March 09, 2005

The Hezbollah Rally

The bad news for the liberals in Lebanon is that Hezbollah staged an enormous rally in support of Syria’s military occupation and intelligence agencies.

pro_syria_lebanon_rally.jpg

Here’s the good news. Hezbollah and Syria already lost this fight. Before the rally even began Syria had already agreed to withdraw its troops to the border. And it’s under increasing pressure to withdraw to the other side of the border.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah is scrambling to keep up with world opinion, which is almost unanimously united against it and the Syrian regime.
Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah emphatically backed Monday's decision by the Syrian and Lebanese presidents to withdraw troops according to the 1989 Taif Accord, not U.N. Resolution 1559.
So Hezbollah is actually contradicting what the people at its own rally are shouting. It, too, supports a Syrian troop withdrawal. The only difference is in the details. Granted the details are key. But if the leaders of Hezbollah felt as confident as they’d like us to think from the size of that rally, they wouldn’t agree to any withdrawal at all. The dissidents set the terms of debate. The pro-Syrian rally was an attempt at damage control.

The best part of the whole deal is that hundreds of thousands of Lebanese are having a loud, public, and so-far peaceful political argument. Middle Eastern politics is notoriously ruthless, illiberal, violent, and closed. Lebanon has been one of the more progressive Middle Eastern countries for some time, but it has been decades since anything like this has happened.

The whole point of democratizing the Middle East is to tame the jihad into a mainstream religious-right political party. If Hezbollah wants to shout at people at big scary rallies, it’s fine by me as long as they keep away from the semtex.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at March 9, 2005 12:55 AM
Comments

Plus there is the possibility that the Rally itself was more than a little staged.

http://astuteblogger.blogspot.com/2005/03/hizballahs-men-only-demonstration.html

Posted by: Final Historian at March 9, 2005 01:03 AM

The next obvious step, it seems to me, is for Bush/Chirac/et.al. to call for an internationally monitored referendum, where the Lebanese people can put it up to a private, rigorously monitored vote: Yes to Syrian troops, or No, withdraw?

By holding that big rally, Hezbollah already forced that issue-- they're now essentially arguing that the majority in Lebanon supports them. OK, let's see if that's really true, when pro-Syrian parties aren't leaning on people to show up, or busing folks in from Damascus, and people get to be in a closed booth making up their own mind.

On the off chance the majority do want the Syrians to stay, that's not great, but still at least a victory for democratic process. But my money is on a vote to get them out-- and then we'd be 2-0 in the Middle East democracy versus terrorist playoffs.

Posted by: Wagner James Au at March 9, 2005 01:39 AM

“The next obvious step, it seems to me, is for Bush/Chirac/et.al. to call for an...”

President Bush should not wait for Chirac to get on board. He needs to act “unilaterally” and simply hope for the best. Look at what happened in in Rwanda and other tragic areas of the world. We waited---and we waited some more---and an unbelievable number people needlessly died because we wanted to wait for the French and our other so-called allies to join us. Never again.

Posted by: David Thomson at March 9, 2005 02:39 AM

I have to wonder how many of those protestors were bussed in from Syria and palestinian refugee camps.

And a number of people have noted that the anti-Syrian rallies have a much larger percentage of comely young women .....

Posted by: Yehudit at March 9, 2005 04:26 AM

Possibly, what is more significant is the fact that Hezbollah, the Syrians, whoever, are not responding immediately with violence, but with their own attempts at 'people power'.

Very interesting.

Posted by: Eric Blair at March 9, 2005 05:16 AM

From the former Lebanese Prime Minister Michel Aoun:

"This was not a Lebanese showing, and many of those who actually were Lebanese were not there because they support Syria. We know that at least three Palestinian camps were present. And there are 700,000 Syrian workers inside Lebanon, many of whom are not even supposed to be there. They were urged by Syria to attend so it looks like many Lebanese are protesting. Plus Syria bused in their own citizens from Syria through the border into Lebanon to join the rally."

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=43213

Posted by: Carlos at March 9, 2005 06:53 AM

I'm curious: were there any estimates of the number of protesters at the anti-Syrian rallies held earlier? I ask because I found it peculiar yesterday to see a rough head count for these pro-Syrian rallies.

Posted by: Shawn at March 9, 2005 07:28 AM

Well,Isn't This Wonderful!!

Your friendly neighbourhood FASCISTS understand but 1 thing.And Freedom isn't it.Hezbollah will NEVER be a 'political party'.It is a theocratic retrograde group supported by the terror-states of Iran & Syria and propped up by the refusal of Europe to declare them a terrorist organization .If France was intending to be really helpful,they would immediately place these creatures on the 'bad-to-be-you'list,and cut off their financial flow from Europe.But NO !!
You could not possibly reform the Nazis,and you can't make a democracy from the likes of Hezbollah.You just can't .

