Elections, Lebanon, March 14

The Eagle Has Landed

Okab_Sakr

So. Who else wants to try debating `Uqab Saqr on live television? No one? I thought not. Unless the opposition is willing to dig a lot deeper, I don’t think March 14th’s James Carville is going to see much action for a while.

Of all the political operatives on the Lebanese talk show circuit, Saqr gets my vote for being the most dynamic rhetorician of all. Whether or not one agrees with his positions, can anyone dispute that his delivery is impeccable? The command of the language, the proverbs that come tripping off the tongue, the ability to pick apart arguments without missing a beat…  all of this would be impressive in a political insider twice his age. As is, one can only imagine what Saqr’s skills will be like in another ten or fifteen years.

That is, if he’s still alive. Two nights ago, Saqr did battle with MP Hassan Yaaqoub on Marcel Ghanem’s talk show Kalam al-Nas, and Yaaqoub (according to Saqr) made several threats after the show, including one on his opponent’s life. Both men are running for the Shiite seat in Zahle; Yaaqoub is on the opposition’s list headed by Elias Skaff, while Saqr is with March 14th. If you’re at all interested in battleground districts (or if you get a thrill out of watching grown men hurl insults at each other for an hour on primetime TV), I recommend you watch the entire episode (it’s in eight parts on YouTube).

For those who’d rather just catch the highlight reel, here are some memorable clips:

1. `Uqab whips out Karim Pakradouni’s book (yes, he actually brought it with him to the show) in order to prove that Aoun made a deal with the Syrians before coming back to Lebanon. Saqr plays the role of the aggrieved former disciple to a tee; he’s fond of reminding people that he was a strong supporter of Aoun prior to his alliance with Syria.

2. `Uqab addresses the opposition’s argument about how the events of May 7th were a good thing because they led to the Doha Accord. Using that logic, he claims, one would have to conclude that the Lebanese Civil War was a good thing because it led to the Ta’if Accord. “They say that they prevented fitna. Why, what is fitna besides killing, and blood, and occupation? Fitna to prevent fitna, wow!”

3. Lots of shouting and hand waving in part 3.

4. The pièce de resistance: after Yaaqoub mockingly corrects the improper quotation of a Qur’anic verse (Q 49:6) by political opponent Nicholas Fattoush, Saqr swoops in to correct Yaacoub’s recitation as well (substituting the word an for the erroneous kay). For philology geeks like me, pedantic quibbling along these lines is more dramatic than televised cage fighting. (Catch the interchange from 6:00-7:15).

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Discussion

51 thoughts on “The Eagle Has Landed

  1. “For philology geeks like me, pedantic quibbling along these lines is more dramatic than televised cage fighting. (Catch the interchange from 6:00-7:15).”

    And on LBC, where on-air personality was once synonymous with subliterate! Well, good on him – as an unreconstructed pedant, I approve. Wonder whether he’s pondered the fate of past Hariri Inc. rent-a-Shi’a…

    Do they still print al-Balad? Poor trees.

    Posted by J of Chalcedon | May 21, 2009, 11:58 pm
  2. If he does not seem harmless with all the racism he infuses in Hariri media, he sure does seem stupid. Is he Tom or Jerr

    Posted by Jihad | May 22, 2009, 1:56 am
  3. “Using that logic, he claims, one would have to conclude that the Lebanese Civil War was a good thing because it led to the Ta’if Accord. ”

    The civil war did not avert an even greater catastrophy.

    Posted by mo | May 22, 2009, 2:30 am
  4. I would move my name to the Zahle voting list and vote for this guy, if there is time yet to do it. He is the most authentically intelligent candidate I have seen so far. A man like him in parliament is a great asset to the country.

    Posted by Mike | May 22, 2009, 2:32 am
  5. Far and away Mr. Saqr is probably among the most eloquent commentators and political analysts in Lebanon. I am ecstatic that he is running for parliament because that was the first wish I had after I first saw him on television several years ago. I sincerely hope no harm befells him because having him elected to parliament is not in the best interest of the Hizb. (just like the election of former speaker Hussein Al-Husseini who was forced not to run this time around)
    I can tell you many are afraid of him winning and the threats he received do not come out of naught.
    And for @1 (and 2 and 3)above, believe it or not, not everybody is for hire in Lebanon but many commentators seem to be so self righteous here on this blog.

    Posted by MM | May 22, 2009, 6:14 am
  6. Lebanon’s baffling array of parties with no clear position on the left-right spectrum is one thing. I can accept that. But I’m amazed to see a politician with a unibrow. Are those okay in Lebanon?

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | May 22, 2009, 7:01 am
  7. Unibrows are okay in Lebanon.

    Jihad, post some links to racist articles that he’s written. I’m curious.

