How to understand Gemayel’s assassination? A Christian perspective

I want to talk about a very simple idea I have in mind. I think killing Pierre Gemayel has many repercussions that we already talked about but the most important repercussion is on internal Christian feuding. I think this is where the core problem lies.

Just to make a long story short the traditional Phalangists were either for a State – where Christians clearly dominates the decision-making process – or federal structures. This is partly why they had a militia in case the turn of events got awry. Later on Lebanese Forces represented the abandoned hope of monopolizing the State (although the Hobeika branch of it represented the possibility of using the state as a cash cow just like most of the politicians who prospered during the post-war era). The brief period when Bachir Gemayel was capturing the presidential seat could have created the possibility of capturing the state and thus resolving the security dilemma of falling back on cantonized structures. But it soon fell into disarray and Amin Gemayel could not (and maybe did not really try) to create a strong State (and even if he would have succeded it would have been a strongly Christian dominated one, and this would not have lasted long).

Killing Pierre Gemayel is only a useful thing to do if such perception of the Lebanese state exist in the Christian Psyche. Why Gemayel? I would say why ‘a’ Gemayel? Because Gemayel is a highly symbolically charged name. Gemayel represents the perception of some kind of Christian glory. If Bachir Gemayel had really seized power then we would have probably had a couple of years of Christian ego boosted to the fullest. In reality all we were left with after his sudden assassination (Bachir’s) was a memory of longing for this Christian pride one day materializing (so much more ego boosting because present on fantasized level so much stronger because not realized). This is the ultimate danger, this is the ultimate dead end in which many Christians immersed themselves willingly or unwillingly during the past years. And it was transmitted from one generation (the war generation) to the other (the post war one).

The act of killing Gemayel has material repercussions (alliance shifting, stopping mobilization here and there, pushing for this or that political decision, weakening or strenghtening parties, etc.) but ONLY through the SYMBOLIC content it is charged with. This content would not have been existent if the Christians did not cultivate the myth of the prideful lost past. Only because of the material instrumentality of this symbolic content, the guy was killed. Do you realize, you bunch of egomaniacs that while you were fantasizing about the glory of a groups lost past, you made the killing of one of its product much more likely?

Christian weak points are being manipulated (I know, I sound like someone from the Lebanese Forces, but hear me out). It is only when the Christians will abandon the ego trip, that they will have everything to gain (a region!). But I reconfort myself in the belief that many Christians have understood this point. Let’s see what happens next.

Who stands to gain from federalism?

If you think about it federalism is obviously not a good option in Iraq for the US because Iran would definitely get the upper hand. However, in the Lebanese case, it is the only option if the US hopes to keep some king of political leverage (especially when possibly working out the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict). The US would prefer either a federal Lebanon or one where Hizbullah is neutralized. This is why the 14th of March is definitely the best thing the US can have. Two of its leaders won’t mind having the country broken up. Actually federalism for Samir Geagea and Walid Jumblatt is one of the best way to have more political leverage. Even Mustaqbal leader Saad Hariri wouldn’t mind and will accept US demands to naturalize the Palestinians. Decentralization (even compartmentalization) works best for feudal and other elites and oligarchs who don’t have the popularity that elites have on a national scale. Geagea and Jumblatt also come from a deep seated culture that political cantons is the most efficient system (in which they enjoyed much more privileges (recall the civil war) economically and politiclaly then in a coalition).

Now although Hizbullah comes from the working of one canton, it does not have the federalist culture. This is important to understand. Hizbullah started working from a micro-setting and moved slowly to nation-wide goals (it still has to prove itself on so many issues of course). All the institutions Hizbullah has created (hospitals schools, construction, social assistance etc.) do not work with a civil-war-militia-mindset (these institutions are available to anyone). Also Hizbullah has come into existence because of an occupation problem that the State of Lebanon was too weak to address (and also because the regional situation did not let the State address the issue independently). So Hizbullah fought for a national cause. For Hizbullah, federalism is obviously not a first option.