Posted by: dougf at March 9, 2005 08:24 AM

Lebanese Musical Chairs

Hopefully the link will work this time.

Posted by: dougf at March 9, 2005 08:32 AM

And Freedom isn't it.Hezbollah will NEVER be a 'political party'.

I disagree. They are a political party, but who cares. Being a political party won't immunize them from jdams. The Nazis were a political party, and we still blew them away. I'm confident the day will come when both will lie in the same ash heap of history.

Posted by: Carlos at March 9, 2005 09:02 AM

"The whole point of democratizing the Middle East is to tame the jihad into a mainstream religious-right political party."

It worked with the Puritans, back when they were a pack of murdering regicides burning monasteries and libraries in Ireland. They eventually calmed down and became Republicans burning down plantations and freeing slaves.

An election that excludes Syrians and Palestinians would settle all of this. partition of the country back to what it looked like before the French added a chunk of Syria to Lebabnon might help too. If there are any real Lebanese, maybe in the Bekaa Valley, who really want this kind of relationship with Syria, that might suit them.

Posted by: Jim at March 9, 2005 09:40 AM

Hezbollah leaders may be crazy, they ARE fanatics -- but they're not stupid.
Of course they're politicians.
And terrorists.
No contradiction there; they're "political entreprenuers" -- winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.

In a certain sense, all politicians are: the power politicians have is based on guns, same as dictatorship death squad gov't. Democracy and voting are more peaceful procedures for choosing which rich and powerful elites will have how much power to use guns. And against which enemies.

The Dems want to use guns to take money from the rich. Reps want to use guns to stop excessive pornography. "Rule of Law" requires guns.

After the Democracy Revolution in the ME, now playing, we'll see the more civilized "culture wars" and tax code "wars".

Hezbollah leaders, some if not most, are preparing for at least a neo-democratic transition. In any reasonable future democratic Lebanon, there will be rich and powerful former Hezbollah people who are anti-American. And if the wealth creation of capitalism is allowed, you can bet some Hezbollah leaders (former?) will use their opportunites, and contacts, to get rich. Maybe lots of them. Like the ex-secret police in Central Europe, many now USD millionaires.

Which should be fine by all, "as long as they keep away from the semtex."

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at March 9, 2005 09:45 AM

Well, "staged" is indeed the operative word, I think.

It's certainly unclear what the balance of power really is in Lebanon, and what the future holds. It's also unclear (as so many here have pointed out) how many of those "demonstrators" were bona-fide Lebanese and bona-fide Syria-supporters. Just like it was hard to know how many of those 99% voting for Saddam in the good old days were really gung-ho for his murder squads and rape rooms.

But what mystifies me is how our own MSM can report on events such as this rally without even questioning what's actually going on here. So far, I haven't seen anything in the mainstream press questioning the sincerity and credentials of the demonstrators, although such understandable speculation is certainly rampant in the blogosphere (including here).

Here's a piece I wrote analyzing the MSM reaction to this event, if anyone happens to be interested.

Posted by: neo-neocon at March 9, 2005 10:46 AM

British negotiations with the IRA’s “political” wing, Sinn Fein, has always been held up as a model of diplomacy – proof that giving terrorists political power will stop the violence.

It’s not working.
President Bush's envoy to Northern Ireland called Wednesday for the IRA to disband after the outlawed group made an unprecedented public offer to kill four men – including two of its own expelled members – linked to a Belfast slaying...

..The British and Irish prime ministers, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, both denounced the IRA's offer as bizarre.

"It's an extraordinary statement and a shock to the system," Ahern said in Dublin.

Reiss specifically chided Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams for his remarks during his speech Saturday to the party's annual conference. Adams, reflecting traditional IRA-Sinn Fein policy, claimed the movement wouldn't tolerate criminals in its ranks. He immediately qualified that position, arguing that the IRA wasn't committing crimes when it broke laws "in pursuit of legitimate political objectives."

I have no idea why anyone is shocked by the IRA’s offer to murder the murderers within their ranks. Random nihilistic violence is what terrorists do.

Politician elected democratically have their faults, but tend not to be nihilistic, psychotic thugs. By their actions, terrorists prove again and again that they are all, uniformly, nihilistic, psychotic thugs.

Hopefully, democratization will allow the general public to identify and destroy local terrorist organizations. That seems to be their goal, and I hope we can help them reach it.

Posted by: mary at March 9, 2005 10:49 AM

I think the key to success in Lebanon is getting Hezbollah disarmed, which should be the next item on the agenda after Syrian troops leave. With Syrian troops gone and Hezbollah disarmed the pro-Syrian side will have trouble whipping up a crowd.

That should be done before the election.

What the Hezbollah sheik was talking about in the article Michael excerpted from when he said Syria should withdraw under the Taif agreement and not under UN Security Council Resolution 1559 is that the other half of 1559 is disarming the militias.

