Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, Lebanon, March 14, Syria

Einstein & the Jackass (Or, the Brilliance of Nadim Koteich)

Sincere apologies for neglecting you all for the past couple weeks, but it seems that you’ve gotten along in the comment section very happily without me. Thanks for a great debate about Syria, and thanks to Camille for sharpening his knives and joining in.

There are a million things to talk about and I have lots of stuff waiting in the wings, but for now, I’m determined to publish this translation of a brilliant episode of “DNA”, Nadim Koteich’s fantastic show on Future TV. This is about a month old, but it is absolutely essential viewing if you missed it the first time around.

The episode deals with the former security chief Jamil al-Sayyid (who was one of the high profile generals initially accused of being involved in Rafiq al-Hariri’s murder and then released four years later), and his defense of Michel Samaha, who was recently accused of bringing explosives to Lebanon in a plot to create all kinds of mischief.

I’ve done a very quick translation below for the non-Arabic speakers, which is simply not going to do justice to Nadim’s wonderfully sardonic delivery. I highly recommend watching the clip on a different screen while following along with the transcript.

Maybe if you’re all nice, I’ll convince him to join us for a conversation about the show.


Nadim Koteich: From the beginning of the Michel Samaha affair, General Jamil al-Sayyid was the first to defend Samaha, the first to arrive at Samaha’s house, the first to doubt all the details surrounding the Michel Samaha affair.

We might even say he was the only one.

He accused Brigadier-General Wissam al-Hassan and Major-General Ashraf Rifi of lying and fabricating evidence. He dusted off old accusations about the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, so that he could emphasize that the Michel Samaha affair is a trumped up charge. He deputized his son, the attorney Malik al-Sayyid, to be the first volunteer to represent Samaha.

He took advantage of every media opportunity to declare the utter baselessness of the charges against Michel Samaha.

[Clips of Jamil al-Sayyid speaking to the press and loudly protesting Samaha’s arrest, calling Wissam al-Hassan and Ashraf Rifi liars and fabricators, including the clip transcribed below.]

Al-Sayyid: How can you expect us to believe the narrative that Wissam al-Hassan sent today to the parties of March 8th, saying: “Michel Samaha confessed in front of me, and he hugged me and thanked me. Are you trying to tell me that Michel Samaha is an idiot, that he’d do such a thing?”

[End of clip]

Koteich: (deadpan) All lies. The whole thing is a lie.  Furthermore, is it even conceivable that Michel Samaha could be an idiot? Is it possible that Michel Samaha would hug Wissam al-Hassan and break down crying, because he’d just saved him from a plot that could have killed tens if not hundreds of people. Is Michel Samaha an idiot? An idiot, to play out such a melodramatic scene in front of his political enemy, Wissam al-Hassan? And Samaha doesn’t even have any knowledge of explosives, and has not transported explosives or seen them from near or far.  Is he an idiot? The whole issue is baseless! Lies! Is he an idiot?

This important question that General al-Sayyid posed in the interview with Al-Mayadeen was reasonable… up until yesterday.

Only up until yesterday. Until the point at which Jamil al-Sayyid himself responded to the question of whether Michel Samaha transported explosives or not.

[Clip of al-Sayyid in an interview]

Al-Sayyid: …Yes, Michel Samaha made a mistake by transporting explosives, and was baited [into doing so]

[End of clip]

Koteich: (deadpan) He made a mistake. Everything else is lies, though. Everything except for the little detail, no big deal really. He transported explosives…

General al-Sayyid not only answered his own question, which he posed in his interview with Al-Mayadeen – about whether or not Michel Samaha is an idiot – he also added a new detail about who was in the car with Samaha. In his discussion of who was in the car, he took the adjective of “idiocy” one step further.

[Clip of al-Sayyid in an interview]

Al-Sayyid: I had said, by way of joking, “Samaha’s car is very small. Whether or not I was in it at the time, it isn’t big enough to fit two jackasses [ḥmarayn, literally “two donkeys” but also means “two idiots,” so I’ll use “jackasses” from now on to preserve the double entendre].

[End of clip]

Koteich: That was yesterday. You might say that [the words] just got away from him; it was a slip of the tongue, an ill-considered phrase. The truth is, though, that General Jamil al-Sayyid used the exact same expression in a statement released by his media office in August 22, 2012.  The statement reads:

“Setting aside the question of al-Sayyid’s presence with Samaha or not on that date or another, what is beyond a doubt is that Samaha’s car – which is an Audi – couldn’t fit two jackasses at the same time.”

