Hezbollah, Lebanon, March 14

Words and Things

Surveying the Lebanese political landscape today, one can’t help but be struck by the disparity in rhetorical competence between the two major political groupings. If there were a fantasy sports game based on Lebanese politics in which a player’s stock was tied to their charisma and oratorical abilities, how many March 14 figures would you pick for your team?

My contention is that you’d pack your roster with March 8th politicos before finding room on the bench for people like Samir Geagea and Marwan Hamadeh.

Think about it. Whatever you may think of Nabih Berri, Michel Aoun, and Suleiman Frangieh — to say nothing of Hasan Nasrallah, the greatest orator of his generation — is there any doubt that they have a way of connecting with an audience that their opponents simply do not possess? In this respect, Walid Jumblatt’s desertion of the March 14th coalition after last year’s elections cost his former allies much more than their illusory majority in parliament:  it also deprived them of their most prominent and effective spokesperson.

This is a dimension of Lebanese political life that most analysts consistently neglect. It is understandable to do so, given the extent to which  political dynamics are dictated by factors like foreign sponsorship, money, and the meat grinder of the confessional system that seems to return the same faces to power, year after year.

On the other hand, if public opinion truly did not matter or feature in the calculations of Lebanese politicians, then why would Hasan Nasrallah bother taking to the podium so often, appealing to the logic and sensibilities of armchair generals across the country?  Why would Michel Aoun hold multiple press conferences a week, lambasting his rivals in increasingly incomprehensible, hypocritical, inconsistent, but apparently persuasive, tones?

After the events of the past week — which featured a bizarrely brazen assault on Saad al-Hariri’s authority in the form of Hizbullah’s airport entourage — I found myself wondering (as I often do): “What if the tables were turned?” What if Hariri or the Gemayels behaved in such a transparently belligerent way? Would Aoun or Frangieh or Berri just let it slide? Or would they make political hay of it for the next several months? What if one of Samir Geagea’s top lieutenants was accused of being an Israeli spy? Would Nawwaf al-Mousawi waste any time insinuating that the “disease” of collaboration had infected the entire party?

I don’t expect Saad al-Hariri to be a Sunni Nasrallah. He doesn’t have to be a great communicator to be an effective prime minister. His father was not particularly eloquent, but at least he had some kind of… presence. By contrast, the dominant feature of the younger Hariri’s premiership is a sustained absence. If he’s not in Saudi Arabia or Damascus, he’s in Sardinia. When he’s not responding to developments in Beirut through his spokespeople, he’s giving interviews to foreign newspapers. Hariri’s approach to solving problems at home is to cut deals abroad, while his opponents bring their fight directly into Lebanese living rooms.

It is increasingly clear that these opponents have largely succeeded in convincing a majority of the Lebanese public (through a mixture of persuasion and intimidation) that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is bad news for the country. What will Hariri do when Hizbullah demands that the government formally renounce its support for the STL, on pain of a million-man march on the Prime Minister’s office, à la 2006? If he wasn’t able to order the ISF to arrest Jamil al-Sayyed at Beirut airport last week, where is he going to get the muscle and political cover to arrest indicted Hizbullah members, particularly in the face of a well-orchestrated campaign to incite public hostility towards the STL?

In such a scenario, one can only predict that Hariri will fall back upon his tried and true strategy: cultivating ambiguity through absence. But with the stakes so high, a hastily-planned trip to Riyadh won’t do the trick; it will take an absence of greater import. The young Hariri will have little choice but to resign, and one imagines that he may even feel relief when someone calls his bluff.
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137 thoughts on “Words and Things

  1. Michel Aoun and Suleiman Frangieh are anything but eloquent, quick on their feet and charismatic. But then maybe QN meant this to be an oxymoron:-)

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 24, 2010, 10:26 pm
  2. Agree, but with GK’s qualification.

    I would say it reflects a kind of confidence, ie the individual factions of M8 have much greater control (or perhaps more intimate is the right adjective) of their constituencies and thus can more effectively “lash out” at opponents (this is a generalization, b/c counterexamples are evident).

    Nasrallah is a good example of this because he can and does talk to multiple audiences, which effectively means he is at least in part ignoring his constituents during public addresses. This is a bridge too far for most politicos in Lebanon.

    I have always felt that Aoun plays the nutjob for some effect, and thus when his opponents indicate he might need his meds, I would guess a wry smile obtains. The counter-reaction itself merely reinforces his “stature” for “stature-hungry” Christians. In the words of T. Roethke: ‘sure I am crazy, but it ain’t easy.’

    Also bemused by Jamil as-Sayyed’s return. The pics say it all: look at those knuckle-dragging rough-necks that surrond him at press conferences. That is not to say he is a thug, or not one, but when Saqr tries to engage him, I keep thinking of that Jack Palance line: ‘I c**p bigger than you.’

    As for Hariri, the problem there is not his ineloquence, but rather trying to run a political machine in Lebanon as if it were a corporation. If he were wise, he would dismiss half his advisors, and keep it simple. Part of this is not his fault, as I believe the very nature of the Hariri political dynasty makes it a management nightmare, and makes the young man vulnerable to his competing councilors, eg “sales are down, so lets go out and find some more capital” is not a very good long-term strategy for growth, targetted or otherwise.

    Again, I would say it is a question of organization, not eloquence.

    Posted by david | September 25, 2010, 1:21 am
  3. QN, The M14 figures I would draft on my fantasy politics team were assassinated. Let’s not forget the most charismatic and eloquent of M14ers were eliminated over the past 5 years.

    Kassir was not a politician, but maybe the only one in the press that could have written with sense about hypocrisy of the Sayed and the General’s games. Tueni was just getting his feet wet in politics… It’s unfortunate that we can’t get their opinions anymore.

    That said, SHN is bar none the 1st pick in any draft, but am not sure anyone would leave a living Tueni on the board before picking up the next M8er.

    This was my main observation over the period of assassinations. Of the original M14ers those with any sense and ability to orate were killed off.

    I wonder if this had anything to do with GMA jumping ship… We all know he will do whatever it takes to save his skin. Exile anyone…

    Posted by Johnny | September 25, 2010, 4:11 am
  4. You are with two persons in the same room. The two are fighting to get your attention (for what’s your attention’s worth, but that is another subject). One is holding a million dollars in his hand. The other one is holding a hand grenade. Who would you listen to in the first place?

    Posted by mj | September 25, 2010, 4:51 am
  5. Europe 1935. No demagogery here, there and then there was too much, thus none of the well known names in central Europe and elsewhere, except Chamberlane and then Churchil. It is not for nothing that the clouds on the horizon are getting darker and darker.

    Posted by Rani | September 25, 2010, 6:30 am
  6. Great post QN 🙂
    personally i believe the M14 bunch are of a lower political grade than the M8.
    Lets count how many leaders they have; Saad Hariri, Samir Geagea (even though it pains me to admit it) … and thats about it. The rest are comical characters that are added to make the story line bit interesting.

    Anyways, dats my personal opinion.

    Again, great post.

    Posted by Simon | September 25, 2010, 6:53 am
  7. Not so fast,

    While I concede that you have a point, It seems to me that you are falling for the “March-8 is more popular” propaganda, the same one that hoodwinked the western press into thinking that they will win the last elections handily.

    You can do better than underestimate the intensity that lies on the other side, even if they were not blessed with orators and demagogues as leaders. I suggest you make a little trip to Tripoli, Akkar or even to christian areas.

    Many people are scandalized by actions like the airport attack and they don’t need someone to come and tell them how outrageous it is.

    Posted by Mustapha | September 25, 2010, 7:16 am
  8. Simon thank you for my morning laughter!!!

    Now you talk about comical characters?

    A. It “pains” me to disagree with QN on his first choice as charismatic orator..Hassan Nassrallah! Maybe he was one years ago before you was inflicted with Aoun’s nervous disorder!
    Since December 2006; Nassrallah has been spitting at the cameras while yelling and threatening! In my book that makes a terrified terrorist!

    B. I guess the top charcter in loonie tunes should be the Aoun!! Now what a charisma!!! He yells and shuts up people; talks in vulgar language…I guess he has his audiance in the lower classes of society. To each their own!

    C. Berri…Hmmm…Wow QN! You really take the cake on this one! He spits while talking man!

    As for M14…Greatest Orator of all time. Saad Hariri!!!

    Posted by danny | September 25, 2010, 7:53 am
  9. Mustapha,

    Thanks for your comment.

    While I concede that you have a point, It seems to me that you are falling for the “March-8 is more popular” propaganda, the same one that hoodwinked the western press into thinking that they will win the last elections handily.

    As you know, March 8 did handily win the last elections, in a way. They won 10% more votes than March 14. That’s a discrepancy that makes a mockery of any electoral law. The only reason the results were accepted was because it was March 8’s law in the first place, but I don’t see how we can conclude that March 8th did not have more supporters in that election (at least vocal, partisan ones) than March 14.

    You can do better than underestimate the intensity that lies on the other side, even if they were not blessed with orators and demagogues as leaders. I suggest you make a little trip to Tripoli, Akkar or even to christian areas. Many people are scandalized by actions like the airport attack and they don’t need someone to come and tell them how outrageous it is.

    That’s precisely my point. There is so much political hay to be made from the demagoguery of Nasrallah and Aoun these days, and yet March 14th has been so bad at taking advantage of it. People are frustrated and angry, and no one is voicing their complaints in a reasonable and articulate way.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 25, 2010, 8:42 am
  10. “What if the tables were turned?”

    Maybe they are that quiet because if push comes to shove, M8 could reasonably ask why a certain indicted Johnny Abdo was escorted out of the airport by Hariri’s goons just two weeks before?

    Posted by usedtopost | September 25, 2010, 9:04 am
  11. Where was Johnny Abdo indicted? In Lebanon?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 25, 2010, 9:08 am
  12. Abdo’s claim is that the judicial warrant against him expired once his lawyers lodged their objection to it. Is that true? Should be fairly straightforward to find out.

    On the other hand, al-Sayyed basically dared Hariri to arrest him. Why would he have needed Hizbullah’s protection?