But but but.. I would not be surprised to see Hizbullah say: “well if this is what you want, we’ll manage”. What I mean is, Hizbullah won’t be with federalism because it really doesn’t need this option to keep the course, but at the same time, it will be ready to work with it, if federalism is just inevitable. Hizbullah stands to gain in every way from a coalition government, but will probably not lose that much if it falls back on the non-state institutions it has in place (although it will be much more isolated, and sandwiched between Israel and a pro-US puppet government, so it will still loose more). The only party that will be the biggest loser in a federal structure the Aounist (Tayyar). Tayyar’s constituency spreads on different parts of Lebanon. And this is why Tayyar’s alliance with Hizbullah is the most important political phenomenon since Fouad Chehab’s mandate. And it works in the interest of Hizbullah whose only way to go from a non-state to a full national party is through such types of coalitions.

The Pope goes to Turkey

Two days ago, the Pope was rectifying his immature political stances towards Muslims by welcoming Turks into Europe (It’s not because you’re Muslims that you can’t be in the civilized world, that sort of argument), and calling Islam a ‘religion of peace’. But yesterday, next to the “house where the Virgin Mary is thought to have spent her last years” in Epheseus, the Pope praised the priest who was killed by some random Turkish guy following the Prophet’s Muhammad caricature debacle.

I don’t understand this guy? He is still in Turkey, and he praises a priest who’s only worth mentioning because he was killed by a Turkish national (i.e. the priest as a person has no special merit to be mentioned but his slaying has). Where does he take diplomacy courses? In the neoconservative corridors of power? Somebody should tell this guy that American foreign policy may change. Or maybe he’s just feeding the European extreme-right wing constituency. That was in yesterday’s Turkish press:

“It started beautifully: the Pope told the world from Ankara that Islam was a religion of peace,” the mainstream Hurriyet newspaper said.

I guess now it’s going to end in a rather nasty way.

On Vows: Saying I Do And Leaving the Rest Undone …

It seems the House of Saud’s Beirut-based hedge-fund manager, a.k.a. Lebanon’s Prime Minister, has vowed to stay in office to prevent the outbreak of civil war. How kind …

Along those lines and in the same tradition of disinterested obligation, I am now vowing to stay out of office to:

1) save the children;
2) prevent global warming;
3) advance world peace.

Aussies do it with a smile…

This gun-toting smiley-faced beer-bellied charmer is the very same Trevor Flugge who headed the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) when it was lining Saddam’s pockets to secure wheat sales during the oil-for-food program. The morally-unblemished-especially-in-Iraq Americans are outraged. But is it moral outrage or the smell of $$?

Hippity-Hoppity: LA and DC …

Palestinian-Filipino-American Hip-Hop Champs THE PHILISTINES & Notoriously Offensive Sudani / Syiran MCs THE N.O.M.A.D.S. are back from a groundbreaking performance in AMMAN, JORDAN…and ready to close off 2006 with a blast!


The PHILISTINES, Omar Offendum, EXCENTRIK, & live funk band the LEGITIMATES ~
Also: DJ Myson, MC RAI, Souk Sonic and ZERA VAUGHAN

What: Levanine Center presents “THE ARAB STREET”
When: December 9, 2006 – 9pm (Restaurant open @ 8pm)
Where: Cafe Club Fais Do-Do
5257 W Adams BlvdLos Angeles, CA 90016
Cost: $12 in advance / $15 at door
*Call 310.559.5544 for tickets (


The N.O.M.A.D.S. live with Ragtop of the Philistines & Comedian Maysoon Zayid!

What: Students for Justice in Palestine’s Hip-Hop Show Fundraiser
When: December 2, 2006 / Doors open 8:30 pm
Where: George Washington University
3rd Floor Grand Ballroom, Marvin Center800 21st St NW Washington, DC 20052

Cost: $15
*All Proceeds going to the Children’s Center at Jalazone Refugee Camp in Ramallah, Palestine


Kiss of Death …?

“The United States relationship with Lebanon ‘remains firm, enduring and non-negotiable,’ the embassy statement said.”

Why do we wait for the cusp of a break-up before we say the sweetest things to our paramours?

I Am All for Propaganda …

Just not retarded propaganda that does not pass the smell test of a deaf, blind child …

To be fair, this bit of ridiculousness is not aimed at audiences in the Middle East or anywhere else, but rather the product of some nasty bureaucratic infighting within the empire … I guess the crazies of the Office of the Vice President still have some fight left in them …

On a related note, do you think this piece will draw comment from Beirut gadfly and IHT columnist David Ignatius, who so often likes to comment on journalistic standards in the Arab world?

