Thursday, January 31, 2008

Remembering George Habash

For those who are interested about George Habash's life, click here

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Comparison between Lebanon of 1970-1975 and Lebanon 2005-2008

During the build up towards the Civil War in Lebanon back in the early 1970s, there were several indicators to the situation it will escalate towards a civil war, and now the past repeats itself.

When Sulieman Franjieh Sr. took the Presidential chair, all parties agreed then on this step to demolish the Chehabist influence, which focused on making the Lebanese Army as a third force against both coalitions then (the to be Lebanese National Movement and Lebanese Front). As Pierre Gemayel, Franjieh, and Sham’oun declined reforms demanded by Kamal Junblatt, the government lost its credibility within one faction of the Lebanese. Nevertheless, a national unity government was formed to preserve what Lebanon seemed then as a barely holding patchwork, with Kamal Junblatt himself as Minister of Defense, things collapsed. The President then was effectively the supreme leader of the Lebanese Army, and the army gradually was seen as a pawn in the Christians’ camp. Kamal Junblatt balanced against the Christians because there was a second army, which was re-enforced by the PLO survivors from Jordan (speculated to be an extra 10,000 militant). Hence, there were two armies with two different priorities. When Kamal Junblatt, and Tamam Salam resigned, the government lost its credibility, and its institutions as well.

Currently in Lebanon the same happened. After the Syrians withdrew from Lebanon, a national government was forged between 14th of March and the two strongest (then 8th of March) parties: AMAL and Hezbollah. This kept Lebanon in tact briefly, but the interests of the leaders remained unchanged. Like in 1970, the question of the Palestinian arms were the issue, now the arms of Hezbollah were one of the different issues between both sides. After the Paper Agreement occurred between 8th of March and the Free Patriotic Movement, the 8th of March evolved to become simply the Opposition. After ever increasing disagreements between Hezbollah/ AMAL and the Government, they decided to withdraw after couple of months of the July war in 2006. Hence, the ministers of Hezbollah/AMAL and one pro-President Lahoud Minister withdrew, and the government lost its credibility among half the supporters. This doesn’t mean that the collisions weren’t there, rather the collisions became institutionally legitimate and official. Now, half of Lebanon regards the government as non-constitutional.

The second indicator to the path of the civil war are the collisions between both camps. Just as supporters of different camps occurred in the early 1970s between the pro-National Movement and Lebanese Fronts, collisions are taking place between different supporters of the Government and Opposition. In universities, sensitive streets, and any where else, collisions are taking place. Even at New Years, at Bliss Street collision occurred between the PSP and pro Hezbollah supporters. AMAL and Future supporters collide almost every two weeks, but they are quickly controlled. Logos and accusations such as Syrian agents, US agents, and others were popular then, and they are more than ever these days.

The third factor, which indicates to the collapse of the Nation state is the decline of legitimacy of the Lebanese Army. Just as in early 1970s the army was seen a pawn in the hands of the Christian elites, now the Lebanese army is seen as one-sided in the hands of the government. In 1973, a group of elite Israeli soldiers broke through Beirut from the sea and killed three PLO figureheads. Their residents were next to the army. The army was accused then by Kamal Junblatt as not doing anything on purpose. Ehud Barak himself led this expedition and boasted that he stayed for one hour in Verdun Street. Almost a year later, MP Ma’arouf Saad, head of the Popular Nasserite Organization was shot dead amidst a mass demonstration, mainly composed of fishermen, in Saida against the establishment of Protein (which Camille Sham’oun had his investments in). A photo displayed hinted that the snipers belonged to the Lebanese Army. When rage spread though out the supporters of the Lebanese National Movement, specially accusing the Army with having bloody hands in the affair; Sulieman Frangieh refused, like in 1973, to open an investigation and preferred to keep the case closed. When Frangieh refused to re-deploy the commanding officers of the Lebanese Army or take them to custody, mass demonstrations (composed from Lebanese and Palestinian demonstrators) broke out. When the army was sent to crush the demonstrations, they were accompanied with Phalange supporters cheering the army. Hence the Lebanese army lost its credibility among one faction of the Lebanese, which had an army of its own. War was inevitable between two gigantic coalitions, who had their own militias, and two separate armies (as well as foreign sponsors).

The Lebanese Army, ever since the Syrian withdrawal in 2005, remained neutral. Its leader, General Michel Suleiman, made sure to preserve that way, specially the army was a pawn to Syrian intelligence and was involved in beating anti-Syrian demonstrators. More to the point, the army became a symbol of unity for both coalitions in the government. It was severely bombed by the Israelis during the 2006 war, while it performed its duty as it went down to the Lebanese borders with Israel for a first time in three decades. Both the government and opposition tried to win the army as their own supporters while the head of the army remained neutral to both. When riots broke out in late January 2007, the army again displayed its ability to remain neutral to both coalitions. When the army was sent to face Fatah Islam, the army was hailed as the true defender of the country, and its head, General Michel Suleiman was seen as the next future president of the nation, in an attempt to restore the Chehabist era. The opposition in the past already proposed Suleiman as a potential president of the country, but when the country was sent to the Nahr el Bared camp (despite Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah saying the Camp is a Red Line) and actually crushed Fatah Islam (inflicting Civilian and Military damages), the government successfully made sure that this war was a victory for the Lebanese Government.

Hence, after a lot of political stalemate, 14th of March shoved Michel Suleiman as their primary candidate, and the Opposition accepted briefly then rejected the notion based “on technicalities with governmental details”. 14th of March successfully engulfed Suleiman as their primary candidate while Suleiman himself tried to remain neutral. One day, he visited both after each other: Hassan Nasrallah and Samir Jaajaa. Nevertheless, the army started to lose its credibility with one of the two coalitions. As one general was assassinated, the 14th of March successfully indorsed that the Lebanese Army is a victim equally as 14th of March. As “electricity demonstrations” started to break out, accompanied with riots, and judging this Sunday’s riots, the army was seen a partner with the government. This erosion reminds us totally of the early 1970s events as the Nation state gradually starts to collapse. The last line to hold Lebanon together is falling apart, and there are two armies present on Lebanese soil: Hezbollah and the Lebanese Army.

Just in 1975, the government saw then that the Lebanese National Movement and its militias were gambling on the PLO (which to them is foreign), so does the present day crisis. Junblatt Jr. and Jaajaa accused, like Cham’oun and Pierre Gemayel in the 1970s, the outside army’s arms are used towards domestic issues, so does the former two by stating Iranian arms are directed towards the inside. Just as PLO and Hezbollah arms were promised to be directed towards Israel, now the government accuses Hezbollah of using their arms towards the inside.Whenever Israel brutally raided Lebanon back in the 1970s, it was the PLO and their Lebanese allies blamed, now it is Hezbollah and their allies blamed.

The scenery is set: Mass Mobilizations from two coalitions, each coalition has its own militia, each coalition has its own organized army (each with a different priority), and blood was shed on the street whereby each blames the other. The army may simply be following orders on who controls the Ministry of Defense, but that is the scene we are heading to. Instead to wait for investigations and hold accountable the officers in charge of Bloody Sunday, the political polarizations are reaching new levels of hatred.Whoever wants a civil war to break out, they are successful in systematically destroying, step by step, Lebanon’s institutions. The shadow of a civil war looms over Lebanon, and pessimism is everywhere. The images of the victims during the civil war are repeating itself. Of course, I didn’t tackle the foreign interventions, but the message is clear.

Welcome to the new Jungle.


Monday, January 28, 2008

Fear is the Name of the Game: Regarding Yesterday's Events

Please check earlier investigations regarding Lebanon and the Ethnic factor: Lebanon and Fear of Other (three parts), Investigating Lebanon: The Ethnic Dilemma (three parts), and Lebanon and Democracy: Doomed to Repeat the Past
As I was writing a gigantic article on the Palestinian situation and the hypocrisy of the Arab World towards Palestine, I decided to write on the most recent events.

