Thursday, March 29, 2007

Summit's Up

How wonderful to have two delegations going to the Arab Summit! Even better is that neither side believes the rest of the participants are sniggering behind their backs. Neither delegation got the official reception from the Saudi king, merely a meet-and-greet from the Foreign Minister, much like a travel company flunky sent to meet bewildered tourists at foreign airports to give them their maps, hotel vouchers and local do's and don'ts.

Protocol withstanding, El Presidente gets a big chair at the grown-ups' table, while the hapless Sanioura gets a folding camp chair at the baby table reserved for "guests", part of the nomenclature also well suited to his tenuous standing at the Serail, a bit closer to home.
In the official photo of the participants, Fouf is nowhere to be seen (maybe he's pulling faces behind the photographer, trying to make everyone crack up), whilst a po-faced Lahoud is separated from Assad by one degree of Bouteflika. As punishment for their naughtiness, Lahoud, Assad & Abbas have been relegated to the very edge of the photo, while Bouteflika (3rd from right) was obviously just placed there to make Lahoud look taller.
(photo World News Network)

Another thing is our government's habit of creating titles that are just too long and cumbersome. The paper submitted to the Summit on Lebanon is called "The Paper of Solidarity with the Lebanese Government". They need something catchier, something along the lines of "Operation Stand by Me" or "Paper of Toilet". At least everyone would remember the catchy song from the first or failing that, the obvious charm (-in) of the second. Are there two of those as well?

This doubling up could be a good thing for Lebanon. Already a strategy used by inveterate gamblers, doubling up could help Lebanon's fortunes on many fronts. Political promises made by one side could be disavowed by the other, along the lines of a "ah yes, well, sorry mate, wasn't me" argument. Ugly laws or motions passed could be rejected, again "Don't look at me, mate, not my idea". Oh wait, that's already happened.

Sports teams could benefit from the confusion at the Olympics, say, or the Asian Games....when required to declare which is the official team, we could then choose the one that had done better. At least all sides would agree on it. We wouldn't have to worry whether the winning team had been trained in Iran or Syria or, of course, the USA or France.

But scrap that, because the team in the yellow & orange jerseys would claim that even though they placed last, the gold medal winners knew that they had in fact won and would refuse to leave the podium. Conversely, the blue team placing second to last would say that getting to the medals is something that takes time and that there shouldn't be any winners or any losers.

Euro 2008 qualifiers were great this week, unless of course you happen to be an England fan. Personally, if I was head of the FA, I'd naturalize every one of my lovely Chelsea's squad who needed it and play them.

Have a good one.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Faint Praise

Could there possibly be a more damning indictment of any pursuit than to have the Syrian regime praise it as "professional"?
Well that's exactly the term they used to describe Brammertz' latest UN interim report of the investigation into Hariri's murder. I hope Brammertz is just playing his cards very close to his chest because these interim reports have gone from infuriating Syria with accusations against high-ranking Syrian officials by name (remember Mehlis?), to placating her.

Are we to infer that the UN Commission's stance has changed, that in fact Syria had nothing to do with Hariri's murder and countless other acts of violence? A tiger cannot change its stripes. Enough said.

Hariri Jnr. & Berri have been in constant meetings over the past week, consulting over the tribunal (will it, won't it?). Yesterday we had headlines proclaiming success and a compromise over it and today we have headlines "playing down" those same reports. It would be nice if everybody was reading from the same page. Personally, I don't see how there can be a compromise without diluting the authority of the tribunal. Make it more local and we run the risk of riddling it with the congenital corruption and bias that mars every endeavour undertaken in our fair land. I know how trendy it is to support Hezbollah and Aoun (discounting the Shia and some Christians), especially by foreigners living/working/studying here, but believe me, they would be the first to leave if Hezbollah & Co. had their way. There is no argument to support not supporting the tribunal and accusations of foreign influence go both ways so its a self-cancelling argument, don't trot it out.

On a happier note, my lovely Chelsea are still in the race for 3 more titles and have as good a chance as any and a resurgent England rugby team takes to the field for the last games of the 6 Nations.....oh happy day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Friday, February 16, 2007

And By The Way...

Lovely, lovely. Another happy week. A day before yet another useless gathering a couple of bombs go off in buses carrying ordinary folk to work. And as usual, accusations are flying thick and fast from, and to, all.

In a country already suffering from economic stagnation, and in keeping with their strategy of economic revitalization, the hugely effective powers that be declared February 14th a public holiday. With the Paris beg-offs trying to out-digit Rocky films in terms of Roman numerals, the Lebanese government still has no clear agenda for getting us back on track. All the terms bandied around by the ruling clique, "cutting spending", "increasing revenues", "implementing reforms" et al are exactly the kind of murky, non-informative crap that doesn't help anyone's faith in the future and certainly don't make me want to invest here. And I live here.
Of course, the other side haven't exactly presented a groundbreaking formula.

It's such a shame that the horrific murder of Rafic Hariri has forever tainted the day of love, an honest, heartfelt day for lovers everywhere, an occasion when romantic florists feel justified in quadrupling the price of scentless blooms and when restaurants don't see anything wrong in prolonging the pain by still advertising Valentine's Day menus for today and tomorrow. Manufacturers of ugly satin cushions with coy messages embroidered on them and printers of enormous red cards must believe its Christmas, not to mention the wits behind X-rated shape chocolates and "sexy" board games. Yes, I'm disappointed we've lost this wonderful day.

March 14 supporters should go downtown and build their own tent city. Except this one could do away with the need for demonstrations and counter-demonstrations by having bigger and better tents. More modern conveniences. Tents with really cool plasma screens and surround sound setups, nice furniture and state of the art camping kitchens. Maybe mini-tents for the maids. There could be little bar tents and restaurant tents, maybe an Aishtitent for all the latest in designer camping gear.