    Mo,

    If you ask people what the Civil War averted, you’ll get many answers. Some (i.e. Christians & Shi`a) will say that it averted the catastrophe of creating a replacement state for Palestine. There are other responses as well. It’s the same kind of discourse: nobody wants war but sometime it is necessary to prevent the greater evil.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 22, 2009, 7:17 am
  8. QN,
    Could you please explain your last comment about the civil war?

    Would you agree then that in order to avoid a ‘perceived’ greater evil, Hizb would be justified to carry out similar attacks against Lebanese cities as it did on May 7, 2008? Of course, we do not admit the Hizb premise that there was an actual evil to may have taken place befor May 7, but just for the sake of argument. So what do you say to that?

    Uqab, in fact, mentioned other points that were just as strong in showing the inadmissibility of such attacks. The points he made are the most eloquent in this regards I heard so far.

    Posted by mike | May 22, 2009, 7:43 am
  9. how about naser kandil vs uqab sakr

    Posted by undecidable | May 22, 2009, 7:51 am
  10. No opinion on the candidate or the politics, I can’t quite follow anyway (although I’m trying)
    but the unibrow.
    Let me just say that I didn’t “notice” it, I just thought he was super cute, although naturally too young for me. I love a man with a unibrow.
    Maybe I will dig up Mohja Kahf’s poem lauding Arab men with their mustaches and guttural gh’s. More unibrows, please!

    Posted by Leila Abu-Saba | May 22, 2009, 8:54 am
  11. Mike

    I was responding to Mo. I personally don’t buy the conspiracy theories about a March 14 plan to create Sunni-Shi`i fitna that would invite foreign armies, etc.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 22, 2009, 8:54 am
  12. Is something going on here about “unibrows” that I don’t catch? Is there some arab joke about unibrows or is it an english one?

    Rotsapsky, what would you propose instead of a unibrow politician, an epilated unibrow politician? With all my sympathy for men, whose beauty alternatives are indeed very limited in the current gender oriented esthetic perceptions… the best strategy I know for making people notice that a man’s hair has gone gray is to color it in dark mahogany …and the only thing worse than a bold man is …a man whose hair parting line is lying alongside the top of his (right or left) ear. Like the president of the Lebanese Journalist’s Association (a veteran in the practice) and “Ze” General (getting better at it by the day)…

    As for Uqab Saqer, my problem with him is that he speaks too fast for my limping Arabic (my solidarity here with “Carlitos”, who is being interviewed right now on LBC and with whom I have no problem of that kind, ha ha)

    Posted by mj | May 22, 2009, 10:58 am
  13. I don’t understand the fuzz about the justifications/rationalizations of the May 7 events (pro and con). For sure the perpetrators will tell that they were defending something and not attacking (have you heard of a Ministry of Attack? It’s always defense!)
    ‘Just war'; that’s the oldest trick in the book. Or even better: A war to end all wars (now that is fancy: it cost Europe millions of life)

    QN nice blog.

    Posted by XP | May 22, 2009, 11:09 am
  14. Thanks XP; welcome.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 22, 2009, 11:12 am
  15. QN,

    Yes, one can always find some sort of justification. But to be clear I am not pushing any consipiracy theory. I am saying that without anyone planning it, the street shootings, the intensity of the political accusations, the multiple reports of the take up arms means that in my opinion we were heading for a civil breakdown in society.

    In fact i don’t believe the “foreign intervention” theory any more than you do for the simple fact that after 06 I dont think any Western leader was going to put what would be a handful of troops up against Hizballah because domestically for them the consequences would have been very bad.

    What the actions of May 7 did was lance the boil and remove the pressure that was building up. Or to put it another way, had there been no Doha, there would be no elections in 2 weeks.

    Posted by mo | May 22, 2009, 11:42 am
  16. Mo,

    I agree with you, but we always come back to the same issue: May 7th may have lanced the boil but plenty of people still believe that this begs the question: “Why was there a boil in the first place?”

    As long as we don’t address the root cause of boil-formation, we’re going to keep having to lance a boil every couple of years.

    Some people believe that the source of boils is Hizbullah’s weapons. Others believe that it is a vague Constitution. Others say that it is sectarianism. Others say that it is outside powers. Maybe it’s a combination of all the above. The point is that we need to sit down and explore the causes to figure out how to avoid future catastrophes. The day we figure that out will be a true yawm majid.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 22, 2009, 11:48 am
  17. Of course there was a boil in that the country was becoming a pressure cooker. Remember the people being gunned down on the streets, sniping from windows and rooftops, the heated rhetoric amongst politicians?

    But you’re right in that there is more fundemental and intrinsic causes. The truth is the reason we have major problems every couple of years is all of the above.

