Saturday, December 31, 2005

Another Bombshell

Yesterday Abdel-Halim Khaddam, Syria's former vice-president all but pointed the finger at Bashar Assad for the murder of Rafik Hariri. He stated in an interview last night on Al-Arabiya television that Assad and his intelligence officers had "openly & repeatedly threatened to crush" former Prime Minister Hariri well before his February 14th assassination.
When asked if a Syrian security unit could have been behind the murder without Assad's knowledge, Khaddam replied "Impossible in
Syria - Assad is an absolute authoritarian."

Khaddam ain't no angel despite the urge to see him as an ally after this bloodletting. Even though he claims that he advised Hariri that "the Damascene mood was unfavourable and that he should resign the premiership and leave
Lebanon" Khaddam is anti-Assad, not pro-Lebanon. What a guy. He goes on to say that Lahoud and his inner circle poisoned Assad's mind against Hariri with disinformation.
He seems to be positioning himself to be a candidate for the top Syrian seat when it becomes available. Just remember that "I was only following orders" has been refuted as an excuse since

Nice to see the regime start to collapse one strut at a time. Maybe all the inner circle, current and former, would tell the truth if they lived in luxury in

Now is a good time for President Lahoud to make an executive decision popular with everyone and step down. Just how far removed from reality is he if he can't (or won't) even gauge an overwhelming public opinion?

(Cue Star Wars' theme and......fade).

New Year's Heave

Good morning all. I hope you enjoyed your Christmas holidays and are looking forward to the New Year's celebrations. They seem to be a bit subdued for obvious reasons with so many people opting to stay home this year.

Thankfully, not a lot of anything newsworthy happened over the Christmas week. The Pope used his first Christmas address to ask for peace in the Middle East and the Holy Land – I guess that’s a good thing really, although its effectiveness is somewhat dubious. No harm in asking though.

The old joke says it all where God has come to Earth to grant a child from each country a wish. Each kid asks for impossible things, like mountains made of sweets or the ability to become invisible and each time He granted their crazy wishes, God laughed.
He got to the Lebanese child and asked what his wish was. The child said “Peace in the Middle East.”
And God cried.

Christmas Day at our place was bustling. Two turkeys went under the knife washed down with copious amounts of the grape. My highlight was sitting on the end of Skye’s bed on Christmas Eve while her mam told her a bedtime story and her dad was prancing about outside her bedroom window with Christmas bells, pretending to be Santa on his way to work. The look on her face was priceless, but even more amusing to me was the thought of The Dude jumping around outside in the freezing, pouring rain trying to get some sort of reindeer rhythm going. It really gets a lot more Python-esque in my head the more I think of it.

And here we are at the weekend again, 2006 mere hours away. The best part of the week was that there were 2 games for my lovely Chelsea and 2 Chelsea wins. I missed them both times (circumstances beyond my control) but I shan't be letting them out of my sight this coming week.
Can't think of any New Year's resolutions that I haven't made and broken before so I'll promise nothing and be pleasantly surprised if anything good does come about. Don't even know what I'm gonna be doing tonight - I'd like to be tucked up in bed with a good book come midnight, but failing that I'd like to be holding an economy-sized cocktail and covered in confetti, glitter and raunchy women wearing nothing but party hats and smiles.

But hey, that's just me. Have a great New Year's Eve.

Friday, December 23, 2005

St. George Is Cross

What is it with the sour grapes whenever England does well? When an English restaurant was voted the best in the world by a prestigious 'foodie' magazine, the French and Italians went off in spasms about it. Our winning the Webb Ellis trophy made France, Wales, Ireland & Scotland collectively shudder as we became the first Northern Hemisphere country to do it.
Now even our winning the vote to host the Olympic Games for 2012 has been called a
"voting error".
God knows what's going to happen when we bring home the World Cup next year.

