April 29 ODEO Special
Sunday, April 29, 2007
to all the pro-WSF/WSFers out there. ;)
Hopefully one day, you will get the hint.
(and you're a spineless liberal)
Lebanon Mourns the Ziads
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Friday, April 27, 2007
I don't recommend that you check out the front page of Al-Balad newspaper today.
I have to say, even though it is nothing as bad as some of the ghastly pictures I have seen, I find it rather distasteful that they would print such stuff, and on the front page to boot.
Which begs the question of media ethics: how far one should/can go, in the name of media freedoms or even for a much nobler cause such as condemning and spreading awareness against such criminal behavior?
The 2 kidnapped youth
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Urm, I was about to post the following when my mother came to me with the news that the bodies of the two kidnapped youth have been found.
I have to say, I am very pessimistic regarding the prospects that the two kidnapped youth (one of whom is a 12 year old and the other 25 years old) are going to be returned alive. In a few day's time, their bodies will probably be found somewhere far away from the kidnapping site. I could go into a long analysis of what the objective behind the act is, but I won't. I do not want to get into the "Lebanon's enemies did it because they do not want the stability of Lebanon" frame of mind. I will only say that for sure this is much more than a mere revenge on the part of the Chamas family....
Light passes through me lightless, sound soundless,
smoking nowhere, groaning with sudden birds. Paper
dies, flesh melts, leaving stockings and their useless vanity
in graves, bodies lie still across foolish borders.
I'm going my way, going my way gleaning shade, burnt
meridians, dropping carets, flung latitudes, inattention,
screeching looks. I'm trying to put my tongue on dawns
now, I'm busy licking dusk away, tracking deep twittering
silences. You come to this, here's the morrow of it, not
moving, not standing, it's too much to hold up, what I
really want to say is, I don't want no fucking country, here
or there and all the way back, I don't like it, none of it,
easy as that. I'm giving up on land to light on, and why not,
I can't perfect my own shadow, my violent sorrow, my
Dionne Brand - Land to Light On
I don't know what's wrong, it seems there is a malfunction in the recent comments on the sidebar (blame Canada), or am I the only one who is not seeing the recent comments appearing there as before??
I have also noticed a dramatic reduction in the quality of photos I've uploaded on blogger above a certain size. There seems to be no announcement about any changes in photo uploading policy or limits, so I will assume this is supposed to be an unannounced "you can't do shit about it" change. Lovely. I guess I will have to stick to photobucket to upload my photos.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Friday, April 20, 2007
I was talking a few days ago with a faculty member, and I don't know how we got into a discussion of the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri. I was taken aback by his argument. To be honest, I would not have been surprised if it came from an undergraduate student, or the multitudes basing their positions and beliefs on what they hear on their favorite TV station(s). Perhaps I had given too much credit to the academic institution in Lebanon.
Note that the discussion below is not a word-for-word transcript, as I am not in the habit of carrying a tape recorder with me.
~~ or ~~
Prove their innocence or shut the hell up
Professor X: Well, no. It isn't.
X: Syria is guilty until proven innocent. Usually it is the other way around, innocent until proven guilty, but in this case it is not.
Me: Why not? What makes it the exception?
X: Because Lebanon was under Syrian occupation and nothing could have gone on without Syria's knowledge.
Me: Oh come on now, that is not true. You are saying there could have been no intelligence agents other than those of Syria?
X: I'm saying that those tons of bombs couldn't have gone unnoticed if it weren't Syria.
Me: Really? Then, by the same token, the Spanish authorities were the ones that carried out the Madrid train bombings?
X: ... the same comparison has been drawn by some people in response to what I have said... but still...
Thursday, April 19, 2007
أنا أعتقد أن قول الحقيقة وتسمية الاشياء بأسمائها، أهم من الإمساك بالعصا من النصف، ولذلك كنت أول من أطلق على اعتصام المعارضة في الساحتين اسم «احتلال» لان الصفة القانونية لاستعمال أملاك الغير هي «احتلال».ا
I think that telling the truth and calling things by their name is more important than holding the stick in the middle, and this is why I was the first to have labeled the opposition sit-in in the two squares as "occupation", because the legal term for using the properties of others is "occupation."Can you guess who said this? The first to guess correctly will receive a generous reward.
The War... Criminals
Friday, April 13, 2007
So it's the big day. It's the day everyone talks about in Lebanon. Every year. I missed the 30th anniversary, not being in the country at the time. But I did not feel I lost out on much, and here I am, on the 32nd anniversary, hearing the same "warnings", the same "never again"s, the same... all the same. I have not met a people so stubbornly self-deceiving as the Lebanese are. Every year this circus of April 13 repeats itself, as the country slides ever closer to a civil war. Every April 13, in the midst of the loud and repetitive "never again"s, I look through the photos of the civil war, I look at the people today running after their self-assigned leaders, I listen to this guy on the eve of the 32nd anniversary of the civil war, who says "Nasrallah is afraid only of Walid beik; we can wipe out the Shi'a in less than 24 hours", I watch all the hype on the news attached to the groups and individuals who have transformed April 13 into a ritual, and for whom the remaining 364 days are good for a kill, I watch all the people insisting that it is the new generation that does not know the horrors of the war and may end up making the same mistakes, but then I see that the older generation, the war generation, is ever ready to engage in blood-baths, at a mere signal from their self-appointed leaders.
On the 32nd anniversary of the eruption of the civil war, virtually all the war criminals, all the fighters, all the butchers, are on the loose. And what is worse, many of them preside over political parties, and hold political office. Then I hear someone say that Lebanon is unique, that it is civilized, and Western -- the latter two descriptions used synonymously. I will not go into a debate on Phoenicianism, or any other ism. Lebanon, at this point, resembles the war-torn African states where tribalism is rampant and every once in a while, erupts in a civil war. This comparison is not to be interpreted as an endorsement of the racist, supremacist rhetoric aired by the likes of one FPM supporter who mourned that "even Kuwait is better than us, and heck, even Congo is better than us". As true as this placement may be, there is something unsettling in that "even". It assumes that Lebanon ever was better than the rest of the countries plagued by authoritarianism, tribalism, racism, civic unrest, and so on. The truth of the matter is that casinos and hotels, and tourism, do not make a country "good" or for that matter "civilized", despite the insistence to the contrary by Hariri, Inc., and for all I know Patriarch Sfeir... The "Paris of the Middle East", that phrase that just keeps popping up out of nowhere every once in a while, is only in the empty minds of those whose pockets were full, and are now overflowing. And since I stuck my nose into this subject, I must give them a piece of my mind: if you cherish Paris so much, my advice to you is to visit the Paris. I mean, the one in France; it saves the time and effort (and money...) you invest in planting Parises in different parts of the world for your touristic, gambling, and sex slavery agendas.
