Hezbollah, Lebanon

Love Song for Paul Krugman

krugman2Nobel Prize, Shnobel Prize. Getting a YouTube hit song named after you means that you have arrived…

Okay, back to sobriety (or maybe not): Here’s a piece on Hizbullah’s “narco-Islamism” from the Middle East Strategy at Harvard blog. (What is narco-Islamism, by the way?) I believe that Jeffrey Goldberg had a two-piece article for The New Yorker on this subject three or four years ago. Here is my favorite part of the MESH article:

“So while there is no common understanding between the United States and the United Kingdom on whether or how to engage Hezbollah or even how to classify Hezbollah and its various component parts, there is no “gray area” as to whether drug trafficking is illegal. The United Kingdom and other European nations are no less eager than the United States to combat the flow of drugs into their countries and to prevent Hezbollah from operating criminal enterprises within their territory.”

I’m not sure why I find this statement so amusing. Maybe because it seems to say: “Ok, so the War on Terror is not working as well as we’d hoped, so let’s try to classify Hizbullah as a drug-smuggling kingpin, and nab them through the framework of the War on Drugs instead.” Yes, because the War on Drugs has been such a resounding success.
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31 thoughts on “Love Song for Paul Krugman

  1. Narco-islamism is the name given to islamist movements that are funded by illegal drug trade. The Taliban are a narco-islamist movement and Hizballah is one also.

    I don’t think QN that you appreciate the point raised in the Harvard blog enough. Part of how effective you are in fighting something is how much you believe you are justified in your cause. That is why for example, the Egyptians are not very effective at stopping weapons smuggling into Gaza. By framing the fight against Hizballah as part of the war on drugs, the Europeans do not see themselves as taking any side in the Lebanese-Israeli conflict and therefore they can act with more clarity, resolve and determination. The issue of Hizballah gets changed from a hot political potato to a consensus that drug trafficking should be stopped. No confusion in the ranks, no political bickering, no political pressure and no political consequences.

    Posted by AIG | March 23, 2009, 1:58 pm
  2. AIG

    Thanks for the explanation.

    By the way, what do you make of all the recent revelations about the IDF’s shoot-to-kill orders against civilians in Gaza?

    Read about it here and many more places.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 23, 2009, 2:09 pm
  3. QN,

    Drug trafficking is actually a very serious problem in our region, even for nations such as Iran. Boaz Wachtel, author of the Peace Canal project, is also one of the main supporters of the legalization of certain cannabis (he’s lectured on this and the water issues internationally), also in order to combat the huge problem of illegal trafficking.

    I don’t know how much of Hezbollah’s budget is derived from drug trafficking, but I imagine it’s not an insignificant amount. And, therefore, combatting it is essentially combatting all their other abilities. I guess Europe sees this as killing two birds with one stone, although they are getting closer diplomatically as well. Interesting to see how this develops. Next thing you know, CIA UAV’s go on bombing raids to “eliminate HA druglords”…

    As for the IDF-revelations about Gaza, though of course I reject everything about the horrific operation, I suspect that these orders were not widespread. If they had been, it would have leaked out to the media much faster. I haven’t heard about it until now. Not that it matters for those 1300 dead Palestinians, does it?

    Posted by Shai | March 23, 2009, 2:38 pm
  4. QN,

    It is clearly not an IDF policy to do such things, and any such claimed incident should be throughly investigated and if needed, court martials should follow. There are stupid and evil people in the IDF like there are in most organizations and they should be rooted out.

    This by the way proves what I have been saying all along. Because Israel is a free society and because the army is really everybody because of the mandatory draft, you cannot keep such incidents secret. If something bad was done, eventually some Israeli newspaper will get hold of it and publish it. That keeps the IDF pretty honest.

    Thanks again QN for highlighting democracy at work in Israel.

    Posted by AIG | March 23, 2009, 3:31 pm
  5. I do love how the US loves to push the whole “Narco-islamism” bullshit. Every time someone publishes one of these things I go looking for the evidence. Even the US Treasury documents contain a whole lot of nothing. They arrest a buch of Lebanese men, sometimes Shia, and say look he travelled to and phoned Lebanon and even though between us and the Mossad we have enough intelligence on Hizballah to write on a postage stamp, we know they went there and met with “high ranking memebers” (they love that phrase). Other examples of wonderful evidence? One guy they arrested in the States is a known Hizballah agent because “he has a picture of him sitting next to Fadllalah”!