Almost every week we are having in Lebanon an average of riots and explosions. In nine days, two explosions took place. Demonstrations are talking place, hypothetically orchestrated by the Opposition, are transforming to riots and clashes. The irony part from the opposition is that they already have a space to demonstrate and raise their demands: Down Town. The tents have been there since December 2006, and the same demands the demonstrators have been demanding in Down Town, were raised there. Now, different confrontations are rising elsewhere with similar demands.

Someone may argue that yesterday’s riots occurred due to the gigantic Arab conference that was taking place parallel to the fiasco events in Lebanon. These events weren’t just a fiasco, rather a massacre. For the past week, 11 people were killed in the Chevrolet site explosion, and yesterday 9 people were killed in violent confrontations.

I would prefer to look at the situation from a different angle, the tendency of people in Lebanon to attack the “enemy”. This offensive attitude yesterday generated refugees whereby I know at least 7 people living in yesterday’s hot zones and slept at their friends. With every collision/explosion, the government blames the Opposition and their foreign sponsors, and vice versa. Despite the fact that the media tuned down a bit in their reporting of events to suit their investors, the political charge is there. In fact, like last year’s January, yesterday witnessed a dangerous factor: The leaders lost control over their masses. Despite the fact the concerned government and opposition leaders told their followers to return home, riots broke out, and the war days were revived between Ain el Rummani (Christian side – mostly dominated by the Phalange/Lebanese Forces) and el Shyaih (Muslim Shiite side – mostly dominated by AMAL).

As MP Khalil was begging AMAL followers to go home, the followers disregarded that fact and entered violent confrontation with the Christian side, since as assumed, an unknown sniper shot a member of AMAL movement. The Christian side, never hesitant to disregard an invitation for a street brawl would welcome it, as tradition goes between these two areas. Yesterday events reminded us that Ain el Rummani and Al-Shiyyaihh were miniature models of East and West Beirut. This is blamed as I argued in earlier posts on the “Sect Leaders/Defenders”.

This is no surprise to us. Someone told me that in AUB elections, sect logos were raised as “Ali! Ali! Ya Imam Ali”, or “Freedom from Ali!” (among hundreds of logos raised there). This university is supposed to be the number one university in Lebanon… interesting to see how its students are behaving. Hence, we look at it from a different dimension: Blame everything on the other. If economy is bad, both sides would blame the other coalition (and mind you, economy is bad!). If someone wants to demonstrate, Opposition members would accuse the government demonstrators as “Israeli agents” or the government would accuse the Opposition demonstrators as “the Barbarians”.

Yesterday’s Scenario: Main Lessons
There are different scenarios to be learnt from yesterday’s events:

1) A civil war can break out any moment from now on

2) The leaders are losing their grip on their followers, they have been too much involved in mobilizing their followers against the “traitors” to the extent they are losing their grips on them

3) Government/Opposition leaders haven’t realized that their “escalation” tactics are not paying off on the negotiation tables (well through the mediators) rather it is reflecting on the people

4) The media needs to be controlled, the political party affiliates should impose on all media (including Al-Mannar) to report information as it happened, and not to build up a situation towards a potential civil war.

5) As we noticed the residents evacuating their areas when things were temporary calm around 7:00, this reflects clearly that minority residents or even minority non-affiliated sect residents are under threat of Sectarian Cleansing due to the moments of rage taking place at the moment.

6) As more confrontations are taking place, more hatred will spread. Yesterday’s events are a clear invitation for bigger and bloodier collisions. The more people are wounded or killed, or the more of property damage will occur, the more hatred will build and the more justifications for carrying/stockpiling arms are justified by different militias. This leads us to what the Realist School would call the Security Dilemma: Whereby one group suspects another group to stash arms, hence they start for their own security. The other group sees that and would stash more arms, and hence every political party would have arms. In fact, such a dilemma took place two years ago, and remains increasing. The government, a while ago, embarrassingly acknowledged publicly that political parties affiliated to the government and the opposition have weaponry and demanded that the Ministry of Interior freezes providing weaponry license to interested people (with a minor exception of the bodyguards of the Politicians). In Lebanon nevertheless, weaponry (at least AK-47s and M16s) can be easily attained elsewhere, the biggest proof is the burst of Fatah Islam in Nahr el Bared with a well armed/trained army along the most sophisticated weaponry.

7) Demands for real day-to-day crisis lost their face-value. Demands for the reduction of prices or awareness campaigns against the World Trade Organization would be dubbed as “Opposition maneuvers” (although the vast majority of the opposition do not have issues with the WTO, except probably the Lebanese Communist Party and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party). The Opposition is not better as well because there was an independent movement of NGOs against the WTO which the Opposition tried to hi-jack.

8) People are desperate, specially the older generation that lived through a civil war that lasted 17 years and lost their golden years. I know that for a fact from my family... and now they are worried that their elder phases would be wasted on watching and avoiding militants struggling each other for “a higher cause”.

9) Racism is spreading to war-time levels, despite the fact the enemies reshuffled. The fact that people dubbed the other as “dogs”, “backward residents”, “pigs”, “American A**-lickers”, “Iranian freaks”, and never ending others shows to what extent I have been warning and discussing the situation would elevate to. Henceforth, as I said in previous posts, no coalition will reside till the “other” is fully destroyed. That is at least on the grassroots level, the politicians on the other side are trying to safeguards their interests and snatch a nice juicy business deal.

10) AMAL needs to impose militant authority on its supporters. Whenever Hezbollah supporter go frenzy, Hezbollah in a record time can control their masses. AMAL on the other hand, they lack discipline. Their members have a notorious reputation of being gangsters who invite fist to fist fight at any moment. Almost every incident has AMAL members/supporters involved in fist to fist fight. Whoever is aiming to instigate collisions of yesterday knew what he/she is doing (be that Government/Opposition itself/Syria/USA/Israel/Iran/other suspects). The AMAL supporters lack discipline and it is through AMAL supporters you can instigate a crisis which will overcharge and polarize the entire country.

11) Instead of worrying about explosions alone, we also have to worry also about the potential resurrection of unkwnon snipers...

Welcome to the jungle my fellow readers…tonight, everyone will go out and party as if nothing happened because people are desperate to forget the current reality of the status quo. Just when the Chevrolet explosion occurred, the same evening people went out to forget this hellish country. In Jemayzi it struck me loud and clear that “tonight is just a normal day in an abnormal situation whereby first impression that Beirut as a rich life, and there is nothing wrong.”

As I was leaving my friends’ apartment (whereby three refugees were sleeping due to yesterday’s riots), one said: “Tosbihoon 3a Watan”, and another replied: “Iza fee ba’ad Watan” (translation: Waking on a Country, reply: if there is a country).

This is just another clear situation where the elites are making profits on the sufferings and corpses of the masses.

No War but class War

Friday, January 18, 2008

Revolution of the Snails: Encounters with the Zapatistas by Rebecca Solnit

(Appeared on Jan. 16 on Zmag, Link)

I grew up listening to vinyl records, dense spirals of information that we played at 33-1/3 revolutions per minute. The original use of the word revolution was in this sense -- of something coming round or turning round, the revolution of the heavenly bodies, for example. It's interesting to think that just as the word radical comes from the Latin word for "roots" and meant going to the root of a problem, so revolution originally means to rotate, to return, or to cycle, something those who live according to the agricultural cycles of the year know well.

Only in 1450, says my old Oxford Etymological Dictionary, does it come to mean "an instance of a great change in affairs or in some particular thing." 1450: 42 years before Columbus sailed on his first voyage to the not-so-new world, not long after Gutenberg invented moveable type in Europe, where time itself was coming to seem less cyclical and more linear -- as in the second definition of this new sense of revolution in my dictionary, "a complete overthrow of the established government in any country or state by those who were previously subject to it."