I truly and honestly do not hold any sympathy towards anyone in this regard, except for the Palestinians, whose experiences in the war and in its aftermath have been far more catastrophic than those of any other group or sect; to put the icing on the cake, their place in the discourse on the civil war is now at best marginal; marginal not in the sense that they are not discussed enough (they are discussed and blamed more than enough), but rather in the sense that they have no say on the manner in which they have been portrayed (as the representation of all that was evil), their involvement in the war used as a tool and manipulated to falsify history and weave a mythology around it. As Karim Pakradouni put it today, "the first two years of the war were good, and I do not regret them, because they united the Lebanese".
I had decided against writing on the occasion, as I am not a big fan of such artificial commemorations and marking of dates and events (especially ones that one has not learned from, and in fact seeks to repeat). What made me change my mind, however, is the fact that everywhere I went today, everything I saw, and every single individual I talked to, was so appallingly sectarian, so appallingly the exact opposite of what the Lebanese try to market themselves as, that it became impossible not to write anything about this phenomenon of mass-delusion and this mass-marketing campaign embarked upon by the Lebanese. I have been informed of a number of organizations and groups that have sprung up recently, which claim to be secular and working towards the advancement of civic society (and so on); most of the people I have met and talked with claim they are non-sectarian; some even say they are atheists. Yet in the heat of the debate (and I do love playing the devil's advocate), the vicious sectarianism and hatred (thickly-coated with the so-called Lebanese nationalism, the so-called "civic" culture, the so-called open-mindedness, the so-called acceptance of "the other"), rears its ugly head.
I also decided against posting any pictures (from my rather large civil war photo collection). I have grown to despise the routine references to the destruction, which are often coupled with scenes of "Beirut reborn". In fact, I despise the emphasis on Beirut. And again, which Beirut is it? The Beirut of the refugee camps? The Beirut of the rubble of the dahieh? What about the impoverished north and the Beqaa, and the devastated South? I suppose these do not fall within the scope of the project for erecting a Paris (or a second Dubai) of the Middle East.
The mythology of the civil war needs to be destroyed. Not dismantled, but destroyed. There are those who insist, despite what experience has shown, that pampering will lead to the dismantlement of this mythology. That merely "encouraging" people to discuss the civil war is enough to actually get them to do it, and do it in a way that would be more than merely parroting the official version approved by the sect's self-appointed leader(s). The attack on this falsified and prettified record must be brutal, uncompromising, merciless. To use war terminology, there should be road blocks on each and every single road. Not even alleys must be spared. Leaders and their blind followers are, to use the Dickensian phrase, "artful dodgers"; naturally they will try to find a tiny gap, and slip in through it. As for how this can and should be done, that is not my specialty, although I could definitely get quite creative (and at the very worst case, very distasteful). I am, however, granted my rather violent activist background, of the opinion that this is a much broader and complex task than to be entrusted merely to academics. Research and documentation are important and worthwhile tasks in and of themselves, but they are not enough. Books are not enough to educate people and break the myths that have been planted in their minds. What has been done so far can be described as gathering the fruit of those plants and at best throwing them away (and sometimes eating them). What needs to be done is to uproot those plants.
But so long as the efforts are hijacked by so-called secular groups claiming to work on enhancing civil society, and which do not do anything, and often do the opposite of what they claim to do, there is not much hope.
The mainstream must be dumped. Or else we will all be duped into the mainstream.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Kurt Vonnegut, author of the breathtaking Slaughterhouse-Five has passed away.
My first encounter with Vonnegut was via a Satire class, for which I had to read Mother Night. Needless to say, ever since, I have been under the spell of Vonnegutism.
I wanted to quote from Slaughterhouse-Five, and was looking for an interesting passage that would not require that I put it into the context of the story. I came up with the following:
While the British colonel set Lazzaro's broken arm and mixed plaster for the cast, the German major translated out loud passages from Howard W. Campbell, Jr.'s monograph.His works are often imbued with a dose of silliness, mixed with dark humor and satirical hyperbole. He is one of the few authors of fiction whose works I have devoured, read and re-read, for the political messages they convey, often in a shocking, offensive manner. It is no wonder that Slaughterhouse-Five was in fact banned for "obscenity". He has successfully raised the ire of the British (and Americans), but particularly the British, for his emphasis on the fire-bombing of Dresden in the final months of WWII, in which hundreds of thousands of German civilians were killed. The British, when faced with the argument that the fire-bombing of Dresden was a war crime no less horrible than the war crimes perpetrated by the Nazis, fidget in their seats and point out that the focus must instead be on the V2 attacks on London and other British population centers. This is a classical technique which has been put to use by many to justify the unjustifiable... Keep in mind that to this day, discussing Dresden is taboo, although much less so than it used to be (thanks in no small part to Vonnegut's work). The victors of WWII continue to write history and worse, define morality. This model has also been applied to the Middle East -- the experiences of the indigenous, colonized populations viewed solely from a colonialist perspective; their demands viewed as an aberration; their attempts to assert their rights considered terrorism; their historical claims ignored and denied (either on colonial, imperial, or Messianic grounds); their desire to correct the falsified historical record trampled on. Today, the Middle East (and the much wider Muslim world) is experiencing multiple "Dresdenizations" led by the single most powerful imperialist force that reared its head after WWII. But it is not only the U.S that has emulated this model, nor has it been the first to introduce it. When they first set foot in the region, the French and British formulated the framework that to this day justifies colonial and imperial projects in the region, at the forefront of which is the Zionist project.
had been a fairly well-known playwright at one time. His opening line was this one: Campbell
America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, 'It ain't no disgrace to be poor, but might as well be.' It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though
is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters. The meanest eating or drinking establishment, owned by a man who is himself poor, is very likely to have a sign on its wall asking this cruel question: 'If you're so smart, why ain't You rich? ' There will also be an American flag no larger than a child's hand-glued to a lollipop stick and, flying from the cash register. America
The author of the monograph, a native of
, was said by some to have had the highest I.Q. of all the war criminals who were made to face a death by hanging. So it goes. Schenectady, New York
Americans, like human beings everywhere, believe many things that are obviously untrue, the monograph went on. Their most destructive untruth is that it is very easy for any American to make money. They will not acknowledge how in fact hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those who have no money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have had to do less for their poor, publicly and privately, than any other ruling class since, say, Napoleonic times.
Many novelties have come from
. The most startling of these, a thing without precedent, is a mass of undignified poor. They do not love one another because they do not love themselves. Once this is understood the disagreeable behavior of American enlisted men in German prisons ceases to be a mystery. America
Howard W. Cambell, Jr., now discussed the uniform of the American enlisted in the Second World War: Every other army in history, prosperous or not, has attempted to clothe even its lowliest soldiers so as to make them impressive to themselves and others as stylish experts in drinking and copulation and looting and sudden death. The American Army, however, sends its enlisted men out to fight and die in a modified business suit quite evidently made for another man, a sterilized but unpressed gift from a nose-holding charity which passes out clothing to drunks in the slums.
