[Marxism] Robert Fisk makes headway in sorting out struggle in Lebanon
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Feb 4 09:57:47 MST 2007
The claims of the US to favor "democracy" in Lebanon are absurd.
Washington's demands on Lebanon are that the Shia majority should never head
the government, that the regime must be friendly and preferably allied to
Israel, and that it swear eternal hatred of neighboring Syria and also Iran.
There is absolutely no way that anything dimly resembling majority rule
could ever create such a government in Lebanon. What Washington seeks is
an iron military dictatorship a thin parliamentary façade, like the Gemayel
government that the US and Israel installed after the 1982 invasion, but
which proved unable to sustain the course that Washington had sought.
Robert Fisk: Please spare me the word 'terrorist'
Saturday, 03 February 2007
By Robert Fisk
Lebanon is a good place to find out what tosh the 'terror' merchants talk
02/03/07 "The Independent" -- -- So it was back to terror, terror, terror
this week. The "terrorist" Hizbollah was trying to destroy the
"democratically elected government" of Fouad Siniora in Lebanon. The
"terrorist" Hamas government cannot rule Palestine. Iranian "terrorists" in
Iraq are going to be gunned down by US troops.
My favourite line of the week came from the "security source" - just how one
becomes a "security source" remains a mystery to me -- who announced:
"Terrorists are always looking for new ways to strike terror... There is no
end of the possibilities where terrorists can try to cause terror to the
public." Well, you could have fooled me.
Lebanon is as good a place as any to find out what a load of old tosh the
"terror" merchants talk. For here it is that the hydra-headed monster of
Iran is supposedly stalking the streets of Beirut, staging a coup against Mr
Siniora and his ministers.
Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbollah leader, is the man Israel spent all
last summer trying - vainly, of course - to kill, his black-bearded,
turbaned appearance on Hizbollah's own TV station a source of fury to both
Ehud Olmert and - nowadays - to Siniora's men in government.
Now it's true that Nasrallah - an intelligent, former military commander of
Hizbollah in southern Lebanon - is developing a rather odd cult of
personality. His massive features tower over the Beirut airport highway, a
giant hand waving at motorists in both directions. And these days, you can
buy Hizbollah T-shirts and Nasrallah key chains. But somehow "terror" is not
quite the word that comes to mind.
This is partly because the tens of thousands of Shia Muslims whom Hizbollah
represents are staging a social revolution rather than a coup, a mass
uprising of the poor who have traditionally been ignored by the great and
the good of Lebanese society.
The men in their tent city downtown are a powerful symbol in Lebanon. They
are smoking their hooker pipes and playing cards and sleeping rough next to
the shining new city which Rafiq Hariri rebuilt from the ruins of Beirut - a
city to impress foreigners but one in which the south Lebanese poor could
not afford to buy a cup of coffee.
Hariri's theory - or at least this is how he explained it to me before his
murder - was that if the centre of Beirut was reconstructed, the money which
it generated would trickle down to the rest of Lebanon.
But it didn't trickle. The bright lights of downtown Beirut were enjoyed by
the rich and purchased by the Saudis and admired by the likes of Jacques
Chirac but they were not for the Shia. For them, Hizbollah provided the
social services and the economic foundation of its part of Lebanon as well
as the military spearhead to strike at Israel and demand the return of
The Lebanese government may have its troops mixed in with the new UN force
in the south but no one doubts that Hizbollah remain in their villages, as
powerful and as influential as ever. Harirism, it seems, failed and now
Hariri's old friend Siniora - who, by the way, was never elected (he was
appointed to the prime minister's job although you'd never know if from
watching Western television) - has returned from Paris with millions of
dollars to sit once more in his little "green zone", surrounded by barbed
wire and soldiers and, outside the gates of his serail, by the poor of
southern Lebanon and the suburbs of Beirut.
Hizbollah's electoral partners are also interesting. General Michel Aoun -
whom the Americans have not yet got round to calling a "terrorist" - is the
Christian leader who allows Nasrallah to claim that the opposition is
non-sectarian. Aoun's supporters were involved in pitched battles with Samir
Geagea's Phalangists last week and what was striking was how poor many of
Aoun's Christian supporters also appeared to be. Indeed, Aoun was himself
born in the same southern slums of Beirut which is Hizbollah's power base
and his constant refrain - that the government is corrupt - is beginning to
take hold among the disenfranchised Christian communities in the east of
The fact that Aoun is also a little cracked does not change this. Even when
this week he produced a doctored photograph supposedly showing an armed
Phalangist on the streets - the image was of a Hizbollah gunman, originally
taken during last summer's war but stuck on to a photograph of crowds on a
north Beirut roadway - his loyal supporters did not desert him. Nestling
beside their tents in central Beirut are canvas homes containing Lebanese
communists - how friendly the old hammer and sickle seems these days - and a
host of lesser groups which may or may not come under Syria's patronage.
Of course, the crisis in Lebanon is also about Iran and Syria, especially
Iran's determination to damage or destroy any Middle East government which
has earned America's friendship. In the growing, overheated drama being
played out between Washington and Tehran (and Israel, of course), Lebanon is
another board game for the two sides to use. America thus lined up to defend
Lebanon's democracy - though it didn't care a damn about it when Israel
bombarded the country last summer - while Iran continues to support
Hizbollah whose government ministers resigned last year, provoking the
Nasrallah is said to have been personally shocked by the extent of the
violence and hatred manifested in last week's miniature civil war in which
both Sunni and Shia Muslims used guns against each other for the first time.
But they too emerged from the slums to do battle with their co-religionists
and I rather suspect that - when this latest conflict is over - there will
have to be a serious evaluation of the explosive nature of Lebanon's poverty
belts, a re-examination of a country whose super-wealthy launder the money
which never reaches the poor, whose French restaurants and Italian designer
shops are for the princes of the Gulf, whose government - however
democratically elected (and Washington still doesn't seem to understand that
sectarian politics mean that Lebanon cannot have a normal democracy) - seems
so out of touch with its largest religious community.
But as the story of Lebanon continues, please spare me the word "terrorist".
Copyright The Independent
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