This would encourage the opposition to realize that life really is better on the other side. Opposition tenters could then come over to March 14 bank tents and take out little tent loans and start improving their own tents. Other opposition tenters would come and visit these shiny new tents and want one for themselves and, skipping a couple of steps, this would inexorably lead to political union. It's brilliant.
Hey, Robert MacNamara once supposedly said that he could have won the Vietnam War if only he'd been allowed to give a TV to every Vietnamese household.

Another thing that really irks me is ridiculous little stories published in "news"papers under the guise of, well, news. This whole Berri mediation garbage, for example, in the Daily Rag:
"Reports of a possible meeting between Berri and Saad Hariri were neither confirmed nor denied by Amal MP Ali Hassan Khalil."

What? Read that again. How do you neither confirm nor deny? If you consider yourself some kind of political Machiavelli by answering 'maybe' to yes or no questions through narrowed eyes on national TV, then you might want to review your career path.

Khalil was then asked if Damascus was pleased with the idea of a Berri-Hariri meeting. His brilliant answer, again, I imagine, through narrowed eyes and a stare that passes the comfortable by a few seconds?
"What we hear from the Syrians is that they encourage inter-Lebanese dialogue."

Pfft. No. They. Don't.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Holiday Blues

The most useless person in that most useless of entities has given a useless statement to the press today. Amr Moussa, Secretary-General of the Arab League, told reporters after meeting with Lahoud that "(Lahoud) should stay until the end of his mandate, and his term should be respected".
In some way, Syria seem to want Lahoud to stay on not only to keep their tentacles firmly wrapped around the executive branch of government, but also to not let the world see what a mockery they make of all things concerning Lebanon.
If Lahoud is forcibly removed from office before the end of his "official" mandate, it would help negate the farcical amendment to the Constitution that made that travesty possible. It would effectively show that the Syrian regime has been pulling the strings. We all know that its true but in diplo-speak to the rest of the world, Syria can always hide behind bold statements declaring non-involvement in internal Lebanese issues and other such claptrap - remove Lahoud and Syria's sticky little fingers will be shown quite clearly behind the scenes. By rejecting Lahoud's extended mandate, we would be showing the rest of the world that he is a stooge and leave one less place for the Syrian apparatus to feel comfortable in.
Unfortunately, so many of our current leaders were involved in that process that it would take a great show of courage to pursue that....what was I thinking? Ah heck, it's just a theory....

The world's slowest coup d'etat continues downtown and shows no signs of stopping (or speeding up for that matter, which I suppose is a good thing). I went downtown and tried to look at it all with an unbiased, unjaded eye but found it very difficult. I'm all for camping and getting back to nature and even living in a tent for a while for something I believe in but after chatting to people down there, I got the distinct impression that no-one (apart from one or two really scary folk) knew what they were talking about except to repeat verbatim what came out of their bosses' mouths. A herd mentality isn't a pretty thing even on herds. No one knows what their leaders intend to do except "bring down this corrupt, illegal & ineffective government" (their italics). Cool.

The Patriarch alluded to improprieties committed in or around the tented city by high-spirited youths - apparently it's shocking to discover that if you put horny single young people by themselves for any length of time they may eventually end up getting some.

On a happier note, my lovely Chelsea took down Everton in a wonderful final 10 minutes last Sunday. We were 2-1 down and in the 81st minute Frank Lampard hit a screamer from 25 yards that Tim Howard could only scrabble at. Gorgeous AND 2-2.
3 minutes from regular time and Drogba found himself alone and in possession after a nod on from Shevchenko. He chested the ball, glanced around, saw no one to pass to and from 30 yards thrashed the ball up, over and behind the goalkeeper. 3-2 and that's why we're champions! I also thought I couldn't be happier until I watched Man Ure defeated by West Ham right after that.....oh, happy days.

So Happy Holidays everyone and cheer up because as always, next year will be better!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I really can't remember being so shocked by an assassination......
but I can remember saying the exact same thing about Bashir Gemayel, Rene Moawad, Gebran Tueni, Samir Kassir and Rafic Hariri and countless other acts of violence and terror in this country.
All these assassinations just become part of our social fabric, as no doubt this latest one will - none of them have ever been properly investigated let alone solved yet we still carry on as usual and what difference has it made to us at the end of the day? Point fingers all you like, construct conspiracy theories until you run out of permits, tear down, spit on and burn as many posters as you please and have demonstrations and marches and speeches from here to eternity because it won't change a thing.

That is why I ask does it really matter who killed Pierre Gemayel?

All we are going to get are more slogans and more faces to add to the posters for the next funeral.

We have all been outraged and disgusted and vowed to get our country back on its feet but the sorry truth is that nothing has changed. Nothing has changed since we handed the country over, under great fanfare, to Siniora et al.
It certainly seems that nothing is going to change in the near future no matter who gets to run it when our leadership pool contains nothing but war criminals, thugs, small-minded bureaucrats, the God-complexed and worst of all, the weak, the unprepared and the incompetent (and sometimes a fizzy combination of all).
Who is going to lead us? Who is going to lead all of us? I can see no leaders capable of anything but navel-gazing, no one able or willing to bridge the divide and doing nothing but drawing lines in the sand. Sadly, nobody is looking at a bigger picture.

It's a sad state of affairs. From this angle (and to paraphrase the vernacular), it looks as though we will always be in the sewer, only the depth may vary.

The Constitution itself, a seemingly collapsible and expandable document, has been used to attack and defend all sides. Even after reading it, I am still no clearer as to who has the best legal expert but I would appreciate an intelligent explanation.

At least the title race between Man Ure and my lovely Chelsea has the potential for some change, so if you don't mind I'll be turning my TV over to the sports channels.

Friday, August 18, 2006

And The Beat Goes On

Walid Jumblatt came across as quite erudite and logical in his speech earlier today, two qualities I have been unable to credit him with in the past. He pointed out most of the things that many Lebanese bloggers have been saying for a while, namely that Syria and Iran have been behind all the troubles, waging proxy wars against Israel and the US - Iran for its nuclear ambitions and Syria because Assad wants to deflect attention away from his involvement of the Hariri assassination.
He also called for the integration into the army of Hezbollah fighters and for the respect of the 1949 armistice agreement with Israel. I had to look that one up.