When a dashingly-clad officer addresses such a frumpishly dressed bum, he scolds him, as an officer in an army must. But the officer's contempt is not, as in other armies, avuncular theatricality. It is a genuine expression of hatred for the poor, who have no one to blame for their misery but themselves.
A prison administrator dealing with captured American enlisted men for the first time should be warned: Expect no brotherly love, even between brothers. There will be no cohesion between the individuals. Each will be a sulky child who often wishes he were dead.
Slaughterhouse-Five; or the children's crusade
Despite the similarities -- the victor writing history and defining morality -- it would be wrong to compare the finished story of Dresden to the never-ending saga of the Middle East. In fact, the colonial discourse, while still rampant and dominant, has experienced its first major challenge in the Middle East (although many would disagree and point to communism and the USSR, which I will bluntly say, was swiftly transformed into Russian colonialism), and is in the process of, if not collapse, then definitely retreat. Nowhere has such a massive challenge been leveled (not even by the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, or the anti-slavery and anti-racism movements of the U.S). The native populations and tribes of America (North and South), Australia, New Zealand (etc.), have been trampled on, and virtually forgotten, their stories undermined, their voices very frail, their existence almost completely confined to "reservations". This is not to say the Middle East is "unique". It is not, in any way whatsoever (I am sure the "Lebanon is unique" readers will fidget uncomfortably in their seats). I do not seek to espouse reverse BernardLewisism to counter BernardLewisism (I am not a big fan of "affirmative action"). I do believe, however, that the Middle East has posed the greatest challenge to the colonial and imperial project. In many respects, the region is also incorporated into the system, i.e. immersed in the global capitalist economy. Nevertheless, it would be unrealistic to say that this immersion and incorporation spells the end of the resistance. It is only one of the beginning stages of resistance. And that is not to say that resistance will be based on class consciousness. Class consciousness (if it exists at all) continues to be dominated by the more pressing loyalties: sectarianism, tribalism, nationalism, among other "isms". These in turn are used by the hegemons, or aspiring hegemons, to spread their influence and bring these units or groups into their fold. This is not rocket science. It is a very simple analysis. Perhaps too simple an analysis, so I am guilty of simplification.
I have to stop here, because I could go on forever, and I wouldn't want that to happen. I wanted to dedicate a post to Vonnegut, and recommend his works, especially Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat's Cradle, and Mother Night.
Le Monde Diplomatique
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Can someone please send me the full text of the recent article (April 2007) in Le Monde Diplomatique, "Douteuse instrumentalisation de la justice internationale au Liban" by Géraud De Geouffre de La Pradelle, Antoine Korkmaz, and Rafaëlle Maison? Thanks.
Update: Thanks a lot to those who sent me the article. I've posted it here for the rest of you.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
The university I attend boasts of being a prestigious institution of higher education (yada yada), receiving whoppy sums delivered by hand by our beloved resident U.S ambassador, Jeffrey Feltman... The library had different tables and chairs last year, which were not shabby to be honest. But last semester, they did a complete makeover and replaced the wooden chairs and tables with IKEA-style fancy tables, revolving chairs, and couches. Now, you can see USAID stickers on all the furniture in the library, from shelves to desks to tables, not to forget computers...
Moving on to the library collection; the stacks are finally open to the students (no one stops you with a "hey you, where do you think you're going?!" when you are about to take the stairs or elevator). I mean, finally they had some sort of revelation it seems, and decided that this was the right way to go; that if I want to take a book out, I would not just do so based on the title and waste my time asking for it only to go through it and discover that it is not relevant to my research. I would instead take my list of shelfmarks and look through the books by myself. I think it would be logical to assume that students are adults and can return the books they don't need, immediately after looking through them, to their correct location. Or even if not, at least place it on an empty shelf on each row specifically reserved for books that people check out but decide not to take out and at the same time do not remember where they took it from in the row... But this doesn't exist. At any rate, the stacks are now open to all. But here again, there is another complication (for which this prestigious center of research and higher education cannot figure out a solution) -- since the stacks were never meant to be opened, there never was a marking of which letters are on which floor. And despite the fact that the stacks are now open, there still isn't such an identification. Instead, you have to hand the person at the circulation desk all your book shelfmarks and he or she will tell you which floor each book is on. Good luck writing that down...!
So after inquiring at the circulation desk, up we go. By the way, by the time the elevator heeds your call, you would have abandoned the idea of sparing your calories and would have taken the stairs instead. So you labor through the floors (good luck climbing 4 floors). And then finally you arrive at your destination. There is a person sitting on a desk on each floor, who, upon your entry, often hurries to you, and makes the (if you are a graduate student) offensive offer, "let me get that for you", trying to pull the paper out of your hand. But you resist, pull the paper from his hand, saying "no thank you very much, I can get it by myself. It's not rocket science, you know."
If you have something to find in the reference section, you go down to the basement, you look around you and are afraid to touch the books because you've had the traumatic experience of someone rushing at you before, in front of everyone, and telling you that he will give you whatever book you want "just don't touch a thing". But then you see there is no one there, and you still don't want to touch the books lest it trigger God's wrath, and so you go to the electronic resources people nearby, and you are 10 meters away from the guy sitting there, he looks at you and says, "sorry we are electronic resources people here, can't help you." Wait a minute, I wasn't holding a sign that read "I need help on a reference book", was I? But what can you do, so you walk away, and for the first time since that doomed traumatic day, you dare to touch the reference books. You find it, and then realize that you need a photocopying card because you can't take the books in the reference section out of the library. You go upstairs to the card vending machine, it says you need a 5,000 Lira note (the old big print not the tiny Monopoly-style version). Fabulous. You have a 10,000 note, and you gather your hopes and go to the circulation desk, ask the circulation people if they have change. No they don't. So what can I do? I need to photocopy this (not for me, for a professor -- w shu hal professor wlo). The girl says, "you get a 5,000 and get a photocopy card". Ha ha. Very funny. But then it's your lucky day, and the guy asks you who the professor is, and you tell him, and he says, fine, take the book out for 10 minutes, but you have to give me your ID. Thank God for wasta.
So you go home that day, all happy and satisfied. After having something to eat and taking a nap, you decide it's time to do some research on the e-journals databases. Let us say, on Syrian foreign policy. You start with one database, works fine, and if you are a multitasker like me, you simultaneously search on a second one, and then a third one. The third one returns some interesting hits, and you say, let me get that article. You click on "view as PDF", it takes you to a log in page. Ahh. You try and try and try, but it is of no use. You think, maybe it's my internet, and decide to try it the next day at work. You go to work the next day, you try it, but to no avail. You need username and password. You curse the electronic resources people. You get on the library website, and find an "ask a librarian" link, you write a note explaining that the database is not working. You click submit, and it gives you an error. You try again and again, but again to no avail. So you go back to the library page and look up the names of library staff, and find the one in charge of electronic databases. You write a very angry letter (in the spirit of Angry Anarchist), and send it. A week later, you get an e-mail. A confirmation e-mail from your contact person: "There seems to be a problem with the database." Oh... I didn't know...