Grocer Jack's post about being English set me to thinking. It's true that we seem almost apologetic for being who we are. The weight of our history seems to have made us overly PC when in all reality, we have more to be proud of than ashamed of. Why do the Welsh celebrate St. David's day, the Scots St. Andrew's day, the Irish St. Patrick's day yet most English don't even know when St. George's Day is? It's April 23rd, FYI.
My ma told me that when she was a lass, St. George's Day was a day off of school, Church service and all the rest. What happened? Here in Lebanon,
MacDara last year flew in an Irish band to play in the Irish pub he had appropriated for St. Paddy's.

The only time I'm able to flaunt my Englishness is when England are playing an international match of some sort - but, even though the flag sellers here have now started to set up shop in preparation for next year's World Cup, you cannot find a St. George's flag. Every other country under the sun has their flag on sale here except England....what's up with that? Go to the pub here to watch any international football match and you'll find there are Lebanese fans wearing the kit - Italy, Brazil, Germany, France, Spain, you name it, there will be someone wearing it.

Except for England. Only the English will be wearing the England shirts.

Now, it could be argued that it's the quality of our game that puts people off but those same fans wearing other countries' colours are wearing Premier League team shirts in regular season. In reality, it's the skewed perception of what it means to be English.

To quote GJ directly "It isn’t racist to declare your Scots heritage, nor your French, Spanish or whatever. However, being English seems to be associated to neo-nazi, Little Englander, racist thuggery."

Anyway, check out the Witanagemot Club website for more.
It's where the title of this post came from.

Broadly speaking, the Lebanese are multilingual and have no problem conversing in Arabic, French or English, or for that matter, a mix of all three. One thing that really annoys me is when non-Lebanese hear us speaking and automatically assume that we are snobs with no sense of identity. That is not an identity crisis - that is part of being Lebanese.

Words in other languages sometimes convey an idea better than the words in one's own language. Just look at English for examples - what is the English word for façade? Zeitgeist? Chef? Adieu? Cul de sac? Faux pas? Deja vu? There are translations but they are clumsy and never used.

I know some bright spark will chirp up with the fact that hello doesn't need to be said in 3 languages (Hi, kifak? Ça va?) at the same time, but most of the time that has nothing to do with pretence, merely a need to fill up the greeting! In English you can say 'hello' and it's over - in French, a quick 'bonjour' or 'Ça va?' and you're on your way. In Arabic, you're not getting away with that...even the quickest greeting has at least 2 or 3 back-and-forths.
Basing the analysis of an entire population on use of languages is not only lazy but also shortsighted and frankly, offensive.
There, it's out & I feel much better.

Nice to see the Cabinet meeting managed to take place despite the absence of the Shiite MP's.

On that note, I shall take a couple day's leave for obvious reasons and see you (hopefully) on Monday.
Merry Christmas to you all, enjoy your weekend.

Al Moghtarebeen

To Lebanese Bloggers in the blogosphere, please post this article on your blogs to spread the word about this upcoming summer event.

Established in 2005 in the United States, Lebanon Expats and are the voice of Lebanese scholars, businessmen and professionals living abroad. Their mission is to promote the powerful presence of the Lebanese abroad by carrying on social activities that will improve standards of living, and economical activities that will create job opportunities in Lebanon.

This article is addressed to you from your brothers and sisters from around the world. We, the Lebanese abroad, have a very strong voice and we are taking action. You are not alone because the tragic events taking place in our beloved country have united us globally. The murder of our leaders, fathers, brothers and sisters are bring us closer together.

Al Moghtarebeen is planning to gather this summer in Beirut to show support for our people in Lebanon and to show the world that the millions of Lebanese abroad will not stand by watching all the tragedies unfold. We plan to travel in large numbers from different parts of the world to be there in Beirut and show everyone that we, the Lebanese--Muslims, Christians, Druze, and whatever else we believe in--are united in the name of our country, Lebanon.

We need the support of groups and organizations in Lebanon and around the world to make this event an unparalleled success and show the world who we are. We are a young group, born after the murder of Mr. Hariri and kept growing with the successive murders, the most recent of which was that of Mr. Tueni.