President Emile Lahoud, who has Assad's arm so far up his backside that it's difficult to tell where he begins and Syria ends, stated unequivocally that Hezbollah should not disarm, thereby rendering the highest post in the land about as relevant as lips on a chicken. Way to gauge public opinion, dude.

The army has started its deployment to the south, taking over key positions handed over to the UNIFIL by Israel. The deployment itself is a great move, although the army's mission there is still hazy as they have no clear mandate as of yet. Even the French are getting a little jittery about sending troops in with no clearly defined mission, which, considering their history with Hezbollah, is not surprising.

The government is still messing around with words as Saniora has changed his tack towards Hezbollah's weapons.
In earlier speeches he stated: "There shall be no other weapons in the south of Lebanon except those of the Lebanese Army."
That has now been amended to "no other apparent weapons." Apparently, Hezbollah get to keep theirs albeit under their jackets.

Saad Hariri, for his part, lashed out at Assad saying that Syria is trying to "steal Lebanon's victory." Mr. Hariri, I don't know if you were here for the fireworks but if that is your idea of a victory, then I would suggest that next time you let Syria have it.

MEA, the Lebanese flag carrier, along with Royal Jordanian landed their first commercial flights today at Beirut International Airport since the war began. It was apparently negotiated through Prime Minister Saniora's contacts but for the time being only flights to and from Amman are allowed. No word as to why this is but Jordan, along with Egypt, has a peace treaty with Israel and enjoys full diplomatic relations.
MEA chairman, Mohammad Hout said that any passengers turning up for the flight would travel to Beirut for free as well as not pay for the return leg.
No word on how many people turned up.

So far, so good.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

His Master's Voice

Now Syria has added its thoughts to the Lebanese question, I'm sure we all feel much better. The beautifully choreographed show that was Assad's speech was reminiscent of good old pre-1989 Soviet politburo speeches - all show and no substance. He did, however, plant the seed in the masses' minds that the Lebanese government's attempts to disarm Hezbollah will lead to civil war, subtly trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy - more mind games from the masters. All that's needed is another speech by Midgeto the mad Iranian for a hateful hat trick.

At least the other idiots are still fairly quiet in Lebanon.....Aoun, Geagea, Gemayel et al. Although not a fan of his in any way, I am looking forward to Jumblatt's speech tomorrow even if it turns out to merely be comic relief.
"We will not surrender to Assad's & Nasrallah's conditions" is just a great title for a speech - a little long but there can be no wondering about the content. He seems to have become the government's pit bull, saying the things everyone wants to but diplomatically can't. Either way, it couldn't be more damaging than Nasrallah's or Assad's. And you know he'll certainly put a lot more flair into it.

So where do we go from here? What's the next step? Hezbollah has said that it would not leave the area south of the Litani river and that the issue of its arms is non-negotiable. The deployment of the Lebanese Army in the south could, if Hezbollah follows Syrian wishes to play on sectarianism, lead to if not civil war then to a split in the army, many soldiers possibly choosing to side with Hezbollah rather than be forced into a situation where they may have to engage their compatriots. A division in the army along sectarian lines is not something new and would play right into the hands of Syria.

Iran wants nothing out of Hezbollah except to use them as a proxy army in their ongoing nuclear ambitions. The Hezbollah threat will always keep Israel on the hook and under threat and by extension, Dubya, because of his paranoia of seeing terrorists everywhere - much like Senator McCarthy's seeing "Communists under the bed". So far, using Hezbollah to fight Israel hasn't brought any international repercussions to Tehran although that could possibly change. Osirak anyone?

I cannot see our government demanding that Hezbollah disarm but a strongly-worded statement of intent needs to be issued - the outline and mechanics can be worked out later. Bring the long-neglected Shia in the south back into the fold and under our government's care.
If we shout loud enough about it, Syria could be forced into making an ours-or-theirs decision on the Shebaa farms, then we could demand an Israeli withdrawal and in turn remove all of Hezbollah's stated "raisons d'être". The key is in removing all of the obstacles as fast as Hezbollah can think them up.

And on that very same day, reports will emerge that Hell has frozen over.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Battle Begins

Hezbollah is on the attack. After it's self-proclaimed "victory" against Israel, it's PR machine is in high gear and it has again pre-empted the government by promising to shelter the homeless and rebuild their homes. Unfortunately, that is the best part of what came out of Nasrallah's mouth in this evening's speech - the rest of it was his subtle stirring up of sectarianism, declaring (in not so many words) that Hezbollah will never disarm and that the state is useless and weak and cannot protect its people. He even went so far as to issue thinly-veiled threats to all who dare oppose him. Proof that attack is the best form of defense.

All those who were pro-Hezbollah remain so, perhaps even more now that it has promised to rehouse them and feed them. Those who were against Hezbollah are now being subjected to threats and intimidation to stop them trying to disarm the militia, to delay any attempt to rid the country of this "state within a state".

Hezbollah sees that it is going to come under strong internal pressure to disarm and disavow any more military action. At least, that is the hope, although I'm prepared for the current government to show us it still has a yellow stripe down its back. At this juncture, national dialogue is useless and bound to fail as it did even when there was no war. The only way to stop a bully is to stand up to him and if we don't do it now, we're simply sending the message that we will allow Hezbollah to do whatever Iran and Syria want them to. As a governmental policy, appeasement has historically been proven to invite more aggression. Now is the time to stand firm and halt this insidious attack on what is left of Lebanon.

The country's real battle started today, the moment that unbelievable speech ended.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Day Before

As if plumbing new depths of incompetence, the Lebanese Cabinet has cancelled its meeting over disagreements over Hezbollah's disarmament and the Lebanese Army deployment in the south, this after "unanimously" accepting the UNSCR 1701. Moral fortitude and courage have been carried out the back door on a gurney yet again although not unexpectedly.

