No more clusters

Dear friends, dear Comrades,

Over 2.8Million submunitions were dropped over Lebanese territory. Up to 40% of
these have not yet exploded. Since the August 14 ceasefire, 151 people have
been maimed or killed by these weapons.

WE INVITE YOU TO PARTICIPATE in the first national day against CLUSTER MUNITIONS
on SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 4TH at Martyr’s Square Area, across from Azariyeh bldg.,
from 11AM to 10PM.

Hamas, Israelis, and some silencers

According to Israeli TV (and reported by Annahar) some Hamas officials met with Israelis last month and tried to convince them to recognize the party as a possible negotiating Palestinian stating that Fatah has no power. The Israeli present were people from the Oslo accord.

Great so on the one hand we have Annahar getting its “scoops” from Israeli TV and on the other we have Al-Akhbar getting its stories from “security” or “informed sources”. Kel wa7ad min mayleto.

For example today Al-Akhbar ran a front page article on Silencers (gor guns) caught by security customs at the airport in Lebanon destined to go to the American embassy. Well, that’s re-assuring. Also, why is it that it’s only Al Akhbar who snatch stories on Israeli agents/spies caught in Lebanon? Are they the only dudes who have “security sources”? Or is it that others just don’t care.

Anyway more on the silencers tomorrow because as I know Al-Akhbar, they will continue unfolding details.

Lebanese media sensitivity to communist rallies


Did you know that today, L’Orient Le Jour did not mention that there was a Communist party rally that took place yesterday in Lebanon. By contrast, Al-Akhbar had four or more articles on the subject. Oh, and Annahar had one towards the bottom of it’s local politics pages.

In any case, I mean let’s admit it in Lebanon, secularism does not sell.

TVs according to Al-Akhbar there were no mentioning of the communist party rally, except for…yes you guessed it folks: Al Manar, Hizballah’s official broadcaster! Yes my friends not even New TV the carpet kisser.
Make your own conclusions.

Is Nasrallah meeting with Saudi officials?

If this is true than how come the Lebanese press is not talking about it? If this is true again, then Al-Akhbar should be the first to mention it. Has anybody heard about this? Anyone has sources other than Angry Arab?

Peretz appointed Egyptian defense minister

Following reports that Egypt would deploy 5000 additional soldiers on the Gaza border to protect its citizens from Israeli air raids against arms smuggling, and despite the fact that Israeli defense ministry officials admitted that they where “unaware” of such a plan, Amir Peretz declared that:

Beyond the 750 Egyptian border troops deployed in the area, there won’t be any additions

Quite naturaly, if you want to know what Egypt’s military plans are you should go ask the Israeli defense minister, seems that he is the one making the calls.
While Israel can freely carry out air raids on its frontiers and beyond it appears that Egypt on the other hand has to make an official request to the Israeli government to fortify it’s borders. But why bother now, Peretz already gave his answer…

Artistic prostitution


On october 22 an artistic event took place in Paris to raise funds for the humanitarian relief efforts in Lebanon. An overall very positive gesture undoubtably. However some aspects of it are highly critisizable and from my personal perspective utterly revolting.
As it is often the case the power and importance of culture through art is totally undermined and counter-productive on the very level it is supposed to act on. If the purpose is just to raise money then ok averything goes, but wouldn’t it be more efficient if we combine the money thing with a real reflexive artistic stance? Is this not what distinguishes artistic fund-raising events from other humanitarian efforts? Is this not also the opportunity to mark a clear cultural message around Lebanese identity?
There where some major names of Lebanese art involved from Roger Assaf and Etel Adnan to Elias El-Khoury or Zad Moultaka, great! Also some interesting french artists, but then another name comes up and is the one that French press will quote abundantly: Dick Rivers. Most of you probably don’t know this guy but he is third in line of the infamous french crooners (after Johnny Halliday and Eddy Mitchell) who made it big by becoming french clones of Elvis Presley and other champions of multinational american culture. Unlike the other 2, Dick Rivers has not changed, he still has his banana haircut and sideburns.
So, Dick Rivers singing for Lebanon? Doesn’t this sound odd to you? Are we on our way to have our own Lebanese crooners? Does anything go in an artistic event as long as it can help raise money?
I’m sorry to not agree with this idea and feel great shame because the people who organized this event are otherwise highly respectable. They clame to have no political affiliation but I have to insist that in art everything is political and specially the choice of artists that you wish to feature. Thinking about art and what it represents or refers to has much higher importance than “listening to the music of happiness” (translated from their “project” statement).

Hizballah’s humor and reflecting on the concept of Accountability

(Taken from the Islamic resistance website)
On top of the door it reads: Plastic Surgery operation room (literally from Arabic it reads: center for beauty operations), on top of the helicopter, Apache, on top of the tank, Merkava and on top of the boat, “helper” (I don’t know what type of boat it is but certainly it refers to the boat that was blown out during the first rounds of Israeli attacks in July.