    Hizballahs weapons? We know that a good portion of Lebanon is against them but we should be more nuanced than that and recognise that its for many varied reasons including secterianism and the influence of foreign powers who would like to make Israels life a little easier. But there are also many who are tired of fighting or are honestly of the belief that Hizballah is Irans/Syrias proxy army who want to turn Lebanon into an Islamic Republic/province of Syria.

    The constitution and Taef? Both are now out dated to be honest and need modernising. Taef was a set of compromises agreed upon by people in power so that they could stay in power. The constitution and its secterian make up is, imho, actually a good idea in basis. But it needs to be updated and made more sophisticated – eg like your idea of a senate or a rotation of roles to sects.

    But Lebanons big problem is not an absence of discussion – we are in comparison to the rest of the Arab world extremely free to air our beliefs. And its not a lack of understanding of the causes – Our problem is that our solutions for all the various issues are so polar opposites, so influenced by foreign influence (and not necessarily direct) and so riven by mis-trust and belief that “only my way is good for the country while the others way sells us out” that there is no middle ground for compromise on anything.

    Add to that a political system that has basically been feudal for 60 years but is now being threatened by some upstarts who never had dads in power and that just adds more friction to the the mix.).

    In fact, the day we figure out how to make all the work is less likely to be a yawm majid and more likely to be yawm el iyam!

    Posted by mo | May 22, 2009, 12:39 pm
  18. QN –

    This may be a good time for the Hezbos to spring into action by taking Joe Biden hostage.

    I would accomplish several objectives:

    1.) It would show that the Hezbos have great strength by protecting Lebanon from an avowed Zionist sympathizer.

    2.) They would have a high value hostage who may get the Hezbos several thousand dollars cash in an exchange.

    3.) Help the American people, and specifically the Obama Administration by getting Joe off the public stage for a while.

    What do you think? ;o)

    http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/a_self_proclaimed_zionist_joe_biden_is_a_friend_of_israel_20080910/

    Posted by Akbar Palace | May 22, 2009, 2:11 pm
  19. lol…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 22, 2009, 2:20 pm
  20. By the way… this is the 100th post here at Chez QN. How did that happen so quickly?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 22, 2009, 2:25 pm
  21. Happy 100! This is how babies grow. Looking forward for the 1000, the 1001, the 10000…

    Posted by mj | May 22, 2009, 3:37 pm
  22. Actually the question for May 7 is “Why did lancing the boil require guns?”. Lots of countries have festering problems but they manage to address them without resorting to violence.

    The problem is the obstinacy of the political class who are unwilling to respond to political pressure unless accompanied with actual physical force. That’s the dynamic that results in political violence.

    You cannot disown political violence on principle, because existing power structures will never change unless you force them to. In more fortunate countries, you can get away with symbolic displays of violence (demonstrations, protests, sit ins) to effect change. In Lebanon, it can take quite a lot of actual violence for ruling circles to get the hint.

    The government should have reacted to the opposition demonstrations early on by containing the situation through some political compromise. Instead, they entered into a cycle of escalation that could only have ended in violence.

    I blame this political blindness on two main factors:
    1) The character of the ruling class: Short-term profit seeking narcissists don’t seek compromise by default.

    2) Foreign powers: The foreign supporters of the ruling class would rather start a civil war than lose political capital in a compromise. They don’t actually live here, what do they have to lose?

    As for the ‘Uqab’s argument, if May 7 avoided a 15 year war-o-rama, wouldn’t it be a good thing?

    Posted by RedLeb | May 22, 2009, 3:42 pm
  23. I find it hardly surprising that the debate between saqr and Yaacoub evolved into the May7 argument on this thread.A perfect prototype to quell the conspiracy theorists and the ambiguity of May5/May7.

    Posted by Maverick | May 22, 2009, 4:54 pm
  24. Redleb: I guess I don’t understand why the government should have to make a compromise. Isn’t the point of a real democratic system that if decisions are unpopular then the government will lost its mandate after the next elections? I’m actually against giving the opposition (whoever it may turn out to be) a veto. I think that the idea of consensus-based governance too often keeps the zu’am in power and more often than not is synonymous for paralysis and shady deals made in smoke-filled back rooms.

    Posted by sean | May 22, 2009, 5:25 pm
  25. QN and mo,

    I believe that you are both missing the point. No militia has the right to take matters into its own hands by using armed groups in order to achieve a political objective, no matter how ‘noble’ you or anyone else may think that objective is. Hizb basically staged a coup on May 7 by the use of its militia after its two year sit in downtown Beirut, an obvious political blackmail, failed to produce any results.
    The Government’s decisions of May 5 are justified because it is the elected government of the country. Hizb has no right to install surveillance cameras on the tarmac of the Beirut airport. This is a clear breach of thee country’s sovereignty. The Government also has the right to take down any communication networks that are operating outside its jurisdiction. It also has the right to ensure that its security personnel follow the Government’s chain of command and not Hizb’s orders.