Finally, two requests:

1) Will someone please quote me in the Arab press as saying that Dick Cheney drinks the blood of Arab children for breakfast. Call me an anonymous source close to Capitol Hill, and if you must adopt the standards the NYTimes, feel free to bury a quote from his physician 13 graphs later saying that it “probably” is not true …

2) Will someone keep a list of all the non-Lebanese nationals Hizbullah has been accused of harboring? If the propagandists are to be believed, Hizbullah is outdoing UNESCO in its multiculturalism …

Danka …

LF training camp

Lebanese Army Intelligence has reported that it arrested member of the Lebanese Forces during a military training in Kisrawan (in the region of Bahchouch – Jroud). It was mentioned on NTV and Al Manar.

Beirut’s Bolsheviks …

So I am told that March 14 represents the majority, and March 8 the minority, but that leaves me with one question:

1) Why do the choreographers of that continuing technicolor exercise in mass delusion known as the Independence05 movement sound like heralds of the apocalypse, while Hizbullah and its allies sound like housewives organizing a “surprise” birthday party or doing some last second Christmas shopping for just the right “basket” of gifts …?

Curious, non …? Not really, I think we all know you do not need Saatachi&Saatachi when you have a product that sells itself or a competitor who is too busy (serving tea down South or drinking the Koolaid up north) to make it to the market everyday, just as you do not need the histrionics of a Walid Eido after you have been the target of the sixth largest army in the world …

With tensions rising, it is high time for the zouama to break out the calendars and find out what day of the week March 11 falls on …

It could have been your mother

A 57-year-old female suicide bomber attacked Israeli troops in Jabaliya. Three Israeli troops were slightly wounded in the blast.

Does it mean that they can still brush their teeth at night while remembering that the the organ pieces of this mother tainted their cloth?

Let’s not split heirs

To the Lebanese who can only find unity in disunity & blaming external players: please, take a minute to look within. A right place to begin. If it weren’t for our own sheikhs, beiks & heirs & the fissures they propagate, we might have a semblance of a self-respecting state. They slip through your cracks & straddle your backs while you look at each other with suspicion. A vision: the bogeyman looks & talks just like you. Yes, we’re all unmistakeably Lebanese: damn loud & proud for a bunch of short-sighted puppets beholden to a circus of crooked beiks, sheiks & heirs, themselves beholden to a formidable cast of…well…formidable heirs.

The Squeaky Wheel: politiques a la libanaise …

While the United States has been talking to both Syria and Iran for some time over the nightmare that is Iraq, it seems negotiations may soon achieve the imprimatur of officialdom in the coming months. To be sure, the United States faces a difficult task — on both the domestic and international level — in attempting to extricate itself from Iraq, but the advent of the likes of Mssr. Baker likely presages a flurry of international deal-making that will make awkward some of the more ideological propaganda emanating from the empire.

Whatever the deals involved, one should expect the United States to lose interest in Lebanon at a rapid, albeit familiar, pace. In fact, this looming eventuality may explain why the March 14 crowd has grown ever more hysterical in its pronouncements, perhaps sensing already that whatever the promises of Mssr. Feltman the ground has already begun to shift against them. Such a development should give one cause to reconsider whether the demand for the international tribunal truly comes the American (and French) side or from a Lebanese side desperate to prove its value to the United States as a pawn in the regional order. This is not to say that some Lebanese in the anti-Syria coalition do not have a strong domestic interest in such a tribunal, but rather that most will concede whatever ground necessary to protect their parochial interests. In this context, it is also important to note that Hizbullah — despite the howls to the opposite among its opponents — does not oppose the tribunal in principle, but quite logically will not serve up its allies in Baabda and Damascus for a show trial without something concrete in return.

It seems likely, but not necessary, however, that Syria will soon fall off the American radar (Israel cares not a whit what Syria does at home or in Lebanon and would likely be satisfied with the return — more or less — of the prewar status quo with a Hizbullah). Reports suggest that the US has been making repeated promises of loyalty to the nervous members of the March 14 alliance, which likely means — as it does in relationships in general — that a betrayal cannot be too far in the future.

