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

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Quotes of the Day 

An exchange between two fictional characters involved in the covert creation of a terrorist cell, P. J. Lurz, a German electronics entrepreneur, and Gerhard Gast, a Berlin police inspector, in Fassbinder's ascerbically dark humored 1979 film, The Third Generation:

Inspector Gast: I had a dream that capitalism invented terrorism to force the state to protect it better . . . . . .

P. J. Lurz/Inspector Gast: (spontaneous laughter)

Inspector Gast: (smiling cynically) Very funny.

Or, as Fassbinder himself said more directly, describing the thesis of the film:

Nowadays its capitalism that brings forth terrorism, to boost itself and strengthen its system of hegemony.

Along these lines, Seymour Hersh's remarks about the Lebanese military assault upon Palestinian refugee camps containing Fatah al-Islam militants can be seen in a different light:

AMY GOODMAN: The Lebanese government accuses Fatah al-Islam of having ties with al-Qaeda and the Syrian government. But there’s another theory of who’s backing the militant group: the Lebanese government itself, along with the United States. Last March, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported in The New Yorker magazine that the US and Saudi governments are covertly backing militant Sunni groups like Fatah al-Islam as part of an overarching foreign policy against Iran and growing Shia influence.

Seymour Hersh joins us now on the phone from his home in Washington, D.C. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Sy.

SEYMOUR HERSH: Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain what you learned?

SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, very simply -- this is over the winter -- the government made -- I think the article is called “The Redirection.” There was a major change of policy by the United States government, essentially, which was that we were going to -- the American government would join with the Brits and other Western allies and with what we call the moderate Sunni governments -- that is, the governments of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt -- and join with them and with Israel to fight the Shia.

One of the major goals for America, of course, was the obsession the Bush White House has with Iran, and the other obsession they have is, of course -- is in fear -- is of Hezbollah, the Party of God, that is so dominant in -- the Shia Party of God that’s so dominant in southern Lebanon that once -- and whose leader Hassan Nasrallah wants to play a bigger political role and is doing quite a bit to get there and is in direct confrontation with Siniora.

And so, you have a situation where the Sunni government, pretty much in control now, the American-supported Sunni government headed by Fouad Siniora, who was a deputy or an aide to Rafik Hariri, the slain leader of Lebanon, that government has -- we know, the International Crisis Group reported a couple years ago that the son Saad Hariri, the son of Rafik Hariri, who’s now a major player in the parliament of Lebanon, he put up $40,000 bail to free four Sunni fundamentalists, Jihadist-Salafists -- which you will -- who were tied directly to -- you know, this word “al-Qaeda” is sort of ridiculous -- they were tied to jihadist groups. And God knows, al-Qaeda, in terms of Osama bin Laden, doesn’t have much to do with what we’re talking about. These are independently, more or less, you can call them, fanatical jihadists.

And so, the goal -- part of the goal in Lebanon, part of the way this policy played out, was, with Saudi help, Prince Bandar -- if you remember him -- we remember Prince Bandar, the Saudi prince, as a major player in Iran-Contra and also in the American effort two decades ago -- if you remember, we supported Osama bin Laden and other jihadists in Afghanistan against the Russians, and that didn’t work out so well. Well, we run right back to the well again, and we began supporting some of these jihadist groups, and particularly -- in the article, I did name Fatah al-Islam.

The idea was to provide them with some arms and some money and some basic equipment so -- these are small units, a couple hundred people. There were three or four around the country given the same help covertly, the goal being they would be potential enemies of Hezbollah in case of warfare; in case Nasrallah decided to do something physical, get kinetic, in Lebanon, the Sunni Siniora government would have some very tough guys on its side, period. That’s the policy.

Gilbert Achcar provides another interesting piece of the puzzle when he identifies the essential role of the Siniora government in promoting neoliberal economic policies within Lebanon:

. . . In the press there’s been talk of union protests against neoliberal policies and a new agreement in Paris, which is about imposing neoliberal policies in Lebanon. Has Hezbollah attempted to organize resistance around it?

Here we come to the issue of the January 25 Paris III meeting. It was a meeting of donors, rich donors, both Western and oil countries, gathered to supposedly help Lebanon. It was called by French president Jacques Chirac, who has been working in very close alliance with Washington on the Lebanese issue since 2004. Chirac is one of the strongest backers of Siniora’s government and of the Hariri clan—he used to have very close links with Rafik Hariri. The conference was organized around an economic and social program that is a classical “Washington consensus” program. I’m referring here to the IMF-World Bank standard neoliberal measures that were forced on so many countries during the 1980s and 1990s and are still enforced. The program of the Siniora government for the Paris III conference is a crude version of that. You name it you get it: privatization, and value added taxes instead of progressive income tax. The plan contains all the classical recipes through which the poorest layers of society are made to bear the brunt of measures that are supposed to lead to a healthier financial equilibrium and enable the government to pay back its debt. Lebanon has accumulated a huge debt over the years (currently over $40 billion). So this is on the one hand a classic IMF-World Bank kind of program. On the other hand, this conference was a political tool. It was meant by Chirac, and with him Bush, as a way of giving strong support to the Siniora government and the “majority” in Lebanon.

Covert operations, neoliberalism, the discovery of a purported new al-Qaeda cell that requires military operations and the delivery of US weapons, nah, it's all just a coincidence. After all, we should never take movies, especially older ones made by Europeans, too seriously.

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