    Posted by majid | May 22, 2009, 6:12 pm
  26. Sean, firstly I agree with you that a consensus based govt. means a do-nothing one.

    But in a real democratic system a govt. faced by a large enough revolt either compromises or calls an election and lets the people decide or if the root problem is one person that person resigns. Bar the US, how many Western nations can claim to not have had govts collapse or leaders quit over large scale popular demonstrations?

    And in the specific case of Hizballah and the govt. the point was slightly more than just an unpopular govt. and demanded slightly more action than waiting till the elections.

    Posted by mo | May 22, 2009, 6:24 pm
  27. majid,
    we do not accept the point, that is very different to missing it.

    Hizballah is not just a militia; It is, to me anyway, Lebanons greatest detterence to Israel and the only source of defence we have. It has every right to take matters into its own hands if the govt. (which wouldnt have a majority if Hizballah had not joined its lists in 05) betrays a simple agreement

    I think you miss the point when you say “Hizb basically staged a coup on May 7″. The point is they could have but they didn’t. They could have taken the Serail, they could done so much more, but they didnt.

    And had the govt. not tried to pick a fight it wouldn’t have got one.

    “The Government’s decisions of May 5 are justified because it is the elected government of the country” ? Sorry but thats bull. If a govts actions are detrimental to the country it is every citizens right to oppose those action, no matter how the govt. got elected.

    Posted by mo | May 22, 2009, 6:31 pm
  28. Sean,
    What is a “real democratic system”? Is it a “real democratic system” when there is one election every several years that hinges on empty slogans, a big media campaign and maybe one or two major issues? Does someone elected primarily in opposition/support for one particular issue have a mandate to decide other, less pressing issues? (if you ask me, Lebanon, with two politically active and mobilized organizations is more democratic than the USA or European countries. And that is whether there are “elections” in Lebanon, or not.)

    RedLeb,
    I am sure you understand this, so I apologize for stating the obvious, but you do know that the government (of Lebanon, but also of any country) resorts to violence constantly, right? Why is the violence of an undemocratic, unconstitutional government that came to power on the back of an assassination of a major figure any more legitimate than the violence of Hizbullah?

    Posted by Joe M. | May 22, 2009, 7:11 pm
  29. sean,
    Yeah, what mo said :)

    Pragmatically, the government should have made a compromise because it ended up making one anyway, and they could have spared us the two years of tension and conflict.

    Politically, the government should have made a compromise because in a ‘real democratic system’ (which doesn’t exist, we’re all republics) governments respond to the will of the people, especially when its a large amount of people and the issues are critical.

    At least half the population was against the government’s foreign and defence policies in a rather deadly regional neighbourhood. They no more had the ‘right’ to criminalize Hizbullah than a Hizbullah run government has the right to dismantle the army.

    Any course of action that will split the national population into violently opposing camps cannot be justified by any number of government edicts and constitutional arguments.

    Posted by RedLeb | May 22, 2009, 7:28 pm
  30. Joe M.,
    As far as I can tell, its because Saniora wears a three piece suit while Nasrallah wears a turban.

    I’m only half joking :(

    Posted by RedLeb | May 22, 2009, 7:30 pm
  31. mo said, “majid,
    we do not accept the point, that is very different to missing it.”

    Excuse me, but who is “we” in your statement? Are you speaking on behalf of a group?

    mo said, “Hizballah is not just a militia; It is, to me anyway, Lebanon’s greatest detterence to Israel and the only source of defence we have. It has every right to take matters into its own hands if the govt. (which wouldnt have a majority if Hizballah had not joined its lists in 05) betrays a simple agreement.”

    Your whole argument is false. Hizbollah did not prove to be a deterrent to Israel in July 2006. It gave Israel the justification to launch a destructive war on Lebanon. Hizballah took a unilateral decision to instigate that war without consulting anyone in Lebanon. It resorted to this escalation after Nasrallah withdrew from dialog with the government because he refused to disarm. His ministers also withdrew on his behalf but it doesn’t mean the government lost its legitimacy. In Lebanon’s Parliamentary Democracy, the authority for legitimizing or delegitimizing the government lies in the Parliament. It is not you and me who can say the Government is or is not legitimate. Nabih Berri turned the parliament into virtually a private company and refused to call it into session where a motion of confidence in the Government could be initiated and decide the issue. But Berri and Nasrallah knew very well that they have no hope of winning such a motion – hence the ploy to close the parliament and in effect shutting down Democratic life itself.
    As for Israel’s deterrence, it was the Government’s decision which brought in UNIFIL to the south alongside the National Army which proved to be the real deterrent to Israel and not Nasrallah’s militia. Hizballah was forced to agree after it became clear to Nasrallah that his misadventure backfired. Having lost the south, Nasrallah then aimed his weapons towards Beirut in order to recoup some of his losses. Alas, by doing so he lost all legitimate claims to being a resistance and therefore Hizballah is nothing more than a militia threatening social peace, order and Democratic life. As for taking the Serail, Nasrallah knew very well that such a move will only mean his demise and the end of his militia in Lebanon. So this is something that he would have liked to do but he knew it is not achievable.
    The two year sit in downtown Beirut is yet another example of the thuggish and non-Democratic principles upon which Hizballah operates. Turning downtown Beirut into a café for nargillah smoking for the un-employed is perhaps one of the ugliest proofs of the ideology underlining the behavior of this group. It brings to mind the 444 day hostage taking saga of the US embassy in Tehran after the so-called Islamic Revolution of Khomeini came into power. These people do not believe in Democratic rule. They can only rule by resorting to political blackmail. Democracy as a concept of governing is foreign to their ideology.