    I’m happy to see them both go to jail.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 25, 2010, 10:14 am
  13. “A court session over the slander and defamation of former President Emile Lahoud by the former head of the Lebanese army intelligence Johnny Abdo…was adjourned to December 1 by the Publications Court on Wednesday”

    “The court’s head, Judge Roukoz Rizk had summoned Abdo and Khashan in absentia to attend a session on Wednesday.”

    Sounds to me that the Lebanese Judicial system doesn’t share his legal optimism.

    Are we really surprised the Al Sayyed is angry? Lets leave aside his history and where you or I would like to see him, he spent four years in prison on little evidence and Hariri has admitted his time in jail was for “political reasons”.

    You would want those who did that to you to pay one way another and if you had the likes of Syria and Hizballah backing you up you would do it as loudly as possible.

    Its a natural human reaction no?

    Posted by usedtopost | September 25, 2010, 10:29 am
  14. “he spent four years in prison on little evidence and Hariri has admitted his time in jail was for “political reasons”. ”

    How did you come to that conclusion? Please enlighten us!

    Posted by danny | September 25, 2010, 6:09 pm
  15. usedtopost

    I’m sure Jamil al-Sayyed is angry, just like the many individuals who were arbitrarily imprisoned by him during his tenure. He is entitled to his anger, and he is also entitled to seek some kind of redress through legal channels, but that doesn’t mean that he will be successful.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 25, 2010, 6:23 pm
  16. danny,
    read the news and try and keep up eh.

    I’m not pleading his case nor is my point in any way wishing his success or failure. Nothing I said should or can be construed as such.

    I’m merely pointing out that
    a. its hypocritical for one side to give a wanted man an armed escort through the airport and then complain when the other side does it – That is not to say that any side is innocent of hypocrisy or that his complaints of injustice are not in of themselves hypocritical before anyone brings up that straw man but two wrongs and all that…

    b.everyone is attacking the man for being angry when anyone of us would feel the same way. He is just able to do it louder than most. The real question is why of the four Generals, is it only him that seems so pissed!

    As for legal redress…..Have you tried “legal redress” in Lebanon. I have. The court system in Lebanon is quite probably the most ridiculous in the world.

    Posted by usedtopost | September 25, 2010, 7:13 pm
  17. Used to…

    “he spent four years in prison on little evidence and Hariri has admitted his time in jail was for “political reasons”.

    Hariri NEVER said anything about that eh???
    So please stop passing off your diluted opinions as facts and enlighten me with same facts or links if you have any!!
    I would be grateful!!! I’d like to keep up although not as “precisely” as you… 😀

    Posted by danny | September 25, 2010, 8:14 pm
  18. Mr. Johnny Abdo was escorted out of the Airport by policemen, part of a Lebanese Government Organization called the ISF. They weren’t Iranian armed and trained ILLEGAL militia members.

    Posted by V | September 25, 2010, 9:29 pm
  19. March 14 was never a true political alliance.
    It was an alliance of convenience for many of the personalities who made up March 14.
    From the beginning, it was obvious that March 14 included many people with no political weight. The main leaders were Saad Hariri, and walid jumblat (with the blessing of Sfeir).
    As walid jumbalt, who was the heavyweight leader of March 14 said; March 14 was “driven by necessity and must end”.
    The day Walid jumblat divorced March 14, the whole alliance became weak. He was the one keeping the alliance vibrant and active. His U turn was the key to a weaker March 14.
    Hariri is a new leader with little experience. He inherited a political ,and financial legacy unprepared.
    Gageaa has a reputation and a history that, He can’t escape no matter how prophetic he sounds.
    The Gemayels had lost a big political personality when Pierre was assassinated. The rest of the family is competing with itself and with Gegaa for Christian support.
    The rest of the March 14 personalities (with all due respect) have no political followers, and therefore have no political teeth.
    The western support has diminished substantially. The west decided to open a dialogue with Syria. There is no interest in the west to change the Syrian regime, as Many March 14 leaders were hoping for.
    March 14 has a major credibility issues to deal with. For 5 years they accused Syria for the murder of Rafik Hariri. They threw so many accusations against Syria, and now they are making out with Syria.
    It is not an easy sight for many March 14 fans look at, Nor is it easy for most March 14 leaders to

    Posted by Prophet | September 25, 2010, 10:43 pm
  20. Hey @danny boy, u probably should learn to voice ur comment without being a dick. or maybe u just can’t reply to a personal opinion without being a smart ass.

    Posted by Simon | September 25, 2010, 10:50 pm
  21. I always find it amusing when those who claim to be dissatisfied with the arguably shameful performance of the Lebanese political leadership for over sixty years resort to analysis that demonstrates their respect for those very same leaders that they blame. How can we possibly make the arghuent that what Lebanon needs is more of the same? Shouldn’t we be screaming that we have had enough and that we are not going to take it any longer? Pox on all houses whether they be Jumblatt, Hariri, Frangieh, Gemayel, Aoun, Beri…

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 25, 2010, 11:51 pm
  22. Back to the load, stating the obvious (again). The position of strength does matter in communication. It very much helps the rhetoric when you are on top of the wave, and struggling to breathe under the water doesn’t help your voice being heard. One can indeed analyze the communicational inner value of any message, on paper, or in the lips of any leader. You can dissect the chosen timing, the tone, the channel, you name it. But the final efficacy, the real results will depend on how powerful the receptor perceives the communicator to be, in other terms, the receptor of the message will ask himself, does the communicator have the means to make true what he is promising. The answer to this remark could be that the communication effort’s aim is precisely to change that perception of strength, or weakness, in the first place. This being true, the persuaded to be receptor of the message still sees the hand grenade in the pocket of the speaker. IMHO, Qifa’s post didn’t acknowledge that factor sufficiently. Some commentators did, somehow. Some others pointed at Walid Beik’s defection being fatal to M14ers communication performances. Not only that I agree, the guy also gives me the perfect example to illustrate what I mean (and I’m having some much trouble explaining). Can anybody give me an example of a compelling Jumblat’s speech since he started his last U-turn? Or have they become the utter expression of his very uncertain and weak position today?

    Posted by mj | September 26, 2010, 3:14 am
  23. “Mr. Johnny Abdo was escorted out of the Airport by policemen, part of a Lebanese Government Organization called the ISF”

    So V, let me get this straight. You demand rule of law, human rights etc etc, you say its the Lebanese peoples fault for wanting a chaotic society when it suits them and then you make a comment like this? You are seriously suggesting that’s it’s ok for a man wanted by the courts to be given an armed escort into the country if its done by the police? What? The very people who are supposed to be arresting him and delivering him to the courts? You don’t see anything wrong with that?

    ” They weren’t Iranian armed and trained ILLEGAL militia members”

    Whats wrong with being Iranian armed and trained? It seems that those who are seem better armed and trained than those being armed and trained by the West. Maybe its time all our forces were, then we would need “illegal militias”. (by the by, I believe you are wrong about the legality issue)

    Posted by usedtopost | September 26, 2010, 5:57 am
  24. Simon,

    Decorum my friend. Please try to hold yourself to higher standards…and speak only when you are addressed!

    Posted by danny | September 26, 2010, 8:41 am
  25. In support of danny and the standards of this blog let us all recognize that the use of profane language (a) is a reflection only on its user (b) does nothing to make a persuasive argument (c) simply should not be tolerated on this blog. QN has been rather gentle in reminding readers, every now and then, in the comments section, of the expected standards – similar, in his words, to those at http://www.syriacomment.com, namely, quoting from these rules:

    Messages containing any of the following elements will not be tolerated:

    •Personal attacks against other contributors;
    •Racist, sexist, obscene, or otherwise discriminatory or hateful language;
    •Provocations designed to derail discussions away from substantive debate into dead-end arguments;
    •Links to commercial sites or posting of commercial messages;
    •Threats of death or violence;
    Comments that violate these guidelines may be edited or deleted at the discretion of the moderating team. Furthermore, commentators who repeatedly violate the site regulations may be warned, temporarily suspended from posting, limited to a set quantity of daily posts, or permanently banned. The moderators reserve the right to ban anyone who annoys or badgers them excessively.

    Finally, we ask that commentators bear in mind that even well-intentioned humor or sarcasm can be “lost in translation” on an online discussion forum. As such, commentators should maintain a respectful tone with others and be tolerant of opinions that may differ from their own.

    Stating the rules and requesting the upholding of corresponding standards is not meant as agreement nor disagreement with any particular point of view.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 26, 2010, 10:23 am
  26. to Johnny.
    GMA did not “jump ship.” Emile Lahoud et al sent several messengers (Michel Samaha, Karim Pakradouni…) to cut a deal with him before his return to Lebanon. And they did. One messenger in particular was former minister Youssef Salameh, a Kesrwanite who enjoys tight relations with Maronite Patriarch Sfeir who must have been abreast of this development. Why did the Maronite church (practically all Lebanese churches) support GMA ticket in the 2005 parliamentary elections remains a mystery. The “no vacancy” sign in history’s trash yard is down.

    Posted by noble | September 26, 2010, 11:02 am
  27. Whatever happened to Jumblat’s parading his son, Taymour, around and him supposedly retiring from Politics?

    Posted by PeterinDubai | September 26, 2010, 1:33 pm
  28. Usedtopost,

    I may have given the wrong message of support to the corrupt Lebanese establishment or its tools such as the ISF I have no respect for them and I absolutely do not condone any favoritism or law breaking that takes place daily in Lebanon nor was I defending Johnny Abdo or the action of escorting him out of the airport; however that does not stop me from pointing out the fact that the HIZB armed personnel that entered the airport are an illegally armed militia and illegally present there.

    As for the Iranian connection, I prefer anything Western over Iranian. I am pro American and pro Israeli and certainly against any group that calls on the destruction of Israel.
    The ills of the region aren’t caused by America or Israel the root cause of all the problems are the totalitarian, dictatorial, Islamic regimes such as Syria, Egypt, KSA and Iran. not to mention the great sectarian, tribal fake democracy Lebanon.