Of all the thousands of students and faculty, no one had noticed that there is a problem with the database? What do these people do, daydream all day long? Or is attending the so-called "prestigious" university nothing more than an investment for these people?? May I inform you about Solidere??!
While I am at it, let me have this out of my system once and for all -- I meant to post a rant I wrote a while back, but didn't because it was very nasty. I've cut out the nastiness, and will make do with posting a conversation I had with someone:
X: You have to work with me.
Me: No, I do not have to.
X: Yes, according to the rules and procedures, we decide what you will work on, and with whom.
Me: What rules and procedures? I would like to see those rules and procedures in written form.
X: Um, there is none in written form, but it's nevertheless a policy.
Me: A policy, eh?
Me: I was not aware of the existence of such a policy. You have to let people know what your policies are if you haven't given them a written notice, before they sign the contract.
X: So why did you sign the contract without asking?
Me: Excuse me? I signed the contract, I did not sign a set of non-existent policies which are only figments of your imagination.
X: But you signed the contract without asking.
After another 30 minutes of back-and-forth:
Me: Look, bottom line, you cannot force me to work with you.
X: You are interfering in my business, that is not up to you!
Me: Oh yes, very much up to me, what will you do, force me? Drag me from home?
X: You are being selfish and undemocratic.
Me: First, what does democracy have to do with this? Second, who said I believe in democracy?
X: What do you believe in, then, dictatorship?
Me: Ha ha ha ... no, I do not believe in anything. Anyway if you are a university functioning under institutions, then these institutions have rules, or are expected to have rules, and you apply those rules. You don't apply non-existent rules.
And didn't you know? Just because Honorable Jeffrey Feltman has handed the president of this very prestigious university a big fat cheque, apparently means, for one American professor, that those who oppose U.S policies are ungrateful. Apparently it's a take-all or leave-all world. Ahh those Americans.
Another funny occurrence involving me and a professor:
X: I'm working on a research paper on Hezb Allah. That's another project that you might be able to help me on.
Me: Ohhh, you are...
X: Yes, but I understand if you don't want to work on it.
Me: Why wouldn't I?
X: Because you know, I mean, Hezb Allah.......
Me: Uh... so? I don't have a problem with Hezb Allah. Besides, what does that have to do with research?
X: Ahh, I should've known. Leftists support Hezb Allah because they (leftists) are anti-American.
Me: What? ...
I love prestige. Don't you?
Monday, April 9, 2007
(In case you did not notice, I have launched an archiving project for interesting articles that I find on the net and elsewhere, for the purpose of giving my readers a better grasp of the realities of the Middle East, and helping dispel the myths that have often gone unachallenged outside the academic sphere)
I have posted an excellent piece on Fouad Ajami at the Article Vault. Do take the time to read it, it is very well worth it. I was asked by a reader about the reception that Fouad Ajami receives here in Lebanon; the article answers that question, although I do not think Ajami is that widely known and talked about here, except maybe in his hometown Arnoun.
I will quote two excerpts, for those who might not have the time to read the whole thing.
In 1986, Ajami had praised Musa al-Sadr as a realist for telling the Palestinians to fight Israel in the occupied territories, rather than in Lebanon. But when the Palestinians did exactly that, in the first intifada of 1987-93, it no longer seemed realistic to Ajami, who then advised them to swallow the bitter pill of defeat and pay for their bad choices. While Israeli troops shot down children armed only with stones, Ajami told the Palestinians they should give up on the idea of a sovereign state ("a phantom"), even in the West Bank and Gaza. When the PLO announced its support for a two-state solution at a 1988 conference in Algiers, Ajami called the declaration "hollow," its concessions to Israel inadequate. On the eve of the Madrid talks in the fall of 1991 he wrote, "It is far too late to introduce a new nation between Israel and Jordan." Nor should the American government embark on the "fool's errand" of pressuring Israel to make peace. Under Ajami's direction, the Middle East program of SAIS became a bastion of pro-Israel opinion. An increasing number of Israeli and pro-Israel academics, many of them New Republic contributors, were invited as guest lecturers. "Rabbi Ajami," as many people around SAIS referred to him, was also receiving significant support from a Jewish family foundation in Baltimore, which picked up the tab for the trips his students took to the Middle East every summer. Back in Lebanon, Ajami's growing reputation as an apologist for Israel reportedly placed considerable strains on family members in Arnoun.Excerpt #2
Ajami also developed close ties during the 1980s to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, which made him--as he often and proudly pointed out--the only Arab who traveled both to the Persian Gulf countries and to Israel. In 1985 he became an external examiner in the political science department at Kuwait University; he said "the place seemed vibrant and open to me." His major patrons, however, were Saudi. He has traveled to Riyadh many times to raise money for his program, sometimes taking along friends like Martin Peretz; he has also vacationed in Prince Bandar's home in Aspen. Saudi hospitality--and Saudi Arabia's lavish support for SAIS--bred gratitude. At one meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations, Ajami told a group that, as one participant recalls, "the Saudi system was a lot stronger than we thought, that it was a system worth defending, and that it had nothing to apologize for." Throughout the 1980s and '90s, he faithfully echoed the Saudi line. "Rage against the West does not come naturally to the gulf Arabs," he wrote in 1990. "No great tales of betrayal are told by the Arabs of the desert. These are Palestinian, Lebanese and North African tales."Sorry for ruining your appetite. I will be more careful next time.
By the way, a correction: Ajami does not have two clones, he has three; or, is one of three clonees of one of the three musketeers: Bernard Lewis, Martin Kramer, and Daniel Pipes.
Explaining my obsession
Saturday, April 7, 2007
Sorry, but I have to bore you with yet another post on Fouad Ajami and his clones Bernard Lewis and Martin Kramer. Or how does it go? Ajami and Kramer are clones of Bernard Lewis? Or what?
Actually, I will stick to Ajami and dump Lewis and Kramer this time around (I promise to post on both of them in the very very near future). True, Lewis makes me chuckle, so does Kramer (yes, it's photoshopped; yes, he is obsessed with Muslims), but not as much as Ajami does, so I owe it to Ajami.
I will let his words explain my obsession with the man. Clearly, he is one of a kind. Or the 3rd of the same kind: Bernard Lewis and Kramer being the other 2. I would not call him a "careerist" as Martin Kramer -- of all people! -- calls Ali Abunimah, while singing hymns of praise to Lewis and Ajami... Ajami is in a league of his own -- or maybe the league is co-owned by Lewis and Kramer. The article I will now post for your enjoyment appeared in October 2003, along with a few photos attached to it, with captions equally laughable as the article itself.