That's where we need Bush and Chirac to play ball together. If they can agree to enforce 1559 and get Security Council approval on it then they could run an international security guarantee force in Lebanon.

Then, and only then, can we begin to talk about free and fair elections in Lebanon.

Posted by: Jack Clinton at March 9, 2005 11:13 AM

Sorry, but Lebanon dosen't pigeonhole into the "pro and anti" Syria the way you want it to. Democracy is a little more than the easy party that the neo-cons and their duped supporters like Michael want it to be.

http://abuaardvark.typepad.com/abuaardvark/2005/03/hizbollah_prote.html

Posted by: FC at March 9, 2005 01:04 PM

FC,

I've been duped by the neocons? Funny. I supported democracy in the Middle East before I even knew what a neocon was.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 9, 2005 01:14 PM

As far as I can throw you, so sorry. Ralph Nader in 2000:

"I think we should be very careful about getting into foreign difficulties, because we’re protecting big business, investments like oil in the Persian Gulf, which led us into that whole morass to begin with."

Posted by: FC at March 9, 2005 01:30 PM

FC - This demonstration showed the world that the Islamist/Ba'thist alliance the pro-democracy Lebanese have been complaining about is strong and very well-funded. Hizbollah and Syria unite to fight freedom and democracy, proving that one man's terrorist is not another man's "freedom" fighter.

Strangely enough, many of these "Lebanese" didn't sing the national anthem. Maybe they forgot the words.

I'm sure you noticed that most of these demonstrators were carrying professionally printed English-language signs. Someone has a lot of money to spend. How many Kinko’s are there in Beirut, anyway?

Posted by: mary at March 9, 2005 01:55 PM

The Dems want to use guns to take money from the rich. Reps want to use guns to stop excessive pornography.

Also, the Dems want to take guns away from everybody but the government. Reps want to protect our 2nd Amendment rights.

Posted by: Achillea at March 9, 2005 02:29 PM

MJT is whistling in the dark thinking that there's anything good about the fact that Hezbolla can put hundreds of thousands in the streets.

You should look at these pictures and be freighted. It's like looking at a Nazi rally from the 30's but it happened this week.

This is the face of the movement that may well kill tens or hundreds of millions this century.

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at March 9, 2005 02:50 PM

Oh and don't blame the neocons. This movement has been growing in the middle east for the last ?50? 80? years and its people have blamed YOU and hated you and wanted your blood for that long. The neocons have been responding to this fact and the liberals (queue Sergeant Schultz voice) "know nothink NOTHINK!" about this. Head in the sand, completely ignorant - you don't want to know how millions people in the ME think.

Consider a little factiod I ran into today, Egypt uses Israel as an excuse to suspend civil rights, and ban all meetings of more than 4 people - they have no freedom and they're told it's YOUR fault and that mass of people are ignorant enough to believe it.

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at March 9, 2005 02:56 PM

Stop. Reading. Worldnetdaily.

Just stop. It's lying to you, repeatedly. That it's your sole source of international news isn't just depressing, it's distressing.

Posted by: FC at March 9, 2005 02:57 PM

FC I don't read worldnetdaily, but I'd like to point out that in my world, if you're going to accuse someone of lying you need some evidence before I'm going to take you seriously.

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at March 9, 2005 03:02 PM

Stop. Reading. Worldnetdaily.

Muslim ex-slaves from Africa, Iraqis, Kurds and Lebanese are saying the same thing that Joshua is saying. It's just a fact.

Posted by: mary at March 9, 2005 03:18 PM

Joshua: MJT is whistling in the dark thinking that there's anything good about the fact that Hezbolla can put hundreds of thousands in the streets.

The only thing I said that's good about it is that they chose to respond to a rally with a counter-rally rather than terrorism and murder. That's it, Josh. Nothing more. They could just as easily have attacked the dissidents in the streets .

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 9, 2005 03:42 PM

Just stop. It's lying to you, repeatedly. That it's your sole source of international news isn't just depressing, it's distressing.

FC,

I don't know anybody whose "sole source of international news" is Worldnetdaily, or any other single source for that matter. So don't be too distressed. It would be kinda stupid for someone to rely on a sole source for international news, don't you think? Having said that, I'd trust Worldnetdaily over the NYTimes or CBS any day of the week.

Posted by: Carlos at March 9, 2005 03:44 PM

The Syrians have withdrawn over 60% of their army since 2000 anyway, although that fact is not widely publicised right now, for obvious reasons.

The rallies in support of the Syrians were several times bigger than those calling for withdrawal.

The situation is more complex than Bush makes out. The Syrians should withdraw, but its simplistic to suggest that there is no support for the Syrians in Lebanon. In fact, if there was to be a referendum on the matter, the pro-Syrians may very well come out on top.