Undoubtedly, the Saudis, who have been running between the two Lebanese sides, will play a key role in making this crash of the anti-Syrian momentum into more of a soft-landing. So while I expect the Lebanese screaming match to continue for some time, with perhaps some isolated incidents of violence, both sides are likely to step away from the brink when the moment is politically convenient (meaning, no new government or parliamentary elections). As always, look for Jumblatt to be the weather vein in this development as he is usually quite astute in evaluating such barometics and adjusting accordingly. This transformation will take place under familiar rhetorical guise of “national reconciliation” and amidst warnings of civil strife. Such strife, however, is unlikely for a number of reasons, but chiefly because in the absence of a massive foreign intervention/disruption and flow of arms, Lebanese political elites have done well for themselves over the last 16 years in consolidating their power and know intimately that mass violence threatens the rise of both uncertainty and new political rivals to well-established security and financial patron-client relationships.

Of course, the timing will be crucially important (a low simmer?), especially as we get closer to the end of President Emile Lahoud’s extended mandate. While I would agree that Gemayel’s assination bolsters the ranks of the Christian elements within the March 14 alliance in the short-term, I expect to see some defection from the Christian ranks of the alliance as certain well-known egomaniacs position themselves as possible presidential candidates.

Basically, I am arguing that when Syria falls off the US radar, as it will, we will have a profound shift in the Lebanese political scene that may well include a return of what was familiar pre-1559, namely a Jumblatt praising the resistance, pro-Syrian Christian leaders wading in the difficult and divided middle of Christian opinion, Aoun matching the LF in its denouncements of Syrian hegemony, Hariri returned to the business of mediation and corporate profits, and Hizbullah out of the government and back to its tunnels in the South … We shall see … And apologies for the rambling nature of the post …

As The World Turns …

The rise of a powerful and wealthy resources-based corporate state in Russia (“sovereign democracy”), its rapidly expanding control over global strategic resources, and the resultant loss of leadership and control of the global oil market by the West’s oil majors are developments that move directly against the very foundations of the US-led oil-market order and the wider US-centric global economic order. This is because Russia is quite literally fueling the rise of the powerhouse economies of the East and helping to achieve a new global center of economic power in the East.

This piece is a bit much for my tastes (too given to exaggeration), but it is interesting and provides, perhaps, a geopolitical prism for understanding some of the current battles over the Middle East …

History, the only lesson man has

By the way, did you know that Ghassan Tueni called the Shia the “proletarians of the earth”? Yes, these were the good old days: On the 18 of March of the year 1974, Ghassan Tueni’s Annahar column was titled: “The Shi’a are the proletarians of the earth, apparently the most submissive class, but the most revolutionary at the bottom”.

Hello? Ghassan? Can you hear me? I came across this article you wrote on the 18 of March in 1974, and I was wondering.. Oh you don’t remember? Well, it was this really insightful even prophetic article you… It really doesn’t ring a bell?… Oh well.. nevermind.

But I still would be amazed by this insight. Here you have it, in 1974, the Shi’a weren’t still that politically organized (of course Musa el Sadr has already worked hard in mobilizing them for the specific voicing of certain grievances but still), and the revolution is “at the bottom”. After 1982, the bottom surfaces. And even today, the revolution is just starting, as unpredictable and mysterious as it can be.

Tears and Gossiping from Beirut

Here is what I heard from friends in Lebanon:

Michel Aoun tried to call several times the Gemayel family to give his condoleances but Amin refused to talk to him. Meanwhile, the French TV LCI reported very weirdly enough that Aoun did not want to call Gemayel for condoleances. Why would they report such a thing? Who told you? And why does LCI thinks that out of all the informations available such a stupidity should be mentioned, especially when Aoun himself claimed on TV he tried calling and even going first to the hospital then to the house but they wouldn’t let him.

Michel el Murr was practically kicked out of the house (not that I like the guy, but there is always some diplomacy to observe I guess), whereas Elias el Murr his son (and one of the living shahid) was granted a seat right next to the family.

The American ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, was in tears talking of his friend Pierre Gemayel on TV. He said that they used to meet often to talk about the Lebanese industry and other economic developments (eurr underdevelopment i guess..)

May Chidiac was screaming and crying all over the place and Samir Geagea prayed for 30 min on the coffin (after crying and sobbing). The rumor that it’s Geagea who killed the guy is already the subject of talks in some of the Beiruti living rooms. I guess Geagea may have been praying for the salvation of his soul.

non-verbal communication

OK, so there’s grief in here. There’s also wide eyes, excessive rigidity, and an arm held out (in Roman salute or otherwise). Averted eyes? Covering one’s vital organs? Hands clasped together? There’s so much going on in this picture. I’m no expert, but I do know these variously signify (in no particular order) defensiveness, evaluation, attempts to appear submissive, attempts to restrain appearance of aggression or guilt, and over-compensating (for one or more versed in body language)…

Or it could just be that this is a great shot (thanks to Mohamed Azakir, Reuters) and I have a vivid imagination.