    Hizballah must really get frustrated sometimes, putting all that effort in to have a top notch intelligence unit only to find they are up against such donkeys.

    Posted by mo | March 23, 2009, 4:24 pm
  6. Thanks again QN for highlighting democracy at work in Israel.

    AIG –


    The anti-Zionists love to point in Israel’s direction, yet these same people can’t bring themselves to point anywhere else.

    Thus, my job is to point this out.

    Hama? No.

    Rockets fired indiscriminently in Israeli population centers? No.

    Incitement in the Arab media and school textbook? No.

    Racism in Arab countries? No.

    Democracy and Freedom? No.

    Corruption in government? OK, you got me there.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 23, 2009, 5:36 pm
  7. AIG said:

    It is clearly not an IDF policy to do such things

    Except when it is an IDF policy to do such things. That’s the whole point. Read the coverage of this issue.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 23, 2009, 6:51 pm
  8. QN,
    Yes, I read the coverage. It clearly states that the IDF is dismayed at what happened. It is not an IDF policy to do such things.

    When it comes to these issues, you have a mental block. You haven’t been in any army. You have never been shot at and have never had to make decisions which could cost your life and the life of people looking up to you. People make many bad decisions while sitting quietly in their offices. You bet your ass that people in the field and under stress also make bad decisions. That is the nature of war. You need to make split second decisions with life and death consequences and you usually cannot rely on experience because then you will be fighting the previous war and will be sure to lose. You have to learn as you go along. The process is ultra-stressful, scary and gut-wrenching.

    Obviously, Israeli soldiers made mistakes in Gaza. In every war soldiers make many mistakes. The IDF has to determine which mistakes were intentional and avoidable and which were just bad decisions. For example, there is no excuse for shooting prisoners you have in custody. That is a war crime.

    But you seem to think that war is similar to a board game or something. You really do not get it. You do not see the world as black and white, but when it comes to war, the most stressful decision process, you expect black and white results and clear cut decisions that are always right. Sorry QN, war is just as messy and complex as the rest of the world only if you make a bad decision you are dead, or worse, you get others killed.

    Posted by AIG | March 23, 2009, 7:12 pm
  9. These weren’t “bad decisions” taken in the field and under duress. They were calculated decisions passed down the chain of command, just like the decision to strew one million cluster bombs around South Lebanon, and the decision to use white phosphorus in the 2006 and 2008 conflicts. There has been widespread condemnation inside and outside of Israel of all these actions.

    Are you prepared to call them war crimes? Why and why not?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 23, 2009, 7:48 pm
  10. As far as “expectations” go, the expectation is that the jihadists and rejectionists will just get Israel to respond and make mistakes.

    Why? Because Israel isn’t allowed to make mistakes in the MSM and they know it.

    And what are the jihadist and rejectionists “allowed” to do? Well they’re a known quantity of intentional murderers. I given quantity. The MSM isn’t fazed; business as usual.

    It would only be double-standard if the jihadists and rejectionists killed civilians and the MSM didn’t make an issue out of it like they do on a daily basis. Say, like today’s bombing in Iraq (if Israel were to bomb Gaza and kill 25 innocent civilians, you can bet every news agency would be on fire and the UNSC would meet):


    But because they jihadist SEEK to kill ANYONE, including civilians, I call it a DOUBLE double-standard.

    QN’s concerns are typical.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 23, 2009, 7:52 pm
  11. QN,
    If you want to discuss a specific decision, please specify which one.

    Posted by AIG | March 23, 2009, 8:08 pm
  12. By the way, it has been 2.5 years since the Lebanon cluster bomb incident. Why hasn’t any Lebanese brought any indictment against Israel anywhere on this issue? Perhaps proving the case that this is was a war crime is not that easy, is it? It is so much easier to just accuse a country of war crimes without actually making a tight legal case and taking it to court in some European country.

    Posted by AIG | March 23, 2009, 8:17 pm
  13. What if a Lebanese brought such an indictment and Israel was found guilty of war crimes? Would that change anything in your eyes? Of course not. You would dismiss that Lebanese person and the judge who ruled in favor of Lebanon as antisemitic, just like you dismiss the conclusions of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the United Nations. Standard operating procedure.

    As for specific decisions, how about the shoot-to-kill decision against civilians in Gaza? How about the house demolitions?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 23, 2009, 8:41 pm
  14. QN,

    “How about” this, and “how about” that makes for great conversation but does nothing for the people who are supposed to create a state and govern themselves.