Posted by: Benjamin at March 9, 2005 04:15 PM

Bush has unleashed "deomocracy" in the ME but the most we can say about that right now is that people are able to come out into the public square (ala Natan Sharansky) without "fear" (well - let's just say the jury is still out on that one vis a vis how much coercion was involved in the large show of pro-Syrian forces on display in the rally yesterday). But until now the "Arab street" has been something of a mystery hasn't it? Perhpas the most we can say is that the curtain is being slowly lifted. Although it would also be fair to say that we don't know quite what to make of what we're seeing. Also - I believe that the information revolution - that includes satellite TV, the internet, cell phones and so on - is approximately one year old. So it would be rather premature, given all these factors - simultaneously unfolding - to draw premature conclusions about what the folks in the ME want. I would even dare say that we might have to go at least one election cycle out to make a fair judgement. That means ensuring that however the "democratic" votes go in this first cycle - the US has to press hard to ensure the possibility of a second round. That means that folks are given the opportunity to reconsider the wisdom of their votes in the first go round. Clearly this is a longer term process than we would like, in terms of evaluating what is going on "on the ground" so to speak. But who ever said that bringing democracy to the ME would be easy? Can we stand one election cycle at least before standing back and rendering our final judgements about what the hell the Arab street actually represents in terms of our long term national security interests?

Posted by: Caroline at March 9, 2005 05:15 PM

Juan Cole has suitably sensible and cautious post about this on his blog:

http://www.juancole.com/2005/03/hundreds-of-thousands-of-shiites-stage.html

Moreover, the anti-Syrian protests were not a signal that the Lebanese wanted to be like American-occupied Iraq. They were a signal that the Druze, Maronites and a section of the Sunnis had agreed to try to push Syria out. It was the US who had invited Syria into Lebanon in 1976. And it was a sign that Lebanon is still deeply divided, since the Shiite plurality largely supports Syria. Given the pro-Syrian sentiment in some Sunni cities like Tripoli, it may well be that a majority of Lebanese want Syria to remain in some capacity. If that were true, what would it do to Mr. Bush's master narrative of the march of democracy?

The main exhibit for the relevance of Iraq to Lebanon is Druze warlord Walid Jumblatt's statement to the Washington Post: "It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world."

It is highly unlikely that Jumblatt is sincere in this statement. He has seen Lebanese vote for parliament several times, and has campaigned, and Iraq was nothing new to his experience (like Lebanon, it is occupied by a foreign military power even during its elections).

It's worth reading in its entirety because it give much needed perspective. I am even less likely to think there are substantial links between Bush's Iraq policy and events in Lebanon. This aint dominoes.

Posted by: Benjamin at March 9, 2005 05:30 PM

There is a problem with Michael's analysis:

He says:

Here’s the good news. Hezbollah and Syria already lost this fight. Before the rally even began Syria had already agreed to withdraw its troops to the border. And it’s under increasing pressure to withdraw to the other side of the border.

It may be good news that Syria is withdrawing, but its incorrect to say that Hezbollah has "lost", because they do not support it.

Hezbollah support the inter-Arab 1989 Taif agreement which calls for withdrawal of Syrian forces. However, it is true to say that Hezbollah do not support UN Security Council resolution 1559.

Posted by: Benjamin at March 9, 2005 05:46 PM
Benjamin - According to Lebanese blogger Ecce Libanus:
Arabness is not only an issue of perception! It also is an issue of religion; namely Islam.. And it would be rather pretentious and heavy-handed on the part of Middle Eastern Muslim majorities to assume that the entire Middle East is Arab (and by association Muslim) simply on account of favorable demographics.

I know that a lot of you are going to jump ten miles high to argue that (according to Arab Nationalists, of the Saddam and Assad persuasion) Arabism is rigorously secular. Well, I hate to disappoint you ladies!

Professor Joshua Landis, of the U of Oklahoma, has already addressed (and dismissed) the alleged secularism of Arabism, and therefore its unsuitability to the Middle East’s tens of millions of non-Muslims who never saw themselves as Arabs.

Landis maintains that:

The whole notion of a “secular” Ba`th [the main political exponent of Arabism and Arab nationalism. L-N,] needs correcting. Ba`thism is often referred to as a secular movement and non-religious version of Arab nationalism, but this just isn’t true... Ba`thism [...] is a transcendent faith [i.e. a secular form of Islam, L-N]. Both the founders of Ba`thist thought, Michel `Aflaq (Greek Orthodox Syrian) and Zaki al-Arsuzi (Alawite Muslim), discovered early in their careers that their party would never appeal to the broad masses of the Sunni heartland without making it perfectly clear that Ba`thism was not secular or based on earthly truths. They both insisted that Ba`thism was part and parcel of the Islamic worldview embraced by most Syrians. `Aflaq was so adamant about placating Muslim and religious sensibilities that he became known among his friends as Muhammad `Aflaq (and indeed he converted to Islam before his death). His genius lay in his ability to align Ba`thism with Islam.