    Posted by majid | May 22, 2009, 7:44 pm
  32. It seems that we’re having another one of these May 7 debates.

    Let me ask you guys a question.

    Let’s say March 14 wins the election. Personally, I feel that this is a less than likely possibility, but let’s say it happens. M14 wins, and it wins on the following basis:

    1. An electoral law that the opposition proposed in Doha and that no can accuse of marginalizing this or that community;

    2. No Quadripartite Alliance like in 2005;

    3. No vague national dialogue agreements;

    4. A campaign that is absolutely clear about how it feels regarding Hizbullah’s weapons;

    Under these conditions, if more Lebanese vote for March 14 than vote for March 8, would you say that the resulting government would be justified in pressuring Hizbullah to disarm?

    If not, why not?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 22, 2009, 7:51 pm
  33. QN,

    The questions of your last comment should be answered based on a clear understanding of more fundamental principles that relate to the meaning of Democracy in political life, the universal practice of separating executive, legislative and judicial powers in the functioning of the State and finally, the role of a governing ‘coalition’ based on a parliamentary majority and an opposition.

    If we can come to an understanding on these issues, the answers to your questions follow as a consequence.

    So can we start the debate on these issues first?

    Posted by majid | May 22, 2009, 8:51 pm
  34. Majid ya 3ayni

    Why not just state your response, and if you feel the need to justify it on broader grounds please be my guest.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 22, 2009, 9:38 pm
  35. QN,

    I meant the other way around. We first discuss and come to an understanding on the issues I mentioned, and then as I said the answers to your questions become a foregone conclusion.

    Being the moderator, why not give us your take on those issues that I mentioned, and I repeat here in a point by point format adding some items that are of relevance:
    1. What is Democracy?
    2. Where did it originate?
    3. What makes it a valid system of
    Government as opposed to other forms?
    4. Why should executive, legislative and
    Judiciary authorities be separated?
    5. What is the role of an elected governing
    coalition in a parliament?
    6. What is the role of an elected
    opposition within a parialment?
    7. Is Doha comparable to Taef in the
    sense that Taef brought an end to
    the civil war that was ongoing, whereas
    May 7 sought to impose the will of an
    armed group based on the groups’
    perception of an ‘impending evil’.
    8. Was there any outside force like the
    PLO on or prior to May 7 that
    threatened turning Lebanon into a
    home to other than Lebanese Nationals?

    Posted by majid | May 22, 2009, 10:00 pm
  36. majid,
    Oh i see we have strayed into the usual bs. If you live in Lebanon you know what I mean. But hey, if everyone in downtown was “nargillah smoking un-employed” then at least now we know where you are coming from – the same secterian almost racist bs m14s love so much.

    QN,
    To answer your question, yes, if you base the win on popular vote and not actual seats in Parliament, and if the popular vote is big enough.
    Im not too worried…..

    Posted by mo | May 22, 2009, 10:00 pm
  37. QN,
    Popular opinion should always be a factor, regardless of the size of the mandate. What difference does it make whether 51% or 49% or 35% or 65% of people think Hizbullah’s weapons should be on the table? They are on the table because a significant part of the population thinks they should be.

    Yet, just because a significant part of the population has a view, does not mean they are correct. When the American Supreme Court decided to formally end segregation in schools, segregation was very popular. And it took decades (and is still ongoing) to come to a national consensus on the issue…

    So the question is not whether there is a vote on an issue or how the vote turns out, but what the justifications for the policies are, and whether these justifications will be able to keep a significant part of the population convinced in the usefulness of the policy.

