'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Monday, December 11, 2006

"There is No Longer a Place for America in Lebanon" 

UPDATE: This is the new strategy for the survival of the Siniora government:

The homes, offices and cars of several anti-government Sunni figures and clerics have been attacked, the leftist daily As Safir reported Monday.

The daily said among those harassed were Sidon's mayor Abdul Rahman Bizri, followers of former Premier Omar Karami in the north and ex-cabinet minister Abdul Rahim Mrad in the Bekaa in addition to a number of Sunni clergymen.

The paper said the latest attack targeted the house and the car of Sheikh Zuheir Jaeed in Iqlim el-Kharroub's town of Barja Sunday afternoon.

Former MP Zaher Khatib, who was attending a meeting at Jaeed's house the time of the assault, accused supporters of parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri's Mustaqbal movement of throwing stones at the sheikh's house and destroying his car.

Mrad's Ittihad party has also accused the Mustaqbal movement and some members of the pro-government March 14 Forces of harassing its supporters in several Bekaa towns.

After getting over the shock of discovering that there are Sunni supporters of Hizbollah, we can ask the pertinent questions. Is Lebanon on the verge of a conflation like Iraq? Are the neoconservatives about to strike the match?

INITIAL POST: As noted here during the course of the conflict, one of the peculiarities of the recent war between the US, Israel and Hizbollah, a war in which Israel, with US support and US arms, targeted civilians and infrastructure throughout Lebanon, was the enactment of a UN cease fire with terms based upon the fantastical notion that US and Israel prevailed. Another equally strange outcome was the survival of the Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a government that, in order to please its American and Israeli patrons, presented only token verbal opposition to the Israeli attacks for public relations purposes.

Meanwhile, this rather odd government, a government that represented its citizens by aligning itself with the two foreign powers raining down bombs upon them, is now creating a new security force that excludes a substantial part of the country's population, perhaps nearly half of it, the Shia, with weapons received from the United Arab Emirates with US approval. Not surprisingly, as reported by Anthony Shadid in the Washington Post, this hasn't gone down very well with the people that were on the receiving end of these attacks, and they have decided that they no longer want to be governed as a client state:

Hezbollah and its allies turned out the biggest crowds yet in downtown Beirut, sending hundreds of thousands of followers to the gates of the government headquarters Sunday in a feat of mobilization and discipline described by some leaders as the last mass protest before the 10-day campaign escalates.

Legions of flag-waving protesters danced, blew horns and beat drums in a demonstration that, as in past days, was festive, swathed in a cool breeze on a sunny day. But its leaders stipulated only a few days before more measures were taken to topple the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. By nightfall, the city, suffused with a military presence, was rife with rumors over the next step. Hezbollah refused to confirm or deny that it planned to cut roads in the capital in a mounting campaign of civil disobedience, and Michel Aoun, a Christian ally, suggested a more forceful march on the government itself.

"All these actions become legitimate when the rulers start committing crime after crime, and refuse to step down, and find refuge in illegitimate actions," he told the crowd. "Legitimate actions are for rulers who respect the legitimacy of its people."

According to Reuters:

There were no official estimates of the crowd size on Sunday but one security source said it was the largest such gathering ever seen in Lebanon. Opposition sources said the crowd was 2 million strong -- roughly half Lebanon's population.

Predictably, and quite properly, the tone of the protest was anti-American and anti-Israel, the two countries that dictate the policies of the Siniora government:

The pounding of martial music, the roaring din of the excited crowd floated up a nearby hill to pierce the thick walls of the stately government building, the Grand Serail, as Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, entered a ceremonial room for a news conference. “I don’t understand what is this great cause that is making them create this tense political mess and stage open ended demonstrations,” he said to a small group of reporters.

Over and over, the crowd, the speakers, the posters, offered clear explanations. They did not want a government controlled by the so-called March 14 coalition, an amalgam of Sunni, Christian and Druse parties. They did not want a government aligned with Washington. In short, a very large number of Lebanese citizens said they did not want the present leadership.

A banner that hung down the side of a building, showing a picture of the prime minister hugging Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “Thanks Condy,” it said just beneath another image of dead children, referring to Lebanese civilian casualties during Israel’s war with the militant Shiite group Hezbollah during the summer.

“There is no longer a place for America in Lebanon,” Hezbollah’s deputy leader, Naim Qassem, said in remarks that boomed through loudspeakers.

“Do you not recall that the weapons fired on Lebanon are American weapons?” he added.

Prime Minister Siniora’s somewhat surprising expression of bewilderment seemed to capture the spirit dividing this country of just four million people. There are government supporters who appear afraid and threatened, and there are opponents of the government, particularly those who support Hezbollah, who seem empowered and confident that they stand at the threshold of victory.

Shadid, in another one of those well documented and focused stories of the kind that made him the source of neoconservative ire when he covered Iraq in 2003 and 2004, hits the nail on the head:

After Nasrallah accused the government of complicity in Israel's waging war this summer, protester after protester mentioned it in interviews Sunday. The government, many claimed, was at best under the sway of U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman, at worst staffed by traitors.

"In the trash can of history, the government of Feltman," one sign read.

"The government walks as the Americans tell it to walk. It does what Feltman asks it to do," said Hussein Awadeh, a 17-year-old from the largely Shiite southern suburbs of Beirut. "Is it possible we'd accept a government like that?"

Of course not. Lebanese apparently don't appreciate being governed by US clients anymore than the Iraqis do. Hizbollah may not be leftist, but it is anti-imperialist, and for that reason, in addition to the fact that its Shia supporters, along with Aoun's Christians and some dissident Sunnis, represent the majority perspective in Lebanon, we should hope that it brings down the Siniora government. lenin, over at Lenin's Tomb, makes the case quite well, even as he acknowledges Hizbollah's true fault in this political struggle, its unwillingness to acknowledge its complicity in the adoption of neoliberal policies implemented by the Siniora government.

As already mentioned, Shadid mentions a rumor that Hizbollah and its supporters are about to block the roads into Beirut. Perhaps, they might also consider engaging in civil disobedience by surrounding the US embassy. After all, the US military greenlighted the IDF attack upon Lebanon prior to the kidnapping of the two IDF soldiers by Hizbollah. Could anything more effectively reinforce the reality of US control over the Siniora government than the forcible removal of protesters from the approaches to the embassy by the Lebanese Army? The birth pangs of a new Middle East, indeed.

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