Ba’thists are aligned with Islamists. That’s what this “Lebanese” protest against democracy was all about.

We’re fighting this Islamist/Arabist alliance, which most victims call Arabization.

Arabists like Juan Cole and supporters of the anti-American goals of Arabization will, of course, disagree.

Posted by: mary at March 9, 2005 05:50 PM

Mary

Yes,I thought that response from you might come in. Arabists are in alliance with Islamists. Cole is therefore an anti-American, a supporter od Arabization and Islamism.

A predictable smear that of course does not address any of the points that Cole makes in his post I cited.

Posted by: Benjamin at March 9, 2005 05:55 PM

Benjamin, I said that Cole was an Arabist. I didn’t say that he was anti American, I implied that you were.

I assume that if brain-eating tentacled aliens from the planet Zoloft landed and proclaimed that they planned to destroy America, you would do your best to downplay their obvious faults in the hopes that they would wipe out the evil imperialist/capitalist entity. If they’re against us, you’re for them. Am I wrong?

Lebanese bloggers like Tony at Across the Bay often disagree with Arabists like Cole. In general, Cole supports Arabization. Pro-democracy activists in the Middle East don’t. If you only listen to Cole, you only get one point of view.

Posted by: mary at March 9, 2005 06:38 PM

Cole has likened supporting democracy to being a slave trader. He was so exaggeratedly sanctimonious and his argument so specious that I'll never be be to take him seriously again.

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at March 9, 2005 06:44 PM

Weighing the estimated numbers of people attending demonstrations is not very meaningful. Let's see what happens if there's a referendum.

Posted by: miklos rosza at March 9, 2005 06:45 PM

Ba’thists are aligned with Islamists. That’s what this “Lebanese” protest against democracy was all about

I see. On discovery that the size of the pro-Syrian demo was several times the scale of the anti-Syrian one, you feel the need to tell the world what it was about, from your little perch thousands of miles away. Yes, that large multitude were all Ba'athist dupes. There is more than a whiff of arrogance about that stance.

You characterise it as a Ba'athist demo "against democracy". But perhaps the reality is the Shia plurality is pro-Syrian, as are the Sunnis to an extent, and there may be a majority overall (certainly at least a plurality) that are pro-Syrian. Lebanon is 60% Muslim. In general the Maronite Christians are the most anti-Syrian.

In addition you crudely equate pro-Syrian feelings (which vary and are complex) with anti-democracy.

This is nonsensical. The Lebanese of all stripes have been building democracy for years, under the Taif agreements, have held several elections, and Syria has already withdrawn 60% of their troops since 2000.

The relationship with Syria is a far more complex one that your simplistic frame allows though. You need to ignore facts and distort reality as you try to squeeze everything into your crude War on Terror template.

Posted by: Benjamin at March 9, 2005 06:47 PM

Benjamin – and, from your little perch in Hong Kong, you feel the need to tell us your expert opinion about the better side of the Islamist/Ba’thist Alliance.

Tell us about how pro-Syrian does not equal anti-democracy. Tell us about the benefits of Ba’thism. Remember, 100% of the Iraqi population voted for Saddam. Now there was a democracy!

My crude War on Terror template? That reminds me of a quote I heard from a Leftist. She said "You know, the issue of genocide isn’t all black and white."

As I said, if they’re against America, you’re for them. How simplistic.

Posted by: mary at March 9, 2005 07:26 PM

I don't know how many of you saw it, but David Brooks left an interesting comment in Andrew Sullivan's mailbox today. His point was that we should be encouraged, not discouraged, by the fact that Hezbollah has chosen to demonstrate, not fight, to express its disaproval with the Syrian withdrawl. Though I tend to think of Brooks as a fish out of water when talking about foreign policy issues, I'm inclined to agree with him here. Anyone who knows anything about Lebanese history knows just how fragile the ethno-political situation is. Lebanon, more than people realize it, could very well be teetering. Yet Hezbollah, which could have easily decided to stir the pot, has decided to hold demonstrations and participate in discourse about the withdrawl of Syrian troops.

Is there any doubt that Damascus is calling their shots? No... but still. In the Middle East, it seems more and more that arguments are replacing acts of violence. We should be encouraged by Hezbollah's tack.

Posted by: Christopher at March 9, 2005 08:02 PM

Mary

You've lost focus already. I am pointing out the basic fact that the frame you use to analyse the demonstration in Lebanon is hopelessly simplistic. Ridiculous, in fact.

You claim that the demo Michael highlighted is "Ba'athist" only and that is "against democracy", ignoring the incovenient fact that the Lebanese - of all persuasions - have been developing democracy ever since the Taif agreements in 1989 and with Syrian troops present.

It also seems to escape your attention that the Shia and Muslim population in Lebanon are almost certainly not as against Syria as has been assumed by some. That does not mean they are automatically Ba'athist, as your simplistic frame may suggest - just not averse to at least some Syrian presence in Lebanon.