Hezbollah is again overstepping its boundaries with the Lebanese government, once again holding the nation hostage and Israel continues its massive bombardment even as I write this. With just over 12 hours to go before the ceasefire, both sides seem to be getting back to their old tricks - Hezbollah using the pressure that the Lebanese government is under to force things their way and Israel ratcheting up its tally of war crimes.

A Pyrrhic victory for all.

Weekend Warriors

It now seems that the mythical ceasefire is set to come into effect on Monday morning. Meanwhile, Israel is massing its troops in southern Lebanon for the last few hours it has left to kill, maim and destroy. Only hours left to commit a few more war crimes under the guise of national security. (I don't want to hear from idiots saying they are not war crimes - bombing Red Cross ambulances, aid trucks, a few convoys of civilians trying to get to safety and a building or ten packed with civilians are all war crimes, go look it up.)
Only hours left for them to get their demented jollies.

If the whole tragedy of the past month is going to end like this, with Hezbollah agreeing to move further north towards Beirut and allowing the Lebanese army to deploy across the whole of the south, what was it all for? What was gained? If they were so concerned about Lebanon and the Lebanese and about abiding by the Lebanese government's wishes, why didn't they do it when UNSCR 1559 was first floated?
What tremendous benefits did we gain by Hezbollah dragging us, kicking and screaming, into this unnecessary and particularly violent conflict? What do all the apologists for Hezbollah have to say?
Sovereignty? Yes, thanks a lot, now we have half the Israeli army encamped in half the country.

Honour? Again, kudos....we have half the Israeli army.....well, you know.

Dignity? I'm sure everyone who lost loved ones, homes and businesses will be honoured to know that at least they did so with dignity.

Freedom from oppression? Oh, give me a break.

We sure taught them Israelis a lesson or two.

Now comes more difficulty. What of our government and Hezbollah's part in it? Who can take the government seriously (as if that was the case before) after all this?
Beirut has become synonymous once again with violence, death and destruction. Fifteen years of rebuilding and rebranding our image abroad has been pointless. Fifteen years of rebuilding an economy have been worthless. Almost a generation spent trying to make use of Lebanon's manpower and brainpower has been an exercise in futility. And we as a nation have gained absolutely nothing except more dead citizens, more piles of rubble and scorn for letting Hezbollah run amok.

Pundits say that the unanimous government decision to accept the resolution was done for the sake of political unity. We've never had it before, why should it matter now? How about accepting it because this madness needs to end, to hell with your "political unity".
Maybe we could get a UN resolution passed that would give us a government that knows what it's doing, how to do it and the cojones to do it.

Either way, the resolution is flawed. It gives Israel the right to attack whenever they deem it's in the interests of national security (the interpretation of national security is left up to them) and Hezbollah said it would keep on fighting until the last Israeli leaves Lebanese territory (or maybe until we have no territory left). Back to the whole Shebaa Farms debacle, then?

More madness in England. How these terrorists (mostly British-born of Pakistani descent) must hate the terrible hardships involved in living there, although I can understand it - cold weather, rain, social security, national health (ok, not the best system in the world but it exists), freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of worship.
It could drive anyone to strike out at the injustice of it all....if they were to actually live in the kind of regime they advocate, they would find that none of the above would exist there. Maybe that proves the inherent flaw in real democracies, that precisely because of those freedoms dissent is allowed and murderers can get away with planning atrocities.

The lawyer representing a couple of the would-be murderers went on the news to decry how badly her clients were being treated in prison. Apparently, they weren't given anything to eat or drink for 23 hours and that she had to send them warm clothing as they were cold.
I'll bet not half as cold as all those passengers would have been had they succeeded in their attacks.

Worst thing is that if they turned their ingenuity in committing murder towards a cure for AIDS or cancer, they'd probably find it.

On a more personal note, my lovely Chelsea play their first serious game of the season against LiverPoo on Sunday for the Community Shield.
2-0 for Chelsea
And here's me without their new strip.

Be safe.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Actions Not Words

The lemon that is the ill-conceived UN resolution aimed at ending the war has gone back to the garage for some tinkering and souping-up. A bunch of smug, self-satisfied waddling Arab Foreign Ministers decided that maybe they should get involved at this point and took a communal trip to New York to state their case - which, a month after the war started, is too little, too late.

Fundamentally, the resolution offers no strong and decisive action - it merely asks that Hezbollah stop all attacks and that Israel stop all "offensive" actions. So, taken to an extreme, Israel could theoretically rebrand all its aggressions as "defensive" actions and carry on business as usual.

The one thing that sticks in my throat about the deployment of the Lebanese Army to the south is that if Hezbollah continue their attacks after that, the IDF will have a legitimate target in the Lebanese state. As bad as things are now they could swiftly become so much worse. Hezbollah, although in supposed agreement with the decision to deploy the Army, is not reknowned for doing the honourable thing or for its restraint and Israel has proved over and over again that it doesn't even know what the word means.
So while the rest of the world is pussyfooting around with a piece of paper and making a show of decrying the terrible violence and loss of life, things here on the ground remain pretty much the same - more civilians dead, more of the country laid waste to.

Hezbollah boss Hassan Nasrallah's voicing of the "settling of accounts" to take place after this war is over will have grim repercussions. As if more proof were needed of the direction we are headed in.

In an interview with Al Jazeera at the beginning of the war he said: ‘‘If we succeed in achieving the victory . . . we will never forget all those who supported us at this stage. . . . As for those who sinned against us . . . those who made mistakes, those who let us down and those who conspired against us . . . this will be left for a day to settle accounts. We might be tolerant with them, and we might not.’’

After living 30 years under the Syrian thumb(-screws), Lebanon and most of its diverse communities won't go back to living under more oppression. After the civil war ended, every community gave up its weapons as a sign of good faith. Everyone, that is, except Hezbollah.