    Posted by V | September 26, 2010, 3:23 pm
  29. QN, you completely neglected stating how the “March 14” group’s campaigns over the past few years were primarily based on inciting fear among the public of their Lebanese counterparts (on whatever issue, which I will not analyze right now, but the 2009 elections were a prominent example). However, you consistently state0 that the “March 8” group adopts a political speech that is often expressed through means of intimidation.

    While I think this post has some validity, it’s important to consider the content of the rhetorical appeal of each group to their respective crowds of supporters/followers/worshipers.

    Posted by Maroun | September 26, 2010, 7:02 pm
  30. If March 14 incited anything it was incitement of hope for a true democracy free from the tyranny of the Syrian regime and the never ending holding Lebanon hostage in the game of negotiation with Israel and the USA. However their whole effort was cowardly, shy and very short lived. As I said before many of us were fooled or delusional about such romantic dreams or goals for Lebanon.

    The masters of fear incitement are those adopting the good old Baathist/Khomeinist style fear incitement against the Demon Israel and its little Lebanese agents, the American great Satan and its wicked New Middle East Project that will enslave us all and of course the fear of the Western Colonialism and the crusaders at the gate.

    Posted by V | September 26, 2010, 7:29 pm
  31. mj,

    Well-said, even if “obvious.”

    Commish QN,

    I keep looking at your graphic and am now wondering what kind of stats the Topps trading cards would have on the back. Needless to say, the possibilities are endless.

    Of course, number of hits can remain number of hits … 🙂

    Posted by david | September 27, 2010, 1:08 am
  32. Nuts! I just realized that was the NBA thing, not the MLB thing. Still, we have blocks, rebounds, steals, etc…

    I would make a joke about Air Sayyed, but imagine some enterprsing soul/Sadaka fan has been there,done that … 🙂

    Posted by david | September 27, 2010, 1:23 am
  33. Hi QN.

    I must say that the mid-east political scene interests me on a personal level. Though I don’t enough about it, given that US based media is as biased and one-sided as any, I’m glad I found your blog.
    You’re my number one source of information on the region at this time.
    Keep it up, and if you get the chance visit my own political blog . Any input will be highly regarded.


    Posted by Dan Stevens | September 27, 2010, 6:29 am
  34. david

    it’s the MLB thing too. see:

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 27, 2010, 7:39 am
  35. QN,
    Aren’t you confusing rhetorical skills with populist demagoguery?
    No question about lack of not only orators, but also of leadership on the March 14 side. Also no question about SHN’s exceptional oratory talent.
    But Aoun and Jumblat ? really? When did shouting mindless insults become rhetorics?

    Posted by XP | September 27, 2010, 9:19 am
  36. XP et al

    In my book, it counts as rhetoric when it works. Obviously, Sarah Palin’s “death panels” line was a piece of demagoguery, but boy oh boy did it put the skids on health care reform in this country for a couple of months.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 27, 2010, 9:22 am
  37. Whether it works or not; of course it works. For how long: time will show. To what effect: history has shown.

    So what will happen a few generations down the road? Lebanese children will learn about the ‘taht el zennar’ or ‘apes and whales’ address as examples of eloquence and a new peak and Arabic oration?

    Posted by XP | September 27, 2010, 9:50 am
  38. QN, I think by far one of your most insightful posts. You hit the nail on the head by pointing out M14’s and particularly Hariri’s lack of effective communication with their/his public. The best thing Harriri can do is to FIRE 95% of his aides…I really believe that. Most are inadequate even if loyal flock; loyalty is important but ignorance and being unqualified as an aide will not lead you to the promise land. By far the very best thing he did in his 5 year journey into politics was to bring 3okab Sakr to his corner. Incidentally, if Sayed Hassan is your first pick in your draft, 3oqab Sakr is the undisputed second pick in my opinion.
    Harriri’s biggest mistake has been not to effectively utilize the popular mandate and popular support given to him in Lebanon during the last two elections, which I agree with Mustapha above, M14 has effectively won. You can only judge the results of a contest, any contest, based on the rules of the contest. If elections were based on absolute number of votes do you really think the low turnout we have seen in Beirut and other solidly pro M14 areas would have been so low keeping in mind that Hizballah was not running the elections in the South as one to fill Parliamentary seats but rather as a referendum on the “supposed” Resistance. Anyway I digress. Harriri’s mistake was ignoring this popular support and resorting to cut deals abroad. Whenever Syria or Hizb tried to pressure Harriri he should have pointed to the public support that was given to his election platform and he should not have budged. Too bad how he was so easily been outmaneuvered, out-strategized, and was outwitted at every turn.

    Posted by MM | September 27, 2010, 11:10 am
  39. MM

    No doubt that Saqr is an All-Star.

    But he’s probably the only one on the M14 side. Ghazi al-Aridi is terrific too, but he’s not a M14er anymore.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 27, 2010, 11:34 am
  40. Easy to say how effective is m8’s verbal aggression. Suppose for a moment that hezbollah’s weapons were with m14 instead, who do you think would be more heard?
    m8 speech may be eloquent but is full of lies and propaganda.

    Posted by Walid | September 27, 2010, 2:27 pm
  41. Your piece can be safely classified as an advisory piece for March 14. You basically draw a distinction between the two opposing forces in Lebanon by claiming that M8 has the oratorial, PR skills, while M14 is merely attempting desperately to maintain and defend the institutions of the state. Of course nothing could be more laughable. First, not all M8 figures have good oratorial skills. In fact, other than Nasrallah, the rest of their characters are less than appealing, as far as charisma is concerned. Second, M14 is very far from being truly concerned about the institutions of the state, as they constantly and consistently exploit, ignore, or undermine state institutions to advance their own particularistic ambitions. You need to look no further than their refusal to allow an audit to be undertaken to determine the whereabouts of $38 billion wasted during the Sanioura administration. Never mind of course their transformation of the Internal Security Forces, and specifically the Information Branch, into a militia of their own. That you make them sound so innocent and weak in the face of an ongoing assault by “anti-state” forces is quite farcical.

    Posted by Nour | September 27, 2010, 4:36 pm
  42. Nour, farcical is my middle name.

    Qifa Farcical Nabki

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 27, 2010, 5:59 pm
  43. But while we’re on the subject, what do you think of Nawaf al-Mousawi’s recent announcement that his party would deal with anyone who accepted the STL’s indictments as though they were US/Israeli agents? If Hizbullah is innocent, why would they have to threaten their countrymen with firing squads?

    Of course, you’ll say that UN STL is a Zionist conspiracy against Hizbullah. What a pity that the same team that produced the UN Goldstone report (which Hizbullah has practically turned into its constitution) weren’t put on the Hariri case…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 27, 2010, 6:04 pm
  44. Nour,
    I think you mistake the goal of the post. ON is not portraying them as innocent and weak. The point is they lack the public speaking skills and the political nous to make hay of any situation and when you are opposed to M8 that can be frustrating.

    On the other hand, as I pointed out earlier, their inability to argue any points comes not from lack of decent advisers but from the fact that you don’t throw stones when you live in a glass house;

    If you look at Mousawis announcement from that angle, then you will get the conclusion you want.

    If however you look at it from their angle the announcement is not to protect themselves, because lets face it, who do they need protecting from? The point is that they see the courts goal now is to inflict a greater Sunni-Shia divide so you can look at it another way, that the threat is that anyone accepting the indictments can only have the goal of instigating civil strife.

    But while we are on the subject, its a shame that you have dropped the level of neutrality you had when you started this blog. Its a shame if it just turned into another Blacksmiths blog.

    Posted by usedtopost | September 27, 2010, 6:37 pm
  45. QN,

    I like your new middle name :-). As far as the UN international investigation team is concerned, I don’t see how any rational person can still deny its complete politicization. Just look at its work from the time of Mehlis until now. Look at how its direction has shifted depending on political considerations. Look at how it had to rely on false witnesses. The proper question should be “if the international investigation team did really have evidence at first implicating Syria, and now implicating HA, then why did it rely on the clownish, farcical testimony of false witnesses.” Remember that Mehlis considered al-Siddeeq his star witness.

    With respect to Nawwaf Al-Mousawi’s statements, he is completely on point, in this regard. It is clear that the STL is being used in order to dismantle the resistance. Not to attack Hizballah, mind you, as they don’t really care about Hizballah outside of the fact that it is taking part in resistance to Jewish occupation. Not to safeguard Lebanese “sovereignty” and protect its state institutions, as the “western-allied” March 14 forces have never shown anything but contempt for actual state institutions. The sole reason for the STL is to attack and disarm the resistance. And those political groups supporting the STL know that very well. I mean do you really believe Geagea supports the STL because he truly genuinely wants the Hariri killers to be brought to justice? Give me a break. And therefore, they are collaborating against the resistance, which makes them US/Israeli agents.

    Posted by Nour | September 27, 2010, 6:53 pm
  46. Nour,
    You really think that some silly court in Europe is going to be able to disarm them? With what?

    The fear is sedition, this is what its all about.

    Its about getting the Resistance to take its eye off the ball in the South while it deals with the consequences in the capital and elsewhere. They think that this way, the Resistance wont be ready when they attack in the spring.

    So do not be worried about the Resistance itself. Be more worried about what kind of dogs will be unleashed when the indictment comes so that Sunnis and Shia are each others throats, how many people will die as a result and how close to the abyss the country goes.

    Posted by usedtopost | September 27, 2010, 7:03 pm
  47. I like how some people use hyperbolic statements like “I don’t see how any rational person can…”
    or “It is clear that it is being used for X purpose.”

    Are you people even capable of seeing what you did there? How claiming that certain things are beyond obvious to YOU, while entirely denying anyone who disagrees with you the same privilege of seeing their own “obvious facts”?

    I mean. Some people think that “It’s pretty obvious that HA is an illegal militia with no regard for Lebanon.” Or that “Any rational person can see that” Aoun is a hypocritical buffoon.
    Do you agree? Just cause I phrased things using “pretty obvious” and “Any rational person” doesn’t mean my reality is your reality.