    Take away the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists, and take away the indiscriminant missile firings and then, maybe, your finger-pointing will mean something.

    Outside of that, too many pro-Israelis and the Obama Administration won’t care about Israeli mistakes in Gaza or in Southern Lebanon.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 23, 2009, 8:50 pm
  15. AP

    This is a blog. Conversation and finger pointing are what we do here. Now, do you have an answer for the IDF shoot-to-kill civilians policy? Because, last I checked, that was the operational definition that you and AIG used for the word “terrorism”.

    If you are content letting the IDF be defined as terrorists, then why don’t we amend your statement as follows:

    “Take away the IDF terrorists, and take away the targeted civilian killings and cluster bombs in civilian areas, and then maybe, your bellyaching about Qassams will mean something.”

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 23, 2009, 9:02 pm
  16. QN,

    I don’t know enough about it, and we’re now starting to hear more, but from what I can tell (and from what I do know), the following can be said about IDF policy in this recent operation in Gaza:

    a. House demolition was absolutely carried out (on huge scale) as part of a policy intended to protect IDF soldiers from potential Hamas combatants and booby-trapped structures.

    b. Civilians were told to evacuate large populated areas in and around Gaza. They were given a certain period of time to do so. After which, soldiers were told to shoot at any “unauthorized” or suspicious movement. Elderly, or simply civilians that refused to leave, could have easily been targeted under such conditions.

    c. On a few instances, seemingly unarmed civilians attempted to walk up to IDF troops and blow themselves up. From that moment on, any civilian that attempted to approach soldiers could have been shot.

    d. From what I can tell thus far, widespread orders to indiscriminately kill civilians were never given. There do seem to be a few cases where an order to that effect was given, and a few civilians may indeed have been killed.

    e. There is no doubt that on that initial Saturday, the IAF was given great freedom to target and destroy security installations and personnel, also ones within and amongst populated areas, resulting in 250 dead.

    Whether specific orders were given or not, how widespread they were or not, doesn’t change the fact that crimes against humanity were committed against the Palestinian people. But then again, we didn’t need Gaza 2008/9 for that. The entire Occupation is a crime against humanity, isn’t it?

    I spoke to a reserve paratrooper that had to go in towards the end of the war, and asked him what he saw. He only said: “Parts of where I walked reminded me of Hiroshima.”

    Posted by Shai | March 23, 2009, 9:33 pm
  17. …do you have an answer for the IDF shoot-to-kill civilians policy?

    QN –

    In the great battle to delegitimize Israel, the Palestinian Freedom fighters wear no uniforms and hide among the civilian population. Moreover, they target civilian populations with absolutely no concerns for who the target is. Often, they fire on Israel from near hospitals and school yards. The mighty Palestinian fighters surely have a noble plan to liberate Palestine.

    But alas, you’re concerned that Israel has made mistakes that may be considered “terrorism”.

    Well Habibi, is isn’t terrorism. It wasn’t terrorism in Jenin, and it wasn’t terrorism in Gaza.

    As AIG has stated, engaging a terrorist who hides among his neighbors, family and children
    is a business that invites civilian casualties and the IDF does its best under the circumstances. But if you are concerned about the high civilian casualty rate, you may want to write a letter to the Hamas Military Command and request clarification on their tactics.

    “Take away the IDF terrorists, and take away the targeted civilian killings and cluster bombs in civilian areas, and then maybe, your bellyaching about Qassams will mean something.”


    Your statement is nothing profound or worthy of praise. Sderot was being shelled for years before Israel invaded Gaza and the “bellyaching” only met deaf ears.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 23, 2009, 9:36 pm
  18. QN –

    Who got wacked today in Lebanon? Anybody important? Was this a mistake, or is this another case of IDF terrorism?


    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 23, 2009, 10:11 pm
  19. PLO’s #2. No idea who was behind it.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 23, 2009, 10:15 pm
  20. QN,

    Currently, based on the evidence I have there was no war crime with the cluster bombs. If a strong case would be made for it, I could change my mind. But the fact is that not ONE Lebanese even tried gathering strong evidence and going to court. Why would any Lebanese care if I changed my mind or not? You after all do not want Israel to repeat its actions again. What better way than to take Israel to court and shame it in front of the world?

    Now, since NO Lebanese to the best of my knowledge is even trying to do that, to me that is a strong indication that the evidence supporting a war crime is very weak. Where is the Lebanese Dershowitz?