We live in revolutionary times, but the revolution we are living through is a slow turning around from one set of beliefs and practices toward another, a turn so slow that most people fail to observe our society revolving -- or rebelling. The true revolutionary needs to be as patient as a snail.

The revolution is not some sudden change that has yet to come, but the very transformative and questioning atmosphere in which all of us have lived for the past half century, since perhaps the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, or the publication of Rachel Carson's attack on the corporate-industrial-chemical complex, Silent Spring, in 1962; certainly, since the amazing events of 1989, when the peoples of Eastern Europe nonviolently liberated themselves from their Soviet-totalitarian governments; the people of South Africa undermined the white apartheid regime of that country and cleared the way for Nelson Mandela to get out of jail; or, since 1992, when the Native peoples of the Americas upended the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus's arrival in this hemisphere with a radical rewriting of history and an assertion that they are still here; or even 1994, when this radical rewriting wrote a new chapter in southern Mexico called Zapatismo.

Five years ago, the Zapatista revolution took as one of its principal symbols the snail and its spiral shell. Their revolution spirals outward and backward, away from some of the colossal mistakes of capitalism's savage alienation, industrialism's regimentation, and toward old ways and small things; it also spirals inward via new words and new thoughts. The astonishing force of the Zapatistas has come from their being deeply rooted in the ancient past -- "we teach our children our language to keep alive our grandmothers" said one Zapatista woman -- and prophetic of the half-born other world in which, as they say, many worlds are possible. They travel both ways on their spiral.

Revolutionary Landscapes

At the end of 2007, I arrived on their territory for a remarkable meeting between the Zapatista women and the world, the third of their encuentros since the 1994 launch of their revolution. Somehow, among the miracles of Zapatista words and ideas I read at a distance, I lost sight of what a revolution might look like, must look like, on the ground -- until late last year when I arrived on that pale, dusty ground after a long ride in a van on winding, deeply rutted dirt roads through the forested highlands and agricultural clearings of Chiapas, Mexico. The five hours of travel from the big town of San Cristobal de las Casas through that intricate landscape took us past countless small cornfields on slopes, wooden houses, thatched pigsties and henhouses, gaunt horses, a town or two, more forest, and then more forest, even a waterfall.

Everything was green except the dry cornstalks, a lush green in which December flowers grew. There were tree-sized versions of what looked like the common, roadside, yellow black-eyed susans of the American west and a palm-sized, lavender-pink flower on equally tall, airily branching stalks whose breathtaking beauty seemed to come from equal parts vitality, vulnerability, and bravura -- a little like the women I listened to for the next few days.

The van stopped at the junction that led to the center of the community of La Garrucha. There, we checked in with men with bandannas covering the lower halves of their faces, who sent us on to a field of tents further uphill. The big sign behind them read, "You are in Territory of Zapatistas in Rebellion. Here the People Govern and the Government Obeys." Next to it, another sign addressed the political prisoners from last year's remarkable uprising in Oaxaca in which, for four months, the inhabitants held the city and airwaves and kept the government out. It concluded, "You are not alone. You are with us. EZLN."

As many of you may know, EZLN stands for Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista Army for National Liberation), a name akin to those from many earlier Latin American uprisings. The Zapatistas -- mostly Mayan indigenous rebels from remote, rural communities of Chiapas, Mexico's southernmost and poorest state -- had made careful preparations for a decade before their January 1, 1994 uprising.

They began like conventional rebels, arming themselves and seizing six towns. They chose that first day of January because it was the date that the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect, which meant utter devastation for small farmers in Mexico; but they had also been inspired by the 500th anniversary, 14 months before, of Columbus's arrival in the Americas and the way native groups had reframed that half-millenium as one of endurance and injustice for the indigenous peoples of this hemisphere.

Their rebellion was also meant to take the world at least a step beyond the false dichotomy between capitalism and the official state socialism of the Soviet Union which had collapsed in 1991. It was to be the first realization of what needed to come next: a rebellion, above all, against capitalism and neoliberalism. Fourteen years later, it is a qualified success: many landless campesino families in Zapatista-controlled Chiapas now have land; many who were subjugated now govern themselves; many who were crushed now have a sense of agency and power. Five areas in Chiapas have existed outside the reach of the Mexican government, under their own radically different rules, since that revolution.

Beyond that, the Zapatistas have given the world a model -- and, perhaps even more important, a language -- with which to re-imagine revolution, community, hope, and possibility. Even if, in the near future, they were to be definitively defeated on their own territory, their dreams, powerful as they have been, are not likely to die. And there are clouds on the horizon: the government of President Felipe Calderón may turn what has, for the last 14 years, been a low-intensity conflict in Chiapas into a full-fledged war of extermination. A war on dreams, on hope, on rights, and on the old goals of the hero of the Mexican Revolution a century before, Emiliano Zapata: tierra y libertad, land and liberty.

The Zapatistas emerged from the jungle in 1994, armed with words as well as guns. Their initial proclamation, the First Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, rang with familiar, outmoded-sounding revolutionary rhetoric, but shortly after the uprising took the world by storm, the Zapatistas' tone shifted. They have been largely nonviolent ever since, except in self-defense, though they are ringed by the Mexican army and local paramilitaries (and maintain their own disciplined army, a long line of whose masked troops patrolled La Garrucha at night, armed with sticks). What shifted most was their language, which metamorphosed into something unprecedented -- a revolutionary poetry full of brilliant analysis as well as of metaphor, imagery, and humor, the fruit of extraordinary imaginations.

Some of their current stickers and t-shirts -- the Zapatistas generate more cool paraphernalia than any rock band -- speak of "el fuego y la palabra," the fire and the word. Many of those words came from the inspired pen of their military commander, the nonindigenous Subcomandante Marcos, but that pen reflected the language of a people whose memory is long and environment is rich -- if not in money and ease, then in animals, images, traditions, and ideas.

Take, for example, the word caracol, which literally means snail or spiral shell. In August 2003, the Zapatistas renamed their five autonomous communities caracoles. The snail then became an important image. I noticed everywhere embroideries, t-shirts, and murals showing that land snail with the spiraling shell. Often the snail wore a black ski mask. The term caracol has the vivid vitality, the groundedness, that often escapes metaphors as they become part of our disembodied language.

When they reorganized as caracoles, the Zapatistas reached back to Mayan myth to explain what the symbol meant to them. Or Subcomandante Marcos did, attributing the story as he does with many stories to "Old Antonio," who may be a fiction, a composite, or a real source of the indigenous lore of the region:

"The wise ones of olden times say that the hearts of men and women are in the shape of a caracol, and that those who have good in their hearts and thoughts walk from one place to the other, awakening gods and men for them to check that the world remains right. They say that they say that they said that the caracol represents entering into the heart, that this is what the very first ones called knowledge. They say that they say that they said that the caracol also represents exiting from the heart to walk the world.... The caracoles will be like doors to enter into the communities and for the communities to come out; like windows to see us inside and also for us to see outside; like loudspeakers in order to send far and wide our word and also to hear the words from the one who is far away."

The caracoles are clusters of villages, but described as spirals they reach out to encompass the whole world and begin from within the heart. And so I arrived in the center of one caracol, a little further up the road from those defiant signs, in the broad, unpaved plaza around which the public buildings of the village of La Garrucha are clustered, including a substantial two-story, half-built clinic. Walking across that clearing were Zapatista women in embroidered blouses or broad collars and aprons stitched of rows of ribbon that looked like inverted rainbows -- and those ever-present ski masks in which all Zapatistas have appeared publicly since their first moment out of the jungles in 1994. (Or almost all, a few wear bandannas instead.)