This drawing shows the three symbols of Israeli military might being crushed by Hizballah. It is interesting to see how strong is the urge of Hizballah to express its achievements. The general effort of being credible and trustworthy is impressive by all means. But Hizballah was always eager to represent as best as possible political reality. There is an auto-inflicted process of accountability at work here which severely contrasts with anything the Arab world has known so far.

Likewise during the war through the well-tempered speeches of Nasrallah, who never exagerated nor diminished the unfolding of events, to the point where even Israelis were only listening to Nasrallah if they wanted to know what the hell was going on.

Nevertheless, this urge is also motivated by the necessity to keep a symbolic system of representing reality intact and effective at convincing people of the credibility of the causes espoused by the party (which if yo notice means exactly what I said about accountability). The ideological dimensions of the militaritic overtones of the resistance group have to be cultivated in a hermeneutic way, as a comprehensively exhaustive system. Stated differently, you will never have different Hezbollah discourses one talking of alternatives to the current state and another talking of the current state. Only the latter will be officialized. The current state is a state of confrontation.

What I mean is that accountability (the democratic principle) and ideological constructions are basically one and the same thing. Two sides of the same coin.

It’s the uranium all over again

No, not Iran folks, but Israel in Lebanon. It is possible that you know this already but it is always good to wake up in the morning and read that some places in Lebanon may now be radioactive. You always thought stuff like that happens on TV or in faraway places but no, now, thanks to Israeli “cleaning-the-south-from-the-terrorists” plan (once backed by Lebanese government and orchestrated by American administration):

The samples thrown up by Israeli heavy or guided bombs showed “elevated radiation signatures,” Chris Busby, the British scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, was quoted as saying.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence has confirmed the concentration of uranium isotopes in the samples, the newspaper said. In his initial report, Busby said there were two possible reasons for the contamination.
“The first is that the weapon was some novel small experimental nuclear fission device or experimental weapon (eg. a thermobaric weapon) based on the high temperature of a uranium oxidation flash,” it said.
“The second is that the weapon was a bunker-busting conventional uranium penetrator weapon employing enriched uranium rather than depleted uranium,” Busby was quoted as saying.
A photograph of the explosion of the first bomb shows large clouds of black smoke that might result from burning uranium, the newspaper said.

Americans playing the "blaming the other" Lebanese game

Now that’s really pitiful:

A well-known U.S. official said Thursday that Syria was preparing an “intimidating political campaign” to overthrow Premier Fouad Saniora’s government through Gen. Michel Aoun and his allies.

Quick bullet points:
– This dude is so “well-known” that we don’t even know him.
– How in the hell is Syria going to “politically intimidate” Saniora’s government? Dropping scary pictures of Syrians with sun-glasses coming after the Lebanese? Unleash the Syrian proletariat working at Sukleen, in construction companies, or in the agricultural (mm that would be nice, only if they could control them)?
– Why do people often seem to forget that the real anti-Syrian to the bone was Aoun? He was so uncompromisingly anti-Syrian that I seriously did not like the guy. I remember when he used to fly to the US in order to get some congressmen’s attention on getting Syria out while Hariri wasn’t even dreaming of drafting 1559.

Now seriously, when the “14th of march” day happened, I was practically sure that Aoun would be one of them dudes talking on the podium. I mean to my knowledge he was the only anti-Syrian who could have symbolized this gathering (except Amin Gemayel but here you have a zero-popularity problem). Yet all I saw standing and speaking were these Syrian age-old vassals.

You know if you thought about it, the Lebanese could have had a “nation” by now just by having such a heated collective history. They have enough symbolic artefacts in order to keep themselves together, at least with slogans like “we fought each other so much that this makes our Lebanese specificity”.

Two most fundamental problems in Lebanon: Historical amnesia, and blaming “the other”.

Israel used bombs with helium (not only phosphore)


Whatever that is it looks pretty scary. So while the American ambassador was assuring the Lebanese government that the Israelis will “clean the mess” (or the “shit at the border” to use Bush’s expression), he basically knew why the Israelis had the potential to be quite destructive. These weapons are US made.
Do you remember when we use to see all these people with defigurated faces? Well that was the Americans (with Israeli subcontractors) cleaning…

Bush ‘death’ applauded

Before you dance around in your pyjamas with glee & guilt (because enlightened people don’t condone killing), the headline describes how the new film Death of a President was received, a whodunit documentary which takes as its central premise the fictitious assassination of the (unfortunately) real George W Bush.

Speaking of George, it seems fences and fallibility are flavours of the month.

US midterm elections are looming, which leads me to wonder: 1. why do I know more about the US electoral system than my own; & 2. how come I don’t get to vote for the “leader of the free world” (our real leader by proxy)? But the backwater can wait, because I’ve come to terms with the fact that none of you really care about this banana republic (well, we would be a republic but for the fact that the monarchists, Queen love’em, kicked our un-royal a*ses at the 1999 referendum).