When General Jamil talks about “the two jackasses,” he knows what he’s saying.  This is not an expression that was used by chance or came out as a slip of the tongue. He used it on August 22 and repeated in on September 10th. What is his point? How might we understand al-Sayyid’s expression?

If the car doesn’t fit two jackasses, might it fit one jackass?

And if the car fits only a single jackass, was that jackass someone who was in the car besides Michel Samaha?

Is Jamil al-Sayyid – who had asked previously if Michel Samaha was an idiot – actually saying that Michel Samaha is a jackass?

Honestly, I couldn’t figure out any other possibilities. Furthermore, the whole issue of Jamil al-Sayyid and “the jackass” is not new. There’s a reason that Jamil al-Sayyid always resorts to [the expression of] “the jackass” to clarify an issue, to explain a position, to underscore an idea.

There’s a reason for this, but I don’t personally know it. What I do know, however, is that Jamil al-Sayyid has used the analogy of the jackass more than once.

In an interview he conducted with al-Hayat newspaper on July 5 2005 about the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, General al-Sayyid said this:

“The person who committed the crime was either a jackass or Einstein. The investigating commission should explore all the possibilities.”

Let’s go back for a moment to the car. Just because the car can’t fit two jackasses, who says that everyone in the car was a jackass? Maybe it can fit one jackass, and one Einstein. Al-Sayyid’s analogy does not exclude the possibility of that. In fact, throughout all of al-Sayyid’s discussions of the Samaha affair, he never once denied that he was in the car with Michel Samaha. It’s not just the statement released by his press office that reads “Setting aside the question of al-Sayyid’s presence…”, General al-Sayyid personally used these words on two occasions in the past 24 hours.

[Clip of al-Sayyid at a press conference, responding to questions]

Al-Sayyid:  Whether or not I was [in the car], I don’t care… Let them say I was in it, I don’t have a problem with that.

[Clip of al-Sayyid responding to a reporter asking if he was in the car]

Al-Sayyid: This is irrelevant. I will tell this to the judge… I don’t want to entertain Wissam al-Hassan and Ashraf Rifi today, or Lebanese public opinion.

[End of clip]

Koteich: Jamil al-Sayyid does not like to entertain the Lebanese public, and he believes that everything he said in his press conference does not entertain the Lebanese public, or else he wouldn’t have said it. He knows that the thing that will really entertain them, is if he tells them that he was in Samaha’s car, or that he wasn’t in Samaha’s car.

[Skip ahead to 8:49]

Koteich: The questions to ask about this issue are the following.

Question 1: Why did General al-Sayyid hold a press conference? The answer: To appeal for help. Yes, to appeal for help. You’ll have noticed that even Michel Samaha found someone to come to his aid. He found Jamil al-Sayyid. But al-Sayyid, up until now, has not found anyone to come to his defense. There hasn’t been a single statement made about his situation, not a single political position taken. Do you remember when Hizbullah practically occupied Beirut International Airport and escorted Jamil al-Sayyid out with smothering security and unlicensed vehicles, because there was the possibility that he would be arrested? General al-Sayyid probably misses that kind of scenario. He longs for it, and has no faith that it will be repeated.

That’s the reason for his press conference; in order to say: “Where are you boys? Why have you left me all alone?”

[Clips of Jamil al-Sayyid complaining about March 8th’s response to the Samaha affair and asking his allies to take up the issue and defend Samaha]

Koteich: Question #2: What are Jamil al-Sayyid’s options? Answer: Killing. General al-Sayyid publicly threatened to kill in his own defense. Have a listen.

[Clip of Jamil al-Sayyid interviewed by Al-Mayadeen’s Ghassan Bin Jeddo, who asks him: “Are you not afraid that the tables will be turned on you again?”]

Al-Sayyid: Let me put your mind at ease, just so that you have an idea. Michel Samaha is a decent human being and he’s never suffered like I have. If the Information Branch [i.e. Wissam al-Hassan’s branch of the ISF] puts a single foot downstairs… there will be blood.”

Ben Jeddo: What do you mean?

Al-Sayyid: What’s the matter with you?

[Another clip from the same interview]

Al-Sayyid: Let them go to any house and collect evidence. Look here, the tables are covered, let them try to come here, maybe I’ll kill them.

