Why weren’t L’Orient Le Jour’s offices burnt?

If there will be one thing to remember out of all this mess that came to be labeled as the Lebanese situation it is the continuously imaginative babbling of this french-language media outlet. The only problem with imagination is that it can be very destructive. I would love to always have hard laughs when I read l’Orient le jour titles, such as this last one: “baptême du feu de Sleiman dans le concert des nations”, referring to the recent visit of Lebanese president Sleiman to the UN as a “baptism of fire”, that L’OJ still calls in a stupidly and naive war “the concert of nations”. But laughs turn quickly to ulcers when I read stuff like this:

Dimanche dernier, on a vu Samir Geagea formuler de profondes, franches et totales excuses publiques pour tout le mal injustifié dont a pu se rendre coupable, durant la guerre, la milice des Forces libanaises. Ce n’était certes pas la première fois qu’un chef libanais se livrait à une courageuse autocritique. Nul cependant n’était allé aussi loin dans l’énoncé du regret : lequel, par son impressionnante clarté, traduisait aussi un renoncement on ne peut plus solennel aux cruelles pratiques des bêtes de guerre.

Now let’s ponder a minute. This was an extract taken from Issa Gorayeb’s editorial, effectively defending Samir Geagea’s mea culpa this last Sunday during the LF martyr’s mass that I talked about in a previous post. Ok I won’t elaborate much, but just think about an analogy. If Saddam Husein say was alive today (not that I think Geagea has the same stature as Saddam but let’s assume) and Saddam would have stood to say that he’s sorry for the people he gazed in Kurdish villages. And then, a columnist would have praised these “sincere, and profound apologies” depicting the act as profoundly ‘courageous’. What would you have thought of this? Well, that’s precisely what just happened. I follow the writings of Ghorayeb since I’m 15. It is a slow march towards endlessly rotting decay. It seems that there is no end to it really.

But the one who saves this piece of toilet paper that is OJ as would ingeniously call it another blogger, is Fadi Noun, who writes still in the same issue the following:

Aussi spectaculaire que soit la confession du chef des Forces libanaises, elle reste insuffisante. Son caractère public et général la prive de la profondeur voulue ; le ton utilisé pour la prononcer, ainsi que le volet proprement politique du discours qui l’a suivie, en annulent en partie l’effet ; enfin le fait qu’il ait été prononcé à l’occasion d’une messe entretient la confusion sur sa nature.
Il faut savoir gré à Samir Geagea d’avoir utilisé le mot « ignoble » pour décrire certains actes qu’il regrette, que ce soit en son nom propre ou au nom des Forces libanaises, encore qu’il y ait là deux choses distinctes. C’est courageux, purificateur. C’est le mot juste pour parler de ces jeunes abattus sans merci « pour l’exemple », ou de cet homme tiré de son lit d’hôpital malgré les supplications d’une religieuse à genoux, et jeté en mer, les pieds pris dans un bloc de béton.
C’est aussi le mot qui vient aux lèvres de cet ancien milicien qui, sur les lieux d’un couvent désaffecté pour lequel on cherche une nouvelle fonction, et qui fut utilisé comme caserne durant la guerre, affirme « entendre encore les cris des Palestiniens qu’on y a enterrés vivants ».

I personally know more morbid stories on Samir Geagea and to that matter Bashir Gemayel. Very dirty stuff believe me. Basically we need another raid on Beirut by Hizbullah that this time gets other wackos (SSNP style) to burn the offices of this endlessly rotting institution. I can lead the battalion!

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Sense and non-sense about “Political Islam”

Those studying what is commonly refered to as political Islamic movements should know that the paradigm of the Nation-State is here to stay, and quite for some time and with all its institutional and politically practical consequences. The whole ‘secular VS religious’ debate begs the question. It is all an endlessly renewed effort to find a discursive envelope to the same infernal machine called the modern State with its projected population/territory/etc. It does not mean that alternative to the classical European narrative to the nation is not possible. “Islamism” is one such. And I’m not saying that the Nation-State cannot be challenged by “Islamists”. It can actually be challenged by any politically relevant actor/organization when the latter can challenge on a large scale the economic and cultural logic of the capitalist system and all of its institutional (legal for example) ramifications. Although “Islamists” branch out and create at times slightly different type of institutional structures they by and large stay very much fall prey to the cultural logic of the system no matter how hard they officially fight the ‘nationalist’ paradigm because their political calculations cannot but be national, geared towards using the structure of this pre-established colonial State.

Political maronitism strikes back, and other considerations

There are several media campaigns being launched by the Lebanese Forces and some Phalangist elements. It is big showdown before legislative elections. The slogans and images leaves one to ponder. Take this one for example that does not look like it is sponsored by the Lebanese Forces or else they would have made sure to have their logo on it:

“We are the Lebanese Resistance”

What the hell are they talking about? It reminds me of the type of confrontational stance we had when we were kids that goes something like this:

– I was the first to play Lego
– No I was the first!
– My dad is the strongest
– No MY dad is the strongest

The “We” is an implicit ‘answer’ to Hizbullah they think are saying: “NO it is we who are the TRUE Lebanese resistance”. Pitiful to say the least. But in a way it is true, until very recently Hizbullah never claimed to be a “Lebanese resistance”, but an “Islamic resistance in Lebanon”. I won’t digress on the ambiguities of such statements especially that today Hizbullah forcefully argues that its resistance is ‘nationalist’.