That first glimpse was breathtaking. Seeing and hearing those women for the three days that followed, living briefly on rebel territory, watching people brave enough to defy an army and the world's reigning ideology, imaginative enough to invent (or reclaim) a viable alternative was one of the great passages of my life. The Zapatistas had been to me a beautiful idea, an inspiration, a new language, a new kind of revolution. When they spoke at this Third Encounter of the Zapatista Peoples with the People of the World, they became a specific group of people grappling with practical problems. I thought of Martin Luther King Jr. when he said he had been to the mountaintop. I have been to the forest.

The Words of the Third Encounter

The encuentro was held in a big shed-like auditorium with a corrugated tin roof and crossbeams so long they could only have been hewn from local trees -- they would never have made it around the bends in the local roads. The wooden walls were hung with banners and painted with murals. (One, of an armed Zapatista woman, said, "cellulite sí, anorexia, no.") An unfinished mural showed a monumental ear of corn whose top half merged into the Zapatista ski mask, the eyes peering out of the corn. Among the embroideries local artisans offered were depictions of cornstalks with Zapatista faces where the ears would be. All of this -- snails and corn-become-Zapatistas alike -- portrayed the rebels as natural, pervasive, and fruitful.

Three or four times a day, a man on a high, roofed-over stage outside the hall would play a jaunty snippet of a tune on an organ and perhaps 250 of the colorfully dressed Zapatista women in balaclavas or bandannas would walk single file into the auditorium and seat themselves onstage on rows of backless benches. The women who had come from around the world to listen would gather on the remaining benches, and men would cluster around the back of the hall. Then, one caracol at a time, they would deliver short statements and take written questions. Over the course of four days, all five caracoles delivered reflections on practical and ideological aspects of their situation. Pithy and direct, they dealt with difficult (sometimes obnoxious) questions with deftness. They spoke of the challenge of living a revolution that meant autonomy from the Mexican government, but also of learning how to govern themselves and determine for themselves what liberty and justice mean.

The Zapatista rebellion has been feminist from its inception: Many of the comandantes are women -- this encuentro was dedicated to the memory of deceased Comandante Ramona, whose image was everywhere -- and the liberation of the women of the Zapatista regions has been a core part of the struggle. The testimonies addressed what this meant -- liberation from forced marriages, illiteracy, domestic violence, and other forms of subjugation. The women read aloud, some of them nervous, their voices strained -- and this reading and writing was itself testimony to the spread both of literacy and of Spanish as part of the revolution. The first language of many Zapatistas is an indigenous one, and so they spoke their Spanish with formal, declarative clarity. They often began with a formal address to the audience that spiraled outward: "hermanos y hermanas, compañeras y compañeros de la selva, pueblos del Mexico, pueblos del mundo, sociedad civile" -- "brothers and sisters, companions of the rainforest, people of Mexico, people of the world, civil society." And then they would speak of what revolution had meant for them.

"We had no rights," one of them said about the era before the rebellion. Another added, "The saddest part is that we couldn't understand our own difficulties, why we were being abused. No one had told us about our rights."

"The struggle is not just for ourselves, it's for everyone," said a third. Another spoke to us directly: "We invite you to organize as women of the world in order to get rid of neoliberalism, which has hurt all of us."

They spoke of how their lives had improved since 1994. On New Year's Eve, one of the masked women declared:

"Who we think is responsible [for the oppressions] is the capitalist system, but now we no longer fear. They humiliated us for too long, but as Zapatistas no one will mistreat us. Even if our husbands still mistreat us, we know we are human beings. Now, women aren't as mistreated by husbands and fathers. Now, some husbands support and help us and don't make all the decisions -- not in all households, but poco a poco. We invite all women to defend our rights and combat machismo."

They spoke of the practical work of remaking the world and setting the future free, of implementing new possibilities for education, healthcare, and community organization, of the everyday workings of a new society. Some of them carried their babies -- and their lives -- onstage and, in one poignant moment, a little girl dashed across that stage to kiss and hug her masked mother. Sometimes the young daughters wore masks too.

A Zapatista named Maribel spoke of how the rebellion started, of the secrecy in which they met and organized before the uprising:

"We learned to advance while still hiding until January 1. This is when the seed grew, when we brought ourselves into the light. On January 1, 1994, we brought our dreams and hopes throughout Mexico and the world -- and we will continue to care for this seed. This seed of ours we are giving for our children. We hope you all will struggle even though it is in a different form. The struggle [is] for everybody..."

The Zapatistas have not won an easy or secure future, but what they have achieved is dignity, a word that cropped up constantly during the encuentro, as in all their earlier statements. And they have created hope. Hope (esperanza) was another inescapable word in Zapatista territory. There was la tienda de esperanza, the unpainted wooden store of hope, that sold tangerines and avacados. A few mornings, I had café con leche and sweet rice cooked with milk and cinnamon at a comedor whose handlettered sign read: "Canteen of autonomous communities in rebellion...dreams of hope." The Zapatista minibus was crowned with the slogan "the collective [which also means bus in Spanish] makes hope."

After midnight, at the very dawn of the New Year, when men were invited to speak again, one mounted the platform from which the New Year's dance music was blasting to say that he and the other men had listened and learned a lot.

This revolution is neither perfect nor complete -- mutterings about its various shortcomings weren't hard to hear from elsewhere in Mexico or the internationals at the encuentro (who asked many testing questions about these campesinas' positions on, say, transgendered identity and abortion) -- but it is an astonishing and fruitful beginning.

The Speed of Snails and Dreams

Many of their hopes have been realized. The testimony of the women dealt with this in specific terms: gains in land, rights, dignity, liberty, autonomy, literacy, a good local government that obeys the people rather than a bad one that tramples them. Under siege, they have created community with each other and reached out to the world.

Emerging from the jungles and from impoverishment, they were one of the first clear voices against corporate globalization -- the neoliberal agenda that looked, in the 1990s, as though it might succeed in taking over the world. That was, of course, before the surprise shutdown of the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999 and other innovative, successful global acts of resistance against that agenda and its impact. The Zapatistas articulated just how audacious indigenous rebellion against invisibility, powerlessness, and marginalization could be -- and this was before other indigenous movements from Bolivia to northern Canada took a share of real power in the Americas. Their image of "a world in which many worlds are possible" came to describe the emergence of broad coalitions spanning great differences, of alliances between hunter-gatherers, small-scale farmers, factory workers, human rights activists, and environmentalists in France, India, Korea, Mexico, Bolivia, Kenya, and elsewhere.

Their vision represented the antithesis of the homogenous world envisioned both by the proponents of "globalism" and by the modernist revolutions of the twentieth century. They have gone a long way toward reinventing the language of politics. They have been a beacon for everyone who wants to make a world that is more inventive, more democratic, more decentralized, more grassroots, more playful. Now, they face a threat from the Mexican government that could savage the caracoles of resistance, crush the rights and dignity that the women of the encuentro embodied even as they spoke of them -- and shed much blood.

During the 1980s, when our government was sponsoring the dirty wars in Central America, two U.S. groups in particular countered those politics of repression, torture, and death. One was the Pledge of Resistance, which gathered the signatures of hundreds of thousands who promised to respond with civil disobedience if the U.S. invaded Sandinista-run Nicaragua or otherwise deepened its involvement with the dictatorships and death squads of Central America. Another was Witness for Peace, which placed gringos as observers and unarmed protectors in communities throughout Central America.

While killing or disappearing campesinos could be carried out with ease in countries like El Salvador and Guatemala, doing the same to U.S. citizens, or in front of them, was a riskier proposition. The Yankee witnesses used the privilege of their color and citizenship as a shield for others and then testified to what they saw. We have come to a moment when we need to strengthen the solidarity so many activists around the world have felt for the Zapatistas, strengthen it into something that can protect the sources of "the fire and the word" -- the fire that has warmed so many who have a rebel heart, the word that has taught us to imagine the world anew.