So, the point was, Washington’s ventriloquists have added fallibility to George’s repertoire. Well, sort of.

And the super-sized great American dream is materialising with the coming of the Mexico (white picket?) border fence. A fence whose beauty will be rivalled only by that of the Israeli fence.

OK, let’s call a spade a spade, and a wall a wall. This wall-building frenzy is unnerving. At this rate, RIP our lefty “artificial borders” argument.

Russia’s deep political thinking

The Russian ambassador in Lebanon retorted to a question on whether Hezbollah was getting weapons from Russia via Syria saying that the resistance group is getting weapons from god knows where including the US and Israel. It is good to receive a political basic knowledge update from a Russian, something all the Israeli (or Lebanese for that matter) and US intelligence-cum-media-leakers did not succeed in doing. It is called: black market.

Al-Akhbar overdid it this time

Ok let’s continue on the list of unexpected criticisms. Today Al-Akhbar ran a front page story on the traffic jams following the “Eid”. It could have been a stand alone picture, but no, there a guy rambled on for I don’t know how many pages describing a usual traffic jam. Why you might ask? Well to blame the government. As if the government today can take care of traffic jams. Why not blame for bird migratory diversion because of the change in the Lebanese ecosystem due to hunting practices? Why not blame the government for the absence of facilities for the disabled? Why not blame it for quality control on food and other essential goods. why not and why not? The list is endless. In this case you can just blame the whole political economic policy of the successive governments of the country called Lebanon. Today the government should at least settle its scores with the other part of the political forces (some of them are part of this government we are criticizing!) and solve some basic security and power issues at hand. Then well of course go solve all the problems that only a functioning government (which is not the case yet) has the capability of solving. I don’t think this story needs to be on the front page. Actually, I think that Al-Akhbar followed its usual urge to find a story everyday that puts the government into question. And in this process it risked lowering the quality of its articles.

I defy anyone to claim that he read the whole piece in one go (except me because i wanted to see where the guy was going in order to write this post). Most people opened it, read the title that mentions the keywords traffic jams, eid, and government incompetence and then maybe read one sentence, saw that the guy was going on a poetic ride (like most Lebanese journalists do) on the whys and hows of a traffic jams, then jumped to the next article. There you have it, wasted ink and space on a newspaper that promises to be the biggest intellectual revolution of Lebanese prints if not the Middle East.

Patriotic Lebanese songs

This post is being re-worked on to reflect the discussions that are taking place in the comment’s section.

The main point of this post was to deconstruct some of the main images that are present in nationalistic songs and criticize a general culture of the nation fed by “art producers” when reality is much less eloquent. Unfortunately, I was wrong with the example I took, not knowing the background of the song of Julia Botross who actually took a speech made by Nasrallah in the beginning of the war and made a song out of it (with the consent of Nasrallah according to commentators). The fighters in the movie are effectively Hezbollah’s and the kids are from Bint Jbeil. I still don’t like kids tranforming themselves into fighters but that’s fine.

The final fate of this point is simply unknown as of now. For now I wish to keep the post in order to finish the discussion and also as a self-inflicting punishment for my failure of getting the context right! it is also funny to see how everything I thought suggested in the clip was actually real (nasrallah speech, soldiers were fighters etc). So laugh at my expense for now as I started this post with a laugh!

Nothing makes me laugh more (and cry if I really try to think seriously about the matter) than what I would call “artistic profiteering” (i.e. making money and a name out of stupid songs just because appealing to vague nationalistic slogans) from the latest events in Lebanon. By the way, nowhere maybe in the world you had that many patriotic songs where the facets of patriotism are endless and contradictory.
This clip by Julia Botross is just replete with non-sense statements about the people’s victory, unsubstantial nationalistic slogans, all along a horrible musical composition (like practically all nationalist music compositions, at least for Lebanon).

Still maybe I should clarify what is laughable:
1- You have Lebanese soldiers (of whom you can just see the silhouette) parading here and there amongst the woods (what?). I thought Hezbollah fought against the Israelis. Nevermind. It reminds me of Future’s TV never mentioning the very existence of Hezbollah as an entity fighting Israel (only the “Lebanese nation”).
2- People’s faith, beliefs, dignity are called upon. People are “the promise”: Is this plagiarizing Nasrallah’s speech or am I mistaken?, “mountains of sun coming victory” (I don’t understand why the mountains are always invoked in Lebanon, why not the plains too. Is it just because it’s high that it becomes more imposing? This in any case contradicts the reality of where the resistance came)
3- It seems that according to Julia it is from the people that the Lebanese prisoners will be liberated (yeah the people are eagerly waiting for that, mm, which prisoners, which jails? this can become very confusing). Does anybody know who are the prisoners in Israeli jails (I mean all of them)? By the way, if yes this blog is looking for a complete list.
4- The central concern in this song is who’s talking to the people. Because Julia seems to address the people directly saying sentences like “you are… for us”. who is “us”? Is it also the people? A sort of circular narcissistic apraisal of the people? or is it an abstract concept of nation in which the people can feel safe?
5- Oh and let’s not forget the incontournable mentioning of the “cedar” (again what?). It seems that we are still not moving out of basic traditional beginning twentieth century maronite ideological artefacts. Well someone could say that it is, after all, in the flag so we’re stuck with it.