Syria allowed them to keep their weapons and even gave bigger and better ones, ostensibly for the "resistance" but more likely as a way to keep themselves relevant in the rapidly changing political landscape.

If Hezbollah keep up the excellent job they're doing in screwing the country, both militarily and politically, and then go on to threaten everyone who wasn't waving their flag during this unilateral extinguishing of the nation, I certainly wouldn't be surprised if other communities started to pick up guns. You know, just in case.
Then, any threats perceived or real, will be dealt with on a whole new level - one where what is happening today actually makes sense.

It reminds me of some graffiti painted on a wall on the approach to the old Beirut Airport during the early 80's which I shall paraphrase:

"Would the last person to leave please turn out the lights."

Doesn't seem so funny anymore.

Monday, August 07, 2006

America's True Colours

Good article in today's issue of Britain's "The Independent" newspaper.

This draft shows who is running America's policy... Israel

By Robert Fisk

08/07/06 "
The Independent" -- -- So the great and the good on the East River laboured at the United Nations Security Council - and brought forth a lemon. You could almost hear the Lebanese groan at this draft resolution a document of such bias and mendacity that a close Lebanese friend read carefully through it yesterday, cursed and uttered the immortal question: "Don't these bastards learn anything from history?"

And there it all was again, the warmed-up peace proposals of Israel's 1982 invasion, full of buffer zones and disarmament and "strict respect by all parties" - a rousing chortle here, no doubt, from Hizbollah members - and the need for Lebanese sovereignty. It didn't even demand the withdrawal of Israeli forces, a point that Walid Moallem, Syria's Foreign Minister - and the man the Americans will eventually have to negotiate with - seized upon with more than alacrity. It was a dead UN resolution without a total Israeli retreat, he said on a strategic trip to Beirut.

A close analysis of the American-French draft - the fingerprints of John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN, were almost smudging the paragraphs - showed just who is running Washington's Middle East policy: Israel. And one wondered how even Tony Blair would want to associate himself with this nonsense. It made no reference to the obscenely disproportionate violence employed by Israel - just a sleek reference to "hundreds of deaths and injuries on both sides" - and it made only passing reference to Hizbollah's demand that it would only release the two Israeli soldiers it captured on 12 July in return for Lebanese and other Arab prisoners in Israeli jails.

The Security Council said it was "mindful of the sensitivity of the issue of prisoners and encouraging the efforts aimed at settling the issue [sic] of the Lebanese prisoners detained in Israel". I bet Hizbollah were impressed by the "mindful" bit, not to mention the "sensitivity" and the soft, slippery word "settle" - an issue which can be "settled" in maybe 20 years' time. Then came the real coup de grâce. A demand for the "total cessation by Hizbollah of all attacks" and the "immediate cessation" by Israel of "all offensive military operations". Bit of a problem there, as Hizbollah spotted at once. They have to lay down their arms.

Had the council demanded an immediate resolution on the future of the Shebaa farms, the Israeli-occupied territory which once belonged to mandate Lebanon - and for whose "liberation" the Hizbollah have fought - the whole fandango might have stood a chance. After all, Shebaa is the only raison d'être that the Hizbollah can produce for continuing their reckless, ruthless, illegal war across the UN blue line in southern Lebanon. But the UN document wished only to see a delineation of Lebanon's borders "including in the Shebaa farms area". There was even a wonderful paragraph - Number 9 for aficionados of UN bumf - which "calls on all parties to co-operate ... with the Security Council". So the Hizbollah are to co-operate, are they, with the austere diplomats of this august and wise body? Isn't that exalting a guerrilla army a little bit more upmarket than it deserves?

No one was fooled and few disagreed with Syria's Walid Moallem when he said the UN's draft resolution was "a recipe for continuing the war". As both the Hizbollah and the Israelis did yesterday, the former killing 13 Israelis and the latter bombing houses in Ansar - once an Israeli POW camp - which destroyed five more Lebanese civilian lives. Mohamed Fneish, a Hizbollah government minister - who scarcely represents all Lebanese but talks as if he does - thundered away about how "we" [presumably the Hizbollah, rather than the Lebanese] will abide by it [the resolution] on condition that no Israeli soldiers remains inside Lebanese land."

There were more Israeli air attacks on Beirut's southern suburbs yesterday - though heaven knows what is left there to destroy - ensuring that even more Shia Muslim civilians will remain refugees. Fearful that the Israelis will bomb their trucks and claim they were carrying missiles, the garbage collectors of this city have abandoned their vehicles and the familiar 1982 stench of burning rubbish now drifts through the evening streets. Petrol is now so scarce that a tank-full yesterday cost £250.

About the only gift to Lebanon in the UN resolution was the expressed need to provide the UN with remaining Israeli maps of landmines in Lebanon. But Israel has again dropped lethal ordnance all over southern Lebanon. Oh yes, and as usual, the UN draft on these ambitious, hopelessly conceived ideas "decides to remain actively seized of the matter". You bet it does. And so, as they say, the war goes on.

What the UN wants...

* A full cessation of hostilities based upon, in particular, the cessation by Hizbollah of all attacks and the cessation by Israel of all offensive military operations;

* Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution based on the following principles and elements:

* Strict respect by all parties for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Israel and Lebanon;

* Full respect for the Blue Line by both parties;

* Delineation of the international borders of Lebanon, especially in those areas where the border is disputed or uncertain, including in the Shebaa farms area;

* Security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Lebanese armed and security forces, and of UN-mandated international forces;

* Full implementation of the relevant provisions ... that require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon;

* Deployment of an international force in Lebanon;

* The Secretary General to develop, in liaison with key international actors and the concerned parties, proposals to implement the relevant provisions ... and to present those proposals to the Security Council within 30 days;

* The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), upon cessation of hostilities, to monitor its implementation and extend assistance to ensure humanitarian access to civilians and the safe return of displaced persons;

* The government of Lebanon to ensure arms or related material are not imported into Lebanon without its consent and requests UNIFIL, conditions permitting, to assist the government of Lebanon at its request;

* The Secretary-General to report to the Council within one week on the implementation and provide any relevant information in light of the Council's intention to adopt a further resolution.