    These kinds of statements are beyond farcical (Pun intended).

    It’s the same story every time. Someone claims it is clear as day that they are right and that everyone else is a fool and an idiot for failing to see what is clearly and plainly true. All the while, and with utmost hypocrisy, these same people fail to see what is plainly obvious in front of their own noses, while putting forth obscure conspiracy theories that are supposedly at work in the dark corridors of power somewhere in the mysterious palaces of Europe and America (yet, for some odd reason, these dark conspiracies are quite “obvious” to every idiot, right? Man, these conspirators aren’t very bright, are they?)

    You people need to grow up already and stop acting like 12 year olds. Maybe then Lebanon will have a chance to evolve into its true potential.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 27, 2010, 7:05 pm
  48. usedtopost, what is a “Blacksmiths blog”?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 27, 2010, 7:07 pm
  49. There is conspiracy that is being uncovered as we speak, it turns out that Hasan Nasralla is in fact a US/Israeli Agent who infiltrated the ranks only to justify Israel’s invasion and destruction of Lebanon. how else can we explain the fact that Israel didnt kill him yet.!

    Posted by V | September 27, 2010, 7:21 pm
  50. “Its about getting the Resistance to take its eye off the ball in the South while it deals with the consequences in the capital and elsewhere”…

    Resistance is just a word! In reality what you have is a religious terrorist militia that has been killing at will their own countrymen! It is so tragic that even though people have left Lebanon; they refuse to shed the sectarian mentality! So we should forget what happened in 2007 January, May 2008, last month among numerous others including shooting of Lebanese pilot Samer Hanna!
    We should all buy into your hysterical spin that if a Shia is accused of the murder of Hariri then it is a conspiracy against HA! If they were contracted out the killings by Syria…they should not be indicted; because Mousawi and even people like you are threatening Lebanese with “cutting off their hands” and murder and strife!

    BV, sorry your are belittling 12 year olds if you think they will believe this line:

    “If however you look at it from their angle the announcement is not to protect themselves, because lets face it, who do they need protecting from? The point is that they see the courts goal now is to inflict a greater Sunni-Shia divide so you can look at it another way, that the threat is that anyone accepting the indictments can only have the goal of instigating civil strife.”

    Yes the investigators from dozens of countries Arab and Muslim included all have colluded to conspire and frame the resistance! What an amazing feat!

    …and I thought the LA police department had it the best when they colluded and framed OJ Simpson!! 😀

    Posted by danny | September 27, 2010, 7:32 pm
  51. In the final analysis, what matters most is not the rhetoric but the action. As danny points out, May 2008 events were a loud declaration of what HA’s (military wing at least) real intentions are. The accusation against M14 and allies and anyone who plans to subscribe to the rule of international law by accepting the STL verdict – as all being Israeli collaborators – is no different than the old mantra that the liberation of Palestine goes through Beirut and Amman and Riad.

    The sad part is the signing up of a fraction of the Lebanese population – FPM and similar – who should know better, to the propaganda and sophistry of the HA activists. That some supporters of Syria and Syrian nationals, including on this blog, cheer for that propaganda and give it the cover of apparent logic and what should be “evident” should not be surprising. These folks have no love lost for Lebanon, consider it another Syrian territory, and simply cheer its use for the benefit of Syrian interests while at the same accepting the cowardly neutrality that Syria and Iran kept in 2006. It’s easy to root for fighting and resistance when it’s not in your country or in your territory.

    Finally, I don’t quite see anywhere the shifting of QN from objective journalistic postings to advocacy, as usedtopost claims. That the blogger clarifies points made by extreme advocates, in the comment section, is no indication of bias. Syriacomment.com is a whole different story. usedtopost and Nour have been and will undoubtedly be much happier with the official orientation there.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 27, 2010, 7:46 pm
  52. lol…Lets just wait for Mr Karam to show up and the anti-Hizballah cavalry is complete!

    Just so I’m clear – Whats the difference between someone saying “It’s pretty obvious” which you deride and “with utmost hypocrisy, these same people fail to see what is plainly obvious in front of their own noses” which you use?

    Or is it that your reality is plainly obvious?

    And isnt “stop acting like 12 year olds” pretty hyperbolic (although I could be 12)

    And you upset Danny, whose love of exclamation marks leads me to think he’s not far off 12.

    Have a look at QN’s blogroll. Its a blog (that is now members only) that was made just for rabid M14ers.

    Posted by usedtopost | September 27, 2010, 7:49 pm
  53. usedtopost

    First, under which moniker did you “used to post”? 🙂

    Second, with regard to neutrality, I’ve never aimed for such an elusive and vacuous ideal. What I’m interested in is intellectual honesty, and I’m sure I’ve fallen short on many an occasion. Still, I think it’s noteworthy that you accuse me of not being unobjective (presumably against March 8th) in the context of a post about how incompetent March 14’s leader is!


    What does it mean, practically speaking, for the STL to be “completely politicized”? Mehlis is no longer leading the investigation, and his successors disavowed his sensationalist style. The testimonies of Siddiq and the others have been thrown out the window. Neither you nor I nor anyone reading this blog (unless Mr. Bellemare or his lieutenants are among the readership) has any idea of what kind of evidence the investigation has yielded.

    So how does it make sense to just assume that the Tribunal is untrustworthy? Hizbullah accepted the legitimacy of the Goldstone report. They even accepted the findings of the Winograd commission. What makes the STL inherently suspect? Did they not release the four generals because of lack of evidence? Surely the vast Zionist conspiracy could have cooked up a few more false witnesses to ensure that those guys were blamed for the crime.


    Your argument about sedition depends on the assumption that Hizbullah is being framed for the crime. Let’s assume for a moment that Israel did not kill Hariri, and that Hizbullah or Syria was somehow involved. Who should then shoulder the blame for the sedition that would result from an indictment?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 27, 2010, 7:56 pm
  54. HP, are you dizzy up there on the high horse?

    “May 2008 events were a loud declaration of what HA’s (military wing at least) real intentions are”

    Defending themselves from hostile action? Yes. They didn’t start that debacle as you should well know.

    “The accusation against M14 and allies and anyone who plans to subscribe to the rule of international law by accepting the STL verdict – as all being Israeli collaborators – is no different than the old mantra that the liberation of Palestine goes through Beirut and Amman and Riad”

    Really? Even if that international is being skewed and used to achieve ulterior motives? Your love and respect for international law is most commendable but if you believe the STL has anything to do with it you surprise me.

    “The sad part is the signing up of a fraction of the Lebanese population – FPM and similar – who should know better, to the propaganda and sophistry of the HA activists.”

    What, because the Shia are too stupid to to know better? You are somehow superior?

    “That some supporters of Syria and Syrian nationals, including on this blog, cheer for that propaganda and give it the cover of apparent logic and what should be “evident” should not be surprising.”

    Like whom?

    “Finally, I don’t quite see anywhere the shifting of QN from objective journalistic postings to advocacy, as usedtopost claims”

    You don’t, I do.

    Posted by usedtopost | September 27, 2010, 7:56 pm
  55. usedtopost,

    I know why you used to…Is this your objective rebuttle? You do not like exclamation marks. Ok I guess by calling people names and threatening seem to be the logic you follow ala Mousawi!!!!

    Are those enough? Have a drink and rejoice. Nothing lasts forever. Remember the halo that the so called “resistance” had a few years ago? The shine is off and the brute crass people are being “unveiled” (pun intended). Even the once charismatic Hassan Nassrallah looks like a deranged sweaty prisoner while he yells at the TV monitor!!!!!!!


    Posted by danny | September 27, 2010, 8:00 pm
  56. My blogroll? That tired old thing?

    I have the feeling that Al-Akhbar, As-Safir, B-side Beirut, Creative Syria, Diamond’s Eye View, Friday-Lunch-Club, Remarkz, Rime Allaf, Syria Comment, The Human Province, and The Orange Room would resent being called sources for “rabid M14ers”!


    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 27, 2010, 8:01 pm
  57. QN,
    I didn’t accuse of lacking objectivity and you don’t fail at intellectual honesty. I’m just saying that your politics were less ambiguous in the early days (A post on the incompetence of M14s leaders is not necessarily anti-M14, if we are talking intellectual honesty).

    And I didnt refer to the entire blog roll. HP asked me what Blacksmiths was so I was pointing him(her?) to one specific link in the blog roll.

    To answer your questions (but one):

    My argument about sedition depends on the assumption that Hizbullah is being framed for the crime, yes. And looking at the history, personnel (and their history), and methodology of the investigation, I find it difficult to fathom that any indictments now are anything but political.

    Ok let’s assume for a moment that Hizballah or Syria killed Hariri. Who should then shoulder the blame for the sedition that would result from an indictment? Simple, Hizballah or Syria.

    Posted by usedtopost | September 27, 2010, 8:12 pm
  58. usedtopost, the air was nice a refreshing on that high horse of mine 😉
    thank you for responding to my post (sincerely)

    A few thoughts about your answers/comments.
    May 2008 was triggered by a move from the Lebanese government to assert its sovereignty by taking control of all communications networks. This was seen by HA as an Israeli plot to undermine a channel that Israel did not have access to. There is probably some level of sincerity in each of these parties’ belief and, even if we stay away from siding with one or the other, the solution certainly should not have been a forceful imposition of HA’s will, a threat of wiping out their opposition militarily, and the final settlement of a compromise under such threats. HA does not lack the means nor the smarts to argue the points peacefully through government institutions. The resort to force is a violation of what they had pledged, that their weapons will never be used internally.

    – QN made the necessary points about the STL, that it is the one to have liberated the generals, etc.
    Until their pronouncements and evidence are known, undermining ahead of time the work of the STL is itself the politicization of a judiciary process. Here, the fact is that HA is guilty of such and of threats, not the other way around.
    My own view in this is that it is inconceivable that Israel had any hand in the Hariri assassination. President Suleiman has asked the U.N. to include all possibilities, including Israel’s guilt. Fine, let them do that and we’ll see where it leads.
    Then of course is the question of all the subsequent assassinations and assassination attempts. These too were the work of Israel?
    Now, who’s treating whom as a moron?