Get some sense you people!

Important update: Advised by hilal, this very good post by Jij, that sums up in a much nicer way (that man can write!) the current situation. I advise you to read it carefully, I basically agree with everything he says. Now if you still want to read a similar opinion but written in a much more hectic language, and obscure syntax, please continue below:

I have been scanning Lebanese blogs in a desperate attempt at seeing some sense of wisdom. I guess there isn’t. Of course there are exceptions, but the point is, that the majority of the Lebanese bloggers have just got it wrong. And if these guys are the “intellectuals” and the “thoughts” inscribed on the internet of what the Lebanese thinks then may the gods help us.

Please tell me how on earth a party who by now has enough mobilization strength and coalitional force to topple the government by taking it to the streets decides to take out a minister of this government? (allegedly because this would mean that there will be less people in the government against this party) This is not videogames people!

Tell me how on earth a country who is allied with a party who could finally maybe change the power structures of the country would take out a minister, because accordingly there will be less of a guy to ask for the international tribunal, that was put on hold in any case awaiting the outcomes of the demonstrations. And now apart from the fact that the international tribunal is back on track, there are no demonstrations aside from angry Christians smashing their own neghborhood, signalling more divisions within Christian ranks, and thereby weakening the chief Christian ally (needed for a union) of the above mentioned suspect.

Someone wants you to think this way. Don’t let it get to you, because you’re going straight towards the fragmentation of this country. There is still a chance to change things. Think union not division, now is the time, end these silly quarrels. The more political actors think you can be divided the more killing uselessly will be instrumental.

"Crushing a Flower of the Cedar Revolution"

Yes my friends this was the title of the article of none other than Mr. Walid Phares top expert (emeritus) of terrorist issues. Do you realize that this guy makes a living out of not only uttering bullshit to American officials but also by endangering the lives of millions of people in the Middle East? And do you know what is the saddest part in the fact that he writes from one of the most Anti-Arab and pro-Zionist right wing stronghold outlet (Front Page Mag)? The saddest part is that he is simply one of those unfortunate human beings who happen to be born on this piece of land that, in an unexpected turn of events (a century ago), became known as Lebanon (yaaneh Lebneneh el zalameh).

Now let’s listen to the oracle:

Instead of authoritarianism and religious fundamentalism, the Lebanese longed for freedom and peace. Given political freedom, the Lebanese — Sunnis, Druze and Christians, along with a growing number of Shiite moderates — emerged as majorities in the country’s government, including in municipalities, student unions, and parliament.

Yes not the dirty Shi’a who are inferior and backward as they love fundamentalism and authoritarianism and vice versa, and it’s just all very black and evil. (Shiite moderates i.e. remnants of the Shi’a landlords who contributed to the oppression and impoverishment of the other Shi’a throughout decades. But the formers are democracy lovers so you can’t blame them)

This one is particularly awesome (!!):

Hezbollah lured others, such as General Michel Aoun, into cooperation.

And here is logical conclusion in this good vs evil world (this is why he gets paid at the end of the day):

The United States and the new Congress must be implacable in resisting the onslaught of terror and fascism in the Middle East.

Notice the “new” Congress? The assassination comes right in time for some good lobbying. And also, if you hit the CTRL F key to search for keywords and type the word “Israel”, you won’t find any results.

Who said Israel is not expansionist?

And this is only for the West Bank:

A new study conducted by left-wing group Peace Now has found that approximately 40 percent of settlements, including long-standing communities, are built on private Palestinian land and not on state-owned land.

In a press conference held in Jerusalem on Tuesday, the group presented a report asserting that out of a total area of 157,000 dunams used by West Bank settlements and industrial zones, 61,000 dunams (approximately 38 percent) are privately owned by Palestinians.

So Let’s do a recap of Israeli strategy for the last couple of years: Pull out of Gaza and encircle with occasional deadly squads sent. Then it becomes a Ghetto (if it’s not already). Next think you know we find a way to deport them (they’re poor, “extremists” and ugly, very easy to legitimize a ‘drastic’ solution, hell, maybe we could just push them to Egypt). Meantime, West Bank is practically all “Israelicized” and by dismantling settlements in Gaza everybody forgot those in WB. The population of WB (the rare Arabs still there) is even more sympathetic to the Israelis (more wealthy etc., look down on the Gaza people). So next thing you know West Bank becomes Israeli. Naturally, those rare Arabs can just go to Jordan which is already filled with people from Palestinian origins.