Oh, and this is not a late April fool's joke! He really did write what you will read below, and the photo (I was tempted into coloring the flag for effect) is one of 5-6 photos featured with the article.
"America is everywhere," Italian novelist Ignazio Silone once observed. It is in Karachi and Paris, in Jakarta and Brussels. An idea of it, a fantasy of it, hovers over distant lands. And everywhere there is also an obligatory anti-Americanism, a cover and an apology for the spell the United States casts over distant peoples and places. In the burning grounds of the Muslim world and on its periphery, U.S. embassies and their fate in recent years bear witness to a duality of the United States as Satan and redeemer. The embassies targeted by the masters of terror and by the diehards are besieged by visa-seekers dreaming of the golden, seductive country. If only the crowd in Tehran offering its tired rhythmic chant "marg bar amrika" ("death to America") really meant it! It is of visas and green cards and houses with lawns and of the glamorous world of Los Angeles, far away from the mullahs and their cultural tyranny, that the crowd really dreams. The frenzy with which radical Islamists battle against deportation orders from U.S. soil-dreading the prospect of returning to Amman and Beirut and Cairo-reveals the lie of anti-Americanism that blows through Muslim lands.
The world rails against the United States, yet embraces its protection, its gossip, and its hipness. Tune into a talk show on the stridently anti-American satellite channel Al-Jazeera, and you'll behold a parody of American ways and techniques unfolding on the television screen. That reporter in the flak jacket, irreverent and cool against the Kabul or Baghdad background, borrows a form perfected in the country whose sins and follies that reporter has come to chronicle.
In Doha, Qatar, Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, arguably Sunni Islam's most influential cleric, at Omar ibn al-Khattab Mosque, a short distance away from the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command, delivers a khutba, a Friday sermon. The date is June 13, 2003. The cleric's big theme of the day is the arrogance of the United States and the cruelty of the war it unleashed on Iraq. This cleric, Egyptian born, political to his fingertips, and in full mastery of his craft and of the sensibility of his followers, is particularly agitated in his sermon. Surgery and a period of recovery have kept him away from his pulpit for three months, during which time there has been a big war in the Arab world that toppled Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq with stunning speed and effectiveness. The United States was "acting like a god on earth," al-Qaradawi told the faithful. In Iraq, the United States had appointed itself judge and jury. The invading power may have used the language of liberation and enlightenment, but this invasion of Iraq was a 21st-century version of what had befallen Baghdad in the middle years of the 13th century, in 1258 to be exact, when Baghdad, the city of learning and culture, was sacked by the Mongols.
The preacher had his themes, but a great deal of the United States had gone into the preacher's art: Consider his Web site, Qaradawi.net, where the faithful can click and read his fatwas (religious edicts)-the Arabic interwoven with HTML text-about all matters of modern life, from living in non-Islamic lands to the permissibility of buying houses on mortgage to the follies of Arab rulers who have surrendered to U.S. power. Or what about his way with television? He is a star of the medium, and Al-Jazeera carried an immensely popular program of his. That art form owes a debt, no doubt, to the American "televangelists," as nothing in the sheik's traditional education at Al Azhar University in Cairo prepared him for this wired, portable religion. And then there are the preacher's children: One of his daughters had made her way to the University of Texas where she received a master's degree in biology, a son had earned a Ph.D. from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, and yet another son had embarked on that quintessential American degree, an MBA at the American University in Cairo. Al-Qaradawi embodies anti-Americanism as the flip side of Americanization.
A New Orthodoxy
Of late, pollsters have come bearing news and numbers of anti-Americanism the world over. The reports are one dimensional and filled with panic. This past June, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press published a survey of public opinion in 20 countries and the Palestinian territories that indicated a growing animus toward the United States. In the same month, the BBC came forth with a similar survey that included 10 countries and the United States. On the surface of it, anti-Americanism is a river overflowing its banks. In Indonesia, the United States is deemed more dangerous than al Qaeda. In Jordan, Russia, South Korea, and Brazil, the United States is thought to be more dangerous than Iran, the "rogue state" of the mullahs.
There is no need to go so far away from home only to count the cats in Zanzibar. These responses to the United States are neither surprising nor profound. The pollsters, and those who have been brandishing their findings, see in these results some verdict on the United States itself-and on the performance abroad of the Bush presidency-but the findings could be read as a crude, admittedly limited, measure of the foul temper in some unsettled places. The pollsters have flaunted spreadsheets to legitimize a popular legend: It is not Americans that people abroad hate, but the United States! Yet it was Americans who fell to terrorism on September 11, 2001, and it is of Americans and their deeds, and the kind of social and political order they maintain, that sordid tales are told in Karachi and Athens and Cairo and Paris. You can't profess kindness toward Americans while attributing the darkest of motives to their homeland.
The Pew pollsters ignored Greece, where hatred of the United States is now a defining feature of political life. The United States offended Greece by rescuing Bosnians and Kosovars. Then, the same Greeks who hailed the Serbian conquest of Srebrenica in 1995 and the mass slaughter of the Muslims there were quick to summon up outrage over the U.S. military campaign in Iraq. In one Greek public opinion survey, Americans were ranked among Albanians, Gypsies, and Turks as the most despised peoples.
Takis Michas, a courageous Greek writer with an eye for his country's temperament, traces this new anti-Americanism to the Orthodox Church itself. A narrative of virtuous and embattled solitude and alienation from Western Christendom has always been integral to the Greek psyche; a fusion of church and nation is natural to the Greek worldview. In the 1990s, the Yugoslav wars gave this sentiment a free run. The church sanctioned and fed the belief that the United States was Satan, bent on destroying the "True Faith," Michas explains, and shoring up Turkey and the Muslims in the Balkans. A neo-Orthodox ideology took hold, slicing through faith and simplifying history. Where the Balkan churches-be they the Bulgars or the Serbs-had been formed in rebellion against the hegemony of the Greek priesthood, the new history made a fetish of the fidelity of Greece to its Orthodox "brethren." Greek paramilitary units fought alongside Bosnian Serbs as part of the Drina Corps under the command of indicted war criminal Gen. Ratko Mladic. The Greek flag was hoisted over the ruins of Srebenica's Orthodox church when the doomed city fell. Serbian war crimes elicited no sense of outrage in Greece; quite to the contrary, sympathy for Serbia and the identification with its war aims and methods were limitless.
Beyond the Yugoslav wars, the neo-Orthodox worldview sanctified the ethnonationalism of Greece, spinning a narrative of Hellenic persecution at the hands of the United States as the standard-bearer of the West. Greece is part of NATO and of the European Union (EU), but an old schism-that of Eastern Orthodoxy's claim against the Eatin world-has greater power and a deeper resonance. In the banal narrative of Greek anti-Americanism, this animosity emerges from U.S. support for the junta that reigned over the country from 1967 to 1974. This deeper fury enables the aggrieved to glide over the role the United States played in the defense and rehabilitation of Greece after World War II. Furthermore, it enables them to overlook the lifeline that migration offered to untold numbers of Greeks who are among the United States' most prosperous communities.