Your response is transparently weak. More hot air about Islamism, Leftiism, anti-Americanism and Arabism.

Go read some Lebanese history and stop spouting simplistic nonsense.

Posted by: Benjamin at March 9, 2005 08:11 PM

A liberal-hawk's perspective...

The vast majority of people living in Syria and Lebanon that support Hezbollah, support Hezbollah for one reason and one reason only: Hezbollah provides stability in the form of vital social services that no one else does. People very much crave liberty and democracy, but desire a basic level of stability above all things. So, here's a novel idea...maybe we ought to do more...alot more...in aiding local NGOs willing and able to offer a less radical alternative. The Wahhabis and Islamists in this part of the world are well funded. Militarily attacking the main source of that funding, Saudi Arabia, is an unrealistic option...but, as in the Cold War, there are other ways to combat this sort of fascism. For a Middle East increasingly crying out for reform, we need a Marshall Plan. It's long past time we gave the Saudis a run for their money.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at March 9, 2005 08:49 PM
Benjamin - Here's an Arab quote about the anti-Syria, pro-democracy demonstration:
Bismilaahir-ArRahmaanhir-ArRahiim

Hariri was a man who not only had close ties to the U.S. and Bush, but he was paying millions of dollars in taxes to the U.S. government which has killed over 300,000 Arabs in the last 2 years alone.

In fact, despite the wars of aggression conducted by the U.S. against Arabs in the last 2 years, Hariri was still planning on building a mansion that would have necessitated his paying even more taxes to the U.S. government - taxes that are consistently being used to kill Muslims and Arabs world-wide.

Exactly what type of loyalty to Arabs, to Muslims, does such a person have if they are willing to shake hands with, do business with, and pay for the activities of those people who are harming and killing Muslims???

If you are protesting to get the current government removed in Lebanon then do so on the basis that their ties to Syria need to be made public and strengthened. Do not do so on the basis of the killing of a man who did not seem to have any real loyalty to his region and religion.

The Lebanese response:
MOVE ON to the 21st century you camel breeder. This is not about Hariri.. It's about Lebanon's freedom and independece. Excuse my typos I havent slept in 36 hours. Going back to downtown to rejoin my friends. The smell of freedom is in the air!!
Tell them they don’t know anything about Lebanese history.

Here’s a photo of Hezbollah doing their classic Sieg Heil! salute. Tell us about how these Syria supporters love Democracy.

Posted by: mary at March 9, 2005 09:09 PM

PS...

I looked back through this thread and, for whatever reason, a few of you are talking about gun control. I have to admit I'm puzzled by this, but it's pretty damn ironic considering the recent headlines here in the States.

Someone said: "the Dems want to take guns away from everybody but the government. Reps want to protect our 2nd Amendment rights.

Well, to this I say: I'd rather the government take away a few more guns than is necessary as opposed to leaving them in the hands of terrorists.

Yes, I'm referencing the fact that 47 of the 58 people on the federal terror watch list who tried to buy guns last year passed with flying colors. Federal agents wanted the power to deny those on the list the ability to buy a gun. John Ashcroft intervened to stop them. Maybe you hadn't heard.

Before you go lambasting the Democrats for trying to "take guns away from everybody" again anytime soon, stop and think about that. Your Republican Attorney General, a man all too eager to send people like you and me to Guantanamo Bay for torture sessions, personally went out of his way to allow 47 individuals on the federal terror watch list their 2nd Amendment rights. And, please, keep in mind those rights now include the power to buy assult rifles.

Yea Republicans! Keepers of the Constitutional Flame!

Posted by: Grant McEntire at March 9, 2005 09:10 PM

There is also the issue of who's calling what shots in Syria - Assad or his dad's cronies. [Warning - wild, unsubstantiated speculation -> I don't get the feeling Assad himself is all that crazy about the whole Baathism thing to begin with, so there may be an opening there.]

As well as the difference between Syrian troops and the Mukhabarat. A lot of unknowns.

Support for Syria could indeed be broad among Lebanese who know of only one alternative to the Syrian ocupation - the civil war that preceeded it. This is similar to the support for the U.S. in Iraq at this point. Hard to get a good handle on it, but apparently as shallow as it is broad. In an ideal world, the people would rather they not be there.

So if the people can see an alternative that works, the fear that underlies the support could lessen.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 9, 2005 09:23 PM

Ben and FC,

Hate to break it to you, but your epistemology is woefully insufficient to the task at hand. Your approach might be appropriate, if annoying, if the discussion pertained chiefly to facts easily verified or contradicted, in your case. However, this discussion is largely, by necessity, speculative, and thus fraught with unknowns, requiring a much more open-minded, cooperative attitude if we're to make any sense of what's going on.