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Not Worth The Paper

The UN draft resolution over the hostilities in Lebanon , after being touted as a step to end the war, turned out to be not much at all. The original draft couldn't be worked out quietly either, both the US and France arguing over the wording of it, although I'm pretty sure that if France weren't involved it would have been a much flimsier piece.

Lebanon's knee-jerk reaction was to oppose the document as it didn't like the final wording, although this government is so desperate to show that it isn't as ineffective and powerless as it seems that it would have objected to the wording of a document blaming Israel for war crimes.

The Lebanese government sent an amended text to Acting Foreign Minister Tarek Mitri at the UN. Deserved title, as he is acting as though he has a clue.

The document basically says "do what we tell you, when we tell you, how we tell you.....oh, and Israel's allowed to attack you under any pretence." Anyone thinking that the US would ever put its hand to creating a resolution that would make Israel do anything is living the fantasy, especially with mid-term elections coming up. Gotta keep the Jewish vote happy as well and not forget the fundamentalist Christians (who are just as scary as any fundamentalists).

You say you want a resolution
Well you know
We just want to change the words
You tell me that it's devolution
There you go
We all want to change the words
But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know you can count me in

Don't you know it's never gonna be alright
Alright, alright

You say you got a real solution
Well you know
We'd all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well we pretend
We're doing what we can
But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait

Don't you know it's never gonna be alright
Alright, alright....
(profoundest sympathies to Lennon/McCartney for having their song murdered)

More murderous Israeli strikes today, more vicious Hezbollah rockets lobbed into Israel and still no end in sight. At least nothing has changed, something has to be said for consistency.....that, of course, also includes the lack of a heartbeat in the Lebanese government.

I haven't seen anyone high-ranking out and about giving hope and encouragement to the people. No-one has even bothered for a photo-op, maybe going to visit refugees in schools at least somewhere as cosy as Achrafieh. Where's the leadership? Where are the people we elected to look after us?

If anything good comes out of this, it should be that all the MP's get stripped of their positions. A vote of no confidence would go down nicely. Put in some people who have a backbone that is capable of more than (barely) keeping them upright. Say the things that have to be said instead of wrapping yourself in the cotton wool of diplo-speak, covering your ass and any other exposed areas.
Are they worried about being arrested for "actions pernicious or detrimental to the State"? If Lahoud wasn't, I don't think they could be.

If you don't have the courage of at least your convictions, you're in the wrong job.
Hang on, that last sentence was a little misleading - unfortunately, their convictions only run as far as saying yes to everyone while simultaneously emptying the national coffers into their pockets.

It's a tricky job but someone's got to do it.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Cry Havoc

I've had enough of reading about and hearing and seeing this blind fervour with which people are supporting Hezbollah. I'm sick and tired of the same attitudes of people saying that poor, blameless Israel (a nation founded by people who were declared terrorists by the powers at the time) is just protecting herself from the aggression of the mighty military machine that is Hezbollah.

I'm thoroughly disgusted with our Lebanese government doing nothing and spouting inanities (hat tip Josey Wales). Mark Twain once said "It is better to keep quiet and let people think you are an idiot than to speak and remove all doubt."

Hezbollah dragged us into this mess. The insanity of poking the Middle East's sleeping, rabid dog is beyond me, as is the carnage inflicted by Israel (grrrr). Iran and Syria don't care in the slightest about what happens to Lebanon, about what their proxy war is doing to the whole region and the US would willingly drop Lebanon in favour of Israel. All that guff about how they must protect our "fledgling democracy" is diplo-speak, unintelligible and ultimately hollow.

How can we not see that we are now paying the price for our political disunity, corruption and lethargy? Where is the government now? Who is speaking on our behalf? Hezbollah certainly is whether we want them to or not. All this blind banner waving and chanting of death to everyone who aren't like us is doing nothing. Hezbollah says that they are fighting on behalf of all Lebanese.....well they're not because I, for one, don't want them to. Put a strengthened Lebanese army in charge in the south and there will never be cross-border raids or attacks in either direction.

Whether we like it or not, Israel is here to stay. That is the reality. I don't care about Israel's right to exist because it is not the issue here - what is at stake is whether we will be able to continue to exist.
Hezbollah, ultimately, does not have the interests of an entire nation at heart - if they did, we wouldn't be in the position we are in.

The Lebanese government has spent far too long filling the pockets of its various members. Politicians here don't become politicians out of a love of country anymore. They take that path through nepotism, feudal requirements, financial gain or just a base attraction to power. How nice to be driven everywhere in a late model bulletproof car followed by a jeepload of bodyguards looking suitably menacing. If you're really cool, you could even get a couple of police outriders to announce your arrival, sirens blaring and lights flashing. Must do wonders for the ego and make you actually believe that you're important.

Unfortunately for them, with great power comes great responsibility. You must do service to the country before anything. It is up to the elected government to make the whole population feel Lebanese first and foremost, not to pander to age-old sectarian whims and demands.
Someone in charge has to stand up and defend the country. Why was 60% of the population not consulted through their representatives before we went to war?
No to Hezbollah staying armed. No to war. No to being bullied internally or externally.

If that can't happen, we can hardly call ourselves a democracy.

"Blood and destruction shall be so in use
And dreadful objects so familiar

That mothers shall but smile when they behold

Their infants quarter'd with the hands of war;

All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:

And Caesar's spirit, ranging for revenge,

With Ate by his side come hot from hell,

Shall in these confines with a monarch's voice

Cry 'Havoc,' and let slip the dogs of war;

That this foul deed shall smell above the earth

With carrion men, groaning for burial."