[End of clip]

Koteich: Notice that General al-Sayyid speaks about killing with great ease. Killing – as an instrument – may be just part of his way of thinking. Today in his press conference, the same expression about killing was used.

[Clip of al-Sayyid’s press conference]

Al-Sayyid: Prime Minister Najib Miqati pledged himself to a political group that brought him to power after a chain of events that included the “false witness” issue, and the issue of al-Hassan and Rifi, and other things. The situation in Syria changed, so Prime Minister Miqati has changed. So, what should they do, kill him?

[end of clip]

Koteich: Umm, I have no idea… that’s up to you.

The next question: According to al-Sayyid’s equation, who is the jackass, and who is Einstein? Hmmmm…. A very dangerous question.

I want to remind you of what General al-Sayyid said in 2005 in an interview with al-Hayat about the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri. He said:

“The person who committed the crime was either a jackass or Einstein. The investigating commission should explore all the possibilities.”

Today, after much time has passed since the formulation of this equation, two other equations might be derived from it. Either there’s a jackass who thinks he’s Einstein, or there’s an Einstein who is acting like a jackass.


24 thoughts on “Einstein & the Jackass (Or, the Brilliance of Nadim Koteich)

  1. It is beyond me why anyone in their right mind would show any respect for complete and utter trash like Jameel El Sayyed.
    Regardless of whether one is pro M8 or anti. Regardless of one’s political or personal beliefs, and what paranoid conspiracy theories they subscribe to regarding this or that plot or assassination, just hearing/reading Sayyed’s comments from his own mouth should give everyone a pretty good idea what kind of person he is: A thug and a piece of trash.
    It’s one thing to dispute what this or that politician supposedly did behind closed doors, or what plots he’s concocted for the Iranians or the CIA or whoever, but this stuff is out of this guy’s own mouth, on camera. Who talks like that? Thugs and trash.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 18, 2012, 5:47 pm
  2. And he wonders why all his political “allies” have sent him into exile…

    Posted by The Medlar | October 19, 2012, 6:09 am
  3. bomb blast in Ashrafieh. OMG.

    Posted by 3issa | October 19, 2012, 8:46 am
  4. I hope Hezbollah acts swiftly to protect the lives of Syrians and Lebanese. We’re all in this together.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | October 19, 2012, 9:02 am
  5. Incredible timing QN, this post a day before the Ashrafieh blast…

    Posted by Maverick | October 19, 2012, 4:59 pm
  6. Your endorsement of this person on this blog might have gotten to this head ?

    Posted by JY | October 21, 2012, 2:22 pm
  7. Your endorsement of this person on this blog might have gotten to his head ?

    Posted by JY | October 21, 2012, 2:22 pm
  8. Einstein or Jackass?

    Posted by lally | October 21, 2012, 6:04 pm
  9. In this instance, definitely the latter. Don’t know what Koolaid he was drinking here. Maybe pushed to deliver the hard line by Hariri? In all cases, it fell flat and probably damaged his career.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 21, 2012, 6:15 pm
  10. QN,

    He’ll be the next voice! Not jackass…Not in Lebanese theater.

    Posted by danny | October 21, 2012, 7:56 pm
  11. Danny.

    I’ll do you one better. Given his long stint on al_Hurra, his ties to the International Republican Institute and demonstrated ability to motivate audiences, I can see Wolf Blitzer hiring Nadim to provide CNN with “analysis” of the Shiite menace to ‘Mericans and their quote, interests.

    That’s some good teevee; especially if we get another war on….

    Posted by lally | October 21, 2012, 8:22 pm
  12. I remember seeing the first 10 seconds of his speech and thinking …oh oh he didn’t just commit career suicide.

    One is reminded with Sahar Al Khatib just after the May 7 events and wonder what goes on in the backrooms of Future TV.

    Posted by Maverick | October 21, 2012, 9:37 pm
  13. QN said it best:

    “Wrong message, wrong time, wrong messenger.”

    The M14 brand is gravely wounded; Nadim is the just the deliveryman for the unappetizing message to the people of Lebanon. Oh indeed, there is much consternation among the activist ranks as a result of the whole spectacle of the “pro-American” factions going rogue.

    Posted by lally | October 22, 2012, 1:31 am
  14. You should be happy, Lally, M14, the Sunni mainstream, call it as you like, has been decapitated enough and is finally showing signs of real chaos within. NTV is talking about armed men “belonging to FM” fighting the Lebanese Army in Qasqas. I’m sure Syria and Lebanon will fare much better from now.