The United States and Mexico both have eagles as their emblems, predators which attack from above. The Zapatistas have chosen a snail in a spiral shell, a small creature, easy to overlook. It speaks of modesty, humility, closeness to the earth, and of the recognition that a revolution may start like lightning but is realized slowly, patiently, steadily. The old idea of revolution was that we would trade one government for another and somehow this new government would set us free and change everything. More and more of us now understand that change is a discipline lived every day, as those women standing before us testified; that revolution only secures the territory in which life can change. Launching a revolution is not easy, as the decade of planning before the 1994 Zapatista uprising demonstrated, and living one is hard too, a faith and discipline that must not falter until the threats and old habits are gone -- if then. True revolution is slow.

There's a wonderful passage in Robert Richardson's biography of Thoreau in which he speaks of the Europe-wide revolution of 1848 and says of the New England milieu and its proliferating cooperative communities at that time, "Most of the founders were more interested in building models, which would be emulated because they succeeded, than in the destruction of the existing order. Still American utopian socialism had much in common with the spirit of 1848."

This says very directly that you can reach out and change the state and its institutions, which we recognize as revolution, or you can make your own institutions beyond the reach of the state, which is also revolutionary. This creating -- rather than simply rebelling -- has been much of the nature of revolution in our time, as people reinvent family, gender, food systems, work, housing, education, economics, medicine and doctor-patient relations, the imagination of the environment, and the language to talk about it, not to speak of more and more of everyday life. The fantasy of a revolution is that it will make everything different, and regime revolutions generally make a difference, sometimes a significantly positive one, but the making of radical differences in everyday life is a more protracted, incremental process. It's where leaders are irrelevant and every life matters.

Give the Zapatistas time -- the slow, unfolding time of the spiral and the journey of the snail -- to keep making their world, the one that illuminates what else our lives and societies could be. Our revolution must be as different as our temperate-zone, post-industrial society is to their subtropical agrarianism, but also guided by the slow forces of dignity, imagination, and hope, as well as the playfulness they display in their imagery and language. The testimony in the auditorium ended late on December 31. At midnight, amid dancing, the revolution turned 14. May it long continue to spiral inward and outward.

The last time Rebecca Solnit camped out on rebel territory, she was an organizer for the Western Shoshone Defense Project that insists -- with good legal grounds -- that the Shoshone in Nevada had never ceded their land to the U.S. government. That story is told in her 1994 book Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Landscape Wars of the American West, but the subsequent inspiration of the Zapatistas is most evident in the book Tom Engelhardt helped her to bring into being, Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities. She is 11 chapters into her next book.

[This article first appeared on, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The End of Victory Culture (University of Massachusetts Press), which has just been thoroughly updated in a newly issued edition that deals with victory culture's crash-and-burn sequel in Iraq.]

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Cartoons I chose to share regarding Bush & Oil

Cartoons' references are located on the Pics

The Sad Story of Lebanon & Middle East

Three people died yesterday and their impacts are nothing on the grassroots level and political level. One of the deceased has been married for four months only, while the other had been married for 2 years, and had a baby child. The sad part of the story, the accusations remain flying between 14th of March and the Opposition on the grass root level.

A friend of mine Pro-Opposition & Resistance, on the eve of the explosion, tells me that the US blew the car with same material they supplied Fatah Islam. In fact they knew exactly how much to use explosives (Security Forces have declared 20 Kilograms of TNT were used in the detonated car) in order not to kill the Embassy’s two employees (who turned out to be Feltman’s scout cars. I argued left and right with him on the issue, and how he was certain of that fact (or the other fact that the government funded Fatah Islam which brings us back to Seymour Hersh’s original scenario), and he goes “they are desperate, they need to get more sympathy from the International Community.” This totally blew my mind off, what more solidarity the government needs? The government has so much international sympathy to the extent the Opposition failed drastically to oust them out. Hassan Nasrallah himself admitted that fact. He argues: “Because Bush is in the region”. Well, again, I told him without evidence, you can’t prove anything, and in fact, there are all possible scenarios. Sadly, I was talking to a wall.

The second person to join us on the table was a pro-Future & Government, and his argument was “Iran are teaching the Americans a lesson on Lebanese soil, henceforth, the Opposition are putting their foot in the face of the government.” I argue back, but how are you so sure that is the case? His reply: “Man, you are smart, Bush, Middle East, Escalations on Iran? Do the Math!” I reply back: what about Shaker el Absi? He answers: “Well, then it is Syria’s fault in that case, because they brought him to Lebanon! If only Bush visited the region!” I go : “Are you insane? Allowing the man who gave Israel to bomb the hell out of Lebanon? If Tony Blair when visited all chaos broke loose, the same with Kofi Annan, you want Bush?! Sure, if you want a full blooded confrontations to explode… the government is still being criticized for having lunch with Condi during the July War!” He goes: “Yes, it was the Prime Minister’s way of blocking the bloodshed!”

After a while debating with these two, then hearing debating, it was one of those fiascos that never end.

I have reached a conclusion that Lebanon is similar to theology, it is a never ending form of debate. The sad part of the story, three families are burying their beloved in coffins. One family had to come from Aleppo to confirm their son’s corpse. Two wives became widows. And the grassroots level, the party affiliated members still perceive this situation as scoring points. Then they all will say: “yes, it is sad what happened to the families!” But for sure, they will forget about these families and look again against each other to score points. Meanwhile, three bystanders were killed for nothing. They will be called by both sides as martyrs; however, do their families care? Just today one family was blaming the entire politicians of Lebanon. Which brings me to ask the question: why no schools/institutions closed today to mourn the deceased? Because they were common people?!

This is a classic case of what was mentioned in Marx’s 101 writings. The elite mobilize the masses against each other, while the masses themselves pay the price. Of course, you need an enemy, both camps have that: Syria/Iran versus USA/Israel/Gulf. What is most striking that so many have died, it is becoming common news!

I wonder how our fellow Palestinians survive in this bloodshed on daily basis! Just yesterday 17 people got killed, children die everyday, and the Palestinians live in a canned box. Worse, they have two parties butchering each other instead of defending their rights The civilians there suffer, whether from their leaders or from the Israeli artillery (which is often the case)! I didn’t even start with Iraq, where almost everyday 40 to 100 people die on daily basis.

Yes, this is the New Middle East.: he Middle East of Bloodshed, tyranny, and hypocrisy. When a bomb takes place in Beirut, they just say: thank heavens it wasn’t near us. People simply gave up hope to capture those invisible hands!” Palestinian Mothers burying their children or vice versa, children burying their mothers! Iraq under heavy bombardment from all forms of quasi-ethnic fuelling, vengeance, terrorism, and US Occupation! And we haven’t even talked about the poverty status supported by the US: the Al-Saud regime & the Mubarak regime.

I may have went a bit ashtray from the original topic, but I see it all combined. The Proletariat are suffering from their leaders’ affiliation. Zionism is increasing the gap between the Jews and the Arabs, and Egyptian statistics convey a terrible number of above 90% wearing the veil due to welfare nods because the US insist on supporting Mubarak (2nd most financed after Israel. I have no problem women wore the veil, as long as it is out of conviction, not out of financial needs!

As for Lebanon, it is a failed nation (to use Chomsky’s terminologies). The Arabs refuse to work with Israel (or at least used to refuse) and henceforth go pay lip-service to the US president who has been demanding that Israel is a pure ethnic Jewish nation that needs to be defended. If that is the case, what is the difference between Milosevic’s Serbia and Zionist Israel?

So many disgusting topics to mention, such a long road to emancipate the Proletariat into a single striking force against their oppressors, starting by dumping all 14th of March/Opposition cadres in the Sea! The government/Opposition followers fail to mention how everything (up to daily commodities such as Cheese) is on the rise. In fact, both factions blame each other and argue that once a Lebanese President is elected things will be better (if they ever do, and if that is the core problem of Lebanon, a tiny presidential chair whose president barely has any authority)! Enough of scapegoating "The Other"!