William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar"

You Take The High Road & I'll Take The Low Road

The IAF has this morning taken out bridges linking Jounieh to the north. Jounieh is a Christian town about 30 kms to the north of Beirut. I'm not quite sure why they have done this as access can still be had by taking the coastal road although this is a lot more time consuming. Those roads remained untouched.

I can only imagine that they are trying a more psychological approach perhaps in an effort to get the Christian population, largely physically untouched by the bombings, to become more vocal against Hezbollah. This, of course, is only conjecture.

The strikes are becoming more & more pointless it seems. Although I'm no military strategist, taking out bridges and roads in a predominantly Christian area, with no Hezbollah areas or strongholds nearby smacks of desperation. Maybe some of the bombs have a sell-by date. Are fighters coming in through these roads to reach Beirut? Dunno, but there are still roads that could do the job just as well. Or maybe they are trying to push a little more business towards Maameltein, our famed fleshpot, lying on the coastal road below Jounieh.

More blah-blah from the Americans about getting a ceasefire from the UN.
"We're certainly getting close.", said Condoleezza Rice.

Well then, I feel much better now.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Darkness At The End Of The Tunnel

A couple of years before the inception of the Jewish state, the British were controlling Palestine under a mandate. Their headquarters were in the King David hotel in Jerusalem. On July 22nd, 1946 the wing of the hotel housing the British Secretariat was demolished by 6 bombs placed there by a militant Zionist organization, Irgun. The attack was denounced by the British government and mainstream Jewish organizations as "a terrorist attack" and Irgun and Haganah (the group Irgun splintered from) were outlawed as terrorist organizations.

The leaders of these groups, Menachem Begin and David Ben-Gurion, went on to become 2 of Israel's most revered Prime Ministers and when the Jewish State was created in 1948, the members of these groups became the core of Israel's national army.

Ironic isn't it? One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist.

The devastation being visited upon Lebanon is nothing short of biblical. I was here in '82 when the Israelis came all the way to Beirut and I was here during the worst times of the civil war and I have never seen such destruction and death. The disproportionate retaliation by the IDF surely steps outside the limits of any rules of engagement. But for all their talk of securing their national safety, the Israelis seem to have underestimated Hezbollah.

I disagree with what Hezbollah stands for and with what it did to start this. I stand against their gangster tactics with the Lebanese government and their holding hostage of the entire country, but I am impressed that they have kept the mighty Israeli army at bay and even sent shivers down their spines. The Israeli military seems to view all Arabs as second-class humans. They like to point to Israeli Arabs as evidence against this but they only tolerate them inside their borders because they can control them better there.

The IDF will never beat Hezbollah, not from the air and not from the ground, and even their staunchest ally, the USA, is starting to think twice about what they have got themselves into. Israel knows this too. By doing what they are doing, the way they are doing it, they are only perpetuating (if not fermenting) the hatred of all Arabs towards them. You want a war, then fine, have your war but keep the innocents away from it - and I'm talking about both sides here.

I hope I'm just passing through a phase of pessimism. I've been reading a lot of other blogs and just reeling from some of the attitudes, bigotry and sheer ignorance in the comments sections.

MacDara has gone home to Ireland, sent back by the company he works for to wait for better times. Yet upon arriving home, the first thing he did was organize a protest.

Lebanon Profile has left as well. It is such a shame that the country is losing people like him, moderate, intelligent, educated and clear-thinking. But what have they got left to stay for?

Even Jamal has shifted his unique turn of phrase and point of view towards the war.

The only way out of this is through diplomacy and negotiation but in the end, the only loser will be Lebanon whatever the outcome. Our country has been bombed backwards some 20 years in terms of infrastructure and economy.
Hezbollah will only become stronger after this and make Lebanon an even worse place to live than it is at this very moment. Non-Shia's will find it less and less to their liking and the already weak government won't have much of a say in it. Moderates who just want to live their lives peacefully and prosperously will be outvoiced and outmuscled by militancy and the wonderful Beirut of last summer won't be seen again.
No, instead we'll be starting out in the era the Israelis have bombed us to and where Hezbollah wants us to be - the Stone Age.

Be safe.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Place In The Sun

I see nothing much has changed - someone is trying to kill someone, everybody is slagging off everybody and nothing has moved forward in our fair land. You'd think that taking a little time off to gain some perspective would actually, well, let you gain some perspective....unfortunately, the conclusion is that the view is the same wherever you're sitting, like some gigantic stadium where all the seats are the cheap seats, the game is pointless and the halftime show is crap.

The only good view has been my lovely Chelsea's return to form with a stunning display of class against West Ham. We won 4-1 when we started 1-0 down and only 10 men. Great stuff, makes me proud to be Blue. An even better view will be from Stamford Bridge next Monday when I shall be attending our home game against Everton, Tony Soprano's team - I shall even buy extra phone cards to be able to let him join in the fun and receive his fair share of abuse, live. Never let it be said that I'm not fair.
So if you want anything from London, you'd better let me know soon.

Expression of the week has to be "damn papists!". It is so fitting for any situation. Try it.
Last week's was "I'm losing the will to live" and it got plenty of use. Seriously, think about what's going on in this country and an almost genetically coded verbal reaction is that phrase.

Italy's elections seem to have given Berlusconi (damn papist!) the boot. Prodi (damn papist!) has claimed victory, a statement that was pooh-poohed by the Berlusconi camp. It'll be interesting to see how this turns out what with Berlusconi the flamboyant billionaire (still fending off allegations of corruption and conflict of interest) owning media outlets, banks and telecom companies fighting the lacklustre but accomplished Prodi, an ex-Prime Minister and former president of the EC.
It's almost tones of home.

Summer's just around the corner, it's getting warmer and some people are already going to the beach. In that spirit, here's what you can aspire to - such dedication.
Somebody please tell me that it's been doctored.

Enjoy yours.