To all Lebanese groups, to An-Nahar and all media, ministries, embassies, universities, to Mr. Saniora, Mr. Jumblat, Mr. Berri, Mr. Hariri, Mr. Michel Aoun, Mrs. Setrida Geagea, Mr. Mohammad Fneich, and all Lebanese around the world, let us unite and work together to show the world that we are one.

Please check out our website at – let us work together in support of Lebanon.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


It's nice to be back after a week of self-enforced semi silence. The past week's events made sure that there would be no pleasure in blogging for me - I didn't want to talk politics or read politics or hear politics and writing about anything else not only didn't inspire me, but seemed a tad crass. I also didn't read any of my fellow bloggers' pages for the same reasons, so my excuses to them as I have missed catching up, but on the plus side I do have a wealth of information to look forward to reading now.

Top 3 happenings for lifting me out of my funk this week are:
  1. The seasonal return of Lindsay, Allegra & the Dude.
  2. The uplifting scenes of Chelsea beating Arsenal 2-0 AT Highbury in a league match for the first time in 15 years. Of course, if I wanted to be generous I would say that the score should have been 2-1 but due to an acknowledged refereeing error, it wasn't. But it is Arsenal, so in all magnanimity, fuck 'em.
  3. I enjoyed my first proper lamb roast of the year with yorkies, roast potatoes and all the trimmings.....all hail Ma!! This followed the Chelsea match...does it get any better?
In Lebanon today..... *YAWN*. Sorry, can't do it.

Oh wait, yes I can. Where do the grumbling Shiite members of Parliament get the arrogance to think that the country should bend to their will? Despite the fact that, to quote LP, "Hezbollah thrives on instability", how dare they still support the Syrian regime's stance and spew the same vile rhetoric and make ridiculous demands? The world points its finger in accusation for the killings in Lebanon and yet still Hezbollah refuses to acknowledge the will of the majority of the Lebanese people.
To add insult to injury, President Lahoud has refused to head Thursday's Cabinet session if the Shiite boycott continues - did everyone receive the same script?

"Why would we be part of this government if the policy is 'agree with what we say or we will have a majority vote?' This is an equation we refuse," said Hassan Fadlallah, Hezbollah MP.

Why? It's simple. The Lebanese Constitution states that the Cabinet makes its decisions by consensus which gives everyone a chance to air their views and grievances and discuss. The Constitution goes on to say that "if a consensus is not reached, the Cabinet then makes decisions by vote of the majority of attending members. When basic national issues are being decided, the required approval is that of two-thirds of the members of the council named in the Decree forming the Cabinet."

This allows the government to function even when certain parties try to hold it hostage. It's called a democracy - try one, you'll like it.

On a completely different tack (although one just as dear to me), what happened to the Champion's League draw? My lovely Chelsea drew Barcelona for the knockout stages, Bayern got AC Milan, Arse-nal will enjoy Real Madrid and LiverPoo go head-to-head against......Benfica?
UEFA, if you love them so much, just give them the cup already.
At least the knockouts will be hugely entertaining as long as you're not a Benfica fan.

Oh well, I'm going to go and do something constructive.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Politics Of Fear

The killing of Gebran Tueni is yet another outrage against our nation's right to live in peace and freedom, an outrage against every human being's right to think, speak and live freely.

The impunity enjoyed by these murderers is sickening. What's even worse is the celebration by certain members of Hezballah of the assassination of a fellow Lebanese and then the walking out of Parliament when it came time to discuss the matter. How much longer can the majority of the country take them seriously as a political force when they don't play the game if they can't bring their own ball? It doesn't matter - there is a majority without them and a strong decision needs to be taken. The Cabinet needs to show strength of purpose and courage - we are all afraid, but our government has to lead the way because courage is not the absence of fear but the continuing despite its presence.