Greece loves the idea of its "Westernness"-a place and a culture where the West ends, and some other alien world (Islam) begins. But the political culture of religious nationalism has isolated Greece from the wider currents of Western liberalism. What little modern veneer is used to dress up Greece's anti-Americanism is a pretense. The malady here is, paradoxically, a Greek variant of what plays out in the world of Islam: a belligerent political culture sharpening faith as a political weapon, an abdication of political responsibility for one's own world, and a search for foreign "devils."
Lest they be trumped by their hated Greek rivals, the Turks now give voice to the same anti-Americanism. It is a peculiar sentiment among the Turks, given their pragmatism. They are not prone to the cluster of grievances that empower anti-Americanism in France or among the intelligentsia of the developing world. In the 1920s, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk gave Turkey a dream of modernity and self-help by pointing his country westward, distancing it from the Arab-Muslim lands to its south and east. But the secular, modernist dream in Turkey has fractured, and oddly, anti-Americanism blows through the cracks from the Arab lands and from Brussels and Berlin.
The fury of the Turkish protests against the United States in the months prior to the war in Iraq exhibited a pathology all its own. It was, at times, nature imitating art: The protesters in the streets burned American flags in the apparent hope that Europeans (real Europeans, that is) would finally take Turkey and the Turks into the fold. The U.S. presence had been benign in Turkish lands, and Americans had been Turkey's staunchest advocates for coveted membership in the EU. But suddenly this relationship that served Turkey so well was no longer good enough. As the "soft" Islamists (there is no such thing, we ought to understand by now) revolted against Pax Americana, the secularists averted their gaze and let stand this new anti-Americanism. The pollsters calling on the Turks found a people in distress, their economy on the ropes, and their polity in an unfamiliar world beyond the simple certainties of Kemalism, yet without new political tools and compass. No dosage of anti-Americanism, the Turks will soon realize, will take Turkey past the gatekeepers of Europe.
We Were All Americans
The introduction of the Pew report sets the tone for the entire study. The war in Iraq, it argues, "has widened the rift between Americans and Western Europeans" and "further inflamed the Muslim world." The implications are clear: The United States was better off before Bush's "unilateralism." The United States, in its hubris, summoned up this anti-Americanism. Those are the political usages of this new survey.
But these sentiments have long prevailed in Jordan, Egypt, and France. During the 1990s, no one said good things about the United States in Egypt. It was then that the Islamist children of Egypt took to the road, to Hamburg and Kandahar, to hatch a horrific conspiracy against the United States. And it was in the 1990s, during the fabled stock market run, when the prophets of globalization preached the triumph of the U.S. economic model over the protected versions of the market in places such as France, when anti-Americanism became the uncontested ideology of French public life. Americans were barbarous, a threat to French cuisine and their beloved language. U.S. pension funds were acquiring their assets and Wall Street speculators were raiding their savings. The United States incarcerated far too many people and executed too many criminals. All these views thrived during a decade when Americans are now told they were loved and uncontested on foreign shores.
Much has been made of the sympathy that the French expressed for the United States immediately after the September 11 attacks, as embodied by the famous editorial of Le Monde's publisher Jean-Marie Colombani, "Nous Sommes Tous Americains" ("We are all Americans"). And much has been made of the speed with which the United States presumably squandered that sympathy in the months that followed. But even Colombani's column, written on so searing a day, was not the unalloyed message of sympathy suggested by the title. Even on that very day, Colombani wrote of the United States reaping the whirlwind of its "cynicism"; he recycled the hackneyed charge that Osama bin Laden had been created and nurtured by U.S. intelligence agencies.
Colombani quickly retracted what little sympathy he had expressed when, in December of 2001, he was back with an open letter to "our American friends" and soon thereafter with a short book, Tous Americains? le monde apres le u septembre 2001 (All Americans? The World After September 11, 2001). By now the sympathy had drained, and the tone was one of belligerent judgment and disapproval. There was nothing to admire in Colombani's United States, which had run roughshod in the world and had been indifferent to the rule of law. Colombani described the U.S. republic as a fundamentalist Christian enterprise, its magistrates too deeply attached to the death penalty, its police cruel to its black population. A republic of this sort could not in good conscience undertake a campaign against Islamism. One can't, Colombani writes, battle the Taliban while trying to introduce prayers in one's own schools; one can't strive to reform Saudi Arabia while refusing to teach Darwinism in the schools of the Bible Belt; and one can't denounce the demands of the sharia (Islamic law) while refusing to outlaw the death penalty. Doubtless, he adds, the United States can't do battle with the Taliban before doing battle against the bigotry that ravages the depths of the United States itself. The United States had not squandered Colombani's sympathy; he never had that sympathy in the first place.
Colombani was hardly alone in the French intellectual class in his enmity toward the United States. On November 3, 2001, in Le Monde, the writer and pundit Jean Baudrillard permitted himself a thought of stunning cynicism. He saw the perpetrators of September 11 acting out his own dreams and the dreams of others like him. He gave those attacks a sort of universal warrant: "How we have dreamt of this event," he wrote, "how all the world without exception dreamt of this event, for no one can avoid dreaming of the destruction of a power that has become hegemonic . . . . It is they who acted, but we who wanted the deed." Casting caution and false sympathy aside, Baudrillard saw the terrible attacks on the United States as an "object of desire." The terrorists had been able to draw on a "deep complicity," knowing perfectly well that they were acting out the hidden yearnings of others oppressed by the United States' order and power. To him, morality of the U.S. variety is a sham, and the terrorism directed against it is a legitimate response to the inequities of "globalization."
In his country's intellectual landscape, Baudrillard was no loner. A struggle had raged throughout the 1990s, pitting U.S.-led globalization (with its low government expenditures, a "cheap" and merciless Wall Street-Treasury Department axis keen on greater discipline in the market, and relatively long working hours on the part of labor) against France's protectionist political economy. The primacy the United States assigned to liberty waged a pitched battle against the French commitment to equity.
To maintain France's sympathy, and that of Le Monde, the United States would have had to turn the other cheek to the murderers of al Qaeda, spare the Taliban, and engage the Muslim world in some high civilizational dialogue. But who needs high approval ratings in Marseille? Envy of U.S. power, and of the United States' universalism, is the ruling passion of French intellectual life. It is not "mostly Bush" that turned France against the United States. The former Socialist foreign minister, Hubert Vedrine, was given to the same anti-Americanism that moves his successor, the bombastic and vain Dominique de Villepin. It was Vedrine, it should be recalled, who in the late 1990s had dubbed the United States a "hyperpower." He had done so before the war on terrorism, before the war on Iraq. He had done it against the background of an international order more concerned with economics and markets than with military power. In contrast to his successor, Vedrine at least had the honesty to acknowledge that there was nothing unusual about the way the United States wielded its power abroad, or about France's response to that primacy. France, too, he observed, might have been equally overbearing if it possessed the United States' weight and assets.