They destroy and then they help you clean afterwards

Not to worry we are training UN people to safely remove cluster bombs:

The Israel Defense Forces said yesterday that it is helping to train U.N. peacekeepers on safe clearing of cluster bombs and mines left behind from last summer’s war with Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.

The ways of the lord are impenetrable

An American priest and nun spent several hours yesterday at a Palestinian militant’s home that Israel has targeted for destruction, the first foreigners to join a weeklong standoff between Palestinian “human shields” and the Israel Air Force.

Father Peter Dougherty, 65, and Sister Mary Ellen Gundeck, 55, Michigan-based peace activists, said they were sent by God to help protect the Palestinians. The pair arrived yesterday morning at the family home of Mohammed Baroud, a militant involved in rocket attacks on Israel, and stayed for several hours. After sundown, Dougherty said they had left the house.

no news is good news, no?

No News: So, the official civilian death toll in Iraq for October was 3079. Never mind focusing the camera on the living (hell). Numbers are easier to digest. Disturbing, but a fine substitute for Sudoku when you’re stuck for ideas.

No News: The murder of Gaza continues. Israeli business as usual with “targeted assassinations” reliably embellished with a few dead Palestinian kids & mums. Human Rights Watch instructs the caged Palestinians on how better to comply with international humanitarian law by improving their sitting duck skills. And those who can do something (the US), do nothing. The Israeli peaceniks soldier on with a hollow peace message that takes “as its moral yardstick the primacy of Israel’s survival as a Jewish state”.

News!: A “targeted assassination” in Lebanon threatens to shake up not only the zoo, but also the region & even the world! We’re just so photogenic, so valuable…

The good, the bad and the ugly

A good press title “Is syria this suicidal?“. A question worth thinking about to counter the quasi-conviction of the “anti-Syrians” that it is them who did it without even allowing time for some elements of investigation to emerge.
A bad press title “Lebanon slaying complicates U.S hopes“. These hopes being of course the falacious idea that they want to bring “freedom and democracy” to the Middle-East. I wonder what it would take to finally understand that this is not what the current US administration is about: civil war in Lebanon? New Palestinian deportations? Nukes on Iran? An additional 600 000 thousand dead in Irak?
An ugly press title “Pierre Gemayel funeral turns into anti-Syrian manifestation“. So finally Amine steps out to accuse Syria and pinpoints Lahoud and Aoun as their allies. While the case of Lahoud it quite obvious, the direct accusations towards Aoun are more tricky and confirm the will to create a massive division among Christians that would weaken Aoun who is the major threat to the 14th of march alliance.

the pull of extremities

Looking at the Australian history wars, I couldn’t help but share this little bite:

Among the many types of public intellectuals, there is a curious category to which Windschuttle belongs: disillusioned former ultra-leftists who begin to move to the right and, because of a temperamental incapacity for moderation, are incapable of stopping until they reach an equivalent extreme.

Israeli historian Benny Morris comes to mind, and I certainly don’t think this phenomenon is limited to public intellectuals.

Just something to consider at a moment when a “temporal incapacity for moderation” seems epidemic. There’s a less populated middle ground to explore, and those who dwell in it shouldn’t have to fall casualty to those veering from one extreme towards the other.

And You Thought Lebanese Politicians Were Slippery …

Mr. Wittmann, meanwhile, is a Trotskyite turned Zionist turned Reaganite turned bipartisan irritant turned pretty much everything in between — including chief lobbyist for the Christian Coalition, the only Jew who has ever held that position.

Time and again, we just do it better in the Empire …

On a less cheerful note, it is guys like Wittman, Senator Leiberman’s new mouthpiece, who will be bringing you the delightful American pronouncements on world affairs that make the sensate across the globe cringe and then run for cover … Personally, I would love to see his Iran dossier as I am sure it contains gems that would outshine even the most talented satirist … Happy Days …

Israeli Enlightenment

Scroll down for more updates

Zvi Bar’el at his best:

However pure political and diplomatic logic makes it difficult to see Damascus behind the assassination. The day Gemayel was killed, Syria chalked up one of its most significant diplomatic achievements since its defeat in Lebanon in April 2005: the renewal of full diplomatic relations with Iraq.
Syria is also on the way to achieving a semi-official stamp of approval from Washington as able to calm things down in Iraq. Syria could have been on the verge of an important political success in Lebanon – the possible fall of Fuad Siniora’s government, which would mean Syria could increase the power of its supporters in the government by means of the Hezbollah ultimatum. If that came about, the international tribunal on the murder of Rafik Hariri would be delayed, or at least be of a sort convenient for the Syrians.