If only these songs could mirror 2% of the Lebanese reality then they could act as propaganda for nationalistic ideology build-up. But no, even this is too much. In this case, the contradictions can be summarized quickly: there is no “one” people you can address (for example amongst other issues, who really cares about issues like the lebanese prisoners, where and who) and Hezbollah is the only party that has fought against Israel and no abstract national identity.

So I don’t know if this is not just a non-Hezbollah attempt to desperately acquire some credit for the recent Israeli humiliation. If yes, than this is my message to these dudes: you better not use ideological artefacts that are alien to Shiite reality (like the mountains the cedars, etc.) and start abiding by the new meaning-making frameworks that Hezbollah is offering. Of course you don’t need to do that. I’m just saying that if you want to be the patriots you are talking about. Or else just be simply Lebanese and be welcomed to schizophrenia land.

Nota Bene: I would want to specially praise Hezbollah songs of propaganda (please don’t think that I am being biased it’s only natural and you may discover this for yourselves 🙂 They just remind me of the Manga songs (you know like Dragon Ball, Ken the Survivor, “Les chevaliers du Zodiaque” for the frenchies in Lebanon) we used to listen to when we were kids (and still now for some). Same instruments, sounds, rythms and cadence. It’s like video game, but actually it’s real and some dudes are really dying. As a dilettante pseudo-intellectual (maronite if you may) hiding in the now-famous-and-often-cited mountains, it made my daily shot of adrenaline during the war in July while listening to Eza3at el Nour.

Another warm & fuzzy ad from a parallel universe

Is FLAME (Facts and Logic About the Middle East) burning the candle at both ends to answer the myth of “the cycle of violence”, or to propagate the real myth?

Ask yourself how many Palestinian civilians have intentionally been killed by the Israelis? The answer is zero, nobody! And then ask yourself, how many Israeli civilians have been intentionally targeted and killed by the Arabs during that same period. The answer is: all of them!

I’d humbly suggest a new name for FLAME: Fabrications and Lies About the Middle East (Aimed Squarely at Hoodwinking the American Public Into Continuing to Generously Fund the Killing of Palestine).

If you’re looking for our friend Nati of White Sisters fame…

You’ll find the Israeli Ambassador to Australia tucked safely under the carpet together with his colourful statements and Elhanan (or Elchanan) Tenenbaum. Whatever you do, just don’t ask the Aussie Prime Minister, or the Foreign Minister, or the Israeli Foreign Ministry, or…

Loubnanouhom

If you happen to pass by the site of Loubnanouna, a new political party founded by young vigorous Lebanese Christian militants, you may pause for a second and think if these dudes are talking about the same country as the other dudes that you hear more often today. Well, this may not seem surprising at all given the fact that “Loubnanouna” in Arabic means literally “Our Lebanon”. One can say that at least, they are pretty open about it.

Now if you scroll down the front page, you notice that there is no explicit mentioning of a country called Israel (except one and I’ll tell you where in a bit) that may have bombed the shit out of their “Loubnanouna”. Maybe these guys were thinking of not mentioning that because after all a Loubnanouna representative would maybe abide by this rationale: “the Israelis were just bombing “Loubananouhom” (their Lebanon)”.

By comparison, there are many mentions of Syrian “occupation” of Lebanon, and the endless suffering this is causing. The different ‘News’ says it all, whereas average news feeders were talking about mines killing lebanese everyday, Loubnanouna does not seem to care. But the disappearance of two monks in 1990 (not that I am not concerned with the disappearance of anyone), is worth mentioning today as we celebrate a mass in their name. why? well because it may be that Syria was behind it.

To quickly summarize, if you read the ‘News’ section, there are very simple things that troubles the world today (and Loubnanouna). Islamic demons and extremists (to the point where Le Figaro’s propaganda articles on “young Djihadists” is picked up on the front page, or, and this really funny, “tunisia’s fight against the Islamic veil”), Lebanese prisoners in Syrian jails, the “militias” in Lebanon (Hezbollah), and the fact that, unfortunately Hanniyeh (Hamas leader) escaped an attack. By the way the only mention of Israel comes through a story on Hezbollah’s use of cluster bombs, a story that Savonaroll has well commented on.