Moving on to an explicit LF one:

This billboard is about the announcement of a mass that will be given in the memory of ‘the martyrs of the Lebanese Forces”. The top liner says: “we were brothers in martyrdom, let’s be brothers in life”. So I’m still trying to figure out what they mean by “we” but if it refers to the martyrs of Hizbullah then it is truly interesting to see how this martyrdom language has picked up like fire across all parties, especially such antagonistic ones as the LF and Hizb.

It is quite interesting to see that historically when it was Hizbullah who emerged in re-action to Lebanese Forces practices all around the country (in the 80s), now the reverse: it is LF’s discourse that is overclouded by representations of Hizbullah and it seems to ‘speak’ to them.

On another note, martyrdom has become a category as important as sect to identify with a specific imaginary collective in this tiny little geography called Lebanon. If you want to be politically relevant (or named) then you better show some martyrs. In this case, the legitimating instance is the Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir (good job sanctifying the LF) who’s going to give the mass in question.

So in a way the use of the dead for the purpose of distinguishing, separating, categorizing, and naming, is ironically used to reach out to the ‘other’. That’s the sectarianism system at its best: because we are different we need to reach out to each other. And also: Even in death when we resemble ourselves, what we symbolize by being dead permits us to live separate lives.

Lebanese judges accuses Qaddhafi of ‘hiding’ Sadr

I forgot to write about that last week, but recently, the Qada’ (the Lebanese official juridical instance) has accused the Libyan president Muammar el Qaddhafi of having instigated the kidnapping (or disappearing) of the Imam Musa Sadr 30 years ago, commemorated on the 13th of August.

If I’m not mistaken, this event is highly important at the very least in terms of the politics of the international tribunal that the (has been) majority coalition tried to set in the backdrop of the assassination of former prime minister Rafic Hariri. The opposition was all along claiming that the Qada’ was untrustworthy because of its all-too-Lebaneseness, and that the killing of Hariri was too much of a weight to carry. Right before the July 2006 Israeli murderous (and stupid) adventure, Parliamentary member Bahij Tabbara (a close to the Hariri family) opened a channel of discussion with the opposition (namely Hizbullah) to have a ‘mixed’ tribunal where Lebanon’s juridical instances would retain some sort of discretion on the legal process. Talks were quickly halted by the deteriorating local post-war situation.

Here is an opinion that asks why not an international tribunal for Sadr’s disappearance.

Well anyway, Sadr’s disappearance (and most likely assassination) is in the hands of those same untrustable instances, and fingers are being pointed on the highest authority of another country, which is strikingly similar to the Hariri case were the main (14 of March) culprit is the Syrian president.

This is the political power of symbolic acts: No one hopes that Qadhafi would ever be dragged in front of Lebanese judges but it partly means that, ‘See? we did it with our dude, you guys can do the same for hariri!’

Tripoli: the new deal

Nobody understands Sunni politics like Fida’ Itani. Here, here, and here, he has comprehensive reviews of recent political relations between Lebanon and other Sunni governments.

By the way Al Akhbar (for example today) has been doing a great job at reporting and analyzing the recent political ‘reconciliation’ breakthrough in Tripoli, another periphery of the ‘Lebanese’ entity. I call it the periphery because today, The South, an older peripheral region has been quite well integrated in the overall Lebanese imaginary psyche, thanks to newspapers like Al Akhbar. Before that, The South (and the Bekaa) was only covered well (local news) by Hizbullah or Amal newspapers that only spread in the mentioned areas.

Interestingly enough, the structure of a newspaper like Al Akhbar makes it mandatory that it will spread an exhaustively nationalist coverage. Al Akhbar is mostly where other have not ventured (at the very least betraying a quest for content originality), circling the country and giving equal importance to everything thus fostering nationalistic feeling and re-writing the national imaginary. But I’ll write more on that later.

Should I translate any of that stuff?

An Iftar at the presidential palace

I like how Ramadan’s evening breaking-of-fast-dinner become institutionalized and practiced by Lebanese political actors. Here, the Iftar is organized by the president of the Lebanon, customary to be held (and is held by) a non-Muslim.

But the nicest thing about this picture is of course, you guessed it boys and girls, the actual participants on the table whose appetite may well have been cut. Look at them, they seriously seem to curse the hour that made them be born on a territory that has been defined under the same ‘nation’. Basically, all of them know today that they have to live side by side…

Now, a ‘civil society’ question: who’s paying for these orgiastic feasts? Is it the so-called ‘Lebanese’ taxpayer? “Lebanese” are all ‘one people’ when the time comes to pay.

Try not to think too much about these questions…