    So, talking specifically about Hizbullah’s weapons, it matters how the public views the weapons, but it is only one factor. Other factors include the ability of the country to defend itself without Hizbullah’s weapons, and whether the weapons instigate Israel to attack Lebanon, and whether the people believe in Hizbullah’s goals to liberate Palestine… And such…

    But those are not questions to be decided by a one-off vote, they are questions that are politically decided over a long period of time, based on the push and pull of various opinions and stake-holders…

    Even though I am a strong supporter of Hizbullah, I am glad there is a discussion on the role of Hizbullah’s weapons. It makes Hizbullah more careful, more deliberate and more organized with it’s use of them. But also, on the other side, Hizbullah’s weapons provide an important counterbalance to a corrupt government, to threats from abroad, and give vital hope to the concept of resistance. Hizbullah’s weapons have largely revived the concept of self-respect and self-reliance among a large part of the population, and that is infectious…. Other factors should be considered. And for those reasons, there is a debate, and because both sides have strong reasons, there will not be a decision any time soon, as there should not be.

    And at some point down the road, like with desegregation in the USA, there will basically be a national consensus. And that’s a healthy process. It would not be healthy if it were done all in one move. Just as Hizbullah’s ability to fight was not developed over night, it should not be disarmed over night. The process is more democratic than any particular vote.

    Posted by Joe M. | May 22, 2009, 11:26 pm
  38. Mo, it’s interesting that you seem to value street politics more than voting. This was something that always bothered me in France, the population’s willingness to resort to street politics before negotiations and even before voting. Ideally, if political will were to be expressed by the ballot instead of the bullet, or even sit-in, there wouldn’t be need to resort to street politics. As for an example of unpopular decisions, the British were overwhelmingly against the war in Iraq, but the government went ahead anyway. (For the record, I was against the war in Iraq, and while this example provides an instance of a gov’t that didn’t fold, it’s also a challenge to me, because I’ve got mixed feelings about whether the elected gov’t should prevail or the popular will in such cases.)

    I suppose the distinction I’m trying to make is between democracy and mob rule. So
    I suppose that at the end of the day, I’m for the rule of law, even when I think that entails the government making the wrong decision.

    In any case, QN’s question is a good one, and I think that there’s a self-righteous feeling of many supporters of Hezbollah that their cause is so just and right that it overrides the will of the people, who are by human nature prone to err from the right path.

    Mo, you say that you’re not worried, but that’s not really the question. Assume for a moment that there as a 50% plus 1 majority for disarming Hezbollah. You’re saying that you’d be ok with that? Also, do you think that Hezbollah would allow itself to be disarmed in such a case?

    Posted by sean | May 22, 2009, 11:58 pm
  39. Sean,
    You are being presumptuous dude. Firstly as an American you should understand the whole “without representation” thing.

    You simply cannot compare this to British feeling towards the invasion of Iraq. The opposition (and lets say it was overwhelmingly against though Im not sure how quantitative that is) was based on moral values. In this case it is existential; In those cases where a govts actions are so troubling and simultaneously will have such a profound effect on the country that a quarter of its population goes on a protest, it is incumbent on that govt. to put it to the people, either by referendum or elections. If Hizballah and its supporters were really into mob rule, the effects would have been far greater and far more drastic.

    “I’m for the rule of law, even when I think that entails the government making the wrong decision” – Does that stretch to the banning of Paul Newman movies? :)

    I think you are making a classic misjudgment when you say that our cause overrides the will of the people – We are at least half of those people!

    If you read what I said above was that if in such a referendum (which is what it will be) M14 were to get 65% plus of the actual POPULAR vote (which is the figure that most countries consider binding in referendums) then I would say Hizballah is not wanted. I would also say that without that support it has today Hizballah may not disarm but it would wither. But again, I think there are enough people who agree with me for me not to worry.

    Posted by mo | May 23, 2009, 12:25 am
  40. QN,
    Sorry I can’t answer with a straight yes/no. Yours is a nuanced question.

    M14 is already pressuring Hizbullah to disarm. The question is about forcing them to disarm. The May 5 decision effectively rendered Hizbullah a criminal entity.

    In practical terms, winning one half of the vote does not give you the political capital to ostracise the other half. Winning by a large margin, or as mo suggested, winning a referendum, gives you that capital. It would also mean that you would be likely to succeed.

    As for if it is ‘justified’. Can any vote, regardless of margin, justify disenfranchising anybody? The resistance is not simply a noble cause, or just a political line. It is formed of people who were occupied by foreign armies and abandoned by the state. Is it justified for their fellow countrymen to simply take away the tools of their liberation, just because they have so decided?

    I’d like to repeat: Its not the boil, its the lancing. Hizbullah’s arms are a national problem. The size of M14’s supporters legitimises the fear of the weapons in the domestic scene. Hizbullah cannot ignore their concerns even if M8 wins the elections.

    But to be just, that state would have to provide credible alternatives to the resistance as it disarms it. It cannot simply declare the arms illegal and throw everyone in jail. There is no mandate large enough to legitimise an unfair process.