I won’t even mention Bashir Gemayel’s picture on the front page as Albert told me that he is completely against it and I believe him. Oh, and a “friendly site” for Loubnanouna is the one of “The Guardians of the Cedars”. There are of course no Muslim “friends” linked on Loubnanouna’s website, and under political parties, it seems that half of Loubnanouhom is not mentioned.

Eid Mubarak

It makes me think that the extent to which religious or other celebrations are celebrated pompously is positively correlated with the wealth of a particular social class. Think of it this way, a couple of years ago (let’s say a decade at the very least) it was Christmas that was really occupying the minds of marketing managers, sellers of all kind and of course consumers of ideas/goods. Now the Eid el Fitr (the last day of Ramadan, that breaks the whole fast period) may soon challenges Christmas foundations (investment-wise I mean). It tells you a bit about the evolving socio-economic configuration of the country.

In any case, this picture is taken from Al-Akhbar’s front page. By contrast for l’Orient le Jour (the French daily) today there is no Eid it seems. Funny, imagine l’Orient le Jour not mentioning Christmas on the 26th of December.

Lebanon’s funny way of rebuilding the country

Although we caught glimpses of that earlier on, I kind of missed this detailed account of government’s ‘rebuilding efforts’ since the end of the war, found in the Daily Star (chapeau bas).
There is only one rationale for the logic followed by the government’s botching the reconstruction process: How to discredit Hezbollah by all means.
A couple of weeks ago, remember, the CDR chief resigned (although himself a partisan of the Mustaqbal party, the latter being part of the majority in power). This tells you how disgusted the man was of what was going on.
But to go back to Daily Star’s articles, Lisa Ohrstrom provides us with an interview of the guy (Fadl Shalak). Listen to the man speak:

“The way you reconstruct a country is not by handing out piles of cash,” Shalak told The Daily Star. “We need a master plan to rebuild damaged buildings in the southern suburbs,which Hizbullah said they would approve during the war. The government knows Hizbullah is not capable of handling the reconstruction on their own and even Hizbullah knows this.They think by delaying reconstruction they will undermine their support.”

That article was written on the 9th of October. Here is the government still “handing out piles of cash” a couple of days ago, or so they said they will do. And Ohrstrom continues:

Under Shalak’s leadership, the CDR drafted a fasttrack reconstruction plan during the conflict, which he claims Prime Minister Fouad Siniora refused to acknowledge. The proposal called for the government to immediately deploy engineering teams to heavily affected areas to compile exact measurements of damage for tender documents once the cease-fire went into effect.Then a list of approved contractors and unit prices were to be posted on the Internet and companies invited to bid. Shalak says most of the infrastructure could have been repaired within a year, excluding the largest bridges, and residential units within two or three, had this strategy been adopted.

Oh and this:

Shalak also claims to have exaggerated the infrastructure losses in CDR’s initial damage assessment under pressure from the government.“The numbers they presented at the donor conference were

, rebuilding infrastructure doesn’t need $900 million.We inflated the damages,” Shalak said. He estimates infrastructure losses at $500-$600 million, though the CDR’s initial assessment said direct losses were at least $1 billion. “We were pressured,” Shalak said.“They wanted the money to pay down the budget deficit.”

This does not surprise me at all. I worked for a Lebanese ministry last year and the prevailing policy of the government for the country was very simple: let’s do everything we can to get as much money as possible (meaning changing numbers sometimes) to stitch things up without engaging in any act that would involve political cost (meaning administrative and legal reforms, long-term economic planning, etc).

The rest of the page (containing other articles) is very informative on the governmnent’s immature stance towards vital development needs. It seems that the Daily Star is doing some good work in every domain now (Ghazal’s political and social investigative articles, and now Ohrstrom and others in this Lebanon’s examiner page). Then it would not be surprising to find out that its owner and chief “opinionators” (of the Michael Young breed) are not reading it anymore!

It is very sad to see that the biggest enemy of the Lebanese are not the US nor Israel, nor Syria for that matter, but the Lebanese themselves. Lebanon gives you the best therapeutic example of not looking for the enemy outside. It is only by ignoring the enemy inside that you end up creating enemies outside and empowering them. In this way, Lebanon – for the citizen who wants to be introspective – can teach a very good lesson of humility. Seriously.

More clusters

3 month after the Israelis finally find proof of Hezbollah’s use of cluster bombs during the july conflict, providing a clear and definite argument among fascist cricles that Hezbollah is indeed a terror group that uses dreadful methods against the poor innocent civil victims of their country. Why did it take so much time to make this finding? I guess we all have an idea about this but lets remain free and democratic for the moment.
So here are the numbers: 4407 small bombs (isn’t this number scary?) of about 3.5 millimeter in diameter. On the other hand we have 4 million small bombs on Lebanese soil (here we don’t bother counting the units).
What? 4000 compared to 4 000 000? Terror? Who? What?