No War but Class War


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Three killed by bomb meant for US Embassy vehicle

Details roundup from yesterday taken from the Daily Star here

(pic taken from daily star)

At last 21 wounded in attack that leaves intended victims virtually unscathed
By Hani M. Bathish

BEIRUT: An explosion targeting a US Embassy vehicle ripped through the Karantina industrial zone near Beirut on Tuesday, leaving three people dead and at least 21 wounded.

Two embassy security employees, both Lebanese citizens, were in the vehicle at the time of the attack, according to an embassy statement. One suffered minor wounds, while the other emerged unscathed.

Two people in a Fiat were killed when their car, traveling just meters behind the embassy vehicle, bore the brunt of the explosion. The vehicles were traveling along the sea route, a road parallel to the main Dora/Karantina highway, which experienced heavy congestion in the hours following the blast.

The Fiat was registered to one Joseph Khalil Khoury, a Sin al-Fil resident, according to a security source. The identities of the two victims inside the car could not be readily established as they were badly burned. A third man killed in the blast was identified as Ghassan Ali al-Hussein, a Syrian national who was riding a motorcycle.

The US State Department said Tuesday one "private US citizen" was also slightly wounded. The man was identified as a bystander who happened to be in the area at the time and was not affiliated with the US government or the embassy vehicle, said State Department spokesperson Sean MacCormak.

The armored embassy vehicle bore no diplomatic plates, only one set of Lebanese license plates in the back. The vehicle was returning from Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport after dropping off an embassy staffer, according to media reports. The embassy vehicle was damaged on its right side and pushed off the road by the power of the blast.

A senior security source told The Daily Star that the US Embassy vehicle was in the area on a scouting mission to ensure the road was safe. "The road was under surveillance all day. It was to be used by US Ambassador Jeffery Feltman, who was planning to attend a farewell party at the Phoenicia InterContinental Hotel held in his honor Friday evening," the source said. The party was cancelled as a result.

Many of the wounded were working in nearby buildings and factories at the time of the blast. They were taken to both Mar Youssef Hospital in Karantina and Jeittawy Hospital in Achrafieh. Army forces imposed a security cordon around the area and blocked access to the blast site, causing heavy traffic. Heavily armed US Embassy security staff were als on hand.

The security source said the bomb had been placed behind two metal dumpsters, attached to the wall of a two-story building on the side of the road and to the left of the embassy vehicle as it passed. The device went off after the embassy car had passed the dumpsters, thus the vehicle immediately behind the embassy car sustained the full blast.

State Prosecutor Saeed Mirza, who visited the blast site, took personal charge of the investigation since the bombing targets a diplomatic mission in the country. Also visiting the blast site Tuesday were the government commissioner at the Military Tribunal, Judge Jean Fahd, and Military Investigatiing Magistrate Rasheed Mezher. Two men were taken into custody by Lebanese Army soldiers at the blast site. It was not immediately clear if the two were suspects in the case or just being taken for questioning.

'Innocent martyrs fell today' - Aridi

BEIRUT: The Lebanese government strongly condemned the bombing that targeted a US Embassy vehicle on Tuesday, one day before Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa's expected return to Lebanon to continue his mediation in the country's domestic political crisis

Information Minister Ghazi Aridi, addressing reporters following a scheduled ministerial meeting Tuesday evening, said all indications were that Moussa's visit Wednesday was still on.

Aridi offered the government's deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the attack, wished the wounded a swift recovery and expressed commitment to protect all diplomatic missions in the country. The ministerial meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, was held to discuss the Arab initiative and Moussa's return to Beirut.

"This bombing targets Lebanon at a politically critical and delicate juncture," Aridi said, adding that the government embraced the Arab initiative to fill the vacancy in the presidency and end the series of bombings that have plagued the country since 2005.

"The attack, whether it targeted the US Embassy or any other, was on Lebanese soil and as a result it targets the security of the Lebanese," he said. "Innocent martyrs fell today who have nothing to do with all that is happening politically. They were not embassy staff, whose vehicle was targeted. Therefore these attacks target the security and stability of Lebanon."

Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, whose group is labeled a "terrorist" organization by the US, also spoke out against the blast.

"We condemn and denounce any explosion that takes place on Lebanese territory," he said, "regardless of who is targeted, and especially if innocent people are killed."

Parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri said the bomb targeted stability in Lebanon. He said the perpetrators do not wish to see the country return to normality.

Hariri said he regretted that innocent Lebanese had paid a heavy price for continuous attacks targeting their country. He said he had called US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman to confirm that he was unharmed and expressed regret on the injury of two embassy staffers.

In the immediate aftermath of the bombing in Karantina, the embassy released a single-sentence statement indicating that a farewell reception planned for the outgoing Feltman had been cancelled. This was followed by a more detailed statement that condemned the incident "in the strongest term."

"The embassy is outraged that there are still those who work to undermine Lebanon's stability through murder and intimidation," the mission said. "The Lebanese people deserve to live in peace and security in an independent and united Lebanon."

It added that "crimes" like Tuesday's bombing "will not weaken the international partnership working to support and strengthen Lebanon's independence and democracy."

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also weihged in.

"I want to state the outrage of the United States against the terrorist attack that took place in Lebanon today," Rice said during a joint press conference in Riyadh with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

Rice said the United States would not be deterred by "intimidation" in its efforts to help democratic forces in Lebanon and the Lebanese people to "resist foreign interference in their affairs"

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said US Embassy security people were working with the Lebanese government and were going to look into the circumstances of the blast.

France's UN ambassador, Jean-Maurice Ripert, deplored what he described as the "cowardly" bomb attack, which killed three bystanders.

"We really once again condemn this cowardly attack," Ripert told reporters after attending a Security Council meeting on the situation in Ivory Coast.

"We have to express our deep concern once again [over] the fact that some people are trying very hard to add some more confusion to the situation in Lebanon whereas we are needing peace, dialogue serenity," Ripert said. He recalled comments by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner Monday that Lebanon's political crisis would have to be taken to the United Nations if the Arab League effort to end the impasse failed.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also condemned the blast. "The attack showed once more that the domestic crisis in Lebanon needs to be resolved as quickly as possible in order to put an end to the violence," he said in a statement.

The foreign minister urged political forces in Lebanon and the region to work together to elect a new president and form a new government. Reports from Damascus said that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem would travel to Germany on Thursday to discuss the Lebanese crisis and other issues with Steinmeier. - With agencies

(Photo: taken from Annahar and written under it: Smoke coming out due to explosion in Karantina)

(Pic taken from Assafir

(Photo taken from the BBC and says: The attack comes at a time of high political crisis in Lebanon)

(Taken From CNN: written : Lebanese soldiers and Red Cross workers stand near charred cars at the site of the explosion in Beirut)

(taken from CNN: Written: Firefighters try to extinguish a burning car at the site of the explosion in Beirut.)

(taken from CNN: Written: -Reporter Dr. Joseph Yozgatian took this photo of a column of smoke rising shortly after the explosion.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Bomb Explosion targets US Embassy Diplomatic Car

Updated minute by minute

4:25: Diplomatic car was targeted in the industrial and trade area between Karantina and Dowra region. Diplomatic car proceeded

4:50 According to LBC, The car targeted is for the US Embassy. Three killed and over 10 wounded so far. A lot of foreign faces are present there.

5:00 Three killed are not located in the targeted car, rather they are civilians killed while driving next to it

5:04 Two corpses have been covered. 20 cars damaged, in fact some cars flew 25 meters

5:06 Over 15 people wounded, security forces arrested two people

5:09 Mattew Placin is one among the wounded, among four others were taken to Hospital J'atawi

5:10 The targeted car has not been opened, nothing but photos from outside been taking

5:11: Hagop Bakradonian arrives (from Tashnag Party/Coalition for Reform and Change

5:11: Fire Fighters took out potential fires to eliminate fire spreading around to factories with explosive material.