    No one ever said anything pejorative about the Shi3a, and if anyone did make such generalization I’ll the first to blast them as I’ve done often on this blog to those who generalize in such fashion (or who use obscenities, for that matter). Remember that I’m the one who gets ridiculed when I argue for the positive benefit and importance of the social and organizational activities of HA and of the possibility of its eventual transformation into a purely political faction. There is a major difference between the military and political leadership of HA and the Shi3a. The people themselves are Lebanese, represent to a great extent a major part of the future of the country. None of my characterizations of the military wing’s actions, of the political strategy and positions of the leadership is meant to reflect negatively on the people.

    We don’t have many Syrian contributors on this blog. Nour, whom I respect tremendously, voiced a few opinions here on this topic, opinions I respectfully disagree with and which, I believe, stem from a different set of interests loyal, understandably, to Syria.
    The irony of the cowardice of Syria and Iran during the 2006 savage infliction of suffering on Lebanon should be clear to all as should an unambiguous message to both to butt out of Lebanese affairs.

    Finally, as you should know, QN is always right, by definition 😉

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 27, 2010, 9:36 pm
  59. Ghassan Karam#22,
    Your point is well taken. I share your frustration as well. We should be screaming our heads out. But if our heads are blown up from screaming, It might make those leaders look less guilty, since most of them made their fame by blowing up people’s heads.
    The other thing that worries me is that most Lebanese, have a very high sense of denial, and are very selective about realities they accept; especially when it comes to leaders they love.
    To most Lebanese, their heroes are criminals, or corrupt ,or both. Yet they complain, and follow them blindly still.
    You won’t think I’m being polite now, would you? lol

    Posted by Prophet | September 27, 2010, 10:00 pm
  60. Moe, good to have you back we were getting bored without you 🙂

    Posted by V | September 27, 2010, 10:00 pm
  61. Qifa’s post was quoted 3 days ago on Friday Lunch Club first thing in the morning.This notoriously American friendly site found the comments about Hariri jr flattering enough to republish them…

    Posted by mj | September 28, 2010, 2:32 am
  62. Wake up, people!!!

    Qifa clearly carries Baroud’s water — not to mention his newly laundered capes!!!

    He might even be Baroud himself!!! I mean, who other than the editors of the daily star, would ever believe a father would name his son Qifa?!?

    He is mocking all of us!!! Harvard, right, right … Who would even admit to going to school there?

    I call for an chapter 7 international tribunal to investigate the criminal conspiracy against the Lebanese nation that is “Qifa Nabki.”

    We want the Truth!!!

    Posted by david | September 28, 2010, 3:44 am
  63. HP,

    Come on, lets not hide behind facades. “May 2008 was triggered by a move from the Lebanese government to assert its sovereignty by taking control of all communications networks”….? You are seriously buying that? I’m not claiming it was an “Israeli plot” since heaven knows some in Lebanon are more eager to see the back of the Resistance than the Israelis are, but trying to portray it as the action of a noble group of patriots is simplistic at best.

    What was the solution otherwise? There was an existential threat to them, what other recourse did they have? If they had left it they would have been made to go up against any security forces sent to dismantle t he network. Would that have made them look any better?

    As for the STL, its not HA who confirmed the STL’s indictment direction, it was Hariri. HA are only reacting to what he said. Releasing the Generals after 4 years is a sign of independence? No, its a sign that they managed to stall their lawyers that long on threadbare evidence.

    Just out of interest though why is it t is inconceivable that Israel had any hand in the Hariri assassination? I understand that you dont believe the accusation but why inconceivable?

    In regards to my comment about the Shia, you said “The sad part is the signing up of a fraction of the Lebanese population – FPM and similar – who should know better”. I assumed since the Shia are not FPM or similar that they are excluded from the list of groups who should know better than to believe “the propaganda and sophistry of the HA activists”. Is that not what you meant?

    And can I assume that your belief that foreign nations should butt out of Lebanese affairs extends to the US and Israel aswell?

    Maybe, just maybe

    Posted by usedtopost | September 28, 2010, 4:25 am
  64. Usedtopost is Moe? Please go back to your old moniker, for Baal’s sake. The new one is clunky.

    I will be in DC today and tomorrow, attending an event in honor of Superman, I mean Ziad Baroud. I will bring him his laundered capes.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 28, 2010, 7:25 am
  65. There is an angle to the May 2008 incidents that wasn’t taken into consideration in assessing why HA took to the streets.

    It was during the heated debate between HA and March 14 on the Communications and then Airport Security violations that backdoor negotiations between Syria and Israel through Turkey were revealed and subsequently confirmed by Syria.

    This must have had a profound impact on HA’s assessment of the situation and the need for a show of force.

    There was a lot to question about this surprising and sudden confirmation.

    Syria obviously struck a deal with Bush on the STL and the backdoor talks confirmed that. The ensuing Gaza conflict, end 2008, conveniently muddied the affair for Syria (and HA).

    Posted by PeterinDubai | September 28, 2010, 10:13 am
  66. usedtopost, it is rewarding to debate with you since your style and reasoning stand out as respectful and logical, which is not always the case in blog discussions.

    One the questions/points you posed:

    – Existential threat? — I don’t see it —
    On the May 2008 episode I have to admit that I’m no expert in the detailed happenings and triggers there. That the government wanted to take back control of a concealed communications network seems reasonable for a sovereign country. That the strong desire of all non-HA factions is to have HA disarmed and turned into a political movement (and social) acting within the rules and laws of a unified country is no secret. The argument that the resistance is needed to defend Lebanon from Israeli aggression doesn’t quite hold for me since, as long as Lebanon does not allow factions to attack Israel from its territory, it would have nothing to fear from Israel. Why should Lebanon be the launching ground for the liberation of Palestine? Hasn’t the country suffered enough from the Palestinians’ military activities from Lebanese soil? How come Syria lets its border with Israel be the quietest of any front, Egypt and Jordan make peace with Israel, and little Lebanon has to be the battleground? Makes no sense.
    I don’t see how taking away the communications network and then the weapons of HA (by merging with the LAF) is an existential threat to the people of HA. Political action will be enormously more effective for gaining and maintaining fair representation. The argument of “resistance,” in my opinion, is an excuse egged on by Iran and Syria, whom I reiterate are simply cowards in using Lebanon and HA as a front when they cower (in Syria’s case) in front of Israeli aggression (destruction of the alleged nuclear site) and all they know to do is bark illogical and hollow threats in case of Iran.

    – On the theory that Israel was after the assassination of Hariri, I go back to the basic question that is always asked in a crime: motive. How in the world was Israel to calculate that the assassination of Hariri was going to trigger a sequence of events that benefited its interest? Regardless of how the question is turned I see no reasonable (conceivable) scenario for making a case of it. Hence the use of the word inconceivable. Perhaps I should retract the use of that word and stick to improbable and unreasonable since God knows the extent of human deception.

    – For the Shia and FPM comment, I now understand your question and criticism. No, I did not imply that the Shia followers of HA are intrinsically incapable, because of some inferiority, of seeing the propaganda and sophistry of the HA activists. Rather, by virtue of their religious loyalty, the proven benefits of all HA social programs, it is understandable that they would follow the guidance of their leadership and not question the tactics of the activists. Let us not forget that SHN is a remarkably inspiring figure who, in addressing his own community, refers to more than the Lebanese nationalistic aspect, but to the right path of the Mehdi, the true way to being on God’s side, etc. These factors do not apply to non-Shia FPM members and so the expectation of them is to judge the context of the actions and positions of HA relative to the state without any social and religious component.

    Yes, all foreign intervention in Lebanon needs to cease. While probably an unrealistic dream in the short term, the Lebanese should actually use and manipulate the interests of all other nations to extract what’s best for the country and its citizen. In this effort, the Lebanese should be united, working together as a single front with positions and actions that benefit the country and all its citizen. This is not in the cards to happen soon but, as one looks with the perspective of a time frame of decades and centuries, that a non-confessional Lebanon with full religious freedom coupled with complete separation of church/mosque/temple and state acting as the Switzerland of the Middle East is a “conceivable” possibility is not a scenario to be ridiculed (as it often is — and please, other commentators, no need to repeat your positions towards that scenario, we know them).

    At one time in earlier discussions, as I was making the case of the eventual importance of the Lebanese diaspora, I attracted a lot of cynical comments. The fact is that Israel, which no one can argue has achieved amazing economic and military successes, was built up but its own diaspora and not by the locals. Why is it that, at some point in the future, the Lebanese diaspora would not lend its fortunes and abilities to help the local population build a similarly strong and prosperous Lebanon? It’s hard to see this now with everyone feeling so much despair at any potential redemption of the country, but again, the time scale of the formation and evolution of nations is not the same as the perspective of individuals and their personal experiences.


    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 28, 2010, 10:40 am
  67. So much ballyhoo is made of false witnesses to the STL. Can we have an objective summary of this? Who are they, what did they say, when, how were they uncovered, is it known who is behind them, are they really false, etc.?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 28, 2010, 11:29 am
  68. Anyone has good answers to the post above #69?
    All I can find are 2 false witnesses, both connected with Syrian Intelligence. What gives?

    “Mohammed Zuhair Siddiq also known as Mohamad Zouhair Siddik is a self proclaimed former Syrian intelligence operative who used to live in Lebanon.”
    “Husam Taher Husam another self proclaimed former Syrian intelligence operative.”
    “Both provided information that led the Lebanese authorities to arrest the four Lebanese generals.”

    Furthermore, the generals were released because of insufficient evidence, not because they were exonerated.

    Open to look objectively at any other fact-based information that anyone has.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 28, 2010, 1:07 pm
  69. Honest Patriot

    Mehlis’s report unequivocally implicated Syria behind the assassination based in major part on the testimonies of these individuals.

    The fact that the prosecution deemed their testimonies and credibility dubious gives a lot of relevance on their motives.