Lebanese army dismantled Israeli water drainage Pipes

But yiii? How come? Israel has no interest in Lebanon except in helping (the moderate Lebanese) get rid of the extremist “down there”!

Rym Ghazal reporting in the Daily Star shows (in english) the contradictions in the above theory:

The Lebanese Army on Wednesday dismantled drainage pipes installed by the Israeli Army near Kfar Kila to divert rainwater into Lebanon, as UNIFIL said that Israel had not violated Lebanese territory in the process. Troops from the Lebanese Army, in the presence of French and Spanish peacekeepers, removed the pipes and filled in ditches dug on Tuesday by Israeli troops after crossing the UN Blue Line in Adaisseh, near the Israeli-Lebanese border.

The Lebanese Army Command released a statement on Wednesday outlining the operation. “A tall sand wall was built as a shield in response to the [Israeli] violation in order to prevent the diversion of rainwater into Lebanon and causing damages to the properties of Leb-anese citizens,” it said.

Al Akhbar already had an article on water diversion (in arabic) a couple of weeks ago. So just to refresh the memory of those who live in denial, or to those who never came to this blog: Israel will rip off the hell out of Lebanon whenever the opportunity arises. It makes one wonder how vicious the Israeli are that they could build pipelines amidst the unfolding events of the war, and taken into consideration that they were losing big time. As if they were saying: “At least, let’s try to get out with something!”

French terror

Soon we will miss Jack Chirac (!!!). Not exactly of course but just because the next French president might be madman Nicolas Sarkozy. I would surely try to flee far away from this country, imitating an american musician who once told me: “I left Texas when Bush became governor, I left America when Bush became president”.
Sarkozy is “the first French neocon” as journalist Wayne Madsen puts it.
His politics are a pale copy of Bush’s on all levels: same security discourse, no negotiation with the enemy, same type of electoral campaigns, same foreign policy, same cowboy attitude (except without the hat), same media control, same rhetoric. He only outranks Bush on a higher level of basic aggressivity when talking to the masses or to the press. He is so american that he made this very famous statement while on official visit to the States: “I feel like a stranger in my country”. Appart from the cowboy hat there is one other thing that he doesn’t have (fortunately), it’s the reborn christian idea, but that wouldn’t work at all in a secular country like France.
In september was the biggest day of his life When he actually had a chance to shake hands with his real life hero at the white house, you can also read a report in NY Times.
In regard to the Middle-East he has the exact same “visions” as the Bush administration as you can read in this Le Monde article . His ties to the jewish lobby are huge. This article on american jewish lobby influence in France ties it all up to Sarkozy to whom they (the UPJF Union of French Jewish Employers and Professionals), vow an infinite support (needless to say it goes the other way around as well).
Here are excerpts from a NY Sun article that give good background info on his foreign policy concerning the Mid-East:

“I am a friend
of America. I am a friend of Israel,” Mr. Sarkozy,
the head of the conservative party Union for
a Popular Movement, said. Among those
attending yesterday’s meeting were the chairman
of the Conference of Presidents of Major
American Jewish Organizations, Harold Tanner;
the chairman of the policy council of the World
Jewish Congress, Rabbi Israel Singer; the
president of the American Jewish Congress,
Jack Rosen; and officials from the UJA,
American Jewish Committee, and Anti-
Defamation League. (…) Mr. Sarkozy recently
called Hezbollah a terrorist organization,
although the European Union does not list
it as such.

One of the most amazing story I found goes back to the french suburban riots in december 2005, according to a Haaretz article no longer online (but you can find it here in French and English) Sarkozy invited israeli Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra and Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi to come to France to “share their experience” in the field of urban repression. Sarkozy is also the only one to have publicly defended pseudo-philosopher Alain Finkielkraut when he told Haaretz that the suburban riots where of “ethnical & religious nature”, while we all knew that they where the result of a deep social and economic crisis in France that is now a decade old, contextually combined with a scandal involving the french police and the death of 2 teenagers.
On the recent “July War” in lebanon here was, not surprisingly his Bush inspired reaction: “Israël must defend itself and has the right to defend itself”, estimating that in Lebanon there was “one aggressor, who behaves in an incredible way”.
The big problem is that this guy is not an outsider in the presidential race, he is the main right wing candidate and stands a 50% chance of being elected.
To echo a previous post I made I could ask: why are the French so afraid of Kim Jong Il while they should more urgently be terrified of “Sarko”?