You each from time to time have provided useful facts in this comments section, but your evident disdain for the others here betrays a lack of imagination that makes it difficult to take your perspectives seriously.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 9, 2005 09:36 PM

Mary

Wow, you are digging yourself deeper. Quoting me the whacky rhetoric of Mid East politics, well known for that, is not particularly enlightening. What is important is the actual reality of what happens and what has happened.

Lebanon has had peace for some time, and all parties have been building democracy there - well before your type started bloviating about it.

Interesting use of the word "The" in "The Lebanese response". It should be "A Lebanese response".

I am not sure if the Lebanese quoted was a Christian or not, but I hope the derogatory term "camel breeders" is not a sign of things to come...

As for Hezbollah, well, scary stuff I am sure, but they have not wrecked the development of democracy in the Lebanon, and they operate within the Taif agreement - which is not perfect, but it is a start.

Posted by: Benjamin at March 9, 2005 09:40 PM

Benjamin - You think the term 'camel breeder' is offensive, but you're ok with Arab efforts to slander the murdered Hariri. Are some residents of the Middle East more equal than others?

You believe that the opinions of actual residents of the Middle East are "whacky rhetoric", but the opinions of an expat in Hong Kong and an American academic living in Michigan are "the actual reality of what happens and what has happened." That tells me how informed you are.

Well, that's the opinion of my "type". What is my type, anyway?

Posted by: mary at March 9, 2005 10:09 PM

Mary

Selective quotes from the hyperbolical rhetoric of the Mid East constitutes a rather desperate attempt to support your argument.

No, of course I don't agree with Arabs slagging off Hariri, but nor do I agree with the term "camel breeders". That is my point - this is empty rhetoric, it does not support your argument.

Lebanon has seen years of peace and democracy building. The notion that this is all new to the sophisticated Lebanese is ridiculous. The notion that there is a "Cedar revolution" underway is preposterous. This is process that started years ago and will carry on. It has less to do with Bush than is supposed.

Hezbollah has some popular support. The next step is its disarmament, which won't be easy. But it is already a player in Lebanon, and its not going to go away.

Posted by: Benjamin at March 9, 2005 11:29 PM

The whole point of democratizing the Middle East is to tame the jihad into a mainstream religious right political party. If Hezbollah wants to shout at people at big scary rallies, it's fine by me as long as they keep away from the semtex

I'll be permanently shocked if any hate group/terrorist group can keep away from the semtex. Did the Nazis become a mainstream party? How about the KKK? Al Qa'eda funded some charities before it ever made it's big splash in New York, oh and slaughtered women in soccer stadiums for being too ubanized.

I suppose there's hope for Hamas and all of those children they're teaching that God wants them to feed soil with their blood (and that of as many Jews as possible). Well good luck with all that, and as they say in Syria, "kill a Jew before you die"

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at March 10, 2005 12:13 AM

Ged, take that righteous anger at our "woefully insufficient" "epistemology," and point it right over at your side. As soon as you find me something speculative written by Mary, I'll show you how I didn't respond to it. I'm not interested in the opinions of underinformed ideologues, I'm just here to correct their massive mistatements of fact.

I'll get one of those wonderful "open-minded, cooperative attitude[s]" as soon as I see one from mary et al.

That someone would believe WND over the Times just goes to show what kind of ideological hackery takes place in this here comments section.

Posted by: FC at March 10, 2005 07:33 AM

FC,

"Ged, take that righteous anger at our "woefully insufficient" "epistemology," and point it right over at your side."

I'm neither righteous, angry, nor on the "other side" of this discussion. That other side being a fascist dictatorship with whom I trust your own sympathies do not really lie.

Perhaps if your contempt were not so blind, you could see this. I regret that you have evidently been the victim of intelluctual bullying at some time in your life. When you tire of its ineffectiveness, I hope you'll be open to a new approach.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 10, 2005 09:04 AM

"I'll be permanently shocked if any hate group/terrorist group can keep away from the semtex. Did the Nazis become a mainstream party? How about the KKK?"

The KKK analogy is salient in some respects, but not others. How many social services did the KKK provide? To the extent the KKK model serves, some former leaders could be mainstreamed, such as our illustrious Senator Byrd, but bringing the organization itself into the political process could be troublesome.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 10, 2005 09:08 AM

Ok, Ged, you don't think there's an "other side" in this discussion? Please reference the factual assertons by mary that the "pro-Syria" demonstrators didn't know the words to the national anthem, and compare/contrast that to every single news report of the "pro-Syria" demonstrations.

The side I'm on is the side of not making things up and not lying to protect my point. The other side is the side of liars and ideologues, and yes, that side includes Facist Dictatorships. That's the side you've plopped yourself squarely in by coming down against me correcting outrageous lies by your side.

I'm happy to see that there's a new approach. When you see mary, Caroline and Carlos using it, feel free to give me a shout, ok? And when you yourself start telling them to use it, feel free to give me that heads up, ok? I'm waiting and watching for you to say something about the group that said, and I quote "If they're against America, you're for them."