5:12 Wounded are taken to Jatawi Hospital, Saint Joseph Hospital, and Lebanese Hospital. The killed are two in a car, and one on the road. The wounded are 20, some of them are inside their offices/homes.

5:15 Associate Press transmits Embassadorial Statement: No US diplomats/citizens have been killed in the process

5:18 Red Cross, Army, Security Forces are checking neighboring building for further martyrs

5:18 LBC: Second Explosion this year after the first in Shouf

5;20 ; Corpse on the road is taken to hospital

5:21 Eye witness : suddenly sky became black, and rushed quickly inside the factory to check on their workers. They didnt see anything suspicious activity. Offices and employees are requested not to touch anything outside for evidence collection

5:25 Corpses are still not identified

5:30 Military Judges Fahed and Mezher been over 30 minutes inspecting

5:31 Eye Witness: Gigantic explosive, took a kid to the hospital. There was a Honda parked for two days, it wasnt from the neighborhood. As the for the fortified diplomatic car, it was empty.

5:34 Explosion occurred when the diplomatic car passed next to a car loaded with explosives, detonated from distance. The three passengers are not military, rather guards and civilian employees at the embassy. Two died in the car behind it and one walking on the street.

5:36 K-9 dogs are brought in large numbers

5:39 LBC reporter: Problem with capturing suspects is that this area has plenty of factories, and henceforth has a lot of different foreign employees

5:40 LBC Speaker: Associated Press says that four killed, but not confirmed yet

5:40 LBC Speaker: Bomb might be targeted the US diplomatic car in parallel to George Bush's visit to the region for the past four days

5:45: Electricity is not available in the area of Karantina

5:55: Ahmad Fatfat argues that this is targeted at LEbanon,trying to blow up the Arab Initiative because this explosion like others prior to AMro MOussa's visit (UNIFIL, others), launching 2 missiles on Israel, plus Shaker el Absi's statement of seeking revenge. He also adds that the diplomatic car seemed to return from the airport. (MFL: seems he is trying to bury that explosion to 14th of March). He also adds that there are security holes such as the Palestinian Camps, Security Squares, Border areas which allows others make use of it. Army and Security Forces already captured tens of suspects under interrogation since summer.

6:01: One of the Four Killed, according to the US Foreign sector, is a Lebanese driver who works for the Embassy

6:02: One of the diplomats from the US Embassy arrives to the scene escorted with foreign US security guards in civilian troops

6:03: The US Embassy already cancelled its party to honor US Embassador Jeffery Feltman since he is leaving to be replaced with a new one.

6:06: LBC: there are information that says there are three martyrs, others say it is four

6:09: Updates: The Diplomatic Car had two Lebanese passengers, including one driver. The two were taken to the hospital after being wounded (but not seriously). The passenger was not hurt (The Car is Armored). One of the two left the hospital and gave his testimony to the people in charge in investigation. The US offered to to join in the investigation, the Lebanese answered they needed legal permission from the Lebanese Court.

6:22: Lebanese Government is meeting urgently. News as issued out by US officials that one killed is employee is wrong. He is slightly wounded. The two killed in the car behind the armoured car, they were trying to by-pass the diplomatic car when the car exploded. The government is about to meet.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The New Philosophy of Martyrdom

Ok, one thing for sure, it is dying as routine has struck a year and half stagnation. A lot are losing hopes of everything, and mass mobilizations are shrinking in size (well unless Hezbollah command their supporters to hit the barricades). Nevertheless, the overall political mobilizations have been shrinking in size, and even members from the Democratic Left Movement and Lebanese Communist Party (the two current cartoonish comical parties) have been expressing disappointments and de-activating themselves. In fact, when I stood against the hilarious Democratic Left, they mocked me and some went as far as to accuse me as a Syrian agent. Now, a majority of the ones I know are apologizing to me (after 4 years) and some even thanked me for keeping the line of return active. This does not mean that these members became progressive, oh no, they are stuck in the whirlpool of being trapped in 14th of March coalition and in their endless “epical” heroic battles against Syria and Iran.

Having said all that, what is the New Philosophy of Martyrdom? It is of course from my concept not related to Jihad nor anything else that is religious. It is process whereby one reactionary leader gets his/her agenda through by claiming to defend an influential figure’s ideas. This probably first appeared when Lenin died, Stalin self-proclaimed himself as defender of what he invented as “Leninism”, whereby he iconized Lenin (despite the fact that Lenin wrote extensively against iconization) and argued that whoever opposes him, opposes the glorious Lenin. Now Lenin died a natural death, but the process in Lebanese politics became active. We probably first witnessed that in Lebanon when Antoun Saadi was executed, different party members self-proclaimed themselves as the defenders of his radical ideas. After only 9 years of Antoun Saadi’s death, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party suffered from its first split.

A more clearer activity appeared when Imam Moussa el Sadre disappeared. AMAL movement was suffering from disorganization, lack of members, and lack of alternatives to rebuild. When Moussa el Sadre disappeared, AMAL movement members started to preach how they are defending el Sadre’s ideas, and of course, that was accompanied with over inflating el Sadre’s character/role in real life. AMAL movement after 1978 increased to incredible dimension even el Sadre himself didn’t expect to gather so much members.

A third one would be the assassination of Kamal Junblatt. With Kamal Junblatt, Walid Junblatt gambled a lot on his father’s name to also pursue his own goals. The fact that till 2005 he revived the concept of Syria killing his father makes it hilarious. Currently, a lot of PSP members call Kamal Junblatt as “the Teacher”, and some of them praise Walid Junblatt as the true heir, because Kamal Junblatt now is downsized to simply anti-Syrian and disregarded his socialist beliefs, his war against Zionism, and his solidarity with the Palestinians. (Even some try to erase the fact that the Progressive Socialist Party and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party were allies and their military men functioned sometimes as a single unit during the two year war).

A fourth one would be the assassination of Bashir Gemayel. Rewriting history on how he struck a deal with Sharon to get the Israeli Defense Forces to Beirut and install him as a Lebanese President, he was perceived as a hero by his followers. He was shortly assassinated with an explosion. The logo “Bashir Hayy Finna” (translation Bashir is still alive in us) is widely used by Phalange and Lebanese Forces supporters. Even Karim Bakradoni, with his short-lived flirtations as head of the Phalange Party with the Syrians, tried to link Bashir Gemayel to loving the Syrians. Jaajaa, Amin Gemayel, and other figures remain till this day at any chance to mention Bashir Gemayel to enforce their ideas on their supporters.

In any case, how does this apply in our community now? Ever since Rafiq el Harriri died, and along with him the economist Basil Fliehan, the philosophy of Martyrdom reached a new level. Directly after Harriri’s death, Samir Qassir and George Hawwi were assassinated, and eventually Joubran Tuieni followed them. The idea was to link all people assassinated under different circumstances and place them under one umbrella: anti-Syria. Hence, Kamal Junblatt, Bashir Gemayel, Mufti Khaled, and Rene Moua’awad were all associated with Rafiq Harriri, Samir Qassir, Bassil Fleihan, George Hawwi, and Jubran Tuieni. The difference between the former and the latter that the former is the fact all died at separate political circumstances at separate times during the civil war. Syria at a one point flirted Kamal Junblatt, Gemayel’s father, and of course Rafiq el Harriri and others. This means that 14th of March sought legitimacy in fighting Syria’s influence ever since Kamal Jumblatt was assassinated, despite the fact that Walid Junblatt allied after 4 years with them in the face of the Phalange/Lebanese Forces/Ahhrar/Israel. From Kamal Junblatt to Antoine Ghanem (the last target is still disputed regarding the assassinated General), the names has been placed into a single umbrella to face the opposing camps. Hence Aoun is fighting Pierre Gemayel Jr. and Samir Qassir. In fact, Samir Qassir never dreamt in real life that his name would be that inflated and used, but media inflated his martyrdom to fully retaliate on Pro-Syrian parties. The same applies about Pierre Gemayel Jr., he was hailed as the heir of Bashir and Pierre (Sr.) Gemayel.

