liberation and Development), Assad Hairdain (1991 - 1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005 , Syrian Social nationalist Party/Opposition), Mohammad Raad (1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Loyalty For the Resistance/ Opposition), Abdelatif Zain (1962 - 1964 - 1968 - 1972 - 1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Liberation and Development Coalition/Opposition), Hussein el Husseini (1972 - 1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Independent/Opposition), Elias Skaff (1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Reform and Change Coalition/Opposition), Nicolas Fattoushe (1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Future Bloc/Government), George Kassarji (1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005, Reform and Change Coalition/Opposition), and Robert Ghanem (1992 - 1996 - 2000 – 2005).

There are 29 MPs who will be forever earn a 100% (and a 100% plus) as long as they are living. I am sure Michel el Murr (who has his son as a Defense Minister and Ex- Minister of Interior, and his daughter as head of the Municipalities of Upper Matn) or Harriri Jr. would need that sum of money. There are also 11 MPs who have been elected three times (so far) but wont bore you with the details, and there are 22 MPs who were elected twice. Think of the opportunity cost that could have gone to the National Debt. This doesn’t exclude the ex-Members of Parliament who are already benefiting from the system in the past/present. This makes the amount per month a gigantic amount of money going out from our tax-paying to these people instead of easing off our lives by gradually paying off the Public Debt. Cut the funds on the MPs, and let the Proletariat have a better life over here!


PS: All Information of the MPs' elections are taken from the Lebanese Parliamentary Monitor.