His successor gave France's resentment highly moral claims. Villepin appeared evasive, at one point, on whether he wished to see a U.S. or an Iraqi victory in the standoff between Saddam Hussein's regime and the United States. Anti-Americanism indulges France's fantasy of past greatness and splendor and gives France's unwanted Muslim children a claim on the political life of a country that knows not what to do with them.
The Burden of Modernity
To come bearing modernism to those who want it but who rail against it at the same time, to represent and embody so much of what the world yearns for and fears-that is the American burden. The United States lends itself to contradictory interpretations. To the Europeans, and to the French in particular, who are enamored of their laicisme (secularism), the United States is unduly religious, almost embarrassingly so, its culture suffused with sacred symbolism. In the Islamic world, the burden is precisely the opposite: There, the United States scandalizes the devout, its message represents nothing short of an affront to the pious and a temptation to the gullible and the impressionable young. According to the June BBC survey, 78 percent of French polled identified the United States as a "religious" country, while only 10 percent of Jordanians endowed it with that label. Religious to the secularists, faithless to the devout-such is the way the United States is seen in foreign lands.
So many populations have the United States under their skin. Their rage is oddly derived from that very same attraction. Consider the Saudi realm, a place where anti-Americanism is fierce. The United States helped invent the modern Saudi world. The Arabian American Oil Company-for all practical purposes a state within a state-pulled the desert enclave out of its insularity, gave it skills, and ushered it into the 20th century. Deep inside the anti-Americanism of today's Saudi Arabia, an observer can easily discern the dependence of the Saudi elite on their U.S. connection. It is in the image of the United States' suburbs and urban sprawl that Saudi cities are designed. It is on the campuses of Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford that the ruling elite are formed and educated.
After September 11, 2001, the Saudi elite panicked that their ties to the United States might be shattered and that their world would be consigned to what they have at home. Fragments of the United States have been eagerly embraced by an influential segment of Saudi society. For many, the United States was what they encountered when they were free from home and family and age-old prohibitions. Today, an outing in Riyadh is less a journey to the desert than to the mall and to Starbucks.
An academic in Riyadh, in the midst of an anti-American tirade about all policies American, was keen to let me know that his young son, born in the United States, had suddenly declared he no longer wanted to patronize McDonald's because of the United States' support of Israel. The message was plaintive and unpersuasive; the resolve behind that "boycott" was sure to crack. A culture that casts so long a shadow is fated to be emulated and resented at the same time. The United States is destined to be in the politics-and imagination-of strangers even when the country (accurately) believes it is not implicated in the affairs of other lands.
In a hauntingly astute set of remarks made to the New Yorker in the days that followed the terrorism of September 11, the Egyptian playwright Ali Salem-a free spirit at odds with the intellectual class in his country and a maverick who journeyed to Israel and wrote of his time there and of his acceptance of that country-went to the heart of the anti-American phenomenon. He was thinking of his own country's reaction to the United States, no doubt, but what he says clearly goes beyond Egypt:
People say that Americans are arrogant, but it's not true. Americans enjoy life and they are proud of their lives, and they arc boastful of their wonderful inventions that have made life so much easier and more convenient. It's very difficult to understand the machinery of hatred, because you wind up resorting to logic, but trying to understand this with logic is like measuring distance in kilograms. . . .These are people who are envious. To them, life is an unbearable burden. Modernism is the only way out. But modernism is frightening. It means we have to compete. It means we can't explain everything away with conspiracy theories. Bernard Shaw said it best, you know. In the preface to 'St. Joan,' he said Joan of Arc was burned not for any reason except that she was talented. Talent gives rise to jealousy in the hearts of the untalented.This kind of envy cannot be attenuated. Jordanians, for instance, cannot be talked out of their anti-Americanism. In the BBC survey, 71 percent of Jordanians thought the United States was more dangerous to the world than al Qaeda. But Jordan has been the rare political and economic recipient of a U.S. free trade agreement, a privilege the United States shares only with a handful of nations. A new monarch, King Abdullah II, came to power, and the free trade agreement was an investment that Pax Americana made in his reign and in the moderation of his regime. But this bargain with the Hashemite dynasty has not swayed the intellectual class, nor has it made headway among the Jordanian masses. On Iraq and on matters Palestinian, for more than a generation now, Jordanians have not had a kind thing to say about the United States. In the scheme of Jordan's neighborhood, the realm is benign and forgiving, but the political life is restrictive and tight. When talking about the United States, Jordanians have often been talking to their rulers, expressing their dissatisfaction with the quality of the country's public life and economic performance. A pollster venturing to Jordan must understand the country's temper, hemmed in by poverty and overshadowed by more resourceful powers all around it: Iraq to the east, Israel to the west, and Syria and Saudi Arabia over the horizon. A sense of disinheritance has always hung over Jordan. The trinity of God, country, and king puts much of the political life of the land beyond scrutiny and discussion. The anti-Americanism emanates from, and merges with, this political condition.
With modernism come the Jews. They have been its bearers and beneficiaries, and they have paid dearly for it. They have been taxed with cosmopolitanism: The historian Isaac Deutscher had it right when he said that other people have roots, but the Jews have legs. Today the Jews have a singular role in U.S. public life and culture, and anti-Americanism is tethered to anti-Semitism. In the Islamic world, and in some European circles as well, U.S. power is seen as the handmaiden of Jewish influence. Witness, for instance, the London-based Arab media's obsession with the presumed ascendancy of the neoconservatives-such as former chairman of the Defense Policy Board Richard Perle and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz-in the making of U.S. foreign policy. The neocons had been there for the rescue of the (Muslim) Bosnians and Kosovars, but the reactionaries in Muslim lands had not taken notice of that. Left to itself, the United States would be fair-minded, this Arab commentary maintains, and it would arrive at a balanced approach to the Arab-Islamic world. This narrative is nothing less than a modernized version of the worldview of that infamous forgery, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. But it is put forth by men and women who insist on their oneness with the modern world.
A century ago, in a short-story called "Youth," the great British author Joseph Conrad captured in his incomparable way the disturbance that is heard when a modern world pushes against older cultures and disturbs their peace. In the telling, Marlowe, Conrad's literary double and voice, speaks of the frenzy of coming upon and disturbing the East. "And then, before I could open my lips, the East spoke to me, but it was in a Western voice. A torrent of words was poured into the enigmatical, the fateful silence; outlandish, angry words mixed with words and even whole sentences of good English, less strange but even more surprising. The voice swore and cursed violently; it riddled the solemn peace of the bay by a volley of abuse. It began by calling me Pig . . . ."