While Hezbollah claims the 1300 civilians to be their own martyrs, 14th of March balanced out through their claim over all the names since Kamal Junblatt’s death. The on-going assassinations of the politicians within 14th of March camp reinforces their philosophy on the grassroots level. However, it should be noticed that due to the stalemate between the government and the opposition, each martyr dies gets less and less media attention compared to Samir Qassir, George Hawwi, Joubran Tueini, and Rafiq el Harriri. Walid Eido and Antoine Ghanem’s death got least media attention while the pro-14th of March media played and replayed the life stories of the early assassinated politicians.

A brief example of the new philosophy would be me going head to head with a stupid Democratic Left member:

Me: I seriously cant think a leftist should be part of 14th of March because it is too nationalist, and too liberal economically.

DLMer: Why? Because you disrespect Samir Qassir? Join us and don’t let his name be stained.
Me: What does that has to do with this?
DLMer: Because if you are not with us, you hate freedom, and you are not Leftist, Samir Qassir died for Lebanon and DLM. For Qassir join us!
Me: More like join you, and worship Elias Atallah and play ping-pong between Elias Khoury & Ziad Majed versus Elias Attallah And in the end, none of them is leftist, whatever happened to ‘long live the workers’!

Hence, the debate goes on and on. Bottomline is, DLMers tried to apply this philosophy; they are only successful in recruiting partly through the Samir Qassir foundation. Yet, their number shrank from what was supposed to be 5000 members to barely 340 participating in internal elections last year. I used the DLM excuse because it always amuses me. All the other parties are doing the same. Some PSP members almost think Kamal Jumblatt died 3 years ago (technically they are living it “we are seeking to avenge the First Teacher”).

Harriri is a more logical example. Before he died, everyone was complaining from taxes and unemployment. When he died, suddenly he became the angelic saint blindly, while the majority of the Sunnis became mobilized towards 14th of March. This media transformation can’t seize to amaze me how the transformation occurred. His movement’s station Future TV, daily replays historic moments from his life. His death became the political torpedo not only to oust the Syrians out of Lebanon, but also a missile spearhead to attempt and shoot the Syrian Baathi regime in Damascus. His “tomb” became a pilgrimage and history again was re-written disregarding the bad side of what happened in relations to Rafiq el Harriri. Now we see every liberalization of a sector, Seniora (Previously hated and dubbed MR. TVA in reference to value added taxes and all taxes as a matter of fact) blesses it “for the memory of my good friend Rafiq el Harriri. Soon we will enter the World Trade Organization to bless Rafiq Harriri’s memory!!!

Yet, this philosophy allowed the Government to gain recharged support from the International Community every time one of their politicians die to the extent Nasrallah himself complaint that the International Community gave the government too much support to be ‘simply ousted’.

Again, for respecting the dead people, cherish their ideas and not inflate them for private uses.


Israel, Bush, Hezbollah, and Lebanon

While watching Nasrallah’s A’shoura speech being replayed on Mannar, I decided to think loudly on some issues. Yes, I do agree with Hassan Nasrallah’s logic of how Bush was worried over 3 soldiers and their families while overlooking Israel’s butchery and terrorist acts over civilians with over 11,000 detainees.

What Bush doesn’t understand is that the majority of the Lebanese if given the choice between Israel and Hezbollah, they would choose Hezbollah. When I say majority, I surely don’t mean 50% plus 1%, rather like two years ago, almost the whole Lebanese population was with Hezbollah in the middle of the July War.

Bush doesn’t seem to understand that Israel’s past cost Lebanon a lot. Ever since Israel did the Litani operation back in the 1970s, a lot of the South despised Israel. Actually, then they also despised the Palestinians, but more the Israelis for killing their relatives. Almost everyone in the South has a relative who was kidnapped by Israel, killed, wounded, mutilated, shocked in traumas, and had material destruction. When Israel decided to invade Lebanon back in 1982, everyone in West Beirut had known someone who got killed by Israeli shelling. When Israel suddenly pulled out, the majority of the Christians in East Beirut and Mt. Lebanon felt they were abandoned and left to rot in the face of the other camp. When Israel occupied Southern Lebanon till 2000, a lot of families were brutally treated by the SLA, several tortured and even worse. When Israel broke out lashing Lebanon with missiles in 1993 and 1996, the Lebanese sat in anger as they watched helplessly Israeli plans killing fellow citizens. When July 2006 broke out, one quarter of the Lebanese (a whole million) were refugees, 1300 were killed (and still get killed from cluster bombs), 5000 wounded, a lot in trauma shocks, and land/agriculture/different industries were burnt to the ground. Even Samir Jaajaa (Israel’s ex-ally) stated out bluntly that the Lebanese Force sustained three martyrs during the July War. Hence, every Israel remains in the collective memory of the Lebanese as the spoiled prostitute of the United States. The fact Israel remains unpunished, special thanks to the US Veto power at the UN, will never allow peace to reign over between Lebanon and Israel (and even much worse between Palestine and Israel because Israel was constructed at the blood and houses of Palestinians). I also didn’t mention how many times day to day Israel’s warplanes and artillery randomly bombed people’s houses during their occupation.

In a nutshell, peace with Israel will never take place. The Lebanese cannot tolerate such peace with Israel. If given the choice between Israel and Hezbollah, the Lebanese would choose Hezbollah (Christians included) due to the previous butcheries and treacheries of Israel to Lebanon. Meanwhile, what Mr. Cowboy from hell Bush doesn’t understand, his blunders and Israel’s unpunished butchery make Hezbollah stronger and stronger only when it comes between the choice of Israel and Hezbollah. The Israeli humiliated retreat of 2000 transformed Hezbollah from a religious party to a Lebanese National Liberation Party. Nasrallah was smart when he dedicated his victory in the name of all Lebanese when Israel was kicked out from Southern borders. The victory even got anti-Hezbollah parties to respect their military victory. This transformation appeared clearly in the July War. While Israel and the US hoped for a civil war in Lebanon to cripple Hezbollah (probably hoped to give anti-Hezbollah supporters Israeli Air Force support), the Lebanese stood as a single line. Actually, at the ground, that was one rare moment whereby the Lebanese stood as a single line. This doesn’t mean we forget what happened to racist practices towards Palestinians living in Beirut (those who didn’t have a Lebanese identity were locked out of schools).

The other dimension is Bush’s failure to promote Hezbollah as a terrorist organ in the International Arena. So far, only the US administration and Israel recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist organ while all the rest of the world regard Hezbollah as a legitimate body with full rights to be existent in Lebanon. Even European Community members meet with Hezbollah, and the US administration itself meets indirectly with Hezbollah through mediators. Henceforth, the question goes, what did the US do? Get the Christians to support Hezbollah? Well done Mr. Bush. If any proper war against Hezbollah to be waged, get Israel punished severely for its entire war crimes so that the survivors in Lebanon (and I do say survivors, because the whole country since 1982 have been survivors of Israeli aggression, and 1977 the whole South civilians have been survivors). Hezbollah isn’t born out of scratch because certain people are born wicked, may be he should do a research why Hezbollah got all that popularity, and at least why all coalitions would support Hezbollah amidst a war with Israel who pathetically is still trying to promote that their war was not with Lebanon, rather with Hezbollah. All 14th of March, opposition, and independents directed their energy on relieving the refugees by helping them out 2 years ago, and if they didn’t do that, only then the Shiites would have hated Nasrallah and the Israeli plan would have worked to cripple Hezbollah. So again, to all stupid Zionists (and when I say stupid Zionists, I seriously mean that anyone pro-Zionism is stupid), go research history, and not what Israel says…