    Posted by RedLeb | May 23, 2009, 2:31 am
  41. Can I suggest the following, re comments 24 and 26 in particular?

    Let’s do a vox pop, QN willing. Whoever wants to submits 100 words on what the outcome of the vote means for the big questions: what does electoral will mean for consociaotional govt, and what to do with Hizbollah’s weapons in light of the first? But no more than 100 words. Make your case tight; no citations. QN, if he’s willing, can pick from the results, summarize and opine.

    I’m omitting al ‘aamil al khaariji from the above questions on purpose. Does the product of a screwed process matter, or not? If it does, how so?

    MM, mea culpa. Not everyone is for sale. Some zealots volunteer. And I like ‘Uqab Saqr too, despite myself. If politicians took office on the basis of soundbite karate, there’d be no Michele Bachmann.

    Posted by J of Chalcedon | May 23, 2009, 2:39 am
  42. QN, A short answer to your question is an astounding YES. One of the biggest disappointments I have in this election is the fact that the issue of Hizbullah’s weapons not being issue number one, out in the open. It is surely the main issue but M14 are masking it and going with the “strong government versus the mini States” mantra. I think M14 would be more true to its principles if they made that the main campaign issue.
    Many people on this blog, and in Lebanon confuse resisting Israeli occupation with defending against an Israeli aggression. While the Hizb was touting its vast arsenal of missiles in early 2006 during the dialogue sessions and arguing that this cache acts as a deterrent there was no counter argument to that theory then. Sadly, this theory that the Hizb was selling proved miserably wrong (to say the least). The sad reality is that Israel, with its military capability, will attack (and did attack) Lebanon whenever it feels like it (or provoked to do so), and will invade South Lebanon (as it did in 2006) through the Litani or even Beirut if it so chose. Hizballah FAILED in protecting Lebanon from an Israeli attack. I wonder why so many people on this blog still believe that the Hizb can defend them against Israel. Now, to give the Hizb its due credit, it is a great resistance movement and it will make any Israeli occupation a living hell for Israel. (the same is true for any other Lebanese who is under occupation be it in the South, North or elsewhere). So yes the Hizb will resist but it will NOT be able to prevent an Israeli attack and, for all the academics out there, now we have tangible proof of that (a proof that came at a very high cost).
    So how can I ask the Hizb to disarm when I just admitted that they are an effective resistance movement? Simple. Hizb fighters can be incorporated into the army under army command. The Hizb did not resist Israel with advanced missiles and what have you- they resisted with know how, courage, and basic weaponry. Things that are readily available if and when another occupation takes place. Having the UN in the South and united citizenry is a thousand times more effective than any missile provided by Iran to be used when Sayyed Khamenie orders so.

    Posted by MM | May 23, 2009, 5:06 am
  43. Mo, Joe M., Red Leb, etc.,

    If Lebanon had a system of proportional representation, or some other non-sectarian electoral system, would you still support Hizbullah’s right to a militia/veto? These are not normal rights granted to opposition parties in democracies. It seems to me that Hizbullah’s one claim to them is that its popular following far exceeds its current or possible electoral strength.

    Oh, and I know this is twenty posts back, but I have to defend my hero Joe Biden. If you read the transcripts of the Democratic primary debates, you realize that Biden is probably the smartest and most interesting candidate. Most American politicians have a list of scripted stock answers that they use to respond to any question asked. Biden just says what he thinks. As a result, he says far more smart things than the other pols but also the occasional dumb thing. And it is the dumb thing that ends up getting repeated on the news.

    Incidentally, Biden has one thing in common with most Hizbullah politicians: because of a family history of alcoholism, Biden has never tasted alcohol.

    Posted by Abraham Rotsapsky | May 23, 2009, 5:42 am
  44. Abraham Rotsapsky,

    The Taef accord envisions abolishing sectarian representation in parliament, but by first creating a senate which safeguards the sectarian constitution of the population within the new senate.