    Posted by mj | October 22, 2012, 4:52 am
  15. Nadim Koteich speech simply was the deadly turning point in M14 movement. This guy must be definitely on pills!!!

    Posted by Ali | October 22, 2012, 4:54 am
  16. MJ,

    Spot on.

    The weaker M14 is, the more likely the emergence of radical groups and actions among the Lebanese Sunni. And when Assad is gone, that is a recipe for civil war and the breaking up of Lebanon.

    After the the Syrian regime is taken care of, there will still be in Syria tens of thousands battle tested, well organized and well armed Sunni foot soldiers. Among them, thousands of Salafists. The weaker M14 and FM are, the more likely these fighters will be “invited” to “help” in Lebanon. The only thing that can stop this is a strong and effective M14 and FM leadership that can convince its people of the folly of such move. But they will not be able to do that as long as Assad and keeps picking them off and showing their followers how weak they are.

    This assassination was the typical Assad play book move. First, you intimidate your enemies and make clear that their will be a heavy cost for Samha case like actions. Second, you make it even more stark to the Saudis and Americans that Assad can destabilize Lebanon even after he is gone.

    What is quite interesting is that there is clearly a divergence of interests between Hezbollah and Assad. Hezbollah has no interest whatsoever in a Lebanese civil war. But Assad has succeeded in playing them also. They are really bound to him now more than ever because if he goes, he has made sure that Hezbollah will face a Sunni tsunami.

    Ruthless assholes are a pain.

    Posted by AIG | October 22, 2012, 9:32 am
  17. AIG…Correct! However; when Assad’s regime is gone…and if there’s any shred of evidence implicating HA in Hariri or subsequent assassinations (through Syrian sources…) then civil war is there whether HA likes it or not as you clearly pointed out about the salafists and hardened “warriors” …

    Posted by danny | October 22, 2012, 10:09 am
  18. Danny,

    “and if there’s any shred of evidence implicating HA in Hariri or subsequent assassinations (through Syrian sources…) then civil war is there whether HA likes it or not ”

    I don’t think so. A civil war in Lebanon is against the FM’s leadership interests, Saudi interests and though it matters less against US and Israeli interests. The simple way to think about it is to ask whether a civil war is good for Solidere. Nasrallah can always do a semi Geagea and everybody will continue living together. The Lebanese overcame much more animosity to stop the previous civil war. The lessons of that period have not been forgotten yet. Jumblatt forgave the Syrians for murdering his dad and Hariri Jr. even went to Syria to say that Syria is not responsible for killing his. These guys are quite “flexible”.

    But their followers are much less cynical. There will be a civil war if the FM leadership is weak and cannot harness the righteous indignation of its followers into more constructive avenues. The question is whether the moderate center of the Sunnis in Lebanon will hold or will be swept away by the extremists.

    Posted by AIG | October 22, 2012, 10:23 am
  19. @DANNY
    HA is already, implicated in the Harriri assassination in the eyes of most Sunnis and in the eyes of the march14 crowd ,and the fact that the international turbine on Hrriri assassination had not “yet” convict HA members ,is not the reason why Lebanon is not in civil war.
    There are other factors ,one comes to mind is the fact that most Lebanese along with their leaders do not want to pay the price for another civil war, even if it means to swallow their pride and accept killers amongst them selves and Danny’s mention of Nasrallah becoming a second Geagea is possible.
    That will bring us to radicalizing the Sunnis street ,history have gave us many examples of unintended results of marginalizing the moderate leadership (weather by assassination ,intimidation ,humiliation ..)and the vacuum that follow and the disaster that will proceed , so hopefully the sunni street will have the charismatic leadership that will guide its constituency along with Lebanon away from a second civil war.

    Posted by wasfy | October 22, 2012, 3:35 pm
  20. WASFY,

    Let’s wait for the trial…Secondly; the wealth of factual information; not gossip that will eventually come out of Syria regarding the nefarious and murderous regime could never be under estimated! Thirdly; wars happen not because people go into it rationally…It is hard to control events when they spiral out of control.As for possibility of Nassy swiveling ala WJ; HA does not swivel and has its umbilical cord firmly attached to mother of all mullahs; Iran.

    Civil war and its analysis is for armchair critics. If Lebanese had learned anything from it; they would not have been in the pickle they are in now.

    Posted by danny | October 22, 2012, 4:58 pm


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