    They cannot be discredited as part of the puzzle.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | September 28, 2010, 2:10 pm
  70. HP,

    Husam Husam had been seen at the funeral of George hawi as well. Two weeks ago he was on Manar TV; giving aninterview.
    This “false witnesses” BS is just that! Why don’t we wait for the legal process to take its course then make judgments! As I said above; it seems more than incredulous to believe that all these investigators; in hundreds; from dozens of countries all have conspired and immaculately covered their tracks just to “frame” HA…Wallaw?

    Posted by danny | September 28, 2010, 2:45 pm
  71. I really don’t understand this false witness crap. WHAT DOES IT MATTER?

    I mean, Wiam Wahab spouts random shit every other day. Why isn’t anyone accusing him of being a false witness?

    Truth is, there is no such thing legally speaking as a false witness. People have (presumably) the right to free speech. They can accuse whoever they want (be it Nassrallah accusing Israel, or Siddiq accusing Syria). To the court, that’s all the same. That’s just people spouting off without evidence.
    Now when you provide actual evidence to something, that gets admitted to court, and so on, THEN you’re a witness.
    Otherwise, WHO GIVES A DAMN what you or I or Siddiq or Wahab or Nassrallah say?
    I can sit here and claim that I saw Hariri being abducted by green aliens and probed in unspeakable places. Does that make me a false witness to?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 28, 2010, 4:29 pm
  72. Danny, danny. Of course it’s possible for hundreds of people from different countries to frame HA. Come on, man! Haven’t you been paying attention? It’s HA and it’s few thousand men against the remaining 5+ billion of the earth’s population. How hard is it for a few hundred to come together and collude against HA?

    Don’t forget. These conspirators are somehow both omnipotently powerful (that they can rig the world to their liking) AND completely incompetent that their conspiracies are so easily uncovered by a couple of idiots on the internet. They are so powerful that we are to fear their plans for the region. But also not powerful enough that a few bearded zealots in a bunker near Beirut can’t stand up to them.

    This stuff is comical. Really. Or should I say farcical? 😉

    I wish people in Lebanon would stop and realize that the world is a BIG place, with MUCH BIGGER problems and MUCH BIGGER things happening than one of the tiniest countries in the world and 3+ million self-centered imbeciles who seem to think the entire world revolves around their miserable little piece of this planet.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 28, 2010, 4:35 pm
  73. Actually, BV, there is a difference between you and Siddiq.

    Siddiq gave his testimony to a UN investigating commission. Lying under oath carries consequences. Take for example, this witness who lied in the context of the Rwandan genocide trial:


    He got nine months in prison. Siddiq and Husam Husam, on the other hand, have not been pursued by the STL. What the March 8th politicans allege is that these guys were paid to say what they said by members of the March 14th coalition, which would then implicate these people in the witnesses’s perjury.

    So it’s not so simple as you make out.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 28, 2010, 4:38 pm
  74. Quotable quotes, courtesy BV:
    Population of Lebanon? “3+ million self-centered imbeciles who seem to think the entire world revolves around their miserable little piece of this planet”

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 28, 2010, 5:00 pm
  75. QN,

    My friend; I hate to correct you…but that witness gave testimony under OATH during the trial…NOT during an investigation.
    Let’s wait for the trial to begin…
    A big difference; wouldn’t you say?

    Posted by danny | September 28, 2010, 5:01 pm
  76. Ok. Maybe I’m not completely privvy to the details. I thought that Siddiq and Husam had mostly spouted off to the media and were at some point (both?) questioned by the investigator.

    If I’m not mistaken, “questioning” is not really done under oath. At least, based on my vague knowledge of criminal investigation by the police (Don’t know how this translates legally to the STL).

    I’m not necessarily discounting that anyone got paid by M14 or whoever for political reasons. This is Lebanon after all.

    But again: Isn’t Wiam Wahab paid to spout off incessantly and make accusations left and right?

    HP: You gotta admit that my description is fairly accurate, eh? 😉

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 28, 2010, 5:06 pm
  77. BV: as long as you exclude me since I don’t live there anymore. No, wait! my sis lives there, you $@%*!X$ 😉

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 28, 2010, 5:10 pm
  78. Is there anyone on this blog who can make a rational (unemotional) and convincing case that the plotters and perpetrators of the assassination of Hariri are other than Syrian and HA agents, say, Israeli agents?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 28, 2010, 5:16 pm
  79. Let us suppose the STL is “politicized” and a “US/Israeli tool” out to get the “resistance”, what I really don’t understand is why this is being made such a big deal by HA? Lebanon already is and was split about HA’s weapons and support. what is HA afraid of happening to them in Lebanon if there is an indictment? What is at stake for them is it just bad PR they are worried about? It’s not like the World armies or the “Sunna Arab” armies are going to march in and arrest the culprits in Dahyeh! Are they still protecting the Syrians? Or could this whole matter being made a big deal to justify a major power grab?

    Posted by V | September 28, 2010, 5:29 pm
  80. What is the chance the Iranians did it?

    Posted by V | September 28, 2010, 5:34 pm
  81. V, #81.

    Excellent point. And a question I’ve been asking myself.
    Ok. So let’s say it’s a plot to make HA look bad. Then what?
    It’s not like HA gives a shit what anyone thinks anyway. They’re already battling the US/Israeli plots for the region (in their minds). They’re already the enemy.
    As you said. No one is gonna come and arrest them. And they showed quite clearly what happens if/when someone even thinks about moving against them (see May 2008).
    In fact, May 7 events showed us that even when someone moves against HA within the LEGAL framework (sacking of airport security guy, taking over illegal comm networks) the party will stand up and fight and accuses the legal framework in question of being in the pay of US/Israel. So, basically, we’re looking at exactly the same situation as 2008.
    Back then, it was the government of Lebanon that passed 2 decrees.
    This time around, it will be an international court that will issue indictments.

    End result?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 28, 2010, 5:59 pm
  82. There is a different nuance here. If HA is proven to have protected or spawned elements – even if rogue elements – who planned and executed the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, with or without Syria’s Intelligence apparatus support and egging, then the mask would have fallen completely off their true agenda and methods leading to a definitive dissociation from HA of any elements that is not part of the fanatical extreme wing of that group. Even regular Shi3a, who we have to recognize include what is likely a majority of decent and honest folks, might begin to have doubt. Of course this is no longer a likely (nor possible) scenario given the remarkable preemptive strikes that the super-intellingent leadership in HA are pursuing.

    Remember that HA is considered by a tremendously large group of following in the Arab world, including many expatriates, as the most honorable and effective force ever against zionism and against the great Satan. Being implicated in the cowardly act of assassinating a patriot who left a cushy life in Saudi Arabia and was the key anchor that brought back economic life to Lebanon is sure to dim their star.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 28, 2010, 6:43 pm
  83. At last, taking a brief break from our impressive political pontifications, here is an easy link to expound on the name origin of our glorious leader QN. Apologies to non-arabic speakers (or those who do speak the language but lack the erudition to appreciate its true old poetry). This really does NOT lend itself to any kind of translation that I would be capable of while preserving its eloquence (maybe others could??):

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 28, 2010, 6:46 pm
  84. HP,

    The ring on his hand seems conspicuously HA edition…
    Maybe Raad; Qassem et al all went to this poet’s special school.
    He reminds me of those “eloquent” HA orators finger; ring and all 😀

    Posted by danny | September 28, 2010, 7:46 pm
  85. HP,

    That’s just the rub. Even if the mask comes off, as you put it. Then what?
    I thought the mask came off in 2006.
    Then I thought it came off again in 2008.

    Problem is, to those who don’t wanna see the truth, it’s not gonna matter how much evidence you shove down their throats, or how many times the mask comes off. They’ll simply regurgitate that it was all fabricated by the Zionists and carry on living in their fantasy world.

    So really. I still don’t see where all this leads us. Short of an international force landing in Beirut to arrest the perpetrators, it’s not gonna matter.
    And we both know the international community has no such desires (or power to do so). I mean, look no further than Sudan’s president Bashir. He’s currently under indictment by the international court. I believe there is even an arrest warrant for him. Yet he continues to govern Sudan, wage war in Darfur, and all that.

    So again, I ask…Let’s say HA gets indicted. Let’s say Bellmare even provides concrete evidence.
    Then what?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 28, 2010, 8:02 pm
  86. BV, I agree that at this time there is no point to any of this; because, precisely, of the actions and propaganda HA is undertaking.

    Without these actions, if an objective, credible, and accepted proof is provided then I don’t see how in the world GMA and FPM would keep their support of HA. It no longer matters, however, since the machine is in motion to cloud any and all such objective pronouncements.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 28, 2010, 8:29 pm
  87. HP #85,
    This video is the best argument why the “fusha” is practically dead. I seriously doubt that i know many people who understand more than 20% of this so called eloquence. Is it eloquent because it rhymes or is it eloquent because it is archaic? 🙂

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 28, 2010, 10:18 pm
  88. One problem is that the rules of the STL are not all that clear — pretty sure the mandate allows them establish procedures as they see fit, as long as they are in line with certain legal norms (enter the lawyers to argue that to death).

    Another problem/issue is time. Say HA members are indicted — and again the indictment need not include any factual information other than ‘X murdered Y on Day Z,’ are we talking about a trial that could last five years or more, like some of the other international criminal prosecutions? Could this really go on that long? Might boost local tv ratings, but such a prospect is not heartening.

    Then again, there is the cost: 30 million annually for the Lebanese Treasury — so what 300 million total at the end, and for what end? A conviction, a mistrial, an acquittal? What?

    Another issue is that if the prosecutors are anyway professional, they will not be discussing the facts of the case, nor their evidence. This, of course, will infuriate M14ers, and allow HA and others to carry the political discourse.

    I think it is beyond fair to say the STL will not produce a smoking gun, but rather the case, if there is one, will be based on largely circumstantial evidence. So …

    Whatever the guilt of any parties, it is hard to imagine this ending well. It may enjoy quite the life as a political football but beyond that?