Another political assassination, another chance for some deranged copywriter somewhere to come up with another ludicrous name for the previously unheard of "group" that supposedly carried out the killing. The finger can only be pointed in one direction despite the usual indignant claims of innocence and cries of perfidy - to quote Jimmy Cliff, mon, "the harder they come, the harder they fall."
We need a lot more than simple moral outrage. We need a long memory and the energy and focus to not let this be swept under the carpet. (How is the investigation into Samir Kassir's assassination going? George Hawi's?)
Is there going to be a monstrous act such as this every time Syria comes under heavier international scrutiny, to divert everyone's attention away from the matter at hand? The new Mehlis report reinforces the blame directed at Syria for the assassination of Rafic Hariri, but in the wake of the Gebran Tueni murder this has not received the media attention it deserved.

Admittedly, in a psychotic parallel world where killers have PR agents, this would be considered a coup.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Murder, Inc.

Gebran Tueni has become the latest assassination victim on Lebanon's tottering path to freedom. Yet another car bomb exploded as he drove past it on the Mkalles road, just outside Beirut. Details are still a little sketchy but it seems to have been a powerful explosion, ironically near Monteverde where the UN Hariri investigation team have their HQ.
A vociferous anti-Syria campaigner, MP and editor-in-chief of the An-Nahar newspaper, Tueni was under no impressions that he was just as much a target as anyone else involved in the March 14 uprising and had only recently returned to Lebanon (some say as recently as yesterday) with his wife and baby twins from Paris, where they had been staying due to security concerns.
It seems that the attackers feel they have nothing to lose and that only spells disaster for Lebanon.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Full Circle

Back again at long last, although nowhere near long enough. London was freezing cold, wet and mostly grey and I loved every second of it. The Chelsea game was great even though there were no goals scored - the atmosphere was fantastic and even the line of policemen and stewards between us and the Pool fans did nothing to dampen the fun (or the stream of abuse volleyed from both sides). It is quite impressive to hear 3000 Liverpool fans singing "You'll Never Walk Alone", but not quite as impressive as 45000 Chelsea fans singing "You'll Never Get A Job" in tune and in reply.
The Shed End was as vociferous as ever although alcohol free. I left the Shed Bar to get to my seat early in the hopes of having a few inside before the match but was confronted with fridges full of soft drinks and water with the beer cunningly concealed under a plastic sheet - lest, I assume, we fans are driven wild and insane by the sight of it and decide to storm the coolers. Could happen.

The gang all arrived at various times last Saturday and we all met up in a pub in Soho. Then I came back. I'm sure the memories of the times in between going & coming will surface during the next week.

So what's been happening here since I left? The usual crap as far as I can tell following the news from London. I won't post about it now as it is no longer so topical. Except for the mass grave in Anjar, the former Syrian HQ in Lebanon - why is that not front page news still? Horrific, brutal stuff.

Well, it's good to be back in an odd way, and read that how you like.

Have a good weekend.

Friday, December 02, 2005

TGI Almost Time To Go

It seems that Detlev Mehlis will be leaving the Hariri investigation after its mandate ends on December 15th, whether or not it is extended. Apparently, there are German "political considerations" behind his leaving (read: we don't want our citizens targeted by the investigation's fallout) so it will be interesting to see where the next chief investigator will come from.

Nearing the top of the Syrian-compiled "Dumb & Dumber" list of grievances against Lebanon is a new cracker - floating garbage from the Sidon dump. Watch next week when the culprit will be that funny smell in Dora.

The 'Bad Sex In Fiction' award was given yesterday to Giles Coren. The award itself is pretty self-explanatory but the passages nominated are painful to read. The winning passage is a gargantuan run-on sentence full of punctuation and followed by the two word sentence "Like Zorro'. Brilliant.

Air ticket? Check.
Match ticket? Check.
Beer money? Check.
Now I'm ready to leave for a few days, so if there's anything you need from London, now might be the time to ask. Updates may be few and far between but I'll try and let you know how it's going. What started as a humble football trip has turned into a reunion of sorts with people flying in from all over the place - not planned really, just a serendipitous turn of events (and a bit of schedule juggling...). The usual suspects are going - the G-Man, Tony Soprano, as is The Dude and we may be graced by the appearance of Kenny Rogers with a cameo from Ginge. Vast quantities of alcohol will be consumed and a lot of bollocks will be talked.
Now honestly, what more could a man want?