    Regarding Gaza, there was no IDF policy to shoot civilians just because they were civilians. If a civilian was deemed to be a suicide bomber and endangering the troops then there is good reason to shoot him or her. Again it is difficult to distinguish suicide bombers from mentally challenged people that walk around war zones (not a joke), so mistakes are made. But this is not a war crime.

    Regarding demolishing homes, if a house is used to fire at troops or is booby trapped, it may be demolished. So in order to prove war crimes, you would have to show that it was crystal clear that no one was shooting from a house and that in spite of that, the IDF demolished it.

    Again, it is easy to bark “War Crimes!”, it is much harder to actually prove it in court with concrete evidence. The IDF does its best, but war is ultra messy and of course mistakes are made. But just like the fact that friendly fire is not a war crime, so is the mistaken demolishing of a house because the source of fire was not identified accurately.

    Posted by AIG | March 23, 2009, 11:54 pm
  21. QN,

    I’d would like to weigh in on the military ethics discussion. I do think it is important. I’m not sure if it can be productive in the context of a discussion on a Lebanese blog.

    Israeli sensitivity to hypocrisy is very high at the moment. And as I am sure you know, that’s something that is quite problematic if you are trying to be conductive to decent discussions on difficult topics.

    I suggest that if you want to give it an honest shot, try opening it as a seperate on topic discussion.

    Posted by netsp | March 24, 2009, 1:27 am
  22. I agree with netsp. I obviously have no problem discussing Israel and its terrorist ways. But I would generally prefer that this blog does not discuss Israel unless it is directly pertinent to the topic at hand. Having the zionists come on and monopolize the discussion is one thing if the topic is a question directly related to zionism. But, just as I don’t want to make every post about how zionism is form of racist cancer on this earth, i prefer that they do not do so either.

    Note: If the zionists want to make points that are relevant to the discussion, though from their racist and stupid perspective, that seems fine to me. As long as they stay on point.

    Posted by Joe M. | March 24, 2009, 4:41 am
  23. Going back on-topic, there is quite a bit of natural convergence between the “War on Terror” & the “War on Drugs”.

    Control over territory, anarchy or some other lack of is the needed ingredient for drug production. Most channels for arms smuggling are also good for drug smuggling.

    Supposedly, one of Israel’s reasons for getting out of Southern Lebanon under Barack was the growing hashish smuggling corruption in the lower ranks.

    One of the more problematic aspects of drug cultivation by militant organisations or related to their control is that it’s habit forming. Being outside of central control becomes profitable for networks or privateers. basically creating even more cashed up, armed, power centres.

    Or the organisation itself becomes reliant on drug profits. Hezballah seems to be growing more income dependant. There is a fine line between people being grateful & people developing an attitude of deserving. In a previous post, this blog was talking about scenarios where they assimilate. What happens if assimilation means leaving behind 10 or 20 or 60% of its revenues. Cancelling radio shows is not nice. Unpaid salaries or a dried up widows fund are not negotiable for an organisation. If these rely on drug trade, you’re in bad luck.

    We have to keep in mind that whatever is going on in the front-end, an assault on Hezballah is likely to come from the rear. Chipping away at its funding channels is a long term process combining diplomacy & “active intelligence.” I’m not sure how much wiggle room they left for bactraking. IE, if their budget was 250m in 2009, can they survive a 200m year? The tighter their position, the more central a role the narco-economy gains.

    Lebanese stability becomes a victim. The conditions needed for large scale drug production are not the same as the conditions needed for say, good roads.

    Posted by netsp | March 24, 2009, 5:10 am
  24. Joe M.

    That’s wonderful starting point for respectulf dialogue.

    Posted by netsp | March 24, 2009, 5:24 am
  25. I love it! I’m being moderated by my own readers.

    You’re right guys. No more discussion of Israel/Palestine unless the post calls for it.

    AIG, when I find the Lebanese Dershowitz, I will let you know.

    Netsp, as we all know, the Hizb’s largest source of funding comes from Iran, not drugs. Your point about assaulting Hizbullah from the rear (while graphically unpleasant) is an interesting one though.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | March 24, 2009, 6:30 am
  26. Hizbullah’s sources of funding are ambiguous. We need to take conventional wisdom with a grain of salt on these matters. You’re probably right, but they probably have a diverse income. Nevertheless, I think that this can be an issue still:

    -) What I mean is that for both Iran & Syria, supporting (funding) Hizballah’s could become a bargaining chip, or simply no longer in their interest at some point.