Age of Empires

It makes me burst in inner laughter when I see how afraid the western world is when facing the North Korean nuclear uprising. Of course I don’t consider it to be good thing overall, but how is France for example threatened by these weapons? Do you imagine North Korea attacking France? Walking in Paris these days I am amazed at how many pictures of Kim Jong Il you see around you with frightening slogans such as: “what happens when a madman…”, “The North Korean threat…”, etc… what else if they don’t attack France? Will they attack poorer neighboring countries? South Korea? Maybe. But then South Korea has great protectors being a part of the great “free democratic world” and North Korea would be whiped out in no time if they do such a thing. In a way I feel these nuclear weapons are a threat to no one really. Just a bogus ghost to keep shaking the omnipotent “security” discourse.
Are the french equally afraid of the US? No. Why? Because they only attack “bad” countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria or North Korea itself.
Asian Times have this excellent aricle by Michael T. Klare about the possibility of an american strike on Iran:

The impulse to strike back must be formidable. Soon, I fear, it will prove irresistible.

One other interesting point is that for him the threat doesn’t only come from america but also from what he calls “the declining British and French empires” who

will engage in senseless, self-destructive acts.

He also suggest america might be declining soon, something with which I do not totally agree, but in general he makes a pretty interesting analysis.

On the Symbolic Dimensions of Lebanese Rallies

Update (19-10-2006)
Due to the fact that my eyes are not working properly anymore, and because I don’t have the time to amend the whole post, I would like to add a note at the top of this post, on what has been written below. In the Tayyar’s picture the umbrellas seem to be oranges, and in the Tashnag picture the flags whatever the colors are (because I still can’t figure it out) is not in the same vein of the “independence05” format (or the “Nasron mina allah”, for the Hizballah rally). But basically instead of basing my argument on the fact that all of these groups use the same color/font I just want to point out that they use the same methods/techniques to voice their demands. This in a way brings them closer to each other, as in their search for symbolic representation they search in the same way, although in reality, their political differences are huge.

Now although this is flagrant in the comparison between “indepdence day05” and “nasron min allah”, and here for obvious political reasons, where the latter retaliate with the exact same tool as the former, my argument holds for the all parties on Lebanese soil. Any group that will want to express itself on political issues will (I would presume) use the same techniques from now on. It is today’s marketing strategy.

—————–

As the days pass in Lebanon it seems that the most popular form of social gathering is the demonstration or the rally. Since the 14th of March (and even a couple of days before that), people in this country think it’s worth going massively to the streets with general slogans and shout “Lebanon”. The problem is that you have until now 3 or 4 different demonstrations shouting their vision of Lebanon. But this is not the interest of this post rather it is the tools used to express the message that have attracted the attention of the blogger.

If you look at the following pictures you’ll see that they all have something in common: The flag, banners, etc. used are all using the same color (red with a bit of green and scripture in white) and the same font for the slogan. This ‘trait’ I will call it, is present in all demonstrations along with the flag of the party demonstrating and of course the Lebanese flag.

Those who started it all are the “14th of marchers”. I heard that it was Saatchi & Saatchi who did the whole “branding” campaign “Independence05”. So these dudes at Saatchi gathered and thought well we need to crystallize an image for the movement on the streets (and make money out of it). Red is fine, it’s a strong color. Red is the color of upheavals and revolution. Although there are no revolutions whatsoever in this case we need to create that there is a semblance of one. Anyway, whatever reasoning the Saatchi people went through in order to choose the final template (I did not take advertising classes and have very poor working experience in it), the result is that all the groups that have demonstrated in the past two years have ended up using the same templates.



Yes last picture is a bit weird, it’s Nadim Gemayel (son of Bashir Gemayel) with the Tashnag party (Christian Armenian party in Lebanon) protesting against the presence of Turkish soldiers in Lebanon. Now we’re not here to discuss the lame trials of this guy to try to get some Christian goodwill here and there, but to notice that even the Armenians, when they want to protest, well, they protest by the rules!

The third picture from the top is from the latest Tayyar rally (Michel Aoun’s party). Please can somebody tell me when did they have the time to manufacture red umbrellas? Is it still Saatchi working for all these parties or just the different political groupings copying each other? So it’s either Hezbollah working with Saatchi or the ‘copycatting’ drive. In this case I may think it’s the latter. In any case, the resemblance between the first and second picture template is striking don’t you think? You wouldn’t say by looking at these pictures that these represent rival groups.

One more paradox to add on “Lebanon’s ” curriculum. Same methods, same way of expressing things, same symbols used, same mobilization processes, yet so divided. It’s as if they were saying (the lebanese), and forgive my oversimplification: “we are “lebanese” all of us, but we hate each other and that what makes us Lebanese. We are Lebanese because we do most of things the same way. So here you go there are Lebanese. But we still base our similiarities on common hatred”. The Lebanese demonstrate when we want to point out an enemy (14th of march: the syrians, Hezbollah: Israel, Tayyar: the current government and 14th of March, the Armenians-Lebanese: Turkey), that’s what makes them Lebanese. All they need to do is find a common enemy. then they will be all united in hating one entity instead of hating every other group’s enemy/ally.