And if you still want to go with the Syrian hypothesis, I think this is more interesting (involving several actors):

One of the Syrian intelligence organizations might have been behind the act, as revenge on those it deems responsible for the bashing it will take at an international tribunal.
If that is true, it puts Syrian president Bashar Assad in an embarrasing position, with elements of his regime working behind his back.

Update: Other opinion pieces (like one in Maariv and one in Yediot Ahronot, but i don’t have because I get a an email press review directly translated from Hebrew) are saying that the big losers are Hizbullah (the Maariv one) and Syria (the Yediot Ahronot one). I mean what’s going on in the world? Is it only the Israelis that are getting some sense out of this?

Update 2: One Joseph Samaha a day keeps the doctor away.

Update: What Samir Geagea has to say

Sorry I must have shuffled too quickly while reading but it seems that Geagea had something to say that is quite revealing:

1- No Syrian bashing at any time

2- He said that there are Trojan horses within the government (a very mysterious thing to say, I really wonder what that means)

3- He called for the Shiite ministers to come back and “let’s forget about what happened this afternoon”

4- Focusing on the necessity – now more than ever – of having the international tribunal and having Lahoud (the president) out of office

5- There are several hands implicated in this assassination

Reasons for killing a politician in Lebanon (and elsewhere)

Theory and applications

There are different reasons why you kill in Lebanon (keeping in mind the fact that assassinations are aimed at dividing):

1- It’s a politically influential official who has many connections and can broker deal you want to stop. In this case the assassination comes at a certain political cost, because you loose someone who could be a middle man and who has power to modify the political dynamics in place.

2- The official has no political influence but his killing could trigger political gains. In this case the assassination has practically no political cost (for the simple reason that you are not loosing someone who could be of any help in case alternative solutions are found.

In the case of Gemayel, obviously, it is the second category that fits. In the case of Rafic Hariri it is the first. In the case of Georges Hawi I would say the first, the aborted attack on May Chidiac the second, Samir Kassir I would say a bit of both but more so the first, and Gebran Tueni clearly the second.

Notice that in the last two or so years, we have moved from category number one to category number two. Assuming the likelihood that these assassinations are not perpetrated by a single agent (I mean even Samir Geagea has conceded to this point), then it is very possible that we have moved from a situation where political elites were settling scores to a situation where we are trying to modify the way popular or social mobilization takes place in the country. The more you reach for someone who has no influence politically but whose assassination would have tremendous effects symbolically (at public opinion level), you precipitate changes as those outlined in the previous post at the popular but also indirectly at the elite level.

Ever since we started moving from one category to the other, the aim was to keep the Christian constituency from reaching some sort of union or compromise. Killing Christian figures that could have a symbolic reverberation is aimed at alienating the constituency of this sect first and foremost.

Notice that several predictions made in the previous posts are already materializing:
1- The international tribunal is taking place
2- Hizbullah and Tayyar have decided to postpone demonstrations
These are part of the indirect effect on the political elite establishment.

But notice something else that is very important:

The only Syrian bashers are non-Christians: Saad Hariri the leader of the Sunni Mustaqbal party, and Walid Jumblatt the Druze warlord. Interestingly enough, Amin Gemayel hasn’t pointed fingers; on the contrary, he knows something is wrong, that something smells fishy. By the way none of the Christian 14 of March figures has spoken against Syria, or against anyone. Amin Gemayel has called for restraint and unity. And by the way, I wonder when will Samir Geagea speak and will he have pointed fingers?

The important test is here and this shows the instrumentality of the latest assassination: Will the Christians pull back (out and more distanced from Tayyar) or move into bigger coalitions (with Hizbullah)? It is up to the leaders to decide because in itself, the assassination was meant to alienate the constituency into more separation thereby weakening any prospect of change from below. And, something the assassins may not have predicted but it seems that Amin Gemayel has understood this point quite clearly.