Today, the United States carries the disturbance of the modern to older places-to the east and to the intermediate zones in Europe. There is energy in the United States, and there is force. And there is resistance and resentment-and emulation-in older places affixed on the delicate balancing act of a younger United States not yet content to make its peace with traditional pains and limitations and tyrannies. That sensitive French interpreter of his country, Dominique Moisi, recently told of a simple countryman of his who was wistful when Saddam Hussein's statue fell on April 9 in Baghdad's Firdos Square. France opposed this war, but this Frenchman expressed a sense of diminishment that his country had sat out this stirring story of political liberation. A society like France with a revolutionary history should have had a hand in toppling the tyranny in Baghdad, but it didn't. Instead, a cable attached to a U.S. tank had pulled down the statue, to the delirium of the crowd. The new history being made was a distinctly American (and British) creation. It was soldiers from Burlington, Vermont, and Linden, New Jersey, and Bon Aqua, Tennessee-I single out those towns because they are the hometowns of three soldiers who were killed in the Iraq warwho raced through the desert making this new history and paying for it.
The United States need not worry about hearts and minds in foreign lands. If Germans wish to use anti-Americanism to absolve themselves and their parents of the great crimes of World War II, they will do it regardless of what the United States says and does. If Muslims truly believe that their long winter of decline is the fault of the United States, no campaign of public diplomacy shall deliver them from that incoherence. In the age of Pax Americana, it is written, fated, or maktoob (as the Arabs would say) that the plotters and preachers shall rail against the United States-in whole sentences of good American slang.
April 4 ODEO
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
powered by ODEO
That's all for today.
See you tomorrow!
I just saw that the Iranians have released new pics of the Brit captives, the capture of whom should have led, according to Israeli justifications for the July war, to a large-scale invasion of Iran by the UK -- although technically a strike is still not out of the question, nevertheless, it has not happened yet and we can only base our analyses on what has happened.
I read the whole Brit captive affair along three tracks:
1) The domestic Iranian track, i.e. purely for Iranian public consumption;
2) The regional track, i.e. a subtle threat about what may come if USA (or anyone else) attacks Iran;
3) The international/global track, i.e. the image of Iran.
The first track seems to be playing smoothly so far, in so far as it is aimed to boost the confidence and pride of the Iranian people in the face of the psychological war that is being waged against the country. Its primary objective is to alleviate the fears of the Iranian people in the face of a looming strike. We cannot be sure if the second track will be as effective, but granted the risks associated with a strike on Iran (and hopefully the awareness of these risks by Bush, Blair, & co. -- something I am not betting on), it will have some impact, at least in terms of psychological warfare and its transformation of public opinion in the west. On the other hand, this incident has been utilized by some as a "proof" that Iran is a bully and must be put in its right place. Which takes me to the third point -- the image of Iran in the world, and especially in public opinion around the globe. While the incident itself at first was highly denounced, public opinion has gradually calmed down and has been reassured, through those photos (despite the trumpets of war sounding from some "houses" ahem...), of the welfare of the soldiers and the possibility of their release via diplomatic channels. The Iranians' release of photos every few days or so is meant to serve as a reminder of this fact to the world, and lays to waste much of the hyped-up hysteria of a genocidal Iran (once again the "they're going to throw us into the sea" myth comes in handy), along with the attempts at readying public opinion for a strike. The image of an Iran that has been represented in vicious terms in Western media is challenged by the image of an Iran that treats its captives "like kings" (even giving them chess boards and serving them fruit)... It's a bit of a hyperbole (!) I know, but it is good enough to score some points! At the end of the day, in terms of public opinion, it is not "reality" that matters as much as the psychological impact of images.
Nice track suits too... hahaha... (at the risk of sounding ignorant and heartless) I'm having too much fun with this.
Iran 1 West 0
This "Photo Tuesday", I will not be satisfied with a mere caption. I need to rant.
Every now and then, in Lebanon, you stumble upon an oddly named place, an oddly named store, an oddly named building (yup, they name 'regular' buildings here... of course, other than the ingenious "Our place is the 3rd building after Hajj Hassan's uncle's house, third floor, 2nd door"). And now, the "tower" thing seems to be in fashion. Every now and then, a new 6-7 (or 8) story building pops up, and is honored by the term "tower". Today, as I walked around in New Jdeideh, I noticed this "tower", and snapped a shot. I kept wondering what the word "developers" was all about. What is the meaning of "Developers Tower"? Is it some sort of gathering place for developers? But then, the apostrophe is missing at the end, so it couldn't be that. I couldn't help but wonder what all those buildings will serve. There is no shortage of buildings, apartments, office space! On the Rabieh road, there are at least 3 new centres; then there are the older ones that are pretty much out of use, since all the stores that opened there closed down due to lack of business. It seems that every person with some money to waste is now buying a plot and erecting a building -- or tower. I am sitting here in my room, surrounded by 3 -- THREE!! -- construction sites. Apartment buildings, 4 stories high (with some "wasta" you can also add a 5th floor in this 4-story zone). They say there's no money to buy anything, no money for cars, no money for new apartments, but then, where is the money for the construction coming from? These are not isolated phenomena, they are widespread (at least where I live) and are not housing projects by companies, they are individual initiatives. And then there is the issue of the treatment (or rather, abuse) of the laborers, who are mostly Syrians. I once woke up to horrible shrieks and yells, it turned out the owner of the construction site and the engineer were yelling at one of the workers and abusing him physically... Those who whine and continue to cry "there's no money", have the best of luxuries, whereas silence rules over the poor, the exploited, and dispossessed.
I keep wondering, if there is no money, how come I saw at least a 100 brand-new Nissan Tiidas parked in only one tiny "suburb" of Beirut, which claims to be "suffering" (it just can't be that all of the Tiidas belong to "visitors")? And what is worse than the whining and the brand new shiny cars (some quite expensive, topping the $50,000 level) is the condescending attitude towards those who do not have any of these luxuries; for example, towards taxi drivers with oldish cars, who struggle to feed their families, a fact which the poor suffering brand new car owners forget (how convenient). The poor, economically depressed cry-babies turn into abusive monsters when they come across real samples of what they claim to be going through (but aren't in reality). What's worse, sectarianism has plagued this country so much that it seems there are now different standards to judge poverty. A Christian with a yearly salary of $20,000 is considered "poor", whereas a Sunni or Shi'ite with 1/4th of that salary would not even be considered to be anywhere close to being poor. And Iraqi and Palestinian refugees are... not considered at all (except when keeping track of their sectarian "belonging", lest it threaten the "delicate sectarian balance"; batrak Sfeir will demand that we bring some more Christian Iraqi refugees to maintain the 6-6 balance).
Welcome to the world of capitalism and sectarianism... and Lebanon! Enjoy your towers, and don't forget, they (we?) love life...
Oh and, Syria is a hundred times better than Lebanon in almost every respect. Now shut the hell up and get over yourselves.
You demand a tribunal to try the (unknown) killers of Hariri?
I demand a tribunal to try the (known, clear as light of day) killers of 1200 people!!