    Speaking of false witnesses, would you know that QN also emerged mysteriously on the Lebanese blogosphere after spending time in the custody of Syria’s Comment. Coincidence, I think not … 🙂

    Posted by david | September 29, 2010, 2:08 am
  89. Sorry, my point was that Hariri will abandon the STL at some propitious moment, and everybody knows it. That moment, however, may be a long while off, and thus it is hard to speculate on the hows/whens given the likely incidence of interceding events.

    Posted by david | September 29, 2010, 2:15 am
  90. GK, good point. Actually, the language used in this poetry, although “fusha” uses a majority of proper names of places and other words that are likely to be unknown to the greatest majority of Arabic speakers. The only reason I had some affinity and a modicum of understanding for it is that it was part of the curriculum for the Lebanese Baccalaureate back in the early to mid 1970’s (maybe still is) and we spent something like a week being spoonfed the meaning of every word, every sentence, and then memorizing a good portion of it. So my classmates and I became appreciative of its eloquence and for the nerds among us (including yours truly) who really took to heart the memorization (to ensure good grades!) many of these verses stayed in our long term memory.

    Having said that, I do think that there is more use of the modern “fusha” nowadays – in news outlets, in speeches, in communicating between Arabs whose dialects are virtually non-understandable to each other, etc.
    So, I wouldn’t go as far as saying that “fusah” is “dead.” In fact, now that I think about it, it is quite a living and practiced language in a rather unique and special way. For sure, it is not dead the way, say, Latin is dead. As for the language in the “mu3allaqa” maybe a valid comparison is to say it uses ancient Arabic which is to modern “fusha” as ancient Greek is to modern Greek (?).

    Note also that, in recognition of the use of archaic words in it, the video gives translations/synonyms in the captions as the recitation proceeds.

    If I knew how to edit youtube videos I would just have selected the first 2 or 3 verses because I just wanted to highlight the “Qifa Nabki” phrase. I remember when I first came across QN on the SyriaComment.com playground and asked him about his moniker he did give me a rather remarkably elegant translation starting with “Halt, you too, ….” which I can’t really reproduce.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 29, 2010, 2:18 am
  91. Oh, and comparing, as the poem does, the feces of cows to appetizing dried jalapenos, little white worms with red eyes to his lover’s fingers (adorned with manicure – fingernail polish), his lover’s large beautiful eyes to cows’ eyes,…, well you get the picture, such comparisons are surely dead!

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 29, 2010, 2:27 am
  92. …. either the comparisons are dead, or if someone dare use them, well, you know, he’ll find HIMSELF dead! 😉

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 29, 2010, 7:54 am
  93. David,
    I hope that you are not insinuating that circumstantial evidence is somehow less worthy than direct one. Vincent Bugliosi, one of the most successful lawyers; has never lost a case; has often argued in favour of circumstantial evidence cases. So much in modernity is not based on direct evidence but instead rests on inferences.and that is the way it should be.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 29, 2010, 7:58 am
  94. Ghassan,

    We are trying in vain. When you see on this blog people who are brought up in the west with respect of law; come up with conspiracy theories…imagine what would those in Lebanon would believe.

    I would submit to you; that even if Hassan Nassrallah HIMSELF was caught red handed killing Hariri; they would argue that the man seen was an imposter zionist planted by Israel or USA.

    Again, it pains me to see that learned people outside of the quagmire called Lebanon; have a total inability see clearly and refuse to shed their sectarian (or Zaim’s)glasses.

    Posted by danny | September 29, 2010, 8:44 am
  95. danny, no surprise there; remember that OJ was found not guilty in the criminal court in the US?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 29, 2010, 10:46 am
  96. … and, so far, the most plausible explanation of the motive and responsibility for the Hariri assassination has come from none other than my friend Prof. Joshua Landis (despite otherwise presumed Syrian bias in his blog) in a moment of – in my opinion – supreme enlightenment and candor:

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 29, 2010, 11:16 am
  97. Wow. I just read that article you linked to HP. Words fail me.
    So, according to that interpretation, Syria is behind the murder of Hariri, but it was self-defense?
    Wow. Really. For once, I’m speechless.

    The one thing I do find interesting, is looking back with hindsight at Nassrallah’s statements in 2006. How his version of events changed. It’s too bad people have such short term memories. To hear him speak today, he’s always known it was the Israelis. But back then, he really wasn’t so clear about that. Was he…There’s always much revisionism in Lebanese politics. And people, sadly, forget.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 29, 2010, 1:18 pm
  98. BV, my friend, it is sooo true that folks have very poor memories when it comes to politics. I don’t, at least for things that interest me. And, as you can see, it’s easy if one focuses on the essentials. For those things my memory is like an elephant’s memory 😉
    Alas, though, we may have to swallow the miscarriage of justice here just as so many Americans had to do the same in Nicole Brown Simpson’s savage murder.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 29, 2010, 1:38 pm
  99. Another “gem” from Hezbollah:

    اعلن عضو المكتب السياسي في حزب الله غالب ابو زينب ان الحزب اتخذ مع حلفائه قراراً برفض اي تمويل من جانب لبنان للمحكمة الدولية لأنها تؤدي الى خلق فتنة بين اللبنانيين.

    Please note that Lebanon should refrain from financing the STL because the STL leads to fitna.
    Reading between the lines is never an easy task in Lebanon where things are never what they appear to be but I find it fascinating that the fear is fitna and not the illegitimacy of the court or the fact that its decisions are unjust.
    Oh how I wish that somebody would remind the political office of Hezbollah that fina occurs only when a group rejects the judgment of an established court and threatens others. All the talk about Fitna is a self fulfilling prophesy, the way to avoid it is for Hezbollah to await the indictments and then fpresent a strong legal defense if they think that the indictments are not based on solid evidence.Is Hezbollah behaving like an arsonist who warns of the effects of a fire that he sets?

    Posted by ghassan karam | September 29, 2010, 2:18 pm
  100. I wonder how many Shi’ites there are commenting on this blog?

    Anyone ?

    Posted by PeterinDubai | September 29, 2010, 2:44 pm
  101. Does anyone have any link to an interview or quote from Hassan Nasrallah on his definition of what Lebanon or what being a Lebanese is ?

    Posted by PeterinDubai | September 29, 2010, 2:50 pm
  102. Peter, you’re not going to like it, and others will explain that these views have evolved to a united country concept, but I’ll let you be the judge whether someone with such declared views would at any point change them (vs. just temporarily claiming some detour while maintaining that as a goal). What I write becomes understood better when you look at this (apologies for non-Arabic speakers):

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 29, 2010, 3:21 pm
  103. “Is Hezbollah behaving like an arsonist who warns of the effects of a fire that he sets?”

    This has been HA’s M.O. for a very long time. Ditto Syria. Nothing surprising there.
    Then again, that’s how things go in the Arab world, generally. I think it’s a mentality difference than Westerners don’t seem to grasp. One could go on at length about the psychology and cultural mores of the Arab world. I think this sort of thinking is quite common in amongst Arabs (alongside the ever-present penchant for conspiracy theories) as a result of a certain mentality.

    In the scientific world and the modern world, driven by rationalism (to a large extent), cause belies effect and effect is a consequence. I’ve noticed that underlying a lot of Arab “logic” is actually quite the opposite. Causes are somehow inferred or derived from effects. Consequences often come in the form of self-fulfilling prophecies.
    Actions are undertaken, and then explained away by planting root causes that weren’t necessarily there to begin with.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 29, 2010, 4:13 pm
  104. Bad Vibel … How does that differ from G.W. Bush’s America that voted for him in 2004 ?

    Posted by PeterinDubai | September 29, 2010, 4:32 pm
  105. Peter,

    the difference is America that elected Barak Hussein Obama.

    Before you try to compare or equate America with Arab nations ask yourself this question What are the chances anyone is elected in the Arab World or anyone with the a Jewish sounding name for example becoming a president of an Arab Country ?

    Posted by V | September 29, 2010, 4:48 pm
  106. There are differences.
    Although, admittedly, Americans have also been moving (at least a substantial enough portion of them) towards this empirical-based mentality (fuelled in no small part by a rise in the religious right).
    I’d venture a guess here though (since this is mostly generalities and conjecture) that aforementioned mentality is far and away more ingrained in the Arab psyche than it is in the US.
    People ranting about conspiracy theories in the US are still considered fringe crackpots, by the general population.
    Not so in the ME where the crackpot theories are actually embedded in the mainstream.
    I’d love to see some kind of academic research done on this subject.
    For example, I’d love to hear the answer from a sample of, say, 1000 Lebanese vs. 1000 Americans (let’s say well educated, on both sides) on a given conspiracy theory. And I’d love furthermore to analyze the qualified responses and explanations given by each sample.

    My guess is a good majority of the Lebanese answers will involve elaborate explanations that involve hearsay (deemed as self-evident and gospellike), contradictory or irrational statements that defy Logic (in the academic/mathematical sense of the word) and a bunch of wishful thinking.

    There was an excellent article the other day (which I can’t find now) that dissected some pretty glaring contradictions, for example, in HA’s current line. But that would be just an example.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 29, 2010, 4:58 pm
  107. No comment V

    But keep on the wishful thinking that Americans voted for “Hussein”.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | September 29, 2010, 5:12 pm
  108. Well the Jewish vote did help BHO win! so maybe this whole thing is a Zionist conspiracy yet to unfold

    Posted by V | September 29, 2010, 5:24 pm
  109. Ahaa! So the Zionists conspired to elect a “muslim” to the white house, so he could in turn pursue fitna in the ME. It all makes sense!

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 29, 2010, 5:37 pm
  110. Oh. Found the article I was thinking of earlier. The bit about contradictions and logic that defies logic…


    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 29, 2010, 5:38 pm
  111. PeterinDubai,

    “I wonder how many Shi’ites there are commenting on this blog?

    Anyone ?”

    Out of curiosity Peter why do you ask the above question and what are you trying to determine?