Friday, March 24, 2006

A Quicky

I'm actually happy to see the lack of entente, of dialogue and consensus because it validates all the negative feelings I harbour towards every single politician. There is not a single voice working for a united Lebanon. Not one.
Most of them are working hard for their pockets, some for outside influences, others out of sheer vanity but you won't find one solitary politico who really believes in any of their own slogans.
They take over downtown for a day, reducing the city centre to a no man's land and don't even bother to pretend to want to compensate all the cafes and restaurants who would normally be overflowing....all this while screaming about the importance of revitalizing the economy.
The worst thing is that I wouldn't care one tiny little bit if at the very least they did something constructive and concrete with all the confidence and hope they strangled out of the population. It's all smiles and handshakes and photo ops going in and then I imagine they just leave through another exit for all the good it's doing.
Their apathy is amplifying all of their shortcomings.

Weather's hot.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Cheap Thrills

Can't say there has really been that much to post about in the last week or so. Well, personal stuff but that interests only me. On the local front, I seem to have lost interest in any headline or supposed news story - maybe it's just that there is absolutely nothing happening or I'm feeling thoroughly marginalized by the Olympian level of inertia practiced by the ruling class of our fair state.
On the resumption of our supercharged national dialogue , I guess the proper way to deal with problems is to pretend they don't exist and maybe they'll just go away - mind you, that's the way I would deal with things.....if I was 3 or mentally retarded, but I shouldn't cast aspersions.

Hezbollah says that the economy and a "sound electoral law" should also be added to the national dialogue. My own astute analysis of this would be "duh!" but I wouldn't trust Hezbollah to dialogue my lunch order.

General Michel Aoun has been uncharacteristically quiet these days but I assume he's busy counting the pesos unwittingly handed over to him by the orangeshirts through various dubious schemes. Playing on the loyalty of your partisans is fine if you're not a political group trying to portray some semblance of impartiality and transparency. For example, a Chelsea petrol card I would buy - but I would rather walk home than apply for an orange one.
*UPDATE*....Michel Aoun has in fact been very his latest Jumblattian outburst he's railed against all the "Rustom Ghazaleh's" at the conference table. Apparently, he's incensed that the Future Movement is spearheading a propaganda campaign aimed at denying him the presidency.

Hariri instills nothing but confidence in me as he stays out of the country unless his presence is absolutely required. Funny, I would have thought that being the figurehead of the country's leading political party would have required your presence, but ask me a question about music instead.
Rockets found near his home in Koraytem on Monday were not primed to fire but said to have "Hebrew inscriptions" on them.
Well, that proves it. He shouldn't be here, right?

Saniora's words of wisdom for the week have been that Brazil "may" extradite Rana Koleilat. Pfft.

Jumblatt. Who has he alienated this week?

Geagea is rapidly becoming just a mouthpiece for almost anyone. Mind you, just being noticed again must be keeping that Mona Lisa-esque inscrutable grin on his face.

I can't listen to Berri anyway because his arrogance makes me so damn angry & the less said about Lahoud, the better. And because I try to be fair, have I left anyone out?

I'm still reeling from the shock of all the sporting defeats (ah, the agony of defeat) of the past week.

Both the England rugby team and my lovely Chelsea were on the wrong end of stunning victories. England's pathetic 6 Nation's campaign was brought to a blundering conclusion on Saturday when Ireland rightfully took the Tri-Nations Cup by comprehensively beating all of the other British Isles nations. The real pain is the fact that an average French team took the 6 Nations title. Ouch.

My lovely Chelsea inexplicably lost 1-0 to West London neighbours Fulham who are currently languishing in 14th position compared to our top spot. But I would like to assure you all that being an England fan in all things means I am no stranger to disappointment and thankfully, the same applies to my being a long-term Chelsea fan. Still.

Lastly, I would like to congratulate MacDara (the bringer of craic...who knew he had a sense of humour and no stage fright?) and the team for organizing the great St. Patrick's bash last Saturday in the Bristol hotel. The only failure of the evening was the decision to have a screen installed in the ante-room for the pre-prandial rugby, in which Ireland beat England. This game was also watched by 3 (very) quiet England supporters. Shhh, we know who we are. That is what a Bristol gathering should be about.
Damn the luck of the Irish.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Is Everyone Here?

Monday is finally here. I've been waiting impatiently all weekend in the throes of excitement just to see what's going to happen to the National Dialogue today. After cutting it short and blaming everything on the mercurial Walid Jumblatt (unreasonable, unpredictable and unbalanced are other traits attributed to him but you have to make up your own mind), the national leaders reconvene to hammer out an agreement over the most crucial issues facing our country today.

My interest in it, though, remains firmly in the area of vocabulary.
If, to quote Speaker Nabih Berri, "failure is not an option", then what word or expression could be used if the whole farce is a complete and utter waste of time? My own personal favourite is "What meeting?"
Suggestions are more than welcome.

Can we blame Israel? Can we blame the CIA or the Mukhabarat? Or will we do what we do best and have a Mexican standoff with fingerpointing?

Hope your weekend was good. Mine was one of mixed blessings, of joy and bitterness, of great happiness and utter abjection. The weather was extraordinary with a bit of a chill in the air but blindingly blue skies.
On Saturday, my lovely Chelsea took a 2-1 win against Spurs, with Gallas cracking in a superb strike with seconds left to play. The Barcelona games are becoming a distant memory and hurt much less now that we are back on track for the Premiership.
Sunday, in contrast, was painful. Not only did England lose against France in the 6 Nations tournament, but were utterly thrashed by a so-so French team. I'm still hurting so be gentle.

Huge thanks to MacDara who kept his word (and commiserations for the Irish Blog Awards) - during the Scotland-Ireland match Mac asked me who I was supporting and I told him that I was applauding both teams (friends on both sides of that one). In a grand gesture, Mac then said he wouldn't applaud the French on Sunday. He obviously didn't applaud England, but I thought his abstention from clapping the Frogs was a nice touch and much appreciated because everybody knows that there is nothing worse than a smug Frenchman. Again.