Start from the colors, well, you have here a terrain d’entente…

"Anti-Americanism"

Americans are about to become 300 millions according to this Libération article. It is published in their “earth” section that mostly deals with ecological issues, and for them this is total bad news for the rest of the planet. Referring mostly to studies by the CEP (center for environment and population) these are the facts it puts forth:

– Americans consume more than 25% of the planet’s resources while they only represent 5% of the general population.
– They are responsible for the emition of 25% of the CO2 and greenhouse gases that go into the atmosphere.
– One third of the CO2 emission comes from cars that went from 98 million to 237 million vehicles in 4 years (the population was 200 millions then).
– Size of houses has increased by 65 square meters although the number of inhabitants per house has decreased, leading to a huge amount of waste in construction material as well as heating and cooling processes for these bigger spaces.
– An american uses 3 times more water than other inhabitants of the planet.
– Already 40 to 50% of rivers and estuaries are forbidden due to pollution.
– Everyday an american throws 2.3 kilos of garbage, about 5 times more than a third world country cictizen.
– An american eats 136 kilos of meat a year compared to 72 for a european.

Who Needs Euro-Disney When You Can …


Experience a dynamic and intensive eight day exploration of Israel’s struggle for survival and security in the Middle East today.

  • Briefings by Mossad officials and Shin Bet commanders.
  • Briefing by officers in the IDF Intelligence and Operations branches.
  • Inside tour of the IAF unit who carries out targeted killings.
  • Live exhibition of penetration raids in Arab territory.
  • Observe a trial of Hamas terrorists in an IDF military court.
  • First hand tours of the Lebanese front-line military positions and the Gaza border check-points.
  • Inside tour of the controversial Security Fence and secret intelligence bases.
  • Meeting Israel’s Arab agents who infiltrate the terrorist groups and provide real-time intelligence.
  • Briefing by Israel’s war heros who saved the country.
  • Meetings with senior Cabinet Ministers and other key policymakers.
  • Small airplane tour of the Galilee, Jeep rides in the Golan hights, water activities on Lake Kinneret, a cook-out barbecue and a Shabbat enjoying the rich religious and historic wonders of Jerusalem’s Old City.

Hitch Falls on His Lance …

“But who is to say how many people were saved from being murdered by the fact that the murderers were killed first?”

I wonder if it occurs to Hitchens that Saddam applied the same logic to his “Kurdish problem”?

Are You F***ing Kidding Me …?

Q: So you see yourself as a sinner?
A: Yes. I fail and do things that I wish I didn’t do.
Q: Such as?
A: I’m unkind on occasion, and I am selfish. For me, embracing the Christian faith is something that I do not because I am good but because I am not good, because I need help.
Q: Why? Do you drink?
A: I drink probably a quart or two a day, but not of alcohol! I don’t consume alcohol at all. I’ve never had a mixed drink.
Q: Have you ever smoked a cigarette?
A: No. I puffed on a cigar one time, and it just made my mouth feel like someone had shot a cobweb all inside my mouth.
Q: In addition to songwriting, you dabble in the visual arts. What sort of work do you do?
A: I make barbed-wire sculpture.
Q: Why barbed wire?
A: Because there was a surplus of it on my farm.
Q: Well, thank you for making time for this interview.
A: I just hope that in meeting people, they’ll understand that I am not as bad as they thought I was.

— John Ashcroft, October 16, 2006.

I could not make this up if I wanted to …

Calling for Graduate Testimonials

The Rambler is deciding between the following courses, as detailed in The Middle-East Diplomatic Gymnastics Academy calendar, and would like some graduate testimonials.

Graduate Certificate in Gumshoe Social Linguistics
This is a special interest course. If you’re an Arab outside the Middle-East, you will be able to effectively butter your dinner roll in silence when others criticise Israeli or pro-Israeli policies or wars. You will also confidently contribute to the lambasting when conversation turns to the Arab world. Graduates have enjoyed employment as objective media Sources and Experts.

Master of Machiavellian Boobism
If you’re an Arab in the Middle-East, or are interested in a career in the Middle-East, and have proven multi-tasking skills, you will learn to publicly advance the betterment of your region with muscles sufficiently flexed whilst donning sheep’s clothing to kill like the fratricidal wolf you always knew you could be. Graduates are currently attracting lucrative salaries and sporadic renewals of enthusiasm from the Empire.

The Strange Case of Ehud Olmert and George W. Bush …

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that Iran poses a strategic threat to Israel, warning that the Islamic Republic would transfer nuclear weapons to its Lebanese proxy Hizbullah.
“If the atomic bomb reaches Iranian hands it will reach other hands. International fears – not only Israel’s – are that these weapons reach other players like Hizbullah,” Olmert said …

Sometimes, I wonder if Iran and Hizbullah’s pyschological warfare against Israel works a little too well …

I guess in a world where the President of the United States tells Americans that if they don’t believe him, they should just listen to Al- Qaeda, anything is possible:

How do I know that would happen? Because that’s what the enemy has told us would happen. That’s what they have said.