    What is going on now is a cold war of vengeance between General Aoun and some other politicians in Lebanon. Aoun has some grievances. As a Maronite who was an Army Chief at one point in his life, and as an appointed PM in 1989 at a time of crisis which ended with his exile into France, he cannot imagine any other Maronite but himself occupying the post of Presidency. Furthermore, the Taef accord was struck when he was in exile, and to him the accord which ended the civil war stripped the post of the President, normally occupied by a Maronite, of much of its pre-accord authorities. The Christians have lost much of their past privileges as a result of the war, but also due to their dwindling numbers, either due to immigration or due to low birth rate. Much of that power was divided between the two posts of the Speaker, usually occupied by a Shiite, and the PM post, usually occupied by a Sunni. General Aoun aspires to play the Shiites against the Sunnis hoping he will be able to restore some of those lost privileges. He is obviously swimming against the tide and playing a very dangerous game where either he or the Christian community may end up paying a very high price that could result in their final demise in the near east. For that reason, Aoun struck a marriage of convenience deal with Nasrallah. Oddly enough he is the one who vocally supports Hezbollah keeping its weapons. And shamefully, he did not even have the audacity to hide his glee when Hizb sent its fighters to W. Beirut, a predominantly Sunni city, and to the mountains of the Druze. The Lebanese like Aoun and his supporters, unfortunately, have not yet learned from the tragedies of the 17 year old civil war and are willing to gamble their country, its freedom, its independence and its democratic institutions in the same feudal games that have already claimed hundreds of thousands of Lebanese lives not to mention the hundreds of thousands (mostly Christians) who fled the country, and are unlikely to return considering the pathetic nature of its politicians.

    An article which appeared in the Time magazine following the Israeli invasion of 1982 accurately described how pitiful the country is considering its geography and its population. It is worth reading even now 27 years later:

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,925494-2,00.html

    Posted by majid | May 23, 2009, 7:34 am
  45. The link in the above comment takes you to the second page of the article instead of the first. You either have to navigate to the first page at the bottm of the page or use this link instead:

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,925494-1,00.html

    Posted by majid | May 23, 2009, 7:45 am
  46. ATTENTION

    There’s a new post that makes this debate the centerpiece of the discussion, so let’s all pick it up over there.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | May 23, 2009, 8:51 am
  47. lol @ unibrow comments.. he looks like the cavemen from the Geico commercial
    for those who think he is great he may end up just another Nabih Berri in a decade or less. switching sides is considered a talent in lebanon

    Posted by V | May 23, 2009, 8:59 am
  48. Qifa Nabki,

    To answer your question, you can check Lebanon Now (or what professor As’ad Abukhalil calls Hariri Now). From what is known, Uqab Saqr is responsible for the site.

    I checked parts of the “debate” you posted. I did not find anything in them that pinpoint to the guy as brilliant, even on the rhetorical level. Does anyone in his or her right mind think that the war erupted in Lebanon to get to the Taef agreement? I bet that back than not that many in Lebanon knew where Taef is located! Uqab Saqr did not pull any punches here. He reminds me of some people in the US who are invited on TV just to fill time and see their lips parroting some lines. When one digs deep, we can see that they are shallow and empty.

    As for your question about the Islamic Resistance weapons and the June 7 elections results, I would like to remind you that Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on different occasions that he would be willing to put this important issue to a referendum. You can guess who will win such a referendum. Although many questions need to be settled (age of voters, etc.).

    Elections in Lebanon mean nothing regarding this issue or other major issues (they might help in minor ones) for two reasons: 1) you have some areas, mainly in Muslim Shiites districts where tens of thousands of people are needed to elect one deputy whereas in others a few thousands can elect one or more deputies; 2) Walid Junblat commands the alligeance of around 80 to 90% of the Druze community which represents less than 5% of the Lebanese population yet he has close to 18 deputies right now. Many think that letting 5% of any given population have a major say if not a decisive influence on highly important matters is a bit too much.

    Posted by Jihad | May 24, 2009, 5:27 am
  49. It is well known -and it was published in local newspapers- that General Michel Aoun received many visitors and offers prior to his return to Lebanon. Didn’t Walid Junblat fly to Paris and tried to persuade General Aoun to be on his side and the side of the Hariri clan. Aoun chose to go the other way. So again, Uqab Saqr has no point whatsoever.

    As for Uqab Saqr stating, “They say that they prevented fitna. Why, what is fitna besides killing, and blood, and occupation? Fitna to prevent fitna, wow!”, that is really dumber than dumb. He wanted for the Hizbullah leadership to wait in their homes to be picked up under the orders of the Junblat-led Siniora government. If Uqab Saqr and others really care about Beirut and its inhabitants, they should have long ago asked the Hariri clan that feed them what’s the infatuation with Johnny Abdou who welcomed criminals like Ariel Sharon and Bashir Gemayel in his house back in the 1980s to prepare for the 1982 Zionist invasion of Lebanon and who used to send car bombs to West Beirut when he was in charge of the Military Intelligence.

    Sayyed Nasrallah has said after the May 7, 2008, had we wanted to make a coup d’État, all these people (talking about Junblat, Hariri and co.) would have been dumped into the sea.

    Posted by JIhad | May 24, 2009, 5:45 am
  50. i simply think that he Just made it Out, for the Elections. i Really Don’t Believe this Guy. some People Say that He’s an “3amil” (yes, I don’t Know the word in English :P)
    and Hassan Yaakoub defended him.

    Posted by miss_orange | June 14, 2009, 7:01 pm

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