    -) When explaining Hizballah ‘from scratch’ the term ‘state-within-a-state’ crops up. States have non-negotiable expenses: salaries, hospitals, welfare benefits. Usually, these expenses are very close to income. States rarely accumulate much of a surplus. When they hit a shortfall, states have access to financing. Hizballah does not. This makes it susceptible to financial attack. Even a relatively minor shortfall (10-20%) could lead to unpopular decisions being made.

    -) Financial attack, can come in various forms like shutting down part of the system; organisations involved in collecting or moving funds. Ironically (or not) State support is a relatively easy one to attack.

    -) This does not have to come in the form of a heart warming declaration by the Grand Ayatollah that they humbly accept the new American’s gesture. It could come as moderate decrease, unpublicised. If it could be verified, a 30% decrease in funding to Hizbullah might be achievable even during relatively hostile Iran-US relations via proxy or security network deals, especially if Iran is hitting its own shortfalls.

    Who knows, creating a moderate shortfall might even be something achievable for Israel.

    I’m just trying to say show that they are susceptible to financial shortfalls & theat they probably can’t handle them. In any case, if this kind of pressure mounts gradually Hizbullah could become increasingly dependant other funding sources, potentially the drug-economy. This introduces new interests & new difficulties. It lessons the likelihood of assimilation without confrontation. It also means that a larger part of Hizbullah becomes a ‘fund raising’ arm, problematic. This was a major issue for dismantling the IRA. But they relied on much messier bank robberies & the like.

    * QN, I apologise. This is of course, your party. I have no particular reason to want to keep you on topic. But I think that this is going to be a difficult enough topic to tackle at the best of times. So as I said, I’m happy to jump in if the water improves slightly.

    Posted by netsp | March 24, 2009, 8:09 am
  27. Hi

    Back to Hizb funding, Abu Muqawama post something that might interest you.


    Also, Pay attention to the comments there. they are most educational.

    Good day

    Posted by Idit | March 24, 2009, 9:53 am
  28. It seems that AIG and al. are paid propagandists for the serial killers in the Colonial Settler State. In case his “democratic” sensibilities about the terrorists and murderers in the so-called IDF, here’s some of what those terrorists and killers did when they invaded Beirut in 1982:

    From Jean Said Makdisi’s (1990:190) memoir, Beirut Fragments (found on Mr As’ad Abu Khalil’s blog):
    “After the Israelis left [Beirut in 1982], we began to hear of the most extraordinary aspect of the occupation. Arrests, harassments, shootings, even the obligatory looting: These were what everyone expected, and indeed, they had occurred. But the thing that no one expected, and indeed, they had occurred. But the thing that no one expected was what we, on hearing about it for the first time, greeted with hesitant laughs. Gradually, we discovered that what had seemed like a single incident had become, in fact, a trademark and taken on far more serious dimensions.
    “The Israeli soldiers, wherever they had been, had defecated in choice places. On books, furniture, clothes, and carpets; on bedroom floors; near toilet seats and in bathtubs; on school desks; and in shop windows, people found the rotting feces. Someone swore she knew of one house near the airport where the distraught housewife had discovered feces in her washing machine and dishwasher. One man, we heard, went to his office and saw on every single desk except his own the offensive, stinking pile. Triumphantly, he sat at his desk and gloated over his unhappy colleagues. Then he opened his drawer, and there, neatly lying among the files, was his bequest from the Israeli army.
    “And so, after all the ruin and tragedy, after the destruction and pain, the dead and the dying, the lacerated bodies and blinded eyes, the burned and disfigured faces, the windows and orphans—after all this there was left only a great heap of excrement. The fires had died, snuffed out in a mound of dung. A ghastly joke, symbol of an overriding contempt, a cosmic stink had become the memorial to those months of agony.””

    Posted by Jihad | March 24, 2009, 6:27 pm
  29. Jihad,

    Are you sure you didn’t cut & paste this from Joan Peter’s book?

    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 24, 2009, 7:04 pm
  30. Or Briditte Gabriel’s book:


    Posted by Akbar Palace | March 24, 2009, 7:09 pm
  31. For God’s sake, man,
    you won the Nobel Prize.
    Timothy Geithner uses Turbo Tax

    I can’t stop laughing about this part!
    That video made my day.

    Posted by sean | March 24, 2009, 10:22 pm

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