Yes, I'm clearly the bully in this discussion. Obviously. Without doubt. No question. 100%. Confirmed.

Posted by: FC at March 10, 2005 09:43 AM

FC,

"The side I'm on is the side of not making things up and not lying to protect my point. The other side is the side of liars and ideologues, and yes, that side includes Facist Dictatorships."

Odd that you would choose a theoretical categorization when the issue at hand is concrete and specific. To wit:

There exists an actual, fascist dictatorship, the Baath, oppressing Syria and seeking to oppress the people of Lebanon, some of whom apparently embrace it (if you think you can with any certainty ascertain the level and intensity of such support from your, or my, position, you have an epistemology problem, as I pointed out) out of the lack of viable alternatives. We have also speculated here on the other possible sources of such support, and its likely shallowness or lack thereof. These are not questions of fact, but they are still valuable questions to grapple with if the fascist dictatorship is to be succesfully opposed.

Whether you wish to oppose the Baath or not is your decision. Perhaps I was too generous in assuming we would be together in that opposition, and thus on the same side.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 10, 2005 12:49 PM

Like I said, bloviating with underinformed ideologues isn't my cup of tea. If you think that "grappling" with these questions does anything to successfully oppose fascist dictatorships, you've got another thing coming.

However, correcting discourse to use facts that are true instead of facts that are made up, and keeping people from saying things like "I think you're a Baathist if you don't agree with me!" (That's you - by the way - welcome to the shrill ideological hack category - here's your one and only chance to get out via contrite apology) might do something to improve the world right here in America.

If you're operating under the delusion that anything you do can change anything at all in the entire Middle East, you're, well, deluded. I hope you've got pants on, at least.

Posted by: FC at March 10, 2005 01:29 PM

"Like I said, bloviating with underinformed ideologues isn't my cup of tea."

I doubt it would be anyone's cup of tea. The fact that you continue to return to this conversation indicates that you do not really believe that we are bloviating, underinfrormd ideologues, but apparently believe that name-calling will suit your purposes. Hence my concern that someone has bullied you in like manner. I guess it worked on you so you think it will work on us?

Carlos is more class clown than bully. Being a bully requires coming from a position of power, and attempting to abuse that position. Check the advertisements of your beloved Times if you doubt that you come from a position of power. Your transparent reversion to name-calling and appeals to authority constitute abusive rhetorical devices.

Another abusive rhetorical devise is setting up a straw man to refute. My point was that we can be on the same side even if we disagree, indeed it seemed obvious to me that we were on the same side since we both oppose Baathism. At which point you insisted we be on different sides (apparently your identity requires this), and so I pointed out that there was an actual, living, breathing fascist dictatorship on the other side from me, so if you absolutely could not bear to share a side with the loathsome likes of me, despite our disagreements, that leaves you with the Baath.

Reductio ad absurdiam.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 10, 2005 03:06 PM

The Lebanese of all stripes have been building democracy for years, under the Taif agreements, have held several elections, and Syria has already withdrawn 60% of their troops since 2000.

Here's an article from the Middle East Research and Information Project written by Marlin Dick in August 2002 that provides many of these details. The article mentions the Syria Accountability Act which was signed into law by Bush in 2003.

http://www.merip.org/mero/mero081302.html

Posted by: Brian at March 10, 2005 03:15 PM

"If you're operating under the delusion that anything you do can change anything at all in the entire Middle East, you're, well, deluded."

There are worse fates in this life than delusion. Than again, I guess I'm not telling you anything you don't already know, as the frustration and weltsmertz in your posts is palpable. There is another way.

I had the misfortune to witness the tears in the eyes of Hungarians voting for the first time in their lives, to hear the stories of my grandparents passed down from their own grandparents who came to this country to flee tyranny and find opportunity on these shores, so I was deprived of the perfect nihilism which so illumines your thought. Pity that.

Posted by: Ged of Earthsea at March 10, 2005 03:17 PM

Benjamin:
"Lebanon has seen years of peace and democracy building. The notion that this is all new to the sophisticated Lebanese is ridiculous. The notion that there is a "Cedar revolution" underway is preposterous. This is process that started years ago and will carry on."

Sure, those occupiers are trying to build a representative democracy in Lebanon - just like the one they have in Syria! It's the same thing we did for Germany and Japan after WWII, right? Bwahaha!

Posted by: garymrosen at March 10, 2005 09:44 PM

Isn't there a requirement to include a picture of the woman in the pink sweater to comment on this event?

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The big questions:
will the re-instatement of the pro-Syrian President, after this massive, effective Hezbollah rally, mean the end of the protests?

If not, what will the protesters do, as the pro-Syrians resume active control of government -- where violence is legitimate?

What are the US options against a Syria that does not withdrawl? What should we do?

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