    Posted by V | September 29, 2010, 5:49 pm
  112. Question makes sense to me, V. I asked something similar earlier @#80:
    “Is there anyone on this blog who can make a rational (unemotional) and convincing case that the plotters and perpetrators of the assassination of Hariri are other than Syrian and HA agents, say, Israeli agents?”
    One would think that a Shi3a person would not have a preconceived bias against Syria and HA and so might look more objectively at the situation than some of us and so could help us see something we have so far been unable to see.
    Nothing wrong with posing the question.
    We have tended in recent posts to be rather monochromatic,…, until usedtopost (Moe?) appeared, but then he disappeared again!

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 29, 2010, 6:09 pm
  113. “quelqu’une” would provide diversity of opinions. Où es-tu quelqu’une?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 29, 2010, 6:21 pm
  114. HP, I am not saying there is anything wrong with asking the Question anyone is free to ask whatever they wish.

    I just dont understand how being a Shiaa or not being a Shiaa has anything to do with objectivity reguarding who killed Hariri.
    I know Shiaa who swear by Bush, think he is a God sent savior and will die for him and I know Shiaa who chant death to America.
    so I dont think it matters.

    Posted by V | September 29, 2010, 6:22 pm
  115. I too don’t understand how being a Shia is supposed to make you more objective. Or that it matters.

    Again…More examples of weird tail wagging the dog mentalities.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 29, 2010, 7:05 pm
  116. it does matter to the extent that an objective Shia would not be accused – normally – of ulterior motives. take the same point and have it made by (a) Geagea and (b) 3uqab Sakr. big difference, me thinks.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 29, 2010, 7:23 pm
  117. as you know, 3uqab is Shia.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 29, 2010, 7:36 pm
  118. I disagree. One can easily project a number of biases on the Shia population.
    The first that comes to mind being the whole “blame Israel for everything” sentiment seems to run strongest in that community, be it for historical reasons (they’ve suffered the most at the hands of Israel in the South) or pseudo-religious reasons (Their close undeniable connection with Iran and what gets preached from Tehran as gospel).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | September 29, 2010, 7:49 pm
  119. GK,

    To clarify, you are correct that cases built entirely on circumstantial evidence often result in convictions. Indeed, it is impossible to imagine any prosecution, or a defense, that does not rely heavily on such. As a matter of law (in most jurisdictions), there is little difference between direct and circumstantial evidence, but this is less true for the finders of fact (juries, judges).

    I will stand by my assertion that the STL prosecutors will have nothing in the way of direct evidence that goes to any element of the crime. That is significant because in cases that are politically explosive (whether in Beirut or the Bronx) and where the integrity of the investigation/prosecution is being openly questioned, the complete absence of direct evidence is often a fatal blow, so much so that prosecutors would be loath to even bring the case to trial.

    If you don’t believe me because I am not up to Danny’s standards (a distinct possibility), please just go over to Centre Street in downtown Manhattan, and ask any prosecutor about the case. If you can find a single ADA who will say the case does not smell like a burning pile of s**t, I will myself deliver the arrest warrants to the Dahiyeh wearing my “I support the IDF” t-shirt.

    As you probably know, my broader point is that the STL is an expensive exercise in futility.

    NB: Having worked in a prosecutor’s office, I generally discount any media report on any ongoing investigation, but I do pay close attention to what the prosecutors themselves do and say.


    Posted by david | September 29, 2010, 9:03 pm
  120. And just FYI, I do believe that Syrian agents or Lebanese agents allied with Syrian elements in Lebanon did kill Hariri, as well as some of the others, but am open to other possibilities.

    But the thing is, I don’t care. If the goal is to make Lebanon a sovereign state where rule of law is more effectively practiced and the role of the Syrian regime is more effectively circumscribed, I do not see the STL contributing in anyway to such, and likely being counterproductive. If the goal is something else, then I need to be told what that is.

    Cheers (again).

    Posted by david | September 29, 2010, 9:21 pm
  121. QN,

    “He doesn’t have to be a great communicator to be an effective prime minister. His father was not particularly eloquent, but at least he had some kind of… presence. By contrast, the dominant feature of the younger Hariri’s premiership is a sustained absence. If he’s not in Saudi Arabia or Damascus, he’s in Sardinia. When he’s not responding to developments in Beirut through his spokespeople, he’s giving interviews to foreign newspapers. Hariri’s approach to solving problems at home is to cut deals abroad, while his opponents bring their fight directly into Lebanese living rooms.”

    I am wondering if that is not a bad description of Rafik’s politicking back in the 1980s. At the time, most of the local players thought he was a naive bufoon, but did not mind the cash or Royal access (sound familiar?).

    To a certain degree, Rafik incorporated this style into his premiereships, although he went beyond it, as well, as a matter of both design and necessity.

    Also, WRT the opening of your review of M. Young’s book, Iraq is at what 8 months and counting with no government, so perhaps revise your thesis on Lebanese particularism.

    Posted by david | September 29, 2010, 9:40 pm
  122. david

    go eat a spring roll.


    Posted by Qifa Nabki | September 29, 2010, 9:42 pm
  123. And just like Wahab, this “QN” resorts to taunts when cornered … 🙂

    Now I just need Young or Badran to explain how “go eat a spring roll” is an assassination threat (a la Feltman’s Hawaiian holiday)!

    Until I figure out its precise meaning, I will hold Baroud personally responsible for my continuing safety.


    Posted by david | September 29, 2010, 10:07 pm
  124. david @123, may I make sure I understand the point you are making? Are you saying that we should let bygones be bygones and focus on a consensus-based government going forward in Lebanon?
    So, then, if in the future another such assassination occurs, we repeat the cycle and ignore justice and kiss and make up and go back to consensus again after a few crises sprinkled here and there?
    If the STL does conclude with some extremely well developed and compelling evidence implicating elements of HA and perhaps Syrian intelligence, would that not then — save for the deafening barking intended to shut all these voices — enlighten many who are now otherwise entranced by the propaganda and significantly dim the stars of HA and Syria?
    Sure, for the blind zealots nothing will change, but what about the majority of folks?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | September 29, 2010, 11:26 pm
  125. Hi HP,

    Like I said, a scenario of “extremely well-developed and compelling evidence” is unlikely in the extremis. And I’ll go dollars-to-donuts, if you want.

    I would like to see that 60 million (30 + 30) put into creating a functionally-independent Lebanese judiciary. And even then, any benefits would be a generational project.

    My further point is that the STL, whatever its outcome, will do absolutely nothing to change a political culture that tolerates, sustains and rewards such intrigue. In most ways, it simply reinforces the worst habits.

    If on the other hand, you believe that the project is meritous if it exacts some tribal revenge for a wrong, I will not entirely disagree, but I will sigh for Lebanon.


    Posted by david | September 29, 2010, 11:48 pm
  126. “a functionally-independent Lebanese judiciary” when pigs fly

    you can buy any Lebanese Judge with a falafel sandwitch, well maybe with extra tarator.

    Posted by V | September 30, 2010, 12:55 am
  127. Fair enough, V. But if you seen the European jurists in their Star Trek outfits, you could say the bacon is already airborne.

    Posted by david | September 30, 2010, 2:32 am
  128. lol ok David, i give up.

    The sad part is that in Lebanon “tribal revenge” has been and will be for a long time to come the only true deterrent… so we will all sigh for Lebanon

    Posted by V | September 30, 2010, 3:12 am
  129. “I would like to see that 60 million (30 + 30) put into creating a functionally-independent Lebanese judiciary. And even then, any benefits would be a generational project”

    David, you have to snap out of your gregarious journey into the land of oz!

    You are speaking about Lebanon. Correct? Who will agree to put together these people and the laws and enforcement? …and you are suggesting with your dollar figures that the “independent jury” is bought or “created”.

    I am intrigued on your plan. People can’t agree on what dressing they should have on their salad without the use of sectarian violence as a threat…and you suggest we will have that 30+30 as you suggest in “creating” this wonderful body. If you are attacking the STL (with all its work being transparent) before it even started its work by indicting possible suspects; I wonder what your reaction would be if you “read” the mind of certain judges and you feel that a certain decision might go against you…

    Posted by danny | September 30, 2010, 7:25 am
  130. David #122,
    I do appreciate your concern about the “bang for the buck” since I have always been sensitive both to this issue as well as social justice.
    Just for the sake of background, I have been highly critical of the way that the whole Hariri affair has been and is being handled. There is no need for all of these efforts to make rafic a national hero, a great statesman, a major visionary, a saint etc… These are attributes that money cannot buy. I am sick and tired of having a portrait of Rafic Hariri at every single occasion and meeting …
    Yet we are where we are and we have to deal with it. I agree that the indictments will probably not change the corrupt Lebanese political culture but walking away from the STL or becoming a party of illegitimizing it will be worse. I do not care who gets indicted and whether the prosecution wins or losses. My concern is the integrity of the system. If we can all just wait for the court to make a judgment and then mount a defense for the accused. That might help change the concept of the need to respect the judiciary. As for the money, Lebanon wastes so much more on all sorts of ill advised projects that I do not think that this $50 million is necessarily badly spent. (We spend over $3500 on sovereign debt service a year).

    BTW, it would be interesting to get the opinion of some of the prosecutors on Center street provided they are familiar with the case. I have not been successful in this endeavour, and not for the lack of trying.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | September 30, 2010, 8:10 am
  131. Danny,

    Like I said to V, fair enough on the utopian nature of my suggestion. In fact, I also don’t really care how the money is spent, but would prefer it go to actually helping somebody with something rather than merely serving as manna for the always hungry political class (and also in terms of realpolitik, I dont think it reasonable to expect M14 to surrender such a valuable political tool).

    So here: put all the money in a fund to assist the families of those believed to be held in Syria prisons.

    PS: In general, lawyering 101 is you try to figure out how a case will go from the very beginning. It’s what lawyers do every second of every day. If they’re smart, they are cautious in the predictions, especially where information is limited.

    PPS: I am actually from Oz, so careful with the sarcasm: Toto may look harmless, but she does bite … 🙂


    I hear you, but just don’t see the STL being anything other than a political football. This is a prediction (dollars-to-donuts).

    Posted by david | October 5, 2010, 2:19 am


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